Feb 03, 2023 8:28 AM
the governor of ira sani in radiant
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"You could talk about those!"

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Alex has 

SO

MANY

COMPLAINTS

about the stupid higher-ups' creative decisions! Or rather, lack thereof! Everything has to be so bland and "demographically safe"! They wouldn't take a creative risk to save their lives! It feels like half the shows are just copies of each other with newer tech and different actors! Division X, about a team of Ares soldiers heroically escaping the crazy rebel-anarchists on some fake planet, is almost exactly the same as The Cobalt War, about a team of plucky Rhodes mining techs escaping the crazy mining-monopolists on some fake planet!!! The romances are all the same! The teen school dramas are all the same! The plucky immigrant/corporate assistant/solnav cadet stories are all the same! The space operas between the nice republics and insane rebels are all the same! It's infuriating how nobody actually gets to try cool NEW ideas!

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"We produce different stories in the Harish Empire. I might like to see one of each of yours. And maybe I can tell you about ours."

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"That'd be interesting, sure. The internet's probably intact enough for me to log in and stream some movies, sure. Want me to commentate as you watch?"

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"Yes!"

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"Great!"

They can use the theater since he doesn't have any XR implants for full-immersion tracks that make you feel like you're right there in the story! Alex is of the opinion that those are an entirely different art form, anyway, much more direct and visceral than shows. Lots of XR tracks just go straight for utter sensation without even trying for, like, theme and story. It's a valid form of art, but not Alex's favorite!

 

The movie Alex selects first is Celestial Dive. The introductory sequence is a gorgeous sweep across huge swathes of landscape filled with fantastical sights and dangerous-looking beasts. The first part of the movie shows a few quick scenes of a human boy growing up. He plays with his family, bothers his aunt for stories about being a knight, and defends a lizard-augment child with glowing eyes from bullies. They use the story device of him being bored in class to deliver exposition about how there are weird magic holes in the ground that constantly generate bloodthirsty automata; People go into these holes to fight the automata and bring back magic stuff, and the smart and skilled ones get really super rich and everyone wants to be a successful diver, including our protagonist.

Cue training montage! He's training with lizard girl and they plan to work together but she's acting more and more fidgety and suspicious as time passes. They meet more friends go on their first few dives and have a few scares as they learn the ropes, but pull off clever tricks of combining simple magic in novel ways- ("The liquid oxygen thing is the same thing they always do with cooling magic to make characters look clever," Alex complains) -and learn some of the fantastical rules and creatures of the holes in the ground, like gravity-warping areas or the dangers of slime swarms. They get scammed or tricked/bullied a couple of times but always by ugly people. There's a few scenes with Mysterious Hooded People lurking around doing suspicious things.

Suddenly, oh no! The hole in the ground did something strange that it's not supposed to and the two of the other three friends (not the protagonist or lizard girl) are dead! And lizard girl is missing! There's an extended sequence of perilous near-death experiences and harrowing fights. (Alex sighs in disappointment. "The suspense is pointless, they're not going to kill him, the movie's only halfway over!") Eventually one of the lost companions reunites with the protagonist in an especially dangerous area. Later it turns out that lizard girl has been part of a shadowy evil organization this whole time! She fights the protagonist between angry speeches about their feelings and how it's evil to hurt people/this is the only way to have justice!

Lizard girl defeats the protagonist but doesn't kill him. (Does kill the extraneous party member, though.) A mysterious hooded figure tells lizard girl about how now they can take over the world! What?!?!????? ("Of fucking course it's taking over the world.") Hooded Figure delivers a lethal-seeming blow to lizard girl! Hooded Figure does something with a powerful magic artifact while the protagonist crawls, mortally injured, to his friend. He kisses her and they hug each other.

Then in a stroke of luck, the hooded figure's magic backfires - because he tried to cheat his way into magic power instead of earning it the hard way! Instead of just giving him a surge of power, the two heroes are boosted as well. They fight and kill the evil man, and emerge happy and victorious! There's some vague ominous hints that Take Over The World Guys are still trying to do that. Roll credits.

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"I liked it, it was new for me. I liked to see the educational policies of their world - I want to know about your education but it is probably bad because no one can trust anyone to tell the truth. And that was a strange ending, I did not understand that. I thought, uh... there is something about the, uh, the music, the art, the way that the camera looks at people... I think it means something about taking over the world. The people who made it, I think that they think that I think... something... about people who take over the world. And I thought I knew what justice is but I think I'm confused about it too."

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"It's not a great ending honestly. They changed it late in development, Laura was supposed to die but they wanted to sell action figures and collectible cards of her and have a sequel because she was popular in the pre-release advertising. The cinematography wants you to know the Foundation is evil, yes. Taking over the world and supplanting the proper meritocratic and democratic processes," eye-roll, "Is evil, don't you know. I wouldn't trust what this movie says about justice exactly, though it's a good example of formulaic stuff H-I puts out. Did you catch the parts where they hate adventurers so much because the adventurers are ultra-rich? How they wanted to increase taxes and charitable programs? They're using the Foundation as a straw-man. They want you to think that people who think inequality of wealth is bad, are evil and want to take over the world. Because that one did."

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"I think I did not understand the part where the Foundation was evil or why they tried to kill Laura. I think I do understand... if I think that the economy is not doing what I want it to and I want to levy taxes, then I want to take over the world, yes. I have to have the political power to levy taxes. But I think maybe I'm wrong to think that's what you mean that they mean."

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"The filmmakers think that democracy and the free market is the right way to run the world. Someone taking it over by force, like the Foundation is trying to do, would be bad. Now, I disagree at least partially, at least on rampant market exploitation, but that's what they think. The filmmakers made the Foundation evil because they want people to think communism and socialism are evil. They tried to kill Laura because that's an easy way to make them seem greedy- That Karl didn't actually want to help people after he takes over the world, and is just lying for power."

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"What does 'the free market' mean?" Most of his economics reading has been in Milliways which translates it mostly into Hari because that's the language he knows most of his game theory jargon in. He can take a guess but it wouldn't do to make assumptions and be wrong.

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"It means a lack of government economic regulation and laws. No minimum wage, no false advertising laws, limited fraud protections, no penalties for confusing, scammy warranty and insurance practices, no anti-monopoly measures, no overtime work laws, no work safety regulations..."

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"False advertising laws are the most important laws."

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"Hmm? Why?"

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"...Maybe not here... I can prevent theft. I can prevent murder. I can prevent vandalism. I can do all that by doing things to me and my things. I cannot prevent lies by doing things to me. I have to do things to the people that want to lie."

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"Yeah, we can't prevent any of those things. Unless the revolution succeeds and we get, I dunno, some kind of popular front police? The Compact does make lying in advertising technically illegal, but uh, there's lots of misleading stuff that's not technically lying and people will just lie all the time anyway and not get punished. A lot of Compact laws end up like that, they just don't get enforced unless it's convenient for some corporate big-wig. So, petty theft? Yep, go to jail. VP Wang commits wage fraud? What do you mean, we have no record of that, prove it in a court of law on Earth. Also you're going to get evicted in the meanwhile because VP Wang calls his buddy who owns the apartment building."

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"...I think they are wrong that taking over the world and levying taxes to fund charitable programs and enslaving the market is bad."

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"Well I'm glad we're on the same page, then! Next movie?"

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"Only if I still don't know everything about it!"

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"Well, no promises. Unknown uknowns and all, you don't know what you don't know. Hmm... A romance, or a space opera?"

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"A space opera!" Ooh, an opera about space.

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Worm Star is set in a big galaxy where humanity has spread out in a huge, archaic empire. Everything is overly bureaucratized and running in sheer inertia; They borrow a lot of pomp from nobility tropes. Crowns, gold, gems, tasseled uniforms, everyone having four or five titles, blatant nepotism.

The main character is an astonishingly handsome blue-haired prince, immensely wealthy and powerful, who is charged with restoring order in a 'lost sector' infested with pirates and rebels. He's charming and determined, leading several battles against a recurring 'pirate king', where orchestral music plays and people in fancy uniforms shout at each other about missiles and armor and damage control over exploding computer consoles in between CGI shots of the ships fighting. The pirate king talks about how the empire isn't wanted here, and newly 'liberated' planets aren't happy to be conquered back, because the Empire's laws and police are rather brutal. One of the prince's subordinates actively hides just how bad it is from him, knowing the prince is a 'bleeding heart' who'd disrupt things trying to help people.

After the first few big battles there's negotiations with the local planetary governors and industrial magnates for new ships and supplies, and the prince and his guards have a running gunfight through a rusty frontier city trying to catch a female assassin who murdered a merchant he was trying to make a deal with, which ends in a damaged cable car riding a huge black ribbon up off the planet; The assassin falls, but unbeknownst to the prince, manages to survive with a personal parachute. The prince is disquieted by this and asks for reinforcements from his father, but is told that actually he needs to send some of his ships back because of unspecified trouble back home.

The prince decides to go directly after the pirate king, wrongly thinking he's the source of all the problems. The chase leads them to several fantastical worlds with distinct climates and architectural styles - a tan desert planet, a chilly frozen planet, an ocean-covered water planet, all of which they have gunfights, vehicle chases, or swordfights in. They encounter the assassin several more times, but the prince sees her leaving her targets to save children. Later, she tells him that the merchant she killed liked to kidnap and torture women. The prince admits he admires the assassin's determination to do what's right, but they each have their duties and cannot be together. Then he tries to capture her, but she gets away again.

The climactic battle is a chaotic fight in a dense asteroid field, with hidden ships and mines all around. The pirate king's base is an old forgotten colony ship, beautiful in abandoned grandeur. Just as the prince is lining up for the killing blow, the assassin contacts his ship! She begs him not to fire on the old colony ship, since there are innocents in cryo-sleep in it! The prince has to make a harrowing decision - kill the pirate king and restore order to support the Empire, but also kill hundreds of thousands of innocents and ruin a wondrous piece of lost technology... Or let the pirate king get away to continue making trouble across dozens of planets.

He decides to let the pirate king get away. That's when his subordinate tries to kill him and take over the ship, and there's a dramatic mutiny and room-to-room fighting! The prince looks on his subordinate with shock and shame, the subordinate says that the prince's father would be disappointed in him. The prince has the traitor locked up, and then takes control of the ship, but by now the pirate king has gotten away. The last few scenes are him talking to the assassin, betraying the empire on the reasoning that it's only making things worse by being so brutal and restrictive, and establishing a new free-market republic with the colony ship, even as the empire dissolves into civil war.

All the music is, of course, extremely dramatic and impressive-sounding, and the costumes and props are top-notch in terms of artistic detail. All the empire technology is artfully intricate and lavish, and all the frontier technology looks ruggedly reliable. The pirate king's scummy-looking outfit and comically irreverent antics and banter were well done too, Alex thinks.

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It's...

It was made by people who have a lot of skill at causing humans to come to intuitive assessments, right, the way that Mar Geru makes agerah feel at home and the imperial capitol building makes most mammals feel small. So the intuitive assessment that the empire is bad is, of course, wrong. In the long run it's the fighting itself that could have killed the innocents in cryo-sleep, the lack of imperial law enforcement that allowed the merchant to kidnap people, and this is... it's the mistake he was worried about his immigrants making with abolition.

"It did not have as much music as I thought an opera had but it had as much space as I thought a space show had. It, uh, it reminds me of a show I saw in Milliways, it had more singing and it was - it was from Earth so maybe you saw Les Miserables already?"

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"Oh, that is ancient, pre-KC. I remember reading the script for a class, but I've never seen it played. I probably should, maybe it has some cues for us to take here!"

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"Oh?"

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