Friday, August 10, 2007

Lawyer Arrogance, Snape-Sniping, and Some Thoughts on Graduate School

WARNINGThis post contains spoilers for the Harry Potter final book, so if you have not read “Deathly Hallows” and want to be surprised, this is your warning.

A number of you kind readers have asked how the lawyers at the other site where I initially created the story have responded to my question about intellectual property and posting a story for public reading. The short answer is, they have decided not to respond at all, and on reflection it makes sense, though it displays poor moral standards. You see, if the lawyers respond that they would allow me to post the story on their site while considering it my property, they would be as much as admitting that they do not have a right to ideas and creations which they had no substantive part in making, and anyone else might demand the same by equal right. The argument that anything published on their site is their property, is as flawed and arrogant as it would be for the train line which President Lincoln took on his way to Gettysburg to claim that they held the rights to his Gettysburg Address, simply because he wrote the speech while on their train. It is as silly as if CBS claimed the right to those speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, which they happened to broadcast. It’s a greedy lie and they know it, but they can hardly admit that, especially in writing. On the other hand, to publicly demand rights to something they cannot possibly prove they created or even contributed to in any real sense, is to expose themselves to well-deserved ridicule. So, what to do if you are an immoral shyster for a greedy corporation? You simply ignore anything not compelled by a court, and that’s what they did here. So, the advice from Hatman was salient and very useful, and to anyone considering expressing themselves in a way which may be personally significant, they should be wary of the greed of the host site.

I decided a few days ago, that the theme of ‘Stolen Thunder’ is ill-suited to fiction as a regular feature, and that the unfolding series story “Reditio Soteri” was not something which seemed to fit. I have decided to continue the story at an alternate site, ‘Laughing at Nemesis’, which will be linked on the ST sidebar. A complete story from 2004, “Loco Fundy Judgment Day”, is there, and “Reditio Soteri” will be published there as well. Later, probably in 2008, a third story should join the first two.

On now to Harry Potter. There is a popular site for Potter fans, which debates almost every conceivable angle to the story, and now that the last volume of the series has been published, it might be expected that the debates would subside. But people grow to love their arguments, and one of the most popular passions on that site is Snape-hating; that is, finding reasons and excuses to say nasty things about the character Severus Snape, the erstwhile Professor of Potions at Hogwarts School of Magic for Wizards and Witches. That’s understandable to a point, but the final book made clear, beyond reasonable dispute, that Severus Snape had valid reasons for his temperament, and more to the point was the bravest warrior for the cause of Good and Hope, and he was unquestionably a hero, if not the most predictable or warm-fuzzy type in the series. The Snape haters, however, have had a hard time letting go of their malice against the guy, and what’s worse, a number of the moderators have shown clear bias in the debates. One thread which discussed the relationship between Severus Snape and Lily Evans, a crucial foundation for most of the salient events of the series, was locked down when the people supporting Snape began to gain the upper hand against the lies and distortions of the Snape haters. The moderator locking down the thread claimed it was to cool down emotions, although the only posts edited or deleted were by Snape supporters, and some of what was deleted was in no way out of bounds. Snape haters, on the other hand, were allowed to post false and defamatory statements, which the moderators chose to leave posted, proving their bias and bigotry. Hey, it’s a private site, they can do what they want, but it is very intriguing to see adults act in such a dishonest and malicious manner, simply because they cannot stand to be proven wrong. I will leave that be for here, but it does occur to me to discuss some of the complexities of Severus Snape.

The interesting thing about Severus Snape is not that he is uniformly good or bad, but he is a mixture of different qualities, some are reasonable and desirable, while others are still quite nasty. His verbal bullying of students, for instance. Even with what we know now, there is really no cause for his behavior, beyond the rather lame idea that Severus had to act in character for Lord Voldemort. Severus clearly disliked children in general, he had little patience or admiration for hs colleagues at Hogwarts, and he never liked Harry Potter or his friends. That said, it is obvious that by the beginning of Harry’s years at Hogwarts, Severus had been through a lot of hardship, and he was operating under certain restrictions and conditions which could not be publicly stated to Harry. It gets trickier, when we consider the childhood and development of Severus. We have a limited number of witnesses’ statements to use, generally the untrustworthy claims made by Sirius Black, whom we know for certain intended to murder Severus Snape while at Hogwarts (which puts paid to those haughty claims that Gryffindors are always better than Slytherins, but since Wormtail was also a Gryffindor, we should have seen that coming), and Remus Lupin, also a Marauder and close friend to James Potter, now proven to have been a boor and a bully while he was at Hogwarts. I stop here to note that James and Sirius prove out that the Wizarding world, just like the one we know, is quite willing to give a pass to the handsome and the charming and the rich, but they come down hard on those who lack superficial beauty and money. Severus was handicapped from the beginning. We also have the pensieve scenes, which while brief and limited, also give us insight into the conditions and range of options available to young Severus.

Let’s start with the family home. Severus’ mother and father seem to be in constant argument, and it strongly appears that Severus was neglected. Some of that was simple poverty, but it also seems that Severus was never much loved by his parents, a critical loss which Severus felt throughout his life. We also see why he was immediately attracted to Lily from the start; any kind of regard would be amplified, and it seems that Severus shoved any emotion to extremes, you were either his best friend or worst enemy. This also explains, assuming Sirius was honest in the claim, why Severus knew so many curses and hexes by the time he got to Hogwarts – with no one protecting him, he found himself under constant attack. The condition of perpetual imminent threat is a hallmark of Severus Snape.

I also find it necessary to take Lily Evans down from her pedestal. Throughout the story, everyone seemed to love Lily Evans/Potter. Harry, of course, loved his mother, and we are told, over and over again, how smart and vivacious and beautiful she was. And in the last book we see that Severus was utterly devoted to her, so that he spent nearly the last two decades of his life trying to be worthy of her. But the Lily we discover behind the make-up is not nearly so worthy of Severus. Over and over again, in the relationship between Severus and Lily we find that she was born and raised with all kinds of advantages, which she never shared with Severus or indeed seemed to notice. We see, over and over again, Severus Snape reaching out to Lily Evans and caring for her feelings and emotions, but Lily never does as much. At their first meeting, it is Severus who steps forward and speaks, it is Severus who comforts Lily when her sister Petunia ridicules her, it is Severus on the train who cheers Lily up and reminds her about Hogwarts. Although both of the two certainly endured ridicule for their friendship from students in their respective Houses, Lily is the one who complains about it to Severus, who never even observes that he too is mocked for the friendship (unless you want to believe that a Gryffindor would be less considerate than a Slytherin). When they have a disagreement, it is always Severus who steps forward, apologizes, and tries to make amends. Lily has friends she never introduces to Severus, she is aware that James Potter attacks Severus but she never directly acts on Severus’ behalf – a careful examination of the ‘Snape’s Worst Memory’ not only shows that Lily Evans never even attempts to stop the hex attacks on Severus, nor that she smiles slightly at her “best friend” being attacked for no provocation at all, but also we see that Lily never even says directly that Severus is a friend – she could have ended the attack in an instant simply by telling the Marauders that they were attacking a friend of hers. That she chose not to do so, displays a poor character in that respect. Lily Evans was happy to take, to receive enjoyable things and love those people who suited her to know. Lily Evans knew only selfish love, never putting herself to any trouble except for people she already liked, and she was quite willing to throw away her best friend, rather than take the time to consider his needs and give him better options and hope. Only two possibilities exist; either Lily Evans never bothered to think much about why Severus Snape made the kinds of choices he did, or she never considered him worth the effort. Lazy or cruel, two moral destinations that do not speak well of the woman.

This does not excuse Severus’ own flaws and wrongs, to be sure. But on the whole, he was much ill-used and given little on which to build his life; surely he was starved of love and joy. That he could create a Patronus, speaks of a great heart, though one the world never knew.

Now on to Graduate School. I have my Summer Grades at last, but I have held off writing much about them, because just writing for the letters on the screen seems foolish. I did manage to get A’s for all three classes this semester, so the GPA is up to 3.83, though whether that is an accurate reflection or a lucky quirk after 2 semesters remains to be seen. Now that I have handled six classes, however, a pattern is becoming evident. There are differences in classes depending on the material, the professor’s style, and the time available, but in all six classes there was a Mid-term examination, a major case or paper to work on, and a certain degree of group work and board discussion. I want to emphasize that last part for online studies; nothing is more significant about taking classes online, than the two legs that you must be independently disciplined, and that your contribution to the class will be known down to the second every word of your participation. The online class will track your every comment and effort, and so slackers will do poorly in the online environment. Also, while some professors tend to back-load the grades, so that a lot of your work will receive its grade late in the semester, I have noticed that in every class where I held a strong average through the Mid-term exam grade, the rest of the semester was similarly strong, while early problems in a class make the rest of the semester more stressful and accomplishing the ‘A’ more difficult. Improvement is certainly possible; in five out of my six classes so far, my results for the second half of the semester were better than for the first half, but psychologically it is easier to work from a position of strength, and the plain fact is that a good start makes a good finish more likely to happen. So, if you want to do well in a class, get in early with readings and assignments, work the early assignments as if they will make the difference between an A and a B in the class, because it very well might be so.


Anonymous said...

Woo! Reditio is back (in a cunning new invisibility cloak).

Sheae said...

The greed of gain has no time or limit to its capaciousness. Its one object is to produce and consume. It has pity neither for beautiful nature nor for living human beings. It is ruthlessly ready without a moment's hesitation to crush beauty and life out of them, molding them into money. ~
Rabindranath Tagore
greed Quotes