Accuracy vs. Charity

A curious experience I have from time to time is when discussing some sort of sin or other moral error, when I identify the lesser good aimed at, I’m told that I’m very charitable. This confuses me somewhat because my goal is not to be charitable, but merely to be accurate.

All sin is the seeking after of some lesser good in place of a higher good. The clearest and easiest example is idolatry—this is worshiping some created good as if it were the Creator. But that means that the idolater is seeking God in a creature. It’s not particularly charitable to note this; it’s simply accurate.

To take a slightly less obvious example, when a person is wrathful—i.e. indulging in excessive anger—they are placing the rectification of some wrong above the good of the injured party and the culprit. In true justice, a wrong done is rectified and a balance restored between aggressor and victim, so that they can return to their proper relationship of friends. When one is wrathful one seeks only to redress the wrong done to the victim, but not to restore the relationship between creatures. By giving an infinite weight to the good of which the victim was deprived, the wrathful person is never satisfied at the restitution and therefore ignores the greater good (once proper restitution has been made) of restoration of the proper relationship between sinner and victim. But saying that the wrathful person goes wrong by over-valuing the victim (or the good of which the victim was deprived which constitutes the injury to the victim) is not—in any way that I can see, at least—being charitable to the wrathful person. It’s just being accurate.

I suppose it’s possible that this is taken for charity because commonly people ascribe sin to the desire to do evil, but this is not actually possible. It’s simply a point of metaphysics that the will can only move towards some good, though it can move toward a lessor good in place of a greater good. As such, whenever a person goes wrong, you know with iron certainty that they were seeking some good, however minor. This doesn’t lessen their sin since it’s inherent in their sin being sin that they are seeking some (lesser) good.

Perhaps people think I mean that the one whose sin I’m explaining must therefore have sinned by accident, or been misled through no fault of their own? That certainly does not follow; we know from the fact that sin is voluntary that one can knowingly choose a lesser good over a greater good.

Oh well. Perhaps some day I’ll understand this.

Reality vs. The Meaning You Give to Life

I suspect everyone who knows atheists has encountered people who say that atheism does not entail nihilism, because “life has the meaning you give it”. I just want to mention a small point regarding that.

My favorite definition (more a description) of “reality” is:

That which, when you stop believing it, doesn’t go away.

It’s not a complete description, but it’s a pretty good working description, especially in our confused times. Anyway, it’s worth noting that “the meaning you give to life” goes away when you stop believing in it.

The atheist retort that atheism does not entail nihilism thus amounts to:

Life doesn’t have any meaning, but I can pretend that it does.

Which no fool ever doubted.

Pride Vs Stupidity

Over on his blog, Mr. John C. Wright asks the question:

Why is the proud man angry or peeved with the stupidity (real or imagined) of his fellows? I ask because one would think a saint would be very patient with someone who was stupid, if it were honest stupidity, and not merely laziness in thinking. Whereas the devil (or Lex Luthor) is always in a state of haughtiest annoyance, because he is brighter than those around him. Their stupidity proves his superiority – yet it irks him. Why?

To answer this question we have to first answer the question, “what is pride?” (I’m taking the distinction between pride and vanity as a given.) A generally workable description of pride is an inflated sense of the worth of the self. This is, however—when properly considered—a symptom rather than a cause.

The cause of pride is a mistake about the nature of the self. This is inescapable because the value placed on something is inherently a description of its nature. (I should probably clarify that pride is an inflation of the inherent worth of the self—it’s not a utilitarian measure of the worth of the self to someone else’s purposes, as a means to their end. That’s actually a form of vanity.)

There are two possible mistakes to make about the nature of the self which aggrandize it:

  1. That one is a higher creature than one is, but still subordinate to God
  2. That one is God

While #1 is possible, I suspect it’s not the common mode of pride since it’s too subject to correctives. A human being who thinks that he’s an angel, for example, will have a hard time not noticing that he has a physical body and is, therefore, actually a human being. If he still thinks himself subordinate to God, he will in humility accept this recognition. It is, therefore, hard to see how #1 can be a long-lived error. Even Gulliver couldn’t think himself a Houyhnhnm for long at a stretch.

This leaves #2 as the common form of pride, and it is this form of pride in which stupidity angers the proud man. It angers him because it is proof that he is not God. The proud man wills that the people around him are not stupid and yet they are. This proves his limitations and therefore disproves his opinion of his own power. The larger the difference between what he wills reality to be and what it is, the greater the proof that he is not God, and therefore the greater is his anger.

It’s the Same Old Song

There are a lot of traps which humanity falls into over and over again. The one on my mind lately goes something like this. Some atheist, proto-atheist, or other person who has never studied history nor thought about human nature says:

People have been evil because it never before occurred to them to be good. I have gotten the idea that I will be good. Come, follow me, and you will be happy in the perfect society I will construct because it has occurred to me to do a good job this time!

And some other atheist, proto-atheist, or person who has never studied history nor thought about human nature replies:

Finally, someone has explained why it is that things are not perfect. Life would be much better if things were perfect, and here is a man who is setting out to make them perfect. Since I would prefer life to be perfect, I will follow him and live in the perfect society he will build. What fools my fellow men are to stay in their imperfect world when perfection is so easily attainable!

Then the first atheist, proto-atheist, or other person who has never studied history nor thought about human nature tries to build his perfect society and things go wrong. He refuses to acknowledge this and tries to hide it. In time this is noticed. He blames his followers. They say, “He lied to us!” But they do not agree after that. Some say:

The problem was that we followed a bad man. Let us find a good man to implement the good ideas and all will turn out well.

Others say:

The problem was that we trusted a man. Let us no longer trust anyone for all ideas are bad.

The children of the first people would go on to distrust organizations because their parents were so often duped. The children of the second people would go on to trust organizations because their parents’ life was difficult, working entirely on their own.

And along came an atheist, a proto-atheist, or other person who has never studied history nor thought about human nature who said:

People have been evil because it never before occurred to them to be good. I have gotten the idea that I will be good. Come, follow me, and you will be happy in the perfect society I will construct because it has occurred to me to do a good job this time!

Atheists Want to Feel Smart?

I’ve heard the explanation that some atheists become atheists because they want to feel smart. That never made much sense to me, but I’ve recently gotten some insight into what it might mean and I present that interpretation of the idea for consideration. You can also watch this on YouTube if you prefer:

I’ve Got You, Babe

I recently came across a performance of I’ve Got You Babe done by Sonny and Cher in 1987:

This performance was approximately 12 years after their divorce (if you’re not familiar with Sonny & Cher, they were a husband-and-wife singing duo in the 1960s and 1970s). This makes many of the lyrics quite ironic.

They say we’re young and we don’t know
We won’t find out until we grow

You were young and didn’t know.

Well I don’t know if all that’s true
Cause you got me, and baby I got you.

It was true.

[HER:] They say our love won’t pay the rent
Before it’s earned, our money’s all been spent

To be fair, here, their love did pay the rent. They were a very popular singing duo. But like many things in this life, it did until it didn’t. After their divorce, they ceased to be popular.

They would each eventually recover in their own way, but their attempt to continue singing together failed. There’s an interesting subject here about popular figures selling an idea, not themselves, and when the idea turns out to be an illusion, the figures cease to be popular. It’s an interesting subject that popular people often have to deal with—that it’s not them that their fans love, but who they are when they perform. And yet, who else could their fans love?

Fame is a very curious thing, because while not bad in itself, in this fallen world it makes all sorts of very empty promises.

[HIM:] I guess that’s so, we don’t have a pot
But at least I’m sure of all the things we got

Yeah. That turned out to be mistaken certainty. There’s a great line in either C.S. Lewis or Chesterton which I cannot find again, which was itself quoting something that was, if my memory isn’t deceiving me, a line given to a fictional pagan:

In this way can man best the gods: he can keep his promises.

The Greek and Roman gods set a very low bar for behaving better than them and yet so often human beings fall below it all the same.

Anyway, back to the song:

[HIM:] I got flowers in the spring
I got you to wear my ring

That’s a start. Alas, the promise implied in wearing the ring turned out to be a false promise.

[HER:] And when I’m sad, you’re a clown
And if I get scared, you’re always around

Well, not always.

[HER:] So let them say your hair’s too long
Cause I don’t care, with you I can’t go wrong

Eventually he cut his hair and, according to her divorce filing, she went wrong with him. (Cher alleged involuntary servitude for his withholding of money they made together.)

[HIM:] Then put your little hand in mine
There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb

But long before the end, they couldn’t climb any hills together. Let alone any mountains.

[HIM:] I got you to hold my hand
[HER:] I got you to understand
[HIM:] I got you to walk with me
[HER:] I got you to talk with me
[HIM:] Igot you to kiss goodnight
[HER:] I got you to hold me tight
[HIM:] I got you, I won’t let go
[HER:] I got you to love me so

[BOTH:] I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe

They did. Then they didn’t.

It’s a truism of human life that promises are easy to make and hard to keep; the trick to making a lot of money as an entertainer is to sell the illusion that you’re keeping a promise when all you’re doing is making it. (That enables you to make mutually exclusive promises, increasing your revenue.)

And then figuring out a new shtick when people find out that all you were doing was making promises you weren’t going to keep.

For some reason I always connect this song with Cher’s much later song If I Could Turn Back Time.

There’s no actual connection between these two songs, of course. If I could Turn Back Time was released in 1989. Sonny and Cher had long-since moved on from each other and by this time Cher’s public persona was utterly disconnected from Sonny’s. Moreover, given her desperation for fame (fun fact: Cher was 43 at the time the music video was filmed and it was her creative decision to be semi-nude), it seems unlikely that Cher actually had regrets about not fulfilling her personal responsibilities.

And yet. And yet, the songs do go really well together as a pairing. One of those odd coincidences of life, I suppose.

When Mary Met Sue

At his inimitable blog, author John C. Wright has an interesting blog post (which is mostly a quote of one of his readers’ comments) about what makes a Mary Sue. The key insight is that the defining characteristic of a Mary Sue is not that she is super-awesome. It’s that she’s super-awesome but we’re supposed to treat her as a young, innocent ingenue:

Rey is great at everything she does. The reasoning behind that may be justified…but that is not the issue.

The issue is that Abrams clearly expects us to think of her as a sort of female Luke Skywalker. Except Luke was nothing like that! We are asked to accept that she is a natural born pilot, better mechanic than Han Solo, better natural Jedi than Luke was at the same point of his training, and a natural swordsman…but we’re ALSO supposed to think of her as a plucky orphan farmgirl.

I think that’s right. A 35 year old queen who is beautiful, intelligent, a skilled warrior and a crafty statesman wouldn’t be a Mary Sue if she’s presented as someone with a past who’s used her 35 years to good effect—if she’s someone who’s already been on the hero’s journey and come out of it having learned some lessons. The real problem comes in when she’s all of those things and only 16 years old.

The commentor which Mr. Wright is quoting calls it fundamental dishonesty, and while I think that he’s right, I’d prefer to call it a fundamental contradiction in the character. What really makes Mary a Mary Sue is when she’s got all of the benefits of experience without having any of the experience. I think that it really comes down to sympathy.

Growing up is rough so (sane) human beings have sympathy for people who are still doing it. We are willing to tolerate all sorts of mistakes in those who are young and inexperienced which we will never tolerate in the old and experienced. (This is why it’s so important to not waste one’s youth and to learn how to be competent while people will still be forgiving of your mistakes.) The upshot is that young protagonists are much easier to write—the audience will naturally be sympathetic with them. The author’s mistakes will get much of the forgiveness that the character gets since the author’s mistakes often are also the characters’ mistakes.

The other thing is that this makes character development a snap. Children don’t know anything and make (nearly) all the mistakes one can make, so giving them something to improve about is trivial. Because of the instinctual forgiveness given to children, they don’t cease to be sympathetic merely because they start out awful, either.

This creates a temptation on the part of the author to make his character younger than he should be because it’s easier to write. A competent adult is much harder to make sympathetic, especially if he has a character arc. It’s easy enough to give him a character arc if you make him start off as a bastard who deserves to be shot. (This is the reason why the Loveable Rogue™ is to popular, by the way—just be careful to say that he’s a rogue rather than show it or the sympathy goes away. Show don’t tell does not apply to flaws in characters you want the reader to like!)

What’s really hard is writing a competent adult with a character arc who starts off as a decent human being. The reason this is much harder, of course, is that the writer has to be better than minimally decent. Because one can’t give what one doesn’t have, one can’t fake wisdom. And the character arcs of decent adults are all about growing in wisdom. A child has the (easy from an adult’s perspective) task of becoming a minimally competent adult. A minimally competent adult has the task of becoming a wise old mentor. Children generally succeed; adults often fail. For that reason, nearly anyone can write a coming-of-age story. It takes a real man to write a story about someone who already came of age.

A Mary Sue is the attempt to have it both ways—to write a coming-of-age story about a competent adult.

Outraged Detectives

I’ve been watching the British detective show Death in Paradise. It’s about a British detective who is assigned for a few years to the fiction Caribbean island, Sante Marie. It’s a great premise in that it involves beautiful people with beautiful accents investigating murders in beautiful places, so there’s very little to not like.

Due to the difficulties of the shooting schedule (the actors have to live in Guadalupe for 6 months out of the year), they’re currently on their third detective. It’s made for an interesting study in character since the setting and formula (and many of the supporting characters) are the same.

So far my favorite detective has been the third, Jack Mooney, who’s an Irishman. Granted, I’m something of a sucker for anyone who will talk about God sincerely, but somewhat apart from that he had a very friendly, jovial style. The first detective was serious but detached. The second was bumbling and clueless and solved mysteries largely as an intellectual exercise. The third started off as more grounded. He was a widower with a teenage daughter whose faith in God let him weather all storms.

But unfortunately TV writers—who are mostly miserable wretches, from what I gather—can’t really write happy characters. The effort at pretending to be healthy is too much for them, I suppose. Anyway, they shipped his daughter off to university and gave him angst over it. Worse, they’ve significantly toned down his joviality. And what’s really disappointing me is that they’ve starting having him scold the murderers.

Outraged detectives are fairly common, but I’ve never seen an instance of it which didn’t strike me as a mistake. I think that it originates in the idea of trying to write realistic characters, but it’s doing so about the wrong thing.

Consulting detectives—whether independent or technically on the police force—are extremely unrealistic. Murders which are caught are almost never clever, either in their commission or afterwards. For all we know there are brilliant murders carried out that are never detected, but they are never detected. Murder mysteries as a genre invents a combination of the two which simply doesn’t happen, and moreover makes it common enough for someone to specialize in it. This is fundamentally unrealistic.

The other thing is the real-life context: people read murder mysteries for fun. The main detective being outraged at the murderer—without whom the reader would not have had several hundred pages of fun—is simply not pleasant. It’s effectively scolding the reader for enjoying the book. Or in the example I started with, for having enjoyed watching the TV episode. Now, there are all types of people in this world. There are people who pay others to insult them while they do calisthenics; I assume that there are people who want to be lectured about how they shouldn’t have enjoyed the book they just read. That said, I think the world would be a better place if this were an under-served market.

Whether Magic Should Have Rules

I came across an interesting series of tweets recently about whether Magic should have rules (within fantasy fiction):

In case it goes away, Andrew said:

To explain the mechanism is bad. To explain the rules for the magician can be good.

Andrew is right, though only in the case where the magician is either one of the protagonists or antagonists. If the magicians are all omniscient mentors or the long-dead creators of artifacts, then there is no need to create rules for their magic.

Long-dead artificers are constrained not by rules but by causality. They did what they did and not what they didn’t and they aren’t doing anything any more. Further, their actions were based on their own time and not the present so the author is free to have them create the artifacts with any combination of powers and limitations the author wants. In essence, rules aren’t necessary for the magic because rules are already present for time.

With respect to omniscient mentor wizards, there is no need for rules because the mentor is not necessarily ignorant of the plot. Not that he’s breaking the fourth wall but rather his omniscience, wisdom, and benevolence means that he will often refrain from doing what he is capable of doing for reasons of his own. Such characters aren’t really part of the plot so much as intermediate authors. Analogous to how God gives us the power of secondary causation, the omniscient mentor is a sort of secondary author to the story. Characters need limits, but authors do not.

Authors only need wisdom.

Punk Rock Can Be Quite Tame

Over at Amatopia, Alex has a post about Geek Conformity. The main subject is a former drummer of the band Nirvana who left to join the army. When asked why he left, he explained that punk rock was too stifling. About this, Alex says:

But his comments–“strict rules for practicing the right kind of individualism”–perfectly encapsulate the contempt I feel for a lot of so-called scenes involving “free thinkers.”

And this is something I find interesting. I grew up with music from my parents’ generation, not my own. The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Peter, Paul, & Mary—that’s what I listened to while I was growing up in the 1980s. The closest I came to anything contemporary was borrowing my father’s Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits CD. Punk Rock was something very foreign to me that moreover seemed dangerous.

Then as an adult, I actually listened to some. (Note: I’m enough enough of an expert to tell the various genres of people in death-inspired makeup apart. If this is Emo or some other genre I don’t know the difference between and regarded as equally dangerous in my youth, please forgive me.) And I found that it wasn’t actually very different.

Granted, there’s what for simplicity I’ll call “shout rock”, which tends to be very fast and might as well not have lyrics because one can’t tell what any of them are, but amongst the supposedly dangerous stuff where the singers actually sing, well, it turns out to be a bit underwhelming in its satanic majesty.

Readers of this blog might have seen me mention that song before, because it was the opening theme to Friday Night Live’s performances. Anyway, this is hardly scary. In fact, it sounds somewhat reminiscent of The Beatles. Compare it to Hard Day’s Night:

I’m not saying that you’re going to mistake the one song for the other, but if it turned out that Friday I’m In Love was inspired by Hard Day’s Night—or even was intended as a tribute to it—it would hardly be surprising.

There’s another song by The Cure which I discovered I like:

It’s a nice song. Granted, the lead singer is gotten up to look a bit like Pinhead from Hellrazer, but it’s basically a breathy love song. The music itself sounds a bit unfamiliar because of its heavy use of synthesizer, but as this acoustic cover shows, you can easily substitute a wind instrument and it sounds similar:

At the end of the day, it looks strange, but it isn’t actually that strange. And that makes sense when one remembers the context: punk music is a performance. It was also a product, but that just means that it was a performance intended for a large audience.

Now, the thing about performances is that in order to be successful they must be intelligible to the audience. I know that it’s popular for artists to say that they make their art for themselves but that’s (about 99%) nonsense. If they did that, they wouldn’t perform it. And the thing about audiences is that they don’t vary that much in what they find intelligible. They do vary—hence the existence of shout rock and jazzy noise (I don’t know the technical term for the genre of jazz in which the musicians, all heavily under the influence of mind-altering drugs, play random notes for interminable lengths of time with traditional jazz instruments)—but the further outside of common experience one goes, the vastly more one limits the potential size of one’s audience.

Anyone who wants to make a living off of their performances requires either an impressively rich audience or a fairly large one and the former is much harder to come by than the latter. The consequence is that the performer—if he wants to be different—must clever disguise what the audience is familiar with as something that it isn’t. Those who wish to be popular may only ever use novelty as a spice, never as a main course.

All the same, it’s tempting to thing that Rob Parvonian is right: “Punk Music’s such a joke, it’s really just baroque.”

The Best Defense Can Be Recognizing What’s Not A Threat

A few days ago, I was stung by a yellow jacket. (If you’re not from the north-eastern United States, they’re a type of wasp.) I was mowing the lawn in a section where I had let the grass grow a little too long and so didn’t notice their burrow. They felt threatened by my presence and so one stung me.

It was quite painful, and has been for a few days since, but ultimately, that’s not too important. I can simply avoid the nest. But my children play in my back yard and young children can’t be expected to remember where the yellow jacket nest is. So, shortly, the yellow jackets are going to die.

There’s an interesting lesson here—neither I nor my children would normally bother with the nest at all, except that they consider us a threat. By playing it safe—in the sense of not taking chances on what’s a danger and what isn’t—they’re actually playing it dangerous. Because when my children’s safety is on the line, I’ve got some very powerful tools to ensure that not a single one of the things survives to sting my children. And unlike them, I can make sure that they’re completely gone.

There’s a lesson in there, when it comes to dealing with potential threats. In a sense it’s related to Ed Latimore‘s dictum:

Never make enemies for free.

But the general rule is fairly simple. If you’re not sure that somebody is an enemy, be sure that you can beat them before you guarantee that they’re an enemy.

Actually, there’s an additional aspect to that rule. Before you make somebody an enemy make sure that you can beat them and their friends. In this case, the yellow jackets don’t stand a chance against my friends Amazon and the Sawyer company, who will provide me with this rather potent insect poison to pour into their nest:

//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ss&ref=as_ss_li_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=chrislansdown-20&language=en_US&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B001ANQVZE&asins=B001ANQVZE&linkId=cd598c3b7cd746efd95f6c511dabeb77&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true

(There are a lot of alternatives; I’m actually trying permethrin out for the first time. Something I’ve done before which is cheap and effective is to pour 91% isopropyl rubbing alcohol into the nest. Note: when doing this, keep your eyes open and be ready to run quickly when they notice who is disturbing them. If you’re dealing with hornets—who I’ve heard will pursue people long distances—dress appropriately and have an escape plan to indoors you can get to quickly. In that case, though, you should probably invest in a more special-purpose wasp killer than can be deployed from 20+ feet away. And as always, since this is the internet: don’t do anything yourself and instead hire a professional to do it for you. Including hiring the professional. Hire a professional hirer to hire the professional.)

It’s Not Easy Watching Movies Any More

If one pays attention to how movies are made, it’s hard not to notice that they’d probably be more virtuous enterprises if they were written, directed, performed, etc. by prison inmates. I’m not even really referring to what Rob Kroese described in this tweet:

(If it ever gets deleted, he said, “Nice to see celebrities taking time off from raping each other to condemn prayer”.)

That doesn’t help, of course, but ultimately that concerns the personal virtue of the people involved, which is between them and God. As Chesterton said in a different context, “for [their] god or dream or devil they will answer not to me”.

What really bothers me is the degree to which Hollywood wants to sell evil as good. It’s not a single-minded occupation; they also want to make money, to be praised, and the fulfillment of several other self-interests. But the problem is that there’s a certain amount of trust involved in listening to someone’s story, and people who actively mean you harm are hard to trust.

Part of how I work around this is that I rarely watch new movies and—when I watch movies—tend to re-watch movies I already know are good. But even that is getting harder. Part of it is becoming aware of how long Hollywood has desired to destroy the concepts of decency and goodness in those who watch their movies. Merely watching old movies isn’t safe. Part of it is that it’s easy to become paranoid; to borrow an analogy, when 23 out of 24 M&Ms in the bowl are poisoned, one begins to wonder about one’s skill at picking out the good ones.

The thing is: fear is not a good master. Paranoia is rational, in a certain sort of very limited sense, but it’s not healthy. I suspect that the right way forward is to emphasize how not everyone in Hollywood is actively attempting to be evil, and good can slip through the cracks. The devil is not well organized. He can’t be, since evil is the privation of good and order is good. Or, as Saint Paul said, “where in abounds, grace abounds much more.”

There Was a TV Show Called Grand Jury

I was recently watching the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring the movie The Sinister Urge, and then I watched Plan 9 From Outer Space with the Mike Nelson commentary. Out of curiosity, I looked it up the cast, because one of the major villains in Sinister Urge was a good guy in Plan 9. His name was Carl Anthony. Here’s a picture of him:

mpv-shot0001

He’s the one in the police uniform. Here’s another picture of him.mpv-shot0002.jpg

His IMDB page only lists four credits:

  • Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
  • The Sinister Urge (1960)
  • Grand Jury: Boxing Scandal (1960)
  • Raw Force (1982)

Two things caught my attention. The first was that after some initial success, it was 22 years before he got another part. It’s not much of a movie, but it is a real movie. The IMDB synopsis for Raw Force is:

A group of martial arts students are en route to an island that supposedly is home to the ghosts of martial artists who have lost their honor. A Hitler lookalike and his gang are running a female slavery operation on the island as well. Soon, the two groups meet and all sorts of crazy things happen which include cannibal monks, piranhas, zombies, and more!

The second thing I noticed was that there was a TV show called Grand Jury. Carl Anthony was in the episode called Boxing Scandal. The Wikipedia page has next to no information beside an episode list. Yet there are writers for each episode, and it has actors, so presumably it was some sort of crime drama or detective show about a grand jury. I’m very curious what their premise was since grand juries don’t have continuity. They’re assembled for a few weeks, hear a bunch of cases, determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial, then disband. Their goal is not to determine guilt or innocence, which would make it a very odd fit for a detective series.

Then it occurred to me to check to see whether there are any episodes on YouTube. Luck! There is:

It’s curious, to be sure. After a bit more research I discovered that Grand Juries actually do have investigative functions, such as the ability to compel witnesses to testify. The basic format is that some people committed a crime, then the grand jury investigates and tries to catch them. It’s actually a bit reminiscent of Columbo, in the sense of being a how-catch-em rather than a who-dunnit. That said, at least the episode Fire Trap is really more about the tragedy of how crooks fall apart than about investigations by the grand jury.

The acting was decent. The writing was… adequate. Really, it was kind of minimal. It wasn’t subtle, to be sure. To some degree it actually felt like a morality play—somebody made the choice to do a wicked deed and his life fell apart because of it. Of course, I have no way of knowing whether this was a typical episode. Still, I can see why this was not one of the great TV shows which is still remembered. That might be why Carl Anthony got a part in it (this was after Plan 9 but before The Sinister Urge).

This ties in to my earlier post, Most of Life is Unknown. People worked on this show and—presumably—people watched it. Most of them are probably dead by now, and the show is barely known. The wikipedia page which gives its list of episodes is presumably copied from somewhere since most of the entries are TBA. Even the things which we think should last disappear quite quickly from human memory. Fame promises so much and delivers so very little.

It’s a good thing that God is in charge of the world, or we’d be really screwed.