Friday, August 28, 2009

You keep using that word....

John Scalzi, having previously displayed some very odd notions about what "good design" is all about (and having been factually wrong in the process), turns his eye from Star Wars to Star Trek. Unfortunately, the results are about the same: he gets some things wrong (the Probe in STIV is not attempting to "destroy everything"), he makes some odd assertions (his bit about phasers is just weird), and instead of talking about "design" he ends up talking about scientific plausibility. I mean, sure, "Red Matter" is one of the worst Maguffins I myself have ever seen in a movie, but what on Earth does that have to do with design?

Now, weird design choices in Star Trek aren't that hard to find. Since there's no real reason for it to be there, putting the bridge on top of the ship where it's totally exposed is an odd choice. In the most recent movie, the design of the Romulan mining ship makes no sense, what with catwalks over yawning chasms and everyone splashing through ankle-deep water and all. But there's more to critiquing design than saying that Red Matter is full of crap.

Oh well. This is clearly another attempt by John to get the geeks fired up, so mission accomplished!


Call me Paul said...

I have to say, Jaq, that your last post critiquing Scalzi's Star Wars bad design piece fell firmly into the category of "fanboi coming up with elaborate and contrived rationales to explain it." You didn't convince me then, but this post is pretty much spot on.

The best commentary on design in Star Trek is the movie Galaxy Quest. I need to watch that again.

Kelly Sedinger said...

No, that post didn't. Read it again. I pointed out the difference between something being poorly designed and something being not good at doing something it wasn't intended to do in the first place. Instead of coming up with "convoluted explanations", I provided a video clip to demonstrate that he was wrong and argued that he was, in fact, mostly wrong on a meta level as well as a factual level. (Even in the one place in that post where I almost came up with a "convuluted explanation" -- the bottomless shaft bit -- I was more interested in Scalzi's factual error of assuming that bottomless shafts without guardrails are all over the Star Wars movies. This is, simply, false. Don't need any convoluted explanation for that: he's just wrong. The rest was pure speculation that took me all of fifteen seconds of thought to come up with.)

I mean, think about what Scalzi wrote. He complains about R2-D2's use of oil to defeat some droids -- but gee whiz, why might a droid that's built to be a space mechanic be toting around a supply of oil? And hmmmm, why might a mechanic droid be equipped to discharge bursts of electricity? Scalzi's piece is littered with stuff like this. Use and design are not the same thing, but Scalzi seems to think they are.

For a good real-world example of what I'm getting at: plenty of home do-it-yourself types will use flathead screwdrivers to open paint cans or even use them as crude chisels, even though they are clearly not designed for such work. Use versus design. There's a reason I quote Apollo 13 in that post.

So yeah, you missed the boat on that post, pretty badly.

Call me Paul said...

Sorry, Jaq, but the previous comment belongs in the category, "oops, I did it again." No matter how right you believe you are, you're still just a fanboi whose vast knowledge of the intimate details of his fangasm of choice is embarrassing for others to watch.


Kelly Sedinger said...

If you're embarrassed, then don't read my fucking blog. Seriously. I'm trying to make an actual point about what constitutes good design, but all you seem to want to do is predetermine that any attempt to argue against Scalzi's point is to wallow in "fanboi" behavior? And you want to act condescending and downright insulting about it? Whatever.