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Totally OT but interesting for science-types -- Darby, 19:44:28 01/06/04 Tue

I know that many folks here will find this of interest - it reads pretty cleanly, being Michael Crichton and all.

Specific warning to cjl, you may not like some of the accusations here.

For me, this very much reflects my take on the progression of some areas of science through my lifetime, but my version of postmodernism isn't so much rooted in power as it is in human nature.

I couldn't get the link html to work, so I'm afraid it's cut-and-paste time...


[> Okay, is this a permanent change in the board? -- Darby, 19:47:57 01/06/04 Tue

I just realized that my "Approve" page was just a confirmation page (I backed out to correct the html glitch, not realizing I'd been posted already). So, sorry about the double-post, this is the more correct one...

[> [> & speaking of html glitches... -- anom, 20:28:39 01/06/04 Tue

...the coding is showing but not working in at least some of the posts. TCH's link to his Angel Odyssey site in his Destiny post has all the stuff in the angle brackets instead of being an active link. And Sophist's italic coding is there for all to see...but the italics aren't. The HTML looks correct, so I think the translation into formatting is where the problem is.

Is this Voynak's doing? Can you investigate, Masq?

[> [> Sorry, we lost some of our settings -- Masq, 09:11:54 01/07/04 Wed


[> If by 'interesting' you mean 'utter trash', I agree. -- Sophist, 21:06:35 01/06/04 Tue

[> [> You do plan to follow this drive-by up, right-? -- Curious Darb, 08:12:09 01/07/04 Wed

[> [> [> No, though I should apologize to you for the harshness of my reaction -- it was not directed at you. -- Sophist, 08:45:57 01/07/04 Wed

Crichton is so wildly off the deep end that I would be wasting my time refuting him. It would be like refuting a creationist, a Holocaust denier, or a slavery apologist --he would gain credibility from my participation in the dialogue. He can follow the career path of Velikovsky or L. Ron Hubbard if he wants; he'll be unhindered by me.

[> [> [> [> Wow, that sounds a lot like the attitude he's decrying here! -- Darby, 11:16:08 01/07/04 Wed

I didn't take it personally. But...

Take a couple of shots.

I'm not much of a Crichton fan, but I think that there is a lot of value in this lecture, and as I said in the original post, it follows my own feelings in a couple of areas. And did you purposely duplicate some of his "anti-heresy" rhetoric, or was that a bizarre coincidence?

So we can disagree back-and-forth, and forget Mikey!

[> [> [> [> [> I'm happy to have a discussion with you. Pick a topic, start a thread. -- Sophist, 13:10:24 01/07/04 Wed

[> [> [> [> Re: No, though I should apologize to you... -- Ender, 01:53:35 01/09/04 Fri

Wow, I mean there was a lot of attitude in that reply. Bamh!! Just a 'he's wrong'. Why did it elicit such a strong reaction for you?

[> [> [> [> [> See my Nuclear Winter post at the bottom of this thread -- Sophist, 08:57:55 01/09/04 Fri

[> [> Utter trash? Not at all... -- Random, 12:13:36 01/07/04 Wed

The fundamental problem here is that Crichton (whom I never really liked as a writer -- sort of a poor man's Arthur C. Clarke) is making observations about how science and epistemology function. His examples -- global warming, second-hand smoke, et cetera -- may or may not be good ones. That's the problem...no-one knows. That's Crichton's point. Whether he does or doesn't believe in such thing (one is tempted to say he's a hardline skeptic) is beside the point.

The strength of science lies in verifiability, and when certain topics are little more than logical extrapolations about a certain causative phenomena, or, almost worse, subject to equally-convincing data for two incompatible conclusions, then the science no longer becomes trustworthy except by accident of QED declarations after the fact. Therefore, E=MC2 (to steal CW's point below) is not considered factual because of consensus -- it is considered factual because it has been verified repeatedly and no serious alternative formulas have been placed in opposition. It could indeed ultimately prove to be wrong. Or, far more likely, prove to be incomplete or insufficient in some manner as we expand, develop and apply the tools of measurement.

The tendency of human society to confuse political issues with scientific ones is undeniable. And, yes, sometimes the connection is counterintuitive. Doesn't make it any less real. My own feelings about global warming, for instance, are ambivalent. I'd just as soon be too cautious than not cautious enough. But I don't underestimate the power of cultural shift in my attitudes. The arguments -- big business and the government want to save money, so if people are arguing that global warming exists, then there must be some truth to it since it goes against the Powers That Be -- are not necessary valid. Modern culture as a whole has undergone a sea change with regards to environmental issues, and I myself, at 30, was the product of an entire generation that was partly defined by a change in radical social and political outlook. It gets more problematic when one notes that the people who are arguing have vested interests in actually downplaying their own influence and overstating that of their opponents. Hence, the radical environmentalists create a Big Brother formulation for the power of business, and Big Business insists that it is only doing what it can to survive and that the ideas are being planted into the mass consciousness by best-selling books and popular opinions that run into the grain of the political sympathies of large segments of the populace. Who's right? Neither, or both. It doesn't matter...it's irrelevant to the question of whether global warming or second-hand smoke as a carcinogenic agent are real.

Thus, painting Crichton as an apologist or a demagogue is off-base. He's observing that a healthy amount of skepticism when faced with "science by committee" is warranted, even necessary. He even takes pains to point out that the average person cannot verify a given issue thoroughly all by his/her lonesome. Most of us are not Newtons formulating a law of universal gravitation. Few of us will develop a smallpox vaccine. (And those of us that do might want to keep in mind that one already exists, heh.) And this formulation applies to most scientists as well as the laymen. The problem with any scientific "fact" is that all it takes is one hotshot working in the lab to come up with a result that invalidates the original premise. Or one well-controlled study providing a counterpoint to the consensus already in place. And such studies are often dismissed because the consciousness/opinion in place (or, rather, the people who possess them) has a vested in maintaining the superiority of their own paradigm. It's never simply a matter of "they have the money and don't live next door to us, so they are the ones in power and are abusing it." Nor: "they are misleading the public and write books and say stuff people agree with, so they have and abuse the power." Always more complicated than that.

It's a bad habit we have, dismissing ideas that go against the grain of what we've been taught, or of our "common sense." Crichton was quite right to point out (he did, didn't he?) issues like the germ theory of disease, wherein the accepted view ridiculed the idea because, come on...tiny little bugs making us sick?!?! Get real! He could also have noted the steady-state theory of universal mechanics or phrenology or early speculation about how AIDS was spread (I'd say a fairly large percentage of us remember those days....) Crichton was demonstrating an extraordinarily healthy amount of skepticism. And, properly applied, such skepticism ultimately leads to the truth...or at least a truth that survives the fires of dissent well. Too many "skeptics," in my opinion, define skepticism, ignorantly, as something akin to iconoclasm. Tear down the idols! Subvert the dominant paradigm! That's not skepticism....that's just another form of militantism.

And so it goes...

[> Almost 'utter trash'? -- Maura, 22:23:45 01/06/04 Tue

I think there's the germ of a pertinent observation in this essay: that "science" that is skewed for "policy" purposes should be considered suspect whether or not those purposes are laudable (like discouraging nuclear war).

That said, there are all sorts of obvious logical inconsistencies in the essay, which I don't have the energy to go into, so I'll just mention one:

Chricton seems to be attempting a "follow the money" move to demonstrate that global warming is propaganda. The problem with this is that almost all of the money at stake in the issue of global warming (at least within the lifetimes of the current people in power) belongs to people with a vested interest in proving global warming *false*. Oil tycoons and SUV dealers, for example. Few people would profit to a great degree by proving a need for the messy, costly, economically destabilizing business of really fighting global warming.

[> [> Except... -- Darby, 08:35:28 01/07/04 Wed

Note that he avoided invoking money here - his take on postmodern science is the exercise of POWER, which in the cases cited involves the changes in public policy that poor but well-publicized "science" can bring about.

There are other aspects involved - most notably, you need to start from a premise that others are willing to buy into even if you have no supporting data. It's the "Yeah, that sounds plausible, and it's so very important!" part of science. You're right, the money is mostly on the other side, so scientists feel like David versus Goliath here - except their actual pebble of confirmed data isn't enough to sling.

Specifically here, the supporting data for global warming is present but much weaker than the science mainstream asserts, and the projections are almost totally unsupportable - the models can't duplicate past climate changes, so their ability at accurately predicting the future is negligible. I haven't worked with climate models, but my experience with computer models of toxins in ecosystems (and the people who create the models) makes me agree with Crichton - we just don't know nearly enough about complex systems to create software to duplicate them.

Like Crichton, I wouldn't tell someone to not believe in global warming - I find the tiny amount of honest-to-goodness data compelling, and it's hard not to take the tack of fix-it-now-even-if-it's-not-the-cause with fuel emissions. But he is right, this is a matter more of faith than science, and in the long term it will lead right into the clutches of the folks who claim that science is just another religion.

[> [> [> I hope you're right -- Maura, 12:07:09 01/07/04 Wed

Nothing would please me more than for global warming to end up being less of a threat than we think. So I sincerely hope you're right about that.

Still, the only major vested interest I can see that the scientific establishment would have in exaggerating the risk is the fear that the risk (to some degree) is real (as you concede) and people need to be scared into dealing with it. I'm sure this happens at least to some degree. And all in all, I suspect the "scare tactics" may well be worthwhile, especially given that even with *with* all those scare tactics, we aren't globally being effective at limiting CO2 emissions.

That's not to say that distorting science isn't problematic. I think it is, and that was Chricton's valid point. But I don't think such distortions will destroy the valid uses of science and make it all scientistic religion, since the scientific method is largely self-correcting -- unless it is completely abandoned, which I don't see evidence of.

[> [> Policy's Discomfort with Science -- dmw, 08:10:33 01/08/04 Thu

I think there's the germ of a pertinent observation in this essay: that "science" that is skewed for "policy" purposes should be considered suspect whether or not those purposes are laudable (like discouraging nuclear war).

I agree, though I've been thinking about another, related side of the relationship with science and policy. Policy generally has two problems with science:

  1. Science is never as simple as policy or ethicists want it to be. The abortion controversy is a great example of this issue. Human development is a gradual process, with no objective mark as to when someone becomes a person. Even if one attempts to pick a "moment" like conception or birth, science quickly reveals that supposed "moments" are processes requiring hours of time. Often multiple sperm reach the egg, which has to reject them, and afterwards it takes time for the DNA of the sperm and egg to combine and take control of the cell.
  2. Science contradicts our innate understanding of the world. While our innate sense of physics is Aristotleian, we have gradually grown to accept Galileo and Newton without regarding their ideas as destructive to the moral foundations of our society. However, many of us do find modern biology's contradictions of our innate idea of mind as the "ghost in the machine," independent of the physical world, to be dangerous ideas. People make statments such that if there are biological explanations for how our mind works, how can we hold anyone responsible for their actions? The biological understanding of the mind is no more a moral problem than the Earth not being the center of the universe was, but our society has its own dogmas today, no matter how reasonable and advanced we think we are.

[> [> [> Re: Policy's Discomfort with Science -- sdev, 10:45:06 01/08/04 Thu

I'm not a scientist, but it seems to me another problem with policies' relationship with science is the demise of basic science research. I think less and less money is going to basic research and more to applied.

[> Re: Totally OT but interesting for science-types -- CW, 08:48:51 01/07/04 Wed

The article is really not so horrendous as it might seem at first glance. The term 'pure science' has often been coopted for other things, but here I'd like to use it to mean the underlying principles for what we call science, without the greed, glory seeking, power struggles and populatity contests that mar virtually every human activity, whether it be science, politics, art or religionn.

The biggest problem that Crichton is pointing out is that while scientists tend to try eliminate biases of various kinds from their work, people (even scientists themselves) often make the mistake of thinking they are entirely successful in this attempt, and fundamentally unbiased. The fact is that scientists are human beings, too. Sometimes they settle arguments by screaming louder. Sometimes they look the other way when other scientists who are their friends make very unscientific blunders in their work. Sometimes some of them lie about their results to keep the grant money flowing.

If all science were pure we'd never have such problems. But, that will never happen. We have to make do with what we have, as sad as that may be.

Let me give you a perfect example. In the last decade we've had medical scientists griping at the public about asking their doctors for antibiotics to treat every possible ailment. It is indeed a very bad practice. But, every known instance of drug-resistant form of a once-controlled disease in this country is traceable to hospitals abusing antibiotics, where the patients essentially have had little or no say in their treatment. We know that transplant patients are often given maintenance doses of antibiotics, yet the public has never been warned about the serious dangers of this side of this medical 'miracle.'

It is impossible to get a PhD in the Western civilization without getting a group of established types to agree that your work is both well done and 'correct' as far as they can tell. Yes, it's true you can usually have a royal fight with one person one your committe but the rest of the group pretty much has to agree with you. Let me shock Mr. Chrichton here and now: E equals M times C squared probably is not right except over a limited set of conditions. Rather than get into a gigantic argument over nothing let me say that C here is simply a conviently large number. If the proper number were much greater under certain conditions it wouldn't matter one whit to our understanding. The underlying idea that a hell of a lot of energy is bound up in what we call 'mass' is absolutely and irrefutably true. However, if you challenged the precise equation as Einstein wrote it in your oral exams for your physics PhD, even with much better evidence and arguaments than I could produce, chances are you'd never get that PhD. Why? Because too many careers are bound up in little details like this being considered precise as is.

There was a great deal of anger in the physics community about a decade ago when a couple of scientists from Utah claimed they'd produced a controlled cold fussion reaction. They hadn't, and it was certainly correct that in the scientific community it be laid to rest. But, what we saw was a gigantic furor, a huge public scathing of those guys. In part, they brought it on themselves. I personally believe anyone calling themselves a scientist who calls a press conference to discuss their findings ought to be condemned to cleanup work at the local burger joint for life. Actually flipping the burgers is too good for them! But, what happened in reaction had little to do with that. The fact is that the tests to figure out these guys were wrong were pretty cheap. But the people trying to make high-energy controlled fussion work were having no luck either, and they were spending billions and billions of dollars in their failures. To save their own butts, the high-energy people felt like they had to do everything in their power to make the Utah people look like charlatans. Thus the gigantic furor.

As a botanist Darby no doubt knows many problems in science. My recent interest in cacti has led me to wonder at the naming conventions in biology. A considerable amount of publication on the subject South Amercian cacti was done by a man, about whom if you called him scientist, it would be an act of charity. The man certainly had an interest in cacti, but he had no sense at all of scientific rigor. Among other things he did was to publish a 'scientific' description of a new species, based solely on his fleeting observations as he past by on a train. He broke rules of doing research right and left simply to get his name permanently attacted to the scientific name of the plants. Instead of banning outright everything this turkey did for self glorification, the scientific community has accepted the validity of many of his publications, and indeed other better botanists have named new discoveries after him. Sometimes it pays to be a self serving SOB.

You simply can't separate human behavior from human activity. Crichton generally is right, but what the heck can we do about it?

[> [> Amen, Brother! -- Darby, 11:27:59 01/07/04 Wed

That was exactly the point I was making.

You're right in that naming things is rarely a very vigorous pursuit, and in fact the majority of species have been named by hobbyists. And that train story is not an unusual example of how it's done. (And, not that it matters, but I'm an invertebrate zoologist / parasitologist - not that there's anything wrong with the study of botany, it's a valid lifestyle choice)

Another part of the problem is that high-profile scientists have become the witch doctors of the New Age, and it's not necessarily important if they've got data to support them if they can get a bunch of like-minded folks to nod and say, "Yep, that sounds about right..." It fits human nature to want to be told what's good and bad and not be too troubled by how the decisions are made.

[> [> [> naming things (getting way OT) -- matching mole (Talpus alignensis), 17:35:25 01/07/04 Wed

I'm not sure that I agree that most scientific names were assigned by hobbyists - it depends on your definition. For many groups (vertebrates, mollusks, flowering plants) I'm assuming that a lot of naming occurred in the 19th century when the distinction between a scientist and an amateur was less firmly drawn than it is now (Darwin was not a professional scientist in the sense we would recognize it today - he didn't have a degree in science and he didn't work at a university or anything equivalent). Groups of organisms in which describing new species is an active concern would include things like insects and fungi in which only a hnadful of people in the entire world would be able to recognize a new species in a particular group.

But that's a minor point. Taxonomy does have a series of very strict rules about naming things. Actually there are two sets of rules, one for plants and one for animals, which is kind of confusing now that we recognize that there are lots of organisms out there that are neither. These rules are designed to make communication as clear as possible by ensuring that there is one 'correct' name for every described species (the first one used). People who make flippant descriptions of new species are a real problem. Fortunately relatively few people are motivated to do so (groups with a substantial hobbyist interest like cacti are the most vulnerable). Naming is, in my opinion, more for our convenience than an accurate description of the natural world. The formation of species is a real phenomenon but it isn't a cut and dried process - lots of things are half way and calling them one species or two is arbitrary.

[> [> [> [> Re: naming things (getting way OT) -- Darby, 19:09:05 01/07/04 Wed

I was thinking about things like insects, actually - the reason there are so many named insect species is that there are - or used to be - lots of bug collectors in the world. And now, there are very few professional-type folks working in actual taxonomy.

This part of science is also very postmodern - as you point out, the reality of species is much fuzzier than we compulsively-labelling humans would like.

[> [> [> Re: Amen, Brother! -- CW, 07:13:51 01/08/04 Thu

Sorry about mixing up your speicialty.

It's disturbing in trying to learn about plants, that what matching mole says isn't quite true. In cacti, it's the genera the people argue most about. And in that case it's often the newest name that's the proper one. Hobbyists and commercial growers are the worst about hanging on to older names, but some true scientists stubbornly stick to their old favorites as well! To prevent scientific war, it's all considered acceptable. So having to know two or three scientific names for the same plant isn't unusual.

Wasn't that what scientific naming was supposed to get around? ;o)

[> [> [> [> funny movie on plant taxonomy -- sdev, 11:27:10 01/08/04 Thu

Have you ever seen the film A New Leaf, directed by Elaine May? She plays a botanist and it's quite funny. Walter Matthau is the male lead.

[> Re: Carl Sagan... the fraud! A little truth at last. -- Vegeta, 12:03:39 01/07/04 Wed

It's about time people start coming out and exposing these "scientists" as the absolute frauds they are. Especially Carl Sagan, who was more interested in pushing his ultra-liberal ideals, than forwarding science. I personally have long maintained that you pretty much have to have as much faith in science as you do in religion. The "scientists" will come out with "facts" that are often completely unsupported.
Example: The hole in the ozone layer. Scientists have no idea whether there has always been a hole in the ozone layer or not. But, they never present their facts as such. Also, in regards to it's fluctuating size, isn't that the norm when dealing with gasses.
I personally think that "global warming" is a complete scam and is being perputrated by "green" scientists to push forward their own political agenda's.
Remember the acid rain scare in the 80's? What happened to that. It was proven to not exist, that's what happened. Per usual the most interesting news is the news that isn't reported.

[> Living with uncertainty -- matching mole, 14:29:23 01/07/04 Wed

I'm supposed to be reading my wife's grant proposal right now but I guess it can wait a few minutes.

In my comments I'm going to go from the general to the specific, like you're supposed to.

First I'm going to flip Crichton's central argument upside down. As he says science is about the lack of consensus, about the one person who is right vs. the consensus. However Science is also, in a big way, about uncertainty. You can't ever be really sure that anyone is right. New information can always appear at a later date. The high degree of uncertainty about the universe is why scientific knowledge is supposed to be subject to very rigorous tests.

So if Ehrlich made the claims that he made about famine in the 1970s and the 1980s as Crichton claims he is guilty of bad science. I don't actually know what his statements were. From the position of pure science you want to take an extremely skeptical stance. However, if he actually made definitive statements like that, although I don't condone them, I can understand why he might have made them. Scientists are confortable with uncertainty but the public and politicians seem to want science to provide cut and dried answers to everything.

However, if you want to apply science to the real world, actually do something with it, things become more complicated. Several years a conservation biologist told me about dealing with politicians and bureaucrats on his job, managing the ara around a lake to preserve habitat for an endangered flycatcher (a bird). He said they were always asking what size area of land(i.e. the minimum area) was needed to ensure the survival of the population. It is impossible to give a scientifically rigorous answer to this question. It depends on too many external factors (climate, disease, immigration from other populations, etc. etc.).

Here is where I think Crichton runs into real problems. I believe that his background is in medical science? (I don't really know). His discussion of global warming reveals a fairly profound lack of insight into types of science where rigorous experimentation is not possible. I'm not an expert on global climate change by any means but a number of people at my institution are and I've seen quite a few presentations on various aspects of the issue. And here is the crux of the matter - global climate change is a unique, one time, event. The earth is a very complicated system. There is no way we can really know what the effects of what we do now will be in 100 years. Computer models present a wide range of scenarios based on different assumptions.

Crichton's response seems to be - there are no such things as informed guesses, we have no idea what's going to be going on in 100 years so lets not even bother to take action until we have a rigorous scientific understanding of the issue (i.e. we understand it as well as we understand plate tectonics or something). My resonse is: 1) nothing is certain, 2) dividing the world into rigorously tested scientific knowledge and 'predjudiced' guesswork is a false dichotomy (I would argue that most things, including almost everything scientific of interest falls into some gray area in the middle?, and 3) we have to take action on problems we face where we also face a lot of uncertainty. I would argue that we need to come to terms with the issue of uncertainty in making public policy.

Taking the specific example of global warming. The vast majority of scientists who have studied the matter have come to the conclusion that the planet is warming (a decade ago this was contentitious - I don't think it is anymore). The three questions that follow from this observation are - 1) what is causing the warming, 2) what is the climate trajectory (how warm is it going to get and where?), and what will the effects of the warming be? There is a specific model for human causation of global warming which was proposed long before anyone was concerned about it as a social issue. There is also strong correlative evidence showing that warming started around the time of the start of the industrial revolution when carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere began increasing. One tenet of science is that correlation is not causation but in this case we have nothing else. We don't have a series of identical planets to experiment with. The projections into the future and studies of the possible effects on the world's ecosystems are obviously just projections. But they are informed guesses - nothing definitive but a lot more definitive than nothing.

So the question is - what do we do with this information? If we reduce our output of carbon dioxide this will have definite lifestyle costs (fossils fuels and travel will become more expensive and standards of living may decline somehwat). That outcome seems far more desirable than the projected outcomes from doing nothing. Based on imperfect information the choice to me seems fairly obvious. If we find out that it is all meaningless in 20 years those that are inclined can cheerfully go back to driving SUVs.

I think that true scientific literacy involves having a understanding of and a comfortableness with, the uncertainty inherit in science involving any kind of complex system.

[> [> So, what IS science then? -- dub ;o), 18:03:47 01/07/04 Wed

His discussion of global warming reveals a fairly profound lack of insight into types of science where rigorous experimentation is not possible.

Pity us poor non-scientific types. One of the few things I can remember being hammered into me by the public education system was that the scientific method was based on rigorous, reproducible experimentation. If you're engaged in an endeavour were rigorous experimentation, and therefore the scientific method, cannot be applied, how can that endeavour be classified as scientific? Isn't it, rather, speculative?

Not trying to cause a fuss, but things like this thread drive me crazy. I read Crichton's speech, and sure, I understand what he's getting at and it all seems to make sense. Some things he states flat out, as facts. For instance, The American Cancer Society announced that 53,000 people died each year of second-hand smoke. The evidence for this claim is nonexistent. Is he correct, incorrect, or deliberately lying? If he is correct, is the American Cancer Society incorrect, or deliberately lying? And how the heck could someone like myself ever find out the truth of the matter?

The wonder of the internet is that it can provide me with access to Crichton's speech, and this interesting discussion which follows it, but, even with the help of the omniscient Google, just where does one find the truth?


[> [> [> What is Truth? -- Sophist, masquerading as Pilate (not the exercise class), 19:23:45 01/07/04 Wed

First off, let me congratulate mole on a terrific post.

I'm not sure anyone has a definitive answer to your basic question (what is science?). Here are some suggested criteria:

1. Whether or not it is possible to disprove the results. In science, there is no such thing as a fact or theory which is true always and forever. In principle, any fact and any theory can be shown to be incomplete or even false. In some sense, scientists never try to prove something, they try to disprove it.

Now, of course some things are far less likely to be untrue than others. But in principle any statement of a scientist is subject to revision upon further testing. All a scientist can do is say "X is true to a high level of confidence"; it is always implied that the confidence is less than 100%. The theory (or fact) may pass a thousand tests, but if it fails just one, it can be overthrown.

Newton's law of universal gravitation seemed like one of those absolutely true statements. But then came Einstein to show that under certain extreme conditions Newton's formulas would not work and had to be revised. Just in this last year, strong evidence emerged that Einstein's theory fails to account for an anti-gravity force called "dark energy". Science always progresses, but it never ends.

2. Related to the first principle is that there must be tests that can be made of a fact or theory. The reason for this is that science progresses by consensus. A fact is only considered established if it can be tested, if it is tested, and if the results agree (i.e., if there is consensus on it).

Now, subject to what I said above about the constant presence of some level of uncertainty, it is true that a fact is a fact regardless of our agreement on it. (As Galileo may have said, "What does it matter what I say? It still moves.") However, a fact does not become part of science until there is a consensus on its existence and scientists can use that fact to explore other problems. For example, the fact (if it is one) that the Earth revolves around the Sun was true long before Copernicus. However, until Copernicus suggested it, that fact was not part of science. Even then, it took a hundred years for scientists to reach a true consensus on it. And then Einstein showed that it's all relative anyway....

This leads to your question about experiments. Sometimes a fact can be tested directly and often. For example, if we want to know the mass of an electron, we can generate billions of electrons and "weigh" them over and over until we all agree on their mass to 9 decimal places. Sometimes a test can only be done once: if you want to know if a particular bomb will explode, you only get to try it once.

In other cases tests can be done, but only indirectly. This usually happens with historical sciences like cosmology and paleontology. For example, if we want to know what conditions were like just after the Big Bang, we can't create one (or, better yet, many) and see what happens. We have to work backward. Same with evolution -- we can't see it happen with long-living creatures, but we can still do indirect tests. This bothers some people because we are working by inference rather than direct test. But it's still science as long as the indirect tests are repeatable and we can reach a consensus about them.

3. Science does not try to answer big questions right off. It does not, for example, try to discover the nature of consciousness. Instead, it usually tries to find a relatively small, manageable problem and solve that. Maybe this will help answer the larger question, maybe it won't. But lots of small steps tend to work better than one big step.

4. Scientists go back and forth between facts and theories. It's sometimes said that there is no such thing as a fact without a theory. This means that facts make sense only in context, and you need a theory to establish that context. A good theory is also essential in order to find good problems to work.

5. Scientists are human. They are affected by their society and their personal background. There are often implicit assumptions in a theory that are hard to identify. This does not make their conclusions untrue, it just means that we have to be aware of that and remember it when we test a fact or theory to try to disprove it.

[> [> [> [> Good post -- dmw, 07:43:30 01/08/04 Thu

For example, if we want to know what conditions were like just after the Big Bang, we can't create one (or, better yet, many) and see what happens.

True, though as a physicist, I can't resist pointing out that you're standing in the middle of the Big Bang as we speak; it's an ongoing process that's just cooled down to a bit less than 3K. We can also see quite a bit of what happened earlier on because of the time it requires light to travel. However, the early part of the Big Bang before the Recombination Era is closed to direct observation (free electrons scatter photons far more effectively than bound ones, so the universe was opaque.) While we can't reproduce Big Bang level energies, we can get closer than Recombination Era energies in particle accelerators.

[> [> [> [> [> Well, by 'just after' I meant 10^-43 seconds or so. :) -- Sophist, 08:36:05 01/08/04 Thu

[> [> [> [> [> [> Planck Time -- dmw, 09:11:47 01/08/04 Thu

I'm a nuclear physicist by training, so I tend to use long periods of time, say 10-24 seconds, when I say "just after" instead of amounts measured in the Planck Time. (-;

[> [> [> [> And another, possibly relevant, quote -- dub ;o), 13:00:25 01/08/04 Thu

This one from John Horgan:

In writing about science, I have tried to show that certain theories are best understood not as discoveries plucked whole from some Platonic ether but as embodiments of the aspirations and anxieities of living, breathing individuals.

I came across this today while reading about something completely different. Yes Willow, it is all connected...


[> [> [> Re: So, what IS science then? -- Darby, 20:11:24 01/07/04 Wed

Science is like democracy - there's definitely a way it should work, a bunch of ways that it shouldn't work, and the way it does work is somewhere in between.

Truth? You pays yer money and takes yer choice. The Cancer Society number is statistical smoke-and-mirrors, a technique used on second-hand smoke, radon, asbestos, and the like - connect data taken at extreme levels to much tinier exposures on the assumption that the connection is a straight line. The Better Safe Than Sorry approach. The history of this is pretty spotty.

I think that's the most disturbing aspect of this whole thing - we ought to be able to trust folks who lay claim to being eminent scientists to follow the system as closely as they can. If second-hand smoke has serious effects, there should be a host of non-smokers who grew up in smoking households, who worked in enclosed smoking workplaces, with lung cancer, way more than similar folk with smoke-free backgrounds. But those studies, that science, is barely in progress while the Cancer Society is proclaiming hard numbers.

I think it's good, though, that folks without a lot of training understand that the Powers-That-Be are sometimes about as trustworthy as Angel's. It'd be nice if that concept was more widely disseminated, rather than wait for a science version of Nixon and Agnew to make the whole pursuit suspect.

[> [> [> Second hand smoke -- Sophist, 21:32:04 01/07/04 Wed

Here is what the ACS actually said about second hand smoke. I'll leave you to decide if (a) they were quoted accurately, and (b) if the claim of "non-existent" support is accurate:

Secondhand Smoke

What Is It?
Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) or passive smoke, is a mixture of two forms of smoke from burning tobacco products:

Sidestream smoke: smoke that comes from a lighted cigarette, pipe, or cigar
Mainstream smoke: smoke that is exhaled by a smoker

When nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke it is called involuntary smoking or passive smoking. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke absorb nicotine and other compounds just as smokers do. The greater the exposure to secondhand smoke, the greater the level of these harmful compounds in your body.

Why Is It a Problem?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen, which means that there is sufficient evidence that it causes cancer in humans. Environmental tobacco smoke has also been classified as a "known human carcinogen" by the US National Toxicology Program.

Secondhand tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds. More than 60 of these are known or suspected to cause cancer.

Secondhand smoke can be harmful in many ways. In the United States alone, each year it is responsible for:

An estimated 35,000 to 40,000 deaths from heart disease in people who are not current smokers
About 3,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmoking adults
Other respiratory problems in nonsmokers, including coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, and reduced lung function
150,000 to 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections (such as pneumonia and bronchitis) in children younger than 18 months of age, which result in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations
Increases in the number and severity of asthma attacks in about 200,000 to 1 million asthmatic children
The 1986 US Surgeon General's report on the health consequences of involuntary smoking reached 3 important conclusions about secondhand smoke:

Involuntary smoking causes disease, including lung cancer, in healthy nonsmokers.
When compared with the children of nonsmoking parents, children of parents who smoke have more frequent respiratory infections, more respiratory symptoms, and slower development of lung function as the lung matures.
Separating smokers and nonsmokers within the same air space may reduce, but does not eliminate, the exposure of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke.
Where Is It a Problem?

There are 3 locations where you should be especially concerned about exposure to secondhand smoke:

Your workplace: Secondhand smoke meets the criteria to be classified as a potential cancer-causing agent by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency responsible for health and safety regulations in the workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), another federal agency, also recommends that secondhand smoke be considered a potential occupational carcinogen. Because there are no known safe levels, they recommend that exposures to secondhand smoke be reduced to the lowest possible levels.

Aside from protecting nonsmokers, workplace smoking restrictions may also encourage smokers who wish to quit or reduce their consumption of tobacco products.

Public places: Everyone is vulnerable to secondhand smoke exposure in public places, such as restaurants, shopping centers, public transportation, schools and daycare centers. Although some businesses are reluctant to ban smoking, there is no credible evidence that going smoke-free is bad for business. Public places where children go are a special area of concern.

Your home: Making your home smoke-free is perhaps one of the most important things you can do. Any family member can develop health problems related to secondhand smoke. Think about it: we spend more time at home than anywhere else. A smoke-free home protects your family, your guests, and even your pets.

Smoking Odors

There is no research in the medical literature about the cancer-causing effects of cigarette odors, but the literature shows that secondhand tobacco smoke can permeate the hair, clothing, and other surfaces. The unknown cancer causing effects would be minimal in comparison to direct secondhand smoke exposure, such as living in a household that has a smoker.

What Can Be Done About It?

Local, state, and federal authorities can enact public policies to protect people from secondhand smoke and to protect children from tobacco-caused diseases and addiction. Because there are no safe levels of secondhand smoke, it is important that any such policies be as strong as possible, and that they do not prevent action at other levels of government.

To learn how you can become involved in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, contact your American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345.

Additional Resources

Other Organizations

American Lung Association
Telephone: 1-(800) 586-4872
Internet Address: www.lungusa.org

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Telephone: (202) 260-2090
Internet Address: www.epa.gov/iaq/ets/index.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Tobacco Information and Prevention Source (TIPS)
Telephone: 1-(800) 311-3545
Internet Address: www.cdc.gov/tobacco/

National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Information Service
NCI Public Inquiries Office Building 31
Telephone: 1-(800) 4-CANCER (1-(800) 422-6237)
Internet Address: www.cancer.gov


American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2003. Atlanta, GA.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Current Intelligence Bulletin 54: Environmental Tobacco Smoke in the Workplace - Lung Cancer and Other Health Effects. 1991. (Publication No. 91-108) Available online at: www.cdc.gov/nasd/docs/d001001-d001100/d001030/d001030.html. Accessed November 2003.

Environmental Protection Agency. Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders. Washington, DC: Environmental Protection Agency; 1992. (Report # EPA/600/6-90/006F) Available online at. Accessed November 2003.

Glantz, Stanton. "Tobacco Biology and Politics," Health Edco, 1992.

Patten, et al. "Workplace Smoking Policy and Changes in Smoking Behaviour in California: A Suggested Association," Tobacco Control 1995; 4: 36-41.

Pirkle JL, Flegal KM, Bernert JT, Brody DJ, Etzel RA, Maurer KR. Exposure of the US population to environmental tobacco smoke: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988 to 1991. JAMA. 1996;275(16):1233-40.

Steenland K. Passive smoking and the risk of heart disease JAMA. 1992;267:94-99.

US Department of Health and Human Services. 10th Report on Carcinogens. Public Health Service - National Toxicology Program. 2002. Available online at http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/roc/toc10.html. Accessed November 2003.

US Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services; 1986. (Publication # HPS 87-8398)

[> [> [> [> Penn & Teller investigated this controversy -- sloan, 22:06:16 01/07/04 Wed

Has anyone seen the Penn & Teller show called "Bullshit" in which they totally debunk the secondhand smoke myth because it is based on a survey that has since been thrown out by the FDA? (Or some other governmental agency--It's been a while since I've seen the episode). Their point was that everyone was taking figures from a bogus study--not that secondhand smoke is or isn't harmful, just that it hasn't been proven conclusively yet. I think the episode came out last year so the figures they were quoting were probably dated--but they made a good point.

[> [> [> [> [> A quote from Penn Gillette -- dub ;o), 07:15:44 01/08/04 Thu

"We did the show on secondhand smoke specifically because there is a good chance we are wrong on it. But we are right in that we are factually accurate that there is no proof at the start of 2003. What we say literally is that these studies have not been proven; these are not real studies. It is very possible that in five years there will be a study that shows that secondhand smoke really is harmful. When that study is out, guess what, we are on the other side."

[> [> [> [> [> [> This quote is a great illustration -- Sophist, 09:06:02 01/08/04 Thu

of both the popular misunderstanding of science and of the problems inherent in mixing science with public policy.

Penn says "these studies have not been proven". As I said in my original post, there really is no such thing as "proof" in science. There is only evidence. The evidence can be more or less convincing; when it's very convincing, we sometimes call it "proof", but it really isn't.

What I assume Penn means is that the existing studies are not convincing. Well, convincing to whom? To him? He's not an expert. Clearly the study was convincing to the person who published it. Was it convincing to other experts?

There are lots of times when those working in a field are divided on a particular point. Maybe 70% feel X is true, but a vocal minority of 30% insists this is wrong. It becomes difficult to create public policy in such cases, especially when the consequences can be serious.

Take second hand smoke for example. At what level should there be regulation? When 99% agree that it's harmful? 40%? Hard to say. And then there's the problem that those exposed to second hand smoke are often involuntarily subjected to it. Does that change the acceptable percentage?

No matter what the issue in science, there will always be someone who disagrees. It's downright silly and often disingenuous to claim that something hasn't been "proven" so we shouldn't act; if that's the standard, science could never be useful. The use of science to establish public policy is now and will always be a judgment call. Anyone claiming otherwise (who could I have in mind here?) is either ignorant or only interested in furthering an ideological agenda.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: So... we should take action on any kook theory or study, just in case? -- Vegeta, 14:11:26 01/08/04 Thu

That really doesn't make alot of sense to me. Especially since my tax dollars are paying for it. Has it ever occured to you that since most of these studies are run on government grants, that it's in a scientists best interest to make sure they have results (therefore justifying their existence and that they continue to garner government support)? Just something I wanted to throw out there...

[> [> Removing Uncertainty -- Sara, 20:07:27 01/07/04 Wed

I think the point made in the article isn't that educated guesses and computer models are completely invalid, but that they are mis-represented in their accuracy in order to make the point that someone wants to be made. I never believe anything based on a computer model is anything more than a possiblity - models are not precise analyzed data, they're projections and guesses based on a combination of both hard information and guesses/approximations.

The only reason you would treat models as factually accurate is if you desire to manipulate people's opinions. This is the problem - when the opinion is intuitively positive such as "Nuclear war is bad" and "Smoking is bad for health" people become urgent in their need to have everyone agree with them and overuse whatever they have in their arsenal to convince the audience. Anyone else remember health classes that were so over the top about Marijuana you stopped taking anything they said seriously? When that happens the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater and nothing that's said has any credibility.

I think many people know that I'm strongly against smoking. I believe my father's smoking took decades away from his life, and other people's smoking around him had a significant effect on the quality of his last 20 years. But even rabid little me doesn't take second hand smoke information seriously. It always sounds so much like they're reaching to get the conclusion they want to have. It's not good enough to say second hand smoke can be damaging to the people around you with lung conditions, instead you have to yell to the skies that it's going to give everyone cancer.

I found the article to be describing in scientists the same fear tactics we've seen from teachers, activists, politicians and the medical profession. It would be nice if people would make the best case that they can make fairly for their point of view and let the public make up it's own minds. There's nothing wrong with saying "I think" instead of "I know".

By the way, I told Darbs years ago that science was another form of religon after he tried explaining quantum mechanics to me. That's either religon or the result of other students who took the same health classes I took...

[> [> [> There's nothing wrong with saying 'I think' unless you wish to be mostly ignored. -- OnM, 20:13:51 01/08/04 Thu

I've been really enjoying this thread, because, well... I have a theory.

OK, more than one, many even. I've been looking for a good point to drop into this discussion and finally have settled on this one simply because the following comment triggered the old "my personal experience is so completely otherwise" somethingorother.

*** I found the article to be describing in scientists the same fear tactics we've seen from teachers, activists, politicians and the medical profession. It would be nice if people would make the best case that they can make fairly for their point of view and let the public make up it's own minds. There's nothing wrong with saying "I think" instead of "I know". ***

I fully agree that many times, this technique is indeed a 'fear tactic'. However, it is also important to be aware (and several other posters in this thread have already touched on this directly or indirectly) that overstatement in a confident fashion is a survival tactic.

Survival in the 'modern', techologically advanced world has mutated into a variety of forms, but it is still based in one wa or another on the age old, apparently DNA-driven urge for social animals to form vertical hierarchies with an alpha animal at the top. In other words, we tend to give far greater credence to the actions or (in the case of verbal creatures such as ourselves) statements that are presented with a high degree of confidence. Conversely, we tend to dismiss the actions or statements of those who do not present their opinions forcefully.

Using the qualifier "I think" is, unfortunately, a perfect way to denote weakness to many others around us. Not all mind you, but a very statistically significant proportion. My personal desire to not disseminate information of a highly dubious or questionable nature as regards technologies in the audio/video field has cost me quite a lot of income over the years.

Just last week, a home theatre related magazine that I subscribe to contained an ad by an extremely well known electronics manufacturer, one who I happen to intensely dislike because they regularly set up technical straw men and then knock them down, garnering huge sales and overwhelming public acclaim by doing so.

The ad managed to reach a new pinnacle in idiotic blather and bafflegab. Nearly three-quarters of it (and there was quite a lot of text) was flat out wrong or grotesquely misleading.

But no one cares, and in fact if I try to counter some of the claims to a potential victim of this nonsense, do they thank me? No, they usually think to themselves he doesn't sell the line, so he has to badmouth them. Everyone else says their stuff is just the best there is!

And how do I know what they're thinking? Because some weeks later on, after I haven't heard from them and do a follow up call, I find that they purchased the very thing I recommended that they try to avoid. And this happens over and over and over again, even though I take great pains to explain why I don't think this company (or many others) is worthy of their hard earned money and try to back it up with empirical evidence, and not just an impassioned, forcefully delived 'opinion'.

In short, I cite a few easily proven examples and then I frame the question to the potential buyer as, "Why would you want to do business with a company that routinely lies to you?"

And the answer come back, "Because they make such great stuff! Everybody knows that!"


OK, sorry for the rambly-ness, but it's late and at the end of a way-too-long day, but I have been enjoying the thread, so by all means keep it coming!

G'nite now.


[> [> [> [> Re: There's nothing wrong with saying 'I think' unless you wish to be mostly ignored. -- Copper, 22:13:58 01/08/04 Thu

This is one of the most interesting threads I've read here in some time. But then I've been a more sporadic reader lately, too.

As a biological scientist I agree with most of what the other biologists and many of the others here have posted. I also agree with OnM. I think that quite often one is not really heard unless one states his/her position forcefully. In the case of scientists, there is almost always data to support that position. However, the actual strength and quality of the data are also usually open to discussion. But unless the position is forcefully made, it is quite possible that the scientist's view will get little or no hearing from colleagues. If the scientist fears that will happen, he/she may well decide that getting the idea to the general public may generate the interest that is needed for fellow scientists to give his/her position a hearing.

[> [> [> [> Hmmm...this may be an issue of writing and arguing carefully? -- s'kat, 22:38:26 01/08/04 Thu

In other words, we tend to give far greater credence to the actions or (in the case of verbal creatures such as ourselves) statements that are presented with a high degree of confidence. Conversely, we tend to dismiss the actions or statements of those who do not present their opinions forcefully.

Yet, as you demonstrate in your post, if those opinions or beliefs are not supported - does it matter that they are presented forcefully? Or maybe, if just the act of stating something forcefully makes it more true and more worthy of attention than something that isn't that's a little dangerous and disconcerting in of itself. And makes me wonder if we should be a little more careful how we phrase things? Particularly opinions stated in public forums. Should you forcefully utter an opinion as fact when you are uncertain of your facts or even your findings?
I wonder about this.

When someone sells a piece of audio-equipement and forcefully tells you it can do all these wonderful things, yet that person has never tried the equipment and is basically talking out of their hat (I think that's the correct idiom - ;-)), is that useful or harmful? Aren't they, in effect, "lying" to the purchaser, which granted is a selling technique that one too many people use. I recently read part of a book by Al Franken that tears apart a couple of political pundits who forcefully stated their opinions as "facts" yet did not check the facts to see if those opinions were supported as such.

Don't get me wrong - I don't have any problem with someone stating an opinion forcefully or with conviction, I do it all the time, but I do think we all need to be careful that we can support it - if we forcefully state our opinion as a fact, or at least be prepared to take the consequences for doing so. I've gotten jumped on for doing so myself more than once and dearly hope I've learned from it. Actually- one of the most valuable lessons I've learned on this board is to be careful how I phrase an opinion or view on a topic, particularly one I am *not* an expert on - which covers quite a bit of ground, I'm afraid (grin).
Saying "I think" or "this is my opinion" or "I saw this some where but this what I think" - helps clarify to the reader how much I do know on the topic. If they choose to ignore my views b/c they appear weak - that is a risk I take, but it is a much smaller risk than the one I take if someone out there decides to take my unsubstantiated views as fact - ie. the audio/visual seller who sells a piece of equipement stating it does one thing when it does another.

The frightening thing about our news media, salesmen, etc is how many do state their unsubstantiated opinions as facts and the percentage of the population that appears to believe what they say without question, often using these opinions as support for their own. I've learned to question what I hear on the news or in the media - to cross-check it through more than one source before I believe what is said. I don't do it on everything of course - I get lazy, but I do remain skeptical... and try not to make a judgement until I get all the information. Arguing and writing and thinking carefully is easier said then done, it takes lots of time and effort I think. But - I can't help but wonder how many disagreements, acts of violence, even wars may have been avoided if we/people in general had taken the time to gather information and think carefully as opposed to just reacting and taking a forcible opinion as fact?

[> [> [> [> [> Hope to respond in more depth later on tonight or over the weekend, but meanwhile... -- OnM, 07:37:27 01/09/04 Fri

... consider that this is exactly the subject dealt with in the BtVS S7 endgame. Buffy states her opinions forcefully, as leaders tend to do, but was she right?

In retrospect she was, and yet she wasn't. Thus beginneth a rampant array of philosophical difficulties.

[> [> [> [> [> [> Facts, force, opinions. -- Arethusa, 08:13:59 01/09/04 Fri

Buffy's problem was one that accompanies any argument forcefully presented. If someone expects an argument to be acccepted based on their forcefulness, they had better be sure of their facts, because what they are really saying is, "Believe me because I say so. Forcefully." Their believability is the basis of the argument, not verifiable facts. Buffy said everyone should do what she says because she's the slayer and knows what she's talking about, but she glossed over one easily identifiable flaw-she was't the only slayer. So the Potentials turned to the other slayer, who did not agree with Buffy's opinion, thereby destroying the forcefulness of her argument, as well as its efficacy. Faith did't present her arguments forcefully, but she was believed and followed becasue her audience was already predisposed to disbelieve Buffy and to the Potentials Faith's opinion was just as valid as Buffy's.

In the Real World, look at the Univ. of Maryland study on the audience of news programs, especially Fox News. Fox's audience was found to believe a number of quite untrue "facts," forcefully and repeatedly stated by its newscasters and pundits. The combination of repetition, forcefullness, and predisposition towards belief resulted in a bunch of people believing lies and mistakes.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Re: That study is a case in point -- sdev, 23:11:19 01/09/04 Fri

I believe that study is a good case for policy prompting results. The study results have been disputed because of ambiguous questions. In fact the questions were revised halfway into the study. The study was funded by the Ford foundation which has come under recent fire for its own "agenda" and funding of questionable research.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> [> Questions, questions :) -- Arethusa, 07:01:16 01/10/04 Sat

By whom were the results disputed? What agenda and research? Is it typical for studies to chage questions they feel are unclear or otherwise need changing? I'm not saying that the study was without flaws because I don't know one way or the other. However, if I were to dismiss a study because of its flaws, I would need to know as much about the people questioning it and their methods as I do about the people conducting the study. Everybody has an agenda. ;)

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Ah yes, the old 'proof by vigorous assertion' technique -- Vickie, 09:19:57 01/09/04 Fri

[> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Hope to respond in more depth later on tonight or over the weekend, but meanwhile... -- s'kat, 09:04:27 01/09/04 Fri

consider that this is exactly the subject dealt with in the BtVS S7 endgame. Buffy states her opinions forcefully, as leaders tend to do, but was she right?

In retrospect she was, and yet she wasn't. Thus beginneth a rampant array of philosophical difficulties.

Hmmm..Buffy's decisions in S7 were not necessarily the best ever and could in the long run prove to have some really nasty consequences. The fun part of these shows is that no matter what decision the character makes - it's always a double-edged sword - there's always a negative reprecussion.
Much like life.

Examples: she chose to spread her power to every would-be potential across the universe, not considering for a second how these potential girls would deal with that power or the consequences of doing it. Think about that for a minute.
What if one of the potentials was...a murderer like Faith, before they got the power? OR a soulless monster like the boy Ryan in I've Got You Under My Skin, Ats S1? Or someone who is a borderline head case and the sudden influx of the slayer ability just sends them careening over the edge? But in war, we don't have time to consider these matters - right? So is it our fault if our "war-time" decision costs lives after the fact? Is it our responsibility?

In the episode Empty Places - Buffy's inability to listen to others and just state her opinions forefully - gets her thrown out of her own house. And in Touched -End of Days - Faith's decision to take action without questioning things - gets people killed.

The finale? Well if it weren't for Spike's amulet, everyone in that building would have been dead. There's no indication that Buffy and 20 some girls would be able to take out over 1000 ubervamps. Was Buffy's opinion a sound one? A good one? Or one that could have potentially cost a lot of lives?

I'm not sure. Again I think stating an opinion forcefully may depend on the circumstances - I think you'll agree that there is a huge difference between stating an opinion you believe with all your hear and soul to be the only way to win a fight and stating one that you are uncertain of.

[> [> [> [> [> Re: Hmmm...this may be an issue of writing and arguing carefully? -- Copper, 08:33:51 01/09/04 Fri

If only we lived in an ideal world. I agree that carefully-reasoned, well-supported arguments are necessary. Stating a viewpoint forcefully without the data to back it up is foolish. However, not stating it forcefully, especially when one does have the supporting data, pretty much guarantees that it will be ignored. In my experience, most scientists and physicians do not bother to read a journal article past the abstract unless it is something that they really, really care about. And even then, they will probably just read the introduction and conclusion. Scientists generally are busy and narrowly-focused. If you want to get their attention, you have to hit them on the head.

To take one example from Crichton's essay, there are data showing that those exposed to second-hand smoke have more health problems than those not exposed. For instance, children of smoking parents have much higher rates of respiratory problems than do children of non-smokers. Now, the total numbers may not be as high as some groups state. However, until the problems of second-hand smoke were forcefully articulated, efforts to limit/prevent tobacco use were stalled. I feel sure that there were numerous scientific articles written that stated in carefully neutral tones that second-hand smoke was problematic. But until someone decided to put the issue more forcefully and to get general public attention, nothing much happened.

As another example, you, Shadowkat, write long, fascinating essays. However, they are often so long, that I have no time to carefully read them. It would be great if my time were unlimited and I could spend as much time as I wished reading everything that appears intriguing. But I, and most individuals, do have limited time. This means that if you or I or someone else wants what we've written to be read, we may need to hit the reader over the head initially. Once we have their attention, then we can provide the detailed supporting data.

[> [> [> [> [> [> Writing and arguing carefully -- Arethusa, 09:12:35 01/09/04 Fri

As another example, you, Shadowkat, write long, fascinating essays. However, they are often so long, that I have no time to carefully read them. It would be great if my time were unlimited and I could spend as much time as I wished reading everything that appears intriguing. But I, and most individuals, do have limited time. This means that if you or I or someone else wants what we've written to be read, we may need to hit the reader over the head initially. Once we have their attention, then we can provide the detailed supporting data.

You're talking about what "hooks" a reader. In my journalism classes, we were taught to put the most interesting/relateable/scandalous facts and quotes in the lead (opening parargraph) because most people don't read beyond the first paragraph of an article (or headline, for that matter). Other hooks are humor, shock, forcefulness, and so on. Perhaps hooks for an ATPO reader include familiarity with the the poster's work, subject/topic (All Spike!/No Spike!), age of subject matter, familiarity with subject matter, frequecy of discussion of the topic, etc. Forcefulness and dogmaticism turn me off, as do well-worn topics and gushy fan posts (not that we get many), and total absence of punctuation (too hard to read). Forcefulness may or may not get the audience's attention.

[> [> [> [> [> [> [> Exactly -- s'kat, 09:44:28 01/09/04 Fri

Forcefulness and dogmaticism turn me off, as do well-worn topics and gushy fan posts (not that we get many), and total absence of punctuation (too hard to read). Forcefulness may or may not get the audience's attention.

Actually I think you state this better in both your posts than I do. I also think matching mole does a wonderful job of stating it.

While a strong word or phrase may get my attention, if it's too forceful it can also turn me off or worse raise my own uncertainity/skepticism about the writer. Writers who state in an opening paragraph that their opinion is the only one or this is a fact - tend to make me stop reading or cause me to roll my eyes.

There is a difference between language that hooks a reader and language which is intended to persuade them. Persuading someone to believe something - is a difficult thing. Lawyers make a living doing it - in court it is very important to state your case persuasively to a judge or to a jury or both. But you have to be careful not to piss them off in the process, so you spend a great deal of time hunting the right words and right emphasis. If you use the wrong ones - you could lose your case in the first twenty minutes of trial or in the first paragraph of a brief.

A really good example of bad persuasion techniques is Buffy's speechs in S7, instead of inspiring the potentials and SG to follow her lead, she inspired them to kick her out of her own house. Was she speaking forcefully? Yes. But she did not take the time to understand her audience or find a way of communicating to them. She assumed they'd follow her if she stated her opinions as facts and was shocked to learn that it had the opposite effect. People don't like to be ordered to believe something. They like to be persuaded by evidence - they like to figure it out for themselves, not treated like idiots who need to be told or informed. Knowing how to do this is an art in of itself.

[> [> [> [> [> [> Re: Hmmm...this may be an issue of writing and arguing carefully? -- s'kat, 09:28:22 01/09/04 Fri

Oh, don't misunderstand me - I'm not saying you *shouldn't* state an opinion forcefully. What I'm stating and I think from what I've read - you'd probably agree - is that when you do so, you should make damn sure you've backed up it with supporting data or at least can back it up with supporting data. If you can't? Then you probably deserve to have yourself raked over the nails by others. Which I'm certain happens quite a bit in the scientific field. Actually - Cactus Watcher, I believe, gives an example of a few scientists losing all credibility due to the fact that they forcefully stated an opinion and were unable to back it up. Happens all the time on this board - heck I've gotten raked over hot nails a few times myself as have you and pretty much everyone else here- for doing just that. We're human after all, we don't always back up our data and when we feel strongly about something we have a tendency to use strong language to back it up. That is not to say we shouldn't forcefully state opinions or use strong language necessarily - what I guess I'm saying is we might want to be *more careful*, be sure we do have information to back up our opinions, test our assumptions and theories before necessarily sharing them or better yet share them but with the caveat that we are trying them out - open it up for experimentation.

I remember doing an essay - an incredibly long essay - on the Pitfalls of Television (you can find it in the atpo August archives if you want), and I spent a great deal of time of researching my claims - the length of the essay was mainly due to the large number of footnotes I had and sources I quoted - which were close to 50 in various works. I used strong language in the essay and did state my opinions forcefully. Even with all that information to back me up - I made a few mistakes, there were a few gaps in my logic that people jumped down my throat on - but because I had supported the majority of my statements, I was able to defend even those areas fairly well and make a few qualified changes here and there, even admit where I was wrong and correct it. If I hadn't backed up and/or supported my data - then I would have lost my credibility. We can forgive a mistake here or there, but not a whole list of them. That's the worst - losing credibility.

IF you don't write carefully - you risk losing the reader's trust and your own credibility. You're right we don't have time to read long posts or every post, so on boards such as atpo, we chose carefully which ones to click on, just like we may chose which magazine to subscribe to or which News program to watch. If we discover that the people we have chosen to read or listen to are lying to us or not credible? We'll stop reading or listening to them - we will ignore them and go elsewhere. After all - why would you want to waste time on someone you can't trust or believe? That's one of the risks of speaking or writing forcefully without being careful about it. (Aresutha gives a wonderful example above of how Buffy lost the SG and potentials to Faith's leadership for making this same mistake.)

[> [> [> [> Exactly! -- matching mole, 09:17:04 01/09/04 Fri

You've hit the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned. OnM's post explains why I entitled my post 'Living with Uncertainty'. In public disputes be they political, economic, scientific, whatever - certainty and simplicity almost always win out over uncertainty and complexity. And, in almost any issue that is interesting and important, there is going to be a fair amount of uncertainty. I'm talking issues of pragmatism not morality here.

If we're talking about SETI and the probability of contacting aliens I think it is fine to take the high road. Stand up for scientific rigor. But if we're talking about global warming and a situation where the potential costs of both action and inaction are high and enormous respectively and the world is full of voices willing to state with utter certainty that global warming is a giant hoax, what is the responsible course of action for a scientist in the area to take? I don't really have an answer.

I have a definite bias. If I hear an argument in which one person states things in absolute terms and with complete certainty and the other person has caveats and admits the possibility that some things they say might end up being wrong then I think that person number two is likely to much closer to the truth than person 1 in the vast majority of cases. Expressions of absolute certainty, to me, indicate a lack of skepticism about your own world view that is likely to lead to errors. If you can't question yourself, how can question the outside world? However the evidence from the world at large tends to indicate that most people don't seem to operate the same way I do.

[> [> [> [> [> Re: Exactly! -- Copper, 10:07:13 01/09/04 Fri

As I am sure you are well aware, equating forcefulness with absolute certainty is simplistic. One can state something forcefully, with plenty of arguments in support of that position, and still point out that this position is something else that must be considered, not the only thing, or the only correct thing. My point, which seems to have been lost, is that calm neutrality generally does not get people to really think about an issue.

[> A lot of nonscience -- MsGiles, 09:24:19 01/08/04 Thu

Warning, homespun philosophy ahead,(1)

Scientific method is a belief system, in a sense. Its certainly a philosophy. It's a way of approaching the material world which says we can make up theories, but we only accept them fully to the extent that they can be confirmed by experiment. It's a relationalisation of the human way of dealing with the environment by projecting results of actions eg 'If I sharpen this stick I can use it to spear a rabbit' goes to, 'If I plant these seeds I'll have wheat next summer to make bread'. Then this goes to 'Why?' and after various philosophical and spiritual theorising this goes to 'Yes, but why in a purely practical cause and effect sense?'

What science does is try answer the last question, to work out the underlying pattern to all these causes and affects by starting from the immediate why (why do I have to sharpen the stick? Will it work blunt? Will it work if I sharpen it flat instead of round? Will anything other than a stick sharpen? Then, why do sharp things go into rabbits more easily than blunt things? etc), and it differs from other philosophies in saying, 'this is our theory, but we now have to find a way of going out and testing it. To do this we have to use our theory to predict what will happen in a circumstance that we haven't experienced yet, and then go out and see if that does happen'. (As a vegetarian I leave the rabbit metaphor here, I'm not really sure why I picked it. Am I channelling Anya?)

With all this emphasis on testing, science has a materialist slant. The correctness of a theory doesn't (or shouldn't) depend on the spiritual purity of the author. Scientists don't fast in deserts, or spend weeks in deep meditation, to come up with their theories. In that they differ from most religious/spiritual philosphers. That's not the only other sort of philosophy, though, we have a long tradition of secular philosophy, which generally tries to work with the way we express things in words, to try and reach better ways of understanding things. Again, these philosphers are looking for patterns (one of the deepest, most inexplicable needs people have).

The emphasis on experimentally validating theory doesn't stop scientists making up theories (obviously). Lots of scientific theories, particularly in physics, are pretty much untestable at the moment, and really partake of pure philosophy. They have their umbilical to empirically based science, but they are untestable (I've seen this explained on telly, so it may be dodgy info, but I assume there are no other-agenda'd interests deliberately promulgating this. Unless - aha! - they want to soften us up to accept untestable science in other arenas ..)

Also, the technology and the philosophy hang off one another, when you're following scientific method, you don't get advances in the one without advances in the other.

One thing science doesn't do in the main (though individual scientists do) is debate the nature of good and evil, or have any basic remit to work for good (or for evil, for that matter). The only bad in science is bad practise - there's no such thing as a bad conclusion if the method and analysis are sound.

Crichton seems to be saying that scientific practise is often bad and scientists aren't always truthful. Probably true. He's saying that some scientists are abandoning the purely pragmatic to induge in moral crusades, and that in some cases they have decided the need to push their issue has overridden their commitment to scientific method. Well, scientists are human beings. I expect some of them read horoscopes, try feng shui, avoid walking under ladders or carry lucky objects. Some of them are religious, and many of them are interested in philosophies that aren't empirically testable.

I go with some of his observations, though. I've felt the smoking thing to have long since gone into the realms of the illogical, and yet I welcome it, because it counteracts all the smoking advertising and marketing. And I'm sure a lot of smoking (particularly of quantities of mass-produced, chemically treated cigarettes) is bad for the health. Smoking had got to the point where it wasn't the occasional hobbit with a pouch of Longbottom leaf (sorry, fantasy leakage occurring) but bulk addiction to unpleasant smelling little white sticks. I'm happy to work in a smoke-free office. But also I'm happy with my Dad smoking a ridiculously fumigatious pipe (like spending Christmas with a small bonfire in the living room). I don't think smoking is Eeevil, just addictive, prone to be commercially manipulated and unpleasant to be around in quantity, like a lot of drug use. The tendency to identify it as evil creeps me a bit. I've been brought up around scientific materialists, and I like my ultimate good and evil safely wrapped in fiction.

I love the Bad Science column in the Guardian, (http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/badscience/) though it rarely touches on such major issues as nuclear power. Rather it concentrates on the minutea of bad science that filters into the press every day, the shampoo adverts that invent new elements and Christmas press releases about the health-giving properties of chocolate.

I enjoyed reading Crichton's lecture, but I thought in the end it qualified as a rant. As people said, as unsystematic and opinionated as the stuff he was criticising.

Philosophers are free to tell me I'm talking rubbish. Always.

[> [> Re: A lot of nonscience -- Ames, 19:32:30 01/08/04 Thu

Ok, I've avoided reading most of this thread, but I will comment that there's a lot of popular misconception about what science is.

Science is a method of developing true and verifiable knowledge on which future generations can build. It's the reason why every researcher in every generation since about the year 1400 doesn't have to start at ground zero. Up until that time, everyone interested in increasing human knowledge had to start by verifying every single basic fact personally, because the "knowledge" found in books and common lore was completely unreliable. That put a pretty strict limit on what anyone could accomplish in a lifetime. As Newton said, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Science is just a method, maybe not the only one or the best one, but by and large it works in spite of human fallibility.

BTW, one axiom of the scientific method is that theories which cannot be proved or disproved are irrelevant, unless and until new facts are discovered. Occam's Razor is frequently mis-applied in a similar way - it's often misquoted as "the simplest theory is the right one", implying that the other theories are wrong, but in reality it's better quoted as "the simplest explanation that fits the facts is best, because more complex explanations that fit the same facts contribute nothing more".

[> [> [> Thanks, that's very succint. -- MsGiles, 03:51:06 01/09/04 Fri

You emphasise that science is, over and above all, a body of knowledge which can be built on, something I completely missed.

Isn't it true, though that the element of experimental verification is what distinguishes modern science from earlier natural philosophies, and from other contemporary philosphical systems, religious and otherwise? For example, Epicurus in the third century BC first proposed atomic theory as a way of understanding the material world, but support of this theory was based entirely upon whether one followed, and agreed with, the reasoning that led to it, and not on the system of using theory to extrapolate a result in a controlled experimental situation and then testing whether that result is achieved in practice.

One of the things that produced modern science was the meeting of alchemy and Greek-influenced philosophy, combining the experimental nature of the first with the intellectual rigour of the second.

[> [> [> [> Meanings of Science -- dmw, 05:41:38 01/09/04 Fri

You emphasise that science is, over and above all, a body of knowledge which can be built on, something I completely missed.

Isn't it true, though that the element of experimental verification is what distinguishes modern science from earlier natural philosophies, and from other contemporary philosphical systems, religious and otherwise?

When I use the word science, I'm generally referring directly or indirectly to the scientific method, but it does also refer to the body of the knowledge and I think the essence of Ames' post is that the two are interrelated in that it's impossible to build up a body of valid knowledge without a method of verification like the scientific one.

[> [> [> [> Experimental verification -- Ames, 11:48:02 01/09/04 Fri

What distinguishes "scientific" experimental verification from earlier attempts is the key word "repeatable". There were plenty of early experimentalists who understood the importance of actually testing theories as well as philosophizing about them, but they never fully understood the importance of controlled conditions, documentation, and above all repeatability. It's not enough to make careful observations, develop a theory, and tell other people about it. Those other people have to be able to repeat the same experiments from your description, and obtain the same results. Without that, your knowledge is folklore.

[> [> [> Re: A lot of nonscience -- Darby, 06:48:29 01/09/04 Fri

I've got to disagree with your definition of Occam's Razor, which sounds more like a rationalization for what actually is a simple (but, according to recent evidence, probably wrong) rule: "given a range of possible explanations for something, the simplest explanation is probably correct." It was one of those old, accepted ideas that only recently was tested, and with luck it may eventually fall out of favor as an "obvious" rule of logic. (Give it a home test - write down a couple of dozen items from your area of expertise, imagine the simplest explanation for how they work, and see how often that matches the accepted explanation)

But to say that Einstein's space-time explanation of gravity added nothing to Newton's simpler "attraction" concepts takes a simple, already-questionable axiom in a very misleading direction. There are no shoulders to stand on if the initial, simple explanations are the end of it.

[> [> [> [> Re: A lot of nonscience -- Ames, 16:02:11 01/09/04 Fri

* Sigh *
It's exactly this type of thing which is a misinterpretation of Occam's Razor. Einstein's special and general relativity theories would indeed be irrelevant if all we knew about mechanics and gravity was the classical observations. Speculating that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant for all observers, or that gravity is a geometric distortion of space-time, is pointless if you have no way to observe those things, and no testable predictions can be made from them. But Einstein's reason for coming up with these theories was to explain observed data which could not be explained by the classical theories, e.g. the Michelson-Morely experiment and the equivalence of inertial and gravitation mass. His theories then made predictions which could be (and were) tested by experiment.

[> I trtied contacting Crichton, but he was still in granular form -- MsGiles, 03:56:52 01/09/04 Fri

And Scorpius was too busy snogging Sikosu .. oh, sorry, wrong Crichton

[> [> LOL! -- Rob, 09:46:23 01/09/04 Fri

[> Nuclear winter: How science proceeds -- Sophist, 08:54:46 01/09/04 Fri

Nuclear winter is one apocalypse Buffy never had to stop. I just decided to discuss it, totally random and out of the blue. I decided to put in this thread for the same reason. No other reason. Really.

This topic developed in an interesting way which sheds a great deal of light on the practice of science in today's world. It also sheds a great deal of light on the politicization of science.

I actually know something about this story from someone who was there and whose reliability is beyond question. I'm not going to disclose details because I don't have permission, but I am going to add some observations that are not public knowledge. Otherwise, I'm going to let others tell the story for me.

I'll start with William Calvin. He's a well known scientist and author. His book, The River That Flows Uphill, provides most of the details. It can be found online at http://williamcalvin.com/bk3/bk3day8.htm. His version is quite accurate and well written; passages in brackets are mine:

"Scientists had been studying the effects of dust injected into the atmosphere by volcanoes ("a stratospheric veil of fine silicate ash and sulfur aerosols, with resultant surface cooling"), stimulated not only by the marked climate changes that have followed some eruptions but also by the results of one of the unmanned spacecraft which flew past Mars in 1971. There it found a giant dust storm which enveloped much of the planet and took 10 months to clear. [Carl Sagan wrote papers on this issue in his work on the space program.] Could that happen here? Why does dust take so long to settle out of the atmosphere? One answer is that, if it gets up high enough, rain won't wash it out anymore.

And how does dust get up that high? When the geologist Walter Alvarez discovered unusually high concentrations of the rare element iridium in 65-million-year-old layers of rock in both Italy and Denmark, he considered whether the breakup of a meteor might have caused it. He, his father the physicist Luis Alvarez, and others postulated in 1980 that such a meteor could have kicked up enough dust to cause the Cretaceous extinction, that wiped out the dinosaurs and so many other species about that time. The giant dust cloud they postulated got everyone to thinking about extinctions and atmospheric disruptions.

But what about smoke? ... In 1977, George Woodwell of the Woods Hole biological labs suggested that all of the clearing of tropical forests that was going on might, because of the burning, be injecting more carbon compounds into the atmosphere than all the coal and oil burned in the Northern Hemisphere.

Smoke can also get high enough in the troposphere to avoid being washed out immediately; when it does wash out, it causes acid rain, as the people and wildlife downwind of industrial centers well know by now. Smoke at any altitude is far worse than dust -- one big difference is that, while dust tends to reflect light back into space that would have otherwise reached the earth's surface, the black carbon particles tend to absorb light and heat up, thus heating the air molecules around them much more than dust does. Heating up the middle atmosphere, while simultaneously reducing the heating of the lower layers near the earth's surface, is just the sort of thing to give nightmares to atmospheric scientists: the circulation patterns that carry weather around are quite dependent on the temperature gradient between the lower and upper atmosphere.

The nuclear winter story actually started with supersonic jets and ozone, the three-atom oxygen molecule that tends to accumulate in the stratosphere and screen out much of the sun's ultraviolet light that would otherwise seriously damage plants, not to mention human skin and eyes. In Germany, Paul Crutzen's studies of the ozone layer called into question the building of supersonic passenger jets in 1971. [Crutzen won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1995.] He then contributed to the subsequent studies which had led to the concern over refrigerator coolants and the propellant gas used in spray cans, because of fluorocarbon's potential for destroying the ozone layer. In 1975, a U.S. National Academy of Science report concluded that all-out nuclear war might destroy enough of the ozone layer to expose the earth's surface to lethal doses of ultraviolet light -- lethal to plants as well as people. The president of the Academy, in releasing the report, offered his personal opinion. He chose to look on the report as "encouraging," characterizing it as suggesting that much of the planet could recover from a nuclear war.

By the late seventies, Crutzen was studying burning trees in Brazil and trying to figure out what happened to the constituents of the smoke and vapors, worried that they too might affect the earth's ozone.

All of this formed the background to one of those startling serendipities that sometimes occurs in basic science, when one problem suddenly illuminates another. Smoke had some effects on ozone, but what might they do to temperature? Smoke hadn't been taken seriously before, and atmospheric scientists began to reevaluate the old studies about the aftermath of a nuclear war. Never mind for a moment all those people killed by the blasts and firestorms and fallout -- what sort of world would the survivors face? If volcanoes can cause so much trouble, what would happen after all those bombs kicked up a lot of dust? And all those firestorms burned up all those cities with their fuel dumps and asphalt pavements and flammable buildings, sending smoke up high?

Crutzen didn't have data on burning cities, but he did have data on forest fires and he assumed that the city firestorms might spread to the forests. So Crutzen and an American colleague, John Birks, wrote a paper in 1982 for the Swedish environmental journal Ambio on the smoke from forest fires that a war might cause -- and calculated that a typical nuclear war might cause enough atmospheric disruption from forest fires alone to prevent 99 percent of the sunlight from reaching the surface of the earth, and that the effect might last for weeks.

Is a simple calculation reliable? One can't just experiment by burning cities down, but there is the smoke-haze data from forest fires. The volcanoes and the weather records have provided a lot of data with which to calibrate computer models of dust in the atmosphere. But the next part of the story came when people working on very different problems applied their expertise to Crutzen and Birk's scenario. Carl Sagan and two of his former students, Owen Toon and James Pollack [the world's preeminent authority on planetary atmospheres], had developed computerized models to study how the giant dust storm on Mars might have operated [Sagan was Toon's thesis advisor and an expert on this subject]; Richard Turco [the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation 'Genius' award] and James Ackerman had been using a more sophisticated version of this computerized model to test the notion that dust clouds kicked up by a meteor striking the earth might have been the cause of the mass extinctions postulated by Alvarez et al. Turco saw an advance copy of Crutzen and Birk's work, and realized that smoke was much more important than dust because of what it did to atmospheric temperatures.

The five had gotten together to study the biologists' mass extinction problem, but now they shifted and extended Crutzen and Birks' calculations using the sophisticated computer "working model" of the atmosphere; they included estimates for burning cities as well as burning forests. Turco, Toon, Ackerman, Pollack, and Sagan wrote a paper (soon known by the acronym TTAPS) published in Science [Science magazine is the most prestigious scientific magazine in the US] in late 1983 detailing the consequences of nuclear exchanges of various sizes and types; the TTAPS report was delayed one year, Sagan said, because their U.S. government sponsors were nervous about the political reaction and wanted more studies done before letting it become public knowledge. But news circulated quickly in the scientific community anyway.

...In the interim year before the TTAPS publication, while the results were circulating privately, a group of physical scientists met to assess the Crutzen-Birks and TTAPS reports; every time they found a neglected factor that might lessen the effects, they also found several that would make things even worse." [The study concluded that temperatures could be lowered by as much as 35 degrees.]

[Sophist adds: Turco's employer at the time also insisted on rigorous internal review of the paper. This review raised technical issues regarding the report, but never suggested it was politically motivated. It is possible to state without qualification that Turco, at least, was not motivated by ideology and that the science of the paper was entirely unaffected by political concerns.]

So that's the basic story. What have we learned about the way science proceeds? Here are some key points:
1. The TTAPS study grew naturally out of previous work on related issues.
2. The scientists who worked on this and related issues were among the most respected in their fields.
3. The TTAPS report went through 3 levels of peer review -- two internal reviews and the peer review demanded by Science magazine - before publication.
4. The topic of the paper cannot be studied directly (obviously, no one wants to start a nuclear war in order to find out what happens). However, there are related tests that can be made: dust storms on Mars; volcanoes; forest fires; and asteroid impacts (which themselves can be studied indirectly). Notwithstanding such tests, certain assumptions must be made and those assumptions may drastically affect the outcome.
5. Because the point of the study was to make a plausible prediction, the study could not be characterized as "true" or "false". It could only be described as "plausible" or "not plausible". Because of the complex issues, only an expert could make such an evaluation.

The nuclear winter scenario was controversial from the beginning. A later, very critical article, for example, quoted Richard Feynman, Freeman Dyson, and Victor Weisskopf - all prominent physicists, but not experts in this field - as making derogatory comments about the TTAPS paper. Dyson and Weisskopf denied the quotes attributed to them; Feynman could not remember saying it. Other studies attacked some of the assumptions, while later studies of the atmosphere caused modification of some of the formulas used in the paper. For the current understanding of the issue, I'll quote the Columbia Encyclopedia online:

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

nuclear winter

theory holding that the smoke and dust produced by a large nuclear war would result in a prolonged period of cold on the earth. The earliest version of the theory, which was put forward in the early 1980s in the so-called TTAPS report (named for last initials of its authors, Richard P. Turco, Owen B. Toon, Thomas P. Ackerman, James B. Pollack, and Carl Sagan), held that the ensuing low temperatures and prolonged periods of darkness would obliterate plant life and seriously threaten the existence of the human species. Later models, which took into account additional variables, confirmed the basic conclusions of the TTAPS report and suggested that the detonation of 100 megatons (the explosive power of 100 million tons of TNT) over 100 cities could produce temperature drops ranging from 5 to 15 degrees.

So, what's the point here? Well, if someone were to suggest that

"nuclear winter was a meaningless formula, tricked out with bad science, for policy ends. It was political from the beginning",

we would all know that such a suggestion was blatantly false. And if that same person were to repeat the quotes from Feynman, Dyson, and Weisskopf after those quotes had been disputed, the most charitable conclusion we could reach is that such person was, well, careless with the facts. If the same person then went on to imply that subsequent studies undercut the basic conclusions of the study, we would suspect that such person might not be an expert, or even a scientist. We would also know that such person didn't interpret the later studies the same way the Encyclopedia did. Finally, if that same person suggested that TTAPS "subverted science to political ends" with the risk of "Lysenkoism" or "Nazi euthanasia" (!!!), then we might suspect this person of himself engaging in the politicization of science and reach an even less charitable conclusion about him. I sure did.

[> [> Thanks -- Darby, 10:05:05 01/10/04 Sat

Is it fair to say that this is a "button" area for you?

I appreciate your taking the time to give your perspective on this. It doesn't surprise me that some of this evolved from rain forest research, which is one of the sloppiest arenas I know - it's almost like peer review must amount to "I'll let this obvious incongruity slide, because I know you'll do the same for my papers." It's one of the few areas I know of where when field tests don't work, they get published as confirming the initial hypothesis (kind of, "Oh, we now realize we should have gone this way with it - surely the results will match up if we do this differently next year!"). Although I'm more familiar with the ecosystem and diversity stuff than the atmospheric, I don't know of any field test data (the Gulf War fires aren't the only example) that comes close to matching what's supposed to happen with smoke. At least the dust and PCB data is more cooperative in reality.

Your criticism of Crichton using similar tactics doesn't quite work, though, unless he's responsible for putting this on the web. I don't consider a lecture at Caltech - presumably to a group with the background to look into the assertions - equivalent to introducing a dramatic concept in a Sunday supplement. He was maybe a bit over the top, true, but the guy works in potboilers and television now, and was delivering a live lecture, so that's no surprise.

He did claim that the mentioned critics' quotes were revuted but later the revutations were revuted (yikes!) - I have no idea if that's true, but if Crichton had those later facts, I don't see him as careless.

Overall, I thought of this as a useful if colorful warning that heroes, even in science, are not beyond pushing an idea that they feel is important, even if that means that they play a bit fast and loose with the rules of their vocations. But the reason it made an impact on me is that I feel, from looking at a fraction of it, that the evidence is weak and the logic suspect. And I know how commonly science is driven by intense feelings and a compulsion to shake people by their metaphoric lapels.

Again, it comes down to opinion and human nature anyway, and I am by no measure an expert in this area. I'm sorry if that has put me in the position of denigrating someone you respect - it won't be the first time my foot has lived in my mouth.

[> [> [> Well, this did (obviously) push a button... -- Sophist, 13:06:09 01/10/04 Sat

But I'm not sure what aspect about it was responsible. I believe several factors did it:

1. I would never deny that politics and science sometimes intermingle in harmful ways. However, ALL of his examples were chosen from a right wing perspective. That ticked me off, since the danger is at least equal from both sides. In fact, I think it fair to say that government -- whichever side is in power -- is the largest purveyor of politicized science.

2. The particular example of TTAPS happens to be something I know quite a bit about, and he's dead wrong about it in every possible way. Worse, he's dishonestly wrong. Though I didn't mention it above, he obviously took his information on TTAPS from an article by a right winger named Russell Seitz who is not a scientist and who was the source of the denied quotes and other inaccurate information.

3. The "Lysenkoism" and "Nazi euthanasia" comments were SO outrageous that any reader should lose all respect for the author.

4. There are numerous debater's tricks scattered throughout the speech; I found these offensive in light of the topic and thesis.

5. There were other errors of fact on the other examples, so many I don't have the time to correct them all. Without actually counting, I'd say there are more factual errors than correct statements in the speech.

6. The question of using models in science is an interesting one. My own view is that opposition to them amounts to little more than fogeyism. That said, use of them is a substitute for direct testing, and for that reason a great deal of care is required. A priori dismissal of them as "nonscience" is, however, absurd.

He did claim that the mentioned critics' quotes were revuted but later the revutations were revuted (yikes!) - I have no idea if that's true, but if Crichton had those later facts, I don't see him as careless.

It not only is NOT true, but the information is available on the web. I found it in preparing my post above.

I thought of this as a useful if colorful warning that heroes, even in science, are not beyond pushing an idea that they feel is important, even if that means that they play a bit fast and loose with the rules of their vocations. But the reason it made an impact on me is that I feel, from looking at a fraction of it, that the evidence is weak and the logic suspect.

I have no problem with this in general. There are good historical examples to choose from (Buffon and New World animals, for example). My complaints are that (a) his examples were chosen to score what appears to me to be a political point, and (b) in fact those examples do not support his thesis.

[> [> Thank you, Sophist -- dub ;o), 12:25:18 01/10/04 Sat

Thank you so much for taking the time to put together a post that goes far toward explaining an obviously complex situation for the layperson. Not many would bother, and I appreciate it.

I actually know something about this story from someone who was there and whose reliability is beyond question. I'm not going to disclose details because I don't have permission, but I am going to add some observations that are not public knowledge. Otherwise, I'm going to let others tell the story for me.

Again, if you try to see this from the perspective of a person with no scientific background, I think you will recognize the difficulty inherent in sorting out the "facts" from what is public knowledge, never mind the hidden details!


so, in reference to'restless' (btvs season 4 finale) -- dario, 06:48:17 01/09/04 Fri

ok...watched this episode possibly a hundred times, and still finding little prophetic aspects as to the following seasons' events...just caught joyce predicting buffy's return from the grave (assuming one chose to see joyce living in the walls as a metaphor for her dying) in the form of dialogue "well, i suppose you could just break through the wall". but my main question is am i the only one who sees david lynch all over this epi? the red curtains in willow's dream scream out the red room from twin peaks...and buffy finding that mud in her bag was almost a little eraserheadish...hell even the insipid cheese guy was comic relief in the absurdist sense as david would present it...any thoughts?


[> joyce and random restless rantings -- Nino, 08:15:10 01/09/04 Fri

I always took the wall thing partially as a metaphor for Joyce's death. She tells Buffy not to worry about her, that she is fine where she is, which sounds like post-mortum comforting. Joss' commentary on the ep does not mention this, so its possible that we are just making it up, but maybe not. The "break through the wall" comment makes me think more of Buffy joining her mom by dying in "The Gift" rather then her resurection.

Another big one I had that Joss kinda shot down by not mentioning in his commentary...

In Giles' dream, Olivia has a babie stroller in the graveyard (we assume it is Buffy's, since she appears to be his only child in the dream). When Giles enters Spike's crypt Olivia is sitting on a tomb with the stroller turned over and she is crying. I took this as foreshadowing Buffy's death, since Buffy's stroller was knocked over on a grave and Olivia was mourning her. Anyone think this sounds really far off?

And this one is WAY out there...but hey, "Restless" is fun to mess around with...Beginning of Buffy's dream, Anya and Buffy are in bed. Anya begs Buffy to wake up. She is frightened and tells Buffy she NEEDS to wake up. Buffy says she needs her beauty sleep and isn't really in control of these things. Then she is jolted by an image of the First Slayer in chains. This made me think of Buffy's resurection. Her friends beg her to wake up, but she doesn't really want to. She likes where she is, and moreover, she's where she is supposed to be. They succeed however, and Buffy is jolted back into the real world, chained to her life as the Slayer.


[> [> Re: joyce and random restless rantings -- CW, 09:31:47 01/09/04 Fri

Also remember that the wall scene is a near copy of Buffy talking to her trapped mother through a door in "School Hard." Among other things it represents the barriers between all parents and children, but also the inability of Buffy in particular to allow her mother into her private life. She even can't really understand what her mother is doing 'on the other side' (her mother laughing about a mouse playing with her knees). The scene in 'Restless' ends with Buffy perfectly capable of breaking through to 'rescue' her mother But in fact Buffy is distracted completely by a friend (Xander going upstairs) barely hinting there is something happening on her own side of the wall.

[> [> Re: joyce and random restless rantings -- Marginal Drifter, 11:52:15 01/09/04 Fri

Actually, the bit in that scene where Giles is talking to posing Spike kind of brings to how mistrustful he is of a reformed Spike ....but I'm completely useless with "Restless", I never understand anything until someone points it out and then I'm like "Oh *yeah*..."

I always saw Buffy talking to Joyce in the walls as being more about their relationship as it stood then, with Buffy having almost no contact with her mum all year, and not really doing anything to break down the walls...see how she brushed off Joyce's "finally" comment when she met Riley. I felt like the comment about learning to play mah jong etc as reflecting how Buffy had been probably assuming her mother would be fine, because she's still young enough not to realise how much parents need their children as well as vice versa, that doesn't come until S5.

[> [> Re: joyce and random restless rantings -- Jaelvis, 12:59:18 01/09/04 Fri

Not stuped at all!!

I always thought the Olivia with the baby stroller scene represented the wife and kids life Giles will probably never have since he has devoted his life to fighting the evil forces in the world. It could also be forshadowing Buffy's death though.

I never thought of the scene where Anya is telling her to wake up as reprentative of her resurrection but that makes sense. The great thing about that episode is that it can be interpreted in many ways and has many layers of meaning. Whether it was all intentional or not, I don't know.

[> [> [> Re: joyce and random restless rantings -- Dandy, 19:21:40 01/09/04 Fri

Joyce in the wall always makes me think of the Samuel Beckett play, Happy Days.

Awesome! Michelle Trachtenberg is going to be on a 4 episode arc of 'Six Feet Under' this season! -- Rob (watching his favorite shows meld!), 10:02:32 01/09/04 Fri


[> Very cool indeed! -- grifter, 16:54:05 01/09/04 Fri

Any idea when the new season will start?

[> [> June or thereabouts. They just started filming three weeks ago... -- Rob, 19:36:57 01/09/04 Fri

...and have only written the first four episodes so far. Yep, still a ways to go! *sigh*


The Rescue....Revisited -- cjl (reposting the story so far to save board space), 12:48:27 01/09/04 Fri

Alternate titles: 2 Years Later or the Man in the Kevlar Mask


[> CHAPTER 7 -- 'Seven Is Always Where the Speeches Happen' -- Rochefort, 22:18:28 01/09/04 Fri

[The third floor of a drafy chateau in France. Rochefort sits behind a little desk with low light, working. He bites his bottom lip and runs his hands through his hair, clearly tired. There is a knock on the door.]


[Ann, the bard, steps into the room.]

ANN: Sir, I was wondering if I could have a word....

ROCHEFORT: [Smiling warmly, standing up.] No "sirs". MOLOJ isn't that type of an organization. Come in, Ann. Did I tell you, by the way, how much I liked your rendition of "When the Buffy Died?"

ANN: I don't believe so.

ROCHEFORT: Well, I did. [Walks out of the room to a side door where there is a small kitchen] Can I put on some tea for you?

ANN: O.k. Listen, I know you're working, and I don't want to get in the way of the mission.

ROCHEFORT: Ah well, I'm a bit guilty in that regard. I was actually working on my Master's essay. It seems reality even pierces my thick skull sometimes.

ANN: Actually, that's what I wanted to talk to you about.

ROCHEFORT: My Master's essay?

ANN: No, sir... I mean... Rochefort....um.... with all that's happened of late.... I just... well I was out trying to raise morale amongst the group, not just Jane and Angel's nibblet but agents #1, #2, and #3 as well. I even tried replacing "Blue" with "Buffy" in the Michigan fight song....nothing.

ROCHEFORT: Morale is low? Why?

ANN: Well... sir..... we haven't been having much success and...

ROCHEFORT: But we're only beginning!

ANN: And Honorificus left us, and she sort of inspired courage....

ROCHEFORT: Yes, well, unfortunate but....

ANN: Which means the mission failed and....

ROCHEFORT: Don't worry, I have other ideas cooked up...

ANN: And everyone is saying that you're sort of flighty and ... well.... fickle. Likely to change passions from one moment to the next and you're probably just going to give up soon or get bored....

ROCHEFORT: What gave that idea?

ANN: Well, they said you moved on from Kerry Buttler.

ROCHEFORT: Nope. Still love her.

ANN: And you were engaged to Little Bit but got over her in two days when she dropped you.

ROCHEFORT: O.k., that's a little true, but she has bad breath, so you can understand.

ANN: And that you used to have this crusade against Marti Noxon but that now you like her underwear or something....

ROCHEFORT: HOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLD on. Now THAT is an outright lie. Who started THAT rumor!? I think her episodes are as unsophisticated as a....

ANN: And Dirk got his head taken off....

ROCHEFORT: It's not like we didn't tape it back on....

ANN: And one of the unicorn's got revealed to be a fraud.


ANN: It's horn fell off. Just a horse.


ANN: Yes, and the other unicorn is nowhere to be found.

ROCHEFORT: Another deserter?

ANN: And it seems to have caused a bit of an identity crisis amongst the hobbit-like women.

ROCHEFORT: Hm. Well.... MOLOJ offers good health benifits, so if they need counseling....

ANN: You aren't paying them.


ANN: [ ... ]

ROCHEFORT: Well thank you for bringing this to my attention.

ANN: If you don't mind, I'll pass on the tea. I know I'm just a sort of .... hired mercenary bard around here but.... I feel it incumbant upon me to try to do something about this. Go back out and sing it's.... well it's all I can do.

ROCHEFORT: [sighs] I'll come with you... I.... maybe I should talk with everyone.

[EXTERIOR: ROCHEFORT's CHATEAU. A court yard. There is a fountain with no water running, some sparse vegetation and a few stone gargoyles near an iron gate. MOLOJ agent's lounge about. Jane and Angel's Nibblet sit under a tree playing parcheezi. Midnight grazes nearby]

ROCHEFORT: Hey can I.... can I have everyone's attention?

[A few people look up. Rochefort goes back inside and drags a chair out. He stands on it and loudly claps his hands in a pattern. Everyone looks up.]

ROCHEFORT: I learned that teaching middle school. Alright everyone. I have a speech. I know I'm.... well I'm no Buffy. And we're not potentials. But I wanted to remind everyone what we're working towards. Now, I know we've had a few set backs. Honorificus....Dirk.... the unicorns....

A VOICE: Wasn't even real!

ROCHEFORT: [Pauses. At a loss. Looks at Midnight, who hangs her head in shame.] Isn't she?

JANE: [throwing a parcheezi piece into the nearby grass] Her horn fell off.

[Rochefort walks over to Midnight.]

ROCHEFORT: Maybe it did. .... Maybe she's not a Unicorn. But maybe she is. Maybe.... she just has a chip.


ROCHEFORT: A chip that's supressing her real nature.

[Rochefort pulls up Midnight's head and looks in her eyes.]

ROCHEFORT: When I look deep in her eyes.... I see a unicorn.

AGENT #2: Pff.

ROCHEFORT: Well would a horse go on a quest like this? Defying the natural order? Would a horse.... would a horse get it in her head to wear a horn to ACT like a unicorn? And why did she do it?!

JANE: Cause she's always been a little off. I mean even when she was a foal she....

ROCHEFORT: To give us HOPE! Because she believed in what we were doing! Because there IS something magic inside of her....

[Walks over to Jane]

ROCHEFORT: And in you, too. And Nib.

[Swirls around and looks at Ann]

ROCHEFORT: And in our bard. A real bard! In downtown modern day Paris. And she's with US! Why!? Cause we're what the songs are made out of. Cause we are undertaking the endeavors men undertook when the world was old. Because it is worth SINGING about. We are Prometheus.... stealing fire from the gods. Here, in Paris. Where revolution is in the very air itself. We are once again raising the barricades. Barricades that will reach the heavens and the hearts and hopes of all of us and make this world something BETTER than it is. We take our dreams.... and bring them from the night time... into the day light. Jean Paul Sartre said that each man must live his life as if he IS humanity. As if in his very actions, he defines what it means to be human.
What is a man? It is our actions. It is this quest. And what.... my friends.... is a unicorn?

[Midnight looks up at Rochefort. And the two search one another's eyes for a moment. Midnight, on the edge of hope. Rochefort, with a firm passion. The he looks to the crowd.]

ROCHEFORT: Is SHE a unicorn? ..... perhaps.... not. But she's a HELL of a lot more than a horse.

[Rochefort stoops and picks up the discarded horn. He exchanges a look with midnight and then SLAMS it on her head where it sticks. Midnight looks stunned.]

ANN: [quietly] I do believe in fairies. I do I do.

[Rochefort smiles and nods. Then turns to Angel's Nibblet]

ROCHEFORT: [asking rhetorically] So....why are we going on this quest?

ANGEL'S NIBBLET: Quite honestly, I've forgotten, but yesterday I left my car keys in the coffee pot, so....

ROCHEFORT: Honorificus had no faith. But I do. Faith that if we....are not unicorns.... all of us here. Angel's Nibblet, Jane, Ann, agents one, two, three and four.... if we are not unicorns.... we are more than horses and if we cannot MAKE unicorns if we cannot MAKE Buffy than in our very striving to make this world what it should BE, it will become more than it was before we started. Closer to our dreams. Closer to our hopes. And if that happens.... and I dare to cross the boundries of this story reality and ask the very people reading this speech in hopes that others will join us....IF THAT HAPPENS....even in some small way.... toward... what... greater... thing... could.... we.... strive.

[Ann begins to applaud. Everyone else looks at her, but Rochefort nods solemnly, a slow smile on his face. He looks around the crowd as if everyone has been convinced. Then he puts his arm around Midnight's neck and leans in to her ear.]

ROCHEFORT: [In an audible whisper] Wear it proud, my friend. Wear it proud.

[Midnight considers a moment, eyes wide....and then rears up with a fierce whinny, hooves pawing the air. Then there is a long pause.]

ANN: Time for a sing along!

[> [> Now THAT was inspiring!! -- Jane, 22:37:57 01/09/04 Fri

Midnight is sooo proud. Now I'm going to have to spend hours polishing that horn (Sigh). A Hummel's work is never done. With head and horn held high we are ready; lead on, Oh Rochefort of the Rousing Speech!

[> [> Umm, Roche... -- Random, 22:43:08 01/09/04 Fri

Bad breath? I would have thought that, by now, you'd have learned to recognize the smell of your foot in your mouth.

[> [> Humph! -- LittleBit [who is so thankful she got out when she could], 23:02:50 01/09/04 Fri

I have been maligned! Roche is just disgruntled and jealous and is lashing out. But he shall reap what he has sown. My revenge shall be sweet, like my breath.

[> [> [> Lilacs and funnelcake -- Dead (but a minion's work is never done) Soul, 01:21:25 01/10/04 Sat

[> [> That was beautiful - I have tears! -- Ann, 05:08:19 01/10/04 Sat

"Cause we're what the songs are made out of. Cause we are undertaking the endeavors men undertook when the world was old. Because it is worth SINGING about. We are Prometheus.... stealing fire from the gods. Here, in Paris. Where revolution is in the very air itself. We are once again raising the barricades. Barricades that will reach the heavens and the hearts and hopes of all of us and make this world something BETTER than it is. We take our dreams.... and bring them from the night time... into the day light. Jean Paul Sartre said that each man must live his life as if he IS humanity. As if in his very actions, he defines what it means to be human.
What is a man? It is our actions. It is this quest. And what.... my friends.... is a unicorn?"

This should be your personal statement for grad school! You really (a professional statement reader here) should send this along as part of your writing. Do you want reference letters from any of us. I certainly would rite one! Thank you and I look forward to the rest.

[> [> *sniffle* that was positively beautiful! I am honoured to be joining you on this here quest -- angel's nibblet, 13:50:39 01/10/04 Sat

Though I do wish my Morningstar would come back *sniffle* *sob* Last time she ran away she ended up starring in her own all-unicorn musical on Broadway, it took months to get her head back to regular size.

[> [> [> Ah yes... the all unicorn broadway musical. -- Rochefort, 14:08:27 01/10/04 Sat

Didn't actually end up making a lot of money. Not one of our most succesful ventures... (I guess most people are like Rob and like dark misanthropic musicals) but a lot of great artists aren't appreciated in their time... and boy was it fun.

[> [> [> [> *sigh* Good times, good times. -- angel's nibblet, 14:43:39 01/10/04 Sat

[> [> Re: CHAPTER 7 -- 'Seven Is Always Where the Speeches Happen' -- phoenix, 04:24:36 01/13/04 Tue

This is just wonderful! More please...I can't stand the suspense (-:

[> CHAPTER 8 -- The Quiet Hours of the Morning -- Rochefort, 14:05:42 01/10/04 Sat

[It is the early hours of the morning. Still dark. Rochefort stares bleary eyed out the third floor window of his chateau. He paces away from the window....back.... clutches his head. Sits and stares at a flickering candle. Puts his face in his hands.]

ROCHEFORT: I can't take this WAITING. I can't just sit here not DOING anything. I've got people assembled. People waiting. And now nothing and....

[walks back to the window and looks out at the darkness. Then hurries to the phone. Dials.]

ROCHEFORT: Wholmann? No? ... Where is he? No. No. No don't bother him. Let him work. [He hangs up] For Christ's sake.

[Rochefort walks out of the room and down a set of stairs. There are a series of bedrooms down a hallway. Each filled with sleeping MOLOJ members. Rochefort looks in some of the rooms. Then leans against a wall. He pulls out a cell phone and dials.]

ROCHEFORT: I'm sorry to wake you.

[Cut to, a room in the home of the President of Prague.]

CJL: Rochefort? What... where are you?


[There is a long pause]

CJL: Why are you calling me?

ROCHEFORT: Well I wanted to apologize for the... you know.... injecting you. For one.

CJL: Serious breach of friendship. I mean "injecting friend with weird green liquid and taking him unconscious to France" has to be second only to "Sleeping with friend's wife" in terms serious betrayals of trust, Rochefort.

ROCHEFORT: I know I know. It...it seemed necessary. I think it was. You'll see. It will make sense. I know you won't maybe forgive me right away. How is your wife?

CJL: Shaken up, but o.k.

ROCHEFORT: Good. And HonorH?

CJL: I wouldn't talk to her for a while if I were you.


CJL: You've kind of gone off the deep end, Roch.

ROCHEFORT: Yeah... yeah I know. I... gave this seriously bad speech to MOLOJ. It seemed right at the time. But now it's 4 in the morning and.... sometimes I don't know if we take full responsibility for our rhetoric, you know?

CJL: Are you saying you want to quit all this? Let us all go home? Because you know I'm going to do everything I can to stop you.

ROCHEFORT: [smiles sadly] I know you are. [ ... ] CJL, I'm not sure at this point I can stop it. I... that's the other reason I'm calling. Things have been so crazy lately.... I've been so involved in the quest, not to mention the applications to the college, and Bat Boy, and the middle school kids, and the senior citizens, that sometimes I don't sit down and.... remember. Think about things. But then things come back and....

CJL: What things?

ROCHEFORT: You, Ponygirl, MOLOJ... we aren't the only players in this.

CJL: What?

ROCHEFORT: A few months after I stayed with you, I... went to go get some counseling.

CJL: That's great, Roch. We've all been saying for years it would do you good.

ROCHEFORT: It didn't. I... it's a long story. I don't remember a lot of it. Ended up locked in a padded cell for quite a while with a.... a hamster I think.

CJL: Interesting treatment.

ROCHEFORT: I think I was tortured.

CJL: Roch, I'm sorry....

ROCHEFORT: It's o.k. I... I don't think I told them much. Which is why I'm out here in the world again, hamsterless. I think I'm.... there's somebody else who wants the machine, CJL. Somebody who will go to greater lengths than I will.

CJL: Jesus. Listen, Rochefort... I have blue prints for the Syncronicity Machine... I've seen it. This is serious stuff. It's not a toy.

ROCHEFORT: You have blueprints.... how did you?

CJL: We tracked the professor down to....

ROCHEFORT: CJL, you're in great danger. You've got to get rid of those plans. No... wait. You've got to come to California. Near where the fictional Sunnydale would have been. I'm telling you my plan. I'm telling you that's where the machine is. That's where I'm going. It's only a matter of time before they find out where it is, and I'm going to get there first. But you need to be there, too. Just in case. And... and if you want to stop me.... or them.... be there. I'm sorry about all this.

CJL: Rochefort -

[The phone goes dead. CJL slowly lowers his arm to his side. Then he walks down the hall and wakes Ponygirl, who reacts badly and has him in some kind of weird spy hold before he can react.]

CJL: Ow.

PONYGIRL: Sorry. Spy reflexes.

[She lets him go a little slower than necessary, but not before the camara gets to linger on their faces and note how the closeness was a little more fun for the both of them than it should have been.]

PONYGIRL: What is it?

CJL: Rochefort called. The machine is in California. Something is going to go down... and I think we'd better be there.

PONYGIRL: I'll get the chopper ready.

CJL: I'll wake up, Rob. And... let his girlfriend out of the closet.


CJL: Did you ever notice that you and I have.... weird friends?

[> Chapter 9 -- False Unicorn Root -- Morningstar, the equine with identity issues, 23:39:24 01/10/04 Sat

(Scene: the stables at the Chateau du Rochefort. Midnight chews grain from a manger. Morningstar enters.)


MORNINGSTAR: I figured it would be. The nosebag has been pretty empty since we came out here.

MIDNIGHT: You've been out and about.

MORNINGSTAR: I've had some serious thinking to do. Examine my place in the world, search for my identity, that sort of thing.

MIDNIGHT: And what did you conclude?

MORNINGSTAR: Well, I'm definitely some sort of equine. Beyond that, I'm sort of confused. I think I might be Jewish. "Morgenstern" . . . I like the sound of that. But really, what are we?

MIDNIGHT: Well, a horse is a horse, of course.


MIDNIGHT: But I have been led to believe that if we truly in our hearts want to be unicorns, we will be unicorns.

MORNINGSTAR: I just truly in my heart want to be fed. I mean, I could really go for some nice grass about now.

MIDNIGHT: You said it.

MORNINGSTAR: Somehow I think all of this would make a lot more sense if I just had a little grass. So, you want to stick with these yahoos or what?

MIDNIGHT: Well it looked like everything was going to fall apart, but then the wild-eyed one started patting me on the head and they all got very excited. But then things grew deathly quiet again. In any case, I don't think they'll eat us anytime soon.

MORNINGSTAR: You sure? I was under the impression that we're in France. Or possibly Detroit.

MIDNIGHT: Same diff. And it's not like there's a teenage boy on the loose trying to blind us.

(The roof of the stables shudders as an emerald green laser cuts through it in a square pattern. Through the resulting opening abseils Ponygirl, tightly ensheathed in black latex. She descends to the hay-covered ground and approaches the two animals.)

PONYGIRL: Houyhnhnm.

MORNINGSTAR: Oh, look. It's cute when it tries to talk. What is it, boy? Is Timmy down a well?

PONYGIRL: Houyhnhnm!

MORNINGSTAR: I never could understand these things.

MIDNIGHT: I think it's saying, "My name . . . may . . . or . . . may not . . . be . . . a reference . . . to . . . an . . . obscure . . . sexual . . . subculture."

MORNINGSTAR: That's more information than I really needed.


MIDNIGHT: Dude, I think it's trying to get us out of here.

MORNINGSTAR: Well, if it says anything about us being "put out to stud," I vote yea.

MIDNIGHT: And if it says something about "glue factory," how would you vote?

MORNINGSTAR: Nay, obviously.

MIDNIGHT: Obviously.

MORNINGSTAR: But seriously, if it offers me a sugar cube, I'd be forever indebted. I could really go for a nice sugar cube right now.

MIDNIGHT: Yeah. This would all make a lot more sense if I just had a sugar cube.

[> [> Beware of Ponygirls bearing cubes of sugar.. -- Jane, 00:10:01 01/11/04 Sun

There is obviously skulduggery afoot! You better not mess with my unicorn or I'll be reaaly annoyed. Won't be a pretty sight, believe me.

[> [> heh heh. Not to insult the AtPoBTVS posters but.... -- Rochefort, 00:45:07 01/11/04 Sun

This scene has the best acting.

[> [> [> i'd be insulted, but... -- anom, 07:27:18 01/13/04 Tue

...I haven't been in it yet.

Speaking of which, I replied to your email, Roche, & got a Mail Subsystem Delivery message saying my reply couldn't be delivered to your address. Could you check into it & let me know when the problem's fixed? Meanwhile, at least this'll help keep the thread up while we wait breathlessly for new chapters.

[> [> Excellent -- Tchaikovsky, 03:19:11 01/11/04 Sun

Gotta love them Swift references.


[> [> This had me laughing for a good ten minutes. -- Rochefort, 11:19:59 01/11/04 Sun

[> [> *chortle* three thumbs up! Aaaawww, poor Morningstar.... -- angel's nibblet, 18:38:48 01/11/04 Sun

...just wants to be fed! One track mind...hmmm kinda like me...thanks now you've made me hungry!

I don't appreciate Ponygirl trying to abduct me horse for her own nefarious plans! Who will I cavort with? Life just isn't the same without a unicorn *sniffle*...

BTW I got my final exam results!!! Yes, the bragging commences.... I'm a pretty happy panda right now :-D

There must be more chapters, more more more, and NOW! or I shall leave you for Frodo >:-[

[> [> Hmm...I've come upon this rather late -- deeva, 20:56:29 01/11/04 Sun

and it's a little strange but intriguing. I'll have to catch up on it tomorrow.

[> [> [> That's what people used to say about BTVS...and look what happened. -- Rochefort, 21:19:17 01/11/04 Sun

[> [> [> [> What happened? ;o) -- deeva, 22:00:02 01/11/04 Sun

[> [> [> [> [> It got.... um.... Joss... well after a while.... oh you think you're so smart. -- Rochefort, 22:17:46 01/11/04 Sun

[> I'm on tenterhooks here, people! -- d'Herblay, 21:49:36 01/12/04 Mon

Though not so much in suspense about what happens next in the story; I'm just wondering if anyone is going to write any more of it!

(And anyone can -- I mean, we've accepted a chapter by a freaking unicorn!)

[> [> I've plotted an epic finale, but Rochefort and I are trying to smooth out plot holes. -- cjl, 22:40:57 01/12/04 Mon

We're both busy, so this could take awhile...

[> [> [> This is giving a whole new meaning to 'hold your horses'. -- Midnight (of slightly dented horn fame), 02:25:00 01/13/04 Tue

I mean really! Here we are waiting for that sugar cube, wondering where our hummels are. We are just pawing at the ground waiting to be heroic again..there's not much a unicorn won't do if sugar is involved. Giddyup there, storytelling humans!

[> CHAPTER 10 -- Attempted character assasinations!?!? -- Rochefort, 22:56:30 01/13/04 Tue

[The roof of the stables adjacent to Chateau Rochefort. Ponygirl is leaning over a hole in the roof, reaching down to the equines below with a sugar cube.]

VOICE: You know, stealin equines is a hangin crime.

PONYGIRL: [Turning around and quickly on her feet] Rochefort! [She reaches for her weapon. Rochefort moves to stop her.] Pff. Come on Rochefort. You couldn't if you tried. I'm a spy now, remember? I'd kick your ass.

ROCHEFORT: Well I'M the head of a revolutionary organization, I could just signal my men and you'd be out numbered and taken captive. And then we'd .... [drifts off] take you back to our .... pirate ship.... and use you as bait.

PONYGIRL: I could probably kill you before they got here, and this whole thing would be done with.

ROCHEFORT: Is that what the plan is?! CJL isn't coming to California after all?! No apocolyptic battle in Sunnydale? [shakes his head] You think I'd get at least that much respect, you know? CJL sent you to....

PONYGIRL: CJL doesn't know I'm here. And CJL doesn't send me places. Well I mean he "sends" me places... if you know what I mean. Metaphorically. [she gets dreamy] He could send me other places if he wanted, too. That Danny Strong physique and....

ROCHEFORT: So you really just came to .... steal the equines?

PONYGIRL: Oh that? No... I just saw the stables, and I like horseys. [she smiles]


PONYGIRL: I wanted to talk to YOU.

ROCHEFORT: Look, if you're here to talk me out of this, everyone has already tried...

PONYGIRL: Oh. No... I... I wasn't even thinking of that. I wanted to talk to you about something else. More personal. [She sits on the stable roof and dangles her feet over the edge.]

ROCHEFORT: [surprised] Oh. [ ... ] Sure, uh... [He sits, too]. Shoot.

PONYGIRL: I know this is rapidly becoming one of those "talking" movies, and I promise I'll do some spin kicks in the next chapter but I just have to get some stuff off my chest. [She looks up at the stars and sighs and then...] You know CJL pretty well, right?


PONYGIRL: And you've met his wife?

ROCHEFORT: Well she....

PONYGIRL: Do you think I have a shot at him? I mean really really. Not just for a brief James Bond affair. I don't want CJL to be just another one of my Pony-boys. You know like a "Bond-girl" but a "Pony-boy." I made that up. Anyway, not that. I mean something real.

[Hint to actress: Try to look like Glorificus trying to get empathy from a tied up monk.]

[Hint to actor: Look kind of like Giles stuck baking cookies with Dawn.]

PONYGIRL: I mean you know, there was something... there.... in The Rescue. Between us. ....... Him and me. Not you and I.

ROCHEFORT: Thanks for clearing that up.

PONYGIRL: I know it was only subtext, and maybe nobody else could even see it, but... Well then the story ended, and he wrote the last chapter and... barely a word.... But of course, there was this other woman and.... so things ended, and back to our other lives but...

ROCHEFORT: [ ... ] [blurting] I know what I'm doing seems evil but...

PONYGIRL: Seems evil. Exactly! See, I knew you'd get it. I mean who decides what's evil and what's good? I mean marriages. Weddings. pff. It's all sort of... arbitrary. It's not like there's some great Joss Whedon in the sky letting us know what's valuable and what's not....

ROCHEFORT: ... yeah.

PONYGIRL: So what it's about... is about what WE think is real and true, right? And to hell with what everyone else says, right?

ROCHEFORT: Our rental jet to California is getting here shortly and....

PONYGIRL: So the secret....Rochefort. Is to KNOW what you want. Not just to know it. Not just to think it. What's the real stuff?

[She stands up and looks down at Rochefort]

PONYGIRL: What makes YOUR heart sing, Rochefort?

ROCHEFORT: Kerry Butler. [Now Rochefort is dreamy] But I've never even met her.

PONYGIRL: I think it's yourSELF you've never met, Rochefort. It's like that bracelet I stole from HonorH. The one that gave her a persona. It's like we're all wearing one of those. All the time. I'm going to do you a favor. [She grabs Rochefort's wrist and takes a knife out of her clothes somewhere. She pulls back and with the handle of the knife, strikes at Rochefort's wrist. There is a smashing sound.]

[They both stare at Rochefort's wrist a moment.]

ROCHEFORT: You broke my watch.

PONYGIRL: [Exasperated] Metaphor, Roch. CJL taught me that.

ROCHEFORT: [Looking at his watch. Pieces tinkle and fall to the ground.] I think you missed some kind of important....literary thing. Cause that didn't really...

[She gives him a big hug]

ROCHEFORT: [through the hug] I mean keep trying though... I'm sure you'll get it.

PONYGIRL: Rochefort, you've been a big help. Not just tonight, but this whole thing. I mean, if you hadn't done it, who knows if I even would have seen him again.

ROCHEFORT: You're welcome?

PONYGIRL: I'd better get back. He's probably on the phone with his wife as we speak.

ROCHEFORT: If you want to come with us in the rental jet....

PONYGIRL: [Looks at him in mock disapointment] What would be the point of that? You're losing the fun of all this, old friend. [Punches him on the shoulder]


PONYGIRL: Would it upset anyone if I stoled those horses? Get your team all on the charge so they stop just hangin around this Chateau? I can't believe you have tennis courts. When did you sell out?

ROCHEFORT: They're equines. I didn't. And actually, yes. It will upset everyone quite a bit.

PONYGIRL: A little extra conflict, eh? Clarity. [gives him a wink] Good.

[Ponygirl suddenly drops down the square hole in the roof and onto the back of Midnight. She grabs the reigns of Morningstar. She looks up at Rochefort]

PONYGIRL: See ya at the final show down. [She gives him a big grin]


ROCHEFORT: [to himself] Clarity?

[The MOLOJ rental jet suddenly lands on the tennis courts. Rochefort looks at it and raises his eyebrows. Then climbs down off the roof and walks over the Chateau. He opens the front door and yells]


[> [> *sobbing uncontrollably* Noooooooooo! Morningstar!!! -- angel's nibblet, in unicorn withdrawl, 00:51:30 01/14/04 Wed

[> [> [> Stay calm, Nibblet... -- Jane, 19:36:51 01/14/04 Wed

Midnight has had combat training! Under that faux unicorn front, a warrior for truth, justice and better hay is hidden. We have to keep faith in our unicorns; it ain't over til the equines sing..

[> [> [> [> *takes jane's hand in an attempt to stay calm* -- angel's nibblet, 15:14:02 01/15/04 Thu

us hobbit-like women must band together in these troubled times...

[> [> Chapter 11 - Standing in the Shadows of Showdown -- Pony, 08:36:38 01/14/04 Wed

[Ponygirl halts her mad gallop and slides off the back of the horsey. She immediately begins sneezing.]

Ponygirl: Did you get them?

[She appears to be addressing the air.]

[Suddenly as though throwing aside one of those light-warping invisibility cloaks that they have in Japan, KDS appears dressed in traditional John Steed spywear.]

[There's a pause and they both look at a spot next to KdS]

Ponygirl: Anom? Are you going to take off the cloak?

Anom: I like it. It preserves a certain sense of anonymity.

Ponygirl: Well, yeah [she sneezes]

KdS: What's wrong?

Ponygirl: I actually don't do well with horses. [off KdS' and anom's presumed looks] My name is actually a reference to the SE Hinton-- Never mind, did you get them?

Anom: Plans, maps, even a few of Rochefort's diaries.

KdS: You should see his handwriting. Did you have any trouble with Rochefort?

Ponygirl: Nope, I used the classic 'distract 'em with relationship issues' along with the old 'civilised conversation between two enemies before the final showdown' ploy.

KdS: Typical, people always want to focus on romance when there are serious plot issues to be addressed. Why'd you steal the faux-unicorns?

Ponygirl: I just wanted a really dramatic exit. C'mon we'd better get moving.

[Ponygirl removes a gadget from her stylish spy belt and clicks it towards a collection of boulders. There's a shimmer and the boulders are revealed to actually be a hologram disguising a huge military helicoptor.]

[Ponygirl, KdS, and the cloaked anom enter the 'coptor. Midnight and Morningstar exchange a look. Then, unwilling to surrender their place in the narrative, they trot into the chopper.]

[Inside it's all a-buzz with high-tech machines and lights. Off to one side of all the gizmos is a desk piled high with papers and books. Behind the pile is SHADOWKAT frantically writing.]

Anom: How's it going?

Shadowkat: Not well. I'm trying to bring all these plot elements together so it makes sense, but it's all over the place. We've got spy drama, meta-narration, philosophical musings, and psychological terms. Not to mention a really shaky grasp of the politics of the Czech Republic.

KdS: Well, we've brought you more. All of Rochefort's hopes and dreams.

Shadowkat: [glancing at the papers] Unicorns?

Ponygirl: Just put it all together 'kat, otherwise we'll be flying in there without any sense of what's going on. Our only chance is to use the narrative against them - or shoot them.

Shadowkat: I'll try, maybe I can find a working model in the late film noir period, when things got very mannerist--

Ponygirl: Whatever it takes, we know you can do it.

[Ponygirl starts to head to the cockpit, then turns back]

Ponygirl: Just try and keep it under ten pages, okay?

[KdS takes the controls of helicoptor and starts it up. Ponygirl starts to sit in the co-pilot's chair]

Anom: oof!

Ponygirl: Sorry anom. Didn't see you there. [she sits in the navigator's chair]

Ponygirl: I'll radio the coordinates from these stolen maps to the others.

Anom: Will we get there in time?

Ponygirl: Masq is leading a West Coast contingent to Rochefort's secret lab. She should be able to slow them down enough for the rest of us to make it.

KdS: That's the thing. No one's been able to reach Masq. Rufus is trying to get down there but she got stopped at the border.

Ponygirl: When will she learn not to try to bring fruit over the border? Don't worry, Masq is probably just maintaining radio silence. She won't let us down.

[The helicoptor speeds off across the ocean]

[Meanwhile in Dr. Wohlmann's secret lab in the California desert... The doctor is addressing a figure standing in the shadows.]

Dr. Wohlmann: They'll never suspect that you, the most trusted one of them all, would betray them. By the time they realize it will be too late.

[From out of the shadows steps MASQ. She's wearing a 'Connor Lives' t-shirt and looks morally conflicted but very determined.]

Masq: You and Rochefort know my terms. So do we have a deal?

[> [> [> Chapter 11.A - One last plot twist -- Pony, 10:04:43 01/14/04 Wed

(Sorry, I thought of this after I posted and couldn't resist sneaking it in)

[Somewhere over the Atlantic. KdS is still at the controls of the chopper. Suddenly he swerves abruptly.]

Anom & Ponygirl: Hey!

Shadowkat [under a pile of papers]: Mmmf!

KdS: Sorry, we have to pick up a passenger.

[There's a sudden rapping on the helicoptor door. It bursts open in a swirl of wind. Outside, hovering in the night air, is RAHAEL wearing a jet pack.]

Rahael: Permission to come abroad?

[She steps inside, shuts the door and takes off her jet pack. Like all British femme spies she's wearing a sleek leather catsuit.]

KdS: Right on schedule.

[Rahael tries to sit in the co-pilot's seat.]

Anom: oof!

Rahael: Sorry anom. I have word from the British government. This mission has their full unofficial support. Weapons, gizmos, you name it. I've even brought with me a small assortment of British chocolates for the trip.

Ponygirl: That's very generous. Almost too generous.

Rahael: Think about it. Britain is in great jeopardy. If Rochefort's machine does what it's supposed to do--

[At that Ponygirl jumps up and stick her head in back section of the chopper.]

Ponygirl: How's that summary of various plot points coming Shadowkat?

Shadowkat: You could just reread you know?

Ponygirl: Okay then, keep working.

[Ponygirl jumps back into her seat trying to act like she'd never left it in the first place.]

Rahael: As I was saying-- The Harry Potter fandom is the most well-funded, well-armed force in the world. If their militant faction got hold of Rochefort's machine England could be overrun with real live and completely unlicensed Rowling characters.

[Both KdS and Rahael shudder]

Anom: It's true. Any fandom would have an interest in this. Maybe we should check in with the Trek people. Make sure they aren't up to anything.

Ponygirl: They aren't a real force anymore. C'mon we have to meet up with cjl and Rob's coptor in a few hours.

[KdS puts the chopper back on course, but there's a faraway look in his eyes as though considering a new possibility.]

KdS: [whispering] DS9...

[> [> [> [> Woo hoo!! I get to be Emma Peel? -- Rahael, 07:57:44 01/15/04 Thu

Excellent! Thanks PG!

[> [> [> Pony, I sent this whole story to a friend of mine.... -- Rochefort, 12:17:42 01/14/04 Wed

And all her favorite lines were from your chapters. :)


[> [> [> Great stuff, PG (or is just 'P' now?); working on Chapter 12 right now. -- cjl, 21:15:28 01/14/04 Wed

A few laughs, a few tears, and a couple of corkscrew twists...

[> [> [> [> no, pg's her code name, remember? -- punfu @>), 22:07:35 01/14/04 Wed

And it's nice to see me make an appearance--thanks, Pony! But could I maybe put a scarf on over the cloak so people won't sit on me anymore? It'd be almost as funny, & per my own dialogue I'm more interested in being, um...blincognito than blinvisible.

Loved the turnaround of ch. 10--it's the only plausible explanation (sorry, d'Herb)--& Rahael in a jetpack! With chocolate! And shadowkat puttin' it all together, or at least trying to make a lick of sense out of it (hm, what about magical realism, w/a techno twist?). And the equines "unwilling to surrender their place in the narrative"! Heehee!!

Then there are the horrifying implications for England, & the world....

[> [> [> [> We want Chapter 12! We want Chapter 12! -- Rochefort, 20:39:26 01/15/04 Thu

[> [> [> [> [> Joins in: We want Chapter 12! We want Chapter 12! -- angel's nibblet, 21:38:23 01/15/04 Thu

[> [> [> [> [> [> Get some rest, cjl... -- Jane, 22:53:04 01/15/04 Thu

have a nice cuppa, and let those creative juices simmer. Tomorrow's another day, and we will all be waiting eagerly for Chapter 12! (PLEEEZE- treat our unicorns with care! We miss them.)

[> [> [> [> [> Not today, kids. See OT post above about how my day went. -- cjl, 21:51:48 01/15/04 Thu

[> Chapter I: Spiritually Uplifted or 'Watch Out for Saturated Fats' -- Rochefort, 12:49:59 01/09/04 Fri

[A suburban community. Kids play outside. A smallish fellow in his mid-twenties wearing brown chinos, black t-shirt and a sports coat stands on a porch. He looks sad a moment, then smiles, as if he has just reassured himself that everything will be o.k. He knocks. The door opens and there is a woman. She looks him over a moment.]

WOMAN: You must be Rochefort. CJL's internet friend. I'm really glad you could come. CJL was so surprised when he ran into you at the grocery store this week.

ROCHEFORT: Internet friends? [Laughing] Ho ho ho, no. No,... CJL and I were revolutionaries together.

WOMAN: Revolutionaries?

CJL: [Coming in from the back yard] Rochefort!


[They shake hands warmly.]

CJL: Rochefort, this is my wife.

ROCHEFORT: Wonderful to meet you. CJL always used to say such beautiful things about you.

CJL's WIFE: Ah well, he's said a few interesting things about you, too.

CJL: Can I get you something to drink, Rochefort?

ROCHEFORT: No, thanks. No other guests have arrived yet?

CJL: Not yet. You're early. I was firing up the barbeque. Want to come back and give me a hand.

[Rochefort nods, and they move to the back yard.]

ROCHEFORT: Great wife.

CJL: Uh.... thanks. That stuff about the beautiful things I said... Did you... did you know me when I was married?

ROCHEFORT: No. You told her we were internet friends, eh? She doesn't know about....

CJL: About MOLOJ? [Laughing] You and I can tell her the story after dinner. She'll get a kick out of it. We can even take turns telling the story. Like old times.

ROCHEFORT: Great! .... Nice back yard.

CJL: uh....thanks.

ROCHEFORT: Listen, can I get right to the point? I have something very important to talk about.

[CJL looks up from his barbeque... confused.]

ROCHEFORT: MOLOJ needs your help. I need your help.

CJL: [kind of relieved...is that all?] Really, Rochefort. You haven't changed a bit.

[Rochefort laughs, too. Then looks deadly serious]

ROCHEFORT: Things are in the works, CJL. I've this new technology that can tap into.... and I know what you're saying, I don't know anything about technology, but see I got around that... God I hardly know where to begin. Don't you miss them CJL?

CJL: Who?

ROCHEFORT: Buffy of course! Xander, Willow....

CJL: Sure, but... you know, it's like the end of The Rescue. Always in our hearts and all that... Did you want to watch the DVD's later?

ROCHEFORT: See....see that's exactly it. That always in our hearts stuff. All that mystical first slayer mumbo jumbo you wrote, letting them go, setting them free and... I could never do that. I mean I've tried to do it myself, and ... you know I write Angel: he's lost his mind, standing at the fridge naked, his hair is falling out in patches, he's eating a stick of butter. And I wrote Westley into Cats... it was really funny. But then I try to give it that lesson, you know, like you always did, and my spiritually uplifting lesson is something like "Don't be in musicals that have no plot," or... "Watch out for saturated fats." [Rochefort throws himself down in a lawn chair.] I'm all impetus and anger... but no class.

CJL: Well.... we've all got our skills.

ROCHEFORT: Right. Right! And that's why I need all of us. I need the MOLOJ captains reassembled because...

CJL: You're not.... this isn't about Joss again, is it? That basement stuff? Haven't we worked this all out.

ROCHEFORT: No no no it's not about Joss. Of course not. Angel is great this season. God love him. But Joss has no use for them. And we let them go disapear in the desert.

CJL: Kay, that was a metaphor um... I promise you they're not off dying of thirst somewhere.

ROCHEFORT: Metaphorical desert - metaphorical thirst. I want you back in MOLOJ.

CJL: It still exists?!

ROCHEFORT: Never hasn't.

CJL: Good lord, Rochefort. Listen, old friend. I joined MOLOJ way back then, and I believed in it. I thought it was doing interesting work. But it used to have focused issues. It used to mean something. But in my last years in MOLOJ, I mean you were... face it... MOLOJ was just running around half cocked declaring revolutions against everything and anything. Revolution for the sake of revolution. Do you even remember what the letters stand for now?

ROCHEFORT: Of course. [thinking...then to himself] Margarine... [Frustrated. Then to CJL] Anyway, that's not the point. I mean there IS a point. The point of MOLOJ is we're going to bring them back.

CJL: Back?

ROCHEFORT: Back from the desert. Back from oblivion. We can bring them back to their former glory. But not like when we did it before. Better. For real.

CJL: Did you even READ the Rescue? Didn't you get the point? The desert was....

ROCHEFORT: Yeah a metaphor, I know. That's what's so great about you. That's why I need you.

CJL: God Rochefort. I can't believe you're still off on this. Aren't you supposed to be educating the public on Romany culture?

ROCHEFORT: Yeah I was. The Romany were sort of.... not as sexy in real life.

CJL: I wish I had the time for this. But if you want to collaborative fanfic... maybe you should get in touch with HonorH or Ponygirl?

ROCHEFORT: Yeah HonorH is doing fashion in Paris... Ponygirl was there for a while, but after she became an international spy well... . Anyway, I have people on it. Ponygirl and HonorH are going to be in, too.

CJL: You have "people" on it?

ROCHEFORT: I told you... MOLOJ.

CJL: Listen, I have friends coming over. I invited you over cause it was good to see you again. I thought you'd be an interesting dinner guest. But you're being a little too interesting. If you're going to ...

ROCHEFORT: Then you don't want to do it.

CJL: I have a job and a wife and....

[Rochefort pulls out a syringe with a green glowy liquid in it.]

CJL: What the....

ROCHEFORT: I wish I could afford to give you a choice.

[Rochefort stabs CJL with the syringe. CJL gives a great "et tu, you nutty bastard?" look and then collapses to the ground. Rochefort looks down at CJL... and then up.... a helicopter approaches. He signals to it, and it descends.]


[> Chapter II: Pony Express -- Rochefort, 12:52:03 01/09/04 Fri

[As the helicopter rises into the sky, Rochefort looks down to see the tiny figure of a woman run into CJL's backyard, leaping and waving her arms. CJL doesn't see it though (because he is drugged to unconsciousness) and CJL's backyard slowly disapears from view.]


ROCHEFORT: Yes. Fly this helicopter over the Atlantic ocean to Paris. And fly it low over the water.... maybe we can see a dolphin, hey?

HELICOPTER PILOT: Sir, we've had word that our team has located Ponygirl. Prague, sir.

ROCHEFORT: Excellent.

[Cut to: a dark office building, somewhere in Prague. There are gun shots. A slender figure dressed all in black leaps across the frame. The frame is then riddled with gun fire. The camara follows her down a hallway. She ducks into a drinking fountain aclove. It is Ponygirl, though her hair is dyed orange so it's hard to tell. She breathes deep and is ready to run again when there is suddenly gun fire from the opposite end of the hallway. There are shouts and cries on both sides.]

PONYGIRL: [looking out briefly] Those aren't Al-Queda fighters. [She looks again.] But they're.... not Americans either. [She ducks back into the aclove as the two sides continue to exchange fire across the hallway. She gets a sip of water from the drinking fountain.] Anyway, I'll take whatever help I can get. All that's important is that I get this microfilm to the President of Prague.

[An Al-Queda fighter and one of the mysterious troops engage in hand to hand combat in front of Ponygirl. They don't notice her, despite her orange hair and great figure, and she slips by them and leaps into a mail shoot.]

[Cut to: a helicopter landing strip on the roof of a chateau in France. Rochefort exits the helicopter and signals to some men.]

DIRK: There's a tiny little motor scooter waiting for you downstairs.

ROCHEFORT: What does it want?

DIRK: Um. It's for you to scoot around town, sir. What should we do with the prisoner?

ROCHEFORT: He's not a prisoner. He's CJL. He's an old MOLOJ comrade who just needed a little extra convincing. But he'll come around. [Checks his watch] Huh. He's been out for a while.... would you make sure to get him inside and get him some medical attention just in case. Keep him here. I'll be back shortly from my visit with HonorH.

[Suddenly a black clad MOLOJ agent is flung from the helicopter. There is the sound of more fighting. Then the helicopter begins to lift off the ground. Another MOLOJ agent falls out. Dirk draws his gun and begins to fire.]

ROCHEFORT: Hold your fire! [Rochefort watches the helicopter with regret].... He's gone. I don't understand why he's not with me.... but perhaps we all have our own density. We haven't seen the last of him.

AGENT #1: So what now?

ROCHEFORT: The plan doesn't change. We just have to move faster. I'm off to see HonorH. In the meantime....find me some kind of transportation to Prague. [Begins to leave, then pauses with another thought] Something bigger than a motorscooter if you can. But if you can't... that's o.k.

DIRK: To each according to his need, comrade.

ROCHEFORT: Uh huh. On second thought... have you ever met a fashion diva, Dirk? Why don't you come along.

[> [> Chapter IIa: An Interlude in the Corridors of Power -- Pony, 12:53:23 01/09/04 Fri

[The Presidential Palace, Prague. Ponygirl enters through a sewer grate, climbs up a storm drain, unlocks a secret door, takes a hidden staircase, stumbles into a tour group in the main lobby, backtracks and finally steps out from behind a velvet curtain into a plush and imposing office. She walks up to a heavy desk, the high-backed chair behind it is partially turned away, concealing the figure in it.]

Ponygirl: Mr. President? I have your mircofilm.

[The figure in the chair doesn't move, but a hand can be seen stroking a white cat.]

The President of Prague: Excellent. Do you ever wonder why no one uses mircofiche anymore? It's such an amusing word to say. Rhymes with quiche.

Ponygirl: Yes, sir but I imagine there were misspellings. Sir, we may have a problem. A new player.

The President: Interesting. Perhaps it's related to this telex I received a few moments ago.

[Ponygirl picks up a piece of paper from the desk.]

Ponygirl: This isn't a telex, it's Post-It note with a scribbled message on it. What's a telex anyway?

The President: Telex sounds cooler, more international espionage-- just read it.

Ponygirl: Cjl is missing? Missing missing, not just can't make a decision at the video store for two hours missing? What does this mean?

[The chair swings around to reveal the President of Prague, the man some might call - Rob]

Rob/President: It means the end game has begun.

[There's a beat as this all sinks in]

Ponygirl: You don't have a clue what all this means do you?

Rob: Not really, but can you take the cat? I've got presidential stuff to do and Mr. Gato Magnifico needs his kibble.

[> Chapter III: Troubling Pom-Poms -- Rochefort, 12:55:54 01/09/04 Fri

[Offices of the President of Prague. Ponygirl and President Rob stand looking over his desk at the notice about the disapearance of CJL.]

PONYGIRL: Who notified you about this?

ROB: Secret operative. Even I don't know who. Prague is a mysterious place. Plus, Kafka used to live here. Did you know that?

PONYGIRL: We should maybe find out who sent it. Perhaps whoever is responsible for the kidnapping wanted to make sure that you knew. But.... why you?

ROB: Well I am the President of Prague. Yay me!

PONYGIRL: (rolling her eyes.) All right. Listen, Rob, I'm going incommunicado with the United Nations. They can do without me for awhile. This is my next mission.

ROB: If I order you to do it, it can be an offical mission of state.

PONYGIRL: Prague isn't a state. It's a city.

ROB: Shhhhh, you're upsetting Miss Gato Fantastico.

PONYGIRL: Rob, try to stay focused for a second. I don't like the feel of this. We've got to find CJL.

[CJL suddenly stumbles into the office, looking the worse for wear.]

CJL: Ponygirl. I found you.

PONYGIRL: How? This isn't one of those smelling things, is it? Cause...ew.

CJL: I overheard you were in Prague. I stole a helicopter and flew here. And Prague isn't that big.

ROB: I resent that.

CJL: Rob? What are you....

ROB: I'm President of Prague. Small, pff. I'm going to make us "Eastern Europe's Broadway!"

CJL: Ponygirl, there's trouble. You both remember The Rescue?

PONYGIRL: [smiling fondly] Of course. That's what got me into the spy business in the first place. Boy was that all a bunch of hooey. Fun though.

CJL: Well MOLOJ is at it again. Apparantly Rochefort never disbanded it.

PONYGIRL: He's trying to free the scoobies from Joss's basement again?

CJL: I didn't quite understand all of it, but from what I get, he's trying to bring Buffy and the Scoobies BACK. He says it's "For real." Something about a machine.

PONYGIRL: Back? Like for a movie or something?

CJL: One guess I have? He wants to make them... corporal.

PONYGIRL: Good god.

ROB: Cool. Can he make Kennedy corporal, too? Cause I've seen her corporal in person and....

PONYGIRL: Can he do it?

CJL: I don't know. But I'm more worried about the damage he'll do trying. He said he needed my help. Said he couldn't do it without me. And when I refused, he drugged me and took me to Europe in a helicopter.

ROB: Man.... I knew the guy had weird ideas about musicals.... but I didn't know he was THAT far off the deep end.

CJL: He wants to reassemble the whole MOLOJ team. Which means you Ponygirl. And maybe you, Rob. He's already got operatives here.

PONYGIRL: Oh THAT'S who those guys were. They were fighting Al-Queda.

CJL: They were?

PONYGIRL: Yeah and I had to deal with a few of them in an alley on the way here. Short work.

CJL: He'll keep trying. I don't know how many resources MOLOJ has now, but I know Rochefort plans to come to Prague himself to find you.

ROB: CJL, what's so bad about trying to bring back the Scoobies? I miss them. I know MOLOJ doesn't play by the rules, but they did some good back in the day. And look.... fighting Al-Queda.

CJL: Rob, if Tara was here she'd tell you the same thing. It goes against the natural order. I don't know how he plans to do this, but it isn't right. I know that in my gut.

ROB: You know.... Rochefort troubles me. Even his ideas on Little Shop of Horrors trouble me. But he's not evil. Troubling though. Verrry verrry troubling.

CJL: Maybe he wasn't evil. Maybe he is now. I don't know. I don't know how he plans to do this. But what if he tampers with the imaginations of millions of millions of people. We ensured in The Rescue that the Scoobies would stay free and sacrosanct.... but now?

ROB: You're defending the imagination of the masses?

PONYGIRL: I think that's sexy.

CJL: Um.... married now.

PONYGIRL: Like spies care about that sort of thing.

CJL: (visibly effected, but recovers.) Are you two with me? Because I get the feeling we're either WITH MOLOJ or against them in this. I don't think he's going to leave us alone. Like, I think Rob has about a half a day to read this before he ends up eating quiche.

ROB: You know.... I am kind of getting hungry.

[Rob pets his cat, eyes suddenly alight. He goes to his closet and presses a hidden panel. It slides back revealing a show case....inside.... his old Pom-Poms.]

ROB: I'm in. [He gives the pom-poms an anticipatory shake.]

PONYGIRL: So what's Rochefort's next move?

CJL: He's in Paris. Trying to recruit HonorH.

PONYGIRL: Are you kidding? They couldn't stand to be in the same ROOM during the rescue. HonorH HATES Rochefort. She'll never help him. We don't have to worry about HonorH.

CJL: We can only hope you're right.

ROB: Before we do anything else, there's the cutest little cafe down the street, guys wanna stop there for some lunch?

[> [> Interlude: 22 months earlier -- cjl, 12:57:48 01/09/04 Fri

[Scene: Brooklyn, New York. Sixty days after The Rescue. Summertime, daytime. CJL is sitting on a bench overlooking the Great Lawn in Prospect Park. A few scattered groups of weekend athletes are playing volleyball or frisbee on the wide open grasslands. In the distance, CJL can see Little League teams practicing on the baseball diamond. The smell of barbecued chicken drifts over from the picnic areas. It's all very comforting, a world away from the world outside. ROCHEFORT approaches, lugging a large cloth carry-on bag, and sits down next to him.]

CJL: What took you so long?

ROCHEFORT: Couldn't lock your stupid door.

CJL: The copies don't work that well. I could lend you my keys if you want.

ROCHEFORT: Nah. That's OK. Won't be needing 'em much longer. Thanks for letting me crash for awhile.

CJL: No problem. You leaving?

ROCHEFORT: Yeah, might as well. I've seen all the sights, did all the tourist traps.

CJL: You know, I could show you parts of New York that nobody ever--

ROCHEFORT: I think it's time for me to go.

CJL (a bit confused): OK.

[CJL leans back against the bench; long silence.]

ROCHEFORT: It's nice out here.

CJL: I lucked out. Half a block away from my apartment. Every time I'm stressed out I can walk up to the park, sit down on this bench and the outside world just disappears.

ROCHEFORT: Escaping. [Pause.] We do a lot of that, don't we?

CJL: Excuse me?

ROCHEFORT: I mean, as sci-fi/fantasy geeks. Gotta find our own little worlds, our own comfortable corner of the universe.

CJL: Well...yeah. That's why we're all Buffy fans, right? The world is full of death and pain and incomprehensible forces beyond our control, and Joss gives us this beautiful metaphorical structure that actually makes sense out of the whole mess. We escape inside the Buffyverse, and Joss tells us our own stories in a way that puts things in perspective when we come out.

ROCHEFORT: I don't want to escape anymore.

CJL (the words not registering): You "don't want to escape anymore"?

ROCHEFORT: I don't want to retreat inside the fantasy anymore. It's not good enough. Every time I come back out into the real world, it's just as crappy as when I went in. I feel like I'm wasting my time.

CJL: But that's the whole point of great fantasy. You take the lessons you learn from art and you apply it to life. The writer does his part and you've gotta do the rest.

ROCHEFORT (with a dismissive wave of the hand): Yeah, yeah, Joseph Campbell, hero's journey, blah blah blah.


CJL: Rochefort--why did you come to New York?

ROCHEFORT: The usual. Visiting friends. Broadway shows. The Yankees. Was it too much of a problem putting me up?

CJL: No. It was great to see you. But... [CJL tries to find the words] I saw your notebook. [Before ROCHEFORT can react] It was an accident, I promise. But I know the people on that list. They're physics professors from NYU and Columbia University. Some of them wrote articles on quantum theory for Scientific American.

ROCHEFORT (trying to remain cool): So?

CJL: So you dropped in to have a nice, casual conversation with some of the greatest minds of the modern age about a topic you barely understand?

ROCHEFORT: Pretty much.

CJL: You wanna tell me what's going on?


[CJL is stunned by the bluntness of the response, and has to regroup before he can speak again.]

CJL: Whatever happened to "all for one, and one for all"?

ROCHEFORT: I'm not ready. It's just an idea right now, it's--you wouldn't understand.

CJL: I could try.

ROCHEFORT: You'd never go there.

CJL: "I'd never g--" What the hell are you talking about?

[ROCHEFORT gets up, and flips CJL his house keys.]

ROCHEFORT: Thanks for everything. You're a good friend. A lousy racketball player, but a good friend. I mean it.

CJL: Look--if you ever need any help, I'm here, OK?

ROCHEFORT (smiles): I appreciate it. [Starts to walk away] Don't be surprised if I take you up on that offer...

[> [> [> Post-Interlude: Two Months Later or Twenty Months Earlier, Depending on Your Point of View -- d'Herblay, 13:18:55 01/09/04 Fri

[Scene: an oak-panelled office. The walls are lined with bookshelves; the sun streams through the window illuminating a terrarium. ROCHEFORT lies on a couch, his fingers steepled. Across from him sits DARBY, frowning, making notes on a steno pad.]

ROCHEFORT: It's not so much that I can't tell the difference between reality and fiction, doc. I mean, I know that this is real and that all that MOLOJ stuff was just words, but there's just this feeling I have, like have you ever walked into a bathroom and reached over your head for the light cord? Only, there isn't a light cord, the light works by a switch always has, you know that. But somehow you feel there should be a cord. It's more real somehow. It's like that.

DARBY: Mmmm. So Buffy is somehow more real to you than reality?

ROCHEFORT: No, it's not Buffy, not really. This isn't what you called "Drizzt's Syndrome." It's MOLOJ itself. It's like when I'm mobilizing MOLOJ, I'm building something bigger than myself. But when I write my thesis . . .

DARBY: You write your thesis alone, right? But your fantasies depend on the participation of others.

ROCHEFORT: Yeah. When cjl -- you know cjl, right? He said that you helped him a lot when he couldn't get over Anya's death -- when cjl, and ponygirl, and HonorH join in, we're doing something more.

DARBY: So it's not really the fantasy, so much as the fantasy, the meta-fantasy if you will, of having others participate in, expand on, and validate your fantasies that really matters.

ROCHEFORT: Yeah . . .

DARBY: It's sort of a folie a quartre. But you're anxious that it's all falling apart.

ROCHEFORT: Well, I'm sure ponygirl would be game, but HonorH never liked me to begin with, and she's got a nasty streak in her. Something almost demonic just comes out when she's near me. And cjl . . . I just can't tell. I don't know if he really wants to join in. There's this part of him that's into it, and then it almost seems that part of him is just concerned. I think he thinks I'm a little crazy. Am I crazy, doc? Is this all just some mad crusade?

DARBY: (Refers to his notes.) This is not your first crusade. Tell me about Marti Noxon.

ROCHEFORT: I hated her. I thought she was out to ruin Buffy.

DARBY: And that changed. What was it that changed that?

ROCHEFORT: (Embarassed.) Ummm, it was when the CD of "Once More, With Feeling" came out.


ROCHEFORT: That line she sang, "I'm not wearing underwear" . . .

DARBY: And have you always been fascinated by women without underwear?

ROCHEFORT: Umm, yeah. I mean, no more than most guys.

DARBY: Tell me about your mother.

ROCHEFORT: My mother? What's my mother got to do with this?

DARBY: It's a simple request.

ROCHEFORT: I don't see how my mother comes into any of this!

DARBY: (Jots down something on his notepad.) I'm skeptical that you're truly committed to your therapy.

ROCHEFORT: I don't know what would give you that impression!

DARBY: Well, for one thing, I think someone in your position who really wanted to get better would seek qualified help, and I'm not a psychologist. I'm a herpetologist.

ROCHEFORT: (Befuddled.) I can assure you, Doctor, that that is not one of my problems . . .

DARBY: I'm going to recommend that you check yourself into our clinic, just for observation. (He reaches to his intercom and presses a button.)

ROCHEFORT: Is that really necessary? I've got rehearsal tonight, and Batboy just doesn't persecute himself.


DARBY: I think you'll find it very therapeutic.

(The two orderlies grab Rochefort, who starts to scream and struggle.)

ROCHEFORT: You bastard! I trusted you!

DARBY: Would you like a hamster? Most of my patients like a hamster. It makes the medicine go down smoother.

(One of the orderlies injects Rochefort with a hypodermic needle filled with a GLOWING GREEN LIQUID. Rochefort's struggles begin to lose intensity.)

DARBY: We'll make sure that you have a comfortable room, one as far away from that Boke fellow as possible.

(As Rochefort's body goes limp, the two orderlies drag him from the office. Darby picks up the telephone. He dials -- a lot of numbers, maybe an international call? After a moment, he begins to speak.)

DARBY: He's been secured. . . . You know, he believes it's all a fantasy. . . . Oh, he's really quite insane. He's just not delusional. . . . Do you know he sincerely wants to bring them back? . . . No, of course we can't let that happen, not if it's going to be more of those awful speeches. . . . Muddled characterization. . . . Yeah, yeah, too much screen time for him, too. . . . But, yes, his technology does work. . . . Yes. . . . Yes. . . . Yes, we can use it to stop Joss. . . . We can go back. . . . We can go back and prevent "Lies My Parents Told Me."

(Fade to Black.)

[> [> [> [> Deleted Scene -- Darby, 09:34:28 01/10/04 Sat

DARBY: Well, for one thing, I think someone in your position who really wanted to get better would seek qualified help, and I'm not a psychologist. I'm a herpetologist. Forget your mother, tell me about...your lizard.

ROCHEFORT: It's not a lizard, it's a salamander!

DARBY: (scribbling furiously) And you find the distinction important?

ROCHEFORT: Shouldn't I?

DARBY: Hmmmm. And how do you feel about (Warning - Amateurish Metaphor Ahead!!!) ... Snakes???

ROCHEFORT: (Befuddled.) I can assure you, Doctor, that that is not one of my problems . . .

It's not that I mind my Bwahh-ha-ha scene on the cutting room floor (I'd should have gone more subtle, less Glory and more Mayor), but doesn't this bring added nuance to the hamster suggestion?

What? Well, never mind then...

[> [> [> [> [> And the dropped tag is...an homage to the tag-fixer! (Plus, a bad pun!) -- Darby, 09:38:16 01/10/04 Sat

Sorry about that...

Well, here's an extra attraction to make up for it (anom, tell me how it rates) -

I may be a herpetologist, but is Rahael a D'Herblaytologist?

[> [> [> [> [> [> There are many d'Herblaytologists -- Masq, 13:38:44 01/10/04 Sat

They just take different approaches to the study.

[> [> [> [> [> And I thought . . . -- d'Herblay, 15:23:00 01/10/04 Sat

. . . "I'm a herpetologist," "I can assure you, Doctor, that that is not one of my problems!" was already a bad enough pun!

[> Chapter IV: A Fellowship of Misfits -- Rochefort, 13:03:13 01/09/04 Fri

[A very large hand is wrapped around Rochefort's neck, and he is slammed into a wall.]

ROCHEFORT: [Gasp] [Gag]


[Rochefort's hair is blown by a foul wind]

[Cut To: A wintery landscape of bright blue and white. Snow flakes that look as if they have been cut out of paper whirl about the screen in patterns. The camara pans to a friendly looking snow man with a beard, mustache, hat, and scarf]

SNOWMAN: Yesssss, poor Rochefort had gotten himself in quite a fix. For he had awoken .... Abominable.

[Cut To: Rochefort, suspended in the air, struggling vainly to remove the hands from his throat.]

SNOWMAN: [V.O.] Of course I haven't yet explained how Rochefort came upon Abominable in the first place.

[Cut To: Wintery landscape. Snowman.]

SNOWMAN: When last we heard from Rochefort, he was still intent on his quest and was trying to bring together the former team of companions who had once performed such feets of glory. His next stop, the Halls of Fashion, to find Honor H.

[Cut To: The Halls of Fashion. HonorH is hurriedly trying to alphbatize some dresses. There are crates full of fashion and a Christmas tree.]

CALVIN KLEIN: [As he passes through the room] You there. Fashion wench. Hurry with those dresses. How will we ever find the one's we need if they aren't in alphabetical order! And get that Christmas tree down and out of here.... its cliche and passe.

HONORH: Yes, sir. I'm ... hurrying....

[HonorH turns from the rack of dresses to open another crate of fashion and comes face to face with Rochefort.]

ROCHEFORT: Hi, darling.

HONORH: Oh, god. Rochefort, get out of my way. I have work to do.

ROCHEFORT: You aren't surprised to see me?

HONORH: You don't matter to me enough for me to be surprised, Rochefort. Get lost.

ROCHEFORT: Listen, I need your help. I'm reassembling the MOLOJ team.

HONORH: [stopping her motion] Ponygirl? CJL? Rob? The others?

ROCHEFORT: Um.... yep.

HONORH: How are those guys!?

ROCHEFORT: Uh....goo...they're good. We're all gonna meet. Probably. Back at my chateau. You should come. Big mission. Very exciting.

HONORH: Rochefort, I'd love to see Ponygirl and the rest but.... I've got... important fashion things to do. But if they're going to be in France, tell them to stop by, o.k.? See you later, Rochefort. [She walks by him.]

ROCHEFORT: (solemnly) I'm trying to bring Buffy back.

HONORH: I don't give a rat's ass what crazy scheme you've concocted, Rochefort.

ROCHEFORT: I... kind of figured you'd feel that way. It's a pity. I guess I'll have to get someone else to help me.


ROCHEFORT: Someone more likely to hear my story with some empathy.


ROCHEFORT: Someone with an interest in schemes that might possibly maybe be a tiny bit evil.

HONORH: Great. Good luck.

ROCHEFORT: Someone with better fashion sense than you.

HONORH: Hey.... who are we talking about?

[Rochefort splashes HONORH with a red liquid.]

HONORH: What the.... you creep! That was a hand woven.... polo....blazer....gorgio aramani....thingy... [Notices the liquid is giving off a terrible smell.] Gawd....what is this stuff?

ROCHEFORT: A little compound I had whipped up for me. Works on werewolves to keep them in their wolf like state past the full moon.... I figured.....

HONORH: Oh you didn't. [Then shrugs] Well.... you're funeral.

[HonorH suddenly morphs to three times her former size (and beauty, and charm, and wit) and promptly grabs Rochefort by the throat and slams him against the wall]

[Cut To: Wintery landscape. Snowman]

SNOWMAN: Yessir, Rochefort had awoken Abominable. Good thing his assistant Dirk, the former communist, was nearby. He rushed to Rochefort's aid.]

[Cut to: Halls of Fashion. Dirk rushes to Rochefort's aid. Honorificus holds Rochefort with one hand, and with the other snaps off Dirk's head, reaches over to her left, and hangs it from a bow on the Halls of Fashion Christmas Tree. Then she alphbatizes Dirk's body with the dresses, grabs the Christmas tree, and throws it through the roof of the building letting in the wintery French air.]

ROCHEFORT: [Gasp] [Wheez]

HONORIFICUS: Hm? Can't hear you.

SNOWMAN: [V.O.] Rochefort was starting to lose consciousness. Night was falling inside his head, but it's sometimes at moments like those.... that dawn...um....right before the dark...comes. Out of his periphery vision, through the hole in the roof that Abominable had made.... he thought he saw a tiny glowing red light in the sky. And then....could it be? The sound of tiny little hoof steps on the roof.



SNOWMAN: [V.O.] Yes, just then, two small hobbit looking women on two small unicorns swooped into the room through the hole in the roof. One of them was carrying the glowing red head of Dirk.



SNOWMAN: [V.O.] And the unicorn's alit on the ground and started prancing around in a circle on the floor of the Hall of Fashion storeroom while the two hobbit women danced on their backs.

HONORIFICUS: What the hell?



[Honorificus shrieks, or more bellows really.... and drops Rochefort to the ground where he collapses trying to breathe.]

HONORIFICUS: The lord himself has never created a creature more....sickiningly ...shiningly... disgustingly....GOOD. And yet at the same time....so terribly, maddeningly, stickily....gauche. I feel like the knick nacks in my grandmother's house all got together to take revenge on me. I'm being attacked by hummels on unicorns. Satan save me.

JANE: Hey.... shut it, lady.

[Angel's Nibblet's unicorn rides forward and stabs her in the thigh with its horn.]


ANGEL'S NIBBLET: That was a um....accident....woah unicorny....wooahhhhh.....

ROCHEFORT: [Looking up from the ground] I'll call them off if you agree to hear me out!

JANE: Did he say he'd call us off? Who does he....

ANGEL'S NIBBLET: wooaaahhhh....

[Angel's Nibblet rolls backward off her unicorn and falls on her head.]

HONORIFICUS: Good, yes, fine. Just get them away from me. Even your boring prattling would better than these figurines.

ROCHEFORT: I'm on a quest.


ROCHEFORT: It's an um.... an EVIL quest.

HONORIFICUS: Oh sure it is. .... really?

ROCHEFORT: Yes. I plan to disrupt the natural order of things.


JANE: Hey. We found this head outside. Where's the body?

ROCHEFORT: Not alone, no. But it is a great and magnificent evil quest that could only be truly accomplished by Honorificus herself.

SNOWMAN: Now, Abominable had very few weaknesses. And flattery was it.

ANGEL'S NIBLET: This might be the body for the head, you think?.... hanging in the dresses over this pool of blood.

ROCHEFORT: I know you've always hated Buffy and the Scooby gang.... but ever since they've been gone, you haven't had anyone to write your effulgent Super Evil Review about.


ROCHEFORT: But if we brought them back, you could subject them to torture and then.... write a review on it.

HONORIFICUS: Bring them back?

ROCHEFORT: Mhm. For real.

HONORIFICUS: Giles, too?

ROCHEFORT: Giles naked.


JANE: [Dragging the body] Bring me my medical bag, would you Nib?

ANGEL'S NIBBLET: Why is he glowing like that?

JANE: [Looking in the head's mouth] He swallowed a christmas tree light.

ROCHEFORT: What else are you spending your time doing? (gestures at the crates of fashion).

HONORIFICUS: O.k., I'm in. But are the unicorns and the hummels coming?

ANGEL'S NIBBLET: Coming where?

JANE: Hey, buddy.... I taped your friend's head back on.

ROCHEFORT: That's....great.

ANGEL'S NIBBLET: Jane, I think we're going on an adventure.

JANE: (deep sigh) I don't know. Could we catch a rest first? We were flying our unicorns in the sky for like an hour. The only way I'd come is if it was a really rebellious quest.

ROCHEFORT: We're going to disrupt the natural order.

JANE: O.k., I'm in. Do you want your friend? I'm done.

[She gestures at the limp form of Dirk. His head taped back on.]

HONORIFICUS: I'll take him. He's kind of cute. Just needs a little jujjing. [She jujjes Dirk, then folds him in half and puts him in her napsack.]

[Cut to: The street outside the Halls of Fashion. A woman sits on the curb with a hat in front of her, strumming a lute.]

ANN: (singing) Raaahhb Raaaaahb....he's not a snaaaahb. [Seeing Rochefort] Got a quarter for a song about the President of Prague? Praaague praaague good place to snog.

ROCHEFORT: (stops dead. looks at her.) Are you by any chance a bard?

ANN: Maybe.

ROCHEFORT: I might have need of the services of one such as yourself. Come with us. I'll pay you.

ANN: Payyy payyyyy that sounds okaayyyy.


JANE: How come we don't get paid?

ROCHEFORT: You're doing it out of idealism.

ANGEL'S NIBBLET: Plus, I'm his fiance.

[Cut to: Wintery Landscape.]

SNOWMAN: And so, Rochefort, Abominable, the two unicorns (one of them fake), the two hobbit hummels, the traveling bard and the former communist with his head taped on, made their way back to Rochefort's chateau. Yes, one problem had been defeated.... but the troubles of this band of misfits were just beginning.....

[> Chapter V: The Synchronicity Engine -- cjl, 13:06:21 01/09/04 Fri

[Office of the President of Prague. CJL, PONYGIRL, and ROB are back from lunch.]

PONYGIRL (to ROB): Gotta hand it to you, Mr. President. That was amazing. I've never tasted roast duck that tender in my entire life.

CJL: Not surprised. That restaurant is one of the best in the Mala Strana.

ROB: The where?

CJL: Mala Strana--Czech for "lesser quarter"?

ROB: Oh. Right. Of course. And it's got a wonderful view of that big river.

PONYGIRL: The Vlatava.

ROB: The Vlatawhatever....yeah.

CJL: Can we get back to work now? I get the feeling we're running out of time.

ROB: What, no dessert?

PONYGIRL: I'm full, thanks. [To CJL] From what you've been telling us, Rochefort was working on his master plan for two years before he decided to bring in the old team. That means one of two things: either he's run into a roadblock, and he needs our help-

CJL: Or he's finished whatever he's working on and he wants us in on the grand opening.

PONYGIRL: I think I'm going with the second option. Rochefort's not the kind of guy who admits to roadblocks.

CJL: That means we're probably too late.

PONYGIRL: Well, if we keep standing around here waiting for him to make his next move, he's beaten us already.

CJL: So what do you suggest?

PONYGIRL: We have to find out exactly what kind of technology he's got his greedy little hands on, what it looks like, what it can do. [Looks around; to Rob] Rob, is there a computer in this place?

[Rob presses a button underneath his desk, and the faux bookcase on the right wall slides back to reveal a sixties-style IBM computer mainframe.]

CJL (nodding): Retro. Cool.

[Ponygirl stares at the computer in disbelief.]

PONYGIRL: O-kay. [Shakes it off; to Rob] If this thing is capable of searching the internet, check to see if anybody with any credentials in physics or--

CJL: Psychology?

PONYGIRL: --or psychology has proposed anything like what Rochefort was talking about.

CJL: Cross-reference "quantum physics" and "fictional characters."

PONYGIRL: Or "collective unconscious."

ROB: Will do. Lemme get my punch cards....

[Ponygirl sighs in exasperation, and slumps into the chair in front of Rob's desk.]

CJL: Don't let it get to you.

PONYGIRL: I just can't get used to the shifts in tone. Is this fanfic a psychological study, a James Bond-type espionage drama, or a farce?

CJL: All three, actually. But don't worry about it; you're doing beautifully.

PONYGIRL (looks up at him): Look--I appreciate the support, but I don't think I can handle the innocent flirtation thing right now. Could we just meta-narrate this part and get it over with?

CJL: Oh. Sure. You wanna start off?

PONYGIRL: OK. I make a comment about your courage and determination that shows my admiration and respect for you despite your aging, Danny Strong-type physique.

CJL: Then I respond by complimenting your kick-ass abilities as a superspy and show that I'm not threatened by a powerful woman.

PONYGIRL: Gracious acknowledgment with girlish lilt at the end.

CJL: Reaffirmation of long-standing friendship with slight innuendo attached.

PONYGIRL: Acceptance with hint of UST.

ROB: Excuse me, are you guys done?

[CJL and Ponygirl glance at each other.]

CJL & PONYGIRL (to Rob): We're done.

PONYGIRL (to CJL): Do you think that last bit of dialogue will convince D'Herblay to SHUT UP about "us"?

CJL: Nobody convinces d'H to shut up.

ROB: Guys? Print-out coming....

[CJL and Ponygirl walk over to the computer, where Rob is scanning results printed on a continuous roll of perforated paper.]

ROB: No....no, that's just crazy...oh, hell no...ooooh. Interesting. I think we have a winner. [Rob tears off the winning entry along the dotted line and passes it to CJL.]

CJL: "Freeing the Imagination: Quantum Applications of Jungian Theory." Karl Wohlmann, University of Vienna. September 1999. Oh my god. This is it.

PONYGIRL: Are you sure?

CJL: Absolutely. He says he wants to "liberate the dreams of man from their metaphorical prison." He talks about the collective unconscious as parallel universe, accessible by manipulation of quantum states. [Scans further down] He says his-god, the translation sucks here-I think it's "engine of synchronicity" will bring about a new golden age.

PONYGIRL (almost to herself): Wohlmann. Sounds familiar.

ROB: Sounds like a nutbar.

CJL: Maybe, but Rochefort seems to be taking him very seriously. [Frantically scans the rest of the article] Dammit! He doesn't include a blueprint. Or specs.

ROB: Maybe we can ask him personally.

[Ponygirl has a "eureka" moment.]

PONYGIRL: No, we can't. I just remembered-Interpol was going crazy about this case eighteen months ago. Wohlmann disappeared from the University, along with his file cabinet, his office computer, his HOME computer, and any piece of paper on his desk that wasn't nailed down.

CJL: You gotta give Rochefort credit-he's thorough.

ROB: Now what do we do?

PONYGIRL: Easy. We go to Vienna anyway. We interview Wohlmann's secretary, his wife, his colleagues, his dog, anybody who might have access to his work, who could give us an idea of what the hell this "engine" looks like.

CJL: I think we've got a plan.

ROB: Let me get my coat.

CJL: Got a spare? It was freezing on the ride over.

[CJL walks over to the closet just behind Rob's desk, and before Rob can say a word, he opens the door. CJL reviews the array of coats on the rack and pulls out two cashmere-lined belted raincoats. Then he looks down, and sees a woman, bound and gagged, sitting on an overturned metal bucket. Upon closer examination, he realizes it's Renee O'Connor, Gabrielle from Xena: Warrior Princess. O'Connor emits a muffled cry for help, and extends her tightly-bound hands, her eyes pleading for assistance. CJL slams the door, his face frozen in shock.]

PONYGIRL: Are we ready?

CJL: Uh, yeah.

PONYGIRL: I'll warm up the 'copter. [Exits.]

[CJL, still in shock, hands Rob his coat.]

ROB: It never leaves this room.

[CJL nods slowly.]

[Cut to: Rochefort's chateau, just outside of Paris. Rochefort, Honorificus, and Ann are sitting in the music room, Rochefort at his desk, Ann warming up on the harpsichord and Honorificus perched-incongruously and precariously--on a velvet-backed antique divan. Rochefort is absorbed in his laptop and Honorificus looks like she's ready to explode into violence at a moment's notice. Through the window, we see angel's nibblet and Jane running their unicorns around the figures in the topiary garden.]

ROCHEFORT (not looking up; to Honorificus): Be careful. That's a genuine Louis Quatorze.


ROCHEFORT: Not sure it can support your weight.

HONORIFICUS (scowls): Really?

[Honorificus rises to her....feet, I guess....and glances down at the exquisite piece of French craftsmanship.]

HONORIFICUS: Might not support my weight, you say?

[Honorificus rams one of her fists through the center of the divan with the power of a hydraulic press, cleanly breaking the divan in two.]

HONORIFICUS (grins evilly): Guess not.

ROCHEFORT (still not looking up): Was that really necessary?

HONORIFICUS: Bored now. If you don't give me something to do, you're going to have refurnish this entire chateau.

ROCHEFORT: Patience. I'm waiting for my contact to check in. Listen to some music.

HONORIFICUS (glares balefully at Ann): If you call that music.

[Ann finishes warming up and launches into a traditional favorite:]

ANN (singing): Alas, my love, you do me wrong
To cast me off discourteously
And I have loved you for so long
Delighting in your company
Greensleeves was all my joy
Greensleeves was my delight
Greensleeves my heart of gold
And who but my Lady Greensleeves

[To Honorificus' utter horror, the unicorns are drawn to the window by the sound of the harpsichord; Midnight and Morningstar move in perfect union with the refrain, prancing three steps to the left, then prancing three steps to the right, all with Jane and angel's nibblet balanced on their backs. Ann finishes the refrain, and Jane and angel's nibblet curtsy to formally close the first verse.]

HONORIFICUS: Give me strength. Demons of the pit, give me strength....

ANN (singing): I have been ready at your hand
To grant whate'er you would crave
I have both waged life and land

You love and good will to have
Greensleeves was all my joy
Greensleeves was my delight
Greensleeves my heart of gold
And who but my Lady Greensleeves

[Rochefort sways to the music. Jane and angel's nibblet sway to the music. The unicorns sway to the music. Honorificus looks like she's about to projectile vomit, but then, inexplicably, even SHE starts to sway to the music. She catches herself and lets out a hideous, blood-curdling scream. Ann is startled and the music stops; the unicorns wander away from the window.]

ROCHEFORT (still looking at his laptop): Bingo. (To Honorificus) In the mood for some travel?

HONORIFICUS: I'd take Disneyworld about now.

ROCHEFORT: How about Vienna?

HONORIFICUS: Adolph's old stomping grounds? I am SO there. [Thinks for a minute] I'll need a bit of camouflage. I don't exactly blend in.

ROCHEFORT: Let me see what I can do......

[Cut to: an office in Albany, New York. DARBY dials the same number he dialed in the post-interlude, and waits patiently for the other end to pick up.]

ENGLISH VOICE: This had better be important.

DARBY: The players are in motion. We're approaching the end game.

E.V.: Excellent. Any progress on the engine's location?

DARBY: Not yet. But I'm sure one side or the other will lead us to it.

[Cut to: a study in London. We see a figure, cloaked in shadow, holding the receiver of a late Victorian-era telephone.]

E.V.: I don't need to tell you, Darby, that the Consortium will not tolerate failure in this matter. The stakes are simply too high.

[The figure leans forward, into the light. It's TCHAIKOVSKY.]

TCH: Only the best and the brightest amongst us should have the right to control mankind's dreams.

[> Chapter VI: Smackdown at St. Stephens Cathedral -- cjl, 13:14:53 01/09/04 Fri

[Scene: Aerial view of Vienna, with "Synchronicity I" by the Police on the soundtrack. We skim across the Viennese skyline until we stop and circle around St. Stephens Cathedral in the center of town.]

[Cut to: Interior of an internet café in the shadow of the cathedral. CJL and PONYGIRL are questioning KLEINSCHMIDT, an elderly Austrian man, who looks confused and extremely nervous. He speaks no English; our heroes speak no German. SONJA, a thin, thirty-ish woman with close-cropped brunette hair, is translating in both directions.]

PONYGIRL: Did you bring the disk?

SONJA: He brought the disk. But he's not going to give it up until somebody explains to him why Professor Wohlmann was kidnapped, and reassures him that he's not going to disappear without a trace.

PONYGIRL: If nobody else knows about the disk, nobody's going after him. And besides, I'm not sure Professor Wohlmann was kidnapped.

CJL: Huh?

PONYGIRL: Think about it: you've designed a machine that could revolutionize civilization, but nobody takes you seriously. Suddenly, somebody offers you a big pile of money to build it. What would you do?

SONJA: He says he can't believe anybody took Professor Wohlmann seriously. He thought the Engine was an exercise in metaphysical speculation.

CJL: Thin line between physics and metaphysics these days.

PONYGIRL: Hate to discourage the philosophical debate, but-the disk?

[KLEINSCHMIDT hesitates for a moment, then snaps open his briefcase, removes a DVD from one of the interior pockets and hands it over to Ponygirl.]

PONYGIRL: Thank you. We'll do our best to find Professor Wohlmann. But there's a good chance that he may not want to be found right now.

SONJA: He says you people are nuts.

CJL: Tell him he's right.

PONYGIRL: We never had this conversation. You've never seen us before in your life.

[SONJA translates, and KLEINSCHMIDT nods vigorously. He snaps his briefcase shut, and bolts out of the café.]

CJL (to Sonja): Thank you. Kind of like the old days. You should have done this for a living.

PONYGIRL: We're not finished yet.

[Ponygirl loads the disk into one of the DVD-compatible computers; a menu of about fifty separate files pops up on the screen--all in German. Sonja clicks on one of the icons and a full-color schematic pops into view.]


SONJA: A hundred thousand square meters for the entire facility.

CJL: That kind of machinery needs an awful lot of power.

[The door to the café opens, and a tiny, old woman with a handful of wilted carnations drifts past the reception area to where CJL, Ponygirl and Sonja are huddled around their discovery.]

OLD WOMAN (to CJL): Buy a bunch of pretty posies, guv'nor?

CJL (his attention focused on the screen): Uh, no thanks.

OLD WOMAN: Oh, c'mon. Nothing does so well with the ladies than the bloom of the rose, eh?

PONYGIRL: Look, he said he's not-Wait a minute. What's a cockney flower girl doing in the middle of Vienna?

[The old woman touches the "bracelet" on her wrist, and the air surrounding her starts to shimmer in the fluorescent light. She grows taller, broader, and considerably more demonic. CJL's mouth falls open.]

CJL: Honorificus.

HONORIFICUS: Hello, everyone. Been a long time.

PONYGIRL: Not long enough.

CJL: Sonja, get out of here. NOW.

[Sonja dashes past the enormous demonic shape, and Honorificus makes no attempt to stop her as she flies out of the café.]

HONORIFICUS: Good, it's just the three of us. [Looks around] Wait, where's Rob? I thought pom-pom boy was part of this little menagerie.

CJL: That's none of your business.

HONORIFICUS: Ah, CJL. You haven't changed a bit. You've still got the fashion sense of ten year-old skater punk-and the height to match. [CJL rolls eyes] And Ponygirl-- [surveys the outfit] Nice try, dear, but you really don't have the figure to pull off the black unitard look. You're basically a lump of coal in Sydney Bristow's Christmas stocking.

PONYGIRL (stone-faced): You wound me.

HONORIFICUS: Enough chit-chat. Do you come along quietly, or do I have to get violent? PLEASE tell me I can get violent.

CJL: I can't believe this. You're Rochefort's "muscle"? I thought you couldn't stand the guy.

HONORIFICUS: I can't. Obnoxious and single-minded as ever. But he's on this noble quest to alter the fundamental nature of reality and bring back Buffy for the betterment of all mankind--and you just KNOW he's going to screw things up and unleash all kinds of delightful chaos. There's no way I'm missing out on that.

PONYGIRL (pointing to the bracelet): Nice little gadget.

HONORIFICUS: You like? Holographic camouflage-stolen from the boys at MIT. The ideal accessory for the demon on the go.

[While Honorificus is bragging about her jewelry, Ponygirl does a tuck and roll out of the demon's reach, pulls out a gun from her side holster and pumps five tranquilizer darts into Honorificus' chest. All five bounce off harmlessly. Honorificus smiles at Ponygirl, and taps a finger against what is obviously a thin layer of chain mail underneath her leather ensemble. While she's distracted, CJL lunges for the bracelet, but Honorificus swats him away like a flea.]

HONORIFICUS: Go away, little man.

[CJL flies backwards, bounces off the top of one of the computer terminals, and lands in a heap on top of a printer on the other side of the room. Honorificus, moving with a speed that belies her size, grabs Ponygirl by the neck and lifts her about three feet off the floor.]

HONORIFICUS: Stop struggling, you idiot, I'm not going to kill you. Just need to squeeze a little air out, so you'll be easier to manage.

PONYGIRL (gasping): W-wait. I-it's just not right.

HONORIFICUS: That's the idea, sweetie.

PONYGIRL: Can't you see the....problem with this entire....scenario?


PONYGIRL: Plot hole...big as a truck...and you're it.

HONORIFICUS: Don't be ridiculous. I am the dark radiance from the lower depths. I am the glory, the will, and the way, and my presence is right and proper in any universe-despite what my simpering alter ego might say.

PONYGIRL: But...if Rochefort is trying to bring the Scoobies into our reality, that means...this isn't the Buffyverse. And that means....demons don't exist.

HONORIFICUS: Nonsense. T-this is a pitiful attempt to mess with my beatific head. I mean, you could explain it by.... It doesn't necessarily have to be....

[Honorificus drops Ponygirl; Ponygirl hits the ground with a dull thud, swallowing huge gulps of air. Honorificus howls in agony.]

HONORIFICUS: Rochefort, you imbecile! You will pay for this indignity if it takes the rest of my immortal existence!

[Honorificus holds the sides of her head in blinding pain, and lets loose another howl. The air shimmers around her, and the demon-form shrinks and softens, until HonorH materializes in her place. HonorH spins woozily, then collapses, her back slumped against the paneled wall of the reception area.]

HONORH: Mommy.

[CJL, still a bit woozy himself, approaches Ponygirl, who's just getting to her feet.]

CJL: You beat her with "plot logic"?

PONYGIRL: An international superspy has to be prepared for every eventuality.

CJL: Impressive.

[They check on HonorH.]


HONORH (smiles): Hey.

CJL: You okay?

HONORH: Yeah. Mostly. I feel like I've been on a six-day bender. [To Ponygirl] That WAS a pretty impressive display of logic back there.

PONYGIRL: Thanks. Actually, it was pretty simple when you think about it. If this fanfic is operating in the "real" world, there's no way for Honorificus to exist without invalidating the entire story. And we all know the one thing you have in common is an absolute hatred of plot holes and writer stupidity. I mean, if you buy the existence of demons, you might as well believe in unicorns.

[HonorH lets out a blood-curdling shriek and passes out.]

PONYGIRL (to CJL): What'd I say?

[Cut to: a state-of-the-art lab that would make Maggie Walsh and the Initiative drool with envy. A slight, 50 year-old man in a lab coat is speaking on a cell phone while his assistants are checking connections on an intimidating bank of computer equipment and transformers.

WOHLMANN: It cannot be helped... It will be ready when it will be ready... Herr Rochefort, we are attempting to create a new world. This is not the sort of thing that can be rushed.... Probably in a few more days... You will definitely be the first to know, my friend.

[Wohlmann switches off the cell phone, and rejoins the frenzied activity in the lab. We slowly pull back, appreciating the enormous size of the lab, then pull back further, past the walls to the exterior of the compound, taking in the gigantic solar panels powering the entire complex, then further, as we see the complex as little more than a spot in the desert, and yet further, to an aerial view of what is instantly recognizable as the state of California...]

[> [> For a virtual tour of St.. Stephens Cathedral -- Ann, 17:19:33 01/09/04 Fri

See http://www.vrvienna.com/iview_quicktime/source/st_stephens_outside2.html

I also have noticed a pattern popping up with first, XTC and now the Police. We have a early to mid-80's new wave vibe happening here. I bet there are/were great haircuts involved.

This story is excellent. Hope I don't run out of paper.

[> [> Wait a minute! Unicorns aren't real?? Midnight will be so bummed. -- Jane, 17:22:30 01/09/04 Fri

[> [> [> *hands Jane the memory-erasing pictsie dust* works like a charm -- angel's nibblet, 18:17:07 01/09/04 Fri

Yes that's pictsie, like the Pictsies from Terry Pratchett's "Wee Free Men", coz they're little Picts.

And yay for my unicorn being called Morningstar! I love it!

Hey wait a minute, what about hobbits? *morphs into her regular size again* Oh crud.

[> [> [> [> I think they were actually 'hobbit-like women' but.... -- Rochefort, 21:09:09 01/09/04 Fri

I've still gotta write a way to save the real unicorn from ponygirl's plot logic. I think that, unlike Honorificus, however, Unicorns don't care about plot. Take "The Last Unicorn" for instance. Hardly a plot to speak of, yet the unicorn in the book didn't mind, and it ended up being a work of beauty.


[> [> [> [> [> No hair on these feet! -- Jane, 21:44:06 01/09/04 Fri

Whew! saved from the plot hole. We may look a bit hobbity, but believe me, Nibblet and I are REAL women. Scarey too,let it be known. CHARRRRGE!

[> [> [> [> [> [> I second that CHAAARGE! Besides, unicorn magic overcomes all plot holes -- angel's nibblet, 21:57:39 01/09/04 Fri

[> [> In defense of Honorificus..... -- Rochefort, 14:13:46 01/09/04 Fri

In defense of Honorificus's presense in the story...

my idea was that the three worlds have some bleed between them anyway. i.e. Rochefort, CJL, Ponygirl are WRITERS of this story at the same time as they are CHARACTERS in it. But even as CHARACTERS they make reference to themselves as writers. Those two realities comfortably co-exist in the story. Honorificus is HonorH's alter-ego as a poster. As an actual poster on AtpoBTVS, I figured she existed as closer to this world than ... say... Buffy. I also justified it to myself by saying that the farther we proceeded in making Rochefort's dream a reality by having the characters act like its a reality, the closer we would get to MAKING it so. Hence the unicorns and the way I justified HONORIFICUS'S presense.

But I'm willing to accept that Honorificus is simple minded and got fooled by Ponygirl's sly little trick.

This isn't over yet!! I didn't need her anyway.


[> [> [> This is great stuff; I can't wait to read what happens next -- Jay, 16:53:01 01/09/04 Fri

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