May 25th, 2004

krazy koati

They tease and excite

They made episodes of Disney's Aladdin daily cartoon in which nobody got transformed into anything, although I don't know why they bothered. Annoying me today is one in which Iago got to live out his wish of being a genie. It went great the first afternoon, including perfectly good innovations like bringing a river to Agrabah. But, wouldn't you know it, all the things he did had unexpected problems attending them, with things like flooding because the ground was not suitable for a riverbed, or setting off hyperinflation by the amount of gold he conjured up. And so, faced with his newfound ability to create an unspeakable mess, Iago went back to being just an irritating bird, and Dan Castellaneta Genie undid all Iago's damage. Now that we're up to speed:

So the message we're given is, your fantasies are wonderful things when you're daydreaming. When you actually implement them, though, they're going to surprise you. Problems you never thought of before will crop up, and they may be even bigger than the problems you think your fantasy fixes. Therefore, when you encounter an obstacle, give up. Don't try to adjust to and fix those new problems; you can't possibly have or develop the skills to cope. Just surrender now.

I know that's not the real intent behind this plot -- which shows up a lot in cartoons that admit any fantasy element, and even crops into otherwise respectable shows like M*A*S*H (where Radar got to be a lieutenant for one episode) -- and all that's really gone on is the writers wanted to play ``what if?'' but couldn't break the balance of the show by making a permanent change. (With Aladdin, it's hard enough having a real drama with one genie; with two there's no point to having the mortal cast.) I still really hate the message it sends out.

Trivia: John Wallis, 1616-1703, was the first person known to suggest negative exponents for a variable, though he did not use modern notation like x-1 for them. Source: A History of Mathematics, Florian Cajori.

Currently Reading: European History, 1648-1789, Robert M. Rayner.