Archive for 2001

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig

20 July 2001
Categories: From the armchair

coverWhen I was in sixth grade, I competed in a grade-wide spelling bee. I was a pretty damn good speller in those days. The bee ran well beyond its allotted time, mainly because after all the other kids were eliminated, it turned into a head-to-head battle of wits between myself and one other student. Her name was Laura H., and she was an untouchably perfect paradigm of beauty and intelligence. Probably every school has one. I pretty much had a crush on Laura from the first day of sixth grade, all the way through high school.

That day, they ultimately had to move us into a study room in the library because the classroom we were in was about to be filled with students returning from lunch. Just me, and Laura, and a proctor who gave us the words, back and forth, likely praying that one of us would screw up soon so she could go back to her regular day. On and on it went, and the tension in the room grew and grew.

Finally, I blew it, leaving out the “an” in “maintenance.” I knew how to spell the word; I just forgot where I was in spelling it.

When I went home and told my parents, my dad asked, “Is that Diane H.’s daughter? I guess I know why you let her win.” Turns out Laura’s parents went to college with mine, and her mother was quite the smart babe as well.

So despite its ignominious place in my personal history, maintenance is one of my favourite words, and it makes sense at some cosmic level that a book with “maintenance” in its title would eventually become one of my favourite books.

A more tangible clue that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (aka ZMM) is important to me: I have three copies of this book.

One is a hardcover, supposedly reissued for the book’s twentieth anniversary in 1994. This is my stay-at-home copy, the tome I protect so much that as I think of it I’m reminded that it’s still lacking a clear plastic cover for the dust jacket. It has the benefit of larger print, wide margins for note making (not that I have), and correction of most of the typos that appear in the paperback printing.

One is a pink-covered paperback, bought new when I was in high school. This is an unusual printing, the thirty-third by Bantam. In 1984, Pirsig wrote a new “introduction” for the tenth anniversary of the book’s first publishing. I quote “introduction” because this is how it’s described on the copyright notice page, but it’s more accurately described as an afterword, which is how it appears in the hardcover and later paperback printings. However, my copy has it as an actual introduction, preceding the story, which is really strange because it describes a catastrophic event that occurred ten years after the events of the story and which dramatically colours the story itself. If you’ve read it, you know what I mean. I’m sure the author did not intend this, and so it was subsequently changed in the next printing. It makes my copy, as I said, unusual, and I rarely read this copy because of it.

The third copy I have, the one that I’ve been carrying around with me, is another pink-cover paperback. I specify the cover colour because I’ve seen printings with identical layouts except the background is yellow or green, rather than pink.cover I suspect these are early printings, just like when the sequel to ZMM, Lila, first came out in paperback, it was available in three colours. The copy of Lila I have is purple, but I doubt you could buy it today in anything other than green; likewise, good luck these days finding a paperback ZMM that isn’t Pepto-Bismol pink.

Anyway, this copy of ZMM has been around the block a few times. It’s not even mine. It was given to me in college by a friend who had an extra copy. I’m not sure why I took it, since I already had one of my own. Perhaps it was so that my girlfriend at the time could read it (like most people, she didn’t have privileges to my library), and when we later broke up and I moved out, the book came along with me. (As far as I know, she never read it.) So I have this copy that was battered when I got it, that’s dog-eared and losing a few pages, that I don’t mind carrying in a back pocket or reading in a light rain, that’s something of a permanent loaner, that I’ll gladly give to anyone who wants to read this wonderful book, that has a name written on the flyleaf of someone I’ve never met, that has occasional, tiny, cryptic remarks written in ink in the margins.

Some of these remarks are mere checkmarks alongside passages someone thought particularly noteworthy, but a few make much less sense. One that sticks out at me appears at the beginning of Chapter 24:

I remember the dream again and the words “I’ll see you at the bottom of the ocean” and wonder about them. But pines and sunlight are stronger than any dream and the wondering goes away. Good old reality.

At this point, the last sentence has been underlined, followed by a single word: “Ha.” This may be the easy bit to fathom. The friend that gave me this copy, like nearly everyone in my social circle in those days, was a cognoscente of psychedelics. Laughing at the notion of “good old reality” would be par for the course. The book continues:

I get out of the sleeping bag. It’s cold and I get dressed quickly. Chris is asleep. I walk around him, climb over a fallen treetrunk and walk up the logging road. To warm myself I speed up to a jog and move up the road briskly. Good, good, good, good, good. The word keeps time with the jogging…

The line beginning with “briskly” and containing the repeated word “good” has an arrow pointing to it with the words “Ahh! He knows.” Knows what? Knows that jogging is good? Knows that reality is good? Knows the true meaning of his dream? Knows that his past is welling up inside of him and it’s only a matter of time before it bursts out again? If so, what in this paragraph gives that idea?

I guess the reason I’m going into all this is because ZMM is more than a book to me, it’s an event filled with baggage. When I first read it, in high school, I was floored by it and it quite firmly adjusted my idea of reality. As I re-read it now I see those passages that I took deeply to heart and can see how much of my current belief system relies on them. There’s more baggage, of course, in the cover that stares me in the face from my desk, the one that says ZMM is “one of the most profoundly important bestsellers of our time.” (All in caps.) Along with the words “Electrifying.” “Fabulous.” “Extraordinary.” And there’s the baggage of those that have read this copy before me, as illustrated above, and all those who have read the book over the years. I mean, Amazon.com has a total of 247 customer reviews!

Sadly, one of those reviews, and one that appears on the main book page and not buried within the subsequent 25 pages of reviews, keeps sticking in my mind. “A reader from Topeka, KA” [sic, not the proper abbreviation for Kansas] calls it an “oddball book” and says he/she couldn’t get past page 248. Well, fuck you, Topeka. The quality of this or any other book notwithstanding, I firmly believe that if you can’t finish the book you don’t have the right to criticize it in print. It’s obvious that Topeka didn’t “get” ZMM, if for no other reason that he/she insists on calling it a “novel,” which implies fiction, which ZMM is not. I think it’s most particularly ironic that page 248 is exactly one page before Pirsig goes into the discussion of “stuckness.”

(Okay, so maybe I’m defensive. And maybe 247 isn’t all that many reviews… for example, The Celestine Prophesy has 571. Of course, it’s a helluva lot easier to grasp than ZMM.)

But all this baggage makes me much more critical of the book than I ever have been before. It’s kind of like putting a good rock-and-roll album on in the car while driving with your mother. How many times have I heard mine complain about the “noise,” when all I could hear was jamming, if shrieking, electric guitar? (Although I never could adequately defend my Emerson, Lake & Palmer phase, and perhaps still can’t.) Riding on the train, I actually found myself embarrassed to be reading ZMM. After finishing, I noticed another guy on the train reading it, and my first thought was, “you poor bastard.” Why do I feel this way? ZMM is a great book! Sure, it’s not quite as cerebral as reading Critique of Pure Reason. And sometimes Pirsig sounds painfully full of himself, as if he thinks the ideas he’s espousing are the most earth-shattering concepts ever.

Then again, maybe it’s just a case of the old saw, “familiarity breeds contempt.” You hear a radical new idea for the first time, and you can’t fathom it. Hear it again, and it begins to make sense. Again, and you can start to assimilate it. Hear it for the tenth time, and it’s old news.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not old news. It’s a fresh look at the fundamental philosophical biases that western culture has considered a given since the days of Aristotle, and a means to move beyond them. It’s as timely and important today as it was 25 years ago. Get some gumption, and give it a read.

Zodiac: An Eco-Thriller by Neal Stephenson

19 June 2001
Categories: From the armchair

coverLife is full of little coincidences. I tend to believe that the more coincidences you notice while following a certain path, the better the likelihood that that path is the right one to follow. In other words, the world has a strange way of aligning itself into a coherent, integral whole just when you’re at one with it.

In a mundane way, I will take the following anecdote to mean that I was reading Neal Stephenson’s Zodiac at the right time in my life.

Zodiac is told from the first-person perspective of Sangamon Taylor, an environmental activist who fancies himself a “Toxic Spiderman” while most people, to his chagrin, call him “Granola James Bond.” S.T. likes to spend his time racing around Boston Harbor in an overpowered Zodiac inflatable raft, searching to uncover the latest industrial crime to pollute those already-despoiled waters. As a part of this pursuit, he has enlisted local lobstermen to provide him with any odd or deformed lobsters they catch, along with data on where they were caught. S.T. hopes to use these data to pinpoint toxic spills in the harbor and thereby to take down the large corporations responsible.

Recently my wife went to the latest travesty of Sprawl to inflict itself on the landscape, Costco, and bought a 12-pack of assorted flavours of Jones Soda. If you’re not familiar with Jones Soda, it’s a hip little upstart soda company from Canada with a collection of classic and/or funky flavours including cream soda, grape, and (no joke) blue bubble gum. Their kitschiest gimmick is that their labels sport photographs submitted by anyone and everyone, with subject matter that might be almost anything—I’ve seen landscapes, people on the beach, seals at the zoo, even a bowling alley where the #1 pin has been stood on its head. The labels are always changing, and always give credit to the submitter and their hometown.

One of the flavours in that 12-pack was Green Apple. It’s a frightful shade of neon green that you can really only get by mixing Yellow #5 and Blue #1. That said, it’s a surprisingly tasty soda with all-natural flavouring, a nice tart apple without being too sickly sweet.

Then I looked closely at the label, and discovered that while reading a book about toxic lobsters, I was drinking a toxic-waste-green soda bearing a picture of… cartoonishly caricatured giant stuffed lobsters!

Stephenson wrote Zodiac back in 1988, and in very minor ways the book dates itself. I was surprised that S.T. didn’t use GPS to pinpoint his position in the harbor, until I remembered that the first operational GPS satellite wasn’t launched until February 1989 and it would be several years before handheld receivers would be available to the public. In so many ways, though, this book is as timely now as it was then, and environmental catastrophe probably looms larger on the horizon now than it did then. Which makes it all the more scary.

The main plot of Zodiac has to do with Basco, Inc., a fictitious chemical company that creates, through one of its subsidiaries, a genetically altered bacterium that converts PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, nasty stuff) into harmless saltwater. They use these bacteria to cover up a PCB spill that they dumped years before and which recently began to leak. In a sense, this new “bug” is a helpful thing for the environment.

Now, big chemical companies use PCBs in a lot of their operations, and need to make large quantities of the stuff through a method that requires lots of expensive electrical power. Basco realizes that if it can create a bug that converts PCBs to saltwater, it can engineer one to perform the reverse process, thus allowing them to make PCBs out of readily available seawater, for cheap. Unfortunately, this bug gets loose, apparently through subterfuge, and enters the harbor. And unless S.T. and his compatriots can stop it, the new bug threatens to poison the entire harbor and, in the worst case, the entire world.

Zodiac is exciting and fast-paced, and full of Stephenson’s trademark: long rambling discussions rife with plot-significant technojargon. As a technogeek, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and as it reached a climax, with machine guns cracking and explosions tearing through the water, I found myself thinking, “this book would make a great movie.”

I have several trains of thought about that. One is that the book is awfully predictable. As soon as S.T. begins to talk about a bacterium that can convert PCBs to saltwater, I knew there’d be a bug that does the opposite. That’s why I don’t feel bad about mentioning it previously, because it’s not much of a spoiler. Of course, predictability does not stop most movies from being made.

The idea of a movie version of Zodiac immediately made me think of another author: Michael Crichton. Every Crichton book I’ve read (The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, Sphere) reads like nothing more than an extended screenplay treatment. (A ‘treatment,’ for those not familiar with film argot, is a short novelistic summary of a screenplay, usually used to sell that screenplay.) This seems to be more and more the case with Crichton from year to year: Sphere, especially, had no character development and I knew, just from reading it, that it would soon be made into a blockbuster movie with really cool special effects—and a piece of crap.

On the other hand, Stephenson has a sharp wit and attacks his subjects with a levity, vicious though it is, that Crichton lacks. After all, in the acknowledgements for Zodiac the author takes pride in the fact that a friend who read the rough draft said the main character is a total asshole; Neal says that’s how he knew he was on the right track.

Then I thought about Jurassic Park. In the book, the mathematician Malcolm (played in the film by Jeff Goldblum) is bitten by a dinosaur early on and spends the rest of the story in a feverish delirium, ranting at length about chaos theory, genetics, and the dangers of human hubris when playing with those things. Malcolm is the conscience of the book, and carries the entire crux of the message Crichton is trying to put forth. In the movie, however, Malcolm’s rant is reduced to perhaps one or two brief lines, and non sequiturs at that. The result: total Spielbergization, a Disney theme park of a movie.

That’s one of the biggest problems with movies today. No dialogue. If S.T.’s diatribes were cut, not only would the message of Zodiac be lost, but much of the necessary exposition and plot development would be lost too. The whole book would be reduced to a cool boat chase involving S.T.’s Zodiac and a high-speed Cigarette boat, and a lot of gunplay at the end.

I’m sure they’d cut out all the casual drug use, as well. For one, S.T.’s a big nitrous oxide user. He has a personal tenet he calls “Sangamon’s Principle” that essentially says simple molecules are better, because you never know what side effects more complicated compounds will have. Hence the affinity for N2O, which he huffs all the time. But then there’s also pot and LSD and ‘shroom use, and PCP (by the bad guys).

And finally, I doubt the city of Boston would want the kind of negative publicity this book engenders by describing Boston Harbor as one gigantic sewer, which like all major metropolitan waterways it is. The city would probably balk at having the movie shot there, even if it were made out to be some generic, unnamed major city, which might be difficult, because Stephenson uses so many well-known locations such as Fenway Park, Spectacle Island, and Harvard Square.

In fact, this brings up another point about Stephenson. His books almost demand accompanying maps because of his integral use of topology to tell his stories. The Diamond Age needs a map of Shanghai and environs in the late 21st Century. Cryptonomicon relies on a knowledge of modern-day Manila and Luzon. And Zodiac is constantly moving about on a real-world map of Boston. In fact, Stephenson’s description of the location of Basco’s main plant in Everett, Massachusetts, is so specific that I’d like to know what corporation really does own the land described. Then again, perhaps he changed the landscape just enough to avoid a potential lawsuit.

Okay, enough rambling. The upshot of Zodiac is this: it’s a quick, predictable, fun read. Good action movie potential, if there are any screenwriters left in Hollywood that are capable of writing dense, complicated, technically inclined dialogue. And enough environmental concerns to make one want to swear off lobsters forever. Except those on a bottle of Jones Soda.

(Zodiac has been nominated for inclusion on the Shut List.)

The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson

12 June 2001
Categories: From the armchair

coverWith a writer as trailblazing as Neal Stephenson, it’s hard to know where to begin to describe The Diamond Age.

The story takes place sometime late in the 21st Century. Imagine if the near-term future of Snow Crash was carried forward by several decades through a nanotechnology revolution. As in Snow Crash, the world of The Diamond Age no longer contains governments per se. Nanotech has created a hierarchical society where those with a Source of nanotech elements, or control over the Feeds that transmit those elements, hold the power. At the same time, nanotech is so pervasive that every home contains a Matter Compiler to create common objects and simple food, and “mites,” microscopic airborne drones with myriad purposes, both benign and malignant, fill the air and are inhaled with every breath. “Toner wars,” so named because of the swirling clouds of dead mites that fill the air like the black dust of a photocopier, frequently rage between competing manufacturers. Even a simple sheet of paper is a “mediatron,” a computer-embedded system capable of receiving voice commands and displaying text, images, and moving pictures with the resolution of a high-definition television.

The story takes place in Shanghai and its environs, which like the rest of the world is divided up into “claves,” regions of common ethnic or economic heritage. High in the hills is the clave of Atlantis, where dwell the Neo-Victorians. (Queen Victoria II is their ruler, though England as a sovereign nation with physical borders no longer exists.) Much like the original Victorians, who reacted against the low morals of the age that preceded them, the Neo-Victorians have a strict code of conduct and morality. (This is perhaps a commentary on our society today and where we appear to be headed.) Once of these is John Hackworth, a professional artifex (nanotech engineer) of high skill and regard, who despite his talents is not a member of the nobility. Hackworth’s boss is an Equity Lord by the name of Finkle-McGraw. The Lord long ago gained his status by being a rebel and taking risks; he despairs to find that his children are not risk-takers and fears that his young granddaughter will never reach her potential in the schools of the establishment. Unable to interfere in her upbringing directly, Lord Finkle-McGraw commissions Hackworth to design A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, an interactive mediatronic book. The concept is that a Primer will bond itself to its owner, tailoring its stories to the young female reader, and providing tutorial lessons that she will find most interesting and useful to her unique situation. By giving this book to his granddaughter as a gift on her fourth birthday, Lord Finkle-McGraw will have an avenue with which to expose her to ideas and concepts the Neo-Victorians (including her parents) would find subversive and potentially dangerous, but which will almost certainly come in handy to her as she grows up.

Hackworth, who has a young daughter of his own, sees an opportunity to boost her out of the middle-class caste to which he has resigned himself. He steals a copy of the compiler code that would program a Matter Compiler to create the Primer (committing the theft through an ingenious use of nanotechnology, of course). He crosses into an unsavoury part of Shanghai to compile a Primer at an underground Source, but before he can return home with his daughter’s Primer, he is attacked by street thugs and robbed.

The contraband Primer winds up in the hands of Nell, yet another four-year-old girl who lives in a hell of destitution, ignorance, and physical abuse in a Shanghai tenement. The Primer bonds to Nell and quickly begins to teach her to read, and soon after, self-defence. Through the rest of The Diamond Age, we follow Nell as she grows to be an educated, intelligent, resourceful young woman, and we simultaneously read, with her, the adventures of Princess Nell, the protagonist in her Primer. Meanwhile, all around her, local and world events steadily crumble into anarchy and rebellion. The world needs a saviour, and it might just take the form of Princess Nell, as by the end of the book Nell and her fictitious alter-ego have become one and the same.

Neal Stephenson has created here, for the first time, a total-immersion reality. Cryptonomicon and Zodiac take place in the present day, and Snow Crash is so close in the future that its reality is barely one step removed from what we know today, and so is strangely familiar. The Diamond Age, on the other hand, finds us in a world totally transformed by nanotechnology. We are thrown head first into a world of claves, thetes, and ractives, Sources and Feeds, and only gradually does Stephenson reveal what those are. The ploy of using a character’s off-handed comment to explain a term, rather than frankly spelling it out in a descriptive paragraph, is effective in maintaining the sense of immersion, as if we’re part of this world and don’t need an explanation. Meanwhile, Stephenson’s penchant for using big words continues, often describing the most mundane action or event in the most entertainingly flowery language. But beyond all that, his words convey startling concepts for the future of technology, and simultaneously frightening and inspiring prophesies for human society.

The Diamond Age earned the 1996 Hugo award for best novel. For good reason. This was Neal Stephenson’s strongest effort to date, and well worth a read.

The Real Hero of Star Wars

18 January 2001
Categories: Film buff, Star Wars

Image ©1977 Lucasfilm Ltd.A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Our Hero, an astromech service droid whose only purpose in life is to assist a predominantly antidroidist race known as humans, is stationed aboard a diplomatic cruiser. Short, squat, and generally taciturn, Our Hero spends a lot of time hanging around with a comic-relief sidekick whose primary function as a protocol droid has led to affecting a prim demeanour and matching British accent. Artoo Detoo, as Our Hero is commonly known, is entrusted by the human Leia with stolen schematics to the evil Empire’s Death Star, even as said Empire is capturing Artoo’s ship. Artoo and sidekick See Threepio escape in a pod without being fired upon by the Empire, thanks to the anthropocentric design of the Empire’s sensors, which ignores the droids aboard. Besides, the Force is with Artoo.

The droids crash land on perhaps the most godforsaken rock in the galaxy, Tatooine. No environment could possibly be worse for a droid’s mechanical systems, except maybe the humid swamps of Dagobah. Fortunately this planet is also home to one of the few humans capable of abetting Artoo, Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi. Threepio is pessimistic as always and, because he has worked as a protocol droid for so long that he suffers from antidroidism himself, never grasps the importance of Artoo’s mission and deprecates it at every chance. Threepio abandons Artoo, leaving Our Hero to brave the wilds of Tatooine alone. The separation is moot, however, as both are captured by the nomadic, piratical, slave-trading, sub-human Jawas, who assault them with painful stun blasters and affix to them the droid equivalent of leg irons: restraining bolts.

The droids are soon sold to the moisture-farming family of the human commonly assumed to be the hero of this story: a snot-nosed, headstrong, whiny punk named Luke. The Force is strong with Luke, thanks only to heredity and not to his own development, and the punk is oblivious to the importance of the information Artoo carries. Artoo soon realises this and cons Luke into removing the restraining bolt so that Our Hero may strike out across the desert in search of Obi-Wan.

The next morning, Artoo has nearly reached Obi-Wan’s residence when Luke arrives, attempting to re-enslave Artoo, and making enough noise with his landspeeder to attract sandpeople from miles around. Fortunately for Artoo—and because the Force is with Our Hero—Obi-Wan soon arrives and takes them home. While Obi-Wan and Luke engage in a backstory-of-the-Force conversation, and Threepio rudely ignores his companion by shutting down, Artoo repeatedly attempts to gain the attention of the humans. Obi-Wan, who is kind enough to call Artoo “my little friend,” quickly grasps the weight of Artoo’s burden and determines that they must all leave the planet. Luke, the dead weight of the group, delays their departure twice: first by insisting that he has to stay on Tatooine for the harvest, then by running home in a futile attempt to save the lives of two humans who, by their inaction against the Empire, are little better than sheep.

At Mos Eisley, while Obi-Wan locates a ship and Artoo and Threepio avoid capture, Luke stumbles into the path of stormtroopers and a drunken outlaw, both times saved by Obi-Wan. They manage to escape Tatooine aboard the freighter of another antidroidist: Han Solo. Solo’s first mate and mechanic, Chewbacca, clearly is much friendlier to droids, perhaps because Wookiees are also regarded as second-class citizens. (Chewie’s egalitarianism is also apparent in the sequels.)

Soon the blundering humans have taken Our Hero to the very target of Artoo’s mission, the dreaded Death Star. Rather than panic, Artoo spots an opportunity. Our Hero sends Obi-Wan off to disable the tractor beam, and knowing that Obi-Wan is the one human to whom Artoo needs not “talk down,” flashes the route to the beam control so quickly on the computer screen that only a droid or a Jedi master could have followed it. Artoo discovers the one human so far who has shown trust in Artoo, Leia, and sends the other humans and Wookiee off to “rescue” her. (In truth, we know that Artoo could have done just as well without them, and sent them as a diversion, and to do what humans do best: run amok and blast things.)

The entire time the group is aboard the Death Star, Artoo and Threepio are rarely out of sight of the ship they flew in on, yet Artoo is able to hack deep into the main computer. Despite the fact that “the entire system is alerted to [their] presence,” Our Hero circumvents the security system, creates diversions throughout the station, and even is able to free the humans from the traps they create for themselves, all the while avoiding capture and downloading huge amounts of information about the Death Star. By the time the tractor beam is down and the humans have returned, Artoo has added a complete set of “as-built” specs to the original design plans first stolen by Rebel spies. Of course, no escape would be complete without delay and near-capture caused by Luke, as he single-handedly spoils the excellent distraction provided by Obi-Wan’s saber-duel with Darth Vader.

On Yavin 4, it takes the analysts no time at all to download Artoo’s cache and find that Our Hero has already completed an analysis of the Death Star’s defences and a tactical plan for attack. Of course, the humans give Artoo no credit for the plan. Because it is assumed that Luke “owns” Artoo, Our Hero is forced to ride shotgun on Luke’s fighter. While the novice tries hard to get the fighter shot out from under them, Artoo makes dangerous repairs, reprograms the targeting systems of the photon torpedoes so they’ll hit the exhaust port accurately, and in a last act of altruism, takes a direct cannon hit to save his ship. Yet only Threepio shows concern at Luke’s announcement, “I’ve lost Artoo!” The kid does the monkey’s job of pulling the trigger, Artoo’s pre-programmed torpedoes hit the target, and the Death Star is destroyed.

Back on Yavin 4, Luke is given credit for the kill, and a giant pageant is staged for the human saviours. Droids are almost entirely absent. The surviving humanoids that brought Artoo to complete his mission are given medals as Threepio stands silently nearly. Artoo arrives, newly repaired and with chrome shining, and proudly announces himself. Leia, who owes her very life to Artoo, merely nods gently at Our Hero with a doting, “you should know your place” smile. Only Chewbacca attempts to defend Artoo’s claim with a loud roar, but he is ignored.

And Artoo Detoo, brave little droid we all have come to love, quietly and ungrudgingly returns to the one role life has to offer: that of servant to a race that shows no appreciation or respect for a job well done.

Further proof of this narrative’s claims, plus a new idea: Artoo is a potty-mouthed wiseacre.