Thursday, August 28, 2003

This one time, at band camp...

VH1 has, for quite a while, been imploding with these shows based on popular culture where pundits riff on the various historical trends of past decades. Right now they're doing the 70s, their worst offering so far because most of the talking heads weren't out of their Kimbies when the events occurred, so it's yer basic cynical putdown fest on the psychedelic primary-colored polyester blast that was the 70s. Paulie "the weasel" Shore was tapped for his punditry and he weighed in on the Chippendales dancers, male strippers, that held forth in the 70s. This jarred loose a memory that I'm surprised didn't surface for the "My Expeditions to the Planet of Third-tier Strippers" post. Once, my little Midwestern hometown hosted male strippers at a local pub. This is that story.


If it's been a while since you've been laid, you get this skank about you. Anyone who's looking hard enough can detect it. Well, back in 80something, it was waaaaay past time for me to get back into the rumba. Lo and behold, I spied a poster for some male strippers coming to town. At the time, I didn't even really register it, but later, during a long boring space of horny hours at work, my subconscious had set up an avalanche of logic which tripped when I saw a beefcake calendar posted by one of the girls at work, which were big at the time.

I thought:
1. At the male stripper event, many local women will attend, drink a lot, and watch hunks gyrate.
2. There will be maybe 8 guy strippers, tops, but there will something like a hundred women at this event, and prolly a good percentage of the strippers would rather go home with each other anyway.
3. After a few stiff drinks, and I don't even need to make the pun, there won't be a dry seat in the house - with practically no one to come to their aid (again, apologies).
4. The math for success was so obvious that even your basic hoof-stamping counting horse would whinny, "well duh" if you were to point this out.

So, I pointed this out to my guy buddies. They said, "You'd have to be a fag to go watch a bunch of guys take off their clothes." I walked through the avalanche of logic again, stressing that the last thing we'd be doing is watching the guy strippers. "Everyone would think I was a fag if they saw me there."

So I went alone, dammit.

To this day I have yet to insert myself again into such a froth of worked up women as I encountered that night. The place practically had a funk in the air. (I didn't even have to pay a cover charge because I was a guy! Such innocent times!) I had been sooo right.

Got a beer and started scoping out the terrain. Whilst connoitering, no less than three women literally rubbed themselves against me - it was crowded, but personal space could have been maintained had that been desired - and one actually looked me right in the eye and said, "Exsqueeze me" as she pushed by. (She looked exactly like Rizzo from Grease, not my type, so I kept a wary eye on her and used her as my point to be farthest from during the remainder of he evening.) Thus, onward.

I had a second beer and began choosing my conquest in earnest. About that time, the rental on the first beer came due, and I worked over to the men's room to discover that it had been converted into the performer's dressing room. The bar was originally built as a pool hall, and had closed and reopened as yet another newly-themed watering hole almost yearly, but no one had added rooms for a band or what have you. They didn't expect guys that evening (was I the only one with vision? - yes, only a couple other guys were there, and I don't think they were interested in the girls), so it became evident that I would have to go elsewhere to relieve myself.

It was an especially bitterly cold night that night. On the weather channel, you can often see the big cold, blue finger on the temp charts that rests on the upper Midwest states from November to March. That night most of the country was getting the finger. About the third time I had to venture out to the tundra of the parking lot (one trip per beer I surmised), I was seriously pissed and hatched a plan for vengeance. I was by the unused steel back exit doors behind the stage, and decided to leave a creative excretory ice sculpture upon them. I was nearly complete with a rather decent butterfly when the door flew open for the first time I had experienced since the place was built and, WHAM! cracked me smack-dab in the middle of the forehead by someone taking garbage to the dumpster. The cartoons are correct; you see stars when you get hit really hard in the head.

It didn't knock me out entirely, but I did black out and must've staggered around in the snow back there for a good minute or so, judging from the tracks afterwards. In my compromised state, I had abandoned all other tasks other than remaining upright, and so had let myself go, so to speak. Alas, I had finished the ice sculpture on my jeans.

"Dismay" does not even begin to cover the glacier of emotions I felt at having such an opportunity snatched from my grasp. I thought and brainstormed and schemed, but there was no way around the fact that I could not go back into the bar covered in frozen urine. And to make it worse, the event was going to end before I could get home, change, and get back! What a wedgie fate had delivered unto me. Bitterly, I drove home. I think I even grumbled out loud to myself the whole way, if memory serves.

However, the next day, it seemed so sit-com silly and ironic that I kinda chalked it up to God removing me from something I didn't even want to know about and accepted it as mysterious deliverance. I also must admit that I never have liked waking up with a stranger, the couple times that it's occurred (especially this one time when I had totally gapped her name because I had been so wasted when I learned it initially; I'm sure that brain cell had died that very evening, so I never had a chance).

And that's all I have to say about that.
Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland
a review

I often don't have mixed opinions about books, songs, or movies. I tend to be binary and to fall along the lines of the gay movie critics with their little tape-on, pissant cowboy hats on the great demised comedy show In Living Color, re: "Loved it!", "Hated it!" So maybe when I really want to praise something, I don't have a lot more room from which to really crow from the rooftops. Which is a drag, because Douglas Coupland's Hey Nostradamus! is a spectacular novel, and I can't seem to hunt down enough hyperbole with which to harangue the heavens about it.

Hey Nostradamus! is structured like The Sound and the Fury with four parts narrated from the point of view of a different character, though without the annoying stream of consciousness narrative(and thank God that fad is dead), or the cruel joke of a retarded boy who lives on the edge of a golf course and pines for his missing sister who was named "Caddy," resulting in these heartbreaking moments where the boy keeps wandering to the course to find his sister, since he hears her name being called. (Evidently Faulkner was kind of a sick fuck, eh? Maybe Vonnegut or John Irving could've pulled off the dark humor, but presented in confusing stream of consciousness it's not tragically funny; it's just icky.)

The events surround a high school massacre like the Columbine shootings. (I recall being at work that day, only a mile or so from the school, and the news of the events sweeping the company. It was a lot like the terrorist attacks of 9-11; everyone just stopped what they were doing and tuned into the news.) The first section, called "1988: Cheryl", is sorta The Lovely Bones-esque, in that Cheryl is narrating from the great beyond after her death. Like Seibold, Coupland manages to balance it beautifully, so that it's believable and poignant, rather than just kinda silly.

That said, I didn't expect Coupland to be such a gifted stylist and have such a unique voice. Finding a great new author (and Coupland is someone I'd been intending to read for years, always forgetting about him when I was in a bookstore or library), is like that exhilaration you feel after a fantastic first or second date, when you know you've found someone to bring home to mom.

Check out this excerpt:
"In the end, I think relationships that survive in this world are the ones where the two people can finish each other's sentences. Forget drama and torrid sex and the clash of opposites. Give me banter any day of the week."

Just three sentences, but look at the ground they cover, beautifully, economically. The whole novel is that kind of stuff, front to back. If the bestseller's lists reflected quality, this would shoot to number one and stay near the top for a year.

Oh, and it's got this nifty little attached ribbon for a book mark. Publishers should think of adding that more often. What a convenience!

Coupland has a website, but it's kinda thin, and has too much Macromedia Flash stuff on it. (Note to web developers: A little Flash is OK, but basing the site on it annoys nearly everyone.)

If you're looking for a moving tale authored by a master, check out Hey Nostradamus!

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Krakatoa by Simon Winchester

Boring. Veddy British. Dry as a saltine cracker encountered during a nasty bout of cottonmouth with nary a beer in sight.

And it's irritatingly unclear about some crucial facts. The whole reason I read the thing was to discover how far the sound of the explosion carried. I'd read on a website that the sound went around the world 8 times. That's not true. The sound did travel as far as 3,000 miles, so they heard it in Western Australia and Southern India. No, it was the inaudible pressure wave that went around the globe 7 times. But here's where it's unclear; it's reported that it took the pressure wave approximately 19 hours to go halfway around the world and meet itself at the antipode, but Winchester doesn't make it clear whether the wave fronts clapped together and went off in the opposite direction (which is what I think he meant), or if they crisscrossed, or passed, one another and went on their way. You'd think a crucial fact like that would be spelled out. (Maybe he's saving it for the sequel.)

The only other interesting factoid was the skeleton-encrusted pumice rafts that washed to shore and bumped against the prows of ships for a year or so afterward. As you can see in the illustration from the book, the bones of the dead were mixed into the pumice like M&Ms stirred into a batch of Rice Crispy treats. The descriptions from the time definitely carry the tone of nauseous repulsion mixed with fantod-laced horror so wonderfully portrayed by the Priest in Harold and Maude as he conveys his disgust at Harold commingling his young, firm flesh with that of a geriatric woman.

I don't recommend Krakatoa for a cover-to-cover read, or even a purchase. But if you're curious about the volcanic explosion of Krakatoa, this is about the only best current source for info. If you're interested in the political currents that led up to the distribution of the population of the area, the trade routes and spices traded, and the existence of communication technology available to the media at the time, you'll have a blast, ahem. But for folks like me who could have preferred all of that stuff, including detailed lessons on plate tectonics and Darwinism (!?!?), be dealt with in a short introductory chapter rather than the first 7 lengthy chapters (perhaps he was trying for some literary device that matched the pressure wave's 7 trips across the globe as that was what those chapters felt like), you'll wanna skip right to chapter 8, then read the epilogue where he visits the newly formed volcano today, and then get the hell on with your life already.
Jesus Christ

So some Catholics and some Jews are flipping out about Mel Gibson's new movie, which hardly anyone has actually seen, which depicts the last few hours of Christ's life, centering on his crucifixion.

The Catholics are supposedly concerned because some details apparently don't jive with their established theology. Yeah, well, whattayagonnado? Protestants and Greek Orthodox don't jive with it either. *Yawn*

The aforementioned Jewish flipper-outers are fearing "mass retaliation" and anti-Semitism over this. Which in America is highly unlikely because the very people who would go anti-Semitic over this are completely sympathetic to Jews due to the current fad in end-time prophecy and the "Left Behind" fantasies - in which the fundies feel the Jews are instrumental. And any Christian who's not a fundie doesn't indulge in revenge or anti-Semitism as a general rule, based on the Golden one, as it's all about love, donchaknow. So the fact that the movie is being attacked over this, and some of these attacks often go to the extent of attacking Christianity itself (as in this Salon article), is irony at its most bitter and repugnant extreme.

The fact is, if you take the Gospels as the depiction of actual events, which all Christians do, then some Jewish leaders and their sects wanted Jesus (also a Jew) dead because he was saying things that were blasphemous in accordance to their beliefs (and still are, for that matter). The society of the day didn't have big problems with killing those they considered to be criminals or dangerous people. So, some Jewish people were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. But so were some Romans. And so were other people of the day. And, essentially, we all killed Jesus Christ because ultimately the torture and murder of an innocent becomes everyone's fault because it wasn't stopped; we are all culpable.

TLD: Hell, if the Messiah had returned today rather than 2,000 years ago, it'd be the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Anthony Scalia (alleged Supreme Court Justice) and John Ashcroft calling for his head. That was the whole point of the example of the Pharisees; the self-appointed religious "moral leaders" and power brokers of the day just couldn't handle the fact that Jesus loved everyone and not just the righteous.

And the "logic" behind it this brouhaha is kinda simplistic, doncha think? If the fact that Jews were involved in the crucifixion of Christ would lead to their persecution and the misconception that they were solely responsible, then that same logic would dictate that:
- All cops are bad because some cops beat Rodney King stupid.
- All black people are bad because some of them are ganstas.
- All straight people bad because some of them harass and kill gay people.
- All white people are bad because some of them owned black people as slaves in the past.
- All pop music is bad because Britney Spears, "Lovin' You" by Minnie Riperton with some notes that pierce the upper registry so fiercely that even Mariah Carey's dog would explode in sheer agony, and "Achey Breaky Heart" were all hits at one point.

See the bad math here? Does this really need to be pointed out?

Now, in the past, some very misguided people have persecuted Jews because of this very kind of flawed thinking. And I'm not saying the odd cretin isn't going to latch onto this silliness, because shit like this happens. (Refer to the last presidential election, for instance.) But, there is not going to be some huge wave of resentment and violence that's going to sweep the world because of this movie. Christians are not going to turn against the Jews over this movie, because it's old news, particularly the fact that it's not primarily their fault.

Methinks this is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over nothing.

And if it does bother you, do the most effective thing you can do in situations like this: don't give your money to the people who made the film. Voting with your money still reigns supreme in terms of useful expression.
De Plane! De Plane!

With one breath.
With one flow.
You will know.

- The Police

In my recent time of leisure, I've been reading books and watching movies in such volume, I'm sure that the voluminous amount of material I've been checking out of the library is going to put me on one or more of John Ashcroft's lists.

By sheer coincidence, I read and watched four things about aircraft accidents in a row. I'm not sure if this is a Synchronistic warning to not get on a plane anytime soon, or what.

Take this time to familiarize yourself with the safety devices on the aircraft. Your seat is a flotation device. Note the emergency exits and the fore, aft, and over the wing of the aircraft. Should you feel uncomfortable or feel you are unable to release the door in event of emergency, please alert your flight attendant and you will be moved to a more appropriate seat, and really, we won't think you're a wuss. Thank you for flying Third Level Digression airlines, and we hope you have a pleasant trip.

TLD: I don't recall on which airline or aircraft I discovered this, but printed boldly on the bottom of the emergency instructions card was this helpful tip: "If you cannot read these instructions, please notify your flight attendant."

Soul Survivor by Dean Koontz
The first in the series of the unintentional theme of my readings. A man's wife and children are killed in crash so violent, the impact crater goes all the way down to the bedrock, which cracked. Naturally, the debris of the airplane was comprised of chunks no larger than a hubcap. It's another of Koontz's well-drawn thrillers and a fun read. (I've noticed that either Stephen King or Dean Koontz kinda copies the plots of the other, perhaps in an attempt to do it better. Anyway, this is Koontz's "Firestarter".)

Airframe by Michael Crichton
The best of the bunch. I've always been a Crichton fan, but this is one of his best, if not the best. And it's more or less about the investigation into an incident of "severe turbulence" on a commercial aircraft! That's it! How Crichton made this such a gripping page-turner, I'll never know. He does deviate from his standard character set (brooding, alpha-daddy male scientist; bitch on wheels, borderline lesbian female scientist; jr. scientist of any gender who's insecure but who does most of the real work), and maybe that helped make it better than his usual work. The character of the young female TV news magazine segment producer was my favorite because she's such an evil, ambitious cretin whose pet peeve is boy toys who won't go home after they've serviced her. Ha!

Stiff by Mary Roach
One section deals with using cadavers for testing crash safety stuff, and what is learned by examining bodies, or parts thereof, after an actual crash. PETA MEMBERS LOOK AWAY NOW! There's also a grimly amusing passage on how they canon guinea pigs into the water to see at what force and how their little lungs explode, evidently one of the more common results of a severe crash into water. This brought back images of Berke Breathed's Mary Kay Commandos for me, for some inexplicable reason.

It was good to revisit this old classic after all of the above. This movie has aged well, though some of the commercial parodies will go over the heads of the under thirtysomething crowd. If you've only seen this on commercial TV, you are missing about 1/4 of the really good jokes, not to mention the topless stranger who jiggles past the camera at one point, which renders even one of the directors speechless on the commentary track.

So, I'm not getting on a plane for a while if I can help it. Even with terrorism, SARS, and the aging fleet (the most common theme amongst the books, btw), not to mention the Republican deregulation of most of the safety organizations and the rout of the air traffic controllers back in Reagan's day, which we still haven't really recovered from, it still may be statistically safer than many daily activities, but any death where you get to draw a breath and scream some more is just not one that I would choose.

(Note to self: This entry kinda sucks. Try harder in the future. I know you spent two weeks hammering at this thing and this is all you could manage. Still, let's strive for more, huh?)

Saturday, August 16, 2003

In the surreal news lately...

Fox News is suing Al Franken over the title of his latest satirical book.

Think about it. A news organization is suing an author of a satire over the title of his book. The words in question are "fair and balanced" as the network claims that is their signature slogan that they've paid a lot of money to promote it. Does John Ashcroft have the Reality Patrol locked up somewhere under his new unconstitutional powers?

Anyway, Franken has responded: "As far as the personal attacks go, when I read 'intoxicated or deranged' and 'shrill and unstable' in their complaint, I thought for a moment I was a Fox commentator. And by the way, a few months ago, I trademarked the word 'funny.' So when Fox calls me 'unfunny,' they're violating my trademark. I am seriously considering a countersuit."

Washington Post
New York Daily News


Thursday, August 14, 2003

Won't this throw off everyone's gaydar?

The media, but no one I know, has got its lace all in a happy ruffle due to this new show called "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy". I haven't seen it as I don't have a need to pay for any cable programming outside of the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon for my daughter and myself, but the premise is that five gay guys take a straight guy who's either fashion or lifestyle challenged and reportedly put him on the correct path to style righteousness.

The big question I have is if you take these Paul Bunyan types and take away their flannel, their cut-off jeans, their kleenex-thin decades hold T-shirts, and their white socks, put them up in the latest trends, aren't the women still going to avoid them because they'll assume they're gay? And one of the joys for a new girlfriend is doing that very thing to her new boyfriend - fixing the guy up so he's presentable for mom - so these "Queer Eyes" are kinda treading on women's established territory here. Besides, aren't other gay men gonna think the same thing, leading to a lot of uncomfortable situations for both Paul and Percy?

I dunno. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Downright ugly eggs

I believe I have found a nearly perfect easy egg recipe for breakfast, developed in the kitchens of Yahmdallah. The only effort is in chopping the veggies, and if you're going to have these more than once a week, you can chop up your ingredients in one go, and store them for later deployment.

You need:

- Butter or canola or olive oil (though if you use the oil, throw in a speck of butter or margarine for taste)
- Eggs (1, or 2 if they're small)
- Green Pepper (1/4 of a full pepper)
- Onion (two to three slices)
- Tomato (optional - 1/2 a small Italian tomato, or 1/4 of a garden tomato)
- Shredded Cheese (optional - 1 to 2 tablespoons approx. - and any kind will do; if you like the cheese, you'll like it in these eggs)
- Ham (optional - 2 to 4 tablespoons)
- Course ground pepper (to taste)
- Salt (to taste)

Chop up your veggies and the ham (it tastes wonderful either with or without ham, btw) to pieces about the size of the thumbnail on your little finger.

Heat the butter/oil on medium, and as it melts throw in the veggies (but not the ham). Cook turning and stirring frequently until the onions are translucent and at least half the veggies are slightly browned/blackened.

Throw in the ham and stir/mix/cook until the ham is heated.

Crack the egg(s) directly on top of the veggies and ham, and then stir the eggs and stuff together.

Sprinkle on the cheese and the pepper.

Cook until the eggs are the consistency you like, stirring and flipping a couple three times.

Scrape'em onto a plate, salt to taste, and inform everybody who turned them down in the first place that no they can't have any now.

You'll see why they're called downright ugly eggs, and a photo of them would surely end up in Lilek's gallery of regrettable food. But, damn they're yummy, eh?

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Having to Kill Your Darlings and (eventually) a review of Secretary

One of my favorite pastimes whilst floating in the great sea of the unemployed is reading cook books. "Cook books" is a term a good writer friend of mine uses for books on how to write.

TLD: The best ones are On Writing by Stephen King, The Art of Fiction by John Gardener, and William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell? , though the prior is the better one for those on a budget. I have read a couple cook books by women writers, but they've been the "literary" type of writer, so there's not much useful advice on writing, and a whole lot of greasing the pole on *hack* literary theory. We need Anne Rice or someone who charts regularly to give as an "how to" opus, methinks. I recommend both that Dean Koontz has written because he provides strait-ahead, no bullshit practical advice on plotting, characters, tone, and particularly succinct style - getting across the most info in the least amount of time. (I sometimes still struggle with that, clearly.)

The screenwriting cook books, and a lot of director's commentaries on DVDs, have a common theme: Eventually, you have to kill your darlings. This means that you might write something you like very much, but when you are constructing the final version of the work, it just doesn't fit somehow, and you have to take it out - kill your darlings. Shalyman waxes poetic on this quandary on the commentary to Signs, which you should see anyway, if you haven't.

So, I recently wrote a review on the movie Secretary, and I attempted a tone piece on another experience that gave me the same sensation as the movie, leading into the review itself. I liked it very much, but it was the kind of material you have to deliver in person, perfectly inflected, to a small audience, preferably over beers, to not come off as a complete pervo slime that can't be trusted alone with the sheep (with apologies to Gene Wilder).

TLD: It's fun to watch Woody Allen's Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask with someone who's only and fondest memory of Gene Wilder is his portrayal of Willie Wonka. First, their eyes open wide, then the face falls, then the mouth drops open, then there's usually some disgust-laced babble around the subject of sheep in garters. 'Tis wicked fun.

Well, the outgassing stops here. Let's get to the mostly salvaged review of Secretary:

Secretary is a sweet love story. A sweet love story about two people who like self-abuse and BDSM (Bondage Discipline Sado Masochism) who discover one another in this big, bad world.

Watching two supremely fucked-up people fall into each other's orbit and then realize they've discovered a kindred spirit was sometimes repellent, yet always compelling. While I often wished they weren't so damaged, I also reveled and marveled at the fact that two people so inherently doomed could possibly be on the way to a happy ending.

TLD:Unlike many films snobs, I have nothing against happy endings. Or even endings that bring some sort of resolution to the events. On the director's commentary to the abysmal Laurel Canyon (the only highlight thereof being a sometimes-nekkid Francis McDormand) the clueless director says she didn't tack on an ending because she believes that real life doesn't have endings. Just goes to show you how young she is, for one. Also shows how little she's paying attention, for another. Life is full of endings and beginnings, and most things it your life have some sort of resolution, don't they? Of course! So, so much for that theory, eh?


James Spader is supremely creepy yet still alluring in the way that perhaps only he can be. I can't think of another actor who consistently pulls off that particular vibe, kinda like you can always feel the arrogance behind any character Val Kilmer plays. You always loathe a James Spader character on some level, but still mourn for him when he is crushed like a bug. (He, unfortunately, is one of those people whose looks changed considerably as the got older. If you put pictures of him in this movie next to those of his younger roles, you would pick him out as the same actor eventually. However, folks who don't follow movies avidly would not associate this guy with the guy in Pretty in Pink.) Spader has become for me one of those actors whose films I'll see solely on the basis that he's in it.

Maggie Gyllenhaal had perhaps one of the more interesting challenges for an actress I've seen in a while - an even bigger challenge than Angela Bettis in the recent horror flick May. You've got to like, admire, deeply pity, and want to fuck this girl (assuming that's your preference, natch) all at once. Fortunately, she's one of those most blessed actresses I'm aware of in terms of her looks - not to take away from her chops as an actress of course. She has the very unique distinction in that she can look as homely as it gets, but then she can transform into an utter beauty. Model-pretty actresses can rarely get hideous enough for you to buy the ugly duckling phase of their character arc, such as Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns, or the actress in The Princess Diaries. When we first see Gyllenhaal, she's stunning in her business attire and handcuffs, and in the very next scene set six months earlier, it takes a moment to register that this potato-faced wreck is the same girl.

Suffice to say the acting is superb, which always astounds me on small films. For instance, Dazed and Confused has some of the best acting you'll see on a small production, most of it nearly flawless. It also launched the careers of at least five well-known actors.

The tender surprise overall though is the love story, because after you boil it down and take away all the spanking, blood, scars and control freak behavior, it is essentially just a story of two people finding each other in the static of their own maladjustments which typically run counter to themselves, intimacy, and romance. Which is a feat something like finding an edible Hershey's kiss at the bottom of a freshly unearthed kimchee jar.

One of my favorite guilty pleasures in films is great love stories in the center of larger, weirder events. Movies like Starman, Brainstorm, and Altered States are all really just love stories wrapped in funky, electrically-charged tinfoil wrappers that shock you a little before you get to the gooey center.

Secretary joins my list of twisted, but fun, love stories.

The director's commentary is as much of a squirm-fest as the movie itself, by the way. The two creators of the film are so into their film school affectations that it's more than a little embarrassing to listen to. You feel like more of a voyeur during the commentary than you do during the movie proper. And, to top that off, their comments on how tender and loving these two BDSM folks are in the midst of their abuse of one another are surreal. ("You can tell he's really connecting with her." Yeah! With every stroke! "Each scar is like a window to her soul" Um, ewwww!) You get the distinct impression this movie might be an accidental autobiography, and they both have on handcuffs and nipple clamps whilst commenting. Some day when I have the time I'm going to go back and see if I can detect the subtle sounds of a lit cigarette being pressed onto skin, or a lash slapping a bruised buttock between comments. You can tell they were at least in the dark when they recorded the commentary (in the same way you can actually hear Kurt Russell and John Carpenter popping open beers during the commentary to The Thing).

I suggest this movie for anyone who likes out-of-the-way, odd films that are still legitimately engrossing (as opposed to lumps of waste like Laurel Canyon), but I do not recommend it to anyone whose tastes runs along the lines of Bad Boys II or Legally Blonde, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Get Over Your Bad Self

The 2Blowhards, in their continued service to the blogsphere, linked to an interview with someone named Heather MacDonald. Though I have no idea who she is, it was a fun read because of her takedown of deconstructionism, as promised by the 2Blowhards.

In the same interview, she also makes this statement:

Q: "Have you noticed that the more intelligent people are, the less religious?"

Heather MacDonald: "No, it is therefore to me a mystery that very intelligent people can be religious. I think there is a part of them that is willing to put aside their rationality because there is a deep emotional or psychological yearning for a belief in a transcendent being who has responsibility for our world. It's a part of the brain that does not involve empirical reasoning."

The consistency of this kind of assertion amongst some types of atheists never ceases to astound me, and it strikes me as one of those classic "it's not about what it's about" situations. Typically, when a person is evangelized into atheism, the primary tactic used is an appeal to intelligence, re: "If you're smart, you'll realize that all religion is superstition, and only the unlearned and the ignorant of the world are superstitious." So it becomes a street cred kinda thing. And the fact that most of those who are swayed by this trick are supposed to be intelligent ... well, at least I find it grimly amusing. Wouldn't it seem logical to question any idea someone presented to you as a test of your intelligence? In the same way you should question someone trying to hand you a religious doctrine as a test of their power or as proof of your unworthiness (and potential damnation) should you refuse it?

It makes me wonder if something is missing in this kind of person's ability to process information, or if they've unknowingly or purposely put on blinders to prevent some kinds of thinking or looking at the world, a limitation of perspective say. (Which is ironic of course, since she thinks the religious are missing something.)

I know a lot of these people have moved their faith, as it were, completely into the realm of science, assuming all they will ever need to know about our physical world will be found there. Though that's not an entirely misguided notion, it often pairs with an overly optimistic view of what science claims to really know, or can know. As much as a Christian fundamentalist will ignore or discount the various clues and solid reasons to not take every account or story in the Bible as a literal rendition of actual events, the fundamentalist, science-faithful atheist will claim more conclusions than exist currently, and typically will follow that up by stating we will eventually know everything we don't know now, somehow.

I would concur that we will continue to make phenomenal scientific discoveries that may enable faster than light travel, a cure to most diseases and afflictions, and a basic control over many physical properties of our world that still exist currently only in the most fantastic science fiction.

But what we don't know right now, at this very moment, and what we are aware of that we don't know, is legion. We still haven't decoded the genome, we've merely mapped one complete set of genes' "GATTACA" sequence - the pairings of the four components that all DNA is constructed of or from. What we have discovered is that most given sequences in the genome can produce many proteins, which means there's a whole level, or many levels, of functionality of the genome that we simply don't comprehend. It's like the message in Contact, where the sound from deep space is revealed to carry a video signal, and beyond that is an alphabet, and beyond that is a schematic for building a spacecraft. When it comes to the genome, or even anything smaller than a molecule, we are only at the stage - to reinvoke the Contact analogy - where Jodie Foster has discovered that the mysterious sound she just recorded from space is running through the sequence of prime numbers. We haven't even begun to discover the other levels present.

There are some scientific fields that have become dead-ends until we have a breakthrough in our understanding and ability to manipulate at the molecular and atomic level, such as: 1) truly combating a virus head-on rather than invoking the still mysterious ability our immune system has to combat them, and 2) nanotechnology. We aren't even close to curing AIDS (or the common cold or flu) because we just don't know how to stop or disable the virus mechanism. And all the dire warnings about how nanotechnology will get out of hand and render the universe into gray goo are silly, because nanotechnology is still governed by laws we don't understand completely just yet, and I bet one of those laws won't let a nanorobot render your doggy into a toy train or a gray puddle.

So, given the limitations of our knowledge, to dismiss God, however some may view Him/her/it/them, because we've figured some of this science stuff out is directly comparable to the illusion most of us have when we are teenagers where we believe we have figured everything out. Only later, with maturity, do we realize out how little we really know, and with that comes true wisdom.

Wisdom, through the admission of what we don't know, also allows us to apply what we do know. That's why we can say extreme fundamentalist religions that causes mass murder are wrong, without having to collapse into a pile of post-modern doubt and debris. It means we can admit the Christian, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the atheist, the agnostic, and the Rastafarian just might know what they're talking about, and not have to take extreme, and false, positions that belittle and debase other's beliefs, because we understand we simply do not have the final proof or solution just yet.