Friday, April 18, 2008

expelled for a reason

I promise that this will be the only time I talk politics on this blog.
I saw a commercial for Ben Stein's documentary- we'll use that term loosely as I'm sure it amounts to Moore-esque propaganda- "Expelled" so, I looked it up online.
Turns out this "edgy" film is fighting for teachers who want to teach intelligent design. And so I followed the links on the site to read about these professors and teachers. As I suspected, these people were fired not for showing fairly both sides of the story, intelligent design vs. evolution, but for basically trying to disprove evolution- citing experiments that failed and bringing up every gap in the theory. They are upset that their beliefs have gotten them fired.
The question this film supposedly asks is why science cannot include religion.
My answer is this: religion is the pursuit of faith- to believe that which we do not understand is not for us to understand.
science is the pursuit of knowledge- to understand that which we do not understand by any means necessary.
They are, by definition, almost opposites. I'm not saying scientists can't be religious, they can believe what they like- but they cannot include it in their studies or it will taint them. To assert that intelligent design is the truth is to assert there is a single "God" making things up as he goes. This then becomes a slippery slope of "Which God is it?". Is it the Jewish God? The Christian God? The Muslim God? Buddah? Surely it cannot be the many Gods of some religions, unless they're all lab partners. If they decide God exists simply because there are things we cannot explain, will we then abandon our pursuit of explanation? If they decide the Christian God exists, will they decide that because God exists, Jesus must have existed, too? Will we need to take the holy writings, referring to whatever God they decide intelligently designed the world, as the literal ultimate truth?
(Side note- while I type this Bear Gyles, on my TV, is peeing in a canteen and drinking it. He said he never has had to do it before, I doubt that.)
So I hope you see why this whole intelligent design promoting movie concerns me. I cannot believe that you can present arguments for both evolution and intelligent design in the classroom. They are contradictory, but we have no "concrete evidence" that either are true, so why not make up some more theories of how it all happened while we're at it? Have you heard of the Invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster? He's my favorite so far, much more personality than Darwin or God.
The thing that worries me the most is the absence of the intelligent design theme in the advertisements for the movie. Basically, they're afraid if we know what it's about, we won't go see it. The commercials are also obviously aimed at young people, the use of the bright colors, Ben in the school uniform acting as if this documentary is "edgy" and "rebellious". Lenny Bruce was edgy and rebellious, Darwin was edgy and rebellious, intelligent design is not edgy and rebellious. It is the belief that creationism- a theory thousands of years old- can re-packaged and bolstered by the simple fact that evolution isn't an air-tight theory. Sure, evolution might not be the answer- but the decision that if evolution is not responsible then it must have been God isn't exactly scientific. If you don't believe evolution is plausible, do some research and decide what is plausible while not needing to involve mysticism. Our cells, our very molecules, contain all of the intelligence needed to build the universe. They do not need to be divided into the fit and the unfit, they are all fit. The molecules have the intelligence, they built you, they built me! They are uniquely put together in every thing on Earth, including Earth! We are individuals because so are they, carbon knows it is carbon, and you cannot make it into something else, only add onto it. It is the miracle that is math- which is not a miracle, just an absolute.
A woman in one of the articles linked to by the site says that the reason she believes in intelligent design is that evolution doesn't explain souls. She also says humans have souls, which separates us from animals. She wants to be a veterinarian. I don't know about you, but I know my dog has a soul, and I don't want any vet who thinks that he doesn't to treat him.
Back to my molecule theory, since everything is made of of the same elements, this means they all must be recycled. Since we are all made up of a unique combination of our intelligent cells- made up of these elements and molecules that have been on Earth for all of time- then we must contain parts of different objects, plants, animals and humans. Thus re-incarnation is the ultimate truth. We will die, we will decompose, things will feed on what we are made of and the intelligence of all those cells- our 'soul' if you will- gets dispersed into nature. Some of my molecules will be part of a rock, some of them part of a plant, a plant is eaten, some of its molecules staying in the creature that eats it, they might become part of the baby it will have. Each of our molecules will go through this process an infinite number of times. We are as the beings in "Slaughterhouse 5" we have been, we are and we will be. Our molecules can not be unmade, so they will "live" on, and so shall we. If my dog is made up of the same things I'm made of, it makes no sense to think he has no soul. My soul must be a result of my organic make-up. God didn't need to create it, it was always there, just waiting for this particular, unique formation of cells to be as they are, working as they are, and so here I am. My molecules will exist forever, my soul will disperse among them and go on to part of a new soul at some point. I am a firm believer that if it has an active brain, it has a soul. This is necessity. How could you have thoughts and not have a soul? How could you have memories and not have a soul? This is the point brought forth in "Blade Runner" and "Artificial Intelligence"- if it can think and feel, it has a soul and it is only arrogance that makes humans believe that there is a God who made us special. We are not special, we are the current result of the never ending math equation. Religion can drive us apart, science can bring us together. You can argue about what God is or wants or thinks, you cannot argue the scientific fact that we are all made up from the same ultra tiny building blocks.
Scientists, whether they believe in intelligent design or not, need to pursue their own theory and try to prove it. They cannot simply try to argue each other until they're blue in the face, it impedes progress. Go do some work! Go do your job! You think God/Evolution exists? Then just go and prove it, don't just argue about it. You're not helping either cause by arguing. Ben Stein is not helping by churning out propaganda, propaganda provides just as much ammunition for the enemy as it does the ally. Just look at any of Moore's work.

Friday, April 11, 2008

getting a laugh

So, I'm still on comedies on my NetFlix, which means the movie I watched today was "Old School". I know, I know, I'm the only person my age who hasn't seen this movie several times while wasted and quoted every line out of Will Ferrell's mouth multiple times.
I had obviously heard a lot about it, and I wanted to see it. So, I did. It was... cute. That's really all I can say about it. I watched it by myself as the hubby was working a double, and I only laughed out loud once or twice. I'm not saying it sucked, in spite of the fact that it, like "Wedding Crashers" ( which I prefer), was a romantic comedy masquerading as a dude gross-out humor movie. When did it happen? When did every guy out there agree that they wanted a movie that would gross you out, make you pee yourself laughing and involve a guy finding his soul mate? Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that guys want a little quirky romance in their movies, it just caught me by surprise. I jut can't believe that every funny movie that most guys I know love- "Knocked Up" "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" "Wedding Crashers" "Dodgeball" "Austin Powers"- all have the guy getting girl, they kiss, the music swells and... ROLL CREDITS! Well, maybe not that cheese-eriffic,but close. "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" by far has the best ratio of romance and laugh-soda-out-your-nose material. The one thing "Old School" left me wanting? The type of wonderful Ferrell ad-libbng that make "Talladega Nights" and "Blades of Glory" feel like that funny moment was happening just now for the first time.
I wouldn't give any of these movies Oscars, but I feel that usually when evaluating the quality of a movie, you must count the entertainment factor. Was the experience of watching the movie the type of experience that makes you want to watch it again?
This why "JAWS" is my favorite movie of all time. I could watch it all day every day, because it's so much god damn fun to watch. It is also why so many films do terrible in theatres but become cult classics. "Repo Man" anyone? This free on demand right now in the free movies section if you have Comcast. Do it! Emilio Estevez(sp?) and the Circle Jerks, it feels so good!

I also caught "The Colbert Report", which is always a pleasure, but tonight it had a hidden treasure- Stephen Colbert singing a Korean pop song dressed in hipster clothes! I made a delightful discovery. Stephen Colbert is hot. Oh yeah, look it up on YouTube. He's in good shape, and in his usual suit and tie, he's sexy in a "Come on now, Mr. History teacher, is there any way I could improve my grade?" type of way. Yup. I just said that. You just got a glimpse into my grimy brain.
Only I jest- I would never try to improve a grade in an unscrupulous manner. I do well on tests and write excellent papers. Cheaters never geek.

Hopefully, for all of us, I will begin to receive better movies that I can give more in-depth discussion on. It's not really worth getting all "read between the lines" with comedies. Except for "The Big Lebowski"- I feel it's very significant that we never see The Dude actually bowl.
I'll re-watch this this week and get back to you with more.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Comedies with fancy cinematography

Any of Wes Anderson's movies... although not comedies in the classic sense.
The Graduate- still not classic comedy
The Big Lebowski
O Brother Where Art Thou?
But then it occured to me... I was forgetting the late great Charlie Chaplin. All of his movies qualify, because it wasn't fancy, it was groundbreaking.

On your mark!

Allright, so I've gone and started a blog to share with whoever cares to read it my thoughts on the things I love. This could be reviews or thoughts on movies, television shows, Boston, photography, art of all kinds and the random things I look up on Wikipedia.
Did you know all of the sweaters Mr. Rogers wore on his show were hand-knitted by his mother?
Did you know that pubic lice (crabs) can also live on your eyelashes?
Did you know the ancestors of chihuahuas might have lived in trees?
Did you know that the pomegranate has significance in several religions?

So, after a whole month of not having television, I spent yesterday watching lots of it. I am now caught up on my "Venture Brothers", and although the new episodes are funny, they lack a little bit of the snap of the first season. In the first season every line was gold, now it's a good joke every two or three lines. But I shall remain faithful, if only because the entire show is drawn by hand, old animation style. That's why we all have to wait so long between seasons, they're doing things the tried and true way. I wonder how long a show about failure can chug along before it loses too much steam... "Invader Zim" (another one of my faves) was about failure, but it was cancelled and never got the chance to get tired.

Speaking of tired... Dan, like always, watched "Law & Order" and I, like always, knew the guilty party within the first five minutes. I swear to God, there is no show on television as tired and done to death than "Law & Order". All of its incarnations all follow the same formula, and really the only thing they can do to keep it exciting is to either make the fictional crime mirror a high-profile real crime in the news, or (in the Special Victims Unit) make the fictional crimes ever more horrifying. A child gets raped? No, they've done that. A child raped and killed? Nope, done. A child raped, killed, mutilated and fed to a dog? Great! Write it! Their writers get paid to think of the most awful way to kill someone, or the most screwed up sexual abuse possible, or both. Makes me sick! Prime-time torture porn.

For a movie I watched Blades of Glory on HBO on demand. I saw it in the theaters, but it was funny enough to give it a second viewing. It's the kind of movie that intoxication goes well with, but Amy Poheler (representing Massachusetts) and her husband, Will Arnett, are just spectacular. All around great comedic performances, and the way the movie ends really drives home the fact that they were going for absurd. Any movie whose soundtrack includes "Stroke Me" is a winner in my book!
Comedy must be story-driven. You can't get too fancy with the cinematography or it's just distracting. There are probably exceptions, but I can't think of any right now. I will note to myself to post some if I think of any.

I then chanced on a t.v. show when I jumped out of the on-demand screen called "Busted On the Job" that shows security or personal camera footage of someone doing something they should not on the job. They also interview either witnesses or the guilty party. A man is seen on a surveillance camera, he is inspecting the pinatas at the pinata factory he works at. He 's feeling them all over, then he picks up a dalmation shaped pinata, cuts a hole in it and has sex with it.
I'm not kidding. His explanation?

"It's partly their (the pinata manufacturer) fault. I'm there from 12:00am to 6:00am, baseball season's over, so you can't listen to the game. I'm all by myself, I mean, what am I supposed to do?"

He's clearly a victim of circumstance. Any of us in a similar situation would have had sex with a pinata too. It's just human nature, like in Hollow Man when Kevin Bacon became invisible, and taught us all that if you become invisible, you're going to stalk and rape someone. I mean, come on, I know people are weak, we're all just animals and blah blah blah, but you can't say we'd all end up having sex with a pinata if left alone in a warehouse full of pinatas for six hours. Six hours isn't a long time, not even the length of the average work day. It took a lot longer for the Donner party to start eating the dead, for the kids in Lord of the flies to start killing each other, for Harry to finally fuck Sally, it only took a few six hour shifts before this guy decided sex with a pinata was the best way to pass the time. Someone give him a Sodoku book, please! Before any other paper-mache creatures get violated!
BTW- there were several person-shaped pinatas, he chose one shaped like a dog. What does that say about him? He also said:

"Who would put a security camera in a pinata warehouse? Those things are so ugly they should pay people to take them out of there!"

Well, you clearly didn't think they were too ugly to have SEX WITH! Geez, what else can I say?
To quote the old knight from The Last Crusade: He chose... Poorly.

I'm excited that Food Network will be showing some episodes of Julia Child's "The French Chef". For those of you who were not raised on a t.v. diet of PBS, Julia Child was on before "Sesame Street", which was followed by "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" and then "The Frugal Gourmet".
"The Joy of Painting" was on much earlier in the day.

If you have a chance, look up some of your old favorite Sesame Street bits on YouTube. I reccommend Captain Vegetable, Teeny Little Super Guy, and the "I'd like to visit the moon" is an excellent vintage.