Angels & Demons (2009, Ron Howard)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is one of those movies where even a little bit of a thought unravels everything. Tom Hanks’ character makes insane “deductions” and everyone (rightly) thinks he’s insane, yet somehow the plot machinations always bear him out. It’s utterly ridiculous stuff, especially the climatic scenes where there’s literally no way that anyone could have possibly set up such elaborate clues or interpreted them. Frankly, the high production values are literally the only thing that saves this from being an utter disaster. 3/1o Read More

House of Cards (1990), To Play the King (1993), The Final Cut (1995)

Categories: 1990 and TV.

This review contains some mild spoilers. I watched this earlier than I planned in part in getting impatient for the American season 3 to start, and in part because I heard rumours of no more BBC programming on Netflix. Watching both series is very illustrative. The original British mini series (the first season) is considerably more realistic than the American show, though this realism goes off the rails a little bit in the subsequent series. But it is clear to me that the American show has learned lessons from the British one, and from the intervening “Golden Age” of American Read More

Unknown (2011, Jaume Collet-Serra)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This movie is utterly nonsensical until the twist. The twist itself is ridiculous, but this is actually the rare movie where the twist explains thing enough to rend most (I stress ‘most’) of the nonsense before it as actually somewhat plausible. The twist answers most of the “This doesn’t make any sense!!!” moments that occur before it. Most of them.Spoiler alert!Basically the film suddenly goes all Jason Bourne on us, and the problem is that this curve ball doesn’t explain things like Neeson’s lack of muscle memory about his former career, or why a scientist – i.e. someone who is Read More

Gore Vidal was crazy but sometimes he was also awesome

Categories: Books and RIP.

I guess what I mean to say is RIP Gore Vidal. But I have a problem saying that, and my problem is that Gore Vidal believed a lot of stuff (particularly about the United States government) that was not true. Worse, he made it public. Worse, because he was Gore Vidal, he made it public on TV, in magazines, on the radio, etc. Read More

3* Reasonable Objections to All Conspiracy Theories

Categories: Psychology, Religion, and Society.

When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I was a big believer in conspiracy, particularly the “plot to kill Kennedy.” I ridiculed those around me who doubted a conspiracy in Kennedy’s death and regularly told them that they just didn’t know all the facts. Anyone who knew all the facts would clearly believe what I believed. How my first doubts came regarding “the plot to kill Kennedy” is another story but I have long since learned the folly of my ways. I am an ex-believer, and like many ex-believers, I am rabid in my atheism. Here are Read More

No Sound Reasons for Conspiracy Theories

Categories: Politics and Society.

This is a response to a comment on this post. What do you mean by “more going on”? Who led you to believe what you used to believe? I think conspiracy theories by definition do not give sound reasons for their claims. That’s why they are conspiracy theories and not accepted fact. Did you ever notice how those who push forward conspiracy theories are rarely if ever experts in the particular area the theory focuses on? For example, the most famous of the “scholars for 9/11 truth” is a theologian. That’s because if he put forward his ideas in any scholarly journal, but especially Read More

Ok. Why do you think conspiracy theories are a social evil?

Categories: Politics and Society.

I think conspiracy theories (as opposed the identification of actual conspiracies, which is an altogether different thing) and the belief in them cause a number of problems. First, as the individual level I think the belief in conspiracy theories allows the individual to be apathetic. If there are secret powers directing everything, we are powerless so why bother? The belief lets us abdicate our responsibilities as citizens (if elections are rigged, why vote? If the President gets shot by the real powers, why even bother electing the guy?) and it lets us avoid dealing with controversial issues which actually need Read More

Why is metaphysics dangerous in the hands of those who govern us?

Categories: Philosophy and Society.

All people generally think alike and don’t think alike at the same time. We have some things in common and other things which aren’t in common. But the claim there is a class, a coherent, self-contained ruling elite, that is distinctly different from the average joe, has no basis in fact; its basis is in the desire of some to believe that they are being directed by powers greater than themselves (which is, incidentally, a form of metaphysics). How did we get back on this again? C. Wright Mills, for example, has been totally utterly refuted. There are other examples Read More

Why is metaphysics dangerous in the hands of those who govern us?

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, and Society.

Metaphysics, i.e the study of “things” outside of physical reality, is incredibly dangerous for politics. But first, why do we use metaphysics? For some reason or other, human beings need to use abstracts to express themselves. We cannot always refer our ideas to concrete things. There is a whole field of philosophy that studies this and related issues but I have no time for it. I am concerned with reality and politics, so philosophical disagreements over why we need abstracts are of no interest. But basically we need concepts that are not physically real in order to communicate. So, metaphysics Read More

Why don’t you believe in conspiracies?

Categories: Politics and Society.

First, I think we must distinguish between conspiracies in the legal sense, and conspiracy theories. Conspiracies are any time that two or more people get together to break a law. Conspiracy theories are “hidden han”d theories of history (for ages in the case of the Illuminati for example, or just recently, in the case of the Pearl Harbour, JFK, 9/11 and Alien theories) which claim that history is dictated, or at least severely influenced, by secret groups. There have been millions of conspiracies in history. There are some that have no doubt never been revealed but the ones we know Read More

Why is it so hard for some people to beleive that the people in charge don’t have their own agenda?

Categories: Politics and Society.

We can debate endlessly the meaning of “in charge” but I can’t agree with your first statement. Nobody is actually “in charge” in the sense that nobody has the power to do whatever they want. A cursory look at Obama’s struggles implementing his agenda is proof of this. Even the US president, who has more executive power than most executives, can’t do what he wants. But regardless, I completely disagree with your idea that there are “others” in charge. This is the hidden hand theory of history and it has been discredited more times than we could count. The world Read More

Why is it so hard for some people to believe that the people in charge don’t have their own agenda?

Categories: Politics and Society.

Further to this. The agenda doesn’t matter all that much, as much as we’d like it to. In a criminal trial they try to prove motive, means and opportunity. But investigators can’t focus on motive alone (which is what most conspiracy theorists do) because motive alone doesn’t rule out enough people. If an unpopular guy is killed, half a town could have a motive to kill him, but only two or three people might have been in the area, and only one of them might have owned the right gun. Similarly, with 9/11, asking who benefits from the attacks is Read More

Noah’s Ark

Categories: Philosophy.

4,800-year-old wood on Mount Ararat is clearly the remnants of some gigantic boat which contained two of every animal during a flood of the entire world. Clearly. There can be no other accounting for it. These people have obviously never heard of Occam’s Razor. Occam’s Razor tells us that this wood is more than likely a house, or a barn, or other structure, rather than a gigantic boat which contained every animal in existence during a flood which covered the entire world. What about the llamas? Didn’t anyone think of the llamas? Read More

Signs of the Apocalypse

Categories: 2007, Hockey, Politics, Society, and Sports.

I’m not a believer, but this stuff could convert me… Politician’s Ring-Tones Ok, so you can go to Obama’s site and get ring-tones of Obama over-top of some terrible dance music (or something) saying “This is Barrack Obama” followed by “Let’s bring the troops home” or some shit. There are six or something. Fergie. It’s funny, I saw her acoustic ballad the other day and figured this was sign of the apocalypse, as much as her other music. Then, today, on my way to participating in the eulogy for Sam’s (well, actually just buying cheap CDs), a girl on the Read More

Loose Change

Categories: 1946, 2006, 2007, Journalism, Movies, and Music.

For one thing, apparently Erlewine has changed his tune. I remember a ways back, in his review of Songs for the Deaf (which they gave 4.5/5 anyway), STE made the bizarre analogy of White Stripes as Stones, QOTSA as King Crimson (right…) and though we may like SFTD, it was not “real” or “true” rock like the White Stripes. As fans of both bands, I found this just somewhat bizarre. Anyway, his current review of Era Vulgaris is interesting in this regard, as he claims it is the best rock album of the year so far (this being before the Read More

The Manchurian Candidate (2004, Jonathan Demme)

Categories: 2004 and Movies.

I usually hate remakes. I usually hate the ideas of remakes. I say to people, “How would you feel if they remade your favourite movie?” Most people say they wouldn’t be happy. And yet we constantly rehash and remake movies. The only movies I think should really be remade are those that had a great idea or two but sucked otherwise. And even then, why can’t we just leave the past alone? And sometimes, I’m just stupid. I thought the remake of Dawn of the Dead was equal to the original (in one respect it was actually better). So sometimes Read More

The Panama Deception (1992, Barbara Trent)

Categories: 1992 and Movies.

This film is interesting. It’s far from great. It’s not fully coherent and somewhat awkward. But it is revealing in terms of what happened in Panama, and it’s interesting to watch in light of later US foreign policy decisions. I was going to write a far more detailed comment about it but I have since been sidetracked by people on MSN. The bastards! 7/10 My brother wants you to check out this artist: http://www.designboom.com/eng/interview/cattelan.html Also, I read a horrible, horrible paper today. Here is a quote from it: “Hitler performed wonders for the German economy yet today as we look Read More