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The State of Things

Much to cover. So, here goes.

For starters, Installment Five of my column "Watching the Future" has been posted by the good people at SF Site. This time I enlist the help of fellow skiffy writer Paul O. Miles in discussing the cultural impact of Kubrick's science fiction masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. I'm indebted to Paul for keeping me from getting too long-winded.

Paul Miles: Generally in SF movies, the audience is offered a text to follow that allows you to completely ignore the subtext if you want. You can feel free to watch the 50s Invasion of the Body Snatchers as just a good gripping thriller instead of a McCarthy-era allegory or the apes in Planet of the Apes can just be apes rather at least partly a metaphor of hippies struggling against the Man, right? As you note, Kubrick doesn't let you play that game in 2001. The first ominous sign for our literal minded viewer that the roller coaster is at its apex would be the title card he throws up at the end of the Discovery sequence: Jupiter and the Infinite. No way to avoid the post-movie bull session in the lobby...

Derek Johnson: Going slightly off-topic, I imagine that the intertextual nature of science fiction, in print and film, exists to allow an audience some frame of reference, or some way to get their minds around what, depending on the audience, must look like very bizarre ideas. So formatting a movie about the nature of humanity and its potential transcendence in the guise of a thriller might allow greater audience accessibility, but it also might dilute the ideas that the filmmaker wants to address. Which I guess is why you see so few movies like 2001 or so few science fiction writers like, say, Stanislaw Lem; for most audiences, ideas themselves just aren't that thrilling.

A fascinating article, if I say so myself.

As the summer winds down, I find that the only two movies that have stuck in my mind are Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (which the Goddess and I are taking in later today) and Christopher Nolan's Inception. There's already a lot of commentary about Inception, but I did find one on the great blog Mind Hacks, which they point state have more to do with the theories of Carl Jung than modern neuroscience. Spoilers pepper their article, but it's worth your time.

When you have a hammer, everything can look like a nail and people have been banging the shit out of Inception. The sci-fi movie of the year has attracted numerous ‘neuroscience of Inception’ reviews despite the fact that the film has little to say about the brain and is clearly more inspired by the psychological theories of Carl Jung than by neurobiology.

It’s easy to why the movie has attracted neuroscience fans, including a brain-based review in this week’s Nature. It’s a science fiction film, the dream entry device presumably alters the brain, and director Christopher Nolan’s previous film Memento was carefully drawn from a detailed reading of the science of brain injury and memory loss.

Lastly, you should read this excerpt of the new book The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow in the Wall Street Journal, in which they say the spontaneous creation of universe is proof of the nonexistence of God.

According to Viking mythology, eclipses occur when two wolves, Skoll and Hati, catch the sun or moon. At the onset of an eclipse people would make lots of noise, hoping to scare the wolves away. After some time, people must have noticed that the eclipses ended regardless of whether they ran around banging on pots.

Ignorance of nature's ways led people in ancient times to postulate many myths in an effort to make sense of their world. But eventually, people turned to philosophy, that is, to the use of reason—with a good dose of intuition—to decipher their universe. Today we use reason, mathematics and experimental test—in other words, modern science.

And how is your Labor Day weekend?


June 2012



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