Friday, April 13, 2018

On Theology


There’s a very rational appeal for me in the idea that the great theological texts are a narrative metaphorical history of the emergence, and evolution - not of the material world, measured by empirical means - but of the world of human values - I.E – humanity.

Not by conscious intent - at least not in their original pre-text, early expressions of the ideas that became the seeds for the written texts - but through a continued shared desire of post self conscious man and woman to give expression to the monumental event that everyone knew had occurred, but could not understand or even conceptualize.

Adam and Eve
 
The story of Adam and Eve as a metaphor for the birth of human self consciousness through becoming self aware, forever cast from the unconscious bliss of animal life, and thrust into the world of matter considering matter - self conscious existence, as Jordan Peterson posits - feels correct to me, as a storyteller myself. Essentially, the concept that theological myths are “dreams” of the collective unconscious, expressed in narrative metaphor speaks to my sense of truth in a way I cannot ignore.

Whether intentional, or manifested collectively and unconsciously, doesn’t really matter, although if my own process for how my stories manifest are any indication, I’d suggest it’s a bit of both.

But, irrespective, its validity doesn’t have to be proven, for its use to be clear.

Religion for Atheists
 
A reading like this makes religious texts accessible to all, essentially introducing the idea of religious secularism to the masses, and perhaps even becoming a true first step towards unification of the theist/atheist/agnostic conflict. It removes the barrier that is the requirement of literal belief of the narratives as material history, or complete rejection if not.

The story of Adam and Eve is an unconscious expression of the magnificence born the moment man and woman became conscious; the pain and suffering that would follow the metaphorically ascending path ahead – the pain of knowledge that comes when we abandoned the bliss of unconscious, primal thought. 

To deny value to theological myth, is to deny the importance of the unconscious expression of the emergence and evolution of human values, which in essence is our only true creation, since it is immaterial, yet "real".

God
 
Spinoza defined “God” as an infinite substance from which material reality emanates. This echoes the ancient Egyptian Hermeticist idea of God as "one" I.E - a being that is the sum total of all that was, is, will, and can be. Perfection. How does a being which is infinite, and perfect, create without adding to itself? It cannot, except the way we do, through thought and imagination. Conscious human being's invention of the world of human value, is echoed in the metaphor of God creating human beings. Creation without addition.

If god created humans. Humans created humanity. The latter echoes the former, and the former is a metaphorical narrative expression of the latter.

Religious text is a philosophical history of the development of human values, as presented in narratives that portray the two worlds - material and immaterial - as one.

To destroy religion is to destroy the spirit of man and woman’s only true creation - human values - free of nature and all its boundaries, existing purely in the conceptual mind of man and woman, acting as the key quality that separates us from wild beasts, an immaterial truth we experience and act out as "real".

Reality
 
The world of human values does not occupy any material space, yet Atheist and Theist alike treat this world as real, evidenced by the fact that we act out its reality. We differ on the details, but the broad strokes are relatively similar across cultures.

Icarus
 
With the rise of empiricism and our conscious acknowledgement of the literal material reality of these stories as incompatible with history; rather than reinterpret their meaning from literal to metaphorical, we’ve decided it’s all useless hocus pocus. Why? Does anyone hear the story of Icarus and think it’s meant to be literal history? Does the fact that it is not, reduce its value as a story?

The story of Icarus is reinterpreted in countless forms, embodying the same messaging, even to this day. The seed of moral value within that messaging transcends the story itself, which is why it can be retold again and again in different forms.

Why is modern religion any different?

Death of God
 
Nietszche predicted what would happen as a consequence of this act, and the twentieth century proved him right.

The way forward, the way towards unification, the merging of the North, South, East, and West, the way to become a society of all faith, and of none, the path to eliminating the boundaries that exist in the hearts that beat in our chest, can occur through this metaphoric reinterpretation. The way towards reconciling the religious world with the empirical world, is to cease attempting to synchronize the two by material empirical means.

Religion must not be destroyed, but reinterpreted.

Into what, I don’t know, but I think the concept of religious secularism/atheism/agnosticism might be a path forward.

This may be how we avoid catastrophe, and how we bring the immaterial world of human value up to speed with the empirical world of Cartesian material reality.


Jordan Peterson is an anti extremist

And why the hell isn't everyone?

Why are we not listening? At first when hearing him speak, and reading his work beyond the psychological unpackaging of myth (which is revolutionary) I had really knee jerk reactions to what he was saying, especially in regards to his critique of the left. But I made a choice a long time ago to not allow myself to write off anyone simply because their words made me uncomfortable, so I started seeking answers.

The man is asking uncomfortable questions which I cannot ignore, whilst calling myself rational. The man has challenged so many ideas I thought I was firm on, and understood, which I didn't.

I'm going to outline the main train of thought he's highlighted to me, which I was somehow ignoring.

Extremism on the right

Now, we clearly identify the point where right wing ideology becomes extremism. But we have no idea, no clue, where that line is on the left. That terrifies me.

We need to identify where that line is.

Peterson is anti extremism. I'd place him just right of centre, politically, if I had to, but I see no real value in that kind of reasoning. The reason (I think) it appears as if he only criticizes the left is because in Canada there is no right wing extremism to be concerned about (according to him), but he believes the seeds of left wing extremism are taking hold, and he's trying to identify the place where the left goes too far. He posits theories as to what the rough threshold for going too far is (equality of outcome over equal opportunity) but he admits to not knowing. He's calling out us, you and me, moderate people who identify as left or centre, to make real effort to identify that threshold. 

The Threshold For Extremism
On the right we've identified that ideas of racial superiority roughly mark the line where right wing ideas begin to lead towards extremist and genocidal consequences, if unchallenged through respectful dialogue. But we have no idea what the equivalent on the left is. That should terrify us. It certainly terrifies me.
How do we avoid being radicalized if we don't know where the threshold for radicalism on the left is?

Nobody Wants Extremism
We're all anti extremist so it's up to us on the left to identify it. We have to pull radical leftists into line. That's our responsibility, but how can we when we don't know where the line is, and we eliminate or dismiss every attempt at incepting left wing doctrines (Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc) that led to genocide as not left wing? How do we seriously argue that every single successful, repeated case study - example + repetition = same result, are all not left wing enough when the perpetrators clearly believed themselves to be, as did their followers. Were they all shysters, liars, manipulators? Is it not dangerous to simply write off every single example? Does that not feel a bit convenient?
We need to identify our own blind spots to complete our ideological development or we'll become guilty of forwarding extremism because we were ignorant of what it was and what led to it.
All I know is I simply don't know. And the answers I'm getting aren't satisfactory. I'm terrified of extremism, and my life would be a failure if I ever aided the rise of it.
The Nazi doctrine doesn't call for genocide. But it happened, and nobody’s saying that dismisses Nazism as true Nazism. That would surely be absurd?
My Blind Spots
I'm just interrogating my own ideas here, and I've identified a huge blind spot. And I can't get away from the fact that we (left wing/centre moderates) go too easy on the left (our side), and this is how moderate right wingers allowed extremist right wing ideas to take hold, and the reaction to extremism on one side becomes extremism on the other, which historically leads to world wars and genocide. Who wants that?

The Responsibility of Moderates
I feel like moderates are the only people who can prevent the radicalization that leads to genocidal consequences and I don't know how I can do that when I don't even know what qualifies as radical leftism when we seem to just dismiss every candidate? 
I mean let's admit that Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot, eventually at least can not be described as people who embodied true Marxism. But there's zero evidence that they didn't start out true Marxists in ideology before they became powerful, as far as I can tell. Not without simultaneously writing off right wing extremists in the same way.
I'm trying to identify where it changed. And what point in their rise was what they were doing no longer Marxism, and then, how did it become that. As in what were the exact causal circumstances that led to the change.
Nobody can give me an answer except one line overly simplistic answers that do not answer the question.
If it was me, or you, and not Stalin, or Mao, or Pol Pot, how differently would we have reacted to the same causal circumstances which would have averted genocidal consequences?
And is it not the height of arrogance for me to presume I'd do a better job than people who had a much more direct and pure understanding of those ideas?
Either way, the man is asking questions that deserve answers, answers that perhaps he cannot give, but he's certainly asking the right questions, the proof of which is that our "answers" are all ad hominem, or illogical dismissals of the only case studies that exist.

What's Next?
We need to identify where left wing ideology crosses the threshold into extremism, otherwise we'll be manipulated into giving rise to totalitarianism (again), and surely we've had enough of that by now?

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Marxism VS Nazism

Why does Marxism not carry the taint of Nazism, when every implementation of it has seen arguably larger casualties and horror as a consequence?

I feel like the key to an ideology thriving, is for the originator of the ideology to NOT be the one who attempts its implementation.

Hitler is essentially credited as the creator of Nazism. Hitler is credited as evil. I.E - Nazism is evil, because if the originator’s implementation resulted in what it did, there’s no real argument as to why someone else would do it better, rightly so, arguably, at least without amelioration.

But with Marxism; Lenin, Stalin, Mao etc, were the executioners, and all resulted in genocide, BUT, one can reliably argue that they did not implement it right. It’s easily done by highlighting contradictions in action (Lenin did not grant workers ownership of production, which as I understand is a core tenet of socialism - according to Noam Chomsky, etc). But one can also argue that irrespective of how Marxism reads as an idea, philosophically there’s a flaw, something lacking, which seems to consistently compel its executioners to become increasingly authoritarian, quickly.

One could also argue that new states, especially with new systems of rule, must go through a period of authoritarianism. 

“Principality to create or restore states, republics to preserve them.” - As paraphrased Machiavelli makes clear in his Discourses.

Either way, what becomes clear, is that for an ideology to survive, and ameliorate, its executioners cannot be its originators. Its originator must be pure. This way, every failure of implementation, of which one can and should expect many, doesn’t destroy the ideology, and leaves it intact culturally for reuse.

This, I believe, is why Marxism lives on, and Nazism does not.

I am not a well versed student of Marxism, but my reactionary compassionate side immediately identifies with what I imagine it to be. But then I arrive at Stalin, and Mao, and Pol Pot.

Let's explore the first - Stalin saved the world from Hitler. But Stalin killed three times the people, in exactly the same way. Hitler was evil, but by the same standard, Stalin was three times as evil.

Why do we assume authoritarianism is exclusive to the right, when the left has a stronger track record of it?


Irrespective, the question remains: are all of the genocidal consequences of the attempted implementation of Marxism, to comprise the great crimes against humanity of the 20th century, a result of opportunists who used the ideology as a guise for their true intentions? Or is authoritarianism a natural consequence the philosophical seed of Marxism leads to, as a result of whatever it is lacking?

Then the new question pops: what is it lacking?

I have no idea, but my instincts suggest it has something to do with what appears to be hard materialism applied to societal beings who need meaning in their lives beyond the material.

What I do understand, is that societal ideological possession, leads to radicalism, which seems to lead to genocidal consequences; and ideological possession occurs when people are persuaded to believe themselves victims (which they may be; everyone is, to some extent) of a single root cause, which paints a bull's eye on a single target. I.E - Jews, Capitalism, Bolshevism, Kulaks, white people, black people, men, women, Americans, The West, Religion, God, etc. 

What do we do with this information?

I don't know. But I feel like dialogue is key. When we refuse the other side the right to persuade us through dialogue, we push them to attempt persuasion through violence. Through dialogue at seed level - in the universities especially - all sides are forced to verbalize the opposite view, and in doing so (correctly) empathy for that view always emerges. So perhaps the seed of what become genocidal consequences, begin when one side refuses genuine dialogue with the other, from a place of actual respect.

Perhaps it's time we all started living according to the Taoist principle of the way - a subtle pendulum that wavers across the centre; a little bit of chaos, and a little bit of order, in everlasting dialogue, as we ascend as a species, and a civilization, together.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

In Passionate Defense of Phantom Thread


https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/why-phantom-thread-is-propaganda-for-toxic-masculinity

In passionate defense of Phantom Thread, I had to dive into this article a bit, mainly because propaganda and its effects is totally my area of auto didactic expertise and literally a subject I plan to do a PHD on one day.

First off, I agree, roughly in his examples of the other propaganda films. Though I think in reading the rest of the article, I’d disagree with the specific nature of the unconscious messaging, which is ultimately what good propaganda has to achieve in order to be effective in narrative arts, today. 


So – quoted - 

“Phantom Thread” might appear to some as a critical exploration of male power, but for that to be the case there would have to be alternative positions that are not dependent on the hero’s centrality.”

I disagree with this point, which is important because the entire rest of his argument rests on it, and it feels weak.

First off, he makes the claim that the only way to present a societal critique in a narrative work is only through compared examples that don’t depend on the “Hero’s centrality” – which I am unsure how to interpret.

It could mean other characters, who present alternatives, in a classic narrative dialectical approach.

But then, the way it’s worded, it could mean scenes or subplots where the hero takes to the background for a bit?

But he could also mean scenes or subplots irrelevant to the hero, which would obviously, nine times out of ten simply be bad writing.

Anyway, he’s unclear about what he means here, but I’ll just assume he means something along the lines of – show the other side – the antithesis to the thesis (to eventually provide the synthesis). He then cites the fact that the film’s female lead, Alma, desperately wants, and remains wanting to be part of the house of Woodcock, despite the fact that the dressmaker is an absolutel picture of toxic masculinity, which the film is supposed to be criticizing. He doesn’t offer alternatives here like in his former point. Nor does he explain why this somehow equals pro toxic masculinity propaganda.

He claims because Alma has no backstory, this is also evidence of the film’s inherent misogyny, which, again, he makes no actual argument for. Does he imply that this makes Alma less of a three dimensional character? It doesn't. Does he imply that because we don’t know her background anymore than Woodcock does (or cares to) that it’s evidence of misogyny? It is. But to claim that the film-maker is promoting it off that is a long bow to draw, as I’ll point out below.

In essence this writer presents a weak argument for the idea that representation equals justification and that's that.

Propaganda
 

So I’d like to say, that the writer doesn’t seem to understand how propaganda really works in narrative art. It’s tied to the feeling the film leaves you with. It has to make you feel a certain way, and then have you associate that feeling to the idea it’s trying to propagandize.

The writer doesn’t take into account the fact that not a single audience member will watch this film top to tail, and still like Woodcock by the midpoint. Certainly not by the third act. We’re compelled by him. We might even be a little bit jealous of his genius (though not really. I don’t know a single male who identifies as straight who dreams of being a dressmaker, and especially not of dresses like that, which I think is a purposeful choice Anderson made – he wants most men watching to NOT want to be, or identify with this guy, despite his genius. He’s straight on purpose. He’s a dressmaker on purpose).

But anyway, we don’t like him. So when Alma begins to fight back as she does, and I’m going to spoil the film here, so if you haven’t seen it, don’t read on.

Okay.

When Alma begins poisoning Woodcock, we don’t judge her for it. We totally empathize. We may not like it. But we KNOW she’s justified in feeling shit, and we know that whatever happens to Woodcock, he probably deserves it. Furthermore, that knowledge is echoed in how we feel about what's happening.

And then Alma makes Woodcock dependent on her. Obviously she takes the actions she does, because she’s so hopelessly dependent on Woodcock; an affect of his toxic masculinity.

The writer of this article seems to be essentially making the claim that because Alma remains hopelessly dependent on Woodcock, as well as the fact that no real other alternatives to toxic masculinity are given “centrality” during the film, and Alma has no backstory, is equals to that the film is propaganda for toxic masculinity. This is wrong, and the writer provides not one actual valid argument for any of his very weak points.

Unconscious Inception

In regards to his first point of that the film cannot be a critique of toxic masculinity because alternate positions aren’t given centrality - I don’t think he can isolate the ways to critique toxic masculinity into whatever form he’s assuming a narrative work of art needs to have in order to evoke an emotional experience that sum totals in a feeling that intellectually decodes into an idea. That’s how propaganda in narrative art works. You create a feeling that’s emotionally rewarding in some way, and then associate the idea to the feeling.

In commercials this is obvious, because the idea is simple – Buy McDonalds, because here’s the feeling of you and your dad and the soccer team at Sunday afternoon lunch when you were kids, or some other archetypal experience the target audience of the propaganda feels positive about, etc.

But in narrative art the propaganda lies layers deep, because the ideas are more complicated, probably.

The reason Hurt Locker passes the propaganda argument is because you LIKE the main character, you totally empathize, sympathize, and feel his stakes. The film distances itself from politics on the surface, allowing the audience to do the same thing (which you can’t, but the film tricks you into thinking you can by leaving that stuff out), and then it makes you feel all kinds of sympathy. It leaves you unconsciously with – Iraq War – Sympathy.

For Phantom Thread to be propaganda in support of toxic masculinity, you’d have to like Woodcock by the end, and not, uh, hate him, and hate yourself a little bit for letting him charm you with that knowing gaze and smirk. You don’t like him. You simply don’t. But you get his charm, and you even get him, and why people are drawn to him, and you don't like it. Not only that, you WANT Alma to get away. You WANT her to realize she doesn’t need this, and that it IS toxic. You hate Woodcock for being what he is, and the world he makes people live in, and you feel tragic about Alma’s inability to stop needing it. You hate Woodcock for creating this dependency in Alma.

Yes, her poisoning him and creating his need for her is an act of strength in her defiance, but it’s a failure of her character since she gives into her fatal flaw, rather than overcoming it. The film is well and truly a tragedy.

Toxic masculinity creates toxic co dependent relationships that poison all parties involved - that’s the intellectual idea, which the feeling that equals the sum total of the emotional experience of watching this film top to tail eventually decodes to, in most people.

That is not propaganda in favour of toxic masculinity. Sure, the version where Alma does overcome her flaws and leaves might be more of a surface level criticism of it, but that wouldn’t be a tragedy, furthermore, it would leave you feeling GOOD. For this film to be a true criticism it HAS to leave you feeling the way a tragedy does.

Madame Bovary could live at the end, and the story can kind of even say the same thing depending on what happens, but that doesn’t make it a tragedy, and a tragedy is what Anderson set out to make, and for whatever reason, he probably feels that this is the most effective way to communicate the above idea, if he’s even conscious of the fact that that is what it is, which he may not be.

Anyway, in my opinion, this writer makes an incredibly weak dismissal of why the film is not a critique of toxic masculinity by defining a single incredibly vague formulaic absolute of how to achieve that, which is wrong because to suggest there is one way and one way only to “critique” in regards to the structural approach to the narrative the critique takes form in, is something that requires an entire article on its own to even make an argument for (and it would still be wrong). The entire argument he makes relies on the readers blindly accepting this one, incredibly weak point. At this stage there's no real need to continue, but I will, since he made some other, even weaker points afterwards.

He cites the fact that Alma did not overcome her fatal flaw and gives into it instead, enslaved by it even, as why it’s not a critique, implying she HAS to leave somehow, or at least overcome her dependence on him. This is also wrong, for the same reasons as his former points. The writer also doesn’t offer any proof, or even an argument as to why this is the only way to communicate an idea through an emotional experience that decodes into said idea which then takes hold in your unconscious mind (which it has to, to take effect) – he simply says it, and there.

Two absurd points (three if you count the no backstory thing, which I don’t because he can’t argue the fact that Alma isn’t a three dimensional character, nor that she’s defined by her superficial qualities to the audience, only to Woodcock, who’s view we clearly grasp intellectually, but don’t identify with by experiencing Alma’s entry into his life, the way he does, but feeling about it the way she does – disappointed and a little disgusted). Anyways, in regards to the previous two points, the writer provides no (valid) argument to defend either, he makes two points, assumes the reader will accept them as absolute facts (which they’re not at all) which then supposedly prove that it’s toxic masculinity propaganda.

And then he goes on to claim all Anderson's films are propaganda FOR toxic masculinity, based on the absurd and vague and incredibly flimsy argument re Phantom Thread.

Essentially he actually tries to argue that because Woodcock is a creative genius, it justifies the way Woodcock treats the women he works with, and what it does to Alma. Again, the writer is arguing that representation equals justification. It doesn't.


It can only do so if an audience member associates any of that with a positive feeling, which we don’t. The film is a tragedy for a reason. If it left you feeling good for ANYONE, that, is when it would be propaganda. Because then you’d have gone through this entire critique of this disgusting aspect of masculinity, experienced its poisonous infectious effect, but in the end, you’d feel good about it. Consciously you might think you feel good because Alma overcame her dependence, and maybe Woodcock’s ruined, so you feel even better about that, but in your unconscious mind, there’s the idea of toxic masculinity, followed by a good feeling – which comes to psychologically represent the experience of watching the film, which is intellectually defined around the idea of toxic masculinity. And this good feeling is vital, since without it, you have to like, not just feel compelled by, the main character who represents the idea you’re propagandizing. 

No Dice 

In summary (sorry if I’ve repeated myself), the main argument - that the film is not a critique of toxic masculinity isn’t valid.

And then the two examples re Alma’s character as to why it promotes toxic masculinity by her failure to overcome her fatal flaw as a character, also don’t hold up, mainly because he doesn’t present an argument for how the way it is, doesn’t serve the thematic super-objective which is clearly a critique of, at least an aspect of toxic masculinity, perhaps packaged up in a larger critique on the nature of falsely glorified men.

Intent VS Effect
 

What the writer DOES seem to imply, that Alma should overcome her flaws in some way, or at least Woodcock should suffer more, would actually have the opposite of the desired effect because you’d feel good and satisfied with that, and that feeling would represent how you felt about the experience of watching the film – and the experience of watching the film is represented by its main thematic illustration: toxic masculinity.

His implied suggestions would actually turn this film into the thing he claims it currently is.

He’s wrong, in my humble opinion.

A person who DOES understand propaganda and how it works, is David Chase, which is precisely why he left you feeling the way he did at the end of Sopranos. A big, fat, fuck you, to anyone who wanted to feel emotionally "satisfied" with the overall experience, which is exactly why the ending of Sopranos is genius on so many levels.

Anyway...






Saturday, April 7, 2018

Spielberg's The Post


Spielberg bringing the goods in his astounding Wikileaks/Metoo metaphor of The Post.

A clear statement on the fact that corporate influence and corrupt forces of power - all motivated by rational self interest - will always place insurmountable pressures on those who threaten to speak truth to power, to not do so.

The film makes clear: the only thing that stands between the truth and the perpetual lie are the brave individuals who make the sacrifice and speak despite the consequences they personally face.

In one fell swoop he captures the power and value and bravery in what Wikileaks showed the world, makes it synonymous to the bravery of the metoo movement, and gives credit where credit is due; to the individuals who spoke truth to power against all the pressures not to do so.

Thank you Senior Spielbergo!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

How to conspire without a conspiracy

The most effective form of manipulation, is through desire, by creating natural incentive for the right people to side with you against the “enemy”, in a manner so that they believe they’re acting of their own volition. If you manage to manipulate thought leaders in a field, the rest tend to follow, driven by the added natural incentive to not damage one’s own professional credibility by taking a side that opposes your peers.

There’s plenty of natural incentive for critics attached to websites and publications (the bigger the better) who enjoy Disney Corp perks to rail against any flag ship movie for franchises that could grow to rival anything under Disney. Hell, I imagine if you didn’t, you may not get that fancy Christmas gift basket, or set visit, or interview, or preview screening, or any number of benefits that economically supplement their individual brands (or their publications and/or websites). 

It’s a shame because the fan sites like Indiewire and that, are the easiest to manipulate, since so much of their content which draws people to their site is non review related stuff. So it’s easy to manipulate them by withdrawing access to any number of things which would hurt their bottom line. Can you imagine? Anything even close to a blacklist of perks from the Marvel/Pixar/Lucasfilm (and now fox), machine? I know I’d walk a fine line not to fuck that shit up if my living relies on it.

All I know is, if I’m working corporate strategy at Disney, that’s what I’d be doing, if I’m trying to guarantee cumulative growth (whilst being risk averse) - I’d manipulate critical response by creating natural incentive to love any and all Disney Corp money machine (franchise) stuff, and rail against anything that feels like it’s in direct competition. Just like old mate Edward Bernays taught us plebs back in the day.

I think it was Spinoza who said something along the lines of “the illusion of free will manifests when an individual makes a choice of which s/he’s not aware of the external cause” - feels more and more relevant these days, especially in regards to (some) critics, in regards to some movies. 

A pattern at least seems to be emerging and I for one, welcome our new mouse eared overlords...

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Cult of Star Wars


I doubt we’ll get whatever we’re all really waiting for in Star Wars, from that franchise anymore. It’s like how reinventing Bond seemed to happen (whether intentional or not) with the Bourne films. 

These films (the new batch of SW) are hitting their target audience perfectly(in a way)and it’s working. 

The fact that I want a version of these films which is essentially more like Blade Runner 2049 with more momentum and pace, is kind of irrelevant because – 

A - The movies wouldn’t do as well financially, nor hit the four quads of audience as well, and -

B - These films are primarily kids films. 

It’s a success in every sense of the word. 

But they’re just not really for me anymore. 

I thought the reason I wasn’t really responding to these films was because I was in writing mode and couldn’t let go of nit picky shit which ruins the suspension of disbelief for me, which it is I guess. 

But then, I realized that a great deal of audiences are having a similar reaction if the 56% and dropping audience rating on RT is any indication. Usually that column is high when critics rally behind a popcorn flick like this, or at least pretty close. It’s actually the “art house” lovers who seem to be getting what they want from this (except me). Which boggles me. The level of vitriol being hurled both ways is almost frightening. 

I’ll admit, it’s impossible for me to pretend any kind of objectivity. I barely watched any trailers and avoided the hype as much as I could, but it’s impossible for me to not have expectations for a Star Wars film. 

I liked scenes, and sequences, and tons of the various elements – enough to buy it on 4 K, but still, I felt disappointed. But then, I was into Star Wars (and by into, I mean an encyclopedic knowledge of every nuance of the whole universe including the EU which had about two dozen books out at when I was at my peak fandom). I’m talking like, I could draw you a map of the valley Luke would target practice womprats in his T16 on Tatooine (by memory) - absurd levels of into, and I mentioned earlier my ideal version of this movie and why it’s absolutely fine that this isn’t that, nor should it be, BUT since the lovers of this film seem to be resorting to weird levels of ad hominem to dismiss any criticisms of this film, and the people who didn't love it (whilst crying fanboyism), I may as well detail that I probably had at least some kind of expectation that the film wouldn’t rely on–

- SPOILERS DON’T READ ON - 

- the absurdly stupid “how Ren turned” beat. Seriously? Luke faced down fucking Darth Vader AND Palpatine and didn’t even try to kill them!! He doesn’t fear the dark side. He’s gonna’ go almost lightsaber his nephew because he’s afraid of his power? And then he turns in a misunderstanding beat? Seriously? That was balls to the wall, hardcore, levels of stupid. What is this an Adam Sandler romantic comedy?? “It was all just a big misunderstanding!” - I’m sorry, but fun or not, that beat was beyond dumb and Hamill is hundred percent correct in all the lead up where he complained about that aspect of his character here. It’s like his transformation in the OT arc never happened. He’s going to consider maybe doing it? Okay perhaps. He’s gonna’ talk himself up to sneak into his hut and stand over him and half swing then stop? What was he drunk? Absolute nonsense. Johnson complained about cuts right? I’d put bets on that the Ren turns subplot had way more screen time where that whole thing made sense and some Disney stooge went “too long” and he probably had to turn it into that. Respect to Johnson for sure.

And Snoke, the most powerful force user in the galaxy and maybe that ever lived can’t sense someone using the force literally a few feet away as they turn a lightsaber on him? He’s so powerful he doesn’t need a saber FOR A REASON. He was distracted? This guy? The dude outlived Vader and Palpatine and every single other Jedi basically, to turn the fragments of the Empire into something that could topple the galactic Government under their nose in a period of thirty years for the love of Jesus. He’s beyond powerful. He doesn’t trust, he doesn’t drop his guard, and he doesn’t make mistakes (at least not ones like that) or he would. Not. Have. Made. It - this far.
 

He’s a Sith Lord who EXPECTS his 2IC to try to kill him (if he wasn’t he wouldn’t be a worthy apprentice). There’s no way Ren could have done it, nor Rey (since he’d definitely be expecting her to try). The series is breaking its own rules by having him go that way. There’s no justification. Not Ren or Rey could cloak their force use around him.

These two beats, prop up everything else in this movie, and the series so far. They're not tiny issues, they're issues that from a script perspective, serve as a core foundation for everything else (especially the Luke beat). Both of these beats are contradictory to character in such massive ways that if it doesn't at the very least give you a "huh" moment, then you should consider the possibility that perhaps, you, like me, want to like this thing so much that it simply doesn't bother you, or, your understanding of script and structure is limited enough for it to not jump out at you. Either you forgive it, or you don't see it, but to argue that they are non issues, is wrong. 


While we're at it - none of the Royal guard weren’t thinking about what could happen? What? They’re surprised that the two people they KNOW want to kill their boss; both force users, might turn a saber forty-five degrees and turn it on? Didn't Ren literally JUST try something and Snoke zapped him?

I mean think about it. You’re the royal guard. Two of the most powerful force users in the galaxy are going to come face to face with the person you’re sworn to protect. Two people you KNOW will try to kill him, both of whom are powerful with the force. That saber next to him would be treated like a loaded gun in either Ren or Rey’s hands. The royal guard not spotting it is almost dumber than Snoke not doing so. A joke. If he’s gonna’ go, earn it. That was a joke. Cool for a sec, but makes no sense. It makes the characters involved dumber, which puts into question how they are who they are to begin with. If Luke didn't have three whole movies about his journey towards confronting and conquering his fear of the dark side, perhaps I could forgive his absurdly stupid action, but it would still be a dumb misunderstanding beat, and they're practically always dumb, and lazy, and a contrived plot solution similar to "the guy walks in at the right moment and overhears the right piece of info".

The two key turning points in this film were stupid. Plain stupid and lazy. The unexpected function and effect of the beats were cool, but the content wasn’t. An example of that unexpected Snoke beat handled well is how Ned goes in GOT. That’s what I mean by earn it. It wasn’t earned, it was just unexpected (and stupid).

And that’s ignoring the absurdity on how quickly the republic became rebels again. They suck at running the galaxy.


And weaponized light speed. What a fantastic idea, and brilliant weapon. Perhaps someone could have maybe considered it, oh, I don't know, at the end of BASICALLY ANY STAR WARS MOVIE TO DATE! Nobody until know thought about weaponizing light speed? Really? That's a thing? They can do that? No person in the history of Star Wars, ever thought about weaponizing light speed, if this was what one could achieve with it? Even if it required a Kamikaze pilot, nobody considered it until now? Beyond stupid. This film works, barely, if every other Star Wars film didn't exist, basically. If light speed could be weaponized at all, it pretty much renders any "plan" to blow up anything, that didn't involve light speeding through it, stupid (because the freedom of the galaxy is basically, literally, always at stake, so there's no reason this wouldn't be part of the plan, even if it was a last resort). They could have split the fucking death star in two with one of the many ships that got destroyed in all their battles just sitting there with fish head ranting off orders.

Domhall Gleeson? Call him an archetype if you want. But he’s a cliche. Han Solo is an example of an Archetype embodiment that isn’t a cliche, for example. Tarkin too.
 


Archetype, not a cliche.

Bad dialogue, merch, etc, that’s all expected. It’s Star Wars, kids movie etc. It introduced (some) new and interesting themes. Sure. But the black and white right and wrong aspects of it undercuts those massively. “No Ren! Ruling the galaxy must be done by the people who have proved TWICE IN THE LAST SIXTY YEARS THAT THEY ARE BEYOND EVERY LEVEL OF COMPETENCE TO DO SO. New character dynamics? Hardly. It was basically Empire roughly beat for beat with shitter and less satisfying key turning points and more characters (who you care less about). And for those claiming that this one is all about breaking down the old walls, gimme' a break, Rey has the Jedi texts. She's not letting anything die. When Yoda said she has everything she needs already, that was literal (the red herring was the figurative interpretation of that line). The Jedi are alive and well in their last new hope - Rey, and she has the ancient texts (which Luke never read?). There's like five books. What did he do? Just sit in his hut all day for thirty years?

Benicio del toro was cool as fuck though. I’d love to see a movie about him over whatever this Han Solo thing is gonna’ be. Direction was cool. Overall execution too. Leia was cool. Poe was cool. That little Asian girl was REALLY cool. And yeah. Expectations? Maybe. But they weren’t unreasonable ones. I’m with the audience on this one - 56% RT / 4.9 MC out of ten, feels accurate to me.

As for “going for the ride” and “it’s meant to be dumb” and all those by the numbers responses to this kind of reaction - Planet of The Apes - same type of story, same audience, manages to achieve being decent movies without forcing the audience to either ignore stupid stuff through the power of nostalgia or because you’re a child.
 


Look. We can all talk about risk aversion and marketing models, careers etc, until the cows come home. And yes, of course that’s all true. But fuck all that for a sec. Risk aversion is why we’re about to get ANOTHER white Jesus movie. Markets dictate a whole heap of shit. And it all provides good reason for why things are as they are, but market dictates doesn’t equal something being hailed at a level of quality, which simply isn’t accurate.

I mentioned the trilogy where Apes become super smart and take over the planet. Roughly the same four quad target audience as Star Wars, arguably a far dumber concept, yet those films worked on every level and you never had to rationalize anything away because “it’s for kids” or “it’s not meant to be good” or anything like that, because they couldn’t rely on nostalgia to carry us through.

And I’m sorry, but take away the nostalgia, and I don’t think it is special at all. Nor do I think we’ll be talking about it in ten years time. Hell, it’s a year later and nobody gives a shit about Rogue One anymore. Its “success” in my opinion is a product of a hardcore marketing machine, nostalgia, and hype. Though it's probably a better movie than this one. Granted, however, I'm not bringing the same baggage to Apes, so it's impossible for me to judge this movie the way I'd approach that, but I still believe any of the new Apes films are far stronger films (at least on a story and script level).
 


In regards to the lackluster audience response, we’re not talking some unreachable art film like “mother!” here (which I loved), it’s fucken’ Star Wars. I’m actually amazed at how low the audience score for it is. Considering most average movie goers wouldn’t be as reviews driven as film people are for big movies like this (for us film people, and critics especially, to speak against highly reviewed films is to essentially attack our own credibility so there’s ample unconscious incentive to not go against the grain of well reviewed or poorly reviewed films) it speaks powerfully to the concept of conditioning through the machine of mass media.

I sound like I hated it, I didn’t, but I truly believe the audience have it right on this one. Give me Interstellar, Rings, Avatar, Apes, Edge of Tomorrow, etc, over this any day of the week, flaws and all.


I know Star Wars culture well. I was in denial about the Phantom Menace for the better part of a decade. It actually becomes almost like religion - especially in the lead up and wind-down of new releases. We’d prop up the rising box office numbers as evidence for why it was good!! It’s good damnit! Even had a counter to keep track on the desktop. Everyone else just didn’t “get it”. They were wrong! Proved by maths! But the truth was I simply loved the brand so much and wanted it to be good so bad, that its many issues simply didn’t bother me. Other people, not so much. They either fell into the “bad script and film making elements”, “ruins Star Wars”, or “my kids loved it, just go for the ride”, or “it’s dumb and I don’t like that shit anyway” camps, just like now.

Eventually I made peace with it. It sucked. Though I did REALLY enjoy it all seventeen times I saw it or whatever so... did it really suck? If I enjoyed the experience, does it matter? Does my level of enjoyment need to be objectively quantified on a perceived scale of “quality” for me to justify it? I dunno! Then George Lucas hate for another ten ish years. Then indifference. Finally I’m getting the movies I thought I wanted and I’ve grown out of it all. Life’s a cruel mistress indeed.

Movie’s decent, just not everyone’s bag. The fact that people and critics who gave a popcorn flick the popcorn audience are indifferent to a high rating, seem to be taking offense at that indifference, and are now jumping through these confirmation bias driven hoops to “prove” the people who had issue with it “wrong” as if it’s an equation, or writing those who didn't off as mainly right wing pundits, speaks only to the immense power of this brand, and it’s myth, place, and influence in all our lives (and our own inability for self reflection in recognizing that we’re reacting to a perceived insult to our infallible taste and eye for quality, which should raise awareness of inherent blind spot insecurities in regards to our perceived sense of identity)- certainly does for me!

I'm half expecting the loving critics to start calling people who don't like this film Nazis and Trump voters. I'd be surprised if that hasn't already started happening as I write this. In fact, as I edit this post, it already has.

Insecure critics are demanding the audience acknowledge their "experience" and "knowledge" in what makes a good and bad movie, whilst simultaneously demanding that actual film-makers and writers ignore their own issues with the film (based on our own understanding of the work, and what makes something work, on a level beyond nostalgia call-backs). Usually, when there's this kind of discrepancy between critics and audience, it's not a popcorn flick, the fact that this time it is, means the standard "audiences are stupid" rationale, doesn't cut it.

So you like a popcorn film that the popcorn audiences don't really care too much about. Deal with it.


Lucas did well. Campbell was right. Raise a glass for Jung! And hell, another one for Nietzsche - god IS dead, and her replacement is Star Wars! Well played Disney!

And I’m actually being far too hard on this film. It’s pretty magnificent in so many ways. I’ll be buying the 4K first day of release! But a masterpiece, it simply is not. 

What you’re reacting to, is nostalgia.




Tuesday, December 5, 2017

On “all good” Superman

Opinion time - the reason “all good” Superman sucks without a dark side (whether manifest in positive intent with negative effect, or manifest in conscious evil) is because he becomes a symbol of denial. Batman acknowledges and embraces his dark side, he’s whole, or at least on the path towards it; all good Superman is a walking, flying, building crushing, image and symbol of a complex of denial (which is why he’s dangerous). He’s also a symbol for the U.S, and how the U.S still see themselves (a relic from the 30’s when U.S isolationism was still a thing). 

Superman has three interesting arcs - becoming Superman, sacrifice, and giving up being Superman. BEING (all good) Superman is boring, and has been since the mid 80’s, UNLESS he operates in a geo political story context, and the story explores the ramifications of that (like Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen). This is why DC had to kill him in the 90’s to save the character. And let’s just not mention electric Superman.

Anyway, the whole idea behind Superman is that humanity isn’t exclusively a human quality, it’s contagious, and human beings as individuals and as a whole species are beings of good and evil. If we weren’t, the Yin Yang symbol would be all white.

And by “is” I mean in my speculative opinionated opinion! 

Top Superman stories from a life of consuming the content:

Superman Red Son - Mark Millar
Superman: American Alien - Max Landis
Dark Knight Returns - Frank Miller
Kingdom Come - Mark Waid & Alex Ross
It’s Superman: a novel - Tom DeHaven

Thursday, November 30, 2017

One Walt Disney Corp to rule them all


I speculate -

Basically, any person who grows up on anything within Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel, or Fox's IP's will be receiving prime social conditioning, almost exclusively, from whatever ideology (conscious or unconscious) is prevalent amongst the board members on the top end of the Walt Disney Corp, from when the consumer is as young as can be, to grown ups, and beyond - is what this deal means to me. Which is all just a natural cause and effect, unless corporations somehow shift style of corporate governance from totalitarian to something else. Unlikely.

Once DC's IP's are acquired, which it will be if their stock value drops to critical as a result of most of their lackluster tentpoles, population control becomes even more streamlined.

One major element preventing that currently, seems to be China's box office returns.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Atheism/Theism and rationalism are mutually exclusive


Atheism and Theism are two sides of the same coin, both sharing one of the core pillars of true ignorance – absolutism; the desperate need to know, and to convince yourself that you know what you don’t.

Any Atheist would define Atheism with the following sentence – Atheism is a lack of belief in god.

A Theist would define Theism in the reverse – a belief in god.

For either of the above two sentences to be rational, the word “God” must be defined.

A fundamental Theist, and Zealot Atheist, in my experience, tend to have the same definition, falling somewhere within the idea that the character who appears in ancient theological texts if said texts are interpreted as if they were literal history, is “God” and will claim their belief or lack there of off this definition.

Having said that, the word God has so many different definitions, to so many different people, many of which are synonymous in all but the word with theoretical concepts like the sum total of space-time (the ancient Hermetic idea of everything being part of one whole), advanced intelligent life-forms having reached a technological/evolutionary apex where they can seed and nurture intelligent life like we can seed and nurture plant life (most abstract soft Agnostic definitions), or hologram theory, or an infinite substance from which finite material reality emanates (Spinoza, labelled an Atheist during his time), or as unconscious metaphor for the mysteries of the universe (Jung/Campbell).

The point being, that depending on how you choose to define the word God, you very quickly start to fall into ideas that are synonymous with many possible, even plausible theoretical concepts, which we simply don’t name “God”.

These theoretical concept all tend to assume that there exist limits in a human being’s cognitive capacity to conceive beyond a certain point, in the same way that a chimpanzee simply doesn’t have the cognitive capability to conceive of the mathematics behind, say, quantum mechanics, or relativity, those same limits must exist in our own mind, and as such we can't and don’t know what they are - because we can't yet conceive of them.

I.E – In regards to many of these ideas we can only know, that we don’t know what we don’t know.

As such, the sentence I do/don’t believe in God, is equally irrational, especially if the sentence is used to define a core part of one’s philosophical/ideological makeup.

Both ideologies require the ideologue to KNOW, and to KNOW, whether you know that something is, or is not, is equally comforting.  


They think, but I KNOW. 

Both are cowardly ideologies. Both are borne out of a fear, fear of admitting the truth. That we only KNOW, what we personally observe or experience, and even that, can be sketchy, that everything else, we can at best understand. We understand, what others know, with faith that the people who claim to know, and the forces in whom we have faith in (institutions and organizations) that tell us that the persons who claim to know, do in fact know.

I understand that the speed of light has some kind of speed limit. I even believe it. I have faith in the institutions that tell me that Stephen Hawking knows, and his book has helped me understand, what HE knows.

I understand that planet Earth is in fact a planet, and it’s round (ish).

I understand a great many things.


I know, very little.

It’s frightening when you begin to realize how little one does in fact know.


Even more frightening to realize that there are limits to what we can understand, and especially limits to what we can know.

True rationalism forces one to admit that one doesn’t know, and to admit to yourself that you don't know what you don’t know is rational. That is rationalism.

To claim to not believe in a thing one cannot even define, is just as valid as claiming to believe in a thing one cannot define; but both are equally irrational ideas, and both are borne out of a fear - not fear of death, but a fear of ignorance, in turn manifesting into seemingly opposite ideologies under the same ignorant foundation block that is absolutism, and both ideologies, I believe, are equally destructive. When you challenge the ideas of people who are sure that they know, these people can get testy.

To be clear, one can believe, or not believe in anything one wants, but one does not get to claim to be rational when defining oneself using sentences with core nouns that they refuse to define in ways that make the concept plausible within what we currently understand about material reality, either empirically or theoretically.

The fundamental Theist will at least often admit to this level of irrationalism, but the zealot Atheist will refuse to, despite hard empirically observed evidence that rationalism excludes Atheism (if Atheism is defined by the sentence “One who does not believe in God”) – this I believe, in many ways, makes the zealot Atheist more ignorant, and perhaps even more dangerous.

Some might argue that Atheism as an ideology is needed to counter destructive Theism. I would argue that all evidence points to ideologies that exist for the sole purpose of antagonizing an opposing ideology, historically tends to nourish and justify it's enemies existence. In essence, if you fall into this camp of Atheist, your real world effect is in direct opposite contrast to your desired effect. You may as well be fighting on the side of your "enemy".
 
Some might argue that I'm splitting hairs and using technical word play to prove a meaningless point because everyone knows "what they mean" - no - everyone does not know what you mean, in fact, you don't even know what you mean, if you did, you'd be able to define the word - God - in a way that encapsulates and rules out all definitions, which you can't without getting more specific, which opens the doors to the aforementioned plausible concepts and ideas that differ in no way other than the word used to describe it.

Perhaps it is time we stopped trying to label our faith or lack there-of, and simply admitted to ourselves that we don’t know everything, or even a lot, but we’re trying to figure things out, and we do a pretty good job of it as long as the vocal fundamentalists on both ends of the spectrum stop antagonizing each other and validating, and feeding, each other’s equally destructive existence, getting in the way of those who are genuine in their pursuit of truth and understanding.

Perhaps we should try to stop being so quick to reason ourselves to conclusion, and instead re-adopt the simple, philosophically literate idea that one should be very wary of reasoning oneself to conclusion - there is very rarely a good reason to do so.
 

Be rational, ask questions, and keep asking questions until you run out, or lose interest, or have to make a decision based on your conclusion and there is simply no time left to contemplate (this last, is, as far as I can tell, the only good reason I can think of to reason oneself to conclusion) - at least using this age old method of thinking things through, you will be aware of the limits of your own understanding, and perhaps we might become less inclined to spread our ignorance in a desperate attempt to placate our insecurities.