Monthly Archives: November 2010

Movies as “loss leaders” for ideas


According to Joe Romm, discussing a movie that almost no one watched,

In fact, the movie is just a clever loss leader for Lomborg’s bad ideas. A film is a ticket to widespread media attention, far more than even a new book provides. For instance, the movie means that credulous reviewers who don’t follow the energy and climate debate closely will write columns that millions will read (see “Cool It and plausible deniability“), compared to the, uhh, hundreds that are flocking to the film.

Ed Wood, exemplary outsider artist


According to Rob Craig, in Ed Wood, mad genius: a critical study of the films (2009),

Unfortunately, the condescending view posited by the Medveds and others took hold, and Wood became legend not as a film artist of note, but as a freak of nature, a literary clown, an alcoholic buffoon of fringe Hollywood, a filmmaker so awkward and unfocused that he had inadvertently created, with Plan 9 from Outer Space, “the worst film of all time.” Discarding the patent absurdity of such a claim, Wood’s films are in fact neither bad, nor good — they are art; astounding, bizarre film-poems with many, many flaws, and many more hypnotic charms.


Finally, Wood primarily functioned throughtout his career as a writer, and it is his bizarre hyperbolic prose which graces his films with their singular iconoclastic charms. Wood’s prose haunts his films in two ways. Firstly, the lurid, overreaching dialogue conveys a hyper-dramatic world not even remotely resembling actual speech or situation. Secondly, Wood’s tumultuous exposition and wild structural experimentation assure that his films will follow an unpredictable narrative track unlike similar films of the era, or the melodramatic tradition in general.

The end result of these aesthetic quirks are films which overstep the boundaries of normal narrative cinema at every turn, and often look more like experimental cinema, or avant-garde theatre, than commercial film product. Under-rehearsed non-actors spout Wood’s fastidious prose in overwrought ecstasy; plots meander, stall and take violent turns from accepted expositional theory; the story hatches within a dingy, dime-store universe where the threads of the actors’ costumes, the cardboard props, and the makeshift interiors are at times painfully obvious.


It seems likely that the legend of Wood as an exemplary outsider artist will last far longer than his ersatz reputation as a mere “bad” director.

Why myrrh for the baby Jesus?


Following up to “Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25?“.

The connection between the manger and the Eucharist is obvious. But what about the gold, frankincense and myrrh? According to

The word myrrh comes from the Hebrew murr or maror, which means “bitter.” Myrrh was a symbolically appropriate gift for the baby Jesus because it was used in embalming at the time. Therefore, while gold and frankincense symbolize the infant’s royalty and divinity, respectively, myrrh makes reference to His future death. Myrrh was extremely valuable in the time of the Roman Empire, when Jesus was born, and it was used as an incense burned during funerals until the 15th century.

Take away the paradox from Nietzsche — reveal a colossal waste of time


According to Julian Young

But what if – like Nietzsche’s radical followers a century ago – we prefer the extremism and outlandishness that lie on the surface of Nietzsche’s writings to the sensible opinions that may be buried beneath them? “Take away the paradox from the philosopher,” as Søren Kierkegaard once said, “and all you are left with is a professor.” What if the mischief is the message? “One wants to be understood when one writes,” as Nietzsche confessed; but “one also wants – quite as certainly – not to be understood.” If an argument looks rough and murky, it may be best to leave it that way, and interpreters who buff it up till they can see their faces in it may be doing their author a disservice. “This might just have been the intention of the author,” Nietzsche continued: “perhaps he did not want to be understood by ‘anyone’.” He was not very interested in the kinds of truths we have to sit on, like hens hoping to hatch an egg: he preferred those that dance in the sunlight and then disappear – “truths of a peculiar shyness and ticklishness,” as he put it, “truths that must be taken by surprise.”

Regarding an even more overrated philosopher, William Major and Bryan Sinche write

In all likelihood, students will leave Emerson having been immersed in a confused stew of 19th-century occultism offered up in schizophrenic prose. And we, their professors, often act as if their difficulties stemmed from their own lack of imagination.

The fault, though, is that of the author. Because of Emerson’s obscurantist and peripatetic style, his meanings—assuming there are some—are hidden. Consider this koan, one among many: “It is essential to a true theory of nature and of man, that it should contain somewhat progressive. Uses that are exhausted or that may be, and facts that end in the statement, cannot be all that is true of this brave lodging wherein man is harbored, and wherein all his faculties find appropriate and endless exercise. And all the uses of nature admit of being summed in one, which yields the activity of man an infinite scope.”

That is the prose of a crazy person.

Believe first, ask questions later


According to Robert Fritz

Reality is an acquired taste.

In the grand human epic reason makes only an occasional cameo appearance, yet in our own lives we pretend it plays the starring role.

The more I skeptically examine my own mind and its beliefs, the clearer it becomes that consciousness isn’t the admiral of this fleet of ghost ships, but just the deluded weaver of its banners.