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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Colorado Post #4, Maryland tomorrow

I went to see Paycheck yesterday, and I have a few problems.

First - the physics and such of the movie. At some point, they explain a machine which can see into the future, and they do it by quoting Einstein as saying that if you had a powerful enough lens to see around the "curvature of the universe" with some sort of laser, you would come back to yourself, and you could see your own future. A few problems: Yes, in fact, if you send a beam of light a very long distance and it curves back to you, and then somehow reflects back along that same path, you would be seeing yourself in the future. The catch is that the amount of time it takes for the light to do that would mean that, if it reached your future self in 15 years, it would take a total time of 30 to get back. You would see the future from when you sent the beam, but it would be in the past by the time it actually got there. Unless light starts travelling faster than... well... light, this doesn't really work. This is even assuming that Einstein was correct about this. Here's the thing about Einstein, though - he was right about relativity, and not much else. He spent the last thirty someodd years of his life at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Studies trying to work out a unified theory which excluded quantum mechanics. He denied large segments of science which are pretty well established by this point - so when it comes to questions like this, Einstein is not the authority you go to. There's a good century of sceince (in the movie) between the two.

There are also a few other errors - for example, when you form a new memory, there isn't a new cell created in the brain - but it's all part of a larger problem. Why, given a science fiction movie, would you even go so far as to try to explain it at all? Just tell me - he built a machine which sees the future. Done. That's all you needed to say. Don't go into the theory behind it, becuase the theory behind it is wrong and generally ludicrous. I hate when people try to use science and invoke terminology which is just patently false in order to sound more intelligent. The only people you're wowing are the ones who would believe you if you just said "Okay, see that over there? That motherboard is the magical fairy motherboard. It grants wishes. We wished for the future. Shazam!" The focus of the movie shouldn't be intellectual pretension. It's a movie which starts off with a porn-movie acting job ("You really won't remember this? Sweet! Let's screw!"). You don't need to try to go into the Lorentz transformations. It's like taking Heather Graham and giving her glasses and pulling her hair into a bun and pretending that makes her intelligent. We can all see beyond the shallow, vapid exterior.

The best part of the whole movie was the previews, however. One of them is for a movie called, "The Perfect Score" about a bunch of kids who are bad at the SAT, and need higher scores. One of the kids gets an 1140 and flips out becuase it's too low. Please note that an 1140 puts you above a majority of the people taking the test, but beyond that, the entire premise of the movie is stupid. Did ANYONE get so stressed out about the SAT that they felt like their life was ending if they didn't get a good enough score? Nobody takes that test this seriously, and if they do, they're really, really dumb. The kids then conspire to steal the answers to the test. The preview didn't give me an idea of whether they steal it or not, but I'm guessing they either steal it and then don't use the stolen answers, or otherwise find that the test isn't meaningful. It'd be nice if they just started off with that and saved us from having to sit through the movie.

(Oh, and as a slight tangent - for everyone out there who says they have some excuse for not doing as well on the SAT as they could have because they were drunk/tired/hung over/etc...? If you're too dumb to understand that 8 AM is early, then you deserve the one question I'm sure you missed because of your poor excuse.)

The other preview is Jerry Bruckheimer does King Arthur. Just a few things: Remember when they decided women needed a less gender-stereotyped role in movies, and so they made Guinevere a fucking Amazon? Right. Let's just go ahead and aff-ac the 4th century. It goes on about the "true story" aspect of the whole Arthur myth, but at the same time radically alters history in order to be seen as progressive. The problem is, it's Keira Knightley, so I'll still see the movie.

And I'll leave you with this:
"Literature... describes a descent. First, gods. Then demigods. Then epic became tragedy: failed kings, failed heroes. Then the gentry. Then the middle class and its mercantile dreams. Then it was about you: social realism. Then it was about them: lowlife. Villains. The ironic age. And he was saying... Now what? Literature, for a while, can be about us: writers. But that won't last long. How do we burst clear of all this? And he asked them: Whither the novel?

Supposing that the progress of literature downward was forced in that direction by the progress of cosmology upward. For human beings, the history of cosmology is the history of increasing humiliation. Always histerically but less and less fiercely resisted, as one illusion after another fell away. You can say this for increasing humiliation: at least it was

Homer thought the starry heavens were made of bronze - a shield or dome, supported by pillars. Homer was over long before the first suggestion that the world was anything but flat.

Virgil knew the earth was round. But he thought it was the center of the universe, and that the sun and the stars revolved around it. And he thought it was

Dante did too. Virgil was his guide, in purgatory, in hell: because nothing had changed. Dante knew about eclipses and epicycles and retrogradation. But he had no idea where he was and how fast he was moving.

Shakespeare thought that the sun was the center of the universe.

Wordsworth did too, and thought it was made of coal.

Eliot knew that the sun was not at the center of the universe: that it was not at the center of the galaxy; and that the galaxy was not at the center of the universe.

From geocentric to heliocentric to galactocentric to plain
eccentric. And getting bigger all the time: not at tis steady rate of expansion, but with sickening leaps of the human mind.

cranked out at 3:39 PM | |

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