I skipped the open thread this week, but you can consider this a general media thread. Some links, none of which are complimentary of the subject material:
- Stupid list #1: Bravo’s list of 100 Funniest Movies, with commentary by Ed Brayton. I actually disagree with about 75% of Brayton’s particular remarks, but we agree on the essential lameness of this list.
- Stupid list #2: National Review’s list of 50 Conservative Rock Songs, with commentary by Amanda Marcotte (who is normally at Pandagon, but is guest blogging at Michael Bérubé’s blog).
- A.O. Scott reviews The Da Vinci Code in the NY Times, stopping along the way to admire the awfulness of Dan Brown’s writing, and wisely noting that “movies of that ilk rarely deal with issues like the divinity of Jesus or the search for the Holy Grail. In the cinema such matters are best left to Monty Python.” (Hat tip to JSpur.)
- Possibly funnier, certainly snobbier: Anthony Lane’s review in The New Yorker.
- More on Dan Brown’s awful writing, at By Neddie Jingo.
- Language Log raised many of the same issues a while back, but in a more pedantic way.
- PZ Myers reviews X3, narrowly avoids head explosion.
I haven’t seen The Da Vinci Code or X3; I may end up seeing the latter.
Via Pharyngula, here’s a slightly alarmist article about a video game based on the Left Behind novels.
This game immerses children in present-day New York City — 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes (who taste a lot like Christian).
Is this paramilitary mission simulator for children anything other than prejudice and bigotry using religion as an organizing tool to get people in a violent frame of mind? The dialogue includes people saying, “Praise the Lord,” as they blow infidels away.
The article focuses on the disturbing eliminationist elements in the game, but I think any game that lets you play as the Antichrist can’t be all bad. I can just imagine playing this game as Team Evil, cackling madly as I unleash my demonic horde. Sounds like fun!
More seriously, I’m never quite sure how I feel about games like this (or the similar jihadi video games that show up in the Middle East). The usual worry is that the eliminationist scenario and dehumanized opponents will make the player more inclined to real-world violence. But the counter-argument is that video games provide an outlet for political frustration and revenge fantasies, and hence reduce the amount of real-world violence. I’m not thoroughly convinced by either argument: really this is a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of paranoid and apocalyptic rhetoric in the conservative Christian subculture that comprises Left Behind‘s target audience, and thus is merely a symptom of a larger problem.
We’ve probably had enough discussion of the problem of evil on this blog, but I can’t help pointing out it’s appearance in the news. Apparently one world leader, upon visiting Auschwitz, had the following reaction:
“In a place like this, words fail. In the end, there can only be a dread silence, a silence which is a heartfelt cry to God — Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this?
“Where was God in those days? Why was he silent? How could he permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil?”
Indeed, these are questions any religious skeptic might ask, but it’s surprising to hear them from Pope Benedict. It seems like the sort of thing a guy in his position should have the answer to. (Via Majikthise.)
In a slightly parallel story, Mark at Cosmic Variance watches as Billy Graham comes very close to endorsing a skeptical outlook on religious claims. I must say this is a promising trend among major religious figures toward inquiry and empiricism, but somehow I don’t see it lasting very long.
On the first leg of my plane trip I was seated next to a guy named Kerry Edwards. Someone alert Jeffrey Rowland that he may have a primary challenge from someone else who is trying to save money on bumper stickers.
This is hilarious: Tom DeLay is citing a Stephen Colbert interview in his own defense in letters from his legal fund. DeLay may want to consider hiring people who are as observant and attuned to subtle irony as, say, President Bush, who at least got the joke when Colbert was making fun of him. (Via Crooked Timber.)
I can’t believe I haven’t linked Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog yet. This is definitely the funniest Middle English blog out there. In a recent post, he rewrites the opening of The Da Vinci Code in the style of the Canterbury Tales. An excerpt:
So Sauyniere lyk Sinon storye tolde
False as the devil, and seyde yt forth ful bolde
For he hadde yt rehersd many a yeer
(Ye notice, o myn gentil rederes deere,
Ich telle yow nat of what thys ‘thyng’ might be-
Yt ys a tricke poetic vsid by me
To kepe yow yn confusioun most plesynge
Thurgh alle thys vague and nonspecific tesyng).
It’s quite an improvement over Dan Brown’s writing. For further reading, the best post ever on that blog is the one where he writes a rough outline for the Canterbury Tales. (Those of you who read Making Light have already seen all this.)
Longtime readers of Lemming’s blog may recall his track-by-track review of a mix CD I gave him last year called Some Disassembly Required. I’ve now received a CD from him in return, Front & Back. He did not provide a tracklist with the CD, which seemed like a strange choice, but upon hearing it I realized that the element of surprise was part of the fun of the first listen for this particular disc. However: in order to maintain the obsessively-detailed organization of my iTunes library, I needed the title, artist, and year of each track before I imported the disc, so I hit the internet and filled in all the gaps in my knowledge. I’m providing my track-by-track review of Front & Back in the form of an annotated tracklist, below the fold.
I’m back from Pasadena, and will be in Berkeley for three whole days before making a quick trip to North Carolina (for a wedding). In the midst of trying to take useful data during this period I’ll see about ensuring that this page does not completely empty out, starting with this standard open thread.
The Duke Spirit: Cuts Across The Land: The first of two Coachella-motivated CD purchases. (The second, Art Brut’s Bang Bang Rock & Roll, will be reviewed here in a couple weeks.) The title track of this album, a terrific garage rock song with powerful vocals, is what got me interested in this band originally and I was hoping to find more like it on the album. The good news is that there are several: “Love Is An Unfamiliar Name”, “Fades The Sun”, and “Lion Rip” are highlights. This band is very good at strong, driving rock songs, but when they try to slow things down it doesn’t work as well and yields the weaker tracks on the album. During the peak songs, though, this album comes close to what I was hoping for (but didn’t find) with the latest Yeah Yeah Yeahs release. Rating: 3.5/5
I brought this up at lunch yesterday and it turned out no one else had seen it. So clearly I should have blogged it earlier: The Lord of the Rings, as told using quotes from The Princess Bride.
As it did last year, my summer travel begins with a drive to L.A. I remember selecting CDs for the drive last year and kicking off the trip with the Bright Eyes album I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. The thing about Bright Eyes is, one has to be in an appropriate mood to enjoy it, otherwise he just sounds whiny and self-absorbed. And indeed, my mood underwent a major shift during my travels last year, and my traveling music correspondingly shifted to Mercury Rev’s The Secret Migration, especially the revelatory “Secret for a Song”.
For this year’s travels I’ve again turned to Mercury Rev. They are at their best when singing about travel and movement, and their 1998 album Deserter’s Songs is full of these themes. The best track on the album is “Goddess on a Hiway”, and it is terrific driving music—the first time I heard it I was driving over the Bay Bridge watching the setting sun light up the East Bay, and it was perfect. The lyrics are a bit opaque, but I suspect they are about peak oil.
Instead of a Friday random ten, here are ten CDs I am bringing with me for the drive:
- Art Brut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll
- Pulp, Different Class
- Snow Patrol, Eyes Open
- Spiritualized, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
- The Duke Spirit, Cuts Across The Land
- Yo La Tengo, Painful
- The Delgados, Peloton
- Pretty Girls Make Graves, Élan Vital
- Mercury Rev, Deserter’s Songs
- My Bloody Valentine, Loveless