Miscellaneous: August 1998 Archives

"Contact" sucked

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I was putting off seeing the movie Contact, starring some actors, because I figured it would just annoy me.

I should have left well enough alone.

It isn't bad enough that the characters were cliched, but they also had to be annoying. The only character of redeeming value was the "sexually non-threatening handicapped guy". But the "intelligent, independent-minded heroine", the "soft-spoken guy, the only one who understands her", the "evil Presidential cabinet member guy trying to control the world", and everyone else just annoyed the heck out of you enough to change the channel.

But if I did that, I could not rant about the rest of the movie, so I kept watching.

There was so much else that was bad about this movie. The effects were at their best average, and at their worst a detraction from the film itself. The flow was mostly incoherent and wandering. It was not a pleasant experience.

But then there are problems with the ideas in the film. First of all, there is the misguided notion of what faith is, a poor attempt to appease "those religious people" by making their faith seem legitimate. Well, their faith is indeed legitimate, but it is not based on anything like what is presented in the movie. Faith is not belief in things without evidence. In fact, Christians from Thomas and Paul through Luther and Calvin and Sproul and Lewis and Moreland only believed BECAUSE of the evidence. They looked at all the evidence -- scientific, philosophical, experiential -- and came to the conclusion that God exists and that the Bible is His Word to man.

Contact, however, condescends to them religious folks, saying that it is OK that they believe in what there is no evidence of. No, it isn't. There is no need to be condescending, because religious belief is predicated on no less an appreciation of the evidence and facts than is scientific belief. Sagan, I suppose, was hoping to find legitimacy for his own beliefs in extraterrestrial life from what he saw as a similar belief by the religions of the world. But it doesn't flow. If Christianity were based on the same lack of evidence that plagued Sagan's own belief, then Christianity would be nothing more than a footnote in Jewish history.

One more thing that annoyed me about the movie was the tagline permeating it: "If there's no other life out there, that's an awful waste of space." Waste of space? So we are to believe that the wonder, joy, curiosity, discovery, and everything else that we humans get from space is a waste unless something else up there is alive? So if there is no other life out there, Sagan's whole life was based on nothing more than looking at a waste of space? Depending on whether or not you are proven right, you are either wasting your time, or not. Sad statement to make about oneself, and it is poor science. A scientist is, supposedly, successful no matter whether the hypothesis is true or not. If it is false, then you have proven something. If it is true, you have proven something. Either way, it is a Good Thing.

I only recommend this movie to those who want to see how to make a bad movie, or to those who want to see how to think poorly.

We Love TV

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There is a tremendous assault on television. It is nothing new, of course, but it seems to have been renewed. ABC has been working hard on its "We Love TV" campaign to fight back.

And while I am firmly against dumbing down the masses, I just don't see the problem with TV. Yes, many people abuse TV. So? We don't see people picketing all the other things people abuse. Everything can be abused. People abuse McDonald's and Coca-Cola. People abuse radio. People abuse Weight Watchers. People abuse salad. People abuse reading newspapers, magazines, and novels. People abuse weight lifting and listening to classical music.

There are those who claim, as Neil Postman did in Amusing Ourselves to Death, that TV is inherently bad for certain things, like carrying on effective public discourse. Of course, then he turns around and praises Firing Line and the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour. In one ear, and out each corner of the mouth.

Most TV sucks. Yes. And most novels suck, and most movies suck, and most music sucks, and most art sucks. Just because Prime Time is filled with opiatic sitcoms, that does not mean all TV is bad. It doesn't even mean all sitcoms are bad. What it all does mean is that you've gotta work at what you watch, you've gotta pay attention to what is being fed to you, you've gotta use your brain. And if you contend that you cannot use your brain while watching M*A*S*H, well, I pity you.

I like TV. I watch it a lot. I watch it for news. I watch it for sports. I watch it to relax. I watch it for information and for edification. People contend that my brain turns off when I watch TV. Well, we can argue about that, I suppose, but the evidence doesn't bear it out: I am the "victim" of countless hours of TV watching in my lifetime, and I think I've turned out pretty well. I don't recommend it to everyone, but it's been good for me.

<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page is a archive of entries in the Miscellaneous category from August 1998.

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