I have a healthy appreciation for bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally very anti-bullshit, especially when it comes to things like justifications for war, regressive anti-science and scaring people to (literal) death. You know: things that matter.

But I must confess, I do take a certain amount of pleasure in watching bullshit separate fools from their money. If it’s audacious enough, it can be like watching a well-crafted crime caper.

Which leads us to H2Om.
Read the rest of this entry »

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or, Journey to the Center of Eden

JESUS CHRIST, IT’S A JESUS LIZARD! GET IN THE CAR!

According to Walden Media’s Wikipedia entry, they deny that they are an overtly Christian production company. They have had to make this denial as they are owned by Philip Anschutz (noted conservative Christian and funder of the Discovery Institute), not to mention they produced the film adaptation of your favorite Feline Christ narrative and mine, The Chronicles of Narnia.

I’m actually inclined to go along with them. As I look at their filmography, it’s all family oriented stuff, but very few of their films have overtly Christian themes. Some of their output has been absolutely atrocious, but only Narnia is clearly Christian propaganda.

At least I thought so. That brings us to Eric Brevig’s 3-D Brendan Frasier vehicle, Journey to the Center of the Earth. Wait a minute, I can hear you asking, How can an adaptation of a Jules Verne novel be seen as Christian propaganda? Well, that’s the thing: it’s not an adaptation.

The premise of this theme park ride film is that Verne’s account in Journey to the Center of the Earth is literally true. Frasier’s older brother was a geologist with some kookie ideas about lava tubes thousands of miles deep, who went off to Iceland to investigate his theories and vanished. Ten years later, Frasier comes across an old, dog-eared copy of his brother’s favorite book (guess) that’s cryptically annotated1 in ways that suggest what he was up to.

Frasier, being the sort of grossly irresponsible adult that keeps these types of movies clipping along, scoots off to Iceland with his annoyingly-surly-cum-annoyingly-eager teenage nephew (the lava-tube-kook’s son, of course). Yadda, yadda, yadda… Strained comedy happens. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

In short time, they find out from the leggy, blonde, Icelandic love interest that their brother/father was a “Vernian:” someone who believes that Jules Verne’s account of the lost world at the center of the Earth is literally true. Whether Vernians extend this to his other works is never addressed, although I’m rooting for Mysterious Island.

Through a series of unlikely events (lightning, mine cars), Frasier, the kid & the hottie end up falling down a lava tube and landing in Verne’s weird subterranean world. “He was right!” Frasier says of his dearly departed brother, “People ridiculed him for what he believed but he was right!”

This is the point in this post when I get a bit nervous, wondering if I’m reading way too much into what is otherwise simple escapist fare. “Overthinking a plate of beans,” as they say at MetaFilter. OK… is this aspect of the story speaking directly to the Creationists in the audience?

This guy takes a clearly fictional and ridiculous story and interprets it as true, all evidence to the contrary, and is ridiculed by the scientific establishment. But, get this: it turns out he was right!

I could have left this alone as a plot device, but that line of dialogue quoted above just won’t let me. In context, it seems shoehorned in, and it seems specially designed to cater to the persecution complex that most conservative Christians share these days. Especially Creationists.

Once that one line planted the seed in my mind, something else started bothering me. Despite the movie’s assertion that Verne’s novel is complete non-fiction, the reality of the underground world differs from the novel in a key way. From Wikipedia:

The living organisms they meet reflects the geological time; just as the rock layers become older and older the deeper one gets, the animals get more and more ancient the closer the characters come to the center. From a scientific point of view, this story has not aged quite as well as other Verne stories, since most of his ideas about what the interior of the Earth contains have since been proven wrong. However, a redeeming point to the story is Verne’s own belief, told within the novel from the viewpoint of a character, that the inside of the Earth does indeed differ from that which the characters encounter. One of Verne’s main ideas with his stories was also to educate the readers, and by placing the different extinct creatures the characters meet in their correct geological era, he is able to show how the world looked like millions of years ago, stretching from the ice age to the dinosaurs.

This is an element of the story that is completely thrown out the window, in favor of a smattering of “prehistoric” creatures that pop in here and there, such as bioluminescent birds, predatory plants, and a giant carnosaur that appears to be twice as large as the biggest T. rex.2 I find it surprising that this blatantly educational aspect of the story was thrown out, considering Walden’s emphasis on education. Wikipedia again, because I’m feeling lazy:

Walden Media is unique among film production companies in that it works with teachers, museums, and national organizations to develop supplemental educational programs and materials associated with its films and the original events and/or novels that inspire the films.

But you eliminate this one element, you also eliminate two Creationist pet peeves: discussion of an ancient earth and a narrative that also functions as metaphor. There’s no room for metaphor in this literal view of Verne.

Again, I realize that I may be reading way to much into this, but keep in mind that it kept me entertained when the movie did not. I had absolutely nothing else to think about! The movie is a chore to watch, in a way that has nothing to do with religion or politics. The writing is flat when it’s not sappy, the action scenes are dull and few in number3 and, as an advocate of digital filmmaking, I’m going to pretend this movie was never made. By that, I mean it displays all the staginess of a movie that was shot in a small green screen studio by someone who doesn’t know how to make that not matter. The characters always seem confined to small areas as their epic surroundings swirl around them. I didn’t see this in 3-D, mind you, but I doubt it would have helped too much. Poor Frasier… I usually enjoy him!

1 Why bother with encoding your notes if you’re going to half-ass it? Frasier and the kid crack it during a plane ride.

2 Seeing as how we never see any prey animals of any size, I have to wonder how this environment supports an alpha predator this big. /DORK

3 “The food here is terrible!” “I know! And such small portions!”

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Sue Jones-Davies, the actress who played Judith Iscariot in Monty Python’s Life of Bryan, is now mayor of the Welsh town of Aberystwyth* and is trying to lift the town’s ban on… The Life of Brian!

Some religious groups picketed cinemas which screened the film, and it was banned from being shown in some towns and cities, including Aberystwyth.

Nearly 30 years on, Mr Bell, vicar of the town’s St Michael’s Church, said the restriction should remain in place.

“There’s been no change in attitude or response to the film amongst the Christians who have spoken to me in Aberystwyth,” he explained.

“The film at its root is poking fun at Christ and we don’t want that to happen. I don’t think that the film should be shown. Why should the ban be removed?”

Asked if he had ever seen the film, Mr Bell said he had “seen a small clip, that’s all”.

Surprise, surprise. Read the whole thing.

*Gesundheit!

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Skeptico on What The (Bleep) Do We Know!? (1)


Thank God For Bill Maher

Posted by Shannon

It’s nice that there’s room these days for a public figure who’s overtly anti-religion. Here’s the trailer for Maher’s new movie, Religulous.

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Einstein on religion

Posted by Shannon

“The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

Well, I suppose that puts one of his most famous quotes in its proper context. Link! [via Digg]

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The Raw Story:

Rep. Broun has introduced H.R. 5821, also known as the Military Honor and Decency Act, which would close what he calls a loophole that allows the continued distribution of pornography to soldiers, to their moral detriment, with the help of taxpayer funds.

“As a Marine, I am deeply concerned for the welfare of our troops and their mission,” Broun said on April 17. “Allowing the sale of pornography on military bases has harmed military men and women by: escalating the number of violent, sexual crimes; feeding a base addiction; eroding the family as the primary building block of society; and denigrating the moral standing of our troops both here and abroad. Our troops should not see their honor sullied so that the moguls behind magazines like Playboy and Penthouse can profit. The ‘Military Honor and Decency Act’ will right a bureaucratic–and moral–wrong.”

Let me get this straight: you can die for your country, but you can’t squeeze out a few rounds for your own benefit? Dick. Link! [via Don't Taze Me Bro]

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Progress!

Posted by Shannon

Atheists are moving up in the world! Unlike a few years ago, we aren’t the worst people in the world! Those would be the Scientologists!

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Sanctimonious monsters

Posted by Shannon

The great pious Catholic Pope stands before this man, and what does he say? Does he mention that Jesus asked that we do to others as we would have them do to us? Does he remind him that they call their religious figurehead the “Prince of Peace”, and that he asked us to turn the other cheek when we were struck, or that he asked that we protect the poor and weak? Does he point out that the central event in their shared faith was the torture and execution of their prophet and god, and that the New Testament isn’t about emulating the heroic Romans?

No, of course not. An obscenely wealthy old man heading an organization that protects child abusers and advocates horrendous and ignorant social practices that harm the poor all around the world would look utterly hypocritical even trying to rebuke a war-monger and apologist for torture. So instead he stands there and tells him that they share common principles founded in fear of a nebulous god. Those are ‘principles’ I reject — they seem to be nothing but labile excuses for doing as you will to anyone who falls under your thumb.

There’s an evil tableau for you: the callous torturer stands up with blood on his hands and a lie in his teeth, while the priest draped in gilt reassures him of his righteousness. How often has that scene played out in history, I wonder?

Read on.

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Wired:

The two remaining Democratic presidential candidates recently agreed to participate in the Compassion Forum, scheduled for April 13 at Messiah College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Billed as a conversation on faith and values, the event will be broadcast by the Church Communication Network. It also comes five days before a proposed science debate that was canceled after the candidates refused to participate.

Emphasis mine. Why would they want to talk about, you know, issues that actually affect the future of life on this planet, when they could be yammering away about the same ancient lies that have been killing people for millennia.

Fuck. And this is the comparatively rational party. It’s enough to make you want to take the Lord’s name in vain. Read on.

UPDATE: Just came across this. Seemed appropriate.

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