Friday, October 24, 2008


I sometimes wonder about my taste in, well, media. I guess that I am not particularly discriminating. I find that I am also easily swayed by other's opinions. For example, I loved the movie Cloverfield and visited a few of the associated websites before and after watching. Later, upon reading reviews, I began thinking, yeah, that was strange, the four of them, one the others hardly knew, going into the city, especially after the girl inflated and blew up. Would that guy really have filmed the whole thing? Maybe it wasn't that good?

Anyway, in some respects my opinions are easily swayed.

Case in point, I read the first ten books of the Left Behind series. I went in not expecting a lot, mostly just curious what the hullabaloo was about. I finished the ten and wasn't nauseated (I stopped at ten because later books in the series were not available at that library. I wouldn't have paid for them and perhaps that made my expectations a little lower - Woo-hoo free- crappy, but free- books!) I noted a few things strange about them wasn't really put off by them and never really articulated my problems with the books clearly.

Slacktivist is critiquing the series around ten pages a week. It took him a few years to finish the first book and should start Tribulation Force (book 2) in November. He has really articulated the many, many problems the books have.

I told you I was easily swayed. My opinion has changed from "they aren't terrible" to "they are completely terrible".

In my defence, Slacktivist has an evangelical background, of a different sort than the authors, that lets him understand their religious message better than I. He is mostly upset by the appearance of glee the 'heroes' have that many will burn in Hell. There is a strong feeling of "I told you so. Nya-nya!" in the book.

The other problem, one I had noticed, was how things were so normal in the book. Every child under the age of ...well, around puberty, is gone from the Earth as are all the Real Christians. Between one and two billion people. In addition, many cars and planes crashed as the pilots disappeared. The world is in chaos - for an hour or so.

A character is wandering around an airport after the Rapture (which took these many people away) and outside the window crashed aircraft are burning and pilots are trying to land other jets amid the wreckage. The character meets a doctor who is 'bored' and offers to treat the character's head wound. I guess the doctor didn't look out the window at the hundreds of people who needed his help.

No one seems to notice, a day or two after the Rapture, that all the kids are gone. Another character's house is robbed and his son's toys are stolen - why? There are no children and no babies will be born for the next nine months.

Anyway, the books are bad but the blog is great. Slacktivist.

I just finished reading Mean and Lowly Things, a description of a researcher's work and troubles collecting snakes in the Congo. Although the descriptions of the insects and parasites are off-putting, this researcher is living the life I thought I would be when I was young. As with the researcher, I had a fascination with snakes from my early childhood. As she is from Ontario, we even saw many of the same snakes. For some reason I ended up here in Korea but vicariously feel I was there with her catching snakes, venomous and not, in trying conditions.

Quirks and Quarks interview - bottom of page.

I grew up catching snakes but also reading Farley Mowat, who probably caught snakes, but certainly dozens of other animals, in his childhood. I loved his recollections of his childhood and his wolf research. There have been claims that his stories are more fiction than fact. He may have spent only two weeks studying wolves rather than a year and a half.

"The Toronto Star has written that Mowat's memoirs are at least partially fictional. In a 1968 interview with CBC Radio, Farley admitted that he doesn't let the facts get in the way of the truth (Canada Reads). Once, when Mowat said that he had spent two summers and a winter studying wolves, the Toronto Star wrote that Mowat had only spent 90 hours studying the wolves."

As I grew older, I learned that he was, well, an out-sized personality. A friend of the family, in the OPP, was seconded to guard the Premiere of Ontario. At an event, they met Mowat, who drank directly from the punchbowl (or some other hijink). In the car, after the event, the Premiere and the guard agreed he was a bit of a jerk (sterner language was used but I forget and am concerned about privacy).

While at university, I had a lab instructor from Memorial U (in Newfoundland). I mentioned that Mowat was a hero of mine and he was upset and amused, but held back, protecting my naivety. They don't care for him much in Newfoundland.

Anyway, I have huge, fond feelings for him and his work and felt terrible when I saw the write up for Otherwise. "Product Description
A Canadian icon gives us his final book, a memoir of the events that shaped this beloved writer and activist."
His final book? I know the guy's in his eighties, but 'final book' sounds, well, final. I want him to relax and enjoy life, but I feel sad to see the door closed and slammed shut. So far as I know, by the way, he is still alive.

On the topic of books that make me feel sad about their authors, Terry Pratchett has a new one out. Nation looks interesting and I will probably get it when it comes out in softcover. I am not a serious Pratchett fan but read a book or two of his a year - at that rate, it will be many years before I run out; he is remarkable prolific. But also, he has Alzheimer's Disease.
"On 11 December 2007, Pratchett posted online that he had been newly diagnosed with a very rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's disease, which he said "lay behind this year's phantom 'stroke'." He has a rare form of the disease called posterior cortical atrophy, in which areas at the back of the brain begin to shrink and shrivel.[12] Pratchett appealed to people to "keep things cheerful", and proclaimed that "we are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism."[26] Leading the way, Pratchett stated that he feels he has time for "at least a few more books yet."...

All the best to him.


skindleshanks said...

I think we're all susceptible to a good conspiracy theory. I read Mowat's "Never Cry Wolf" and decided to use it as a theme for the 4H speech contest. It's one of the more embarrassing things I have done. Once one of my uncles living up north heard about that, he had a talk with me about Farley Mowat, who is "affectionately" known there as "Hardly-Know-It."

I've never read the "Left Behind" series--I have seen the movie with Kirk Cameron, and for the budet, it wasn't awful. Although I've attended seminary, I've never really felt the need to take a position on the tribulation. The concept of the books never really appealed to me.
If you like dabbling in religious thrillers, Frank Perretti has a couple that are interesting (not all that theologically sound, but well written). I liked "The Oath."

On an unrelated note, I watched a documentary about the Intelligent Design controversy the other night. One observation I have is that it seemed to confirm my opinion (which essentially drove me from science in the first place) that the scientific community in general is fairly unwilling to objectively consider possibilities that don't jive with their preconceptions. Surprisingly, although the documentary was definitely weighted against ID, it was the evolutionists who came across as closed-minded and aggressive. Richard Dawkins, in particular, didn't win any points with his "I'm not going to dignify them with a response" message.
After watching the documentary I'm still undecided, but I still think that the issue of Who or What caused the universe (and life) to come to be is beyond the realm of observable science, and is highly subjective and perhaps a waste of time.

Masuro said...

I also liked Cloverfield because it was very entertaining. A bit silly at times, to be sure. I may have filmed everything for posterity but I certainly wouldn't be following golden-boy back to his ex-girlfriend's apartment in the middle of the action.
I can't understand why Slactivist would spend so many hours criticising a book he doesn't like. Surely he could spend those hours reading books he likes.

kwandongbrian said...

I don't know the documentary you saw so I can't really comment. My understanding is that documentary makers interview Dawkins under false pretences and manipulated the tape in a way he found wrong.

No one will know the exact origin of life but the study of evolution saves lives so it would be wise to continue to study that field.

At the Dover trial in 2005, the ID witnesses admitted that for ID to be science, you had to change the definition of science - allowing astrology, among others, in.

Masuro, I think Slacktivist felt it would be instructive to show the shortcomings of the books -there is nothing literal in their 'literal reading' of the bible. Whatever, I am entertained by his criticism.

skindleshanks said...

I think to make ANY claims about the origin of everything, one must change the definition of science, making it in a sense, another religion.
That's how I explain the "religious fervor" on both sides of the argument (which I find much more fascinating and infuriating than the content of the arguments themselves).

I haven't heard much of what Dawkins said beyond this one documentary (it was on channel 59, btw), but if anything it was fairly pro-evolution in tone, and yet Dawkins came off as the least eloquent of the bunch (although the rep from the Discovery institute was pretty bad, too).