Text 3 Jul Michael Jackson, Back from the Dead. (Virtually)

Janet Jackson revives brother’s memories with virtual duet

By Samuel Burke, CNN

July 3, 2011 9:36 a.m. EDT

Janet Jackson (R) performs during a tribute to Michael Jackson at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards in New York, September 13, 2009.     REUTERS/Gary Hershorn/Files

London (CNN) — Janet Jackson is opening up for the first time about a duet with her brother that she’s reviving two years after his death.

Jackson took to the stage in London on Thursday and performed their 1995 song Scream as video of Michael Jackson played and his voice filled Royal Albert Hall.

The reworked duet follows in the footsteps of jazz pianist and singer Nat King Cole and his daughter, Natalie Cole. In 1991 she turned her father’s famous 1961 recording “Unforgettable” into a father-daughter duet.

Janet Jackson said she did the original duet at the request of her brother years ago.

"I was on the Rhythm Nation tour and Mike actually asked me to do a song with him and I told him no. I didn’t want to do it. I felt I hadn’t come into my own and I hadn’t fully made a name for myself … and I didn’t want to ride anyone’s coattails," she said. "And I remember being in the Janet Tour a few good years later and he asked me again if I would do a song with him. And I felt, at that point, I’d carved my own little niche in this world of music and I felt okay, I can do this now and that’s how it came about."

Jackson said that performing the song alongside her brother again isn’t difficult.

"It feels great — just listening to and hearing his voice," she said, adding that on stage she finds herself, "remembering the experience of recording it."

Jackson declined to comment to the press on the two-year mark of her brother’s death, instead taking to social media this week with a simple message on Twitter on the June 25 anniversary: “I miss you, I love you.”

Jackson wraps up the European leg of her tour this week then heads to North America, Australia and Africa.

WHAT DOES PROFETCETERA SAY?

Natalie’s inimitable father Nat had been dead 30 years when she covered her daddy’s signature piece “Unforgettable.” He died four years after the original reecording, in 1965. Natalie was a little girl then, and her recording of the ‘duet’ with her long-lost daddy was a sweet as it could be, and became a smash hit. 

                 

Poor androgynous post-racial alienic humanoid Michael died in 2009 at the hands of a bungling physician. The news clogged Google (where they thought they were suffering a cyber attack), and crashed Twitter, AOL-IM and Wikipedia. A man obssessive over his polyvalent and polymorphous image during his lifetime has now become a backdrop to his little sister … a girl who at times seemed almost a simulacrum of Michael himself.

                                       Jacksonian Shell Game

I find it disturbingly weird that just two years later Janet Jackson (who doesn’t want to ride on anyone’s coattails) has resurrected her dead brother’s voice and image to jazz up her tour. Is it entirely honest to bill this as a “live” performance? Nat could not have been sitting in the audience while his chanteuse daughter Natalie crooned his own masterpiece in an unforgettable way. He could not have harmonized, consciously or unconsciously. But now an irreducibly digitized Michael — now demoted to a backup singer — will be onstage with Janet Jackson.

But if the real Michael — back from the grave — did show up onstage with Janet instead of behind her like some 1984 Big-Brother Apple commercial … well, that would sell some tickets. Resurrection is a much sought-after option. Just imagine: a resurrected dead man, surrounded by confused fans, themselves being the actual dead ones, and not understanding what was actually going on…

Now that would be a Thriller.

         

Text 17 May HUMANITY ON TRIAL, ‘FOR BREACHING RELATIONS WITH PLANET’

Nobel laureates in Stockholm climate 'trial'

Nobel laureates in Stockholm climate ‘trial’

Published: 17 May 11 13:52 CET | Double click on a word to get a translation
Updated: 17 May 11 16:18 CET
Online: http://www.thelocal.se/33826/20110517/

 

Around 20 Nobel prize winners will preside over a mock courtroom in Stockholm on Tuesday, with the Planet Earth and humanity on opposing sides of the case, as part of a symposium to highlight global sustainability.

"It’s a civil court case to see whether we’ve breached our relations" with the planet, "and to see how to restore that relationship," symposium chair Johan Rockström told reporters at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The “trial” will be one of the sessions at the third biennial Nobel laureate symposium on global sustainability — a three-day event that opened in the Swedish capital Tuesday.

In addition to the Nobel laureates, leading scientists and environmental research group heads were on site to draft a Stockholm Memorandum on the findings of the meeting, which will be presented Wednesday to the United High-level Panel on Global Sustainability.

Rockström explained that one of the sessions had been shaped as a trial since “we’ve come to the point where just another meeting with another dialogue would fail to have an impact (and to clearly) communicate … the possibilities and challenges we are facing.”

"History will in any case judge us," Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren told reporters, explaining the "trial" was actually about humanity judging itself with future generations in mind.

Mario Molina of Mexico, the winner of the 1995 Nobel Chemistry Prize who is a science and technology advisor to US President Barack Obama, told the news
conference he hoped rationality, common sense and wisdom would strengthen the
planet’s case in the “symbolic” trial.

At the conference’s inaugural speech, Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria stressed the urgency of acting to make the world a better place.

"Mankind faces tremendous challenges if we are to hand our future generations a healthier mother earth, … a planet more sustainable than it was when we received it from our parents," the princess said in a speech inaugurating the symposium.

"I see no better persons than Nobel laureates to carry this message to the world," she told the delegates.

The princess and delegates were welcomed at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences by a tiny group of protesters.

"Manmade climate change is an unproven, unscientific political ideal… If we implement what these people are saying, billions of people are going to die of poverty," said protestor Hussein Askary

The Stockholm Memorandum will be considered by the UN panel, which was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and includes South Africa’s
President Jacob Zuma and his Finnish counterpart Tarja Halonen and has been
tasked with putting together a “new vision” on sustainable growth.

The panel will draw up a report with suggestions before the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.                          

 

 WHAT DOES PROFETCETERA SAY? 

 

 That’s absolutely right. Humans have in fact breached their relationship with the planet — by breaching it with God first (see Genesis 3). The resultant very human longing for a “restored relationship” is exactly what Paul talks about in Romans 8: 

For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

All Creation has entered a Fallen state, and experiences misery rather than joy as its default condition. Death is the order of the day. And this sum of creation (ktisis in the original Greek) is —along with all mankind — groaning in agony, awaiting the final judgment and restitution of perfect justice and original design.

But apparently a few well-meaning folks in Stockholm think they can move up the trial date. I doubt they recognize the cosmic irony here — that they — WE — are the cause of the Fallenness we see all around, and are in no more place to be judges than we are capable of repairing our condition.

Not to worry: God will defend the Earth quite sufficiently. And He will repair it beyond our wildest imagination. What we should be worried about is how we will fare in the coming trial….

Text 29 Apr 5 notes Corpse Disposal and the ‘Imago Dei’

Calif. Lawmakers Seek Liquefaction as Alternative to Cremation

Apr 28, 2011 – 5:20 PM By Tori Richards

It sounds like the stuff of horror movies — placing a body in a steel tube and then covering it with a mixture of water and acid until most of the remains are liquefied.

But it’s actually a scientific process called alkaline hydrolysis that is on track toward becoming an alternative to cremation in California. Lawmakers are unanimously supporting a bill that would legalize the procedure with heavy oversight at mortuaries and funeral homes. Last year Florida passed a similar law, but no business has a license to perform the procedure.

California Assemblyman Jeff Miller sponsored the bill when he learned that it was an eco-friendly alternative to cremation.

"California is famous for going green, not only just as a way of life but as a way of taking care of loved ones in end of life," said Miller’s legislative director, Johannes Escudero.

The decomposition process occurs with water and potassium hydroxide, which is then heated for at least three hours. Tissue and organs are dissolved into the liquid, while the bone is left behind as an ashy mixture similar to a cremation. The leftover water is treated and then flushed down a drain.

The process is pollution free because it releases no greenhouse gases into the air.

Escudero told AOL News that people should not get caught up in the logistics of the operation.

"The idea of dumping someone down the drain is a misnomer. It creates the idea that you are dumping Grandma down the drain, and that’s not the case at all," he said. "There is nothing more inhumane than burning a body, which is the case with cremation."

Only three places in the nation conduct this procedure on humans as a way to dispose of cadavers used for scientific research — the University of Southern California, the University of Florida and the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

A fourth, Edwards Funeral Service in Columbus, Ohio, has been using alkaline hydrolysis for two months without a permit. Last month state officials ordered owner Jeff Edwards to stop using alkaline hydrolysis process; Edwards says he plans to sue.

          Funeral director Jeff Edwards, of Edwards Funeral Service, is seen with his alkaline hydrolysis machine.

            Funeral director Jeff Edwards, of Edwards Funeral Service, is seen with his alkaline hydrolysis machine, which uses heat and lye to render body tissues to liquid. The state of Ohio has halted this burial technique, preventing Edwards from offering it to customers.


The procedure has at least one detractor.

"We believe this process, which enables a portion of human remains to be flushed down a drain, to be undignified," Patrick McGee, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, N.H., told The Associated Press.

                         WHAT DOES PROFETCETERA SAY?

But … what if I clog the pipes and they have to call RotoRooter? Not a fine end, methinks. At least it is eco-friendly! ‘Go Green’ — literally.

Maybe it’s me, but Jeff Edwards looks rather like a cheesy horror flick villain, the kind of guy who’d invite you into his mortuary (I mean candy shop) for some licorice shoelaces or a malted — and then puree you in the slushee machine. I bet he could contract himself out to the Mafia and start generating some real cashflow!

How exactly does he sell this, um, service, to his target market?

"Well, it really is dignified and quite fitting — we simply return to the primoridal soup, the primeval slime, from whence we came. And for just three easy payments of …"

                     

Now, I don’t think there is biblical warrant either for or against any postmortem disposal method for our earthly remains. The Resurrection Body is a whole new creation, it seems to me, and the interim state of the atoms which — in some sense at least — make up You and I, well, that’s just not important.

        

                                               Final Address?

                                 

                         Prepared for Cremation on the banks of the Ganges

                        

                       Jeremy Bentham, Utilitarian philosopher, inventor of the

                        Panopticon, and the kind of guy who wanted his body

             preserved and left on public display … with his head between his feet.

                   

                                        Boris Karloff as the Mummy

        

                                      Do not attempt this at home

          

An example of the curiously horrific Victorian fascination with postmortem photography, where dead bodies were dressed, propped up, and photographed as mementos of the funeral … Many families who were too poor to afford a photo portrait of a family member would nonetheless splurge for one right after they died, as a sort of final macabre token of the one who would soon be forever gone from their sight. Three children here are painfully uncomfortable while posing with their young, and recently deceased, sibling, who has been propped unconvincingly in a chair.

       

                                                    Mercedes

 

                                                                Used Hyundai

God is not a respecter of persons — nor need Christians be respecters of death, and varying post-death physical states. “The seas shall give up the dead.” Why would an acid bath be exempt from that?

But I think the real issue lies elsewhere.

You have to do something with the bodies of the dead. You can’t just … leave them scattered about, like unraked leaves. They must be hidden from view, stashed away, if not destroyed outright. They must be suppressed.

The imago dei is so powerful that seeing it in the final resolution — that silent, still, ultimate state, showing more clearly than ever all the wages of sin and the final installment payment for the Fall — is unbearable. Yes, we must prevent disease, yes, we must respect the dead, and mourn for them too, and then allow them to return to dust in peace and privacy.

But most of all we must suppress the truth that this is our end also, and this end, this final resolution, is a final degrading of the image of God in us, a payment and a penalty, a punishment and a premonition. God’s debt has finally been collected. And for us, this is humiliation beyond comprehension.

But at the same time, this — the disposal of the body — is also our last chance, however perversely reversed, to attempt to eradicate the imago dei from our consciousness. We spend our lives suppressing the truth (Romans 1:18). When we are finally successful … we die. But only to find out then that we were wrong; thus does suppressed truth always haunt, and is in fact haunting itself. And it is then that we must suppress the body as image-bearer, even as we wish to preserve it in our memory, as in the Victorian postmortem photography. We try, one final time, to kill God’s image in ourselves. So we imagine.

And we have the image to prove it.

          

Text 19 Apr 4 notes Simulacrum Symmetry

                  The Real, The Unreal, The HyperReal.

       

Along the lines of several of my earlier posts http://profetcetera.tumblr.com/post/4268450329

http://profetcetera.tumblr.com/post/3946206062

And this exceedingly creepy video which I posted on March 7:

http://www.youtube.com/embed/eZlLNVmaPbM

….Comes yet another example of the ‘Uncanny Valley Effect.’

Read the article below, followed by my commentary.

Too Real Means Too Creepy in New Disney Animation

By Ryan Nakashima

April 4, 2011


Photo by Disney LOS ANGELES (AP) - Computer animation has a problem: When it gets too realistic, it starts creeping people out.

Most recently, moviegoers complained about the near-realistic depiction of humans in Disney’s 3-D flick “Mars Needs Moms.”

A theory called the “uncanny valley” says we tend to feel attracted to inanimate objects with human traits, the way a teddy bear or a rag doll seems cute. Our affection grows as an object looks more human. But if it looks too human, we suddenly become repulsed.

Instead of seeing what’s similar, we notice the flaws - and the motionless eyes or awkward movements suddenly make us uncomfortable.

"Mars" may have plunged to the bottom of this valley of fear.

"People always comment on things feeling strangely dead around the eyes," said Chuck Sheetz, an animation director of "The Simpsons" and a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. "If it gets too literal, it starts to feel false or has a strange effect."

Skin texture that is slightly off can especially leave people feeling unsettled, said Patrick Markey, a psychologist and director of Villanova University’s Interpersonal Research Laboratory.

The near-realistic animation style championed by producer Robert Zemeckis uses motion-capture technology, where actors are covered with dots and skin suits and have their performances captured on computer. The dots provide the frame, and the rest is filled in with computerized graphics.

"Mars" creates humans that are more realistic and detailed than Zemeckis’ earlier attempts in such movies as "Beowulf" and "The Polar Express" - which were also criticized for inviting this discomfort. The greater detail might have made things worse.

Doug McGoldrick, who took his two daughters to see the movie, said the faces of the main characters “were just wrong.” Their foreheads were lifeless and plastic-looking, “like they used way too much botox or something,” said the 41-year-old photographer in the Chicago suburb of River Forest, Ill.

Marc Kelley, a 32-year-old pastor in Allegan, Mich., who went with his two young children, said he found the renditions of characters “all annoying in their own way.”

Indeed, when the mother of the main character Milo mentioned the word “zombies” at the start of the movie, it conjures up a feeling that the characters themselves are undead.

Animation experts say the key to success is to be only authentic enough to tug at our heart strings.

The best example of this was “Avatar,” the 2009 blockbuster that made $2.8 billion in theaters worldwide. The humanoid, but blue-bodied Na’vi were alien enough not to trigger our inner rejection mechanism.

"My own personal opinion is try to stay away from photo-real with a human," said Greg Philyaw, the business development director at Giant Studios, which captured the performance of human actors for their digital re-creation in "Avatar." ”Subconsciously you know what you’re looking at isn’t quite right."

The Walt Disney Co., by its actions, has already voted against the super-real animation format.

Last March, it said it would shut down the Zemeckis-run company ImageMovers Digital, which made “Mars,” to cut costs. Several months ago, Disney also nixed a plan to fund and distribute Zemeckis’ “Yellow Submarine,” a half-finished work he is now free to shop to other studios.

Disney declined to comment for this story, and Zemeckis declined interview requests through an agent.

"Mars" had an estimated $150 million production budget, but has brought in just $34 million globally since its March 11 opening.

To be fair, there were other problems besides being visually unnerving.

For one, it appeared to be marketed at young boys who are interested in science fiction but also are closely attached to their mothers. That is a small group to begin with and neglects dads and daughters. Some young children also got scared about the plot involving mommy abduction.

"Mars" also came just a week after Paramount’s 2-D animated movie, "Rango," starring Johnny Depp. Instead of appealing to fans because of the increasingly popular 3-D format, "Mars" may have annoyed theatergoers faced with higher 3-D ticket prices.

"If a movie’s unappealing and you’re trying to charge a higher ticket price for it, it makes it even less appealing," said Brandon Gray, president of tracking company Box Office Mojo. He noted that "Mars" had the lowest opening weekend for a wide-release 3-D movie ever.

Maija Burnett, associate director of character animation at California Institute of the Arts, took a broader view, even though the school teaches about the pitfalls of the “uncanny valley” in class.

"There’s a continuing attempt to explore what the boundaries are within (computer generated) animation," she said. "Every film that uses this is one important step along the way."

In the “uncanny valley” theory, the valley isn’t bottomless. As things grow more realistically human, our affection starts increasing again, climbing out of the valley on the other side. In other words, increasingly sophisticated animation might stop creeping us out and start fooling us.

WHAT DOES PROFETCTERA SAY?

Disney has always been at the forefront of simulated reality. From the Animatronic Pirates of the Caribbean to their marvellous animated films of the 1930s, the technologically derived replacement reality that has been their corporate aegis has delighted billions of us.


What gave these simulacra their potency was not how real they were but how real they weren’t. I clearly recall the revelatory faux leg-hair of one particular Caribbean Pirate, holding his Rum jug and cavalierly dangling his right foot over my head from a bridge just outside Orlando in 1970. It was a formative moment of my youth. I had seen the Unreal as if it was Real — and the universe of the human imagination was opened up to me as never before. But then, as the scales fell off my childish eyes, I saw that weird leg hair, too-filthy foot and slightly jerky animatronic motion and knew that the Unreal parading as the Real … really was unreal. No leg hair looks like that … and no human moves in such a fashion. For a moment I was crushed as the fantasy collapsed under the weight of its own effort to sufficiently (if temporarily) replace reality.

                 

But then something marvellous happened. Instead of diminishing the pleasure of the experience, the revelation of falsity enhanced it. Close to Real — but not so close it became hard to tell the difference. And that was the key. Now I could enjoy the ride, understanding it as theater, and recognizing my own willingness to suspend disbelief as an act of personal imaginative power, not of weak deceivableness.

             

Man, made in the image of God, always finds himself, after the Fall, in the unstable liminal space between fantasy and reality. We do not know who and what we are, though we suspect. We suppress the truth (Romans 1:18) of the universe, of God, and of our own condition and nature, and those suppressed truths always come back to haunt us. We create realites in order to replace the Real Realities that we vainly deny in our fallen futility.

When the ‘imago dei’ — individually or corporately — gains the technological ability to reproduce the world of creation (painting, Disney rides, movies), we strongly reflect God’s own creative nature, found in us. We act, in a sense, like Him. Made in the image of a Creator, we likewise have a drive to create that is irresistible. But we also have developed the ability to reproduce versions of humanity in a variety of ‘genres’ — robots, androids, film images, voice simulators, computers that play chess and compete on game shows. And these fascinating exercises grow increasingly disturbing as they approach the Hyperreal — the ‘more real than real’ —as they merge too completely with our actual sense experience of real humans. For at that moment — the moment of the ‘Uncanny Valley Effect’ — we create, like Victor Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s incomparably brilliant 1818 novel, an image of ourselves that is too true.

             

We are, in our present Fallen state, not what we were meant to be — something is not right. Not quite. 

Simulacum humanity thus is too true for us to bear, and therefore must be rejected, even as Victor runs from his creature, a thing designed to be beautiful and perfect but in actuality heinous, monstrous, unbearable. For this is the moment when the suppressed truth of our Fallen condition rears itself up and condemns us in our depravity. The mirror image always fights back. God made us in His image and we rebelled. To while away the time, we make the simulacrum image of man in our image — in effect we recreate the image of God — and then rebel against it.

The symmetry is perfect, and terrifying.

         

Text 15 Apr 2 notes Quiet.

   

Too Loud, Too Old

Saturday morning I was rocketed out of bed by the usual wake-up screech of a car alarm. For a moment, I was poised to reach for my Louisville Slugger and do a “Rectifier” on the offending automobile (if you don’t get the reference, it’s from the Henry Bean film Noise). In my hysteria, I was under the delusion that I still possessed my Little League baseball bat.

Now, today I read that noise is a threat not only to my increasingly fragile mental state, but to my physical health, as well. And not just by damaging what’s left of my hearing.

According to a World Heath Organization report, noise, after air pollution, is the second leading environmental cause of ill health. Noise (from the Latin nausea) reportedly contributes to heart disease by “raising blood pressure and blood-borne concentrations of stress hormones and fatty materials. These accumulate over time to clog blood vessels and trigger a heart attack.”

Noise makes us dumber, too. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once claimed the amount of noise anyone can tolerate undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to one’s mental capacity:

Noise is a torture to intellectual people. In the biographies of almost all great writers…I find complaints about it; in the case of Kant, for instance, Goethe, Lichtenberg, Jean Paul.

 The only slightly less pessimistic Theodore Dalrymple agrees:

I fear the effect of constant noise on the development of human inwardness. I find it difficult to believe that those who live in constant noise can ever reflect very deeply upon anything. Their taste for noise, that becomes almost a physiological need for them since they grow anxious without it, seems to me to bespeak a fear of being left alone with their own thoughts.

The problem, as I see it, is noise is doing in the wrong people. It should be snuffing out those responsible for it — only that never happens. Like Frankenstein’s monster, noise goes about slaughtering everyone but its creator. And sadly you cannot eliminate noise via a bunch of villagers with torches and pitchforks, although sometimes a baseball bat works to wonderful effect.

LIVING IN THE CITY like I do, one is continuously assaulted by noise. And not just the rolling gun battles and the sirens that never sleep. My neighbors across the alley thoughtfully regale us with their ranchero music, while those across the street have introduced us to the sublime cadences of hip hop. Every night is like a ghetto battle of the bands. Just try calling the police in the nation’s most violent city to complain about loud music and see where that gets you.

But even that vile cacophony is not enough for some people, so my neighbors have adopted an assortment of pit bulls that bark idiotically 24/7. And thanks to the urban farm movement, roosters now give an added bit of color to the block. Why can’t these people live in the country like normal farmers? Or better yet, why can’t I live in the country?

But even that would be no guarantee of tranquility. Even in the supposedly peaceful suburbs there rumbles the incessant roar of lawnmowers big as combines. My favorite scene from Noise occurs when the Tim Robbins character, who has fled Gotham for the leafy suburbs, angrily confronts a neighbor over his raucous leafblower. “Did you ever hear of a rake?” he screams.

The neighbor punches him in eye. Deservedly, since he is, after all, Tim Robbins.

Small towns? Half of my life has been spent in various villages and hamlets. The myth that they are peaceful is just that. Small towns always seemed to have a biker bar across the street from wherever I happened to be living at the time. The odd thing was the bikers were mostly in their fifties and sixties, that time of life when people are supposed to become increasingly intolerant of noise. Instead, nearly all the elderly bikers had removed their mufflers and replaced them with Screaming Eagle straight pipes, which are literally noisier than a jet at take-off. Keeping my windows shut tight on pleasant spring evenings did nothing to alleviate my suffering, which was the noisemakers’ whole point.

What to do? The expectation that a swelling, graying population will refuse to tolerate excessive noise seems unlikely (based on my experience with the aged Harley riders). And we certainly do not need more legislation. More laws breed more lawyers and we need more lawyers like we need more taxes¾which also breed tax attorneys, come to think of it. Besides, the cops can’t enforce the laws already on the books.

When I was a teen the heavy metal headbanger motto was: “If it’s too loud, you’re too old!” Considering how many of today’s adults refuse to grow up, perhaps it’s no wonder nothing is considered too loud.

From ‘The American Spectator’

http://spectator.org/archives/2011/04/14/too-loud-too-old

                    

WHAT DOES PROFETCETERA SAY?

Well, now he doesn’t want to say anything at all. There’s already too much noise.

I fear we like noise too much. Because noise short-circuits thought. And thought might lead to …. revelations. And conclusions.

Personally, I work hard to make sure I get quiet time regularly. I do not mean religious ‘devotional time’ (I’ve never really quite done that in the traditional sense, as far as I can tell….does that make me suspect?)

           

I do though spend significant time every day sitting and reading and thinking in silence, or near silence. On good days, summer or the non-teaching days during Fall and Spring, I may read for as much as ten hours. Sometimes I sit next to the gurgling fountain and waterfall sounds of the pond in my front yard, which is a small forest of Redwood trees in a suburban desert. Yes, we have lawnmowers, leaf blowers, screaming kids, unnecessarily large diesel pickups, and a few loud stereos. When it gets loud, I migrate to the back yard, which faces a concave 200 foot high cliff rising above the house in a closed hanging canyon studded with brush and clinging oaks. Very private. Nothing but nature. I sit under four Ash trees next to another fountain, listen to the wind, and read and read and read. And write. Maybe there’s a little quiet music, lute or 16th century choral pieces; my wife regularly boils tea and the whistle of the hot drinks coming our way is a pleasant noise, not really a noise but a signal to stop and take in a bit of nourishment.

         

I can also work inside, but I don’t like to.

I have a nice big office on campus, with floor to ceiling books, books everywhere, scattered on the floor, the desk, chairs. There’s nowhere to sit. And it is quiet. It is not an office, really; it is a study — and there is a difference. An oasis of silence or near silence, which prompts thought, reflection, deep wondering and wonder. I realize I am tremendously blessed by these spaces of silence, more than most. But we all have to fight for quiet.

        

It is worth the fight.

 

Text 11 Apr 1 note Government Food, Government Schools, and Nietzsche

From the Chicago Tribune

Chicago school bans some lunches brought from home

To encourage healthful eating, Chicago school doesn’t allow kids to bring lunches or certain snacks from home — and some parents, and many students, aren’t fans of the policy

3:42 a.m. CDT, April 11, 2011

A Little Village Academy student cringes at an enchilada dish served at his school. Many students throw away their entrees uneaten and say they would rather bring food from home. The school, though, does not allow students to bring in their own lunches, unless they have a medical condition or a food allergy. (Monica Eng, Chicago Tribune / February 17, 2011)

Fernando Dominguez cut the figure of a young revolutionary leader during a recent lunch period at his elementary school.

"Who thinks the lunch is not good enough?" the seventh-grader shouted to his lunch mates in Spanish and English.

Dozens of hands flew in the air and fellow students shouted along: “We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch! We should bring our own lunch!”

Fernando waved his hand over the crowd and asked a visiting reporter: “Do you see the situation?”

At his public school, Little Village Academy on Chicago’s West Side, students are not allowed to pack lunches from home. Unless they have a medical excuse, they must eat the food served in the cafeteria.

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

"Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school," Carmona said. "It’s about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It’s milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception."

Carmona said she created the policy six years ago after watching students bring “bottles of soda and flaming hot chips” on field trips for their lunch. Although she would not name any other schools that employ such practices, she said it was fairly common.

A Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman said she could not say how many schools prohibit packed lunches and that decision is left to the judgment of the principals.

"While there is no formal policy, principals use common sense judgment based on their individual school environments," Monique Bond wrote in an email. "In this case, this principal is encouraging the healthier choices and attempting to make an impact that extends beyond the classroom."

Any school that bans homemade lunches also puts more money in the pockets of the district’s food provider, Chartwells-Thompson. The federal government pays the district for each free or reduced-price lunch taken, and the caterer receives a set fee from the district per lunch.

At Little Village, most students must take the meals served in the cafeteria or go hungry or both. During a recent visit to the school, dozens of students took the lunch but threw most of it in the garbage uneaten. Though CPS has improved the nutritional quality of its meals this year, it also has seen a drop-off in meal participation among students, many of whom say the food tastes bad.

"Some of the kids don’t like the food they give at our school for lunch or breakfast," said Little Village parent Erica Martinez. "So it would be a good idea if they could bring their lunch so they could at least eat something."

"(My grandson) is really picky about what he eats," said Anna Torrez, who was picking up the boy from school. "I think they should be able to bring their lunch. Other schools let them. But at this school, they don’t."

But parent Miguel Medina said he thinks the “no home lunch policy” is a good one. “The school food is very healthy,” he said, “and when they bring the food from home, there is no control over the food.”

At Claremont Academy Elementary School on the South Side, officials allow packed lunches but confiscate any snacks loaded with sugar or salt. (They often are returned after school.) Principal Rebecca Stinson said that though students may not like it, she has yet to hear a parent complain.

"The kids may have money or earn money and (buy junk food) without their parents’ knowledge," Stinson said, adding that most parents expect that the school will look out for their children.

Such discussions over school lunches and healthy eating echo a larger national debate about the role government should play in individual food choices.

"This is such a fundamental infringement on parental responsibility," said J. Justin Wilson, a senior researcher at the Washington-based Center for Consumer Freedom, which is partially funded by the food industry.

"Would the school balk if the parent wanted to prepare a healthier meal?" Wilson said. "This is the perfect illustration of how the government’s one-size-fits-all mandate on nutrition fails time and time again. Some parents may want to pack a gluten-free meal for a child, and others may have no problem with a child enjoying soda."

For many CPS parents, the idea of forbidding home-packed lunches would be unthinkable. If their children do not qualify for free or reduced-price meals, such a policy would require them to pay $2.25 a day for food they don’t necessarily like.

"We don’t spend anywhere close to that on my son’s daily intake of a sandwich (lovingly cut into the shape of a Star Wars ship), Goldfish crackers and milk," education policy professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach wrote in an email. Her son attends Nettelhorst Elementary School in Lakeview. "Not only would mandatory school lunches worsen the dietary quality of most kids’ lunches at Nettelhorst, but it would also cost more out of pocket to most parents! There is no chance the parents would stand for that."

Many Little Village students claim that, given the opportunity, they would make sound choices.

"They’re afraid that we’ll all bring in greasy food instead of healthy food and it won’t be as good as what they give us at school," said student Yesenia Gutierrez. "It’s really lame. If we could bring in our own lunches, everyone knows what they’d bring. For example, the vegetarians could bring in their own veggie food."

"I would bring a sandwich or a Subway and maybe a juice," said seventh-grader Ashley Valdez.

Second-grader Gerardo Ramos said, “I would bring a banana, orange and some grapes.”

"I would bring a juice and like a sandwich," said fourth-grader Eric Sanchez.

"Sometimes I would bring the healthy stuff," second-grader Julian Ruiz said, "but sometimes I would bring Lunchables."

   

                         

WHAT DOES PROFETCETERA SAY?

Well, in case you didn’t know it, ‘Lunchables’ are just slightly more healthy than strychnine. Giving them to children is a sort of salt-and-saturated-fat-based form of child abuse. And while parent Miguel Medina thinks school lunches are “very healthy” I can understand the reticence of some poor little kid when faced with the unsavory pile of slop I see in the photo above. I’d rather read a fine Mongolian translation of Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ than chew that stuff. It looks like a dog ate a rat, a can of Campbell’s Chunky Beef soup, and a handful of Saran Wrap — then vomited onto the happy blue plastic tray. I mean, is that supposed to be food?

                 

Learning and Eating: these should be twin joys, and they often form metaphors for one another.

Consider these choice snippets from Francis Bacon’s marvellous little essay (one paragraph long!) “De studii” — “Of Studies”:

"STUDIES serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight, is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment, and disposition of business. For expert men can execute, and perhaps judge of particulars, one by one; but the general counsels, and the plots and marshalling of affairs, come best, from those that are learned. To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need proyning, by study; and studies themselves, do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience … Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention."

                            

                                     Francis Bacon 1561-1626

Books are food, and you are what you read.

Do you really think it best for the government to control both your reading and your diet?

This unappetizing moment brings to mind a perfect, unexpected, and unintended confluence in Nietzsche when he says this:

“In large states, public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the cooking is usually bad.”

What would Friedrich, the greatest Classicist of the nineteenth century, have said about the Chicago Schools and their force-feeding of garbage? (You may of course read “garbage” however you choose, as ‘lousy book’ or as ‘dog-vomit enchilada.’ Or both.) Government schools: bad enough. Government food: worse. The combination: you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. But you do know not to swallow what they’re providing. Too many EduCrats, as we may say, spoil the broth.

Link 10 Apr wachaoddaknow....»

No comment on this one.

Too dangerous.

Audio 7 Apr

                      

This is a 45 minute talk I did shortly after finishing my book “Meaning at the Movies.” It provides a general introduction to my theory of the origins of culture from the suppression of truth, which is the foundational argument of the book. Where does art come from? Movies, culture, novels, philosophy? And why do these elements of human cultural production hold our attention … without ever satisfying our souls?

Played 119 times.
Text 5 Apr 2 notes My Recent Interview with ‘Christianity Today’

 

A while back I was interviewed about my book “Meaning at the Movies” by CT. This is the online version of the print issue from last month.

       

I will warn you: I *hate* print interviews, and while most of this one was fine, by the time the editors were done with it, there were a few statements attributed to me that are simply fictional! For example, shockingly enough, my favorite film is NOT ‘Pinocchio’ …. that’s so far out of left field I don’t know what to think.

Nonetheless ….. here it is:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/movies/interviews/2011/allaboutfall.html

Text 1 Apr 6 notes How Many Dimensions is Too Many Dimensions?

          

Unsatisfied with reality, unfulfilled by genuine life experience, yet driven by our love of narrative and of visual attraction, we created the simulacrum ‘reality’ of movies. And there were movies. And we saw that they were good. (Well, some of them…)

   

But movies were not enough. Because, as much as movies were, they were ‘flat’ — two-dimensional, like a painting, and therefore unlike the world. Movies were a poor substitute for reality, having lost one whole dimension, despite otherwise being a technological miracle. Or so we thought at the time. In fact two-dimensional film ‘reality’ was a powerful substitute for three dimensional ‘real reality’ — more than we could have imagined. 2D movies were good. But we wanted better. More. Sort of like Adam and Eve in the Garden.

So we had to create 3D.

Hey! If 2D is good, why not bring back that lost third dimension, and make it even better! The more like the real world a movie is, the better it will be, right?

Let’s not be hasty.

We use 2D movies as an enjoyable escape from dreary 3D real life. Movies are better than life, though they collapse three dimensions into a mere two. They are our waking dream world, flat yet full. But then we decided that recapturing that third dimension — in other words, making movies more like reality instead of less so — will make them better. Why did we think that?

Read the short piece below by America’s most famous movie critic, Roger Ebert. He shares a letter from Walter Murch, Hollywood’s top editor for forty years.

Why 3D doesn’t work and never will. Case closed.

| 594 Comments

WalterMurch.jpg

I received a letter that ends, as far as I am concerned, the discussion about 3D. It doesn’t work with our brains and it never will.

The notion that we are asked to pay a premium to witness an inferior and inherently brain-confusing image is outrageous. The case is closed.

This letter is from Walter Murch, seen at left, the most respected film editor and sound designer in the modern cinema. As a editor, he must be intimately expert with how an image interacts with the audience’s eyes. He won an Academy Award in 1979 for his work on “Apocalypse Now,” whose sound was a crucial aspect of its effect.

Wikipedia writes: “Murch is widely acknowledged as the person who coined the term Sound Designer, and along with colleagues developed the current standard film sound format, the 5.1 channel array, helping to elevate the art and impact of film sound to a new level. “Apocalypse Now” was the first multi-channel film to be mixed using a computerized mixing board.” He won two more Oscars for the editing and sound mixing of “The English Patient.”


"He is perhaps the only film editor in history," the Wikipedia entry observes, "to have received Academy nominations for films edited on four different systems:

• “Julia” (1977) using upright Moviola
• ”Apocalypse Now” (1979), “Ghost” (1990), and “The Godfather, Part III” (1990) using KEM flatbed
• “The English Patient” (1996) using Avid.
•  “Cold Mountain” (2003) using Final Cut Pro on an off-the shelf PowerMac G4.


apnow_murch.jpg

Now read what Walter Murch says about 3D:

Hello Roger,

I read your review of “Green Hornet” and though I haven’t seen the film, I agree with your comments about 3D.

The 3D image is dark, as you mentioned (about a camera stop darker) and small. Somehow the glasses “gather in” the image — even on a huge Imax screen — and make it seem half the scope of the same image when looked at without the glasses.

I edited one 3D film back in the 1980’s — “Captain Eo” — and also noticed that horizontal movement will strobe much sooner in 3D than it does in 2D. This was true then, and it is still true now. It has something to do with the amount of brain power dedicated to studying the edges of things. The more conscious we are of edges, the earlier strobing kicks in.
 

murchediting.jpg


The biggest problem with 3D, though, is the “convergence/focus” issue. A couple of the other issues — darkness and “smallness” — are at least theoretically solvable. But the deeper problem is that the audience must focus their eyes at the plane of the screen — say it is 80 feet away. This is constant no matter what.

But their eyes must converge at perhaps 10 feet away, then 60 feet, then 120 feet, and so on, depending on what the illusion is. So 3D films require us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before. All living things with eyes have always focussed and converged at the same point.

If we look at the salt shaker on the table, close to us, we focus at six feet and our eyeballs converge (tilt in) at six feet. Imagine the base of a triangle between your eyes and the apex of the triangle resting on the thing you are looking at. But then look out the window and you focus at sixty feet and converge also at sixty feet. That imaginary triangle has now “opened up” so that your lines of sight are almost — almost — parallel to each other.


     salt_clear3D2.jpg
     salt_blurry3D.jpg

We can do this. 3D films would not work if we couldn’t. But it is like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, difficult. So the “CPU” of our perceptual brain has to work extra hard, which is why after 20 minutes or so many people get headaches. They are doing something that 600 million years of evolution never prepared them for. This is a deep problem, which no amount of technical tweaking can fix. Nothing will fix it short of producing true “holographic” images.

Consequently, the editing of 3D films cannot be as rapid as for 2D films, because of this shifting of convergence: it takes a number of milliseconds for the brain/eye to “get” what the space of each shot is and adjust.

And lastly, the question of immersion. 3D films remind the audience that they are in a certain “perspective” relationship to the image. It is almost a Brechtian trick. Whereas if the film story has really gripped an audience they are “in” the picture in a kind of dreamlike “spaceless” space. So a good story will give you more dimensionality than you can ever cope with.

So: dark, small, stroby, headache inducing, alienating. And expensive. The question is: how long will it take people to realize and get fed up?

All best wishes,

Walter Murch

            «<END»>

   

WHAT DOES PROFETCETERA SAY?

Now this is a great case in point that all cultural objects are in fact theologically grounded. In the complex cultural mix of narrative, motion picture photography, 2D and 3D movies, neural capacity, and those odd interpenetrating things known as ‘reality’ and ‘fantasy,’ we see here a fascinating marker of the power of suppressed truth.

If Romans 1 tells us (and believe me, it does) that the central activity of fallen humans is the suppression of truth (not vice, as in the above logo, but the idea is the same), and if it is true as I have argued extensively in my book Meaning at the Movies (and believe me, I have), then perhaps here we can see how suppressed truth always returns to the surface of things. It can’t not. Movies provide, to a greater or lesser extent, an escape from reality, while functioning as objects in reality. In other words, movies are real things that, temporarily and with our blessing and complicity, short-circuit reality.

When watching an effective movie, you enter the world of that movie, and leave this world behind, so to speak. But you also know that the reality you are entering is fictional. In a sense, truth and lie coexist symbiotically, if only for a moment. So movies are a marvellous moment where truth and lie intermingle, where depth bubbles up to the surface and the surface sinks into the depths, where humanity is laid bare, and where we see, as in a glass darkly, what we really are.

And so while we tell ourselves that we’d just LOVE the hyperreality of THREE dimensions in a movie (‘DUDE, that spear came like right AT me!!!’), in fact, when we actually try to process 3D on a flat 2D screen we find it less satisfying than the patently ‘fake’ two-dimensional world of classical filmmaking. In other words, we escape actual three dimensional reality by watching highly produced 2D simulated reality but then desire more realistic reality in our filmic unreality and so we restore the lost 3rd dimension only to find the extra reality we got was too much reality so we long for the subtly diminished flatness of the old screen which better replaces the overfullness of our lives. Whew. 

The reality is that unreality wins every time. We tell ourselves we want more reality, but really we want less. Truth is what we suppress even while we claim to embrace it. Reality is best in small doses, lest we wake up. 

We do not wish to be alienated from our alienation from ourselves.

Don’t believe me?

Then take a look at these new, de-‘alienating’ Anti-3D glasses, on sale here:

http://www.thinkgeek.com/interests/looflirpa/e8be/?pfm=AprilFools_homepage_Featured_5

Tempting, No? If you put them on, what would you see?

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Futuristic 3D Movies… Make Us Sick

File important documents where they belong

3D Movies. You’ve got to love them right? But when in-your-face special effects turn into headache-inducing nausea… the fun is over. What’s more, all your friends love 3D movies. You’ve been there before, a movie is playing in both 2D and 3D, all your friends want to see the 3D version… so what can you do? Finally, ThinkGeek has the solution to deliver old skool 2D images to your tired eyes with the De-3D Cinema Glasses.

The De-3D glasses eliminate the 3D effect from 3D movies, allowing you to watch in the comfort of 2D. How do they work you say? In a traditional 3D movie, two images are displayed overlapped on the movie screen. Standard 3D glasses filter these images allowing one to be seen by the right eye and the other to be seen by the left eye. The difference between the two images creates the 3D effect and also the annoying eyestrain and headaches you may have experienced. The De-3D glasses are specially designed to eliminate the left eye image and show only the right eye image to both eyes. In double-blind scientific tests it was determined that when watching 3-D movies the right-eye image was consistently more action packed and and humorous than the left-eye image. Amazing but true.

Next time your friends want to go see a 3D movie, bring your De-3D glasses and you’ll be able to experience the best of the cinema with none of the motion sickness, headaches or nausea. Your friends will thank you too… for not puking on their shoes.

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TOO MUCH REALITY!!!!! or NOT ENOUGH?

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