Of course, like everyone, we were Seinfeld addicts for years. We knew that Mr David's humor was a big part of that show's success. So we were hopeful that this HBO series would include some of the same ambiance. Well, I'm sorry to report that it doesn't.
Unquestionably, Mr David has a wonderfully creative sense of humor. But, while he can write the jokes, he can't deliver them. He just isn't a funny man on the screen.
I like to think I have the same problem - I have outrageously funny ideas I can't deliver. Unlike Mr David, I have also managed to avoid riches and fame, so no one will be blogging about my lack of comic timing...
What the Bleep...
A few days ago, I set out to write about the movie “What the Bleep Do We Know?”, but I managed to erase the post by inadvertently pressing the “page back” key on my laptop keyboard, which I then complained about. I’m not entirely sure that this triggered the cascade of events that finally pushed IBM out of the PC business, but the movie encourages me to think along those lines.
This movie tries to construct a scientific foundation for a “Power of Positive Thinking” philosophy, with mixed results. It is the story of an unhappy divorced young woman, played by Marlee Matlin, who discovers a new sense of wonder and mystery in the world and in her life in particular. It is not as clear as the film's makers would have liked, I think, that she has actually made this discovery by grasping the helm of her soul, or whether she has just stumbled into it.
The story line is intercut with talking head ‘scientists’ expostulating on the current state of understanding of quantum mechanics, neurophysiology and chemistry, molecular biology, and on the consequent implications for philosophy.
For someone who knows just enough science to be dangerous, there is both a lot to like and a lot to dislike about what the movie has to say and how it says it. I’ll start with the dislikes (mine, that is.)
The film is fundamentally dishonest about the people who are doing the expert expostulation. They are presented without credentials and in a way that makes you think they are, if not tops in the fields they are discussing, at least well respected in the scientific community. The first few discussions are mostly technical, and, as far as I can tell, based on good science. But as the movie progresses, the discussions get more speculative, and considerably more mystical. In fact, I would have to say, new age mysticism in a starched lab coat. At the credits, we find that the people who had been implicitly presented as expert scientists were there mostly because they had an agenda which fit that of the film makers. In addition to physicists and biologists, there were chiropractors and new age practitioners. A particularly egregious example of this was having a professor from the Mahareshi University describe the positive effects of group meditation on crime. Finally, we have to listen at increasing length to JZ Knight, a woman who claims to channel the 35,000 year old enlightened being Ramtha, which to me is not a strong recommendation.
Another quibble is that neither the acting, nor the special effects are particularly compelling. The cartoonish segments on bodily chemistry I found to be especially unfortunate.
If the movie has a redeeming characteristic, it is the attempt to
make accessible some of the mysterious aspects of
quantum theory. I do personally agree that science supports faith in our own power to create the world we
experience and to remake it in a more positive way. The further we burrow beneath the surface of
the world, the less it looks like a crowd of billiard balls and the more it looks
like an idea. It might just as well be our idea as someone or something else's.
Unfortunately, the movie, in attempting to defend its new age mysticism, ignores its own best line: “Don’t seek the answer – seek the mystery…”