Sunday, October 08, 2006

What I've Been Reading/Listening to/Watching Lately

Here's some of my recent brain consumption:
  • The Pulitzer-winning Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix. I'm about 80 pages into it (out of about 700). So far so good! Comments and/or excerpts to follow. Here's a paper drawn from the book; Reviews here and here. Post-Pulitzer NewsHour interview w/Prof. Bix here.
  • During my commute this past week, I've been listening to a engrossing audiobook called The Zero by a guy named Jess Walter. The Zero refers to Ground Zero (as in the WTC-attack site). The protagonist of this (absurdist?) novel is a Yossarianesque NYPD officer during the days and weeks immediately following the attack. (The terms "World Trade Center," "Al Qaeda," "9/11," and maybe some others have not been uttered in the chunk of the book I have listened to so far.) Again, so far so good! Check it out in print or on audio if you get a chance.
  • I watched all of Battlestar Galactica Season 2.5 last week. I have tentatively decided to forgo watching any of the third season shows (which started Friday) until they either come out on DVD or I can find some bootlegs on the Web. JMPP has a good roundup on the political themes from Friday's premiere. Frakking awesome!
  • Right now we're sitting in bed watching What the Bleep Do We Know!?. At least I think we are. And I think this thing is a bed. And I think now is now. The MRQEers gave it some pretty crummy reviews. That's not necessarily bad, because maybe the reviewers don't exist. Anyhow, I didn't realize until partway through the DVD that one of the primary interviewees is actually 11,000 years old! Roger Ebert excerpt: Among the experts on the screen, only one seemed to make perfect sense to me. This was a pretty, plumpish blond woman with clear blue eyes, who looked the camera straight in the eye, seemed wise and sane, and said that although the questions might be physical, the answers were likely to be metaphysical. Since we can't by definition understand life and the world, we might as well choose a useful way of pretending to. Sounded good to me, especially compared to the cheerful evasions, paradoxes and conundrums of the other experts. Only after the movie was over did I learn from my wife, who is informed on such matters, that the sane woman who made perfect sense was in fact Ramtha -- or, more precisely Ramtha as channeled by the psychic JZ Knight, who would seem to be quite distinctive enough without leaving the periods out of her name. And who is Ramtha? From Cathleen Falsani, the religion writer of the Sun-Times, I learn that Ramtha is a 35,000-year-old mystical sage from the lost continent of Atlantis. Well, weirder authorities have surfaced. Or maybe not. As I continue to watch, I begin to see how the thing got some bad reviews. One of the talking heads is this nutjob named John Hagelin who ran for president a few years ago on the ticket of the Natural Law Party. (I only know this from years of C-Span viewing; none of the interviewees have been identified so far.) This movie is worth watching if you are interested in movies that are different (which I am), but let me leave you with this comment from the Toronto Star: The film with the year's most unfortunate title also happens to be a candidate for the year's worst film. What The Bleep Do We Know!? is little more than a clumsy infomercial for a New Age pursuit called Ramtha's School of Enlightenment, RSE for short, which follows the teachings of an 11,000-year-old warrior as channelled by a 58-year-old New Mexico woman. The sect apparently holds quantum mechanics, metaphysics and bafflegab in equal esteem.

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