Secret motivation from Inception

Animation study progress

It is now week 6 of Animation Mentor! After this week, I’ll be halfway through the first semester! I am definitely learning a ton, but … WHEW! … I am finding this to be quite hard stuff! Definitely takes time and patience. But it’s also fun. It’s not like high school or college work which was mostly useless. Here are my assignments from weeks 4 and 5:

Inception

I saw the new film Inception on Sunday night, and I thought it was fantastic, one of the best movies ever made. Don’t worry, I won’t give any spoilers. I’d love to say some things about it, but I’ll wait until it comes out on blu-ray, then I’ll post a more spoiler-ish review. Of course, it helps if you like sci-fi pertaining to dreams. In some ways, it was kind of Philip K. Dick-ish, in its “is-this-reality?” kind of way, but with much more action, and a more direct plot. So if you like sci-fi, or any of Christopher Nolan’s other movies, you better go see this movie. It’s just brilliant.

Inception in relation to motivation

The word “inception” means … what, you don’t know? … it means “origin: an event that is a beginning” … in the movie, “inception” refers to the act of giving someone else an effective idea in their dreams.

Chapter 5 of The Talent Code (which I’m still reading) is called “Primal Cues” and it’s about what motivates someone to put in the long hard hours of deep practice to master a skill. Deep practice takes a lot of mental focus and effort, and is quite tiring. So must of us don’t do it if we don’t have to, which we usually don’t.1 So to do it, you more or less have to really want to do it. As Coyle says in the book, you have to be willing to suffer through it now, keeping in mind the rewards later.

Where does such motivation come from? It’s hard to know. When asked, masters or those partaking regularly in deep practice don’t really know themselves; they say things like “I’ve always been interested in this” … which of course just encourages the notion that potential interests lie somewhere in DNA.2

This chapter doesn’t necessarily make the issue less complicated. If anything, it makes the issue seem even more complicated, by showing how interests, which seems so innate and unchangeable, can indeed be affected by outside sources. On pages 110-111, Coyle writes:

They [Dr. Geoff Cohen and his colleague Gregory Walton] took a group of Yale freshmen and gave them an innocuous mix of magazine articles to read. Included was a one-page first-person account of a student named Nathan Jackson. Jackson’s story was brief: he had arrived at college not knowing what career to pursue, had developed a liking for math, and now had a happy career in a math department of a university. The story included a small biographical profile about Jackson: hometown, education, birth date. The article, like the others, was utterly forgettable–except for one microscopic detail: for half the students, Nathan Jackson’s birth date was altered to exactly match the students’ own. After they read the article, Cohen and Walton tested the students’ attitudes towards math and measured their persistence; i.e., how long they were willing to work on an insoluble math problem.

When the results came in, Cohen and Walton found that the birthday-matched group had significantly more positive attitudes about math, and persisted a whopping 65 percent longer on the insoluble problem. What’s more, those students did not feel any conscious change. The coincidence of the birthday, in Walton’s phrase, “got underneath them.”

When I first read this I thought… aha, they’re using inception!! Non-dream inception, yes, but it does seem like sub-conscious inception.

Coyle goes on to argue that a factor that strongly affects motivation is a “feeling of belonging” … feeling you’re part of a group that partakes in a particular study or activity. The shared birthday, it seems, would make a student imagine being in Nathan Jackson’s shoes and relate to him. Which is why it’s also important that Jackson came into college not knowing what to do. If Jackson said he had been into math all along, and had won prestigious math competitions in his youth, my guess is the effect would be not nearly as strong. Also, it has to be subtle. If the students knew what the experiment was about, they’d probably be too self-conscious for the experiment to work the way it did.

When I was in college I tried doing some research into the psychological “feeling of belonging” … I tried to find if there was any science behind it, how it could be used and affected, etc., but I couldn’t find anything at all. Too tough to study perhaps?

Another experiment Coyle mentions involved asking students one simple question before they started learning to play an instrument: “How long do you expect to keep playing this instrument? Through this year, through primary school, through high school, or for the rest of your life?” They took the answers, then compared them with how quickly the students learned and how often they practiced. You can probably guess the results: Students who practiced more got better faster, obviously. And students who felt they had made a life-long commitment also got better faster. As Coyle writes on page 104:

With the same amount of practice, the long-term-commitment group outperformed the short-term-commitment group by 400 percent. The long-term-commitment group, with a mere twenty minutes of weekly practice, progressed faster than the short-termers who practiced for an hour and a half. When long-term commitment combined with high levels of practice, skills skyrocketed.

I suppose when you start to think of whatever you’re studying as part of your identity, part of what makes you you, you’re studying is that much more effective. It means you’re really dedicated. If it’s just something you’re studying because your parents or teachers are making you, effectiveness goes down.

Anyway, The Talent Code continues to be quite an interesting book! And that’s all for today.

——————–

1 Schools don’t make kids do deep practice either, unless it’s a specialized school. Schools instead force shallow practice. Actually, for the most part, I wouldn’t even call it practice, because students don’t use skills as they would in the real world. Instead they are taught things that can be put on paper and easily graded. If schools were to encourage deep practice, they’d have to have a lot more focus in their curriculum, and take a more hands-on approach, not just use a bunch of written tests. It’s amazing how many people (most people, it seems) support the education system out of tradition considering how ineffective it is, and how much they hated it when they were going through it themselves. “It’s better than nothing,” they say. OK, but it’s also worse than many better things. I’m obviously not proposing that schools should be replaced by nothing.

2 Stephen Sondheim, master composer and lyricist of musicals, once himself said in an interview that he believed his desire to compose (or his talent for composing or something) came from his genes. Upon first reading the interview, I thought “nah, I don’t believe that…” But then I came to think there might be some truth to it; after all, I have no idea why I started composing music. I just had to do it. (Not that I’m a master quite yet, of course.) Now I’m going back to not quite believing it again…

Movies and stuff and stuff

Been really loving my new Piccadilly notebooks (cheaper but just as good versions of moleskines)… if you want write or sketch or keep track of all your brilliant ideas that will never come to fruition, I recommend them. I mean, you could use ordinary paper just as well, it’s not like the notebooks will replace any talent you don’t have (though I’m sure you probably have some)… they’re just so aesthetically pleasing that they encourage you to use them. So I’ve found myself starting to plan out another fantasy story that I’ll probably never write…

Um… what else? It’s the start of a 3-day weekend, though I spent most of the day today sleeping, so my sleep schedule is completely off now. I’ll have to try staying up all night tonight to try to correct it.

I just went through one of my bookshelves and made sure all my books had my property stamp in it. It reminded me of all the books I bought but haven’t read yet. Meanwhile, I have all these books out from the library… and I keep getting half or a third way through a book and then moving on to another interesting looking one. So I’m going to purge my checked out library items and return some and see if I can read some of the books I actually own this summer. Then again, maybe not; I read out of interest, not ownership guilt.

Oh, I also started watching those old mystery movies I got, from the Mystery Classics 50 Movie Pack Collection. Watched the first one, so I’m 2% done! The quality is pretty terrible; these movies haven’t been restored or anything. But the first one, Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge, was actually pretty funny; I suppose it’s equivalent to one of the comedy detective shows that might come on nowadays like Monk. But it was made in 1937, when TV series weren’t really an option, obviously. Anyway, I think it will be fun to watch the other 49 of these…

Oh, I also watched The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus last night. My next few sentences might contain SPOILERS so look away if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want to be spoiled…

The imagery and the uniqueness of the story and its world were pretty awesome. Some of the effects were a bit cheap, as in you could tell they were using blue screen sometimes with those fuzzy edges you get on cheap blue screen effects, but it’s amazing what they were able to do on such a limited budget. The thing that really annoyed me though was the ending. The ending was visually appealing, but story-wise, I just didn’t get it. The motivations and actions of the characters just became unclear and chaotic. It was just weird and unsatisfying.

Remember, writers, the two most important parts of your story (in my opinion) are the beginning and the end. (By “the end” I mean the story from the climax to the absolute end, not just the last scene.) The beginning should hook people (Doctor Parnassus definitely had a fun beginning), and the ending should satisfy them, revealing all mysteries and making *everything* clear. (I know some audiences don’t mind some ambiguity here and there, but I don’t prefer it.)

OK, that’s my blather for now…

Eye exam, Sleeping Beauty, blah blah blah

I finally made an appointment to see an optometrist this Friday. Need to get me a new prescription so I can get some new glasses. My eyes have gotten worse. Though I read somewhere that glasses help make your eyes get lazier and help make them worser. Oh well, I still need some. Right now the distance is a bit blurry even with my glasses on.

I also watched Sleeping Beauty on blu-ray today. Reading The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation makes me want to watch animations. And I’ve actually never seen Sleeping Beauty before. I must say, it looks wonderful on blu-ray, the way all films should be watched. What strikes me, probably because I’m watching it for the first time as a 24 year old, is how short it is. Only 75 minutes. If I had watched it as I kid, I’m sure it would’ve seemed longer, like all 75-85 minute movies did. Anyway, I ended up watching it twice, once just normally, and then again with the audio commentary (featuring a group of people who didn’t actually work on the movie). There are a bunch of special features on the bonus disc that I haven’t looked at yet, but hope to. (The best part of the movie: “This dress looks awful!” “That’s because it’s on you, dear.”)

Also had my first little Animation Mentor experience tonight: just a little Q&A session about what’s coming. So I got some more info on how the program will work, and got some questions answered. I listened for about an hour and twenty minutes, really excited, and then my connection started having problems. I’m not sure how long it went on afterwards, but I think every question I was curious about got answered. Can’t wait until it actually begins! Probably annoying for me to keep saying that…

This animation study, starting next month, might mean I don’t compose much, if any, music over the next year and a half, as my free time will go way down… but we’ll see. I’m sure I’ll still write a bunch of melodies though. I can’t stop doing that.

Guess that’s it for today…

Stuff I done gone and did terday

Hey, it’s my 300th blog post to this blog! In celebration, I will do nothing, because I do not want to seem arrogant towards those who don’t blog as much.

I finally finished reading Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, a biography of Walt Disney. ‘Twas quite educational, since I really didn’t know very much about him or the history of his company. I might dedicate a future blog post to some thoughts on his life and work, but not tonight. I will say he must be a goldmine for biographers. He had a lot of influence, there are a lot of different opinions about him, and he got his hands into a lot of things. There’s a lot to write about.

I also bought The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation from Amazon earlier this week, and have started reading through that. I read bits and pieces of it in college from the library, and I know I browsed through it at some other point in my youth. I am wondering if we have an older family copy somewhere (though I don’t think so) or if one of our grandparents or relatives had a copy. But I just know I browsed through it years ago before college. Anyway, it’s full of wonderful pictures and art. I really wish it came with a DVD or something so I could watch the examples, but I guess that would only double the price. Anyway, as I’m trying to learn computer animation, this book seems like one of the must-reads.

And speakin’ of animation, next Wednesday night I’ve got my first Animation Mentor thing. Classes don’t officially start until near the end of June, but the thing on Wednesday is I guess a bit like an orientation. It will allow someone to give an overview of the structure of the course and the site, and will allow us future students to ask questions. Not sure I’ll have any questions, but I do want to test out the technology and the experience of doing one of these Animation Mentor meetings. So I’m looking forward to that.

Music wise, I’m almost finished writing the music for a documentary. I’ve got one cut left, and it will be a fun one to write. I’ll share more info (and maybe some music clips) from that when the project is actually finished.

I’m participating in a long Facebook conversation about the problems of college and high school education. I was going to post the conversation here, but it is still going on, and it is very long. Our plan now is to, at some point, organize our points and disagreements and write a book on the topic. Probably won’t get professionally published or anything, but I think would make an interesting book.

Finally, movie wise, I just finished watching The Men Who Stare At Goats. It was … uh … interesting I guess. Had some funny parts, but by the end I didn’t really get the point of any of it. It was like a very long joke. If there had been just a bit more humor, it might’ve been OK.

I also watched Where the Wild Things Are a couple night ago, which was actually better than I thought it would be (I had low expectations), but it was weird (and I imagine one could really psycho-analyze the heck out of it if they wanted). The director’s soundtrack choices did kinda make me think the Wild Things were a bit like hippies at some points, which made it weirder. But there some other very hilarious parts (Bob and Terry are my favorite). Overall, though, it was a bit soap-opera like, because all the Wild Things want to talk about their emotions and feelings rather than do anything particularly adventurous. Which isn’t necessarily bad, I still found it engaging, but I can understand why some mind find it boring. (What I don’t get is all the debate about whether it’s too scary or adultish for kids, which perhaps was played out for publicity. Or perhaps because it was based on such a famous picture book. But the movie itself didn’t push any thematic boundaries.)

And that’s what I’ve been up to lately.

Album’s site is up and Burton’s Alice review

I spent my day off work working.  Enterprising, no?  I created a small site for my vanity label Hannifin Records.  Of course, there’s not much there yet.  But you can see a bit more of my first album’s cover art revealed in the title banner.  And, if you navigate your way through it a bit, there’s a page for the album with previews of all the tracks.  Next I need to experiment with PayPal buttons, since I’m guessing that’s what I’ll use to take orders.

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland review

Also, I just got home from watching Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland.  Read no further if you plan on seeing the movie yourself and fear having your opinions tainted by my own.

Still reading?  OK, well, that’s your own fault.

I liked some things, didn’t like others.  Like most movies.

The artistry was great.  Especially the architecture of the castles, in my opinion.  Just awesome stuff, awesome to look at.  I do wish I could live in castles so well designed.  Though how do you get a laptop to go with the surroundings?  The special effects were great; I look forward to seeing them on blu-ray eventually.  (Our movie theaters here still don’t seem to like using digital projection or actually putting the picture in perfect focus.)  The music was also very good.  Danny Elfman’s music does tend to please me.  I’ll probably buy the soundtrack.  Good film music, especially compared to the more-atmospheric-less-melodic music films tend to be using nowadays.  Why don’t they throw us a crumb?  What’s wrong with letting us tap our toes a bit?  I’ll let you know when Stravinski has a hit… oops, sorry.  Helena B. Carter was also very funny.

The bad… just about everything else.  Which I actually won’t blather about because, you know, I like to focus on the good.  OK, actually I’m just lazy.  But I do think I could’ve written a better script.  If I didn’t have to base it on a book.  I mean, with such awesome visual artistry, I think there are more interesting stories to be told.  Why keep telling the same stories?

I did get a few ideas for novels and short stories while watching.  And the ending kind of made me want to invent a bunch of chess variants.

That’s all I have to say.  Guess what I get to do all weekend?  Go to work!  Yeah!!

Bye.

Avatar is so anti-American! OMG!

I’ve been hearing quite a bit about how the story for the new film Avatar is “anti-American” or “anti-military” or whatever. I don’t really get it. I saw the movie, the images were fantastic, especially in 3D. The climactic battle sequences with rocket guns leaving 3D trails of smoke and futuristic helicopters duking it out with giant alien birds were probably the best battle sequences I’ve ever seen in cinema. The story, however, was (like Star Wars) pretty basic. Not that that’s bad, it could’ve been much much worse. It’s probably good that it was basic; makes it that much more accessible, which it almost has to be when you’re spending a bazillion dollars on the special effects.

Unlike Star Wars, though, Avatar does not take place a long time ago in another galaxy far far away, but in our future with our very own great great grandchildren (or whatever, I didn’t do the math) in our galaxy. So I guess some people are thinking “Wait a minute, are you saying that’s that what we’re gonna be like? Evil industrial money-hungry warmongers who don’t mind killing other beings who are as conscious as we are? How dare you!” Now, that could very well be exactly what Cameron is trying to say, but at no point in the movie did a character look at the camera and say “You better watch out and not end up like this, America!” so I can’t respond as if one did.

And if you do sense an anti-American theme, what about the Americans that end up being the heroes? The theme would obviously have to be that indigenous people are too stupid and weak and distrusting to save themselves and must depend on external help, and American people provide such help! American people are actually so much help that a race of thousands can be saved with just the help of three or four (short and less symmetrical) Americans! This is a message to the world! We are America; we are powerful enough to crush you, and benevolent enough to stop ourselves.

But I can’t buy any of it. Everybody agrees that war is bad. What we argue about morally and politically is the nature of its necessity. Similarly, no human is going to prefer living in a flat grey cold metal room when the beauty and wonder of Pandora is just outside the window, especially when the Na’vi (the indigenous aliens of Pandora which are conveniently quite human-like but just a bit more visually interesting) seem to stay very clean, well-fed and sheltered, out of danger, and have no waste management problems. The only reason we humans would prefer a less beautifully green living atmosphere is to make the aforementioned aspects of life more practical. A toilet may not be the most beautiful thing in the world, but it’s extremely practical. Most humans would probably want to stop being humans and become Avatars, as the main characters in the film do.

Here on Earth, you’re perfectly free to live as naturally as you want, so why don’t people who claim to want it actually pursue it? Because they don’t really want it. They want to keep using their toilets and air conditioning and email, and then complain about the evils of industry. Meanwhile, beautiful green nature will freeze you and burn you and starve you and get you dirty everywhere. Woohoo. (But not Pandora!)

I digress. In Avatar, the differences between good and evil are pretty easy to recognize. The story might’ve been more powerful (to some audiences) if the differences were more ambiguous, but that would’ve also made it more challenging, and thus more risky business-wise. If you find it anti-American, I guess it’s because you feel the film is negatively stereotyping Americans. But in the film, you really only see the Americans that are part of the story’s conflict, so you’d have to be assuming an awful lot about the Americans in that future that are not part of the battle and/or that are still on Earth. Kinda seems like you’re doing most of the stereotyping yourself.

(Also, I don’t recall America ever invading any country as different and beautiful and wondrous as Pandora, so I don’t see any important similarities between the Pandora invasion and any real-world historic or current invasions.  If Cameron wanted to make a statement that such beauty and wonder are inherit in any culture we invade but are in the eyes of the beholder, he wouldn’t need many special effects for that.  And he wouldn’t make as much money.  And I think others have already tried.)

Watch the movie first, don’t read the book

I woke up with a really bad headache today.  Fortunately by the time I had to go to work it had subsided enough that I could act normally, but it didn’t fully go away until about 10 hours after I woke up.  So I didn’t do anything but rest and pace around in the morning.  After work, though, I did draw about a week’s worth of new comics for Hannifin World.  It gets addicting when you start doing a bunch of them.

I’ll probably start watching Dollhouse on Hulu again because, from what I can tell, the creators are indeed going to try to wrap up the story as best they can in the final episodes, so hopefully there will be some closure.

And now I shall dedicate the rest of this post to talking about why you should watch a film before reading the book, or at least why I prefer to:

WATCH THE MOVIE FIRST

I know a few people who, when a movie based on a book comes out, they refuse to watch it until they read the book version. When such a situation comes up, I prefer to watch the movie first for a couple reasons:

1) Time Investment – The movie will take less time to watch; reading the book could take ten times as long, or longer. If the story ends up to be stupid, it’s better to spend less time experiencing it, in my opinion.

2) Books always seem better – Books and films are two different art forms. You tend to get less *story content* with a film, because films only have a couple hours to tell the story. Reading the book first gives you a high risk of comparing the stories of the two different art forms, and of course the film’s story will then seem like a “watered-down” version of the story, as they almost always have to take things out for a film, because of time and pacing considerations. In other words, reading the book first tends to taint your expectations for the film, which sets you up for disappointment. If you don’t read the book first, and you find the film to be good, there’s a greater chance you’ll also enjoy the book, as it will then seem like the story has been expanded. If you don’t enjoy the film, you may or may not enjoy the book, but at least you won’t have wasted more than two or three hours with the story.

That said, my favorite films based on books tend to not only just take out story content, but also change the story content, so that what’s left flows and fits together nicely. The Prestige is one of the best examples I can think of at the moment. The Harry Potter films, on the other hand, I find terrible, and not just because of the acting. (Actually, even though it would’ve made far less money, I think Harry Potter would’ve worked much much better as a TV miniseries.) (John Williams’ Harry Potter themes are brilliant, however. I cannot imagine more perfect melodies to fit the Harry Potter world.)

So, when a film comes out based on a book, I just watch it!

Some people might argue that watching the movie first makes them think of the actors playing the character in the movie when they read the book.  To which I say: well, then, you must have a weak imagination!  But I suppose it’s a valid argument…

A happy Wednesday to you

And now, 23 more days until Christmas…

I worked a little more on my Android game; I created a poorly animated bouncing head to represent the player, which bounces in whatever direction you move him. Unfortunately his directional movement is a bit jittery; I need to figure out how to update his position on every frame, but not when a frame isn’t being rendered. And then I have a bunch of other work to do on him. (If I ever actually finish programming the game, I might look into hiring a pro artist to do the art for it… but for now the game can look visually awful.)

I also added a “readers” counter on the side of this blog; you can see it over there below the subscribe buttons. So if you’re ever feeling low on self-esteem, maybe taking a look at my low reader count will give you a boost (but then reading the blog and realizing what a genius I am in all that I do might lower it again).

The only other thing I’ve done worthy of note (but not really) besides going to work is to watch my new Dr. Strangelove blu-ray last night. Quite a funny film, and it looks great on blu-ray. Blu-rays are the way to watch movies. DVDs are losers. (Except for TV seasons, because blu-rays currently cost too much for those.) I will say, though, Stanley Kubrick’s sudden endings are kind of annoying. You really get into the ending scene and then BOOM it’s over. No closure. No goodbyes. Just BOOM. The end.

For my blog, I would never–

Project Trico, Google Wave, and Benjamin Button

Project Trico

Two of my favorite video games are Ico and Shadow of the Colossus . . . actually, I think they are the only console games I’ve ever been able to pass (not that I play very many).  They’re like puzzle adventure games.  The team that makes them is working on a new title for the PS3 (which I guess I’ll have to get) which for now is being called Project Trico.  The video on YouTube looks . . . interesting.  Some kid going around with some strange cat-bird with arrows in it.  The cat-bird’s movements look very realistic if it wasn’t so humongous.

Anyway, what I really loved about the video was the music.  Very epic and inspiring.  I learned from Wikipedia that music was from a 1990’s film called Miller’s Crossing, a Coen brothers movie, and the music was by Carter Burwell, who recently scored Twilight.  So I put the movie Miller’s Crossing on hold at the library; I’m interested in seeing how the music fits with the dark gangs-and-guns story.  I’m also probably going to end up buying the soundtrack (because they still sell on CD *cough* stupid Disney Records *cough*).

Google Wave

The other exciting thing I saw earlier this week was this video on Google Wave (or this article which sums up the main points).  Ooooh, doesn’t that look awesome?  Hard to say exactly what sort of impact it will have on online communication, but it could be very big.  I’m especially interested in the real-time multiple-user collaboration; I would’ve loved to have that available while still in school working on group projects.  I’m also excited by the gaming possibilities this could provide, and would be very interested in trying to program some gadget-games for it.  I requested a sandbox developer account, but they never got back to me . . . of course, I’m sure tens of thousands have requested one, and when this Google Wave goes live to everyone, it will already be oversaturated with games . . . which is good!  I look forward to playing them!  But I will still want to try designing my own.

Benjamin Button (with spoilers!)

I finished watching the film The Boring Stupid Case of Benjamin Button the other day.  Visually, it was great.  The recreation of older time periods, the make-up, the cinematography . . . brilliant work.  But the story . . . what story?  There really wasn’t much of one.  There was hardly any conflict, only a couple of very shallow romantic conflicts.  The main character, Benjamin Button, had no important goals, and therefore there was really nothing he had to overcome.  This is a huge disappointment because the premise, a boy being born old and becoming younger, would seem to spark many conflicts.  How would others react if they knew the truth?  (They didn’t seem to be very bothered.)  How would he find love when he was young but looked old?  (Easily, it seems.)  When he was young, shouldn’t he be jealous of normal people?  And when he got old, shouldn’t others be jealous of him?  (Nah!)  When he grew down into a child’s body, wouldn’t it have been more dramatic if he had been a wise 70 year old, trying to convince adults that he was older and more experienced than them?  Nah . . . they just have him start forgetting everything when that point comes.

And, since Benjamin really had no goals, he had no personality.  He never really wanted anything, besides to be with a woman every now and then.  He didn’t struggle with envy for normal people, he didn’t worry very much about his awkward future, he didn’t deal with anger issues toward his father who abandoned him, he didn’t struggle with very much loneliness.  Lots of missed potential.

It seems like the writers were in a bit of a hurry to create this film, because they did a horrible job.  They expanded an idea into a screenplay without adding any story.  *Sigh*  It could’ve been good.

Remember . . . an idea is not a story!  You might start with an idea, but the story still has to be about something.  It might seem mundane or cliche, such as a simple love story, or a war story, or a life-struggles story (which is what Ben Button should’ve been about), but it needs that conflict built around the initial idea.  You can’t just take the idea and run with it.

The only way Ben Button could’ve succeeded without a story is if it had been a comedy.  Comedy can get away with there being little story because the point is in the little stories, the gags, the jokes.  Forrest Gump had no big story, but it was funny.  A Christmas Story had very little story, but it was funny.  And I’m sure there are plenty more . . .

So I give Benjamin Button 2 out of 10 stars, which is pretty pathetic.

Okay, that’s all I have to say for today.

Is doubt good?

I saw the movie Doubt last night.  It was… eh… it wasn’t bad, it was better than I thought it would be, but it wasn’t that good either, in my opinion.  You can definitely tell it’s based on a stage play, and if you’ve been to a few stage plays you might recognize it’s style: pacing is different, there are long conversations, little music, little action, lots of talking.  Not necessarily boring conversations, sometimes quite engaging conversations, that’s an area playwrites can be brilliant at while most films move much quicker.

Anyway, one of the themes of the film was, not surprisingly, doubt.  Which is a nice coincidence since I was just reading a book (and still haven’t finished it) called Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson.  I mentioned the book a few posts earlier; it’s about the history of questioning religion, the history of people doubting.  The philosophical question is: is doubt good?

From a scientific point of view, yes, of course, one should always be questioning.  That’s what leads to more experiments, more discoveries, and a better knowledge of our world.  And you do experiments to try to prove your guesses wrong; that’s often the easiest way to go about it.  And when you can’t prove yourself wrong, you know your theory may be on to something.

But with religion, you can’t do experiments.  You can’t even get God (or Zeus, or whatever) to talk to you man to man.  So what’s the use of doubt?  It becomes not an act of experimentation, not a question spoken out loud, but a thought, something to think your way through (of course you can talk about it with others, but your answers won’t be emperical).

I think a good faith embraces the questioning of itself.  That might seem contradictory; how can faith really be faith if it’s being questioned?  On the other hand, how can faith really be faith if it’s never questioned?  Isn’t that blind faith, and thus, not faith at all?  But faith being questioned isn’t true faith either, it’s uncertainty.  But isn’t that the way to faith?  Through uncertainty and questions and doubt?  After all, if you had perfect faith in everything you believed in, you’d be perfect.  You would do everything right and always be pleased with yourself.  You’d always be happy, I would think.  You would never face any moral dilemmas.  And I bet a lot of people would envy you.

In college, I sometimes came across people who thought they had all the answers and went around campus advertising their religion… but they really didn’t have all the answers, they just didn’t have any questions.  Ask them about some moral dilemma or about the nature of God and they only gave empty answers, like “Well, God is mysterious!”  Well… yeah!  A mystery is something you don’t know!  That God is thought of as “mysterious” is an indication of an imperfect faith.  And I would think faith must be imperfect for us, it’s ingrained in the very nature of our humanness.

So, in a way, to doubt, to question, is to have faith… faith in faith.

But what about atheists?  (Some might even say that atheism is a faith, and the only way to really have no faith is to not be human, or to not have life at all.)  Would it be equally beneficial for an atheist to doubt and question their own atheism?  Is “blind” atheism really atheism?  Are atheists that are certain with themselves just not asking any questions, or giving empty answers?

Obviously science doesn’t have all the answers, or at least we can’t find them all right now.  But does that mean the answers aren’t there?  Scientists still spend plenty of time looking and questioning… isn’t that faith?  Faith that answers exist, that there does exist a knowable truth?

So… is doubt good?  I don’t know… it implies an imperfect faith, and is therefore bad… but it’s required to arrive at a more perfect faith, and is therefore good…

Blah blah blah blah . . .