All posts by Gretchen

Le Truman Show

The Truman Show
The Truman Show

Le “Truman Show” est un film qui est sorti en 1998.  C’était réalisé par Peter Weir et c’était écrit par Andrew Niccol.  Le personnage principal est Truman Burbank qui est joué par Jim Carrey.  Truman Burbank est un homme normal qui vit dans une ville normale. Son enfance était heureuse. Il es     t réceptionniste pour une compagnie d’assurance, il vit une vie ordinaire, il a une femme ordinaire, un voisin ordinaire et un ami ordinaire qui apparaît de temps en temps avec un six-pack de bière.  Mais Truman n’est pas heureux avec sa vie. Il veut voir le monde

Clip 1

Il veut sortir de son plaisante mais étouffante vie – toujours rangée – pour s’échapper de sa petite ville qui est sur un île au bord de la mer – une ville qui est toujours propre, toujours ensoleillée et en fait, trop parfaite. En réalité, Truman était le produit d’une grossesse non désirée. Son «père» (pas son vrai père), Christof, un producteur de télévision qui Truman n’a jamais rencontré, a réalisé le Truman Show – le plus grand spectacle sur terre – un spectacle dans lequel la vie est en direct – la télé-réalité. En fait, Truman ne sait pas qu’il vit dans un petit monde de de télévision qui a été inventé par Christof parce qu’il a grandi dans ce monde et il était là depuis son enfance. Donc, tout le monde autour de Truman est acteur avec un peu de casque à l’oreille. Même sa femme est actrice qui fait beaucoup de publicités pour le camera à la stupéfaction de Truman.

Clip 2

Un jour, Truman trouve accidentellement une zone de restauration dans un faux ascenseur de son bâtiment de bureaux et devient assez suspecte. Peu à peu, il vient à la conclusion qu’il ne vit pas dans le monde réel.

Truman découvre que tout son monde est un ensemble de film et que tout était contrôlé par Christof, son «père» son “créateur” qui travaille dans un studio dans une ersatz lune du monde de Truman.

Clip 3

Enfin, Truman réussit à s’échapper de son monde irréel. Il repousse son créateur, son père Christof. Truman ouvre une porte dans une peinture de paysage et il va à un monde qui n’est jamais vraiment montré dans le film. Ce monde reste inconnue, c’est notre monde.

Clip 4

Je crois que le film est très prémonitoire.   Au temps de son sortie, le Facebook n’existait pas et la télé-réalité était à son début.  Cependant, le film démontre que la démarcation entre la vie privée et la vie publique est devenu floue.  C’est aussi une critique des effets que la publicité ont sur notre comportement et même nos pensées.  C’est une critique de la vie occidentale (surtout la vie américaine), de la religion, du capitalisme, des médias et de nos perceptions de la réalité.  À la fin du film, en regardant Truman part son monde iréel, on espère que son nouveau monde sera réel. Toutefois, cette question reste sans réponse.

“Le Truman Show” est un film de science-fiction qui est à peine different de la vérité aujourd’hui. C’est aussi un drame philosophique qui provoque beaucoup de pensées et qui peut vous encourager de regarder votre vie un peu plus près.  C’est un film à ne pas rater ou manquer et un film qui a tout pour le revoir.

Rally For Reason

     Well, the Creationist “Museum” opened in Florence, KY last month.  It’s a disgrace for our state and a disgrace for our country since “Dr.” Ham, an Australian, found this to be the most receptive site on our planet for his assault on science.  The ridiculous notion that the universe is 6000 years old reveals the desperation of the biblical literalists – it requires a significant degree of desperation, after all, to fly in the face of reality and refuse to acknowledge evidence that is contrary to revelation.  What fuels this desperation?  Well, if the creation myth is false, perhaps the whole Bible and its Middle Eastern mythology is false.  What’ll they do then?

    I’d like to say a few words about Ham’s Folly from my atheist’s point of view.  First, a little of my background – I’ve been a physician for over 30 years and I work for the military.  Of the many places I’ve lived, and the many things I’ve done, the military is an institution which – at first glance – seems to be imbued with religiosity – mainly literal Biblical Christianity.  Many meetings and ceremonies at work have organized prayers, thanks to God, and other accoutrements of the faithful.  New recruits are held to mandatory informative sessions where they’re given information about shipping out to basic training or boot camp.  During these mandatory sessions, they’re visited by members of the Gideons who pass out New Testaments in camouflage covers and told, in many instances, that these are their military bibles.
 

     I’ve tolerated this – I think toleration is something that we all need to do in a pluralistic society – but, until now, I’ve remained silent. For the silence alone, I reproach myself.  My only excuse was that I feared I would be disliked, pre-judged, and harmed both professionally and financially – and possibly even physically.  Then, in a relatively short period of time, several events occurred which were of great concern. The family of Pat Tillman – a true patriot/soldier – was vilified for not being Christian.  The Smalkowski family in Oklahoma was cruelly harassed for their atheism.  Our president openly abuses scientific facts and replaces them with supernatural platitudes. Then, 3 of the candidates for President of the United States of America declared on national TV that they did not believe in evolution by natural selection.   Belief!  Since when was any scientific theory a belief rather than a conclusion based on verifiable and reproducible facts?   Now this museum will open its doors to countless young minds and misinformed adults who cling to dark-ages superstition.  That’s it.  Enough is enough!  To be silent any longer would be an unethical complicity in the ruination of our country, our culture, our civilization and, quite possibly, our world.
 

     This is not hyperbole.  Studies show that US students’ math and science competence lags far behind that of other industrialized countries in Europe and Asia.  How can we compete in a technological world, how can we be an admirable example for our culture, our way of life, and even for democracy abroad if we cling to narrow, fearful superstition at the expense of scientific knowledge?  Most importantly, how can we ever achieve lasting peace when people are not educationally enlightened?
 

     I feel most passionately about this last point.  I have great respect for the military and for the very brave individuals who lay their lives on the line to protect us in a world which can sometimes be very unsafe.  I’m proud of my work for the military.  But if we, as a country, adopt the Leo Straussian tactic of fighting for a country which is blessed by God, then we are doomed to fighting other peoples who are blessed by their own special God or Gods.  No lasting understanding can be achieved between countries and cultures which have diametrically opposed and dogmatic supernatural beliefs intertwined with their nationalism.
 

     So what’s the solution??????  Education is the solution.  It’s the key to peace and stability in our world – not mindless fanaticism.  Any entity – such as this creationist museum – that endeavors to promote ignorance is a pernicious influence that must be vigorously protested and exposed for what it is – a deliberate attempt to bolster delusional and magical thinking.  As stated above, this behavior smacks of desperation among those people of faith who fear that disproving creationism may cascade into a challenge of the entire Middle Eastern mythology which is the prevalent religion in our culture.   
 

     So, my hope is that we all promote evidence based knowledge and education in our own fashions.  I suggest – if you haven’t yet – read Darwin’s Origin of the Species – an elegant book which is remarkable in its clarity.  Discuss it with friends and colleagues.  Tell people about supernova 1987 – a supernova seen in the 1980’s which was so close it could be seen with the naked eye, but still almost 170,000 light years away – an event which in itself clearly disproves the biblical account of creation.  Tell people about molestus – the newly developing species of mosquito which has evolved in the London subway tunnels over the past 100 years – and fits that ecological niche.  This is evolution by natural selection seen in action.  Read Richard Dawkins’ book – The Blind Watchmaker.  In it, he beautifully describes the evolution of the eye in humans and other species.  Read about ring species such as varieties of gulls ringed about the Arctic Sea who vary just a bit from area to area, but by the time the variations get back to the starting point, they’re so different that they cannot interbreed any longer and are therefore different species…………..for me, all of this is more awe-inspiring than any religion.  

      Just don’t be silent.  But most of all,  continue to promote science education.  To tolerate ignorance in ourselves or in others would not be decent, reflective, ethical or responsible.  The Rally For Reason – a peaceful protest against ignorance – was a remarkable event which was an example of what can be done to make it clear that Bronze Age thinking will not be accepted by all Americans.  On the day before and the day of the “museum” opening, those in attendance (including myself and my family) were present to hear speeches, organize our demonstration, and rally one another in front of TV and print journalists from all over the world.  Interestingly, the foreign journalists were not there because the evolution/creationism “debate” is so controversial – it’s not.  They were there because it’s astounding to the rest of the world that the US is so medievally superstitious and ill-informed.  I don’t believe anyone in attendance at the Rally For Reason was so delusional as the creationists.  For example, we don’t think we’re going to convince someone brainwashed since birth to despise reality that Charles Darwin was anything but evil incarnate.  However, on viewing those poor little faces of the school children being bussed into the “museum”, I can say that if even one of those children (victims of abuse in my opinion) pauses to think that there just might be a small chance that there’s another way to look at the world, then some significant good has been done.  Here’s the website for the Rally:  www.rallyforreason.com

-Gretchen 

 

 

 

The Crusades

An interesting event occurred at the MEPS (Military Entrance and Processing Station) earlier this week.  I’m the Chief Medical Officer there and that’s where I perform accession physicals for people who are interested in joining the military. First, here’s a little background:

Prior to shipping to basic training, I perform a quick exam called an “inspect”.  During this exam, I am required to check for new tattoos.  These need to be recorded in their medical charts as identifying marks.  If I see a tattooing which suggests an anti-social personality, a gang relationship, or any variety of psychiatric problems; I would assess and possibly refer to a psychiatrist for an evaluation.  For instance, I’ve seen a large abdominal tattoo saying “White Power”.  I’ve seen “Cop Killer” tattooed on the chest.  Tattooed tears coming down the cheek are often gang-related and may relate to the number of killings the person has committed.  I would consider all of these to be medically pertinent since they are likely to be associated with psychiatric problems.

Additionally, the different branches of service have rules and regulations about tattoos.  They decide if the tattooing appears unprofessional due to location, size, number or content.  For instance, tattooing visible in dress uniform might be administratively (not medically) disqualifying.  The services routinely demand that a naked female figure tattoo have remedial bra and panties tattoo overlays because it is considered offensive.  Bible verses, crosses, bleeding Jesus heads, and praying hands are all extremely common and are almost never a problem with the services. (Interestingly, Satanic symbol tattoos are a problem – but that’s a different story.)

A shipper came to the MEPS with a “sleeve” tattoo covering his entire left upper arm and shoulder.  It was new since the time of his initial physical at the MEPS.  I recorded and inspected it.  It was a graphic design of The Crusades!  It was complete with knights wearing uniforms with crosses and carrying shields with crosses.  They were slaying the infidels with their swords.  The tattoo montage showed the infidels’ bleeding stab wounds as they fell to the ground.  All in all, it was a horrific scene.  I interviewed the shipper.  He was a 19 year old Army recruit.  He thought the tattoo was “awesome” and “intense” and “cool”.  In my interview, I detected no evidence of a psychiatric disorder – I concluded that this was simply the not-very-surprising poor judgment of a teenager who did not recognize the implications of his new artwork.  In short, I did not think that he needed a medical disqualification or a medical waiver.  I did, however, ask for an administrative waiver so that he could be shipped to basic training with his new tattoo.  My reasoning was that this was a tattoo which was racially, ethnically, and religiously offensive; and that it would put the applicant at risk in a battle situation such as Iraq.  It would also put his company at risk since it was such a slur about a hot political issue.  Just imagine if “Al Jazeera” took a photo of that tattoo and put it on their website.  When I related this incident to my 20 year old daughter, she gasped and said, “Why didn’t he just tattoo a bull’s eye target on his forehead?”

The really interesting part of this event, however, was the complete and utter bewilderment by nearly everyone at the MEPS when I asked for a simple administrative waiver.  From the officers to the enlisted recruiters, almost no one could see “what the big deal was”.  No one thought it was offensive.  No one thought it was inflammatory.  No one saw the irony in OK’ing this Crusades tattoo while demanding the removal or revision of Satanic symbols, naked women and salty language ( “69”, “Love Machine”, etc.).  Well, the fuss continued for a while because the Army Liaison Office down the hall didn’t feel it was necessary to do the ½ hour of paperwork in order to obtain an administrative waiver.  They finally requested the waiver from their commanding officers.  This was all I wanted.  Not only did I want this tattoo reviewed, but I did not want to be personally responsible for clearing it.  The commanding officer left me a message, however.  He said to, “Tell the doctor that I don’t see any problems with it.”

What a strange world we live in!

Hillary Clinton – Schoolmarm from Hell

I was watching Hillary Clinton speak of her presidential candidacy on TV, and I’m still trying to decide why I just don’t find her likeable. I don’t like some of her policies and I don’t like her pro-Iraq War stance (which she’s currently trying to tortuously spin out of), but I’m a Democrat, and there’s just something more involved. I think I finally figured it out when I heard her say that she’d like to have a “conversation” with the American people. She sounded like one of my elementary school teachers who had a “conversation” with us every time we misbehaved. She’s just so irritatingly condescending! She shows the same condescending tone when she makes speeches and does her point-the-finger-at-the-audience thing. I already suspect that she’s highly calculating and self-serving. After all, she said, “I’m in it to win!” instead of “I’m in it for the country!” She also does the John Kerry double-speak if she’s caught being a supporter of something that’s now become unpopular. But that’s politics and I could almost forgive that even though it’s the height of narcissism, because a narcissistic personality may just be a prerequisite for high office. But that condescending manner of speaking is just too much to ignore – for me in any case.

-Kevin

Are We There Yet?

     During the New Year’s Eve celebrations last night, I briefly thought about our New Year’s Eve bash of 1999/2000.  At the time, there was a great deal of concern expressed from many people about computers all over the world suddenly defaulting.  At the same time, many religious groups (possibly the same who feared computer mutiny) passionately awaited the end of times – certain that this was surely the time when they would all be called up to heaven.   

     As for me, my husband and our children; we spent the millennial New Year’s Eve traveling to the Bahamas. Happily, we were free from any fears that the airplane would mysteriously fall from the sky or that we would be “left behind” as the more righteous Christians abandoned us to a fiery crash while they were being raptured. As atheists, we were clearly in the minority. The plane was nearly empty (more stretch-out room), and our resort hotel vacation was priced well below what is usually seen. We’ll never forget the marvelous vacation time we had.

     OK, so I may never know God and I never really did comprehend the meaning/value of the whole faith issue. However, I surely can recognize mass craziness, and know when I see a great travel deal! Anybody know if there are any more Biblical disasters coming up? Let me know so I can arrange my vacation schedule.

-Gretchen

"Little Miss Sunshine"

What a terrific movie! It certainly shows that strong, loving families come in all different shapes and sizes. This was funny and sweet with zero saccharine. As the title of this film otherwise suggests, this is not a “chick-flick” or some kind of feel-good drivel about a precocious, obnoxious or sickeningly sweet child. It’s a very real portrayal of very real people who have their own particular demons and joys – just like all of us – and manage to see life’s overall picture anyway.

Alan Arkin was terrific as the grandfather. Who wouldn’t like him in spite of his drug-snorting, crude-mouth ways? “So what? I’m old!”, he retorted when a family member spoke of his drug addiction. He had a point there and remained grounded in familial loyalty to his fellow characters.

Steve Carell was the funniest suicidal character I’ve ever seen portrayed in any fictional work. His character’s observation (while pushing to jump start a burnt out old van) that he’s the world’s premier Proust authority is hysterical and philosophical at the same time. For him, and for the viewers, it certainly puts the world into pragmatic and realistic focus.

Toni Colette was, as usual, very adept at her characterization of the mother. She was poignantly torn between being carried away with her husband’s delusionary enthusiasm and the plain easy-to-see facts that she was overworked, underpaid and just barely able to throw KFC on the table at the end of the day. Her family was having significant difficulties, but she saw the overall picture too.

Greg Kinnear could have been portrayed as a one-dimensional creepy character with all the “charm” of a revival meeting evangelist bilking people out of their money. His role as a motivational speaker was much more than that. Sure, he was driven by money to a certain extent; but he was a true believer in his “7-Step Plan”. Nevertheless, he was not so out of touch that he couldn’t come back to earth when it really mattered to his family.

Paul Dano was “Dwayne” and Abigail Hoover was “Olive”. Their names are a little dorky and so were they. Dwayne had refused to speak aloud until he achieved his dream of becoming a pilot. Dano played him well as a pasty-faced, adolescent, pain-in-the-butt who isolated himself in his room, reading and re-reading Nietzsche. Though Nietzsche saw nihilism as the outcome of repeated frustrations in the search for life’s meaning, Dwayne transcended (as opposed to “coming down to earth”) this depressing philosophy by making his own meaning. He too saw the overall picture. Olive was a little chubby girl whose enthusiastic optimism nearly crashed during the initial stages of the pathological beauty pageant for little girls. She was rescued by her family while she rescued them.

I had a marvelous time watching this film. It was well-acted, well-directed and well-scripted. There were no special effects – just great art. It’s a wonderful way to say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” and to see how the characters discover the difference between the “small stuff” and what’s really precious in life.

-Gretchen

"Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis

I just finished reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. While initially reading it, I felt quite disappointed in Lewis’ tortured logic, twisted metaphors, and simplistic deductions. There is really a spectacular dearth of reason. He dismisses virtually all but Christian belief (except non-Christian belief systems which share similarities with Christianity), and makes sweeping generalizations supported by non-sequitur examples of everyday life occurrences. He attempts to equate religious beliefs (via his “Law of Human Nature” doctrine) to testable scientific laws, but provides no basis for this assumption and finally succumbs to the “it must be so” argument. He states many “facts” without any apparent vetting.

I have to admit, though, that on finishing the book, I believe I was able to feel some of Lewis’ profound joy about his beliefs. He communicated this well in his last chapters. Not a believer myself, I think that Mr. Lewis was a sincere and moral individual who recognized some of the pitfalls of supernatural thinking (tribalism, superiority, suppression of others) and warned against them. His happiness in what he believes to be the supernatural cohesiveness and his understanding of the universe is palpable.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book for its poetic, but not intellectual value. I was also impressed that Mr. Lewis did not negate scientific inquiry even once in this book. On the contrary, he did not abandon his scholarly roots and even attempted (though failed) to show logic in a quasi-scientific fashion. He supported the fact of Darwinian evolution over “thousands of centuries”, so at least he wasn’t a new-earther. He even paid Darwin a splendid compliment by breathlessly hoping that a Christ-filled human could be our species’ next evolutionary step.

-Gretchen