Movie Rundown: Network, Elizabeth, Fear and Loathing

It was all about Netflix this week:

Network won four Oscars, and deserved every one. It was written almost thirty years ago, and as relevent today as 1984. Peter Finch is brilliant as the failing news anchor who descends into a mad furor over the dehumanization of the audience. His rants blow the ratings through the roof. The network staff is shaken by internal politics, allowing a programming executive (Faye Dunaway) to gain control of the news department. Her dream project is taking actual footage of acts of terror and constructing a Law-and-Order-esque back story (a bank robbery by the "Ecumenical Liberation Army" is the erstwhile pilot). Paddy Chayevsky couldn't have imagined how much worse television's gotten in thirty years, though. From reality programming to 24 hour propaganda channels, we're no closer to waking up than then.

Elizabeth is a current subject of study at the Tennessee Screenwriting Association, a group I go to occasionally. It's a very clear example of a character arc - we watch Elizabeth transform from a vibrant princess in love to the familiar Virgin Queen icon. Next Thursday, I'll compare this arc to Margo Channing's transformation in All About Eve. Having focused on the arc before seeing the movie, I'm glad to report that the movie is gorgeously made and quite good as a story.

Finally, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This is one of the few Gilliam movies I've never seen, Brazil being my favorite movie of all time. Fear and Loathing seemed to be about just how messed up one weekend can be if you possess enough drugs and don't mind taking them all at once. Plenty of memorable moments - Benecio Del Toro's Dr. Gonzo singing One Toke Over The Line had me reaching for the nitroglycerine. Ellen Barkin's damaged waitress scene was emotionally wrenching, and if you thought Gilliam couldn't do any more damage to Katherine Hellmond's lovely face, fasten your seat belt. But this felt like a movie that was filmed for the people who have already read the book.

PS: Johnny Depp might be considering the role of Willy Wonka in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I couldn't think of a more fitting actor with whom to trust that part.

Meme of the Week: Memes

Perhaps you don't know what a meme is. But trust me, you'd know one if you saw it.

One of the best introductions to the idea of memes is from Martin Willet's Meme Machine. I invite you to read the entire page there, but I'd like to reproduce a quote from Richard Dawkins:

I think that a new kind of replicator has recently emerged on this very planet. It is staring us in the face. It is in its infancy, still drifting clumsily about in its primeval soup, but already it is achieving evolutionary change at a rate that leaves the old gene panting far behind.

The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream.'

Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms and eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and his lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain.
So I can't imagine that people familiar with blogs don't know about memes as well. This new medium is designed to propagate memes throughout the internet.

Every position you hold is a meme. Every idea you reject is a meme. You weave your accepted memes together, in varying blends of dissonance and harmony, into your own personal viewpoint. People generally accept what they already believe, and discard what they don't. If a particularly challenging view fails to withdraw from the battlefield of the mind, people will seek out a champion to rid them of the troublesome view.

But is total harmony something that you want in your worldview? It's the interplay of dissonance and harmony that is so exciting in the great works of music. The total empathy with two irrevokably separated characters produces the catharsis of grief in drama. Oxygen will oxide iron if they come in contact, but hemoglobin exploits this battle to supply the requirements of life to your cells. Dissonance, well managed, is the fount of human expression - it's the quest for the Great Amen.

As humans (and hobbits!), we require a measure of continuity in our belief system, but it is in the challenge of debate and new ideas that our memetic structure is tested. I'm interested to know what strategies you use to maintain consistancy, and how well you deal with considering new ideas. Please use the comment button below to share.

(Aside: the page where I retreived the code for my comment dealie (thanks, GooberGunch!) is a very well-designed meme transmission area. Please consider it for your comment dealie needs.)

Ten Commandments of the CJRM

I: I am the Chief Justice Roy Moore (CJRM) - Thou shalt have no other views but my Godly Christian views.

II: Thou shalt have a large graven image of my Ten Commandments placed in your public buildings for all to see and bow down before and worship - for I the CJRM am a vainglorious CJRM.

III: Thou shalt not understand that the CJRM is doing it for the publicity.

IV: Remember the dates of the various television appearances of the CJRM and watch them unfailingly. There can be no great act of devotion to the CJRM than to attend to his every public appearance, for the CJRM has many Godly Christian views and you will be responsible for them all.

V: Believe what the CJRM tells you about the Godly Christian views of the founding fathers of this Godly Christian nation and honor this Godly Christian view of them.

VI: Thou shalt not impeach the CJRM.

VII: Thou shalt not listen to the "higher" courts of law in this nation.

VIII: Thou shalt not overrule the CJRM and remove the huge graven image of the Ten Commandments.

IX: Thou shalt not speak thy own understanding - I am the CJRM.

X: Thou shalt not covet thine own expression of religion in a governmental setting - this nation of the CJRM is a Godly Christian nation, so get used to it.

A title field is a good thing...

And so is the correct time stamp.

This hobbit's home is in Nashville, Tennessee. My local newspaper, the Tennessean, is owned by Gannett, which is why this hobbit prefers to get his news from the Internet. At least at Google News, I can compare or ignore all the corporate news I choose.

Oh, it's much too late to get into the evils of corporate America tonight. At least I learned how to do links without Blogger buttons. Good night, my friends!

Okay, until I have buttons, I will just type in the HTML. It might put my post-midnight nibble off for a few more moments, but sacrifice is one of those necessary evils.

The Smirking Chimp

This is one of my favorite sites on the web. I've met some amazing people, seen some great debate, done my share of debating, and generally enjoyed every moment I was there. I always learn something new or fun, and for hobbits, a bit of new and fun is always welcome...

It works, hurrah! I can feel the Chimp sneaking closer to the top of the Google pile right now.

So I'm supposed to have little buttons that let me create links. Well, I don't. Perhaps it's because I'm on an Apple iMac computer. I'm such a little Machead - laugh all day long at MSBlaster problems, yet I can't get my link buttons at Blogger. What's a poor little hobbit to do?

Whoops, that's the kettle boiling...

Good evening!

Bolo Boffin here, welcoming you to a brand new blog. What an exciting time and way to be communicating! I'm usually over at the Smirking Chimp or Democratic Underground (username: boloboffin - you never could have guessed), so now you know the basic style of my politics. I hope that I can talk about more things than politics, though. Now I'm off to figure out how to put URLs into these posts. Wish me luck!