Posted by mike in Film,Religion,Science at 10:12 pm on November 27, 2006

There have been several times in my life when I’ve been inspired to write something, but been beaten to it by somebody else. The best example of this is Kevin Smith, who has done it twice: first with Clerks, and then again with Chasing Amy. I have no way of proving that I thought of writing a screenplay in either case that would address the same subject matter in roughly the same manner. I furthermore make no assertions that what I would have produced, had Kevin not beat me to it on both occasions, would have been anywhere near as inspired and well done as his films were.

I’ve gotten away from my screenwriting aspirations in recent years, while trying to develop something that resembles a professional career. I’ll get back to said aspirations soon enough, I hope; in fact, part of the reason for starting this weblog was to try to return to the habit of writing out my thoughts in a manner that is at least a bit more planned out than daily conversations or message board arguments, in the hopes that I would eventually progress to more serious writing projects.

The most recent example of somebody beating me to the punch by writing something that I not only think I would have written, but could have written, is Sam Harris‘s Letter to a Christian Nation. In it, Harris has concisely and convincingly pointed out the major flaws with our culture’s ridiculous adherence to archaic religious beliefs. What I admire most about Harris’s writing is that he cuts right to the chase, and pulls no punches. I’d like to think that if I were to address the same subject, I’d be able to keep my cool as much as he does, but in reality I have trouble convincing myself of this.

A great example of his ability to maintain not only his rationality but also his temper in the presence of complete blind ignorance is a recent debate between Harris and conservative radio talker Dennis Prager. I think that the debate itself serves as a fairly accurate portrayal and summary of the issues at hand. On one side, you have somebody trying to illustrate his rational point of view using elementary logic and reasoning. On the other, you have somebody who obviously is unwilling to look at things in a logical manner, even while he recognizes the necessity of framing his perspective as if it were based on something resembling logic.

My favorite part, though, is when Prager decides to turn to attacking our system of education:

“We therefore have two choices about how to interpret these data. One is that the more one knows, the less likely one is to believe in God. That is your interpretation. I have another interpretation—that contemporary higher education increases factual knowledge but decreases wisdom. With some exceptions, I believe that the more time one spends at a university the more foolish he or she becomes.”

I would hope that I am not being too presumptuous to suppose that the ridiculousness of this statement is apparent to anybody who would be reading my blog: the distinction (and implied contradiction) between “factual knowledge” and “wisdom”; the implication that “wisdom” equates to “belief in God”; the nonsensical conclusion that attainment of factual knowledge is equivalent to becoming foolish. The funniest part, though, is the sheer hypocrisy of it: Prager makes it a point to emphasize his own university tenure in the About Prager section of his website, referencing his time as a Fellow at Columbia University and his graduate work he did while there. One can only conclude that Prager himself has arrived at his faith by succumbing to the foolishness that was instilled in him while at the university.

This is pretty indicative, I think, of the kind of self-contradicting nonsense that comes out when somebody attempts to expound an inherently illogical position by farcically pretending to use logic and reason in support of his stance. Personally, I would have infinitely more respect for his position if he just said, “Look, I believe in God despite the fact that there is no logical reason to do so, and that’s that.” Of course, that’s not saying much, mathematically speaking.

Comments (3)

Posted by mike in Film,Friends,Internet at 9:20 pm on November 13, 2006

I have a Bacon number of 4. This is due to the fact that my oldest friend Andy (who I’ve known since kindergarten) lives and works in Hollywood, and pretty much everybody in Hollywood is shortly connected to Kevin Bacon.

Andy lived for a period of time in Manhattan, in an apartment more or less right across the street from Madison Square Garden, with a couple of friends who we’d attended high school with. When Andy moved back to California, a guy named Charlie took his place. Charlie founded something called Improv Everywhere, which can most easily be described as a roaming improv comedy and pranking group, but that’s oversimplifying it a great deal. Their infamous U2 mission takes place on the roof of the aforementioned apartment.

After about 5 years of performing what Charlie refers to as “missions,” Improv Everywhere decided to release a compilation of their antics thus far on DVD, which Andy edited and assembled for them.

I was visiting Andy in Los Angeles as he was finishing up these DVDs, and got to see early versions of them. I’d like to think that I helped in debugging some of the menu navigation and hidden features as well, but Andy had largely completed all of the work by the time I got a chance to see them. Forever the supporter of endeavors of my friends, I pre-ordered the DVDs from IE’s website upon my return from LA, and I received the finished product a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve gone through every nook and cranny of both discs, over 6 hours worth of material, and have thoroughly concluded that I’m a big fan of the concept in general. I think it’s no coincidence that I often accidentally type Improve when referring to IE; they really do live up to their billing of trying to spread joy with their missions. One of my favorite hidden features on the discs explores this very notion, along with some of its implications, in an as-yet-unaired episode of This American Life, the forthcoming TV series. I won’t spoil the content for my readers, but suffice it to say that it’s worth seeking out. I’m looking forward to more entertaining missions from Improv Everywhere in the future.

Comments (4)

Posted by mike in Drinking,News at 7:56 pm on November 1, 2006

Today after work I swung by the Pub to meet and have my picture taken with Monica Leigh, Miss March 2006.

Me and Miss March

Megan got her picture taken with the 2006 Cyber Girl of the Year, too, but she doesn’t like sharing things with the Internet the way I do.

She signed it:

To Mike,
All my love,
Monica Leigh

It’s cheesy, but it was a fun experience. I’m hoping my co-workers will be jealous tomorrow when I hang the picture outside of my office.

Comments (3)