The Counsel of Trent

writing is thinking

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Holy Holywood Batman: The Golden Compass

I just finished watching The Golden Compass. It was a well-crafted movie, the writers having cleaned up the gaseous prose and turned the Jules-Verianly delightful. [Aside: Alvin and the Chipmunks is funniest in German, by far, least funny in Italian (or maybe English). Anyway, here are a few random comments--both particular and general. The use of language is often very clever. I think the "dust" thing doesn't work, dust isn't mysterious enough. Further reflection on this might lead to reversal, but I was left cold by it the first time round. What's clever--devilishly clever--is the reversal of meaning of "church" words. The slyest is the use of "demon" to stand for the spirit-guides individuals have (their inclusion as characters is by far the best literary device). The idea was to turn the word "demon" which is name of a bad thing in contemporary church language into a term that names a good thing: the spirit guide of the central characters. Less creative is the use of "Magisterium" for the evil empire. The smart thing about the use of "demon" is that its historically and etymologically appropriate and attached to a clever dramatic device. The use of "Magisterium" as the source of evil, on the other hand, is just too blatant, it's not creative.

I'm not sure I care for the Aletheometer or its name. Again, it's a bit too direct, and though I think the three-needle-symbol idea is good, they don't really use it. At first she interprets the signs, but then later she just sees visions when she looks into it. What's the point of the symbols if it just shows her visions?

Nevertheless, the reason I would never show the movie to a child is that it has a clear message and the message is bad. The message is that you should do whatever you want, authority is intrinsically bad, and that ruthlessness is a virtue whereas mercy is a vice. I wish to be clear about this: these reasons are totally seperate from the ones based on where this movie is headed (which is a sufficient reason not to let kids see it). It's not the atheological rantings of the author of the original book that I'm concerned with here. I won't let my kids watch The Golden Compass for about the same reason I won't let them see, say, Alvin and the Chipmunks. I chose not to take in the violence of No Country for Old Men or the endless Soliloquis of Lians for Lambs to screen Alvin and the Chipmonks for the kids. Verdict = no. I don't need teen life nonsense pumped into my kids. To be fair, the movie has a message--at least one of the messages--that I fully indorse. It's just that like most other movies these days, the good message is either just slathered on top of the usual filth as an excuse to attract people to the movies to see the filth--this is the defining feature of PG-13 movies aimed at teens--or they just can't bring themselves to filter it out.

The Golden Compass manages to fuse the puerile message of teen movies with the ruthlessness No Country for Old Men (admittedly without the blood. In Compass Land when people are skewered with arrows they just go out in a burst of flame), with the preachiness of Lambs for Lions (or is it Lions for Lambs). It's a shame too, because the kids would love the wacky hijinks of Alvin and the Chipmunks (I'd love to watch this move with thiem if it didn't mean forcing them to watch a bunch of music videos and party scenes. And I'd love to watch The Golden Compass with them, they'd love the polar bear character, and the scenery, and many other aspects of the movie. I am sad that I cannot watch this movie with them. However, I truly cannot do so, for it would hurt them.

Who Knew: Desperate Housewives.

OK, sue me. I watched an episode of Desperate Housewives. I'm not going to defend it or explain it, but it happened. And I have to say--mirabile dictu--that it was pretty interesting. There was almost no sleaze, what there was was judged pretty harshly, there were corporal and spiritual works of mercy, there were characters whose complexity was true-to-life. I was quite surprised. I'm not *endorsing* it or anything, but perhaps I judged it too harshly. Let me be clear: I can't *imagine* that it would be a worthwhile investment of time to follow the show. It's just that it might not be the mind- and morals-rotting filth I inferred it was from the commercials. Who knew?

Tales of Travel: Unamerican activities among the French-Swiss.

I had to catch a bus. HAD to. I had to go. GO go. HAD to. I waited and waited for le Toilet Publique. Time was running out. I crossed the street to the cafe thinking "I'd have to pay two CHF (Swiss Franks, about two dollars) to go there anyway, so I don't mind buying a cup of tea after, taking a few sips, and abandoning it. Neither going in nor coming out did I see anyone who looked like they were ready, willing, and able, to take my order, so I just headed back out to the bus depot.

"Messeur! Messeur!" I heard. "Es ne toilet publique.! I had just a moment to think. "Inshuldigenzie, bitte," I responded, "Sprechen-zie Deutch?" She replied with the German for "Es ne toilet publique" and I just rolled my eyes at her and walked away. Hahahaha, take that Germans! Another mission accompliched for the Red White and Blue (these colors don't run, but something else almost did!) [The last few comments courtesy of me watching too much Colbert Report.]

Back from Switzerland!

The Epistemic Agency conference at the Episteme Group at Geneva was awesome, pics forthcoming! IN the mean time, I'll be posting some bloggage about the tuff I watched on the flights. In about 20 hrs of total flying time, I was able to kick back and do some passive brain-draining...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Random: The Black Cab Sessions

Been wrapping up the semester. Here's something completely different.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Just now studying I heard a guy say to his girlfriend: "No, it's not annoying, it's really cool." He made it so when he moved his mouse it made the sound of a light saber being waved. He was using a Mac.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Counsel of Trent: Morality and Religion

Q: Why care about being in the Church if you are a good person?

There are all kinds of goods in the world. There’s the good of enjoying a good movie, the good of enjoying some good food, a good performance at a sport or hobby, a good glass of wine, being a good parent, receiving good parenting. These are all things that make an individuals life good and society good as well. There’s also moral goodness. Moral goodness helps society experience some of the goods listed above and it also produces a kind of goodness in the soul of the one who does good. But there’s yet another kind of goodness: the goodness of a right relationship with one’s creator; of knowing who the Creator is and giving due worship in the right way. There is great good in the creature’s mind reflecting the mind of the creator and contemplating the Creator’s nature.

So consider two people Alf and Beth. They both live in a beautiful part of the country, enjoy the finest foods and entertainment. Each is passing on the good training for life they had from their parents. The both do their duties and some charity besides. However, Beth, but not Alf, goes to see a Monk once a week, on the weekend, and the Monk is able to communicate to her certain truths about the nature of reality including the nature of the Creator. The Monk has Beth go through certain sacred rituals that actually put Beth in a certain temporary communion with the Creator. As a result, Beth both is and knows that she is in a position of learning truths about herself, the Creator, and her relation to the Creator.

Beth’s life is better than Alf’s. Beth’s life has all the goods Alf’s does plus the great goods the Monk imparts to her. Note that the person who doesn’t count these goods as great goods—the person who thinks that these goods aren’t as good as the good of drinking fine wines—doesn’t really deserve those goods or isn’t ready for them. The same is true of the person who thinks it’s not worth the extra effort to get these goods if one has all the other goods.

Note that it doesn’t matter what you think about how to weigh certain goods against others. Would it be better to rightly worship God but be a morally bad person or to be a morally good person with out God or to be a morally good person with God but who is persecuted or otherwise deprived of all the other goods. These are complex questions but it doesn’t matter to the thesis here advanced: Knowing the truth about God, worshiping God rightly, and communing with God are great goods which one ought to desire to add to all of one’s other goods whatever those goods might be.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Heading to another S____land epistemology conference: Epistemic Agency

Well I'll be heading out in a few weeks to the Epistemic Agency Conference in Geneva, Switzerland put on by the Episteme group there. I look forward to seeing Julien Detant again whom I met briefly at the Aberdeen Linguistics and Epistemology conference, Olivier Massin and Anne Meyen whom I met at the Edinburgh epistemology conference, and hanging out with El Greco, the main speaker and all around good guy.

This will be my third time abroad: twice to Scotland and now Switzerland. It struck me that I should next go to Swaziland to keep with the theme of taveling to S___land. I can't think of any more countries that meet that pattern, so maybe it'll just be a trifecta.

England doesn't count since I was just on my way to Scotland, but even if you counted it it would make a consistent _____land theme. Now that would have more opportunities I think. Any conferences in Iceland?