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It’s the festive season and in good humour I’m here to rain on everyone’s parade. Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus. People think it’s a holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ despite so much evidence to the contrary. This is just another example of the transmission of knowledge being impeded in society.

The bible is very unclear of the date of Jesus’s birth (it’s a shame religious people don’t know more about their own scripture). The New Testament says nothing at all about the date of his birth and the earliest gospel (St. Mark’s, written around 65CE, where CE was previously known as AD) begins with the baptism of adult Jesus. Many scholars have tried to pinpoint the date of Jesus’s birth through cross-referencing dates mentioned in the bible (which makes many assumptions, the worst being that the bible is consistent, which it most definitely is not). Many have even used astrology and the dates of notable events, which are somewhat less erroneous. Regardless, one thing that scholars can agree upon is that Jesus was not born on the 25th of December. He wasn’t even born in winter, nor 1 BC/1 CE.

So where does Christmas come from? Some of you might have watched The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon points out that Christmas was actually the pagan festival of Saturnalia. Well, the Roman pagans introduced Saturnalia as a week long period of lawlessness where nobody could be punished. Things got pretty crazy; it was pretty much a full blown hedonistic celebration, complete with ritual murder, torture and rape. In the 4th century, Christianity imported this holiday in the hopes of converting pagans. They succeeded in converting a large number of pagans by promising that they could continue to celebrate Saturnalia as Christmas.

Unfortunately, Saturnalia had nothing to do with Jesus so Christian leaders proclaimed it to be a celebration of the birth of Christ. Yes, they made it up to spread their religion.

Saturnalia itself was pretty crazy. It was like ironic torture. You can find more about it if you’re interesting, I’m just here to say it was nuts.

Christmas as a placebo to spread happiness is fine. I have nothing against that. But let’s not mistake the reason why we’re doing it. It has nothing to do with Jesus. In fact, it started for pretty ignoble reasons. Then again, how much has changed? It’s still a pretty hedonistic holiday.

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Quick fact for you all. This question has always stumped me because I couldn’t taste or see any difference, but it was never important enough to stay in my mind so I never got around to researching it. Well now I have.

Essentially, they are the made in the same way so in that sense they are basically the same thing. The only difference is the size they are made in: Brie is traditionally made as a large flat wheel, and Camembert a small round wheel. The only other difference is their terroir which is something like the region in which it is made (a concept also in wine). The idea is that certain regions produce slightly different tasting products even if they are meant to be essentially the same. However, to someone like me, I really can’t taste the difference. Besides, Brie and Camembert are no longer exclusively made in their original regions any more (Brie in south-east Paris and Camembert to the west near Normandy) so the difference is moot. The stuff you buy at supermarkets is not technically Brie or Camembert any more, just a facsimile that essentially tastes the same, unless the brand makes them different on purpose.

Yes, the whole political thing is over. Maybe I’m too late to bag on Romney but I read an interesting article in Scientific American talking about the emergence of “antiscience”. In the interest of being objective, the article criticises both sides of scientific illiteracy and publicly spreading stupidity through their misinformed opinions on scientific discourse. There’s an interesting treat for you all at the end of this article. SA posed science related questions to both Obama and Romney, then graded their answers based on how well they answered.

The Democrats were guilty of the false belief that vaccines cause autism and mental retardation. The Republicans, as usual, tried to attack the validity of science itself, preaching creationism and falsely denying climate change. I love how they still say “it’s unclear” or “there is no consensus” or “the evidence is still divided”. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to use this picture:

GWLiteratureReview1_full

If the Republicans had any scientific credibility in the first place, I hope that picture buries it. I did an article on climate change but it was a little bit of an appeal to emotion on my part because I feel bad for polar bears (and other animals). The thing to take away here is: First, there is no “debate” over climate change. Refer to the picture above. It’s pretty damn conclusive. Second, it does not matter if climate change is man-made or not. It seems politicians have some sort of screw loose in their head where they think that as long as they can shirk responsibility and say that humans didn’t cause climate change that we’ll somehow be safe from it. Sea level rising? Fish population dwindling? Starvation of the human race imminent? Oh, don’t worry, we didn’t cause it so we’ll be safe. Nope, we don’t have to do anything about it because it wasn’t us. Yeah … you know what? I’m pretty sure Earth doesn’t give a damn if we caused it or not, if we don’t do anything we’ll suffer anyway. Here’s Romney’s take on it (one of his takes, he actually switched back and forth between believing and not believing it).

My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet, and the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try and reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.

Whoa, hold on there! Trillions and trillions? Besides making bombs and guns I don’t remember the Republicans being willing to spend trillions and trillions on anything. The entire NASA budget is only what the US military spends on airconditioning in temporary bases in Iraq, if you guys remember my article about NASA’s contributions.

The article goes on to identify a trend of “antiscience” whereby politicians outright attacked science and gained popularity from it. Huntsman, the only candidate to actively embrace science, finished last in the polls. I don’t know if I should blame politicians or people for this one. Maybe they realise they’re just spouting lies to gain popularity. Surely they can’t be dumb enough to believe what they’re saying (unless you’re Todd Akin). But in the end, they do it because the public responds. So damn, what does that say about the public? Get your shit together. I don’t think anyone who reads my blog is antiscience (or they’d be completely in the wrong place) but seriously, how do you end up with the mentality that science is bad and evil? Here’s a quick summary of what the article says about science’s contribution to America:

For some two centuries science was a preeminent force in American politics, and scientific innovation has been the leading driver of US economic growth since World War II. Kids in the 1960s gathered in school cafeterias to watch moon launches and landings on televisions wheeled in on carts. Breakthroughs in the 1970s and 1980s sparked the computer revolution and new information economy. Advances in biology, based on evolutionary theory, created the biotech industry. New research in genetics is poised to transform the understanding of disease and the practice of medicine, agriculture and other fields.

Add this to what I’ve already said in my article about NASA’s contributions and it makes you wonder why you would stop pursuing science at all, let alone become antiscience. The articles continues to point out that America is no longer the scientific leader of the world, and how sad this is when science has been part of America’s success and history. The antiscience epidemic is so bad that it’s gotten to the point where people are being ostracised from the Republican party and communities for having different beliefs. People always ask what’s so bad about religion, or having beliefs. Well, I’m not attacking religion specifically here but any academic can see that the militant spread of false ideology sets back the human race as a whole. Idiots should not be in a position where they can influence the minds of the future.

Anyway, let me just leave you with a tidbit. This one is very interesting; Scientific American proposed a science debate between Obama and Romney which was rejected (despite having the support of tens of thousands of intellectual minds). However, they prepared written responses to the top 14 questions and their answers were graded by SA’s editors. Yes, graded. Like they were high school kids answering a test. Very interesting read: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=obama-romney-grades-science-in-an-election-year

First up: spoiler alert. Don’t read this if you haven’t watched the movie yet.

For you others, what did you think? Here’s my two cents.

Edit: This is turning out to be a long post. As a mini table of contents, I talk about plot devices, scientific accuracy, and finally draw connections to how this movie continues the Batman villain theme.

skyfall-650

Fair warning, I analyse texts based on two things: scientific accuracy and quality as a written story. Yes, state of the art cinematic techniques, blah blah. Let’s get to the real stuff that you can’t just do with money.

The movie itself was more or less what I expected. Typical Bond movie sans the old school high tech gadgetry (a bit of an oxymoron there?) but with good pace due mostly to cinematography. They did do a cheeky reference to the new Bond movies’ lack of gadgets, perhaps in response to fan criticism: “Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don’t do that stuff any more”. The movie seems to have tried to introduce gadgetry a bit more, especially in the final scene where they rig up a manor with booby traps. Not really “gadgets” in the old school sense, but I think there was still an intentional theme of “creative ways to make tools that kill stuff”. No, it was quite alright and enjoyable to watch. However, put that aside and we’ve got a few problems.

First of all, the story. Unfortunately, this movie just confirms the declining quality of modern day writers. Out of Daniel Craig’s Bond movies, Casino Royale had the best storyline. It was concise and did not overstep itself. It was coherent, had its twists and climaxes, and finished very tidily. I well planned out and executed story. Next was Quantum of Solace, the complete opposite. It bit off more than it could chew, setting the scene for a previously unheard of organisation that had infiltrated everything and was omnipotently powerful. It introduced so much: political warfare, battle over resources, and the concept of “you never know who you can trust”. Then it realised that it couldn’t finish this in one movie so it went and crapped on itself by skipping ahead very rapidly, getting very messy, and then finishing and never again mentioning this organisation despite how amazingly powerful it is. All he did was kill one member. Talk about anti-climax. The difference? Casino Royale is an old storyline. It was remade. Old writers are better at their craft. I think I touched on this in my rant on recently published books; perhaps I’m the victim of a changing society but social pressures and the drive to make money (off the mainstream, because that’s where money is) has led to a lot of shoddy writing these days, from games, to books, to movies, and even to shop signs. Regardless, it’s a fact that writers are different these days. I just think the new ones are a disappointment.

Feel free to agree or disagree with me on that. It’s an opinion and a sentiment I’m sure many older writers and readers will agree on.

Back to Skyfall. The story was better than Quantum of Solace. At least it wrapped up. However, there wasn’t that much substance to it and unfortunately, there were a lot of logic farts and stupid plot devices. Before I start getting scientific up in here let’s start from the beginning. Moneypenny is ordered to take a shot at the beginning, which hits Bond instead of the target. Ok, fair enough. Then she spends the next five seconds staring at Bond’s falling body and the escaping target. Hmm … TAKE ANOTHER GODDAMN SHOT. Ok, maybe if it was a flintlock with a single round in it, but no, she’s clearly holding an automatic weapon. She could have held the trigger down since she already hit Bond anyway. So the first plot device of this movie is a huge fuckup (pardon the language but that’s the best word to describe it), to which the rest of the movie is dedicated to fixing.

Now let’s get a bit scientific. There were a lot of things, as usual, that Hollywood decided didn’t have to follow physics. Many of these can be ignored because it’s an action flick. Fair enough. Causing an entire island to be abandoned due to “hacking” and spreading a rumour about a chemical leak? Ok. Let’s ignore the fact that stuff like that is usually checked. Like, the government sends in dudes in hazmat suits to assess if the leakage will affect any other areas. But ok, let’s ignore that. Then the computer network he has set up there. Fair enough, he managed to buy and ship all that gear to the island, supply the entire island with power and get internet access without anyone realising “hold on, that place is meant to be abandoned, why is there so much electrical power going into the place?”; let’s forget all that.

But the hacking thing? Again, I understand you can make money off mainstream audiences that don’t know any better but no, hacking is not some embodiment of god in your computer screen. You can’t just “click and it’s done”. So much of the movie was based on hacking and none of it was feasible. The more tech savvy of you lot will have been facepalming during the hacking scenes because they were so rife with errors. Normally, I’d let it slide but because the movie literally hinged on hacking, I had to bring it up. It’s practically a deus ex machina in that it was the excuse for several plot points.

Oh and, you know how the hero always jumps aside as fire is shooting down a tunnel? Yeah, it doesn’t work that way. Fire “travels” by burning oxygen. You can jump anywhere you want, it’s going to follow you. And after you survive, there’ll be no oxygen in the tunnels for a while, depending on how deep, twisting, etc. the tunnels are. I see this so much in action movies and it’s beginning to be annoying.

Now, introducing the villain, Silva:

Skyfall trailer pic 7

Here’s where things get interesting. It seems Batman has kicked off a new era of villains. The psychotic, chaotic villain with questionable goals and even more questionable sanity is becoming popular. You know when something is popular when others try to copy it. By the way, I say chaotic intentionally – refer to an old post of mine about why we love villains so much.

Let me just get one last scientific pain the ass out of the way. Cyanide does not do that to you. I’m assuming you’ve watched the movie if you’ve read to this point, but to clarify, he pulls out part of his jaw and said the cyanide did that to him. No, cyanide is a form of a toxic inhalant. It can be administered in a variety of ways, but inhalation is the main issue. Further, it causes cell mortality via prevention of cell respiration. It’s not acid, it can’t melt your face off. Hydrogen cyanide does have a boiling point at room temperature but trust me, the bones in your jaw and skull can withstand that kind of heat. Again, it will not cause whatever the hell he had in the movie. Nor would you be likely to survive such a thing, or maintain any facial function if it did happen.

There was a lot of emphasis in the movie on his psychological state. Feelings of abandonment and suffering were imparted, though perhaps not enough to create an optimal level of audience sympathy, but there was that concept that he wasn’t completely wrong. His random acts of terror and being “one step ahead” was very reminiscent of the Joker, and the strangely lucid insanity only added to that effect. However, it did not achieve the same effects as the Joker because of a variety of reasons.

He won’t be a villain to remember, nor will the movie, but regardless, it was interesting to take note of how trends in media and texts are moving. This might be the period of amazing villains. Certainly, the villain demonstrated more character than Bond. Bond is the typical rogue hero. His vocabulary seems to be constituted entirely of snappy one-liners and his emotional range seems stuck on serious, cheeky and badass. Fair enough, but that makes for a very two-dimensional character. What I’m getting at is that heroes are very restricted but villains have unlimited potential. Again, you’ll have to read the article on villains to understand what I’m referring to. It’s an old article and messy. All my long posts are messy because I write what comes to mind so it tends to be disorganised collections of thoughts.

Anyway, enjoyable movie and it achieved it’s desired results, though to what degree is questionable. I still maintain that Casino Royale was the best of the three, mainly due to the strong storyline and just how “clean” it felt to watch.

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