Against the Grain

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Archive for the ‘sociology’ Category

Movie Review: The Golden Compass

Posted by Patrick on 7 Dec 2007

I went to see the long-awaited “The Golden Compass” today, based on the first story of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman.  Before I try somewhat feebly to comment on how this movie played out socially and theologically for the uber-religious freaks that think all movies that mention God are evil in echelons of ways, I want to talk about the movie itself and how it relates to the book.

***SPOILER ALERT:  Below this line, I am giving away the movie in bits and pieces.  If you don’t want to read a spoiler for any reason whatsoever, you should stop reading this post here.  Thanks for visiting and have a splendid day.***

I knew from the outset of this movie that we’re looking at an episodic event, since the movie’s opening sequence features a cut in the world made by the subtle knife (from book 2).  It turned out that I was right, and that gave me a bit of a “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” shudder before 5 minutes had even passed.  I was disappointed, but I think it was tastefully done, and it helps to set the stage for the movie for people who’ve not read the story.  Dakota Blue Richards’ opening voiceover about the existence of other worlds as that sequence is playing does well to set the story, but if you’ve read the story you know that she doesn’t understand the “other worlds” concept and traveling between them until the second book; it gives her narration a bit of a retrospect — are we going to see something present-day at the end of the trilogy’s movies?  More on that later.

Despite the 1h54m runtime, I thought the anachronism in the movie (scenes extracted out of order from the book) made sense to me, though I felt penalized because I knew the story when events didn’t fire in my pre-set sequence.  An example of this is the first sequence with Lyra – they are playing and talking about the gobblers, and then she finds herself stuck in the retiring room coat closet.  This is the other way around in the book if I remember properly.  There are several other occurrences like this that are subtle, but they still play well with the story.

What I would have liked was to leave the witches’ liaison intact where Lyra uses the alethiometer to identify Serafina’s cloud-pine branch outside.  It made sense later, because the witches were flying without it in the big battle scene.  In the story, I thought this was a critical point.  It was unclear how Serafina and her clan were able to come to aid at Bolvangar – and overall I felt the roles of the witches were downplayed, probably on purpose to appease the anti-magical-people-in-fictitious-movies sect of organized western religions.

I want to say now that I detested the ending of the movie, but I understand why it is this way.  The second story is pretty short in movie terms, as it’s the shortest of the three stories in the trilogy.  But it certainly does lead us to believe that “The Subtle Knife” will be even more episodic than this movie was.  We are going to see the opening sequence of the second movie leading Lyra and Roger up to watch Roger die and everyone will step into another world for the first time.

Now, let’s discuss briefly the religious impact of this movie and why religious “experts” are crying out against it.

First, I have to say that I am not devoutly dedicated to any religion, but I am a Zen Buddhist of the Rinzai sect; my primary temple is in Kyoto as is the master to whom I pledged.  For you Protestants, think of it as the church where you first began to accept/practice your current denomination.

Now that the table’s set, let’s chat.  There is a lot of public outcry over this movie.  People say that this movie defies God (each word is a separate link).  People generally complain that this movie is written by an atheist, that they google the book and the results are controversial topics like “female castration”, that the movie is about kids who set out to kill God.

First of all, these people are idiots.  Maybe I shouldn’t say that — these people are f’ing idiots.  Yes, that’s better.  Ill-informed religious propaganda based on search results from Google, of all places, and based on the author’s personal religious views. People who say that this book movie is about kids who want to kill God, well, they are not only wrong, they are f’ing wrong.  If you want an accurate plot summary of the movie, go look at IMDb — not Google, not your church’s bulletin board, not your archdiocese email distribution list, and certainly not what your church-friend’s-friend’s-pastor’s-uncle is saying about it.

Secondly, Phillip Pullman didn’t write the screenplay, it was Chris Weitz.  Chris Weitz adapted the screenplay from the novel by Phillip Pullman.  Quick you freaks, go Google Chris Weitz and see if he’s an atheist that wants to kill God or write an anti-religion manifesto.  Go stand outside New Line Cinemas and see if you get drag Chris Weitz into the parking lot and throw holy water on him and flash aluminum foil crosses in his eyes so he might go blind.  Let me know how that works out.

Thirdly, Pullman’s book isn’t based on his own ideas (gasp! oh noes!1!!1), whether he may support the ideas or not is irrelevant.  For anyone who has actually read some literature in their lifetime and who has an average level of intelligence, it is more than obvious that Pullman’s stories are based on John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost.  His Dark Materials is based on it, and the actual term “His Dark Materials” is taken directly from it, as in the verse cut below:

Into this wild Abyss,
The womb of Nature, and perhaps her grave,
Of neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire,
But all these in their pregnant causes mixed
Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless th’ Almighty Maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more worlds—
Into this wild Abyss the wary Fiend
Stood on the brink of Hell and looked a while,
Pondering his voyage; for no narrow frith
He had to cross.
John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II

Next time you want to bash a movie because it doesn’t bode well from google, but the trailer looks good, and it’s rated PG-13, here’s a news flash – it’s probably a pretty good movie.  People are saying that it’s trying to promote atheism within children, which is of course a lie, but those people are the same ones who were on the “ban HP books in school libraries” bandwagon because it was about wizards and witches and wanted it replaced with C.S.Lewis’ books about wizards and witches.  I don’t buy your uninformed arguments; I choose to act of my own free will, I choose to let my opinions be formed by myself and not by those who seek to propagandize their discontent, I choose to believe what I feel is best rather than blindly obey out of sheer ignorance.  If you think that’s wrong, fine, but I don’t want to hear about it.

Summary

I thought the movie was slightly above mediocre; I’d give it 3 of 4 stars if I had to rate it.  The acting was ok, the locations were beautifully framed and the chosen scenery was great. The CG and other effects were very good.  The theme sung by Kate Bush at the end I thought was awful – it sounded more like a balladic jam session with a choir.

Dakota Blue Richards stole the show in this movie, but I really wanted to see her be afraid and act like she was actually overcoming something. Maybe we’ll see that in the next book.

Nicole Kidman was about as hot as she has ever been; I thought she played the role of Mrs. Coulter fairly well. But I really wanted to see some emotion out of her, and we didn’t get much except for the deceitful undertones we got from Mrs. Coulter in the story.

Posted in culture, idiocy, movies, omfg, opinion, reading, sociology | Leave a Comment »

What America Can Learn from Japan

Posted by Patrick on 13 Nov 2007

As an American who lived in Japan for 7 years, and very much would like to again some day, returning to life in the US a few years ago was an incredible culture shock.  It was tougher to adjust in moving back to the US than it was to adjust when I arrived in Japan, despite the fact that I’d lived here for 22 years before I first went there.  In the past three years that I’ve been here in Denver, it’s become more and more challenging to accommodate the average American without flipping out and losing my patience.

What I’ve come to grips with, after some lengthy deliberation, is that I expect too much of the average American by having any expectations at all.  Yes, that’s right, it’s too much to ask to carry a single expectation of the average American.  Many people will say that’s a hypocritical statement, or that I’m just bs’ing because if I’m an American it has to apply to me too.  Sure. Fine. Whatever.  Yes I’m a US citizen, and I hold a green card for Japan, and it’s ridiculous how the average person in this country conducts himself.  The average American, in my definition, possesses at least the following qualities:
1.  self-awareness is paramount; surroundings more than 10 feet away are oblivion, unimportant, and probably shouldn’t ever have existed
2.  if person A has more money than person B, person A indirectly (and sometimes directly) makes it known
3.  American women are the most deceitful female of any species in existence; especially in front of other women
4.  between 15 and 40 pounds overweight and not going to do a damn thing about it.
5.  drives an obscenely large vehicle with obscenely bad driving habits and thinks obscenities towards those whose abidance by traffic laws inconveniences them

Why?  What is it about America that could possibly improve, you may ask?  I ask that question in reverse — what about America doesn’t need to be improved to be on par with a tiny (by comparison) country like Japan?

American society is devolving.  That is to say, it is doing the exact opposite of improving.  Japanese society, on the other hand, is continuing to improve – or at least remain unchanged in either direction.  By a global standard, no change is actually a significant improvement.  Granted, the culture of Japan has a several thousand year head start on American culture, but let’s face it; the culture in America really isn’t defined even after 225 years of having a country.  Perhaps Americans own the cultural patent on the fast food drive thru; beyond that there isn’t much.

So why is Japan so “great” when compared to the capitalist American society?  There are a few things about Japan which all people (in Japan) do that the average American would probably think “ok, and?” or “so what?” to, because the average American is incapable of compiling a proper conscious thought to actually understand that sometimes different = better and other times different just = different.  A few of my observation points about Japanese society:
1.  The elderly hold the highest social respect position – they are honored people in society.  Elderly drivers over age 70 (I think) have a special decal for their car which basically informs everyone around them that it’s an elderly driver and essentially to get the hell out of their way if there is a gridlock.
2.  Women run the family finances, but at the same time, women are much more frugal, pragmatic and conscientious about managing the family’s money.  Japan is a cash-based society; that is, most employees are paid in cash to this day.  They don’t know what the hell a check is in Japan, nor do they care.
3.  Children are honored citizens in society; there are several national holidays for children.
4.  Handguns (yes, I went there) are outlawed nationwide.  You do not have the right to bear arms.  If there is ever a violent crime, most often the weapon of choice is a chef’s knife.
5.  Most importantly I think; it doesn’t matter who you are, what kind of car you drive, what kind of job you have, what brand of clothes you wear – what matters is that you are an upstanding, honest person whom those around you can respect and trust.  You must represent yourself as a person that others would care to be around based on your core values and not your outward appearance.
6.  The average Japanese person is between -10 and +5 pounds of their ideal weight; the Japanese diet consists primarily of vegetables and fish.

So, without continuing for a longer spell, I’ll conclude this mini-tirade with some thoughts.  Manifest Destiny grew America to too large of a size too early in its existence – that was out of pure greed and desire to prosper in previously unmapped, native lands.  The Monroe Doctrine basically installed the US as the conflict cops of the Western Hemisphere during the same era.  Nearly 200 years later, are Americans any more conscious, on average?

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Posted in culture, Japan, opinion, research, sociology | 3 Comments »

Gamer Husbands Top Most Loyal Spouses List

Posted by Patrick on 19 Oct 2007

Ladies, we know what the statistics say.  Most studies and exit poll type surveys on married couples attribute that 60% of men and 40% of women that are married are or have been involved in an extramarital affair of some sort.  Moreover, in the US it is approaching the 80% likeliness rate for at least one partner in a marriage to have had such an affair.  Like so many other researchers and sociologists, I aim to find out what some of the triggers are; but beyond that, I’m looking for classes of men and women who don’t have the propensity to be unfaithful.

Please don’t scoff at the title, though I’m sure some will.  From January to October 2007, I conducted a sociological study of married people to assess where their tendencies towards infidelity are most prevalent.  Oddly enough, I ended up collecting more data than I had intended, and some of it is extrapolated for this purpose.  This research is my own and the results I choose to share are my own; I have submitted to several relevant publications for inclusion and hope to gain some spotlight from at least one of them.

A little bit of demographic information:

Total surveyed 16583
Men 9726
Women 6857
Average age (all) 31y 172d
Age (men) 32y 31d
Age (women) 30y 219d

I’m not going to go into racial/ethnic balance and geographic dispersion, but I will say that the demographics are close to the overall American population averages, and that I have at least 50 respondents from all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

So, first let’s talk about what I found were the categories of men and women that are most likely to be unfaithful.  In my population, 916 respondents (5.52%) reported an annual income of over $200k per year – the majority of these were also in large metropolises.  Of those 916 (552 men, 364 women), 788 (86%) admitted to either a current or previous extramarital affair in their current marriage.  From that 788, only 207 averaging an age of 29y 106d were in their first marriage which simply tells us that 581 (73.7%) of those who are cheating in the high tax bracket have been married at least twice. Lesson to be learned:  if you are divorced and looking for a big fish to pay the bills, be prepared for her/him to step out for free samples, because nearly all of them are doing it once they’ve gotten back on the boat at least once.

Among other income brackets, those earning under $25k per year were the second most likely to cheat at 52.6%.  I found that, on basis of income alone, those married people earning between $40k and $60k per year (5147 respondents) were the least likely to cheat, but this number was still at 31.911% and was higher for women than men.

Where propensity to be unfaithful gets interesting is when it’s broken down by common hobbies.  I think it is largely untouched to approach the hobbies of married people as a basis for comparison.  While it can be said with some value that individual personalities drive their hobbies and ultimately their mental framework of fidelity, we can certainly learn a lot about a person by what they value in their spare time.

You may be surprised (and you may not) by these stats.  The hobby which garnered the most unfaithful responses in the survey was weightlifting/working out.  Maybe this isn’t a surprise; people who are attempting to take care of their body and shape themselves as they wish are usually more confident and able to carry conversation better than those who do not value personal appearance.  But an alarming 75.22% of those who marked their primary hobby as weightlifting/working out also noted that they either have or currently are having extramarital relations.

Looking at the faithful end of the spectrum now, I was absolutely shocked at my own results.  There are 4844 (29.2%) respondents who marked “video games” as one of their top two hobbies, which was surprising, but not so much over the average age of 31y.  This is comprised of mostly men, of course, but more than 1000 women are in this category.  Overall, only 372 (7.68%) people in this group responded that they are/have been unfaithful in their current marriage.  2941 in this group have been married more than once, and 1502 of these 2941 said that a previous marriage ended because of their spouse’s unfaithfulness but not their own.

Breaking down this gamer category for men and women, there were 3683 men and 1161 women.  Of the 372 marking themselves as unfaithful, 244 were women and 128 were men.  This gives us a yield of 3.48% of gamer men having fidelity issues and 21.02% of women.  Despite the relative disparity, these numbers are still well below other demographic rankings and certainly below the national statistic estimates.

A brief list, by primary hobby, of fidelity rankings:

Best – Men
1.  Video games
2.  Reading
3.  Religious study

Worst – Men
1.  Weightlifting/working out
2.  Financial investing
3.  Golf

Best – Women
1.  Knitting/Sewing
2.  Religious study
3.  Video games

Worst – Women
1.  Weightlifting/working out
2.  Club hopping/bar hopping
3.  Volunteering/Community outreach (!)

I will repost or update this post if my full research is published in any accredited publication.

Posted in educational, infidelity, marriage, men, reading, research, sociology, women | 9 Comments »