My exciting plans for tomorrow evening!

The Morris Theater is showing God’s Not Dead tomorrow at 7, and I have to go for multiple reasons. I want to find out how philosophy teaching works. From the trailer, it sounds like philosophers simply tell all their students what the answer is, and order them to write down the words verbatim in their exams. I’m really curious to see how effective that is, since it would make my teaching so much simpler.

I’m also curious to watch the audience. Maybe we’ll all be looking at each other, thinking “Oh, you’re the kind of idiot who goes to these things. Heh, heh, heh.”

I’ll be killing time, too, until it gets dark enough to drive a few miles out of town and bury the bodies under cloak of darkness I mean, watch the reputed meteor shower that evening.

Anyone else in the Morris area going? We could pick up the latest hot tips in college pedagogy.

Oh, never mind — nobody in Stevens County reads this weird blog.

Harken back to the satanic panics of yesteryear

Ah, the 1980s. When every preschool was a hotbed of satan worshipping child abusers, police departments had ‘experts’ on ritual murder, daytime talk TV would run very special episodes on cultic cannibal orgies, and Jack Chick published Dark Dungeons. You’ve read it, right? The story about Dungeons & Dragons giving you actual magical powers that would damn you to hell? Go ahead, take a minute to read it if you haven’t already.

Or don’t. Just wait until August, fork over $5, and you’ll be able to watch the movie of Dark Dungeons, no reading required. And this version is even more over the top than the Chick tract.

Watch to the end for the surprise guest appearance of an important character beloved by yours truly.

In case you’re wondering if this is a sarcastic send-up of the original tract, read the FAQ.

Is Dark Dungeons the Movie a satire?

NO! Satire is “a humorously exaggerated imitation.” The most classic example is Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”, in which he mocks the English aristocracy’s indifference to the rural Irish poor by suggesting they eat Irish babies. This was an exaggeration as the English did not actually hate the Irish enough to eat their babies. By contrast, Dark Dungeons the comic shows that RPGs can lead to suicide, joining a witches coven, and gaining real life magical powers and Dark Dungeons the movie shows exactly those same things as well. The film adaptation does not exaggerate or alter those claims. It is NOT a satire.

Brilliant. It’s true — you cannot possibly make a satire of “Dark Dungeons”.

Complex, real world problems

I saw the new Captain America movie last night. It wasn’t bad, for a comic book movie, and there were a number of things I very much liked about it. The super-heroes weren’t that super — technologically enhanced, really, really good at battling the forces of evil, but also human and vulnerable to mundane menaces like bullets. I think I also like stories that don’t end neatly with the good guy beating up the bad guy, and presto, problems solved. Instead we have deeper issues that aren’t neatly resolved, because we live in a complex and difficult world full of messed-up human beings.

Speaking of a complex world…I arrived at the theater shortly before the 9:00 movie. I was surprised — there was no parking in any of the usual places within a block of the theater, and I had to park a whole block and a half away. That may not sound onerous to you, but it was unusual for me, since this is Morris and I can usually show up 5 minutes before the movie starts and park right outside the theater. The place was jammed. Swarms of people were there for the 7:00 movie.

Heaven Is For Real.

Captain America: sparsely attended. Ludicrously stupid movie that claims Jesus is waiting for you in a magical land of flowers and eternal youth: packed. Both are totally escapist fantasy, but one is honest and openly admits to being a made-up story based on a work of patent fiction, while the other is feel-good bullshit that puts up a pretense of being a true story. This is the reality: that a large part of the population here wants to be reassured, wants to be told that the dumb stories they were brought up on are really true, and wants to be promised that they don’t have to worry about this world because the next one is really nifty … and it’s not the same population that wants to go see a gosh-wow spectacle based on comic books.

Obviously, I don’t see a problem with wanting to be entertained by a work of fiction, but I do see a problem with mistaking fiction for reality, which is the entire premise and appeal of this Heaven bullshit.

Now if I were really sucked into thinking the fantasy worlds of Marvel were parables for how to handle a difficulty, I’d suggest a solution: I just have to find the one nefarious priest in town who has been poisoning the minds of the citizens, and engage him in an epic battle in downtown Morris. Sure, a few storefronts would be smashed, and a few craters would dapple Atlantic Avenue afterwards, but boom, the malignant influence would be gone and the happy people of Morris (who would all be lining the barricades around the city center, cheering) would be free. The End.

But that’s not how it works. There are no bad guys here, no foci of evil. The people sincerely want magical reassurances of a cosmic plan for their lives, and a destiny of bliss and goodness, and they specifically want the fantasy stories passed on by their parents to be literally and completely true. I have no super powers, and in fact, the ideas that I know to be true and verified by evidence and reason — there is no magical resurrection, superbeings like the supernatural Jesus did not and do not exist, we have this one life to live and nothing after death — would mark me as the villain in this story.

Man, real life makes for a lousy action movie.

By the way, the next movie coming to Morris is God’s Not Dead. It’s the story of a villainous atheist villain who is defeated in a final battle with a good-hearted Christian hero. It takes the trope of the movie that supports the reality of a superstition, and combines it with the very worst element of the superhero movie, the ultimate showdown that determines what is right. I imagine the theater will be packed again.

My entertainment options

The tradeoff for small town movie theaters is that you have to maximize your attendance, and that’s tricky in a place split between liberal weirdos at the university and narrow-minded Christian conservatives in town. So we get double-bills like this:


I’d like to see one of them, even though I’m getting tired of the genre. Can you guess which one?

As for the other one, the only question is…how much will you pay me to sit through it?

It gets even more fun next week, when the two movies in town will be The Grand Budapest Hotel vs. God’s Not Dead. I don’t think there’ll be much overlap between the 7:00 and 9:00 crowds.

The guy’s an evolutionist, and there’s nothing in the whole course description about biblical creation as even a plausible alternative!

Oh, joy. We’re getting another cheesy Christian movie in which the college professor is the evil bad guy. We just had Kevin Sorbo pretending to be an angry atheist philosophy professor in God’s Not Dead, and now we get Harry Anderson playing an angry atheist biology professor in A Matter of Faith.

Rachel Whitaker, a Christian girl, heads off to college for her much-anticipated freshman year. New friends create situations that require important, quick decisions—some about her social life, some about her core beliefs! Rachel begins to embrace the ideas of the university’s immensely popular biology professor (Harry Anderson) who boldly teaches that Darwinian evolution is the only logical explanation for the origin of life, and the Bible therefore cannot be true. When Rachel’s father (Jay Pickett) senses something changing in his daughter while she is home on a weekend visit; he begins to look into the situation and what he discovers catches him completely off guard. Now very concerned about Rachel drifting away from her Christian faith and the clear teachings of the Bible, he accepts an impossible challenge and tries to do something about it!

Can you guess what the impossible challenge is? He’s going to debate the biology professor on evolution.

Gosh, I wonder who will win?

It’s rather clear that people who believe in the Bible don’t have much connection to reality in their entertainment.

Ben Affleck’s new Batman costume…revealed!

There were groans of dismay throughout Nerd-dom when it was announced that Ben Affleck would be playing Batman in the next movie in the franchise. But then the always over-the-top Kevin Smith saw the costume.

“I saw the Batman costume. More than that, I saw a picture of [Ben Affleck] in the costume…I don’t want to give anything away ’cause that is up to them and stuff, but I am going to say this…I instantly bear hugged [Snyder]. You have not seen this costume on film before. For a comic book fan, it was mind-bending… Because every other movie does this Matrix-y black armor thing…There wasn’t a single nipple on this suit. I think everyone is just gonna be like ‘Holy S**t!’ It’s its own thing. We haven’t been down this path before. Even the hardest core [most skeptical] person will be like ‘Alright, I’m ready.’…It seemed like it was very [Redacted] influenced.”

And as we all know, the most important thing in a superhero movie isn’t the plot or the acting — it’s the special effects and the fancy costumes.

But I have to agree with Smith. I have seen the costume, and it is awesome. It’s going to make the movie for sure. And here it is.

[Read more…]

I’m a scientist, I believe in proof

Near as I can tell from the trailer for I, Origins, the movie is about an affectless neuroscientist who takes pictures of eyes for Science, and then because he finds someone with similar irises to his dead lover, decides that reincarnation has been proven.

All I know is that whoever wrote this dreck has no idea about how scientists think.

Oh, joy. Another What the Bleep Do We Know, a bad and stupid movie that clueless nitwits will be throwing in my face for years to come to inform me that science is wrong.

There goes the Minnesota tourism industry

The movie Fargo warped the image of Minnesota—and now the FX channel is going to be showing a new, 10 episode miniseries titled… Fargo, starring Bilbo Baggins with a Minnesota accent.

An original adaptation of the Academy Award®-winning feature film, Fargo features an all-new “true crime” story and follows a new case and new characters, all entrenched in the trademark humor, murder and “Minnesota nice” that made the film an enduring classic.

Yep, that’s exactly what living in rural Minnesota is like: funny accents, and grim, understated humor over all the dead bodies littering the snow. It’s a sensibility that has always informed my blog, dontchaknow.