July 15th, 2008

Went to the movies last night

I didn't think there were any more movies I wanted to see this summer, but some of the trailers were very promising. Hellboy 2 looks really good. It'll be nice to see a movie that was clearly put together by an artist rather than just "I can haz CGI with a morfing program". Dark Knight will no doubt be grimmer than I like, but at least it also looks good visually. I'd rather slit my throat than see Step-brothers, but I already knew that. The surprise was a trailer for Switch Voter, due out in August. A ne'er do well guy's daughter (who has a Lisa Simpsonesque sense of responsibility) registers him to vote, and through a series of plot twists not shown in the trailer, this man's revote (his first ballot was spoiled) will be the deciding vote in a presidential convention. The whole focus of both campaigns lands on one man who doesn't care about politics. It won't necessarily be a good movie, but I'm curious to see what they'll do with it.

However, I was in the theater because I wanted to see the main attraction. *sigh* I wasn't planning to see Get Smart, but I'd heard from two sources that the scene with the fat woman shows her being a really good dancer. Ok, I'll spend my $10 and get three minutes of Hairspray.

She hardly danced at all. She was presented with respect, and I treasure the authority with which she took a fan from one of the thin snarky women, but damned if I can see how that translates into people hallucinating that she did a good dance number.

In general, it was an awful movie. Maybe it's just that we've calmed down a bit since 9/11, but the movie's sense of comic timing was so bad that it couldn't get a laugh by dropping an Islamic terrorist on a pig. There were a lot fewer laughs from the audience than there were joke-shaped objects.

So much of it was about bullying and humiliation, and I especially disliked it that Maxwell Smart was presented as a brilliant analyst who's constantly getting stepped on.

It reached a point when I was so sick of him chasing Agent 99 and her being nasty to him that I just wanted both of them to die, and I don't usually feel that way about fictional characters.

It wasn't awful all through. Max and the Chief were committed to the idea that you need to understand the enemy rather than just use satellites, and really knowing the enemy pays off nicely late in the movie.

Here's something I found deeply annoying, and I'm not sure why it pisses me off so much. When Agent 99 is cutting him down, she's taller than he is. In the big cuddly kiss scene (which in spite of everything, was pretty good), he's taller. Later on (with the course of true love running smoothly), their heights are more equal, but he's still a little taller.

The best moments were based on the original tv show. I really liked the highly arranged version of the tv theme, and the "would you believe" sequence wasn't too badly done. On the whole I want my two hours back.

Status ratings

This is a science fictional idea and/or prediction. It's free to good homes, but if you use it in a book, I'd like to be mentioned on the acknowledgments page.

Once upon a time, loans were made based on personal impressions and/or specific knowledge. As the population and the number of loans went up, a half-assed system of not especially accurate credit ratings developed. Even though they were apt to include inaccurate negative information (I don't know if they also have a tendency to be too positive) which is very hard to correct and even though no one knows all the premises they're based on, they're still commonly used because people are apt to assume that even bad information is better than nothing. And besides, it's numbers. You can trust numbers.

In the near future, not only will the population continue to grow, but a lot more people from a number of different cultures will be joining the world economy.[1]

If you have a relatively monolithic culture and you're interested in status, you'll just know what clothing and accent indicates how you need to treat some people and how you can get away with treating others.

It could get more complicated rather quickly, especially since I'm expecting more than one major cultural center.

So, we get status ratings. They'll be even less accurate and more opaque than credit ratings, but at least you'll have a number to lean on.

[1]I figured out years ago that life in the third world was going to improve, and I mean I saw it coming well before The World Is Flat came out. There will probably continue to be poor regions, but there aren't going to be poor continents.

Shakespeare and neurology

I told my brain scientists that one small but powerful example of this quick Elizabethan shorthand is what is now called functional shift or word-class conversion - which George Puttenham, writing in 1589, named 'enallage or the figure of exchange'. It happens when one part of speech is suddenly transformed into another with a different function but hardly any change of form. It sounds dull but in performance is almost electrically exciting in its sudden simple reach for a word. For example: an adjective is made a verb when in The Winter's Tale heavy thoughts are said to 'thick my blood'. A pronoun is made into a noun when Olivia in Twelfth Night is called 'the cruellest she alive'. Prospero turns adverb to noun when he speaks so wonderfully of 'the dark backward' of past time; Edgar turns noun to verb when he makes the link with Lear: 'He childed as I fathered.' As Abbott says, in Elizabethan English 'You can "happy" your friend, "malice" or "foot" your enemy, or "fall" axe on his head.' Richard II is not merely deposed (that's Latinate paraphrase): he is unkinged.

Secondly, the P600 surge means that the brain was thereby primed to look out for more difficulty, to work at a higher level, whilst still accepting that, fundamentally, sense was being made. In other words, while the Shakespearian functional shift was semantically integrated with ease, it triggered a syntactic re-evaluation process likely to raise attention and extra emergent consciousness, and giving more power and sheer life to the sentence as a whole.

Link thanks to andrewducker.