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October 22, 2007

Battlestar Galactica and the problem of free will

Pandagon :: Thoughts on the last episode of Battlestar Galactica and the illusion of free will :: October :: 2007

Most sci-fi examinations of AI robots go at it with the sense that free will is part of being human, and thus the tension in the story is what happens when robots get smart enough to have free will. And this series started off that way, with all the struggling of Boomer over her various urges, but then at a certain point, the writers appeared to realize that to create the tension around the question of how to tell robot from human, it was more interesting to examine not how robots could have free will—but how humans cannot. I put the time the show changed focus to the episodes involving the Pegasus, where you really see how the Admiral was a product of her own personality and circumstance, and how Starbuck at least grasped that there was no way the Pegasus’ journey could have ever been different.

The fact that religion is a big deal on the show bolsters the sense that it’s dismantling the illusion of free will. People and Cylons both sense they are at the mercy of omniscient deities, and the fact that they have oracles and visions only confirms this. Destiny is unavoidable on the show; what’s happening now has happened before doesn’t have to be taken literally, it could just mean that the path ahead has no branches, no alternate possibilities, that the future was written literally (by the gods) or metaphorically (by the convergence of forces that necessitate certain outcomes). Omniscient gods pretty much preclude the possibility of free will, and while there’s plenty of strained attempts to argue otherwise, they’re just the result of hope trumping logic. Religion is a projection of ego—I feel my life is meaningful, so there must be an outside force validating that—and the stubborn insistence on free will is a projection of ego. The two are wed together out of human egotism, but they don’t really make sense together logically.

October 17, 2007

A filmgoer’s guide to bad sex with Christian Bale

A filmgoer’s guide to bad sex with Christian Bale | The A.V. Club

Again, this is impossible to excerpt. Please click through.

(Thanks, Allison!)

October 16, 2007

The New Yorker profiles The Wire

Profiles: Stealing Life: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

On a muggy August afternoon in Baltimore, trash scuttled down Guilford Avenue, the breeze smelling like rain and asphalt. It was the last week of shooting for the fifth and final season of the HBO drama “The Wire,” and the crew was filming a scene in front of a boarded-up elementary school. Cast members had been joined by forty or so day players—mostly kids from the neighborhood. Earlier, the episode’s director, Clark Johnson, had been giving some of the kids the chance to say “Cut!,” and they’d bellowed it like drunks at a surprise party. Now, when Johnson yelled “Cut,” the kids swarmed around a video monitor to look at themselves in the last shot, pointing and laughing. “He just said it was good,” one kid complained. “Why we gotta do it again?” Johnson, who was wearing what he called his “lucky cowboy hat,” stepped away to talk to one of the professional actors. Another man—a bald white guy, unprepossessing in jeans and a T-shirt—remained by the monitor, and he answered the kids: “Hey. He’s the director. You don’t believe him? He kinda, sorta knows what he’s doin’.” The bald guy was David Simon, the show’s creator: a former Baltimore Sun reporter who figured that he’d spend his life at a newspaper, a print journalist who has forged an improbable career in television without ever leaving Baltimore. The kids listened politely to Simon and ran back to their places.

October 12, 2007

Simon Pegg to play Scotty in new Star Trek

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Comic Pegg set for Star Trek film

The British comic has been offered the role of the chief engineer, played by James Doohan in the classic TV series, his manager has told BBC News.

The film, directed by Lost creator JJ Abrams, focuses on the early lives of Captain James T Kirk and Mr Spock.

Star Trek's 11th big screen outing also stars Eric Bana, Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy, and filming is due to start next month.