Love Crime

You know those atheist bus signs in Toronto? Well it looks like someone has vandalized one of them…sorta.

Um. Maybe I’m not fully understanding the author’s intention, but the sign (er, piece of paper) they put on top of the ad really isn’t at odds with the ad. It’s a bit ambiguous, scratching out “prob” and covering “bly no go” with the sign (“there’s a D?”) But the message that love is the most important thing is something most atheists would agree wholeheartedly with. With no supernatural being demanding faith, of course love for others is the most important thing there is. It’s all there is.

Some commenters at BlogTO suggest it’s a hate crime. But it’s more of a love crime. It’s like smashing a church sign then spray painting a cross on it.

Maybe the vandal is just confused. Or maybe it’s deeper; maybe they are pointing out the common belief that atheists, religious folks and The Beatles agree on: all you need is love.

.

.

.

Update: Some have suggested it’s the work of more than one vandal, which would explain a lot.

Film as Elixir


Ok so go read this review of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by critic Jordan Hiller and then come back here.

Since you totally didn’t read it, here’s a summarizing quote:

The film and those like it are merely the reflection of ageing creative people in hopeless search for an elixir.

I haven’t seen the movie, but I do find this review pretty ironic. Most of it attacks the movie because its portrayal of teenage life is not realistic, is just a cheap attempt by its creators to hold onto their own youth, and was created to tap into the conflict between youth and adulthood that everyone struggles with throughout their lives.

The irony comes from the fact that the reviewer compares the movie with what I assume are the teen movies of his own youth in the 80s. Again, maybe the movie really is crap, but is comparing it unfavourably to one’s own favourite nostalgia-enhanced movies while at the same time dumping on nostalgia really a good way to criticize it?

He does make a good point that movies are not realistic, and present an idealized reality that may only be an attempt to cash in on our obsession with youth. But is that a bad thing? Writers can deal with their own youth / responsibility struggles by creating fantasy, and people can relate with that fantasy when they see it put to film. The search for an elixir of life isn’t hopeless; we can take tiny sips of it for two hours at a time every time we watch a good movie.

Additional thoughts:

  • Michael Cera may play exactly the same character in every role he’s in, but he’s still awesome.
  • I do not disagree that The Breakfast Club and Adventures in Babysitting are cinematic masterpieces.

In the News

  • Today’s top story: LOLcats are awesome. Among the usual stories of politics, business, and school shootings, today’s LA Times featured an entire article about I Can Has Cheezburger, the internet’s leading provider of pictures of cats with poorly written captions. It’s actually an interesting read; I never really considered that people are making a living off of internet fads. The owner of the site also has an awesome name: Ben Huh. Huh? Huh. (I found this via Tony Pierce’s Twitter).

  • How to Slow Aging is an article at Canadian Living. Among medically questionable (eating lots of protein, taking vitamin supplements) and trivial (be around stuff that smells good, relax) advice is “get 9 hours of sleep a night.” The thing is, if your goal is to slow aging and extend your life, isn’t spending an extra hour or two a day unconscious kinda the opposite of that? If most people can happily get by on 7 hours of sleep (and I think most can), is it really worth sleeping more to live longer? Let’s do math!

    – Wasting an extra 2 hours out of every 24 means that waking time for each day is reduced by about 8.3%
    – People in Canada live to about 80. To extend that by 8.3% would mean living to almost 87.
    – Can sleeping 9 hours a night extend one’s life expectancy to 87? I doubt it. And even if it did, I’d rather be enjoying waking hours while I’m young and virile than while I’m old and fragile. Screw sleep.

  • Gmail has a new feature that warns you when you said you’ve included an email attachment, but never actually attached the file. I do this all the time so this will save me lots of sorries. It should also cut down on hearing “no I swear to baby Jesus God damn it, I attached the file. There must be something wrong with your email. Or maybe I have a computer virus.”

Book Review: American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis


Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho describes a few years in the life of Patrick Bateman, a successful investor and psychopath. That’s about all there is to it.

American Psycho is not so much a story, but a drawn out snapshot of the nightmare world of yuppies in late 80s New York. This setting is as much of a character as Patrick Bateman is (the first third of the book is purely about his everyday life in this world, and we only later get a glimpse into the “psycho” part of it). I think that it’s not so much that this world created the monster that is Patrick Bateman (the only description of his father is something like “there is something wrong with his eyes”, implying that his psychosis has pretty deep roots), but that this world allows him to exist. Everyone is so self-centered and focused on superficial crap that they don’t notice the serial killer in front of their noses. In a way, many of the characters in the book are as inhuman as Bateman is.

This is not a straightforward novel; it is very much open to interpretation in both its narrative and its message. Both the matter-of-factly described scenes of brutal violence and the overly detailed descriptions of fashion and music often had me wondering why the hell I kept reading it. But I did keep reading, and while it may not be an entertaining novel in the traditional sense, it did make me think. And it made me want to go out to a cheap restaurant where I don’t need a reservation and make real connections with people, because dude, the world depicted in American Psycho is a shitty place that should be avoided at all costs.

I have to go return some videotapes.

Nuking Dreams

This is from a recent issue of Science:

In 2004, a research team led by Pierre Maquet of the University of Li├Ęge, Belgium, used positron emission tomography (PET) to monitor brain activity in men playing a virtual-reality game in which they learned to navigate through a virtual town (actually a scene from the shoot-’em-up video game Duke Nukem). The same regions of the hippocampus that revved up when the subjects explored the virtual environment also became active when the men slipped into slow-wave sleep that night.

Well first, that’s pretty neat. I guess dreams aren’t a waste of time after all.

But: Duke Nukem?? In 2004? Assuming they meant Duke Nukem 3D and not the 1991 original, that game is almost 10 years old. By today’s standards, the graphics are horrible and unrealistic. You’d think that they would get better results using a game that resembles real life; and, um, less meaningful results with a game where you walk around a pixely city fighting cartoony 2-dimensional pig-people with a freeze ray.

Of course, if they really wanted a Duke Nukem game to use, that was their only choice. The sequel to Duke Nukem – Duke Nukem Forever – is one of the most hilarious things in the video game world. It’s been in development since 1997, and was scheduled to be released in 1998. It is still not out. It’s now almost 10 years over its scheduled relase date. What’s funny is that every few years, news of the game will come out, usually saying that it will be out soon, accompanied by a tiny screenshot. Nobody will admit that it’s been cancelled. The fact that it has “forever” in the title, and abbreviates to “DNF” (i.e., did not finish) makes it even better. Still, there are plenty of games, out now, that have gorgeous graphics which psychology researchers could easily use to simulate real life. Look at Gears of War.

And this, friends, is why spending countless hours playing video games is no more a waste of time than dreaming. It’s pretty much studying for school and my future career as a psychologist.

I’ve now outed myself as a pathetic geek to everyone on Facebook.

To be all intellectually honest, here is the full source of the quote in glorious APA format:

Miller, G. (2007). Hunting for meaning after midnight. Science, 315 (5817), 1360 – 1363.

Bonus picture: