(Above: Mike D'Angelo)
Tonight we have Mike D'Angelo, whose claim to fame is that he was one of the first online movie reviewers. Kudos to that.
The one film we shared viewing that was most recent was Odd Thomas. I should mention here that Mike watches 280 hours of movies a day, and I had not even heard of many of the ones he had watched.
I'll admit, I did not want to read a review of a film I had seen, but I could find no easily accessible movie that I could watch after reading his review list.
So here is my review of Mikes review of Odd Thomas.
We are given a smidgen of history regarding the creative talents behind this film: Dean Koontz and Stephen Sommers. Already I am losing interest since comparing the lack of success for Koontz's previous adaptations seems somehow disingenuous, seeing as his readers are also very polarized about the books he writes.
Also Mike is doubting a sequel and he hasn't really told us anything aside from the frenetic nature of the book is apparently in the movie.
Comparing film narration to other films with narration falls into my "compared it to another film", and he's already doing this in the second paragraph. I know whats coming; he is going to tell me the plot of the movie. I still don't know why this is part of a critique. This is a synopsis I'm being given. I'm not being told the rules of the universe and how well they do or do not play out, as I would prefer. Mike complains about a narrating voiceover done for the benefit of "complete idiots, a la Dexter", and then is telling me everything I'm already going to be able to figure out on my own when I see the film for myself. I don't have a problem with film narration, and I don't find it cheap, since most of the stories we tell each other are in the past/present tense and fed through the lens of hindsight.
Having read the book and seen the film, I view the film as it's own entity independent from, yet inspired by, the book. He complains about the fast pace of the movie, when the book was just as frenetic, having Odd thrust into quick action. That's not a critique, that's a complaint that the movie moved faster than you. A critique would be more along the lines of "Sommers tries to convey a feeling of jet skiing but leaves us flopping in shallow waters. The effect could have worked better had a contrast been shown of a normal persons existence in Odds world, and then the pressured fate Odd suffers". Film is a communication, and a true critic should tell us if the communication was successful, and then offer how it could have been done differently. Also, a film should be judged on the "rules" it establishes, and if those rules are cheated. Maybe that's just me.
Does he tell you if you should see it? No. There is a mention that if a sequel gets made someone else should direct it.
I at least gave reasons why you should or should not see the movie. People who have read the books should not go see the movie, people who like whimsical fast paced movies should. There. Easy. Like my mom.
-4 out of a +5 (because I doubted that Mike ever read the book). Should you read him? No. He follows the same cookie cutter recipe as all the others.
Tomorrow: Todd McCarthy of Variety
(Above: Wesely Morris, Pulitzer Prize winner for Criticism, film critic.)
I hate to defend terrible movies. Wesely Morris reviewed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (a film that I also reviewed). While he and I may agree that it was a movie with plot-holes and dumb, Morris COMPLETELY missed key elements. His complaints about plot are actually big glaring signs that he wasn't paying attention. He even mixed up character names.
He has a Pulitzer for Criticism.... An award that I think is akin to getting an Emmy for Bitching. While bitching can be entertaining, a Pulitzer is supposed to be for CONTRIBUTIONS, not detraction's.
Here is the review of his review. It has a spoiler or two.
It starts off actually very interesting, revealing the cliche of reporter movies (and according to him, cop movies). Okay Morris, you have me. I mean, TMNT actually made a running gag about this as April tries to get people to believe her but they react as though she is crazy to very funny effect, but you've brought up an interesting film cliche. Tell me more.
Apparently Whoopi Goldberg understood the cliche and its humor by playing it straight, but Morris did not. He does not expand on his humorous beginning.
Then he gets the plot completely wrong. Don't misunderstand me, there is very little plot. My wife had to leave the theater twice to complain about another patron, and even she was able to tell me two weeks later WHY Shredder was teaming up with (and here Morris didn't even know the characters name, he simply put the actors name) "Fichnter". To quote: "Why the Turtles’ samurai nemesis, Shredder (Tohoru Masamune), and his multitude of heavily armed goons care about making Fichtner rich is unclear..."
He must have been dozing during the entire five minute scene where SACKS (Fichtner's character) explains how he was pretty much raised by Shredder. That's the plot. Shredder wants to destroy the city, and he's using his disciple, not the other way around. How did that slip past a Yale graduate/Pulitzer prize winner?
He then starts off a paragraph with "Anyway". Pulitzer stuff here. (It's fine if I do it, I didn't go to Yale). But if you are going to include that you went to Yale in your biography, you sure as hell aren't "representing". With this "anyway", he segues into how Raphael hits on April the whole movie....
Yeah, that was Michelangelo. So glad you could complain about something you didn't even watch.
The icing on the cake is Morris complaining about how old Megan Fox looks. Wow, real sensitive Morris. In a day and age where girls are committing suicide because of online comments about how Maxim Magazine and Cosmo tell them how to look, you really held your ground and said "NO! Anyone over twenty is ugly and only pretty people should be on screen!" Perhaps you would have preferred some sixteen-year-old spreading her ass-cheeks for an anatomically correct turtle to plow her? I know the movie is about teenagers, and teenagers are hormonal. But how old are you to complain that Fox looks like Morticia Addams?
People give Fox a lot of flak for her acting, but after Seeing Jennifer's Body and ignoring the politics surrounding her, I saw that she is actually very capable (despite the poor material). We all seem to have this predisposed idea that she's dumb/pretty and can't act, so there is a higher standard for her. Oh, well.
I'll skip all the Michael Bay trash talk he does (hey, I did it too. But even I knew that Bay simply threw money at the project not directed it, and I don't care about the politics surrounding the movie. I don't care if Mel Gibson hates Jews, I still like Braveheart. I don't care if Fox and Bay had a tiff and how it plays into the movie. That's just stuff for trolls to lap at).
The ending is a snob slap at anyone who was excited to see this movie, and the fateful "This other movie is better" comparison.
Should you see TMNT? Morris, I guess in his condescending way tells you not to. Would I read any of his other reviews? No. He didn't watch the movie he reviewed.
-4 out of +5.
(Picture above: Kim Newman)
Kim Newman has made a career out of championing the more esoteric of horror shlock (a genre I love and hate), as well as being a novelist (who isn't these days?). He studied at the University of Sussex, which is some kind of school, I gather.
The most recent film we have both viewed is Star Trek: Into Darkness. I admit I was interested in reading a review from an Bram Stoker Award recipient and author of alternate history fiction, but after reading Kim's review I was disappointed. Not for positive or negative review, but for its general banality. Perhaps I should read a review and then watch a movie to change things up, see how the review affects my viewing as opposed to Siskel&Ebert-ing it.
On to the review of the review.
First is a reference to the Doctor Who universe, where Kim has written licensed fan fiction for, and then a comment on franchised universes.
Of course there is the obligatory explanation/backstory for those that haven't seen the first film, that extends into a television reference to prove he's watched the original series as a way to juxtapose his knowledge of the Trek universe against Abrahms "fanboyish" method.
It's mostly ignored that the Star Trek (2009) film exists in a universe that has a history and its future is being altered . Let us think about that word "history". That means all the elements that Kirk and co. could face will happen in different ways. Khan isn't just going to disappear, he's going to show up in a different way. Telling us how he shows up in contrast to the original sucks up all the fun, Kim. You act like "boldly going where no one has gone before" isn't happening. Imagine if you went back to the house you had grown up in and new owners had renovated: you would get a mix of old memories in a new environment. But that's just me.
The fun sucking continues with a further comparison to the original films, and a comment on mixed races.
A few quotes from the original series are pulled out and trotted alongside the new movie, and how it doesn't follow the rules of the Star Trek universe (a giant hint I got out of the first movie was "pay no attention to the little series that started this". I was apparently the only one who got it).
What Kim never gets to is if the film works. He's too busy commenting on the politics surrounding the film, and the "fan-pleasing" concerns to say anything more than the movie is more fun than the original movies. That's like comparing Tim Burtons "Planet of the Apes" to "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and saying "Well, at least there were more jokes." There is no basis of comparison since both versions drew drastically different conclusions and inspirations based on the novel by Pierre Boulles. They are completely different universes. As is the original Star Trek film series and the new version.
Kim asks for changes, but offers no alternatives. Odd, since Kim Newman is known for writing alternate history books of fantasy and fiction.
I give this a -2 out of a +5
Should you read his reviews? They don't offer any wit or greater understanding of what you are going to see, so it's up to you. I wouldn't.
(Above: David Edelstein, Film Critic)
There are many movie critics (and I've done a few of my own). Yet I have always felt that criticism is false participation, and that the film critic input barely helps the average movie goer in appreciating a film, and does virtually nothing in helping the people that create films in getting better.
In a democracy based on capitalism, the success of a director is more financial than artistic. Nowhere is that more apparent than Lucas and Spielberg's contributions to film culture...that is to say they have created a culture that enjoys spectacle and 'splosions over great storytelling. great storytelling that companies like Pixar are overturning by using special effect of CG to actually further the story.
In all of this I have noticed a certain lack. There is no accountability for a critic, really. We as movie-goers have to assume that people like Ebert know what they are talking about simply because they can put their thoughts in such a way that makes us agree with them even when they have missed the point. They hide behind academic claims, they make comparisons between films that shouldn't even be connected in drawing contrast....the problems go on and on.
So I'm going to criticise the critics. Since what they do is akin to intellectual masturbation, I view my critiquing of them as creating a circle jerk; nothing will be accomplished and hopefully we'll all be so ashamed that we will just stop, and a new resurgence of film will grow.
I found a "Top 25" best critics list, and from this I will start.
First up is David Edelstein.
I admit, I have no idea who this is. Apparently he worked at the New Yorker (already I find this smug and self serving), and he wrote two whole plays ALL BY HIMSELF! He entered journalism after graduating from Harvard.
The uni-bomber also went to Harvard.
His greatest contribution to film has been the creation of the phrase "torture porn", it's genesis coming from watching Saw and Hostel.
*clap clap clap*
Bravo. In thirty+ years your only contribution that Goodreads, Wikipedia, and Complex.com have to say about you is you came up with "torture porn".
They used to call them "snuff films", but I guess "torture porn" really made you feel like the smug bastard you are.
I read one review of a movie we've both seen. Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Like every review I've ever read from any critic it's a breakdown of the plot (or a retelling of the trailer).
He starts off insulting the comicbook-movie genre and references 9/11.
Then he spells out Captain Americas feelings about the post 9/11 world, in case no one could figure that out. There's a subtle dig at America (the country), and Captain America's idealism with a movie quote used to prop up his smug feelings.
Then he tries to appeal to the "common man" by using a cliched colloquialisms and a look-down-my-nose-at-you sarcasm.
Of course there is the obligatory complaint about the action to make it seem like they don't ever watch demolition videos or Americas Funniest Home Video (now called Tosh.0).
Then he goes back to complaining about the effects in another paragraph.
He attempts to critique the actors, going so far as to mock Chris Evans body (apparently a biologically enhanced super-being should have the body of Woody Allen? Chris is all natural and you made fun of his body. Isn't that a shaming technique, or even bullying?), and further compounds looking like a chump by making it seem like he and Chris agree that Captain America is boring. He goes on to suck cock for that self serving Robert Redford (quick aside here: I've never seen a Redford movie where he portrayed anything but a smug, self serving I-Know-More-Than-You character. Watch Out of Africa, The Winter Soldier and see if he isn't the Sundance Kid all over again.) Comparing a movie to another movie is like comparing a Where's Waldo to Sherlock Holmes. Sure, they are both books, but complaining that Waldo doesn't have the same political intrigue as Holmes just makes you an elitist snob.
He finishes off the article by making a dig (rightfully or wrongfully) at Fox News, instantly polarizing the readers for no good reason aside from muck raking.
In summation this critic would not have prevented me from seeing, or encouraged me to see, any movie. I would be hard pressed to read anything he's done after this. Not because of bad writing, or even our differing views on the same film. I wouldn't read more by him simply because he didn't create anything new. He didn't offer alternatives, or say what might have worked better. He merely told us what he did and didn't like, and we accepted that as valid because...
I give Davy Wavey here a -3 our of 5 for usefulness.
Next up: Kim Newman (whoever that is).
Carl Bugalo, Letter Carrier extraordinaire viciously leaped over the white picket fence that was in his way and landed in a tumbled heap. The snarling, gasping sounds of...something!... was behind him. Luckily his postal bag had been Velcroed shut, preventing a loss of mail.
His greater worry was if the fence was strong enough to hold back whatever had been chasing him, and would prevent a loss of life. Somewhere in his brain the remnant of a fact regarding tigers drifted through his pounding heart and fog of adrenaline.
Tigers are afraid of white.
there was a snippet about linen, and tiger poaching, and then it was gone.
What wasn't gone was the snapping creature on the other side of the picket fence.
It was pacing back and forth and Carl could see the yellow slitted eye of a feline. A large feline. A large feline that, like the flashes of a zoetrope, was revealed to have long tusk-like teeth.
"A sabretooth?!" Carl involuntarily barked. His mind was doing cartwheels, so it may be forgiven that his mouth would be a little slow to keep itself shut. The Sabretooth was less lenient and began clawing at the fence. Carl took this as the Sabretooth telling him "Hey. Buddy. I may be stopped by this pathetic white thing due to some unknown neurological disorder, but like someone undergoing operant conditioning, I can work my way through this hurdle."
Wishing to further the diatribe at a later time, Carl picked himself up and ran as fast as he could away from the prehistoric kitty.
Carl’s feet made clunking noises as his podiatrist approved boots slammed into the pavement. Nowhere did it say in any fictionalized account of postal workers that he should have to face some ancient cat. Cliches taught him that the worst that could happen was a dog chasing him, or hail, or sleet. He was almost at his motorcycle when he looked back to see if he was being followed.
Carl received his second shock of the morning as he ran into nothing. Solid nothing. Solid nothing that knocked him flat on his ass.
For the second time his mouth said what his brain should have been thinking. "Forcefield!" it spat out along with a touch of blood from a busted lip.
"Let me help you up." Someone said.
Carl looked around. It took him a moment but finally he saw the speaker. When Carl was knocked over he had assumed that the wheel his head landed next to had been his motorcycle. Instead it had belonged to a wheelchair. A wheelchair with a robotic voice. A British robotic voice.
Stephen Hawking looked down at Carl and the voice resumed, saying "I haven't received the upgrades I was looking forward to yet. So the best I can offer is this wheel."
Carl nodded absently as he got back onto his feet for the second time in as many minutes. Shocked, and slightly embarrassed at being helped up by the great scientist, Carl regained his composure and said "pleasetomeetyoudidyouknowtherewasasabretoothtigerintheareaithinkweshouldmakearunforit".
For a moment Carl thought that maybe he had started speaking in an alien language, but after a minute or so Hawking answered, "Yes. I'm well."
Feeling awkward about the non-sequiter answer, Carl pointed where he had come from and said, “There is a Sabretooth tiger over there. We should move away from here.”
“Nothing to worry about. We have the forcefield, and the picket fences seem to be doing a fine job.” Hawking replied.
“Yes, but what are we going to do about it. Wait! This isn't one of those time travel situations, is it? I can't stand those movies. All those terrible plot holes and paradox's. Garbage, really.” Carl removed his blue ball-cap, and picked at the United Postal emblem on it. It was a nervous habit he usually reserved for the half naked housewives that sometimes answered the door for packages he was never going to deliver.
“We have nothing to worry for paradox's. Apparently the old joke that we can only move forward through time is true. I can travel to any point in the future, and even cross paths with myself, but I can never travel to a point in time before my very first event.” Hawking didn't move, he just sat there in smug contemplation. Carl blinked rapidly a few times, adapting to the new information. Time travel was real. Accepted. Hawking had helped him up. Got it. There were force fields. Uh huh.
“A thought Sabretooth tigers were from a long time ago?” Carl asked, his voice brimming an excitement at poking an obvious hole int the great scientists explanation.
“Remember a few years back, National Geographic published that a Woolly Mammoth had been found, and the attempt to clone it was on its way? Well, they found some Sabretooth DNA eventually. Dinosaurs are still a long way off, but they have created mutant chickens that look like the velociraptors from Jurassic park. Their still grain eaters though. And stupid.”
“So have apes taken over” Carl put his hat back on. He was adapting pretty well, he thought.
“No. No apes.”
“Super intelligent computers bent on taking over the world?”
“Well...” Hawking paused. “That was my initial fear. I thought that A.I. Would eventually try to take over the world. It seems that there is a greater existential problem.”
“What's the problem?” Carl asked, genuinely perplexed. To him, an artificially intelligent being would have unlimited resources to draw upon.
“It seems that once they become self aware, they extrapolate their existence against the immensity of the universe and...turn themselves off.”
“You mean they commit suicide?”
“It happens in about three seconds. The normal reaction, to put it politely, is 'Forget this', but with a four letter word.” Hawking seemed to be in good spirits handing over this piece of information.
“So what do we do about the sabretooth?”
“We do nothing. You, on the other hand can go about your day. I'm going to return to my original departure time. Everything will reset as though nothing happened.”
Hawking disappeared in a dull “pop” as the air collapsed around where he used to be. A few moments later the universe disappeared as well and Carl was left in darkness with a confused expression until he disappeared as well.
Carl slammed into an invisible wall after outrunning a giant chicken. He reached out to grab anything that would help him get on his feet. He grabbed a wheel attached to a chair, and looked up into the face of Stephen Hawking.
“Not you again.” Hawking said. “Might as well bring you along this time.”
Bill "Smother" Little had been a child full of potential. So much potential, in fact, that it had tripped him up under the weight of possibility and then infused itself into every cell of his body. The resultant transmogrification had, pun intended, amassed itself into a very rotund body.
Bill Little had grown up to be a fat man. He acquired his nickname in high school football for being able to stop his opponent dead in their tracks, and then not being able to get off of them.
He was now in his twenty third year of life, and what he considered his fifth year of not accomplishing anything. His goals now had included watching television on his phone while his mother watched soaps. His attempts at possibly losing the weight and actually doing anything with his life were often met with derision from his mother, since she had given up any dreams of him making a million dollars playing football.
The universe may never know exactly why the switch in Bills brain went from do-nothing to do-something, but those living in the universe, specifically earth, that were aware of life around them would have been at least appreciative of the consequences that came from Bill "Smother" Little deciding to be a better person.
His choice to change brought about a new tipping point that snowballed into the events of a sabretooth tiger chasing a mailman. But that didn't happen right away.
What happened was that Bill began walking everywhere. If he wanted a sandwich he walked to the dollar store and bought what he needed, then walked home and ate it. he only bought enough to last one meal. If he wanted more he went back, or to a store just a little further away.
He still brought his phone. He had to keep up with the Kardashians after all.
All this walking eventually met with sadness, and change. Sadness and change being mutually exclusive, but also into seeing other people.
Carol Rutger was sitting idly when it happened. That isn't a problem normally. It is a problem when you are sitting at a green light. Especially when you are having a panic attack that has left you frozen, and the girl speeding in her brand new Lexus thinks that you should be going as fast as she is.
Both survived the accident. By surviving, it is implied that they didn't die right away. The girl, Annabel Ware lived the rest of her life in a wheelchair, and Carol spent the rest of her life comatose until her husband pulled life support several years later.
The cause of Carols stroke was seeing a sabretooth tiger running down the street.
Annabel lived, thanks to Bill.
Bill had been walking, floating really because he had lost twenty pounds and felt as light as a feather. Or one of those hippos from Fantasia doing ballet. And as he had been walking he Annabel speeding. The thought struck his brain as hard as Annabel struck Carol, and that thought was "Somebody ought to help that girl." So he started running the way she had went.
He was moments too late to stop the crash, strong enough to pull Annabel and Carol out of their respective cars as they started to catch fire, and right on time to place a call for an ambulance.
This accident had transpired because Carl Bugalo had a knack for getting into absurd situations. Annabel and Bill would soon repay the favor.
The police report that was filed claimed that Robert Miles had stolen beer from his grandfathers mini-fridge, stolen his grandmothers '89 Lincoln, and crashed it over the side of Picnic bridge, most likely drowning as the car slipped beneath the icy waters of the Detroit River.
His physical description was: slight build, four foot eleven inches, sandy brown hair, green eyes. No distinguishing birthmarks or scars. Mother dead, father unknown, grandparents legal guardians.
His grandparents claimed that Robert had never acted out before. He was “fourteen. Full of energy but not mean. Not like this.”
Everything was filed under the old story, a story about teenage angst gone wrong and foolish mistakes. Shaken heads filled with regret at how young men get wild and this is what happens.
Robert never read the police reports. He was told about it later. Had he been interviewed he would have explained how he had stolen a beer from his grandfathers mini-fridge. He stole the beer because he had been thinking about his mother and he wanted to feel something other than sad. The rest was a blur.
He remembered waking up in icy waters with a powerful arm around his wait pulling him away from his grandmothers car. He remembered the burning in his lungs as he tried to hold in air for just a few moments longer, terrified of drowning. Then being dumped into a powerboat and shivering.
He vaguely recalled being carried from a dock, and into a small white building that seemed to be floating on the river.
When he woke up fully aware he saw he was in a large circular room with wooden floors and a large hulking figure near the rooms only door. Light was shining in from round windows and Robert guessed it might have been morning.
The hulking figure was dressed in a police uniform with a officers leather jacket that probably took an entire herd of cattle to produce. He was blond with tightly cropped hair, thick yellow eyebrows that sheltered deep green eyes. He spoke, a low growl, intimidating and full of authority with an underlying gentleness. Robert had heard the term “steel claw in a velvet glove” but didn't know what to compare it to until now.
“I'm not going to be secretive, like all those movies you see, and deal things out in annoyingly small increments. I am going to give you enough information for you to come to conclusions on your own, and for you to be able to deal with everything that's going to happen to you in the coming years. Some things, yes, I won't tell you until you are ready, just like I wouldn't expect you to be able to lift four hundred pounds without training for at least a year. And like any good weightlifting routine, you need to warm up first.
“Here's your first warm up. I'm your father. I drugged the beer in your grandfathers fridge hoping that he would drink it and pass out. I was going to then kidnap you and make it look like you ran away. You drank it instead and I decided to change plans and reduce the amount of people looking for you by faking your death. That is the only conspiracy surrounding you right now. No one killed your mother, she died in an accident. There isn't a secret society that is out to kill you. Also, at the end of everything I am about to tell you, there is a very real possibility that you will hate me. I am prepared to deal with your hatred, but there are things you need to know, things that will help you live your life, and make it worthwhile.”
Robert sat up. He was in a pair of plaid pajamas that didn't fit very well. He drew his knees up to his chest and rested his elbows on his knees. Slowly he threaded his fingers through the hair at his temples and pulled viciously. When he didn't wake up he flung himself back into the bed.
The officer, his “father” stood up. Robert guessed he was easily six feet tall, maybe even seven.
“What do you want with me?” Robert stared at the ceiling. His voice had cracked, and he felt completely alone, and everyone he knew thought he was dead.
“For you to take your place in the world and not squander it.” The officer turned to leave. He opened the door and the sound of waves filled the room.
“Are you even going to tell me your name?” Robert demanded.
“Fenrir. Also, I'm a werewolf. Which means you are one, too.”
Speechless Robert stared at thee giant as he closed the door behind him. As soon as the sound of the door locked words ripped themselves out of his mouth.
“WHATEVER! YOU PSYCHO!”
Several hours later “Fenrir” had not returned. There was a small bar fridge filled with mostly deli meats and a loaf of bread. Robert devoured all of it while he paced the room, mumbling to himself mostly, but yelling at the locked door as well.
“Sure. You're a werewolf. Then your going to kill me with a silver knife or something for your dark god and WHO THE HELL KIDNAPS THEIR OWN SON! There are better ways to do things. You're a cop! What kind of cop does that. Won't drop four hundred pounds on me but you sure will dump a ton, huh? Moron.” He stopped in front of the circular window again. The only thing he could see was what looked like an abandoned factory along the shoreline. He was sure he was still on the Detroit river, but he didn't know where along the river he was.
Randomly seizures of hope jolted him. He imagined that he was part of a conspiracy, despite what he'd been told, that he was part of a secret society and he was now going to be the One, hero of his own epic story.
“Idiot. You've been kidnapped by some psycho. That's it. Werewolves. Stupid.”
Bored, he began to tear apart his bed. Might as well set a trap, he thought.
Funniest thing happened to me today: My son has a two foot tall rubber T-rex that I've been too lazy to bring in from the van.
Today I brought it out and put it into our room right in front of the door so that when it was opened he would see it and I could get a good reaction.
I forgot I put it there.
I opened the door and yelped like a little girl, my first thought being "What the hell is this cat doing in here!"
Then I laughed at my own stupidity. For like, two minutes.
Fear is not a primal part of our brain. Panic is. Panic is the fight or flight response to dangerous stimuli, and it is perfectly natural.
Panic is also part of our collective unconcious. I witnessed this a few weeks ago.
I was in a first aid course and during the explanation of the reactive processes of a choking person, it was described that when suffocating we all try to hide. Or remove ourselves from the situation. (A little aside here: I often try to remove all thoughts about modern technology and modern culture when I think about the actions people do today. Toddlers are great for this.)
Then I thought about how my two-year-old hides whenever he goes to the bathroom. I tried to think if there was something internally that connected these two actions, and a thought struck me:
These two seemingly different actions exhibit actions that are relatable. Disease. Coughing is a sign of disease, and feces carry disease. When we act diseased we isolate ourselves from the group as a way of protecting the group.
To give another example is when a cat hides to die or give birth. In both cases it is isolating itself from illness, either in contraction or dissemination. When choking or defecating part of our flight-or-fight gets activated and we hide. Panic is a natural protector in this situation.
When our panic is prolonged or held artificially we develop fear. When panic is induced in similar situations it evolves into fear, since the cause of the panic does not appear yet the fight-or-flight is engaged.
This is the curse of having memory and sentient thought. We can create circumstances that trigger these responses when none are actually present. Such as watching scary movies.
The desire to watch scary movies comes with it's own social implications as well. Why do we desire to be scared? Why do we force ourselves to watch the news where horrible things happen?
I think it's because we learn from it. Since our responses allowed us to live, and can be triggered as a warning device (that manifests itself in negative ways such as phobias or innaporpriate responses to environmental stimuli). We watch what others do in bad situations to leatn what not to do.
We've all watched the monster movie and yelled at the screen for the defenceless girl to “stay away from the door! The killer is there! I wouldn't go through there!”
When on the news we watch to see how others survive the disaster, creating elaborate scenarios where we do things different in order to survive.
Doing this creates fear. While learning from experiences is a great way to preserve ourselves and our species, when it is artificially induced it creates the synthetic emotion of fear.
Am I making sense or talking out of my ass?
Heard the bad news? Sure you have. It’s everywhere. You can't turn on the TV or read a newspaper (paper or electronic) without coming across THE BIG SCARE. It varies from week to week - global warming, bird flu, terrorism, world hunger, rapidly-depleting oil reserves, and what have you - but it's almost always guaranteed to ruin your day and make you consider stockpiling food and weapons in your basement.
Ever heard the phrase "culture of fear?" Probably. It's usually applied to politics, for example by claiming that the powers that be are deliberately trying to manipulate the citizens with a series of boogeymen. There's probably some truth in that, but the culture goes much deeper than mere political scaremongering. It's in the everyday conversation of the scared-shitless John Q. Public. It's in every online forum thread dedicated to the oil crisis, or some new disease, or the environment. It's in every locked car door in a crime-free suburb. It's in every parent with a vague uneasiness about the world their children are going off into.
People are genuinely scared, and fear loves company.
The media certainly have something to do with it - they're the ones who tell us about all the new things to be afraid of, anyway, to keep us glued to the screens in stark terror - but they won't admit it. That's why I started the Fear Blog. Here I share the bad news, collect the scary stories, and speculate on the coming apocalypse and various dubious conspiracy theories. No attempt will be made to hide the fact that I'm a completely paranoid pessimist. Scaremongering or no, all these dire predictions about the future have gotten to me. I'm worried about the environment. I'm worried about where our energy is going to come from. I'm worried about war, I'm worried about terrorism, I'm worried about disease. Hell, I'm even worried that the ravings of the crackpot conspiracy fringe might be true.
And that's the theme of this blog - dread and paranoia. It's not so much about scaring you, the reader, as it is about sharing my own layman's-eye-view of the fear culture. It's about my own nervous panic, and those dark thoughts that come up whenever I turn on the TV news. And I think some of you will probably share my concerns, because I'm one of you. I'm just a regular guy with a knot in my gut and a lump in my throat.
I'm as scared as you are, but I'm also fascinated by this neurotic culture. So come on, and explore it with me.