Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Magic, Faith and Science

Here's a nice post by Stanley Fish (who I often disagree with) about the similarities between Science and Religion that seemed to cause a lot of controversy. Both rely heavily on faith, and both are suited to answering life's problems, just different problems.

This is something I talk about when talking about the science of climate change. People always wonder about the power of climate change deniers, but I ask how people can be so certain that climate change is real, and the implicit faith they have in the sources of knowledge they trust. People believe that as "rational thinker" they can tell science from non-science, but really when examined, most of what people know they take on faith.

Much of my thinking on this was shaped by comic books, and specifically Alan Moore, (and indirectly by post-modernism ala Foucault) so it is nice to see the philosophical basis of the same ideas. That science and magic can be equally real and depend on our beliefs.

Hunger Games Books 2 and 3 Thoughts (Reviewlet?)

Katniss is an Ends not a Means. Just finished Book 3 (minor spoiler alerts), where Katniss echoes Kant's indictment of utilitarianism (hm i wonder if it is conicidence that Katniss is spells liked Kant). Although more broadly speaking, a clever rule utilitarian could point out that a system that promotes the instrumental rights of individual liberty and autonomy that Kant wanted, like capitalism, yields higher utility over all.

I liked Book 3 more than Book 2, which seemed too much like Book 1. But I've heard people complain about Book 3 for being too different. It definitely falls into the more traditional 'war is hell' genre though in a somewhat retro vietnam/wwII era sense, ala Starship Troopers or the Forever War. How war is senseless and total war changes everything. It feels quite nostalgic in the modern era of limited war and smart bombs. And there's also something quite naive about the propoganda campaign that seems to fit more the 1940's and Starship Troopers and feels weird given our more media savvy population. But it is plausible that the people of the future, exposed only to State-run TV would be media naive.

The Peeta-Gale question was a little too easily answered. It became quickly obvious (to me anyway) who she would pick, who she had to pick given the theme of the story. But maybe that was just me.

A friend of mine once contrasted Harry Potter to the Golden Compass. Whereas Harry Potter focused mostly on characters and growing up, Golden Compass is more traditional sci-fi in that it was about big ideas. I feel Hunger Games started off more along the Harry Potter axis (character driven) and shifted by Book 3 to the big ideas.

That may not appeal to everyone, but I liked it. I was a bit stupefied, in a good way, when it all came to an end. Final Grade: A-

Friday, April 06, 2012

Book Reviewlet: Hunger Games Book I


This book is pure catnip for the "young adult reader" and I ate up every word of it.

The main character Katniss Everdeen is a kicka-- but vulnerable tomboy, who beats people up in a gladitorial death match, but also gets her Oprah style pretty-ugly girl makeover, her dramatic prom-like scene, her high school rom-com love triangle, her turn as reality tv star, and on top of all that, she gets to be all political because she's representing the 99%.

The premise, of an authoritarian government forcing children to fight to the death to assert their authority really is a knock off of the Japanese film Battle Royale, though I suppose the trope dates back to Rome's bread and circus gladitorial games (which I just realized while googling the attribution of bread and circus, that the Roman allusion is reinforced in the name of the ficitonal country Hunger Games takes place in, Panem), just updated with pneumatic teenage protagonists and reality tv. Thus you could argue the movie owes as much to Gladiator as Battle Royale.

The books have been lauded for the social commentary, which to be honest, felt mostly in the background in book 1, but seem to come more to the forefront in the sequels, which I am still working through with much anticipation.

Grade: A

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