Saturday, May 30, 2009

Oh, man is not made for the cognitive dissonance that comes about from the day I had. Whereas last year's new Pixar movie was attended, in my life, by listening to an interview with CF that left me feeling deeply inspired, today I watched Up and read Jon Ronson's The Men Who Stare At Goats- which goes back and forth between the sort-of-amusing and conspiracy theories that leave you feeling awful.

Up is pretty much great. It starts sad, to give emotional underpinnings, and then starts moving fast. It ends up containing genuinely funny material. It feels like less of a curiosity than Wall-E did, more like a normal movie, but well-crafted and strongly executed in a way that I doubt any other summer blockbuster would be. In some ways, it might be more satisfying than Wall-E: Wall-E is sort of more deeply sad, to a point where it even creates a sad ending that it then avoids in a swerve. Up has emotion underpinning it, but moves according to "fun romp" tradition, and allows for a more cartoony world. Lots of fun.

The Men Who Stare At Goats is not terribly well-written: It's all over the place in its subject matter, in a way where it does this paradoxical thing where it ends up not being convincing of things you already know to be true. Certain things are covered in such a cursory or haphazard manner where characters start to seem made up even though they clearly are real. But then there's the conspiracy theory stuff, which doesn't really jibe with what the rest of the book is about, but still feels like evidence of a really horrible evil... I don't know know. It's written so poorly that the whole thing feels like it's only going to convince utter crackpots, despite being about real and interesting things. The book, ostensibly, is about the CIA's use of new age and psychic practices, remote viewing and such. The CIA used remote viewing during the cold war to try to monitor the soviets- but that's not really talked about so much as some tangential figure who went on Coast To Coast AM and ended up inspiring the Heaven's Gate cult to kill themselves.

They really should not have been consumed in the same day, two things each lying on the extremes of my interest in cultural consumption. The universal humanity and humor of Up, that makes you want to engage in the world and being understandable, contrasting against the way a book of conspiracy theories puts one's thought into a spiral of half-digested information as concentric circles around a void of sheer terror. Go see Up.

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