Links and Comments: Reactions to Art; the Eclipse; Christianity and PKD

Saved from Facebook…

A post by Adam-Troy Castro:

Noted in a thread:

Somebody (I forget who) told the story of leaving A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE as one of two teenage couples, being absolutely gobsmacked by it, and listening to his friends spend the next ten minutes tearing it to pieces as ugly and boring and about people nobody could possibly ever care about, and finally asking him what he thought, at which point he said that it was brilliant and that he would never be the same.

As I note below, I have experienced this multiple times. Walking out of some fucking masterpiece and having people say, Wasn’t that the worst movie, ever? And me saying, no…

Another one, by the way, was NASHVILLE. And another was 3 WOMEN. And another was A PASSAGE TO INDIA. And another was MILLER’S CROSSING. And another was FARGO. And another one was DELICATESSEN. The most recent one was THE LOBSTER. In all those cases, I was confronted by people, sometimes fellow theatergoers, sometimes friends, who sought in me confirmation that I agreed we had just seen a total piece of garbage, usually phrased as “the worst movie ever made.” In all cases I said, “Nope.”

It feels disconcerting at the time.

One point here is that some people lack the imagination to understand that other people might have different tastes than their own; or, if this isn’t the same thing, are so egotistical to think their view of the world is the only valid one.

ATC made another point recently about are conservatives in general are less open to unusual experiences, because, well, they’re conservative…


Timothy Egan in NYT: The Week the Earth Stood Still.

He wonders to what extent the world ‘stood still,’ i.e. was distracted from relatively petty issues, by the recent total solar eclipse, with some reference to how that happened in a famous 1950s science fiction film.

If we won’t listen to science, maybe we’ll listen to science fiction. I keep thinking of a movie I saw as a kid, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” about a time when all the world’s trivial matters were briefly put aside to gasp in awe at a spaceship landing on Earth.

“It’s no concern of ours how you run your own planet,” says the alien, Klaatu, “but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder.” The reference in that 1951 film was to nuclear annihilation. And today, the smartest military men count the global insecurity and chaos of climate change as an existential threat on a par with nuclear disaster.

Many people experienced a standstill moment after that stunning picture of an earthrise came to light, taken by Apollo 8 astronauts during Christmas week of 1968. There from the infinity of space was our insignificant little blue and white orb — us! — a grain of sand in the universe. The image roused our capacity for wonder, and dread.

(Of course the eclipse wasn’t such a big deal outside the US.)


The New Yorker: “The Radical Origins of Christianity”; Subtitle, “Emmanuel Carrère’s ‘The Kingdom’ explores how a tiny sect became a global religion.”

A favorite theme of mine, the role of contingency (or randomness) in world history. And personal history. (Most things do not happen for a reason.) With references to the works of Philip K. Dick.

A question haunts this book, and it is surely the secret reason that Carrère wrote his biography of Philip K. Dick: Is Christianity just science fiction, a “branch of fantastic literature”? He can’t leave Dick alone, partly because Dick was a writer of fantastic literature who eventually came to believe that God was speaking directly to him, as he had spoken to men like Moses and Muhammad. For Dick, God supplanted the extraterrestrials. In a speech in France, late in his life, he told a bemused audience of sci-fi fans that he’d “had direct contact with the Programmer,” as Carrère puts it. There are certain atheists who have no compunction about dismissing fervent believers as victims of delusion and hallucination. But Carrère’s book about Dick vibrates with a profoundly uneasy respect.

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