Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Movies and Criminals

I was watching a collection of Ocean's 11 clips when I realized why I like a particular genre of movies. I like romantic comedies, and within that genre, I really like romantic comedies with a criminal element, like Grosse Pointe Blank, The Thomas Crown Affair, or A Fish Called Wanda.

Watching this video from Ocean's 11, it occurred to me that what criminals and filmmakers have in common is that they both have to be very creative. They both have to think outside the box. At least the kind of criminals played by George Clooney and Brad Pitt have to think like this. Criminals, by definition, are challenging the system, albeit for the wrong reasons. But they also have to pretend to be part of the system. Just like people making movies, criminals have to walk a fine line between fitting in, being like everyone else, and doing something that no one else has thot of. Entrepreneurs are the same way, which is also a reason why I like that class of people, as well.

It's not the most emotionally healthy or morally or politically correct analogy. But it sure is fun.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Star Wars question

I just watched Stars Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope . I was in a Barnes & Noble, and I happened to see the DVD on sale. I realized I don't actually own it, so I figured I should buy it (you can too, on Amazon - Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope (1977 & 2004 Versions, 2-Disc Widescreen Edition)).

I noticed something that I've never noticed before. They come out of the trash compactor looking a little damp, but they dry off very quickly, and suddenly they don't look like they came out of a trash compactor. Not a big deal, because Luke and Han were wearing those presumably watertight stormtrooper outfits. Chewie is a Wookie, we can't really tell if there's a big difference in how he looks. But even in the first moments out of the trash compactor, Princess Leia looks great, as she always does. Makeup perfect, hair tightly coiled in those buns. At this point, she has been captured by Imperial stormtroopers, tortured and interrogated by Darth Vader, and seen her planet blown up. She has had just about the worst day ever. Yet there are no smudges anywhere on her face, and her perfectly white tunic thingy is still perfectly white. You would think that at the very least she would have been crying, after seeing her all those people die on her planet. But no, no running mascara for the Princess!

Here's my question: Did Princess Leia use the Force to keep herself looking that good, in the midst of all that trouble? Was that her special gift? We know that the Force was strong in her, being the daughter of Darth Vader and the twin sister of Luke. Is this why she never needed a lightsaber?

Also, we never really learn how the Rebel Alliance got the plans to the Death Star. We do, however, know that Princess Leia was involved in stealing those plans. If she could use the Force to keep herself looking great walking out of a trash compactor, did she use it in other ways we don't know about? Wink, wink, nudge nudge. Is this the hidden history of Princess Leia? Is this REALLY why Han comes back to save Luke? Did Leia plant some seeds in his mind before he left the rebel base?

Just curious about that.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Can't Resist This One - "What Is A Philosopher?"

The New York Times introduces a new column/blog/something-or-other today by the name of "The Stone," and apparently it is a forum for philosophical discussion. Way to go, NYT!

The first column asks the question, "What is a philosopher?" Good way to start!

Here's my first take at an answer: a philosopher is someone who realizes how incredibly stupid it is to ask a question like "What is a philosopher?" because there are a million different answers, almost all equally meaningless.

Here's my second take at an answer: a philosopher is someone who can't resist trying to answer the question "What is a philosopher?" because his or her answer might be that one-in-a-million answer that is the most interesting and not entirely meaningless. Not "right," because in philosophy, there is no "right" answer, just more or less interesting ones. An "interesting" answer to a question, at least by philosopher standards, is one that provokes the listener into thinking more about both the question and the answer.

Here's my third take at an answer. This is a paraphrase of a quote from Franklin Roosevelt. He used the world "radical," not philosopher, but it's a fun take on it nonetheless: "A philosopher is someone with both feet planted firmly in the clouds."

Here's my fourth take. This one is rather cynical: A philosopher is someone who is paid to be professionally confused for years at a time.

Here's my fifth take, again rather cynical: A philosopher is someone who is professionally uninterested in making decisions.

Actually, four and five are not great answers, because it is entirely possible that someone could meet either or both of those criteria and not be anything close to a philosopher. But it was fun to write those sentences.

Sixth take. There are limits to questions. There are limits to what can be known merely by thinking. A philosopher is someone who is aware that these limits exist, and may even be vaguely aware of where they are, and completely ignores them.

Here's my final attempt to answer the question "What is a philosopher?": a philosopher is someone who understands this analogy: doing philosophy (not necessarily "studying" philosophy) is like driving a Ferrari: 99 times out of 100, it's either largely pointless, not worth the extra effort/cost, or potentially fatal. But that 1% of the time, there is nothing like it in the world.