2010-01-25

Profile

It's come to my attention that my profile text on blogger sucks bad. I've replaced it now, but for posterity's sake, here it is:
I like mowing the grass, reading and computer programming. OMG, this is sounding bad! I rent the rooms in my house out to quirky lodgers. I call them quirky, but you should hear what they say about me.

I like spending time in the pub with my friends.

I've got two little nephews who are just fantastic!

I cycle everywhere. In fact I've just sold my car because of climate change.

My Dad's great, he's good company for going on a walk or something, and he always helps me out with DIY.

I was brought up a Christian, but after a few years of intense doubt in my late teens I started to describe myself as an atheist.

Politically I was brought up a socialist, but in my early teens I began to think for myself about politics. I began to be in favour of free markets and I put the emphasis on maximising the freedom of the individual.

2010-01-24

Dogville

Yesterday was devoted to roast chestnuts, fondue and Dogville. A film I'd happily watch again. I always ask what the message or subtext of a film is. I've come to the conclusion that Dogville could only be made about a time and place where the police are corrupt, rather than forming part of an impartial leviathan. In that sense it joins the great majority of films that rely on a Hobbesian 'state of nature'.

Grace's father says she is arrogant because she doesn't retaliate when people wrong her, rather she rationalizes their behaviour by saying that they're a victim of their environment. He calls this arrogance because it implies that she is morally superior because she can choose to do the right thing, but they cannot. Her father thinks that everyone is equally capable of making moral choices, so when they do, they should face the consequences.

If someone crosses Grace's father, he doesn't excuse them, he shoots them. In the end, Grace performs a volte face, and does the same.

This 'law of the jungle' is only right if you're in the jungle. A better arrangement is to have a Hobbesian leviathan to dispense justice. Then everyone is better off.

The only problem is that films about people dutifully following the correct bureaucratic procedures to ensure the due process of law are boring.

There's more I want to say, but I don't like to go on, so here it is in bullet points:
  • The film is too long. If it were published under a CC license I'd shorten it by about an hour.
  • I didn't really before, but now I like Nicole Kidman.
  • Each resident of Dogville abused Grace. Was Tom the worst because he engineered the whole thing to provide material for his writing?
  • The unusual staging of the film worked brilliantly. The only off-note was the miming of the opening and closing of doors.

2010-01-13

Human, All Too Human

'That's great title', said Zoe as she picked up my copy of Human, All Too Human. I agreed.

It's a book of aphorisms. Each aphorism is a self-contained philosophical thought. In fact, the form follows the philosophy. Nietzsche is saying that there's no grand over-arching Truth, only scattered nuggets of truth.

I'm sure anyone can make up some aphorisms. How hard can it be? What do you think of this:
A law is a good law if even those that break it, agree with it.
Profound eh? Let's test it. The law against burglary is a good law. If one were to ask a burglar if it's right that burglary is illegal, she'd probably say yes. The law against taking drugs is a bad law. If one were to ask a dope fiend if it's right that drugs are prohibited, she'd probably say no.

So for these two tests, the aphorism works! Case proven!

2010-01-08

Stop Software Patents

stopsoftwarepatents.eu petition banner
When you sign the petition you get to write a message. I put, 'Software patents are inimical to free trade. Confound the intellectual monopolists!'.

2010-01-06

Buildings Insurance

I insure most things myself, not using an insurance company. I make sure I save enough money so that, for example, if someone stole my bicycle I could buy myself a new one. Is this a good idea?

When it comes to my house though, I couldn't afford to have it rebuilt if it was somehow destroyed in an accident. So I insure it with the Halifax. So when can I stop paying my buildings insurance? When I've got enough money to rebuild the house entirely? That'll take ages, can't I stop paying it now?

Avatar

I saw Avatar in glorious 3D on Sunday. Thank you to Sarita and Bill. It was a fantastic film. Everyone had a view beforehand on whether the 3D was a good idea. Kazim had seen it in 2D and said 3D was a gimmick. Jamie had seen it in 3 and 2D and said the 2D was better. Me, I was swept up in the 3D-ness of it all. When that gas cannister bounced into the audience, I jumped out the way!

I always tend to see political analogies in films, and to me Avatar was a damning criticism of the USA's presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. Through art, can the US see its actions in a different light? Can art make people better? The standard rebuttal is the Nazis, who had a subtle appreciation of art.

Nietzsche devotes a whole section of Human, All Too Human to a discussion of art. His view is that we are right to admire great works of art, but the conditions of religious feeling that generated them no longer obtain. Art then to Nietzsche has an elegaic quality, to appreciate but not repeat.

Nietzsche is wrong. Art, like maths, can't be put in a box.

2010-01-03

Knowing

Kazim was over for the weekend, and on Saturday we went on a walk to Avebury with my brother and my dad. It was cold, but we had a hot chocolate at the Red Lion at the end.

When Kazim and I got back to my house there was still some evening left, so we hired Knowing from Blockbuster.

Exciting all the way through, with a twist at the end. A lot of biblical themes and imagery. Adam and Eve at the end for example. The Rapture came to mind. It's well known in America, for example in Paramore's Ignorance Hayley Williams sings:
It's not a war no, it's not a rapture
The Rapture is not so well known outside the USA though.

The film makers reconcile their religious beliefs with modern science, by giving the role of God to aliens. I'm exasperated by this attitude. We've got to take responsibility ourselves. Jesus won't save us, and neither will aliens.

I remember standing by the cooker and saying something slightly blasphemous. My mum was concerned that I'd receive divine retribution. I replied that if God did strike me down, as least we'd know he actually existed, and mankind would have learned something useful.

Despite being an atheist, I still feel very uncomfortable blaspheming, it's the result of a religious upbringing. As Nietzsche says:
God is Dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. And we — we still have to vanquish his shadow, too.
I don't think I've vanquished his shadow. If things are going well for me, I still feel that God will punish me for my hubris.