Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Atlas Shrugged Part II

Well considering the monumental failure of the first installment of the Atlas Shrugged film series which was in part due to it's terrible acting, poor adaptation, and even worse source material, imagine my surpirse when I found out they were doing part two.

Now I think anyone who followed the films has probably known about this for some time, but courtesy of Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature (an excellent blog dedicated to demolishing all of Ayn Rand's silly ideas) I've seen the most recent trailer for part two. Well let me just say that other than being dramatically large hams (but hey, given the subject material...) and still peddling tha nonsense ideology they managed to actually make this movie look interesting. Now that's quite a feat.

The trailer is actually pretty well and competently strung together, the actors all seem more human (or at least doing their best to take the subject matter semi-seriously and not verge on self-parody) and capable of putting on a brave face. I for one would be delighted if they portrayed this film as a subtle parody of Rand's works, still interesting to watch but the actors very aware of just how dumb everything being spoken and preached to the audience, is. For a great example see Micheal Ironsides preformance in Starship Troopers.

Now this of course is probably not going to happen (sigh) but a man can hope. Rather than totally skip out on even viewing this film, like part one, I may actually pirate it after it's DVD release.

Having read the book (four months of agony) I remember that I liked part three the best as at least things happened without hundreds of pages worth of useless build up. Part two in comparison was only marginally interesting. Still slow and ranting but its conclusion was worthwhile at least.

I'm certainly looking forward how they can pull of some of the 'heroes' blatant near terrorist attacks in a positive light for a modern audience (I only say near because of their intention to not kill people but deny resources, but considering where many of these attacks take place and that many were for essential items the chances of not doing so is nill). Not that I predict to many normal people seeing this film. Hell I'd see it, mostly to criticize of course but that's because I so passionately loathe the material behind it. Though seeing how they manage to pull off some of Rand's more questionable moral points would be interesting in the least. If, as it looks, they put everything in a straight, pulled right off the page way, then I can see this film getting even more hate from potential audience members. It might not even be a bad film if they dumbed down the author rant message and presented it as more right-wing mantra with the parable of bad government put up to eleven. Sadly though since it's coming straight from the heart of Objectivist theory that is all but improbable.

Well that's all for this post folks. Hopefully you won't go see this movie do what I do (and many of its other 'fans' did) and pirate it off the internet!

Here's the trailer for your viewing 'pleasure'. Enjoy!!

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Freedom from religion? Or freedom from opposing ideas?

Hello my fair readers. I begin today's article by saying that I am unashamedly Christian and that I don't mind if that turns some readers away. Frankly it's my blog and I will occasionally post things that others find opposite to their ideoligcal or personal views. That being said I continue on with today's topic.

I often get into debates with agnostics or atheists regarding Christianity, why I do so is still somewhat of a mystery to me as it is rarely productive. True I make no secret of my religious beliefs, which has made me a target of anger and criticism in the past, but I should hopefully know better at this point than to engage in pointless debates with people who just sincerely don't want to hear my point of view on the matter. Which of course brings me to today's subject.

In a recent, more friendly chat I had with an atheist acquaintance he told me he supported both the seperation of church and state, and the campaign for a freedom from religion. This is a term I had heard of before, but wasn't quite sure of what it meant so I asked him to clarify. He explained the term meant that he supported the view that the discussion of religion and faith should be removed from the public sphere and regulated into the private one and into a person's household.

This of course shocked me to no end. I asked whether that he meant for atheism to disappear from the public forum as well, and to his credit he answered 'No I'd just rather all religious debate disappeared so we wouldn't have to hear about it anymore, but I'd still insist there's no God."

Now none of what he'd said there is bad at all, but the very idea of simply removing a point of topic from the public sphere is one that strikes me as totalitarian in nature.

I of course should clarify something here. I am a rabid opponent of racism, hate speech, revisionist history, and the greatest sin of all, Holocaust denial. Any of those items are hateful, usually carry violent undertones, and are meant only to provoke hostility in a crowd. These things are in my opinion not defended under free speech, just like inciting violence or panic isn't. None of these things are appropriate or acceptable in civil discourse, just as copious name calling or profanity is considered impolite and obscene to public debate.

The idea that religion can be used to incite similar hate speech or intolerance is not false, but that goes against the thousands of other religious or faith based initiatives to do exactly the opposite such as promoting peace, justice, care for the poor, and forgiveness in society. So to be clear, attempting to ban religious discourse in public based on that category falls flat.

Now to return to the matter at hand, the term 'freedom from religion' implies that a person who is not a believer would be able to go about their daily life and never have to encounter a religious message or slogan (presumably unless they pass a church or mosque ect). That implies I would hope that a religious person could go about their daily life and never have to encounter an atheist banner or slogan.

I somehow though doubt that is the sincere wish of the atheist who promotes the idea.

Consider this, an atheist does not regard himself as religious, nor would his own banner or slogan be considered religious under the law. So I must presume that 'freedom from religion' does not include 'freedom from atheism'.

Now I can understand some out there asking 'Yeah, so what?' well in rebuttal let me put it this way. If society is 'free from religion' but not free from atheism then a religious or faithful person will most likely have to endure slogans, banners, chants and other atheist items without complaint while being unable to mount a rebuttal in the public forum themselves. I regard this as totalitarian in nature. It merely silences an idea that an atheist finds disqueting, is this idea hateful, bigoted, aiming to incite violence, or provoke people? No, the simple belief in God does not do that. While it will of course sometimes spark heated debate it is not meant to be used as a message to spread hate, bigotry, and ignorance (anyone who claims otherwise is deluded or no true servant of the Lord and merely a self-centered bigot).

So for someone to claim they want 'freedom from religion' I hear echoes of 'I want to silence the opposing view point'. While this may not be forefront on the minds of many who adhere to this idea, I am quite certain that most of its ardent defenders clearly want a society where they are free to preach their own spiritually dead message, while using the power of the state to silence any view point which would contest them and regulate the worshippers to their homes and churches rendering any response they might have mute.

Not only is that abhorent and un-democratic, but it flies in the very face of what most atheists would believe. They believe they have reason and logic on their side, well silencing the other end of the debate is not reason or logic. It is naked brutality masked as concern for society. I don't agree with anyone who supports this idea and I would encourage others to chastise the holders of it. It is not an idea which people who live in a democratic society should hold to, nor is it one which anyone who believes in logic and reason should want to see undertaken.

I am sometimes criticized for my belief in 'censoring' holocaust denial, or hate speech. Well what does someone who wants 'freedom from religion' preach? Civil discourse? No. They preach no discourse at all and merely wish to dictate to us what we can and cannot hear. That is the exact opposite of what I stand for in society.

I like to believe that we live in a free and open society which doesn't allow for bigotry and hate speech to run rampant. If we close one door of civil public discourse, how many more can be closed to satisfy people?

I finish with this, 'freedom from religion' is no freedom at all, but merely totalitarian urges masked behind lofty idealism. If you don't agree with a view debate it, if you don't wish to participate in said debate ignore it. What one cannot do is silence any opposing view point in a debate! If one cannot speak their mind than how can civil disocourse in society exist at all?

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Grim Dark (In Writing)

Recently dear readers something has been on my mind which I just can't shake. Something that has both bothered and annoyed me. It's something which has been slowly creeping into our papers, our video games, our movies, and our novels! This slow seeping and gloomy menace is what we can call Grimdark (or Grim Dark). Now this is a phenominon which is not entirely new, it has been going on since the 90s after all, and is one which is fairly well established. In the fantasy genre though, it is beginning to show. Since A Song of Ice and Fire and its attendent TV series Game of Thrones became such sensational hits, we have been seeing an upsurge in popularizing dark fantasy. Dark fantasy has also been around for some time (Diablo anyone?) and has had a genre of its own. However, it is one which is becoming incredibly popularized in all forms of fantasy writing recently, pushing it to mainstream. This of course has shifted me from being mildly opposed to it, to becoming outright annoyed.

Now here's the thing, I don't mind dark fantasy (or any dark item in particular) but the massive push of depressing black, bleak, and nihilistic fiction is starting to become almost cliche to me. I enjoy a good morally gray story from time to time yes, but recently its less from time to time, and more 'all the damn time'.

To use one great example we have George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. A deconstruction of the heroic fantasy genre (which is wonderful in itself) it started as a rich and interesting world with some dark and morally gray tones, but has since shifted to bleak, hopeless, and has multiple characters carrying the idiot ball. For instance in the most recent book A Dance with Dragons we had a series of inreasingly dark, twisted, and disturbing scenes played out before us and everything that the main characters did seemed to serve no purpose or else went incredibly wrong. Now I hadn't minded this before, but by this point many of the actions the characters took cried out idiot ball rather than 'decision gone wrong' and many of the more grotesque elements of the story were completely uncessecary.

Here's the thing, I love Martin's work and all he does in it, but when the series is so dark that I can instantly predict how badly something is going to go wrong without even thinking about it there is something wrong. I found myself simply guessing who would be the one to be screwed over in the next chapter, and was never really surprised at who it was.

For some non-literature examples I merely need point to video-games like The Witcher or the Dragon Age series. Each of them are good games, but the unnecessary ammount of angst, grimness, and depressing overtones makes it irritating for me to keep playing them. And the modern swearing (I mean honestly, like in all this dark literature everyone has to say f*ck at some point or another! There was no point in history until very recently that f*ck was being used as a swear word! I just can't stand that writers need to use it to somehow make the setting 'darker and edgier'! That word doesn't make it darker or edgier!!!) in these series just sets my teeth on edge. The games tell a dark, racist, and depressing story about a fantasy world where fantastic racism abounds and even kings and nobles aren't safe from the machinations of evil and inherent corrupt decay. They also seem quite content to play in petty power struggles as the powers of hell stand almost literally on their doorstep. Grimdark indeed.

The deonsrtuction of the heroic fantasy genre is something that I can appreciate from an artistic perspective, but when we are flooded by so many cheap grimdark fantasy knock offs that have no depth I begin to get sincerely tired of the whole charade. Why should I care that there are so many rape scenes, or that in this version it's just so morally gray? Unless the author is setting out with a specific goal in mind I really can't stand the cheap novelty of it.

A recent series that set off my irritation was the Prince of Thorns series which is loosely set in a post-global warming earth, but has so many elements of grimdark (the cover art alone should tell you).

Now while I have nothing against the authors writing, he just latches to hard onto this grimdark aspect for me to be able to truly enjoy the read (indeed the opening scene is a group of swearing soldiers happily ransacking some dead peasants bodies and describing all the blood and gore) which is a let down. If it even had a slightly lighter tone I would be more sympathetic, but sadly now I cannot be.

The biggest problem is when these stories get so dark its to the point of self-parody. Dance with Dragons comes oh so very close to this. Every chapter with the Martell prince was painful to read with all the grimdark I was experiencing. It nearly got as bad as a Warhammer 40k novel (and those are grimdark by design, but thankfully not all take themselves seriously). Hopefully though future installments will leave me guessing at the plot again and finding it a page turner rather than glumly turning from one page to the next as everyone screws up in one fantastic way or another.

Now with this out of my system I can return to writing my own, somewhat light hearted, science fiction.