April 28, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Trailer [breaking news musing]

As always, I cried as I watched this. I don't know why Harry Potter trailers do this to me. The trailers are better than the films. Except for the part when they spoil the ending by showing clips of Harry fighting Voldemort. I hate when they do that.

I'm excited for this movie, because there's no way it could -not- be epic. They just can't screw it up... can they? In theatres July 15, 2011.

April 27, 2011

Atheist Tales - "A New Beginning" by Bill R. Moore [review by starlight]

"As centuries turned into millennia, and millennia into eons, Their job was at last done. The creatures whose bodies They now inhabited were newly sentient."
Upon first reading Moore's Atheist Tale, I found I was at a loss for what the story was trying to get across - which makes it an instant masterpiece, in my books. In a way, it was a peculiar choice to start off the anthology with, because it isn't what one would expect from a collection of short stories about Atheism. When you pick up this antho, no doubt you'll be looking for stories condemning religion, arguing against the existence of God, and pointing out the absurdities propagated by the Bible. Moore's story, at least at surface level, does none of these things. Instead, Moore creates a piece that really gets you thinking about our preconceptions about the world, whether we are atheistic or religious. It's difficult to tell at first glance what this story is really about, and I'v decided that it's a great opener for that reason - it challenges the reader's expectations right from the get go.

Now I would love to leave it up to each of you to figure out how Moore's story promotes freethinking atheism, but I can't resist telling you what I think, myself.

April 26, 2011

Why you should re-read The Lord of the Rings [review of The Two Towers]

Where now are the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fir glowing?
Where is the spring an the harvest and the tall corn growing?

They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?
It's time to read The Lord of the Rings again. I know it, you know it, so get on it. What's it been, five years? Ten? I know why you're avoiding this. You love these books, you watch the movies all the time, but it just seems so daunting, reading all one thousand pages, paying attention to all those characters, places, the history, the scenery. I know it seems like a lot of work, but you've done it once before. And today I'm going to tell you why it only get easier - if you've watched the films 50 times like a good citizen of the 21st century.

April 25, 2011

Atheist Tales - "Dear Theologian" by Dan Barker [review by starlight]

"I know that I exist. I know that I could not have created myself. I also know there is no higher God that could have created me. Since I can't look above myself, then perhaps I should look below myself for a creator. Perhaps - this is speculative, so bear with me - perhaps you created me." -God

I couldn't help but skip to Dan Barker's Atheist Tale after all the hype it's gotten. Originally published in Barker's Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists, this stand-alone story is a fictional letter from God to a doctor of theology, asking the same questions man has asked for centuries. God is very confused as to how he came into existence, how he is expected to be the ultimate judge of morality, and what his purpose is. It's a rational argument that combats all of the typical theological debates, and put in the mouth of the Big Man himself, it's very convincing.

April 21, 2011

Well, I just can't help but post about Buffy... again [rant and rave]

"And they have no purpose that unites them, so they just drift around, blundering through life until they die, which they-they know is coming, yet every single one of them is surprised when it happens to them. They're incapable of thinking about what they want beyond the moment. They kill each other, which is clearly insane... and yet here's the thing. When it's something that really matters, they fight. I mean, they're lame morons for fighting, but they do! They never... they never quit. So I guess I'll keep fighting too." -Anya on Humanity
After watching the series finale of Buffy for the first time, I found I had a bit of a rant in me. Don't get me wrong, it was thrilling, there's just one flaw. But please, allow me to begin with how great a conclusion my hero, Lord Whedon, came up with, and rave about how it made me cry and cry and cry, and how everything went as it was meant to - including who lives and dies.

April 19, 2011

Atheist Tales - "Resuscitation" by James Hickey [review by starlight]

"Since consciousness has arisen in our species, the stark face of this truth about our final fate has fed life-after-death fantasies that are impossible to sustain..."
Hickey's Atheist Tale, entitled 'Resuscitation', takes on the idea of the afterlife and all of its flaws using (or maybe inspiring) the anthology's tagline - "Fiction, Not Lies". Hickey's story uses sci-fi to posit what would happen if we had near-indisputable proof that heaven did not exist, and his conclusions are terrifying and believable, following Aristotle's principles of fiction that it is more important for a story to be believable than true. He doesn't, however, expect the reader to believe the story to be true, as humanity has been expected to believe of the bible.

April 18, 2011

Open-ended Sci-Fi: Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys [review by starlight]

"Ah! Ah! There's no right, there's no wrong, there's only popular opinion. You... you... you believe in germs, right?"
The immortal and yet completely loony words of Jeffrey Goines in 12 Monkeys really hint at the point of this film. No one interpretation is right or wrong, but throughout human history we've tended to assume that the majority is correct, even if the minority is one Galileo Galilie. Or, to use Jeffrey's example, the first scientists to come up with the idea of bacteria. Science fiction is a genre that works beautifully with an open-ended approach, where the credits roll and there is no one answer as to what just happened (much as I observed in Mulholland Dr). We really are given nothing conclusive at the end of 12 Monkeys, but of course, watchers everywhere have come up with many theories. And who's to say that the least advocated one is any less likely to be the correct? The majority used to think that the sun was one of seven planets visible to the naked eye that revolved around the earth. Shows what the majority knows.

April 12, 2011

Atheist Tales - "It's All About Soul" by Jane Gallagher [review by starlight]

"You humans - and their clones - have a bizarre interpretation of how we work, but this is the basic idea: this is a private club... You don't get in."
This is a laugh-out-loud short story included in Atheist Tales that, in my mind, really points out the absurdity of many of the rules in religion. In fact, it pokes fun at a lot of things. The idea of some beings having souls and others not, the idea of one religion being the right one and all believers of other creeds being ---- out of luck, and the image of heaven with a door man who is essentially just a bouncer at a nightclub.

I loved this one because it is very light-hearted and humorous, but with a really strong point. The more you think about it, the funnier faith becomes. It doesn't matter how strictly you observe what Gallagher calls "the morals" as if they are legal precedents, what matters are arbitrary distinctions such as whether a human being was made by God or by a doctor's mixing bowl. By making her story very futuristic, Gallagher gets to play with the religious concerns about advancing technology and cloning, and the way she puts it just really hits the nail on the head and draws attention to how ridiculous it all is. A perfect example of how speculative fiction, in this case sci-fi, can be used to comment on religious faith, and a barrel of laughs to boot.

By the way: the image is pretty random, it's Ed Norton in this movie where he plays both brothers in a set of twins. It has nothing to do with Atheism or cloning, but I loooove Ed Norton :)

April 11, 2011

Angel Season 4, Awakening [musing, with spoilers]

What made this episode, entitled Awakening, so incredible is that Joss Whedon gives us an ending to all of the show's current issues tied up in a nice little bow, and then dismantles it all, and with just a single line, leaves the whole thing in a painful, ugly mess. The plots had all been resolved with a disappointingly fairy-tale ending, and I can't believe I didn't expect that Whedon would pull something along the lines of the "it was all a dream" ending, except far more spectacular.

April 6, 2011

The Allegory of the Matrix [musing time]

"I was looking for an answer. It's the question that drives us, Neo. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did."

The above quotation occurs early in the film, and is probably the first indication that this movie has a much deeper meaning than meets the eye. I think when most people watch The Matrix, they see a hard sci-fi action flick with an interesting premise and a guy who can dodge bullets. New breakthroughs in cinematography, a dystopia with the twist that our world is really just a computer simulation, cool black shades and lots of guns. But what these lines spoken by Trinity do for the film is pull the audience into the world of The Matrix and include them in Neo's struggle. Not the struggle against machines that have enslaved humanity, but his struggle against enslavement of the mind - something the Watchowskis are claiming affects us all.

April 4, 2011

A hint of what's to come - Leonard D. Hilley's Predators of Darkness [breaking news musing]

In the weeks to come, I've got a lot on my plate. A few blogging commitments, many post ideas and lots of life keeping me busy. I've promised to review each of the stories in Atheist Tales once my copy arrives, and that is very important to me. But what's also important to me is reading and reviewing Predators of Darkness, an indie book available in ebook format, written by Leonard D. Hilley II.