Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Things for Which I'm Not Grateful Because They Are Bad

The things for which we’re thankful — like my superhuman girlfriend, Helen Rittelmeyer — help us deal with the things for which we’re not thankful, so let’s address some of those today.

First, let me note that director David Lynch is very grateful for something fairly stupid that he probably shouldn’t be grateful for: Transcendental Meditation, created by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the crackpot Beatles advisor who claimed to be able to make people levitate (in fact, his followers just sort of hop in the lotus position). Lynch is even making a documentary about the Maharishi. Lynch, who seemed a lot dumber when I saw him speak at a Barnes & Noble a couple years ago than I’d ever imagined him to be back when I was a Twin Peaks fan, credits Transcendental Meditation with producing some of his film ideas.

I only wish there were some meditation technique that would help me overcome the tension I feel every time I think about his unbelievably awful three-hour film Inland Empire, one of the most excruciating, tedious, and pointless experiences I’ve ever had in a theatre. Inland Empire is on the list of those things for which I am least thankful — though it also made a Village Voice list of best films for that year. From that, I conclude…that I am entirely correct, and it was simply awful.

A few other things I’m not grateful for (and promise not to dwell on tomorrow):

•slow-moving pedestrians
•fat, slow-moving pedestrians
•people asking me to remind them of something instead of simply reminding themselves (though some of my favorite people have this habit)
•people who answer a question you didn’t ask instead of saying “I don’t know” so that you have to ask three more, narrowly-structured questions before you can safely conclude they don’t know

I am also increasingly convinced that part of our problem in this world is people’s tendency to feel they must “choose sides” when it may well be the case that everything is stupid and all sides should be rejected in virtually all popular disputes.

On a more focused skeptical note, I am grateful for James Randi, who e-mailed me the other day to point out that the “coma guy” who’s been all over the news for supposedly suddenly snapping out of it after twenty-three years can only “communicate” through the deft typing of one special “facilitator” — who seems to be the only person who can detect the patient’s finger movements and sudden burst of potentially-lucrative memoir-writing.

In others words, just as teen Satanists everywhere dupe themselves into thinking a Ouija board moves toward letters of its own accord and just as Koko the “sign language” Gorilla seems to have one main trainer who thinks Koko’s near-random word strings are in fact sentences about the plight of the environment, etc., so too does coma guy seem to have become the vegetative tool of someone engaged in con artistry or wishful thinking. Such is human existence.


Michael said...

I cannot help you with the pedestrians, but I’ve found a way to stop people from asking to be reminded of something. Since people rarely state when they wish to be reminded, rather they say something like ‘Hey, remind me to buy paper plates.’ I just immediately blurt back, ‘buy paper plates.’ Thus I have fullfilled their request and am free to continue pursuing my own happiness.

Todd Seavey said...

[...] •Second, that guy in a coma who was supposedly communicating via subtle finger movements — a claim of which James Randi was an early skeptical critic, as I noted back around Thanksgiving — has now been revealed by his doctors to be just a regular, uncommunicative guy in a coma.  His doctors now liken the “messages” that some people thought he was sending to the messages people believe they get from ouija boards, not realizing that they are subconsciously spelling out precisely the words they long to see.  That humans are so quick — eager, even — to engage in such self-deception is all the more reason that we have to be skeptical.  That which seems too good to be true — especially that which fits neatly into our preconceived expectations — may well be bunk, and there is no magic in pretending otherwise, only error. [...]