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INTERSTELLAR: Do Not Go Humble Into That Good Night

The Science of InterstellarThe Science of Interstellar by Kip S. Thorne

My Rating★★★★☆


DO NOT GO HUMBLE INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT

The book discusses the movie, so it is only fair that I use most of the space to discuss the movie as well. I will discuss the book itself in one of the sections below. To get a better understanding, we can break our discussion it up into three overlapping sections —
The Three aspects of the movie that has to be examined to get at its core Premise:

1. The Future

2. The Science

3. The Dreams

Book Rating: 4/5 (Goodreads); Movie Rating: 9/10 (IMDB)


Caution: Spoilers Ahead; Spoilers Abound

“The overriding question, ‘What might we build tomorrow?’
blinds us to questions of our ongoing responsibilities
for what we built yesterday.”
~ Paul Dourish


THE FUTURE


Scenario

Interstellar is about mankind’s future and about the options we face. It challenges us to think about how we should react to that future.

It starts from the premise that the Earth has been wrecked.

We have become a largely agrarian society, struggling to feed and shelter ourselves. But ours is not a dystopia. Life is still tolerable and in some ways pleasant, with little amenities such as baseball continuing. However, we no longer think big. We no longer aspire to great things. We aspire to little more than just keeping life going.

Humans have coped with their sudden tragedy by shutting down technology, engineering, research and all the marvels of science. This was the only option left to them.

But why this extreme reaction by a species that was not frightened even by Frankenstein’s monster? Presumably science/progress had something to do with unleashing the blight? My guess would be too much monoculture.

Most of them seem to think that the catastrophes are finished, that we humans are securing ourselves in this new world and things may start improving. But in reality the blight is so lethal, and leaps so quickly from crop to crop (there is also a bit of unscientific nonsense about Nitrogen versus Oxygen, but let us not be too critical), that the human race is doomed within the lifetime of Cooper’s grandchildren. The only hope is to start dreaming again. To get back on the Science Bandwagon.

And (thankfully?) there are dreamers, who refuse to give up to this sub-par, non-imaginative existence.

We are explorers, we are adventurers. Humanity is not meant to give up like this, Nolan tells us. And uses Dylan to drive the point home (too many times!).

The prevailing attitude of stopping progress and just focussing on ‘surviving’ is seen to be a regressive step by our intrepid explorers.

Instead our heroes decide to risk it all on a cross-galaxy exploration. To find a new home for humanity, out among the stars.

In the process Nolan also attempts to reverse the message of Kubrick’s Space Odyssey and portray technology as a friend to humanity (TARS), instead of an unknown and volatile threat (as embodied by HAL).


Commentary

This is an eminently plausible future. It is also an eminent plausible reaction to such a future. In face it is very close to what Naomi Oreskes  imagines in her own Near-future scenario: Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future. A dictatorial regime, community-based (communist, in fact), strictly controlled, paranoid. We have seen these things before in history, during the dark ages. It is one of our worst nightmares.

A totalitarian govt is pretty much what would be in store in such a future. Freedom comes with trade-offs — the more we can indulge now, the more we restrict humanity later.

The only problem is that by the time we have had time to degrade so much, to feel the hopelessness, to tighten control over a society so much with so less technology, it would probably be too late to be even thinking of interstellar travel.

And that is where the Future that is shown to us breaks down. It shows us an agrarian world that is still capable of inter-planetary travel. That would require a very fast breakdown of things. Fast enough to not let the technology or the knowledge wither away. One bad generation would enough to lose the skills that were required for the Exodus. The plot had to assume an almost impossible fast degeneration and a lot of coincidental happenings in that very small window allowed even in such a world. That is not very realistic.

Lucky we had a miracle to bail us out. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Agneepath (अग्निपथ) – A poem by Harivansh Rai Bachchan – An English Translation

I was greatly inspired by this wonderful poem and was searching for a good english translation. Finding none, what follows below is my own attempt at translating the poem. If you know of an official translation or one that captures the spirit better, please post it in the comments section. So, Here is the famous poem by Harivansh Rai Bachchan. “It is dedicated to those whose life is a tough struggle all the way, but whose resolve is superhuman.” ~ Rajiv Krishna Saxena

अग्निपथ

वृक्ष हों भले खड़े,
हों घने, हों बड़े,
एक पत्र छाँह भी
मांग मत! मांग मत! मांग मत!
अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ!

तू न थकेगा कभी,
तू न थमेगा कभी,
तू न मुड़ेगा कभी,
कर शपथ! कर शपथ! कर शपथ!
अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ!

यह महान दृश्य है,
चल रहा मनुष्य है,
अश्रु, स्वेद, रक्त से
लथ-पथ, लथ-पथ, लथ-पथ,
अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ! अग्निपथ!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Vriksh hon bhale khade,
Hon ghane, hoh bade,
Ek patra chhah bhi
Maang mat! Maang mat! Maang mat!
Agneepath! Agneepath! Agneepath!

Tu na thakega kabhi,
Tu na thamega kabhi,
Tu na mudega kabhi,
Kar shapath! Kar shapath! Kar shapath!
Agneepath! Agneepath! Agneepath!

Yeh mahaan drishya hai,
Chal raha manushya hai
Ashru, swed, rakt se
Lath-path, lath-path, lath-path,
Agneepath! Agneepath! Agneepath!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Agneepath – English Translation

Even if there are mighty trees all around you,
Let them be shady, let them be huge,
But, even for the shade of a single leaf,
Beg not, beg never, ask never!
The path of fire you shall tread! The path of fire! Yes, That Path of Fire!

You shall never tire,
You shall never slow down,
You shall never turn back,
This oath you will take today!
This oath you will fulfill in your life!
Take this oath!
And walk the Path of Fire, every single day!
The oath of fire! Yes, That Path of Fire!

What greater spectacle,
Than to see such a man walk,
Who in tears, sweat and blood,
Is soaked, covered and coated;
And still walks on in the Path of fire!
Walks the path of fire! Yes, That Path of Fire!

Agneepath (अग्निपथ)

A poem by Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Translated into english by Riku Sayuj.

 

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Source Code – An Intelligent Mind Bender or Just A Messy Attempt?

I just watched the movie Source Code – are the comparisons with Inception justified?

It does feel a lot like ‘Inception meets Groundhog Day‘. But, is it as much fun as either of them?

Well, I wont answer that question but at least Inception does make a decent attempt at explaining its premises and hence manages to stand pretty firm on its own ground in spite of a few glaring holes (like why didn’t De Caprio just shoot his wife and himself if he was sure he as in a dream? Why did he have to do inception on her and set in motion the whole hullaballoo? Well, let us discuss that another day)

And, Source Code?

My main problem with Source Code is that for a movie that is trying to be intelligent (at least for the first half), it does not do a good enough job of explaining its basic premise.

<<< Spoilers Ahead >>>

In a nutshell, this is the movie – A ‘great’ quantum physicist has developed a brand new software. Apparently, whenever a person dies, the last 8 minutes of his brain is stored in his brain. This software taps this memory and is able to feed it into the brain of a dead operative who can then plug into that memory and live out those 8 minutes. 

They want to use this to fight terror. So far so good? The problem is that the operative can now not only access the memory of the dead guy, but can also go in and generate new information that was never part of his memory.

How is that possible? For a more detailed analysis on why this explanation just doesn’t cut it, head over to my friend’s blog as he overthinks it:

By this explanation, it’s the ultimate extension of those b.s. “enhance… enhance…” scenes in movies and CSIsh television shows, where computers let you get information from an old photograph that it can’t possibly have captured because of silly things like resolution. It doesn’t make sense that source code operatives can interrogate people in the memory of the deceased. If the dead person didn’t perceive something, it wouldn’t be in his memory. It’s like this great scene from the legendary British sci-fi show Red Dwarf:

Before you go forward, I must tell you that if you skipped the video above, you really have missed a laugh.

What I just described above is one of the major pet peeves about the movie in many blogs. 

I admit that the movie never addressed it or made an attempt to explain it. but let me just make it clear that there is an explanation we could come with after watching the movie – First of all, even though the scientist mentions Source Code is based on Quantum Physics, there is no mention of the same in the explanation he gives about SC in the movie. So where exactly does Quantum Physics come into the picture? My take is that what is happening is that Source Code is a programme which used the information (8 minutes of memory) and uses that to create a virtual reality in the mind of the operative. Now since quantum physics is weird and is supposed to be dependant on consciousness according to some theories, this instead of creating a virtual reality, creates an actual parallel universe. Even though this explanation sounds ok to me, it still doesn’t explain how he was able to come back and report on it in the current reality.

Besides, why did it have to spin into a romantic drama in the end? And “it’s all gonna be alright”? Come On! How is that even related?

On thinking about it, he starts saying that line only in the second half of the movie. I honestly think that the first half and second half must have been written by different people. It starts well and had me hooked in the first 15 minutes. I eagerly listened to the explanation of what Source Code is and I tried to suspend disbelief and go with it as the movie violated its own explanations. I enjoyed the irony in ‘Beleaguered castle‘ and I tried to come up with my own explanations to excuse the movie (see above) and I kept watching. I tried… I really tried! But when he started repeating “it is gonna be alright”, I had to give up on the movie.

So the movie becomes a complete failure when I look at it with a harsh sci-fi fan’s eyes. It is not a good sci-fi movie if it can’t explain itself or doesn’t even make a decent attempt. Period.

If anyone has better insights on how to explain the weirdo stuff happening in the movie, please use the comments section to your heart’s content.

PS. For those of you who enjoyed the concepts in Source Code and wants more of the same, I would strongly recommend Quantum Leap (will be available in DC on request).

 
7 Comments

Posted by on June 17, 2011 in Movie Discussions, Movie Reviews, Movies

 

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The MAD & The BAD: Today’s Dose of Entertainment

The previous post thus confirms saturday’s genre of picks, Action for movies and Detective/psychological for books. All picks will be updated at the dedicated page. Let us go ahead with today’s picks, shall we?

 

Today’s MAD Recommendation

MOVIE: THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS

IMDb link: The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009) – IMDb

IMDb General Rating: 6.4/10

My IMDb Rating: 8/10

Genre: War, Comedy

Men Who Stare At Goats

Plot:

A reporter, trying to lose himself in the romance of war after his marriage fails, gets more than he bargains for when he meets a special forces agent who reveals the existence of a secret, psychic military unit whose goal is to end war as we know it. The founder of the unit has gone missing and the trail leads to another psychic soldier who has distorted the mission to serve his own ends.

“In this quirky dark comedy inspired by a real life story you will hardly believe is actually true, astonishing revelations about a top-secret wing of the U.S. military come to light when a reporter encounters an enigmatic Special Forces operator on a mind-boggling mission.

Reporter Bob Wilton (Ewan McGregor) is in search of his next big story when he encounters Lyn Cassady (George Clooney), a shadowy figure who claims to be part of an experimental U.S. military unit. According to Cassady, the New Earth Army is changing the way wars are fought. A legion of “Warrior Monks” with unparalleled psychic powers can read the enemy’s thoughts, pass through solid walls, and even kill a goat simply by staring at it. Now, the program’s founder, Bill Django (Oscar® nominee Jeff Bridges), has gone missing and Cassady’s mission is to find him.

Intrigued by his new acquaintance’s far-fetched stories, Bob impulsively decides to accompany him on the search. When the pair tracks Django to a clandestine training camp run by renegade psychic Larry Hooper (two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey), the reporter is trapped in the middle of a grudge match between the forces of Django’s New Earth Army and Hooper’s personal militia of super soldiers. In order to survive this wild adventure, Bob will have to outwit an enemy he never thought possible.”


“More of this is true than you would believe”


Reviews:


“A serendipitous marriage of talent in which all hearts seem to beat as one… fashions a superbly written loony-tunes satire, played by a tony cast at the top of its game.”  — variety.com


“This is the anti-Hurt Locker experience: Where that Iraq War film was absorbing and deadly serious, The Men Who Stare at Goats is irreverent and lighthearted.” — Usatoday.com


“More of this is true than you would believe”


Why You should Watch it:

  1. If you like the brand of absurdist, farcical on your face comedy, you should lap it up.
  2. If you want 2 hours of light-hearted fun and not worry about what a movies message is, then too this movie is for you.
  3. If you are a Clooney fan, this movie will not disappoint you.
  4. If you are the sort who likes a movie to have three layers of meaning, then this is up your alley.
  5. “More of this is true than you would believe”

Why I loved it:

  1. For the ensemble cast who all delivered to expectations. – George ClooneyEwan McGregorJeff BridgesKevin Spacey – I was in fandom heaven.
  2. The Star Wars references between Clooney and Skywalker!
  3. One of the few movies which is better than the book.
  4. “More of this is true than you would believe”

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Today’s BAD Recommendation

BOOK: PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER by PATRICK SÜSKIND

GoodReads link: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

GoodReads General Rating: 3.83/5

My GoodReads Rating: 4/5

Genre: Thriller, Novel

Plot:

In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift — an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille’s genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and frest-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume” — the scent of a beautiful young virgin. He turns into a serial killer on his quest for the Ultimate Perfume which can bestow on him God like Powers – one of manipulating emotions of people towards him and of being irresistibly loved by everyone he wished.

Told with dazzling narrative brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity.


Reviews:


Perfume is a historical tale that delves into the macabre, but it also has the rare quality of being able to change the way you experience life, albeit through an olfactory perspective. Perfume does more than let you get lost in the world of a book — it puts you in touch with one of the strongest senses we possess and magnifies that experience to the extreme.”  — PowellsBooks


“An astonishing performance, a masterwork of artistic conception and execution. A totally gripping page-turner.” — The San Francisco Chronicle


“In my opinion, it should be considered, digested then savoured, for it was not until I had completed the book that I was able to fully appreciate how truly amazing and spellbinding it really is. Overall, I found Perfume to be as captivating as it is disturbing, tender yet wicked, and on the whole, one of the most thought-provoking novels I have ever encountered.” — Laura Kilvington

“The audiobook, read by Sean Barrett, is the best audio performance I have ever heard; he snuffles and sniffles his way to greatness and you almost believe he is inhaling bliss, or the essence of a stone. I once almost destroyed a dinner party by putting it on for “five minutes,” after which nobody wanted to stop listening.” — Roger Ebert


Why You should Read it:

  1. You will be torn by this book. You will find yourself actually liking and sympathising with the monstrous odd murderer.
  2. You will be lead to believe that all those exotic smells actually exist in the world and will change how you see ordinary things at least for a day or two
  3. The movie is also an amazing feat of art. ANd you should not watch the amazing movie without reading this stunning book. You will enjoy the movie tenfold after reading it.
  4. It is erotic beyond belief. And is also a new brand of erotic – one based on smell and not on sight.

Why I loved it:

  1. The class of the writer, Suskind is peerless in sheer story telling ability and mastery. Every sentence was captivating, intense and filled with life. Every emotion going on in the unfathomable head of the protagonist who thinks with different senses is somehow conveyed to us.
  2. For how it made me keep questioning the morality of Grenouille’s actions. I kept on moving between approving of his murders by understanding the reason and thinking about how he is absolved because from his perspective he really is doing nothing wrong and the conventional morality of being outraged at murder.
  3. It took me back to the place I was in after watching Memento. Morally there was just no reconciling the character as good or bad. It is frustrating and exhilarating. After all, the fundamental theme of any book I would like to write would again be the absence of morality and how it is just a construct of circumstances and perspective… but I digress.
  4. It reminded me very very strongly of The Picture of Dorian Grey which I am a big fan of. To top, it is so very Dickensian in its approach to story telling.


That is it for today folks! See you tomorrow! Hope you enjoy the picks!


PS. For readers from inside campus, a small bonus package is provided! The movie and the book can be lent from me personally from my username at DC++, please understand that I am only lending you the copy and you are advised to delete the copy of the movie/book after usage. The details will be updated along with the posts.

Disclaimer: This blog does not support the propagation of pirated material in any way and the books and movies are to be lent on a personal basis only. [ Just in case 🙂 ]

Follow Me on Twitter.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on February 20, 2011 in Book Reviews, Books, Movie Discussions, Movie Reviews, Movies

 

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The Mad & The Bad: Your Daily Dose of Entertainment

The MAD Project

The Movie-A-Day Project

 

Enjoy with MAD

 

A New Movie Recommendation will be updated here every day. Every day will be allotted a genre after the first week of MAD is completed.

The archives will be updated in the MAD page accessible from the “Movies ” menu above.

The recommendation will be followed by a small overview, a micro review from me on why I think you should watch it and excerpts from reviews in popular review sites.

Today’s MAD Recommendation

MOVIE: GET SHORTY

IMDb link: Get Shorty (1995) – IMDb

IMDb General Rating: 6.9/10

My IMDb Rating: 7/10

Genre: Crime, Comedy

Plot:

Chili Palmer is a loan shark working out of Miami, but he really doesn’t like it. He hates having to work with scum, especially Ray “Bones” Barboni, a local wiseguy who has been feuding with Chili for 12 years over a leather coat. Truth be told, Chili would much rather be making movies.

So when a dry-cleaner named Leo who owes Chili a few thousand dollars fakes his own death, rips-off his insurance company and heads for L.A., Chili sees a golden opportunity.
Partnering with Harry Zimm, a small-time producer most famous for his “Slime Creatures” series, and Karen Allen, a former scream-queen who desperately wants to produce, Chili plans to make a major motion picture starring two-time Academy Award-winner Michael Weir.

But there’s a few little problems with getting “Mr. Lovejoy” into production: Ray Bones has come to town, looking for Chili and the few grand that Leo owes him. Harry Zimm owes money to a group of drug-dealers led by Bo Cattlett, a criminal who is as ruthless as he is stupid. A gang of Colombian smugglers are sniffing around looking for their money, which is currently in an airport locker under D.E.A. surveillance, and, perhaps worst of all, Michael Weir is more interested in making a movie about Chili Palmer than he is in a Harry Zimm picture…

 

Reviews:


“Practically perfect in its unpretentious way, MGM’s Get Shorty is the kind of smart, witty, polished entertainment that restores one’s faith in the studio system.” — Film.com

“Hailed by many critics as one of the best films of 1995, this finely tuned black comedy sparked a renewed interest in movies based on books by prolific crime novelist Elmore Leonard, whose trademark combination of tight plotting and sharp humor is perfectly captured here.” — rottentomatoes


Why You should Watch it:

  1. First of all, look at the cast – John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Danny DeVito.
  2. Then of course Elmore Leonard, need I say more?

Why I loved it:

  1. For it’s intriguing and sarcastic take on how movies are made.
  2. For the Awesome Climax!
  3. For the comic timing of Travolta
  4. Mostly because I loved the book!
Warning: If you prefer books to movies, you should try the book first!

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The BAD Project

The Book-A-Day Project

 

A New Book Recommendation will be updated here every day. A short overview, a personal explanation and excerpts from popular reviews of the book will be included.

 

Which one to Pick???

Today’s BAD Recommendation

BOOK: STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

GoodReads link: Stranger in a Strange Land

GoodReads General Rating: 3.75/15

My GoodReads Rating: 5/5

Genre: Science Fiction, Novel


Stranger in a Strange Land

 

Plot:

Stranger in a Strange Land is the epic saga of an earthling, Valentine Michael Smith, born and educated on Mars, who arrives on our planet with psi powers – telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, telekinesis, teleportation, pyrolysis, and the ability to take control of the minds of others – and complete innocence regarding the mores of man.

After his tutelage under a surrogate-father figure, Valentine begins his transformation into a messiah figure. His introduction into Earth society, together with his exceptional abilities, lead Valentine to become many things to many people: freak, scam artist, media commodity, searcher, free-love pioneer, neon evangelist, and martyr.

Heinlein won his third Hugo award for this novel, sometimes called Heinlein’s earthly “divine comedy.

 

Reviews:


“The first half of this novel is so amazing to me… The story of Valentine Michael Smith’s re-introduction to Earth life is such a great view of humans from the outside, that I can see why this book affected a generation. It poetically shows us our strengths, and our flaws. …oh that first half…”  — Deven Science

“A brilliant mind-bender.”–Kurt Vonnegut.


Why You should Watch it:

  1. Have you ever heard the word “Grok” and wondered what it is? Like many influential works of literature, Stranger made a contribution to the English language: specifically, the word “grok
  2. The Characters – Jubal and Smith are probably the two most powerful characters you will come across in science fiction literature.
  3. To understand Iron Maiden
  4. I think you get it – The book is too influential to not be read!

Why I loved it:

  1. “Although the narrative of Stranger in a Strange Land operates on many different levels, one obvious interpretation of Mike’s story would be as a postmodern retelling of the Jesus story. Before the novel even begins, we see that the title of Part One is “His Maculate Conception,” a satirical reference to the mythology of Christ’s immaculate conception.”
  2. The philosophy of it. it captivated me. How Heinlein managed to show us humanity seen from a stranger’s eyes…
  3. Also, I couldn’t stop using “I Grok You” to everybody for days 🙂
  4. The Book’s take on sexuality… Hmm, I don’t think I will elaborate on that now.

 

That is it for today folks! See you tomorrow! Hope you enjoy the picks!


PS. For readers from inside campus, a small bonus package is provided! The movie and the book can be lent from me personally from my username at DC++, please understand that I am only lending you the copy and you are advised to delete the copy of the movie/book after usage. The details will be updated along with the posts.

Disclaimer: This blog does not support the propagation of pirated material in any way and the books and movies are to be lent on a personal basis only. [Just in case :)]

Follow Me on Twitter

 
11 Comments

Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Book Reviews, Books, Movie Discussions, Movie Reviews, Movies

 

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