Last night my wife and I engaged in our annual ritual of watching every bit of the Oscars show where Academy Awards are presented to film winners in 43 categories, if I recall that number correctly.
We like movies. So we like the Oscars.
This year, per usual, the show ran long, so I spent 3 1/2 hours of my remaining life span in front of our TV. Given that expenditure of vital energy, I'm going to do my best to conjure a Church of the Churchless blog post out of the more philosophical/political aspects of the Oscars.
A primary interest of mine was hoping that Everything Everywhere All at Once didn't win Best Picture, because I disliked that film.
As I said in that above-linked blog post, the multiverse theme in the film left me feeling confused and uninterested. Of course, there's no evidence that the multiverse exists. But the movie's fantasy multiverse was much less appealing than real life.
The way a multiverse was presented in Everything Everywhere All at Once reminded me of reincarnation beliefs.
Meaning, there's forces outside normal human understanding that control what is happening in this life.
It takes some special powers to learn what those forces are. Because anything can happen in the multiverse, hurting other people or even killing them is no big deal, since they will remain uninjured or alive in another corner of the multiverse. (Akin to reincarnation, obviously.)
For me, this took away the most interesting aspect of a movie for me: the struggle of characters to deal with problems in their lives. When a movie like Everything Everywhere All at Once resorts to science fiction mumbo-jumbo, the humanity of the characters becomes subservient to fantasy.
In my January blog post about the movie, I quoted from a review in The Guardian.
Everything Everywhere All at Once has been critically swooned over in the US and pretty much everywhere else, so it’s disconcerting to find it frantically hyperactive and self-admiring and yet strangely laborious, dull and overdetermined, never letting up for a single second to let us care about, or indeed believe in, any of its characters.
There are some nice gags and sprightly Kubrickian touches, and one genuinely shocking scene when Evelyn fat-shames her daughter – an authentically upsetting moment of family dysfunction that seems to come from another film, one in a parallel universe.
But this mad succession of consequence-free events, trains of activity which get cancelled by a switch to another parallel world, means that nothing is actually at stake, and the film becomes a formless splurge of Nothing Nowhere Over a Long Period of Time. Again, this film is much admired and arrives adorned with saucer-eyed critical notices … I wish I liked it more.
"Means that nothing is actually at stake." So true. This movie isn't really religious, but its multiverse theme gives it a supernatural vibe.
Just as a religion will say that human life is just a brief way station on the way to eternal life in heaven, so Everything Everywhere All at Once presents a view where nothing really matters in the lives of the characters, since whatever is happening is just one of many happenings to them in other corners of the multiverse.
By contrast, I liked All Quiet on the Western Front, a German movie, much more. The horrors of trench warfare in the first World War came through loud and clear. I could identify with the soldiers who had to obey stupid orders of their generals.
Scenes from All Quiet on the Western Front are still vivid in my memory because I could identify with the humanity of the German soldiers in the film. I can't recall any scenes in Everything Everywhere All at Once that came close to that vividness, since the characters in that movie were caricatures lacking human depth.
What else comes to mind about the Oscars? Well, here's an excerpt from the blog post about the Oscars I wrote last night.
A few years from now, I suspect Everything Everywhere All at Once will be viewed as a production that doesn't age well.
On the plus side, I was thrilled when Navalny got Best Documentary. The acceptance speech for Navalny was the only time Putin's horrendous invasion of Ukraine and his authoritarian rule of Russia was mentioned at the Oscars.
And having watched and hugely enjoyed RRR, an Indian film, I was rooting for it to win Best Original Song, which it did for the catchy “Naatu Naatu.” The dancing that accompanied the song was as infectious as it was in RRR itself.
Jimmy Kimmel had some good jokes. Naturally I can't remember most of them. One that sticks in my mind came near the end of the show when he observed that whoever edited the voluminous footage of the January 6 insurrection at the nation's capitol into a "film" that made the riot look like a tourist visit deserved an Oscar.
(It was Tucker Carlson of Fox News who fashioned that lie, of course.)
Here's the "Naatu Naatu" dance.
Back to basics: our faithless faith and commenting policies
It never hurts to return to the basics. So in this easy-to-write post I'm going to copy in one of the first posts I wrote after I started this blog in 2004, "Our Creedless Creed," plus this blog's commenting policies.
Regarding the latter, note that comments are supposed to stick to the subject matter of a post. I'm flexible about this, but today two commenters (UM and Nimfa) engaged in an almost entirely irrelevant series of eleven chat comments on a post about the RSSB guru's authoritarianism.
As you can read in the commenting policies, off-topic comment conversations should go in an Open Thread, which I call "free speech for comments." When people read a blog post, a newspaper story, or such, then click on the comments, they expect to find comments about the subject that's been written about.
Hijacking comments for purely personal purposes is a form of spam. Again, I'm fine with an occasional off-topic comment, and admit that I haven't been consistent in enforcing this rule, but don't be surprised if your comment is deleted if it doesn't pertain to the topic of a blog post.
Here's Our Creedless Creed. It's in the category of "Basics of our faithless faith." I'm impressed that after 18 years of blogging, during which I've become steadily more atheistic, there's nothing that I would change in the creedless creed other than the last item. Currently I don't think it is likely that death provides any final answers.
If you think that any of these statements are inaccurate, make your case in a comment on this post. That will be totally on-topic! I'll add numbers to the items to make it easier to comment on them.
UPDATE: I decided to add "any possible" before "immaterial reality" to make clear that currently there is no evidence of an immaterial reality separate from our universe. And I added "may" in the final item of the creed to make clear that if consciousness ends with death, as is very likely, getting any answer after death is low probability but still possible.
Our Creedless Creed
Note: to make this Creed more readable, some qualifiers have been omitted. So "God" signifies God/ultimate reality/final truth, not just a personal divinity. And "religion" signifies religion/spiritual path/philosophy, not just a mainstream theology.
(1) There is no objective proof that any religion knows the truth about God. If there were such proof, most people on Earth would have converted to that faith long ago and all scientists would be believers.
(2) Spirituality thus is an individual affair. Proof of any metaphysical realities that exist will be subjective, not demonstrable to others.
(3) Every person has the right to pursue their own spiritual quest without interference, so long as he or she doesn't interfere with the rights of others.
(4) Since the veracity of each and every religion is unprovable, equally unprovable are the moral and ethical tenets derived from any and all religious teachings.
(5) Thus morality also is an individual affair. There are no absolute laws of right and wrong as there are absolute laws of physics. Subjectivity rules in ethics.
(6) Individual ethical decisions may be formed into a collective codification of societal norms, or laws. These are purely human, not divine.
(7) Science is the surest means of finding truth. Theory, experiment, analysis of data: such are the tools of science, whether directed toward knowing material or any possible immaterial reality.
(8) Religious teachings are hypotheses to be confirmed through individual research. As such, they must not be taken as gospel truth by adherents of a particular faith.
(9) Religious doubters, skeptics, and heretics should be honored for their efforts to assure that unproven assertions about God are not put forward as solid truth.
(10) Every adherent of a particular religion should say to himself or herself, "I could be wrong." If he or she won't do this, other people can say it for them: "You could be wrong."
(11) This creedless creed of the Church of the Churchless also could be wrong. It needs to be reexamined and revised regularly.
(12) Death may provide the final answers (if only momentarily). The spiritual quest is to get answers ahead of time. But the big question is, "What are the questions?"
And here's this blog's commenting policies.
You're welcome -- even more, encouraged -- to leave comments on Church of the Churchless posts. Some of the most interesting writing on this blog comes from other people, not me, Brian the Blogger.
All I ask is that comments be in accord with the following policies. Otherwise a comment probably will be deleted or edited.
(1) No personal attacks on me or other commenters. Challenge the message, not the messenger. Best: You're wrong, because... Semi-OK: You're a fool, because... Not-OK: You're a fool.
(2) No extreme obscenity. Write as if you were in a congenial coffeehouse discussion group, not a high school locker room after your team lost the game in the final seconds. Mild swear words are fine. But goddamn it, don't go over the top.
(3) No rants about the uselessness of this blog. If you're a religious believer, I can understand why this blog could make you angry. Solution: don't read it. If you need to vent, leave a comment on my "I Hate Church of the Churchless" anti-site, not here.
(4) No commercial or religious spam. Advertising, in a comment or a URL, obviously isn't acceptable. Neither are lengthy quotations from a religious scripture, or preachiness. See #5 below.
(5) No irrelevant comments. Please stick to the subject matter of a post in your comment. If you want to talk about something else, leave your comment in an Open Thread, email me with a blog post suggestion, or use the Google search box in the right sidebar to find a previous post on this blog concerning your "something else." (Note: Open Thread comments also should adhere to the policies above.)
(6) No trolling. On the Internet a "troll" is someone who tries to disrupt normal discussions through various annoying behaviors. Here's some ways to recognize a troll. Best response to them: no response. Their sad lives thrive on attention, so ignore them.
(7) No false "facts" about critical issues. As the saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. This applies to this blog, especially about COVID-19 and other critical issues. Blatantly false comments won't be published if they're about life and death or other critical topics such as global warming.
Lastly, one of my pet peeves is how uncourteously many people behave on the Internet. "Flame wars" aren't productive, so try to keep your cool if you disagree with what somebody has said.
I agree with Wikipedia's take on Flaming:
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