SATURDAY, MAY 21, 2016
Hawking talks down to the rubes: We're in an undisclosed location in the New York countryside, marveling at the journalistic issues raised by Ashley Parker's front-page report in the New York Times.
Perhaps we'll discuss that on Monday. For today, we'll issue our latest "beige alert" about the latest pseudo-attempt by PBS to make Einstein easy.
We refer to the new six-episode series, Genius by Stephen Hawking. The series debuted last Wednesday night. Has anyone ever been willing to con the public to the extent that Hawking was willing to do in its ridiculous Episode 1?
(We say "its" rather than "his" because we assume the series was mainly conceived and written by people other than Hawking.)
At any rate, Einstein-made-easy is a century-old con. It has never been executed in a more ridiculous fashion.
At some point in the next few weeks, we'll probably discuss this new series in some detail. But to see the extent to which PBS is willing to treat its viewers like fools, we'll suggest that you watch minutes 15-20 in the opening episode of this series, entitled "Can We Time Travel?"
Warning! You'll be observing the ruminations of three "ordinary people" "volunteers." At times, these "volunteers" seem suspiciously like budding actors working from a fairly obvious script. Three different "volunteers" will be featured in each of this program's six episodes.
(The attractive young female volunteer in Episode 1 is Education & Outreach Coordinator at La Jolla (Calif.) Playhouse, although PBS seems to working to keep you from knowing who these various "volunteers" are. In each of the first two episodes, one of the "volunteers" is a conventionally-attractive youngish woman. Presumably, this was a total coincidence, not a standard, cynical TV marketing ploy.)
What will you see in minutes 15-20? We'll only say this: That passage is so utterly incoherent that it makes Nova's incoherent hour-long broadcast last November seem like something out of the original Encyclopedia Brittanica.
As many critics have noted, this new PBS series is a type of reality TV. It also seems to be dumb as a rock. So is that front-page report in the Times.
Alas! As Kevin Drum has relentlessly noted, we were all exposed to too much lead in the last century. As we've often noted, the material rewards have become much too big for those in the news and broadcast industries. Also for certain professors!
Possible result? Go ahead! Look at minutes 15-20 of that ridiculous opening episode! Or just read today's front-page report in the cowardly, play-it-safe Times.
UPDATE: We've received an angry telephonic communication from Al Pacino concerning the brand new PBS series.
"That whole series is out of order," the irate angry movie star said.
Anyone can think like a genius?ReplyDelete
Yes, if the genius is thinking about stuff like "I wonder what's for dinner?"
These ordinary people start out wondering "Can I travel back in time? Is time travel possible?"
This isn't reality TV because that is so obviously a fake question and the answer isn't found the way they did -- if time travel were possible there would be ads for it on the internet and no ordinary people could affor it.
The real genius question is why anyone would want to watch Stephen Hawking sitting around in a wheelchair while "ordinary people" pretend it is possible for them to "think like a genius."
There is an industry pretending that there are no geniuses, that anyone can be one, that they are either the same as everyone else or too odd to be included in humanity. The Big Bang Theory knows more about genius that Stephen Hawking does.
"there would be ads for it on the internet and no ordinary people could afford it"Delete
And this makes sense how?
This is what space travel has been reduced to -- why not time travel?Delete
Time travel is possible: you can travel to the past with your memories and you can travel to the future with your imagination. It's virtual travel not actual physical travel but hey, I never promised you a rose garden.ReplyDelete
Neither did the Italian film industry but think how they transformed the traditional western genre are kindled the embers that erupted into Clint Eastwood's flaming brilliance.Delete
Anyone who saw Paint Your Wagon could have predicted Clint Eastwood's flaming brilliance.Delete
They would have predicted the obvious. That film folowed all three of Leone's trilogy with the serape clad Clint.Delete
It was a joke. Whatever else Clintwood was in that film, he wasn't brilliant.Delete
Next you will suggest Lee Marvin does not deserve as much praise for his vocal talents as Somerby showers on Boxcar Willie.Delete
I dislike Einstein and I dislike Stephen Hawking. It is hard to find two individuals who have been more useless in this world, in any practical sense. Why are we spending so much time talking about them?ReplyDelete
Because sex sells! They are super sexy and attract clicks and eyeballs.Delete
In the present case, it would seem we discuss it to relentlessly demonstrate the shallowness of our journalistic culture, perhaps in hope of catalyzing demand for a change in that culture.Delete
A task worth doing, even if it draws the comments of some few who can't -- or pretend they can't -- understand that it is the task.
Isn't the need for relentless demonstration of the shallowness of your journalistic culture a repeated gaze into the reflection of the melted intellectual culture sliding into the sea of your collapsed culture?Delete
Your gatekeepers departed out of sight from most while you allowed others to serve their greedy careers by dropping tribal bombs that comforted you in your forests of lethatgic somnolence. Lightning strikes are what you sorely need.
I don't think a journalistic or any other kind of culture is "shallow" because it adjusts its presentation to the level of its audience. In the past, the audience was more limited. Media has widened the audience by bringing certain kinds of previously limited culture to more people. They have less understanding and less education than the previous limited audience, so they cannot understand at the same level of presentation, so that is adjusted because journalists and PBS are seeking the biggest audience possible.Delete
This supposed "dumbing down" is actually a lifting up of people who didn't previously have access to such knowledge. It bothers the elites but should be celebrated because it means more people are becoming more educated.
This is the same argument colleges have about widening access to less prepared students. More students are getting more education but the cost is that the elite are sometimes bored by a more elementary presentation.
Somerby seems to be arguing that the dumbing down of complicated subjects makes them gibberish. I don't see that as any reason to stop offering more knowledge to the masses. In all cases, people only absorb what they are capable of adding to their understanding, and that is true of elites as well as newcomers to "culture" or "science."
Somerby is arguing the side of the elites here, whether he knows it or intends it or not.
I think there's actually a lot of merit in your point, Anon@1:06.Delete
But I also think you'd have to admit the strong likelihood that another reason the level of the presentation is "adjusted" is that "journalists and PBS" don't really understand the material themselves.
As Bob has relentlessly noted even ruminating volunteers are seemingly part of the endless parade of good looking women chosen for no other reason than their sex. Just like debate hosts.ReplyDelete
I notice no one is commenting on the diverse volunteers deliberately chosen to round out the three. They too are attractive young people but Asian or African American, in far greater number than their representation in the population would predict. If you want to mock women for being included for their looks, be sure to mock these diverse volunteers too. It will reveal you for what you are.Delete
As my manager used to say at work, "Everybody likes a piece of ass, but nobody likes a smartass." Most people are made uncomfortable when confronted with the mere possibility that there are others out there who know something they don't. So even the Einstein and modern physics have to be reduced to a liddle story simple enough for any American Idiot to understand.ReplyDelete
"Most people are made uncomfortable when confronted with the mere possibility that there are others out there who know something they don't."Delete
I think this is nonsense. There is so much to be known these days that everyone knows something I don't and I know many things others do not.
Knowledge shouldn't be confused with intelligence (ability to learn and solve problems). How much you know isn't a measure of anything except what you do with your spare time. Look at the trivia experts who win Jeopardy, for example.
I'm glad there are physicists, but I wouldn't want to be one and I don't think they know more than a registered dietician or Lucy Stone at the USGS, for example. They know different things. Einstein was not a polymath and he wasn't good with people either. Why idolize him?
I think your manager was covering his latent homosexuality and his obvious dislike for you.Delete
But it was a different era then and we can't go back.
Hawking pulled this on me once before. Years ago he was on some show in which his opinion on three big questions matched mine to a T. Boy did I feel smart. Time Travel? In my mind it's either impossible or man destroys himself before we figger it out. Bingo! Desirability of ETs visiting earth? If they're smart enough to get here, they're smart enough to regard us as we regard insects. Ding! Ding! God? Nah, probably not. On to the Championship Round! It was like me and Hawking had found each other on eharmony.com. Two minds, one frequency. Who needs the Mensa test? I knew Oklahoma Cow College erred in passing on my application.ReplyDelete
But wait. What does this team of ordinary people remind me of? Why, the usual gang of idiots we find on those UFO/Ghost/Bigfoot reality investigation teams aswarm on those free-enterprise channels Sen. Inhofe says are just as good as PBS. Now that our Public Channel has struck gold with Downton Abbey and other soaps, can Bigfoot be far behind?
I am reading The Physicist And The Philosopher by Jimena Canales - which seems - or should aim - to take the very incomprehensibility of Relativity to ordinary humans as its prime subject, as evidenced by Henri Bergson's objections to the effect that, when speaking of Time, Einstein was talking about something other than what human beings experienced (and talk about) in real life. I almost threw the book out the window in the first 100 pages out of rage and frustration at the author's penchant for making sentences that appear meaningful (because ostensibly grammatical) - even "vivid" for employing dumbed down vocabulary and simplified sentence structure! - but which utterly defy any attempt to decode into communicable sense. I had the same feeling trying to read Isaacson's biography of Einstein: it is a style designed to transmit the illusion that understanding has been shared, because it uses words that seem familiar. For all its notoriety, Heidegger's "Nothing itself nothings" is at least honest in its opacity; it accurately communicates the writer's struggle to follow a strange and difficult train of thought, without deceiving the reader about its strangeness or difficulty. I invite Bob to read this book: the subject matter is at ground zero.ReplyDelete