A new movie soaked in faith

Just a quick note to say that The Atlantic has a review by Jason Bailey of the new Robert Zemeckis film, “Flight”. Called “The big lie of ‘flight': Miracles land planes”, it’s a critique—remarkably frank for a widely-circulated magazine—of the idea that endangered planes that land safely are the result of “miracles.”

In case you don’t know who Zemeckis is: here’s part of his Wikipedia entry:

Zemeckis first came to public attention in the 1980s as the director of the comedic time-travel Back to the Future(1985), film series, as well as the Academy Award-winning live-action/animation epic Who Framed Roger Rabbit(1988), though in the 1990s he diversified into more dramatic fare, including 1994’s Forrest Gump,[3] for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director.)

It’s the pilots, not God, who lands the plane, and Bailey debunks all the faith-based stuff surrounding Captain Chesley Sullenberger’s skillful landing of the US Air flight on the Hudson river in 2009.  Sullenberger himself implicitly attributed his landing to experience, not to God. As Bailey notes:

By casting the remarkable events of that day [Sullenberger's landing] into a framework of miracles and “somebody up there looking out for them,” we cheapened and minimized the split-second thinking and considerable talents of Captain Sullenberger. “I think, in many ways, as it turned out, my entire life had been a preparation to handle that particular moment,” he told Katie Couric on 60 Minutes a month later. Indeed, Sullenberger had 30 years on the job, had been an Air Force fighter pilot, and had trained flight crews in how to respond to emergencies in the air. The passengers and crew of Flight 1548 survived that flight because Sullenberger was their pilot, not because God was his co-pilot.

But in Flight, Zemeckis apparently pulls out all the goddy stops, and heavily infuses a “miraculous” landing with the aura of divine intervention. I haven’t seen the movie, and won’t, but it sounds dire:

It comes to a head in possibly the film’s silliest single scene, which finds Whip visiting his Bible-thumping co-pilot and the man’s wife at his hospital bedside. (When Whip says he’s happy to be alive, Mrs. Co-Pilot quickly corrects him: “Blessed to be alive.”) “Nothing happens by accident in the kingdom of the Lord,” the co-pilot thunders, as the wife actually kisses the cross around her neck behind him, a moment of both painful literalism and amateurish upstaging. She then starts proclaiming “Praise Jesus” during her husband’s little sermon, a moment that is played for oddly incongruent laughs, since the movie is barely subtler than she is.

Bailey also notes the religious note in Zemeckis early film Contact (which I also haven’t seen, but should):

In his 1996 film Contact, Matthew McConaughey appeared as a hunky theologian, pitching vague spirituality to decidedly secular Jodie Foster and her God-pshawing scientist brethren. Some things just can’t be explained, the film assured us.

Well, we all know that it isn’t a miracle when someone is saved, for that implies that those who die also did so by God’s will. Still, it’s refreshing to read stuff like Bailey’s closer in a magazine as popular as The Atlantic:

In that 60 Minutes interview, [Katie] Couric asked Sullenberger if he took time, in the three and a half minutes between the bird strike and the landing on the Hudson, to pray. Sullenberger’s answer is diplomatic, but pointed: “I would imagine somebody in back was taking care of that for me while I was flying the airplane… My focus at that point was so intensely on the landing, I thought of nothing else.” In other words: yeah, I let the other people do the praying—I was busy doing my job.

“I knew I had to solve this problem,” Sullenberger explained. “I knew I had to find a way out of this box I found myself in.” In a brief, high-pressure situation, this pilot had to call upon all of his skill, all of his training, and all of his experience to save 155 lives. And afterwards, everybody called it a miracle. It wasn’t a miracle—it was what the man was equipped to do. But that’s the narrative that’s stuck from that incident, and that’s why it’s disappointing that Flight couldn’t find a way to correct it. They went to the trouble of making a loose dramatization of one of the most compelling stories of our era, and they went off and dramatized the wrong damn part of it.

Indeed.  I’d just love it if television, radio, and film people would stop referring to this kind of thing as a “miracle”, and for insurance companies to deep-six the offensive phrase “Act of God.” (Has anybody noticed that the Acts of God for which one isn’t reimbursed are always bad things?)

h/t: Michael

75 Comments

  1. Flo M
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    re Contact, one of my favourite cheesy movies (based on a Carl Sagan book): It’s true that Zemeckis twists it for a moment such that people seem to have to “believe” Jodie Foster’s character. But, at the very end (spoiler alert), there is evidence…

    • Posted November 7, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Yeah, but: the thing about the “evidence” is that it’s only accessible to Arroway — all the electronic records are blank. It might as well have been a hallucination induced by the apparatus. Basically, it’s the Argument from Religious Experience — compelling to the one experiencing it, but having no probative value outside their own skull.

      • eric
        Posted November 7, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        Not quite true; re-rent it and watch the very ending. You’re forgetting something important. (Won’t say more so I don’t spoil it for the folks who haven’t seen it.)

        • Posted November 7, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

          No, I haven’t forgotten the teaser I think you’re talking about (and the Wikipedia article about the movie confirms my memory). It’s ambiguous, and deliberately so. Zemeckis is playing the “faith in faith” game — the gods are always hanging around in the epistemic heat-shimmer out on the horizon of possibility, never quite showing themselves, so go ahead and have faith there’s Something More, because you don’t know they’re *not* there.

          • pktom64
            Posted November 7, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

            I have to agree with Flo M and eric: at the end there is no ambiguity at all: the evidence is there and you don’t have to believe anybody on faith.
            (The evidence of *something* that is, not of the whole story. Maybe that’s what you mean in fact…)

            • bacopa
              Posted November 7, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

              Yep, at the very end of the movie one character notices that the timestamps on the recordings are blank for exactly the length that Ellie said they were. This gives others reasons to think her experiences might have been real.

              And also the movie depicts Christian extremists in America as the terrorists they are.

    • Sajanas
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      The original book had a different, and better resolution… the aliens were doing advanced mathematics and finding patters emerging out of the seeming randomness of constants like Pi. The main character tried doing the same thing, and found a result.

      That and she wasn’t the only person using the machine, so her experiences were validated by the others (if I recall correctly). Still liked the movie, but it was definitely tweaking up the mystery and faith aspects of it.

    • Sastra
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      In the movie Contact, hunky, wise theologian Matthew McConaughey (he’s obviously supposed to be the more sympathetic character, at least initially) made one of the worst arguments for God/faith I’ve ever heard. But to my surprise, several religious friends told me they thought it was deep and insightful and a challenge to atheism. Here is how I remember it:

      Man of Faith: “Did you love your father?”

      Atheist Scientist:”Yes, I did. Very much.

      Man of Faith:”Prove it!”

      And Atheist Scientist is stymied. No, she can’t prove that. Hmmmm. Gee, movie-goer sees how that really says a lot about the value of faith.

      Analogy fail. On multiple levels. But the above seemed to be a theme in the movie: what you can know — but can’t prove with science. I personally felt that the book was re-translated into a much more faith-friendly message for popular consumption.

      But it’s been a while since I saw the movie or read the book. Haven’t seen Flight.

      • jimroberts
        Posted November 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        Surely there would be plenty of available evidence that she loved her father. There will be people who observed interaction between her and her father. There might be documentary evidence in the form of letters they wrote each other, or more hi-tech evidence like recordings of conversations. We could test her physiological reactions to stimuli such as pictures of her father.
        I consider such challenges for proof as comparable to the suggestion that science cannot prove that I love my wife: the evidence is there, examine it (as a hyper-rationalist, that’s what I do!)

      • Posted November 7, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        “Prove that you love your father” (or spouse, or cat, or pickup truck…) is my favorite lame tactic of the religious. See, my love real, it’s a real state of mind. It exists, because I feel love in my own heart, and if I articulate that, that’s sufficient proof. However, if I stop feeling that love, it ceases to be.

        If this god of theirs were as real as, say, my coffee cup, then, like the cup, it would continue to exist whether I believe in it or not. It doesn’t!

        • Posted November 7, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

          I once had an online exchange with a religious friend about how she experiences love for her husband, and her husband exists, and she experiences God, therefore…..

          We spent a while trying to sort out the ontology of feelings — she seemed to think that to describe them as “only” brain activity is to say they don’t exist. We never did drill down to the root of her confusions.

      • bacopa
        Posted November 7, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

        Prove love? Easy. Love is not only a personal subjective experience, it is also a disposition to act with real world consequences. Whatever you feel inside and whatever you say, love implies actions and consequences, and is thus a testable hypothesis.

  2. JBlilie
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Dr. C.: Contact is excellent.

    It plays off McCounaghey’s religious figure against the resolutely (and well-played) atheism of Jodie Foster. It gives full play to the influence of religion in the US (and the world), lampoons it pretty well, shows its bad side (some), and shows science being correct in the end, even though the ending is left ambiguous (probably to placate the religious — or maybe Sagan and Druyan wrote it that way it the novel — which I haven’t read.)

    The opening scene, though it plays with time/distance and the speed of light rather loosely, is still superb. You have to see it.

    It also makes interesting comments on politics, the politics of science, mass fads, etc.

    Great movie.

    • microraptor
      Posted November 11, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      I just like that it managed to portray Jodie Foster’s character as an atheist without having to go through her big tragic backstory about the huge traumatic incident that caused her to lose faith or making her some puffed up intellectual snob who’s got to be shown the “real” meaning of life by the down to earth religious guy, or one of the other standard Hollywood portrayals of what atheists aren’t actually like.

  3. Posted November 7, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I saw Flight and that scene in the hospital was just the opposite of what’s implied in the review. It seemed like the faithists were being deliberately characatured, like the evangelical in the aliem movie “Paul.”

    The pilot is obviously an atheist and pretty much sticks to that view to the end. I was worried we might get sucker punched by a “higher power” in the closing scene of an AA meeting, but it doesn’t happen.

    when the pilot agrees to pray with his copilot in the hospital, it’s seen as a craven capitulation to gain the copilot’s continued silence about the fact that the pilot was drunk the day of the accident.

    • Philip.Elliott
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I have seen it as well and concur. In fact, I enjoyed it as well because the copilot and his wife were the only ones to attribute survival to god, and not the pilot.

      • Philip.Elliott
        Posted November 7, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        Oops, “as well” overload!

      • suwise3
        Posted November 7, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

        And at the theater I was at, everyone laughed derisively at the religious couple in this scene.

    • Posted November 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. To me it was trying to be optimistic about people. That even people who were as selfish and messed-up as the pilot were capable of extraordinary actions. His experience was played up as much as his drug and alcohol dependency. The religion was played for laughs, and the lawyers wanted the “act of god” phrase to be used in order to absolve their client.

    • Posted November 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      I saw it as well, and I also concur. Maybe the reviewer saw a different version of the movie than the one I saw.

    • harrylime
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Washington’s character had copious amounts of vodka and cocaine in his system when he landed the plane. I just wonder what Bailey was on when he wrote this review.

      legal9ball is correct about that scene. The pilot, Whip (no more inspired by Sullenberger than by Robert Hays in “Airplane!”), visits his injured copilot for one reason only: to ensure he’ll play ball in the NTSB investigation. The copilot and his wife spout Christian pieties which Washington finds abhorrent, but because the guy’s testimony could sink him Whip submits to a prayer session. The scene is soaked in irony, not faith: the copilot is alive only because of Whip’s resourcefulness and skill but gives all credit to god; Whip repudiates his beliefs (momentarily) to save his own hide. The point is not that god landed the plane or that the devout are rewarded, but that mendacity comes in many forms.

      I normally shy away from discussions on the “point” of a movie, but here I am certain the point was that fortitude – to keep calm in a crisis, execute a near-impossible landing maneuver that saves dozens of lives, admit to weakness of character and reform one’s ways – can come only from within. Consequently “Flight” may be the year’s LEAST faith-infused movie. Nothing about the way the crash was shot or directed suggests the presence of the divine; indeed a better argument is made that the booze and drugs in Whip’s system enabled the preternatural serenity and abstract thinking that averted disaster.

      If there’s anything worse than Christian propaganda in movies it’s critics who review the film that suits their agenda instead of the one that actually exists. Please do not be swayed by a critic who is at best blind to nuance but more likely has an axe to grind and does so in the most irresponsible way.

    • Filippo
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      “when the pilot agrees to pray with his copilot in the hospital, it’s seen as a craven capitulation to gain the copilot’s continued silence about the fact that the pilot was drunk the day of the accident.”

      I haven’t seen the movie. Perhaps it was also the path of least resistance so as to get them out of his hospital room sooner rather than later so as to avoid the tut-tutting and the religioso proselytizing he would have had to endure had he otherwise tried to decline their ministrations.

      (I’m somehow reminded of the female hospital patient’s being captive to Mitt Romney’s unsolicited, lecturing visit.)

      • Kevin Alexander
        Posted November 8, 2012 at 7:03 am | Permalink

        One other thing. The Christian co-pilot tells Whip that he had smelled the booze on his breath but hadn’t said anything perhaps being in the habit of deferring to higher powers.
        Then he tells Whip that he has forgiven him and won’t rat to the NTSB.
        Whip sees it as a deal and goes along with the prayer session.

    • Garry
      Posted November 18, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      I just watched the movie last night and, unless I was hallucinating, there was definitely a scene right at the end where Denzel is talking to his fellow prisoners and he mentions God, faith, etc and how that helped him overcome his alcoholism. Not sure what version of the film you watched.

  4. Blobulon
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I really enjoyed the movie Contact. I saw it before I knew of all the real-world religious buffoonery that goes on, so at the time I thought there was too much faith vs science and not enough science. Silly me!
    I love the opening sequence.
    Jodie Foster played an excellent atheist and skeptic.

  5. Draken
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    It’s the pilots, not God, who lands the plane

    Depending on airplane type, it may well be the computer who puts you on the tarmac, with the pilot “sitting on his hands”.

    In emergencies, it’s more likely manual control is being taken, but with catastrophic landings pilot error also plays a role. I don’t know if these two even each other out.

    • Miss May
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Generally the auto-land feature is only used in poor visibility conditions (in fact, it is required under certain conditions). The FAA requires pilots do an auto-land every 60 days, and a pilot will perform an auto-land under normal conditions to remain current. So the vast majority of landings are manual. In an emergency, it is highly unlikely that auto-land would be used. It performs a self-test and will not engage if there are malfunctions with other systems in the aircraft.

    • Filippo
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      Is the computer programmed for water landings?

      • Draken
        Posted November 8, 2012 at 5:05 am | Permalink

        No sorry, beer only.

  6. eric
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Haven’t seen it, but from what I gather the dramatic tension and central plot of Flight revolves around an issue that was nonexistent in the Flt 1548 case – Denzel Washington’s character was drunk.

    If this is the case, then I don’t think they are really saying something about 1548 by saying the fictional flight result was miraculous. Seems the stories are different enough that the movie is not really “about” the actual 1548 flight.

  7. litchik
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    The movie was written by Carl Sagan and the book came after when the movie’s production was stalled. Sagan never voiced any objections to the movie so I have to think he either wanted it that way or accepted it for commercial reasons feeling his argument for reason and evidence had been fully made.

    It is hard for me to know if this movie is religious or if it has religious characters in it based on this information. I do want to see the movie for Denzel Washington’s performance. Watching a top actor at the top of his game is worth watching some bible thumpers blather on about how god saved them (as opposed to keeping the plane from nearly crashing in the first place.)

    • Posted November 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

      The story was written by Sagan and Druyan. The movie, by which I mean the actual screenplay which was written, rewritten, rewritten and rewritten based upon that original story, was not.

    • starskeptic
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      You got that backward – the novel, written by Sagan (started as a screen play) was published in 1985; The screen play that turned into that film, written by Sagan and Druyan came later.

      • Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        Rather than rehashing all the details here, how about you just go read the “Development” section of the Wikipedia article on the film.

        • starskeptic
          Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

          I did – my summary is essentially what’s there: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contact_(film)#Development

          • starskeptic
            Posted November 8, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

            There was a novelization of the film that came out obviously as a tie-in but that’s different from the original novel.

          • Posted November 8, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

            To put it in terms that everyone here should understand the movie and the novel are both descended from a common ancestor, Sagan’s original story idea.

  8. MadScientist
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    The captain was so busy flying that the radio had gone silent for quite some time and the air traffic controllers were worried. When you’re concentrating so much that you can’t even talk, that’s a pretty tough situation. Sullenberger pulled off an excellent dead-stick banking and landing of a heavy bird and that requires incredible skill. If the captain were the praying type this would be another ‘tragedy’ rather than a ‘miracle’.

  9. tsbardella
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I dont think that we saw the same movie. That was one of the most god free movies in a while

  10. Miss May
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I work in the airline industry, so I had to go see the movie just for the plane crash! I disagree with The Atlantic reviewer that the movie was loosely based on US Airways 1549. Flight was more about addiction than the actual crash. There was a lot of god crap in the film. The scene with the co-pilot in the hospital room was laughable. I thought the characters flat (or over the top in John Goodman’s case) and the dialogue cliche and uninteresting. And they needed a better aviation consultant – lots of errors!

  11. George Atkinson
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    In an emergency, some pilots resort to prayer rather than fly the plane: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/25/tunisian-plane-crash-pilot-prayed

  12. John K.
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    To take from one of my favorite satirist YouTube channels, EdwardCurrent:

    You can’t just attribute the good things to god; you are leaving out too much. The tragedies are also gods work. That is why I propose the new term: “Tragicle”.

    • Jeremy Pereira
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      Well, quite. If God was responsible for saving flight 1549 (note, the review linked gets the number wrong), then it would have been better if he had done it by causing the flock of birds not to be at the same altitude as the plane.

  13. Alex Shuffell
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Zemeckis Is responsible for the religiousness of Contact film? Although I enjoyed the film the book far superior, more than usual. Matthew McConaughey’s character, Palmer Joss, isn’t a dick, it’s full of the usual Sagan criticisms of Christianity and the John Hurt (Hadden) is a chinese buddhist who gives one of my favourite lines, “My god is so powerful he doesn’t need to exist.” The religious tones of Contact were terrible (the priest telling Ellie that her father’s death was part of God’s plan is a horrible thing to say to a child) but I still enjoyed the film. Zemeckis is usually good.

    • starskeptic
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Definitely the book and the film are two completely different animals, mainly because the book is un-filmable as it is. Sagan’s prose as a novelist comes nowhere near his poetry as a scientist.

      • Filippo
        Posted November 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        What is his “poetry as a scientist”? Do you mean his non-fiction prose as reflected in the script of “Cosmos” and in, e.g., “Pale Blue Dot”?

  14. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    In other words Sullenberger didn’t risk his passengers by being distracted by superstition. And the thanks he gets is to be labeled with superstition! Good going, US media (bar Bailey et al).

    Re Contact, it is another scifi that lets most of its core viewers down. As already touched on, it is playing the faith “analog” game with skepticism and atheism, having a (impossible, because faster than light) seeming miracle experience with tenable (but existing and withheld) evidence. But if religion had evidence we would see it by now instead of the hokum.

    Foster is a very intelligent atheist. I assume she took the role because it was the strongest carrier of atheism she would get within US. That is a shame.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Oh! I cut out my ***SPOLIER ALERT***. Sorry!

  15. Posted November 7, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Just echoing what has been said above that I found Flight refreshingly free of too much God-bothering. Agree completely that the co-pilot and his wife were caricatures, if a bit flat. I went into it somewhat skeptical that it might be otherwise given things DW has said about atheism (yes, I know he is only an actor, not the writer/director). If anything about it had a religious overtone, it was the whole redemption-theme with which it (predictably) finished. But even that was not overtly religious – it left room for me (at least) to embrace the idea that redemption is really a humanistic phenomenon that is co-opted by religion.

  16. pktom64
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    and for insurance companies to deep-six the offensive phrase “Act of God.”

    Do you mean that this is not just a punch line from the Daily Show? There really is a reference to “acts of god(s)” by insurance companies?
    Wow, I really thought it was a joke…

    • Miss May
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      No, not a joke! In the U.S., airlines’ Contract of Carriage refers to “acts of God” as well.

    • jimroberts
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      As I understand it, acts of god are unpredictable disasters for which the insurance company does not need to pay out.

      • pktom64
        Posted November 7, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        Aren’t “unpredictable disasters” kinda the reason one gets insurance in the first place?
        Ahhhhlalala…
        ;)

      • Filippo
        Posted November 7, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        How do lawyers and the insurance companies KNOW that these are “acts of God”?

  17. starskeptic
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    Re: Contact review: “Some things just can’t be explained, the film assured us.”

    –the film did no such thing; that was simply Matthew McConaughey’s character’s take on events.

    • starskeptic
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      After reading Jason Bailey’s review of “Flight”, I’m beginning to suspect that he thinks that portraying religious people realistically somehow means that the film is “pushing” that viewpoint; I’ll know more after I see the film for myself tomorrow…

  18. Pray Hard
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    I liked Contact. It was fanciful and Matthew McConaughey’s character made me squirm, but, hey, it’s a movie. I thought it pretty well portrayed how the scientific community is put upon by religion in this country. Jody Foster made a pretty good atheist/scientist character. Had the movie been made more recently and had her character been given the courage and resilience of the four horsemen and, of course, Jerry, I would have enjoyed it more. During the two inquisitorial hearings in the movie, I was yelling at her, “Tell them to kiss your ass!”.

    • starskeptic
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Just think of the range of religious expression in that film, McConaughey’s touchy-feely “god-is-love”, Jake Busey’s extremist, Rob Lowe’s fundamentalist- against which Foster’s character comes off as very realistic; to have given her the courage and resilience of the four horsemen would, I think have made a farce of the whole thing and really missed the point of how human an endeavor science is.

  19. Scott Woody
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I have no useful perspective on either Contact or Flight (read the first, haven’t seen either movie) but Jerry’s post did remind me of a recent series of interviews aired on NPR’s All Things Considered. The series featured interviews with Americans from across the economic landscape– from rich and “successful” to those whose status in the economic stratosphere earned them demerits as “losers” (my characterization).

    Anyway, one of the “successful” businessmen, when asked about the role that luck played in his good fortune made what I thought was a very apt analogy: “If I’m playing golf and sink a thirty foot putt, you might say I got lucky. However, if it weren’t for years of practice and especially the attention to fundamental mechanics of putting, I wouldn’t even have been close to the hole”.

    Put somewhat more famously, “Chance favors only the prepared mind” (Pasteur).

    • Filippo
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 5:48 am | Permalink

      “If I’m playing golf and sink a thirty foot putt, you might say I got lucky. However, if it weren’t for years of practice and especially the attention to fundamental mechanics of putting, I wouldn’t even have been close to the hole”. Put somewhat more famously, “Chance favors only the prepared mind” (Pasteur).

      Also true that no luck was involved in the uniformly smooth green and putter and golf ball (“infrastructure”?) manufactured and maintained by “loser” “human resources,” and which surely made a critical difference in the executive’s getting “close to the hole.”

  20. Dawn Oz
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    A movie worth seeing which looks at acts of god, is one by the talented Billy Connolly which I commend to you – ‘The Man Who Sued God’.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0268437/

  21. Posted November 8, 2012 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    The film of Contact is definitely worth seeing. It poses the Religion vs Science conflict pretty well – and to my mind, the film makes it clear that Religion comes out worst.

    There is absolutely no ambiguity in the final revelation, just confirmation that the Jodie Foster character was right all along. However, for all the usual reasons, Politics and Religion conspire to make her the sacrificial lamb…

    And frankly, I never did understand what she saw in that man. Love is clearly blind.

  22. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Dialogue from a 1960s Star Trek episode

    Scott: “Thank heaven”
    Spock: “There was no deity involved, Mr. Scott. It was my cross-circuiting to B which saved the captain”
    McCoy: “Well, thank pitchforks and pointed ears”

    “Obession” broadcast December 1987

  23. Kevin Alexander
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    “And frankly, I never did understand what she saw in that man. Love is clearly blind.”

    Matthew McConaughey? She certainly isn’t blind.
    Maybe she just wanted to get laid. Oh wait, girls don’t do that do they?

    • Posted November 8, 2012 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      I’m talking about the character he plays, not the actor. He really was tiresome.

      • starskeptic
        Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        Maybe Ellie just wanted to get laid.

        • Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

          Very likely. Although. if I were in her shoes, I’d have had the one night stand with no regrets, but once I’d got to know Jos better, I would have thought: no, just, no…

          • Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

            Ah, sorry, the character is called Palmer Joss… rhymes with Toss. I should have known from the outset I suppose….

          • starskeptic
            Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

            That’s probably one reason why you never got the call-back for the part of Ellie.

            She saw a fellow traveler – someone who was sincere in his pursuit of the truth. That she disagreed with his conclusions wasn’t the point. The point of the film was the search.

  24. launcher
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Religous themes are seen in Zemeckis’ movie (and novel) “Forrest Gump”, as well. Forrest’s life strongly parallels that of Jesus, as he has no known father, delivers words of wisdom to whomever will listen, collects followers wherever he goes, and performs a series of “miracles” in his early 30s as he travels about the world for three years. (My favorite miracle is when Forrest inadvertently creates a smiley face t-shirt, presumably launching a fashion trend.)

  25. Posted November 21, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Something that is soaked in faith would seem to be the “Empires” episode of the History Channel’s Mandkind: The Story of All of Us.. They certainly seem to care not a bit that mythology is allowed to stand as history.

    • microraptor
      Posted November 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, well, it’s been a long time since the History Channel actually tried putting out programming centered around actual historical events.


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