On Kubrick’s alleged dual narratives and hidden messages in ‘The Shining’

September 23, 2012

Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining is a masterpiece. I think most serious film scholars, critics, and fans agree with that. But one aspect of the film that is highly debatable is the popular notion that Kubrick layered hidden messages or even whole dual narratives into the film. And many of the speculations about the meaning of these hidden messages happen to revolve around conspiracy theories.

The weird speculative theories about hidden messages in the film is the subject of a recent documentary called “Room 237” that I have not yet seen, and until recently, I was totally unaware this was even a thing. It first came to my attention earlier this year when I came across an article linking to a series of YouTube videosthat begin as if they’re objective analyses of the film, but ultimately reveal analyst Rob Ager’s true agenda late in the series when Ager eventually stops talking about The Shining altogether in favor of straight propaganda promoting his crazy gold-standard conspiracy theory. If I made a video analyzing, say, Citizen Kane that lasted the better part of an hour, and devoted at least a quarter of that analysis making a political argument about the evils of capitalism or whatever bullshit political theme I supposedly pulled from subtle symbolism in the film, and did so to the point that I stopped even mentioning the film Citizen Kane at all, you’d be right to not take me seriously.

Other than the whole gold standard thing, there are numerous other wacky interpretations of The Shining out there, as the New York Times article about Room 237 linked to above alluded to, like the theory that Kubrick worked in a hidden confession about having played a part in faking the moon landing. Some others, like the Native American slaughter motifs and Kubrick’s concerns over the Holocaust even made it onto the film’s Wikipedia page.

So is the film The Shining REALLY ABOUT Stanley Kubrick’s veiled confession of the part he played in faking the moon landing?

Is it about the slaughter of the Native Americans?

Is it about how the sinister elite plotted to rid America of the gold standard (the one true currency…somehow)?

In one word:  NO.

I know the weird iconography in the film has led many pattern-seeking people to go anomaly hunting and find all sorts of alleged “hidden meanings” in The Shining, but it’s just a product of the psychological phenomena known as pareidolia. We’re driven to see patterns, particularly when presented with ambiguous stimuli such as amorphous shapes. This is why it’s easier to see images in things like clouds than in most other things we might be looking at. It’s this pattern-seeking tendency that allows us to see coherent objects and subjects from the millions of pixels in films to begin with. If Kubrick did have hidden messages in The Shining, it almost certainly had nothing to do with the gold standard or the slaughter of Native Americans, etc. It’s just a great film by a master artist that happens to be full of weird, ambiguous imagery and dialogue that can be endlessly analyzed and used to find almost any interpretation the viewer is looking for. It’s like Yoda’s cave; what you find is ultimately what you brought in with you.

Further reading about the documentary Room 237 from Aint It Cool News’ critics Quint and Nording.

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Republican Strategist Noelle Nikpour has some interesting ideas about science

October 27, 2011

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Republican Strategist Noelle Nikpour has some i…, posted with vodpod
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10 years later, the ‘Truthers’ are still spinning their wheels

September 12, 2011
Cropped screenshot of Edward G. Robinson from ...

Edward G. Robinson in Double Indemnity

I take 9/11 very seriously. Just just because I was thirty blocks away from Ground Zero that day but also because, like other New Yorkers, I literally smelled 9/11  and inhaled 9/11 every single day for many months following that fateful day, something the media almost never mentions.

That day certainly changed us all. It was one of several important events of the first decade of the 21st century that inspired the “New Atheist” movement if you can call it that. And it certainly contributed to my desire to become an atheist activist.

What I’m saying here is 9/11 is a big fuckin’ deal to me. So you’ll have to understand that it really ticks me off when I hear a bunch of ideological, denialist assholes perpetuate lies about what really happened that day…long after the claims they make have been thoroughly discredited.

So for some time now I’ve been compiling some of the best 9/11 denialist debunking resources on the web, which includes such great articles as this one, and this one, and this one, among many others.

Yet sadly, no matter how much they’re shown to be wrong, it seems these pests won’t go away, as this recent appalling comic book from Image Comics proves. It seems I even have Facebook friends who are still true believers that it was all just a big conspiracy. For instance, just today one had the audacity to post the following message on her Facebook wall:

“Silverstein Properties made billions from the insurance policies he set up on the WTC complex just a few weeks before 9/11. He specifically took out insurance policies to cover terrorist attacks, then a few weeks later 9/11 happened. What are the odds on that?”

First, I tried to explain to her that the exact odds was 100% since, ya know, it happened. What are the odds that the American Civil War would happen? 100%. In hindsight, everything that has happened already has a 100% likelihood of happening given all the same causal conditions. At this point, I was actually shocked she didn’t end her comment with the conspiracy theorists’ famous catch phrase , “Coincidence?” Of course, as with the quoted comment above, it describes the very definition of the word coincidence.

But then I thought about a particular problem with this common argument by 9/11 deniers that rarely gets mentioned. I was reminded of the brilliant film, Double Indemnity, in particular, the Edward G. Robinson character. I’m  not going to get into the plot of the film. If you haven’t seen it, you owe it to yourself to Netflix it as it’s one of the greatest films of all time. I will say though that it’s about an insurance scheme/perfect(?) murder plot. The main character is himself an insurance salesman. Robinson plays his boss, a brilliant mind who can sniff out an insurance scam a mile away and send the scammers packing.

By now you might see where I’m going with this. Believe it or not, but insurance companies, like everyone else, don’t like to give away their money. In fact, they’d much rather not have to, especially when there’s strong suspicion of foul play. If you paid any attention to the long political debate over public healthcare or have even seen Michael Moore’s film “Sicko” (regardless of how honest or manipulative you find that particular film), you should know that health insurance companies have all sorts of crazy excuses they will invent to justify keeping their money from even the very sick or injured. In fact, they have employees whose entire job is to literally find reasons to disqualify medical patients from receiving their benefits. Until recently, one of those excuses was the infamous “pre-existing condition.”

So to summarize, insurance companies aren’t easily parted from their money. Yet for some reason, 9/11 deniers would have us believe there are no Edward G. Robinsons working at Larry Silverman’s insurance company. Apparently, despite the claims of obvious gaps in “the official story” and Silverman’s allegedly amazingly suspicious coincidence in Silverman buying new insurance policies only weeks prior to 9/11 that led him to make “billions” of dollars, the insurance company, the very people who would have the most incentive to expose such an insurance scam, didn’t notice anything suspicious at all and handed over all that money. Boy, a whole lot of people must have been asleep at the switch on that one, huh?

So I pointed this out in a comment and got two responses from another 9/11 denier that I just have to share:

silverman didn’t plan the event. he was just following orders.

And:

the insurance companies will do what the government tells them they will do, just like all the rest of us.

So even though Silverman is the one who allegedly most profited off this, it wasn’t anything he particularly wanted; he was just doing what he was told and apparently didn’t care one way or the other whether this allegedly insurance fraud made him a billionaire. Yeah, okay. And how that addresses my points, I have no idea.

But it’s that second comment that is just priceless, isn’t it? So now the insurance companies will happily give away billions of dollars because they just do whatever the government tells them. So now the conspiracy’s been expanded yet again, beyond just the entire government on all sides of the aisle, the media, the employees at the World Trade Center, and tons of demolitions experts, engineers, airport personnel, firefighters, arson experts, police, and military personnel. Now it’s also the very insurance company that had most to lose, the very people who would have the most to gain from exposing the “big lie.”

This is exactly the sort of non-answer that leads people to not take 9/11 deniers seriously. With asinine statements like that, you can make up any story you want. Maybe the government’s working with the space aliens who did it but millions of completely amoral people are just doing whatever the government says despite the long history of whistleblowers exposing government scandals in countless other cases. Or maybe the government’s working with the mole people. When you have to conjure up millions of people with absolutely no sense of compassion, remorse, or human feeling of any kind to dodge the giant plot holes in your ideology, it’s not a good sign.
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News From Around The Blogosphere 5.23.11

May 23, 2011
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1. Actor Paul Giamatti identifies himself as an atheist – Yup, in keeping with centuries of Jewish tradition, Mr. Giamatti doesn’t believe in any gods. He even goes further than many other celebrity atheists in that he’s not afraid to even use the label “atheist.”

2. Australian distributor of Power Balance bracelets goes out of business

The Australian distributor of the controversial Power Balance wristbands will be placed into receivership today, with the owner of the business saying that sales have “evaporated” since the business provided undertakings to the ACCC to stop claiming the wristbands could improve balance, strength and flexibility.

Power Balance Australia owner Tom O’Dowd has exclusively told SmartCompany that while he had been “naive” in thinking that the business would not by [sic] subject to laws surrounding the regulation of health products, the ACCC’s aggressive stance against the products effectively killed off any survival hopes.

3. 60 Minutes reports on Lance Armstrong scandal – Last week, I defended a piece by 60 Minutes about the cult group calling themselves Sovereign Citizens, but this week, I’m taking issue with one of their stories. Now I haven’t been following the investigation into possible use of performance-enhancing drugs among professional bicyclists, nor the particular accusations against Lance Armstrong. But it seems to me, at least as it was presented on 60 Minutes, that the real story here is an abuse of government power. From what I could tell, the entire investigation has turned into a witch hunt based not on any empirical evidence, but on nothing more than hearsay.

Now maybe Armstrong cheated and maybe he didn’t. I have no clue, nor any commitment to either conclusion. Certainly, as with any professional athlete, there is a clear motivation to cheat…at least as long as one  can keep it a secret, as exposure would almost certainly destroy one’s career. But if federal officials couldn’t even nab Al Capone for anything other than tax evasion, why is it that they can potentially bring down Lance Armstrong without anything other than the testimonies and conspiracy theories of people who may have a grudge against him?

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News From Around The Blogosphere 4.27.11

April 28, 2011

1. Borg-like eye-tracking mini display gives wearer Terminator vision – The really geeky-looking monocle overlays digital information on top of what you normally see in front of you. The downside is that it also gives wearers a unceasing compulsion to track down and kill anyone named Sarah Connor and that the article makes not a single reference to the Geordi LaForge visor.

2. Bogus colic relief treatment sold to children – The company Brauer is selling homeopathic “medicine” as a treatment against colic in children. This is repulsive and shows that, as PZ Myers says in the link above, “Brauer profits off the pain of children, and offers nothing in return.”

3. NJ maintains low vaccination levels -Last year it was reported that  my home state of New Jersey had the sixth lowest vaccination rate in the country. Incidentally, New Jersey was also number one in autism (you do the math). While I don’t know where the state falls on the national scale now, a new report shows that Jersey’s vaccination rates remain embarrassingly and shamefully low:

67 percent of New Jersey children ages 19 to 35 months have received the recommended vaccine doses compared to the national average of approximately 70 percent, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

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Jake Crosby once again unintentionally convicts himself of having a conflict of interest

April 28, 2011

Jake Crosby is at it again with more 6000-degrees of separation conspiracies – If I were as childish as the folks over at Age of Autism, I might dub this kid Joke Crosby…but I’m classy and stuff. Crosby reiterates his last alleged conflict of interest:

The saga of Seth Mnookin and his uncle, Robert Mnookin just gets weirder and weirder. First it has been revealed that Robert Mnookin is close colleagues with Linda Singer – the mother-in-law of pharma-funded wife, Alison Singer – and Michael Lewis, who sits on the board of her fake autism charity/pharma front group, “Autism Science Foundation.”

Got that straight? Seth Mnookin’s uncle works with the mother-in-law of Alison Singer (who I get a funny feeling young Jake is not a fan off – what he has against warrior moms with autistic children, I have no idea). This to him constitutes a conflict of interest. On what grounds? Beats the fuck out of me!

I recently learned that I’m distantly related on my uncle’s side to Jonathan Ames, the writer and producer of the HBO series Bored To Death. And while I met his parents once now, I’ve never so much as been in the same room as Mr. Ames. And yet young Jake, who apparently isn’t aware that everyone in the world is connected by a few degrees, is convinced such a tenuous connection is “weird” and “bizarre”, as well as significant enough to completely ignore Mnookin’s actual facts and arguments.

His latest amazingly “bizarre” connection is that the author of the recent NY Times article that positively quoted Mnookin also “gushed” about his uncle in a news story from a whopping six years ago.  Come to think of it, I’ve noticed a lot of writers consistently write negatively of Charles Manson. Weird! Bizarre! It must be an evil plot. What other possibility could there be? Also Jake Crosby has in dozens of articles “gushed” over Andrew Wakefield. Bizarre. I think Jake would agree that that proves overwhelmingly that he is part of a conspiracy. Seriously though, this level of deluded McCarthyism is getting truly pathetic. Here is an article that lays out the grounds for what is considered an unhealthy relationship in the real world.

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Obama Birther logic

April 26, 2011