Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ as Rorschach Test.

February 19, 2013

Several months ago, I wrote about the strange phenomenon of obsessive viewers of the film “The Shining” discovering alleged hidden messages in the film. In that article, I briefly mentioned a documentary that came out last year titled “Room 237” that chronicled several of the stranger theories out there about the “true” meaning behind Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece. Well I’ve finally caught up with that documentary and found it to be a fascinating film.

I doubt the filmmaker believes any of the interpretations presented in the “Room 237” but I greatly enjoyed listening to the cast of kooks who maintain them. Most of the interpretations presented in this film, with only a few exceptions, are totally bonkers. But that’s what’s great about this film. It uses “The Shining” to demonstrate the psychological phenomenon of pareidolia, which is when a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) is perceived as significant. We see the same grasping of tenuous connections among tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists. This is an exploration of Kubrick’s “The Shining” as Rorschach Test.

The “theorists” presented here commit a host of logical fallacies and assumptions that range from the slightly plausible to the utterly impossible. And while the latter often made me want to shout at the screen, they also proved the most fun such as the interpretation that the film was Kubrick’s confession for working with NASA to fake the moon landing. There are so many levels to why this is ridiculous, not least of which because the Apollo 11 undeniably did land on the moon and all the claims moon landing deniers have presented to prove otherwise have been thoroughly debunked. But putting that obvious fact aside, the “researcher” putting forth this notion in the film just plain makes things up like when he wildly speculates that the reason Kubrick changed the room number from 217 in the novel to 237 was because 237 MUST HAVE BEEN the number of the studio where they filmed the fake moon landing? Um, citation needed?

At another point in the film, a researcher makes a huge deal out of a simple continuity error in which Jack’s typewriter is gray in some scenes but eggshell color in others. The “researcher” claims this must be deliberate on Kubrick’s part because Kubrick controls absolutely every aspect of every frame of his films when the far simpler explanation is Kubrick and his crew were not superhuman and they shot those scenes at different times, using whatever typewriter happened to be available…like any other filmmaker would. This example further illustrates how naive the interpreters are to the filmmaking process. As a filmmaker myself, I have at least some experience. But one doesn’t have to be a filmmaker to realize that constantly adding to a film’s budget with absurd things like demanding a production assistant run out to buy TWO typewriters of different colors when only one was required is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t go unnoticed.

Then there’s the claim that Kubrick designed the film to be viewed  backwards and forwards simultaneously, one direction superimposed over the other, which is just flat-out impossible. In fact, I dare anyone to try, especially when limited by the  linear editing machines of the time. And with all the minute details these self-proclaimed “researchers” noticed, one minor detail they “overlooked” (no pun intended) was that Ray Lovejoy edited the film, NOT Kubrick. So Lovejoy would have to be in on all these editing tricks Kubrick supposedly wanted in the film too, right?

As debunkers of the infamous The Bible Code have demonstrated, one can find seemingly profound connections in just about any text of a certain length. In films, I suppose the equivalent would be the weirder a film gets in its choices, the more people can find an unintended wacky interpretation. I’d love to see someone apply the same rigor to investigating Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room.” I’m sure someone could then come away from that film believing Wiseau caused 9/11 or killed Paul McCartney, or whatever. Of course, the reason that might not happen is because what people really latched onto here is the larger than life mythology surrounding Stanley Kubrick himself. Because Kubrick was known to be a bit obsessive and a perfectionist, the underlying and totally baseless assumptions these interpreters make is Kubrick (1) was an unparalleled genius, (2) had superhuman abilities to control every aspect of both the production and every frame of the final product, and (3) had the fanatical desire to bury important hidden messages in his films so deep that there’d be no reason to believe anyone would ever find them. So when you begin with the assumption that Kubrick is totally infallible, then every continuity error becomes a clue to unlocking his true, hidden message. That’s where these theorists go wrong; they fail to recognize Kubrick was every bit as flawed and human as the rest of us.

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Face of Jesus appears in the least likely place

August 3, 2011

A few months ago, I teased that I’d been working on a skeptically-themed short film project I’d written that I promised I’d post here. Well, it’s finally online for all to see:

I also recently finished directing another short with a slight skeptical bent to it for a 72-hour film festival (the entire film was produced from conception to post-production in 72 hours). That film is in serious running for the top prize at the festival and will go online shortly after the night of the festival in a few weeks. So I plan to post that video here as well when I can.

And if you can share this video, I’d greatly appreciate it.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 7.20.11

July 21, 2011

Okay, it’s been awhile so this is going to a long one.

1. Campus Crusade for Christ is changing their name – In an attempt to change their image, the CCC has finally decided to get rid of that pesky “Crusade” in their name to avoid offending people and are now calling themselves the very inoffensive “Campus Holocaust for Christ.” Just kidding. From now on they’ll be known as the “cru”, cause strange lowercase acronyms are hip, chill, and groovy with the kids these days. Though if they really want to be more popular with the kiddies, maybe they should just call themselves Lady Gaga, and then put out announcements that Lady Gaga is coming to their campus. Can I solve image problems or what? I expect my check in the mail later this week.

2. Deepak Chopra, the videogame! Rated M for Moron – You know, for years I’ve listened to Jack Thompson shamelessly blaming video games for just about every atrocity in human history from the Crusades (probably) to the Virginia Tech shootings. But now Deepak Chopra is making me realize video games really can be harmful to society due to his new game called “Leela” (I’m assuming because he’s a huge Futurama fan) involving “seven different interactive exercises based on the seven ‘chakras,’ the points along the body that Chopra says serve as energy centers. No, Chopra has no background in actual human anatomy; I guess this is what he means by willing things into existence. If you believe in nonsense long enough and you can invent your own biology. In related news, Phil Plait has penned an short piece published in Playboy magazine that chastized Chopra for massacring science with his mouth.

3. Ireland vs. Vatican

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny condemned the Vatican for continuing to downplay the rape and sexual torture of children in order to protect the image of the Catholic church.

Kenny’s condemnation comes in response to last week’s release of the Cloyne report, a scathing expose of current and ongoing Vatican efforts to cover-up the ever-present sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy.

Kenny claimsthe Cloyne report “tells us a tale of a frankly brazen disregard for protecting children;” and, “exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago.”

PZ Myers also wrote about this story here. And retired Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, has been in hiding since the Cloyne report exposing his poor handling of child sex abuse allegations was published.

And speaking of the Catholic Church…

4. Catholic bishop bans fund-raising for breast cancer research

A bishop from Toledo, Ohio will not allow parishes and parochial schools to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation (which helps fund the fight against breast cancer) because there’s a chance they may one day fund embryonic stem-cell research.

Glad to see they have their priorities in place.

5. Austrian officials allow Pastafarian to wear colander in drivers license photo – Austrian Niko Alm is being given permission to wear a colander, the official headwear for Pastafarians, on the license, which is clearly a far superior fashion statement than the Jewish yarmulke. Blessed be the Flying Spaghetti Monster and his noodly appendages.

6. Child Holocaust-denying nazi musicians renounce much of their former beliefs – The Olsen Twin look-alikes who form the Hitler-admiring pop band Prussian Blue have now publicly rejected the views that made them famous and for which their band was named after.

7. Jesus appears on Walmart receipt – Either that or Charles Manson, though that’s not really a very meaningful distinction.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 4.20.11

April 20, 2011

1. Siberian YouTube alien is a hoax – This week a YouTube video has been making the rounds that seems to show the discovery of a dead space alien in the ice. Of course, as it turns out, the tiny “dead alien” is just skin from chicken filled with bread that was painted in “alien colors,” whatever that is.

2. Dilbert’s evolution-denying creator caught using sock accounts – Many people don’t know this but Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoons, doesn’t believe in evolution. What you might also not know is that he often defends himself against critics online under the anonymous account, PlannedChaos in order to give the illusion of impartiality. And when his dishonesty was caught, his excuse was that since it hardly even registers when compared with the worst immoral behavior imaginable that that somehow makes his actions acceptable. PZ Myers offers this hilarious response:

Great. So if ever I’m caught kicking a puppy or lying on the internet, all I need to do is explain that I didn’t kill six million Jews, so you can all forgive me.

Myers perfectly demonstrates what a pathetic argument that is and how it can be used to justify literally anything.

Exhibit A:

3. Jesus loves Kit Kat viral video – Whenever I hear a pareidolia-themed news story about people seeing the face of Jesus in some random object, I love to post about it. Hell, I’m even making a short film mocking the phenomenon. And last year, when a video emerged showing people who allegedly found Jesus’ face in a Kit Kat bar, I probably reported it. But it turns out that it was a Poe, a deliberate hoax that was indistinguishable from a genuine news story. In actuality, it was an experiment to see if they could get the video to go viral.

On a related note…

4. Canadian-Israeli director Simcha Jacobovici claims to have found the nails that crucified Jesus – How does he know? Well, they’re really old. What more proof do you nned?

5. Mitchell and Webb bring us Holistic ER – The group that has given us Homeopathic A&E, also has another video mocking holistic medicine of all kinds.

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Crucifixion goes electric

September 5, 2010

Yup, that’s right it’s time for another example of Jesus-inspired pareidolia. So where’s Jesus turning up now? On a power line pole:

I just thought this would be a great occasion to once again point people over to my hilarious (if I do say so myself) parody of this phenomenon over at The Gotham Skeptic.

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Jesus is everywhere

April 26, 2010

Jesus is on your farm:

And Jesus is even inside of you:


News From Around The Blogosphere 4.2.10

April 2, 2010

1. Researchers find aging gene in worm

Scientists funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) at the University of Birmingham have discovered that a gene called DAF-16 is strongly involved in determining the rate of ageing and average lifespan of the laboratory worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) and its close evolutionary cousins. DAF-16 is found in many other animals, including humans. It is possible that this knowledge could open up new avenues for altering ageing, immunity and resistance to stresses in humans.

Of course it will be years before any practical application to humans comes out of this, if ever, but it’s cool none the less.

2. Exorcist discovers Satan behind media’s accurate coverage of Catholic sex scandal – We’ve already gotten one exorcist to claim that Satan was possessing the Church leaders into performing the rapes in the first place. Now another exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth, has publicly stated that the media’s desire to inform the public of these crimes, particularly at the New York Times, was “prompted by the devil.” I could have told you that. I mean, really, when was the last time the media was sincerely interested in honest journalism?

And speaking of demonic journalists. . .

3. Simon Singh reports once more in The Guardian – After winning his appeal, Singh wants to remind people that the battle for libel reform in the UK is only just beginning.

4. Filipinos celebrate this Zombie Weekend by crucifying themselves – This is an annual tradition in the Philippines on Zombie Weekend where many Filipinos choose to re-enact Jesus’ zombie-fication by actually nailing themselves to wooden crosses.

The Catholic Church disapproves of the annual ritual of devotion but says it cannot stop people in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic country from being voluntarily nailed to a cross or flagellating themselves, only educate them that it isn’t necessary.

Yes, the Catholic Church would much rather they celebrate in a more traditional fashion, by raping young boys and covering it up.

5. Scientists discover gene and part of the brain controlling gullibility, the WTF1 gene – And if you believed that then you have the WTF1 gene. April Fools!

Now speaking of April Fools. . .

6. Shroud of Turin is back in the news – Despite the fact that the face merely looks like the male model who happened to pose as Jesus in Renaissance paintings and despite its total debunking as a several hundred year old forgery, somehow someone has resurrected (hehe, see what I did there) the debate. And it couldn’t come at a more perfect time as it perfectly coincides with my April Fools piece in the Gotham Skeptic about the discovery of Jesus’ face in a Rorschach Test. Check it out.