December 29, 2008

Love Sick: Secrets of a Sex Addict

There are a lot of shows almost exactly like this one, movies and series, except for the title. Sex in the City is this over and over again, except for the title. The tumultuous falling in love is the same. The allure and adventure is the same. But this adaptation of Sue William Silverman’s book gives the condition a name and a prognosis – pathologizes it. This behavior is part of a pattern that wrecks lives. And that is a move of real interest, comparable to Dante’s move of putting familiar people in hell.

It doesn’t necessarily take a good movie to raise an interesting question. Where does attraction leave off and addiction begin?

Posted by shea0017 at 10:35 PM

December 27, 2008

Life changing video 2008

I am voting for these, for 2008, all from Youtube:

1. Warren Buffett did a talk to an MBA class a while back. The whole thing is up on Youtube in 10 minute segments. Segment 1, about his general approach to happiness and success, is comforting and inspiring.

2. This talk by a Nobel economics laureate, Daniel Kahneman, says very surprising things about happiness, making me realize that I think I know many things about happiness that just aren’t so.

3. Two Palestinian girls talk with great enthusiasm about being martyrs. It shows how kids are vulnerable to adults.

4. As an antidote to 3, here’s Tom Jackson, a philosophy for children teacher, talking about how he works.

Posted by shea0017 at 11:47 AM

December 23, 2008

Wife Swap

Wives switch families for two weeks. Usually the families are very different, distinguished by different senses of responsibility, different needs for control, different levels of acceptance of the conventional American obsessions. Occasionally, somebody seems to be mentally ill.

This is great ethics television. It teaches very simple but A-list lessons. There are usually points on which the couples disagree without any compromise possible: fundamentalists do not become liberals, patriots do not become anti-American. But, over the two weeks, the families find something to learn from each other, something they like better in the other family’s “set.? This in one way says something helpful about dogmatic relativism: it just ain’t so. Given a chance to look at alternatives, people come to some new realizations; they converge on some points – especially about the importance of time with young children.

Also, the show develops a kind of slow-burning compassion for kids. They are the helpless subjects in all of these little feudal fiefs. (As the song says, “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.?) If mom makes them drill and march, they drill and march – and think it's normal. If the height of ambition is really smeary fingerpaintings, they smear. And then, when they emerge from this all into public light, people blame them for what they have become, without seeing how they were made that way.

This isn’t deeply profound stuff. But Americans are not a deeply profound people. This show gets the level pretty right.

Posted by shea0017 at 11:31 AM

December 21, 2008

"First Class All the Way"

“First Class All the Way,? a Bravo reality show about a high-end ‘concierge’ travel service for the most affluent and demanding clients, does very good work. It shows what unlimited money buys: something like perfect service, the (nearly) perfect adaptation of some stretch of life to the client’s needs, wishes, preferences, moods, and whims. Presumably, the richer one is, the more that happens.

Why is it important to see this? The engine that drives ambition is partly the quest for luxury, for that thing the rich get to have. Yet we (the outsiders) seldom see what that means in actual lives. We see glamorous moments and we see expensive stuff, but we don’t see the stance toward the world that makes it all hang together: the pursuit of perfection. Yet the only way to evaluate luxury is to understand how it works as a way of life, as a kind of life.

The show says it all, and I don’t want to steal its thunder. Just go watch. Hint 1: the best that the best experts can pull off in a contingent world is “nearly perfect? service, and the distance between “nearly perfect? and “perfect? seems very great to people who have come to expect perfection. Hint 2: once perfection has been made a goal, it becomes also the object of a substantial amount of attention, and that attention is borrowed from immediate experience. I may appreciate my partner’s lovely skin, but I will also be rating the lighting effects and the surgical work, once the idea of perfection gets established in my repertoire.

Posted by shea0017 at 9:55 AM

December 19, 2008

Oh the Fussy Horror of It!

Yesterday, I saw an old, probably rightly forgotten movie called Nothing But the Night, which is similar in plot to the better (original) Wicker Man, a horror movie that, for me, defines horror. Some of the writing about Nothing But the Night characterizes it as “slow,? and that is the feel of the thing: a lot of fussy British ordinariness that slowly goes peculiar on you. That’s the feel also of another horror classic, Village of the Damned (again, the original). What I admire about all these, at varying levels of admiration, with Wicker Man getting the gold medal, is that there is something helpfully and edifyingly right about horror emerging out of ordinariness, being a kind of modulation of the ordinary, a change in the light. That is an intuition, an expectation, a heuristic (principle of search or investigation) worth teaching. And so horror movies do some important work: they help people recognize real patterns by portraying those patterns in exaggerated and so unmistakable ways. That is one function of movies, the role they fill in the moral ecology.

Posted by shea0017 at 12:19 PM