March 4th, 2006

breaking bad

"Why, this is hell, nor are we out of it"

Matthew Graham is one of the writers of Life on Mars. He answers questions on the BBC site.

Q: 'Is the show based on the film Jacob's Ladder?'
A: 'Jacob's Ladder is a really scary film and funnily enough I am drawing inspiration from it for Series 2'

Ooh, intriguing. In Jacob's Ladder Tim Robbins is in a dream world which might be an alternative timeline, it might be a coma-dream, it might be the result of experimental hallucinogens, and it might be purgatory. Like 'Lost' it might be the bardo.

In Jacob's Ladder half the people he encounters are demons. But as the wise chiropractor Louis says:

'if you're frightened of dying and... you're holding on, you'll see devils tearing your life away. But ... the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth. "
breaking bad

The man who knew too little

John Holbo on Crooked Timber posts a rather long but increasingly amusing piece along the lines of 'What if they re-made 24 but with a real-life level of competence by the secret services'. It appears that a 'friend' of his (coincidentally called 'John') was interviewed for a possible job with the security services. Highlights include an interview thus - John: 'Then I lived in Vienna for two years', Interviewer: 'What's Viennna?'

And the thing is we all know that people are this dumb, we meet people like this in our jobs all the time. But only a comedy show can be realistic about this. So, he suggests an episode where Jack Bauer phones control 'The terrorists are on a plane to Vienna', 'What's Vienna?'. It would never happen in a 'realistic' drama series. Realism is fantasy, reality is comedy.

It’s like 24 meets The Office, but you don’t play it for big laughs. More of a Coen brothers screwball tragedy; where you realize that the problem with the plan isn’t that some one crucial bit of clockwork won’t tick; rather the problem is that the whole clock is a lurid, Daliesque mess.

I think modern people are over-confident about their competence because we have found one method that works pretty reliably (within its parameters): the scientific method. It works because it tends to accumulate its successes (like Evolution does) however rare they may be. But it seems to me that in most areas of life we don't have a good method yet. In almost every other sphere of activity we are still in the dark ages - we don't have a clue, we don't know how to pick out and empower the competent, most of our traditions are probably counter-productive. But we have really cool technology.