The Men Who Stare at Goats

[Amazon Link]

This is Jon Ronson's second dip into investigating wackiness; I liked his previous book THEM quite a bit. This one isn't quite as good, jumping around quite a bit in time, space, and topic. It's mainly about the US military's forays into unconventional methods of waging war. The goats in the book's title lived at Fort Bragg, and were the subject of all sort of nasty military research, including psychic warfare: people would attempt to get a goat's heart to stop just by staring at it.

But that's just one of the items discussed here. Ronson has a knack of digging out all sorts of unconventionally-thinking people, some at the fringes of respectability, others well outside. He gets them all to talk. Topics visited include the Branch Davidian siege in Waco; Guantanamo; Abu Ghraib; the Heaven's Gate suicides; the CIA's MK-ULTRA experiments. Uri Geller and Art Bell make appearances.

Ronson seems a little credulous at times, but that could well be one of the tactics to get his subjects to open up. It's amazing that so many … um … unconventional thinkers have been able to get the military to take their ideas seriously.

Last Modified 2022-10-04 8:56 AM EDT

Superman Returns

[Amazon Link] [2.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

This was kind of a disappointment, mostly for reasons I expected, a couple I didn't. Expected: it's a canonical example of a movie made for cold-eyed monetary reasons; it has nothing to add or interesting to say about the characters. They didn't even bother to commission new soundtrack music, using the old John Williams score. And Perry White asks: "Does he still stand for truth, justice … all that stuff?" All that stuff? This grates like super-fingernails on a kryptonite chalkboard. (For commentary on this point, Michelle Malkin is your go-to girl.)

Unexpected: it's overlong and padded with pointlessness. Supes moons after Lois like a geeky teenager. And the Christ symbolism is unceasing and unsubtle. (A good rule of thumb: when an unrefined philistine literalist like me notices symbolism, it's already too heavy-handed.) If you want to make a movie about Jesus, just make it about Jesus.

It's not utter dreck, though. Special effects are good. (Although Brandon Routh is such a smoothie, I found myself wondering if he was a computer-graphic character, like Roger Rabbit.) Kevin Spacey is a good Lex Luthor; even though he's pretty much recycling the Gene Hackman approach from the 1978 movie, he's still fun to watch. It was also nice to see Jack Larson (aka the Real Jimmy Olson) and Noel Neill (aka the Real Lois Lane) in small roles.

Last Modified 2022-10-16 5:41 PM EDT