-The Bruce Willis film “Surrogates” was a real joy. The ending was a tad Hollywood-vanilla that I hate with such a passion, but the message was a good one, if not entirely thought out. Sometime in the near future, advanced robots connect us to our lives, we never have to leave our homes. We can be anybody, and normally this entails being attractive. A mad scientist soon realizes surrogates have replaced the joys, pains and meaning of life and made everyone a bunch of pleasure hungry, shallow narcissists (sound familiar?). Some gratuitous action shots of Bruce Willis being Bruce Willis later, the movie ends in climactic fashion. There has been a lot of good, meaningful, science-fiction being produced by Hollywood over the last few years; this film should be included as one of the future classics (along with Gattaca, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and about a third of “The Island,” among others).
-Zombieland was similarly superlative. Fun, light and breezy (not exactly normal zombie adjectives) the film is life affirming and almost sentimental. The “rules” developed throughout represent not just a how-to guide for surviving the zombie apocalypse, but a guide to life in general.
-“The Dumbest Generation”, a book by English professor and notable scribe Mark Bauerlein, details the consequences of the new screen-obsessed youth culture now pervading our country. This includes declines in knowledge, reasoning ability, complex task completions and overall wisdomage. Using surveys and hard data, Bauerlein shows students coming out of high schools and colleges are not getting any kind of classic education based on intellectual traditions. He links these declines to the declines in leisure reading by those under thirty years of age, and to the new technology-based education doctrine that has students focusing on how to use computers rather than learning “unplugged”.
Bauerlein is persuasive, thoughtful and slowly builds his case over the length of the entire book. Unfortunately, his thesis is insurmountable to those who could learn the most from it: screen-obsessed youth. Unrelenting in his vocabulary, long and complex in sentence and paragraph structure, subtle and magniloquent, his words must be taken in with deep contemplation and patience. His work stands as an indissoluble whole, cogent only in toto–Totally not what the Twitter crowd is looking for.
It is a rich work for the curmudgeon in all of us. It was especially sweet to my ludditic preferences. Will it matter? I doubt it.