The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Movie Review: An Inconvenient Truth

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
Upton Sinclair

Government and industry are in denial about man’s role in global warming because they’re committed to preserving jobs and maintaining economic growth. This is one of the many important points made in the new documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, featuring Al Gore.

This film is based on a slide show that Al Gore has given over a thousand times during his career, a slide show that illustrates the alarming trend of global warming and man’s contribution to it over the past century. It explains in layman’s terms the scientific principles and studies that support his point of view. I found his explanations to be very clear and easy-to-understand but, more importantly, I found them to be very sound. This is the kind of scientific popularism that people like Carl Sagan and Brian Greene are famous for – in other words, it is very well done!

It bears repeating: this film presents one man’s vision, one man’s point of view. Any great documentary must have a particular point of view. As well, this point of view must be presented in a compelling, engaging and dramatic way. By this criterion, An Inconvenient Truth is a great documentary. (It easily compares to the other great documentary that I’ve seen in recent years called The Fog of War.) Cinematically, An Inconvenient Truth is this year’s What the Bleep Do We Know?! It is that good and that important a film. Like What the Bleep, it is profoundly thought-provoking.

Gore addresses the main counterargument to the global warming debate, that we are in the downward trough of a geologic cycle. His contention is that in the past hundred years, we’ve seen a rapid acceleration and amplification of global warming that is inconsistent with the history of these geologic cycles. In other words, the levels of carbon dioxide emissions we’ve seen recently far outstrip anything that we’ve seen in the past 650,000 years!! To me, this is conclusive evidence that human activity is responsible for the amplification.

The documentary also extrapolates with frightening gravitas the consequences of global warming if the current trend continues into the near future (~50 years). Whether or not you accept this extrapolation, you have to ask yourself, “Is it worth taking the risk of ignoring the possibility?”

(As I watched the film, I was constantly reminded of an early scene in the Superman movie where scientist Jor-El was trying to convince the council of elders that Krypton was headed towards annihilation. But the warnings fell on deaf ears – the people in power were in serious denial. And of course we know what happened thereafter...)

What can it hurt to accept responsibility for our acceleration and amplification of global warming?

Gore draws a very interesting parallel between the anti-global-warming campaign and the tobacco industry’s campaign to silent the anti-smoking lobby. Both are about money, about preserving corporate wealth. Both are about trying to hide or distort the truth, about tearing down scientific studies that support the detrimental effects of their products.

Lest you folks think that An Inconvenient Truth is a downbeat, pessimistic diatribe, this is not the case at all. It is a very hopeful and optimistic film. Al Gore says that we can dramatically reduce our contribution to global warming. His prescription is perfectly doable. It is only a matter of political will, which he believes is a renewable resource!

In fact, he draws another parallel with the ozone hole/CFC debate. There was a time when many people rejected the theory of the ozone hole. But eventually CFCs became banned, through political action, and today the ozone hole is starting to heal itself.

The film draws on Al Gore’s personal experiences which add a human dimension to the slide show, which otherwise might have become too dry. Some critics have said that the documentary is mere self-promotion for Gore’s ego or ambition. I did not find it so. It is quite simply an attempt to engage people in a warm, inviting way to think seriously about the most dire threat that civilization faces today.

Film critic Roger Ebert made an interesting observation about An Inconvenient Truth: In the 30+ years of his career as a movie reviewer, he has never said that a film was an absolute must-see for everyone...until now. I share that sentiment. Even if you don’t agree with Al Gore, even if you don’t like the man, you owe it to yourself to see this documentary. For your children’s sake. For the sake of our world. At the very least, it should get you to take this debate much more seriously, to shake you out of your complacency.

There is absolutely nothing in your life that is more important than this issue. Not your job. Not the economy. Not crime in the streets. Not cellphone use. Not even terrorism. What is at stake is nothing less than the welfare of man. And, after all, why are we here?

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Having dropped a few grand on a 42" plasma television recently (the Panasonic TH-42PX60U), I'm in no mood to spend another few grand on a LCD TV for my bedroom, so I'm looking for something really inexpensive. I'm seriously considering a 32" Daytek DT3220 from Costco (in Canada). However, the other day I saw this utterly drop-dead gorgeous LCD television (Samsung LN-S3252D) at a local electronics store that made me fall in love (I mean REALLY fall in love)...

This beauty has a glossy ivory finish that reminds one of a Grand Piano. In terms of industrial design, it is quite possibly the most beautiful television I have ever seen! Clean and elegant, it exudes sensuality.

But being the Cheap Bastard that I am, I'm sticking to my original plan of getting the Daytek. It's true what they say: Love hurts.