Friday, October 10, 2003

Not the best intro, I guess...

I probably would be more favorably inclined to Joan of Arcadia had I watched it from the beginning, but I started with this evening's episode.

Joan of Arcadia is sort of the mutant offspring of Touched by an Angel and Calvin and Hobbes. Did you ever notice how, if agents of the divine really did all the stuff that the angels on TbaA did, there would be no doubt at all of the existence of a non-denominational Christian God? JoA bypasses that problem by making God an ever-shifting Hobbes to Joan's Calvin. God/Hobbes tells Joan/Calvin what to do, and occasionally gives the stray oblique lecture (apologies to Brian Eno). Joan is supposedly trying to figure out just what God has in mind, but if the producers have any sense, it will never happen; just as the unseen monster is always scarier than the guy in the rubber suit who finally emerges, any supposed divine plan that the writers come up with will necessarily seem lame. (Though come to think of it, if the blatant hint of the title holds, any end is going to be pretty definitive...)

Tonight, there are three plot threads: Joan's family's reactions to her brother's paralysis, Joan's interactions with the in crowd at high school, and the bringing in of a "psychic" in a kidnapping case. Joan's father, the new chief of police in the town they've moved into, is the voice of rationality, and doesn't at all appreciate the psychic. In a tense interaction between the two, the psychic claims to have gained her talents after a near-death experience, and asks him whether it's "the tragedy" that makes him so resistant to her presence.

I am extremely disappointed in the writers of this show; they had and blew a wonderful opportunity for the father to take the "psychic" to task. What he should have said at that point is, "How dare you live off the suffering of others! You've just begun a 'cold reading,' asking vague leading questions to try to pump me for information that you can then claim to have gotten from the spirits or via your supposed powers. Nearly everybody has had some tragedy, and if I happen to be someone who has managed to avoid personal tragedy, you could claim that you were referring to the disappearance. You can sucker a lot of people, even intelligent people, with that scam, but not this time. Now get out!"

Why is it that the media so often pander to pseudoscience like this?
Can't the rational characters get the upper hand once in a while?

A flashback and analogy

You've probably heard about how the notion of sum types (e.g. Algol 68 union s, Rust enum s, Haskell type s) and product types (e.g. tup...