The Courtier and the Heretic Book Review

History and philosophy are convoluted and disorderly. Though people desperately try to order and categorize the major events that shape them into coherent categories and timelines, the truth is that it is not truly possible. This is because the fields of history and philosophy are focused primarily on the human beings first, and then their contributions, rather than other fields that focus on the contributions and briefly touch on the people behind them. Humans are not orderly, they contradict themselves, and more than anything else appear highly duplicitous, and as a result, so are the fields of history and philosophy. Writing a book exploring these two things, no matter how much effort one puts into making every element appear orderly and linear, will undoubtedly reveal cracks and anomalies that make the project not as seamless as one would like. Matthew Stewart’s The Courtier and the Heretic however, deals with the messiness of philosophical history in its own unique way. Rather than desperately attempting to stitch together pieces that may or may not fit one another, Stewart weaves the history of two philosophers into an engaging narrative that explores their histories, rather than a cold analysis that provides their details. The stories of Leibniz and Spinoza (the titular courtier and the heretic respectively), are told in great detail separately from one another until they eventually converge into one as their fated confrontation is discussed. The duality of their lives and the many differences between the two men that include their appearance, thought process, and integrity are made abundantly clear; with a central theme being the tension between their true beliefs along with the fear of being associated with them and how they dealt with that. Although the lens in which Stewart views the philosophers (Leibniz in particular) may feel a tad coloured with bias at times, and the level of focus on certain pieces of history may not be ideal, the human nature of this subject is properly accommodated  in a compelling narrative that is both informative and interesting.

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Breaking Bleak: How Breaking Bad Managed to be so Good

The infamous pizza on the roof was one of Heisenberg’s first victims…

The popular perception of Breaking Bad‘s protagonist Walter White is that he is a stone cold bad ass anti-hero with a murderous persona dubbed “Heisenberg” to match. That he is a calculating criminal mastermind that could erase a man on a whim by the fifth season. While there is definitely some truth to those sentiments, at his core, Walter White is a bit of a joke. A character who is easily capable of ringing as many laughs from a person as Bryan Cranston’s other famous role as Hal from Malcolm in the Middle. He is a terrible liar, an even worse criminal (that would leave incriminating evidence in the bathroom his DEA agent brother-in-law frequents), and is hypocritical to the point of often coming off as pathetic. Something to perfectly encapsulate Walt at his core is the often forgotten scene of him squeamishly backtracking on his famous “I am the one who knocks” speech by the end of the same episode he said it to his frustrated wife, uttering “I may have overstated things earlier and I’m sorry to be so forward” in a pitiful attempt to alleviate her fears on the safety of her children. That is Walter White, a man who says things with no true meaning in them and is fueled by his petty attempts at rebuilding his pride. Because of that, Breaking Bad is a world where we can laugh at his transparency and his naked attempts at recognition, and as a result, I feel the show had truly pushed itself into greatness.

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The Fappening: A Retrospective to the Ugliness

The Fappening, a portmanteau of the internet slang word for masturbating “fapping” and the M. Night Shyamalan film The Happening, was the name giving to the August 31st mass hacking and distribution of celebrity nude photos. The “event” has mostly passed now, but it still leaves a pungent and distinct odor in its wake. The best way to describe it is as an entirely ugly affair. Not just because of the crimes committed and the massive invasion of privacy, but also the way in which it was received by various groups of people. Because of the sensational nature of this crime, everyone had something to say about it and the backlash it received, and often times what they had to say revealed things about certain individuals that were infinitely more shameful than any photograph leaked by the hackers.

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The Trojan Gay Dude: Pop Culture’s Dumbest Trope?

The answer is yes, yes it is. The basis for so many comedies, coming-of-age stories, and stupid decisions made by several people in real life are plans to “get the girl”. These range from harmless shows of affection, to full on stalker-like attempts, and even to things that make me question whether or not we as a species should be writing fiction. But some of them just reach a level of stupidity that cause me to stop and reflect a little before saying anything about them. In this case I am talking about the occasionally used tactic of pretending to be a gay man to get the girl. This was seen in films like If You Only Knew, Home of Phobia, and even Kick-Ass (an otherwise great film). My question for people who write these stories is… why? There is no light at the end of the tunnel here. Your main character pretends to be gay, to what, show the girl his sensitive side? Hear all her deepest darkest secrets? Watch her as she changes with no fear of repercussion (which definitely breaches into creepy stalkerish behaviour territory)? Taking advantage of every girl’s deep seated desire for a gay best friend is one thing, but straight up lying to her for an extended period of time with the expectation of sex she thinks you can’t possibly want makes zero sense. And since movies are generally wish fulfillment for the writers, the guy usually gets the girl in the end (like in the film version of Kick-Ass but thankfully not the original comicbook) which is all kinds of stupid. But the question I always have for these “heroes”, these masters of disguise if you will, is well… What’s your endgame? Because I can’t see it no matter how hard I try. Sure you may luck out in the end, but I always wonder what the basis was for coming up with the plan in the first place. This is definitely a case of tropes writers never need to do again.

She’ll never see it coming…

Quote of the Day:

You know what the worst thing about being a slave is? They make you work but they don’t pay you or let you go.

– Philip J. Fry, Futurama

Frozen in development, Life’s Too Short and what could have been

Man do I love Disney. Their projects just ooze with so much passion and heart that people often characterize them as magic, and lately they have been on a bit of a hot streak both critically and commercially. Tangled (which I shamefully have yet to see), Wreck It Ralph, and of course, Frozen have been successful films to say the least. Frozen in particular was a monster hit that people just kept coming back to since it brought a fresh take on something Disney has done before so well. Meanwhile, Pixar’s last three efforts, Monsters University (which I have yet to see but I hear was decent), Brave (which was essentially a feature length Fairly Odd Parents “how do I unwish this wish” plot), and Cars 2 (which is when Pixar showed the world that they were capable of creating a bad movie), all seemed to produce lukewarm results at best. Maybe after the masterpiece that was Toy Story 3, Pixar needs to recharge before pumping out another one of their greats?

On the topic of Frozen, we know that what they went with was a major success (the highest grossing animated film ever in fact), but what about the potential film it could have been? It is no secret that the film went through several rewrites and plot changes which ranged from Elsa being an unabashed villain with Olaf as her sidekick, to a focus on some prophecy about a queen with a frozen heart, to a plotline featuring Anna’s insecurity about being a “spare princess”. But the most interesting change to me would be what happened to the relationship between the sisters. At some earlier point into development, the two sisters were not separated all their lives, rather they just weren’t very close and often disagreed. That shift alone changes everything about the film, and while I feel it is ultimately for the best that the film did not stay like that, there were a lot of gems that were lost in the transition. Because the sisters knew each other well in this version of the film, a song like this one was possible…

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Kenny’s Blog: How I Met Your Disappointment

I hated the How I Met Your Mother Finale. This here is a pretty basic sentiment that many people share with me, but what makes my hatred worth writing about is that it has dimensions. I hated the ending for so many different reasons, and I’ll break them all down for you here because I feel like I have to articulate my feelings on this. It’s been over 6 months and I’m still peeved, that should say something (besides the fact that there is nothing interesting going on in my life).

I’ll start by saying I love this show. I loved the cast, I loved the characters, I loved the humour, and I thought it could hit emotional notes surprisingly well for a sitcom. Hell, one of the principle characters, played wonderfully by Neil Patrick Harris, is part of my inspiration for even creating this blog. So it was really depressing sitting on my couch after viewing the finale I’ve been waiting a long time for with nothing but contempt for the show… What went wrong?

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It begins…

Hopefully the start of a very long journey has begun. If you know me, you’d be aware that I am bursting with thoughts and opinions to share, and today, I’ve finally created an outlet for them. The more I think about it, the more natural this all seems to me; that I would find myself here beginning my very own blog. I have a wide range of interest on trivial things, I spend way too much time thinking about them, and I’m just narcissistic enough to feel the need to express these thoughts to everyone. Now this blog… is not for the faint of heart. I will be delving into minute details about even the most precise of things. Be prepared to read a blog post down the road about the state of “X character’s” facial hair on a specific episode of some TV show. This is not to say this blog won’t be dealing with important and contemporary issues; yes, I’ll also be discussing relevant and timely things like why Ross’ attempting to hook-up with his cousin is the funniest scene in all of Friends even now.

If you’re all on board, strap in because you’re in for an interesting ride, and if not well, I’d imagine you will be living a life that is ever so slightly less fulfilling than it would have been otherwise. I’m going to go ahead and just assume everyone who chooses not to religiously follow this blog will be regretting that decision on their deathbeds. Their last thoughts will be something along the lines of “what WAS Kenny’s favourite episode of Spongebob…”. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find out in your next life.