Galileo’s Magic Mirror

Galileo Galilei

“Galileo’s discovery, then, was not only the indirect mathematization of nature but also, in Price’s terms, the artificially aided perception of nature. His perception . . . stood at the forefront of the tradition of modern technologically embodied science that characterizes our own time.”1

Don Ihde discusses Galileo Galilei first in an abstract sense, following Edmund Husserl’s analysis that studiously avoids mentioning the historical Galileo—he who dropped weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, he who charted the phases of the moons of Jupiter. Of primary importance here is Galileo’s method of thinking (his ability to fish) rather than his individual accomplishments (the whoppers he has caught). Ihde follows with an extended discussion of that latter episode, of Galileo’s revelation that the telescope enabled him to see the planets in detail and discover their moons, previously hidden by their vast distance. To Ihde, Galileo’s revelation of “the artificially aided perception of nature” was crucial in its ability to fuse the abstract and the empirical knowledge of the universe into a single line of seeing—Husserl’s analysis in a nutshell.2 However, I find Galileo’s telescope particularly interesting because of its affinity with the virtual world in which we live today. By delivering clear images of an otherwise invisible world, but maintaining an unbridgeable distance between viewer and subject, the telescope articulates the paradox of intimacy and vicariousness that has governed lens-based technologies (and, ultimately, screen-based technologies) for 500 years. Continue reading “Galileo’s Magic Mirror” »

Meditations on ‘Men in Black 3’

From January–May 2012, I was a script development intern at Overbrook Entertainment, the production and management arm of the world’s most bankable star, a Mr. Willard Smith. While a majority of my time was spent doing mostly rather unpleasant intern tasks, I also had the opportunity to take a peek into an adept public relations machine.

Smith had been on a break from feature films since 2008, when he starred in Seven Pounds, and had mostly stayed out of the public eye besides a brief marketing push for the 2010 release of The Karate Kid, starring his son, Jaden. However, he had spent a good portion of the last two years making the Men in Black franchise’s third entry, a movie that nobody seemed to have asked for. Nevertheless, with Smith as its star, the secret organization of alien wranglers was primed for an inevitable return.

Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, Men in Black (1997)

The original 1997 film is widely accepted as a critical and financial success. The outrageous Rick Baker-designed aliens battling Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones throughout New York were wrought with both star power and a visual style that appealed to viewers critically, and raked in over $500 million worldwide against only a $90 million budget. The moviegoing population loved MIB, but does anyone remember MIB II? And if so, is it anything positive?

MIB II was a financial success, yet it made substantially less than the original—about $60 million less in the U.S., and nearly $150 million less worldwide. A long five-year layoff between the two films coupled with changing screenwriters to produce a convoluted plot that greatly distracted viewers from the fantastic aliens everyone had grown to love. So if viewer fatigue and production issues slowed down the second film, how did the franchise manage to rebound with its third installment 10 years later? Continue reading “Meditations on ‘Men in Black 3’” »