Monday, August 12

Today my post will contain both earnest commentary and just a little bit of media deconstruction. In the New York Times Magazine yesterday, Lisa Belkin wrote a mostly excellent article about coincidence and probability, and how these concepts relate to America’s current state of patriotic paranoia (user: opensewer; password: iswatching). In essence, I enjoyed this article, and thought it discussed an ordinarily arcane, counterintuitive subject in an objective and accessible way. It also appealed to me personally because of my interests in randomness and forecasting, and it reminded me of Spyros Makridakis’ insightful description of six key biases that one can fall into when attempting to think objectively or predict outcomes.

So on that front, it was a good article. However, I found myself disgusted by the shameless reference (read: plug) of the recent mediocre film, “Signs.” Belkin seemed to just force it into the seventh paragraph, and it looks suspiciously like someone paid her (or her editor) to do it. If that sentence hadn’t been in the article, it would have been a clip-n-save for me—but now it’s going straight into the trash. Like our own Josh mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, guerilla marketing is increasing in frequency, and it’s despicable. This growing trend makes critical thinking skills more important than ever, but unfortunately those skills seems to be increasingly rare among our compliant, starry-eyed, media-adoring youth.

Incidentally, why is the media pushing “Signs,” a lukewarm film by any standard, and its young director, M. Night Whatever, so hard recently? Is quality of work making the star director here, or hidden money and cronyism?