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Comment Re:Thanks (Score 1) 201

Thanks for the reply. I agree the self-referential bits about movie-making were actually the best parts.... :) I only caught the Matthew 7:24 reference because I was seeing it in translation and the last line by the kid was subtitled. What bizarre dialogue, I remember thinking and then had one of those moments of realization where it is like something hits you.

A fantastic movie anyway. And a blast to watch even without thinking about the intellectual side at all!

Comment Re:I vote for Inception... (Score 1) 201

Cobb didn't put the spinning top down and walk away. He looked at his family, he let them go on ahead of him, then he spun the object on the table and stared intently at it.

Watch the ending again:


Cobb walks in and spins the top, then sees his family and walks away. We get the line about the kids building a house on the cliff (nonsensical in any other interpretation) and then everyone disappears. The camera closes on the spinning top in an empty room.

Once he had enough room to accept the possibility that it was real, he didn't want to ruin it by finding out it's not.

The seduction offered by Mal (malevolent?) in limbo is exactly what you describe above. I'm paraphrasing here, but what she essentially says to him is, "you don't *know* there is anything else out there, so why not enjoy being here with me and the children." Cobb rejects it, and we see the wisdom of this as Limbo is subsequently destroyed as per the parable.

Comment Re:I vote for Inception... (Score 1) 201

If the film started and ended with a reference to Plato's Republic, I agree it would make sense to discuss Greek philosophy on Slashdot. Otherwise... let us just agree that there is a lot of water in the film.

There is so much water in fact that someone who took film seriously might even ask if it is being used symbolically. Perhaps it isn't coincidental that the opening shot to Inception is basically the same as that to A.I.. or that water has been a standard literary symbol for the subconscious since the nineteenth century. Maybe it isn't accidental that Nolan even has his characters talk about the "shores of our subconscious" while the camera is showing a shot of the ocean.

So no... I don't worry about over-interpreting when I see a film about death and faith reference a well-known parable about death and faith. Where I wonder if I'm over-interpreting is when I notice things like it being a glass of water that sends Fischer to sleep on the plane.

Comment Re:I vote for Inception... (Score 1) 201

I'm not sure what the plot holes are. The film is a Christian parable and the plot makes sense if you take it at its word.

I thought the linked video was funny, but if people are complaining seriously about whether "kicks" transcend levels in shared dreamspace is silly. The film deals with all of this stuff on the level of metaphor anyway.

Comment Re:I vote for Inception... (Score 4, Interesting) 201

Respectfully, I don't think you understood Inception... let me try to explain:

Inception opens with a shot of children building a castle on the beach. This is a biblical reference to Matthew 7.24 and the parable of the wise and foolish builders. The film closes when Cobb's real children tell us they are building a castle “on the cliff”. So we start and end with a biblical story about how getting to heaven requires faith in God. This encourages us to read Inception as an allegorical journey towards redemption through faith, not an action film. Having failed to “buy his way” to heaven, Cobb gets there by taking a “leap of faith”.

If you are confused by the spinning top or self-referential nature of the movie (films are also dreams, and who is to say what message the audience will find in the safe?), that's because you aren't thinking critically about what you saw. People who argue about the spinning top for instance miss the point. The ending of the film is a heaven sequence depicting Cobb’s reunion with God. We have the forgiveness of sins (immigration), the family reunion and the return to the heavenly garden. In order to get there Cobb simply needs to forgive himself (for his complicity in his wife's death) and sacrifice his own life to rescue Saito from limbo. The point of the spinning top is that Cobb ignores it -- he has faith.

One more paragraph because in case you still think that this is a stretch, consider that Michael Caine plays a master architect (creator). Or consider the scene where Cobb stops by Paris to ask his father for guidance. After being chided for his worldliness and corruption (“I never taught you to steal”), Cobb argues he is doing the best he can in a fallen world. But when he asks for help, help is given in the form of a woman whose mythological name suggests her role is guide Cobb out of the maze that is the mortal world (“all dreams are mazes”).

Given that the film has lines like "you have to die to wake-up" I don't think Nolan can be accused of subtly. But if he's made a film that goes over the heads of most filmgoers, it can only be because people have been trained out of having any expectations from movies by the very sorts of films you criticize. So whatever you want to say about Inception go ahead, but calling it a logically inconsistent film with mundane action sequences is about as far off-mark as you can get. This is a film about ideas (it doesn't always give answers -- where does Cobb get the "genesis" of the idea of salvation). If you watch it with the right mindset, I think you'll have a lot more fun and realize how much better it is than anything else released this year!

Comment Re:I nominate... (Score 1) 151

I agree. I run an educational business that teaches how to learn Chinese. Advancing to fluency myself and now engaging with students day after day who are struggling to learn has convinced me that the major obstacle to student progress in most places outside China is institutional torpidity, and the fact that the structures that have emerged to organize and cheapen learning (classrooms, textbooks, etc.) don't allow students to learn at their own pace, or - in some cases - to learn at all.

People are frustrated and they are looking for alternatives. There are an increasing number of them available and I share the sense with you that a lot of these are happening outside existing academic channels. Given that systems to issue educational grants are already online, so it is unclear what this organization adds that the existing system doesn't.

Comment Re:Won't take over top schools... (Score 1) 272

I can't disagree more. Traditional classrooms and textbooks are designed to make educational institutions economical to operate. The textbook standardizes the class to the point where an intelligent undergraduate could run it. The reason students need to commit to several months of learning in advance is to amortize the costs of running a physical school.

Everyone moves at the same pace because you only have X lectures per week and the material is canned. Huge classes have evolved to make the system inexpensive to operate. So where is the focus on learning? What about student convenience, or the ability to move at your own pace? Why not let students explore their interests and take more responsibility for their courses? The competing economic model is the gym. But you can't run an educational business that way if everyone has to proceed at the same pace.

Online learning isn't going to displace traditional universities but it will change the point of going to class, because paying top dollar for huge lectures will seem like a waste of time and money. It's also silly to say it will never dominate the top X schools because you don't know what those schools will look like. Full disclosure: I run an educational company that teaches how to learn Chinese. We have more students than are studying mandarin at any university in the United States. But you can't compare the approaches because the business model is different and what students get out of it is totally different too.

Maybe that's why this StraighterLine company focuses mostly on freshman courses...

Easier explanation: education is a pyramid and the majority of the students are at the bottom. Freshman courses are the biggest market opportunity and the space in the market most open to adopting non-traditional study methods.

Comment Re:great (Score 1) 257

Stick with it. The fact that you've already started puts you seriously ahead of the game.

At risk of sounding spammish, I'm running a company from Beijing that specializes in online Chinese learning at http://popupchinese.com. We are pretty exposed to conditions in the local market and are still seeing a lot of growth in small and mid-sized businesses in northern China. These are the smart innovative companies. In contrast, it's the export-oriented manufacturing sector down south that are having a really hard time.

The job market is definitely a lot softer in Beijing than it used to be, but the problems are mostly hitting people who are monolingual and unskilled. Chinese university graduates are having an especially really rough time these days (you can get a fulltime hire for about $500 a month). People who are genuinely fluent are doing pretty well. We're certainly hiring (on the off chance anyone reading is fluent in mandarin or cantonese and a native english speaker and is looking for work in Beijing please get in touch).

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