Questions / feedback about video / article content
"What's coming in 2017 on this site?"
Due to the responsibilities and time pressures of Fatherhood I'm now unable to stick to a specific schedule of future releases. I have over one hundred potential projects listed, but am limited to producing new content as time and resources permit and according to whatever project happens to be inspiring me in the moment. I have started veering into producing video game analysis' and have a new Youtube channel called Ager Bytes which is specifically for social and politcal content in a simple personal presentation format.
"How did you learn to analyze films and media the way you do?"
It’s a complex combination of factors - broadly the most influential of which I believe to be the following.
1) A lifelong fascination with psychology and philosophy related disciplines such as Gestalt therapy, NLP, marketing psychology, military psychology, psyops, KHTP, the enneagram and Buddhism. My experiences of these disciplines haven’t just been theoretical. For over 12 years I’ve worked with children, the mentally ill, homeless people and ex-offenders – this helped me find out first hand how the various psychological theories bear up to the test of real life. As a result of all these experiences I wrote a pdf book detailing a model of self-therapy, which I call Collative Learning Systems.
2) A lifelong pursuit of creative activities. This began early in my childhood as a preoccupation with drawing and painting, followed by spells of short story writing and eventually low budget film making. The latter was essential for my film analysis articles because having written, produced, directed, edited and acted as cinematographer I have an understanding of the broad fundamentals of how films are made. This is covered in much more detail in my semi-autobiographical 4 hr documentary HIDDEN CINEMA.
3) The articles I write are not just about perceptual skills. They’re very dependent on articulation. Many of the things I write about are things that people are already aware of on some level, but they just haven’t put words to the experience. Like anyone else who’s done a lot of writing, I’ve managed to develop this skill to a reasonable level. In particular I try to keep the descriptions as basic and accurate as possible … many writers try to spice up their writing with colourful language to show off their supposed intellectual abilities – something I don’t find impressive or useful.
"Why don’t you get a book published about your film analysis?"
I do publish … on the internet, and the traffic of readers on my site has been growing steadily enough (currently over 80,000 visits a month) that a high street publisher is not needed. High street book publishing these days I consider to be an exercise in building an image of credibility for the author. A lot of people get stuck in the mentality that if a piece of writing gets published by a well funded distributor then it must be good writing. There are plenty of entirely ridiculous books in circulation that disprove that notion. It’s also true that there’s quality writing out there that publishers avoid for a variety of reasons – controversy, the lack of an identified market, political / economic bias or the expense of excessive visual accompaniments relating to the text. The latter is certainly true with my film analysis articles. It’s essential for a great number of DVD stills and clips to be included due to the detailed references I make to the films in question. This would not only be expensive and impractical for book publishers, but would also generate a high risk of copyright lawsuits. I doubt many publishers would be willing to take such that chance.
"What books will teach me about the forms of psychology underpinning your work?"
This information is scattered across hundreds of books that I've read and many of my most important learnings came not from individual books, but from the cross referencing of assorted published writings combined with personal and professional experience. To that effect the books I recommend as core learning platforms for those interested are my 184 page PDF book Collative Learning Systems, my 48 page PDF book How To Make Great Films On Rock Bottom Budgets and my 79 page PDF book on the topic of Stanley Kubrick's professional working habits Lessons From Stanley. There are additional articles on psychology available on my INSIGHT page.
"I don’t agree with all your insights."
If you did then that would mean you were putting me on an intellectual pedestal, which would be a mistake. There are many thoughts and insights written in my articles which I only partially believe myself. Everything I say is open to question.
"You shouldn’t be stating your opinions as fact."
Unfortunately human language is too limited for me to avoid doing so. Often in my articles I use words and phrases such as “possibly … could be … in my opinion”, but to do this with every single sentence would be boring and repetitive. I’ve also had messages from people claiming that my articles aren’t convincing because I don’t express enough conviction about my opinions. There will always be someone who disapproves, no matter how an article is written. Take it or leave it.
"What qualifications do you have to support your writings?"
Academically, none. I don’t pursue academic education because of the unnecessary costs frequently involved (time, money, resources) and the political and economic factors which often hamper the work of academic institutions. Much of my work is also based upon the cross referencing of disciplines that are treated separately in academia. What I do have an abundance of is practical experience and extensive reading / research in most of the topics I write about. I also receive a lot of correspondence from academics about the site content and am always receptive to their feedback. In addition, I want my work to be judged on its own merit rather than viewers / readers assuming I know what I'm talking about because some funded institution happened to give me a certificate of endorsement for jumping through a series of (often bad habit forming) training hoops. A key message of my work is that knowledge and creativity are not limited to individuals who have been moulded by institutions. This was especially true of Stanley Kubrick, whose working methods have greatly influenced my own and whose work has frequently been the subject of my most popular film analysis videos. Having built up my own audience base and secured plenty of media coverage for my work without any formal qualifications, I can honestly say that I believe it is the quality of my work, not the rubber stamped quality-approval of financially controlled institutions, that has connected my audience.
"You’re a left winger / right winger / conspiracy theorist."
These kinds of comments tend to come from people who have watched a particular video of mine that conflicts with their political opinions. The vast majority of time the accuser has prematurely reacted without having watched any of my other videos, visited my site or read my articles. Unfortunately, some of them are also trolls who wish to poison debate with misinformation to artificially discredit their opposition.
The "winger" accusations don't apply because I don’t buy into the deceptive left / right political model. The extreme left (communism) and extreme right (fascism) are identical because they both lead to centralized social control and hence a tyrannical police state. It is only the ideological justifications - the propaganda - that are different.
As for “conspiracy theories”, the only articles of mine that delve into the classic examples (Illuminati, New World Order etc) are my reviews of films in which the film maker has embedded such themes. That doesn’t mean I'm promoting those ideas. The same logic could be used to call me a “religious nutter” because my Cape Fear film analysis offers a religious interpretation. My analysis of Hitchcock films could be used to label me as a promoter of outdated “Freudian” theories. Again with these films I have simply explored themes and psychological devices that were embedded by the film maker.
If you wish to know my political opinions then avoid my film analysis and read my actual political articles. "Conspiracy theorist" theorists are invited to read my article How to Make Sense of Conspiracy Theories, which I submit is one of the most balanced and unbiased studies to be found on the subject.
"Someone on the internet said something bad about you."
Anybody who has built up a significant audience base online encounters this, especially if they do any kind of campaigning against corruption, which I occasionally do. In 2014 I conducted a counter sting operation against a malicious former journalist who was acting on behalf of a corporate party I'd been in a legal battle with. It turned out that person was behind an extensive series of extremely malicious articles that had been posted about me using anonymous and alias social media accounts. I'm now in possession of a 20+ min video in which I confronted and exposed that individual and have kept that video as collateral for future reference if and when I decide to pursue the matter legally or in a public retort.
Aside from the above there are a lot of general trolls out there. The majority of them retain anonymity to avoid a libel case, though some will attempt to pass themselves off as having some official affiliation to give false credibility to what they're saying. Always check up on who they claim to be.
If you've encountered some remaining online reference to the corporate / politically motivated smear attack conducted against me in 2010, please refer to the corrections published at the originating news website Click Liverpool and to my published video presentation on the matter.
"How do you know you’re not just seeing what you want / expect to see as opposed to what’s there?"
We all do this on a regular basis in life whether we intend it or not. So it would be an outright lie if I were to tell you that everything I write is 100% unbiased. A better question is “How often, and to what degree, do you distort information by imposing preconceived ideas?” There are a variety of approaches I use to reduce perceptual mistakes in my work. One is that after developing an interpretation of something I then seek out counter-evidence. I step into critical mode and ask questions like “What else could this mean? … What conflicts with this? … Is there anything I haven’t taken into account?” Because of this approach my work does not simply consist of me saying the first thoughts that pop into my head. Each article and video has developed through a complex filtering of assorted ideas and cross-referenced information. For every idea that I write about there are several more that have been considered and then discarded because they weren’t up to scratch.
I generally find that when a correspondent tries to convince me that the majority of my work is over-analytical speculation (which is less and less these days), they will cite a very limited number of my statements to support their claim. These are usually what they selectively consider to be the perceptual weakest links. In some instances I agree with such assertions and will update the articles in question to include corrections (unfortunately this generally isn’t practical with videos that have already been edited and posted on Youtube). I also sometimes give credit to the person who gave the corrective feedback.
"But you can read anything into anything. Look at some of the crazy articles floating around on the net."
Yes, you can read anything into anything, but discrepancies of logic can easily be identified by the reader. An article that consistently withstands the test of varied and intelligent reader critique is worth taking seriously ... and currently my articles and videos have an audience consisting of tens of thousands of people of various ages, professions and levels of education.
It's also important to note that if you're using the worst case examples of analytical writing as a yard stick for analytical writing in general ... then even the most scholarly and well researched piece of writing can be brushed off as baseless, which of course would limit the reader's opportunity to learn from any author, whether academic or not. Such a one-sided yard stick would effectively render all human communication and perception as valueless. Any generalized opinion about writers should take into account both negative and positive examples of analytical writing, but ultimately each piece of writing should be judged on it's own merit.
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"You're not using Occam's Razor."
Nor do I intend to. Occam's Razor is a flawed perceptual principle. Reality is much more complex than humans perceive it to be so there is no merit in the idea that simple explanations have more validity than complex ones. Simple explanations are more likely to be generalistic and run a greater chance of ommitting relevant information. For example the Periodic Table is a complex set of assumptions about the chemical structure of the universe, but we should not abandon it in favor of centuries old models of chemistry that reduced nature to just a handful of base elements. A better name for Occam's Razor would be Occam's Perceptual Limitation. Another example of a flawed theory of perception, though widely used as an argument of convenience, is Godwin's Law (the assumption that whoever first raises the topic of Nazism in an internet discussion immedietely loses the debate). Nazism is tied directly to one of the most world-influencing events of the last century and so is frequently raised in relevance to modern day discussions of world events. Godwin's Flawed Opinion is a more appropriate name for the theory ... perhaps I should call this Ager's Law.
"Why haven't film makers come out and confirmed the kinds of themes that you attribute to their work."
Sometimes they do (watch this video for 9 examples), but in most of those instances my articles would be unnecessary. Jan Harlan, Stanley Kubrick's brother-in-law and exec procucer of The Shining, has confirmed in a Guardian interview in October of 2012 that the sets of that film were designed with intentional continuity errors to disorientate the viewer. This was over a year after publication of my video THE SHINING spatial awareness and set design which presented a detailed analysis of that very theme, and to which several people had mistakenly responded that I was just seeing meaningless continuity errors in the film.
It's much easier to understand why film makers often don't verbally confirm the themes of their films if you've actually written or directed a film yourself.
Films aren't just about making statements. They're frequently designed to affect the audience in non-verbal ways - feelings, intuition etc. The film makers themselves are often driven by feelings and intuition without having a verbal road map of what they are communicating to the audience. In a way, my film analysis articles are merely attempts to construct interesting verbal road maps of these intuitive experiences.
Another factor is that the film maker often doesn't want to speak publicly about these intuitive (or even consciously secretive) themes. The reasons for this are many.
- Maintaining an aura of mystery around the film's meanings can heighten and prolong audience fascination.
- If the themes are deeply personal to the film maker then they may feel emotionally vulnerable discussing it or even acknowledging those themes to themselves.
- If the themes are controvertial, the film maker may wish to verbally / publicly deny them, preferring that the viewer privately discover the hidden meanings.
- Some film makers believe the audience should earn their appreciation by studying the film content for themselves.
Yet another factor in this is that the creative impetus behind a film is often miscredited. Multiple rewritngs of a script by different writers can effectively mean that an authoritive creative source can't be identified. A mediocre director who doesn't understand the finer qualities of a script can be carried along by a producer or cinematographer whose finer input isn't duly credited. In the case of a film like Alien or Pink Floyd The Wall, the end result can be an almost accidental combination of talents from different collaborators who never even openly agreed on what the core themes of the film were going to be.
And ... sometimes a film carries accidental themes that were only partially intended by the film makers, yet drew audience appreciation regardless.
"You’ve got way too much time on your hands."
Not at all. Many people pay for my offline material, which has resulted in this site being a viable business project. My work attracts media coverage and has effectively become a DIY career. I'm raising my beautiful daughter, I have lots of friends and several other activities in my life, BUT … I don’t watch TV, don’t follow commercialized sports obssessively, don’t hang out on social media sites all day, don't waste my time with The Lottery or celebrity gossip "news", and don't troll around online trying to anonymously attack other people's hard work (and I highly recommend you avoid all those distractions too).
"A note for insistently negative correspondents and those attempting outright character assassination."
The factor that generally determines simple corrective feedback from underhanded personal attacks, is whether the correspondent is willing to acknowledge both the weakest AND strongest points in my work. Those who refuse to acknowledge any strong points tend to assume that if they can disprove my weakest statements then my strongest statements will be automatically disproved by implication. When I demonstrate that this is not the case the correspondent often becomes sarcastic or even resorts to swearing and name-calling. I find this fascinating because the correspondent is actually engaging in the perceptual flaw that they are accusing me of – wishful distortion. I’ve reached two conclusions as to why certain correspondents engage in these personal attacks and refuse to let up … and I would like those people in particular to read and consider these conclusions.
1) Intellectual competitiveness. A lot of people in society have developed ego barriers that prevent them from learning. They’ve come to believe that their first intellectual reactions on any subject are as good as anyone else’s. On the one hand this gives them a false sense of security because they wish to believe that they are firmly in touch with reality, and on the other hand it gives them the illusion that they cannot be outsmarted by anyone else - another false form of security. Try playing chess with a grand master … you will be beaten. Try making sense of a long and complex legal document … you’ll fail, but a top notch lawyer will succeed. We are not as smart as we think we are, but our chances of maximizing our knowledge and ability are greatly increased if we drop our competitive egos and acknowledge opportunities to learn from others.
2) Fear of complexity. This could be thought of as mental laziness, but I use the word “fear” for good reason. Our social system has somehow persuaded most of us that we each have a fixed level of intellectual ability that cannot be changed. When faced with mentally challenging information it’s easy to just turn away and pay attention to something simple and familiar, and to compensate for the feeling of failure or inadequacy it’s also tempting to label the thing that we couldn’t understand as “geeky … worthless … a waste of time”. This can even extend into character assassinating the person who has presented the challenging information, but the person who really loses out is the one who’s avoiding the complex or challenging information. They don’t get to learn anything. The most mentally capable people in society aren’t that way by default. They’re the kind of people who pursue new skills and knowledge on a regular basis … and not just in the areas in which they naturally feel confident and comfortable. They work on their weak spots by seeking out difficult information and they seek out people who know things that they don’t know.
POPULAR FILM REQUESTS (please check here before sending requests for particular films).
DARK KNIGHT - This has been one of the most requested films for analysis. Despite its popularity I’m just not a fan of Dark Knight (or any other Batman film). I personally think that the Batman character spoils Dark Knight and that Joker versus the authorities with believable hero characters would make a much better film. Superhero films also generally aren’t my thing. Please no argumentative emails trying to sing Dark Knight’s praises. It’s not my thing.
DONNIE DARKO - Although I initially found this an interesting film, I was unable to identify coherent themes in subsequent viewings. I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that Donnie Darko is like an extended music video. Either that or it’s style of narrative is not something I’m familiar with.
MEMENTO - I couldn’t even bring myself to watch this film all the way through. The backwards storytelling I personally found gimmicky.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD - Although I have mentioned elsewhere that I intend to do an article about this film, several people have requested that I drop all other projects and write this one immediately. Unfortunately, I won’t be hurrying to write this review because I don’t rate There Will Be Blood as a bonafide classic. It is outstanding in many ways, but I found the final act of the film to be a very weak conclusion to an otherwise thought provoking story.
FIGHT CLUB - Yes. I intend to review this one.
MATRIX SEQUELS - No. I'm not a fan of the sequels and much prefer the original as a standlone film.
"Why are there occasional spelling and grammar mistakes in your articles?"
Partially because of the extremely limited time I'm able to put into working on the site content and partially because the articles are frequently being updated with additional material. As long as the ideas are sufficiently conveyed I'm not too concerned with the occasional typo.
"When will Turn In Your Grave be released?"
Turn In Your Grave is currently available for direct purchase. See official website and store page for details. I haven't had time to promote the film to agents and distributors and due to the very uncommercial and low budget nature of the film (especially the cheap cameras used) would not expect a general release. Nevertheless I'm very proud of Turn In Your Grave as I believe it to be a very original piece of work that is far more conceptually deep than most big budget film releases.
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