Throwback Thursdays: Paranoia in Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

First published in Italian in 1988, Foucault’s Pendulum is an eerily prescient novel by the philosopher and semiotician Umberto Eco, who passed away about a year ago. Despite its arcane exploration of ancient mystical societies, and academic protagonists, its analysis of conspiracies, conspiratorial thinking, and related phenomena feel uncannily familiar, as though he were anticipating the incomprehensible modern world of truthers, birthers, and Pizzagate.

The book focuses on a trio of underemployed scholars in modern Italy, who make ends meet by working at a small, vanity publisher focusing on esoterica and conspiracy theories. Mocking their authors (whom they refer to as “Diabolicals”), the protagonists amuse themselves by trying to weave every bit of nonsense together into a grand new theory of the history of the world.

Belbo, Causabon, and Diotallevi never quite let themselves believe their own tale, but remain dangerously entranced by the possibilities that they dream up. Their apparent knowledge brings them into increasing conflict with the Diabolicals themselves, who persistently believe that any denial of a conspiracy is only evidence of its potency.

The book is set in 1970s and 1980s Italy, a time of social upheaval known as the Years of Lead. The era saw significant terrorist activity from far-left groups such as the Red Brigades as well as far-right and neo-Nazi organizations like the National Vanguard. In a society torn apart not only by violence, but by fundamentally oppositional views of the world, Eco saw the potency of esoteric thinking: it not only offered truths that could not be doubted, but the promise that ultimately, someone, somewhere, was actually in charge. Even if it was all made up.

It is this aspect of the book which resonates so deeply in the 21st century, when the world again seems plunged into chaos, and truth itself recedes into the distance. The conspiracy theories that animate contemporary politics overlap with the many legends in Foucault’s Pendulum, but even more than such specifics, the temptation, power, and danger of these beliefs echo loudly.

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The Assassin’s Creed Movie Sure Does Exist

(via gameranx)

(via gameranx)

I was excited for the Assassin’s Creed movie and had made plans to see it the day after it came out. Unfortunately, due to our scheduling around the holiday, I’ve only been able to get to this review now, weeks after its release. I think I can safely say that the Assassin’s Creed movie wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t very good either. I really wanted this movie to do well, and it had a lot going for it, but it just fell flat in too many places. Thankfully, it didn’t pander to preexisting fans and turn every scene into a pointless Easter egg hunt. Unfortunately, part of me suspects that’s because the people who made the movie don’t know all that much about the games in the first place, and not because of any considered storytelling decisions. On the whole, though, the movie suffered from poor characterization and worldbuilding.

Spoilers for the movie below the jump.

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Trailer Tuesdays: Assassin’s Creed Trailer 3

The Assassin’s Creed movie comes out later this week, and now that I’ve played four and a half games and actually know the story, I decided to revisit it.

Given how bad video game movies usually are, I feel like I should be much more hesitant to see this adaptation. But it looks good so far, and I’m holding out hope that it will also be good.

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