Wednesday, May 21, 2008

would they had blotted a thousand...

Barbara and I eventually reconciled ourselves to the fact that in buying our tickets we had sent about $20 to a place from which it would never return, and agreed that walking home and talking to each other would be much more interesting than struggling on with the film-watching. And our topic as we walked home was a linguistic one: What exactly was the line of dialog that should have first alerted us to the fact that we were going to have to write off our $20 and the whole cinematic evening? For it was almost entirely the dialog that stuck in our respective craws.

Was it when the mustachioed detective gave the speech that began "Let me see if I've got this straight…", and tried to grasp the fact that he was being told that the serial murderer was going to strike again?

Was it when Professor Arthur Seldom (played by John Hurt) said "I doubt if Heisenberg would have agreed" and Martin the graduate student (Elijah Wood) perked up and said "The physicist?" (No, you dork; Luther Heisenberg, the lawnmower repair guy in the village.) Surely we should have left earlier than that bit.

Maybe the bit where Kurt Gödel's name comes up, with the professor and the student utterly failing to separate the concepts of (i) falsity, (ii) unprovability, (iii) incompleteness, (iv) paradoxicality, (v) improbability, and (vi) unknowability?

No, before that; when Elijah stands up to interrupt a lecture about there being no certain truth and says "I believe in the number pi." That is where we should have stood up and said "I believe my partner and I are going to leave this cinema and walk home."

Geoff Pullum on The Oxford Murders, the rest here

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