SIZZLE: Revisited

Im mad about SIZZLE.

I didnt like it. I thought it was dumb. Like, genuinely *dumb*.**

But I liked Randy. I liked what he is/was trying to do. So rather than write a one word review (‘ugh’), I tried to make some positive points, and push him in the direction of the aspects of SIZZLE I thought were good. Sure SIZZLE might stink, but maybe his next one will be awesome! YAY!

No yay.

Randy and the Framing Company dont give a crap about any of our reviews.

They sent out screener copies to ~50 bloggers, and they dont care what we wrote.

And so I’d like to make a suggestion: Could it be that, for some of these hypercritical bloggers, Randy Olson’s documentarian character in Sizzle is really their reflection in the mirror? After all, the character is basically a caricature of someone who repeatedly demands facts, facts, facts, and can’t relate to non-scientists, have a good laugh, enjoy a good story.

In an email sent to all of the ‘reviewers’, Olsons attitude is the same.

I guess I really mean they dont care what *I* wrote, because they clearly didnt read my review.

I might as well not have watched it. I might as well have posted a chicken tikka masala recipe as a ‘review’.

All that matters to *them* are positive reviews, because Olson and the Framing Company cant deal with criticism. They physically *cant*.

But heres the deal. As a scientist in training, I dont view criticism as a negative thing. Criticism is something that makes you *better*. Someone on my committee calls me out on not knowing something I should have. That makes me better. Someone on my committee making a really, really stupid suggestion. Explaining why their idea isnt great in a polite way makes me better. Hearing critiques from classmates on how to make my presentations clearer makes me better.

I live in criticism. I *want* criticism. The Sardaukar arent trained by the pixie faeries of Bubble Yum Forrest.

Theoretically Olson was trained in a similar environment.

Maybe a crippling inability to accept criticism is the precise reason for why Olson is no longer a scientist.

** This is coming from a girl who thinks ‘Harold and Kumar go to White Castle’ is the funniest shit EVAH!

Comments

  1. #1 Drowned
    July 17, 2008

    So um, like, can we have that chicken tikka masala recipe then? I’ll need something to do instead of watching SIZZLE.

  2. #2 MH
    July 17, 2008

    “But heres the deal. As a scientist in training, I dont view criticism as a negative thing. Criticism is something that makes you *better*. Someone on my committee calls me out on not knowing something I should have. That makes me better. Someone on my committee making a really, really stupid suggestion. Explaining why their idea isnt great in a polite way makes me better. Hearing critiques from classmates on how to make my presentations clearer makes me better.”

    That’s the point I tried to get across to Chis during the most recent framing kerfuffle. Many educated people offered him constructive criticism. He could have used that to make his ideas better, but decided to ignore it all, and react to one guy that accused him of being a creationist. My opinion of his cognitive abilities was low before that point, but afterwards, I just decided to give up on him.

    He and Nisbet seem to see themselves as leaders of a paradigm shifting movement, which is critical of the current ways of doing things, but is unable to suggest anything different (apart from a kind of Catholic Church-esque reorganizing of science communication). They can’t take criticism (even going as far as censoring their blogs), and seem to prefer the company of “yes men”.

    They are not creationists, but their behavior is eerily similar to the ID crowd. As you rightly point out, it’s certainly not what you expect of scientists.

  3. #3 Strider
    July 17, 2008

    I’ve had enough of Randy Olson.

  4. #4 Aaron Golas
    July 17, 2008

    Yeah, I was fairly taken aback when I saw the response to the reviews. Especially the accusation that the negative reviewers “can’t relate to non-scientists, have a good laugh, enjoy a good story.” Confess, Abbie: you don’t actually ever LOL, do you?

    I’m real excited to see this movie now.

  5. #5 Michael Svihura
    July 17, 2008

    ‘Harold & Kumar go to White Castle’ is even funnier when you know that it was released as ‘Harold & Kumar get the Munchies’ in the UK.

  6. #6 Dustin O-O-O
    July 17, 2008

    Surely your Tleilaxu bretheren have plans for Olson?

    The science must flow. The balance of power must be maintained.

  7. #7 freelunch
    July 17, 2008

    I understand why people react to propaganda with counter-propaganda, but society isn’t improved when the whole battle is over framing and evidence is ignored. I want information. I want it to be interesting, entertaining, and, above all, fact-filled.

    I don’t want people to be excused from doing a good job just because they happen to be on the side of the issue that is backed up by the evidence. Failure to use evidence and failure to teach people to demand evidence let’s those at war with reality just come back with a better story.

    Science works. Facts matter. That is what has to be emphasized. Sometimes, we will decide that a discovery made by science is something we don’t want people to rely on. We might decide that health insurers cannot use genome testing when they decide the price that they sell insurance to applicants. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t use genome testing to help us know what risks we face or can avoid.

    Entertainment can help the people understand and accept facts, but there is no excuse for ignoring the facts or failing to educate when trying to get people to change their minds.

  8. #8 Dragonfire
    July 17, 2008

    {The Sardaukar arent trained by the pixie faeries of Bubble Yum Forrest.}

    This had me rolling. A woman that cites Dune. Marry me please!

  9. #9 mds
    July 17, 2008

    I’ll second that request for a chicken tikka masala recipe.

  10. #10 thingsbreak
    July 17, 2008

    It was pretty obvious as soon as the reviews were out how this was going to go down. Most of the reviews were decidedly mixed or negative, but with a lot of good, productive criticism about what was going wrong (and no, it wasn’t BS “I need more hard data” complaining as Mooney would like to believe).

    Then we have Laden, Mooney, and Kirshenbaum with glowingly positive views- shocking, I know.

    After reading Mooney’s review it was clear that this was going to go downhill quickly. Why are these Framers so bad at messaging? Why are they so insensitive to legitimate criticism? Why do they come off like pricks every time they do something as a group?

    Anyway, I thought your initial review was exceedingly generous. You did the right thing and got a figurative swat on the nose for your troubles. That’s the message this whole Sizzle fiasco is really sending out.

    MISSION ACCOMPLISHED indeed.

  11. #11 Dustin O-O-O
    July 17, 2008

    A woman that cites Dune. Marry me please!

    Now, now. I think you’re getting carried away in the heat of passion. For all you know, she might be one of those fake Dune fans — the kinds who read KJA’s bound collections of used toilet paper.

  12. #12 Dustin
    July 17, 2008

    On a serious note, though, I think the chosen approach of the framers is counterproductive and cynical. Even if it worked, it would only be treating a symptom of irrationality and anti-scientific sentiment. I’d say more, but I think I was clear here.

  13. #13 Coriolis
    July 17, 2008

    So true. For (former) scientists to not be able to stand the heat of some (rather polite) criticism is really pathetic.

    And the “defense” appears to be basically “Hey, you silly scientists just don’t get what’s so funny about stupid stereotypical pranks without content or originality”. Guess we don’t.

    On a happier note, dune references are definetly 4tw ;). Although I ended up liking the doseidi experiment books about as much at the end.

  14. #14 Paul Lundgren
    July 17, 2008

    Dragonfire, you’re way behind the game. I bought the ring after she mentioned Salusa Secundus in a post a while back. Of course, she broke my heart by saying no, and I sold the ring on eBay to some guy from Montana so he could give it to his Russian mail-order bride when she got off the plane in Helena, but who knows? Maybe you’ll have better luck than I did.

  15. #15 Paul Lundgren
    July 17, 2008

    Oh, and Abby, did you hear where Paramount is allegedly looking to remake Dune with Peter Berg as the director? I read it in the latest edition of Men’s Journal.

  16. #16 Jay E
    July 17, 2008

    It’s a movie, not a thesis defense. All movie distributors ignore the bad rep and focus on the best positive comment no matter how slight. Have you ever seen a movie poster quoting a bad review?

  17. #17 Dustin
    July 17, 2008

    In the sense that I’ve seen them quote mine a negative review, yes.

  18. #18 Dustin
    July 17, 2008

    ERV raves: Sizzle’s “got the scientists personalities…got the scientists passion. LOVE IT! Randy, you were really getting something good on how science (and pseudoscience) is communicated… this end product felt fantastic.”

    I can has communicashins degree?

  19. #19 Optimus Primate
    July 17, 2008

    ERV wrote:

    I live in criticism. I *want* criticism.

    Your spelling is atrocious. Your punctuation is worse. And you’re a terrible burden on your mother.

    Happy to oblige. :P

  20. #20 Pocket Nerd
    July 17, 2008

    Duke Leto has discovered the secret to training our Imperial Sardaukar! We must conspire with the loathsome House Harkonnen to ensure his demise. The Bubble Yum must flow!

  21. #21 Torbj�rn Larsson, OM
    July 17, 2008

    Criticism is something that makes you *better*.

    Matthew C. Nisbet Christopher C. Mooney Randy Olson S. Abigail Smith.

    I sold the ring on eBay to some guy from Montana so he could give it to his Russian mail-order bride when she got off the plane in Helena,

    Ah, that may explain this:

    “In Soviet Russia, English learns you!”

    For myself I always keep my PhD ring handy [sic!]. In case I meet a beautiful specimen of gag, pol and env.

  22. #22 Becca
    July 17, 2008

    What exactly are movie promoters supposed to do here? What would you have liked to have seen from Olson? I don’t quite understand why movie promoters promoting a movie have irked you so.

    In any event, if you want criticism… your “oh, he must have gotten kicked out of Real Science because he wasn’t Tough Enough for it!” attitude is distinctly alienating.
    I think it gets to me because I’ve heard certain scientists say “you just need a thicker skin”- in situations where the criticism is patently inflammatory assholery rather than polite and professional constructive critiques.

  23. #23 ERV
    July 17, 2008

    Becca– It was intended as assholery. Im angry with Olson. My point is that I think I *got* SIZZLEs message. I think they should have made the message THE movie, and cut out all the crap (80-90% of the movie is crap).

    The response we have gotten from Olson and the Framing Company is that scientists are idiots. They have made it perfectly clear that everyone who did not like the movie ‘just proved their point.’

    So my question is why were we asked to review this movie in the first place? Its becoming increasingly clear that Olson has little/no respect for scientists or our opinions, he has no intentions of reading (much less learning from) our critiques, so why were we asked to review the movie?

    Okay, well, fine– we are just reviewing SIZZLE like we might review Star Wars. George Lucas doesnt give a crap about what we think, just the reviews. Well, George Lucas doesnt ask friends to review Star Wars, then get all pissed off when we tell him ‘Attack of the Clones’ SUCKS. And Im offended personally because Im getting degraded for ‘not getting’ the movie, when I did.

    I have no idea why I was asked to review this movie. I dont know why I wasted my time on it. I dont know why I was so nice in my review.

    Im just pissed off :)

  24. #24 Aaron Golas
    July 17, 2008

    It’s a movie, not a thesis defense. All movie distributors ignore the bad rep and focus on the best positive comment no matter how slight.

    So Chris Mooney doesn’t really believe all that “framing” crap, he’s just fishing for a cut of the profits?

  25. #25 windy
    July 17, 2008

    What exactly are movie promoters supposed to do here? What would you have liked to have seen from Olson? I don’t quite understand why movie promoters promoting a movie have irked you so.

    Did you miss the part where ERV was ASKED to review the movie? If they had this idea that most sciencebloggers are too “literal-minded” to understand the movie, why ask a bunch of them to review it, unless that was part of their silly “trap” – in which case ERV has even more cause to be annoyed.

  26. #26 Gustav Bertram
    July 17, 2008

    Wait, wait, wait…

    ERV is a girl?

    That’s hot.

  27. #27 HP
    July 17, 2008

    Maybe a crippling inability to accept criticism is the precise reason for why Olson is no longer a scientist.

    We can only speculate. However, speaking as a squishy humanities guy who has only a voyeuristic interest in science, I’m beginning to think that whatever the reason why Olson is no longer a scientist, it is probably a more interesting and dramatic story than Sizzle.

    Of course I haven’t seen the film, but as I read more and more of the reviews, a story seemed to merge about a man who is trying to resolve some kind of personal issues related to his experiences with his former colleagues. Cherchez la femme, that’s what I’m saying.

  28. #28 dominich
    July 17, 2008

    Interesting parallel between Mooney et al’s reaction to criticism of Sizzle and the cause of the recent Framing wars.

    Clearly anyone with the temerity to have an off-message opinion is to be put out in the desert for the sandworms.

  29. #29 Stacy S.
    July 17, 2008

    Ummm… This is OT. I hope you don’t get mad at me. :-) This is in response to this thread. Please forgive me?

    Stacy :-)

  30. #30 Becca
    July 17, 2008

    Ok, I see where you’re coming from a little more.

    Still, I think selecting you (and other SBers) to review the movie should not be viewed like being asked to peer review a journal article, but instead like being asked to be a movie critic.

    What I mean is that basically, when somebody asks a scientist to review a paper, they are saying “Hey! We think you’re an expert in this field. You get to be the gatekeeper. You get to tell us what this paper needs”. It’s really a very high honor, if you stop to think about it.

    In contrast, when somebody asks Ebert to go to a pre-showing of a movie, it’s not cause everybody thinks Ebert has the Best Opinions Ever. It’s because it gains publicity for that movie. When you’re promoting something, you try to get it press. If the press isn’t what you want, you put a spin on it. It’s how it works.

    Granted, Ebert may have better insight into movies than average guy on the street. Likewise, you should have a better insight into Sizzled than average guy on the street. That’s why I’m going to listen to you and not go out of my way to see the movie
    ;-)

    Anyway, you are welcome to direct assholery at Olson, but the particular flavor of assholery you selected seriously rubbed me the wrong way.

  31. #31 ngong
    July 17, 2008

    Given a choice between making a movie criticizing the communication skills of scientists and a movie that actually educates the public about global warming via vaunted, revolutionary “framing techniques”, which direction does Olson go?

    This isn’t the first time the hair care bunch have been haughtily dismissive of the opinions of science bloggers. Hell, that’s their livelihood.

  32. #32 anaglyph
    July 17, 2008

    >>As a scientist in training, I dont view criticism as a negative thing.

    Meh. I am totally not surprised at how they dealt with this Like I said, Randy Olsen sees the problem as one of spin. He’s been sucked into the vortex that is Illusion Making. He doesn’t want to know the truth, or even acknowledge the truth because it does not suit his purposes. In this way he is almost identical to the woo purveyors.

    Movies don’t work like science. Moviemakers don’t look at the negative reviews and say “Gee, y’know, that’s right – the script is lousy. Crikey, let’s improve on that next time!” Movie distributors just throw away the bad reviews, pick the eyes out of the average ones and publish the ones that flatter them. And then look at how that effects the numbers coming in at the dumb box office. And then they take the things that work and do more of them.

    Just. Like. Woo.

    And just like woo, the most successful movies (these days anyway) pitch to the lowest common denominator. It’s evolution working at its most efficient; maximize the payoff for the most expedient energy expenditure.

    Does anyone else see the huge mountain we have to climb to beat these people? It’s not simply a question of image, peeps.

  33. #33 Dustin
    July 17, 2008

    The response we have gotten from Olson and the Framing Company is that scientists are idiots.

    And, also, that we are not gay or black.

  34. #34 PhysioProf
    July 17, 2008

    I hope you and the rest of the ScienceBloggers who fell for this whole “review carnival” bullshit learned your lesson, and won’t get used as tools for someone else’s astroturfing scheme again.

  35. #35 Blake Stacey
    July 17, 2008

    It’s beginning to look like Olson has the weird habit of constructing an image of scientists and then berating that image.

    Anyway, did anyone here see Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo, and if so, was it worth watching?

  36. #36 Blake Stacey
    July 17, 2008

    MH wrote,

    He and Nisbet seem to see themselves as leaders of a paradigm shifting movement, which is critical of the current ways of doing things, but is unable to suggest anything different (apart from a kind of Catholic Church-esque reorganizing of science communication).

    I fear that they have the potential to do real damage. Nisbet is a “communications expert”, which means his job is to teach classes, run workshops and so forth. While his critics are busy being biologists and physicists, he’s doing what “communication experts” naturally do. If the Framists end up being, even by default, the voice for how science communication should be conducted, then journalists and scientific organizations may find their regard for the truth compromised.

  37. #37 Jeb, FCD
    July 17, 2008

    Chicken tikka masala ru10rzx!

    So does matar paneer.

  38. #38 clinteas
    July 17, 2008

    Blake,

    Ive seen it,and apart from the odd dangling genitalia and exposed male butts,it was nothing like White Castle for me,a bit like Sizzle compared to Inconvenient Truth LOL.

  39. #39 Dustin
    July 17, 2008

    If the Framists end up being, even by default, the voice for how science communication should be conducted, then journalists and scientific organizations may find their regard for the truth compromised.

    That’s true, but I don’t think it’s a great danger. Nisbet, Olson, and others like them are making the same mistake as the kids at the front counters of electronics shops who, when enforcing a company policy that a customer doesn’t think is fair, try to agree with that customer and berate their employer in an effort to save the customer’s opinion. Of course it doesn’t work — the customer still dislikes the store’s policy, and that belief has possibly been reinforced by the kid.
    The Framists are alienating the people they claim to be promoting and losing their support in hopes of gaining the support of people on the other side. But they won’t be able to because they’re bringing this wishy-washy advertising approach and trying to be oh-so careful to respect everyone’s opinions. That’s a little like when a Democratic candidate tries to distance him/herself from the perceived left-wing of the party to court moderates and conservatives with a message of “I’m just like you, only less so!” Yeah, that’ll work. In the end, the Framists will have converted no-one, they’ll have alienated the people who were once on their side, and they’ll be left alone bleating to themselves and basking in the endless approval of their small band of sycophantic Goebbelings.

    I think I’ll call it “The Nisbet Effect”.

  40. #40 Dustin
    July 17, 2008

    Also, I’ve had it happen a couple of times that a self-appointed non-scientist spokesman for science has stood up to deliver incorrect information in a very respectful fashion, only to have his ass kicked by scientist hecklers in the crowd who then hijack the discussion and elicit exclamations of “Ohhh, I understand now…” from the crowd.

    I think this can be done even in situations where the setting isn’t a seminar or lecture. For example, I’ve often found it convenient and effective to use Michael Ruse in much the same way Norm Abrams uses sacrificial guides on his power saws. If someone is blundering around making your position look stupid, chances are that you’ll dispel some frequent mischaracterizations of your position just by taking him down. So, the Framists can bring their weak relativist game as much as they want.

  41. #41 wazza
    July 17, 2008

    You know, normally I go along with “let’s all have a good old-fashioned joke about good-looking female scientists who reference Dune…”

    but it really is getting a little much. Five marriage proposals a thread and no effort to make it funny at all just sucks. It takes my lulz away.

  42. #42 Blake Stacey
    July 17, 2008

    Dustin,

    Here’s hoping you’re right.

    And hey, for some reason, I’m really starting to crave some chicken tikka masala. Punjabi Dhaba is still open, I think. . . .

  43. #43 Badger3k
    July 17, 2008

    I think Abby has a right to be angry. I (obviously) haven’t seen Sizzle, nor even Flock of Dodos, but the BS I’ve heard from “Teh Framers” is really keeping me from watching it. Reading the reviews, both good and bad, I may want to watch the last few minutes of Sizzle (the Katrina bit, however long that is) and skip the rest. It sounds like dung beetles would be thrilled with it. Reading Nisbet’s (I think it was him, apologies if it wasn’t, I’m not going to check on their blog) made me more disgusted.

    Sorry guys, sometimes people do get the message, but hate the mode in which it is given. The rate they are going, I wonder how this mockumentary will fit the with other mockumentary released recently, the one with Ben Stein? Any bets?

  44. #44 HP
    July 17, 2008

    Can I mention one more thing in regard to Sizzle? There’s a movie that came out a few years ago that very few people have seen, but I have.

    If you’re interested in the kinds of cinematic techniques that Randy Olson explores, watch Zak Penn’s Incident at Loch Ness. As near as I can tell, everything that reviewers have praised as original to Sizzled was previously done by Zak Penn (director of the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead) in his film Incident at Loch Ness.

    Incident at Loch Ness is a mockumentary in which a fictional “Zak Penn” is filming a biopic of the entirely real Werner Herzog, who is fictionally filming a Grizzly Man-style documentary of people looking for the Loch Ness monster. As near as I can tell from the reviews (positive and negative), Sizzle is entirely derivitive of Zak Penn’s earlier film.

    Sizzle is not a movie about global warming; it is a movie about Randy Olson’s issues with working scientists.

    I’m a bit surprised, based on the plot summaries, that no one has mentioned Zak Penn’s film, but then, most science bloggers don’t have my taste for low-budget exploitation movies.

  45. #45 Randy Olson
    July 18, 2008

    Hi ERV – Contrary to what you’ve said, I actually have read all the reviews and have tried to keep up with the blog discussions, but its been a little busy this week with getting ready for the two premieres and being on NPR this morning. I’m writing here because you’ve hit the proper note which is, “I didn’t like what he did, but I appreciate that at least he’s trying something different.” P.Z. has hit that note a couple times as well, and that’s all it takes for me to want to join the discussion. I’m not seeking your approval, but a vote of, “keep going, junior, you just may figure it out some day,” is encouraging.

    I do hear all the criticism, but most of it is not like “gee, I wish I’d done a better job with that,” but rather, “yes, we knew that would be the consequence when we made that creative decision.” I intentionally made this film very light on information in an effort to reach a broader audience. We saw the dynamic clearly in our test screenings. When Marion the cameraman cuts off the interviews with his interruptions, the science/environmental people are frustrated because they wanted to hear more, but the non-technical types come to love Marion because he rescues them from what they find boring.

    Of course in making a film you want to please everyone and get uniform rave reviews, but that’s extremely difficult, especially given how expensive it is to make a film, and there are simply no funding sources available for independent science filmmakers. I paid for Sizzle directly out of my pocket with the miniscule revenues from Dodos. And I also made a conscious decision with Sizzle to reach a broader audience.

    The science world sort of played a trick on us with Dodos in that I made a film that had considerable science content in hopes it would find financial support in the science world. Most of the science community gave it solid reviews, but there simply isn’t a movie-going science community out there to support such a film financially. As a result, despite the Showtime and home video deals, it still lost a lot of money.

    This time around I decided to reach wider. And we’ve already succeeded by getting accepted to two gay and lesbian film festivals (Outfest and Chicago Reeling), which already puts us outside “the chorus” of the standard science and environmental audiences. Now we are talking with some distributors of gay films who are possibly interested in a limited theatrical release for the movie, something we never got offered with Dodos. The gay audience connection is both with the two gay actors in the movie and the overall all theme of unity, compassion and tolerance. We didn’t see it all that much ourselves, but the organizers of the two festivals have both really liked the film.

    And needing a supportive community is a basic part of the independent film world. When Spike Lee graduated from NYU film school and announced he wanted to tell stories for the African American community, they were there to support his initial films. When Michael Moore made films for working class Americans, they were there to support his films. And when several of my USC film school classmates, such as Tommy O’Haver, who were gay made gay films, the gay community was there to support their careers (starting with his first feature, “Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss,” which premiered at Outfest in 1998).

    But there simply is not an independent science filmmaking community. Hopefully some day there will be. Scientists are learning more and more how to shoot their own videos. And the whole blogging movement is the beginning of a much stronger, louder creative/artistic voice for scientists. Five years from now there could very well be a genuine Science Film Festival of a sort similar to the network of Gay and Lesbian Film Festivals that exist now after 30 years of building. But that simply doesn’t exist now.

    So for me to have made a film packed with information, as so many of the reviewers called for, might have played well to the science crowd, but would leave us high and dry again as happened with Dodos. At least with Sizzle we’ve already connected with the gay audience, and they actually have an established model for how to market the works of their filmmakers.

    This is where we are right now. None of it has anything to do with framing, and as Greg Laden mentioned, I’ve never used that term. And its a shame that bloggers took offense to our “Mission Accomplished” label yesterday. It was indeed a mission — Ginny Hughes and I thought it up a month ago and wondered whether we’d really be able to get a substantial number of bloggers to review the film. And it was accomplished. And as I mentioned, it did produce an interesting data set that matched our earlier observations. So it was very valuable in that regard.

    And as I mentioned on the NPR segment today, humor is an extremely variable thing. I have about 30 or so film festival awards for making humorous films, ranging from my musical comedy that played at Telluride in 1996 to my barnacle video of long ago. I’m used to the vagaries of it. The funniest thing in the world is trying to argue with someone about how something is funny. You pretty much can’t.

    But what we do know is that we’ve already been accepted to three festivals, and in each case the organizers have said, “we really appreciate a lighter approach to this often-dry subject of global warming.” We’ll see where we go from here. I already know we won’t win any awards. I knew early on that there was a simple pathway towards easy praise and awards, which would have been to expand the amazing footage we got in New Orleans into an entire 90 minute feature. We could have made people cry and feel very depressed and reverential. But why do that. Spike Lee already did it well.

    We tried to do something different with this film. I don’t know of anyone who has ever mixed these three genres — mockumentary, documentary, and reality. Whether or not it works remains to be seen. But the one thing I do know is that the word from distributors is very clear and certain — no more serious global warming documentaries. The public has had enough of them. There is no market. A number of major environmental documentaries have lost large amounts of money over the past year. So clearly that’s a direction that’s not working. And yet, the subject continues to be very important. It needs to be communicated further. The only solution is new approaches, and that requires taking some chances. Which is what we’ve tried to do.

    And all of the blog reviews have been a helpful part of it. I read every word, and give it all thought. And so does my mother, by the way. She read every review yesterday and took notes on them, then we had a long discussion. She’s crazy like that.

    So I’m sorry to make just this one post and not be able to follow up, but the next three days are going to be pretty hectic with Outfest activities. But maybe when the dust settles sometime next week we can have some further discussion. One of the main goals I have is to share some of what I’ve learned over the past two decades with other scientists who would like to venture deeper into communicating through film. It has become increasingly feasible, and is a new language that everyone is now capable of learning — the language of film.

  46. #46 Stephanie Z
    July 18, 2008

    My response to this got a bit long, so On Critique (or, Randy Olson, erv Is Absolutely Right to Be Kicking Your Ass Right Now) is up at my blog instead.

    http://almostdiamonds.blogspot.com/2008/07/on-critique.html

  47. #47 Shirakawasuna
    July 18, 2008

    lol, my comment on Chris Mooney’s blog got moderated. It had some personal recommendations and criticisms, but what does he honestly expect when making so many inane posts?

    I think Abbie hit the nail on the head: these people *cannot* handle criticism.

  48. #48 Shirakawasuna
    July 18, 2008

    As long as that plug/excuse was, I’m not sure if it actually excuses the arrogant and frankly insulting nature of the ‘thank you’ sent out to reviewers (obviously, they’ll decide for themselves). There’s always, and I mean *always* a way to rationalize criticism until you can fit it in a nice box that makes you feel happy and smart. But really now – literal-minded people? Given the examples listed, it could just as easily be educated people vs. noneducated people. Try changing your subject from science to… let’s say gardening, with mock interviews of famous gardeners, comedy based on stereotypes, etc, and see what happens.

    Oh wait, no, I’m challenging assumptions and recommending that you test an idea! I must be literally-minded and therefore placed in said box, which surely explains my reaction and thus nullifies its engagement, person-to-person.

  49. #49 John Kwok
    July 18, 2008

    Hi Randy,

    Great post and thanks for your insights. The next time you’re here in New York City, I’ll invite you to a couple of Indian restaurants that are personal favorites of mine where they really know how to make Chicken Tikka Masala (Maybe Abbie can join us there as my date?).

    Regards,

    John

  50. #50 Dustin
    July 18, 2008

    Great post and thanks for your insights.

    &lt3 ( ( )

  51. #51 clarence
    July 18, 2008

    Wow, Randy Olson is insufferable.

    Did you all know it was YOUR fault that Dodos didn’t make him rich, you traitorous scientists? It’s not because it was a boring movie; it’s because you’re not supportive enough, with your cold, robot-like logic.

    (And why are the Framers are so obsessed with “data” from focus groups? That’s not data. I work some with focus groups, and it is easy to collect a group of people–the kinds of people with nothing better to do that afternoon, by the way–to give a thumbs-up to whatever notions you pull out of your ass. It ain’t no double-blind clinical trial.)

    The fail is more epic than the Dune saga.

  52. #52 Joel
    July 18, 2008

    “we really appreciate a lighter approach to this often-dry subject of global warming.”

    I can’t wait to see Randy Olson’s light hearted treatment of the next great human tragedy.

  53. #53 Dustin
    July 18, 2008

    I can’t wait to see Randy Olson’s light hearted treatment of the next great human tragedy.

    That’ll be the one where the tightwad autistic scientists are running around being boring assholes about HIV, while Duesberg is the kind of guy you want to have a beer with, probably because he wears a fabulous shirt.

  54. #54 Blake Stacey
    July 18, 2008

    And has great hair.

  55. #56 miui
    July 19, 2008

    I read your initial review, I thought it was really constructive and fair. But I hear a lot of whining from Randy’s friends, which is making me doubt about the accuracy of his arguments. Scientists have been taking his opinions from Flock of Dodos, if not seriously then debating them at length. But what the hell *is* sizzle? Why a mockumentary? For all of us, there’s a lot of meta in it, but what is it supposed to mean to a new viewer? I’m getting irritated at Randy Olson. If he’s actually worried about scientists not being able to communicate science, then the obvious thing to do is to communicate it himself or aid scientists to do better. Instead, he makes movies to point the blame. Lame.

    GO TEAM GIRL SCIENTISTS! Yah.

  56. #57 penguindreams
    July 19, 2008

    Olson’s comment included a bit that reminds me of an attitude that I think I’ve seen in Mooney and Nisbet as well. That is, a drastically inflated idea of how many scientists there are — in general, and particularly in climate change (my area, -ish).

    If Olson was counting on scientists to support his films as Blacks (10% of the US) and GLBT (also 10%?) — 30ish million people — support others, then he failed to do his math. Even high estimates of the scientist population put it at less than 1% of the US. If you’re looking specifically at climate, there are only something like 10,000 scientists in the area in the US. He could have tremendous support from the community, and still lose major money on his movies.

    Those numbers are also why I find it puzzling when folks say that it is up to the scientists in the area to get out into the public and be explaining … well, I’d think it’d be the science, but that doesn’t seem to be what they want either. Anyhow. Suppose we all did. Those 10,000 are already fewer than the number of high school districts in the country.

    Even supposing that every one of us had ignored all the comments about how we’re terrible at speaking to ‘ordinary’ people (two different negative frames passed on by folks who say they’re only trying to help) and went ahead, you’re still looking at a lot of school (there being more than high schools, and they’re typically smaller), church, library, … visits per individual scientist.

    I like making such visits, and do or at least offer whenever a chance arises. But the opportunities are a lot rarer than would be needed for the ‘you scientists should get out of your ivory tower’ (a negative frame Mooney used in Republican war on science) to be an answer to national situations.

  57. #58 windy
    July 19, 2008

    That’s the point I tried to get across to Chis during the most recent framing kerfuffle. Many educated people offered him constructive criticism. He could have used that to make his ideas better, but decided to ignore it all, and react to one guy that accused him of being a creationist.

    Who, in an amusing twist, is now Sizzle’s number one fan.

  58. #59 Torbj�rn Larsson, OM
    July 20, 2008

    For all of us, there’s a lot of meta in it, but what is it supposed to mean to a new viewer?

    Apparently, that it is a great gay movie.

    If Olson was counting on scientists to support his films as Blacks (10% of the US) and GLBT (also 10%?) — 30ish million people — support others, then he failed to do his math.

    Yes, that whole bit was odd too. I’m not sure which world of frame Ohlson lives in, but it isn’t anywhere near here.

  59. #60 Ubiquitous Che
    July 25, 2008

    Y’know, if I could have my time over again I would definitely pursue post-graduate study in microbiology instead of grabbing a cheap B.Sc. in computer science only to forgo postgraduate study and run screaming into the private sector.

    Turns out I picked entirely the wrong path of inquiry if I ever wanted to meet a girl who could toss in a reference to the Sardaukar so casually.

    ‘le (regretful) sigh

  60. #61 Samia
    July 25, 2008

    Lots of sexually frustrated men in here. Kind of pathetic.

  61. #62 Ubiquitous Che
    July 27, 2008

    Samia: As much as it may depress you, understand that it bothers me even more. ;)

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