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Spring Edition
Volume 98, Number 4

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Integrity and integration

Stranger than Fiction: A review of the review

By Gene Chase, professor of mathematics and computer science

Curt Byers' review   | Paul Tucker's response

I like this review a lot. It's hard for me to be critical of a review that claims that I'm "on to something." But I'm a much better critic than a do-er, so here goes. I think that the review gives too much attention to what we think the film is not.  If space is fixed, then by shortening the paragraphs about comedy, one can lengthen the part about what the film really is. My wife always tells me that I try to cram too much into a — what? — sermon, email, or even an answer to a simple question. Curt's review avoids that problem by hanging its outline on a single effective contrast. This review of that review does not avoid complexity as it should.

Curt's review doesn't mention the Incarnation, nor the apple that was important enough to make the cover of the DVD version. It doesn't mention the mathematician Pascal who said that the "heart has reasons that reason cannot know."  (Think about Miss Pascal's heart-shaped cookie on Harold's chest in the hospital.) It doesn't mention the stark white rectangular architecture of Harold's home, his office, and his imagination, gradually yielding to the warm ovals and earth tones of Pascal's apartment, just as Harold's favorite word "integer" gradually yields to his integrity and his integration. It doesn't mention the watch that guided Harold, eventually saving his life. (And that's a good thing, because I really don't know what to do with the watch.)


Do I have a title for Curt's review?  How about "Little Did He Know ..." ?  Or, Carpe Vitam.  That is, just as "carpe diem" (seize the day) means to live in and for the moment, "carpe vitam" (seize life) is broader, more focused on the big picture, more focused on the long-term strategy instead of the tactics of the moment.

I hold title suggestions loosely. Help us find a better one. I wanted to do a foreign language pun on the title of another film, and I couldn't make anything else stick. I quickly gave up on "Flours for aux guenons."  The French "aux gernons" means "the bearded ones" but Harold's flours (flowers) were not for Algernon, nor for those with beards.  And it went downhill from there. . .

Gene Chase

Gene Chase has taught math and computer science at Messiah College for 34 years.  He's loyal to the fellowship of the film, though when it's been an especially busy week, he's been known to sleep through portions of the movie.

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