Intelligence? Pfft.

Discussion in 'BOARDANIA' started by chrisjordan, Aug 25, 2005.

  1. chrisjordan New Member

    A few weeks ago I finished reading The Da Vinci Code. It was a good book. It wasn't as good as it's made out to be, but nothing that hyped ever is.

    The first few pages of my edition of the book are filled with acclaim. 'Exceedingly clever,' says the Washington Post. 'An exhiliratingly brainy thriller,' says the New York Times. calls it 'an intelligent and lucid thriller.'

    I take issue with this. It was a fun read, and the facts were all very interesting, but the author knowing a lot of facts doesn't make a story clever. Neither does, as is more the case in his other books, including lots of high-tech important-sounding gadgets and words.

    So how exactly was this book intelligent? Was it the twists?


    If done right, yeah, twists can contribute a lot to making a plot intelligent, because it makes it more complex. I'm a fan of the TV series 24, which has endless twists and turns, and the endings of Scooby Doo episodes surprise me every time, but even if twists are a good thing to have, were the ones in The Da Vinci Code really any good? Take the biggest twist of them all: Teabing being The Teacher. Am I the only one who thought this was too much of a coincidence? That Langdon and Sophie ran to him for help, and his explanation at the end was something like, 'Oh, I knew you'd come, it was all part of my ingenious plan'?

    Was it the hidden messages? A good portion of the mini-revelations that occurred throughout the story about Da Vinci's paintings etc all seem very clever, but surely that's Da Vinci being clever, and not the story?

    (And anagrams... Anagrams, as far as plot is concerned, are dull. After JK Rowling's 'Tom Marvolo Riddle' to 'I am Lord Voldemort', the OH WOW! effect has kind of worn off. Anagrams should not be made major or even minor plot points! Stop it! Bad authors!)


    What is it that makes any story intelligent or clever?

    Is it the concepts (scientific or otherwise)? The Matrix, aside from its breakthroughs in special effects, was considered clever because of its concept of everyone living inside a computer and all the things relating to that, and even more clever by those who looked into all the implicit philosophical stuff. What is it we find intelligent about Pratchett's books? They have a fair bit of philosophy themselves. Pratchett's also very good at perceiving human nature, different personalities/character, and society. Does some sort of social or political commentary make it clever?

    Taking all of these things into account, the three words 'get', 'out' and 'more' come to my mind. But I just thought I'd ask what other people think anyway.
  2. fudgecake New Member

    I think it's thinking up original ideas that are out of the ordinary. To use your examples, the plot of the Matrix was a totally new idea, and we all know that Pratchett looks at things in a very, ahem, different way from other people. :lol:

    Big words have nothing to do with it, as you said, although an eloquent style like Pratchett helps to get an idea across better.
  3. chrisjordan New Member

    The Matrix wasn't actually all that original. It's just that the ideas were presented to a mass audience for the first time, and a lot of people won't have seen the stuff it's derived from, so would see it as something exciting and new.

    It's probably the same for The Da Vinci Code... very little of it is new (the theories, etc have been around for a while), but it's the first time they've been presented to a mass audience.

    Maybe that's why they seem intelligent.
  4. Cynical_Youth New Member

    That is an interesting question. In the case of the Da Vinci Code, it would say it comes down to the way the author crafts a storyline around all those elements (all the different clues, iambic poems). I guess that could be perceived as cleverly done if it wasn't for the fact that the central theory in the book is not in fact his (coined for the first time in a similar book in the 80s*) or for the fact that most of his interpretations are false and that there is no real basis for any of his conclusions. It could also be because you have to think when you read the book. I don't think it is an intelligent book, though.

    I think it is inevitable that any book with a message and enough art and history references will be seen as intelligent by society in general. A little bit of intelligence by association, I guess.

    Is Pratchett's work intelligent and why would it be? The knowledge, the references, the message? Frankly, I don't know. I think it is, because of the detail and the depth, but for a large part it depends on your perception and definition of intelligence.

    Edit: crosspost

    *Pretty popular book, so this wasn't even the first time this theory was presented to the public.
  5. fudgecake New Member

    Well, in my opinion The Matrix was still an original idea. I'm not saying the Matrix was the first time anyone suggested we were controlled by something, or even that we were being controlled by computers - the former idea has been around probably since the first person thought "How come we're here, anyway?", the latter has been the subject of science fiction novels for years. I'm just saying that the basic ideas implemented in the Matrix were original, such as the humans being used for energy, and the tools the 'free people' (I don't know if they gave themselves a proper name? :?) used to gain access to the Matrix.

    Also the idea that deja vu meant a glitch in the Matrix. I love that idea. :D
  6. chrisjordan New Member

    Yeah, the being controlled by computers/virtual reality was what I meant by the unoriginal bit (I'm not back-pedalling, honest!). There is a lot of clever and original stuff in it, but the main concept isn't new. If it was very unoriginal, I doubt I would have bought the DVD. 8)
  7. fudgecake New Member

    :lol: Very cool.
  8. chrisjordan New Member

    Too cool for school. 8)
  9. fudgecake New Member

    lol! Anything cooler than broccoli is too cool for school. :lol: And in fact, even broccoli itself is probably cooler than school... 8)
  10. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    Upon reading that, I laughed so hard I nearly threw up.
  11. fudgecake New Member

    Glad you find me so funny. :D
  12. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    The matrix was many young people's first introduction to rudimentary concepts of philosophy. Most of them aren't even that "deep", but given that the average youth of today has been given as much encouragement to read and expand their knowledge as the average Hun was encouraged to PLEASE sack our cities, we really don't enjoy living that much after all, it's not that surprising that so many people thought the matrix was original, deep, or... i dunno, meaningful.

    I found it quite alarming that after the Wikowski (whatever their name is) brothers were sued for and found guilty of stealing the whole plot to The Matrix from some old woman who'd submitted it to a publishing company they worked for years ago, all the little Matrix fanboys who'd been praising these ripoff artists as genuises and possibly prophets turned with unbridled venom upon the woman who actually wrote it, and said she was just in it for the money and trying to slander the names of their heros.

    I wish I could say that sort of pathos was original, but the stupidity inherent in the human species is the only thing that's remotely meaningful in all of this.

    The Da Vinci code is, from all i've heard, a nice little work of fiction. It brings up the Merovingian legends again which we hadn't heard of in a while (and, surprise surprise, were ripped off for the Matrix sequels), and it probably, from what I can tell, touches on the Cathars a bit as well.

    The thing is, it's fiction. and yet you've got hordes of braindead suburbanites thinking that Jesus got it on and populated the world with superbabies.

    Sure, why not. while we're at it, Zeus peed on a woman in a sea chest and Persius came about from it and killed a gorgon sister.

    Now THAT was original.
  13. fudgecake New Member

    But that doesn't mean it wasn't an original idea. ;)
  14. fudgecake New Member

    Look! the simple but effective Matrix-Bob, as devised by my brother -


    He looks kind of angry... :eek:
  15. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    No, the bits where I said it wasn't an original idea and relied on other, fundamental principles of various philosophical movements means it wasn't an original idea.

    If you want originality in your sci-fi, read Azimov or Clark, or even Verne and Wells.

    If you want originality in your philosophy, read Neitzche, Socrates, and Plato.

    If you want simplistic, trendy derivative bullshit, go to the movies.

    edit: added the bold word.

    edit: fixed the bold word.

    edit: fixed the stupid bold coding AGAIN.
  16. chrisjordan New Member

    I bet Neitzche didn't have cool pince-nez shades.
  17. Ba Lord of the Pies

    Matrix was not original. It was a popcorn flick. It had good special effects, and the plot was above average for an action movie, but it wasn't a breakthrough movie. The special effects were good, but essentially just improvements on previous movies. The rotating camera work had been done before in a documentary. The martial arts were tropes from Hong Kong cinema. They just integrated these features into one film. The Messianistic aspects of the film had been overused many times before in everything from Arthurian legend to Star Wars. The philosophical aspects of the film had been discussed before, and better, in any number of science fiction novels. Want some interesting ideas on consciousness and reality? Pick up some Philip K. Dick novels.

    Or just keep with the Hollywood version. The first movie was entertaining, even if the sequels were an utter hash. There's nothing wrong with enjoying them. But don't pretend they're anything special. Their main influence has been and will be the mixture of special effects and stylized fighting scenes they presented.
  18. Toaf New Member

    Well said, Ba. :)
  19. fudgecake New Member

    Ok, ok, I was wrong, sorry.
  20. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    serriously, Philip K Dick is worth a read. "Bladerunner" is a film adaptation of his novel, 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep', and it goes deeper than most modern claptrap ever will.

    There's no money in making the popcorn eaters *think*, see...
  21. fudgecake New Member

    Ok, I'll try it. :D

    Have you read "It's a good life". I'm afraid I don't know who it's by, I read it in a sci-fi collection. It's about a boy who kills people if they think bad thoughts. It's really excellent.
  22. Garner Great God and Founding Father

    Sounds like an old twilight zone episode. Ba can probably recall the name.
  23. fudgecake New Member

    Yes, they made a twilight zone episode of it, but the book's still better, methinks.
  24. Ba Lord of the Pies

    By Jerome Bixby. Adapted from the story for the Twilight Zone by Rod Serling.
  25. fudgecake New Member

    Yes! I knew his name began with J. Thank you, Ba. **bows**
  26. QuothTheRaven New Member

    If your liked the matrix, I suggest you read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. It has many of the same ideas as the matrix, but they are presented better, plus, it has political undertones.
  27. fudgecake New Member

    Ok, thanks - My reading list for the holidays just went up a couple of books. :D
  28. OmKranti Yogi Wench

    *marvels at Ba's vast wealth of knowledge*

    Edit to say they also made a Simpsions episode of it in one of the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes.
  29. Rincewind Number One Doorman

    While I agree with what pretty much everyone has said, I also is agree with it!

    I think the matrix philosophy could be more closely found in Robert Nozsic's(I've got that name SO wrong) Though Machine- which is basically all about wether if given the choice you could live in a computer dream world or the real world you what would you choose....

    Also well as borrowing action from Hong Kong movies it borrowed heavily from Anime. Watch 'Ghost in the Shell' and you'll see many of the themes. The Shoot out in the lobby of the first one is basically an exact scene from 'Ghost in the Shell'.

    But, I don't think any of these claims (however true they are) can be used to attack the Matrix. It never said it was new, ask the Wilsinsjdsdnjsfdhjf brothers where they got there Ideas from they'll glady say X hong kong movie, philosophy Y or Animie Z.

    And I think it *WAS* breakthrough, becuase it was the first movie to sucessfully blend a wide range of ideas, philosophys, camera techinques and action squenences.

    Before, maybe someone would know about Anime, someone else would know about a documentry that had a cool camera effect. But the Matrix (I only really talk about one cuase the rest are wanky) brought all of these together. And thats what made it a breakthrough.
  30. mowgli New Member

    Question for everyone, but especially for CJ, if he hasn't given up on his brainchild yet...

    Is the intelligence factor subjective? People here seem to disagree whether or not the Matrix is "ingenious" because some saw it as a revelation of new ideas, while others have read/seen/heard those ideas before.

    My original response would have been "an intelligent book is one that presents believable new ideas, while a dumb one will just mull over the same tired old stuff"... but then, what if 2 people read the same book, and one is a total innocent and the other is a heard-it-all cynic - would they be able to accurately judge the intelligence factor of one book?

    I'm still at work, and I really ought to be going home! :p
  31. spiky Bar Wench

    In addition to the fact that the watchers perception will influence their opionion of the intelligence/merits of a peice you also have the fact that there are very few really new ideas out there...would intelligence simply be combining old ideas in a new way to create something, while based on derivatives, is new and better?
  32. TamyraMcG Active Member

    "There is nothing new under the sun" Solomon

    When the Greek philosophers wrote about the shadows on the back of the cave walls and whether that was reality, even then it wasn't a new idea.

    That doesn't mean we can't appreciate what is new to us, just that novelty is subjective and you can often find even cooler stuff if you do a little digging.
  33. Saccharissa Stitcher

    I read the book in question. It started off in a very interesting manner, giving info on the story behind the symbols used in art and religion. Since, for instance, the pomenegrates have been a symbol of fertility in Greece continuously since ancient times, I was intrigued by the display of symbols in Western art in the book. Even though I had found the descriptions of exactly how long it took the hero to go to the Louvre loo quite unecessary.

    But the was so trite and cliche and predictable it makes Barbara Cartland look like Jane Austen. Anyone who kills off a book like that is, in my books, exceedingly dumb.

    Go for something truly intelligent with an ending that won't insult [i:d369a944c9]your[/i:d369a944c9] intelligence.
  34. Andalusian New Member

    I have always considered intelligence in books to be the ability to achieve the aims of the author and connect with the reader. Having great new ideas and commentary is no use if no one can understand it. Also, if the author's aim was to make people laugh, then it wouldn't be very intelligent to pack the book full of depressing philosophy but it would be intelligent to pack it full of things that make people laugh. If you get me.
    Its all about appropriateness, I think. Knowing how to present an idea to the reader and how to make the most of the subject matter.

    For the record, I read the first chapter of The Da Vinci Code then gave it back to my mother because I though it was so outrageous. But I would consider it an intelligent book because it knew exactly how to manipulate the reader. But I hate that. So perhaps not so smart.
  35. Buzzfloyd Spelling Bee

    I was going to say exactly that! :)

    I think an intelligent book might be one that causes the reader to change how they perceive or understand something, or causes them to change their opinion. After my sister read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon, she sent me a card to say she finally felt she understood me. (This perturbed me slightly, since the book is about an autistic boy.) This book didn't change her opinion on anything, but it changed how she understood people whose thought processes are very different from her own.

    An intelligent book might be one that analyses into something or draws connections between things that might not appear to be connected. I haven't read the Da Vinci Code, but I believe it does the latter. Drawing connections where others do not could indeed be seen as intelligent; unfortunately, the Da Vinci Code used ideas that were common in earlier years. There may be no new ideas (and I'm not sure I agree with that anyway), but there is a difference between something having been thought of before and something being commonly thought.

    People usually say 'this is an intelligent book' when they mean it requires intelligence on the part of the reader to follow what's going on. This is not true! One of my criticisms of the early Discworld books is that, if you are new to fantasy, they are hard work to follow. One of the strengths of the Da Vinci Code, I understand, is that it is easy to read, and it does make people believe in the story that the author is spinning. In these senses, it is a very intelligent book. The trouble is that there are so many stupid people who can't differentiate between story and fact, especially when the story is told by someone far more intelligent than them.

    There is also the element of being well-informed. I enjoy reading a book that contains information I didn't know before. I think that is one of the things that attracts people to the Da Vinci Code. However, and someone better-informed than me can confirm or deny this, I believe the 'facts' given at the beginning of the Da Vinci Code are not all facts at all.
  36. Ivan_the_terrible New Member

    I think that Da Vinci Code is a crappy mass reading. The only writers merit is that he brought some issues written in this book to the mass reader.

    Though he perverted and "leaked clean" - naturally, the book is for Mass Reader - some facts.

    He read them and made a bestselling fiction, nothing more.

    P.S. I managed 70 or 80 pages and dropped this book because I couldn't get rid of déjà vu.
    We have discussed similiar topopics when I was at school, with our teacher of hostory of fine art.

    Though, my ex-class mate liked this book. She didn't attend those classes. :)
  37. sleepy_sarge New Member

    I believe the 'facts' given at the beginning of the Da Vinci Code are not all facts at all.[/quote]

    Not just the ones at the beginning some might say....

    Are the facts "accurate"? What difference does it make? many will ask.

    Brown seems to insist on the accuracy and factual nature of all his theories. A significant number of historians and academics disagree with many of these facts. therefore, the problem readers often have with this book is in remembering that it is a work of fiction.

    If Brown hadn't been so insistent on his facts, the book would (in my view) have stood up as a good-ish work of fiction. Now it gets confused with a poorly researched conspiracy theory dressed up as fiction.

    Still...better a book that does make you think and discuss and research other points of view, than one which causes no discernible reaction!
  38. fairyliquid New Member

    This book in particular I thought was extremely clever, young and old alike. It has been written in a way which is not hard to read, from a technical point of view, but can be viewed in so many different ways and contains so much underneath the text that it simply becomes intelligent. He used metaphors, not as a writing tool in the traditional sense, but as a way to understand the character. In many ways his metaphor was a metaphor for how he thought.

    For me it rested in the front of my mind for months; and naturally, only intelligent books can really achieve this.

    The DaVinci code was good; don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it. It was reasonably well written and managed to hold the reader through the use of tension and interesting clues. The problem I had was it simply didn’t stand out. He didn’t play with the language or manipulate you much through words (yes there were a few points but most of them were just clues in another form and is nothing particularly note-worthy). The text tended to mean what it said. The only thing hidden in the book was a bizarre story about his childhood trauma (which is one of the few parts of his novels that does stick in my mind) and the actual clues. For me the plot took over the telling of the story, which is fine for the audience it was aiming for, but it wasn’t a fantastic piece of literature.

    I realised that this wasn’t as good as I first though when I got interested and read through his other books. It wasn’t until that point I realised how little he does to vary his plots. They all start in the same way, all have a reasonably happy ending (minus a few deaths) and all are written in the same voice with the same use of language.

    It is one of these areas where there may be fact but there is more theory. Some of his facts, he admits, are not entirely correct because for the novel to fit it just had to be changed. I would give an example but it was a while since I read the book and I can’t remember what was incorrect.

    What he gave were theories that may have existed, but not to your average Joe. People feel that reading this makes them appear intelligent because it covers a topic that is largely associated with academics and scholarly people. Its one of these, ‘become an expert in 5 days with Dan Brown’. People like being able to have a seemingly intelligent conversation and appear as though they are well informed. Obviously this book has allowed a few people to do so; they recommended it to their friends, and so on.

    Phew, that took a while to type….
  39. Pepster New Member

    You know what I find disturbing is the number of accessory books available to help people understand the divinci code. Seriously their must be closed to 40 books pushed into mass market and 10 or so DVDs by now.

    I believe this should be called the "tutor" effect, that is the mindset that I have found to many pervade people that they need a tutor, psychiatrist, or all that coffee lifestyle crap that is sold in starbucks (perhaps consumer effect would be more appropriate in this one).

    For what is frankly not intelligent but maybe is cleverly pulled off mass market fiction it is rather disturbing the number of people other than the author who are trying to get a quick buck off it.

    I disagree completely, at a weekly basis there is a new flood of scientific knowledge.

    New molecules, techniques and discoveries. Now this isn’t exactly common knowledge in that you tend to have to go and look for it but it is new.

    More accurately there is no new “plots” perhaps, but that is like saying there is no new music. An example in the science of discworld gave perspective on the total number of simple “tunes” that have been used by mankind, it is a mere fraction of all possible combinations of notes that these simple “tunes”.
  40. Ivan_the_terrible New Member

    The problem – if it is a problem - is that author exploits the topic, there is nothing more, but “amusing” “facts” that he wants to feed to the reader. The book WAS written to be a bestseller and pretends to be a revelation.

    That’s why this book averts me.

    Eco, for example, never looks back at readers. He just does the best he can and tries to make his books as accurate as they can be.

    On the other hand Julian Barnes – just an example – wrote his “History of the World…” , used many interesting facts and played with them, with words and reader, though he never epatered public with cheap tricks, never tried to be an oracle or make oodles of money.

    Both authors didn’t play at give-away with the reader. Perhaps that is the reason why they are not millionaires.
  41. Saccharissa Stitcher

  42. mowgli New Member

    Personally, I think "The Passion of the Christ" was a far more dangerous film than the "Da Vinci code" has the potential of becoming...

    Also, has anyone read Holy Blood, Holy Grail? Deals with the same claims as the DaVinci code (that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, that they had children whose descendants the Templars have been protecting all these centuries) but without the fictional dressing-up.
  43. mowgli New Member

    Pepster, I think what that quote refers to is the state of humanity, not the scientific discoveries. In other words, people-created notions like wars, love, ambition, jealosy, friendship etc. have been around forever, or at least as long as there have been humans.
  44. Tephlon Active Member

    I've since read Digital Fortress (Weak) and Deception Point (Not too bad) and I agree. He has one plot and sticks to it. At least Deception Point has a decent twist in the end.

    The DaVinci Code didn't give me any new info, but that's because I am interested in stuff like that. Hell, I saw better theories on Discovery. The puzzles were mediocre and the writing, like fairyliquid said, was just straightforward, no double meanings, no hidden clues. Then again, we are spoiled by the likes of Douglas Adams and Pratchett... :)
  45. Pepster New Member

    True but I have to take a hard stance against generalisation that could put me out of a job :)
  46. Ba Lord of the Pies

    Though, really, the scientific breakthroughs are almost always about understanding things that were already there.
  47. Pepster New Member

    Yes I'll concede that, if only in the use of old ideas to put forth new ones. It depends on the area for example my girlfriend will be doing a honours project next year where she will be in effect training a enzyme to create its own inhibitor by feeding it vaious chemicals.

    There are about only 30 journal articles on the area the project is in to date and some of the molecules the enzyme will produce are likely to have never been seen before. None of these molecules produced from the enzyme will exist in nature either.

    If thats not new I don't know what is.
  48. mowgli New Member


    The scientists work with natural elements by mixing them together and seeing what happens. That's old, and has been for as long as there have been scientists.

    What happens is, in Pepster's girlfriend's case, an enzyme that didnt' exist in nature before. That's a new thing. And hats off to Pepster's girlfriend, while I'm at it!

    Then some philosophers come about and start making snide comments. And the scientists get upset and defensive. That's old, and has been there for as long as there have been scientiests. And philosophers :)

    So the only new thing is the enzyme, really. Although, in case of people who need this enzyme to live, that's plenty!
  49. Pepster New Member

    Actually its an enzyme associated with beast cancer, so it exists in nature. You know where ;)

    The chemistry being performed is new.
  50. sleepy_sarge New Member

    Cross posted from the "Thud!" thread

    Seems PTerry has issues with The Da Vinci Code also

    See the review - which WILL of course contain spoilers - you have been warned! here
  51. Mooseman New Member

    Errr... beast cancer? Surely its breast.

    Doesnt that mean that your girlfriend might, and i say might, find a cure for cancer?

    Go her!
  52. Pepster New Member

    Yeah breast, my bad. Sorry rinso she isn't curing your disease :)

    Contribute to one potentially, yes.

    Her project involves the structure determination of compound that the enzyme has essentially "clicked" together i.e. the reagents get so close they react often in surprising and unfavorable ways. The process is fiddly and generates 10-100's of different compounds at a time. The pro's are that there is a hypothesized carbon skeleton structure for a inhibitor; and by feeding the enzyme variations of a molecule with this structure and performing a little chemistry on the side their is the potential to get the enzyme to make its own best inhibitor. Hence potential lead compound(s) for further development as a drug.

    As to cancer cures, well there are likely to be several in trial now that potentially could be broad cancer cures. In blind testing so to speak, as only 50% of trial patients get the real drug the other 50% get placebos*. The reason for placebos is to attempt to remove the placebo effect, well that’s not exactly clear basically people can convince themselves they are getting better if they think they are getting a cure^ despite it just being sugar pills. Apparently the actual figure of people getting better/or just feeling better from placebos is rather sobering.

    Current research into cancer is now tending to be targeting specific gene products, i.e. proteins associated with the disease state. This has the potential to simplfy clinical trial and shorten the time it takes to get a drug to market (15-30 yrs). The flipside to this is that these drugs may only work on people expressing certain genes.

    *Note the doctors administering the experimental drugs don't know which.

    ^The placebo is perhaps something that doctors should consider with antibiotics and patients who demand them willy nilly even if they don’t need them. What is a antibiotic going to do to a virus after all, nothing they only kill bacteria.

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