Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats

I loved this movie. But that's almost certainly because I loved the book and this was like watching George Clooney and Ewan McGregor acting out my favorite scenes. The scene in the hotel room where George Clooney is making all these outrageous claims is exactly how I picture that scene happening in real life. Because the people that Jon Ronson talked to when he was writing the book were seriously claiming all sorts of psychic powers with a straight face.

The book is really interesting. It starts with Ronson learning that some people claim to be ex-military psychic spies, and then it works backwards to the First Earth Battalion, which was an attempt to New Age up the army back in 1979. You get a lot of entertaining things during this segment, like the news that Uri Geller (the spoon-bending guy) was a psychic spy, but he can't talk about it because he might be on duty right now.

Then it turns out that some of the First Earth Battalion stuff has actually been put into effect, and that's where it gets relevant to today's military. Apparently those stories that came out about people in Guantanamo Bay being "tortured" with the Barney theme song are due to some sort of theory in the First Earth Battalion manual. It sounds wacky, but I've read the manual and it's surprisingly prescient. The techniques currently called "Neurolinguistic Programming" are in there, for example.

Anyway, the book was fascinating enough that I enjoyed seeing it dramatized. But if you haven't read the book, I'd recommend doing that first. Or instead.

Also, there are goats in this movie. I like goats.