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Sunday, September 9, 2012

A review of "Aaah Zombies!"

I just finished watching "Aaah Zombies!"
If you like zombie films this is a must see.
It's a new take on the entire zombie franchise and it does it well.
There are a number of fantastic comedic moments in this film and they are worth the few moments that are less-than-stellar in their execution or performance.

If you get time to see this I highly recommend it - you can find it on NetFlix or at the link below.

A review of In Time

Last night I watched the movie "In Time."
The core premise of this movie is one that is sound - that time is valuable.
In this movie we see a future in which our aging has been stopped and everyone is permanently 25 years old.
When they hit 25 a clock in their arm starts ticking. Everyone starts with one year on their clock. Time on that clock is the currency that the world runs on. There is no money; only time.
This is where the movie diverts from a raw concept into some serious philosophical commentary on socioeconomic policy and morality.
The phrase "for some to be immortal many must die" comes up several times within the movie. It outlines the capitalistic message behind the upper class in this movie. That message is also mirroring the way we handle money today - the few aggregate wealth and use their wealth to aggregate more wealth while perpetuating the suffering of the masses.
In short this movie touches on the topics that frame out the Occupy Wall Street movement. It shows both sides of the lifestyles that are made possible by a divergence in wealth and hints at the conflict that would occur if the wealth were evenly distributed. It hints that even distribution of wealth will collapse the economy that depends on the movement of wealth. It hints that there is no replacement for that system that has been shown to work better than the system of economic imbalance created by wealth disparagement.
This movie was entertaining and it does have multiple elements including a dash of Romeo and Juliet stirred in with adventure and a dash of Bonnie and Clyde. There is also a hint of a standard detective story for flavor.
One of the beauties of this film is that it hints at larger philosophical and moral conversations without treading on them too deeply.
It also served to fully infuriate Harlon Ellison, who has created a number of fantastic stories and concept in his day but who is rabid about defending anything he feels is his intellectual property and who demands unreasonable compensation for use of anything he feels he created.

It does leave several questions for me to ponder - and I expect others will also ponder them:
What would happen if the infrastructure that controls the economic transactions that rev up or spin down he personal clocks were to fail?
Why doesn't anyone have a cell phone?
And, of course, why do electric cars have mufflers?

These, of course, are my thoughts on the film as expressed without outlining any specific spoilers. As always, I welcome other thoughts.

The DVD & Blu-ray can be purchased from Amazon -

Second Half of Numbers

I have now listened to the remainder of Numbers.

I have found that it contains more of the same from the first half of the book and a few additional items of note:
First - it is important to note that this part of The Bible reinforces the idea that if the chosen people go against the word of their god that they shall be shunned and condemned to hideous methods of death. Their god is a punitive god with no tolerance for anyone to believe in any other way of doing things.
Second - all casting of idols is extremely prohibited.
Third - if god tells you to commit genocide and take the lands of those you kill it is acceptable to do so.
Fourth - taking virgin women as spoils of war and dividing them among the soldiers is not only acceptable, but encouraged. Women of your enemy are property and not people.
Fifth - livestock are spoils of war.
Sixth - Women are counted in the same manner as livestock when counting spoils of war (this warrants being mentioned twice because of the way in which it was covered).
Seventh - If a man brings a woman from another religious group to his bed then it is permissible, or even encouraged, to slay them both while in the act of fornication.
Eighth - The spoils of the conquering of the promised land shall be contained within the tribe to whom they were initially given. This means that anyone holding those lands is not permitted to marry outside their tribe for fear that those lands may transfer from one tribe to another.
Ninth - Incest is permissible to preserve land ownership.
Tenth - There are rules against murder and a means to seek refuge if you commit manslaughter.
Eleventh - there is a dictated structure for how to divide the spoils of conquering and how to configure cities and the land surrounding them.

Upon completion of the second half of Numbers I am still not seeing anything to change my mind that the god of the old testament is a vindictive god who has created a structure to favor one family and one race of people over all others and whom is teaching that men are the only people who matter - women are property and their worth is less than that of the land that they might inherit and equal to a variety of livestock.
I have yet to encounter anything that seems overtly wise or redeeming in the stories I have listened to. I am still at a loss for how so many people can make this literary work the foundation of their lives and find solace in its contents. I am also at a loss for how so many people can find the rules contained within acceptable when they are such promoters of racism and sexism.

Perhaps the remainder of the books of The Bible and the other religions texts will alter my opinion by the time I have finished but I feel that my thoughts will only be reinforced.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brain size and complex thoughts

I have been thinking a lot lately about self-awareness and other abstract brain functions as compared to the size on one's brain.

One thing that I find tremendously interesting is that people of differing head sizes don;t, necessarily, have intelligence that correlates to their brain size. The volume and shape of the cavity in their skull is not the determining factor in the overall ability for them to process information and make use of it.

Why then, do humans seem to be at the top of the intelligence scale?
What makes us so different if the differences in brain sizes amongst us are not the single-most deterministic variable for human intelligence?

Does this mean that other animals are smarter than humanity gives them credit for?

I think so.
For example I have several pets.

I have a dog:

and I have three ferrets:

(Yes, there are actually three of them in the same pouch)

There used to be four ferrets but this guy has moved on:

And I have a sugar glider:

And, for the sake of this discussion I will include a visitor of variable frequency who likes the free food in my kitchen in the winter:

Watching these animals on a daily (in some cases) basis makes me contemplate how much they think and understand their world. It makes me wonder how much they contemplate things. It makes me wonder what goes on in their heads.

I know, without any hesitation of uncertainty, that they think. I know that they are different. Each of the four ferrets above have (had) vastly different personalities. Each of them have very different behavioral patterns. Each of them differs greatly from any of the other animals shown on this page.

For example this guy:

understands the concept of confinement. He understands that he likes being out of his cage and he understands that he likes being in the playpen. He understands he likes space. He also understands the basic needs and that people are his caregivers.
I'm not sure; however, that he understands much more than that. He's not stupid, but he's not enticed by trying to do more with his life than play, sleep, eat and go potty.

This one, on the other hand, is different:

She, while being about two-thirds the size of the one above, is feisty. She understands the concept of confinement but, more importantly, she also understands the concept of freedom. She understands that a bigger pen is not the same as being free. She understands that freedom is not simply the opposite of confinement. She wants freedom.
She will systematically test the bars on their cage and she will systematically test every vertical post on their playpen. She will move around and around and around the play pen trying to find a means to climb out. She wants to explore and see "the world."
This one has no fear and no conception of boundaries. She has bitten the dog on the nose (his fault - he was harassing them in their playpen) and postured with an attitude that she would take him if he retaliated... and, he believed it.
This little ferret thinks and reasons. She bluffs and lies. She loves and snuggles. She is a complex being. Her "brother" is a simple animal that lives a simple life.

The other pets, the dog and the sugar glider, each have their own agendas. The dog understands freedom but, more importantly, loneliness and loyalty. He understands who his pack is and that we are more important to him than anything else. He also knows how to lie (all dogs do) and will gladly tell anyone and everyone that no one ever feeds him, that he never gets any love or attention and that he never gets to go for a walk. He also knows he is getting old. He may not know the concepts, but he knows the feelings. He knows that his medication makes him feel better. He knows that if he goes poop on a walk that I make us come back home via our dumpster but if he does not we can come right to the door. He knows that the four-lane road is VERY dangerous and the two-lane road is something to "stay out of." Some of this is conceptual and some of this is simple stimulus-response.
The sugar glider, by far the simplest of my pets, seems to be mostly a stimulus-response animal. The infrequent visitor, who fills the same evolutionary niche but through parallel tracks, and the sugar glider seem to have identical behavior patterns. Food, shelter, water, shelter, warmth. That is what they seek. Things that may threaten them cause them to seek shelter, things that do not threaten them probably will feed them.
My question is, and always will be - what is what? How much can a dog (or ferrets, etc) actually have "going on" in their minds with brains that are so much smaller than human brains?
I think the answer is clear: more than we realize.

I've discussed this with some other animal owners and with friends who are veterinarians (also animal owners) and the ideas vary widely on how much animals conceive and think.

Feel free to chime in on your own below.