Perspective

Perception is Reality

What Really Grinds My Gears — December 20, 2015

What Really Grinds My Gears

Copyright Fox Broadcasting Company
Copyright Fox Broadcasting Company

I can hear the “Oh boy”s already. But don’t leave just yet! This isn’t going to be a post of complaints. Well…it is, but they’re complaints about complaints, and as any algebra student will tell you, a negative times a negative is a positive. This isn’t a list of things that bother me; it’s a list of things that don’t bother me, and the reasons they don’t. I should warn you: from this point on (and I mean the blog, not just this post) I’m not going to hide my opinions. Because I shouldn’t have to. Which brings me to item number one.

1) Opinions

I don’t get why people are so upset by people holding different opinions. I mean, isn’t that kind of the point of opinions? Aren’t they supposed to be personal? The way I see it, we don’t all have to agree with each other. In fact, I’m glad we all have different points of view. Things would be so boring otherwise. And I’ve never once been offended by having someone disagree with me. In fact, some of my closest friends have opinions and views I don’t necessarily agree with. And that’s okay. I don’t hate them. I don’t glare at them every time I see them. I still like them, and, to be honest, I respect them more for disagreeing with me. It shows they’ve got some resolution.

2) Holiday Greetings

Look, I was raised in a Christian household. I’m a Christian. I celebrate Christmas. And I’ve never once felt angry or threatened by someone wishing me “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Chanukah (Hanukkah),” or “Happy Kwanzaa.” They’re just trying to spread a bit of holiday cheer the way they know how, same as me. They’re not preaching to me, they’re not trying to convert me. Actually, I really appreciate them taking time out of their day to wish me cheer. I mean, that’s nice! Why do people freak out about that? Speaking of which…

3) The War on Christmas

Why doesn’t this bother me? Simple – it doesn’t exist! I’m not denying that some people/organizations are vehemently opposed to Christmas. Some people are just jerks. We can’t control that. What we can control is our reactions. We shouldn’t get all defensive just because a few people don’t like our holiday. News flash: not everyone celebrates Christmas anyway! (See item 2.) And we shouldn’t attack corporations just because they’re trying to be politically correct (a phrase I’m not even going to touch). In fact, they should try to be impartial, unless they’re expressly a “Christian Company,” “Jewish Company,” or a “Hindu Company.” For example: all Hell should not break loose just because Starbucks takes the snowflakes off their cups. Last I checked, snowflakes were a winter thing, not just a Christmas thing. If you find that offensive, maybe you should move to Alaska. Then you can have all the snowflakes you want.

4) Guns

Oohh…now we’re getting touchy. I did warn you (kinda). I think I’ve actually touched on this topic before. Guns don’t bother me. Stupid people with guns bother me. You can’t blame a gun for what’s done with it. Okay, so, if I’m being totally honest, I don’t like guns. But I don’t mean that like most people: I think they’re a dishonorable, impersonal way of killing. (Don’t you dare suggest I’m disrespecting our soldiers when I say that; our soldiers are the embodiment of honor and sacrifice, and not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for what they do.) I wish guns hadn’t been invented. But they were. That’s not their fault either. You don’t blame a spoon for making you fat. You don’t blame the lightsaber for killing the Younglings. You don’t blame the Death Star for destroying Alderaan.

5) Gay People

“WHOA!! HOLD UP! You just said you’re a Christian! That means you have to be against gay relationships, doesn’t it?”

Not in the slightest. At least, not the way I see it.

Let me explain my theology. Christians are meant to follow Christ’s commandments (it’s right there in the name). Christ gave two commandments: love God (Matthew 22:37) and love each other (Matthew 22:39). That’s it. In verse 40 of that chapter, he says all the Law hinges on those commandments. End of story.

I’ve got more for ya: “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13, NIV Version). The only time God says being gay is bad is in the Old Testament, which is also where He said eating bacon was an abomination. I actually think that was for our own protection: pork, if not properly prepared, can be incredibly dangerous. I’m not going to go into details, especially since a lot of us will be eating ham on Christmas. But it’s a known fact that, up to a few years ago, same-sex relationships were more dangerous than heterosexual ones. I won’t pretend to know the mind of God, but it makes sense to me.

You may disagree with me on some of this stuff. That’s okay. I’m not gonna shove it down anyone’s throat. I’m not gonna block you from my website. As I said before, I can respect people for disagreeing with me. And you don’t have to have a problem with me if you see things differently. If we would all just relax a bit, I think a lot of current “issues” would resolve themselves.

But that’s just my opinion.

I’ve Got a Website! — October 31, 2015

I’ve Got a Website!

Hey guys! I just thought I’d let you know that I’ve got my own website now! Don’t worry, I’ll still post stuff here when it’s relevant. But there’s some stuff that’ll only be on there, mostly things that have to do with writing. Check it out!

Project: Paradox — October 19, 2015

Project: Paradox

Paradox. The very word itself holds a sense of danger, excitement, mystery. It’s also pretty fun to say. Go ahead, try it. I won’t judge.

Paradoxes are mysterious by nature. Dictionary.com defines a paradox as “any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature.” In time travel, a paradox occurs when someone alters the past in a way that contradicts the established present. It’s not known what would happen if a paradox occurred, as time travel itself is still theoretical. On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got the Doctor Who approach: 

“The paradoxes -”

” – Resolve themselves, by and large.”

On the other hand, there’s a chance the very fabric of the universe would be shredded as every star in every moment in history went super nova. Take your pick. But you can’t escape the fact that a paradox is an impossibility that happens anyway, so something has to give.

Popular culture, whatever else you may say about it, is an amazing medium for information, especially complex theoretical science. You don’t have to be a quantum physicist to understand (or think you understand) things like time travel. So it only seems fitting that I use pop culture to explain a few of the more prevalent theories regarding/types of paradoxes. (Spoiler Warning.)


The most famous is the Grandfather Paradox. A Grandfather Paradox, at its simplest, occurs when one travels back in time and, for all intents and purposes, kills their grandfather. Hence the name. If you were to kill your grandfather before your parent on that side was born, then, by extension, you would never be born. Which means you would never have traveled back in time and never killed your grandfather. But if your grandfather isn’t killed, then you’re born, and you travel back in time, and you kill your grandfather, and you’re never born, and, and, and…

Now you understand why it’s called a paradox.

The most famous example of the Grandfather Paradox is Back to the Future. When Marty goes back in time, he inadvertently messes up his parents’ romance just as it is beginning. As the younger Doc Brown tells him, he has interfered with his own timeline and jeopardized his very existence, as is demonstrated by a steadily fading photograph of him and his siblings.

I feel I should point out that, in the end, the movie does not stay true to the idea of a paradox. Marty saves his existence by getting his parents back together, but in the process, Marty’s dad George stands up to Biff (the high school bully and George’s boss in the original future), which didn’t happen “the first time around.” So, when Marty goes back to the future, his father is successful, his family is rich, and he has his own truck. (Jealous? Me? Absurd.) That’s all fine. What isn’t fine is the fact that everyone but Marty is aware of all the details of the “updated present.” If the paradox was truly resolved, then Marty’s experiences and memories should have changed to match the new reality.


The Grandfather Paradox can occur in what’s called a Dynamic Timeline. But what about a Fixed Timeline? Enter the Predestination Paradox.

Predestination Paradoxes have multiple names. They can also be called Casual Loops, Closed Loop Paradoxes (less common), or Bootstrap Paradoxes (least common of all, and my favorite). The name “Bootstrap Paradox” comes from the comparison of the paradox to lifting yourself up by your bootstraps, which will make sense in a moment.

A Predestination Paradox occurs, as I said, in a Fixed Timeline, where every moment is Fixed Time. You may think that, if the past can’t be changed, then a paradox isn’t possible. But that’s not the case. You have to think of this type of paradox in the opposite way you think of the Grandfather Paradox: if a Grandfather Paradox would make the universe explode, then a Predestination Paradox would make the universe implode.

You see, a Predestination Paradox occurs when you travel back in time, change a few things, and arrive back in the “present,” only to discover that nothing has changed. Why? Because the changes you made to the past were actually already there the first time through!

Example: You travel back in time, kill Hitler as a baby (we’ll argue ethics another time), and replace him with another baby, only to have that baby grow up to be the Hitler history remembers.

My favorite example of this is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Through the course of the movie, someone saves Buckbeak the hippogriff from an unjust execution; lures a werewolf away at just the right moment; and produces an incredibly powerful Patronus which fends off an army of Dementors, saving Harry and Sirius Black’s souls. (If you don’t know what a Patronus or a Dementor is, don’t worry. It really doesn’t matter here.) Later, Harry and Hermione use a Time Turner (once again, don’t worry about it) to go back in several hours. They then proceed to save Buckbeak, lure off a werewolf, and ward off a bunch of Dementors.

I bet the bootstrap thing makes sense now.


The third and final thing I’ll touch on here is the Multiverse Theory, in which changes to the past simply result in a new version of the present, totally independent of the original. I’ve actually already talked about this in detail (here, and a little here), so, since I just passed 900 words, I’m going to leave things here. I’m sure you’re all tired of hearing me go on and on about time travel, anyway. So, though I’ve said it before, I have to say it one more time: if you ever have the chance to travel through time…DON’T DO IT!!!

The Lonely Generation — October 12, 2015

The Lonely Generation

So this week I did something different. I was doing research on millennials and I got the idea to do a short story for this one instead of something more like an essay like I normally do. We’ll see how this goes.

Starbucks is filled with the usual college crowd. On campus, a Starbucks is a lifestyle staple. Early morning, with midterms fast approaching, the tables are lined with young twenty-somethings hunched over steaming cups of frothy liquid. They crouch over their coffee’s warmth like ancient man crouched over their life-giving fire pits. I take my place at the back of the line. As I wait, I can’t help but watch the other people in the room. Centuries ago, in the Enlightenment, coffee houses were houses of knowledge. They still are. But the stimulating conversations and the scholarly debates are gone, replaced by laptop screens and clunky textbooks. Three centuries ago our bright eyes met the world with hungry minds that we shared with each other in places like this Starbucks. Now we stare, bleary-eyed, into the pale glow of computer screens, searching for something to share with the world through their lifeless keyboards.

The line has filtered down to me. I step up to the counter and a girl wearing a name tag reading “Sara” asks me, as she’s asked a thousand other people a thousand other times, what I would like. She’s a student as well. I’ve seen her in my Modern History class and I’ve said “hi” to her before in passing. I’m suddenly possessed by the urge to have a full conversation with Sara. What does she want to do with her life? Is she majoring in Modern History? How does she see the world? There’s a world behind Sara’s eyes that I suddenly want very much to share with her.

I can’t, of course. So I only smile politely and order a large black coffee. When she asks for my name I reply, “Claire,” and move to the end of the counter. I wait patiently with the other customers and when my name is called I collect my drink and walk to a table by myself. I would like to sit with someone. But I can’t. Many people here are sitting alone as well and the people who are sitting with others are hardly talking to one another. There’s an unseen barrier in front of these people. It’s more than the laptop screens, cell phones, and open textbooks. There lies an atmosphere over us that keeps us apart. It’s not just here, but everywhere I go now.

We are lonely. It’s not a desperate loneliness, but a comfortable one. A voluntary loneliness that we adopt because we feel safer in our own heads. We don’t share ourselves with one another because we don’t have to. Isolation is safe. Isolation is non-judgmental. If I were to sit with someone here, that person would feel violated. We are an introspective people. If I simply said “hi” to another person, I would receive a customary nod in my direction or perhaps a “hello,” but it wouldn’t mean anything. All it would serve to show is that we are alone together.

So I slide into a chair at a table alone. I choose a table against a window so I can watch all of the students as they start their day. Each living lives separate from each other but living together.

The Trouble With Children, or, Why They Are Necessary — October 3, 2015

The Trouble With Children, or, Why They Are Necessary

What makes a child different from an adult? It’s not a physical difference, not really. Biologically, children are very, very similar to adults. If that was what made a child a child, then they wouldn’t be called children. They’d just be miniature adults. No, a child is a child because of something beyond the physical, something in their minds and souls.

What are some of the things unique to childhood? You might say immature behavior, a tendency to throw tantrums, and an abhorrence of sharing. But when you think about it, adults do all that just as much as (or more than) children, just in different ways.

I’ll give you a few hints. Santa Clause. The Easter Bunny. Elves. Fairies. What do these things have in common? More often than not, a child will believe in at least one of these things. And therein is the center of childhood: the ability to believe in something more. More than what can be proven. More than what can be seen, heard, and felt. Children are amazing in that they have the ability to look beyond this plain, mundane world to something spectacular.

You see, adults are all hung up on what they deem “real,” on what they can “prove.” As far as they’re concerned, if you can’t see it, hear it, or feel it, it doesn’t exist. (Yes, I just quoted Horton Hears a Who.) And if it doesn’t exist, then it’s not worth thinking about.

Boring

The same thing that makes children amazing is the thing that makes fantasy writers…a little weird. We’re not grounded in reality. Adults see reality. We see possibility.

You look at the world and see what is, what must be. I look at the world and see what could be, what might be. You see a world of limitations. I see an infinity of possibilities.

~Wesley Miller

Yes. I just quoted myself.

Children are so phenomenal because, unlike their “mature” counterparts, their perception of life is not limited to the extent of their five (some would argue more) senses. It is the truest, purest form of life in existence.

Which makes adults guilty of the most heinous crime in history.

There comes a time in a child’s life – perhaps a Christmas when the cookies aren’t eaten, or a morning when the tooth is still under the pillow – when an adult utters two of the cruelest words in the English language: “Grow up.” And thus, adults murder another of what ought to be the prevalent species.

You see, adults are like Daleks from Doctor Who: they think they’re the supreme species, and they exterminate anything they deem inferior. They’re determined to make the entire universe match their view of perfection. And they’re determined to turn children into adults.

I don’t know about you guys, but I sure as heck don’t want to be one of them. Have you seen grown-ups? They’re miserable! They’re always stressed out, they spend most of their time pretending to be someone they’re not, and they don’t see or consider anything beyond their senses.

Now, you might say, “Not all adults are like that.” And you’d be right. Some adults are happy. Some haven’t lost that creative spark, that bit of imagination. But I’ll tell you a secret.

They’re not adults!

They may look like adults, but they’re not; not really, not by my definition. They’re the ones that never grew up. The writers. The artists. The believers. The ones who aren’t satisfied with the ordinary, boring world. The ones who can still walk through the woods and imagine Elves hunting somewhere out there. (That’s me by the way, hello.)

So don’t grow up, guys. It’s the biggest mistake you’ll ever make.

Top Five Things We Learned from Calvin — September 29, 2015

Top Five Things We Learned from Calvin

Few comic strips have been more popular and more beloved than Calvin and Hobbes. Following the adventures of a six year old boy and his stuffed tiger, Calvin and Hobbes spans time, dimensions, and the psychological stability of two parents. Calvin’s character, of course, is the driving force behind the entire strip. Via his imagination, we are taken to distant planets, on precarious wagon rides, into a transmogrifying cardboard box, and countless other places. So with an imagination that big, I think there are a few lessons to be learned from six year old Calvin.

1) Who needs School?

When your days are spent imagining yourself exploring alien worlds as Spaceman Spiff or solving mysteries as Tracer Bullet, school ends up becoming little more than a distraction. Learning is much more effective when done through philosophical discussions with your stuffed tiger whilst careening down a steep forest trail in your red wagon or through one of Hobbes’s nature programs.

2)  Life’s more fun when you live by your own rules.

Who needs football and baseball when you have calvinball? Calvin has a complete disregard for social systems. In a sense, he’s a six year old version of Tyler Durden from Fight Club. Whether it’s school rules, social norms like being polite, or the parental monarchy of the typical household, Calvin denies and rebels against the powers that be. Like Tyler, Calvin craves freedom, so he refuses to allow anyone to control him. Except for his parents, of course.

3) Imagination is a must.

Imagine how bleak Calvin’s life would be if he couldn’t talk to his best friend, bend the rules of physics, or come up with a new way to gross out Susie. Calvin’s imagination is what makes the strip so good and it is what makes our lives so good. Imagination is a requirement when it comes to life and Calvin provides an elegant model on how to let our minds soar when we need a little extra magic in our lives.

4) Curiosity is the foundation of brilliance.

Calvin is certainly a genius in his own right. He may not be able to add 4 and 3, but you better believe that he knows the name of every species of dinosaur that ever existed. Dinosaurs are awesome and Calvin decided he was curious about dinosaurs so at age six he is an expert in that field. He is driven by his curiosity. He is driven to contemplate his existence in the universe, ask his dad why the sun sets (questionable source, though he may be), and, of course, learn all there is to know about dinosaurs. We would all do well to follow Calvin’s example and adopt a childlike curiosity of the world around us.

5) Growing up is completely, 100% optional.

Calvin knows this. He’s obviously determined to never grow up (being six years old for ten years straight helps too).The world would be a happier place if we all took the time to be kids again. To have an imaginary friend, to seek after freedom the way a kid like Calvin disregards social expectations, and to live life driven by a childlike, wide-eyed curiosity.

Why We Question Reality — September 15, 2015

Why We Question Reality

Do we live in the matrix? Could you be dreaming right now?

If you’re like me, movies like the Matrix and Inception cause you to ponder the nature of existence and whether or not what we perceive as reality is really real. Reality, as we know it, is comprised of the information taken in by our senses, filtered through our minds, and correlated and affirmed by each other. For instance, my senses are telling my mind that I am sitting on the couch with my laptop, watching Sister Wives on TLC. And what I believe I am perceiving is affirmed by my mom, who is watching Sister Wives as well.

We know, however, that our minds can’t really be trusted. To quote Inception, “Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only after we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.” And any schizophrenic can tell you that you can’t trust your mind, so how do we know beyond any shadow of a doubt that what we are experiencing, seemingly together, is reality?

The short answer is that we don’t. Ontology would be something used only for fiction (imagine a world where no one can agree on the nature of existence and everyone lies to themselves to feel a sense of meaning in their lives) if that weren’t the case. Nihilism exists because our senses can’t be trusted and if we’re all nothing but chemicals that may or may not be lying to us, what’s the point?

That’s why we question reality. Now enter Descartes.

Existence is kind of like math. Without making a few assumptions, everything would fall apart. So in my mind, Descartes is to philosophy what Euclid is to mathematics. Math has many axioms, but philosophy only has a few. “I think therefore I am,” being the primary one. Now I can’t prove to you that I’m thinking right now, and I have no idea whether or not I even need to prove that in the first place because I definitely can’t prove to myself that other people are real. However, just like in math, since we have axioms, we can now form postulates. So because I assume that I exist, I can begin postulating the existence of the external.

Most of the field of ontology is made up of these postulates. But don’t be discouraged. There’s a good way to filter out the good philosophies from the nonsensical ones. First, they must rest upon all of the three primary axioms of philosophy – Existence Exists, Identity Exists, and Consciousness Exists. One cannot exist while consciously denying these three axioms with words that are identifiable without finding himself in a sticky paradox. Second, the philosophy must move up from its foundation of axioms and into the realm of belief logically. We can’t say that existence exists, identity exists, and consciousness exists therefore God must exist. We have to explain why He exists. There must be logic. And third, the philosophy must make life worth living. Philosophy is like science. It can’t prove anything. It is merely a tool used to help us better understand the world. So ultimately, after we have used logic, we must accept the limits of our understanding and this is where a level of faith is required. Once we have whittled the mass of existential philosophies down to the valid and logical, it all becomes a matter of opinion. So why not choose the one that will make us happiest?

Mythbusters — September 7, 2015

Mythbusters

I’ve mentioned once or twice that I’m a writer, and as a writer, I specialize in fantasy and mythology. I love stories about Greek heroes, Norse gods, and Celtics spirits. But the more I learn about these “myths,” the more I begin to wonder…just how mythical are they?

A few weeks ago, Jacob posted about Ancient Aliens. Nothing in that post was new to me. It was all part of a conversation (read: argument) that he and I have had several times. He says that ancient civilizations had similar features because they were all influenced by aliens. To which I always reply, “It wasn’t aliens, it was the old gods!”

Ok, maybe that’s not quite what I say. But it sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, I’m not a pagan who worships the trees in my back yard, though I have been known to talk to them (I’m a writer, writers are crazy).

Sorry, I’m getting off track. Back to the old myths. I’m not saying I think there were gods running around everywhere. What I’m saying is that those stories had to come from somewhere. There’s an old saying, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” (I think it might have been a Bible verse). That saying links to the writing community’s biggest secret: we steal everything! No one truly makes up a story. Every story in every book, movie, or TV show on earth can be traced back to either ancient mythology or science, which itself traces back to ancient mythology, in its own way. But “stealing” isn’t good for business, so writers made up a new word: inspiration. Every writer has some sort of inspiration. But that begs the question…what inspired the old myths?

Now, you might be saying, “They were all just made up by people trying to explain the world around them.” And that’s a valid argument. In most cases. Zeus’s lightning, Loki’s thrashing (said to cause earthquakes), and Persephone’s semi-annual trips to the Underworld (said to cause the changes in seasons) are all such stories.  But there are some stories that don’t explain nature, they’re just legends. So here’s the million dollar question: why did civilizations that had little or no contact have nearly identical stories?

I’ve got two examples, one from Greek lore, one from Norse, civilizations separated by thousands of miles of land and sea.

Greek

The Tale of Daedalus

In all of ancient Greece, there was one man whose intelligence and brilliance far exceeded that of any other mortal. His inventions bordered on magical, and he was even invited to feast with the gods on Olympus. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was the ever-changing Labyrinth that imprisoned the Minotaur beneath the island of Crete. But it was his greatest creation that would be his downfall.

Minos, lord of Crete, paid Daedalus to instruct his three daughters. But Minos, whose personality left a great deal to be desired, soon found the girls’ affection being directed at the inventor and not him. So the jealous king had Daedalus and his son Icarus imprisoned within the maze. He forced the genius to create new weapons, threatening to kill the boy if he refused.

But Daedalus was crafty. In secret, he began work on his most ambitious creation yet. The months went by, and day after day Daedalus harbored his time, waiting for the cover of night, until, finally, he finished.

The next day, Minos came to collect a new invention. He arrived to find Daedalus and Icarus wearing wings made of enchanted bronze, wax, and feathers. Father and son soared into the sky and flew to freedom.

Icarus, as is understandable for a young boy, was thrilled by the sensation of flying. Despite his father’s warnings, he dove down to the sea below, getting his wings wet. He soared higher into the upper reaches of the heavens, drawing ever closer to the sun. Daedalus cried out in warning, but he was too late. The sun softened the wax on the boy’s wings, and the wet feathers came loose. Icarus plunged to his death in the sea far below.

The inventor was never the same.

Norse

The Tale of Volundr

Norse myths are often more difficult to relate than Greek myths, mainly because everything we “know” about Norse mythology is derived from two books and about five incomplete poems; much of the content within those sources is repetitive as well, giving us even less to work with. So the Norse example will be presented more as information than a story.

As is often the case in Norse and Germanic legends, it is difficult to know whether Volundr was a god, a demigod, or just a man of great ability. Said to be the son of a mermaid, Volundr, crippled from birth, was greatly skilled in the ways blacksmiths. He trained under the king of the dwarves, and soon his skill in metal craft surpassed that of all others. But great men, as students of history and mythology alike know, attract enemies.

An unnamed king captured and imprisoned the great smith. Volundr was bound and sent off to a remote island far to the south, where he was forced to make weapons and jewelry for the king. For months on end he slaved away in his forges, said to be heated by the fires of the island’s volcano. But not a moment passed when he didn’t dream of escape.

One day, Volundr happened to wake up before dawn. He made his way outside – not easily, I imagine, with his somewhat useless legs – and found three Valkyrie (winged maidens that escort those who fall in battle to Valhalla) bathing in a lake. The smith waited until they had gone, then moved to inspect the area. He found the ground littered with white feathers that had fallen from the wings of the Valkyrie. In those feathers, he saw his chance at freedom.

So it was that Volundr began his routine of rising early, collecting the morning’s feathers, and stashing them away. Finally, after several weeks, he had enough to begin the second stage of his plan. After several more weeks of work, his project was finished: homemade wings, crafted from the feathers of the Alfather’s servants and the metal of a master’s forge. Volundr dawned his wings, and it is said he flew all the way to Valhalla.


I won’t insult your intelligence by asking if you see the odd parallel. You’re smart, I know you see it. Why would two civilizations that had almost no contact (I won’t say “no contact,” because really, who knows?) have stories that are so similar? But wait, it gets better. Some of you may know that the Greek god of the forge, the “Greek version” of Volundr, was Hephaestus. You may also know that he was crippled, too. You may not know that he was believed to have his main forge on the island of Lemnos, a volcanic island.

Is this starting to sound familiar?

To the Vikings, wouldn’t Lemnos be a remote island far to the south? This isn’t just a parallel; it’s a possible intersection! If we concede that the remote volcanic island to the south and Lemnos are the same island, then couldn’t Volundr and Hephaestus, both cripples, both master blacksmiths, be the same person?

I can hear people screaming “Coincidence!” from here. But I don’t believe in coincidences.

“And what do we say about coincidences, Sherlock?”

“The universe is rarely so lazy.”

~Mycroft and Sherlock, “The Sign of Three”, Sherlock

Don’t freak out; like I said, I’m not suggesting the worship of the old gods or anything. Some of them were seriously messed up. What I am saying is this: if we rely totally on logic and discard the idea of coincidences (coincidences are really just an excuse not to use logic, if you think about it), then there’s really only one conclusion. Something inspired those stories, and that something was powerful/significant enough to inspire stories in countries on opposite sides of a continent.

Jewish and Christian theologians use the argument that civilizations all over the world have stories about a worldwide flood to support the truth of the biblical story of Noah’s ark. That same argument can be applied here. So if we accept that someone, some race perhaps, inspired the old myths, there’s really only one question left.

Who were they?

Social Impact of Movies — September 1, 2015

Social Impact of Movies

Movies have reflected society since the very beginning of Hollywood. They offer an escape into a different, fictional world altogether while projecting the prevalent themes of the day into the story and allowing the film makers to offer their own insights into the themes. It used to be that movies (the mainstream ones, at least) only explored the social and philosophical themes of the day so that society strictly influenced the movies. However, movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey ushered in a new era of film making where movies explore more abstract, non-mainstream themes from the outskirts of society. As movies became more popular and wider audiences began enjoying them through home video and a larger number of theaters, movies began to influence society.

In 1930, following a scandalous decade in Hollywood, The Motion Picture Production Code was established and used by all major studios. This Code was a set of censorship guidelines that set a strict limitation on the themes and content deemed appropriate for American viewers. Today we scoff and are perhaps horrified at the idea of censorship of any kind. I mean, we don’t live in North Korea do we?? But from 1930 to 1968, all major movies were very mild in their themes and their depictions of society and life in general. Movies couldn’t influence society because they didn’t offer a depiction of or promote a message about anything other than society as people already knew it.

This changed when the censorship code became impossible to enforce in the late sixties and movies were once again free to explore the vast thematic landscape unhindered. One major outcome was the promotion of Evolution. Through movies like the Planet of the Apes, Evolution became much more mainstream and gradually became more widely accepted. So Evolution owes much (but not all, of course) of its modern acceptance to cinema. When movies were influenced by a largely Christian (or otherwise religious) society, they didn’t have much freedom to venture into unknown territory. However, after the censorship code was abandoned, thematically adventurous movies found a much more receiving audience in the rebellious baby boomers of the 1960’s.

Fast forward to present day where movies are now a driving force behind modern society. From kids starting their own fight clubs to the Matrix causing people to question their very existence, Hollywood has changed us. We are a culture possessing a much wider variety of worldviews than what our grandparents and great-grandparents had. Much of that fact is owed to the nature of movies – how they surround us and suck us into the world and story it is portraying so that we feel what the characters feel. With individual movies each presenting a realistic and relatable concept of a philosophy or idea, it makes sense that we would latch onto some of them and adopt them as our own.

Movies offer us an escape from the confusing experience that is existence. We are constantly searching. Searching for those things that make sense of our lives. Movies have a lot of those things. While many of the ideas they present are good ones and worth considering; others, however, simply serve the function of moving the plot along and perhaps to offer some food for thought. Being influenced by a movie isn’t necessarily bad. Being unaware of being influenced by a movie is.

The Ten (Internet) Commandments — August 8, 2015

The Ten (Internet) Commandments

So, I had a different post planned, but then I had this idea, and I thought it’d be fun. So, without my usual preamble (see, I can be brief!), I give you the Code of the Internet – in movie lines.

1. Keep It Secret. Keep It Safe.  ~ Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring

This one is pretty simple, yet for some reason, it still needs saying. I’ll throw in another quote for ya: “There’s no such thing as a private bank account anymore!” (~Moriarty, “The Reichenbach Fall”, Sherlock) The internet is not secure. If you don’t want something getting out there, don’t put it anywhere on the internet, or your hard drive for that matter. Celebrities would have fewer problems if they’d stop taking, shall we say, compromising photos of themselves and storing them on a computer for a hacker to grab. (It’s really not that hard for them. Believe me, I know.)

2. Don’t. Lie. To Me. ~Professor Snape, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

or

Don’t Lie To Me! ~President Snow, Catching Fire

Don’t lie about who you are on the internet, at least not in an important setting. It’s one thing to stay anonymous on Blogger or Twitter or something, but don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. It will catch up to you.

3. I Told You He Was Tricksy. I Told You He Was False. ~Gollum, The Two Towers

Rule Two goes both ways. People lie on the internet. Stupid fat hobbits.

4. You Will Never Find A More Wretched Hive Of Scum And Villainy. ~Obi Wan Kenobi, A New Hope

There are some nasty people on the internet. Hence the need for these rules.

5. You Must Stay On The Path. Do Not Leave It. ~Gandalf, The Desolation of Smaug

When it comes to the internet, you would do well to take the path most traveled. If you’re going to pick up some sort of malware or RAT (Remote Access Trojan – basically gives someone else total control of your computer. Bad bad stuff.), it’ll probably be on a site off the beaten path.

6. There Will Be No World, No Barren Moon, No Crevice Where We Can’t Find You. ~Creepy Guy with Seven Fingers, The Avengers

Don’t think Rule Five can save you. It can’t. If a hacker wants to get you, he (or she – this is the 21st century) will get you.

7. “Please, Mr. Holmes. Without You, I’ll Get Hung For This.”

“No, not at all.Hanged, Yes.” ~Sherlock, “The Great Game”, Sherlock

A little context: a guy kept screwing up his grammar, and it seriously ticked Sherlock (and me) off. Don’t screw up your grammar on the internet. Grammar Nazis will swarm you like piranhas.

8. I Read It In A Newspaper, So It Must Be True. I Love Newspapers, They’re Like Fairy Tales. And Pretty Grim Ones, Too. ~Moriarty, “The Reichenbach Fall“, Sherlock

Guess what. The internet isn’t always right. Some sites are worse than others; never write your masters thesis using information you got from Wikipedia.

9. Concealed In Barad-Dur, The Dark Lord Sees All. ~Saruman the White, The Fellowship of the Ring

I will say this once, and once only: BIG BROTHER WATCHES EVERYTHING!!!

10. And Thirdly: The Code’s More What You’d Call…Guidelines Than Actual Rules. ~Captain Barbossa, Curse of the Black Pearl

Any and all of these rules can be broken as the situation demands.

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