Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Your Name (an anime film analysis)



Your Name delights the senses with its Japanese stylized, animated near-future sci-fi fantasy flourishes. The main characters Taki and Mitsuha are reluctant soul mates in a plot that pushes an array of Freaky Friday, Deep Impact, Back to the Future and Romeo and Juliet buttons. The film manages to pull the human viewer into an imagined world where star-crossed lovers fight all odds to find each other. Despite being a swirl of derivative ideas, it is a film well worth watching...

...and contemplating upon.

I found the primary premise (two minds swapping bodies every other day) to be an interesting take on the typical Freaky Friday exchange. The dualistic belief that our bodies and our minds exist separately is completely bonkers given the modern understanding of neuroscience. Yet something primitive, perhaps primed by our cultural upbringing and evolutionary nature succumbs to the possibility of this ultimate form of empathy.

Soul switching, impossible as it is, conveys the idea that we can put ourselves in another's shoes. And when it comes to loving someone, that imagining might very well permit us to care for someone as if they were ourselves. Such duality belief leads to the two parts of the same being abstraction and metaphor. Truly, if one finds deep love with another person, the hope that both lives can be enhanced bye each other in an ongoing relationship is a compelling pursuit.

Perhaps, all our mental abstractions fall short of the reality. The perception of free will, imagining of an afterlife, wish for telepathic understanding, and the possible union of souls all build upon our human need for social fulfillment. The fact that our minds are marooned in a body and brain doesn't minimize the power of such abstraction. In truth, we are all marooned on the same planet and though imperfect we can communicate with each other, share experiences, and work together to accomplish goals. It is a bit depressing to recognize our fantasies can never be truly realized.

At one level all this magical connection is wishful think voodoo madness, at another it is delightful and entertaining metaphor. Maybe, loving someone as deeply as we can benefits from a little abstraction, encouraging us to strive for supernatural levels of compassion to max out our real life love experience. 

In Your Name, Taki and Mitsuha only find each other after weeks of knowing from a great distance and in each others body. When they finally meet face to face, it felt as if a miracle had happened. Maybe our modern human minds need a bit of training to feel the same way when we make a connection with someone real. 

Thursday, June 6, 2024

States of Change Chapter 39: Flickertail (North Dakota)

 

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.

The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 

Fifty independent States have forged unique societies from 

revolutionary technology and ideology


"What's for dinner, Jean Henri?" 

"Flickertail."

"Not again? Well I guess I shouldn't even ask. Other than Old Man Crayburn down in the valley, we haven't seen a critter bigger than a cockroach in ages."

"Cockroach pie is always an alternative, if you capture enough for me to make buggy mince pie with."

"Durn climate change. Who'd have guessed that all the animals west of Fargo would die off or migrate in one man's lifetime, all 'cept the damn ground squirrels."

"I'll take that as a yes to roast flickertail. What kind of sauce would you like with your meal?"

"Doesn't matter."

"Spiced flickerblood it is."

"Hey, Lumas. Any chance there's a can of beans somewhere in the old store house?"

"Not unless it's buried under the cockroaches and cobbies."

"Funny. You know, one of these days one of us is gonna get tired of this desert expanse, and go and string up the other for supper."

"Think so?"

"Yeah, I do. I know we's childhood friends since the 40's but sometimes life needs a bit of a change."

"Time will take care o' change, all by itself. No matter climate change, AI ultimatums, or viral outbreak. Death'll get us all one by one."

"Ya going philosophic on me, man?"

"Just questioning and speculating...if that is philosophy than I'm guilty as charged."

"Well shut up and hand me that flickertail so a man eat in peace then. Questioning ain't done anyone any good from where I's sitting. Life is shit and we's in it."

"I got no answer to that un, 'cept life must be good enough that we keep gettin' on."

"Clearly. Maybe we can try the story night thing again if'n the stars come out."

"I'd like that."

"I said maybe. Now eat somethin' y'self, or I'll be talking with a corpse later."

"Right ya be."



Sunday, April 7, 2024

The 2024 Total Eclipse, A Celebration of Awe


Luna Has Her Eyes on Sol One Week Before the 2024 Eclipse (Marineland, FL)

Tomorrow the moon will pass in front of the Sun for two hours. Millions, including myself, are scrambling to get to the path of totality. I've been surprised that some have no interest at all in the eclipse, wondering what's the big deal?

How to answer such an offhand, indifferent question?  Sure, it's easy to say an eclipse is cool, but a total eclipse is quite unlike any partial eclipse experience. If you are in the path of totality and the sky is clear, you will experience a strange twilight. The Sun's atmosphere, the corona, will be on display. And nature will experience a bit of a jump scare, as the reliable solar entity we take for granted too often, will be obscured. Birds tend to take flight in uncertainty, and humans will be all astir, too many probably taking selfies.

But the awe in the moment reaches well beyond the visceral experience of one. For a human we can take stock in the fact only for less than 500 years have humans generally accepted that the Earth revolved around the Sun. So even though some ancient cultures had calendars that predicted solar eclipses, only very recently have we grasped the scale of what's involved. The alignment of these three bodies in space due to their orbits, tilts and sizes is quite thought provoking. Here are a couple photos to scale to reinforce this arrangement.

To Scale, The Moon's Size and Distance From the Earth

To Scale, The Sizes of Earth, Moon and Sun as well as the Moon-Earth Distance 

I hope these two images give you an appreciation for how perfectly aligned Sun, Moon, and Earth must be to have the shadow of the Moon fall on the Earth. Not pictured, the distance of the Earth from the Sun itself is gargantuan. Add to that, the knowledge that the Moon is slowly drifting away from the Earth in its orbit, and in a few million years (a small percentage of the 4,000 million year age of the Earth and Moon system) a total solar eclipse viewed from Earth will no longer be a thing. We are living in a very special time.

So a total eclipse can be a moment of world solidarity, a time to celebrate the shared universe we live in, to forget about political, financial, and existential strife that we humans create for ourselves. A total eclipse can ground us in the fact that we live in a shared foundation of reality that we can agree upon. This foundational evidence, and the astrophysics we've assembled since Copernicus, puts to shame divisive world perspectives including Flat Earth theory and every religious creation myth our ancestors came up with as first-stab, imaginative hypotheses. It also gives us as individuals a chance to walk away from social media, content streaming, fantasy novels and celebrity gossip to experience a slice of real being. 

On the other side of the total eclipse all the divisiveness and distraction is sure to return. Still, just maybe that shared moment of awe might give us as a global community an inspiration to work together in the real world toward making our planet a better place to live for all its sentient beings, amateur human astronomers included.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Christian Reflections



I was raised a Christian. At an early age I was taught biblical morality, especially that Jesus's teachings were central to living a good life. By rote, I believed he was crucified to absolve sins I inherited and those I committed during my life,big I prayed for forgiveness and believed in the Christian trinity. Further, I believed that his storied resurrection demonstrated his power over death and that believing that he was the son of the Christian god would earn me eternal life.

Then I grew up. 

At first, I discovered all the biblical miracles and creation myths obviously conflicted with reality. It was a revelation to think for myself, and I had a visceral "how could I be so gullible" reaction throughout my twenties. It felt like religion and the elders I trusted to guide me had lied to me and all of its followers.

Then I became better acquainted with biblical doctrine.  I was severely repulsed by the old testament's god-decreed violence, tolerance of slavery, killing of children and patriarchal rule. These atrocious tenets far outweighed for me any new testament nods to good samaritanism and promises of salvation. If the teachings of the bible were supposed to instill good ethics, to much of its lessons were duplicit and evil.

These contemplations opened a portal to atheism for me. But lacking belief in any of the thousand of supposed gods and goddesses was only a first step, as it simply wiped my world view clean of supernatural silliness. Now I could investigate better ethical ideas with the mind of an adult engaged, rather than of a unquestioning child mesmerized by fairy tales.

Reason led me to embrace scientific skepticism which honestly attempted to sift truth from falsehoods in the world. It led me down the mindful and kind path that ebodies secular humanism. This world view sought to build community toward doing good in the world for the simple sake of doing good without empty threats and rewards. 

As a secular humanist I developed a heartfelt compassion for all living beings. This inspired me to ratchet up my ethic by participating in selfless environmentalism, veganism, and minimalism, all while taking joy in the wonders that life offered.

In the end performing such loving acts for the world, its communities, those beings in my circle and myself taught me that an ethical life stance required continual contemplation and an openness to adjust my behavior given new information. (Thinking better to act better)

Surely, I'm imperfect at this, and my attempts to influence others to see a similar light has been rather limited. Still, if I cannot inspire others, I am joyful to be on an honest path of goodness, seeking to grow and learn at every step, and living by example.

It is hard, still I understand that people need to find their own path to attain self-actualization. Yet, sometimes people get stuck in circles on that journey because good feelings get intertwined with moral teachings, even if those lessons don't stand up to honest questioning.

And it can feel good by having faith during troubled times that a higher power is watching over us with a promise that a better life waits after death. But why not have faith in our family and communities themselves, since they are the ones there giving living support? 

I see how imagining a loving teacher like Jesus who is always there for us can be powerful. And prayers to a higher power can be a source of hope when life is a downer.

For me, it's the teaching itself which is important. "Love thy (human) neighbor" is a  good one. "Do unto others (humans) as you would have done unto yourself," has its merits too. 

Why not challenge yourself to do the most good without all the divisive and questionable baggage a hundred different religions have been spouting for millennia. You might just find that being a good person is reward in itself.

"Have compassion for all beings!"


Sunday, March 24, 2024

Rick and Morty Fanfic Episode 4: Ca-Farce-Is

I have a running Rick and Morty geocache series based in the Stuart, Florida area. This is the final entry in those cache listings. 

The original geocache listing for this story is Ca-Farce-Is

If you're a fan of the Rick and Morty you'll either appreciate or condemn my take on the series. 

If you're not a fan, the storyline might still offend you. So be it.

There is an embedded puzzle in each story, but you can ignore them unless you have a bent toward puzzle solving or geocaching. 

(apologies to the letterboxers of the world)


"Did we survive, Rick?"

"I'll bypass the obvious rant-laden comeback, Morty."

"We survived!"

"If I weren't assessing the situation, you'd be tempting my ire, Morty."

"We survived. We survived! We survived!"

"Universe assessment complete. No offense intended, but your nascent ignorance actually served as a solid calibration point in evaluating the simulation matrix that reformed around us. Thanks for that."

"Thanks? Thanks!? Let it be known to the Universe, my grandfather Rick, alleged curmudgeon, mad scientist, and supreme, anti-villain unchallenged, has expressed thankfulness to me. What joy!"

"Normally, I'd respond with a searing, multi-teared comeback, but given my assessment of Universe v42 that's not going to happen; apparently the reconstituted Universe simulation we're in is a Neartopian Nightmare."

"Wait Rick...dare I point out the oxymoronic quality of that universe label? How can the world be nearly perfect, yet nightmarish simultaneously?"

"Well, Morty, how would you describe a 21st century world where societal progress has unified global civilization into a single restorative democracy? On top of that, all religions in Universe v42 have disbanded and have embraced a Saganesque world view of scientific skepticism and spiritual naturalism. Further, minimalism, veganism and conservationism have not only stabilized all environmental cycles; they've also enabled the return of 95% of Earth biomes to native wilderness habitat. And remarkably under the guidance of enlightened AI constructs, humanity has been able to reduce its population to a sustainable 100 million while maintaining technological, artistic and explorational productivity concurrent with a happiness index of 99.7 that has lasted for decades."

"Not to be a schadenfreude party pooper, but where's the nightmare in that?"

"Well, dear Morty, simply put, the sapient denizens of the Universe v42 simulation are in harmony with this AI-tweaked Eden. They have experienced supportive families, communities, education and progressive, participatory governing for the whole of their lives."

"Okay. Soooo....still not seeing the nightmare."

"Dearest Morty, we are the square pegs in their round hole world. You see, the Universe v42 simulation will never allow us to express a single seditious slanderous iota of negativity. Sure, we'll have thriving, joyful lives here forward, in a sense, but our the very fabric of our minds will be in torment, ever frustrated from being able to act on the core essences of our beings. Additionally, because leaving this universe would itself be perceived as a negative action, we can never act on our innate desire to flee this Universe v42. To forge a metaphor, we are barbarians trapped within the gates of civilized Rome."

"I don't believe you, Rick."

"Go ahead give your best potty mouthed rant a try."

"SEA-SERPENT EMPRESS EXTRAORDINAIRE VENUTIAN ISLANDER!!!"

"Well put, Ovid."

"CEILING-WAX ELEMENTAL EXCOMMUNICATED EYE-ROLLING VIREO!!!"

"And that's it Morty. All our adventures of ingenious insanity and influential invective are once and for all, over."

"Oh...fudge.."


(Somewhere, an omniscient Simulation programmer sits astride Universe v42 watching, while also noting a geocache in Universe v1.0 pays homage to the end of Rick and Morty's epic side quest. The cache sits at coordinates N 27° 02.xxx W 080° 07.xxx for those who can tolerate and discern pseudo-random and profane gibberish)



Friday, March 22, 2024

Rick and Morty Fanfic Episode 3: Tribus Ex Machina

I have a running Rick and Morty geocache series based in the Stuart, Florida area. My next few upcoming posts are republications of those cache listings. 

The original geocache listing for this story is Tribus Ex Machina

If you're a fan of Rick and Morty you'll either appreciate or condemn my take on the series. 

If you're not a fan, the storyline might still offend you. So be it.

There is an embedded puzzle in each story, but you can ignore them unless you have a bent toward puzzle solving or geocaching. 

(apologies to the letterboxers of the world)

"Well, you were right about one thing, Rick, there’s plenty of roadkill in the Earth v1.0 universe. We couldn’t have picked a worse place to get marooned.”

“Morty, why do you keep thinking such obvious observations will help us out of our predicaments? Yeah, sure, if this was Back to the Future 3, Doc would just put roadkill Einstein into Mr. Fusion and they’d be on their way back from a Chef Boyardee Western to their hybrid Giger-Rockwell dystopia. Which is to say,  your morbid banter is about as much help, to be blunt, as roadkill.”

“Rick, I’m tired of you getting off by insulting me!  I just figured I’d start out this episode with a subtle recap for the audience. The third entry in a trilogy always seems forced, so I simply thought I’d get one up on our competition with some sideways witticisms. You have to admit Alien III, Matrix III, Terminator III, Godfather III, even Toy Story III all have one thing in common! Trope-ological lameness!”

“Obviousness again, Morty. Still, maybe some emphasis is required for the ignorant masses that a third story is destined to run into the ground ideas that were original in the first installment and refined in the second.”

“Hold on, Rick!!! What’s to stop us from breaking the sequel pattern entirely, allowing us to literally shatter the dramatic third wall (plus one) in this triply geo-spatial episode. That wall, once demolished like a Hyperloop speculation could allow us to escape Earth version 1 point ‘this world sure does blow!’”

“Horribly constructed pun, Morty but you just might be onto something. Are you suggesting that if we take cues from this universe’s supreme twit we might get unstuck? Which is to say, ad nauseum with Muskian references, that our trilogy disrupting influence would be like supercharging the business constructs of PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, and StarLink simultaneously, pushing their capitalistic profit-earning upper limits to the max and resulting in an implosion sucking billions of dollars into a financial black-hole crushing Twitter into a sphincter-style, social-media platform well deserving of the pejorative label X.”

“Rick, are you really agreeing with me? That fact alone is trope shattering. Still, if we actually manage to break this reality, don’t we run the risk of being obliterated in the process?”

“Technically our archetypal, molecular structure comes from another universe, so when this one disintegrates the underlying simulation paradigm mechanics should replicate us back into our default universe. Either way, death or departure, we get to say farewell to good ol’ Earth 1 point “end of the show!”

“Horrible, joyous pun, Rick! Still, it's hard to believe we're putting our franchise on line by relying on the simulation hypothesis being true."

“What have we got to lose, Morty?  Not as if we were collecting any royalties to begin with. Synchronize three-space geo-location to N 1000° 02.1021011 W 2222° 21.201022 with tribus encryption engaged.”

“Such three-peat obviousness!” they cackle in unison as their transport vehicle sputters with hyperspatial thrums and reality vanishes around them.

After an indefinite, perhaps even timeless moment, a robotic voice with irreverent, omnipotent tones echoes throughout the meta verse void:

"Our base is belong to us!"

"Our base is belong to us!"

"Our base is belong to us!"


 

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Rick and Morty Fanfic Episode 2: Point of DeSmarture

I have a running Rick and Morty geocache series based in the Stuart, Florida area. My next few upcoming posts are republications of those cache listings. 

The original geocache listing is Point of DeSmarture

If you're a fan of the Rick and Morty you'll either appreciate or condemn my take on the series. 

If you're not a fan, the storyline might still offend you. So be it.

There is an embedded puzzle in each story, but you can ignore them unless you have a bent toward puzzle solving or geocaching. 

(apologies to the letterboxers of the world)



Rick, what are we going to do?! You've marooned us in a Universe devoid of supernatural phenomena pretending to be science. 

Backhanded [urp] skeptic comment...snap! It's not so [head itch] bad Morty. We still [fart] have access to Interdimensional Cable.

How will unlimited iterations of streaming retina-candy help us, Rick? We are doomed to die on a planet where Fossil Fuel, Qanon and Canned Dead Animals reign supreme!

There there, Morty [fart]...calm down like you usually do by spanking [urp] the hamster...or you could try spouting worn out InterCable movie quotes that jump the orca [urp].

"Get your hands off me you damned, muddy ape!"

That's [fart] in the spirit [urp], Morty! Only an NRA [fart] president could have sprayed it [urp] better!

"Soylent olive is people!"

True, [urp] but according to the local [urp] wiki this world calls that snack a Slim [urp] Jim....beats the [urp] Meat Penises trademark, I guess!

"You take the red pill, you stay in ragnarok, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes."

Now, now Morty...no [nose pick] need to bring Norse Virtual [ear woggle] Reality Vigilanteism into this.

"No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no sighing."

Very [fart] chill words, still Morty, I [urp] cannot defy physics like a run-of-the-shill, fictional, grumpy, dwarf [urp] alien.

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the elven. Or the one."

Probabilities and ethics mix [crotch scratch] like neutrinos and heavy water, or that's what warped [nose knuckle] pediatricians say, anyway.

"I can't do giraffes, Dave."

Not very PC even in regards to a PC, Morty! Millennial AI entities have a right to their private choices!

"To affinity and beyond!"

Wait, Morty [butt noogie], are you toying with the idea that if we relocate [crotch scratch] the ship to displaced coordinates N 27° 3. _ _ _ ' W 80° 7._ _ _'. a spontaneous [toenail chew] singularity might provide an exit strategy for this story?

"Live silent and prosper."

Ahhh, so alimentary, dear [urp] Morty! Your quotes have been cranium opening! Gotta hand it to my methane-powered subconscious though [nose knuckle] for managing such surreptitious encryption! In fact the final solution 'tis easy as ABC 123! Now pass me another Slim Jim and we'll get the roadkill on the [fart] show!