Articles, Blog

Comparing Virtues – Part 1: Reading

The moving screen is an enthralling thing. We all know the hypnotic qualities of the TV and computer, and how they capture us when really we should – or want – to be doing something else. The little angel and the little devil on our shoulders start arguing: start reading one of those unread books, or just flop down on the couch in front of the TV?

Books by Les Chatfield via Flickr

Our conscience can debate the issue forever (usually while our eyes are glued to a screen), but as in an debate, there are pros and cons to both options.

In this first post, let’s argue the case for reading.

Full Control

When you read, your brain translates the black-on-white squiggles to full-colour images. You decide what you see – and what you don’t. Your imagination is more seamless than the best CGI, the main characters can look any way you want them to, and skipping icky scenes is easier when you don’t need to peer between your fingers to see if they’re over yet.

Despite the apparent dullness of words on paper,

Articles, Blog

The Bare Bones of…”IT” (novel)

The movie adaptation of Stephen King‘s “IT”  (the one with Tim Curry; haven’t seen Bill in action yet) scared me breathless. Yet when I got my dirty little fingers on the novel, much to my surprise I was bored to tears!

How on Earth did that happen?

Handling Backstory

Of course, movies and books speak with their audience in very different ways. While movies have the advantage of the “1 picture = 1000 words” equation, they lack time and opportunity for extensive characters and background development. And while books have ample opportunity to explore the concepts at the foundation of the plot, anything that isn’t described or at least hinted at, does not exist to the reader.

As such, the first scene the movie adaptation is a classic: the little boy playing in the gutter with his toy boat. The toy boat disappears down the drain and when the boy wants to look for it, there is a clown in the drain. A clown with a white face, red nose, red hair and sharp teeth. It’s called Pennywise, it says, just before it lures the boy closer and kills it.

Articles, Blog

Humans Are Animals

humans are animals - evolution skulls
Photo: Steve Johnson @ Flickr

We humans love to beat our own drum. We just love to proclaim how smart and resourceful we are. How we’re a unique creation, made in God’s own image. According to Judaism and its derivatives, anyway. Different religions, different opinions, of course.

Philosophies are beautiful, but so are the laws of nature. And those laws state, with irrefutable consistency, that humans are animals. Of the species homo sapiens sapiens, to be precise.

Evolutionary Basics

Homo sapiens sapiens, or “the thinking man”, is the last survivor of the otherwise dead human family tree. The first members of the homo family appeared approx. 1 million years ago, but during the last Ice Age, only we and our cousins homo neanderthalensis still existed. All other humanoids had long gone extinct, and at the end of said Ice Age, so had the Neaderthals.

Compare that to sharks, which have been around in abundant varieties for 420 million years.

So not only are humans animals, from a genealogical point of view we’re not even particularly successful.

Articles, Blog

Modern Witch Hunts With A Modern Hammer

Guest Post by Cael Kalbrandt

 

“Witch.” The sound alone conjures up image of ugly crones with warts, black cats, and a supersonic broomstick. The very word is obscene: an unholy insult to scare children and offend adults.

Witch no.3 - J.E. Baker - modern witch hunts

Of course, society is so much wiser and more civilised now. We may detest those who are not exact copies of our ideal self, but we don’t immolate, drown or hang by the neck until dead. “Immolate” means to burn someone, by the way. But hey, stakes are a thing of the past, right?

Screw that! The witch hunts aren’t over. Not by a long shot.

Articles, Blog

The Pain Game

Not quite the blogpost I had planned for today, but clear thinking is impossible when you’re repeatedly curled up in foetal position for days on end. However, that little setback did put me in the perfect position to study the mind’s response to pain. Especially excruciating pain…

pain game - excruciating pain and how it affects the mind
Photo: Vincent Bozzo

A bout of enteritis brougth on some terrible and very painful cramps. They were only cramps, I kept telling myself. But even “only cramps” proved sufficient to hotwire my brain.

In short, my body threw a Happy Potter-style Cruciatus Curse on itself. This is what it did.