Something amazing, I guess

31 03 2008

Wow, everything seems to be stalling. The news is pretty standard for this time of year: March Madness, more on Iraq, political scandals. I just had a Spring Break where absolutely nothing happened. Looking back, it’s hard to tell if it even happened at all. So now I feel like the little boy on the tricycle from The Incredibles:

Now all I have to decide is whether I’m going to just sit here and wait for it to come to me or go out and search for it myself. It’s quite a dilemma. I’m running out of things to think about.

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300 ways to to cause controversy

28 03 2008

PlugsI finally got around to watching the movie 300 in all its glory. No, it wasn’t one of my favorite movies. Yes, it was one of the most visually spectacular films I have ever seen. Overall, though, it was an enjoyable journey into a fantasy world of crazed and battle-hungry men.

300

I emphasize that it was a fantasy world because it seems that way too many people took the movie completely seriously. The movie is based on a graphic novel, the same medium that portrays people as a superheros and all kinds of wondrous and villainous monsters for them to face. It just so happens that the ancient Persians were portrayed as the antagonists in the graphic novel by Frank Miller.

While there is significant historical backing for the occurrence of the Battle of Thermopylae, upon which 300 is based, there is very little conclusive evidence surrounding the various causes and effects of the battle. We have just as much reason to believe that the Spartans were, in fact, the antagonists, and the Persians were the protagonists, hence the controversy.

However, I believe that the politicians far and wide who have publicly denounced the film are only insulting themselves. They are using fiction to fuel political controversy, something that should be avoided at all costs. While Frank Miller certainly wasn’t honoring the memory of the Persians when he drew his novel, his goal was only to create a stark contrast, to make his fictional Spartans 100% for honor and glory. The goal was not to be historically accurate, since that is impossible anyway. Isn’t it a bit below these political figures to also be the national fantasy media reviewer? Shouldn’t they be spending their time trying to improve living conditions or creating beneficial laws?

Many people have touched on this topic before, but it’s worth reiterating. People often choose to be offended just for the sake of being angry. No one in the ex-Persian regions of the Middle-East can swear, “My fifty-times-great grandfather, assuming he lived in the the Persian Empire, was nothing like the Persians portrayed in that movie,” but they will anyway. It might be true, it might almost definitely be true, but we still won’t ever know. So how about we just forget about being offended and see the movie for its amazing visuals and for the Spartans who fought for glory and honor, no matter how stupid or evil they might have really been.





Think Responsibly

21 03 2008

PlugsIt seems that I have been subconsciously watching dreams of similar natures recently. Among them are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Memento, both of which deal with memory loss.  The implications of not knowing what happened this morning, yesterday, of ten years ago give rise to a great deal of controversy, mostly because people choose to dream of only the advantages and not the disadvantages.

Both movies suggest that memory is an integral part of living.  Without it, we can never move forward from experiences.  We just get stuck in repeat, making the same mistakes over and over again.  However, this brings in to question what everyone who presently has their memories fully intact are doing.

People are constantly making repeated mistakes: diplomatic mistakes, relational mistakes, physical mistakes.  These two movies show us how embarassing it can be to not know the same reality as another.  You don’t think you’ve met this person before, but others know you have, and you are left being forced to laugh at yourself because you look ridiculous.  But occurrences like these aren’t reserved for those with broken memories.  Since we are lucky enough to have more or less complete knowledge of the things we do and the choices we make, shouldn’t we feel compelled to not follow in the footsteps of these people?  Don’t we have a responsibility to use correctly the only thing that allows us to know who we are and what we’re doing?

I believe too many people take memory for granted.  They throw it away with drugs or simply choose to make choices based on instinct or irrational thoughts.   With alcohol, people often throw around sayings like “Drink responsibly.”  How about a new one, “Think responsibly.”

Both movies are absolutely fantastic and definitely worth seeing once, if not multiple times.





Green fuel hypocrisy

12 03 2008

NewsFor years biofuel has been praised as an alternative fuel source to fossil fuels that is more readily renewable. It has also been key in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas production and potentially reverse production. However, all is not as it seems.

The use of biofuels is becoming increasingly controversial as the many side effects begin to show themselves. A majority of biofuels produced in the U.S. use crops like corn and rapeseed, which are of course grown on farms. Multiple reports show that the energy and resources used to prepare the land, grow the crops, gather them, then refine them in to fuels actually creates more pollution than is reduced by the biofuels created from the crops. In fact, some findings hint that, though biofuels may not not produce as many carbon emissions as fossil fuels, they often create more nitrous oxides, which are equally responsible for greenhouse gases.

They are also not nearly as cost effective, although that should be pretty obvious. We have to produce these ourselves, whereas fossil fuels are just waiting there underground for us to take. Our economy is already suffering (according to those who decide if the economy is suffering or not), so it’s debatable whether we should be venturing into unknown territory without first researching the multitude of consequences.

biofuel

More recently, it has been discovered that refinery plants often release oil byproducts into nearby waterways. Though the oil (in the form of glycerin) is labeled as “non-toxic,” the way it interacts with rivers and streams depletes the oxygen available to water life and wrecks the entire environment as a result. At least one endangered species (pocketbook mussels) has become extinct due to glycerin dumping by biodiesel plants.

Last but certainly not least, farms provide food for us to eat. Increasing numbers of them are disappearing as America becomes more urbanized, and more food products are being imported from other countries. As a result, food prices are rising constantly, and American deficits are ever-increasing. Is it really worth it to start a project like this that probably can’t be sustained for decades to come.

It is often called green fuel, labeled with the hype of the go-green revolution and the environmental awareness that’s all the rage right now. Perhaps the enthusiasm to encourage change and making a difference is blinding those who should be looking deeper beneath the surface to truly understand the consequences of their actions.

I am not suggesting that other better biofuels could or should not be researched. There is currently interest in algaculture, the farming of algae for use as biofuel. Unlike present fuel sources, algae grows quickly, cheaply and with little human interference. The goal right now is to be able to grow it efficiently and to be able to tap into its energy reserves, which is much more difficult than with current fuel sources. Eleven U.S. companies currently use algae in the creation of biofuels.





Sue the sun for global warming: Part Two

11 03 2008

NewsRecently I posted Sue the sun for global warming, in which I observed the growing trend of people suing for damages caused by things completely out of their control (like the Sun). In just a few weeks, however, things have worsened much more quickly than I expected. Three conservation groups are now suing the U.S. Government (specifically the Department of the Interior) for not deciding whether polar bears should be listed as endangered or not quickly enough.

polar

They aren’t suing because the Government promised to help an endangered species and have failed to do so; The Department of the Interior is literally being sued for not deciding whether an animal is, in fact, endangered, thus (I suppose) endangering it. “Doing nothing means extinction for the polar bear,” the groups have said, backing their actions. Likewise, if a doctor initially said he would know whether a patient has cancer or not in a week, and if when that date arrives, he says he needs one more day, he’d better just give up now, because the patient will die of cancer.

Speaking of patients, what about patience? Putting polar bears on an endangered species list won’t automatically cause them to survive longer. Research must be done anyway, and research takes time. Deadline dates for decisions to either put or not put an animal on an endangered species list seem trivial.

Most important of all, suing? They are suing the government for money? “You told me that you would know whether one of the millions of animal species was endangered by today! But you still don’t know. Give me a million bucks to cope with the trauma you have caused.” Yes, I admit conservation is expensive, but this just seems like a scheme to steal from the government when they slip up a little. Give the government a break and let them decide if any of your efforts to save an animal from extinction are even necessary (and in effect, if your suing is necessary). That is, after all, what you asked them to do.





Saving the world one extinct species at a time

10 03 2008

NewsI try not to focus on politics too much in the blog, but it seems I completely failed last week. Politics are just so controversial.

So to lighten up the mood a little bit, I have very exciting news. Pygmy hippos, previously feared extinct, have been rediscovered in the wild. Thanks to the Zoological Society of London, hidden cameras were planted in Liberia and successfully taped the adorable little animals (you know you want one).

hippo

The area has been ravaged lately by civil wars, poaching, and habitat degradation. Luckily the animals are elusive and secretive enough to stay out the public eye and survive in isolated swamps and rivers. Because they are listed on the endangered species list, conservationists are keen on assisting the animals.

However, in this instance, I would recommend just leaving them alone. Clearly the only reason they have survived so far is by pretending to be extinct. That’s probably the cleverest of tactics in world full of people crying to interfere.  Once humans are involved, their gig is up and no doubt they’ll go extinct for real.  No one would wish that upon those cute animals.





Downside of Obama strategy

8 03 2008

ArticlesThis article in The Washington Post analyzes the implications of losses in some of the most important states come the November elections.  The subtitle of the article states that these losses are “spurring general-election fears.”  I don’t believe this is the downside of Obama’s strategy though.  I think the downside is that the strategy attracts writers like the author of this article who casts doubt into the minds of millions by declaring to them, “You are afraid.”

People rant and rail against the press all the time for shaping the minds of voters.  They’re like modern brain washers, only no one seems to realize the gravity of the impact they’re making on the general public.  People get almost all their knowledge of the events outside their homes from the news.  Likewise, their own reality is shaped accordingly; they have no reason to believe most of that which is stated confidently to them might not be true.

To be fair, they’ve been casting unnecessary doubt on Hillary’s campaign for months now.  Both candidates have been in a near-tie since the beginning, and yet writers keep “unintentionally” insisting that people should or should not vote for someone based on possible outcomes of strategy.  These journalists are pulling conclusions from their behinds, publishing to the masses, and resultantly causing the conclusions to be just one step closer to coming true.

And why complain about strategy anyway?  We will see whether or not strategies is working or not based on which candidates are doing better than the others.  If assuming certain strategies will work better in the future is only going to affect the way the strategy is working now, I’d say the whole process is better just left alone.  Let the people just vote for once.