Alita: Battle Angel – loved it

My son and I went to see this movie — during the day — and we had the entire theater to ourselves. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about the story or the history of this film. It was a great way to see it.

We both loved it.

My son didn’t know about the concept of the Uncanny Valley so later I explained it to him. Alita’s character exposes this theme but it’s nuanced — the feeling wavers all throughout the movie. And I think that’s appropriate. The girl is NOT human. She is Other. And it shows. Yet she emits such expression, such engaging behavior that you can’t help but be attracted to her — despite her otherness.

I highly recommend this film.

https://www.engadget.com/2019/02/16/alita-battle-angel-review-uncanny-valley/

 

 


Why so many flavors?

Buffet

[Flickr: Commons Image]

Humans, in fact most animals, could survive given the bare essentials of nutrition: Some grains, some beans, some earthy greens and maybe a few eggs. Pretty basic, nearly tasteless stuff. So, why do we have such refined sensibilities with regards to taste (and smells)?

There are literally millions of ingredients, spices, recipes, mixtures, and cooking methods all producing exotic, intoxicating, alluring odors and flavors. It seems overkill. Thousands of culinary media stars (over the years) continue to entice us with the promise of just one more umami taste, one more Maillard enhanced sensation. Sheesh! Talk about the absurdity of The Excess.

If I were designing a brand new biological creature I’d focus on a binary eating process:

  • Will this kill me (or make me ill), or not?
  • Will this enhance my nutritional energy quotient, or not?

There, done.

With such a process, a vast swath of beneficial food stuffs now opens up for such a creature to leverage. Think: super goat. The whole concept of “squeamishness” would vanish.

“Oooh, I can’t eat that.”

“Well, sure you can. It won’t kill you, or make you sick, and it will keep you alive for another day and a half.”

Does today’s food culture seem excessive and absurd to you?


Writer’s Log: 2007 The Spiral

[REF: my comment on Zarah’s blog]

I’m of a mind that, like many endeavors, the process of learning to write is a spiral.
LearnApplyReview
Learn -> apply -> review …

Hopefully, at each loop, one expands the spiral outward with the assembled knowledge and skill from the inner circles.

For writing, the complexity of the inner circles is limited: use proper grammar and spelling, use active voice, reduce the use of adverbs and dialog tags.

The further one gets from the center, the more nuanced the rules become — more like guidelines. Although the lessons become less specific, they become more challenging. One of those is finding one’s own voice.

What I find compelling about this visualization is that a spiral never ends: around and around we go, ever outward.

Lately, I’ve hardly written a thing: I’m in a wide curve, rounding from Review through Learn, approximately two-thousand hours from the center. (2000 on my way to 10k.)

This lull, I tell myself, is me digesting some of the more nuanced guidelines — like that of finding my own voice. That, as well as focus on the refinement of the writing itself. Story, not so much. Plot? Nope. Just the writing. The sound, the flow, the cadence.

Here’s some random exercises I’ve used to inch my way around the pivot-point:


Point System: keeping score

We all live by and adhere to a bevy of social contracts.

One of those contracts is the equity of gift exchange. If I take you for lunch, you must, eventually, take me for lunch — or breakfast, or drinks or… Whatever it is, it must roughly equal the value offered in the original transaction. If you spring for a fancy dinner, the onus of return has now shifted back to my shoulders. And so we live, social debt flowing to and fro.

Until one side takes, the other side gives and an unbalanced ledger results. I borrowed your lawnmower, your shovel, your chainsaw and never repaid you in kind.

Without effort from my side, this slight will grow and fester. An unspoken feud may molder and spawn, like some fetid mushroom pushed up through rotting soil.

There is however, one system which lives for an unspoken unbalance: The Mormons.

The Mormons have a charity point system; they must do good deeds, in excess of those good deeds done back onto them. When we lived in Utah, we confounded them and their points-for-heaven tally sheet. We would be our neighborly, good-natured and giving selves; going out of our way to help and assist and donate whatever we could — simply because that’s how we were wired. They, in turn, would try and surpass normal social mores and attempt to double up in pious points.

Now, to be fair, I’m sure this equanimity generally stemmed from the aforementioned social contract. But, on occasion, we were well aware that we’d flummoxed a number of our neighbors with excessive kindness, a gift that tipped the scales in a way that no doubt confounded them no end. We were, after all, the infidels of the neighborhood. The score could not be left teetered so.

Eventually, the weight would shift and we would accept that to remain amicable, we must be a smidgen in arrears; they were headed to heaven, we realized, and the score must tip in their favor.

 


Hummingbird miracle

We feed hummingbirds.

It’s an easy thing to do and provides hours of viewing pleasure. I got to thinking about the mechanics of a hummingbird and had to wonder about some of the factors that go into allowing such a creature the ability to do what they do.

For reference, a human eye-blink takes about 1/3 of a second, ~300 milliseconds of time. And this, it turns out, is about the reaction time of a human. BANG! goes the starting gun and 1/3 second later we’re off the block.

hummingbird

(Creative Commons image)

For a hummingbird, this reaction time is cut by about 100 fold. Within three to five milliseconds, a hummingbird can interpret an oncoming obstacle, a branch say, process this image as a threat, send a signal to its wing muscles, adjust its flight and avert disaster.

There are a few aspects that make this possible. One is its brain and ocular processing. A hummingbird has special processing which is especially evolved to instantly identify oncoming threats. How a thing changes observable size — the closer the bigger — is the trick there. Another, more important, is the creature’s size. Electrical signals, traveling through neurons, takes time. The shorter the distance, the faster the reaction. If a hummingbird were the size of a crow or eagle, or human, the distance to send a “TURN RIGHT OR DIE!” command would grow and take a proportionally longer time. Additionally, its size constrains its weight which being slight, allows it to instantly change course — less weight, less inertia, easier vector changes.

We don’t often think about milliseconds in nature, but the hummingbird personifies such measurement. It’s truly a wonderment of evolution, a miraclulous biological machine.

 


Creation vs Discovery

Over there on The Memoir of a Writer, Zarah and I got into a discussion on the concept of creating anything “new.”

She had her points and I had mine and in the end I believe the conversation boiled down to: are we just discovering “new” or are we creating “new?”

During our exchange I gave her a a few examples of new, one being Calculus. I originally held that Newton and Leibniz “created” Calculus but now realize that they really only discovered it. So the concept of discovering any scientific fact, math, physics, chemistry, etc, is just that… discovery. There’s been a boatload of discovery that historically might have been called creation, but it is really just the revealing of what exists in the world.

So what is creation? I would posit that only an elevated intellect can create. From nothing, something.

Ideas often come from example. A log floats down a river. With sharp tools, that log hollowed out becomes a boat. Was that boat discovered or created? What of the tools? What of the mast and sail and paddle and rudder? No doubt there is creation in there somewhere. And the “new” part is that at some point in the past the very first woven sail had to have been attached to a stick that became the mast of a sailboat. Someone made something new. Even if the entire Universe is taken into account, some being somewhere was the first to create that new something.

Nothing new under the sun was the theme of Zarah’s original post. Can we really create some new story line, plot, or theme? Don’t all stories, today, leverage what already exists? Can we really create or write something new?

My position is that: all that we take for granted, at some time in the past, each thing or idea was created anew. And that today, even though we have billions of minds constantly trying to dream up some novel invention or concept, someone, somewhere will no doubt create some as-yet-unknown newness.

 


Your ancestors survived

Yeah, when you think about it, your ancestors had to survive. But consider their lives, lives directly connected to you.

The probabilities are extremely high that at least one of your:

  • grandmothers died in child birth,
  • grandfathers was killed by a wild beast,
  • ancestors killed another human,
  • ate mammoth, giant sloth, or wild auroch,
  • slept in a cave for most of their lives,
  • migrated over vast stretches of land,
  • suffered wicked injury and inhuman depravity,
  • survived famine, flood, fire and feud,
  • and in the end, produced you.

~~~

Addendum…

I went seeking historical causes of death throughout human history and ended up deducing the following. This applies to the approximately 100 Billion souls calculated to have lived and died thus far.

• Approximately 1/3 of all humans who have ever lived probably died from Malaria.

• Another 1/3 died from infectious disease (Tuberculosis, Pneumonia (Influenza), Cholera, Typhoid, Plague, etc.).

• The last third died of the remainder of dominate causes of death divided into a number of categories:

1/10th of 1/3rd (~3 billion people) died each from:

  • Religion/War
  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • Infection (septicemia)
  • Homicide/suicide
  • Fire, flood & famine (natural disasters)
  • Personal accidents
  • Neonatal (before age 1)
  • Old age
  • Misc. (snake/insect bites, predation)

The numbers are fuzzy of course. No one can possibly ever know the truth. But this rough guide might be handy at a cocktail (or Halloween) party.