The Myth of Memory

“Neo, you’ve been living in a dream world.”

         Morpheus

 

There was a time when I held the belief that I possessed total recall. I took a bit of pride in recalling all kinds of things. I remain a hoarder of vast stores of useless information. But I no longer completely trust my memories. And neither should you. Countless studies have shown that both short and long term memories can be altered with ease.

Like the idea that the Earth is flat, our believes about memory appear simple and obvious. They are not. We like the myth that our memories work the way do in the film Inside Out. There is a vast library where all of our memories are stored. This idea is reinforced when we can’t think of the name of that one actor…only to have the name pop into our head later. Clearly that info was stored somewhere and our file clerk spent that time searching the stacks. But that kind of info is simple. Situational memories are hard.

In my life, the great before and after moments happened when I was 12 years old. That year I had a pretty serious head injury. Learned how to juggle. Took an amazing trip to Southern California. Decided I wanted to be a writer. Had a rapid and painful growth spurt that left my body covered with stretch marks. And became an avid reader of science fiction.

I remember small flashes of each of these events. They all live in isolation. I have no idea what order they happened it. I have proof that they did, in fact, happen in the form of scars, skills, and collaborating testimony from others who were there at the time. But like other events I recall, my family remembers the details diffrently.

To lessor or greater degrees, these memories of things don’t matter. The part of Inside Out where they toss all the useless memories out makes sense. When I think about learning to juggle I recall that it took three weeks, I practiced every day, and I mastered the three ball cascade pattern. In the end, all that matters is I can still juggle. Thinking about this time brings up nothing at all about what I ate, what I watched on tv, what I learned in school, etc. But I have told the story of how I learned to juggle many times.

And that seems to be the key to memory. We remember the stories we tell. Whether they happened or not doesn’t seem to matter.

Mothers are particularly fond of telling stores they are sure you will remember, which of course, you won’t. Which only encourages them to offer more details, none of which you remember. This goes on until you nod and agree or they finally realized they were thinking of someone else.

The problem with memories being illusions is that we tend to think of ourselves as being made up of our memories. We are all constructs.

These are my truths, myths, recollections, and reconstructions. It’s all good.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

On Going Blind

Well, going blind in one eye anyway.

A few weeks back I noticed a smudge at the bottom of my vision. Like a bit of fluff stuck to my eyelash. I couldn’t clear it, so I went to a doctor. Who sent me to another doctor. Who sent me to yet another doctor.

Seems to be glaucoma and/or some kind of optic nerve damage. The new Doc prescribed a couple of eye drops.

I’m mostly blind in my right eye. Imagine a large bit of cardboard with a fairly large hole in it. The hole is covered with gaze. That’s what it’s like when I close my left eye.

With all the problems and madness in the world, it seems a small thing to worry about. I do still have the other eye.

It’s a bit depressing. Being a photographer, I need to see. Its possible that in a few years I will loose sight in my left eye as well.

My first thoughts were to try and raise funds. Do a kind of tour of all the places I would like to see and photograph, while I can still see. Maybe set up one of the begging blogs where you travel the world and let other people tell you where to go next. But again, I’m not a Make a Wish child who is worthy of a trip to Disneyland.

The eye drops don’t appear to be helping. The gaze covered hole in my vision is getting smaller. My eye still sees. It sends the information to my mind, but the info is just white noise.

A couple of weeks ago my brain was trying to compensate for this sudden loss of the world. So it decided to fill in the gaps like the Content-Aware smart fill in Photoshop. For about two weeks, I was actively hallucinating. I would see someone standing beside me, only to turn and find no one there. I also tend to not see people who are there. It’s not so bad now. The hallucinations that is, the blindness still sucks.

Doing a bit of googling led me to the fact that Johnny Depp and Anne Rice are both blind in one eye and they seem to be getting on well enough. It’s not exactly a death sentence and there are plenty of photographers who only have one good eye.

I’m still going to doctors and they still have no idea what is wrong with me. The eye hurts a bit, as it is still trying to see the world, and it wearies easily. I have the occasional headache, which is disconcerting as I have never had headaches. I still bump into people and things on a regular basis, which still surprises me.  I’m a bit worried that I might go blind and die. But there is little to be done about it. I’m not Johnny Depp or Anne Rice, so I don’t have unlimited funds for finding the right doctor.

I can still work. I still take portraits and do a bit of Instacarting. I haven’t felt up to writing. It’s hard to get into flow and let the words come. It’s hard to stare at the screen and think. It’s hard to think at times. I have seen days where I lay in bed in the dark and hide from the world. But you can only do that sort of thing once in a while.

Life, such as it is, goes on. I’m hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst.

 

Posted in random thoughts

The Bicameral Mind

One my favorite podcasts is Stuff to Blow your Mind. Lots of fun stuff. They had a couple of episodes on the theory of the bicameral mind. The main idea is consciousness is something new. Humans used to function by using both sides of thier brains. The Voice of God was really just a voice in your head. One half of the brain talking to the other.

I read a book a couple years back by a man who suffered a brain injury. The Ghost in My Brain was filled with interesting stuff, but the most amazing to me was how the injury affected his beief in god. Before the injury he knew there was a god. After the injury, he didn’t. Once he was cured…he once more found his faith.

This was just a small aside in the book, but the implications struck me as profound. Belief in a higher power is a function of the brain. A function that can be disrupted by an injury. A doctor in another book said, ‘We are all one head injury away from being someone else.’

The Bicameral Mind proposes that at least two different ways of thinking were at work at the same time in history. People who could honestly look at each other and know that the others were mad, wrong, or just flat evil. Does this sound a bit familiar? Democrats and Republicans?

We tend to think of our own, personal thought processes as the ones that are correct. This is why we are shocked and often horrified to meet people with views that oppose our own. How can you think that way? Maybe, just maybe it has something to do with our brains.

 

 

Posted in random thoughts

Star Trek Discovery

Spoilers for the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery.

If The Orville leans a little to the silly side, Discovery leans a little too much to the dark side.  In the first two episodes, we met a Captain, crew, ship, and villain that will soon be dust in the wind. Just as well, they all had names that were impossible to pronounce anyway.

On the whole, Star Trek Discovery is better than Enterprise, which is not too high a bar to jump. The show and its theme song hit a lot of familiar notes and bring up a lot of feelings of Ah, I miss the good old days. The special effects are stunning. The use of a few Original Star Trek sounds is more annoying than anything. The ship, like The Orville, is massive for no reason at all. The bridge needs a panning shot every time they showed it.

The crew was made up of all kinds of interesting people, one who appeared to be a robot of some sort, but we never got more than a passing look at any of them. We basically met three people, the Captain, a very tall alien, and our hero, a human raised by Vulcans.

Our hero is named Micheal, a bit of oddness that is never addressed, not even when she is introduced to new people. Of course, in a show chock full of odd names, a woman with a man’s name is small potatoes. There seems to be no reason why the Vulcans choose to raise a human child instead of handing her over to the next earth ship that happened by.

The show looks amazing, the writing is good so far, but like JJ Abrams’ movies, I’m not sure that it’s in any way Star Trek. The first two episodes are just setup for the rest of the season, so basically they are prequels. We see Klingons, of a sort, and they start a war, for no reason. There is a lot of reading of subtitles as the Klingons all speak Klingonese. The technology all belongs in a time beyond Star Trek The Next Generation, not ten years before Kirk and Spock.

Still, I do like it. I’ve always been one of those Nitchpicker type of fans who finds small flaws in all the episodes, but still loves a lot of them. Star Trek Discovery has a lot of promise. It just feels more like Battlestar Galatica than Star Trek.

Posted in sci fi, tv review

The Orville: First Impressions

Seth MacFarlane is the creative genius behind Family Guy. My favorite episodes on that show are the ones that see Stewie, voiced my Seth, and Brian the dog, also voiced by Seth, using a time travel device. These are funny, serious, and often a bit profound episodes. This is the bar I was expecting The Orville to hop over. I didn’t expect The Orville to be Star Trek, which is kind of what the ads wanted me to expect. The Orville is neither as funny as Family Guy nor as serious as Star Trek The Next Generation.

The first episode opens with our hapless hero finding his wife in bed with a blue alien. Since we don’t know any of the people involved, we have no reason to care about the wife’s infidelities. In what I assume is the first gag in the show, the blue alien had blue goo squirt out of his head. It wasn’t clear if this was an orgasm, a sneeze, or a stroke. I know it wasn’t funny.

There are a number of bits that I think are meant to be funny. None of them are. There are a number of bits that are meant to be serious space opera, but they don’t quite work either. The main authority figure is played by Victor Garber, best known to sci-fi fans for his brilliant turn in Alias and more recently as half of a superhero on Legends of Tomorrow. Here he is a stiff and mirthless fellow named Admiral Halsey. Wink, wink, nudge nudge. Get it? Reference to an old Paul McCartney song? Several of the gags saw the characters pointing out the funny bits. Hey, did you see that dog licking it’s balls? Yeah. Did you see how that wasn’t funny? Yeah.

A favorite Nitpick of Star Trek is that no one ever used or mentioned a bathroom. So The Orville has a whole scene dedicated to one crewman postponing his visit to the Head to talk with his new First Office. Another scene that didn’t seem to have any reason for existing. The one plot devise they foreshadowed was done in such a heavy handed way it would have been hard not to see it coming. It was also bad science that was more fantasy. Our heroes find a mad scientist with a devise that speeds up time. The science is fine while it rots a banana and murders someone for no reason whatsoever. But then they use it to rapidly grow a tree. This does not work. Where would the tree get water, nutrients, sunlight, darkness, and whatever else a tree needs to grow? Simple answer, it wouldn’t and it would have died while still a seedling, or even while still a seed. Decay needs no outside help. Growth does.

The first episode of Star Trek The Next General was pretty awful. In fact the whole first season pretty much sucked. But over time, there were a lot of great episodes. So I want to give The Orville a shot. One episode isn’t the measure of a series.

So, the writing needs a lot of work. What did they get right? All the other stuff is pretty good. The special effects were perfect. The alien makeup was good. The uniforms could use some work, but they aren’t as bad as the ones from Star Trek Enterprise, which made the crew look like Galactic Garage Collectors. The effects feel like a mix of Star Trek Next Gen and Star Wars. There was no Transporter, but there was a Holodeck.

Everything looks too perfect. And there is waaaay too much open space on The Orville. The bridge looks like you could play field hockey and have room for the fans. The rest of the ship suffers from similar huge open spaces. The overall design of the ship is not that great, but I think I could grow to like it.

Overall I wasn’t impressed with The Orville. One crewman is obsessed with having a coke on the Bridge and the Captain is like, why should I care? This remains the big question for the whole show. Why should I care? There was a battle and untold deaths, which would have lead to Kirk or Picard talking about the possibility of war, but sees Captain Mercer give a boyish grin and take pride in his clever quips. His first office uses the moment to further emasculate him. Captain Mercer is a standard sitcom Loser Dad. He should not be the Captain of a spaceship.

The main problem with The Orville is it can’t decide if it wants to be Red Dwarf or Farscape. The fact that Rick and Morty make sci-fi comedy/drama look easy may be part of the problem. Rick and Morty has an infinite number of characters, but we always know the heroes are our Rick and Morty. I have no idea who the heroes are on The Orville.

Posted in tv review

Ghost in the Shell

If you like CGI, this is a movie for you. Every frame is chock full of special effects. It looks good. It looks really good. But, well, it isn’t very good.

The Anime Ghost in the Shell from 1995 cost around $10 million. The shinny new Hollywood version cost around $110 million. It was not money well spent.

American movie goers, for the most part, like the Aristotelian model of story telling. That is to say, a beginning, a middle, and an end. Anime doesn’t always follow that model. The anime Ghost in the Shell seemed like a bunch of random scenes stitched together. The anime Ghost in the Shell was a 90 minutes long, verses the 120 minutes of the American version. The Japanese movie was filled with odd little scenes that did nothing. A shot of a street. A shot of some water. Lingering shots where nothing seems to happen. And yet, the original is so much better than this remake.

For one thing, the graphics were toned down to a childish level to get a PG13 rating. The anime version is a bit of a gore fest. But that’s a minor gripe at best. The real crime is what they did to the story. They pretty much tossed it out the window and made up something that would allow them to steal the more iconic images from the original without bringing over any of the awe and wonder.

Ghost in the Shell tells the story of a woman who dies and has her brain put in an android body. She works for Sector 9, along with a few other android like humans. They discover that some strange force is hacking scientists from a robotics company. Turns out our hero isn’t the first person to have a human brain put in an android body.

Cue chases, gun fights, and things blowing up.

Like all the other recent remakes, the best course of action would have been to never remake Ghost in the Shell in the first place.

Posted in movie review

T2 Trainspotting

Twenty years ago, our heroes went on a crime spree in the great city of Edinburgh. Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle return as the older, and slightly wiser, childhood friends and all around losers. I had forgotten that Jonny Lee Miller was Sick Boy, but I remembered the rest of the guys well enough. It’s directed by Danny Boyle and written by John Hodge.

Trainspotting was an awesome movie. I loved it from the first time I watched it, though it does have a few heartbreaking, disturbing, and disgusting scenes. I love the closing scene where Ewan is making his get away and tells us things are going to change for him.

Needless to say, the odds of him getting that new life are pretty slim, but it was brilliant.

So…flash forward twenty years.

Ewan comes back to Edinburgh, after spending the last twenty years in Amsterdam. Naturally he looks up his old loser mates and falls back into his old ways. Meanwhile, the criminal madman leader of the pack has been in jail lo these many years. He manages to break out of prison right about the same time Ewan returns. His goals in life are to kill Ewan, and bring his son into the world of breaking and entering.

T2 Trainspotting is another damned good film. Lots of great acting, lots of shots of current Edinburgh to contrast with the Edinburgh of twenty years ago, and a bit of disgusting business near the top to give it that whole Trainspotting feel. The ending is, if possible, even better than the end of the first film. What is it I’m always whining about when it comes to hundred million dollar Hollywood flops? The writing! Most blockbuster movies have complete shit writing. The writing in T2 Trainspotting is fucking brilliant.

T2 Trainspotting was a lot of fun. Great to see the old gang back together. Though it is hard to imagine that a group of forty something former/current drug addicts would look as good as these do. I don’t love a lot of movies like I once did, but I do like this one.

Posted in movie review

A few thoughts about HBO’s Confederate

The first great alternate history book I remember reading was Guns of the South. It was by Harry Turtledove and told the tale of a group of South African racists that wanted to change history by giving the Confederate Army machine guns. It was an interesting read and spawned countless sequels set in the alternate universe. I read The Man in the High Castle at about the same time. I also grew up watching The Twilight Zone, which featured a lot of alternate history stories, time travel stories, and parables of one sort or another.

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote an interesting article for the Atlantic about the HBO project called Confederate. Like several other people, he thinks the very idea of a show about a world where the South won the US Civil War is not just a bad idea, but a downright wrong idea. In his opinion, the South did win the Civil War. I read his book, Between the World and Me, and I was with him right up til the end. His solution to the problem of his son being exposed to American racism was one that any racist would approve and applaud, he took his son and moved to France. Nice out if you can swing it.

I’m a fan of Science Fiction and I’ve watched my share of really bad TV, read my share of really bad books, and seen countless really bad movies. But I’ve always had high hopes that the next TV show, book, or movie will be my next favorite. More often what happens is the proposed project never happens. A show that had a great pilot is never picked up. A script with a great premise is never shot. A book bounces around a hundred publishers and never sees the light of day. Of course, it’s easier now to get work out. Anyone with a cellphone can make a TV show, a movie, or a novel and put it online. But that’s not really the same.

If it were up to me, Breaking Bad would still be on the air, Game of Thrones would never end, and Supernatural would have been canceled in its second season. There’s way too much TV now to keep up with. Some of it I like, most of it I ignore, none of it offends me to the point that I would wish it had never existed. Well, except maybe Star Trek Enterprise. That was pretty awful.

I do agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates on at least one point, a TV show where Native Americans kept the Europeans out of the Americas would be a fun show to watch.

You might notice I didn’t talk much about Confederate, because there is nothing, as of yet, to talk about. Those of us who have been waiting for years for the next Star Trek know that these things can take time. and often, never happen. Maybe Confederate will never happen, or maybe it will be changed for the better by the many complaints about it.

Posted in random thoughts, sci fi

Passangers

In 1998 the brilliant Douglas Adams wrote a computer game called Starship Titanic. The game play involved a sole passenger wandering around a cruise ship trying to keep it from blowing up. The only other people on board are a collection of robots, well, more correctly, androids. Passengers reminded me of Starship Titanic once or twice. This is one of the problems with being a Science Fiction fan, everything reminds me of something else.

Ok, so Passengers got all kinds of bad press for no good reason. This is a perfectly fine science fiction film. The acting is good, the sets are amazing, the music, with the notable exception of the crap they play over the closing credits, is great. The special effects are nearly perfect and the story is a standard set of science fiction tropes.

We open up with one of the passengers waking up and the ship’s autobots telling him is four months out from his new homeworld. He soon realizes that he is alone and that he has a wait of 90 years. The writers have made it easy on our hero. He has all the food, water, and air he will need for the rest of his life. But since he is a lowly mechanic, he doesn’t get anything but black coffee and oatmeal for breakfast and he is assigned to a minimalist cabin. The first bit of the film sees him hacking the various systems so he can move into the finest suite on the ship and eat at the many fine restaurants reserved for First Class.

Our Robinson Crusoe soon grows tired of being alone. Well, mostly alone. He does have the company of a bar tending robot. We then get to the great moral problem of the film. There are somewhere around five thousand other people asleep on the ship. To stop being lonely, all he has to do is wake someone up. He finds one of the many hotties heading for the new world and wakes her up.

So, would you wake up another person, and condemn them to spending the rest of their life on board this ultra luxury cruise ship? Well, yeah. Might even wake up more than one other person.

I liked Passengers.

Posted in movie review

Colossal

At first I thought this was just a low budget movie that had done a good job of finding an Anne Hathaway look alike, but turns out it really is Anne Hathaway. This is an odd movie. One of the rules of sci-fi is to not explain too much, but I think they might had kept a few too many secrets to themselves in Colossal.

At first Colossal looks like your average Rom-Com about a 30 something failure who moves back home. Well, that is if you overlook the opening scene of a little girl in South Korea confronting a Godzilla sized monster. That was 25 years ago.

Anne drinks too much and makes poor decisions as a result. So natch she gets a job at a bar owned by someone she went to grade school with. He also drinks too much and makes poor decisions. After an all nighter she wanderers through a playground near a school. Later that day she wakes up and sees on the news that a monster has attacked South Korea.

One of the few funny bits happens when she calls her ex to talk about the monster attacks. “That was hours ago.” he says as if a fifty foot tall monster rates the same amount of importance as the latest photo of Kim Kardashian’s butt.

Mixed in with the loser love story are a few flashbacks of Anne and the barkeep as kids. They have a couple of dioramas that are being blow around in the wind. Anne’s model flies over a tall fence and the boy climbs the fence, we assume to retrieve the model. The young Anne follows him, only to find him stomping the model of, wait for it, South Korea.

Then the two kids appear to die in some kind of freak lightning storm. This little scene kind of throws the rest of the film out of kilter. Did they really die and all the rest is a dream? Did they cross into some other dimension? Since it’s clear that little Anne hates the boy now, why does she spent all her time with him once she goes back home?

In the end, we are left hanging with a lame joke. No explanations, no reasons, no answers. I kind of like my movies to make a little more sense.

Posted in movie review