Stumbling around on the web

I have not updated this blog in a while.

Things have been quite busy for me of late with family matters, karting and work (yes, I DO work!). As for work, the year end is always a hectic time for accountants like me. Lots of accounts reconciliations to do, data cleanups etc. My finance team at work has been working especially hard as well, with Mr Murphy making sure his laws are being followed from time to time. Now we are getting prepared for the annual audit. *sigh* That is life and we all have to cari makan.

In between the hectic schedule, I had been stumbling around just to take a break from things. Stumble is cute timekiller. Essentially it works by a community of people recommending various websites by topics, and you would stumble from one recommendation to another. What a great idea… and more so being community driven. My guess is a lot of future tech will be community driven like this.

Anyway, in my stumbling I came across various neat sites from the history of Albert Einstein to really cool stuff like website tutorials for photoshop artwork.

Let’s stumble togetheryou need the excellent Firefox web browser though.

Philosophy in sci-fi films

Gattaca Poster

Some of you may know that I am a sci-fi buff. I enjoy sci-fi in all forms be it novels, comicbook / graphic novels, TV series, films or even computer / video games.

Sadly sci-fi stuff are often not that great, and not to mention very rare. So looking for a good sci-fi fix is quite difficult. There are a few sci-fi films which I enjoy both from a story (action) perspective as well as a from a philosophical perspective. Most of the time sci-fis are not action driven (except for the Star Wars types), but mainly philosophically driven.

Take Gattaca (1997) for instance: this is a story about a dystopian future whereby society is structured into castes of genetically perfect people and those who were born from natural conception & reproduction (“faith love”). This questions our need for perfections in our present day society.

In addition to this, the film also asks the question about human courage, dreams and overcoming imperfections. Very important questions I believe. Why do we all limit ourselves to the physical and superficial shell that we live in, as opposed to letting our mind, dreams, belief and spirit guide and drive us beyond our physical limits? This is an excellent film to boost spirits.

Blade Runner film poster

Then there is the Ridley Scott directed Blade Runner (1982) which explores the meaning of being human in the context of a future where cyborgs (artificial people) are almost indistinguishable from real humans apart from their physical strength and delibrately limited lifespan. In Blade Runner, the cyborgs -or replicants- emote feelings of love, hate, anger, fear and all very human feelings. Their anger is most directed to their human creators for dictating their 4 year lifespan. On the other side, these replicants question the heartless of their human creators for creating them with all these feelings (some do not even know they are replicants), yet deem them appropriate to be terminated / extinguished. So the question is what really makes us humans? The film was based on Phillip K Dick’s book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?“. Blade Runner was not a box office success in its time but since then has garnered an important and influential (also visionary) status in the sci-fi & film world.

The theme of humanity also runs through other films such as Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.” and “Bicentennial Man (1999)” starring Robin Williams and based on Isaac Asimov’s novella of the same title. These two films explored the classic story of Pinnochio about the robots’ (in these cases) quests to be more human and loved as a human being. The impact of these films were not that major given that the themes centred around love & (in)animate human creations which has been done several times over. The difference in Blade Runner was that Blade Runner explored a wider range of human emotions and even questions our own humanity. Still, the likes of AI and Bicentennial Man still poses a very interesting question about love and life.

Another twist to computers / robots achieving scentience is in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The film was famous for the malfunctioning computer HAL 9000 which decided it was important to kill the human beings in order to protect itself and fulfill its mission directives.

Then there are other types of sci-fi that explores the meaning of life and reality. Films such as Dark City and The Thirteenth Floor (1999) (Rotten Tomato reviews) and to a very small extent, The Truman Show (not sci-fi, though) goes to ask the question whether our lives are a stage show or the real thing (existentialism). These are interesting concepts and allows science to fuse with religion. What is there after the end of our lives? Another film that does this unashamedly is The Matrix trilogy which is littered with religious ideas and terminology. The appeal of these films is that it really asks us the question of what lies beyond the Matrix? The scene in the first Matrix film that explains the reason for deja vu (the cat scene) still gives me goosebumps.

Minority Report movie poster

Another concept most often explored in sci-fi is the idea that humankind cannot help from destroying itself. This was the main theme driving the 2004 film I, Robot starring Will Smith. Are we humans incapable of maintaining peace? Certainly in the current early 2000s period this seems to be the case. Even with Asimov’s famed Laws of Robotics, the robots in I, Robot managed to rationalise that for the protection of the greater human race, robots would need to kill a few bad eggs to restore a utopian peace. Are these the same rules that some of the world’s government use in the name of greater peace?

Another aspect of sci-fi films is questioning human moralities such as in “The Island” featuring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson and The Steven Spielberg directed “Minority Report” starring Tom Cruise. In The Island, the question is asked about the morality of genetic sciences – which is very much a contemporary issue. In Minority Report the subject of crime prevention is explored to point of asking if somebody is guilty before the crime itself is committed?

As ever, sci-fi is all about philosophical questions that we face everyday. And this is the appeal, in my view.

Finished watching some great sci-fi’s

bladerunner

bladerunner

I recently finished watching the whole Battlestar Galactica (new series) 1st season. First thing to say is I can’t wait to catch the 2nd season. As mentioned in my last blog on what I am watching these days… Galactica is looking good.

The whole premise of the human race on the run from relentless and in some cases human-like cylons as a backdrop creates the tension that is not felt in any of the Trek series. Sorry the comparison is unfair as Trek tends to be more wholesome and optimistic. Galactica is a little more pessimistic in nature, but its allusions to the mythical “earth” is intriguing. You see, mankind has been colonising space many millenia from now. It would appear that Earth would be inhabitable forcing humankind to venture forth into space. The memories of earth are then confined into the realm of mythology.

In addition to these undercurrents, we also get an almost Asimovian philosophical debate about what makes humans human… can robots acquire human traits? Some of these questions are similar to those asked in Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep… or in its’ silver screen version Blade Runner.

The series is very much character driven, with many interesting characters.

This also brings me to another sci-fi flick Serenity which is a follow up to the now defunct TV series, Firefly.

Sci-fi books & movies

I make no secret that I am a sci-fi geek.

Sadly, I have not been recommended any good sci-fi stuff, given most of my friends and family think I am a geek and do not share any interest in sci-fi. So I have not read any sci-fi books of late – can’t remember the last book I read… *groan*

The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies 1 (Rough Guide Reference)

Cover taken from John Scalzi’s book

Anyway, thought that I should log something I found on the web: I was tinkering with my wordpress website, The Mind of Paloque, and was going through the pre-installed links and found a blog belonging to Ryan Boren. The guy is also a sci-fi geek and posted a blog on John Scalzi’sThe Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies 1 (Rough Guide Reference)“. A synopsis from Amazon.com:

Synopsis

The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies is a comprehensive guide to the ‘final frontier’ of film. It explores our fascination with space exploration, time travel, fantastical worlds and alternative futures. This guide explains how everything from the philosophy of Plato to classic Victorian tales and cult comic books have helped to create one of cinema’s most engaging genres. Discover the classics from Mexico, Russia and Japan, not forgetting the Anime science fiction tradition, along with everything else you need to know from Metropolis to Star Wars, via Blade Runner, 2001 and Alien. The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies is your essential guide to a galaxy of film unbounded by time or space.

I think I should read a bit more. Rekindle some sci-fi interest. Do you have anything to share?