Monday, July 26, 2021

Plundering Around in my Subconscious


Probably best to start this rambling mess of words with a friendly disclaimer.

Just like one of the characters in the movie Inception stated, dreams, at least for me, have no real beginning. The way I remember my dreams is like waking up in the middle of a movie that has been going on for some significant period. I know something in the form of a plot is going on but I have no idea what caused the “characters” to behave the way they do.

Secondly, I absolutely do not believe dreams are supernatural in origin. That means I do not believe dreams are windows to alternate universes nor glimpses of the past or future. And I absolutely do not believe metaphysical beings contact us through dreams.

Dreams are just the unconscious human mind sorting through the bits and pieces of conscious reality and stringing them together. If someone has a dream about their Aunt Sally winning the lotto and that actually happens at some point in the future that was pure chance. For me, deja vu could well just be random pieces of memory that dropped into a dream with that individual experiencing it accidentally repeating those actions in a similar location.

I do believe dreams are elements of a person's psyche and can be related to their fears, hopes, and how they view themselves. Which in my case could mean I'm losing what little piece of my mind that works

With all that out of the way, I had a wild dream recently that I want to relate because it was so weird.

It began with me among an unknown group that I couldn't see nor really hear. All I knew was that they were pissed at me for some reason. I have no idea why they were upset but I understood, at least I think I do, that it involved me personally.

Typical dream stuff that didn't have any real basis in how others see me. Over the next several days, I began to theorize it was just my subconscious playing with my deepest fears. Nothing too awful weird, and given the times we live with economic uncertainty a normal component of life, probably typical.

It was the final segment of the dream that was really different. Don't ask me how I knew the following but I after left behind the unknown group I “bumped” into God.

Now get this, in the dream God was a short, fat white guy. Sort of like Danny Devito, Buddha, and the Boss Hog character from the Dukes of Hazard television show back in the early 1980s. And yes, he was smiling and giving off this feeling of love and warmth that was quite weird for a dream.

Now the really weird part begins, God was wearing a mustard gold Starfleet Command uniform from the original series complete with the flying delta symbol on the upper left of the blouse. My one distinct memory of the dream was being utterly surprised to see God wearing such a costume.

The dream ended right there, or at least that's all I remember. All things considered it was pretty cool and left me with a good feeling for most of that day. Now clearly understand this, I DID NOT have a personal one-on-one encounter with the Almighty. Technically, it's still best to classify me as an agnostic, although I freely say humans don't know as much about the universe nor reality as they think they do. It just takes real, verifiable evidence to prove things exist that would be classified as metaphysical.

Like one character in Star Trek: The Motion Picture stated near the end of the film: “We all create God in our image.” I guess my subconscious wanted to relieve the collected societal pressures in my head and constructed a God I could relate to in the best possible way. What's weird was that my subconscious put God in an Original Series uniform. I relate far more with Star Trek: The Next Generation and I could easily see Sir Patrick Stewart playing God in a movie.

But I can deal with a Danny Devito, Buddha, Boss Hog combination making up a friendly God. Yeah, all that stuff in my head is a mess. Speaking hypothetically, it would be beyond cool if God was a Trekkie.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Addendum for The Tomorrow War


 During my rush to express my general dislike of Chris Pratt I forgot to add some important information about time travel. While the initial sloppy premise of The Tomorrow War was for the world of 2051 to ask for help from our present day world the question of changing future events was always in the background.

Speaking strictly as a curious layman when it comes to the actual implications of traveling backwards in time I believe the scientific consensus is that it isn't possible. We are naturally traveling into the future one second per second and through various means like approaching the speed of light or sitting close to the edge of a black hole “faster” forward time travel is possible.

But every reasonable science article I have read or video I watch says traveling backwards in time is problematic. Without getting deep into the mathematical weeds, which I have no ability to comprehend, I think Einstein's theories say nothing prohibits backwards time travel as far as the universe is concerned but it would take God-like powers.

The key here is that nothing outright forbids backwards time travel so various real and respected scientists have speculated on what would happen if someone or groups began shuffling through the space-time continuum.

Of course the Grandfather Paradox is the favorite with some psychotic moron going back in time to kill his grandfather before his own father was conceived. So if the father was never born how could an insane kid go back and kill his grandfather?

Some have speculated that such actions would create a temporal loop. The kid is born as he is supposed to be, grows up and builds a time machine, then goes back in time shoots his teenage grandfather in the head. Granddaddy never has a son so the kid is never born. Because the kid is never born he never builds a time machine to go back and kill his grandfather. So events proceed as they occurred with the Grandfather having a son who goes one to have a kid of his own. So once again the kid grows up, hates his Grandfather, builds a time machine and travels back to shoot him in the head. This loop presumably would continue for eternity.

Is it just me or does this put a big dent into the idea of free will?

The alternative is that instead of a temporal loop, time has a way to protect itself. Instead of backwards time travel such a homicidal grand kid would instead travel to an alternate universe set in the years during his grandfather's childhood. Killing that person would prevent your counterpart from being born but leave your own universe/timeline untouched. 

Going for shits and giggles here by throwing a hypothetical timey-wimey wrench into the time-space continuum, but what would be really wild is if we could reverse time would be to look at events on a much wider perspective. Instead of focusing our attention just on an insane genius-level kid traveling to the past to murder his teenage grandfather, look at the mundane decisions normal people make during the course of their day during that same period. 

Insane kid keeps a record of what his friends, Tom, Dick, and Harry did the day before he pops back years in the past to kill his grandfather. Insane kid then goes forward in time to that day and secretly observes his friends to see if they make the same choices. These choices could be anything from what shirt they wear, the route they take to work, or what they decide to have for lunch.          

If there is the least little bit of deviation from what they originally did that would leave open the idea of free will, I guess.

This all feeds back into the ultimate conclusion of the movie. While sending troops to the future to fight a clearly lost war just doesn't make any sense. The world of 2051 could have just sent the same group to our present with tons of information on what will happen along with the bio-weapon to make a more plausible movie.

Personally, while I have my doubts on the degree of free will humans actually have, I think the far more likely reality of backwards time travel would be sliding over to an alternate universe. But then again I'm no scientist, but goofing with the flow of temporal events just doesn't ring true in an universe that seems so highly ordered.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Tomorrow War--A Movie Review


I watched this movie so you wouldn't have to.

 By the time 2021 arrived the world had seemed to turn the corner on the pandemic. Multiple lingering issues were still an embarrassing shitshow but with the vaccines out and the Orange Buffoon being shown the exit, despite unprecedented and scary attempts to stay in power, things were starting to look up. With the receding of the pandemic the various workings of civilization began to restart, one of them being movie studios who began tossing out previews to films that had been long delayed.

One of those films is called the The Tomorrow War staring Chris Pratt, a military science fiction film about the usual unstoppable invading aliens. Despite my liberal bleeding heart, tree hugging leanings I am a sucker for such movies and watched Tomorrow War the day it dropped on Amazon Prime. In truth, my eagerness to see the movie was in part due to my desire for new content, any entertainment that wasn't a leftover from happier, pre-pandemic times.

For example, over that extremely long nightmare year of 2020, I had rewatched The Lord of The Rings movies so many times I was starting to lose real life hope no matter the multiple times Gandalf and Aragorn assured me it still existed. Yes, I am a voracious reader but there are times everyone needs fresh visual and audio input that only the boob tube can provide.

As for The Tomorrow War right off the bat I had to dump a bushel of demerits for the basic premise. Chris Pratt, not one of my favorite actors to begin with, plays Dan Forester, a former Green Beret who is now a high school biology teacher who deep down knows he's meant for greater things in life. But in the first couple of scenes we find out that he has been turned down for a position at a “prestigious research facility.”

Danny Boy gets all mopey, and even a little bit whiny with his loving wife and daughter doing their best to comfort him during a World Cup Soccer viewing party at his house. See during the middle of this televised to the world game a wormhole opens up with soldiers from the year 2051 literally dropping in to tell everyone that humanity is losing a war against invading aliens and on the brink of extinction.

These aliens, which are called whitespikes, will suddenly appear in the year 2048 and overrun the world in three short years. These representatives from the future have interrupted the bloody World Cup match to ask the nations of present to send soldiers to the future to help with the war.

Of course as with these types of movies, the nations of the world almost immediately start sending troops to the future without any apparent questioning of the future people, or assessment of the tactical situation. More to the point, nothing in the movie suggests that people here in the presents take a moment and ask the future people detail questions of where these aliens first set foot on Earth. All we're told is that the first recorded encounters with the whitespikes were in eastern Siberia.

A huge area to be sure, but with thirty-some odd years to wait it seems commonsense to be me to maybe load up a couple of divisions of troops from different nations and recon the area. Yes, we're talking Russia here but I wouldn't be opposed to some vodka-soaked Russian general being put in charge as humanity does a grid by grid search to short circuit our extinction. Dear Lord, real life murderer, and petty dictator Putin would love calling himself the freaking savior of humanity.

In fairness to the movie, one of the future soldiers does say that that when the whitespikes began appearing the nations of the world looked back on the records and no telescopes nor radar saw anything drop down from space. Okay, I'm no George Patton nor Alexander the Great but that suggests to me that maybe they were already on Earth. And some forensic study on the first few whitespikes killed in the war might narrow down the area where they first appeared. Hint...Hint.

But no, present day troops are rushed through the wormhole to 2051 for seven-day deployments with fewer than thirty-percent surviving. Seven day deployments you ask? It's all part of the movie's time travel gizmo and is just a useful plot device.

With trained troops coming back as hamburger, if they return at all, the nations of the world resort to drafting civilians. No, these civilians have no prolonged period of basic training. They are literally given weapons, some basic gear, and then get sucked up into the wormhole for a seven day visit to Hell.

Even worse for this movie many of these civilians are not in the best of health. Many are clearly not physically fit for serving as a REMF in present day armies much less engaging in intense combat with murderous aliens.

Low and behold former Green Beret, Dan Forester's number comes up for the draft. Forester's wife and daughter plead with him to contact his estranged, troubled Vietnam Vet, genius-level mechanical engineer father to dodge the draft. See, Danny Boy's dad has figured out a way help draftees circumvent the tracking device the government installed on those going to the future. We then get a scene with Danny Boy and his dad where they promptly engage in a father/son pissing contest. Danny Boy gets disgusted with his dad and says fuck it, he reports to the base where the pathetic civilians are dispatched to the future.

Right from the get-go the trip to 2051 is a cluster fuck with Danny Boy's group dropping from the wormhole not five-feet above the ground but at least fifteen-stories above apocalyptic Miami Beach. Luckily for Danny and the important secondary characters they fall into a roof top pool that strangely still has enough water to cushion their fall.

From there the survivors regroup and get a mission to rescue an important group of scientists working in the city. Now understand, whitespikes have infested the city and a dozen or so pizza delivery-type guys and retail working ladies have to fight their way to the building where the eggheads were doing their thing. Remember no training, no months long physical conditioning, just John Wayne movie determination and Danny Boy and another former army type who has already served three previous seven-day tours to 2051. That guy has terminal cancer and is a walking death wish. But he does carry a souvenir, a claw from one of the first whitespikes killed in the war.

The movie meanders to a conclusion with Danny Boy meeting his 2051 daughter, who just happens to be a colonel in what is left of the military force fighting the whitespikes. The 2051 people have pretty much realized they can't win, so why they were continuing to suck unprepared draftees from their past into their hopeless fight, I can't figure out.

What the 2051 people do have is research into a biological weapon that will kill the female whitespikes. Supposedly the females are extra hard to kill and like Star Trek's furry and cute tribbles are born pregnant. Hence how they were able to overrun the planet in three years.

Danny Boy and his adult daughter, who is also the chief scientist of the research project capture a female whitespike, take it back to humanity's last fortified base, and perfect the bio-weapon. See Dan's daughter wants him to go back to the present and use the weapon while there is still time.

Well now all sorts of crazy shit starts to happen. That last base is attacked and overrun with whitespikes out to rescue the female. Dan now fights to survive long enough for his timer to hit zero where the time travel gizmo will automatically send him, the nifty bio-weapon, and the surviving members of his group back to our present.

Returning to the present the world has gone to pieces. Realization that the 2051 war is hopeless and extinction imminent the geopolitical situation in the present has seen all nations turn inward with international alliances being abandoned. It's clearly mentioned even NATO has disbanded something I once thought ridiculous and even suicidal until the Orange Buffoon did his best to make it happen.

To me that is when the movie got extra super stupid, yes the 2051 war is lost but with thirty years to prepare the world of our present could pull together and somehow change the future. But then again the United States has in reality just seen over six-hundred thousand people die due to Covid-19 and there are motherfuckers who violently believe it was all some grand conspiracy. Then there are climate change deniers, another massive conspiracy, and Flat Earthers so maybe the writers do understand human nature better than me.

But never fear, Dan Forester will save the day. See in one of Dan's biology classes there is a student who is a volcano nerd. This kid loves volcanoes and knows everything about them. So after Dan and his terminal cancer combat buddy have his souvenir whitespike claw analyzed by a scientist and discover ancient volcanic ash embedded in it and get a general age of that substance. For reasons I either missed or the writers never stated, Dan get his volcano wizard student to tell them what part of the Earth the ash originated.

They surmise that the whitespikes arrive on Earth right before a certain Siberian volcano erupted and ended up buried and then frozen in ice. That during our time the ice melted enough to thaw out the planet-cleaning killing machines.

Great we have a location, eastern Siberia but we then learn Russia has locked its borders tight. And the United States government has no desire to contact them and say they have cool information to share that might save humanity in thirty years.

But wait, Dan's estranged father just happens to own a C-130 transport plane and can fly the beast under Russian radar. So Dan, his dad, the terminal cancer guy along with several others organize a mission to fly into Siberia to find and then destroy the whitespikes with the bio-weapon.

This motley crew locate the buried spaceship, blast their way in, and begin killing the whitespikes still sleeping in their hibernation sacks. That is until a couple of whitespikes begin screaming waking up the rest. The group then begins blasting away with weapons as the whitespikes start escaping until terminal cancer guy detonates the C-4 explosives they had placed throughout the ship.

Everyone inside the ship dies except Danny Boy and a couple of lucky whitespikes that are doing their best to run off into the icy wilderness. Dan and his estranged father, who was left outside to cover the exit, give chase and have a final confrontation with the two remaining aliens. Yeah, one of the surviving whitespikes is female and she's clearly pregnant.

Father and son kill the last two whitespikes and then have one of those redemption/reconciliation moments that has all the sweet sincerity of saccharin. They go home where they are greeted by the world as heroes.

Okay my biggest problem with the movie was the basic idea that 2051 world would come to our present asking for soldiers to fight a war that they had long since decided was lost. The better plan, in my ever humble opinion, would have them developed the bio-weapon first then drop into the World Cup game with it and a detailed report and get us in the present to locate the and kill the whitespikes.

The world could have still gotten all gung-ho with Dan Forester drafted into a global coalition to locate and eliminate the threat because of his prior military service. Dan could have seen a message from his adult daughter who still would have been the chief scientist on the 2051 bio-weapon and realized his path to glory would be to change the future for her.

But no, we get a chaotic mishmash of Terminator, Aliens, and Predator tropes so Chris Pratt can look good on screen. My problem with him is that he can't act. His character in the Parks and Recreation was a one-dimensional creature that honestly didn't seem to stray far from his real personality. The same goes for his character, Peter Quill, in the MCU. The first Guardians of Galaxy movie was great but the second not so much.

In short Chris Pratt strikes me as a pompous douchebag who isn't any different than a couple of thousand other underemployed actors living in Hollywood. His one difference is a couple of lucky breaks other, better performers never got.

If you haven't already figured out, The Tomorrow War is a wreck of a movie that I honestly can't recommend for interesting entertainment. Truthfully the best part of the movie were the whitespike aliens, which were pure CGI. Time travel films can be tricky things and when done well can be some of the best thought provoking entertainment around. My final stab at this movie would be for someone to go back in time and prevent Amazon from wasting money on this script.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Amazing Dabous Giraffes of Niger


Wow, things have been crazy around my house lately, not “bad” crazy more like really busy leaving me no energy when I get home after work. It's the heat and humidity, mostly but the weekends aren't much better. Here at my house the grass and weeds in my yard have already moved into the ultra fast growing season I don't usually see to the first of August.

Yeah, I have a riding lawnmower but there's a lot of smaller chores left over like weed whacking and using the blower to clean up the curb and driveway. Anyway here's a small post on a subject I find interesting.

I am continually amazed at what archaeologists find from human prehistory. Long before writing was created numerous vibrant and sophisticated cultures came into being only to fade away into oblivion leaving only mysterious stone relics.

One such remnant are the Dabous Giraffes, stone petroglyphs located in the Air Massif of Niger. Dated to around 8000 BCE they are the largest stone petroglyphs in the world and were created when the Sahara was a much wetter savanna that stretched for thousands of miles. This wetter period is called the Neolithic Subpluvial and lasted from around 12000 BCE to 7000 BCE.

No expert, but if I remember correctly once the Sahara went back to desert some of that regions inhabitants migrated to the Nile River and began the process of establishing Egyptian culture.

The giraffes were carved into a sandstone outcrop and depict a large male and smaller female. Long after the Sahara returned to a desert climate shifting sands covered the glyphs for thousands of years before they were rediscovered in 1987. That region of Niger has over 900 similar carvings of animals and humans.

I find myself profoundly sad that the artist or artists of these glyphs will forever remain unknown to us. The culture that produced the creators of those glyphs had to be advanced enough that they had advanced beyond the mere struggle for survival. That they had enough food and necessities that men and/or women could create such works of art.