Refraction

rɪˈfrakʃ(ə)n/

noun

PHYSICS

  • The fact or phenomenon of light being deflected in passing obliquely through the interface between one medium and another or through a medium of varying density.
  • The focusing characteristics of an eye or eyes

Other:

  • The way you see yourself through the eyes of another. The way light passes through glass and creates a rainbow – or the way something solid appears broken in water.

The New Panopticon: Social Media

Is it possible that Facebook, instagram, and any other social media you can think of, is imprisoning us? Setting guidelines on how we behave and interact on social media? Are we subscribing to our own imprisonment?

The Panopticon is a building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham, the concept of the design is to allow all inmates of an institution, namely a prison, to be observed by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behaviour constantly. Bentham described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example”.

Michel Foucault used this as a metaphor for modern “disciplinary” societies and their pervasive inclination to observe and normalise. This means that the Panopticon operates as a power mechanism. The Panopticon creates a consciousness of permanent visibility as a form of power, where no bars, chains, and heavy locks are necessary for domination any more. Foucault proposes that not only prisons but all hierarchical structures like the army, schools, hospitals and factories have evolved through history to resemble Bentham’s Panopticon.

Building on Foucault, contemporary social critics often assert that technology has allowed for the deployment of panoptic structures invisibly throughout society. In 2017, what do we consider a Panopticon? Is the structure of social media a self regulating, peer reviewing Panopticon?

 

A Sheep Amongst The Wolves: A Humane Humanity

I have an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest. On the day of my 25th birthday I fell into a state of distrust. It was like a virus had been released, infiltrating the vein, mutating the mind. Humanity, my species, had changed. Every interaction subdued by blood thirst. I was told that It’s a dog eat dog world. Is it? Are we no more than a pack of feral hyenas scavenging for the same prize? Laughing as we throw one another into the lions den?

Did we forget that the word humanity has dual meaning?
Humanity, human beings collectively.
Flesh, bone, skin, sweat, flaws, veins, and scars.
Humanity, the quality of being humane.
Compassion, kindness, mercy, sympathy, and goodness.

I saw so much more kindness in my childhood, perhaps that’s because I was mainly around children. Is there an age where we simply stop being humane? Do we all just wake up one morning and decide that all we care about is our own ambition?

Individually nihilistic with a lack of belief in any meaningful aspects of life. Life without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. A species with no inherent morality, just a general mood of despair and a perceived pointlessness of existence.The pyramid of good outweighing bad, rotating. A new era of the plague, without disease and death, but humanity without the human.

I look for them, the silver linings, the people who are good. The generous, the noble, the kind – the ones who restore the rift between humanity, and their flaws. They are few and far between, but I often wonder, what is it about them that makes them so resilient, so unaltered by the virus of self-interest. Is it their morality? Their God? I don’t know, but I want to capture it and poison our water streams with it.

Don’t let existential despair overpower you. Remember that you are human, and it is your purpose to be humane. Be kind, generous, empathetic, merciful, and above all, let goodness consume you – that is what you were put here for.

The Infinite Argument – Is Man Vegetarian Or Carnivorous?


Note: This argument considers human diet relating to matters of health, efficiency, and bodily survival. It does not draw conclusions from arguments such as environmental impacts, animal rights, or a moral/ethical dilemma. The question is specific to what is man, not what man should be, or what man could be.

I was raised in a Greek household – like in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ll find that lamb is intrinsic to our culture. Animal protein was served at every meal, red meat was on the menu as often as 6 times a week. I vividly remember asking my father about being vegetarian – it was as though I had committed heresy, the word ‘vegetarian’ considered blasphemy.

“Vegetarian? You can’t do that! Humans only began to evolve once we started eating meat, it’s food for the brain! We’d still be in caves if it wasn’t for meat, the body can’t survive on mushrooms and carrots! Quick go eat some lamb chops I just pulled off the barbie ”

I’ve spent quite some time listening to vegetarians, vegans, omnivores, and carnivores who plead their case, all claiming to know exactly what man should consume – some of them even presenting scientific research and evidentiary support.

Protein, carbohydrates and fats. That’s what our body needs to survive – does it really matter the source that they come from?

In all my research it appears as though each side is riding a counterfactual crusade against one another. Why are they all in such combat?

Vegetarians

They don’t eat meat – but they are okay with eggs, milk, honey etc.

A vegetarian diet is associated with a higher consumption of fibre, folic acid, vitamins C and E, magnesium, unsaturated fat, and countless phytochemicals. This often results in vegetarians having lower cholesterol, being thinner, having lower blood pressure, and reduced risk of heart disease.

Interestingly enough, all the scientifically proven arguments that promote vegetarianism is all focused on the absence of meat “If you’re a vegetarian, your cholesterol will lower because meat makes your cholesterol higher” – This isn’t a benefit of the diet, but a benefit from the lack of meat.

I am yet to find any argument that proposes that being a vegetarian in itself is a benefit.

Vegans

From my understanding, this is more an ideology, rather than from a health perspective. Vegans are basically vegetarians that avoid anything that has to do with animals – not even honey.

More and more people are turning to a vegan diet for benefits that boast increased energy, younger looking skin and eternal youth – just some claims from enthusiastic plant eaters.

Well, eternal youth might be a bit optimistic, but there are certainly many scientifically proven benefits to vegan living when compared to the average western diet.

Well-planned plant-based diets are rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. The plant-based sources of these nutrients tend to be low in saturated fat, high in fibre and packed with antioxidants, helping mitigate some of the modern world’s biggest health issues like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

The arguments are the same, being vegan equals benefits because a minus of meat – again, the fact that we’re talking about an alteration from the norm provides insight as to what norm is, and if it is norm, then is it not clear evidence that eating meat is the norm? Does this not prove that man is carnivore?

Omnivores

Omnivores eat both plant and animal proteins.

Omnivores Get a Good Balance of Healthy Cholesterol

Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad kind of cholesterol that blocks arteries and leads to heart attack or stroke. High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is good cholesterol that actually reduces heart attack risk. Omnivores get more cholesterol, which is necessary for survival. Our bodies depend on cholesterol to make acids for digestion and critical hormones. Cholesterol also aids in the production of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

Omnivores Get Amino Acids

A diet of meat and dairy products provides essential amino acids, which are important for a healthy immune system, healthy skin, healing wounds, forming tooth enamel, growth in children, processing protein, vitamins and minerals, forming connective tissue and bones and other bodily functions. Vegans and vegetarians need to eat foods high in the amino acid lysine in order to stay healthy. Legumes, pistachios, quiona, tofu, tumpeh and soy meats provide lysine.

Omnivores Get B Vitamins

Omnivores get B vitamins naturally in their diet. B vitamins include B1 through B12 and each performs an important function. They turn food into energy, build strong muscles, joints and ligaments, fight inflammation and help the body absorb other nutrients. Vegetarians and vegans must take supplements to get these important nutrients.

Omnivores Get Carnosine

Carnosine protects against diseases of aging, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Research also indicates that it might be beneficial to autistic children. Omnivores get carnosine naturally in their diet by eating meat. The level of carnosine in our bodies decreases as we age, and it’s become a popular anti-aging product marketed as a supplement.

Omnivores Eat More Lean Protein, Fewer Carbohydrates

Protein builds lean muscle mass, and omnivores typically eat more than vegetarians or vegans. Diets devoid of meat and dairy products are higher in carbohydrates, which can result in less overall strength and endurance. Carbohydrates are also responsible for fluctuations in blood-sugar levels, so diabetics must be careful not to consume too many because the body turns them into sugar. Some studies indicate that children raised on a vegetarian or vegan diet are shorter in stature than their omnivore peers due to less protein.

Carnivores

Basically, animals that eat other animals.

As a new study in Nature makes clear, not only did processing and eating meat come naturally to humans, it’s entirely possible that without an early diet that included generous amounts of animal protein, we wouldn’t even have become human—at least not the modern, verbal, intelligent humans we are.

It was about 2.6 million years ago that meat first became a significant part of the pre-human diet, and if Australopithecus had had a forehead to slap it would surely have done so. Being an herbivore was easy—fruits and vegetables don’t run away, after all. But they’re also not terribly calorie-dense. A better alternative were so-called underground storage organs (USOs)—root foods like beets and yams and potatoes. They pack a bigger nutritional wallop, but they’re not terribly tasty—at least not raw—and they’re very hard to chew. According to Harvard University evolutionary biologists Katherine Zink and Daniel Lieberman, the authors of the Nature paper, proto-humans eating enough root food to stay alive would have had to go through up to 15 million “chewing cycles” a year.

This is where meat stepped—and ran and scurried—in to save the day. Prey that has been killed and then prepared either by slicing, pounding or flaking provides a much more calorie-rich meal with much less chewing than root foods do, boosting nutrient levels overall. (Cooking, which would have made things easier still, did not come into vogue until 500,000 years ago.)

I think that the reason we are at the top of the food chain is because of our success as a species. Intelligence and adaptability. We are continuously evolving at the speed of light – it could appear to those who were to compare the evolution of our species to any others’. I don’t doubt that we were once vegetarians, and carnivores at one point too. Is it possible that balance is the answer? Could we be neither, could we be both? Is an omnivore diet the answer?

Dogville: Brechtian Theatre

Dogville is a 2003 Danish drama film, written and directed by Lars von Trier. It’s a fable that uses an exceptionally minimal, stage-like set to tell the story of Grace Mulligan (Kidman), a woman hiding from mobsters, who arrives in the small mountain town of Dogville, Colorado, and is offered refuge in return for physical labor. Her stay there ultimately changes the lives of the local people and the town in many ways. Brechtian or “Epic Theatre” is a theatrical movement that began in the 1900’s.

The key concept in this topic is the concept of defamiliarisation “distancing effect,” or “estrangement effect,” and often mistranslated as “alienation effect”) which consists through techniques such as; the use of a different historical time, place and situation to the viewer, sound that is non diagetic an also involves “stripping the event of its self-evident, familiar, obvious quality and creating a sense of astonishment and curiosity about them.” Brecht utilized techniques such as the actor’s direct address to the audience, harsh and bright stage lighting, the use of songs to interrupt the action, explanatory placards, and, in rehearsals, the transposition of text to the third person or past tense, and speaking the stage directions out loud. 

“In setting up new artistic principles and working out new methods of representation we must start with the compelling demands of a changing epoch; the necessity and the possibility of remodeling society loom ahead. All incidents between me must be noted, and everything must be seen from a social point of view. Among other effects that new theatre will need for its social criticism and its historical reporting of completed transformations is the A-effect (Brecht on Theatre,1964).”

 

It is this A-effect (Alienation effect = defamiliarisation effect) that plays an important role in understanding how Brechtian theatre operates and the reasons behind its techniques. The quote above explains the reasons behind the defamiliarisation effect and how its presence is important to the constantly changing times. It is evident that the defamiliarisation technique is very important to the Brechtian style; it is the core basis of the style and what it is trying to achieve.

 

Lost In Translation: Ibsen’s Modernism

This article focuses on Ibsen’s theories and ideas on realism and ethics. Ibsen brings the focus of ethics to drama, he does this by explaining that drama involves the content by the historical world which pertains to the present time (the time it was received). Another concept that seems to have started these ideas is Spinoza’s ideas that the world is a constantly changing place that is evolving and progressing in a way that is unpredictable and unstable these ideas are compared to the ideas that were previous that the world was fixed and unchangeable, this theory then leads to the idea of the individual which sparks the idea that the human is both rational and spiritual.

With relation to the film “Lost in Translation” I believe that Ibsen’s ideas come through when we begin to analyze the separate marriages of both Bill and Charlotte. Ibsen says that we define ourselves by commitment, by how we live, think and respond to others, Charlotte (Johansson) is living a life of uncertainty, both in her career choice, marriage and overall direction in life. Charlottes Husband is underwhelming and provides her no authentically shared human intimate experience, a very important factor in her quest for self. Charlotte then meets Bill, a man who can offer her this Ibsinian idea of authentic human experience, which plays with the ideas of ones ability to grow within the social fabric of capitalism and marriage.

Ultimately this tepid affair provides and insight into both characters marriages and on weather they are passionately committed or half hearted in their loyalties to their spouses. Ultimately we are not given an insight into the last words between Bill and Charlotte, we are uncertain even if they are their last words, this realistic approach to the ending of the film brings a raw sense of realism to the storytelling process. The lack of closure to the film is a strong statement that eventually one thing or another happens but realistically we will never know what lies ahead.

Little Red Riding Hood: An Allegory

Jack Zipes has collected 31 versions of the story Little Red Riding Hood for this book, dated from 1697 to 1979, his collection includes plays, poems and stories. Zipes introduces each story with an essay that examines the themes of the story, mainly sexuality and the role of women, and sets a cultural context for the variations that arose over the years. The study is based on the premise that literary fairy tales were consciously cultivated and employed in 17th-century France to reinforce the regulation of sexuality in modern Europe and that the discourse on manners and gender roles in fairy tales has contributed more to the creation of our present-day social norms that we realize.

According to Zipes, fairy tales “serve a meaningful social function, not just for compensation but for revelation: the worlds projected by the best of our fairy tales reveal the gaps between truth and falsehood in our immediate society.”

I believe the key point of the article is to enlighten people on the metaphorical foundations of the folk tale “Little Red Riding Hood”, and to explain how interpretive framework from historical and ideological discourses can alter our understanding on the hidden warnings and agendas within fairy tales.

Zipes considers that the genre is as relevant to contemporary culture as it was for pre-literate society, especially in terms of gender politics and identity construction. If we consider the context these fairytales were created, we can see that Zipes theories of cultural evolution are valid and justified. The omnipresence of these tales in popular culture emphasises its continued relevance on an individual and social level.

Jack Zipes applies a socio-historical model for analysing the development and significance of the tales, Zipes writes from a Marxist standpoint, he argues that fairy tales embody the shifting cultural codes of history and, as such, they can be interpreted as records of social production.

Initially Zipes article seems confusing as he entwines his own thought process along with others which in turn makes it seem as though he is condoning certain ideologies about women and how they present themselves, but after reading the article several times it is evident that those are not his words or thoughts but rather his way of explaining the impact of the folk tale in this current day and age. While Zipes argument is not clear and concise on initial reading after the third or fourth time we can begin to clear up most of the confusion.

Zipes’ conclusion helps us understand his argument as he clearly and concisely explains that it may take us “another two hundred years for us to undo all the lessons Red Riding Hood and the wolf were forced to learn” thus explaining that the past society’s restrictive notions of sex and nature, obedience and discipline are primitive and could never be properly understood by today’s society, which is why these hidden warnings and agendas are altered to suit today’s issues and morals. Essentially the story of Red Riding Hood has metaphorical warnings; these warnings have transcended through space and time upon its initial creation to today’s twentieth century fox productions.

Apocalypse Now: Sound, Image, & Editing

Let’s talk about the role of sound, image, and editing. Specifically in the film Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1979.

The opening scene – sound, image and editing are the pivotal elements and techniques that make this scene so incredible and captivating. The scene starts with a passive serene jungle, interrupted by helicopters which swarm the jungle, and as the tree line goes up in flames “the End” by the Doors begins to play, a song which represents death and futility. The use of editing is blurred with the intertwining images of present and past, the war and the aftermath. Through impeccable placement of layering faded scenes, editing, sound effects, imagery, music and editing, this scene works incredible well with all these elements thus making it one of the greatest opening sequences of any film. Apocalypse now is a heart wrenching, gripping and advanced film which in my opinion uses sound, imagery and editing to make the film work in more advanced ways than any movie of the time it was made.

Sound is a crucial element to this scene, the movie begins in darkness, a blank screen and all we can hear is the beating cycles of a helicopter blade, haunting us, throughout the scene the helicopter noise fades away only to come back louder and eerier as we delve into the jungle. It seems that when the jungle catches on fire we simultaneously begin to hear the ghostly and melancholic voice of Jim Morrison singing”The End” a song with lyrics such as “This is the end, my only friend, the end” giving us the feeling of death, war, futility and loss. While this song is being played the sound of the helicopters flying back and forth is evident and disarming as it tends to get louder as the helicopters appear and softer as they leave the area of the scene, these continuous overlays of sound effects on top of the music draw us back to the reality of the war and disastrous things happening to the jungle.

The process of editing in this scene is undeniably skillful and effective, from scene 10 until scene 18 there are two layers of scenes being seen through the use of fading and dissolving techniques, we are able to respond and see both scenes, we are faced with the continuous images of the war in the jungle fading in and out from fire, helicopters, tribal people, the burning jungle at night, the smoke filled jungle during the day with helicopters swarming like locusts, it is chaos, violent and alarming, while the contrasting image faded on top is a close up of a mans face, opposite side down, he is still, calm, stationary all he does is blink for the most part. The dissolving from the jungle scene to the man alone scene seems to start gradually showing less of the jungle and more of him until the end scene where there is no longer any lingering images from the jungle scene and all we are left with is the image of this man lying on his bed, with a gun next to him.

The use of imagery in this film is apparent and austere we are shown what is relevant and important to the narrative and without any dialogue we know and understand the story. The main thing that I noticed with this film was the use of colour, in the beginning we are shown this green jungle with clear crisp blue sky and can almost smell the fresh air and then we see it attacked by a polluted yellow smog and eventually covered with a contrasting yellow orange and red fire, the colours are so vivid the we can almost feel the heat of the flames I find it intriguing the contrast of elements and colours and conclude that this is a technique set in motion by the use of imagery. The other way I found imagery to be effective was through symbols and narrative, in those 20 scenes there is no dialogue only the use of editing, sound (sound effects and music) and imagery, it is the imagery that tells the story, the helicopters, the flames, the war, the man/soldier we can associate these images to the story that we conceive in our own minds and therefore have a more emotionally intelligent reaction to the film.

I think that sound; image and editing work exceptionally well in this scene, but work even better when all these three elements become cohesive and tell the story together. The scenes that I have chosen clearly demonstrate how these techniques can be used together, especially scene 10 where all these elements are working together, firstly we have the editing, two scenes faded on top of one another, secondly we have the images that are being shown, the war and jungle of the past in opposition to the man alone in the aftermath of the present and most importantly the music which ties all these elements together making them seamless and cohesive. It is evident that sound, imagery and editing were fundamental techniques that made this scene beautiful to watch.

The Bad Day

Wrong.

Today has been the wrong day.
From beginning to end. Everything that could have gone wrong, did.

You know those days, the days that it seems like the world is picking on you personally?
Every so often, we all have them.

What’s behind this? Is it some karmic payback for having your shit together too often?
Is it a lack of preparation? Or purely something that’s out of our hands?

It progressively gets worse throughout the day.

Your alarm just happens to not work. For the past 360 days, it’s woken you up on time been heavily reliable. Not today. Today it decides not to, for some strange reason, some cosmic interception it just didn’t. You can’t seem to find your clothes. The ones you picked out last night. So you put together some absolutely ridiculous ensemble that doesn’t even fit you properly.

The alarm not going off creates a butterfly effect and you’re late for your train, you take your breakfast with you because you don’t have time to eat it at home, as you open your car door, the container of breakfast flies out of your hands and the somehow the air tight container opens and plants your food in a giant puddle on the ground.

An eye-roll, hoping that this is the last of it. “Oh silly girl, it’s only the beginning” the day seems to chuckle.

The day progressively gets worse, no doubt stringing from the events of the morning. All you can think of is that moment that you get home and hit your head on the pillow. The moment you can finally declare the day a write off and start a fresh for the next day.

What I hope to uncover is the reason behind this strange phenomenon of “The Bad Day”.
Is it written in the stars? Does one have to pay their dues? Are these bad days perpetrated by something more sinister, or are they only as real as we make them?

I think bad days only exist in our minds. If our beliefs control our actions on a subconscious level then maybe its just us making it worse by preemptively perpetuating the bad stuff.

As humans, we seek order in an essentially random world, this is why we see the patterns within the coincidences of a bad day. We are always looking for order, and seek it in order to make sense of our existence.

So, think about this when you’re having a bad day, and focus on the good commonalities rather than the bad. Tomorrow is another day.

Photo Credit Illusion