Monday, October 20, 2008

I Want To Believe Dept: Yetis and UFOs

Two articles this Monday morning, both relating to our need to believe in things that don't exist. Both come from Discovery News.

First, a team of Japanese explorers claim to have found footprints belonging to the legendary (and non-existent) Yeti, aka the Abominable Snowman. Why seemingly intelligent modern scientists would continue to search for a creature which has no basis in reality beyond folklore is inexplicable to me. Humans do have a great need to explain the unknown, but to explain an unknown that is a human fabrication is futile.

Another article today deals with the long history of UFO sightings, mostly in Britain. The British military has released an excruciatingly long document debunking UFO sightings from the 80's and 90's. I've always had a wondrous need to believe that there is life somewhere in the universe other than here on our planet. I still believe with the sheer size of the universe, there's got to be something else out there. But, I don't feel the need to attribute every single weird meteorological or aviary phenomenon to intra-galactic travel.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tomb of Marcus Nonius Macrinus, inspiration for Ridley Scott film 'Gladiator' found in Italy

Would this really have made mainstream news if the subject's life wasn't made into a popular kick-ass movie starring Russell Crowe? Probably not, but I'm glad it's getting some attention.
Let's hope the historical value of this find eventually outweighs the pop-culture weight of it.

Richard Owen in Rome

Italian archeologists have discovered the tomb of the ancient Roman hero
said to have inspired the character played by Russell Crowe in the film

Daniela Rossi, a Rome archeologist, said the discovery of the monumental
marble tomb of Marcus Nonius Macrinus, including a large inscription bearing his
name, was "an exceptional find". She said it was "the most important ancient
Roman monument to come to light for twenty or thirty years".

The tomb is on the banks of the Tiber near the via Flaminia, north of Rome.
Cristiano Ranieri, who led the archeological team at the site, said the tomb had
long ago collapsed into the mud but its columns, roof and decorations were
intact. Some parts of the tomb had slipped into the river, but had been

Read the full story at the Times Online.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Possible Rabies Outbreak in Venezuela's Warao People Being Ignored by Government

A recent article the The Daily Californian describes the efforts by U.C. Berkley professors Charles Briggs and his wife Clara Martini-Briggs to help the Warao people of Venezuela (also Guyana and Suriname) deal with a mysterious outbreak of disease that has already killed over 30 people.

The Briggs believe that the disease, which works quickly and definitively, could be rabies. The Venezuelan government in Caracas has investigated the situation and denies that rabies exists anywhere in Venezuela. Regardless of the nature or origin of the disease, the fact is that simple health measures such as mosquito netting and access to better supplies and sanitation are desperately needed in the Orinoco region, something the government has yet to supply.

There's also a BBC article on the same subject from a few weeks ago.

Good luck to the Briggs and the Warao in their struggle.

Note: The Daily Californian article inexplicably refers to the Warao as the Marao. I've never seen it spelled that way.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Morel Orel Season 3: "Numb" : An honest depiction of a broken family.

Last night's episode of Morel Orel (titled "Numb") was probably the most brilliant and honest depiction of a broken family I have ever seen on television. It was a continuation of a more serious story arc that was started at the end of last season, dealing with Clay's alcoholism and it's effects on his family, and his psyche.

For those who have not seen the show:

Orel Puppington is a 12-year old boy who lives in the small town of Moralton in the fictional state of Statesota, a macrocosm of the Midwest bible-belt. The episodes have ranged from the absurd to the mundane. The animation style is reminiscent of 'Davey and Goliath', a series produced by the Evangelical Lutheran Church and Art Clokey of 'Gumby' fame. Most of the show's plot lines stem from Orel's overly literal and zealous take on bible lessons. He's so eager to please God and his family that he will do absolutely anything to be good. Orel's dad Clay is an alcoholic, a horrible husband and father, and he hates himself and his life. His mother Bloberta is distant and cold. Many episodes of the first two seasons ended with Clay and Morel in Clay's dungeon-like study, Morel pulling up his pants after a belting, his father doling out warped, pseudo-Christian life lessons while swirling a tumbler of scotch and fingering his leather belt.

Clay's alcoholism was always a running joke in the first two seasons, but it came to a horrifying and brutal head at the end of season two when Clay decided to take Morel on a hunting trip. Clay drank heavily the entire time. This is very much how I remember hunting with my dad. It really wasn't connected to any ancient ritual; it was just a reason for fathers to be away from their wives for a few days in an environment conducive to heavy all-day drinking, and maybe make a few personal revelations and confessions along the way. Of course, all is forgotten after sobering up and heading home.

Last night was the premiere of season 3, the final season since [adult swim] cancelled the show, mainly for this new, more serious story arc. The episode is titled “Numb” and it’s from the perspective of Orel’s mother, and what she went through while Orel and Clay were on their trip. The episode is so outrageous in its honesty, that it’s difficult to lay the plot out in any manner that will get the point across. You just have to see it. It’s absolutely brilliant. The use of The Mountain Goats’ “No Children” was very fitting. I’ve been a fan of the song for a long time, and I think the episode portrayed the bitter loneliness perfectly.

from The Mountain Goats, "No Children"

I hope that our few remaining friends
Give up on trying to save us
I hope we come up with a failsafe plot
To piss off the dumb few that forgave us
I hope the fences we mended
Fall down beneath their own weight
And I hope we hang on past the last exit
I hope it's already too late
And I hope the junkyard a few blocks from here
Someday burns down
And I hope the rising black smoke carries me far

And I never come back to this town
Again in my lifeI hope I lie
And tell everyone you were a good wife
And I hope you die
I hope we both die

Here’s hoping Dino and crew continue to do Morel online, or find another network. And here’s hoping that Morel’s dad gets into a program this season. His son really needs it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

J.M.G Le Clézio Awarded Nobel Prize for Literature

J.M.G Le Clézio has been awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize for literature. The Nobel committee describes him as an:

"author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a
humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization"

That's quite a statement.

It's unfortunate that Le Clézio's most revered work, "Desert", does not yet have an English translation. The Nobel folks say the work "contains magnificent images of a lost culture in the North African desert contrasted with a depiction of Europe seen through the eyes of unwanted immigrants." It's a shame, it sound like a magnificent book.

The awarding of the prize ($1.4 mil USD, not that it matters), and also the prizes awarded for science earlier this week got me thinking about laurels and laureates and our need to reward each other for a job well done.

Let's not rest on our...

(lôrl, lr-)
1. A Mediterranean evergreen tree (Laurus nobilis) having aromatic, simple leaves and small blackish berries. Also called bay5, bay laurel, sweet bay.
a. A wreath of laurel conferred as a mark of honor in ancient times upon poets, heroes, and victors in athletic contests. Often used in the plural.

The laurel tree itself, specifically the bay laurel, was not the first prize donned to winners of competition. Let's rely on Bulfinch for this one:

"...Python, an enormous serpent, crept forth, the terror of the people, and lurked in the caves of Mount Parnassus. Apollo slew him with his arrows—weapons which he had not before used against any but feeble animals, hares, wild goats, and such game.In commemoration of this illustrious conquest he instituted the Pythian games, in which the victor in feats of strength, swiftness of foot, or in the chariot race was crowned with a wreath of beech leaves; for the laurel was not yet adopted by Apollo as his own tree"

So, how did the laurel tree become Apollo god of light's official foliage? Cupid of course. A pissed off Cupid shoots Apollo with a golden tipped arrow, inflicting him with great love for Daphne, a wood nymph. She in turn is pierced by another, lead-tipped arrow, which inhibits her ability to love. Apollo would have none of this. After a long pursuit, Apollo finally catches up with the loveless wood nymph and just as he's about to ravish her, she calls upon her father, Peneus the river god, to "open the earth to enclose me, or change my form, which has brought me into this danger!" Poof! She's a laurel tree. Or at least mostly a laurel tree. Apollo can still feel her heart beat and:

“Since you cannot be my wife,” said he, “you shall assuredly be my tree. I will wear you for my crown; I will decorate with you my harp and my quiver; and when the great Roman conquerors lead up the triumphal pomp to the Capitol, you shall be woven into wreaths for their brows. And, as eternal youth is mine, you also shall be always green, and your leaf know no decay.”

Apollo's Pythian games, the precursor to the modern Olympics, would later adopt the laurel wreath as a symbol of achievement.

So, the modern symbol of honor all goes back to an ancient god trying to rape a wood nymph. Brilliant.



Etymology: Middle English suspecioun, from
Anglo-French, from Latin suspicion-, suspicio, from suspicere
to suspect

1 a: the act or an instance of suspecting something
wrong without proof or on slight evidence
: mistrust b: a state of mental uneasiness and
uncertainty : doubt2: a barely
detectable amount : trace

I've been flagged for spam blogging.
Apparently all you have to do is sign up for a blog and you're under review by the Google bots. I totally understand why they have to do this. There are a LOT of shit blogs out there, linking to links of lists of links of ads of links of lists. This, I hope, will never become one of those blogs. Fortunately, the whole situation does play into our theme.

Suspicion of wrong-doing is something only humans do. To speculate that someone else might be doing something wrong with absolutely no evidence is something you'll never see in the animal world. If it does happen, I would love to see it.

We're suspicious of everything and everyone all the time. So much so that we have to write bots and cute little automata that handle our suspicions for us, because we don't have the time to do it ourselves. We're too busy wondering what our neighbor is building in his basement or why the guy in the next cube is so damn quiet all the time.
suspicion. (2008). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
Retrieved October 8, 2008, from

Purpose and welcome.

I'm not sure what this is going to evolve into. It's just a seed at the moment. I want to highlight posts and thoughts and pictures and articles about everything that makes us uniquely human. From the weird to the mundane, from the profound to the profane.

The name Human Complex can be taken any way you like. Humans are complex. Humans have complexes. Human complexity is growing. Commonalities and unique axioms will always emerge from this complexity. That's what I hope to get at.

What other creature but a human, when so desperate and down would care for another species? There have been examples of inter-species nurturing when offspring are abandoned, but I think that may be more self-serving instinct than a conscious decision. Compassion will always be the defining factor in our originality. I don't know who to give credit to for the picture here (someone at NYU), but I think it's a great jumping off point for us. I will try my hardest to ensure this thing doesn't devolve into randomness.
God I hope I can keep up with this.