Monday, April 22, 2013

Why the world needs Superman

You know the story. Man sees doomed planet for what it is. He tries to help his people, but they spurn his attempts. In his desperation, he can only save his son, leaving his own fate with that of his people. The boy rockets to Earth, where he is adopted by two kind humans who raise him to be the best humanity has to offer. Thus Superman is born. He may not have the dark origin of Batman. He may not be as edgy as Wolverine. He may not be as relatable as Spiderman. But one thing is for sure, I wouldn't want anyone else other than Superman in my corner to catch me when I fall.
A parents last gift.
It’s easy to feel anxious in today’s world. Terror attacks, rapes, murders, and genocide are seemingly commonplace on this planet. Just pick up the newspaper (oops, you might not know what that is anymore), or watch the news (shit, TV’s dying too), and there is a constant testament to the worst humanity has to offer. Sure, every once in a while we get reminded of the random acts of kindness, but far too often the same news stories of tragedy reaches our senses. And as we begin to feel overwhelmed with all the negativity, its times like these where Superman is most important.
Give me a break!
You see, Bruce Wayne is Batman because of tragedy. Peter Parker is Spiderman because of his actions that led to his uncle’s death. Logan is the angry Wolverine because he’s the only badass Canadian ever (I kid!!!). But Clark Kent is Superman because of his adoptive parents. They raised him with the core values of what it is to be a good human being. And while struggling with his identity and his role in the world (which everyone does), while coming to terms with his immense loss of his biological home, but the gains of his adoptive world, Clark Kent embraced his human and kryptonian sides to become the most enduring hero of modern times.
A loving couple.
Superman may fly in the sky, but he’s not above us or our laws. He willingly follows them to a T in order to better serve us. It is in this regard that he is most unique. Superman was the first significant creation in a new era of human mythology. Our ancestors had the Greek and Roman gods running amok, bending the human spirit to their will. They were vengeful, deceitful, full of trickery, and rarely did anything to benefit mankind if it did not help them personally. But here came a character with absolute power, like Zeus, but was not corrupted. On the contrary, he held himself to a higher responsibility in order to ensure humanities safety. Where Zeus would transform into a swan to bed a girl or three, Superman walks the line boldly so that we may follow his example. He was the first of the gods to serve humanity for no personal gain.
Ladies and gentlemen, from the people that gave us "Oedipus Rex"...
No task is too small for Superman; he’s saved cats stuck in trees! He’s tried to end world hunger, genocide, nuclear arms, and yes, put a stop Lex Luther’s mad plans too. But there is more to it. There is a scene in the comic All Star Superman where a young girl is about the hurl herself off a building. This girl with her shortly cut dark hair and black eyeliner is at that moment in her life where everything is just in a dark place. All she needs is someone to reach out and let her know that she will be fine. But her doctor is unavailable, and she can’t endure anymore. Just as she’s about to take that final step to end it all, she’s gently wrapped up in the Man of Steels arms and he tells her simply that “You’re much stronger than you think you are”. This moment comes between Superman saving the world from one disaster or another. He’s leaping tall buildings, bouncing bullets off his chest, and still has enough time for those who feel that time has run out. That is the enduring human potential.
All Star Superman indeed.
Sure his standings in popularity may have fallen. People constantly complain that he’s not relatable and that he’s overpowered. But of all the comic book characters out there, he is the one humanity must strive to become. A hero so strong and bold, but so gentle that he will willingly give himself up to the military, let himself be handcuffed and escorted through a military base to be interrogated, surrounded by mere mortals that he could destroy with ease, and all for our own self satisfaction. That is the human potential; a law abiding force of nature that doesn’t hold itself above everyone, but is more than capable of solving real world problems. We may never reach such lofty heights, but we owe it to ourselves to at least try, or else we have fated this world of ours to become the next Krypton.
From "Man of Steel" (2013)
Happy belated 75th birthday Kal El. One day we will join you in the sun. 
All thanks to Joe Shuster and Jerry Seigel

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Virtual Déjà vu Fleshed Out

Last year, I flew to Las Vegas for an interview and stayed a bit longer to explore the Strip. I cannot shake a sense of weird familiarity. I was once in Las Vegas. But two decades for a day on the way to Los Angeles. Hardly memory-making time. The feel of a decadent urban oasis in the middle of a derelict wasteland where high hopes die with waking reality. Crap, this sounds very much the depiction of Las Vegas. But no, this familiarity comes from Fallout: New Vegas.

Lucky 38? Nope, the Stratosphere

I wonder, has virtual worlds, such as Fallout: New Vegas, crossed that threshold to truly simulate reality and trick our brains? Of course, virtual worlds cannot replace the experience of actually having our arses in those spots. At the same, it would seem technology is destined to generate the whole world without us ever leaving home as the great prophet, Sci-Fi, has foreseen. And it is a bit uneasy.The Mayan calender resetting last year to signify the entering of a new era. Yes, New Vegas was released in 2009. And yes, there are many games set IRL locations, such as the GTA series and Midtown Madness series (look that one up). Las Vegas hit me with déjà vu: the feeling of overwhelming familiarity in place or situation without there being a reason for such feeling. Few psychologists suggest such moments maybe the brain spotting something familiar in an unfamiliar place/situation. So the brain is throwing an anchor in an unexplored harbor. For what reason? Well, psychologists are kinda new on déjà vu existing (for real) and not so much for why.

Most likely to warn us

Perhaps déjà vu is an mechanism to buffer against uncertainty. Personally, I was in Las Vegas for an important interview which would dictate my future career. A video game inspired my déjà vu. A played out fantasy where you can have better control on the outcomes than IRL. Video gamers have been shown to have less nightmares. Since gamers are used to exerting control on one type of fantasy, so controlling another is not too hard. Hell, the US military has been experimenting with video games to treat PTSD.

So déjà vu and Mayan prophesy? Video games, more broadly virtual worlds, can be ingrained into our memories. Video games and virtual worlds become more as immersed experience than movies or books. Keep in mind, anxiety and depression disorders are rising in both children and adults for various reasons. So why not escape into a fantasy to deal with our reality? Keep escaping and we have the fulfillment of the Mayan calender ending in a new era.

So a fantasy revolves around moral system divided between slutty and emo. Not sure better than WoW or not...

Completely seceding from reality is ridiculous. But how many times have you spotted two or more people together, not speaking to each other and instead staring intently into their smart phone? Or how many times have you done so? Today?

Last thought: one solution to the Fermi Paradox (there are so many planets in the galaxy and yet we have not found evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence) is that all alien minds are uploaded to a supercomputer. Once in the supercomputer, the programming generated universes within this matrix. Thus, the aliens could care less about the universe outside.