Saturday, April 30, 2011

Zombie Diseases

Yes, I know we have heard a lot about zombies this semester but I found this article on CNN particularly interesting on the topic.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/04/25/zombie.virus.zombies.book/index.html?iref=allsearch

Basically, this Harvard Medical School child psychiatrist gives us everything we need to know about the plausibility (and then execution) of a zombie influenza. He dives somewhat into the age old zombie question on existence- asking what exactly is it that defines us as alive? He touches then on exactly what would happen if a zombie disease could arise and then refers to his buddy, Robert Smith? (yes he differentiates himself from all the other Robert Smiths by putting a ? at the end of his name…hilarious, I know), a mathematician at the University of Ottawa, to explain exactly why we should be interested in zombie studies. Overall, the article was pretty informative and at times hysterical but it does bring up one main focus of this post. The overall horrendous and scariness of diseases like Scrapie and Mad Cow Disease, and Kuru.

These diseases are particularly scary because of the devastatingly grotesque and painful effects exhibited by the victims. All three of these diseases are caused by a generic restructuring of a protein into a ‘prion’. These prions then strategically break down the victim’s brain and ultimately all lead to death. The fact of a mis-folded protein turned into a prion is very scary because as seen in Kuru, humans are not immune to these horrendous diseases. Even though we medically know that Kuru is caused by cannibalism and particularly the ingestion of another persons’ brain, the fact that prions can develop in humans is very scary. As daunting as it may sound but with a complex evolution in one of these horrid diseases we potentially could have an epidemic similar to a Zombie-esque takeover.


Overall, the diseases that cause these horrific effects are farfetched for humans but the similarities between these diseases and a quasi-zombie outbreak are frightening ideas.

The Zombie Experience

In class we've spoken quite a bit about the morality that drives the Buffyverse. Why it is morally acceptable to kill countless vampires but killing a single human is an atrocity? Every war has casualties and you would think that this would include innocents ( in war with forces that literally started "evil") but in many movies and shows that deal with similar subject matter to Buffy we see a near total evasion from killing innocents. Usually it is spun off as a characteristic of heroism to stare rationality in the face and say "no innocents will die here today." But, it sounds like bullshit to me. With that having been said I would like to ask why is it okay to kill supernatural creatures? It could be argued that they are important to some food chain or some along those lines. They are obviously conscious and interact with the world around them in most of the ways that we do. However, what about zombies? Why is it okay to kill them recklessly? Who knows if they still have any cognitive functions left? I mean I know that they are literally corpses (falling apart, gruesome injuries that don't seem to hurt them) but who know's what it's like to be a zombie? No one. And if they're walking around and can interact with the world around them then maybe they are conscious. I wonder what the morality system is around zombie killing, or more specifically, the lack of one.

The Rock vs. Vin Diesel

I am aware of the Fast Five post below me, but I felt that the fight between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel deserved a post of its own. In wrestling terms it was the usual face versus heel match; highly anticipated and incredibly hyped throughout the movie. The first glimpse of these two characters in the same frame is the Rock chasing down Dom through the rooftops of Rio de Janeiro. The Rock uses his innate special agent skills to echo locate the running fugitive above him and explodes out of a window to catch up to him. However, Dom uses his sweet talking skills to escape and evades the hustling juggernaut. After another close encounter the men finally meet with the Rock saying, "Your going down Toretto."

The first 45 seconds is a straight slugfest. Dom pummels the Rock and the Rock pounds on Dom. The Rock appears to get the upper hand early on by slamming Dom into a truck but Dom "hulks up" and gets out of the submission. After several body blows and tackles, Dom sees his partners cornered and goes crazy, tackling the Rock through some structural feature in what signals the turning point in the match. When the Rock's team members (who have plenty of guns) go to help, the Rock casually dismisses them. A wrestling match pursues with Dom regaining the upper-hand, who then reaches for his finishing move, a wrench to the skull. In dramatic cinematography, Dom lifts the wrench above his head like a tomahawk and pulverizes the space where the Rock's head should be lying. There is a brief moment of silence as the audience envisions the Rock's head as a smashed pumpkin. Luckily, Dom chooses to crack concrete instead of skulls and he places his hand behind his back to get arrested.

The fight had plenty of promos, used many situational props, and had loud thumping bass to support the heavy hitting blows. Just the type of voilent, action packed movie needed to kick the summer off, and since we are in Ithaca, I mean spring.

First 45 seconds of the fight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlHepFKdIGI

Friday, April 29, 2011

FAST FIVE

Wow, I can't believe they've had five "The Fast and the Furious" movies already. It's crazy because to be honest, I didn't really even like the first two movies that much. But, I guess I've watched all five of them in theaters, so there's something appealing about it.




I don't know why, but I particularly want to watch "Fast Five." Maybe it's because I haven't seen Dwayne Johnson (aka the Rock) in a serious acting role in forever or maybe its the combination of amazing cars and violence. And they always have a hot girl. To be honest though, all the "The Fast and the Furious" movies are pretty much the same pattern. Bunch of fugitives escaping cops in super fast modded cars. Hmm...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Buffy on Call of Duty: Black Ops?



In the newest expansion pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops, the user may play as a slew of characters such as Freddy Kreuger, Danny Trejo (from "Machete"), and Michael Rooker (from "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" and "The Walking Dead"). The expansion, Escalation, taps into our favorite pastime by allowing players to kill zombies! The map called "Call of the Dead," which was inspired by George A. Romero (pretty much the inventor of the modern zombie), is the only map on which the enemies appear as zombies. But wait, there's more... Players on this map can use the aforementioned characters of various horror movies in addition to a character called Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar). You may or may not remember her from the last few weeks of class. She is sort of a big deal, and a highly-anticipated addition to the game-playing experience. Furthermore, it appears that you wont be limited to a wooden stick as means of killing as Buffy is seen wielding a pistol in the promo video. Also, the vampires are much more realistic and actually provide a formidable enemy to exterminate over and over again.

Innocently scary: 5 Creepy Children in movies

Let’s be honest: there is nothing creepier than evil children in movies. Their angelic tunes and innocent laughter could send a chill down anyone’s spine. Of all their traits, their uncanny skill to hide their malicious psychotic self behind that innocent facade really gets me. Watching these children prancing around killing/arbitrating violence on adults twice their weight, mass and knowledge, gives one goosebumps but nevertheless, they are no doubt entertaining characters.

There’s always signs that gives them away: eerie obsession with formal attire, “socially-awkward-ness", and that innocent wide-eyed gaze, lets not forget the dark circles under their eyes…

It seems like Hollywood can’t make a thriller nowadays without putting a creepy child in there. In honor of the brief appearance of that little girl singing in “Hush” (episode of BtVS), I have complied a short list of all those children who had managed to scare the crap out of me over the years:

5. Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense (1999)

Although Cole doesn’t fall in the murderous, formal-clothes wearing category, his classic “I see dead people” leaves quite an impression. If that’s not enough, it’s the fact that’s he’s so chilled about the whole thing. There's something not quite right about that...


4. Emily Callaway in Hide & Seek (2005)

After her mother’s suicide, Emily meets a new friend, Charlie, whom her father thinks is imaginary. Though you discover she’s not entirely our of her mind at the end, we are fooled in to thinking she is for the most part.





3. Damien Thorn in The Omen (2006)

The son of the devil himself. Need I say more?




2. Esther in The Orphan (2009)

Appeared to be charming, well behaved and smart but turns out to be murderous, manipulative and conniving. If you think that’s the twist, director Jaume Collet-Serra reveals the large surprise that comes at the end, taking our idea of psychotic to the next level.


1. Samara Morgan in The Ring (2002)

In “the Ring”, Samara was locked away in a barn and was later killed by her adoptive mother. With inhuman powers, she comes back from the dead through VCRs, wreaking havoc in Naomi Watt’s life. I always knew there was a reason why we use Bluerays/DVDs now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Does a soul really make that much of a difference?

With all this talk about Buffy and the slayer and being the gift of death, I was wondering what gives Buffy the right to dole out death. Yes she is the slayer and shes really strong and all that but what set of guidelines is she using. She always seems to mention the presence or absence of a soul as a main criteria for killing or not killing something. We know that vampires do not have souls while people do, which is why Buffy kills vampires and not humans, but how does a soul make humans different from vampires? does it make them different? Vampires do have human emotions; I have actually seen a good number of demons who are nicer than some humans. Does that still mean the demons die while the humans live? A good example is Warren. Hes human and a killer. He puts peoples lives in danger to further his own agenda. He has done all of these terrible things yet Buffy will not kill him. Another example is Spike. Yes he has a chip in his head but he is genuinely nice and helps the slayer out as much as he can. He even loves her but she thinks of him as less than human. How can this be right? How can a soul really be that big of a deciding factor. No one earns a soul, its just something they are born with. And I guess we could touch base on the whole superman/morals question about how every life is worth saving but Im no superhero so I believe that in some cases, saving many is worth taking the life of one. That may make me seem cold hearted but when Buffy was saying she would kill anyone who tried to kill Dawn, EVEN THOUGH killing her would stop the world from ending, I felt that she was being selfish by putting her morals above the safety of the world.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Buffy, Buffy, Buffy

Whenever I tell my friends that I have to watch BtVS for class they usually snicker and throw a couple of snide remarks my way. I'd like to say I take it in stride because we all know that we have at least seen one episode of BtVS. It was a huge show that is consistently rated as one of the best shows of all time. With that having been said I think that after watching "The Body" I realized that just how much I was getting into the show. The moments of silence as well as Joyce's dead stare that is constantly revisited were definitely felt my countless viewer, including myself. I felt bad for Buffy because although in many ways she is now free from the liability of having to explain to and deal with a worried mother, but she also lost the woman who made her who she is. Buffy's powerlessness in the face of death is a powerful reminder of the unpredictability of it; even if you are the slayer

Blood Transfusions, Vampires, and Sex

The discovery of blood transfusions was the one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of medicine. Undoubtedly, the ability to donate blood to injured or diseased individuals has saved countless lives from near death. From a literary and academic standpoint, however, blood transfusions have sexual undertones. We see this in Bram Stoker's Dracula, a gothic novel written around the time when the first blood transfusions were successfully being performed. In the novel the beautiful Lucy, a young woman sought by manner suitors, falls gravely ill after an interaction with Dracula. Van Helsing with his medical knowledge decides that the best course of action is to perform a blood transfusion. Indeed, each one of her suitors volunteers to donate blood by attaching a tube from their arm to Lucy's, as in the photo. One can interpret the actions as sexual by nature through the exchange of fluids, and the concept of "life giving" blood. Unfortunately, Lucy later becomes a vampire and Van Helsing realizes that the transfusions sustained her instead of curing her.

In certain respects Bram Stoker's novel influenced Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the sexual concept of exchanging blood. Vampires in Buffy are formed through the exchange of blood. The exchange is usually consensual, where a vampire bites a mortal and the latter bites him or her back. For instance, when Drusilla transforms William into Spike, he willingly accepts her vampiric advances. The sounds and visuals in the scene, like the sweating, groaning, and hurting emphasize the sexual nature of the bite. This blood transfusion has the same parallels with sex as seen in Dracula. If we take this notion a little farther, whenever a mortal is attacked, bitten, and killed by a vampire, the act for all intents and purposes is an act of rape. It represents a non consensual exchange of fluids (or one way depending on how you look at it). Ultimately, I feel this is what makes vampires sexual transgressors.

The Best Buffy Episode


The most powerful Buffy episode I’ve seen so far is The Body, where Buffy’s mother dies of a brain aneurism. The episode is eerily stripped of all music, and it is filmed in such a way that it conveys the stark physicality of death. Buffy has to move her mother’s body in order to administer CPR, but in doing so, she cracks her mother’s ribs. This is a very realistic, gruesome moment where the sheer physicality of the characters hits the viewer for the first time. A repulsive scene follows it where Buffy notices that her mother’s skirt is bunched up and revealing her underwear, which she quickly fixes. That uncomfortable moment is obscene without being overdone. The close-ups of Buffy’s waxy, sweaty face are also indicative of the physicality of the situation. The viewer can almost feel her claustrophobia. The pivotal moment when Buffy refers to her mother as “the body” to Giles is the first time she truly acknowledges the physicality of death.

This theme continues throughout the episode. Xander punches a wall as his way of coping with grief, and his fist is covered with blood. The Scooby Gang is not indestructible—they bleed just like everybody else. Dawn’s art assignment is to draw the negative space around a female figure. In a way, the viewer can think about Joyce’s death as causing a negative space in the form of a vortex of grief and unease. The one fight between Buffy and a vampire is unusually physical hand-to-hand combat, culminating in Buffy slicing off the vampire’s head with a surgical saw. Even more unusual is the fact that the vampire is a naked, dead male corpse. Its very presence is intrusive. It inspires far greater levels of disgust and horror than the usual demon.

The Body is all about the corporeal. When Buffy sees her mother’s corpse on the living room couch, she is confronted with her own death made palpably real. This is an instance of death infecting life, which is undoubtedly a traumatic experience for her. Dawn reaches out to touch her mother’s corpse in the harrowing final scene, but she never makes contact with her face. She realizes that her mother’s body is a shell, and there is simply nothing there. By walking into the morgue in the first place, she is seeking some sort of resolution, but she never finds it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Real Dracula


The fictional character of Count Dracula was based on a real man Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia. Near Moldavia, his domain suffered under his rule from 1456 to 1462. His legacy came largely from his brazen and brutal execution methods. He engaged in genocide against a group of people called the boyar who he felt wronged him. Vlad hurt people as he ate dined. Some of the most common tactics were impaling, burning, skinning, roasting, forcing people to eat the flesh of their friends.

Vlad's estate had concentric rings of impaled enemies radiating outwards from his lair. The bodies stayed up for days to create a horrendous stench.

A wave of vampire fear was moving through the Europe at that time and still lingers today. The novelist Bram Stoker is credited with bringing Vlad into the legend of Dracula.

Nonviolent Games for Hardcore Gamers

Of the top-ten best selling PC games of all time, 5 are expressly non-violent. This includes The Sims, The Sims 2, Myst, RollerCoaster Tycoon, and SimCity 3000. However, of IGN's list of the best PC games of all time, only one of the top ten is non-violent, SimCity 2000. Clearly, there is a divide between the expectations of hardcore gamers, the main demographic of people who would care to read IGN's list, and the more mainstream demographics that supply the massive sales numbers needed to become a best-seller. However, in recent times there are a few exception to this divide. Occasionally, a relatively non-violent game will break through and become a major hit among hardcore gamers. In celebration of the most recently released example, here's a post on the beloved Portal, and its hit sequel Portal 2.
Here's some footage of Portal's gameplay for anyone who hasn't heard of it:

In the Portal series, the player controls an anonymous female protagonist armed with the Portal gun. Although it sounds, and looks, like a first-person shooter game, the portal gun is a unique item. It allows you to shoot beams of light that create portals connecting one spot to another via teleportation. This simple premise is masterfully played with, as in order to progress through the levels you must use the portals creatively to manipulate gravity and physics to allow your character to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. Although you must contend with various dangers such as sentry guns or high energy beams, there is never an emphasis on fighting, instead on outsmarting the various traps. It was highly celebrated by the gaming community for both its innovative gameplay and its compelling storyline.

A game like Portal, and its new sequel which has been called "one of the greatest games of recent years" by the Guardian, shows that hardcore gamers do not always demand intense violence. With clever enough gameplay, game designers can appeal not just to mainstream gamers like the Sim games do, but instead to hardcore demographics and become a beloved touchstone of the community.

In Sheep's Clothing



Something that has always intrigued me about the depiction of women as agents of violence precisely because it has never been standardized, and the motivations for perpetuating the violence have never been quite the same as opposed to depictions of men as heroes and agents of violence which are much more mundane, never straying too far away from the cookie cutter tried and true archetypes. One can go back all the way to ancient dramas where Euripides created an angry and vengeful and jealous Medea who murders Jason’s new wife Glauce as well as her children to voice her rage. Yet another instance Beatrix Kiddo, who we’re all undoubtedly familiar with from our study of Kill Bill. Her motivation to destroy all who stand in her way is also rooted in revenge and a hatred for those who unsympathetically curtailed her attempt to provide a normal childhood for her daughter by ambushing her wedding and taking her daughter away from her.

Perhaps one of the new innovations and twists as of late really is something that should’ve really been addressed long ago. In contrast to the motivations of revenge used to contextualize the need for women to commit violence in the past, more modern interpretations depict powerful women committing violence for the simply reason that they can and they should, because it is a conscious choice. Buffy puts stakes through hearts and spin kicks demons and vampires precisely because she wants to and has to because she is saving the world from descending into hell. Veronica Mars also came to mind as another example. Mars is seemingly in complete control of her able to sneak around and extract information about sketchy suspects. Once again, the need to justify violence isn’t because of familial issues or because of retribution, it’s the fact that might does make right, and these female heroes can exact violence because they are portrayed to be powerful, so much so that even men succumb to their power. Despite this, these figures have appearances that belie their power. They’re petite and attractive, and i find it a little strange. We spent so much time admiring big and tall men as agents capable of great power and violence, but the opposite seems to be true for women. It’s not as if any of these characters are playing the femme fatale stereotype, so the heightened sexuality in their appearance is at once confusing and ambiguous.

The Hurt Locker

The movie The Hurt Locker opens on a strange quote, which most of us, even most enlisted soldiers, would not be able to relate to at all, "The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug." The movie is a character study exploring a bomb defuser in the current Iraq war named Sergeant William James - played by Jeremy Renner in a ferociously focused and nuanced performance - who not only relates to this quote, but lives and breathes it everyday. Like a man possessed, he returns voluntarily to the war tour after tour, being addicted to danger and thrill of life-and-death split second decisions. We get the sense that he is only truly content when he is at work on the battlefield defusing bombs and the few scenes at the end of the movie where he is at home suggest emptiness and an inability to fit in with "normal" people.





In one intense bomb disposal scene, we see his tunnel-visioned ability to stay easy in combat situations, how brashly confident he is in his skills, and the joy he brings to his work. Utterly bemused at the possibility of dying from defusing the bomb, he calmly takes off his bomb suit and says that if he's going to die he might as well die comfortably. His attitude is oft-putting to even his fellow soldiers, who later on almost consider "accidentally" killing him for his dangerous nature and blaming it on a training accident. He is both hated and respected by his colleagues; none of them can understand his recklessness and the joy he takes at being constantly in harms way but at the same time begrudgingly respected for his skill and grace under pressure. In the sniper scene, we see exactly why he is respected since his calm leadership and ability to make and help others make split second decisions help them to survive a deadly situation.



In another scene in a Humvee with William James and J.T. Sanborn after they almost died unsuccessfully trying to defuse a bomb (starting at the beginning of the above clip), the differences between the two men (and of most normal human beings and William James) are made apparent. Sanborn is shook up to his very core by his near death experience and makes a speech about the insanity of being so close to death everyday on the battlefield. He asks William James how he deals with it and his reaction is fascinating: simultaneously amused at his own inability to articulate himself and also taken aback by the question because while he can see why it would occur to other people, he realizes that it never occurred to himself.

We later see that this particular, almost insane personality and the skills he brings to the table that make him so effective on the battlefield are useless in the real world. In war, things are simple and black and white, decisions are made instinctively, not intellectually, must be made within split seconds, and boil down to simply whether to shoot or not to shoot, kill or be killed. In the real world though things are just the opposite. In one amusing scene (starting 1:40 in the above clip), where he is asked to buy some cereal by his wife at home, we see how overwhelmed he is at all the choices available at the grocery store and at the same time see his silent recognition that most of the choices he will now be making in the real world outside the battlefield will be the boring choices of consumerism. His hunter/warrior (or maybe better described as sociopathic) nature is completely out of place in domestic life.

But for as long as we have war, we will always need people like William James. In another life, his insane disregard for his life and his relentless pursuit of the next adrenaline fix (both sociopathic tendencies) might have added up to someone who is a serial killer or criminal, but fortunately for William James and the career soldiers like him, our culture has a socially acceptable role for them - on the battlefield.

Sex and Violence in American Psycho


I decided to watch American Psycho as I hadn't seen the movie in quite a long time. (For those who have never seen it, I would recommend it.) Realizing that the movie does not fully cover the all of the material in the novel on which it is based, I later plan to read the book by Bret Easton Ellis. Since the movie features a gratuitous amount of sex and violence, I watched the movie through this lens to see if I could determine any sort of theme that linked them together. Patrick Bateman (portrayed by Christian Bale) appears to be a wealthy investment banker on the surface level, but he is losing control of his passion for murder and sex. His use of prostitutes to fulfill his strange role-playing represents the sex, but the acts that he puts these women through are clearly violent in nature and unquestionably a form of abuse. The presence of violence satisfies him more than the actual possession of women. I won't spend time making comparisons to Faith of the Buffy series, but it is interesting to note some of the similarities between the two characters. Neither of these characters has much control of their careers (Patrick Bateman is an investment banker to "fit in" and Faith is a slayer by fate), yet they still share a common need for intertwining sex and violence as a way of truly fulfilling themselves. I never really took much time to analyze how sex and violence are presented in films, but the theme are intertwined in the plots of many of the films we see. Although few go to the extremes of American Psycho and the Bateman's use of women as mere targets of physical/psychological violence, there is something to be said about the ways humans link sex and violence. How do you view violence and sex as portrayed in American Psycho?


Friday, April 22, 2011

He’s Heating Up

Playing NBA Jam for the Super Nintendo is a favorite past time of mine. Both offense and defense contain simple strategies to ensure a win. If your on offense you either shoot 3-pointers or dunk and on defense you just hack away, repeatedly trying to foul whoever has the ball. Every once in awhile you try to go for the Dwight Howard block but usually just get goaltending called. Currently the NBA playoffs are happening and this same defensive tactic of heavy fouling is being used against the superstars of the league. In hopes of tiring out the other team’s MVP player, whether it is Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, or Chris Paul, the opposing teams are doing anything possible to stop those three from having an impact.

Dwight Howard was recently reported to be so tired after game 2 that he was 90 minutes late to his post game interview due to his prolong ice bath. This was due to the double and triple teams that he has to deal with. The Los Angeles Lakers decided to put Kobe Bryant on Chris Paul and prevent another 33-point, 14-assist game. Kobe’s aggressive body contact shut down Chris Paul leaving him with only 20-points and 9-assists. Anyone watching the game could see the sparks fly as these players did everything they could to bump, irk, and aggravate the other.

The NBA is not taking lightly to this hawkish behavior and has increased the number and level of fouls it hands out. Recently, the NBA upgraded a foul that Jeff Foster committed on Derrick rose to a level 1 flagrant foul (two level 1 flagrant fouls results in a suspension). Derrick Rose was very displeased after the foul since Foster wrecked him with his body and elbows. Almost resulting in a fight, the tempers calmed down afterwards. Foster responded after the game saying, [Rose] reacted. It’s the playoffs. I’m sure he is going to get hit plenty of times.” Rose shrugged it off but that’s what makes the playoffs so exciting. Two teams going head to head, do or die, win or go home. Ill feelings are taken out on the court and hopefully not too many fights break out. In the end, the most driven, emotionally controlled team wins.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Capital Punishment: Where is the line drawn

http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/04/20/terror.suspect.charges/index.html?hpt=T1

This article brings up a big question about retribution and what is morale right. This terrorist was accused and found guilty of being a part of a deadly terrorist attack on a US navy ship. Does this mean that he should be killed? What does one life mean when compared to another? how about 17, which is how many people he was accused of killing. How can you quantify a life and say that if you kill this many people then that means you deserve to die. Who even decides these things. This ties into our discussion on Buffy because during her years as a slayer, she has killed many beings. They may have been soulless vampires but does that make it right to kill them? They obviously show human emotions, so how can we really say they can die yet killing a human is off limits.
However, as im writing this I am realizing all of the intricacies of this situation and how anyone can come to a sound conclusion about it. does it matter how the people are killed or does it just matter how many. what about the killers intentions, dont those matter. Its a pretty hard issue to think about and an even harder one to make a decision on.

Boys Vs. Girls

A post earlier mentioned the similarities between modern day interpretations of vampires. Making the list includes Edward Cullen (Twilight et al) and Angel (BtVS). I would also like to take the chance here to point out Stephan Salvatore (the Vampire Diaries) and Bill Crompton (True Blood), adding them to the list.







Top left: Angel - BtVS

Top right: Bill Compton - Trueblood

Bottom left: Stefan Salvatore - The Vampire Diaries

Bottom Right: Edward Cullen - Twilight




Despite the obvious physical similarities, these gentlemen all embody similar characteristics. First and foremost, they all have human girlfriends. They all slept with their human girlfriends. They are all head over heels for their pretty teenage girlfriends. (if one consider the implications of this phenomena, it rather pedo). They are all 200 year old + men that look like they are in their 20s (ish). All rejects themselves, what they are, their lifestyle and in one way or another, humanity loving; thus, they are lonesome and forsaken by their fellow vampire friends. Did I also mention they all appear to be tortured and brooding?

Unlike their male equivalents (humanity loving, kind, gentleman like figures), female vampires are depicted as out of control, manipulative, blood thirsty and incredibly sexy. Consider Drucilla in BtVS: she’s cute, mysterious, dangerous, unpredictable and border line psychotic, yet undeniably attractive all at once – embodying the core of Gurlesque. [The element, Gurlesque, flirts between the ultra cute, the grotesque and the sexy.] With that in mind, consider Katharine Pierce (Vampire Diaries) and Lorena Krasiki (True blood):



left to right: Drucilla (BtVS), Katherine Pierce (TVD) and Lorena Krasiki (Trueblood)



Female vamps embody all the typical bad girl characteristics, while oozing with archaic elegance and sexuality. (In Durcilla’s case, with a pinch of cuteness as well) In a way, they are the walking conjuration of the saying “face of an angel, body of a devil”. Despite their goddess like appearances, they take pleasure arbitrating violence - a trait typically associated with BDSM. I would argue, they are in their own way, a sex symbol many may fantasize about. The mix of unpredictability, mystery, danger, “gamine” and sex makes them particularly entertaining characters as a whole.

On an ending note, it is interesting that our social cultural paradigms of heteronormitivy are completely overturned in the vampire world: females are the rational cold-blooded killers, and for a change, males are the emotional ones.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Abortion: Is It Violence?

Violence has lately been a huge issue lately in political arenas as the G.O.P. and Democrats fight over the benefits of Planned Parenthood. In Indiana, the G.O.P. is attempting to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood all together (http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2011/04/19/Indiana-measure-targets-Planned-Parenthood/UPI-92391303236407/).

For those who don't know what Planned Parenthood is, according to its site, it is "a trusted health care provider, an informed educator, a passionate advocate, and a global partner helping similar organizations around the world. Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide." Its basic offers But its main services can be summarized in the categories of abortion, birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, general health care, and education. What is igniting debate all over is the fact that the G.O.P. views Planned Parenthood as an abortion machine.

Let's hear what Scarlett Johnansson has to say about it.


Michele Bachman, a conservative Minnesota Republic Congresswoman, has gone on to say that Planned Parenthood is the "LensCrafters of big abortion." Wow.

So is abortion violence or murder? For some, it definitely depends on the timing and pregnancy cycle of the actual abortion and what constitutes "life." Is all abortion thoughtless and disgusting murder of unborn babies? Or does it even matter, because women need to be given a choice to live their lives?

Read more about the ongoing political debate at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/20/us/20iht-letter20.html?_r=1&src=ISMR_HP_LO_MST_FB

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Chosen Ones

Unfortunately due to the the extremeness of commuting, we missed our discussion on Faith and Buffy. While Peter wrote a bit about this two days ago, I'd like to highlight a particularity of the moral code in these episodes. Foremost, as discussed in Richardson and Rabb's "Buffy, Faith, and Bad Faith", BtVS explores the concepts of essentialist morality and experiential morality. We talked a bit about essentialism in the concept that Angel with a soul is good by definition, whereas soulless vampires are necessarily evil (don't worry, this gets more complicated as the show progresses). Experiential morality is where one learns morality through experience (duh). An example from the series is where Kendra's sense of rightness comes from rules and the teaching of her watcher, Buffy's comes from her experience of good and evil.

Faith, on the other hand rejects the essentialist righteousness that comes with slayerhood (for a variety of reasons, including an evil watcher). Nevertheless, her conception of right and wrong seem to be a product of her ignoring responsibility in the face of experience.

This brings us to an existentialist framework in which to read BtVS. In "Bad Girls," "Consequences," and "Enemies," concepts such as the totality of death (the end of possible futures, etc), the angst of responsibility, and the absurdity of life compete with the transgressive sexualities hinted at ("'What you forgot your safety word?' 'Safety words are for wusses.'; 'I just don't like rubbing your nose in it. Suddenly wondering where that expression comes from.'). This makes for a potentially confusing cloud of signals. Trust, responsibility, guilt, redemption. And then the fake Angelus.

The fake Angelus becomes the reason Buffy and Angel ultimately call it quits as Angel leaves at the season finale. Even though Angel takes responsibility for his actions and Buffy obviously trusts him (if he'd lose control, he'd really lose control), but seeing the demon that's still in him was too much. And I personally think it is implied that Angel might have slept with Faith, or at least took the "romantic" too far ("As long as you're there, I mostly want you to wriggle."). The interesting thing about all of this is that it appears to be a trust game, Angel's euphemism for BDSM, down to Buffy chained to the wall. So what's really going on with sexuality, violence, and responsibility of this episode? I believe calling this a soap opera for children and saying that the series "disguises" sex might not be quite right (not to pick on a previous post). It seems to me like the sex is on the surface, seething with tension, but that it, in turn, might stand for something else.

K'naan and Violence

For those of you who were at the K'naan/ Lupe concert on Sunday, did you know that K'naan learned how to fire a gun at age 8, and accidentally blew up his school at age 11 with a hand grenade that he had mistook as an old, dirty potato? He is from Mogadishu, one of the roughest cities on Earth, and he saw his friends being killed by gunmen as he was running away. When he escaped from Somalia's civil war to the US, he began to learn music as a form of expression. Since then, he has nurtured the ambition to "reform" hip-hop. A very important aspect of his music is that it is never violent. K'naan is determined not to bring violence into his music. He raps, "If I rhyme about home and got descriptive/ I'd make 50 Cent look like Limp Bizkit". He says that his homeland is very different from American cities in that the violence isn't restrained to pockets: it is everywhere. There is no escape. He says Somalis don't turn to violence as an escape, because violence is their only reality. K'naan is very diplomatic. He doesn't condemn other rappers for dwelling on their own experiences with violence, but he's very focused about what he wants to create. He is determined to make people contemplate deep subjects whenever they listen to his lyrics. Maybe it is his inspirational story and peaceful stance that gives him his universal appeal, and made his hit song Wavin' Flag the official anthem of the 2010 World Cup. From my own experience in the audience on Sunday, he is an amazing, charismatic stage performer who sends a very clear, positive anti-violence message. That alone makes him unique in the hip-hop world.

A Rant on Horror

The Scream franchise has always been about finding meaning by interweaving traditional horror movies and conventions into its narrative structure. The original Scream was well received in 1996 as a clever satire that rewrote the horror genre with a wink to slasher conventions. Scream 4, a revival of the franchise, is now in theaters. I considered watching it this weekend, but I decided against it after taking a look at the trailer. On an unrelated note, I watched Arthur (starring Russell Brand) instead, which was a very poor choice. Even though I am a huge horror fan, I am tired of the countless horror revamps over the last few years. Visually uninspired and plagiaristic, the new Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th were great disappointments. I can tell that Wes Craven is attempting to take aim at our generation that lacks the capacity for original thought, but being self-referential is not going to save Scream 4 from being a tired, unnecessary installment to the franchise. In all its self-awareness, the film becomes a prime example of the very disease that it's diagnosing. Revamps can be great too. I think the newer versions of the Omen and Texas Chainsaw Massacre were both excellent takes on the original.

In the trailer, some kids in the film club are talking about the new generation of horror, what they call “2.0”. The trailer promises an ominous “new generation of terror”, and “the next step in psycho/ slasher innovation”, but I can bet that Scream 4 fails to deliver on those promises. The only truly innovative horror film I’ve seen in the past few years was Paranormal Activity, made far more impressive with the fact that it was filmed on a shoestring budget, and I was very disappointed when the sequel fell short of the original. Even so, I think Paranormal Activity was groundbreaking in its execution of terror. The horror genre has been taking a turn for the self-aware ever since the first Scream came out. The smug self-knowledge with its repeated references is no longer novel or funny. The audience no longer plays along with the assumption that there's something inherently clever about a slasher movie making reference to both its genre and the filmmaking process. It’s time for the masters of horror to turn that around and fully immerse themselves in the fun that is making people scream for real. Paranormal Activity was so chilling because it was filmed documentary-style. Weak, tedious remakes cannot be excused just because they know how to make fun of themselves for being lazy and unoriginal.

Polo


Last weekend I attended the Cornell Men’s Polo match against Connecticut. A sport generally hidden from the normal gaze of Americans who are blinded by visions of different more local sports, Polo has been around since the 4th century and has always been a relatively expensive sport (and subsequently royal and noble one). This leads to one conclusion as to why it is not in the forefront of Americans eyes. However, after viewing this event for the first time I became an instant fan and realized the precision, dedication, strength, finesse, grace, power, and control both the players and the horses exude on the field. However, the thing that struck me the most was the downright physically violent nature of the game.

As someone who always felt riding horses was a leisurely and relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon, seeing these six players (three on each team) brutally bash into one another made my jaw drop. I was told before the match that the game was ‘hockey on horseback’ and skeptically accepted the notion, being a huge hockey fan I felt as this might be an overstatement…however, I could not have been more wrong. Imagine a scene where men and animal work together to fight over possession of a small white ball, continue to imagine these beasts barrage into each other at incredible speeds. This scene was exactly what went on, amazing feats of control and precision coupled with battles of physicality. It was a violent physical sport very similar to hockey, where players bump, push, and lean on one another in compressed indoor arena. (The professional version is played on a larger outdoor field with four players on a team and the physical nature is almost obsolete in this version) And similarly to hockey the way to score goals is incredibly difficult and requires precise striking with polo stick and ball directed towards a small goal. It’s a sport for everyone and involves skills like physicality, elegance, grace, speed, and accuracy.

Overall, the sport was an eye-opening experience for me and the game was incredibly close and a well-contested match. I urge all of you to head up to our equestrian center this weekend for the National Tournament at our home field. Cornell has received the number two seed (deservingly so) and has a great chance to bring the Cornell Men’s Polo National Title back to Ithaca.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sex is bad, violence is O.K.?

Having studied sex and violence in Buffy for the past week, I have realized that violence, in any form of media, seems to be accepted while sex is deemed too graphic to show to the masses. I'm not talking about showing a bunch of sex on t.v., but since the two are so closely related, should we accept one and admonish the other? I do not see any social motivation for why violence in media has increased in recent years, while sexual content in media has been suppressed. I believe that if filmmakers, photographers, and producers should be able to express themselves to the fullest of their ability, and if doing so includes more sexual content than normal, they should not be censored. That being said, this gets back to the issue of exposure of "extreme" media and its affect on children. Those who believe that violence in media affects children would most certainly also be against sex in the media. Yet, one continues to have an increasing role in the mainstream while the other sits without exposure.

Sons of Jackass

As I was channel surfing last night, I tuned to Comedy Central at the perfect time: on the screen before me were the words "coming summer 2063." As an amateur futurist, the words intrigued me, so I kept watching. Not long after, I realized that I was watching a bonus featurette with the cast of Jackass dressed as 80-year-olds. I've always been a fan of Jackass, especially the scenes in which Johnny Knoxville disguises himself as an aging retiree, so I kept watching. Classmates: Watch video now.


As I watched the video, my life flashed before my eyes (because my laughter brought me to the verge of death.) After my laughter subsided, I thought about what I had just witnessed: a bunch of old (looking) men being killed in horrific and bloody ways - How can something like that be so funny to me? Jackass is so popular today because it always takes its stunts to the extreme. Jackass has always been pushing the envelope: the first time I saw a man covered in feces and the first penis I ever saw in a movie theater were both during Jackass films (I have yet to see another man covered in shit, but BrĂ¼no has since shown me the latter.) I think this particular bit is funny because it pushes the violence of Jackass to the extreme, and in doing so parodies the concept of the show itself. It also doesn't try to mask its obvious visual fallacies, which shows that the intent was to explore the concept of the parody, rather than the execution.

I've Got a Basketball Jones

It's that magical time of the year again, the NBA playoffs! As a long time "casual" Miami Heat fan I have to admit that I haven't had this much interest in the post-season for quite a few years. While the more violent NHL playoffs are overshadowed by the more popular NBA playoffs the next handful of weeks, the sports fight enthusiast is bound to get at least a taste of some scuffles in basketball within the next few days.

In Miami's last stretch of games leading to the post-season, I've noticed something off with my boy Big Z, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, he's been fiery under the collar. The normally quiet, Lithuanian, "soft" center, known for reading military fiction novels in the locker room, has inexplicably morphed into an enforcer type player. After an errant elbow against the Wizards, Z got into an admittedly hilarious scuffle with the 15 years his younger, 11 inches his shorter John Wall.
About a week later he was at it again; getting fired up and pegging an opposing player in the back with a basketball, dodge-ball style

What makes fights and scuffles so interesting in the NBA is the relatively more intimate nature of the sport for TV viewers. No faces are obscured by helmets or hats and cameras are able to move in close on the hardwood. NBA is also a game of superstars and personalities. As much as it advertised as a team sport, a single player such as Lebron, Wade, Kobe or D-Rose can take complete control of a game in the final minutes or any span for that matter. Being a limited-contact sport, fights happen infrequently. When a fight does breaks out though, one can see the emotion, anger and sometimes the attempted restraint of those emotions by the participants. Hockey fights on the other hand , which happen statistically almost every other game, boil down to two helmeted and padded thugs attempting to knock out whatever teeth the other has left. They happen so often that fans, while still excited for the spectacle, become desensitized to the violence.

If anyone remembers "The Malice at the Palace", sometimes basketball fights can get a bit too personal.

This fan is basically wearing the default facial expression anyone would have while in line of fire of a charging Ron Artest.

The New Girl on the Block: “I’m not looking to hug n cry and learn n grow.”

Faith is introduced, as the new replacement for Kendra is season 3. She has the typical slayer sex appeal; she is an attractive young lady, always wears bright red lipstick, and is extremely turned on by slaying vampires and demons. Almost a polar opposite of Buffy (not just in hair color) she lacks the humanity displayed by Buffy when she accidently kills Deputy Mayor Allan Finch. While Buffy is having nightmares and is outwardly distraught in her social reactions, Faith justifies her accidental murder by her role as slayer. She tells Buffy that because she saves so many lives by killing vampires, one innocent death is not a big deal. Giles reiterates a similar reasoning by saying slayers are always in the battlefront of war and unforeseen tragedies do happen. But acceptance of the death does not end the drama. Specifically, Faith tries to spin the murder and blame it on Buffy but the Scooby Gang sees through her lies. This results in Xander attempting an intervention and leads to a violent sexual scene between him and Faith.



During their interaction, Faith twists the emotional outreach of Xander and becomes flirtatious. Thinking that Xander wants another go around, she slams him into the bed saying, “ I see. I want. I take. I can make you scream. I can make you die.” She pulls his shirt up and aggressively dry humps him. Xander does little to fight back and seems to somewhat enjoy the attention. However, Faith’s kinky actions turn violent and she begins to choke Xander. Her face flushes with satisfaction as he squirms to breath. At this point in time, violence and sex are integrated into one. She even mentions screwing vampires when talking with Buffy. Phallic symbols are abundant when analyzing vampires. Moreover, vampires inherently go for the neck when sucking blood, which correlate strongly with the same action of giving hickies. Bodily fluids are exchanged, penetration occurs, heart rate increases and it all happens during the most promiscuous time of the day. The way this series disguises sex reminds me of a soap opera for kids.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Why So Campy?

As one who barely remembered that Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel aired a decade ago on the WB, and one completely unfamiliar with “Buffy Studies,” I was especially struck by the campiness of the show. While I’m certain that some of what stood out to me was also a product of whatever strange trends that happened to be in vogue at that particular point in time, the stupidity and ignorance of all outside of the "Scooby gang (no relation to the other 'Scooby Gang' from another notable Sarah Michelle Gellar work)" especially evident; moreover, the depiction of the vampires was perpetuated innumerable stereotypes. Certainly a less heavy handed approach would yield heightened dramatic tension-in short, I would prefer to be pleasantly surprised (or shocked) than have every single bad guy labeled with leather jackets and a scowl. Clearly, the latter has an excitement coefficient roughly equal to that of tea time at a cricket test match.

I would like to believe that all of this is a conscious decision to put a B-movie type layer on top of an obvious homage to the works in the horror genre in the past. The need to lighten the dark themes of Buffy so that they’re more in line with what was acceptable on network television is clear, and perhaps by bringing in some degree of campiness and some degree of self awareness. Certainly show’s propensity for poking fun at itself draws parallels to sitcoms a la Arrested Development and 30 Rock rather than the seriousness and scariness of the Exorcist or the Poltergeist. There are other instances where horror is turned upside down and pushed out of the foreground precisely because when enough emphasis is placed on the campiness and absurdity of traditional horror tropes, it reaches a point of excess past the threshold of sensible horror, instead exuding humor as evidenced by the recent Zombieland or even the somewhat less recent Scary Movie franchise.

The B-movie elements (at least for me) render Buffy supremely more watchable…after all, I don’t think too many viewers have the stomach for so many years of dark and brooding vampire battles. It's almost like a reflection of the music industry, where for every emo band there is yet another derivative pop rock/pop hip-pop crew singing themes on some variation on Katie Perry. Taking the B-movie out of Buffy would amount to an inordinate dose of norwegian heavy black gothic speed trash death metal, at which point I would very much crave whatever the silver screen equivalent of "Firework" or "E.T." is. My question is instead this: do these elements detract from the depiction of heroines as an equally effective force for good compared to our traditional heroes?

Salad Fingers

Remember the good ol' days of watching flash animation on the web? The G.I. Joe PSA parodies, Charlie the Unicorn, and Badger Badger? Well once in a while a flash animation is produced that changes us forever through its morbid humor and indulgence in depravity. An animation like Salad Fingers.


Salad Fingers was mentioned in class in the context of Drusilla, the creepy vampire/woman/child who speaks with a unnervingly slow British accent. So similar are their attitudes and mannerisms, I couldn't help but imagine Drusilla caressing rusty spoons with her salad fingers! The second episode of Salad Fingers by David Firth entitled "Friends" reminds me of the scene when Drusilla is talking with her inanimate dolls. Her and Salad Finger's lonesome and childlike manners of dealing with "friends" is terrifying by challenging the status quo of normal childlike behavior. They both are hyper sensual characters that enjoy tasting, smelling, and touching the strangest things to make us feel uncomfortable. Also we have trouble gauging just how dangerous these characters are. Clearly they are extremely dangerous to others, but their physical characteristics make them appear frail.  Certainly the music adds an entire dimension to the creepiness of the events taking place. Ultimately it is the concept of the archetypal abandoned British child that terrifies me the most.

Violence in Sports Video Games

Is this just me, or is there substantially less violence in "sports" video games when compared to all other types of video games? I cannot figure out why this is the case. All the time you see gruesome injuries in professional sports, but in video games there are never very bad injuries to the animated players. Usually when a player gets hurt in a video game, they are just momentarily shaken up and are slower to run up the court or field. There is so much gruesome violence in shooting games (obviously), hunting games, and even racing games. Do you guys think there is no seriously graphic violence in sports games because game creators are hesitant to inflict gross injuries to real athletes, albeit animated representations of them?

WWE All-Stars


Wrestling video games were a large portion of my childhood gameplaying. The ability to actually punch, kick, and strike your opponents with weapons made the sport appear much more real. As graphics became better, wrestlers looked increasingly realistic and would bleed if you repetitively struck them in one area for too long. Working towards specials and recalling button combinations to perform these moves added to the excitement. Playing tag team matches with friends led to nonstop trashtalking. This new effort by THQ, the developers of the game, just doesn't feel right to me. WWE All-Stars does to wrestling what Blitz did to professional football. The over-the-top stunts and general gameplay make the game so fake that it almost feels unplayable. My frustration is that professional wrestling has a chance to show more realistic gameplay, but it decides to make the sport a ridiculous spectacle that does not do the sport justice. As much as I love seeing retired old-school wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior, but this abomination of a game makes these characters look hokey. Dear WWE/THQ, can you please return to more realistic wresting in your gameplay. You can't rely on storylines to promote your sales. Thanks.

Here is the IGN review of the game.

Fantasy

When I was a kid I went through a lot of phases. I went through a chess phase where Bobby Fischer was my idol, I went through a physics phase where Einstein and Michio Kaku were the shizz and then there was my Anne Rice/ Vampire phase.
I think it all started with Queen of the Damned. I thought LeStat was so cool and Aailyah as the Queen was just too damn sexy. I thought that it would be cool to be a vampire. So I combined my two favorite things at the time: reading and vampires. I found Anne Rice novels and devoured them. Reading about LeStat and Maurius and a bunch of other characters that I cannot remember now was great to me. I felt like I had knowledge that very few were privileged with; the inner nature of the vampire.
Every year I would go down to Florida to visit my cousins and paternal grandparents. It was always a great time because I was sort of a novelty to my cousins in the sense that I was a novelty to them. We were from two different parts of the country even though our family was relatively close knit. This meant that there were always new stories each summer as well as new trends and styles from each region. One summer I brought down my vampire fandom to the Sunshine State and got my cousins to believe that were all vampires. I remember pretending to have the super speed of the vampire as well as the fangs because I had already lost those teeth which were neatly replaced. It was all believable and it was sure great playing pretend. But we all knew it was a fantasy and by the next summer we were on to something new.

Man's best friend

At the end of the last Ice Age, Paleolithic foragers forged lasting bonds with wild wolves and started the process of genetic alteration in the animals that would culminate in the creation of man's best friend, the domestic dog.  The domestication of the dog likely occurred independently at multiple locations and occasions during prehistory and some argue that this process was actually one of codomestication, with humans also changed by the relationship.  It seems that early man, as we still do today, saw benefits in keeping dogs around, whether as beasts of burden, hunting assistants, as sources of food and fur, or simply as companions.  We see in the current legacy of domestic dog breeds a great diversity of traits, which can be molded to the will of breeders through artificial selection.  In this ability to consciously manipulate the genomic composition of other species, humans are perhaps unique.  In the genetic imposition of certain traits on dogs, aggression, docility, neoteny, etc., humans reveal certain qualities of their own nature.

A Maltese dog

The Maltese dog is not a creature that could exist naturally.  Just about every trait that was bred into these dogs would be a detriment to their survival without human assistance.  Their size would make them a choice meal for larger predators.  They have been bred for docility and friendliness, likely at the loss for behavioral traits beneficial to solo or pack hunting.  A Maltese that escapes or otherwise becomes separated from its owner's care will not last long in the harsh reality of the natural world.  Assuming it makes it past the automotive gauntlet into a natural area, it would only be a matter of time before it is picked off by a bird of prey or other carnivore.  Even it it manages to elude predation, its stubby legs and cuddly nature preclude its ability to capture food.  These dogs are an abomination of nature, yet humans see enough value in their traits to continue investing resources into sustaining their existence.


The Maltese was bred for a docile and gentle temperament that would prohibit its existence in the natural world without human intervention.  The Cordoba Fighting Dog, on the other hand, is a bred for traits on the opposite extreme of the aggression spectrum.  An amalgamation of the Mastiff, Bull Terrier, Boxer, and Old English Bulldog, the Cordoba was bred to dominate the dog fighting pit.  The dogs were selected to display extreme intraspecific aggression, so extreme that the males and females of the breed would rather fight than mate.  It is reported that the dogs were capable of hunting in male and female duos, but larger packs would suffer from infighting.  A combination of deaths in the pit and reluctance to mate led to the breed's extinct status (although Wikipedia confusingly notes that a number of the breed continues to exist in small numbers in Argentina).  The Cordoba, like the Maltese, was bred for such extreme behavior that its ability to survive was brought into question. 


A video about the Belyaev Silver Fox domestication experiment, which has led to insights into the nature of the relationship between man and the domestic dog.

For many domestic breeds, man has imposed a genetic leash that prevents the animals from surviving without man's assistance.  It should be noted that many breeds are capable of going feral and thriving, for example the Australian dingo.  However, these breeds are often the ones that more closely resemble the phenotype of their wild ancestors than that of toy dog breeds.  Man's plant and animal domesticates are reliant on our intervention for their survival, and so are we reliant on them to a large extent.  Our complex and densely populated societies are sustained by a relatively small number (on the scale of global biodiversity) of domesticates.  Some of these domesticates, such as maize, wheat, and rice, occupy disproportionally important roles in agriculture.  Domestication has clearly played an important role in determining the developmental trajectory of domesticated plants and animals as well as man.  We know now of many effects that pets can have on the lives of pet owners, for example, pet owners enjoy a number of health benefits.  How much do you think the behavior that we have bred into our domesticated animals affects our own?