• Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 4 other followers

  • Past Posts

Cat Mourns Dead Friend?

I know all the stereotypes about the heartless cat, and luckily this video seems to dispel them all.  The two cats had been seen together prior to the one being hit by the car.. the other cat was acting extremely aggressive towards anyone who approached the body post the accident.  This is an example of animal mourning, correct?

Not so fast.

Trotting out this video as an example of higher cognition in animals (i.e. the recognition of loss, of death, the example of grief) is a mistake.  Similarly, throwing this video out there and then stating that we humans should learn from this video about how to better our own species.. since we walk right on by past victims of crimes… is also a mistake.

Anyone who owns a cat will take one look at that and recognize the fact that the animal isn’t mourning.  For all intents and purposes, if you strip the video of the context (the two cats were friends, the one cat witnessed the other hit by the car…) it looks like the one cat is trying to mate with the other.  The kneading, the hip movements, the arching of the back, the biting of the neck.. that isn’t an attempt to revive the other animal, it’s a territorial need for reproduction.  No wonder the cat was aggresive towards everyone that tried to intervene.

There are plenty of good examples of animal compassion out there.  While the good examples may not be as emotionally compelling as the idea that one cat is trying to revive the other (as an aside, where did the cat learn CPR?) they are still touching and far more interesting.

Animals are not humans – and it is wrong to treat them as if they were.  While they should be treated with respect and not abused, while they should be admired for what traits they do have that are better than our own it is wrong to outright assume that they always take the moral high ground.  This is not an example of animal compassion, and quite frankly I’d be rather disturbed if someone walked away from this video feeling as if that cat was “doing the right thing.”

To be perfectly honest my first thought while viewing it was wondering whether or not if a vet got there sooner the other cat could have been saved.  It may have been the white cat’s little ‘display’ for the two hours that cost the black cat its life in the long-run.

Smile.jpg

Well, this looks bad.

The newest incarnation of smile.jpg

One of the strangest things about the internet are the stories that pop up in relation to it.  Of all the internet stories that I’ve ever heard – ranging from posting 10 comments to a youtube video to get a kiss from your crush to instant messaging 25 people with a rhyme in order to not get killed by a vengeful blind ghost – the one that has stuck with me for a long, long while was that of Smile.jpg – or better known now as… Smile.dog.

Smile.dog is a piece of what has become colloquially known as “creepypasta.”  Creepypasta is commonly a short anecdote that passes around the internet being claimed as real – what sets it apart from other anecdotes is that it is commonly accompanied by a picture or formatted in such a way as to emphasize the whole experience of reading it – much like the book House of Leaves if one thinks about it.

Smile.dog’s story consists of a classic horror set-up – an amateur writer visits the house of a lady who supposedly has a story for which he can borrow from.  Rather than speak, however, the lady has locked herself up in her room, crying and ranting about nightmares and visions and various other problems.  All of these center around a floppy disk she had been given that contain the image smile.jpg – which is smile.dog.  Other cases of this have cropped up…

Viewing this image incites insanity, and no copy of the exact image exists on the web though likenesses of it do.  The true image of smile.jpg is recognized due to the effect it has on the viewer – that is, they wind up dead.  Attaching the file – that is, spreading the word, is the only way to save oneself from the smile.dog that appears in one’s dreams demanding to spread the word.  Some say that the original legend began with an image of the devil.

What is it, then, about smile.dog that sticks with the reader?  Reading it late at night in the dark and alone… seeing the haunting image of the original(?) or at least close to the original image..  it incites a sort of morbid hypnosis that makes one want to believe in it in a way.  Why not torture oneself for a little and believe an urban legend for the shear adrenaline rush it produces?

Why not spread the word a little, oneself?  After all, how much hurt could it do?

smile.dog

Original Smile.Dog

We can have Forums!

Alright, dear Readers, I have an announcement to make.  We have, for us, the addition of some forums.  Feel free to go and register if you’d like.  This will allow for better contact and more discussion.

All the topics discussed here are available, as are more topics, etc. and if ever you want something specific addressed – just ask.

In addition, there is a Contact section where you can feel free to suggest topics for future posts if there is anything you would like to have me address in the future.  🙂

EDIT:  Upon realizing that the previous site was being very unfair to its members and requiring them to register for “offers” I have decided to relocate to here.

The link above has also been fixed.

Totemism (Part 1)

The word totem itself can be etymologically traced back to the Ojibwe word ‘ototem‘, the meaning of which can be roughly translated to “he is a relative of mine.”  Ototem, then is a good way to start with understanding the spiritual beliefs behind the practice of totemism in both its social and personal forms.

In ancient belief it was seen that the distinction between human and animal was one of recent invention – prior the forms had been fluid, subject to change and alteration.  In this manner, it was viewed only as logical that a Clan could trace its lineage back to the Lion or the Crow or any number of various creatures.  The Clan name would be that of the animal, and generally it was seem as simply a surname, a tool to assist in maintaining exogenous relations and keeping track of everyone in the day to day.  The distinction had meaning, and a meaning that was well-established even between the Clans – the meaning, however, was certainly not especially personal.

The personal importance of the totem generally came into being once a person hit puberty.  It was then that they would be sent on a journey to discover the animal that was their own.  Those who had visions, who saw or communed with their animal, were given the higher positions within the group whereas those who did not were not held in such high respect.  The creature the teens would come back seeing in many ways embodied characteristics that they themselves held or desired, whether subconsciously or consciously.  It has been postulated that due to growing up in an environment that immersed itself with stories of these animals, the children were then predisposed towards choosing what creature was closest to them either consciously or subconsciously.  Which leads to the question of what a totem is:

The psychological aspect of a totem is one that has already been lightly touched upon.  People who are prone to totemic beliefs are generally those who have grown up in an environment where they are likely to be exposed to stories about these animals.  The animals, then, take on the psychological role of what the person is seeking to find, either inside or outside themselves.  In relating to the animals, they are then leaving themselves open to the suggestion that the animal is part of the identity that they may hold for themselves.

Joseph Campbell has spoken of totems as being the embodiment of archetypes – something that is easy to see through the traits each animal is supposed to posses.  In the times when totemism arose it was vital to survival to understand the workings of nature itself.  How the predator could ambush the prey.. and what response the prey was likely to use in such a situation.  The invisibility of the fox was something to be witnessed by the animals relative scarcity in the Northern Plains whereas the playfulness of the fox was emphasized in Japan where the fox was fairly present, invisibility still in essence but downplayed heavily.

Another way that the archetypal nature of animal totems can be seen is through the totems that people often find themselves choosing.  Wolves, Bears, and other large prey animals abound and the relation that people hold to these animals can be viewed in part due to what they have come to represent.  In the mindset of the majority of people these animals are seen as the ones that primarily symbolize “the wildness of nature” and “strength” which is what people tend to expect to find within their totems now – as opposed to the personality characteristics which previously were embodied by the animals.

What is a Primate?

-Assistance in writing this entry was given by a friend in WA.  E-mail or PM for further details.

A primate is a member of the mammal class that is characterized by certain biological features such as decreased olfaction, unique forms of teeth, stereoscopic vision, and the unique evolution of their grasping appendages.  Mammals are a unique class, as they include both homo sapiens and their closest relatives, chimpanzees, gorillas, and even tapiers and lemurs.  Physical anthropologists, in particular, take a great interest in studying primates and that field is known as primatology.

The first feature that differs between primates and other mammals is the advent of a shortened snout.  The increased size of primate’s brains tends to increase the ocular lobe with a decrease for the area meant for olfaction.  The reason behind this is the increased focus upon vision that is found within the primate class.  While other mammals more highly developed their sense of smell – primarily in order to help in pheromone detection (the scent molecules that are used as mating signals, trails, etc.) – the primates developed beyond a tri-color visual field and thus lost the need for the elongated snout and the brain space needed to process this raw data.

The decreased area for olfaction was caused mainly by the increased importance placed upon vision within the primates.  One of the key ways to recognizing a primate is by their forward-facing eyes, an advantageous change which further allowed for stereoscopic vision.  Stereoscopic vision is the ability of the brain to compensate for the lack of crossover within vision by inventing the images itself.  This is a trait that is especially unique to primates, and one that allows for better manipulation of the world around the creature itself.

To further help manipulate the world around them, primates were given elongated grasping appendages.  Elongated fingers and toes, mixed with stereoscopic vision, created a world in which the primates could interact with the environment in an effective manner.  Elongated arms in the apes further allowed for tree-top exploration and better hiding spots from predators which increased the ability to reproduce successfully and grow to maturity.

The final advent that allowed for primates to be great innovators was the changes within their teeth.  Incisors for biting and canines for shearing allowed the primates to subsist on a carnivorous diet.  The premolars and molars helped aid in herbivorous food consumption, while also helping to break food into digestible packages which increased the nutritional efficiency.  This allows for an omnivorous, nearly opportunistic diet that would create adaptability within the species.

The study of primates is more important than people often realize, as it helps us understand where it was that human beings evolved from.  Understanding the past is important for taking full advantage of what the future can offer us.  Becoming aware of how it is that other creatures perceive the world can help us learn better ways to process information.  Unlocking clues about how various elements evolved would also help us understand how to better fight modern problems with lack of development, or abnormal development and perhaps even help us overcome them.

Mythology Vs. Science

Mythology is often cited as being the precursor to science, in much the same way that alchemy is viewed as a precursor to chemistry.  The reason for both practices being viewed in such a way is that both sought to make sense of a world that was often random and confusing.  Mythology sought to understand through stories – alchemy sought to understand the properties of things so as to control and change them.  Scientific?  In a sense.  Were these precursors to science, however?  I would beg to say no,  for a variety of reasons.

Science is based off of empirical evidence.  Science seeks to explain and control in a logical, reasonable manner.  It is a process, and an admirable one at that which has developed into a way of life in modern times.  Conversely, mythology consists of stories that seek to explain.  The reality of situations rarely effected the presumed reality of the myth – it did not matter how the women were turned to stone, what mattered was that it did happen and that the stones are there to show for it.

If mythology does not truly explain situations – only seeks to and serves as a way to remember – then how is it that it stays so strongly with us?  The strength of myth is exactly within its medium.  Myth allows us to recall stories rather than hard facts, it allows us to remember the characters for we empathize with them.  Science is difficult as it relies on a dryness that myths immediately surpass by the very nature of their drama.

Furthermore, scientific society demands specialization.  People become compartmentalized as what I know may be different than what someone else does.  This isolation is extremely apparent in everyday life now.  In a myth based society it is uniquely possible for everyone to know everything at a single time.  Societies that depend upon oral traditional are communal for this very purpose – everybody knows everything and thus there is no reason why someone should be unable to converse.  Creativity is celebrated and abilities are recognized, but they are understood.

A return to myth based society is impossible, but the lessons behind it are easy to incorporate in education today.  A well spoken story to explain a concept is infinitely more effective than a simple recitation of facts.  The specialties that exist can at least be minutely understood if explained correctly.  It would be interesting to see what could be done if these concepts were correctly executed.

Cultural Relativism

A quick update since we were lacking one yesterday – expect something longer tonight, Reader.

One of the most fundamental values of Anthropology is learning cultural relativism.  What cultural relativism offers is a chance to view and evaluate a culture from its own perspective, rather than that of your own.  For instance, the Northern Cheyenne eat dogs.. an idea that is horrific to most United States citizens.  However, if viewed from the Northern Cheyenne perspective it becomes less horrific and more understanding.

In Northern Cheyenne tradition there once was an extremely hard winter.  The food was scarce, and many of the tribe was dying from starvation.  The dog, the most faithful companion and loyal member of the tribe, came to the Chief and offered up his own body in order to ensure their continued survival.  Once a year, then, this honor and respect is paid to the dog through the eating of it.  It honors the memory of this, and it exemplifies the dogs true importance to the tribe.  No longer is this barbaric, instead it is strangely touching.  This is cultural relativism.

Michael C. Meril, in this essay “The Sunglasses Analogy” published by Youth For Understanding offers another way to understand Cultural Relativism.  In his story cultural values, attitudes, ideas, beliefs and assumptions are represented by a pair of sunglasses that every person wears.  In North America, let’s say that the sunglasses are yellow.

Should a person travel to, in this case Japan, where the sunglasses are blue they will begin to try to understand their values.  They may return to America, say they know what the Japanese are like and that their sunglasses are green!  The problem is that the Japanese customs were still viewed through the yellow lenses.

According to Mercil the only true way to adapt another viewpoint is to, for a moment, remove our own sunglasses.  We are not traveling or learning to judge another culture, but to learn about it.  It is hard, but developing “double vision” is the only way to see more than one side of an idea and to truly begin to appreciate it.

To learn double vision is to learn cultural relativism.  It is to understand and describe values, attitudes, beliefs, ideas and assumptions of American culture and to be able to verbalize and really understand what it is that makes an American an American.

So ask yourself – what assumptions do you tend to make on a daily basis?  What are your hard set beliefs?  Do not try to change your own mind, but rather try to understand why other peoples minds are differents.