Saturday, April 26, 2014

Conversations with my granddaughter about technology

Hello little one. I can see that you are having a good time with your iPad. Frankly I am amazed at how your little fingers interact so effortless with the touch screen and how instinctively you seem to know your way around an apps and to change to another apps when you are done with one. Grampa will have taken hours to do what you did within minutes and even then Grampa would need to consult an operating manual (if there is one available).  Things are changing so fast that Grampa has difficulty keeping pace. Grampa is sure you will not be able to imagine a world without mobile smartphones and Facetime where not only can you talk to Grampa but also to see Grampa and show your latest achievement or demonstrate some new acrobat skills you have developed.

This has not always been so, little one. In Grampa’s younger days, there were no computers and mobile smartphones. Grampa had to use a typewriter to write. What is a typewriter, you will ask. To show you, Grampa will have to take you to a museum! You can still see the large house phone at Grampa’s house but in time this will be replaced by the mobile phones.

You grew up with rapidly changing technology so to you are comfortable with it. To many big people technology is a big threat. They will tell you that technology like the iPad will damage your brain and impair your thinking skills. They will further espouse that mobile smartphones will retard your communication skills and sense of community. Do not fear, little one. Grampa do not believe this. As long as you master technology and not the other way around, you will be okay. I am sure that when the printing press was invented, there were a hue and cry about how the printed pages will distort the thinking of those who read these words, the death of writing and the demise of memory. Yet, the printing press has been with us for more that five hundred years and after billion of books, our reshaped society cannot live without the printed word. People still write with pen and paper. They can still use their memory to remember things. Within reasonable limits they seem to be able to think.

Grampa knows that the way you receive and process information will be different from Grampa’s. Grampa’s mental processing tends to be linear following the cause and effect progression. Yours will be new processes of thinking that will take  years of research for educationalists and neuroscientist to understand. However this will be the way your generation thinks. There is nothing wrong with that. What you will think of, experience and create, Grampa, with all his imagination, will never ever conceive of. When you invented a warp capable spaceship, don’t forget to beam Grampa up!

Use technology but do not let technology be your master. Use technology but do not be so dependent on technology that you cannot function without it. Grampa can see that you have no problem with that at this moment. You do your magic with your iPad but Grampa observes that you still go back to your coloring pencils and sticker books. Grampa is happy with that because Grampa is more competent in using color pencils than painting with the iPad!

Dear Lord, help this little one to develop her mental processes so that she will be able to use technology as a tool in her thinking process. Teach and guide her to perceive and receive your truth as you reveal yourself to her. Amen


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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) is another offering from the big screen Marvel universe. It continues the on screen adventures of Captain America/Steve Rogers from the previous movie, Captain America: the First Avenger (2011). Drawing from the rich resources of the Captain America line of comic story arcs, The Winter Soldier is an attempt to connect the aging fans of the Captain America comic era and to introduce new fans to Captain America. This movie is an action packed non-stop punching, kicking and blowing up stuff that is the staple of movie making nowadays. And we get to see it in 3D too!

Warning: spoilers.
The synopsis of the movie may be found here

Readers of Captain America comics will know who the Winter Soldier is. It is James Buchanan Barnes who was given the nickname “Bucky” at Camp LeHigh. Bucky was already a 21 year old highly trained assassin when he was assigned to be Captain America’s sidekick. Bucky was presumed dead when he fell off an experimental drone bomb plane created by Baron Zemo. Captain America fell off the same plane into the Atlantic where he was frozen until discovered in the twentieth century. Unknown to everyone, Buck was revived by the Russians, had amnesia and was brainwashed to become an assassin known as The Winter Soldier.

The movie which is entertaining in its own right does raise some interesting issues to consider.
Firstly, from the perspective of Captain America/Steve Rogers, the world is no longer black and white. Before he was flash-frozen, Rogers can distinguish the good guys from the bad. The good guys are Americans who are fighting to build a free world. The bad guys are the Nazi who planned to enslave the whole world. The world that Steve woke up to is no longer black or white. It is all gray! The seemingly good guys like Nick Fury, head of S.H.I.E.L.D has secrets, hired pirates to seize his own ship and then send in a tactical team to kill the pirates. Steve struggles with the new morality where no one is trustworthy. In a way, this reminds me of Tolkien’s Christian idealism in the Hobbit and the Lord of the Ring trilogy as opposed to George Martin’s Christian realism in his Game of Thrones series. Rogers represent idealism in his belief system. Christian realism seems to be all about politics and where the end justifies the means. Morality becomes a convenience not a duty and rule.

Secondly, institutions seem to be easily subverted from within. S.H.I.E.L.D  which originally stood for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division in the comics which was later changed to Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate. In the Marvel movies, in a nod to the United States, it becomes Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. The original S.H.I.E.L.D  according to the comic continuity was started by Nick Fury and Sergeant Rock of the Howling Commandos to fight HYDRA, a criminal organization founded by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. In this movie, HYDRA has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D  up to its highest level. In some way, this reminds of the institutional church. The church has in many ways being infiltrated up to its highest level by materialism, secularism, and religiosity. As in the movie, sometimes it is difficult to differentiate the institution from the infiltrators.

Finally, there is the issue of the lack of identity. In the movie the Winter Soldier was mind wiped repeatedly and frozen after each mission. Bucky fought against his best friend, Steve Rogers. He had no idea of their past relationship. There may be an inkling of past memory surfacing when he saved Steve from drowning. Many of us seem to suffer from this loss of personal identity though we have not been mind wiped by electricity. Our postmodern lifestyle has no respect for the past.  We seem to drift from moment to moment not knowing who we really are. Many of us are shaped by the events of the day and act as if we are programmed to perform certain actions. We are victims of circumstances rather than being masters of it.
Movies are the present day myths. The cinematic Marvel universe is creating a detailed mythology of heroes/heroines and villains and new perspectives of morality. I wonder whether we are influencing this new mythology or it is influencing us.


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