30 November 2007

Persepolis
You (yeah, you) gotta see this movie, a rare gem. Check out the the official website to get an idea later of its powerful "stylized realism", but of course don't read the details until you see it ;). Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, drawn from her graphic novel, is not to be confused with the ancient city, far away from Teheran (where most of the action takes place) or with the eponymous soccer club. But i digress: the movie describes Marjane's childhood in Iran during and after the "Islamic" revolution. I put quotes around Islamic here cuz I still need to be explained what growing beards and veils have to do with the essence of Islam. Anyway, the movie doesn't dwell on such trivial issues. It is just riotously funny and suffused with deep sadness (sometimes at the same instant.. it's a total shock). Both sad and happy parts end up touching something universal in the human condition. Even the scenes where she hits rock bottom depression are funny. I have never seen anything quite like that on a movie screen.

Strangely, i had to see it in German, even though it was part of Leipzig's French film festival (typisch Leipzig..). But past the initial surprise (and yes, a bit of grumbling) i actually enjoyed even the German voices, especially when Marjane goes to Vienna. The Austrian accents are just to die for, i am sure something gets lost in the original French version.

Now here is a question to all women; after a breakup, especially when young, do you really darken and destroy the memories of you former flame? He suddenly becomes a dumb, ugly and foul. I thought that was just another funny eccentricity of Marjane, but at least one female friends confirmed that this is just like that in all females of our species. Wow. That's a shock. I don't know about you guys, but I just can't see former flames in a dark way, there is always this longing.

Finally, one of the greatest thing about the film is to remind us of our "integrity". Sometimes we do stupid and/or bad things without thinking, hurting people in the process. But the grandmother is there to remind Marjane to be watchful for those tendencies. Remember where you come from, whether it be Iran, or just our own childhood which too often we forget as we evolve through life.



16 November 2007

On the theme "those guys are people too" (replace "those guys" by chimpanzees, bonobos, dolphins, lawyers, talibans, .. whatever point you feel like making) here is one of the many bonobo video found on youtube.com (including some bonobo porn)

I have already discussed some of that theme here and there.
Interesting that Danny concludes "couldn't' they be apes AND people, because after all isn't that what we are?". Right we are apes too, but are they people? Are they of our people? Can we just raise them as humans and integrate them into our society as some people suggest? So to make things clear what are "people", "persons" and "humans"? First, humans are us, the genetically defined Homo sapiens species (that's a narrow definition there are broader definitions based on cognitive and spiritual qualities). A person, to me, is just a legal term translating an individual's place in a human society. People are about the same thing but with a cultural flavor, in the sense of "our people", I think that's more or less what Danny is trying to say. The logical consequence is that bonobos and other non-human apes cannot be persons, they are too different, and they certainly are not of our people, our "human race". But they are apes like us (dogs are mammal like us, etc..), and thus share many common behavioral traits.

The idea, mentioned by Danny, to raise an ape as a human he is of course not new, it's been attempted before, and Sue Savage-Rumbaugh is doing it here with Bonobos. Others have tried with chimps and they became cool chimps, but still.. chimps. Same with Sue's bonobos as far as I can tell. Because, really, can a human-raised bonobo hold a job and function like a socially-fit individual in human society? A person? I don't think so. Just look at the sex scene in that video for instance. No comment. We certainly can't apply most human laws to any other species. In fact, just human social and moral laws can be incompatible among themselves; wanting to merge them all in one universal human law may not be the wisest endeavor (euphemism), so why would we want to do that with bonobos and make them persons of any human human country?
This doesn't make sense, but we ought to pay those non-human folks respect and give them space on this planet to at least live in harmony with their environment and avoid suffering. In fact we should be able to to that with any life form that doesn't make us suffer (i.e. exclude damn mosquitoes;-). Of course the temptation is great to impose our moral values to any other species, especially the ones closest to us genetically (just as it is done of fellow humans of different cultures). Still we cannot simply treat them as mice. In fact lab experiments that are done on mice are unthinkable on primates, even less apes. There exist already a hierarchy among species, a differential treatment. As we try not to be racist, we are "specists". Treating cute species or those that look more like us better than ugly or evolutionarily distant ones.. is so human (and maybe too.. so animal).

So, OK, we bonobos and us are in the same "ape tribe" and maybe we can look down on monkeys. They have a tail and we don't. Boo. And together with monkeys we can look down at other mammals. Boo. Etc.

And if we humans have a soul, who else does?