Aliens Abound!

When Matthew Ewald showed up the day before filming in North Carolina, he showed up quite prepared ~ His script had more notes than Judy and mine’s combined!

I was, to say the least, impressed. Matthew was quite focused on his character’s backstory, presumably to have the subtext to play a humanoid character.

Now, as the creator of his character, later modified by Judy to give “Thoreau” a character arc, we were more interested in his motivations and personality traits, we really didn’t give too much thought to backstory. (Although act 3 touches on his planet’s violent history)

So, here we were, a day before the shoot, and Matthew had all these questions, for which I had no answers. Despite that, the conversation was exhilarating – to hear an actor bring your character to life and discuss Thoreau as he understood him.

Which made me think about aliens in more depth that day. We discussed: would an alien, humanoid in design, have a planet similar to Earth? Would it have oceans, similar weather, a similar evolutionary pattern of life required that would lead to humanoid development? Would the family structure be the same or would it be more like our primate relatives, or be tribal? These were just a few of the questions and ideas we kicked around that day.

I didn’t know, but definitely looking forward to answering these questions in the sequel!

Post Production Color

So, we're in post production now and like everything else in this process, it's complex, and like the writing and production phase, many creative decisions are needed!

We had the trailer color corrected and graded (not the one we currently use) and what a truly eye-opening experience.

First choice, "what color theme would you like?"

Turns out for horror, there are three basic themes: red (yeah, for the blood),  green (creates an uncomfortable experience for the viewer as well as the sense of death), and blue (more sci-fi feel, works great with night shots).

Here's two examples: (lower left image is "normal")

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Pandemics, Viruses and Natural Selection

With the Corona Virus in pandemic mode, time to discuss the nature of viruses in general and how they're governed by Natural Selection.

First, what is a virus? Relatively simple to define, but difficult to explain. Because viruses straddle the boundary  between "living" and "non-living," they belong to a special class of organisms (if you want to call them that) that don't fit into biological models of life on Earth.

A virus doesn't carry on life functions - they're essentially a DNA or RNA molecule wrapped in a protein coat.  Additionally, viruses are  wholly dependent on  a host, and I as used to tell my students, they're genetic parasites.

A virus in independent state  is known as a virion, and probably fits the definition of non-living.  In fact, they can be crystallized and stored like a chemical compound.

It's only when they infect a host do they seem to "come alive."  But in fact, they're simply manipulating a host's DNA or RNA to make more copies of itself.

Another discussion I used to have with students, started with the statement:  "All viruses cause disease." Without exception.  And they infect every known species of life on Earth, and yes even bacteria.

And they've evolved extraordinary strategies to spread themselves.  Think of the common cold - a rhino virus usually.  One gets a cold, what happens?  the virus has infected the mucous membrane, taking over cells, causing them to reproduce millions of copies of the virus.  The body wants to rid itself of the virus, so it coughs and sneezes sending those virions out into the environment so they can find the next host.

Since they infect respiratory surfaces, rhino viruses spread rapidly through the population because of mechanisms in place to rid the body of the disease.  Rather ironic.  Our personal  "cure" involves potentially infecting others...

A pandemic?  Not difficult to understand when we consider viruses that infect the respiratory system.  With a world population over 7 billion and modern travel, respiratory viruses have an enormous surface to spread rapidly.

Yet rhino viruses do not cause pandemics.  We recover from colds.  Pandemics occur when certain types of viruses, influenza and now Covid-19, spread and induce a high mortality rate and increased hospitalization.

Which brings me to Natural Selection, one of Charles Darwin's great contribution to biology.  The power of his theory is evident in that he did not know of viruses, yet they behave in a manner consistent with his theory.

Generally, within any large population, their exists enormous variation.  Certainly true for humans, all life, and yes, viruses too.

When viruses infect, they cause their host to make copies.  Since this is genetic replication, mistakes are made, also known as a mutation.  In essence, a variant of the original virus has been created.

This variant may be benign, or in the case of the H1N1 influenza virus, the new strain is deadly to its host and infects at a higher rate, all because of a genetic mutation. With a higher infection rate, and an infection that's toxic to human organs, a pandemic may occur. This happened with the H1N1 influenza virus in 1968, 1918, and 1890.

Fortunately, we have a dynamic immune system, and just as importantly, and as a population, subject to natural selection as well.

As the virus spreads, Natural Selection will favor those with a rapid immune response, or have no underlying health issues.  After the wave of infection, the population in general will have "adapted."

Of course, since viruses also adapt, a new strain will appear possibly creating the next pandemic.  It's interesting to note though pandemics occur every 20 to 50 years.

It's an ongoing biological clash between infectious agents and their hosts.  Will we survive?  Of course we will.  Besides an adaptive immune response, Natural Selection has given humans the capacity to intellectually understand and socially adapt, creating an environment to limit the infection rate, as we're doing now.

Operating Systems and Reality

One of my days jobs (to pay the rent between those awfully long breaks in paid writing assignments) is to provide IT consulting and support to non-profit organizations. I’ve noticed a pattern over the years when it comes to discussing “operating systems” or better known as the “OS.”

Traditionally, most folks thought in terms of Mac or PC.  Windows XP, 7, 10 or Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Snow Leopard, El Capitan… and on and on.  But the basic belief out there until recently is the notion “it’s a Mac or a PC.” No doubt in large part to the marketing of Apple and Microsoft.  Nowadays, folks know about Chrome,  “IOS” and Android.  But what strikes me as intriguing is if I discuss them in terms of being an OS, I get that “you’re talking tech geek to me” look – they tend to think in terms of a machine having a personality. Or another way of saying it is: “that’s a Mac and it will behave like this and run those programs.”

So here’s where it gets interesting.

This past year, I was providing support to a school that had about 100 old mac laptops.  They couldn’t be upgraded to the newest Mac OS, so they were simply discarded to a dark closet. For a while.  They asked for suggestions, besides being a brick to raise a projector higher.

I installed Linux Ubuntu on them – a cousin OS of Mac.  It runs great on old laptops and has all the latest features out there.  The best part, it’s free.  (Not that I’m soliciting…) But it’s a great solution for schools with a tight budget and old machines to give them a new life.

After students, teachers, admins see the computer come back to life and clearly not running as a Mac, but it says it’s a Mac, I get that “how did you do that?” as if I performed some kind of magic on these old laptops.

Linux Ubuntu 14 looks like this:

But, wait, it’s a Mac!

Now on to my thesis.  We tend to see reality like an OS.  We know how to navigate in our reality, work in it, and get results.  So what if there are other realities we’re not aware of? Or, what if the dream world is an alternative to our reality? It would be like an another OS.  Dreams are familiar and yet can behave and look radically different. Maybe, we have two realities we working with: Waking and dream.  They operate side by side, usually split by 16/8 hours.

Again, there’s analogy for this:  You can run windows or any OS side by side on the same machine. Both can be running or you can switch, from one to another.  Just like going to sleep at night.  We change realities.