Month: March 2017

Society Through The Lens Of Science Fiction

Science fiction is not dead! The accomplishments received by the film Arrival (directed by Denis Villeneuve) prove how potent sci-fi can still be. The movie nabbed eight Oscar nominations (and got the Best Sound Mixing award), crowned as the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Sci-Fi/Horror movie of 2016, and received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. For movie-goers who enjoy science fiction, Arrival was a breath of fresh air as it trailed uncharted paths that other sci-fi movies tried but failed.

Sci-fi television series like Black Mirror and Westworld also enjoy positive reception – gaining a loyal pool of audience within the larger public. Historically, there was a period when the said genre was frowned upon. Critics used to associate sci-fi to formulaic world-building and simplistic storytelling. But I think that this is not the case anymore. People today really enjoy the visions that it presents. From a socio-cultural vista, science fiction serves not only as an artistic medium but also as a technological compass that thinkers and builders can adhere.

The new breed of excellent/popular science fiction movies of the 21st century (A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Inception, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian, Mad Max: Fury Road, even Star Wars and Star Trek to name a few) shows that it is an ever-evolving brand. It is dynamic, heterogeneous, and has still much to show. This piece will specifically talk about sci-fi, its definition and significance. It will also list remarkable (but low-key) sci-fi movies that you probably missed.

What is Science Fiction?

Science fiction (also known as sci-fi) is widely defined as a brand/genre of fiction with stories gravitating around the topic of science and technology in the future (example of popular themes are space travel, extraterrestrial contact, time travel, parallel universe, multi-linear dimension, and the reckoning of time). An article published by Read-Write-Think reasons that it is important that sci-fi stories should be, at the very least, guided by the principles of real science (a decent balance of fictive and realistic laws and cognitive logic).As much as possible, it should navigate within the realm of future possibilities for it not to become a form of high-fantasy.

Movie Listing

Here’s a short list of great sci-fi movies that you should check out. These movies are of my own choosing. They do not necessarily have the best cinematography or the biggest production budget. But these films made me reflect about life, future, reality, even death. I also believe that I will be viewing these movies again and again in the future. I assure you, they are worth the watch. See for yourself!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

This movie was based on Douglas Adams’ book (with the very same title) and was directed by Garth Jennings. The protagonist Arthur Dent, an ordinary human attempting to protect his house from imminent demolition, ‘fortuitously’ tangles himself into a chaotic mesh of galactic adventure to answer the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. The character-development and world-building is as whimsical and genius as it gets. It drives the philosophically damning point; that sometimes a pipe is just a pipe (I’m looking at you Magritte)!

Famous line: “Don’t panic!”

Dune (1984)

Similar to the first film, Dune is based on a science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. The movie was written and directed by none other than David Lynch. Dune explores how feudalistic a society can become despite unparalleled technological advances. The movie centers on a politically contested dessert planet called the Arrakis – the very source mélange or spice. It is an addictive drug that allows its user to see the future and to prolong life. In addition, it is the sole mineral used for interstellar travel. The movie showcases a universe of Machiavellian politik and erudite scheming (akin to G.R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire”, but positioned in an interplanetary level).

Famous line: I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will    face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when my fear is gone I will turn and face fear’s path, and only I will remain.”

Solaris (1972)

Solaris is an Andrei Tarkovsky film. If you’re already familiar with his works, you may immediately imagine things like ‘lengthy’, ‘slow’, and ‘desolate’. Alas! The movie sluggishly unveils the mystery foreign planet (called Solaris) that drives cosmonauts nuts. Psychologist Kris Kelvin is sent to investigate this phenomenon, only to discover dark mirrors of his past. This movie successfully tells us how haunting our memories and apparitions can be.

Famous line: “You mean more to me than any scientific truth.”

Children of Men (2006)

This is probably one of the best movies (not only within the bounds of sci-fi genre) produced for the past twenty years. Director Alphonso Cuaron masterfully realized a dystopian world where no children have been born for the past two decades. The movie portrays how nations and governments collapse due to biological limitations and political idiocracy. As the film rolls, it steadily disarms the audience, challenging them to rethink the superficiality of human existence but, at the same time, pushing them to celebrate the importance of a single life. Mind you, this is not your typical love story.

Famous line: As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices.”

Final Thoughts (On the Value of Science Fiction) …

 “Why” is the engine that drives good science fiction, and good stories in general. The ability to project ourselves into future worlds is a powerful tool for asking why this world is the way it is and how we can make it better. It’s time to break science fiction out of its ghetto and use it as a common language to connect the arts, humanities, and sciences. – Ed Finn, What is Science Fiction Good For?

Many scientists and academics today are enjoying the interdisciplinary narrative being cultivated by sci-fi works. A number of popular scientists are even engaging the very works produced by the genre. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking hosted a TV show titled Masters of Science Fiction in 2007. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson habitually reviews numerous sci-fi films. Primatologist Jane Goodal even mentioned that the book Tarzan and the Apes inspired her to understand animal behavior and social patterns. And biologist Daniel Lee (author of Scientific American’s The Urban Scientist) enjoys the movie Dune for it explores the concept of environmental conservation and imperialism. We can even say that it aspires children to pursue or, at the very least, like science.

More than these big names, the genre encourages the public to think future trajectories, tensions, and ethical challenges of tomorrow. It poses question not limited to science but also in other academic discipline like philosophy, political science, sociology, humanities, and the likes. It explores our place in the universe, nature of reality, and role of human agency in shaping larger imagined communities. In the process, the genre presents alternative society that functions differently. It is true that human beings are not in the position to reinvent social fabric within a day. But science fiction allows us to imagine a future that we may have (or we yearn to avoid).

Easter Around the World

Christianity celebrates a number of festivities and events all throughout the year. In all its commemorative celebrations, the Lenten season is probably the most important. This week commemorates the last week of Jesus Christ here on Earth. All significant happenings that are included in the week according to the Bible are recognized by the Christian community. The week starts on Palm Sunday then moves along up to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday, and lastly, Easter Sunday.

Within the Lenten season, the Easter Sunday is its culmination. Most of the countries allot this day as the most festive and the liveliest. There are different activities invented and done during the day and these activities are scattered all over the world.

However, just like me, maybe you are wondering where does the word Easter come from and why was it used? Here’s a brief summary for all of us.

In Pegan times, the month of April was originally called as Eosturmonath (Easter Month). Eosturmonath was always dedicated to the Anglo Saxon goddess of spring Eostre. When Christian beliefs spread all over England, April festival was then called Easter Month Lent.

We take a glance at some of the most remarkable Easter traditions all over the globe.

Italy

La Pasqua is an Easter festival by Italians. On the day of the resurrection of Jesus, locals and tourists gather and take part to this joyous fanfare. Likewise, part of the celebration is the partaking of Italy’s Easter dishes – the roasted lamb which they called as Angelino and the crown-shaped breads.

France

France, with its strong Catholic history, commemorates Easter with great passion and devotion as it is a part of the French culture. The foremost Easter celebration sets off on Good Friday in solemnity. Church bells are forbidden for three days to memorialize the crucifixion of Christ. On the daybreak of Easter, French community dash joyfully outside their houses to watch the bells ring merrily, tell good wishes to neighbors and exchange Easter greeting known as Joyeuses Pâques.

In addition, aside from the ringing of bells, another France’s tradition on Easter is the selling of Poisson D’Avril, a chocolate fish that is prepared by France chocolate makers during Easter season.

Philippines

There is no more devotion from the believers when it comes to Filipinos or people from the Philippines. From the waving of weaved and decorated palm leaves during Palm Sundays, to passion plays and “penentensiya” during Good Fridays, Filipino people exert too much effort in celebrating the Lenten season.

Moreover, the actual crucifixion of Christ is widely being re-animated during Good Friday which some hardcore devotees volunteer themselves to be nailed into the cross. Although this act is strongly discouraged due to health and sanitation issues, still, Filipinos do this in order for the, to be saved, at least according to the those who sacrifice themselves.

Ireland

Locals in Ireland often get themselves renewed and prepared for the coming Easter by spring cleaning their abodes, buying new set of clothes, cutting their hairs and trimming their fingernails. The holy week is treated to be the most religious week for the Irish. With new clothes, Irish families would go to church together and pray. Going outside is prohibited especially in Good Friday as it is considered to be the rest day of the Lord.

England

Easter in England is celebrated for a week. The resurrection of Christ is rejoiced through exchanging of Easter Eggs and breads, hot cross buns and giving presents. On the other hand, since the place’s main symbols of Easter are rabbits and bunnies, shops are filled with bunch of this stuff when Easter comes. Also, one of the England’s traditions during Easters is women wearing Easter bonnets in the Easter Parade at the Battersea Park. Moreover, as part of the customs, traditional dinner with potatoes, lamb and vegetables are prepared on Easter Sundays.

Guatemala

It is in Guatemala that the biggest Easter celebration is being hold. The Andulasian tradition makes all people in the country participate in this annual event wherein people parade the crucifis all over the city. Procession of the crucifix is just one of the many things that Guatemalan learned from the Christian missionaries that landed in the lands in 16th century.

Colombia

For Colombia, a country that has a wide ranging Catholic populace of 90 percent, the weeklong commemoration of Semana Santa is mainly the most imperative devout celebration of the year.

Just like the solemn processions in Guatemala, Colombia also practices the same ritual where the Nazarenos wear white cross decorated robes with purple hoods. Candle-lit processions of the locals and tourists are accompanied by brass bands performance.

Mexico

Easter is called as ‘Domingo de Pascua’ in Mexico. The Domingo de Pascua is celebrated with two divided ceremonies – the Semana Santa for the entire holy week and Pascua for the Resurrection Sunday to the subsequent Saturday.

The Easter period in Mexico begins with the Mazatlan Carnival. Thousands of locals and tourists are participating along with the sound of the tambora.

Nevertheless, a silent march with lit candles known as Procesión del Silencio is practiced in some cities of Mexico. Furthermore, burning of Judas dummy packed with firecrackers is also part of Mexico’s Easter customs.

India

India is a land inhabited by people with diverse cultures and beliefs. Despite of the differences in traditions and being multi-ethnic, every festival in the place is celebrated dynamically and with great solemnity and respect. Although there are only few Christians in India, the good cheer of Easter season is no less.

On Shrove Tuesday, simnel cakes and pancake cakes are all set. Christians go to church services to admit repent and ask for mercy. Other Easter Catholic customs such as processions, narration and play of Christ’s sufferings are also practiced in the country. Exultation and jubilation lasts for a week or two.

America

In America, the citizens dye their egss with different colors and are hidden all over the place. These hidden eggs will now be searched by the participants of the event, especially the kids.

Spain

On the other hand, Easter in Spain is renowned with its dramatic processions of religious statues. In Andalucia, Nazarenos in conventional hoods and masks marches down the streets. Also, the Danza de la Muerte is anticipated in Verges, Gerona, in which five people are dressed in skeleton costumes while strolling the town and scaring locals.

Britain

A traditional folk dance known as Morris dancing happens over the Easter season in Britain. On Good Friday, hot cross buns are served to people and simnel cakes are offered on Easter Sunday to end the Lenten fast. Whereas, blessing of holy oils and washing of the feet takes place on Maundy Thursday.

Also, a popular Egg Tapping game is played in the North of England, where players hit other competitors’ eggs until there’s only one participant left with unbroken egg.

Poland

Almost the entire community practice Orthodox Christianity in renowned in Poland. Thus, Easters in the place is celebrated in a conventional way.

Easter festivities begin with the preparation of the Blessing Basket comprising of dyed eggs, bread, salt, cake, paper and white sausages on Holy Saturday. The Blessing Basket is then taken to the church to receive blessings from the appointed priest. The blessed basket signifies the end of the Lent period for Polish people.

Moreover, on Palm Sunday, Christians bring branches and twigs to the church for blessing. In Poland, the two symbolize Christ’s entry to Jerusalem. Then, they used the blessed branches and twigs to cure ill domestic animals as well as to bless pregnant women.

On the day of Easter, families gather at the green leaves decorated breakfast table with a sugar lamb prepared and places at the center. Before they indulge on blessed feast, they first wish each other good luck and endless bliss.

Sweden

In Sweden, Easter commences with cleaning and decorating of Swedish households with chicklings, daffodils and tapestries. Small branches and twigs are a common display in every house on Easter. Children are being dressed up resembling the Easter witches – long skirts, vibrant headscarves and red tinted cheeks. Then, they stroll around the neighborhood with their artworks in and exchange them with treats.

On Good Friday, Swedish people strike each other with silver painted birch twigs. And on Palm Sunday, Easter celebrations such as processions, fireworks display and bonfires take place. Likewise, Easter delicacies like spring lamb, stuffed herring and salmon gratin are prepared.

However, there are some Easter superstitions that still exist and believed by the Swedish people. For example, they deem that bad witches’ magic are at its utmost effectively during the week prior Easter.

 

Final Thoughts…

Truly, Easter is quite a big affair celebrated in any places and diverse traditions are carried out to mark the event. Despite of the differences in traditions and customs – from the preparations, iconic bunnies and vividly colored eggs, masses, feasts, processions, superstitions, etcetera, Easter remained a sacred occurrence not only for Christians but also for everyone who respect and honor the occasion.

Hence, it doesn’t matter how we celebrate Easter, what matters is the reason why we commemorate it.

Why US Hospitals Don’t Want Anything to Do with President Donald Trump’s New Health Bill

President Donald Trump keeps on expressing, especially on Twitter, how proud he is about his administration’s new proposals when it comes to American health. But, a group of hospital representatives recently shared their fears on the new healthcare bill designed by Republicans. How can Trump’s health bill harm the poor Americans?

The Health Bill Replacing Obamacare

Trump is currently backing the bill American Health Care Act. The new healthcare bill would finally replace former president Barack Obama’s Obamacare. It focuses on limiting funding for Medicaid, abolishing the requirement that everybody must be insured, and replacing subsidies with credits from tax. It plans to support fewer Americans unlike Obama’s Affordable Care Act or ACA, which helped a lot of insured people.

Let’s go further in the content of the American Health Care Act:

Preexisting Medical Conditions

Insurers must charge an increment of 30 percent on the premiums of consumers who let their healthcare coverage lapse. This affects greatly the insured consumers who suddenly have an accident or an illness. For the critics of the new bill, they thought 30 percent is too much as an increment, especially for poor consumers.

Purchase of Coverage from the Individual Market

Insurance gets more expensive because of the elimination of federal subsidies for people who belong in the lower and middle class. To replace subsidies, the bill aims to use tax refunds instead. The range starts from $2,000 for people below 30 years old, and $4,000 for people past 60 years old. The annual limit is $14,000. However, tax credits would be unavailable for individuals earning $75,000 or more annually. Same goes with married couples earning a total of more than $150,000 annually.

The sad reality of the new healthcare bill, based on the Kaiser Family Foundation’s data, is that it is just too expensive. With ACA, old people in their 60s can gain at least $6,000 from the subsidy. Unfortunately with the new bill, it would only be at most $4,000 taken from tax credits. It would also provide too much freedom for the insurers to charge more.

Medicaid Expansion Program Members

People under Medicaid expansion have until 2020 to take advantage of the program. New enrollees or returnees would not be allowed to join anymore.

Regarding the funding, the bill proposes a new formula in giving Medicaid subsidy. The average medical costs last 2016 affecting PWDs, seniors, adults and children, and the medical consumer price index would be the main points of the formula. Healthcare advocates sensed trouble with this formula because they believed that it is potentially based on flawed mathematics. The formula might excessively reduce the number of people who may use Medicaid.

Employers

Some big employers would not be required anymore to offer healthcare insurance. This can lead to possible problems such as some employees not being covered by insurance.

Planned Parenthood Clients

Planned Parenthood clients would not receive any Medicaid reimbursement for a year.

The Cry of Healthcare Advocates

The American Hospital Association, or simply known as AHA, claimed that Trump’s health bill might affect the insurance of poor American citizens. They were worried that the “most vulnerable” of the country would be exposed to more difficult healthcare privileges. Medicaid serves as support for citizens with low income, but Trump’s administration wants it gone.

AHA really had something to say about matters regarding health because it is representing at most 5,000 health networks and hospitals. Its president Rick Pollack criticized the Congressional Budget Office of inaccurate estimation leading to a weak assessment of the bill. He believed that the Medicaid service program will always be needed by the poor.

AHA was not the only organization voicing out its opinions regarding the American Health Care Act. The American Medical Association, a big group of doctors, also made a plea to the Congress to think twice about lessening the poor’s insurance privileges. Meanwhile, the AARP, which supports programs for older citizens, feared that insurance for older Americans would be reduced too.

Trump Administration’s Defense

House Speaker Paul Ryan was all praises for the American Health Care Act. He believed the demands of the bill were “conservative” and “monumental.” He stated that the bill has always been a dream of Republicans.

One of the pros of the new bill is stopping insurers from discriminating consumers with preexisting medical conditions. It also allows adults up to the age of 26 to be covered in their parents’ insurance plans.

More importantly, it counters Obamacare’s blunder, which discriminates individuals with higher annual income. Obamacare doesn’t include Americans who earn $48,000 and above despite old age. Many of Trump supporters expressed rage towards Obamacare. They didn’t believe that earning $60,000 annually is enough to be considered rich. Instead, they believed that their income only fits the average. They also couldn’t fathom why some people are privileged for free healthcare when they couldn’t even contribute something in return. This must be one of the major reasons why Trump’s supporters are mostly composed of people earning from $50,000 to $100,000 yearly.

Republicans fully believe in the promise of the American Health Care Act. They even called it as the “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017.”

Trump has been vocal ever since about his hate for Obamacare. He rigorously campaigned against it. He believed that Obamacare struggles from lack of choices and rising premiums. On Twitter, he called it a “disaster.”

The American Health Care Act has not been approved yet. It has to gain the majority’s vote first. Senator Rand Paul underestimated the proposed bill by implying that it would never win in the Senate.

Final Thoughts

After all the big differences, critics still considered the American Health Care Act and Obamacare as two similar healthcare bills. Come to think of it, the new bill retained some sections of Obamacare. While waiting for updates regarding the bill’s success, take advantage of the time to research about its pros and cons. We have to get ready of the bill’s outcome, so we won’t be left out if ever there are changes. As Americans, we have no choice but to follow the administration’s new rules. But, we still have to keep our heads up for awareness.