Saturday, July 19, 2014

Apish Ramblings

Ever wondered why our zodiac doesn't include an ape as avatar for one of the 12 signs? We have a ram, a bull, a crab, a lion, a centaur, a scorpion, a sea goat and fishes - stayed well away from our nearest ancestors didn't we? Maybe the twins, the virgin and the water-bearer were really apes. The scales? Oddly the only non-living non-breathing avatar, the one without Earth's malignantly infested  astrology and DNA to worry about ?

Apocalyptic and dystopian tales keep on coming. We've been treated to many stories of our ape ancestors/successors since 1968's original movie Planet of the Apes hit the screens. This year we have yet another sequel/prequel/$$$$$$quel in a long line of ape-filled films, spawned from French author Pierre Boulle's original novel, published in 1963.

From the "blurb" on the book's back cover:
It "hurtles the reader into a distant simian world where man is brute and ape intelligent, in a novel as harrowing, hypnotic, and meaningful as any of the great masterpieces of satiric literature."

"This novel is respectfully descended from Swift on one side, and Verne on the other." (The Atlantic Monthly)

"The tale enables Boulle to dissect, with delicate irony, the stupidity of established authority, the vanity of human ambition and the nature of our own society. The novel's surprise ending is singularly horrifying." (Newark News)

"Planet of the Apes is tomorrow's version of Gulliver's Travels." (Louisville Times)

Pierre Boulle (20 February 1912 – 30 January 1994) also wrote Bridge over the River Kwai (adapted, very successfully, to film too).

Apart from a wonderfully memorable scene in the original Planet of the Apes movie (when Charlton Heston finds the Statue of Liberty broken, half-submeged on the sea shore and cries "Damn you all to hell!") the films, or those I've seen, were....well, just alright enough to pass a couple of hours when at a loose end.

It appears the Statue of Liberty ending was dreamed up especially for the original movie; it did not appear in the novel. Pierre Boulle achieved a similar surprise, but in a different way.

Boulle described his novel as fantasy rather than science fiction, with a strong vein of social satire and allegory. The author is said to have used experience as a soldier and prisoner during World War 2 in depicting the relationship between apes and men.

From what I've gleaned online Boulle's novel begins differently from the original movie. The novel's story was framed as a record set out in a manuscript found in a floating bottle, in space, by a couple of wealthy space tourists. The manuscript, they discovered, was a hand-written account by one Ulysse Mérou, a Paris journalist, who tells of his visit (in the year 2500) to Alpha Orionis, a planet entirely controlled by apes.

Mérou's companions were killed, he remained marooned on the planet. After much deprivation and many adventures he escaped to his still orbiting spaceship, travelled back to Earth and Paris through many centuries of relative time. Officials are waiting to meet him; it is around 700 years after his departure. From their back views the welcoming committee appeared normal to Mérou, as they turn around - yep, you guessed: apes. On Earth evolution had slipped into reverse. A final "surprise" takes the reader back to the framing in the first chapter - the two space tourists who found the message in a bottle are revealed to be chimpanzees.

We saw the previous movie in the new Apes sequence, Rise of Planet of the Apes, a prequel to the original 1968 movie. It was a fair enough visualisation of how such a turn around might have come about. This year's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a continuation of that theme, we saw it this week. We enjoyed it. There are messages embedded, which I hope young people who see the film will identify and absorb. This film, more than the "Rise of..." or any of the earlier set I've seen, carries a clear lesson, and unmistakeable allegory. It's not hard to see reflections of all manner of well-known conflicts as the story unfolds: cowboys and "indians", settlers v. indigenous people, Israeli v. Palestinian, left wing v. right wing, protestant v. catholic, Christian v Muslim, capitalist v. communist... the list could go on.

The apes had been educated to live by the creed: "Ape Not Kill Ape". "I always think ape better than humans," the apes' leader, Caesar, says towards the film's conclusion as his dream of peace dies. "I see now how like them we are."

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes shows how violence and war can erupt, despite efforts to compromise, because of crafty manipulations - on both sides of a conflict. A lesson that "rotten apples", rotten humans and rotten apes (and there's always at least one) can infect a group who otherwise might have remained ambivalent and entirely disinclined towards violence. There's a feeling, by the end of the film, that tragically such conflicts, once started, have no solution, all will end in the way we know only to well from world history.

By being aware of the manipulation at source, one day things might change.
War, huh, good God y'all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again...........
(From song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, as sung by Edwin Starr)


mike said...

It would be nice to envision a post-apocalyptic Earth inhabited by simians, rather than the more likely scorched soil and rock devoid of all life forms, which is the trajectory we seem destined to create...our mission is nearly complete.

Messages of self-destruction abound in the liberal arts, but we've reached a point that the allegory is an obvious reality even to the scientific community. The narrative now is whether we've exceeded the tipping point of no return...usually applied to global warming, but could be used for any of our endeavors such as toxins-poisons in our food, fracking our clean water into oblivion (which was already headed into oblivion before fracking), air pollution, utilization of nuclear radiation, etc.

We humans are on track to glorifying ourselves to death...and we may take the planet with us. It seems that we were bred for this purpose.

mike (again) said...

Speaking of hairy apes, how's the hair-loss problem? Did you finally take the scissors away from anyjazz?

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yes, we're "fools to ourselves" alright. Blind or blinkered or willfully ignorant of the road we're on.

I doubt we'll take the planet with us. It'd survive in some form, but no longer as an environment for mankind, it'd join the billions of uninhabited others in the celestial roundabouts of the universe.

mike (again) ~ Hair. Loss has ceased, I think, apart from the usual normal amount. I await re-growth in affected areas - a slow process. I'm taking a Nordic "Hair Volume" supplement with some minerals and natural extracts in the hope it'll help - eventually. No more colouring can be risked, but luckily my natural colour is blending fairly well - it'll take the rest of the year for full transformation I guess.

Thanks for asking. :-)

Twilight said...

mike ~ Off the apish topic, also, but I've just read another piece supporting Al Gore:

I've "followed" the writer on Twitter and Tweeted support. :-)

Jefferson's Guardian said...

Ernst Mayr observed that "the average life expectancy of a species is about 100,000 years."

We're there...give or take a few.

mike (again) said...

Re Al Gore - Great essay and wonderful to know that others are hoping for a Gore ballot! The author suggests that Gore insist on a single-issue campaign focusing on climate change, yet states: "Moreover, climate change has long struggled to be taken seriously as a major national priority, a problem reinforced last month when a Bloomberg National Poll found only 5 percent of Americans ranked it as the most important issue facing the country today (placing it seventh)."

The GOP (and corporate donors supporting the GOP) would rip Gore by instilling fear that jobs and industries would be lost, economy would stall, welfare would increase, taxes escalate, USA would lose its global edge, etc. Gore will have to find a tactic(s) to diminish his climate change message, in my opinion, and be viewed as centric to the electorate's concerns.

The electorate is naive and has a one-track mind: more jobs, more money, less taxes. I'm sure Gore recognizes the challenges ahead, should he decide to run. Gore will be able to hold his own against all candidates, regardless of topic. I suspect that foreign policy will be an ever greater issue in the next couple of years, even more than it is right now.

LB said...

Twilight ~ I actually kind of enjoyed "Rise of the Planet of the Apes". Based on your review, I might see the latest one too.

All these stories really speak to the eternal struggle between our own higher and lower natures, don't they? And also, how we seldom learn from our mistakes.

Speaking of higher and lower natures, and in response to your and mike's mention of Al Gore, this article, "Al Gore’s strange meeting in Canberra: More at stake than the carbon tax" offers a different perspective:

It's an interesting and informative read - the author makes his point in the last two paragraphs. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions without debating them.:)

mike (again) said...

LB - Your link provides a touch of conspiracy to the Gore-Palmer meeting. "The Guardian" dishes it more front and center:

Twilight said...

Jefferson's Guardian ~ Yes, and if we're not quite there yet, we've rounded the corner and signs in the near distance have come into clear view.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ I'm not too keen on the single issue idea either - he's better than that (in my opinion), but it would be better than nothing at all.

As you say, he's experienced and shrewd enough to know the best way to go in a very tricky game of political chess. It wouldn't be easy, and it'd take a lot of courage on his part. He's Aries Sun, Cappy Moon, Leo rising, enough courage, daring and common sense there, as long as his Pisces Mercury doesn't get in the way.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Yes that's it in a nutshell - higher and lower natures. I think you'll enjoy "Dawn of....".

Thanks for the link re Al Gore's Australian adventures. I had read about it elsewhere. I'd very much like to hear Gore's side of the story.

Much as I admire the Socialists (capital S) they do have an axe to grind, it's one reason I haven't convinced myself to pay the dues and join any of their official parties.

My gut feeling tells me to trust Al Gore's judgement on this.

Among comments under the article mike links above is one by

"AussieChilcotinq"....I'll copy it as a balancing factor here rather than stretch my brain and typing fingers to paraphrase it.
:-) -
Al Gore's timely political intervention is about ensuring Australia does not close the door on an ETS, nor continue the pretense that it is politically taking the lead on climate change initiatives.
Dismantling the Carbon Tax legislation is not the death of carbon action as The Australian front page headlines would have us believe. Rather these political developments, should PUP hold the line, still leave it open for Australia to join a global ETS; one that may have a greater impact in the long term when our major trading partners sign up - which they appear willing to do.

Even though Palmer is perhaps cynical about a global ETS taking shape anytime soon, he is no doubt happy to take credit for any short term and long term developments arising from his new stance.
In the short term Palmer is happy to be praised for being instrumental in the killing off of the carbon tax. He wants the political credit for "lifting the financial burden" on Australians and our carbon intensive Australian industries.

In the long term Palmer, I suspect he will want to claim the political capital for ensuring that Australia - thanks to his intervention (read: Al Gore's) - remained open to participating in a global ETS. His PUP party is unlikely to go out of its way to bring this about integrating Australia into a global ETS, but he appears less likely than the Liberal Party to be obstructing it.

In this sense, the maneuvering instigated by Al Gore is a realist response. It is about accepting that Australia's political leadership will not "lead on climate change" - it won't under Abbott - and is instead more about ensuring Australia will at least stay open to following other's lead. Sound familiar?

Put another way, this is about acknowledging that Australia (the climate change "leaning nation") under the current government should not be expected to do the "heavy lifting" behind the development of an global ETS architecture as it much more likely to be done by others.

LB said...

Twilight ~ I'm not a member of the Socialist party either (or any other party), though I do appreciate an alternative perspective coming from a source other than FOX.

mike ~ Thanks for the link to the Guardian piece.:)

DC said...

I often wondered why there wasn't a monkey or ape represented in the Zodiac.....besides the Bull, and Lion,..... humans, fish, crustaceans, even a sea-goat as well as Scorpio, an insect, (arachnid actually)is represented....but no monkey.
Hindu has a monkey-man deity called Hanuman tho.

Twilight said...

DC ~ Thanks - I looked at Wiki's page on Hanuman - interesting. I'm pleased the monkey-world hasn't been left out of human-world completely.

I suppose the zodiac is missing our ancestor-strain because in the long, long ago days when it was defined and the signs given icons (different ones in different parts of the world I think) the science which tell us that apes are our early ancestors didn't exist.....or maybe they aren't - our ancestors??? Maybe the Chaldeans knew something we don't know.

(Theme from Twilight Zone heard faintly in the distance.)

mike (again) said...

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Oh yes! Chinese astrology didn't forget our ancestors. Thanks for that reminder.

The Monkey Statue at a Shinto shrine in Tokyo, (see Wiki) looks like something that could have come straight from one of the Planet of the Apes movies.
(No disrespect intended!)

A century ago, people laughed at the notion that we were descended from monkeys. Today, the individuals most offended by that claim are the monkeys.”
― Jacob M. Appel, Scouting for the Reaper