Sunday, May 27, 2018

CineTrek # 3: Natural History Museum

 The commencement of a new CineTrek begins as we enter London's Natural History Museum. The museum contains roughly 80 million items in its possession. Throughout what I was able to examine there were pieces that intrigued me the most.

 The first piece that definitely caught my eye was this interesting creature, the Mesonyx. The Mesonyx, (Mee-son-icks) which meant middle claw, was a wolf-like predator who lived during the Eocene-Age in the United States and in European-Asia. The Mesonyx was named by Edward Drinker Cope in 1872 and was classified under the Mesonychidae family. This beautiful animal was roughly 1.5 meters long and possessed a large jaw closing muscles which allowed it to quickly kill smaller prey as well as hold on to larger animals. This predator is similar in size of the modern wolf and its overall appearance. Just like wolves these pre-historic predators hunted in packs which suggested that they contained higher levels of brain power and intelligence that are important to carnivorous mammals today. Surprisingly, this creature is not directly related to modern day wolves. Fossil evidence suggests that this creature was the ancestral father to modern day whales. The fossils suggest that the Mesonyx is the whale's ancestor due to several similarities they share like dental, cranial, as well as hunting features.

Evolution is very interesting and such a vital concept for life to survive for generations. When you think of a whales ancestral background this is something you would not expect to see!

All of my information was found Here and Here for Mesonyx

 The next piece that was very interesting was about super-volcanos. Super-volcanos is a huge volcano with a magnitude of 8, which is the highest value in the volcanic explosivity index or VEI for short. Super-volcanos are capable of erupting with a radius greater than 1,000 cubic kilometers of magma. They are capable of erupting thousands f times larger than a typical volcano. When these volcanos erupt they create a circular collapse feature called a caldera (large volcanic crater). Fortunately, these super-eruptions occur rarely, and average once every 100,000 years. Super-eruptions occur when magma in the mantle rises into the crust but is unable to break through it, which causes pressure to build up until the crust wont be able to contain it, causing it to explode. When these eruptions do occur, they create devastating impact on Earth's climate. These eruptions produce enormous fields of ash in the atmosphere, enough to bury a large city. When a tremendous amount of ash enter the atmosphere this causes long-lasting climate changes. These quick changes can possibly trigger an ice age which will deteriorate the ecosystem due to animals and humans ability to adapt to these changes would not suffice. A magnitude of 8 in the VEI scale can possibly be create the extinction of life on Earth. The most recent super-eruption was located in New Zealand, the super-volcano was named Taupo Volcano which contained a VEI of eight. This incident was responsible for the shape of the modern caldera. The Yellowstone is one of the largest known super-volcano, its diameter is so vast that it can be seen from space. Its crater is roughly 72 kilometers, would this super-volcano be the destruction of the Earth's ecosystem?

All information was found here as well as here

British Museum- Project Library

The Ashurbanipal Library

Walking through the British Museum at first was extremely overwhelming.  With thousands of ancient artifacts and noise surrounding me, my eyes did not know what to focus on.  As the class was walking through the Mesopotamia exhibits to get to the infamous Harry Potter chess set, a wall of clay tablets stuck out to me.  Next to the clay tablet was a quote that said:
"The first library to contain all knowledge." 
Having a fascination with books and libraries, this instantly got my attention. So I read the didactic to enquire more information:

However, this did not satisfy me.  I wanted to know why it was created and how it was found, so I researched it and found the following:

This library was created around the 7th century BC by King Ashurbanipal of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (Ashurbanipal Library Phase 1).  The Neo-Assyrian empire is an ancient empire, located in modern-day middle east.  The oldest written piece of history is from the 30th century BC, 2,300 years before this library was created (Historic Writing).   One reason it might have taken so long for the first library to be created is because of the lack of books.  With writing being a new form of communication, it took a while for scholars to write everything down.  Also, it took a long time for someone to copy down each book because they had to do it by hand.

The British museum is trying to decode the books by using other pieces of history like the Rosetta Stone that help them understand how ancient language worked.  Austen Henry Layard, an archeologist, found the library in the 19th century at Nineveh, in modern-day Iraq.  Around 30,000 works of cuneiform-tablet literature, of multiple specialties, was unearthed.  The discovery of this library was vital to historians understanding of the ancient middle east (Ashurbanipal Library Phase 1).   

Why did King Ashurbanipal create this library? And why did no King try before him?
Although most kings were able to read, King Ashurbanipal was especially well-versed in literature because he was not originally meant to inherit the throne, his older brother was.  However, due to his brother's death, he ended up inheriting the throne, and therefore was King from 668 BC to 627 BC.  Since he had pursued education for years, he thoroughly appreciated literature, which is believed to be his reasoning to starting The Ashurbanipal Library (Dhwty).

This library was not only important for modern-day historians' knowledge of ancient middle east, but it also inspired other Kings to create one for their people.  It is rumored that this Library inspired Alexander the Great's infamous library, The Library of Alexandria, that was unfortunately burned down by Julius Cesar in his attempts to gain control over Alexandria (Dhwty).

An excerpt from a book in this library:
"'Belch like a drunkard, snort like a baby gazelle, until your mother comes, strokes you and picks you up' -Magic spell to make a baby sleep"

“Ashurbanipal Library Phase 1.” British Museum,

Dhwty. “Ashurbanipal: The Oldest Surviving Royal Library in the World with Over 30,000 Clay Tablets.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 3 Dec. 2016,

“Historic Writing.” British Museum,

Cinetrek #3: Revenge

Revenge, a 2018 film directed by Coralie Fargaet, starts out as what seems to be a Wes Anderson-esque take on a romantic, passionate film of two secret lovers. Jen, a young and beautiful French girl, hops nonchalantly out of a chopper, lollipop in hand, the picture of beauty and fortune. She is accompanied by her lover, a married man named Richard. Her secret getaway weekend takes a turn for the worse when Richard's two friends, Stan and Dimi, arrive a day early, rifles in hand. The movie, previously full of only bright and satured colors, suddenly becomed blemished with two dark and foreign charaters. Both Stan and Dimi have a clear primal desire for Jen, yet it is clear her attraction lies only with Richard. The next morning, Richard leaves for a few hours, and Stan's predatory side, lying dormant the night before, begins to show itself.
Fargaet's use of symbolism and hints of Stan's predatorial instincts gave a forlorn sense of trauma to the following scene. His sense of entitlement in asking Jen "Why do you not find me attractive?" forced the audience to confront the disgusting reality of sexual abuse. In a scene of trauma, there seemed for a second a beacon of hope when Dimi, the third friend, walked in....until he chose to walk away, turning up the volume on the television to drown out Jen's hopeless screams. The film's captivating nature was the result of Fargaet's ability to simultaneously make the audience uncomfortable enough to want to leave and ignore the horrors of society, yet keep the audience firmly glued to their seat, unable to look away, dreading the unknown that was coming for Jen.
Upon Richard's return, the audience sees his immediate anger at Stan, and begins to trust Richard more--he is defending Jen, and the audience is being lulled into a trap of viewing Richard as the good guy.
When Jen ran away from the horror of the events of the house, she did not know was how many horrors lay ahead. Barefoot, wearing only a t-shirt, a necklace, and a neon pink star-shaped earing, Jen begins the run for her life away from what was previously her haven and into the unknown. The scene parallels her, running for her life, and Richard, running for her, and the audience is left wondering if he is running to save her or running after her as a predator. The film is filled with facades of safety, trust, and love--all three of which are constantly torn away as it progresses. Richard at first seems to deeply care for Jen, until he calls his wife and pretends, with an alarming amount of false sincerity, to care about the trivial details of her life. Likewise, we realize that Richard's "love" for Jen is nothing more than a primal lust. The theme of primality throughout the film becomes progressively more apparent, with Fargaet's use of animal metaphors and the tonal shift from being in a modern house to the wilderness.
The film's ripe use of symbolism and metaphors begins with an apple--at first wholesome and innocent, and as Jen slowly eats it, she slowly becomes less pure with the horrors of the world becoming inflicted upon her. After miraculously surviving the fall from the cliff, Jen turns from a beautiful damsel in distress to a strong, self-sufficient survivor. She plots the demise of the three men and successfully takes them out one by one. Her first target, Dimi, was the one least involved in her undoing. He lurked in the background, watching what was happening but never taking an active role in it. In a clear use of symbolism, he was stabbed in the eyes by Jen as she killed him.
After recovering with cleverly used Piote, a beer can, and sheer force of will, Jen fully transformed from a ditzy girl-next-door to a strong heroine, actively looking for revenge.
At first, Richard seemed to be a relatively good character, faulted only for infidelity but otherwise successful and good-natured. As the film progressed, his character's facade was stripped away until he was no more than a man, naked and afraid, stripped of his power and money and begging for his life. Jen was the inverse of him--at first no more than his young and beautiful eye-candy, her character grew with each subsequent experience she had, until she eventually rose above them all to get the revenge she deserved.
I am not a fan of gory films. I am not a fan of horror films. But I can say, without a doubt, that I am a fan of Revenge. My issue with these types of films usually lies in the lack of tangible plot: it seems to me most of the time to be killing and blood with no substance, appreciated solely for the primal satisfaction of the action. Revenge, while magnificently gory and terrifyingly suspenseful, contains a complex plot ripe with betrayal and eventual conquest. In addition to this, Fargaet's captivating style of directing a dramatic film with so few lines and characters gave it a sense of individuality--capturing a foreign style of cinematography while still making it something that could be watched and understood universally.

Bees Jive to the Bee Hive

Out of all the interesting artifacts in the Natural History Museum, the most appealing to me was the bee tree located outside in the Wildlife Garden. While walking around the garden dodging every insect that came my way, I noticed a tree stump with a door panel on it. My curiosity got the best of me, so I decided to approach this door to discover the mystery that lied inside. It came to my attention that there was a whole colony of bees living in the tree! I didn’t necessarily know that at first, but I was well informed after reading the didactic.

I contemplated whether or not to open the door due to the fact that the sign clearly stated there was a possibility of a bee flying up to me. I paced back and forth for about two-three minutes until I was able to summon up the courage to open the door. My paranoia reached an all-time high when I put my hand on the handle. Since I had already gotten this far, there was no way I was backing down. So I went for it, swung open the door, and witnessed an amazing sight.

Bee trees are modern day, manmade hives that help bees swarm more frequently to increase the amount of honey, beeswax, and eggs they produce. This particular bee hive consists of about 10,000-50,000 bees. The population of bees within the tree is dependent on “temperature and the seasonal patterns of flowers” (Bee Season). Bee trees are able to withstand extreme temperature changes more efficiently than the standard beehive.  

This particular bee tree has a colony of honey bees. Only a special kind of honey bee is able to live in a bee tree. Trees provide nectar and pollen that is essential for the survival of these little critters. With the nectar from the tree, they are able to produce honey. An individual bee can visit between 50-100 flowers in a single trip and are able to source nectar as far as five kilometers away. Once the bees find a good source of nectar, they tell the bees back at the hive by communicating with each other though “dances, vibrations, and body chemical signals” called a waggle dance (How Bees Communicate).

Bees pollenate while traveling from plant to plant. By transferring pollen, they are able to help plants reproduce and create a healthier habitat for both wildlife and themselves. There are more than 3,310 species in the Wildlife Garden at the Natural History Museum. The honey bees in the bee hive contribute to the health of these plants.

Overall, I found this bee tree vastly interesting to learn about. Although it took me quite some time to actually open the door to the bee tree hive, it was surely worth viewing. I not only overcame an obstacle of fear, but I was able to witness an extraordinary sight of bees at work.

Revenge: Team Jen

Revenge: the action of hurting or harming someone in return for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands. After watching the gruesome film, "Revenge," by French director, Coralie Fargeat, the crudeness behind the title was revealed.

At the start of the movie, the sole female character named Jen, played by actress Matilda Lutz is shown as a highly sexualized mistress to the leading male character, Richard, played by Kevin Janssens. Their infatuation with one another is thoroughly exemplified, and Richard's lavish lifestyle is admired by the breathtakingly-beautiful Jen. What follows these beginning scenes took the majority of the audience by utter surprise. Rape, murder, and ultimately revenge unfolds as the film takes on one sharp turn after the next. As Jen becomes an object that three men use and dispose of, a strong animal symbolism of the four characters divulges.

It is impressive how many symbols Fargeat is able to get across in such a gory creation. The men are portrayed as cliche "manly men" who continuously flex their masculinity through violence, hunting trips, and of course, taking full control of Jen. The one female, Jen, is shown progressing from a worthless body used for male entertainment into a fearless, resilient woman seeking payback for the wrongdoings against her.

When Jen first struts around the desert mansion that much of the movie takes place in, she takes a bite out of an apple and leaves it to rot. The camera focuses back on this apple multiple times, showing the slow decline of Jen's moral. Seen on the apple is the close up of a spider that epitomizes women. Later in the film, one of the men is shown trying to drown a spider in his own pee, therefore representing how the men mistreat women without question. This is just one of the many symbols demonstrated throughout the film, all of which contain a rich, well thought out background.

At the end of the cinema, the only two characters left are ex-lovers, Jen and Richard. Through a blood-filled battle, Jen finally slaughters the man who tried to kill her. Her revenge against Richard and his disgusting "team" is complete.

My thoughts on the film? Although I had to cover my eyes and hold back some gags throughout the goriest of scenes, I thought the movie was incredibly well made. None of the events were expected so I was always on my toes anticipating what would be next. I also felt the symbolism and male/female portrayals were spot on, entertaining, and definitely made me think hard after the viewing. There is much to unravel in regards to this movie and I highly recommend watching it for yourself if you have yet to see any of Fargeat's work.

Notice Jen's earrings are kept on throughout the entire film. Yet another fascinating symbol!

From lovers to...

Halting the Male Gaze: Revenge cineTREK

Revenge, a gory action film directed by Coralie Fargeat, follows a female protagonist named Jen as she attempts to kill the men who left her to die. A few minutes into the opening of the film, our protagonist is brutally raped as another man stands by and does nothing to intervene. While this film explores many themes, there are two in particular at the heart of the film. The film attempts to destroy the idea of a male gaze by making the protagonist go against the typical image of women in cinema by using gore and violence; and women should fight back against their oppressors and abusers, no matter how difficult.

In the beginning of the film, we are shown Jen as an overly sexual symbol, typical of films that have objectified women for a man's viewing pleasure. At first, this may seem contradictory to a goal of upending the male gaze, but Fargeat carefully chooses every scene with precision, so that she may later shatter this introductory image.

There are repeated instances where Jen is shown in her underwear and having her body exposed. She is heavily objectified by the men in the film, and this is taken to the extreme when she is raped. After being raped, she flees not knowing what else to do. Her boyfriend pushes her off a cliff to fall to her death. The men think she is insignificant and can be killed without a second thought. Following this point in the film, Fargeat now forgoes the male gaze in a direction radically different. Our protagonist is no longer an object for desire. Jen seems to do the impossible as she survives from impaling through her abdomen.

Blood—lots of blood—covers Jen's body. She is grossly drenched as she attempts to bandage her wound, and there are images of intestines running through her fingers. Fargeat has moved away from the sensual shots of Jen's body; instead, she is now focusing on the female characters power and determination. This change in direction is only the beginning of subverting the male gaze. Jen gets bloodier and bloodier as the film progresses, and her resolve also grows along with it.

The copious amounts of gore throughout the film may seem excessive for some, but just like everything else in the film, it is carefully used to illustrate a purpose. Each and every instance of gore and blood throughout the film represents an immense struggle for women in society. They are continually objectified through various mediums, and they constantly have to fight against it. This film suggests that, while it may seem impossible, fighting against it can and should be done. Jen has gory wound after gory wound; yet, she prevails through it all. The body horror aspect is an approach that allows this specific theme to be explored with moving power. At the end of the film, we are left with the female lead defeating the male. She is bloody, tired, and scared—And she fought through it all. 

Revenge is a timely film in a year riddled with sexual abuse accounts from women all around the world. Jen fought back against her abusers. It is time for women in society to fight back against theirs. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

cinetrek: #5 Land Whales


The Natural History Museum contained a wide variety of sea going mammalian exhibits from the Blue Whale to the Orca (Killer Whale), but one exhibit seemed quite out of place which is the prehistoric mammal pictured above called the Mesonyx. Although this was not a coincidence of having this ancient creature along with the whales.  

The didactic states that these mammals are classified Mesonychid, and fossil evidence shows that the Mesonyx might be an ancient ancestor of modern whales and dolphins. The Mesonyx is commonly misidentified as a wolf-like creature, but has no connection to the wolf given it evolved and went extinct before the wolf existed. Although this mammal does look similar to the wolf and other four legged carnivores it is different in almost every aspect. Still unknown current fossil evidence supports the assumption that Mesonyx did not hunt in packs, was not a very intelligent, and didn't show signs of sophisticated behavior. These attributes were not developed until later Carnivorous mammals with higher brain power, and the ability to have sophisticated personalities. This means that the Mesonyx most likely acted off of pure instinct, and would be much different from our modern wolves. 

The Mesonyx was most likely too an apex predator of its time, given the sagittal crust that ran along the top of the skull. This feature enabled for larger jaw muscles leading to an extreme amount of biting force. It enabled for the Mesonyx to kill smaller prey almost instantly, and helped it take down larger prey too enabling it to keep grip. The Mesonyx (along with other Mesonychids) was the top predator of its time until late Eocene and the introduction of the Hyaenodon and Sarkastodon, which were similar but larger creatures. 

The Mesonyx was a part of the genus Mesonychia which is the reason it is sometimes credited to be a very old ancestor of the whale. Although not fact the Mesonyx is credited as an ancestor of the whale given the similarities in the triangular molar shaped teeth. These teeth were also utilized by archaeocetids which is the the earliest of whales. The whale is more likely an ancestor of the hippopotamids, because of their closely related skeletal structures. This means the Natural History museum of London might be giving out slightly misleading information. However they do acknowledge the fact that whales did exist at the same time as the Mesonyx which means that that they must be related through an even earlier type of Mesonychid. 

The Mesonyx would have roamed the land currently known as the US and China. The beast fed on mollusks or carrion which was typical of Mesonychids. Another specific trait the Mesonyx had was instead of clawed paws were toes ending in small hooves which can be seen in the picture above. 

It is interesting that the Natural History museum in London would still feature this mammal with the whales given its known factual history. Whether or not the Mesonyx is or is not a relative to the whale is still unknown along with a lot of other information commonly speculated about them. This information might make the observer question the validity to all of the exhibits contained in the museum, and should also help the observer to not take all information put in front of them as fact (even if it is from a known resource). The ambiguity and lack of information provided on the didactic may leave the observer wondering how qualified the creators and writers for the museum really are.