Category Archives: Thoughts

Things I have on my mind

Dr. Moreau and references in other media…

Recently, I purchased a 1977 movie of a story that focuses on the morality of “scientific” attempts to enhance life. Two TV shows I enjoy – Stargate SG-1 and the Atlantis spinoff – each have episodes that focus on the theme of questionable experiments for the sake of a higher goal. Directly (and indirectly), this refers to the classic science-fiction story – “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” by H.G. Wells. Through this post, I will endeavor to explore the philosophy, psychology, and morality of Moreau and those who share his mindset.

Dr Moreau

In the book, Moreau is revealed to be experimenting on animals, attempting to render their physical and mental attributes more “human,” in the name of eliminating violent tendencies, as well as removing disease and genetic flaws from humans. While Moreau’s goal might be laudible, there is a certain sadistic tone to his methods; he whips his experiments (psychological “conditioning”) whenever they display animal behavior, and in the movie versions he is shown to be willing to experiment on humans as well as animals. On top of all that, it is not a permanent solution – Moreau must constantly inject his experimental subjects with the “transformation” formula, or they will return to their natural form. For this reason, Moreau is viewed as a mad scientist – a man with the mindset of a monster, never accepting defeat or failure on his part. In the end, poetic justice occurs – Moreau is killed by his hybrid creations after he breaks the very rules they are forced to obey.

This theme of experimentation is visited in the Stargate franchise, with the message that those who engage in actions like Moreau’s are just as devious and immoral as he is.

Example 1: SG-1 season 7, episode 3: “Fragile Balance”

SG1-O'Niell & O'Niell

Colonel Jack O’Neill appears to have reverted to a teenager, with all his grown-up memories intact; later in the episode, we find out that one of the Asgard (allies of Earth) abducted Jack O’Neill and tried to replace him with a clone while the original was studied. Unfortunately, not everything went right in the process, and the Asgard responsible – Loki, known as the Norse god of trickery – is revealed to be operating outside the sanctions of the Asgard government, in the name of saving his people (who are dying after generations of cloning themselves). When the Asgard come to arrest Loki, clone O’Neill says that he (Loki) has “been playing Dr Moreau behind your back.” No subtlety lost there; Loki is painted with the same brush, and for good reason.

Example 2: Stargate Atlantis season 2, episode 18: “Michael”


New galaxy, new enemy – same problem. In this episode, a young lieutenant named Michael Kenmore wakes up in Atlantis (ancient city-ship) with no memory of his past or even who he is. After getting some weird memory flashes (and subtle hostility from others around him), he investigates and finds (to his horror) that he is actually a Wraith – a vampire-like species that the expedition from Earth is fighting. The Atlantis team explains that it’s all part of a plan to achieve victory over the Wraith – the Wraith being half-human, half-insect, a genetic retrovirus suppresses the insect portions of their DNA, leaving only the human. This may seem more humane, but just like in Wells’ novel, the process backfires – Michael is repulsed that they see his species as a disease, and after he changes back (like Moreau’s animal experiments), he goes on to conduct experiments of his own to create a Wraith-human hybrid, becoming one of Atlantis’ most dangerous enemies. This shows us another side of the “Moreau” methodology – no matter how well meaning the intentions, there are always unforeseen consequences in the actual experiment.

Example 3: Stargate Atlantis season 5, episode 11: “Lost Tribe”


Two seasons after the Ida Asgard (the main group of the species) have died, we find out that some part of the species lives on. They call themselves the Vanir; they separated from the main group because they held similar views to Loki – that in order to save the Asgard, it was okay to experiment on humans. They go even farther, however; they activate a device that causes Wraith ships – and Stargates – to explode, putting both Wraith and humans at risk anywhere in the galaxy. Their reason for doing this? So that they can operate without fear of being destroyed. This reveals yet another aspect to the Moreau mindset – the scientist can become so focused on achieving results that all other life – and morality – will eventually be cast aside, leaving a sociopath/psychopath at the helm of the mind.

Happy New Year! Start right with God…

Happy New Year, everyone!

Today, I thought I’d share with you something God spoke to my heart in May of 2012.

That day, I was reading through Romans 7, and the Spirit nudged me. The message was this: I needed to decide what I believed, why I believed it, and how I was going to show it in my life. At the time, I had made some questionable decisions regarding my spending patterns and computer time; God nudged me and asked, “Are these things affecting your ability to live for Me?” I had to admit that they were; the next question was, what was I going to do about it?

Earlier that week, I had listened to a sermon about how Christian faith is like a battle field; every decision/action we make has consequences, and what we choose to do or bring with us to the field of battle (our hearts) affects our ability to stand and fight against the opposition. If something comes into our lives that causes us to disobey God’s command and/or makes us trip up/lose ground, then we need to do two things:
1) Get rid of the source of distraction, so that you can get your defenses back up
2) Prepare yourself for offensive action through the Word

The reason why both are necessary is this: in battle, it’s not enough to blindly attack the enemy or build defenses to hold ground when necessary. To be truly successful, you need to be proactive – constantly monitor your defenses to ensure their readiness, and be ready to move when the Enemy strikes.

Coming back to where I was in 2012, I chose to follow the right battle plan: I got rid of what was holding me down as a believer, and got back on track with God. Admittedly, those distractions still sometimes come back around, but I am in a better place than I was five years ago.

Here is a word of encouragement to you: start the New Year with your life on the right track with God; be looking to the New Year with hope, but be prepared for the battles that will inevitably come. In the words of Scar from the Lion King, “be prepared,” because the Enemy certainly is.

End and means…

“No cause justifies the deaths of innocent people.” Albert Camus

I came across the quote this week; in every conflict, the biggest problem is how to avoid unnecessary casualties – it’s a matter of drawing the line of how far you’re willing to go for victory. Unfortunately, it almost always seems to happen, and the question that comes to mind is “why?”

The more politically minded would say that, in order to keep the universal good safe, small “sacrifices” are allowable. The trouble is, once you start compromising on the small scale, you jeopardize the entire good of what you’re fighting for. In Star Wars, there are at least two examples of this happening; the most famous example is the Padawan Massacre, committed by the First Watch-circle of the Jedi Covenant:


For those not read up on Star Wars, allow me to explain:

After the near-destruction of the Order by Exar Kun (a Jedi-turned-Sith-Lord), a former Master named Krynda Draay gathered like-minded Jedi to her and formed an organization that operated secretly, devoted to preventing the return of the Sith by any means necessary. During a private meeting, the group of Jedi Masters shown above experienced a vision of their deaths, brought about by a figure in red armor – armor that looked extremely similar to the spacesuits their apprentices were wearing at that moment. Convinced that this signified a new Sith Lord – another Exar Kun – was one of their students, the Masters decided to end the threat before it surfaced – by eliminating their students.

The results are two-fold: first, the Covenant leaders end up dying the same way they envisioned – like Oedipus, their actions to prevent fate have instead brought it about. Second, the founder of the Covenant, Krynda Draay, is horrified by what they have done. She remarks that NO cause is worth the lives of children; however, she is confronted with the fact that her own teachings – of doing whatever is necessary to prevent disaster – brought about this travesty. In trying to prevent the return of the Sith, the Covenant became the very thing they were fighting against.

B5 Sinclair

I’m reminded of a quote from a science-fiction TV series I watched years ago: “You forgot the first rule of the fanatic: when you become obsessed with the enemy, you become the enemy!” Jeffrey Sinclair, Babylon 5 (“Infection”) In the referenced episode, a man is taken over by an artifact from a dead civilization; as he is transformed into a living weapon, we (and the crew) learn more about HOW the civilization who designed the weapon were killed.

B5 Infection

After multiple invasions from space, the civilization created a weapon that wiped out everything that didn’t match its ideological programming – which is compared to what the Nazis did in defining the “perfect Aryan.” In the end, the weapons turned on their creators when they deviated from the programmed “ideal;” in short, they were destroyed by the very means they invented to protect themselves.

No matter what the fight, or how “worthy” the cause, once you sacrifice those whom you should be protecting, you have already lost.

How we view pictures…

Just this week, I introduced a student of mine to older means of viewing pictures. After class, I saw a web post that commented on how kids (since the beginning of the 20th century) are always looking for the latest technology among their Christmas presents. Considering this, I did a little digging – and was surprised at how much (and how little) the technology has changed!

Exhibit A: stereoscope slides, from the early 20th century (pre-World War I):


I first saw images made of this technology through a 90s IMAX movie called “Across the Sea of Time;” it’s amazing what high-quality clarity the pictures have, considering how much simpler the technology was 🙂

Exhibit B: Viewmaster slides, from the 1970s/80s:


I grew up using such a viewer; it was great fun to see stories play out before my eyes like a silent movie in stages.

Finally, Exhibit C: the Virtual Reality Theater headset, present day:


These are tangible proof that Solomon’s axiom is true: “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

Immortality – worth it, or the path to immorality?

Happy weekend, folks! Sorry it’s been so long; my teaching load has increased significantly more than I first expected. I hope to record/upload another YouTube video or two soon.

Something that’s been on my mind for a while is the morality of preserving life; people have been toying with the idea of healing/immortality since time immemorial. Today is no exception; increased medical proficiency, longer lifespans, and even the ideas of cloning or preserving consciousness in computers show how much people desire to live longer. The question is, why do people desire to live forever? How do we even begin to define life?

In Genesis 2, GOD plants two trees in the midst of the Garden of Eden; one is the Tree of Life (presumably, everlasting life), and the other is the Tree of Knowledge (of good and evil).


Only the latter tree is forbidden to Adam and Eve; the Knowledge tree represents the choice to reject GOD’s ultimate goodness. Adam and Eve (with coaxing from Satan) choose to eat of the Tree, and immediately afterward know that they have done evil. GOD drives them out of the Garden for two reasons: 1) anything imperfect would be destroyed by GOD’s presence, and 2) in their fallen state, if Adam and Eve were to eat of the Tree of Life, they would have no hope of redemption; they would be forever trapped in a life of pain, misery, and death.

In a previous post, I talked about Jadis, the White Witch from the Chronicles of Narnia. In “The Magician’s Nephew,” we learned that she destroyed her own world of Charn for the sake of power; once she enters Narnia, she makes another choice: she follows Digory (who later is known as Professor Kirke) as he fulfills a mission for Aslan and eats an apple from the Tree of Life.


She becomes immortal, but at a terrible price, as Aslan later tells us:

“Things always work according to their nature. She has won her heart’s desire; she has unwearying strength and endless days like a goddess. But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery, and already she begins to know it. All get what they want – they do not always like it.”

A slightly different (but no less poignant) portrayal of this state-of-being is found in the story, “Tuck Everlasting.” A young girl, Winnie Foster, encounters a family that drank from a spring that was a “fountain of youth,” causing them to physically remain EXACTLY as they were when they drank from it. Angus Tuck, the father of the family, explains to Winnie just what living forever looks like from that perspective:

Keep in mind, Angus is not encouraging nihilism (life lived around death) or hedonism (rampant, unchecked pleasure); he’s encouraging Winnie to decide what is most important – living a life that makes a difference, making the world a better place, and not being afraid of death (if you know and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior, death no longer has power over you anyway 🙂 ).

The following clip is from the popular TV series “Stargate: SG-1;” in the episode “Holiday,” an old man named Machello has spent over 100 years fighting a parasitic race of aliens called Goa’uld. Believing that he deserves a second lifetime to make up for all the years of pain and sacrifice, he invents a device that causes two minds to switch bodies. He then tricks a young archeology professor named Dr. Daniel Jackson into activating the machine with him; Machello then leaves Daniel to die in the body of Machello while he (Machello) goes off to begin a new life in Daniel’s body. After being caught, Machello is confronted with the immorality and evil of what he has done – and what he has become as a result:

In making this post, I came across a quote from Socrates: it is better to suffer evil than to do it. Whether that means transplanting your mind into anther’s body, harvesting embryos to use their stem cells to heal disease, or any method to preserve physical life at the cost of morality, trying to keep yourself “alive” is a slippery slope that ultimately costs you Life itself.

A psychological/vocal observation…

In the clip below (taken from a childhood favorite of mine-Stephen Spielberg’s “An American Tale: Fievel Goes West”), there are a couple interesting details I recently noticed:

1. Throughout his monologue, Cat R. Waul (voiced by John Cleese) modulates his tone to reflect the different parts of his mental debate, with the lower tones representing the typical cat’s appetite and the higher tones signifying the logical planner he seeks to be.

2. We witness a typical psychological battle: Cat R. Waul’s Id (“the feline/gourmet”) versus his Superego (“the shrewd businessman/entrepreneur”); thankfully, Fievel survives when the Superego wins (Waul decides not to eat Fievel, though in the very next scene he orders his hench-spider, Chula, to make Fievel have an “accident” and fall off the train to keep him quiet about Waul’s plan to “befriend” and entrap the mice of Green River, the town he is going to).

The Phantom returns…

I and the Phantom are back! Sorry for the two week delay; teaching picked up more quickly than anticipated.

So, as I was saying in my previous post, there is something rather appealing about the Phantom, despite the dark character traits he displays.

Years ago, I realized a strange, almost mirror-reflection for the Phantom – another outcast character whose primary reason for remaining hidden is physical deformity. Apart from that, the two are almost complete opposite – inside and out, pardon the pun.


In the Hunchback of Notre Dame, we observe Quasimodo, a kind soul trapped in a massively deformed body. He lives high above Paris in the belltower, where he lives with (and for) the music he makes with the bells. He is awestruck/lovestruck by Esmeralda, the girl who chooses another man (who doesn’t really care about her) and is heartbroken when she dies. A tragic hero, misjudged by society, one of the most enduring figures in Romantic literature.


In the Phantom of the Opera, we observe Erik, a brilliant man whose only physical deformity seems to reflect his vindictive, vicious nature. He lives in Paris, below the Opera House, and lives for the music that he composes. He too has a great love, and like Quasimodo, the girl rejects him for another man, but in this case the man actually cares for her in return. Erik gives her the choice of seeing her lover die or choosing life forever with her “angel of music.” In the end, he allows her to leave him to be with the man she loves while the Phantom disappears.

An interesting (and rather odd) contrast, wouldn’t you say?

The Phantom

Greetings, all! After an eventful few months away, it’s good to be back!

For my topic this evening, I will be offering my view(s) on the prime character of my favorite musical, the Phantom of the Opera!


He has taken many forms and faces since before Gaston Leroux wrote the novel; a popular story is that he was one of the architects of the Paris Opera House who, after the building was completed, asked if he could remain within. As a character, I find him fascinating – a genius in music, engineering, and illusion whose deformities (physical and within) make him a reclusive outcast who hides away in the bowels of the Opera Populaire.

At times, he is viewed alternately as a monster and a sympathetic figure. Gifted with an extraordinary mind and ruled by a ruthless passion, he seems an almost contradictory personality, gentle yet vicious, overpowering strength blended with soothing persuasion. What is it about the Phantom that makes him so appealing? Is it his music, his character, his quest for love and acceptance and power, or some combination of them all?

The reason the subject came to mind is this: just two days ago, I had the golden opportunity to see the Phantom (the musical, anyway) when it came to San Jose. Due to the lateness of the hour, I’ll continue in my analysis of the story another day. Let me know what you think of the play/character!

Communication methods…

A few months ago (February 18th), I was teaching one of my students about early civilizations, and I thought about how people used to communicate over long distances before electronics.

My first thought was of sound signals, such as the Aboriginal “bullroarer” from Australia.

There was also the popular “smoke signals” method employed by Native Americans and the Chinese, who also used signal fires (as portrayed on the Great Wall in Walt Disney’s “Mulan”)
Smoke Signals

One last ancient method involves sound again; those capable of manufacturing them fashioned horns made of metal or bone, while a few cultures in Oceania utilized a conch shell for the same purpose.
Bone horn

These communication methods lasted through the ancient times all the way to the Renaissance; in more recent years (following the discovery of electricity), we invented new methods that built on the older ones.


Morse Code
Morse Code


Computer code
Computer Code

Amazing, isn’t it, how things change yet remain the same?

Star Wars – Frankenstein?

A familiar scene from Star Wars just took on a whole new layer of meaning. I’ve previously compared Anakin Skywalker to Oedipus (causing tragedy and loss because of the very actions he took to prevent it), but a more recent classic is also well represented.

After some time considering/remembering Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I was struck with a sudden recognition; both Plagueis and Frankenstein are obsessed with overcoming death. They each pursue it scientifically (Plagueis’ quest is a bit different, admittedly), and to a degree they both succeed.

What was even deeper for me, though, is that Anakin is, to a degree, emblematic of the man Victor Frankenstein was in the beginning. His mother’s death shaped his choices, and despite learning the darkness of the path he would have to take, Anakin puts his goal above any moral code that would forbid the method of learning the secret.

Even after considering what abominations he will have to commit to accomplish his goal, Anakin (like Frankenstein) embraces the dark path and eventually becomes the “monster” himself.

Or, on second thought, Palpatine/Sidious is Frankenstein and Anakin is his “monster.” The writers of the Expanded/Legends Universe have explored that angle as well…