Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Omega Man (1971)


Between China & Russia engaging in germ warfare and a plague killing millions in the US (as far as we know), Dr. Robert Neville has become the last man on earth. In a flashback, we learn that Neville gave himself one of the trial vaccines after his pilot dies while they are flying.

Dr. Robert Neville believes he is living alone in the city. By day, he finds entertainment in tracking “The Family” and watching reruns of the movie, Woodstock. By night, he is holed up in his apartment, cooking dinner and speaking to a statue.

“The Family”: When people succumbed to the plague, not all of them died. There were some that became albinos. The albinos ended up being the ones who burned many of the bodies and tried to go back to simpler living. They see humanity’s downfall as science. Due to their albino skin and cultish behavior, they started to kill anyone who was not like them (even people who did not contract the disease and survived the plague). 

Matthias: You are discarded. You are the refuse of the past.

Neville: You are full of crap!

After walking around the city’s department store, Neville thinks he sees a woman. As he goes on a chase to find this person, he gets caught by “The Family” when they drop a huge wine shelf on him. Neville is brought in front of Mathias, leader of “The Family” and former news anchor. Mathias determines that Dr. Neville is guilty of murder and must be burned at the stake.

Neville gets rescued by a group of people still surviving, including the woman Lisa that he spotted earlier in the department store. Soon, Neville learns that there are a group of people who have still not contracted the virus. Just one of them, Lisa’s younger brother Richie, is slowly turning into an Albino.

Luckily, Neville realizes that he can use his blood to cure Richie. When Richie is cured, he questions if Neville would now pass along the vaccine to “The Family” so that they could also be cured. Instantly, Neville refuses and Richie takes on the mission to go convince “The Family” to work with Neville and receive the treatment. “The Family” thinks Neville sent Richie as a spy and they kill him.

In the meantime, Lisa went shopping for the day and unexpectedly succumbs to the Albino disease. She lets “The Family” into Neville’s home and they stab him. When Neville tries to escape, he (stupidly) brings Lisa with him. Mathias throws a spear and hits Neville in the chest – Neville is slowly dying but ends up living long enough to give some of his blood to the remaining humans. They drive off and it leaves the viewers wondering what will happen.

Historical Context: 

This movie was based off of the 1954 book, I am Legend. However, the movie does differ from the book although some of the premises are the same. I actually found the movie to be quite telling of the time period. This was a point in history that we discussed in class as being a time when people didn’t know if they were going to die. There was the cuban missiles crisis, the arms race with Russia, Vietnam… I guess it seemed as if the world falling apart was not such a far fetched reality.

This movie is often also credited with being one of the first to have an interracial kissing scene. Neville is played by the actor, Charlton Heston who is white and Lisa is played by the actress, Rosalind Cash who is black. They do have a love scene in the movie.

Comparing The Omega Man to Ecotopia: 

Both The Omega Man and Ecotopia were made/published in the 70s. I see a link between the two in that society evolves in a distinct way due to the current realities. The Omega Man is an apocalyptic dystopia that has been created because of biological warfare and human greed. Ecotopia is created after some of the states choose to secede when they are sick of how horrible the US had become. Obviously Ecotopia is a voluntary response to their reality as opposed to The Omega Man which is the opposite.

I am Legend

I am Legend (2007) is a film based on a novel with the same name by Richard Matheson written in the mid 20th century. The film is set in 2012, three years after a genetically re-engineered version of the measles virus, created as cure for cancer, mutates into a strain that infects humans and some animals. Flashbacks in the film reveal that in this time, over 90% of the world’s population had died, 9% had become infected but not died, and now prey on the survivors. Less than 1% of the population is immune to the virus, and many of those who are immune either committed suicide due to isolation or were killed by the infected. The film follows US Army virologist, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Neville who remains in New York City to attempt to discover a cure for the vaccine. Robert is the last man in New York City, and he believes, in the world. The infected humans are shown to be hurt by the sunlight, and thus are nocturnal.

Each day, Robert experiments on rats infected with the virus to find a cure, and goes throughout the city searching for food and supplies. Every afternoon he waits at the South Street Seaport and makes radio broadcasts calling for all survivors to meet him there. Robert’s only companion is his dog Sam, who he is forced to strangle after she too becomes infected with the virus while defending him against an infected “dark-seeker.” Robert’s wife and daughter were ostensibly killed in a helicopter crash in 2009 during a military evacuation. Robert has resorted to setting up mannequins in a video store, watching recordings of old news, in addition to his relationship with Sam for companionship. Following Sam’s death, Robert goes on a killing spree at night out of anger. This is when Anna and a child named Ethan come to rescue him. When they return to his home, Robert realizes he has discovered a cure created by a vaccine using his own blood. Robert ultimately sacrifices himself for the sake of humanity after the infected follow them back to his home in Washington Square and gives Anna the vial of the blood from the infected human he was in the process of curing to take to a safe town in Vermont. The film ends with Anna and Ethan arriving in Vermont safely and Anna handing over the vial with the cure.

This post-apocalyptic dystopia relates primarily to the theme of science and the relationships of humans. I am Legend seems to present the idea that we must be cautious with scientific advances so that in the process of attempting to cure an illness, we do not create one that ends society. For instance, one fear by some scientists is that in the process of over-medicating or creating different vaccines, is that some viruses evolve to resist the treatment. This film highlights a more extreme version of this fear. I am Legend also shows the importance of human contact and interaction in society. As the last man in the city, Robert Neville begins to speak to mannequins, even flirting with one at one point, when he loses his dog (his only companion), Neville cracks.

This clip shows Neville’s mental breakdown following Sam’s death and his need for human interaction:

He goes on a nearly suicidal mission in retaliation. In order to maintain a sense of interaction and normalcy, Robert also watches old news broadcasts daily as well. Together, these highlight the importance of interaction on the individual.

In contrast to being the only person left in the world, Lord of the Flies by William Golding sets his novel with a group of boys left stranded on an island. While I am Legend highlights the importance of human interaction, Golding displays the cruelty of human nature. Golding uses the conflicts between the boys on the island and the danger that ensues in order to show the loss of innocence that results from scarce resources. Also a post-apocalyptic work, Lord of the Flies shows how competition and fear can lead even a group of preadolescent boys to steal, kill, and torture one another. While I am Legend emphasizes the need for an individual to engage with society, Golding emphasizes the dark state of human nature when a small group struggles to survive.

A Vacation Gone South

Part 1: A Vacation
My boyfriend and I had decided to go on a little vacation. Summer was nearing and we both put in a request for vacation dates. We currently live in a cute little apartment in Astoria. He works for the MTA five days a week from 2 to 10pm and I work in an office from 10 to 6. Because of our schedules we don’t always have time to see each other. He seems to be more tired and out of it lately. I wonder if something happened. Hopefully this vacation will bring us closer because I sense we are drifting. We decided to go to Hawaii. I have always wanted to visit Hawaii because it is the only state that is an island. Neither of us has been there and the atmosphere there seems to be more relaxed than it is here in New York.
Part 2: A Tumble
We finally landed in Hawaii. The temperature was high and we could see the blue ocean sparkling. After dropping off our bags at the hotel we decided to have dinner and call it a night. With the itinerary I printed out, tomorrow will be a long day. The next day we rented a small boat and paddled out to the ocean. The sun was high in the sky and the waters were clear. It was great. Suddenly the boat started to rock and flipped over! I treaded in the water and looked over to find my significant other missing. Panic and dread filled me. Where did he go? Is he alright? What happened? I put my goggles on and looked underwater. I saw him moving deeper and deeper into the ocean. I swam after him.
Part 3: A Glimpse
I dived down to the depths of the ocean and saw him drifting towards a cluster of caves. After a minute underwater I had to resurface to breathe. I sucked in extra air and dove down again. I caught up to him and noticed that his eyes were closed and he was not fighting for air like he should be. He looked peaceful like he was in a deep sleep. I didn’t know what to do. Suddenly creatures were among us. They looked human from the waist up but they also had tails instead of legs. By the time I noticed, they had surrounded us. Due to shock I lost the air in my lungs. With my last bit of strength I took my partner’s hand.
Part 4: A Transformation
I must confess I do not know how much time had passed. I was lying face up on a table of some sort. My body had just awakened from a restorative sleep. I could hear high-pitched squeaks and squeals, which my ears adjusted to quickly. I kept my eyes closed just to observe the environment with my ears. I heard two voices discussing what to do with the newcomers. I tried to stretch out my toes and realized I was unable to. I didn’t have toes. I didn’t have feet. In fact I didn’t even have legs! Instead I had a tail. I had somehow transformed into a mermaid! I opened my eyes and looked around. I had been placed on a table made from sponges. The walls that surrounded me looked like the tentacles of a sea anemone. I felt safe but also lost at the same time. Where did they take him? I quickly got used to moving around with a tail. It was like doing the dolphin kick in swimming class but all the time. As I was practicing two figures, presumably doctors, entered into my so-called room. They explained that my partner and I were almost couldn’t be saved but we were lucky. They talked about some complicated scientific medical procedure that allowed them to turn us into mer-people. It sounded like black magic to me. They directed me to my partner’s room at my request. There he was lying on the sponges. His face was as serene as the last time I saw him. It seems that he hasn’t woken up yet. I took his hand in mine and to my surprise he woke up.
Part 5: A Decision
Now an important decision had to be made. Should we attempt to travel back to our original homeland or explore this new underwater Atlantis-like place? I still didn’t understand how both of us could “breathe” underwater. Maybe the doctors said something about that in their long explanation. My boyfriend said that he wouldn’t mind staying and studying the area since we are still on vacation even though this was not the kind of trip he expected. I agreed that exploring the region would be interesting but what if we want to go back to land? What about our jobs and families? There were so many things that were just up in the air. I finally decided to stay. Now we need to learn about this species before anything else.
Part 6: A Lesson
One of the doctors volunteered to tell us about the mer-people of Melloasis, which is what they called their society. We learned about the elders who lead the villages and the equality of all citizens. Similar to communism they live as a community without using money and everyone does their role to keep the place going. There are hunters, doctors, caretakers, and their jobs can switch at any time. The flexibility of job positions seemed interesting. If each mer-person was able to choose a job that he or she wanted how would they make sure that all jobs were filled? Each mer-person takes as much food as needed and everyone is generally happy. Since the young are raised communally they do not have the same type of attachment as humans do. I was taken aback by the idea of having numerous partners even though I understand that it is a way to keep their population at a stable number. My partner and I just didn’t concur with the notion but we had no complaints since the mating season was already over. Melloasis is very green place. Everything the mer-people use can be recycled and they try not to disturb the nature and other creatures among them. The doctor explained that it is their society’s responsibility to maintain harmony with nature by not doing anything beyond preservation. This seemed like a great place to be and almost like a utopia.
Part 7: A Misfortune
We decided to go explore the childcare center to see how the caretakers work. The childcare center was tucked away in one of the corners of the cave. Inside the caretakers watch over the newborns as they lie on beds of seaweed. When the young ones wake they are fed plankton and other small fish. They interact with each other and play with shiny objects or trinkets. The caretakers take note of which object or objects a particular mer-baby plays with and how he or she interacts with the other children. This is taken into account with the caretakers have their meeting with the village elder about which role each mer-child should fulfill when he or she turns of age. My partner decided that we should see how the hunters catch fish. We made our way outside the cave and watched the hunters from afar. They were both mermen and mermaids. Some used a net composed of seaweed and others used driftwood as hunting spears to collect their fish. The strength of these hunters was impressive seeing as they were able to carry all the fish they collected and drag them back inside the cave. While we were observing the hunters, I suddenly heard a grunt from my partner. I looked down and his tail had been pierced by a sharp piece of driftwood. His scales started to turn a shade of red. I pulled the driftwood out and threw it away. I spotted a dangerous looking fish in the distance. It started swimming this way and I realized it was a shark. All the hunters started to head back into the cave. With all my strength I pulled my partner into the cave. A stream of red liquid followed us. The hunter who accidentally threw the spear in our direction apologized and asked what we were doing in the line of fire. Before we could answer the two doctors from before appeared and pulled us away saying they had to clean out the wound.
Part 8: A Problem
The doctors brought us back to the place where both of us had woken up. While one of them dressed the wound the other asked me what happened out there. I communicated that we went out to observe the hunters in their roles and one of them accidentally speared my partner. A report would have to be made to the elder. I asked about their policy on outsiders. The doctor told me they never had any outsiders. They were five self-sufficient villages that were just trying to survive in harmony with nature. I asked about the scientific process they used on us. The answer was that it was an experiment to save our lives. Since we were not born in Melloasis we are not instinctively inclined to appreciate nature. The elders may believe that we are a danger to the mer-people. I asked what happened to a mer-person who did not appreciate nature. He or she is exiled. The other doctor and finished dressing the wound. I told my partner that we might be exiled from this society. He replied that if that were the case then we would need to turn back into humans and return to our homeland. We asked the doctors if they could reverse the process. They told us they would look into it but there were no guarantees. Suddenly an older mer-person arrived and the doctors introduced the elder of their village.
Part 9: A Command
The elder looked at us and told us the hunter made a report about us. I told the elder that we were observing the hunters and my partner was hurt in the process. The elder studied us and asked if we were from another village. I replied that we were actually humans who have been turned into mer-people by the two doctors. The elder was taken aback and glared at the two doctors. The elder explained that the right thing to do would be to change us back to humans to keep the balance with nature. Either that or exile because we do not have the strong appreciation for nature that the other mer-people have and we led a shark near the cave opening. Either way the elder wanted us to leave.
Part 10: A Fabrication?
I guess it would make sense that they would want us to leave. We are outsiders and they have their whole balance of nature thing. We talked it over with the doctors and they decided to try to reverse the process but they were not completely sure that it would work. The experiment began on both of us simultaneously. And I was out. I awoke to my partner calling my name. I opened my eyes and saw the sun’s bright rays. I felt sand under me and stretched out my toes. My boyfriend breathed a sigh of relief and hugged me tightly. I thought you would never wake up. I asked him what happened. He said that we went out to sea on a boat and I wasn’t paying attention and fell into the water. He brought me back to the beach and tried to revive me. For a while I was unresponsive. I coughed out some water but didn’t do anything else. He was very worried. I asked him about the underwater society. He looked at me like I was crazy. I think you need some rest.

Stanisław Lem’s Futurological Congress

Decades Old, Yet Relevant Questions in Stanisław Lem’s Futurological Congress

Futurology analyzes the successes and failures of present technologies in order to predict new scientific innovations that may arise at any point in the future. In Stanisław Lem’s novel The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy, a large group of hilariously incompetent individuals who call themselves futurologists are gathered to solve the sociopolitical issues that have plagued mankind for as long as it has existed. In their solutions, the most difficulty is encountered in their obligation to respect the basic rights entitled to all citizens. Thus, they decide to look past such a minor formality in order to put in action all the spectacular ideas that have been conceived. One of these men will be unwillingly sent forward in time to observe the ripple effects of the policies that result from this congress. Through satirical yet astute criticism of a dystopian alternate society and its obliviously governed inhabitants, Lem’s novel forces us to ponder the extent of authority in our own lives, our use of perception-altering drugs, and other topics of controversy that have only become more relevant since the book was first published in 1971.

We are introduced to our protagonist, a Mr. Ijon Tichy, as he travels to Costa Rica to participate in the eighth world futurological congress. Tichy is a space traveler who is invited to participate by futurologist Professor Tarantoga, who is a recurring character throughout the book. Things are not well in Lem’s caricature of our world: the population is rising at a tremendous rate, terrorism is omnipresent to the point where Tichy’s hotel room comes with a guarantee of being bomb-free, and the members of the congress are desperate to come up with answers. After several futurologists present their own absurd solutions, the meeting becomes the target of a government-administered attack of euphoria inducing “benignimizers,” which are dissolved into the water supply and sprayed into the air. Tichy and Tarantoga escape to the sewers underground, but Tichy suffers from a series of intense hallucinations, in which he sees sewer rats standing upright playing bridge in one moment and is flying around with an imaginary jetpack in the next. Finally, Tichy, believing everything around him to be his hallucinations, is shot by an escaped criminal whose bullet Tichy is sure is just another invention of his own imagination. Our protagonist wakes to learn that he has been preserved for decades in an effort to cure him of his psychological and physical ailments, and now must live in a world where the issues futurologists were tasked with solving are masked from the populace by an abundance of complex drugs suited for any purpose.

This sudden revival in the year 2039 marks a dramatic change in setting as well as style of storytelling. Here, Lem explicitly explains that several of the absurd scenes Tichy witnessed in the past world have been hallucinations. In the later part of the narrative, it is left to the reader to judge the validity of the obviously delusional protagonist’s observations. In both halves of the novel, Lem presents far-fetched, overreaching resolutions to social issues that are exaggerated in the traditional black humor approach to sociopolitical criticism, known well amongst satirists such as Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller. Lem’s opinions on such issues manifest themselves in his explanation of the ridiculous policies that allow society to function at a debatable degree of success.

In the first world presented to the reader, Lem demonstrates the absurdity of the congress from which the novel takes its name. The incompetence of Lem’s futurologists and the superfluous fanfare surrounding the whole event is essentially Lem’s criticism of the luxuries enjoyed by powerful men. While they enjoy performances “in which an all-girl orchestra played Bach while performing a cleverly choreographed striptease” (Lem, 6), the world seems to be on its last hinges around them, with the frequent mentions of kidnapped diplomats, assassination attempts, and dwindling resources. When they finally come around to discussing the plights of their society, it is hilariously inefficient:

Each speaker was given four minutes to present his paper, as there were so many scheduled—198 from 64 different countries. To help expedite the proceedings, all reports had to be distributed and studied beforehand, while the lecturer would speak only in numerals… emphatically repeating: 4, 6, 11, and therefore 22; 5,9, hence 22; 3, 7, 2, 11, from which it followed that 22 and only 22! Someone jumped up saying yes but 5, and what about 6, 18, or 4 for that matter; [futurologist] Hazelton countered this objection with the crushing retort that, either way, 22. (20)

The reader may already be scoffing and realizing Lem’s point in criticizing the seemingly organized discussions that are political debates. By the time the next line is read, the reader is likely giggling and shaking his head at the absurdity of the congress as a whole: “I turned to the number key… and discovered that 22 meant the end of the world.”(20)

In the events leading up to our protagonist’s hibernation, we observe the government experimenting with the administration of calming chemical agents upon its citizens. “Benignimizers” are unknowingly consumed; “Love Thy Neighbor” bombs are dropped from planes. Tichy describes his thinking under the influence of such compounds as docile and accepting: “Every analytical reflex was as if submerged in thick syrup, wrapped and smothered in a porridge of self-satisfaction, all dripping with the honey of idiotic optimism…”(16)

The world of the future is where most of Tichy’s narrative takes place, and it is the setting in which the government’s ambitions to control the populace culminates in a final and tremendous abuse of power. Society is manipulated by the administration of various chemicals; meticulously developed variants of the original “benignimizers” of Tichy’s time. Citizens are either coerced into taking these drugs or unknowingly consume them, and are under their influence during every waking moment of their lives. Pills are commercialized for every possible derivative of basic human necessity. For anybody who is lonely, “… you can take a drug called duetine which doubles your consciousness in such a way, that you can hold discussions with yourself on any topic (determined by a separate drug).”(81) For the overly ambitious, there’s “… authentium. Creates synthetic recollections of things that never happened. A few grams… and a man goes around with the deep conviction that he has written The Divine Comedy.”(81) There are apparently even chemicals to alter physical appearance, as Tichy speaks of a group of black men who have effectively changed their ethnicity with the help of a drug called caucasium (97).

As Tichy becomes increasingly familiar with his new environment, he realizes that the societal struggles he was tasked with solving as a futurologist are not only still present, but also have considerably worsened. There are 29.5 billion living people on the planet (67), but somehow Tichy is made to believe that all the strife that defined his previous life had disappeared. It is still not apparent how these drugs managed to inspire such extreme widespread benevolence until we once again meet Professor Tarantoga, this time in the future world. He explains to Tichy that present society is functional due to a heavy dependence on chemicals known as “mascons,” which simultaneously induce sensory, visual, and auditory hallucinations to “falsify the world.”(113) Unbeknownst to Tichy and the entire population, they are administered these mascons with every meal they eat, every glass of water they drink, and every breath they take. The drug is simply everywhere. Over dinner at a luxurious restaurant, Professor Tarantoga offers Tichy a separate, illegal drug that will block the effects of these mascons, and only under its influence does Tichy understand that everything before him is a façade:

The magnificent hall, covered with carpets, filled with palms… the orchestra in the back that played exquisite chamber music while we all dine, all this had vanished. We were sitting in a concrete bunker, at a rough wooden table… The music was still there, but I saw now that it came from a loudspeaker hung on a rusted wire… the silver dish with steaming pheasant had turned into a chipped earthenware plate containing the most unappetizing gray-brown gruel…(114)

Professor Tarantoga brings the point home with a blunt affirmation of an inevitable truth: “Ours is simply a world in which more than twenty billion people live… In such a world, where are you going to find Chablis, pheasants…? The last pheasant died a quarter of a century ago.”(117)

It can be assumed that in some consecutive meeting of futurologists, held while Tichy was nothing but a frozen block of ice awaiting revitalization, this was suggested as a final solution to exponential growth of the population, opposition to authority, free will, and other pitfalls of humanity’s existence: mind-controlling drugs, to be administered forcefully or under the illusion of choice. Over years of chemical experimentation, starting with the benignimizers and Love Your Neighbor bombs of Tichy’s time, it has been found that a mind whose judgment is clouded by a veil of meticulously designed artificial satisfaction is open to complete manipulation. It’s eerie how relevant Lem’s observations remain forty years after Futurological Congress’s publication. In today’s prescription drug culture, chemical imbalances are quickly diagnosed and pills are prescribed to stimulate the brain, relax it, or anything in between. Lem’s fictional authority, so indifferent in its control, also parallels recent reports suggesting an authorized total invasion of our online privacy. Tichy’s memoirs leave us questioning our own relation to our leaders and the psychoactive chemicals we allow ourselves to consume, and Lem’s tongue-in-cheek approach to observing and criticizing these same issues is how he skillfully balances his work between social commentary and science fiction.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind


Nausicaa is a young princess in the Valley of the Wind. She’s the heroin of the story, where she actively does her best in saving the valley of the wind, and nature in general, from an aggressive kingdom named Tolmekia.

The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where industrialization has poisoned the soils of the earth to the point where jungles and its creatures (predominantly insects) have mutated. Everyone in this world knows that jungles are poisonous, and actively tries to avoid being in the jungle, and also they FEAR the jungle, especially its largest creatures known as the Ohm (creature with multiple red eyes in the picture)

Biggest Theme: Ecology

Since the environment has become toxic, everyone in the world fears it. Everyone wears a mask that prevents him or her from inhaling toxic air emitted from the jungle. However, this is not the case with Nausicaa and The Valley of the Wind.

Nausicaa is unafraid of the jungle. On the contrary, she is compassionate and caring for the jungle and its creatures. She admires the beauty of the jungle, and regularly visits it. Having these values in her, and being so respected for her compassion and intellect, the citizens of The Valley of the Wind learns from Nausicaa’s values. That is why the people of the valley learn to live in peace with nature.

The Valley of the Wind, naturally having constant flow of wind, is free from the toxic air. But I don’t think that this solely attributes to the valley’s geographical position; it also attributes to the people’s relationship with the jungle and its creatures. In the movie, when the Tolmekians sparked a war with all parties including the Ohms, the Valley of the Wind experiences no wind for the first time.

Later on, when Nausicaa comes back to the valley to save her people, she again uses her kindness to calm the Ohms down. Although she was greatly wounded from the war, the Ohms, having healing powers, chose to heal Nausicaa because of her kindness. Ultimately, the wind returned to the valley.

I feel that Miyazaki, the writer and director of this movie, is trying to convey that we not only have to be kind to human beings, but also nature and all of its beings too. It takes one person to affect an entire village of people, so if we adopted this behavior, we could affect even more people, and soon it will also improve our environment.

Other Notable Themes:

Science and Technology

The entire setting of the movie is based upon human’s irresponsible use of technology. This technological abuse has corroded the soils and mutated nature. I also think that the reason to why technology has destroyed the earth is due to human’s need for instant gratification. This is emphasized in the movie when the Tolmekians tried to revive the same disastrous technology that destroyed the earth – The Great Warrior. However, the attempt for reviving The Great Warrior has backfired during the war, and the Great Warrior died almost instantly upon being summoned.

Relationship between the Sexes.

While romance between male and female characters can be spotted, it is not actively displayed through the movie. The movie, however, showcase women in power and , ultimately, women who save the day. While it does have male characters in it, they are almost all supporting characters to the female leaders. For example, when the Tolmekians caught Nausicaa, she did manage to get free through the help of a male friend named Asbel. However, after that, Nausicaa proceeds to save an entire village of people through her flying skills, her intellect about nature, her compassion for the creatures, and her self-developed technique in taming the creatures.

I really enjoyed this animation, and I would recommend everyone to watch the movie!

A Crystal Age by W.H. Hudson

How it all began…

This utopian novel was about a man named Smith who woke up on a pile of stones from an unknown accident (although Smith believes that he had fell on to the pile of stones). He wakes up, wanders around and stumbles upon a society in The House. The people in The House were in the middle of a funeral service. Although Smith tried to remain unnoticed, his ‘unusual’ dressing, compared to the people, gave him away. The people then took him in, and that’s how Smith started to learn about this utopian society.

Important characteristics of the society

This society practices an entirely different set of cultures and common sense.

To start off, this society worships nature. They’re entire lifestyle surrounds understanding, admiring, and learning from nature. The citizens of The House believe that nature is how God communicates with them. Although the word “God” was not formally used, words like “the Builder of the world” and “the Father of the world shows that they believe in God. Understanding and learning from nature is their priority above anything else. Therefore, even though people in this community have their own tasks and jobs, their main responsibility as citizens of The House is to learn from and admire nature.

They don’t know about any other societies or places, like England or India, and they’ve never heard of people like Alexander the Great, Confucius, or Shakespeare. Logically, they don’t practice our common language, and law. In terms of language, these people do understand English but not in the written word. In fact, they don’t know English as “English”, but rather, the “language of human beings”. They adopt a Hebrew-like writing system, which sounds exactly like English when read. However, they do not understand the figures of speech that Smith uses. In terms of law, the people are punished for indecent behavior like lying, and minute mistakes in performed tasks. They also punish people when they fall ill because falling ill shows that one is not taking care of himself/herself well. All punishments are usually solitary confinement in varied length of time.

In The House, there is no such thing as money. The prime medium of trade is labor or requests. When Smith wanted to have clothes that the people were wearing, his payment was in the form of a 1-year labor contract. On another occasion, when the Father of The House wanted the special ink pen that Smith has, in exchange, The Father granted his daughter, Yoletta, as Smith’s guide/teacher.

As everyone in this world lives a long life, everyone looks younger than his or her biological age. Hence, this is precisely the reason why there aren’t many children around as there is no need for sexual reproduction. It works well for the society too, since everyone regarded each other as only brothers or sisters, there’s no possibility for a “romantic” relationship to develop. However, the only exceptions to this rule are The Father and The Mother of the house. In addition to being The Father and Mother to everyone in The House, they also have their very own biological children.

The driver of the story, and how it ends.

A Crystal Age, and Smith’s new life, is hugely driven by the character “Yoletta”, who is the most beautiful person to Smith, and Smith falls quickly and deeply in love with her. However, in this society, romantic love does not exist; the only kind of love that exists is sisterly/brotherly love, which extends to all inhabitants of this utopian society. Everyone regards each other as a brother/sister.

Throughout the story, Smith tries to understand the “passionless” nature of this society. He eagerly tries to explain to Yoletta how much he loves her, and that his love is not the love that Yoletta shares with everyone else, but a love that he only reserves for Yoletta. Yoletta, unexposed to Smith’s notion of love, struggles to understand how can anyone love one person in a different way that one would love brothers and sisters.

Being Smith’s teacher, Yoletta spends more and more time with Smith. As time passes, her love for Smith grows, but still not as what Smith has hoped for – a romantic love between them. Smith is incredibly troubled by the passionless nature of this society, and he struggles o find out why. His obsession with this thought drained his soul, and he became less joyful than he originally was. Knowing that Yoletta will never be able to love him the way he wants her to, he thought he might as well learn to be “passionless”.

He stumbles upon a potion in a library that reads “When time and disease oppress, and the sun grows cold in heaven, and there is no longer any joy on the earth, and the fire of love grows cold in the heart, drink of me, and for the old life there shall be new life”. He thought that this potion would help him become “passionless”, and after some deliberation, he drank the potion. As he reads the book by the potion, he slowly feels his bodily sensation fade away. It turns out that the potion was actually poison.

The story ends with Yoletta coming by his side, and the hint that Yoletta and Smith were the appointed new Mother and Father of The House.

Final thought

It seems like Hudson, the author, is trying to convey that romance and sex are sources of unhappiness. In addition to the fact that Smith has died precisely because of his passion, the fact The Mother was also allowed to be the only one in The House to be “unhappy” tells me so too. The Mother, supposedly being the one who has ultimate happiness, is also the only one who is NOT punished for falling sick because childbirth is a natural source of suffering. While one may think that the suffering of childbirth is a temporary one, the only two Mothers (the current one and the preceding one) mentioned in the story were both suffering one way or the other.

The Ahwahnee Principles and New Urbanism

Urbanism means the lifestyle of city dwellers. New Urbanism, is a movement for urban planning and design that hopes to increase the sense of community within a any city dweller’s lifestyle.

The concern for the lack of sense of community started after World War II. Since the 1950s, the development of streetcar and affordable rapid transit has caused cities to spread out, which in turn creates “streetcar suburbs”. Later, during the automobile industry boom, cities became less centralized, causing societies to isolate themselves within urban sprawls.

Urban sprawls describe the expansion of communities away from central urban areas. This structure is both the creation and the promoter of heavy automobile usage.

To bring back more communal spaces, New Urbanism was slowly in development. There are a few main qualities that New Urbanism pushes for. According to the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), they are:

  1. The creation of more walkable, human-scaled neighborhoods.
  2. Bring destination within reach and allow for frequent encounters between citizens. A key measure is the accessibility of these spaces to people with a range of physical abilities and financial resources.
  3. Increasing the amount of shared spaces. E.g. plazas, park, squares, cafes, etc.
  4. Sustainability through Green Designs. This pushes the use of walking, bicycles, and transit use.
  5. Reuse and renew old, damaged regions. E.g. transforming a damaged housing area into habitable mixed-income neighborhoods

New Urbanism only became prominent after the establishment of The Ahwahnee Principles.

In 1991, Peter Katz, a staff-member of the Local Government Commision and author of The New Urbanism, brought together various architects to develop a set of rules to new urban spaces and communities. They met at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, and hence the name “The Ahwahnee Principles”. The group of architects was asked to find the common characteristics between various urban planning movements, namely, “Neotraditional Planning”, “Sustainable development”, “Transit-oriented Design”, “New Urbanism”, and “Livable” Communities.  Then, from the common set of community principles, they were asked to develop regional principles.

Here’s the official list of Community Principles, Regional Principles and Implementation Principles.

Many cities in the U.S has started to incorporate The Ahwahnee Principles in their urban planning. Most of these cities are on the east coast; cities like Pasedena, San Jose, Sacremento, Santabarbara, San Diego, and Walnut Creek. An example of a simple implementation some of these cities, is by building new shopping malls in near transit rather than off freeways.

Although New Urbanism seems like it is fostering better, more “liveable” spaces, there is also a criticism that argues against New Urbanism. Peter Gordon, a professor of Urban Planning from University of Southern California, spoke in favor of suburbanization because he thinks that New Urbanism ignores the consumer’s preference for the free market; people moved towards car-oriented development  that is what people want.

My presentation:

Stranger in a Strange Land By Robert Heinlein

The actual Church of All Worlds:

  1. Background information on Heinlein and on Stranger in a Strange Land (1991 Edition)

Robert A. Heinlein has been praised as one of the most prominent science fiction authors whose books were some of the first to be published on the New York Times Best Sellers list. According to The Heinlein Society, a membership society which preserves his work, he was born in Missouri in 1907 and was enamored with astronomy and science fiction by the time he entered High School. Some of his favorite authors that were mentioned include Tom Swift and H.G Wells. In 1929, he graduated from the Naval Academy and served in the Navy until he was medically discharged in 1934. After a stint in politics, he ended up entering learning about Thrilling Wonder Stories’ new policy that encouraged submissions from unpublished writers. He wrote his first short story, “Life-Line”, and instead sent it in to Astounding Science Fiction. Heinlein continued his writing and eventually met Virginia, a friend of his from the Navy, who would be his third and final wife. He was a four-time winner of the Hugo Award, an award for great works of science fiction and fantasy work. The Heinlein Society also credits him with urging the Navy to take up space exploration and creating the waterbed (hydraulic bed, Page 19).

The earliest edition of Stranger in a Strange Land was published in 1961 with the removal of scenes that the editors believed would be offensive to public taste. In the novel, both parts four and five explore the idea of religion and free love which were not the norms of the conservative culture in the fifties. According to the preface in the 1991 original uncut version, Heinlein’s wife, Virginia, states that his publishers feared that this book was “too far off the beaten path”. Originally, he was asked to cut the manuscript down to 150,000 words from 220,000 words, removing almost a quarter of the book. Heinlein was able to cut the book down to 160,087 and the cut version remained in print for 28 years. After Heinlein’s death in 1988, Virginia was given authority under the new Copyright Law of 1976 to renew the book and cancel all of the old contracts. She obtained the original uncut version from archivists at the University of California at Santa Cruz and realized that it was a mistake to cut out so much of the book.

As far as the concept of the book, Virginia reveals in the preface that she suggested the idea of human infant, raised by an alien race. After brainstorming for a short story to publish in a 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, Heinlein liked his wife’s idea but left the notes alone for several years. It was not until eleven years later that Stranger in a Strange Land was completed and readers were introduced to Valentine Michael Smith and The Church of All Worlds. Contrary to popular belief about the novel, this was not a “blueprint for a new society”. According to the 1990 New York Times article entitled “Heinlein Gets the Last Word” by Kurt Vonnegut, “The novel was not written, he explained to one fan, to promulgate any set of beliefs. ‘I was not giving answers. I was trying to shake the reader loose from some preconceptions and induce him to think for himself, along new and fresh lines. In consequence, each reader gets something different out of that book because he himself supplies the answers … It is an invitation to think — not to believe.’” The Library of Congress named the 1961 edition as one of 88 “Books that shaped America”. According to the Library of Congress, it was the first science fiction novel to become a bestseller.


  1. Summary of Stranger in a Strange Land (1991 Edition)

The novel is broken up into five parts: His Maculate Origin, His Preposterous Heritage, His Eccentric Education, His Scandalous Career, and His Happy Destiny. It chronicles the life and death of the stranger, Valentine Michael Smith, who is returning to earth at age 25 from Mars. He has no understanding of humans or our peculiar ways.

A quarter of a century after Envoy was sent to Mars and crashed, a second space ship called Champion is sent. When the new space mission arrives, they discover that there is life on Mars and there is one survivor of Champion – Valentine Michael Smith, also known simply as Mike in the novel. Since he was raised by a group of Martians for the past 25 years, it is obvious he will not be able to adjust to life on Earth. Captain Willem Van Tromp radios ahead to Bethesda Hospital and states, “my passenger must not, repeat, must not be subjected to the strain of a public reception (Page 19)”. The public was hoping that the expedition would bring a Martian back with them to “gawk” at but it seems the crew becomes more focused on the discovery of Mike. Later, the reader learns that Mike is the rightful heir to a large inheritance as the sole survivor of the Envoy expedition. It does not take long for the public to learn about Mike and for the government to use a body double to present to the public.

After hearing from her boyfriend Ben about Mike and that the government is keeping him a secret, Jill is determined to meet Mike. Pretending to be a nurse, she sneaks into his room and they share a glass of water. In Mars, sharing water is considered sacred and they become Water brothers. Every person Mike shares water with becomes another Water brother. Jill dresses Mike up as a nurse and sneaks him out of the hospital. When the police arrive at the apartment where they are hiding, the reader learns that Mike is able to make people vanish out of existence. “The older ones have taught him well…he reached out and Berquist was no longer there (Page 92).” In need of a place to hide, Jill reaches out to her friend Jubal E. Harshaw, L.L.B., M.D., Sc.D., bon viviant, gourmet, sybarite, popular author extraordinary, and neo pessimist philosopher, to take care of them. The introduction of Jubal in the novel represents the beginning of Mike’s education and assimilation with human life. Since he had spent the last 25 years living on Mars, he must learn all aspects of how humans live as well as the language. Out of all aspects of human life, Mike seems to love using his powers to take off women’s clothes and having sex. Eventually, Mike is tracked down but the government is forced into negotiations for his fortune with Jubal as Mike’s lawyer.

The end of the negotiations leads to the beginning on a long list of adventures that Mike embarks on with his money. The most significant adventure is when he discovers the Fosterites. It is a religious movement that mixes gambling, drinking, and sexuality with evangelicalism and decides to commit himself to creating his own church – The Church of All Worlds. Ben, Jill’s friend and once lover, discovers that the parishioners of the Church of All Worlds are learning the Martian language and their philosophy. Everyone is a nudist and can have multiple sexual partners. Once they can understand Mike’s teachings, they can gain Martian powers. At first, Ben seems very disgusted but the reader learns that he ends up joining the church. In the end of the book, Mike’s church is burned to the ground. An angry mob forms outside Mike’s hotel and when Mike attempts to preach to them about God and his offering of the water of life, the crowd throws bricks at him. Even as he is attacked, he still smiles at the crowd of people. When they douse him with gasoline and set him on fire, he still tells them that he loves them. Mike’s message is carried on through Jubal and Mike goes to heaven where he is greeted as Archangel Michael. Jubal, who some critics believed was Heinlein himself, begins writing a story titled “A Martian Named Smith” and Mike goes to the afterlife.


III. Historical context and religious references

Although Heinlein wrote the book throughout the fifties, it became an important part of the counterculture movement in the 1960s. Some writers credit Stranger in a Strange Land with starting the counterculture movement. There was a huge anti-establishment movement occurring in the sixties as the West attempted to contain communism. In the novel, there is this element of government control as they try to keep the discovery of Mike a secret and fool the public. The sixties were also a time of questioning America’s conservative values and experimenting with free love and drugs. The Church of All Worlds is symbolic of the rejection of conservatism and the acceptance of experimentation. On page 447, Ben asks Jubal if he finds the Church of All Worlds to be moral. Jubal responds, “I haven’t had a chance to examine details – but yes: all of it. Group orgies, and open and unashamed swapping off at other times…their communal living and their anarchist code…and most especially their selfless dedication to giving their perfect morality to others.”

This entire novel has satirical references to religion from the choice of character names to the death of the “stranger”, Valentine Michael Smith. The title itself is a reference to Exodus 2:22 in the King James Bible which states “And she bore him a son, and he called his name Gershom [that is, A stranger there]; for he said, “I have been a stranger in a strange land.” Before the novel begins, it states “NOTICE: All men, gods and planets in this story are imaginary. Any coincidence of names is regretted.” Throughout the novel, I found there to be a number of parallels between Michael and Archangel Michael as well as Jesus. In the preface, Heinlein’s wife writes that the given names of the chief characters have great significance – Michael stands for “Who is like God?” This is a direct reference to Archangel Michael, the top angel to God. Additionally, the first part of the book is “His Maculate Origen” is a reference to the Immaculate Conception. Unlike the Virgin Mary who became pregnant free of the original sin, Mike was conceived sex. As Mike creates his church, The Church of All Worlds, he gains disciples that are all working towards becoming like him. Mike’s death is also very similar to the death of Jesus. When Mike goes to meet the crowd of people to preach to them, he is stoned and beaten. Eventually, the crowd sets him on fire but he still preaches and tells the people he loves them (pages 516-517). When Jesus was crucified, he did not curse the people who killed him. Instead, he asked God to forgive them. In the preface, Heinlein’s wife states that Jubal is also a religious reference whose name means “the father of all”. Jubal does guide and support Mike throughout his time on earth. He is the patron saint of The Church of All Worlds (Page 416). On page 519, Mike says “I’ve got some things to attend to. I love you, Father. Thou art God.” After Mike goes on to the afterlife, Jubal takes charge of carrying out Mike’s will.


IV: The Church of All Worlds as the Utopia

I struggled with identifying whether this was a utopian or dystopian novel. It was not until the fourth part of Stranger in a Strange Land that I realized where Heinlein was going with the meaning of his novel. After Mike experiences the human world, he finds his purpose for being there – to be ordained and start a church. The reader learns about this church through Ben and Jubal’s interactions with each other and with Mike.

The most prominent aspect of The Church of All Worlds is the concept of the Nest which is where a group of people live together and have deep feelings for each other. There are about twenty people in the Nest but not all of them have fully reached this enlightened stage associated with being a Martian. Since this is a communal group, there are bowls of money next to the door. If someone needs to leave to go shopping, they can take money as they walk outside. When Ben asks if anyone keeps track of the money, Patty (one of the members) is confused as to why they would need to. Members of the church also practice free low and there is no jealousy in regards to sharing partners. Members are also nudists. They also do not have medicine because they believed they did not need it.

There were rumors that Charlie Manson used Stranger in a Strange Land as his bible but this was a rumor put out by an anonymous publisher. However, there is an actual Church of All Worlds in California that was set up after the founder read this book and fell in love with the concept of the Nest.



Monsanto House of the Future (1957)


This House of the Future was founded in 1957 as an attraction site in Disneyland (Anaheim, California), built by the Monsanto Company, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Walt Disney Imagineering. It was closed in 1967. Within its ten year period, approximately 20 million people have visited this attraction.

Monsanto Company
The Monsanto Company, heavily involved with chemicals, desired to expand its presence in the home construction industry. For this attraction, their goal was to design a home that explored the optimized utilization of plastics as a building material. They pushed plastics as a new and creative candidate for building materials. Today, the company is best known for producing genetically modified seeds and other agricultural solutions.

Blueprint of the rooms inside the house; outside view of the house. This house was built for a nuclear family (2 parents and 2 children), with no pets.
Inside kitchen and living rooms. The bottom right photo is the living room that was “updated” in 1960.
Bedrooms, sneak peek of the master bathroom, and the kitchen.

House Description
This walkthrough attraction featured a home set in the year 1986 (three decades into the future), highlighting futuristic materials, styles, and household appliances. The future was depicted as an absence of traditional furniture styles and natural elements, and an embracement of ultra-modern synthetics—mainly, plastic. However, one key aspect still seen as contemporary (at least, to our current standards) was the color scheme of the furniture and décor—it was all very 1950s.

The house, with four wings extending from a center, “floated” on a pedestal above a modern landscape. It was approximately 1300 square feet, with each wing measured at 8’ H x 16’ W x 16’ L. It included a family and living room, kitchen, dining room, master bedroom, master bathroom, two children’s bedrooms (one for each gender), and a shared kids’ bathroom.

The builders designed a home using wings, or cubes—straying away from the usual square exterior—to maximize access to daylight for each room and add privacy for various activities. This design could also be implemented into any location—whether a rocky mountain or steep hill, the pedestal would turn any bad location into a workable one. The structure on top of the pedestal could even be rotated to change the views.

Governing Philosophy & Rules
This utopia indicated no information about the future state of government, laws and politics, and human rights/rules. There is no federal, state, or local government designation.

Science & Technology
The Monsanto Company and its collaborators studied how plastics were being used in construction in the 1950s, and they experimented how its particular properties could be practically applied in the future. The exterior consisted of 16 “molded polyester-urethane” layers, while the interior consisted of “reinforced epoxy support columns, laminated wood beams, and laminated safety glass” ( All of the structural properties were made to last in outstanding condition. In fact, the demolition crew’s wrecking balls bounced off the structure after the site was closed down. Ultimately, they had to resort to choker chains to break up the plastics into manageable, smaller pieces. This house demonstrated an increased acceptance of plastic as an exploitable material for the construction industry.

One of the major revolutionary indicators was the kitchen. Inside this home, household appliances either hung from ceiling cabinets or popped up out of the counter. A smaller microwave oven (they were inconveniently large at the time) was a prophetic indicator of the evolving appliance. Today’s modern fridge drawers mimic the home’s “cold zone” units that fit inside several cabinets.

There were other “revolutionary” features inside the house that accurately reflect our society today. Some items include the electric toothbrush, built-in stereo system, wall-mounted televisions, and security screens to see who is at the front door. Dimmable ceiling lights found inside the house back then are also a common element found in homes and other buildings today. The push-button speakerphone with preset dialing, installed by Bell Telephone, is echoed today via speed dial buttons on mobile machines.

Plastic does seems to be a bigger part of our lives today—hello, Ikea furniture—but it is not everything. While we do incorporate plasticware and plastic furniture, today’s society does not find plastic particularly elegant or classy. In today’s time, people look to other elements (steels, woods, bricks, ceramics) as higher quality materials.

1967, Closed
This attraction was closed down in 1967 to make way for another attraction, Adventure Thru Inner Space, which was also sponsored by the Monsanto Company.


Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 8.04.14 AM
Inside the Innovations Dream Home– the Magic Mirror.

2008, Innoventions Dream Home
Disney announced that it would bring back the attraction in a renovated form, renamed as the Innoventions Dream Home, with a more modern and accessible interior. In collaboration with Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Lifeware, it was a house focused more on modern technology rather than foundational material.

2014, Today
Although the attraction is now closed, the reinforced concrete foundation still exists in its original location. It is currently being used as a planter in a garden space within the park—hiding in plain sight!

–   Three years after it’s opening, the house underwent a major update because many of the things that seemed “futuristic” in 1957, became contemporary in 1960. It underwent another major update before it was closed.
–   In 1956, 15% of plastics made in the U.S. was allocated to construction, compared to 23% today

“Foundation” (1951) by Isaac Asimov

Foundation is the first book of Isaac Asimov’s acclaimed trilogy, published in 1951. The hit science fiction series was the recipient of a Hugo Award in 1966, claiming the title of “Best All Time Series.” Asimov was a Russian native who emigrated to America with his family at the young age of three. He studied chemistry at Columbia University and went on to get a PhD in the subject, a credible scientific interest which is certainly reflected in his writings. He later became a faculty member at the Boston University School of Medicine. Asimov produced more than two hundred works, most popularly science fiction such as I, Robot, in addition to many works of non-fiction.

Foundation drew its initial inspiration from The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by historian Edward Gibbons, an account read twice by Asimov. Foundation is a combination of five short stories spanning about one hundred and fifty years in the interstellar Galactic Empire. Rather than trace the story of an individual hero in an isolated period of time, Foundation zooms out on the larger picture of civilization over a wide span of time and setting while touching on how forces such as technology, religion, and government all work together.

Asimov relates this concept of emphasizing the bigger picture of the world over the short-term individual to the existing cultural landscape of his own lifetime, where a strong sense of nationalism was on the rise. In particular, Asimov lived through the beginnings of the Cold War tension between Communist Russia and Capitalist America. Both countries isolated themselves from the other and pitted against each other in a head-to-head rivalry. However, Asimov favored a more global unification of this split: “To my way of thinking, the biggest obstacle to solving the problems we have…is that the world is dividing up into separate nations, all of which are more concerned over their own short-term interests than over the long-term survival of the human species. And as long as that is so, then I don’t think we will have a chance, because we will all go down the tube quarreling, so to speak” (Konstantin). Asimov supported unification over disagreement in order to promote the existence of humanity. He was also a strong liberal, a staunch opponent to the Vietnam War, and a supporter of political candidates who focused on grassroots movements as the force of change rather than bureaucratic governmental forces.

Foundation begins with an introduction of Hari Seldon on Trantor, the capitol planet of the Galactic Empire. Seldon is a dying old man who has perfected his own science coined “psychohistory.” This branch of psychology uses statistical science to predict the course of future events, and according to Seldon’s predictions, the Galactic Empire comprised of countless planets is doomed to fall within three hundred years. The data project a thirty thousand year of recovery from this fall rife with anarchy, a parallel to the Dark Ages following the fall of Rome. In response, Seldon formulates a plan to create a new civilization that will survive the fall and change the course of history, cutting the post-fall recovery period down to a mere one thousand years and emerging as the center of the Second Galactic Empire. Seldon is accused of treason for bringing his radical predictions to the government’s attention, yet cleverly negotiates a deal with the Emperor to found a new civilization of scientists on an insignificant planet called Terminus, located all the way on the outer rim of the galaxy. Terminus is created as a small community of scientists working on a scientific Encyclopedia, a disguise for its true setup of the community that will reunite the Galactic Empire in one thousand years.

The remaining four stories track the progress of Terminus in its role, in which it rises to become an all-encompassing political, religious, and economic power. The only catch is that the population of Terminus is not made aware of this plan until fifty years after its initial settlement, when a civilization is already established and there is nothing else to do but stay put and follow Hari Seldon’s plan. This is why Seldon makes intermittent reappearances in the lives of prominent and capable politicians who arise as mayors of Terminus, such as Salvor Hardin and Hober Millow. Prior to his death, Seldon had recorded short clips of himself, which can only be viewed by inhabitants of Terminus when an otherwise unbreakable Vault unlocks every few decades. The timing of these viewings chronologically lines up with Seldon’s data that predicted that Terminus would be in the midst of a major clash of internal and external crises. These “Seldon Crises” are the key points that move the Foundation along the path of rebuilding the Empire. The crises revolve around the other planets on the periphery of the Galaxy that have been forgotten by the declining Empire and left to their own barbarically independent devices.

The comparison to Rome is clear as both the Empire and Terminus were often under pressures both from without and within, which Rome ultimately collapsed from. The references to outside “barbarian” planets parallel the invading tribes that threatened the borders of the Roman Empire. Asimov projected this world far into the future with such strong parallels to likely advance a cyclical view of history in which events repeat themselves. As he said himself, “I was essentially writing future history, and I had to make it sufficiently different from modern history to give it that science fictional touch” (Seiler). The brilliant politicians constructed by Asimov, who play a main role in the resolution of each “Seldon Crisis,” do as little as possible to rectify the problems. Instead, they choose to let the course of history play out on its narrow path, making improvised moves that work around this greater sense of course.

In the context of the time period of the writing of Foundation, countries such as Russia, the United States, and Germany had all begun to play with the idea of space travel. By this point, rocket designs were being drawn and the first monkey was even launched into space in 1948. A futuristic view of spaceships was a fascinating new concept at the time, made even more appealing in its growing accessibility. Comparable technology in Foundation mirrored the rising technologies of Asimov’s time via thinly disguised names: for example, people crowded around visors in their homes, which are essentially televisions.

The first mayor of Terminus, the clever Salvor Hardin, must convince the writers of the Encyclopedia who run the planet (before being made aware of Seldon’s plan) that there is another purpose behind their civilization, and that the neighboring planet of Anacreon presents a severe threat of takeover that must be faced and overcome. He maneuvers out of the situation with his sharp insight and break from traditional means, getting Anacreon and its surrounding three kingdoms to fear Terminus, particularly its use of nuclear power, which has been absent from the periphery planets for decades. In the course of the Foundation’s history, this nuclear power is the main leverage Terminus has over the surrounding warlords of the planets. Salvor Hardin actually forms a religion around the sought after power source: “a fluffy flummery to get them to accept our science without question” (134). The barbarians on other planets see this nucleic power and science as a magical power. Therefore, on Terminus, priests are taught the way of the “Galactic Spirit” and are sent out to the periphery planets to perform their religious duties of operating the equipment, which are in essence a guise for technological power controlled by an all-knowing political force.

Technology clearly is a prominent theme throughout Foundation, particularly the role that nuclear force plays and its entwinement with religion and government. Here again, the theme of the work parallels Asimov’s own life, which witnessed this powerful nuclear force being advanced and utilized in both World War II and the Cold War. During this period of history, nuclear warfare dominated the political landscape, and countries competed for advancements that would enable them to have the military edge. The Foundation, wielding its small supply of nuclear power, therefore makes surrounding planets rely on them for power, economy, and life. The planets become dependent on power plants and technology, while citizens blindly hold fast to this since it is their religion. This pseudoreligion is nothing more than a tool of political conquest paralleling Christianity with its concepts of paradise, hell, a spirit, and even commandments. One example of this combination of government and religion is the divine kingship on Anacreon, where nuclear power allows the divinely crowned king to rise in the air with a beautiful aura surrounding him. This display is proof that he has been specially selected. Asimov’s emphasis on technology as a strong force when combined with government and religion reflects his personal belief in the prominence of technology for human existence both in his time and in the future. Asimov thought technology could be wielded for the good of society, promoting a more optimistic view than many of his science fiction counterparts.

Asimov himself was an atheist and a rationalist who believed in reason alone. Asimov was also a Humanist, philosophical view that credits humans as the guiding forces behind society rather than attributing these to a God. These beliefs led to his representation of religion in Foundation as a usefully constructed tool of government to trick the masses and exercise control. This idea reflects the views of Karl Marx, author of the Communist Manifesto, who said that religion is the “opium of the people.”

Aside from the intermingling of government and religion, another major theme of Foundation centers on the corruption of many governmental systems, which leading political figures of Foundation, beginning with Harry Seldon, exist to outwit. Indeed, mayor Salvor Hardin evades two Seldon Crises using mere improvisation and common sense. Often, the lords and kings of the planets surrounding Terminus are mocked as humorously pompous and overly extravagant with nothing very intelligent to say, and are easily outwitted by Terminus’ capable mayors. These dysfunctional reigns are marked by divine kingships, totalitarian governments, or feudal estates which employ harsh punishments reminiscent of totalitarian dictators, including assassinations to gain power and gas chambers. It seems as if Asimov’s ideal Foundation government centers on scientific progress ruled by the intellectually elite and centered in a representative democracy, as exemplified on Terminus.

The use of science as the focal point of society is reminiscent of Salomon’s House in Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, which focused on the advancement of humans via scientific progress. Much of the scientific language employed in Foundation was also very reminiscent of “We” with its application of mathematics to human life. Here, mathematics was applied not to emotions but to broad historical concepts and events on a large scale through the statistics of psychohistory.

Foundation is a captivating story with many themes; the most fascinating of these is the interplay of technology, religion, and government. While reading this novel, the cyclical view of history presented was a reminder that the Galactic Empire is not a completely far-fetched, fictional society. Foundation is not only meant to be an outline of the past, but a reflection on modern times. Asimov poses the weighty question to readers as a takeaway: “Can we afford to take chances? Can we risk the present for the sake of a nebulous future? We must – because the future isn’t nebulous. It has been calculated” (119).

My presentation

 Works Cited

 Asimov, Isaac. Foundation. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1951. Print.

Konstantin, Phil. “”An Interview with Isaac Asimov.” “An Interview with Isaac Asimov”- by Phil Konstantin. Southwest Airlines Magazine, 1979. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.

Seiler, Edward. “Isaac Asimov FAQ.” Isaac Asimov FAQ. N.p., 1994. Web. 05 Nov. 2014.


Asimov calls religion and politics a “lethal” combination.


The Israeli Kibbutz / Kibbutzim



Kibbutzim are voluntary democratic societies where people live and work together on a non competitive basis. There is communal property, social justice and equality.

“Kibbutz” means communal society in Hebrew. The first kibbutz was established in 1909 by a group from the BILU movement. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, members of the BILU movement previously tried to create a society based on Marxist values and one that lived off the land. These members were fleeing anti-Semitism and wanted to establish a socialist society. After a few unsuccessful attempts, members created the first Kibbutz, which was called Degania. The founders had little to no experience in agriculture, little funding and were working with desolate land. Both the unsuccessful and successful attempts were built on land in Palestine that was bought by the Jewish National Fund.

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

In the earlier years, the kibbutz movement was based on agriculture. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, this movement played a crucial role in the development of the state. They also helped assimilate the new immigrants.

Family and Gender Roles
In earlier times, children lived in a communal children’s home. Children now stay at their parental homes till high school. Also, there has been increased support for parents to have larger roles in their children’s lives and for more time for women to be home with their children.

Women are equal participants in the labor force and can hold any job. In earlier years, women sought to prove their worth by doing “men’s work”. A majority of women in kibbutzim today prefer jobs in education, health, and other services.

Daily Life in a Kibbutz: Citizens are “Kibbutniks” 

People are here voluntarily and are assigned a role for varying lengths in time while more routine tasks like dining hall or washing dishes. The members that work outside of the kibbutz turn over their incomes to the kibbutz. Compared to the earlier times, members now have more individual choice in the community. Members have a certain amount of credit they can spend each year as they wish. Additionally, they celebrate Jewish Holidays and Festivals. Many host films, professional performances and choirs in their auditorium. This is not a utopia that cut itself off from the outside world. Rather, they embraced it while still staying to true to their founding principles.

Government and Expansion
The kibbutzim have  democratic systems. They hold weekly meetings in order to decide upon issues. There are elections for administrative members – Each administrative member leads an economic branch for 2-3 years. All inhabitants are provided for with life necessities (food, housing, clothes, social and medical services). Additionally, all property and wealth is communal.

By the early 2000’s, there were over 250 Kibbutzim established throughout Israel. Members make up 2.5% of Israel’s population and it is important to remember that no one is forced to be in the society.

How do they make Kibbutzim work in modern times?

As economic trends changed, the kibbutzim realized that they could not survive on agriculture alone and welcomed in new types of industries to sustain the community. Many Kibbutzim have branched out into other industries to increase productivity

Every child after High School is still required to do mandatory army service. Members have been involved in politics and held office but numbers have dwindled in recent years

Most importantly…. TOURISM is a huge industry for them…. You can volunteer on a Kibbutz for only $690!








Star Trek “The Apple” and “The Way to Eden”

Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek has always showed an idealistic future that didn’t run away from the tough questions.  In the season 2 episode “The Apple,” Captain Kirk and company beam down onto a planet that seems like a paradise… until it starts killing off his crewmen.  It turns out that the planet is peopled by a primitive tribe under the leadership of an intelligent machine called Vaal.  Vaal is a benevolent dictator that provides fruit of the tribe to eat, ensures that the people will never age or get sick, but in return, the primitive people are like children.  They don’t even know what sex or love is as Vaal has prohibited closeness and touching between men and women.

Mr. Spock and Doctor McCoy engage in a debate very similar to the one at the end of Brave New World: is it better to be happy or free?  Spock argues that the people are happy and well cared for by Vaal, and they should not interfere.  McCoy argues that the people aren’t living, they’re merely existing, as they have no freedom, and they should recue them from mindless obedience to Vaal.

In the end, Vaal, rightly deciding that Kirk’s landing party is a threat to him, orders the people to kill them.  Kirk stops the attack with only one crewman dead and in return, kills Vaal by draining its power supply, thereby freeing the people and setting them on the path of social evolution.

In addition to the parallels between “The Apple” and Brave New World, the primitive people of Vaal are very similar to the Eloi in The Time Machine.  Both groups are primitive and child-like because they are under the care of someone or something else.  In The Time Machine, the Morlocks have malevolent intentions and the Time Traveler is unable to rescue the Eloi, while “The Apple” has a decidedly happier ending.

Briefly, the Star Trek episode “The Way to Eden” has a bunch of hippies rebelling against authority.  They hijack the Enterprise ad redirect it to a mythical planet called Eden where they plan to create their own primitive society away from the Federation’s technology.

Their idea of man’s nature is benevolent; man doesn’t need the intense rigid structure that characterizes the society in Brave New World.  They just need, to, like, be free and get back to their roots, man.   In this case, they would probably like to live simply, like the Eloi or the tribe in “The Apple” – as long as there aren’t Morlocks or Vaal

ruling over them.


Biosphere II

Biosphere II was a real-utopian community for about 3 years. It is located in Oracle, Arizona. It is named Biosphere II after out planet Earth, which is the first biosphere. The inventor/director or research is John Polk Allen, a ecologist and engineer. He is now the Chairman of Global Ecotechnics Corporation. After being owned by different companies, five biome areas were created in addition to an area for human habitat. Two missions that included about 8 people were conducted in 1991 and 1994 to test survivability and whether a small community could develop and live in a self-sustaining colony.

The first mission in 1991 was not so successful. By 1992 members had lost weight because of low food production and the oxygen levels were low. Chickens were not producing enough eggs and pigs were eating the biospherians’ food so the farm animals were eaten instead. Also there were rumors that they smuggled food from the outside. The second mission only lasted 6 months because of management disputes. Now it is a scientific research institute for the University of Arizona.

Some of the course themes include Ecology, Economics, and Science and Technology. Recycling is a key part of living in Biosphere II. Each person uses the same water and recycles all their waste. Using half an acre of land to grow food, they also keep the land fertile and only use non-polluting pest control methods. Each person is assigned different tasks to fulfill. These tasks include researching within different biomes, coordinating the technical system, planting and harvesting crops, and preparing meals. In Biosphere II, technology is used to control the systems such as waves, waterfalls, temperature, and humidity. The biospherians conduct research on how to restore endangered habitats by using their controlled environment. They try to find out how different elements affect the land.

Information from:
Images from Google

A Utopian Society: Melloasis


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*While each mer-person understands the constitution, it is not a formalized, legalized document. Rather, it is something that can be orally recited and referred to through song. While it is recorded below in English (human form), it only exists in Mermish as a beautiful melody. Often times, you will hear bits and pieces of this beautiful song throughout the villages as a constant reminder and celebration of the mer-people’s unified endeavor to be in tune with nature.

We, the citizens of Melloasis, hereby declare ourselves to always strive to be harmonious with nature, maintaining the equilibrium between our society and our surrounding environment.

Article 1: MELLOASIS
This utopia is officially known as Melloasis, a combination of “mellow” and “oasis”. 

Melloasis is founded on the principles of respect for nature, the preservation of ecological harmony,  the communal bond, and the pursuit of nondestructive happiness.

The reasoning behind the mer-people’s passionate respect of nature dates back to an old fable concerning a land-species, named humans, who destroyed its mother nature over the course of thousands of years, Eventually, humans’ actions and behaviors brought about disturbances in the global climate, sea levels and water temperatures, the atmosphere’s chemical makeup, and were directly held responsible for the unnatural extinction of many animals and plant species. Therefore, the forefathers of this society determined that a peaceful co-existence with nature was a crucial necessity for their species’ long-term survival.

Melloasis shall be an oligarchy of five Elders, composed of the oldest (and therefore, wisest) merman or mermaid from each of the five villages.

Article 4: LANGUAGE
The mer-people of Melloasis shall communicate in their original language, Mermish. This language consists of squeaking and squealing intonations, similar to that of dolphins, as well as beautiful song, similar to that of humpback whales–but in their distinctive Mermish dialect.

Melloasis encourages an atmosphere of free-will, in which individuals have the right to be relaxed and in a blissful state of mind, as long as equilibrium with nature is not affected. Although there are no written, strict laws and rules of conduct, cheerfulness and productivity is highly encouraged. Thankfully, in this society, most members are naturally inclined to behave and perform in this manner, and a pessimistic or dangerous character is rarely found.

All mermen and mermaids are equal before the law. There is never any negative discrimination concerning gender, age, nor status. Elders are looked upon in a slightly more favorable light, however, because society relies on them to peacefully exist in equilibrium with nature.

There are five Elders who work to preserve harmony in this utopia with nature; they are the most wise mer-people in society at any given time. One’s wisdom is measured solely by age, and Elders often live up to 200 years old. The oldest mer-person in each village holds this position for life. Once an Elder passes, the now (new) oldest member in that village becomes the Elder.

The Elders do not create solid, strict rules, but there are certain types of behavior that are celebrated. It is easy for them to encourage a harmonious relationship with nature, both individually and communally, because the mer-people of this society are already predisposed to behave in this way.

Because they are the most wise mer-people of this society, each Elder is trusted with the task of making decisions that affect each mer-person. Whether it is deciding to pause hunting on a specific species of fish, or exiling a rare rogue member out of society (which happens once in a blue moon), they always work to maintain a balance with nature.

Article 9: ECONOMICS
Mer-people specialize in roles such as fish hunting and gathering, medical assistance, and reproduction caretaking. However, these roles are not set jobs that are worked on the daily for a specific number of hours. For example, while a certain group of mer-people may be great hunters, this does not restrict others from hunting on their own free will. These skillful hunters, also, are not obligated with the responsibility of feeding their entire village.

Their roles can also easily change depending on the situation. If there is not enough food for everyone in this society, everyone (who is able) will focus on hunting to feed themselves and other members.

Everyone in each village will share the food and other goods, either obtained through earning, gifting, or bartering. There will be no form of money.

Fire and electricity do not exist in this underwater world. Their technology depends on the natural behavior of the sun/sunlight, water and waves, and the surrounding species with special characteristics. Most importantly, the water functions as a medium for communication. Sound travels father in water than in air, and about six times more effectively. The mer-people communicate while hunting, mating and reproducing, trading, and playing.

Because their technology is limited by water, the mer-people use surrounding materials to benefit their lives. They use things they can discard back into their environment, always in a way that is not harmful to nature.

Article 11: ECOLOGY
Melloasis’ ultimate goal is to maintain harmony with nature. With every action completed with careful and thoughtful consideration, the inseparable bond with nature always strives to be kept at equilibrium. Therefore, it is this society’s responsibility to maintain harmony with nature by not doing anything beyond natural preservation.

Article 12: RELIGION
Members of this society do not practice any religion that idolizes objects or unseen gods, mainly because “religion” is a human concept. The only omnipresent force they believe exists is nature– but they understand that they cannot influence it with prayers and incantations. They do not worship nature, but are often in awe of it. They admire the natural beauty of their environment, and are thankful to be living as witnesses to it—such as the stillness of the deep, blue sea; the colorful illustration marked on sea creatures and marine life; and the natural wonders of whirlpools.

There is no discrimination based on gender, and gender roles are nonexistent. Any merman and mermaid can specialize in any role depending on their availability, capability, and aspirations. A mermaid may be an excellent hunter or a respected Elder, while a merman may be a wonderful nurturer and caretaker.

The distinction between a merman and mermaid is simply based on their role in the mating and reproductive process. The mermaid carries and lays the eggs, and the mermen fertilizes them.

There may also some physical differences, in which mermen are inclined to expose their bare torso, while mermaids favor placing some kind of ornaments on their torso (such as a starfish).

Mermen and Mermaids choose multiple partners for reproduction (approximately between 3-5 in their lifetime), usually based on genetic compatibility. Love is not an important factor in mating.

Most mermaids lay an average of five eggs, via external insemination, per each successful mating. Not all eggs are guaranteed to hatch, because of accidents, predators, and by chance. The eggs are cared for by the entire community, with extra attention given by the specialized nurturers, and once born, the mer-children are raised communally as well. Furthermore, the mer-people live communally in underwater caves and are not organized into nuclear families.

Article 15: ETHICS AND LAW
Mer-people are instinctively inclined to understand and appreciate nature; everyone automatically behaves appropriately—in a way that is positively helpful and valuable to nature. In this society, everyone puts in an equal effort to sustain harmony with nature.

Punishment does not exist in this society because: 1) no one is intentionally bad, and 2) there is absolutely no good that punishment would bring to nature. If problems arise, the mer-people work together to re-establish the peace, and continually encourage a sense of community through expressive and meaningful interactions.

Expanded Information:

Physical Setting
Melloasis exists somewhere off the coast of an area that echoes Hawaii. Thriving in warm-water temperatures, the mer-people live near the surface of the water, up to 200 meters (656 feet) below the surface—which is known as the euphotic or “sunlight” zone. Melloasis approximately spans a territory of a comfortable seven cubic miles, they rest in underwater caves, which are found in sporadic clusters. These underwater caves are categorized into five different villages, with 100 mer-people belonging to each village. They live in peaceful co-existence to other marine life within this territory.

Physical Appearance
Adult mermen and mermaids both range in height from 5’4” to 5’10.”  A typical weight for them ranges from 120 lbs to 180 lbs.  There are no malnourished or overweight mer-people, but each merman and mermaid has its own individual body shape and size (they are not cookie-cutter or cloned-looking creatures).  On the whole, mermen are slightly larger than mermaids but only by an inch or two at the most and ten pounds to twenty pounds heavier.  There are no appreciable differences between the sexes in terms of strength that would affect the types of jobs they can do.  Neither sex has nipples nor belly buttons, and they gestate their young externally like sea horses.  Both sexes are human from the waist up and fish from the waist down (with legs-length tails, covered in scales).

The scales are the same colors as the particular mer-person’s hair, which typically vary from different hues of blue, indigo, and coral.  This is a genetic occurrence that happens naturally. Because of this natural, geneticoccurrence, if some mer-people choose to dye their hair in a different color, they will most likely dye their individual scales into a similar color as well, to keep their head-to-tail appearance consistent.  Some mer-people like to have different color patterns on their scales such as a striped black-white pattern to show their personality and individuality (their hair will mostly likely be some sort of incorporation of both black and white/blond as well).

The dye is an oil that is excreted from the leaves of the Sea Cress plant.  The plant grows plentifully on the sea floor outside their caves.  The Sea Cress Plant come in shades of red, orange, yellow, green, brown, and purple.  One application of the oil into a mer-person’s hair or scales will dye them the color of the oil and a second application of the same oil will wash it out.  Because the dye is oil based, the ocean water will not wash out the dye though the color will fade slightly over time.

Mer-people live to the advanced age of 200, they age a bit slower than humans.  Mer-children reach physical and mental maturity at the age of 25 instead of 18.  Their correspondent growth as children is slower in proportion to this fact.

Melloasis is divided into five villages with roughly 100 members each. Each of the five villages has one Elder who is the oldest in his or her village. The Elder’s age ranges from 150 to 200 years old and holds the position for life. Once a mer-person reaches the age of 150, he or she is qualified to be an Elder if there isn’t already an Elder in place. As a mer-person ages, their wisdom also grows with them so it would only make sense that the oldest mer-people are the Elders and they are in charge of their villages.

The Elders do not create absolute, strict rules, but there are certain types of behavior that are celebrated. For example, being idle is not looked down upon, but being productive is celebrated. The mer-people are free to explore their territory and be playful, while being generally productive. Being productive is considered hunting for fish, swimming around finding trinkets or shells to collect, observing other maritime species, exploring the territory, taking care of and feeding the young, and grooming themselves.

There are mer-people who specialize in roles such as fish hunter/gatherer, doctors, caretakers, etc. but their roles can be easily changed depending on the situation. For example, if by chance a shark enters their territory and some of the mer-people are hurt. There are mer-people who are doctors but that may not be enough to help these injured individuals. At this point an announcement will be made and caretakers and fish hunters will come and help out the doctors. Another example is if a hunter is injured or deceased. In this society everyone is free to find their own food but the hunter is their main source of food. Since the hunters are very efficient fish hunters within the society, the absence of one hunter can largely affect the food supply. In this case the mer-people will automatically chip in help lend additional support.

As a mer-child grows up he or she shadows or is an apprentice to an expert in the field of his or her choice. This is to prepare the mer-child for adulthood. The Elders delegate the responsibility of having an apprentice to the experts. When a mer-child reaches the age range of 18-25, he/she has a meeting with the Elder to discuss entering adulthood and the specialized role he/she may possibly fulfill. The specialized roles are ultimately chosen by the Elders because they are the most wise, but if a mer-person dislikes the role, he/she is allowed to suggest a different role to fulfill and explore other options.

Everyone in the village shares the food and other goods will be obtained by bartering with other members. Different levels of value are not placed on traded goods/services. Rather, whatever a mer-person needs/wants and does not need/want at a particular moment dictates what they trade. For example, a mermaid may trade a fish (when they are not hungry) for a coral “hairbrush” because their desire for smoother hair is higher than their current appetite level. Once her hair is smooth, however, she may later trade it for bunch of seaweed because her hunger has grown.

There is no form of money. The mer-people do not have many personal belongings because that would crowd up their caves. They are allowed to keep maybe one or two trinkets such as pretty, shiny objects like pearls, or shells. These items should be able to be found naturally in the sea. A mer-person should not be keeping anything that is foreign or human made. If an individual desires an object that another mer-person has, the individual can offer to trade an object for the desired object. Each item in the trade must be considered equal or around equal value just to make sure it is a fair trade.

Fire and man-made electricity do not exist in this underwater world. Their technology depends on the natural behavior of the sun/sunlight, water and waves, and surrounding species with special characteristics.

The sun/sunlight gives natural lighting to their environment and gives an indication of the time of day. They spend most of their day performing activities while the sun is out, and they usually spend the night resting or sleeping after the sun has set. The water offers hydration and sustainable life to the ecosystem’s species and food sources. The characteristics of the waves offer indication of the weather of the current and surrounding environments (e.g. hurricanes). The water also functions as the mer-people’s medium for communication. Sound travels farther in water than air (and about six times more effectively). The mer-people are able to communicate with each other while they hunt, mate, and play—through cheerful squeaks that are similar to dolphins and in beautiful song that is similar to whales.

Other underwater creatures inherently offer help to the mer-people. Bioluminescent marine life, such as plankton and small fish, offer lighting underwater. This is particularly useful to the mer-people on cloudy days where sunlight is unable to penetrate through the water’s surface. This also enables the mer-people to continue tasks and explore their environment even after the sun has set—they do not necessarily have to go to sleep right away.

Because their technology is limited by water, the merpeople use surrounding materials to benefit their lives. Driftwood becomes a hunting spear and seaweed becomes a temporary net—things they can discard back into their environment in a way that is not dangerous to nature. With careful and constant observation of their environment, however, they are able to enhance some of their daily activities. They pick up seashells from the sand and use them as megaphones—they are able to project their sounds not only from a farther distance, but also at a greater volume. They also use coral to comb their hair and smooth out their scales.

This utopia’s ultimate goal is to maintain harmony with nature. With every action completed with careful and thoughtful consideration, the inseparable bond with nature always strives to be kept at equilibrium.

The underwater world is a place for all maritime creatures. Nature has its ways for recycling and reusing natural waste, therefore, preserving life. Nothing supplementary is needed to sustain the beauty of marine life. Therefore, it is this society’s responsibility to maintain harmony with nature by not doing anything beyond preservation.

At times, the mer-people are very interested in observing their environment, discovering new species, and gaining stronger understandings of marine life—but it is always in a way that does not disrupt nature. Anything “(mer)man-made” does not cause permanent damage to nature, always considering environmentally-friendly values. The reasoning behind their passionate respect to nature dates back to an old fable concerning a land-species, named humans, who destroyed its mother nature over the course of thousands of years. Slowly, and then all at once, humans’ actions and behaviors brought about disturbances to the global climate, sea levels and water temperatures, the atmosphere’s chemical makeup, and were to blame for the extinction of many animals and plant species. Their destruction ultimately made earth an un-livable planet for the humans, and they eventually sought refuge on other planets within the Solar System. Therefore, the forefathers of this Melloasis determined that a peaceful co-existence with nature was a crucial necessity for their species’ long-term survival.

The mer-people’s population is controlled by predators (larger fish, sharks, whales), accidents, and natural occurrences (death by old age), and they, in turn, keep other species’ populations in check—it’s the natural circle of life. Also, unlike similarly-intelligible humans, the mer-people do not domesticate animals nor enjoy ownership of pets.

While mer-people may hide from (in caves or seaweed fields), swim out of reach of, or use distraction techniques against predators, they do not set up physically dangerous traps of any kind because it is not natural– they are not the predator. Their village is not an optimal swimming location for their predators (mainly due to insignificant sea level for whales, or unsatisfying food options for sharks who prefer seals), but predators will occasionally cross borders since there aren’t any definite “fences” of any kind. Moreover, any mer-person who swims outside of Melloasis also risks being in an area where predators are more likely to be around.

Mer-people never developed a religion in the sense of believing in a god or gods. This is an abstract idea to these creatures because religion is a concept developed by humans.  They don’t need to rely on idols or gods because the only power underwater is nature– a natural force that cannot be swayed through faith. They are not spiritual and see no need to create blessings or prayers.

They do, however, have an awe of and appreciation for nature.  They are also very observant of their surrounding environment– understanding the circle of life, the food chain, and existing predators. Because of this, they appreciate nature in the sense that they recognize the full worth of the fish they eat, the sharks they fear, and their own part in the larger whole.  They accept that each part is vital and necessary to the health of the whole. They show this by taking great care in their hunting to keep the food chain in balance and being very concerned with the ecology of their environment in the whole.

They also find joy appreciating the natural beauty of their world– from naturally occurring whirlpools, the presence of colorful coral reefs, and the hypnotizing way the sunlight reflects off certain objects.

The Relationship between the Sexes
Mermaids and mermen do not have defined gender roles.  Since mermaids and mermen are physically very similar; the main difference being an inch or so of height and only a few pounds in weight, there are no jobs that physically, only mermen or only mermaids can do.  Also, since mermaids to do not gestate their young internally or breastfeed, care of mer-children from conception can be done by either sex.         Because there are no gender roles, there is no discrimination based on gender either.  Any mer-person can have any job specialization they want including Elder once they hit 150 years of age.

There are minor physical and role differences when it specifically comes to reproduction; the mermaid lays eggs and the merman fertilizes them.  However, since mating is only for survival of the species and both mermaids and mermen have multiple partners in order to maximize egg hatching potential, there is no jealousy or other negative relationship-based problems among the sexes.

Sexual Reproduction
All mer-people start reproducing when they hit the age of sexual and physical/mental maturity at 25 and have started their adult lives.  They have a natural urge to mate when spring starts and the weather gets warmer because the changes in the temperature of the ocean affect their hormones.

Since there are only 100 mer-people in each village and mer-people can reproduce from the ages of 25-55, only about about 20-30 mer-people are fertile and able to mate each year.  In order for the best chances of the eggs to hatch, mermaids and mermen choose multiple partners based on which physical and mental characteristics that they have and which characteristics a genetically compatible partner would have to have in order to produce viable children.   In order to have the best chance of viable eggs, merpeople will conceive with all available genetically compatible partners within their village.  The relationships between one mer-person’s choices of partners and other mer-people’s choices of partners will intertwine to form a spider’s web.  Because of this and the small selection from which they have to choose from, each mer-person will average between 3-5 different partners.

By the end of spring, most mermaids have produced an average of five fertilized eggs via external insemination.  Because not all eggs hatch, and mer-children are raised communally, birth control is not practiced and most mermaids will produce approximately 30 fertilized eggs over the course of their lifetime.  The eggs are kept in special incubator rooms in the childcare cave which is a specific complex within each village of 100 merpeople.  Approximately one to two eggs hatch from each mermaid’s conception for a total of about 15-20 new mer-children a year.  About the same number of merpeople die from old age or accidents per year so the communities even out in terms of population numbers.

The reasons not all eggs hatch are infertility/egg/sperm problems in a particular mer-person, various genetic defects in the fertilized eggs that make them non-viable so they never hatch, improper handling by the childcare workers in charge of the eggs that would cause them to break or become damaged, environmental problems in the ocean that would affect all the eggs for that year, predators managing to swim into the childcare center and eat the eggs, or just plain bad luck.

Family and Reproduction
Mer-people are a hybrid of different species of fish that have slowly developed intelligible thoughts and behaviors similar to human intelligence. Through millions of years of evolution, mermen and mermaids have come to exhibit mental abilities (e.g. emotions) that differentiate them from most simple marine life.

Mermaids and mermen both have the same degree of emotional attachment with their children, which, since they are produced and gestated externally, are weaker than human bonds.  Therefore, they have no problem swimming over to the childcare center in early May with their freshly fertilized eggs for them to be raised communally by other mer-people.  Some mermaids and merman are born with stronger bonds to children so it is their calling to work in the childcare center and communally raise all the children of their particular village.

Because mer-people are a hybrid of fish (simple animals that gestate very quickly), and humans are much more complex (and therefore take nine months to gestate), it takes on average between 2-5 months for fertilized eggs to hatch. Mer-children are born similar to infant humans (being a small, naive form of adults that undergoes much development with time) but instead of needing breastmilk, they eat plankton and other small fish that don’t require chewing. They are already born able to swim as it is an innate necessity (like sharks).

They grow up in the childcare center and stay there while they prepare for adulthood by shadowing or being an apprentice to an adult mer-person who has a job they might want.  After the mer-child reaches the age range of 18-25 and met with an Elder to discuss their specialization, they are allowed to move into the communal adult cave system.   Each village of 100 mer-people live communally as a whole since they are not organized into individual families (in multiple clusters of caves, not just one cave).  Mer-people do not have individual homes but will sleep in whichever cave in the village they want and may change caves as often as they like.

Mer-People Rights
In Melloasis, it is ideal that everyone contributes to the society, but that is not always the case. There may be one mer-person who has been influenced in a certain way that what he or she does in his or her daily life will negatively impact the community. If any of the mer-people suspect another mer-person to be adversely affecting the village, a report should be made to the Elder. The Elder will have a personal conversation with the said mer-person and if the suspicions are deemed true, the Elder will have the power to exile him/her from society. However, some suspicious reports could happen from misunderstandings and miscommunications– that is why all reports go to the wise Elders.

If a mer-person finds an unnatural object (such as a human-made object), he/she must report it to the Elder. This object could be harmful to the society. The Elder will have a meeting with the Elders from the other villages and come up with a way to properly dispose of this object.

Mer-people are instinctively inclined to understand and appreciate nature; everyone automatically behaves appropriately—meaning they behave in a way that is positively helpful and valuable to nature, or in a way that is neutral. In this utopia, everyone puts in an equal effort to sustain harmony with nature. Inappropriate behavior is anything that negatively harms nature– such as over-hunting, or developing tools that cannot be recycled back into the environment. However, it is not in the mer-people’s nature to act inappropriately (although there are random, rare exceptions due to genetic mutations).

Punishment does not exist in this utopia, simply because: 1) no one is intentionally mischievous, and 2) there is absolutely no good that punishment endured by mer-people would bring to nature. The only problems that arise within this utopia come from accidental misfortunes, such as an accidental harpooning of another hunter while catching fish, or an unintentional overhunting of a small fish species. In the case of a “friendly fire” death, the entire community may mourn over the lost life, but the “killer” is not punished. Instead, everyone works together to re-establish the peace by putting in slightly more effort to make up for the lost work of one body, and by encouraging a sense of community through expressive interactions such as hugs and smiles. Everyone works to take care of the nuclear family “left behind” collectively, because they are all part of one larger family– everyone in its community is entwined. With a loss of a life, there may be a memorial, but never a burial (because it is an unnatural action).

If someone accidentally hunts too much of a fish species to the point that its population becomes endangered, the mer-people lay off hunting that particular species until it naturally repopulates itself to a safe level. However, if it becomes extinct even after the mer-people have stopped hunting that species, it is looked upon as a natural and inevitable termination.

Now what if someone deliberately breaks the code of being one with nature? Although this is a species where everyone is innately born with the understanding and appreciation for nature, there is an extremely rare occurrence of an outlaw. It is natural for a species to experience some individual abnormalities, such as a clownfish born with a deformed fin (e.g. Nemo). Although very uncommon, a merman or mermaid born without an appreciation for nature is possible. Once an Elder realizes that an individual mer-person does not follow the natural code, they have the power to exile him/her out of the society. Once cast out, this mer-person is soon expected to die because they are incapable of surviving by themselves. It is nearly impossible to survive on their own because they come from a species that significantly relies on one another. No remorse is shown by any mer-person inside the society because they only uphold equilibrium with nature.