Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Anthropomorphizing: It's More Than an Unpronounceable Word

          Anthropomorphizing. I love that word. I love it because I can pronounce it and because I’m an expert at it. I anthropomorphize all the time. People make fun of me because I anthropomorphize so much. At the same time, however, I can get irritated when I see someone else anthropomorphizing about something.

          Webster defines anthropomorphize as “to attribute human form or personality to things not human.” In other words, when I’m gone on vacation and my cat has been cared for by others for many days, based on her behavior, I’m sure she is being upset, angry and standoffish upon my return. She’s punishing me for being gone. Most of my anthropomorphizing is with my cat, Kali, but there are many different examples of how people do it.

          A well-known example of anthropomorphism is found in the Bible story of Adam and Eve, where the serpent is given the ability to talk to Eve, in order to tempt her to eat the forbidden fruit. Stories can be visually more appealing and possibly less threatening if the speakers are animals as in Peter Rabbit or Watership Down. Dressing a pet up in human clothes or other costumes may be an extreme form of anthropomorphism. Cute, but sometimes creepy.

          There is no concrete way to know for sure how much, if any, human qualities an animal may experience. A look at associating human qualities to animals, in particular to our pets, has been the subject of lots of research trials trying to show the extent to which my cat Kali, for instance, is truly experiencing emotions of being upset, or feeling guilt or sadness. A recent test I saw on public television dealt with the possibility of a pet feeling guilt. You know, we’ve seen that look on their faces when they shred the toilet paper or steal food.

          This is how the test was conducted:  there is a dog sitting in an empty room. The dog’s owner comes in the room and places a treat on the floor and leaves. The dog just sits there. Shortly another person comes in the room and steals the treat and leaves the room. When the owner returns and scolds the dog, the dog looks guilty. The researchers concluded the dog was responding to scolding actions and voice, not necessarily feeling guilt.

          But what about empathy? I’m sitting on the couch, Kali is in my lap and I’m watching the movie “Terms of Endearment” for the umpteenth time. When I start to quietly boohoo, Kali looks up at me and will lean in close to my bosom and reach her little paw out to touch my check. The look in her eyes tells me she’s thinking, “Oh, mom, don’t cry.” I KNOW that’s what she’s thinking.

          Oh, yeah, good thing I know about anthropomorphism. Do you do it? Would you agree it's more than an unpronounceable word?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Grab Your Ballots, It's Oscar Time!

          During the year my friend Kristie and I try to see the movies that have been nominated for Best Picture of the Academy Awards, as well as other major movies nominated for other awards. Seeing most, if not all, of the major movies gives us a reason to have a little party the night of the Oscar presentations. This year is no exception.

          Most years there is at least one, sometimes two, movies that I’d avoid, even if they had been nominated, because they were too bloody or too boring or too arduous. This year the movies in these categories that I didn’t see were Jack Reacher and Les Miserables. I wasn't going to see Django Unchained, the western staring Jamie Foxx, but Kristie talked me into it. I covered my eyes during the gorier parts and wound up loving the flick.

          As you can tell from my sparse movie reviews (http://antoniasreviews.blogspot.com/), it was lackluster viewing for most of the year and I had little to rave about. Are we running out of movies to make? Doesn’t it seem the infamous pipeline of what movies get made got a lot narrower in 2012? Or perhaps it was that combined with casting. I mean, if you’ve ever read any Lee Childs’ books on Jack Reacher, Tom Cruise is the antithesis of the Jack Reacher character. Perhaps we tired of Tolstoy’s sweeping Anna Karenina story so that we had to show it in such a distracting stylized way of a movie within a stage play format?

          There was, however, one picture that was the BEST film I’ve seen in years. It’s “The Intouchables” but it didn't make the cut for the French entry for the Best Foreign Film category. This wonderful movie depicts a true story of a man confined to a wheelchair and his infamous aide. It is funny, irreverent, touching and the acting is superb. Check out http://antoniasreviews.blogspot.com/2012/11/first-movie-review.html  to see the complete review. This movie has left the theaters but be sure to see it when it comes out on video. I’ve seen it four times already.

          While I’m not a television producer by any means, I think there should be some changes made in the televised Oscar event.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

          Valentine’s Day is day after tomorrow. I wish you could feel the huge pause after I type that first sentence. I fear my point of view isn’t going to be a popular one. In the spirit of full disclosure, however, I am obligated to not side-step the issue and to share my feelings about this most romantic of holidays.

          I can’t get too excited about Valentine’s Day. Perhaps this is because I’ve been conditioned by 24 years of being with an accountant who needed that day like all the days between Jan 1 and April 15 to get taxes done. Sure, we’d exchange a card but would do little else to celebrate our love. And that was okay with me.

          When I was younger, in my 20’s and 30’s, Valentine’s Day was huge, a true measure of my femininity and appeal. As I matured, I saw that a loving relationship is celebrated every day by doing little things, saying loving supportive words, by being there for the other person through the bad and the good. Chuck and I weren’t always successful at being the most loving toward each other but we tried, each in our own way. It wasn’t any expensive dinners, flowers or other gifts that spoke of our love, but the fact that we made it work in our own way until he passed away. Ironically, the last words we spoke to each other were "I love you." Overall, I believe we could look back and agree that we celebrated our love the majority of the time in the best way we knew.

          I've never begrudged others spending time and money and splurging on Valentine’s Day…a new piece of expensive jewelry or a trip or perhaps just a simple construction paper cut-out card. Whatever it is that works best is what should be done.

          Regardless of how Valentine’s Day unfolds for you, whether you see the day itself as special or just like any other day, there are people and friends and pets who will luxuriate in your love and attention. Enjoy them, celebrate them and don’t wait until day after tomorrow to do so.




Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fight Back Against the Winter Doldrums!

          It’s often been speculated that February was the month when most suicides are committed. Now, that’s a cheerful thought – not! While it has been shown statistically that this isn’t true (with most suicides occurring in the spring), there does seem to be increased levels of depression, especially among senior citizens, during the winter months. I’m not a researcher in this subject, and perhaps I’m only using my own straw poll to make that assessment.

          The holidays are over, no more abundant visits with friends coupled with excessive food and drink. It’s back to the grind at work, and exercise and veggies. No more almond roca until your teeth hurt or a glass of wine every night instead of once in awhile. It’s grey outside and the weather often keeps us cooped up for days on end. In fact, during this month we tend to eat and drink more than in previous months and sleep lots more, all of which can escalate depression.

          All the trees are bare and our yards, be they tiny patios like mine or expansive yards enjoyed by the myriad kids, grandkids and pets, are bleak. I have a lovely gingko tree that I planted a few years back, and it gives me great joy as I gaze upon it from my living room. However, practically overnight, all its leaves are gone. The Japanese maples start thinning out and by this time, they are looking pretty twiggy and lifeless. The chilling weather and the lack of pleasing visual surroundings are pervasive on our psyche. I believe the shorter grey days create a physiological response in our bodies during this time of year. It can wear on the upbeat approach to life making everything seem less exciting and less worth endeavoring. It’s hitting the snooze button magnified 1,000 percent.

          What to do? You can bet I’m going to say meditating should be at the top of any list of possible remedies to the winter doldrums. Let’s face it, meditating is easy to do, cheap and doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s the perfect panacea to much of what ails us in life, be you a senior citizen or not.

          There are lots of other things one can do to fight back the lethargy and depression of dark winter months. Some of these items are costly and time consuming and others, like meditation, are not.