Issue 128, page 1

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Animation

Seen Shrek, yet?  We saw this movie last week and were very impressed.  It seems that with each new computer-based animation the characters become increasingly realistic and life-like.  It will soon be impossible to tell which actors are live and which are computer algorithms.

Pinocchio was "animated" by Gepetto.  Click to visit a Disney drawing site.Surprisingly, the verb to animate has been around since the 1500s but, in those days, it meant "to give life [to something]", not just "to produce a visual impression of motion".  In the Genesis story, Jehovah animated Adam with his breath.  In fact, this usage goes to the heart of the matter for the Latin word animus meant "air, breath, life, soul or mind".  Many languages fail to distinguish between these concepts and it's fairly easy to see why.  No air; no breath. No breath; no life.  No life; no mind. 

Any organism which breathes was, therefore, said to be animal.  Note that this was an adjective only - an animal creature was a "breathing creature".  By Shakespeare's day, though, it was understood as a noun in its own right and people began to speak of an animal.  The word creature (and, of course, its variant - critter) literally means "a created being" but is now considered synonymous with animal and is even used by atheists.

When microscopes (Greek mikro- "small" +  skopein "to look") revealed that life existed even in a drop of pond-water, the newly-discovered animals were called animalcules.  This word is a diminutive of animal formed along similar lines to corpuscle (diminutive of Latin corpus, "body") and molecule (diminutive of Latin moles "mass").  Those who believed that these tiny animals are the seeds of disease were called animalculists.   We still refer some of these microbes as germs, from Latin germen "sprout".  This word, which simply means "seed [of disease]", is related to germinate and wheatgerm.

An animist is one who believes that all natural objects, including trees, clouds and thunder, have a living soul.  While we have yet to see an animist church (temple? synagogue?) in San Jose, we understand that it is very popular in parts of the third world.

Some believed that, in addition to being able to breathe, animals possessed other, less tangible, properties.  Magnetism, for instance.  In the late 1700s magnetism and electricity were still very mysterious forces. A certain Franz Anton Mesmer reasoned that, just as one may magnetize an iron bar by passing a magnet over it, he could "magnetize" all manner of objects (paper, glass, dogs...) simply by passing his hands over them. He attributed this uncanny and inscrutable phenomenon to a property which he named animal magnetism and which others called Mesmerism.  Mesmer also attributed ill-health to astrological influences. According to Mesmer, the planets exert their influence by means of animal gravity, another of his technical terms.  Many people, including the queen of France claimed to have been cured of diseases by Monsieur Mesmer and it was noticed that many people fell into a peculiar, sleep-like state when being "magnetized" (or mesmerized).  This state was later called hypnosis, from the Greek hypnos "sleep".

The psychologist Sigmund Freud treated his earliest patients with hypnosis but he is more famous for his later technique of psychoanalysis (Greek: psyche "soul" + analysis "undoing, loosening").  His student, Carl Jung, went on to develop his own version which included elements of the personality called archetypes (Greek:  arche- "first" + typos "stamp, die").  One of these archetypes represents the inner being and Jung called it the anima.  That is, it's an anima (Latin feminine) in men but it's an animus (Latin masculine) in women.  And, yes, he did mean it to be this way round.  Contrasted with the anima (or animus) is the persona - the side of ourselves we show to others.  Jung took this word from the Latin for "mask".  In Roman times, actors wore elaborate carved wooden masks.  The mouths of these masks were deep and funnel-shaped, acting as megaphones (Greek: mega "great" + phonos "sound").  It was this characteristic which gave them their Latin name: per-  "through" + sonus "sound").  Special effects certainly have come a long way since then.

How do we know all this stuff?  Why not visit our bookstore and find out?

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