Friday, January 27, 2012

Pointless Film Reviews Pt:1 - Eternal Sunshine, The Truman Show, Stranger Than Fiction.

I said I would do some reviews of some of my well known favorites so that when I recommend something more obscure or new readers will have an idea of my taste. I chose to start with these because Eternal Sunshine is in kind of the same catagory as my two recent recommendations, and the other two are associated with it pretty naturally.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

"Sand is overrated, it's just tiny little rocks." - Joel

Where to start with one of my all time favorite movies? I love the original score by Jon Brion, who did the music for another one of my favorite films that same year (2004), I <3 Huckabees. The theme (above posted gets stuck in my head all the time, as does the track Elephant Parade, I don't know how powerful they are without the association to the film (for those odd few of you who might not have seen it), but they tug at my heart strings something awful. So if you don't know, Eternal Sunshine is a film Staring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet alongside a strong supporting cast (of whom David Cross deserves a special mention, because he is awesome). The movie begins with Joel (Carrey) discovering that his long time girlfriend Clementine (Winslet) has elected to have her memory of him erased following a big fight, and in desperate retaliation decides to have the procedure done himself. The majority of the film takes place in Joel's mind as he relives memories of Clementine as they are erased, starting with the most recent and working back. It's so unconventional that it is difficult almost to call it a love story, but above all else, that is what it is. We watch Joel experience the good and the bad, and not in the 25 minutes left in the film we need a low point now kind of way, in something much more like life. Without breaking the whole film down, I'll just say that the choice go through the memories backwards was brilliant, as Joel is able to realize how much more there was to the relationship than the rough bit he was in, to realize what it is he is losing. I really don't want to include a spoiler section, if you have seen this movie then you don't need convincing that it's awesome. If you haven't seen it, then go do it right now. 

The Truman Show

"We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented." - Christof

So you might well guess now that I'm a fan of Jim Carrey's serious roles. Truman is an adventurous man who has lived his whole life in a quite little town despite his efforts to see the world. In truth though it hasn't been bad luck that has kept him where he is, it's been clever planing on the part of  corporation that broadcasts his life to the world. Truman was an unwanted pregnancy legally adopted by the company that produced a reality show around his life, in which he is the only one unaware of the cameras all over town. The film picks up as Truman's wanderlust and a series of strange occurrences lead him to question the world around him. A strong premise well executed, funny but also very moving.

Stranger Than Fiction

"No, no. It's not schizophrenia. It's just a voice in my head. I mean, the voice isn't telling me to do anything. It's telling me what I've already done... accurately, and with a better vocabulary." - Harold

As with Carrey, I became a fan of Will Ferrell's comedy before discovering that I like him better in more serious roles. Stranger than Fiction follows Harold crick, an uptight auditor for the IRS. Harold lives a meticulously ordinary life, the same every day and all by himself. Until one morning Harold hears something, a voice narrating his routine. Harold is at a loss as to what is happening and his need for answers is made urgent when the narrator explains, "Little did he know that this simple seemingly innocuous act would result in his imminent death." We soon meet this narrator that Harold is about to begin his search for, a well known author of tragedies (Emma Thompson) who is suffering writer's block. She can't decide how to kill Harold, affording him a small window to solve his mystery. In attempting to determine the genre of his story Harold pursues an infatuation with a revolutionary baker he is currently auditing (Maggie Gyllenhaal) at the behest of the professor of literature who has agreed to help him. Did I mention the proffesor is played by Dustin Hoffman? That's right Dustin Fucking Hoffman. Man, I love him, but more on that When I get around to Huckabees. In the mean time, this is another great film, funny, moving, and full of rocking tunes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Film Reviews: Cashback and Conversations With Other Women.

So this being my first film review I'm well aware that you have no idea what sort movies I like, so my recommendations may not count for much. I'm probably going to do a couple of pointless reviews of movies everyone has seen so you can get a better idea for future reference (or retroactively if you decide to hold off on these until then). I don't like spoilers, but it's hard to really talk about what makes something good or bad without giving some of it away. I'm going to start by speaking as generally as I can and then move on to the part of the review containing spoilers. I would recommend not reading those bits until after watching the movie unless what you had read so far left you with no real inclination to check the film out.

So, why these two movies together? Because I found them the same way. They were highly rated by a friend of a friend on his netflix account, so I decided to give them a go. They can both currently be found on Netflix play instantly, so if you have access to that then you really have nothing to lose here yeah?

First thing that I feel needs to be said about this movie is that there is a LOT of nudity in it, so if you are particularly sexually repressed or bothered in some other way by the human body, steer clear. Some of the nudity is sexual in nature, but I think exists to serve as a contrast to the way our main character, Ben, views the female form. He is an art student who is more or less obsessed with beauty and attempting to capture it (as artists are wont to do), and his greatest inspiration in that regard is the female body. The story begins with him breaking up with his first serious long term girlfriend and subsequently developing insomnia. Being hopelessly upset about his breakup and now awake an additional 8 hours to dwell on the matter, he decides to take a job working the night shift at a local supermarket. The movie has a good score and some interesting effects, especially for an indie film. It's has overall a very artsy feel but it's broken up by moments that are genuinely funny. I would say it's worth checking out, but I don't really know how good I can say it is due to an element of it that feels fairly confused. I'm going to get into that now, so brace yourself for...

So not long after taking the job, Ben discovers he can freeze time, or so the films description claims. The thing about this though is that it is suggested that this is only his imagination. Actually that's not true, he straight says that he imagines time has stopped. So when he does something like move his boss in the way of a flying container of milk/glue/something before unfreezing time, we can assume that this is also done in his imagination. While imagining something like this would require a supernatural awareness of his surroundings, that never really becomes plot important so it's easy to shrug off. There is one point in the film though where the mood shifts to something more menacing, when it is discovered that there are others able to stop time, who can still move while Ben's world is frozen. The fact that this shocks him is difficult to make sense of, it feels less like his imagination here and more like something external. But it could just have been a random thought as it never really comes up again, except to make Ben wonder if he could bring others with him into the frozen state. This again seems like something external, as wondering if you could make someone share your imagination seems like an odd thing to do. -slightly larger spoiler- When Ben does bring someone else in, they are somewhat amazed, but not really shocked to a point that would suggest that they are exeriencing an actual physical phenomena. My understanding of this shared experience of time stopped is that the two become so engrossed in each other, in the moment they are sharing, that the rest of the world just stops. It's a pretty enough metaphor, but it's a little conflicted. He expressed a desire throughout the film to stop time at certain moments, to live in them for weeks. If both characters feel this desire then it could be they both are imagining that it is something they can do. However, through most of the film this time stopping was used in moments where Ben is bored, would want time to move more quickly, or in one instance when he needs time to think dreading what is to come, this is the first time he actually attempts to preserve a pleasant moment. Though thinking about it now as I write this, that doesn't really bother me all that much.

So now having given the film a little more thought (for those of you who just now re-joining us), I like it a lot. That confusion is still there a little, but I think a degree of ambiguity is retained to make you think harder about what you do know (keep that in mind for when I inevitably get to reviewing Primer).

-Conversations With Other Women-
Namedropping time, since they are pretty much the only characters in the movie, the reason I watched it, and the only way to refer to the characters credited as "Woman" and "Man." Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart star this unique film, and do it like the boss-ass mofos they are. I really don't know how to catagorize this film, and what's worse attempting to do so will just lead to me spoiling it. The movie is shot in split screen the whole way through, which is used at times for a number of neat little effects that both help to tell the story and set the uncertain mood. The dialog is witty, though Helena does come off a bit pretentious at times, which is probably intentional. That's really about all I can say, watch this movie! Oh, also not really for the sexually repressed but nowhere near to the same extent.

I really would just watch the movie before reading this, you are doing yourself a disservice. Why am I writing this portion then? I don't know to be honest. The film begins with the meeting of Aaron and Helena at a wedding, the two hit it off and we are given on the split screen a parallel to their meeting between a young couple at a bar/club/rock show. The two hit it off and get to knowing each other. A touching love story in the making.

It is revealed that Aaron and Helena already knew each other, and are in fact ex husband and wife. The terms on which they were separated have always bothered them both, though it would appear they bother Aaron more. It becomes clear they are on a fast track to an affair (Aaron having a younger girlfriend and Helena an older second husband). Aaron sees a chance for a new begining with his true love. A touching love story in the making. 

It becomes clear that Helena is much to entrenched in her new life, even though Aaron is willing to throw his away. There is no hope for a future between them and the night they are sharing is a brief reprive from a loneliness that pervades their lives. Helena's position is somewhat understandable, but she doesn't appear at all to be happy, making her reluctance very frustrating as we watch Aaron over and over do all that he can in an attempt to reclaim his lost love, and invent elaborate fantasies about being there for her when she is too old and ugly for her new husband. A mood piece about a very real, very human tragedy. My heart bleeds for Aaron, and it's difficult to imagine someone's not doing the same.


Check 'em out, and if you do, let me know what you think (though be mindful of spoilers in the comments section). I know that my review of Conversations With Other Women was basically nothing at all but me saying it was good (assuming you avoided the spoilers), so I will try to post those reviews of better known films within the next couple of days.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bethesda Backstories, In Defence of New Vegas.

So my last post was about Extra Credits and just how much I love the show. It got me thinking about another, more popular gaming show on The Escapist, Zero Punctuation, and how his over-critical approach is amusing but not really useful in deciding whether a game is worth playing. I mean, he just gave MW3 and BF3 the "worst game of 2011", beating out the steaming pile that was Duke Nukem Forever. Sure they may not be all that different from eachother or their previous installments and largely overrated, but they certainly aren't the worst or even bad for that matter. He just wants attention and we keep giving it to him. Shame on us.

So i decided to provide a response to his criticism of Fallout: New Vegas. In part because the game had a lot of unkind things said about it that made no sense to me from all different directions and I thought I ought to do some standing up for it, and in part because the criticism opened the door to a fairly interesting feature of the series and the other sandbox giants coming out of Bethesda, The Elder Scrolls. This particular criticism is about the lack of a back story for the character and then a dismissal of this lack being for the sake of creating a blank canvas for the player to decide who their character is by pointing out that you are already told that you are a courier. So I decided to write about the New Vegas intro and what I liked about it as well as how it related to the intros of the other Fallout games as well as those of Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim.

I decided on this topic before going to bed only to be woken up by a friend telling me he was on his way over with a couple of girls, who after arriving decided they wanted to try Skyrim. Before going to bed again after my company had departed only to wake up and find the new episode of Extra Credits was about....The Skyrim intro. I laughed this off and worried a little that it would look like coat-tailing EC, and then realized something. When Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation discussed New Vegas, his only real coherent criticisms were that it was easy to steal and the game froze. The criticism that I wanted to address actually came from elsewhere....Extra Credits. Oh well, I'll save my anti-yahtzee ramblings for another day (maybe talk about Monster Hunter and how you need to play longer than an hour to review it), I'm already all hyped up for this topic so I'm going for it anyway.

So first off, what I'm responding to is can be found here: Amnesia and Story Structure. It's good stuff, and I recommend watching it straight through, but if you want the bare bones of what I'm talking about for the moment, skip to 3:30. And on an unrelated note, the ad at the beginning bugs the crap out of me (if it's still the cheerios ad when you read this), "people who eat more whole grains tend to weigh less" is a pretty fucking sneaky sentence and they damn well know it.

Is including amnesia in a game lazy? In most cases, yes. It's a lazy way to get out of including an ACT I, and in most cases the reason for not having a first act is just being lazy.  I want to take another side step here and talk really briefly about another game that features amnesia and not for the sake of being lazy. I suppose here I should say -SPOILER ALERT- for those of you who have not yet played FFXIII, but I kind of get the feeling I'm among the only people who have not finished the game yet that have any intention to. In FFXIII we begin in ACT II, which consist primarily of trying to figure out just what the hell ACT III is supposed to be. The party is thrust into a situation where there is something they really need to do, and fast, but they have no idea what it is. ACT I consists of the thirteen days leading up to the start of the gameplay, beginning with the day that two of the characters wake up from a crystal stasis. The 13 days are fed to us in bits and pieces of reflection or revelation between the party as we progress, letting us learn more about them as they learn about each other. Now, I'm no expert so I suppose you could say ACT I starts well before two of our heros waking up, when they are first put in stasis, an event that neither of them can remember, but is undoubtedly directly related to what it is that needs to be done in ACT III. At the risk of ruining too much for anyone who ignored the spoiler warning, or of going on too long on a tangent, I'll leave it at one character is only pretending not to remember, and the ambiguity of the past lends to that of the future and the overall sense of internal and intra-party conflict driven by just having no idea. So yeah, surprisingly fun game for all its simplicity, maybe a future topic, and a very un-lazy use of amnesia.

Now, let's talk for a little bit about Fallout 3. Fallout 3 tells you who your character was literally from birth (if you played it, you know what I'm talking about). It let's you decide if you want to be a good guy or a bad guy, but the way this manifests is very straight forward, three dialog options: Saint : neutral : Satan. The choice between good and evil doesn't actually set you on a different path as far as the main story is concerned, because there is a traditional story arch that revolves around your character's family. Even if you decide to play a psychopathic raider that eats human flesh, you join up with the brotherhood of steel to actualize your father's dream of purified water. This doesn't really make a great deal of sense. What's more, the side quests you do, even if actually sticking to your character, are the same. Sure they can be ended different ways, but for the most part it's the same thing. The only thing that you shouldn't do as a "good guy" is the slavery quest. If you're evil then you can do everything, so long as you make sure you get payed. It's great fun to explore, and the game will give you a nod on the radio if you decide to be consistent in your unambiguous moral decisions (having played only the original and broken steel, which is really just the rest of the game that you payed for in the first place). But ultimately your character is who the story demands, and if you are playing good that's fine, but if your anything a little more complicated than that, then there is a tension between who you want to see your character as and and who the game occasionally just tells you who he (or she) is.

While Fallout 3 was a great game, those of us who have played Bethesda's other sandbox epics know that exploration is where the game really shines, that's why we pick them up and play. The main story may be something a player sets aside until after they feel they have done everything else, they may even get burnt out spending hundreds of hours doing other things and not even finish the main story (like I did with Morrowind, I know I know, the combat just got too repedative after finishing every other faction and one hit killing everything). That being said, let's take a look at the New Vegas intro.

Ok, so we've established a little mystery, "why the hell did I just get shot in the head?" Or a reason for revenge, something to give our exploration a bit of direction. But what that intro is really about isn't our hero getting shot in the head, it's about the setting. We learn the backstory we all already know, people were in vaults and now they are (mostly) out. But then we learn about what's going on specifically in this region, a brief overview of our major factions which raises a host of questions such as "who's this Mr. House?", a peek at a couple of minor factions, and the setup for the conflict the whole game is leading to. The story isn't about you, the story is happening either way, you getting shot is a reason for you to show up in the city and find yourself in a position to affect the outcome of something that was already on its way to happening. You can choose to make a power grab for yourself, but you aren't forced to, it's just one of many divergent conclusions, I want to talk more about that a little later. So since the story doesn't require that we be any certain way, and the less we are told about our character the more open we are to making choices, it seems to logically follow that we don't want to be told anything about our character.

Now we know before the game's action that we were a courier, sure. But this could have been a steady day job as easily as it could have been a one time gig. Maybe we were heading this way and figured the caps couldn't hurt. Maybe we said "sure I'll deliver this for you *hehehehe*" hully intending to walk off. We need this small piece of information to draw us into the setting, but if you compare it to other games that try to give you free reign over who you are, it's practically nothing. For instance in Morrowind and Oblivion, you are never told anything except that you were a prisoner. Certainly not too developed, defiantly skipping ACT I. But it still says a lot more than New Vegas doesn't it? Either you were some sort of criminal, or you did something to really piss the empire off. I tend to forget that bit of story forced on me just as soon as I get out of the tutorial, because it's not informing anything else and it doesn't fit who I wanted to play. Now Skyrim does a much better job, for the most part it's on Par with New Vegas as far as blank canvasing off the bat. This time we know why you are a prisoner, we know you were crossing into Skyrim from Cyrodil at the wrong time. It could be argued that this is telling us even less than New Vegas, and that may be so, but there both so close to nothing if one is ahead here it's by a hair. This is where the amnesia comes into play. We know that our character in Skyrim (game) doesn't have something going on outside of Skyrim (place). By this I mean no family that he thinks "oh man dragons, the end days! better get back to my loved ones." Either they all have it themselves covered or they just aren't as important as adventure. Sure it could be he is duty bound to do something because he is the dragonborn, but he doesn't know that off the bat. It's not that big a thing really, but there are subtle things we can decide about who our character is based off of this. Still, leaps and bounds ahead of Morrowind and Oblivion here, and all three great games, But with New Vegas our character's past doesn't affect who he is because he doesn't remember his past. Maybe he has a wife or a dog or a kid or his own little shop. He could be the kind of person to have any of these things, and he isn't breaking character abandoning them because he just doesn't know. Again, this is the other side of that pretty minor thing about Skyrim, and it's still pretty minor but it's on the right side of the question "Is it decided for me that my character is the type to have nothing he is tied to, or the type who would just leave everything behind?" And then of course there is the other useful bit about amnesia, it allows our character to say "um, who are the NCR again?" (as we the player are learning something that our character has presumably grown up around) and when we get a blank stare and the person asks "What have you been living in a vualt or something?" we can say "Oh no, I got shot in the head." In other words, when a player wants to learn something that's common knowledge in the setting they can have the character ask without it seeming out of character.

Now this post is already way too long, but in for a penny in for a pound. While Extra Credits doesn't really attack New Vegas calling this lack of backstory the major difference between the two and then calling it a bad thing seems to be saying Fallout 3 is the better game. So I want to finish making my case for how New Vegas does a much better job of letting you get into your character than Fallout 3 or any of the Elder Scrolls games for that matter. I'm going to try to make this with as little text as possible so I'm going to point to two more Extra Credits episodes to help make my point for me.

First is the choice and conflict episode. Got it? good. Now Fallout is mentioned here, but in truth Fallout 1 & 2 did a much better job of giving us incomparable choices in character building than did fallout 3. With some careful planning you can max out every skill in Fallout 3, and with Broken Steel (which as I've said is really just the rest of the game) maxing everything comes pretty much automatically. You can also get just about every single perk that you could want (especially after Broken Steel since it didn't add 10 perks worth taking). So you may need to make choices about what to level first, but you'll have everything in due time, eventually there will be nothing to do with those skill points but max out melee fighting even if you never plan to use it. Close to the same is true of the elder scrolls games, sure you might not ever be as good with blunt weapons in Oblivion as you are with blades because one isn't a major skill, but the difference is pretty minor and you will still get to a point where you can kill anything with one hit with either. Skyrim is a little more interesting with its perk system, but I still played a melee/ranged/sneak/mage/craftsman character and didn't feel like I gave too much of anything up other than my spells not being as strong as they could be. New Vegas by contrast forces you into making hard choices about what kind of character you want to play, there simply is no way to have it all. You don't get enough skill points to max everything, and you always seem to need just one or two more perks, just to be the thing you want to be. When you compound that with the skill requirements for the perks you want you are left with even more difficult choices with very real opportunity costs. For example, my cowboy/sniper would benefit from the "Cowboy" perk that will up the damage of revolvers and lever action guns (the cowboy repeater, including the unique scoped version), but in order to take it I need 45 ranks in Melee. I never use melee with this character and those skill points could be a big help making me a better sneak, making me less than useless with explosives, or letting me hack computers one difficulty level higher, and this difficult choice comes after I've already given up things like plasma weapons completely. So there is a calculation aspect to it, but it's mostly just a matter of style. I could have focused on melee or on plasma weapons and been just about the same level of killing machine. Had I been able to do all three, my character would feel like he was only a cowboy ranger when I felt like it and anything else on a whim, but that's not the case, he is who I chose for him to be. Now the next kind of choice and just how right it's done.

Now, the karma system is still there, but it takes a bit of a back seat to something this video suggests, factions. Sure some of these factions are just as bad as others, but most all of them are different shades of grey. Shades that play off each other to create legitimate interesting moral questions beyond simple good and evil. First let's just take a sample of major factions to show how the exact spectrum referred to when the color wheel is mentioned are represented. Using the good old fashioned D&D 9 point system as a jumping point let's call the NCR LG, the Followers of the Apocalypse CG/NG, Caesar's Legion LE, the Boomers NE, and good old fashion raiders CE. No the law v chaos here is more authority v autonomy, but it's close enough to the same thing. What's interesting are cases when the interests of The Followers and the NCR are at odds, such as in the quest "The White Wash." Lastly, what factions you choose to get in good or bad with actually makes a difference. Faction members treat you different of course, from friendly pats on the back to trying to murder you on sight or actually sending people out to find you. Different quest lines are made available (probably the biggest thing). And you get different endings, or get to the ending a little different by deciding who joins the fight and on what side, not sure if this fits "re-purposing" but in any case it's certainly something.

So yeah. If someone told you this game wasn't as good, as its predecessor or not worth playing or anything like that, I suggest ignoring them and taking advantage of this widespread under-appreciation to pick the game up dirt cheap and have a great time of it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Might I suggest, Extra Credits?

I absolutely love these guys (and girl). Their show Extra Credits is now hosted by PATV after a good long run with The Escapist. The show is aimed primarily at those seeking to enter into game development or publishing, but there is something there for everyone. The level of insight is unparalleled on topics ranging from the pros and cons of working under a tight deadline all the way to the basic elements of horror and how they translate into gameplay. They are also looking to branch into indie publishing, which is very promising. Rather than listening to me try and paraphrase, Check it out here.

As far as the actual show is concerned, I would recommend starting with The game music episode that got me hooked.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Adaptation Rewound - a thought experiment for Facebook debate.

The other day a good friend of mine posted a link about the discovery of hybrid black tip sharks. It caused a little bit of back and forth on the subject of evolution and a fairly common argument was put forward, that adaptation occurs and could be called "micro-evolution," but "macro-evolution" is something entirely different which can not be proved.

I'm sure you have heard something along these lines before, and if you are anything like me, they never become easier to swallow. The claim seems always to stand alongside the fallacious assertion that evolution means a dog giving birth to a cat, or some similarly absurd leap that makes the theory appear ridicules to those who can not be bothered to look into even the most simple legitimate explanation.

Attempting provide evidence of large scale change or speciation over and over to no effect can start to wear on you after a while, so it's fun to mix things up a bit from time to time. Prior to my contribution the OP shared an image to help show how micro and macro evolution were very much two sides of the same coin.

This inspired me to come up with my own unique approach to the issue. Please note that this argument was designed in part to be persuasive by leaving out the more abstract molecular components of evolutin (though a shout out is given toward the bottom to everyone's favorite human chromosome #2), but mostly for mine own amusement. Here's hoping it gives some of you cause to smile as well.
"Adaptation over time is evolution, much as in Chris's red-purple-blue example, gradual change over time eventually leaves us with something completely different. It may be hard to draw the line where the change has become macro, but it's clear eventually that it is.

Just for fun, think of a human. Now we are going to gradually alter this human through a series of adaptations that we know, via their vestigial remnants, have occurred.

Firstly we have the Coccyx, or “tail bone.” We call it the tail bone because it is exactly that, the bone that provided structural support to the tail of an earlier version of us. Humans have been born with tails though, it's odd, but not inhuman.

So let's go a step further, humans have ear muscles that for the vast majority are completely functionless. If we couldn't move our head horizontally without turning our whole upper body (as is the case in many mammals including lower primates) then these muscles would be very useful in allowing us to listen in a specific direction for things like threat detection. As it stands though, we can swivel our neck about and most of our ears stay in place, even though we have (under-formed) muscles for moving them. But of course again, there are people able to move their ears about, so we are still looking at a human.

The plantaris muscle in our leg was thought for a long time to be a tendon, and is often confused as being a nerve by freshman med students. It is however, another under-formed muscle that serves nearly no function in human beings, it is often surgically removed when muscle tissue is needed elsewhere, and in fact roughly 9% of humans are born without it, to no real detriment. Humans have very specialized feet for bipedal motion, we don't really grab things with our feet (save the odd coin off the carpet). Other primates however have feet that look much more like hands than do ours, and they are used for gripping things regularly. They do this with the help of a larger version of the same plantaris muscle. So we have a muscle that some version of us used to grab things with our feet. Look at a human foot and imagine the toes are just a bit longer and the “palm” just a bit shorter. A pretty minor adaptation by itself. But our imagined human is starting to look pretty odd.

Another minor adaptation, we know some earlier version of us was quite a bit hairier. I'm sure there are plenty of ways to show this to be true, but again, for fun, let's take a vestigial behavior (rather than body part or gene (of which there are many, that would do little for building our picture)) as evidence. When humans are cold or experiencing emotions such as fear a common involuntary response is the formation of “goosebumps.” This reaction does not serve to help humans at all in either of these cases. We do see the same reaction in mammals with considerably more hair than us, and the benefit in either case is clear. In response to temperature, the goosing causes an extra layer of air to be trapped between the skin and the atmosphere, helping to keep warm. In response to emotions like fear, the puffing out of the fur causes the animal to appear slightly larger which can serve to help deter a threat. The fact that we have this behavior strongly suggests that it was at some point useful, meaning we were a good bit hairier. Again, some of us are hairier than others, so it's not hard to imagine a state prior to an adaptation where we were on average much more covered in body hair.

Each of these changes on its own is a very minor adaptation that we have very strong reason to believe has occurred. Now try really hard to picture a human with all of these differences at once. It's hard to say for sure what you are seeing is human, your at the very least half way to purple. And this is a very small sample size of physical adaptations that have left behind visible remnants, I could go on, though I see little reason to. And while these vestigial structures (and behavior) are overall less convincing than the DNA evidence (human chromosome #2 for example, or the presence of an inhibited L-gulonolactone oxidase gene), it was a good deal more entertaining I think."