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Tue, Feb 9th - 6:49AM

What the Na'vi Could Learn from Jake Sully
After Jake Sully completes his tests and becomes a man in the Omicataya tribe, he visits the trees of the ancestors with Netiriyi.

She tells him that now that he has become a man of "The People," he has the right to choose any tree from which to make his bow. Also, he may have his choice of any woman in the village.

Netiriyi, obviously suffering a heavy heart, names some possible candidates that Jake might consider claiming as his mate.

After some playful jibing, Jake says, "I've already chosen, but she also needs to choose me."

Just as holds true on our own planet, no culture is perfect. No culture is rock solid noble and wise. The Na'vi may have been keyed into their planet, into their mother Eywa. But when it came to this practice of the Na'vi culture, it was obvious that women were considered secondary to men.

No one should be considered property that another can claim. This was perhaps the greatest lesson that the Na'vi could learn from Jake Sully. 
Comment (6)

Mon, Feb 8th - 1:02PM

Does James Cameron Hold No Hope for Humanity?
Before I begin, I have to state that I thoroughly enjoyed James Cameron's "Avatar." Still there were some things about the movie that bothered me. I recently posted my thoughts on the 2D version versus the 3D version that you can read here.

Nothing's Changed in 300 Years?
I, for one, would like to believe that we would have come much farther than how Cameron depicts us in his film. The year is 2154, but the corporation that is mining for unobtainium on Pandora acts pretty much like those who built the railroad or mined or staked claims on land long since occupied by Native Americans.

Today, such abhorrent activity would be staunchly opposed and blocked by activists. I see this as us evolving our cultural ethics as a whole. If in 150 years we've regressed to acting like our ancestors who lived 150 years ago, our future looks truly bleak.

In 2154, I highly doubt that we would behave in the manner in which Cameron depicts. And don't even get me started on the Marine mentality that is portrayed in this movie.

Nothing's Changed in 150 Years?
Something I disliked even more was how Cameron's team spent not one ounce of energy in updating or "futurizing" the products of our culture, aside from some of the technologies:

  • Clothes - Every item of clothing that the humans wear on Pandora is taken directly from our present day.
  • Hair styles - Every haircut is typical of the characters they belong to as they exist today.
  • Lingo - The military speak flat out ate at my every nerve. The lingo each generation of soldier uses changes. Any one of the lines that the marines in this movie spewed could be stripped out of any number of current military-based films.
  • Attitudes - From the golfball-putting corporate lack of concern to the scientists berating the mercenaries' lack of intelligence, the same divisiveness that exists between these sectors is firmly in place in "Avatar."
  • Technology - I'm not completely up-to-date on current military technologies, but most of the gear that the mercenaries don is taken straight out of our current military attire.

Cameron's Attempt to Avoid Alienation
One of the largest criticisms of sci-fi movies is how producers tend to don their characters in "futuristic" attire. The clothes come off as hoakey to most and often keep people from engaging the story.

The recently revisited "Battlestar Galactica" television series changed this long-running paradigm. At first, the way that so much of the attire and technologies matched those I could find in my own world held me back from appreciating the story. But, that's because I'm a major sci-fi fan who has come to expect producers to be more creative than that.

Over time, the lack of creativity on the BSG wardrobe department stopped bothering me, as the story drew me in. It also drew in many fans that wouldn't have existed, including a council of the United Nations. The lack of overly sci-fi elements like wardrobe, allowed the usually non-sci-fi set to more readily accept and appreciate the story.

Perhaps, James Cameron took a queue from the producers of BSG.
Comment (7)

Sun, Feb 7th - 11:42AM

Avatar - 2D vs. 3D
Yesterday (6 February 2010), I finally broke down and spent the extra dollars and time to travel 3 towns over to watch the Real 3D version of James Cameron's "Avatar."

I thought that after two months in theaters that choosing to attend an 11:55 AM viewing would afford a relatively empty theater. Whenever a new hit movie comes out, I purposely avoid watching the film for a few weeks. Packed movie houses are no fun for me.

My sons and I arrived a full ½ hour early, only to step up to a long ticket line. After buying our tickets shortly before the show sold out, I surveyed the audience. Most of those in line and the audience did not look like the typical sci-fi going set.

I considered that the recently announced Oscar nominations were directly responsible for this resurgence in attendance. The confused look and desperate scrambling of the staff seemed to verify my suspicions.

As we walked into the theater, I was immediately discouraged to see that the only available seats were near the bottom. I considered asking for a refund and waiting another month but decided to tough it out.

With our Real 3D glasses in place, we were ready to see if the technology lived up to the hype.

Before I begin my review of the technology, two things:
  • I already viewed the 2D version when it first came out. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, I didn't find it really offered anything unique or revolutionary to the sci-fi genre. Overall, I thought the dialogue was downright cliché and that world and creatures of Pandora still looked too animated for me to completely suspend disbelief.
  • I strongly believe that "Avatar" would have been all but ignored by the Academy had it not been produced by one of their darlings - James Cameron.
The First Ten Minutes Were the Most Painful
If I included the 3D movie trailers, this subheading should read "The First Fifteen Minutes." As I donned my glasses, my eyes went buggy. Instead of a clearly focused 3D experience, I felt immediate strain on my eyes and the images were in double vision around the periphery. It took about ten minutes into the movie before the double vision went away, but the eye strain remained.

Space Scenes Weren't Any More Impressive
As Jake Sully emerges from stasis, a few drops of condensation coalesce before my eyes. The stasis chamber was quite a 3D extravaganza (but my eyes still hadn't fully acclimated to the glasses).

The camera then pans out to reveal the ship on which Jake is traveling and Pandora with all its accompanying planets and moons. This was my first moment of feeling letdown by the hype. The entire space scene lacked any extra depth. It looked exactly the same as the 2D version.

Errors Were More Obvious in 3D
There were several incidences when I noticed glaring errors in the 3D version that I hadn't noticed in the 2D version. Most obvious is when a character's hand will move straight through another object, like the floating seed pods or plants.

Also a bit too obvious was the absence of movement of some plant life when others moved. For example, as Jake and Netiriyi are talking while walking on one of those mammoth tree limbs, the leaves are blowing in the breeze. The ferns and other vegetation near their feet, however, stand still.

The Loss of Scale
When the Omiticayan shaman fails to successfully transfer Grace's soul into her avatar, Jake's avatar holds the deceased doctor's hand. The Na'vi are a giant people, so Grace's hand looks like a toddler's when Jake holds it. Later in the movie, Netiriyi holds Jake's human body and he reaches up to touch her face. The difference between their hand sizes reduces greatly, his hand looking only slightly smaller than hers.

The Errors Were Forgivable
The thing that makes Cameron's attempt at improving the 3D experience is that the technicians put much more effort into how much detail they provided. Unlike the 3D experience of yesteryear that favored obvious objects (like traveling bullets and pointing fingers), Cameron's team gave most all objects the 3D treatment.

The amount of effort involved to pull this off is intense and costly, so I can forgive Cameron for the minor technical errors.

The Little Things Were the Most Impressive
I had anticipated much more focus on the objects used in the battle scenes. On that front, I was mildly unimpressed. The little things, though, were the best. In particular, rain drops, ash from fires and the floating seed pods were by far the most realistic, the most 3D. Several times, I wanted to brush away the ash cinders.

Real 3D Is Just One Step Closer to True 3D
Overall, the Real 3D technology is an improvement to the red-and-blue 3D that preceded it. However, it still missed the mark for me.

The strain on my eyes was even more pronounced than when I watch a red-and-blue format. In fact, one day later, my eyes are still sore. My sons didn't report any such strain, though, so it might just be me.

When it comes down to it, I don't think I'll ever truly be impressed by 3D technology until it no longer requires the use of special lenses. Only when holographic technologies have been perfected will 3D movies come to fully satisfy me. Although Real 3D is a cool experience, it is merely one more step toward a True 3D experience.

Overall, I feel that the 3D version of "Avatar" is more of a ticket price-raising gimmick. I do not feel the same as all my friends who stated that something must be lost in the 2D version. When it comes down to it, a movie's story must drive you, not the technology used to present it.  

Would I recommend the 3D version over the 2D version? Sure, why not? It will only be in theaters for so long, so why not check it out and see if it lives up to the hype for yourself?

Comment (3)

Thu, Oct 15th - 3:54PM

Climate Ch-ch-changes
"It was so hot this summer," said one of my Alaskan relatives.

"It snowed here in Mass. It rarely if ever snowed here before and never this early," said a former college classmate.

"Our vineyards are drying up," said a Sonoma Valley winery.

For each of these expressed woes, there is an inverse of praise.

"It was so warm this summer," said a second-year Alaskan resident.

"It snowed here in Massachusetts. I even got to build a snow person," said a long-time Boston resident on CNN.

"Our vineyards do better every year," said an Rogue Valley, Oregon, winery.

The only constant in life is change, and the climate is no exception. Where some regions are experiencing the adverse effects of climate change, others benefit from it.

Climate change is indeed cyclical, as many global warming naysayers claim. However, the rate at which the world's climate is changing is not normal.

Too many of the signs point to the sad fact that it's too late to stop this accelerated period of climate change. That doesn't mean we can't do our utmost to slow it down, though.

Here are some things you can do to combat climate change:

Park the car!
This is a huge one. Vehicle emissions account for the single largest factor in creating the pollution responsible for global warming. If you can walk to your destination in 15 minutes, then leave your rig in the driveway. Walk or bike instead.

Resist Gadget Glut!
Whether it's the latest iPhone to come out, the newest version of Amazon Kindle, a brand spanking new GPS, or a margarita making machine, all these cool gadgets are created in factories. Most often, these factories are located in countries with almost no pollutant restrictions.

Boycott Excess Packaging!
Ever get a Lunchable for your kid or sibling? Every single item is sealed in its own little piece of cellophane. And what about that nifty little container? All of these items eventually wind up in a landfill, where they remain for decades. The result is massive piles of trash producing an excess of toxic methane gases.

Don't Be a Green Sheeple!

Too many people trust that the products they purchase are better for the environment. All because the packaging says the product is ecofriendly. People buying organic cotton, for instance, believe that they are doing the right thing for the earth. What they don't know is that it takes 4 times as much land to produce organic cotton, which represents a tremendous drain on already meager water resources. A better alternative is to purchase used clothing from a thrift store or clothing produced from recycled fibers, or even better, hemp!

Consider your options. Put them into play. Fight climate change by changing your habits. As for that wacky weather and its effects on your environment, I say, "Roll with it and embrace the change."
Comment (7)

Sun, Oct 12th - 11:28AM

Mother's Stops Making Cookies
Since 1914, pink and white frosted circus animal cookies have delighted the world. As of Monday, 13 October 2008, the world will lose these whimsical tasty treats. Citing steep increases in raw material costs, Mother's Cookies will cease production of their signature brand.

We miss you already, mama.
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February 2010
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