Saturday, November 20, 2010

Re: Two Views of “Avatar” (New York Review of Science Fiction, April, 2010 #260)

Yes, the whole kit-and-caboodle of “Avatar” is lifted from various SF tropes, as both authors aptly demonstrate. But for all of that, “Avatar” is a unique cinematic experience that does, indeed, evoke the sense of wonder that is at the heart of the SF experience. While Darrell Schweitzer rather pooh-poohs Cameron’s manifold clichés and none too subtly trivializes the Big Ideas evoked, it is all too easy for a jaded cynic to reduce “Avatar” to "Dances With Wolves" in Space. But even if it is, so what? Few if any of my high school students have seen the Costner film (released before they were born), so for them “Avatar” was a breathtakingly original movie with a moral lesson.

It is no secret that western industrial society has lost its primordial connection to Nature. The virtue of Cameron’s film is that this very idea is brilliantly evoked. We are a part of the Web of Life, and this is one important lesson at the heart of the film. A lesson, by the way, that young people (and not only young people) desperately need to learn. The evil Corporation that is willing to commit ecocide (not to mention genocide) to support its bottom line is playing out across this Planet every day. Was Cameron being trite by promoting the notion that there are higher values than economics? Or by suggesting that machines can turn human beings into drones? Or by dramatizing the idea that ‘progress’ comes at the cost of indigenous people’s lives?

It is all too easy to look at the surface tropes of “Avatar” and bemoan its lack of originality. But the deeper themes that this movie explores are not trite clichés. They are the real world nexus of politics, economics, corporate greed and exploitation, and the alarming rise of corporate mercenary forces.

Ultimately, “Avatar” was uplifting because Life overcame Death, the Gaiean biosphere overcame the corporate machine that would destroy it, and because ‘people’ triumphed over prejudice and madness. Lessons that neither I nor my students relegate to the trivial.
email joke....

A duck walks into a pub and orders a pint of beer and a ham sandwich.

The barman looks at him and says, "Hang on! You're a duck!"

"I see your eyes are working," replies the duck.

"And you can talk!" exclaims the barman.

"I see your ears are working, too," says the duck. "Now if you don't mind, can I have my beer and my sandwich please?"

"Certainly, sorry about that," says the barman as he pulls the duck's pint. "It's just we don't get many ducks in this pub. What are you doing round this way?"

"I'm working on the building site across the road," explains the duck. "I'm a plasterer."

The flabbergasted barman cannot believe the duck and wants to learn more, but
takes the hint when the duck pulls out a newspaper from his bag and proceeds to
read it.

So, the duck reads his paper, drinks his beer, eats his sandwich, bids the barman
good day and leaves.

The same thing happens for two weeks.

Then one day the circus comes to town.

The ringmaster comes into the pub for a pint and the barman says to him, "You're with the circus, aren't you? Well, I know this duck that could be just brilliant in your circus. He talks, drinks beer, eats sandwiches, reads the newspaper and everything!"

"Sounds marvelous," says the ringmaster, handing over his business card. "Get him to give me a call."

So the next day when the duck comes into the pub the barman says, "Hey Mr. Duck, I reckon I can line you up with a top job, paying really good money."

"I'm always looking for the next job," says the duck. "Where is it?"

"At the circus," says the barman.

"The circus?" repeats the duck.

"That's right," replies the barman.

"The circus?" the duck asks again. “With the big tent?"

"Yeah," the barman replies.

"With all the animals who live in cages, and performers who live in caravans?" says
the duck.

"Of course," the barman replies.

"And the tent has canvas sides and a big canvas roof with a hole in the middle?"
persists the duck.

"That's right!" says the barman.

The duck shakes his head in amazement, and says …..

"What the fuck would they want with a plasterer??!"

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mayapan, Yucatan Peninsula,

Sat June 5, 2010

Imagining the End of Life as we know it. Not something we are wont to dwell upon, yet here it is:

By September, 2010 our ‘local’ Biosphere will be radically altered by the vast quantities of deadly toxins mixing in the Gulf of Mexico and heading out to Sea. The Ecology not just of the Gulf and the States that form it, but the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf Stream will be negatively impacted. To what degree of harm no one can say yet. But over the course of this summer it will become increasingly apparent as the data becomes available.

The BP/Government nexus will no longer be relevant because Science will tell the tale. The evidence and data from marine biologists, ecologists, environmentalists, and all kinds of primary researchers will overwhelm “official” pronunciamento.

Generally marginalized in the media and by politicians, academics must get over being camera shy and come to the fore in the analysis of this catastrophy.

Addendum: November 19, 2010

5 months later....How naive and optimistic that an ongoing inquiry by academics and government agencies would be establishing the facts, refering the guilty to the Courts (and bringing the National Guard back from Afghanistan to rebuild the Gulf Coast. Hahahah....)
Irish jokes I got in an email back in March:

Six retired Irishmen were playing poker in O'Leary's home when Paddy Murphy loses $500 on a single hand, clutches his chest, and drops dead. Showing respect for their fallen brother, the other five continue playing standing up at the table.

Michael O'Connor ultimately looks around and asks, “Oh, me boys, someone got's to tell Paddy's wife. Who will it be?”

They draw straws. Paul Gallagher picks the short one. They tell him to be discreet, be gentle, don't make a bad situation any worse, and continued along those lines until he succeeded in convincing them he was the right man to convey the news.

“Discreet??? I'm the most discreet Irishmen you'll ever meet. Discretion is me middle name. Leave it to me.”

Gallagher goes over to Murphy's house and knocks on the door. Mrs. Murphy answers, and asks what he wants.

Gallagher declares, “Your husband just lost $500, and is afraid to come home.”

“Tell him to drop dead!” says Murphy's wife.

“I'll go tell him.” says Gallagher.


Into a Belfast pub comes Paddy Murphy, looking like he'd just been run over by a train. His arm is in a sling, his nose is broken, his face is cut, and bruised, and he's walking with a limp.

“What happened to you?” asks Sean, the bartender.

“Michael O'Connor and me had a fight,” says Paddy.

“That little O'Connor,” says Sean, “he couldn't do that to you, he must have had something in his hand.”

“That he did,” says Paddy, “a shovel is what he had, and a terrible lickin' he gave me with it.”

“Well,” says Sean, “you should have defended yourself. Wouldn’t it have been a fairer fight if you had grasped something also?”

“Well that I did,” said Paddy, “Mrs. O'Connor's breast, and a thing of beauty it was; but useless in a fight.”


An Irishman who had a little too much to drink is driving home from the city one night and, of course, his car is weaving violently all over the road.

A cop pulls him over. 'So,' says the cop to the driver, 'where have ya been?'

'Why, I've been to the pub of course,' slurs the drunk.

“Well,” says the cop, “it looks like you've had quite a few to drink this evening.”

“I did all right,” the drunk says with a smile.

'Did you know,' says the cop, standing straight, and folding his arms across his chest, 'that a few intersections back, your wife fell out of your car?'

'Oh, thank heavens,' sighs the drunk. 'For a minute there, I thought I'd gone deaf.'


Mary Clancy goes up to Father O'Grady after his Sunday morning service, and she's in tears.

He says, 'So what's bothering you, Mary my dear?'

She says, 'Oh, Father, I've got terrible news. My husband passed away last night.'

The priest says, 'Oh, Mary, that's terrible. Tell me, Mary, did he have any last requests?'

She says, 'That he did, Father.'

The priest says, “What did he ask, Mary?”

She says, “He said, Please Mary, put down that damn gun....”


A drunk staggers into a Catholic Church, enters a confessional booth, sits down, but says nothing.

The Priest coughs a few times to get his attention, but the drunk continues to sit there.

Finally, the Priest pounds three times on the wall.

The drunk mumbles, “Ain't no use knockin, there's no paper on this side either.”
See how fast I can kick and punch. Blinding. A one-two kick and punch. That’s all I need to start/end a ‘fight’. But the founder of Aikido needed only to stand and his ‘opponents’ would respectfully withdraw. That is the essence of Ai-ki-do.

I love to kick, though, which is why Taikwondo appealed to me. But a broken foot, a cracked toe and a thumped toe convinced me otherwise. But I could do it. I loved it. But my hip and my newly broken bones held me up half way to the Black Belt. I made Camo with 2 stripes, but my bones thwarted me.

I still love the moves and they are now a part of my physicality, my existence. I have always loved kicking. Indeed, my most memorable kick was on a Beach north of Boston when my thigh knocked my glasses off and I lost them forever, and had to drive Val’s VW Beetle back home. Luckily, I had a pack Lucky Strikes to mitigate the stress.

That was one high kick!!

Straight up beginning with knee to shoulder, and then thigh to shoulder. Straight up. Punting as it were. A kick that raises you off the ground. That’s the Martial Arts (cf.

I was at a party at a Castle on the North Shore….this is the late 1970s or so…...and I was at the Shore and decided to practice my kicks and kicked my eyeglasses right off my face and lost forever. I was without glasses for a while until I was able to buy a new pair (Lenscrafter no doubt).

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is the essential Martial Arts defying Gravity film. From Amazon, “But the result is a seamless blend of action, romance, and social commentary in a populist film that, like its young star Zhang, soars with balletic grace and dignity. --Eugene Wei

Populist? Wow. Reading about the death of the populist movement after World War One and the subsequent Death of the Liberal Class (Chris Hedges, 2010) it seems a bit anachronistic not to say archaic to use the term ‘populist’ when describing anything - movies, movements, newspapers and periodicals, books and popular uprisings, anything as populist unless you want the stench of socialism attached.

That’s what we want to believe. What we are taught from cradle to grave. And despite commentators such as George Orwell, Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken and a slew of others we refuse to accept the facts in front of our faces. We’d rather believe the Lie, the fantasy that the Armed Forces of the World can sort things out for our benefit.

A Trillion a year since forever. What can We do with such nearly unlimited funding? Have a World rid of industrial/corporate Arms Merchants? Fat chance. Which is exactly the Problem. Why do the Masters of War hold sway over the rest of Us? The US seems to be in the grip of a Worldwide Military Hegemony of our own making.

I don’t get it. Since shortly after Nine Eleven Buzsh invaded Iraq and started a War...even though he had already commanded troops to scope out Afghanistan in the search for “bin Laden”. The latest “Hitler”. The Boogey Man in the shadows.

What fucking Bullshit. Show and Tell Puppet Theater for the benefit of Mr. Kite (there will be a show tonight on trampoline…)

Boy!! Reading Chris Hedges is mind blowing. Who is a better ‘reporter’ on the current State of Affairs afflicting Us? He rips the scab off by exposing the History of our Disease (dis-ease, cf. Being and Time). Hedges is the consummate term paper writer. His 200 some odd page discourses are models of philosophizing with an axe. For he is in a very real sense (cf, Monty Python and the Holy Grail) a kind of Socrates exploring the root of our ignorance, our forgetfulness because we have been beguiled by mind fuckers.

The propagandists, corporatists and bankers who emerged and who prospered during the 1914-1918 War. Death of the Liberal Class is, like the last two of his books, irresistibly good writing that explores America, explores Us. Like Mencken who went to Dayton, TN to witness the Scopes trial, Hedges reports from Reality [not from a studio. That’s the all important difference. Reporting from the field, so to speak, versus reading a script on tv.]

Reading versus viewing. Oi!!
I do both, no doubt. But I do both. I miss a lot of tv (and movies), but that’s a price I’m willing to pay in order to read. I strive for discretionary viewing and reading.

I want to read guys like Chris Hedges; I want to listen to guys like Noam Chomsky; I want to watch documentaries by guys like Adam Curtis, Jonathan Miller and Richard Dawkins and a multitude of other ‘outside the box’ thinkers. Just as, LOL, Charles Darwin is still outside the box. Which is why this massive archive of reasonableness is virtually unknown by the populace (cf, the populist movement of the pre-WWI America that Hedges reports on in this book).