Archive for December, 2009

The Avatar Experience

December 26, 2009

On Christmas Day, I went to go see “Avatar” and I left the theater thinking I had seen one of the best movies of the decade. I thought it was amazing–the visual effects, the acting, the story, and the 3D experience. The story brought a myriad of emotions with it too, and it feels like you are almost like you are there. I’ll explain how, but if you haven’t seen the trailer yet, see it below.

I have heard that James Cameron first wrote the script to “Avatar” as far back as 1994 and had hoped to have it in theaters before the year 2000. After watching the visual effects of the movie, I am thankful that he waited, because technology 10 years ago would have no way been able to take on such a huge project. “Jurassic Park III” tried to use CGI animation around that time and failed miserably. Needless to say, the world is ready for Avatar today.

Deciphering messages, politics, and the “Dens of Infidelity”

After I watched the movie, I began thinking about the subtle politics that bubbled up to the surface during the film.  The story features a native tribe–the Na’vi–fighting corporate mercenaries mining the natural resources of Pandora, the planet that the Na’vi inhabit. I got the impression that this has a message about the Native Americans and other indigenous people like the Aztecs and South American Indians who fell victim to European colonialism and imperialism, which is something that everyone should learn about. It also could relate to the conflicts in Darfur and Eastern Congo, where tribes are facing complete destruction. Some critics have even suggested a connection to “American Imperialism” in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, I have difficulty accepting this because it could make sense only in a parallel universe–one where a complete idiot would use a beautiful, harmonious place like Pandora as a metaphor to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Just the same, if the movie is a caricature of the Iraq War, surely some of the Na’vi tribesmen in the movie would have strapped explosives to their chests, blown themselves up among Na’vi children, and then refer to Pandora as the “Den of Infidelity” like the so-called “resistance” fighters have done in Iraq…that’s the only real way you could drive such a message home. I did take a 60-second break in the middle of the movie to go to the bathroom, but I don’t think the plot managed to work any of this madness into it during that very short time frame.

Inspiration, hope, and adventure

But hidden politics aside (where they belong), the most important message I took from the movie was the need for humanity to appreciate the miracles of the universe we live in. Walking out of the cinema after Avatar really makes you feel that life here on Earth is kinda, well…dull. Think about it–we live in a society where too many of us go through grade school, find a place to function in society, pay taxes, create children to live the same lifestyle, and eventually die. How boring is that?! Is there not so much to life? I really hope that in my lifetime I will see the world change so we can explore the new frontiers–whether its venturing to Mars or exploring the depths of our oceans, which I should say, are as amazing and unknown as the floating mountains and waterfalls on Pandora. Avatar, to me, is a reminder to keep moving forward in exploring our home–from the bottom of the sea to the highest Cosmos–and to appreciate it for what it is. The world today is lacking in mysticism and adventure, something that at one time was human nature. Unfortunately, because we’ve settled for so much laziness and mediocrity in our society, we’ve forgotten what its truly like to live on the edge. As Sugarland would say, “there’s gotta be something more”.

At the moment, I am planning to see Avatar a second time…its vying with “Slumdog Millionaire” for my personal title of “Movie of the Year” and I think seeing it again will help me decide. The former, believe it or not, played a major role in my decision to travel to South Asia and see India for myself…Avatar, while completely fictional, makes me wish to do something more with my life, too. Maybe I’ll go buy a telescope or go out and visit the majestic Farallon Islands.

Avatar is an amazing journey that you, the viewer, get to take part in. My legs actually felt wobbly during some of the flight scenes over huge mountains because I felt like I was there.  Its a visual effects masterpiece and a futuristic story that feels almost like Lawrence of Arabia meets Pocahontas, and even Titanic, James Cameron’s last major film. I have yet to meet anyone who was disappointed in the film…its almost impossible. Cinemas across the country are erupting to applause to the movie even as I write this.

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Toby Keith brings reality to Norway

December 11, 2009

As the attacks on President Barack Obama intensify over his Afghanistan policy, country music star Toby Keith is standing beside him–supporting his decision with a performance in Oslo, Norway.

While I have my disagreements over whether or not Obama deserved the Peace Prize, it goes without question that an effort to stabilize Afghanistan by crushing the Taliban fall under the category of trying to bring peace to the world. Even the Dalai Lama, who many see as the most peaceful man on earth, has said that fanatical extremists like the Taliban cannot be reasoned with. Some of the European “peace activists” and the American leftists back home who have gone up in arms (sic) over Obama’s surge strategy need to be reminded of this. No amount of reasoning and dialogue is going to stop the Taliban from hating women, blowing stuff up, or wanting to bring about a global backslide into the dark ages.

From AP:

OSLO — There’s no reason to apologize for supporting U.S. war efforts, American country singer Toby Keith said Friday, just hours before performing at the annual Nobel Peace Prize concert.

Keith, whose 2002 saber-rattling hit “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” was inspired by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said he stands by President Barack Obama’s decision to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.

Keith’s appearance at the downtown Oslo Spektrum arena, scheduled for 1900 GMT (2 p.m. EST), has been questioned by Norwegians dismayed that a performer known for a fervent pro-war anthem is playing at a show focused on peace.

The musician dismissed the criticism.

“If President Obama has to send (more) troops into Afghanistan to fight evil, I’ll pull for our guys to win, and I won’t apologize for it,” Keith said. “I’m an American, and I do pull for our team to fight evil.”

His comments come the day after Obama traveled to Oslo to collect his Nobel Peace Prize and defended his decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. “Make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world,” Obama said in Thursday’s speech.

The peace prize laureate normally attends the concert, which is held in his or her honor. Obama’s seat, however, will remain empty. The president left the Norwegian capital early Friday morning, blaming a jammed schedule for cutting the usual three-day stay to just over 24 hours.

The Taliban are no doubt angry about Obama’s decision, so Afghans and Pakistanis at the center of this battle might want to avoid going to mosques and shopping centers for a while. The insurgents tend to take their violence to civilian areas when things don’t go their way.

So dry your tears, I say

December 8, 2009

If you have been following the news these last few days, you might like this video. Just the same, if you haven’t watched the news, don’t start now. The horrendous terrorist strikes that have killed hundreds in Iraq and Pakistan threaten to break the will of humanity…and the only way you can get comfort from this on cable news is if you want to hear about Tiger Woods’ half-dozen mistresses instead. So let’s light up the darkness, if I may take a cue from Will Smith’s character in “I am Legend”.

I was first introduced to Bob Marley’s message a couple of years ago when  I learned about his “Smile Jamaica!” concert in Kingston, where he came out on stage to share the love of Reggae music even after being shot by gunmen in his home. Despite suffering bullet wounds alongside his wife and producer, who were also hit, Marley sang some of his greatest and most inspirational songs to the thousands of people who had gathered in the war-ravaged city.

This man has changed my life in so many ways.

Once again, Khamenei’s thugs set their sights on their own people

December 6, 2009

It’s both fascinating and sickening to see how the clerical regime in Iran believes it will intimidate the western world by killing its own people. As if the Pentagon, the CIA, or the Mossad will look at the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and their Basiji subhuman accomplices with fear because they have the courage to ride by on motorcycles and open fire on unarmed, defenseless students. Well they really do seem to believe this, and Iranian students are once again getting ready to face down Khamenei’s goons, who will have every weapon from kidnapping to rape and murder at their disposal.

From Times Online:

December 7 is traditionally the date when the Iranian Government stages rallies to commemorate the deaths of three student demonstrators killed by the Shah’s security forces in 1953. The tables have now turned. Today the security forces will attempt to crush student demonstrations against its own brutality and repression.

On campuses across Iran, students outraged by the regime’s alleged theft of the presidential election in June, and the subsequent suppression of the opposition, will attempt to hijack the state-sponsored Students’ Day rallies — just as they did last month’s commemoration of the US embassy siege and the annual Palestinian solidarity rallies in September. The regime cannot cancel these events without losing face, but it is doing its utmost to stop today’s protests.

Yesterday security forces began to seal off campuses in Tehran and warned nearby householders not to open their doors to protesters or let anyone take pictures from their roofs. The regime has cut internet services to hamper the opposition’s preparations, and banned journalists employed by foreign news organisations from working on the streets. Dozens of student leaders are understood to have been arrested.

Despite flooding the streets with police and breaking up anything that resembles a non-government sponsored rally, the Islamic Republic has been unable to put a lid down on the anger over last June’s presidential election. While some may disagree with me, I think the future of global extremism is centered around Iran’s internal struggle…a collapse of the Mullah regime would be a deathblow to their beneficiaries in the Middle East, such as Hezbollah, and to some extent, Hamas. I also think that the next chapter in Iran’s future is more important than the debate over Afghanistan, which has already become a political meltdown among the United States, its politicians, and it’s allies.

Persia was not always this way and many Iranians know that. It was once the most powerful and advanced society in the world. It produced inventions that we still use today. Iranians are intelligent–most of them who live in the United States, Europe and other parts have found wealth and success. They hold prominent positions in society in the medical, legal, and technology fields. Therefore, its all the more insulting when Khamenei thinks he can play the “Marg bar Amreeka” card and expect to lead his sheep back to the slaughterhouse.

I’m not expecting anything from my government tomorrow–what, with singers bickering onstage and all–but I hope that everyone who believes that freedom and the right to self-expression to be human rights will join me in solidarity with the Iranians who will try to stand up against their oppression tomorrow, whether they manage to defy the government and organize rallies or if they are forced to stay home and wish for a better tomorrow.

Matthews lets the air out

December 2, 2009

I thought it was dumb when Chris Matthews asked “is it a crime to call Al-Qaeda?” while discussing the shooting at Fort Hood. I also thought it was dumb when he practically giggled with Keith Olbermann about the tingle that was running up his leg after Obama spoke.  This tops it all though.

Meanwhile, Michael Moore has set himself loose on Obama, saying that he is the new “War President” and comparing his speech to Bush’s surge address in 2007. Its almost as if the American far-left is trying to eat its own head with all of this madness taking place.

Off topic, but in case you need it, here’s something to lighten the mood…watch the Iraqi “shoe thrower” get a shoe chucked at him.

Startling Numbers

December 1, 2009

Where do you think the most dangerous place on earth would be? Would it be in Somalia? Iraq? Perhaps somewhere else in the Muslim World, like Afghanistan or Pakistan?

An overpass in Tijuana, Mexico. Drug cartels have taken to using them as a way to show off their victims. Photo/Corey Hunt

President Obama is set to define the Afghan Mission as a war of vital defense and many of his advisers have labeled the Taliban strongholds of Pakistan as the world’s most dangerous places. But guess again. The most dangerous place for for well, just about anyone, is right over the US border, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s volatile border city of Ciudad Juarez has the world’s highest murder rate, followed by Caracas, Venezuela, and the US city of New Orleans, a Mexican security watchdog said Wednesday.

Ciudad Juarez — the scene of regular and brutal score-settling between rival drug gangs — has 130 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, said the Citizen’s Council for Public Security (CCSP) in a statement.

Caracas has 96 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, and New Orleans registers 95, said the Mexican non-governmental organization, which based its figures on media reports and an FBI report for the United States.

Caracas was listed as the murder capital of the world in the September 2008 Foreign Policy magazine, quoting official figures of 130 murders per 100,000 inhabitants.

The Mexican NGO put Baghdad, Iraq, in 10th position with 40 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, and another Mexican border city, Tijuana, in fourth place with 73.

I’ll make this point through another comparison. In the month of November, 88 civilians died violent deaths in Iraq, along with 34 members of the Iraqi Police and Army. After 6 years of war, this is considered to be the calmest month ever in Iraq, which now has a murder rate roughly equivalent to the United States. By contrast, more than 200 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez last month, making the Mexican border city pretty much the world’s deadliest place. Remember, Juarez is a city of 1.6 million people, while Iraq is roughly the size of California, making these numbers all the more startling. The incessant shooting sprees, abductions, and even grenade attacks have led some in the global media to believe that the region is “bordering on anarchy”. Reporters who embed with Mexican police and army units follow the same protocol as they would in a war zone, donning bullet-proof vests and helmets. The demented acts of violence committed by the drug cartels mirrors intimidation methods used by Al-Qaeda, redefining the meaning of a terrorist threat.

So what can be done in Ciudad Juarez? Well, the citizens of the border city are starting to feel that an international peacekeeping force may be the only option left, believe it or not. The deployment of thousands of Mexican Army soldiers and Federal Police has only made the cartels, who focus much of their energy on killing one another, even more aggressive. Its basically a ground zero and a gathering point for scumbags, low-lives, and the most grotesque individuals our societies on both sides of the border has to offer. In addition to the drug cartels; sex offenders, serial killers, and other organized crime also operate with impunity across the city, which has resulted in the unsolved murders of hundreds of young women. American citizens should think about this before going out for a fix. After all, its our obsession with drugs that helps these people operate in the first place. A visit to a Mexican border city might be a D.A.R.E. officer’s best way to keep kids off of drugs.