Saturday, December 26, 2009
The comparisons between North America's First People and the Na'vi is direct in James Cameron's Avatar, a film that surpasses the hype and draws you in literally with its 3D technology so real you feel like you can reach out and touch it. I walked out of the theater wanting to be a Na'vi who lives on Pandora. If you've missed the back story you can brush up here, where Roger Ebert suggests that we can find allegory about contemporary politics in this film and that we can, but we can also discover an echo of the deep roots, the very foundations of America in the story of Avatar. Just as the humans went to conquer Pandora so the Europeans came to America to claim it as their own. Fast forward to modern times and the land left to Native Americans just happens to sit on top of some of the most coveted resources from gold on Western Shoshone land to coal on the Navajo Reservation to prime real estate on the San Francisco Peaks, to oil in Canada where the largest modern ecological disaster is unfolding in Alberta and altering the lives of Canada's First Nations. So it is on Pandora where the humans want the resources underneath the Na'vi's home.
CNN's Tom Charity dubbed it "dances with wolves in outer space" as a marine becomes Na'vi, but I think he missed the point. Avatar is about us finding our way home, to our true selves. This is about human beings on earth coming back to our connection. What makes us feel alive? Do you feel alive? Are you happy with the way the world unfolds around you? Maybe it's time to wake up. Are we awake? Can we wake up? What do things look like if we wake up? Does the most coveted thing still look like money? Do we still worship it as our motivating God or does that change?
Mr. Cameron spins dreams like a master weaver. I could see you and me reflected in this film and I could dream a new story for our future, one where our collective human culture reconnects to reverence for the land, and respect for the reason we can sustain life at all, our earth. I could dream that we would discover the fundamental beauty in the world around us and our power to shape it with the choices of the everyday. Pandora and the culture of the Na'vi calls to me, not because of its fantasy, its outerspace otherness, but because it is our own story waiting to be told.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
As Christmas rolls around the corner, the season of gift giving is upon us. Some savvy shoppers, observant friends, and those with the go-getter spirit unafraid of wielding long traffic hours and elbows in store fronts will find Christmas a zestful challenge.
Others will find it a claustrophobia of deja vu, a performance part that repeats yearly and still others will find the experience a happy medium.
Unlike previous years I find myself much more attracted to virtual gifts. My philosophy is that if I must send or receive a gift, it might as well be a gift that won't cozy up to a landfill in the future. Also, stupid gifts (which I can unintentionally give in my last minute panic) in virtual worlds hold a certain pizazz they lack in the real world. For example, a "tripped out escalator" from Detroit is actually rather cool in VR, though the hard copy (glass snow-globe) will not likely capture the joy you were hoping for in person.
After a bit of searching I found a wealth of gift options that are virtual, always playful and sometimes meaningful.
Ning launched its virtual gifts this year, you can give to your friends on twitter with twesents and twitgiftly. Gifts in 3D targeted for iPhone users are now available, as are the old staples of virtual cards and flowers. My favorite gifts are on facebook. Yes, you can launch a rash of gift giving to your farmville neighbors and give disney gifts or plant gifts to your 400 friends until your credit runs out, but for those really really special friends I'm into facebook's (newly expanded) gift area where you can give music, or charity gifts. Hit your causes app, go to gifts and you'll fnd things like a Kiva piggy bank, or a WWF Panda or a cute puppy where the money goes to the Humane Society.
In a culture weighted down with stuff, in some cases virtual exchange makes sense and if you choose charity giving, it can meaningfully contribute to those truly in need.