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instinct
  • 312158.1357

    Superheroes, from hand drawn to 3-D optics, a slippery slope of myth recreated from Roman scale transitions.

  • 312156.1207

  • 312146.1709

  • 312135.1812

  • 31222.0642

    it seems our children need to educate themselves: http://www.detentionslip.org/

    Las Vegas teacher disciplined for denying Holocaust

    Posted: Dec 18, 2009 09:36 PM

    Updated: Dec 18, 2009 06:36 PM PST

    Las Vegas, NV -  A teacher at the Northwest Career and Technical Academy is on suspension through Christmas for telling students that the Holocaust never happened.

    Lori Sublette allegedly also told them last month historic photographs were doctored, text books are inaccurate, and that the Nazis lacked the technology to kill so many people.

    "I was blown away," says Henderson Rabbi Sanford Akselrad.  "When she distorts the Holocaust she not only insults the Jewish people but she sends the message to the students that history can be revised, distorted."

    The Clark County School District says Sublette won't return to school until after Christmas, pending further action.

    Action News went to Sublette's house hoping to get her side of the story.

    However, a woman who was seen inside and overheard saying "there's someone at the door," refused to answer, even after repeated requests.

    Officials with the school district say the curriculum specifically states that teachers must stick to what's in text books, which discuss the Holocaust in depth, and show evidence of it.

    "This speaks to the heart of not only to Jewish identity but what it means to be a teacher and speak truth to children," says Rabbi Akselrad.

    Akselrad says if these allegations prove true, Sublette should not be allowed back in a classroom.

    Police are also investigating a possible hate crime after anti-Semetic text messages were sent to several students.

    After Sublette's alleged comments, several students received texts on their phones saying that someone related to [Adolf] Hitler would cut their throats if the message wasn't forwarded.

    Student Upset Over Graphic 9/11 Film

    SOMERSET, Ky. (Sept. 22) -- A 17-year-old student is seeking counseling after her class at Pulaski County High School watched a short film that showed beheadings and other violence allegedly committed by Muslims, her father said Tuesday.
    Bill Cruey said his daughter Amber was horrified by images of children being injured and dead bodies interspersed with readings from the Quran while watching the film "Fitna," made by the anti-Islam and anti-immigration Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders. The film was shown to the class on Sept. 11.
    "She's very upset with all of this," Cruey told The Associated Press.
    Skip over this conten
    Cruey said he pulled his daughter from the leadership class that viewed the film.
    Pulaski County Superintendent Tim Eaton said Tuesday that the teacher's intent was to commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and discuss the dangers of extremism — "not only of Muslims but other viewpoints, too."
    "The intent of the lesson and discussion was very appropriate," Eaton said. "However, the teacher's choice of the clip was not appropriate, and that's been dealt with.
    "It was poor judgment on this teacher's part."
    Eaton declined to say what action was taken against the teacher, calling it a personnel issue.
    Eaton said the film was shown to about 10 students in the leadership class.
    Cruey said his daughter was so upset by the scenes that a counseling session has been scheduled.
    "She said she has to talk to somebody about it because those images are really upsetting her still," he said. "She can't believe people can be that cruel to each other."
    Since the controversy arose, he said his daughter has been ridiculed and feels like an outcast at the school.
    "She stood up for what's right, and then everybody's kind of teasing her," he said.
    Aly A. Farag, imam at a Louisville mosque, criticized the school for exposing students to a "very tilted and utterly hateful message about a religion."
    "They are blatantly and willingly participating in smearing a religion in front of kids who do not have the full picture," said Farag, a University of Louisville engineering professor.
    Presenting such a message can turn children into "haters, not peacemakers," he said. Farag said almost all Muslims "never showed any pride in Sept. 11, never associated with it, never wanted it to happen."
    The film sparked violent protests around the Muslim world last year for linking Quranic verses with footage of terrorist attacks.
    Since then, Britain has barred Wilders from entering that country because of his anti-Islamic views.
    In the United States, a Nashville, Tenn., hotel turned away a conference in May that featured Wilders. The Loews Vanderbilt Hotel said it canceled the event for the safety and health of guests and employees.
  • 313351.1352

    Not to be misunderstood, our generation's Walt Disney via Werner von Braun, James Cameron carefully combs his five previous sci-fi arcs through the lenses of both The Matrix and the cgi Star Wars Trilogy and comes up with a blatant utopian-eden fantasy named Avatar, more or less a retake of The Abyss's central themes about ecology and technology, now staged across the galaxy (updated from Abyss' salt-water to non-breathable air for humans, a step-up on the movement ladder, but he keeps that bioluminescence vibrating anyway) on a planet not subtly named Pandora (talk about the wrong prophecy from earth mythos).

    The most expensive (anti-war) film ever made is about an invasion of little green-obssessed men (humans) onto a green planet populated by blue-giants, the star-affixed Nav'i who remain somewhat tethered to their planet and its creatures in a manner not unlike a bio-analog version of The Matrix's pulsing digital simulation (plugging into its moonwide broadcast signal). If you're blue, wrap your hair around a local plant and suddenly: who knows what might be under your tannenbaum. We know how strained the film is when Cameron takes his best actor and has her undersell the miracle of Pandora to her superiors (hint: reweave Earth like this and you can save it and make the bucks). Sigourney Weaver's throwaway key monologue (a scene repeat from the much better Aliens) would have us comprehend the revolutionary aspects of Pandora's biome at the expense of the deaf ears of the military-industrial complex that's paying for the project. They're both protector and enemy, a metaphor for the studio that footed the film's bill. They're aiming for the exact same thing the planet achieves by plantlife digging roots and linking botanic and geologic forms, except these business types are using wiring and encryption and credit card access. People still gotta pay for it, yet Pandora the planet is an open source biological wi-fi network waiting for a genetic revolution of information. Is this open source's first massive metaphor? Cameron is so obsessed with the tech-aspects of his film, he shorts our comprehension of his biggest star, the sphere the film is set on. A somewhat 'thinking' (somewhat conscious like it's resident bipeds, the Nav'i), a living planet operating in unity, unlike our own Earthly disconnected networks of animal, plant and geosphere. Disney's Pandora, is a clearer name for this film, whose planet a direct opposite to the Death Star. And absurdly, the Na'vi are as monotonous as the troopers that inhabit the Death Star (the Na'vi, does is read as naive, never use the tree to phone for help; never once try to ride 'the last shadow' themselves, whose riding is the sort of legend equated with the discovery of 'The One" in The Matrix), they remain at a consciousness mezzanine within their planet's potential and Cameron suggests their game-changer (the awakener Sully) must be a specifically disabled outsider, with few preconceived notions of their world. The key to Sully is his lack of legs which gives him an unconscious weightlessness neither the other avatars nor the Na'vi can experience flight through. Cameron shows you his atrophied legs as a taunt, they look pathetic, yet they render his Na'vi unique in many unmentioned ways. 

    Earth by this time, 2154, is a dead planet (the film's first shot, travelling over rainforest, could be a memory of Earth). And humans, thinkers from the dead-planet, bring the usual suspect archetypes, a working class-hero - Sully, a tough as nails scientist (Grace Augustine, an unsubtle reference to the Christian thinker who wrote the autobiographical The Confessions, about a pleasure seeking sinner redeemed), a colonel with self-esteem issues, Cameron wisely glosses over the usual set-up conflicts and goes right for the meat of the journey: whether or not these humans belong on Pandora's Eden. Like most films about the future it's actually about our past. His film is telling us, our way to eden is by reverse thinking to a near past, the moment we began our colonization and rape of the Americas/Africa/Asia; humans must become what they once were and change the outcome, even slyly hinting that we can reverse our invention as a reinvention.  His symbols are still operant, sometimes even vibrant (Pandora is first seen as a metaphor for us in an earth-made mirror, a vast field field of solar panels, an earth-like gem framed by a blue-hued Jupiter copy), the creatures that signify promise are Abyss's spindly bi-valves (they suggest the air in Pandora also has properties of water), the beds one accesses an Avatar through are green hued - a shout out to The Matrix) and the list goes on. The compression is impressive, Sully's got his Military father-figure (his speech to the troops is framed by a window that apes the USA's flag - only now in green), a dead twin (never seen), a Scientist Mother figure (that runs slightly Oedipal once she inhabits her Avatar), a harried corporate golf-pro (again, all humans), a rebellious sister-type played by Michelle Rodriguez (she slips out of the tree assault early like a spoiled child) and an entire array of Nav'i - Natives developed around a cauterized First Mother First Father First Daughter and the first heir (Cameron ejects complexity here, there is no threatening Uncle, the son-heir though contentious is easily impresssed, the real question is, why is he using Earth mythology to show-off an altogether different planetary consciouness - is he unconsciously lampooning it? is he making fun of his own projection?) their customs, and animal life that compete for screentime are the secret stars of the film with the orb itself: Pandora. He even blends the bioforms through a bilateral-symmetry that's more ordered than Earth's (connected- the Lucas inflence here is felt, except Cameron is linking the life forms AND the spaceships slightly differently than what Lucas does), Pandora's Nav'i have flattened noses that appear in other lifeforms, watch the flying creature's quick glance into the camera, it looks just like a Na'vi, a subtle mirror in staring. The unspoken visual elements are sometimes, enragingly brilliant: the bioluminescent 'stars' the Na'vi facially possess suggest, wildly, that the 'planet' (and the spirit of the planet Eyva) sees these stars and then projects them genetically (through time via nature, through genetic patterns that emerge through mating-sequencing across eons) into the individual Na'vi patterns. The planet is, however distant as a controlling force, still connected to these creatures, and weirdly, the Nav'i's consciousness disconnects them from the total system's possibilities- sound familiar? Even though the Na'vi express fear, doubt even rage against the encroaching aliens, their planet doesn't get the message. As chunky as the material is and as blatantly copied as the third act accomplishments are, his real feat is haunting the planet with a feasible antidote to the false simplicities of eco sci-fi. 

    Cameron is best when he makes the process of discovery seem intuitive with deadly force (Jake Sully's avatar Nav'i is told not to look his romantic interest's flying creature in the eyes and then later, as he approaches a herd of them to claim one for himself, he asks her how he will know which one to choose from, she tells him only then the proper choice will try to kill him first). Later on however the brutality of the Nav'i seems to run counterintuitive to the sacred treatment that counterintel agent-Sully's Nav'i avatar receives, when the humans start ripping the Nav'i's forest to shreds (a direct reference to Phantom Menace), they banter about whether Jake is to be trusted. Cameron slides from Flaherty brutalism to DeMilleian chicanery when the audience requires it.  Similar logic-holes surround the half-completed premise of the sleep-wake cycle built into the Avatar program, and Cameron decides to milk it for laughs rather than complexly address what is a crucial, serialized disconnect: the inert Avatar host body 'sleeps' while his human inhabitor is awake.  Imagine what Cameron could have done with a Sully coitus interuptus scene between his Na'vi female and Grace Augustine (Weaver) trying to 'wake' him. Another source of plot-waste is the video-diary Grace forces him to perform, obviously a direct feed to their military and corporate handlers (is Cameron trying to make his audience paranoid of its social-media ties while making mother-figure Grace appear foolish? Cleverly he shows us a reverse of how the computer sees him.). While aspects of utopian bio-genetic structuralism lure the audience with intensive and futurist group eco-therapy, the film seems more concerned plot-wise with our recent past colonizing the Americas and erasing form-connections between native image and knowledge, the Nav'i (Native-Avatars) are dead ringers for the harrassed, evacuated and now nearly erased Indians that now nickname our military's flying hardware. There are enough broken arrows aimed at bullet-proof glass to veer slightly into self parody. The American blockbuster ethos seems like a playground of Native-myths searching for a resurrection in our language (see esp. the Skywalker regime), the way west transformed into third-stage mythmaking (past the scrubby predecessor Europeans). Unfortunately like all unconscious colonizers, Cameron cannot go the extra mile, he's thinking like an American but acting like a King's subject (he's a substrate Lucas that betters him at times, a Kubrick disciple that went sideways), he can't seem to make new myths or new forms beyond those narratives of the early 20th century, he's simply refitting our catastrophe to theirs, a somewhat conservative approach (that's the disconnect, the planet is sure damn weird but the play he's having performed on it is oddly routine), war is war to him, its outcome looks no different than an Iraqi/Vietnam War exodus of technocrats leaving the Green Zone (and they my friend, are doing what everyone does when the film is over, they're our mirror, we ALL have to leave Pandora behind), he still thinks innovation lies in the hybridization between 'freethinkers' like Sully and the static-continuity of local wisdom (a leaky trope taken from James Fenimore Cooper or worse, Kipling); it's Sully after all who does what the Na'vi themselves did not know how to do: he calls in the biological ground and airstrike via the fiber-optic tree (he prays to the econet) AND conquers the forbidden, legendary and flame-painted 'last-shadow' (he has no fear of what the Nav'i fear), all within 25 minutes of screentime. And watch the menial back-and-forth, we think Sully can't decide if he's human or acting Nav'i as a ruse, but of course he's going native, Cameron thinks he can sustain tension on this level of the plot, when really the conflict lay in the how, not the why of it, this is a common failure of recent blockbuster narratives, it's a genre regressing faster than it can evolve. Directors like Cameron haven't gotten scientific about why the product has to be emotional but he's the sharpest at pivoting emotions when the audience needs something besides adrenaline to hold on to.  He crassly uses ancient markers of film-sentimentalism to get us to well-up on cue (he engages James Horner for this unexotic task). The problem at the core of Avatar lies in its activist plotting outmoding craft advancement. A megathinker like Cameron believes that by reverse-engineering propaganda, the film's messages can warn us against our impending eco-disasters here, but he falls into the first paradox of all anti-war/anti-technology 'message' films: the war is too riveting, it drives the pulse rate and brings us back for more. To be as revolutionary as Cameron thinks he is, he had to attack the baseline of humanity: the meaning of the issues, the definitions of the words and symbols we use to discuss ecology and commercial exploitation. Instead Cameron does his work in the casting phase hitting up great actors who embody archetypes that can submit to the film's black and white ideas of good and evil. For all its visual advances, Avatar is still spiritually Manichean, an approach that turns heads without altering them.

    Sully's not employing particularly earth-based innovations but Cameron wants us to think he is, maybe he assumes the final, only worthwhile earth-export is 'thinking outside the box'. The lack of proof is in the videogame: Cameron doesn't fold his mediums, he farms out a paint-by-numbers from Ubisoft simply because the economics require it - Cameron's alter-ego is slightly more the steroided Colonel than the open-minded Sully. Cameron is still a masterful even revolutionary technician despite his considerable conservatism (the action sequences are more riveting than lately Lucas/Spielberg/McTiernan, the optical detailing, gaseous distortions, exhaust streams, and the machinery are staggering in execution, they are not to be missed; and follow-through: the final battle between his G.I. Joe Colonel and Neytiri is a brilliant upgrade of Ripley's loader-assisted battle with the Queen Mother Alien). And his product is carefully visually crafted (he gets the scale shift between human and Na'vi dead-on, an inventive digital lens that captures forest floor alternating with a new eye-popping armageddon scale fluidly, a movie-first outside of Lucas and Spielberg, something Emmerich's Godzilla didn't, Spielberg's War of the Worlds did carefully, and Transformers does intermittently) though his storytelling isn't pantheonic-grade anymore, or maybe it never was. The pairings between technology and bioform are crucial, the Nav'i's flying horses and the "last shadow" equate with the two scales of airframes (Spider and Gunship), Cameron even forms his cockpits as frozen rasterized versions of these creature's heads, and to square the point he applies a decal of a yellow dragon to the giant gunship of Quaritch's.  Some subtle techniques developed in 2-D (in early silents) remerge finally in the 3-D, when Sully and Neytiri are exploring their languages and the meaning of seeing early in the film, Cameron has her look at the audience for a second after she spends the majority of shot looking down at Sully, this is the first 3-D film to weave parallax and character's eyeframes carefully (he knows the medium's technique flourishes with audience-character eye-contact: imagine flashes of Donnie Darko in 3-D). Cameron's first two shots, a travelling shot over the forest canopy of, what is guessed is, a real image of earth's fauna and a screen filling cloud (a flash of memory for all of us and hopefully the only special effect-free shot in the film), and a zero-g close-up of beads of water merging under purple light (a sly SFX nightmare version of that natural cloud), indicates that he's got the nuances in play, it has the feeling of being visionary. Is it visionary? Only at its petri stage, what Cameron could have grown as a narrative, not what happens here. In a film that continuously references the idea of seeing both in English and Nav'i (and unspoken: film's own visual definition), he ends the film with more than a nod to 2001, it's a direct copy, a now 'unified' Sully (unified by a tree network) opens his eyes looking directly at the audience, if only for a split second. Cameron, who knows he is the heir to sci-fi's baton is also its current placeholder for the next visionary. Maybe visionary is next up in Avatar 2.

    Two final shots, one message.

  • 313349.0551

  • 313349.0546

  • 313340.1514

  • 313280.0721

    Chess, which began as a Sanskrit game called chaturanga, made its way west via Persia. These pieces are from a show at The Brooklyn Museum in 1968. Notice the obvious conflicts are both satirized and historically recorded.

    Below in order: Europe vs. Africa, Yellow vs. Black (using bullets and cartridges post WW1), Nigerian (Bornu) set, Native Californian vs. Spain, Inuit, Crusader vs. Muslim (1930s), Communist vs. Capitalist (Tsarist).