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Monday, February 22, 2010

Quote of the week of 2/21/10

This is the first of a new trend I plan to start on My blog. TO post famous quotes. What inspired me was this quote from Winston Churchill.

It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is an admirable work, and I studied it intently. The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts. They also make you anxious to read the authors and look for more.
WINSTON CHURCHILL My Early Life: A Roving Commission (1930), Chapter 9 (Education At Bangalore)

Indeed, there is a lot we can learn from reading different quotes. I expect to quote often as possible, weekly at least. Twice a week perhaps if warrented.

I start with quotes from three people. Two non fictional one fiction. Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Terrorist and warlord Khan Noonien Singh from Star Trek's Space Seed, Wrath of Khan and Eugenics wars series and General Robert E Lee.

CHURCHILL

Although always prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it should be postponed.
My Early Life: A Roving Commission (1930),

You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true, and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her.
My Early Life: A Roving Commission (1930), Chapter 4 (Sandhurst)

The ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year – and to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.
Newspaper interview (1902), when asked what qualities a politician required, in Churchill by Himself (2008), ed. Langworth, PublicAffairs, p. 489

Will the shutting out of foreign goods increase the total amount of wealth in this country? Can foreign nations grow rich at our expense by selling us goods under cost price? Can a people tax themselves into prosperity? Can a man stand in a bucket and lift himself up by the handle?
Speech at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, England (1904) "For Free Trade", as cited in Churchill by Himself (2008),

For my own part I have always felt that a politician is to be judged by the animosities which he excites among his opponents. I have always set myself not merely to relish but to deserve thoroughly their censure.
November 17, 1906, Institute of Journalists Dinner, London

KHAN NOONIEN SINGH

With all due respect to my heroic sikh ancestors, however I eventually came to the conclusion that I should not be bound by the traditions of the past. I am a new breed of human being after all...
Khan Noonien Singh Eugenics wars volume 2 pg25

The problems of the world require bold and decisive action, not timid, cautious half-measures of the sort you and Gary Seven Specialize in.
Khan Eugenics wars volume 2 pg 27

Ah! Lucifer! Child of the Morning! How thou art risen!
Khan Eugenics wars volume 2 pg 31

I embrace these hapless imperfect beings, feeling a distinctly maganimous sense of inferiority obliged to all the worlds suffering. In the new world I will create there will be peace and plenty for ALL!
Khan Eugenics wars voulme 2 (Speaking of ordinary humans who volunteer to serve Khan.

ROBERT E LEE

Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.
Letter to his son, G. W. Custis Lee (5 April 1852);

In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.
Letter to his wife, Mary Anne Lee

I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honour for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labour, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It is intended for 'perpetual Union,' so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession: anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and all the other patriots of the Revolution. ... Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of mankind. If the Union is dissolved and the Government disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people, and, save in defense will draw my sword on none.
ROBERT E LEE Letter to his son, G. W. Custis Lee (23 January 1861)

What a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbours, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world! I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace. ... My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men.
Letter to his wife on Christmas Day, two weeks after the Battle of Fredericksburg (25 December 1862)

True patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them — the desire to do right — is precisely the same.
Letter to General P. G. T. Beauregard (3 October 1865)

We must forgive our enemies. I can truly say that not a day has passed since the war began that I have not prayed for them.
As quoted in A Life of General Robert E. Lee (1871) by Joan Esten Cooke.

cannot consent to place the control of others one who cannot control himself.
As quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875) by John William Jones, p. 170

The education of a man is never completed until he dies.
As quoted in Peter's Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1977) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 175

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A libertarian view of Avatar

Last week for the Second time, i got to see Avatar. having been watching the blog sphere lately I have been quite surprised by some of the responses to the movie, Allegations that the movie promotes environmentalism, and liberalism. probably the biggest problem I have heard is that the humans instead of the aliens are the bad guys. A major departure from traditional science fiction orthodoxy that is rare. That, and James Cameron has used his fame to attack and ridicule conservatives and libertarians.

my review concentrates on some of the ridiculous remarks made against the movie in the blog sphere. remarks that are very similar to some of the hype made against Harry Potter. You fundamentalists know what I'm talking about... starving black Christians in Africa are getting murdered and raped by Muslim terrorists in Sudan, Christians are being murdered left and right all over the world, Europe is jettisoning its Christian heritage (then again it wasn't that Christian to begin with.) our nation is going to hell, unsaved souls don't know the love of the son of God, and instead of doing your job you are only worried about a series of novels and movies about a boy wizard. Amen brother?

On a side note, Pat Robertson after making an ass out of himself by claiming that Haiti caused its own earthquake claims that another movie, the princess and the Frog promotes voodoo and gives Christianity a back seat. OH MY PAT!

Well now the big thing is Avatar. Of course its been popular for over 7weeks only to be bumped down to #2 by from Paris with love. So any of this fluff will face ridicule just like Potter gate.

In brief



Avatar is about a military expedition to the moon of Pandora, a lush jungle world occupied by a primitive race called the Na'vi that orbits a gas giant called Polyphemus (named after the cyclops Odysseus fought against.) The Na'vi are very similar to the native Americans and are in commune to nature. Their nature worship is enhanced by a biological function where they can actually neurologically hook up with trees and animals through a series of nerve cords connected to their hair. This network leads to a tree called the tree of souls. The Na'vi believe that they can communicate with the Goddess of nature Eywa this way.

The Human scientists lead by Gloria Augustine have tried to understand this function and have been successful in communicating with the Na'vi via avatars, biologically cloned Na'vi that the humans control by laying in a machine that transfers their neruo functions to the avatar. This is necessary since the air on Pandora is toxic to humans. Gloria also sets up schools to teach the Na'vi english and modern knowledge which is generally rejected in favor of nature worship and primitivism.

Unfortunately, the Na'vi and the human scientists come into conflict with the interests of mining interests back on Earth. Jake Sully, a former marine paralyzed from a bullet wound during a war that took place in Venezuela. (No doubt an attempt by Cameron for a subliminal reference to Hugo Chavez and his socialist regime.) is among a group of marines hired out as mercenaries similar to Black water to aid in pacifying resistance to mining operations on Pandora. His twin was slated to go instead but when he died Jake took his place since he was genetically similar and therefore suited to handle his brother's avatar.

The main concern is about a dwelling of Na'vi called the Home tree. A sacred giant tree that is over one of the largest concentration of unobtainable in the region. It is also populated by a large group of Na'vi. Jake is tasked by the marine leader Colonel Miles Quaritch with negotiating with the local Na'vi to move elsewhere. Jake is fully functioning in is avatar and he meets and falls in love with the tribal princess Neytiri. She is the daughter of the local clan (Omaticaya) leader Eytucan. He also meets Mo'at the spritual leader and witch doctor and mother of Neytiri. Jake has conflicts with many of the Omaticayans especially Tsu'tey, a great warrior and who is betrothed to Neytiri. Although he and many of the Na'vi were former students of Grace Augustine, (evidenced that they knew english) he promotes distrusts of Jake calling him a dream walker, (a slang directed at Na'vi Avatars)

In the three months, Jake learns about the Omaticayans and passes that information on to the humans. As Jake Matures and learns more he eventually becomes accepted by the tribe and is made a member. Trouble starts however when the dozers arrive and destroy one of the tribes sacred groves the Tree of voices. Jake reveals that he is here to collect information. The Na'vi however refuse to leave and The Marine commander orders the tree destroyed. Jake is also branded a traitor. Despite a ferocious battle the Na'vi outclassed by the human's modern weaponry are overtaken and the Home tree is destroyed.

To regain the Omaticaya's trust, Jake tames a Toruk, a powerful flying predator that only five Na'vi have ever tamed. Jake finds the Omaticaya at the sacred Tree of Souls and pleads with Mo'at to heal Grace who was shot for trying to prevent Home tree's destruction. The clan attempts to transfer Grace from her dying human body into her unconscious avatar with the aid of the Tree, but she succumbs to her injuries before the transfer is complete. Mo'at declares that she is with Eywa now.

Assisted by Neytiri and the new leader of the Omaticaya Tsu'Tey Jake unites thousands of warriors from many Na'vi clans in a bid to repel the humans. Jake prays to Eywa, via neural connection to the Tree of Souls, to intercede on behalf of the Na'vi in the coming battle. Quaritch notes the mobilization of the Na'vi and convinces Selfridge to authorize a preemptive strike on the Tree of Souls, reckoning that the destruction of this hub of Na'vi religion and culture will demoralize them into submission.

As the security forces attack, the Na'vi retaliate but suffer heavy casualties, including Tsu'Tey and Trudy. The Pandoran wildlife suddenly joins the attack on the corporation's forces, overwhelming them, an event that Neytiri interprets as Eywa answering Jake's prayer. Jake destroys the bomber before it can reach the Tree of Souls. Quaritch finds and attacks the avatar link unit where Jake's human body is located, exposing Jake to Pandora's atmosphere. Neytiri kills Quaritch and saves Jake. With the attack repelled, Neytiri and Jake reaffirm their love as she sees his human body for the first time.

The humans are expelled from Pandora, while Jake, Norm, and other scientists are allowed to remain. Jake is seen wearing the insignia of the Omaticaya leader. The clan performs the ritual that permanently transfers Jake from his human body into his Na'vi avatar.

Similarities



The movie itself seems to be drawn on from the story of Pocahontas especially the Disney animated version as a backdrop. Jake Sully being similar to John Smith and Neytiri being similar to Pocahantas with the tree of souls being similar to grandmother willow. Another movie is also very similar and may have drawn inspiration is Dances with Wolves staring Kevin Costner. Unfortunately for the natives, they lost in that movie. James Cameron in fact had begun writing the script for Avatar in 1994 right around the time both movies had come out. The technology for portraying the film however did not come out yet as did the Na'vi language needed for the film.

The problem



The problem of course are supposed subliminal environmentalist propaganda as well as indigenous rights. That the movie is anti-american, anti business and anti patriarchal. James Cameron of course deliberately set off a lot of conservatives by remarking that the miners were NRA type rednecks among other things. But does it really meet the criteria?

well, some could compare it to native american atrocities and use it to guilt trip white americans, some could also use the film to advance radical environmentalism.

We could do this with any movie. To me, I did see but overall that's not how I came away from the film.

The movie in many aspects has libertarian values. Aliens under invasion by a foreign entity (this case us) The seizure and destruction of Home tree is very similar to eminent domain, practiced by big business against property owners all the time now thanks to liberals. In addition there is the virtue that all men (or in this case sentient species) are created equal. The Na'vi and their supporters are denied basic rights by the invading mercenaries. The same could happen to American's if the Democrats get enough power. Remember when Obama slammed gun owners and veterans as terrorists? Remember how he advocated indefinite detentions?

For me the environmental part was illogical. This is because the biology in Pandora is different from Earth. The Na'vi are able to literally commune with nature due to biological functioning. We can't do that and as far as I know there are no alien civilizations that can.

The big problem with Cameron's film is that it is a departure from science fiction orthodoxy. Instead of aliens invading Earth and persecuting humans, its the other way around. Some of us who grew up with War of the Worlds, Independence day, Aliens, Star Trek, Buck Rogers, Marvin the Martian and similar titles probably weren't ready for this.

Overall rating



Overall Avatar gets my two thumbs up. Even though James Cameron is a left wing loon. I recommend this movie to anyone who doesn't take some of it literally the way Pat Robertson does to Harry Potter and Princess Frog.

I personally am looking forward to a movie like Avatar that erks leftists the same way. Blood thirsty liberal Human communists invading a free planet with all of the freedoms we used to have in North America to spread the glories of communism. The miners of course won't have the benefit of guns to defend themselves. SORRY COMRADE! You are a communist! Not a capitalist NRA pig! You have to rely on the state for protection from Bourgeois aliens.

Saturday, February 13, 2010