December 2009


Detroit–This week, Panty Raid bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab breathed new life into a city long thought dead. The suspect enroute from the international house of pannekoeken, Amsterdam, sought to explode his “[genitals] so hot baby” but his attempt’s failure is being credited on his oversight to powder down his schwetty kibbles and bits.

The Nigerian Abdullmutallab’s stay in a strange and myterious land called “Yemen” has rankled the ire of Senator Joe Lieberman and millions of other droopy faced Americans.

“If I knew on what continent this supposed country was, assuming it is a real country and not a Narnia-eque playland of the imagination, I would bomb it myself.” Said Detroit’s Bethlehem Baptist Pastor Steve Utnam on Christmas Day.

Millions of Americans have been quizzically scouring over Google maps trying to locate the word ‘Yemen’ only to end up being distracted by smell of burning Pop Tarts from the other room. Google reports that searches for “Bomb the Forest Moon of Yemen”, “Tora Tora Tora Yemen”, “Blow Sum Shit Up Unquestioningly Yemen” quadrupled since the attempted Panty Raid.

Independent Senator from Connecticut Joe Lieberman said speaking with War Marketing Officials at Fox News, “Iraq was yesterday’s war, Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war…..The Iraq war is over. Boring. Been there, done that. Afghanistan is totally hot right now. Afghanistan is to heroin production and chaos what Amy Winehouse is to heroin comsumption and chaos. If we don’t wage an immediate illegal war with Yemen, we will have to wage a postponed illegal war against Yemen.”

“Any country remotely associated with a person who is black, Muslim, and tries something murderous, involving their panties or not, should be pre-emptively bombed, razed, and then occupied for a decade.” Said Tammy Sharms, a mother of eight from St. Louis, MO. “So long as that country is poor, under the control of warlords or despots, and has oil.” Mrs. Sharms was quick to point out “Saudia Arabia is not poor.”

America holds its breath to see whether America will ‘snikt’ its ferocious and berzerker military might on Iran or move on to the greener pastures of Yemen. Either way, Americans are hopeful that by next Christmas they will have more loved ones serving in some war somewhere.

Said Pastor Utnam, “Was Jesus born in Yemen? That sounds familiar.”

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We’ve been busy at our headquarters in Ann Arbor Michigan dreaming up a pizza that will change the way you think of Domino’s forever. You think you know Domino’s Pizza?
You don’t have a clue.
We’re doing for pizza what Agent Orange did for defoliation. We’re breaking all the rules: not wearing hairnets, sneezing directly into our mixing bowls, and taking a break from the eight foot bong which lives in the corner of our “brain storming room/bathroom”.

We realized we’d grown soft and lazy in our role of “biggest eyesore on strip mall blight aside from Starbucks” and “home of the stinkiest air exchange fan aside from Panda Express”.
It was time for a change. A new sensation. Like when you had to convince your girlfriend of 5 years it was time for ‘backdoor’.
Well we changed. And to make a cool reference, we were like that guy from that soccer movie and we “showed you the money!” We’re fresh and hip and we understand our 14-34 year old stoned male demographic. We know that you do stuff involving video games or whatever it is you’re always doing in the basement and we know that you sell your parents lawn tools on craigslist for weed money and Domino’s.

We normally perform surveys and taste-tests. That’s nothing new. But recently we threw out the rule book and did something different: We asked sober people to tell us what they thought of our pizza. When we got responses ranging from projectile vomiting, screams of anger and confusion, and babies born with developmental delays, we came to the conclusion that maybe our lawyers, honest friends, and sober family members were right: our pizza was barely within raccoon diet range.

We hit the ground running and hit our chief recipe director Sheila Simonsen in the face with a pestle. We told her that a woman named Adria told us to go fuck ourselves through a mouthful of blood, vomit, and pizza. We told her it was time to get our game back. Sheila met the challenge and pestle wound with gusto. “Mama’s got a brand new bag!” she said and produced a fatty sack of gooey Humboldt shrubs.

Listen to what we did!
We got new processed cheese substitute that has four new chemical additives that not only reduce your diarrhea levels, they make your stool smell like a gangrenous gallbladder because our new pizza recipe causes gallbladder gangrene.
We replaced our old meat substance with a wheat and corn enhanced ‘meat’ that uses only the finest slaughterhouse scraps from only the most tortured and depressed cattle.
Our other ingredients include: movie popcorn butter, teenaged shoulder grease, lip gloss, salt, sodium, dehydrated sea water, and the expulsions of a cadaver’s clogged arteries.

Our patented recipe will make you want to go to sleep and never wake up.

You know what we did next? We drove to Adria’s house. You remember Adria, that woman who cursed the day we were born and then succumbed to madcow and E. Coli? Well we paid her a visit at her house. Unannounced. 
But you’ll have to wait to find out what she did when she opened her door in her pajamas to see we’d tracked her down like a wounded antelope!

Whisper into someone’s perfumed ear with heaving chest tomorrow’s weather report and find quickly the difference of classes of communication. What you say and its context matters. We affirm this by thoroughly despising the dinner party’s bore, the know-it-all, the gossip, the ‘did you see that squirrel?’ diarrhea mouth.
h0m-R’s choices of what type of story he should tell the gods fell broadly into the various genres of communication:

Fact: These are usually small units of information that are indisputable by the sensible and hard won by experiment. They are the favorite target of the insane, or the religious fanatic who will, by their very dispute call them ‘disputable’. (example: “The world is round.” “Well that’s debatable.” “No its not.” “Well I’m debating it right now, aren’t I?”) Facts are often mistaken for Truth or falsely believed to be like grains of sand comprising a sand castle called Reality. 
History: Is a narrative created from report, collective memory, evidences, and physical sciences. It is mostly wrong and closely associated with lies, myth, and marketing. From the mouths of the powerful it explains why they should be powerful and why they should be standing on your neck. In the hands of the weak it usually makes company with AK-47s. As the saying goes: Those who forget seventh grade history will be doomed to being passed along to be the 8th grade teacher’s problem.
Fiction: Real stuff that’s weird is said by some to be ‘stranger than fiction’. People who say this haven’t read much more than Marmaduke. Fiction is a broad category that involves most everything born of the fantasies of inadequate and chubby teens. Any piece of fiction can get passed as being “based on a true story” so long as that true story involves Kevin Bacon.
Report: This is what someone says about what they experienced or believe. A ‘report’ is commonly assumed to be ‘fact’ when being told by a cult leader (“God told me to sleep with you…and your daughters.” “Help me out of this robe!”) But is assumed to be questionable rantings when told by a doctor (“You have your hands and feet stuck in a blender.” “I want a second opinion”). 
Autobiography: A blend of report and lies, autobiography falls into only a few types: 1) “I triumphed over hardship.” 2) “I triumphed over hardship to achieve greatness and you should buy my self-help tapes.” 3) “I am currently in rehab and will triumph soon but in the meantime please see my current movie playing in theatres where I play a frazzled mom who meets Hugh Grant.”
Lies: These are fun to tell, but even more fun to hear because they are exactly what we want to hear. No one has ever lied to displease others. (“Why did you tell me you slept with my sister?” “I thought I’d make your birthday memorable!”) Lies make up 95% of our day to day communication and we like it that way and it is usually ‘facts’ that cause us the most dread–like death, taxes, or our slow metabolism. 
Marketing: This is lies taken to a professional level. Corporations, politicians, and lovers specialize in marketing. They know exactly the lies you want to hear and you love them even though you know they are defrauding you of something.
Myth: This is a history in maturity. It is a fiction whose characters reach an almost divine status. There are many myths: Capitalism, democracy, altruism, tasteful uses for velvet, and the female orgasm.
Theology: Like the rule book for Scrabble. Unreadable, unfun, and only appealed to when some asshole wants to use acronyms or worship God through loving and tender intercourse.
Collective Memory: Will become myth in time, collective memory is a smattering of ‘report’ and ‘history’ and is taken as taken for granted. Includes: a) “Things used to be so bad–you ought to be more grateful”, and b) “Things used to be so good–you ought to be more ashamed” More important than collective memory is collective forgetfulness, which is an area the United States has bragging rights in.
Ritual: Accompanying the language of ritual is liturgy, chant, song, jargon, and magic. Of course, ritual is enacted story and most stories here involve a conclusion of bad coffee and smooshed donuts in the Congregational Hall.
Magic: This is a lie that is understood to be a lie by all involved parties and expressly undertaken as such. We enjoy magic because it successfully enables us to believe the unbelieveable–which religion so far has failed to do.
News: This is the industry of gossip. Lies and marketing converge with report. It is the idle talk of subway cars posing as knowledge of the world. If people were to for one day listen to the hopes and pains of others in their lives rather than read ‘the news’, the world would be transformed for the better.
Journalism: Is what news is often mistaken to be, but actually takes too much research, investigation, and thought to be profitable to Corporations or trusted by politicians. It is fearful to ingest as it often calls for accountability and responsibility. Its most common use is to be played on cabin AM radios as background noise while jarring pickles.
Secrets: Everyone loves secrets which are lies with the implication of trust. They abound in sects and secret societies. Even those uninterested in robes and infant sacrifice can be drawn into the fold with the hopes of learning the secrets of inner circle. Telling a person a secret is an intimate way to corrupt them–like kissing someone when your cold sores are active.
Madness: Messages that the powerful can’t deal with. This is the category of true prophets, insurrectionists, radicals, and aunts with cats.
Poetry: This is the most ‘true’ type of human communication. It is indefinable but there is no ‘bad’ poetry. There is only regretted poetry. Poetry is not what its creator calls it. It is outside the creator’s control and pours from some infinite and uncorrupted space between heartbeats. Seeing as humans are finite and corrupted, its origin and process are still indecipherable.

These options were discarded by h0m-R in favor for one last type of ‘story’: Improvisational. This he chose as it was the easy way out for scoundrels and no-talent hacks as failure in the realm of improvisation is not only expected, it is inevitable.

Muriel Rukeyser said the universe is made of stories, not atoms. When one considers the prolific literary corpora of Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, Stephen King, Agatha Christie, Isaac Asimov, and L. Ron Hubbard, it seems like she could be right. There is more life in a single Leonard Cohen lyric than most of the crab nebula–even after the settlement of the Khill’qu but that’s mostly because of their majority zombie working class.

The stories that comprise you are more powerful than any configuration of atoms–Bikini Toll notwithstanding. This makes even the most awful lies of politicians, though repulsive, adorable–like Taylor Swift.
What words could you gather to redeem yourself? Beyond excuses and explanations, what would you say to escape the responsibility for your accumulated karma? What story to quell the gods’ anger towards humanity?
The story of a boy forgotten by his busy family leaving on Christmas vacation and left home alone to fend off two addle-brained burglers? The story of a fuzzy creature bought at a magic shop who spawns horrible iguana monkeys when he gets wet? A tale of a prostitute who on her first day working meets Richard Gere and they fall in love or at least arrange to have sex in a more elaborately and descretely negotiated sex-exchange?

The stories that fill our minds are for the most part the corn filler fed to McDonald’s bound cattle: filling and unhealthy and just a reminder of our futility and imminent absorption into ungrateful bellies.
The real stories that matter to us individually are often not those found through illegally streamed videos or Best Sellers Lists. These stories are the framework of our lives and when we lose a loved one, are fired from a job over ‘druken powerpoint presentations’, embezzlement, or ‘sexual harassment of the pet store’s stock’, or have a favorite mix-tape eaten up by our Walkman we say we’re opening a new chapter in life and this means something to us. The “means something” will ever be in someway associated with a story: a memory, a family tradition told to you, a series of graffitos inked into Denny’s bathroom stalls that you encounter across the US and Canada that like puzzle pieces explain to you the whole of Reality. And these oft-clumsy and seemingly innane stories are the backbone and/or pelvis of our lives–those terrifyingly simple and fleeting flashes of story: the glow of a laptop on a lover’s face, the mortified eyes of the liquor store attendant who farted in front of you…

But there are always a few stories that can elicit the widest range of human sentiment and provoke the most daring imaginations and somehow connect people communally. This is the stuff of folklore, legend, myth, religion, good marketing. h0m-R needed to find a story from within his silicon hearts that could somehow reach such great heights if he were to appease the testy triad of gods before him.
The elements that he knew should be involved: a faithful dog named Zeke, steamy sex scenes, and cool guns. Things that he thought should not be included were: clogged sinks, detailed descriptions of smegma that go on for six pages, anything to do with Cameron Diaz, or suggestions on how to get ringworm.

The gods’ initial warm feelings towards the hybrid/queer h0m-R were cooling as he procrastinated with a mug of gin in his mouth so they transported their picnic to what would become Manitoba during the early Pleistocene.
There and then they summoned angelic choirs to sing:

It’s nine o’clock in prehistory, the regular crowd of tapirs and bison shuffle by. There’s an old near-human HyQ (hybrid/queer) sitting, makin’ love to his gin and his beer. They says, E Gads, can you tell us a memory? We know it will be a lie, as memories are most–But make it sad and it sweet and involving a love like a boy in plain prairie clothes.
Sing us a song! You’re a blind bard-y man. Sing us a song tonight. Hell, we’re all in the mood for a moody spiel and gin’s got us feelin’ alright. Now Nibb is not far, she’s a friend of all. She gives us piggy backs for free. And she’s quick with a neigh or a roll in the hay, and there’s no place that she’d rather be. h0m-R says, gods, I believe this is killing me (As the gin made a tear on his face) Hell I’d trade spots with anyone so long as I could get outta this place. Now Plumpy is a real ingratful sadist who never had time for a wife. And she’s talkin’ with Dee Dee who was a god in hell’s navy, and probably took many a sailor’s life. And the mammothses is practicing politics as the ice age slowly gets warmed. Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness. But it’s better than spears in an age of stone. It’s a pretty bleak crowd for a judgment day and the deities don’t give no one a smile cause they know that it’s death they’ve been aiming to dole. (O! To forget about life for a while!) And the arctic shrew, it mews like a carnival. And the atmosphere smells like fear. And they sit at the glacier and put gin in their maws and say, O h0m-R, what are you doin’ here? Oh, la la la, de de daLa la, de de da da.
h0m-R, tell me ’bout the grand old days
back when gods could get away with crazy
h0m-R, take us back to yesterday
When heroes blurred right and wrong
in an ungodly navy

When lovers rarely fell in love to stay
And stabbed and tricked each other, met in gardens to betray–
When gods schemed while the upright slept
And offerings of blood and fealty they had to pay
And armies were bowed to cruel fates as prey
And daddies to war went away
Woah oh, h0m-R, tell us ’bout the good old days

h0m-R, everything is changing fast
some call it progress, but it just feels like loss
And h0m-R, let’s wander back into the past
And let us all recount the cost

The current conversation about LGBTQ folk and marriage is often a hurtful one.
The language, parameters of discourse, and level of compassion that are commonly present leave many deep spiritual and emotional scars for everyone involved.

I am thankful that language, discourse, and compassion are increasing throughout many areas in our churches in America. This has only happened under great duress, with sustained Christian service, worship, prayer, and spiritual warfare. There have also been many instances of violence both spiritual and physical in opposition to the Spirit’s work. I am thankful for the brave and committed Christian clergy and believers from all walks of life who have helped make our current progress possible.

I believe that through this process, we can discern what I believe will be a large factor in what will make the Church stronger and more Christly in the ensuing decades. I’ll sketch out some ideas below.

Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, siblings, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

This passage expresses to me how all Christians can be thankful for their LGBTQ fellow Christians. Through living their lives in worshipful reverence and not paying heed to the dominating heterosexism and socially created dualism of male/female, they set an honorable example for all to question the ‘doctrines’ of culture. Rather than submit to arbitrary and largely false cultural constraints of gender and sexual binaries, LGBTQ Christian folk can reveal to ‘anti-gay’ Christians that it is how we live our bodily existence, not the shape of or chemical makeup of our bodies that matters. Through a renewal of our mind, we all can begin to love and celebrate all people and never put constraints on how and who we love, desire, and commit ourselves to.

Christians of all walks can, through this area of discussion, question again what sin is. We must ask within the Church–if joy, love, vulnerability, sharing, sexual delight, and dignity are present between people is it sinful? We can look back to how previously Christians have railed against inter-racial marriage, inter-faith marriage, and inter-denominational marriage and used the Bible and language of sin and ask ourselves: were these people showing the love and life of Christ? Were they being led by the Spirit? This process of introspection will benefit the Body of Christ and lead to more Godly positions upon sin I believe.

Here is just two things I might add about marriage:
1) Jesus in Matt. 19:6 states that those who love and enjoy sex together should not be interfered with by others. “what God brings together–don’t let any ol’ judgmental hypocrite try to separate” He says in essence. I think that’s good advice. When love is in the picture only a fool would try to place themselves in opposition to it. Love is the greatest force humanity knows and it should be treated with reverence and awe.
2)  Hebrews 13:4 says marriage should be held in honor. All Christians can use the discussion about marriage to again address sexual oppression, violence and rape in marriage, domestic violence, family planning, familial child abuse and neglect among other dishonorable occurrences which are all too common. We can also reflect on Christian LGBTQ married folk who despite social criticism from some areas of culture have honored each other and marriage in their testimonies.

I am convinced that the full-inclusion and celebration of LGBTQ communities and individuals will become the norm within American church life. It may take time and it will definitely require the sustained work of Christians and allied people of faith and people of good conscience. So I am hopeful. But I am not only hopeful for LGBTQ folk. I am hopeful for the Christian Church at large–the Body of Christ, the Universal Church. I believe that through this transitional crises, opportunities for refocusing on Christ rather than Biblioatry, questioning again the nature of, source of, and effect of sin, and breaking down oppressive limitations of sex and gender will bear great fruit.

I want to close making some positive statements about my position using the resolution passed by the Baptist General Conference from their 1992 annual meeting titled “Beliefs about Homosexual Behavior and Ministering to Homosexual Persons” as a platform.

1) I believe that the Bible belongs to no one and its interpretation is free to all. We all have seen to many divisions, wars, schisms, and violences perpetrated with validation found within its pages by those claiming ‘true interpretation’. Any use of the Bible to demean, belittle, diminish, exclude, insult, or in any detract from the full joy of another is antithetical to a saintly life.
2) I believe that love and compassion are utmost valued dispositions of God. I believe all bodies no matter their identity: Intersex, Trans, GenderQueer, Bois, male, female, none of the above…are equally beautiful and holy. I believe that all sexualities, desires, attractions, sexual relationships where dignity, safety, and autonomy are present are to be celebrated. Those individuals who desire to undergo the ritual of marriage or its equivalents should in no way be hindered-this includes arrangements of plural marriage, open marriage, and marriages of ‘convenience’.
3) I believe that all people are loved and cherished by the Divine and are permeated with and dwell fully in the life of God. I believe that all people have the right to claim the identity of Christian and express their Christianity in any way that remains compassionate, loving, forgiving, vulnerable, and respectful. I believe that diversities of Christian doctrine, dogma, and life do not intimidate God and Christians can learn from all faiths, denominations, and secularists to become more saintly.
4) I believe that sin is ever present in an imperfect world comprised of imperfect people. I believe that sin and its effects can be lessened through vulnerability, humility, compassion, service, self-sacrifice, renunciations of greed and materialism, love, respect, responsibility, reverence for the environment and living beings. I believe that through close relationships of mutual trust and vulnerability, sin will diminish.
5) I believe that all people and living beings deserve full dignity, care, concern, respect, and reverence. I believe that it is hypocritical and doubleminded to affirm this and state that a person’s sexual life or erotic being is ‘less than’.
6) I believe that all Christian churches and institutions should celebrate and honor all people. I believe that all gender/sex identities should be allowed to serve the Church as clergy–with saintliness and service being requisite, not designations of body or attraction. I believe that no one should be refused ordinances, services, rituals, or positions of leadership because of designations of body or attraction.

Yours in hope, love, and peace–
Ryan McGivern

Link to the Baptist Affirmation cited above and used as a platform:
http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TopicIndex/80_Homosexuality/1499_Beliefs_about_Homosexual_Behavior_and_Ministering_to_Homosexual_Persons/ 

I would like to respond in part to the post by Annalee Newitz titled “When Will White People Stop Making Movies Like Avatar?” and also add some other thoughts upon the film.

First off, let me say that I am with Newitz on the sentiments of her post. Yes: racism in cinema is a perennial problem–especially in American films. Yes, there are too many films created by white men and these films often exacerbate racialized oppressions of colonialism through their themes and mythologies. I would add that films often will reflect the conservative end of power structures because of financing and profit limitations to mainstream medias. I will support the overall intention and stance Newitz takes: it is important to view films with race in mind–as well as gender, class, spectrums of abilities, etc.

However, I feel that a critique of the film as portraying a “white guilt” and a fantasy of white folk (particularly men?) escaping culpability for their privileges of skin and benefitting from colonizing programs misses other points that the film (and Cameron) is making.
Anytime we participate in a film with just one lens or one critique, we can miss facets and interpretations that may be there–even quite plainly.
A worry that I have about Newitz’ post is that if she is taken seriously, the film will then not be. One may then discredit the film as “just another white guilt fantasy” and not take the sort of social action that I think is totally implied and encouraged by the film. No movie or moviemaker is perfect. Let’s get that straight. I feel that there are times when folks concerned with colonialism and social oppressions (of which I count myself one) will write-off a piece of art because there is a perceived flaw, complain about it, and leave it at that (i.e. question ‘when will white people stop doing what I perceive them to be doing’?). This leaves the ‘progressive’, ‘liberal’, ‘anti-racist activist’ absolved from positive reaction. That is, they can remain a bitter critique of mainstream media.
Not that this is what Newitz is doing. Its just a dangerous possibility of critique.
I would like to offer as a counter to Newitz: that ‘guilt’ to me is a paralyzing emotion. It breeds inactivity, shame, and dishonesty. If one were to watch this film purely as race-drama in space–couldn’t Sully, Grace, Chacon, Norm, and Dr. Patel (not to mention the other ‘grunts’ who stay behind in the end) be seen as anti-racist allies?

Newitz compares Avatar to Dances With Wolves and I had thought the same myself when watching it. There are similarities between the protagonists: they both have been close to death–Costner’s Dunbar sees death and is himself injured. So too is Sully familiar with death (his brother’s) and severly injured. They also are in the service of military forces though they themselves are now observant and appreciative of life and less willing to goosestep in line.

I will agree that there can be parallels with Dune also. The ‘outsider savior’ is an overused myth: from Sergio Leone’s films to that story about a Jewish wunderkind. Usually in these types of (Western) hero myths the rescuer comes from without and then leaves either in the sunset or the clouds above Galilee. Stories where a hero stays with the people seems to me a different story that may point more to the transition within the hero–not focusing on their actions. I may be making a distinction between an ‘outsider savior’ and a ‘awakened warrior’.
Avatar follows this second type and is exemplified in the last shot: the opening eyes of Sully in his new (heavenly?) body. He is as Buddha said ‘awake’. But what has Sully awakened to? The situation of materialism: hunger for resources at any dehumanizing cost. The lie of might making right: the ability to violently overcome another as being “justified by the course of nature”. The false hopes of understanding another through study: anthropology (xenopology?) and sociology can distance individuals through thematization.

Is Luke Skywalker an example of white guilt because he sees the oppression of the Empire over the ragtag freedom fighting Alliance? Or is he awakened to a new way of life and being? Or are Leia Organa and Chewbacca race traitors when they fight alongside the Ewoks?

Are the Pevensie children seeking absolution from white guilt when they are introduced to a new world in their wardrobe and fight alongside badgers and centaurs (obviously stand-ins for oppressed and marginalized races)?

Newitz makes note of the protagonist’s name: “our white hero Jake Sully (sully – get it?)”…do we get what? Sully as in “ruined, tainted….”? I don’t get it and I hope someone can explain what Newitz means.
I however might find meaning in his first name, Jake. In the Bible, Jakob takes over his older twin brother’s birthright and role. Jake Sully takes over his brother’s role here. Surely the way they come to this is different: trickery versus death, but is it a stretch? Jakob also become Israel after struggling with an angel. Israel means “struggles with G-d” and Sully here struggles against social pressures and the ‘gods’ of mammon, power, physical ‘restoration’, and convention. I will stretch now: Jakob limped after his fighting the angel, Sully loses use of his limbs (next I’ll do a gematria of the film’s edits!).

Another name of note perhaps: Grace Augustine. As Augustine tried to define and explain sin in an orderly fashion, so too does Grace believe that her science and study can explain everything. Sigourney Weaver does an interesting turn here: she is essentially playing Cameron’s theme of the sinister interest of science. In his ‘Aliens’ the character of Paul Reiser’s Burke uses the idea of ‘study’ and scientific interest to hide behind ulterior motives. I believe Grace here is doing the same. In the beginning of the movie especially, I feel that she is on par with Colonel Quarich or Ribisi’s corporate CEO Selfridge (selfish–get it?) in her desires. Rather than defeat them militarily like Quarich, she wants to understand them. Feminist critique has done a great job unveiling the agendas of ‘understanding the Other’ and its great that Weaver is playing what is essentially a masculinist observer here. Rather than mine the metal from the ground like Selfridge, she wants to mine the culture. Rather than build community of vulnerability, trust, and dignity, she is the scientific onlooker trying to ‘figure them out’.
I thought about Grace’s name too. She is not too graceful towards others so it confused me. It clicked near the end when it becomes clear that her life was channelled into the planet’s ‘spirit’ and used to aid in the battle. This was a grace to her–she has a lot of transformation in the movie and again I contend that she is perhaps the most interesting and dynamic character.

Let’s keep on the theme of names: The People are called the Navi which in Hebrew means “Seer”, which can get rendered as ‘prophet’. It was no mistake that their greeting is: “I see you”. This lends itself to the idea that this story is about spiritual journeying and awakening to a different type of life rather than (just) as a story about race.

Okay–moving on….
Cameron has been clear about his politics in previous movies and they get relayed again here:
A concern for the environment and a feeling that to destroy and exploit nature is to kill alien or ‘magical’ forces is undertaken in The Abyss.
Linking military violence and corporate interests is the theme of Aliens and it is very strong here. In both instances we see how it is not for any real virtue that lives are endangered and Marines are deployed. It is by the direction of greedy corporations who see a resource to exploit.

This last note is the strongest social critique of America’s current military occupations and imperial/colonial agendas. For anyone who views this movie and finds themselves in anyway cheering for The Navi–they should ask themselves how they are any different from ‘insurgents’, or ‘terrorists’.

If you thought Sully was a cool character, check out
http://www.veteransforpeace.org/

If you thought the Navi were cool, check out
http://www.narf.org/

If you were interested in Grace’s character, check out
http://www.iep.utm.edu/irigaray/

Newitz’ referenced post may be found here:
http://io9.com/5422666/when-will-white-people-stop-making-movies-like-avatar

Ryan McGivern

Sensuous westerlies lit upon the Gorse and heath, tossing summer coated Bramblings in their afternoon hunt. Nibb grazed nearby huffing into the grass eyes rolling with ideas of bog myrtle for afters. The time was unknown to the Travellers–time goes funny when keeping the company of gods and loved ones but their ‘when’ was just before what is called the Neolithic. Ring of Brodgar, Woodhenge, the Maumbury Rings, and golf courses had not yet made their appearance in the British Isles.

Tanya, incarnated as a snow owl, gripped onto a low branch and watched the fly shaking back of the grazing mare. “Who?” she asked.
“Who whom” she returned without raising her head.
“Who are you to think you’re better than I…or any of the gods?”
Nibb thought: “If you wanted to read my mind, you could have asked first.”
Tanya’s voice thought back in her head–“I can’t help it. I’m your thoughts as much as I’m any owl.”
“Still, it would have been polite to knock first.” This she said.
“You think we’re wrong to end humanity.” This the god almost asked. It was hard to put words to thoughts and she troubled over how to translate ‘think’, ‘wrong’, ‘end’, and ‘humanity’. It all could have been rendered “Your stomach and shoulder muscles are overly stressed when considering the murdering of people and their families.”

Nibb sighed and swished her tail involuntarily.
“When I was a racing horse, I was whipped into running in circles and when I got my fractured sesamoid, my trainer tried talking my owner into ‘putting me down’–I was insured afterall…I wanted to kick them all straight to hell. I know the evil of humanity–what they’re capable of. I know it well enough to know I’m capable of all of it too.”
“How very compassionate of you. Do you think that those feelings of compassion are shared by all those who have had loved ones killed or tortured by humans?…Let me tell you, as I god I know….Most of them do not.”
“Maybe humans can change.”
“Let’s wait for them to destroy three more planets to find out, shall we? You didn’t have to stand by and watch them mine all the water out of the moon and irradiate all its dust. You didn’t have to inhabit the body of the last dying housecat on Earth.”
“Well you’re a god! Why don’t you do something about it then?”
“Free-will. Or that’s what I tell people anyway. Look. If you’re good friend h0m-R can convince us that we should reconsider–maybe we’ll reconsider.”
“That’s very reassuring, Tanya. Thanks.” She looked back at the picnic blanket where h0m-R was two glasses into a bottle of wine and trying to open a bag of Oreos with his teeth.  

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