Other than a cheap way to attempt to raise my rarely-posted blog counts, this is to let my gentle readers know the 2010 Census forms have begun arriving to homes. As usual, be prepared to be asked your sex, income and race.

About one fourth of the Census form deals with race.  This makes me do a double-take, as it is drilled into we poor unwashed masses’ minds that it is wrong to take race into factor.  And indeed, race shouldnt matter — even to our government.   I don’t think it’s much different than the 1990 or 2000 Census questions, but perhaps it’s time to stop asking.  We’ve come a long, long way with trying to make race a non-factor.  Now is not the time to give up just because minority birth rates are outpacing those of the majority.

So how do we counter this?  I’m not sure how helpful it’ll end up in the long run, but I’m all for the push of writing  that My Race is American.   After all:  United we stand, divided we fall.

My how times have changed.  There was a time when a store may have been boycotted because of naked people. And because we’ve become a country of spoiled brats, we cry “censorship” when a company decides to not allow nudity to be shown or sold.

But the Gizmodo and Bild editors get  it completely wrong.  This is not censorship that’s protected by our Constitution.  In fact, with the freedom of speech we have the freedom of restraint.  If an individual, small business or mega-corporation should chose to not sell something, with few exceptions its’ entirely within its rights to do so.

Apple choosing to not show nudity via any of its iPod applicatons is no different than Wal*Mart not carrying the latest in porn or McDonalds not having a “RedLightBox” next to every indoor Playland.   If we don’t like it, don’t use it.  Simple as that.

I’m all for boycotting something one is against.  But one shouldn’t run around crying “wolf” (or “censorship”) every time he doesn’t get his way.   And for goodness sake, does one really need nudity that bad he has to have it with him at all times?

Main Entry: thanks
Pronunciation: \ˈthaŋ(k)s\
Function: noun plural
Etymology: plural of Middle English thank, from Old English thanc thought, gratitude; akin to Old High German dank gratitude, Latin tongēre to know
Date: before 12th century

1 : kindly or grateful thoughts : gratitude
2 : an expression of gratitude <return thanks before the meal> —often used in an utterance containing no verb and serving as a courteous and somewhat informal expression of gratitude <many thanks>

I’ve noticed a real dearth of “thanks” lately in my life.  So much so, I wondered if the word had been removed from the dictionary.  Thankfully, no.  Of course, as I am wont to do,  I wondered if it’s an indication of something larger in our society.  Have we finally become the “me” land, expecting everyone to serve our every want and wish?  Or are we so callous that we just don’t consider it any more?  Is it a hard word to say to someone else?  Or just don’t care?

Now, I’m not suggesting that every single thing we do deserves praise.  But if we go out of our way to do something — especially something which may make someone else’s life a little easier or more joyful — then what is so hard about saying, “Thanks”?  It’s a small one-syllable word that carries very much weight.

Then my mother’s voice chimes in, saying something about doing things without the want of gratitude;  making me wonder if it is I who puts the ‘me’ in aMErica.   And really, in the scheme of things they aren’t that huge.   So perhaps it is more about me than them.  Perhaps Mom is right and it shouldn’t matter.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t thank others.

Thanks, Mom.

24 inches over the weekend and 10-20 more due tonight.

Seems like DC isn’t the only thing that froze over, though.  So have President Obama’s poll numbers.

Perhaps he should consider a new logo?

The cafeteria at NBC had a menu up for celebrating Black History Month selling … fried chicken and other soul food.  But because of the shifting rules of political correctness, the outcry will be far smaller, if one even bubbles up.

The chef, who is black, is absolutely correct when he says that it’s just good food, and we have no problem with places selling corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s day.  Of course, there’s also the social stigma to consider — the same which makes jokes about watermelons on the White House front lawn and the portraits of the presidents with the last frame showing a dark background with two bright eyes just plain not funny.   So even if well-intentioned, the menu may not have been so well-advised.

Because of my feelings that political correctness tends to be oppressive, I’m actually fine with the idea of no outcry.  My problem comes when it’s used as a blunt instrument, such as for drumming a political enemy out of office.  We can be fairly certain that if this had been done at a different news agency, accusations of white sheets and burning crosses would be right around the corner.  Or if FNC would have trotted out a black chef to interview as NBC did,  out would come packages of Oreo cookies, such as those thrown at Michael Steele.

EDIT:   I just have to say it really bugs me that the interviewer of the chef framed it as a battle.  “How long have you been fighting  to get this on the menu for Black History Month?”

I realize it may just be a turn of a phrase, but c’mon!

Another pretty awesome review from RedLetterMedia who originally brought us the epic 70-minute review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.  This time around, he tackles Avatar.  Both this and the former review are very insightful looks into the movies, and just watching them are events in-of-themselves.

Content warning:  Adult language and probably not safe for work video.

I wasn’t as moved by District 9‘s aliens as he apparently was;  at the time I found them so inhuman to not allow sympathy.  His point is well-taken, though, that at least D9 director Neill Blomkamp tried.   And considering the racial undertones of D9, that likely was the whole idea:  Give us something we are naturally turned off by and eventually feel other emotions toward them.

Oh, and if you liked these but haven’t seen his (again adult language) review of Star Wars:  The Phantom Menace then pop some corn, grab a soda and sit back; like my suggestion of  taking epic revenge upon Avatar’s world through their free game demo, he guides us through SW:TPM in similar fashion, with similar results.

H/T Spooky

It’s 2010.  2010!

I was awakened this morning to the sound of waves gently crashing upon the seashore.  As my eyes focused, I could see my personal robot had already laid out my clothing choices. I chuckled how 2010 was a letdown because we didn’t have Jetsons-like machines to automatically dress  dress and groom us.  But, at least we do have flying cars.  Flying cars! How awesome is that?

I walked into the bathroom.  It looks pretty much the same place it has been since that fantastic invention of indoor plumbing, but that’s not a complaint; it’s functional.  A flip of the switch and the stored sunlight would cascade gently upon my body as I searched for my NanoDents(tm).  Now there’s some pretty sweet tech — thousands of naked-eye-invisible robots cleaning away the plaque and bacteria from the night’s sleep.  A swish of the minty-fresh neutralizer and I’m ready for my first cup of coffee of the day.

As it is every morning, my robot has my cup of  coffee waiting at my desk (sorry People for the Ethical Treatment of Robots, or PETR, a robot is no more a living being than a car or video game console).  The hologram user interface pops up as soon as I say, “Internet”.   Immediately, I see what the computer has learned from my habits of what interests me most.   President Obama, our second female president,  is pushing for a manned exploration to Saturn, saying that our Jupiter moonbase on Io is ready for deeper-space exploration; Another breakthrough on the medical front.  And Apple just released the iWare 2.0:  Contact lenses which will revolutionize how we see the world.

iWare 2.0!  How awesome will that be?  Augmented reality system which overlays information or graphics onto real-world places and people (never get lost or forget a name again).   iWare Retro will still be around for those who prefer glasses over contact lenses.  I can’t wait to play World of Realcraft with them, which allows me to get out and have some fun pretending I have real magical powers.  It’s quite a workout, to-boot.

Fun.  It sure is great to live in the 21st century.  One can only imagine what wonderful things are in store in the 22nd.

—–

2010: The Year We Make Contact, with reality.

In Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 and 2010 humans are exploring their solar system in large space ships.  Computers such as the HAL 2000 are darned close to intelligent, if not already.  The USA already had the Clavius Base on the Moon by 2001.  While we apparently hadn’t gone out any farther than Jupiter, given that when 2001 was released in 1968, it seemed a reasonable goal.

Other movies have predicted great things for the 21st century.  Metropolis promised biplanes would be common and that there would at least be an evil robotic overlord.  Countless TV shows, movies and even cartoons promised great things for the turn of the century. 1999 came and went without anything even resembling Space: 1999.   Worlds Fair after World’s Fair foretold of great things.  The prologue to the 1932 horror film Freaks, which stared real deformed sideshow people of the day, declared:

Never again will such a story be filmed, as modern science and teratology is rapidly eliminating such blunders of nature from the world.

Nope.  Sadly, we still have those problems in this world.  And no flying cars.  No holograms other than the occasional novelty.  No free energy;  no base on the moon.  Heck, we barely have a base in space.  Astronauts haven’t visited the moon in decades, even though I would wager that the average iPhone has more technology crammed into it than the Apollo 11 writ-large.

And that’s the thing.  I think the iPhone and its sister product the Touch are the technology I was wanting for this century.  They really just are that awesome.  So-much-so, in fact, that it made Wednesday’s announcement of the iPad such a letdown.  I’m really not sure what we, including this author, were expecting.  Multitasking and USB ports would be a good start, since those are even on non-revolutionary computers.  How about a built-in projector keyboard, where it displays a useable keyboard on any surface?  Or alternatively projects a screen?  Or almost anything but a glorified Touch?  But then, as I wrote:  The smaller versions really were just that awesome when released.

So where does this bring us?  Well, the future apparently is a drag, and I suspect it may have (hopefully temporarily) invaded our subconsciousness.   It’s like ordering that awesome Polaris Nuclear Sub for $6.98 only to receive it and find out it’s made of cardboard, not waterproof and certainly not nuclear.  It’s going on a blind date and getting what you expected rather than you hoped.  It’s the hard face slap of reality.  And it’s a bummer.  Even the very popular Battlestar Galactica had little in the way of new technology (space ships and human-compatible robots?) and little more.  Plus, it also showed us what a bummer it was to be human on any planet.  But, I digress.

This seems to pervade throughout American life right now.  Kudos to President Obama for pointing out that it doesn’t have to be only the other countries to have the cool toys, such as high-speed trains.  We can have them too, folks — if we can move past our nihilistic (or too-realistic?) look to the future.   We need to dream; to look forward and to the future.  2001 and 2010 are just two tiny milestones in the map of the human ‘verse.  The future doesn’t have to be rainbows and unicorns — it just has to be.   Even if we dismiss Avatar‘s script as run-of-the-mill, the technology shown was pretty neat.  I’d give an ounce of Unobtainium for a holographic map table.  Who knows what that may inspire for the future?   The real future?

Keep on dreaming, dear readers.   The human race depends upon it.

—–

UPDATE:

Well, just as soon as I give President Obama a complement on high-speed trains, his spending freeze targets a 2020 mission to the moon:

“Constellation is dead,” the [White House advisor on space issues] told AFP on condition of anonymity, referring to a program that envisioned returning to the moon by 2020 and using Earth’s nearest neighbour as a base for manned expeditions to Mars.

*sigh*

Mr. Obama, you broke my heart again.

Let’s hope those evil corporations can step up to the plate and fly me to the moon.

So I tried the PC demo of the Avatar video game, and I must admit:  I liked it.  Well, perhaps not “liked“, but there was something enjoyable in the game.

For  a video game, it’s simply gorgeous.  I think the only way to be let down by the graphics would be to compare it to the movie version’s computer graphics, which would be an unfair connection – or perhaps using an older computer.   It’s a lush setting with plants, animals and man (and Na’Vi)-made products.  It’s also pretty durned spiffy when it briefly switches to night-time and we get to see the planet in its luminescent glory.

It’s a dangerous planet.  Like the movie, if you get attacked it’s your own fault for either not treading lightly enough or for just getting too close.  You do not belong here, former Marine.  Yankee, go home.

But then as one eases himself into the role, and squeezes the trigger the first time, one can pretend just how awesome it can be to have that firepower at one’s command.  Concerned something will attack?  Shoot it with the machine gun.  Don’t like how that flower is looking at you?  Burn that veggie with the flamethrower.   See a pack of angry “hyenas”?  Well, there’s no wishing we’d brought grenades for these four-legged Reavers, because a gun is loaded with them.

And just when one is happy that he gets to exact his revenge upon the fictional world of which so many are depressed cannot be real, he gets the option to drive a freakin’ Mech!  A Mech is an exoskeleton of pure power and armor:

Don’t blame me for enjoying myself.  I like being human.  We have not have always had a proud past, and certainly I would be hard-pressed to not follow one of Avatar‘s messages:  To be wary of large companies with powerful mercenary forces.  But then, I like being human.  I like all the beautiful things we are so able to do.  And,  I don’t have to go to the fictional moon called ‘Pandora’ to see wondrous scenery.   So many can be found here on earth.  So many inspiring places are even man-made as well as natural.

So forgive me as I fulfill a small fantasy of running ramshod through a movie’s setting which had most humans set as the bad guys, not even worth the prayer Pandoran animals received.  I won’t buy the game, because I have no doubt that somewhere within will lie an imposed-lesson on how awful it is to be human.   But if any of this sounds appealing, I’d suggest the demo is well-worth the price of admission.

It sure is better therapy than becoming suicidal.

January 27th  is the annual State of the Union address.  One year after being elected, President Obamassiah’s poll numbers have dropped faster than his policies have failed.  I believe he can not only turn that around, but actually become a good leader of the United States of America.

The State of the You-nion:

My fellow Americans,

Times have been tough for us.  Many people have lost jobs and homes.  Businesses large and small have fallen to the wayside.   This recession has lasted longer than we expected, and I believe we now know the problem.

One year ago, I was sworn into this prestigious office.  But I rode in on a wave of palm leaves, and felt the force of the nation behind me;  I misunderstood that force and those who elected me, as well as friends, neighbors and families of ours who voted otherwise.  I overreached.

This Office has humbled me;  you have humbled me.  I am here to tell you that the buck stops here and that together we can turn this recession around!

Health care reform, while important, will need to be put aside while we work on the economy.  A rich nation can help herself and others in need; a poor and unemployed nation cannot.   Americans are a very giving nation.  Even in this economy, you have opened  your hearts and your wallets to help the Haitians during their own time of need and devastation of the earthquake.  I know that one day we will do the same with health care for our fellow citizens, but today is not that day. Today we begin a new program; one that moves beyond hope and change — back to our founding principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

[Continue with normal speech:  How to turn economy around, how well we’re doing in the Mid-East, how people abroad feel of us, etc.]

He doesn’t even have to mean the words.  Many people will want to forgive him, for in that way they may be forgiven for doubting.

The State of the Me-nion: Instead, we’ll probably get this.   Many, many first-person personal pronouns (“I have done this”, “Because of my policies…”, “Isn’t my halo shiny?”).  And don’t forget the “Let me be clear …” statement which always is followed by murkiness.  In fact, I’ll simply refer to The Daily Beast’s Write Your Own Obama Speech.

Either way, I have little doubt that we’ll end up with:

The State of the O-nion: Many layers, once peeled, make us all become teary.

Update: I was a day early on the speech!  Ooh, I must be excited. Or sumfin.

All sorts of groups are apparently coming out against James Cameron’s Avatar.

Warning,  here be SPOILERS.  And talk of *gasp* race:

While I agree with much of the article, it only approaches the “white savior” aspect in race — I presume because the writer is nearsighted, or simply hasn’t been confronted with alternative views. She misses the boat on the idea of the “Peaceful Savage Myth” the movie portrays, as well as how the vast majority of the key attackers were white; if there were a minority we could count on his or her doing the “right thing” at the appropriate time.  The only cool whites were the ones who were willing to give up their biological and cultural history for that of the natives.

And on top of it all, the movie’s script itself is hypocritical. Picture this: A man lost in the nighttime woods, surrounded by hyenas. He converts his spear into a torch and begins to defend himself from the attackers. Enter his savior, a native, who slays more of the wild dogs and chases away the rest. He thanks her, to which she responds angrily that their deaths were unnecessary and his fault — that he did not tread quietly and thus prompted an attack. She quietly apologizes to each hyena for its death.

Contrast this with a later scene:  The native tribe is surrounded by a clearly superior force. The humans, perhaps hyena-like, attack the natives, but the defenders’ attempts fail and many die. They had been given their chance before to tread lightly — to move away peacefully. Yet, it’s not the Na’Vis’ fault, but once again the humans’. Like the hyenas, the humans (as set up by the movie) were just doing what humans naturally do — and yet when it comes time for revenge, the humans get no prayers or apologies for their deaths. Indeed, even the Na’Vi god itself moves to purge the planet of the human pack.  Still no prayers for the dead.

But then, trying apply reality to Avatar would be like trying to figure out how to use the Force to grab the television remote from across the room.  The Na’Vi live in the temperate climate land of rainbows, unicorns, memory willows and floating islands.  And scantily-clad women.

Well shoot.
Now even I have the blues.

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