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George Romero’s 1978 zombie flick Dawn of the Dead wasn’t a zombie movie;  it was a movie about commercialism and how we’d become slaves to objects. So much so that the very draw of the mall would bring the undead masses from natural modern instinct. Yes, not even death could stop you from wanting a new pair of Converse tennis shoes, polyester pants or Star Wars action figures.

Flash forward to the very sad news of days of rioting in London. Growing mobs attacking people and stealing all the electronics or clothes they can with no care of who gets hurt.  Just as Romero’s zombies are instinctively drawn to the place they were in life, today’s London rioters seem winched en-masse to those spots they’ve always been called, not caring if they render dead a man’s livelihood; simply giving into a feral need to sate their lust for brains the hottest of today’s items.

My original belief was that it was largely race-based. While it’s true that there are subversive elements in any group, it seems that the underlying core of even these elements, in modern times, could well-be a monster of our own making — an experiment gone awry.  What happens when society deems the nuclear family no longer important?  What generational lessons are lost?  What happens when kids  go through school and life without reprimand, because teachers can no longer teach-by-example that some actions are simply unacceptable in modern life?  Meanwhile, what arises when we pity those very groups and tell them they can move through life as such while being provided free food and healthcare while telling them they’re not truly alive unless they have the latest iPod or Toshiba laptop?

We don’t know whence Romero’s zombies came.  Other movies have the origin as either a military or corporate lab test-gone-wrong, while others are of our own ignorance or simply an act of nature.  It seems today’s rioting is a perfect storm of all.  That’s not to say  individuals are slow-and-stupid or the disease is incurable, but it’s not one given up easily. An easy life, we were never promised.

Zombie movies are often more than simple horror flicks meant to elicit fear or churn stomachs.  They can help us prepare for nearly any disaster (do you have one gallon of water per person per day stored? ).  But sometimes, they might also give us clues to the human experience.  Indeed, zombie stories aren’t necessarily scary because they are movies about monsters, but because they are a slightly distorted reflection of us.

Update:  A Huffington Post author makes a similar analogy of the riots being a zombie-attack-made-real, only differing in the cause of the outbreak.

Update II:  It’s interesting to see that a mere few months ago one hundred fifty zombies shambled through Leicestershire to raise awareness of the city’s unpreparedness for a zombie attack, only to  successfully repel one in the recent riots.

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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.

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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