Hey, don’t get me wrong: the whole Avatar experience is just that… an experience! Hi fidelity, 16 channel, body throbbing surround sound; 300 trillion dollar special FX software (invented by the MAN himself); IMAX 3D with vomit inducing flying creature action, and the frosting on the cake — the US Army OBLITERATING the Mother Tree. Wow! I loved that! Pocahontas meets Dances with Wolves meets The Terminator meets ‘please-forgive-me-for-I-have-sinned-against-the-earth.’ The size of this shaggy dog eclipses that big rock in Australia. But those little jelly-fish things floating in the air in front of me while the Navi roamed blissfully through the branches of the mother tree… just blew my mind. Almost as good as the bad trip I had on Gray Thunder acid in 1972.
Now my father has this huge cat, Rascal, and when I visited him recently I took a close look at this cat: it has a big flat nose and is a spittin’ image of the Navi. Ha! All this technology and you copy the face of cat living in Cleveland Heights?
C’mon, Jim. We’re on another planet not Animal Planet. You need to tune into Doctor Who now and then for ideas. Now there are some really good ALIENS.
Why not something like the cat people or the cyber men or the DALEKS? Yeah, the DAAAALEKS! If an avatar could infiltrate the Daleks and then fall in LOVE with one of the DALEKS… now there is a story I’d pay 14 dollars for. Inspired by the work of the AMAZING contemporary Italian Sculptor, Eduardo Paolozzi, the Daleks send me under the futon EVERY TIME they appear on the screen – as if I’ve never seen them before. Woof!
But seriously, I mean… every one who is half his or her worth on earth would go ga-ga over a 10 foot tall humanoid thing. Tall is the thing. All famous models are at least 9 feet tall. Nuns – who rule a good part of the world – are all approximately 14 feet tall. Basketball players are tall. Abraham Lincoln was tall. All in all it’s just another brick in the wall is Tall, a tall tale. A ten foot tall creature with the face of a cat, pastel blue-green skin, great legs and a cool tale? I’m in love!
I happened to get to a theatre in the middle of the day and caught a matinée (with a really nice group of octagenarians) at the Cedar-Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights. What a great old school theater this is. We saw “The Hurt Locker” – right after the awards deal last week.
Well I’d heard a lot about this picture — an excellent story, directed, no less, by James Cameron’s ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow. The Hurt Locker is an intense film – a real story about real people struggling to do what is right in the moment they are living in. At times I felt as if I was intruding in a place I didn’t belong. At times the focus felt like it was about 12 inches wide and about 24 inches from my reality. I felt self-conscious, as if I was too close, but it was in reality, my feelings… because it was real life — not politicized, not enlarged, not pompous, not contrived. While it was clearly outside my current scope of reality, I still felt as if it was a part of me. Writing should provide new metaphors for our lives. That is why we read stories, why we tell stories, why we write stores (and I suppose, why I do this blog which somehow levels my brain and saves my sanity).
In every story there is a stick or an arm or a hand which reaches out and either draws you in or keeps you at a slight distance. We need this so we can maintain our own place, our personal definition and yet be near enough to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ the new myth, the new metaphor. That distance allows us to stay at a safe distance, to keep emotions in check, or to enter into it deeper if we care to (or dare to). When a human voice is not available, the technology — the word on the page, an image on celluloid or video, or the virtual world of the internet provides a medium for transmitting the stories.
Technology, while an essential element of life in the new millenium, has one huge drawback: it allows us to remain distant, anonymous, remote. Cell phones are great if you are stuck in the fog on a dark road or need to transact business 24/7, but not a good thing when it replaces being face to face. A radio controlled ‘drone’ aircraft, bombing suspected terrorists is good when it protects the lives of soldiers, but bad when it dehumanizes killing, like a video game. Video games are fun for young kids, but unhealthy when they swallow up the precious hours of our youth in damp cellars, becoming numb, blasting away at virtual enemies. The games become nothing more than early training for the defense department. And in the case of Avatar the film seems to be an over-used cautionary tale cloaked in 300 million dollars of technological bling. Sure, it looks good, but what’s new about it? What’s new about the story? During a time when we have too much information pounding into our retinas, our ears, or senses, we need rich, organic stories to remind us what being human is all about. We need stories of loss and love and comedy and foible and imperfection told to us by the human voice or a word on paper. We need a small room with seven actors rambling on to a crowd of thirty-one on a Friday night in Madison, Wisconsin or Chicago Illinois or Omaha, Nebraska. We need a back-yard fence and the neighbors talking. We need to cut off the WI-FI at the Cafes, leave the laptops at home and get back to talking to each other. At this time we don’t need substitutes for reality, we need the warm breath of the next human.
So get out on your bicycle. Feel the spring breeze. Take out your ear buds. Listen for that sound, that story… that’s a human talking. Don’t miss it.