Undeniable likeness of being.

av·a·tar  (āv’ə-tär’)   
n.  

  1. The incarnation of a Hindu deity, especially Vishnu, in human or animal form.
  2. An embodiment, as of a quality or concept; an archetype: the very avatar of cunning.
  3. A temporary manifestation or aspect of a continuing entity: occultism in its present avatar.

Having an overly rational mind sometimes leads me to rebel against hype. I often find myself missing out on the simple joys of life, due to my inescapable obsession to analyze and verify everything I see and do. When I watch a movie, or read a book, for instance, I first have to consciously talk myself out of re-writing the story, and talk myself INTO just enjoying it for what it is.  This illusion that  I present to myself stands hard, but only for a short period of time, before it mists away and my brain begins twisting what I know into what I wish I hadn’t discovered.

This was the case while watching Avatar a week ago.

This movie has been hyped as the greatest of its time. Years of promotion and speculation built the public interest into a frenzy. And crushed any hopes I had of enjoying it. The more an event is hyped, the more likely I am to turn from that hype. The greater the frenzy, the stronger my feelings are that there is something amiss.

I will grant that the cinematics are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. A third of the way through the movie I found myself wondering if this was really CGI, or if the world had been deluded and what we were watching was actually actors in costume. I generally don’t like CGI in a movie, it takes away the fantasy of it all, ironically. Watching Spiderman 2, in all its CGI glory was a horrendous adventure, dissolving all of the “superpowerness” of the hero. It made it hard to believe that Peter Parker was in fact a “superhero”…I know that a computer generated hero can do anything, what I wanted to see was a stereotypical young geek capable of the extraordinary.

Avatar was the first CGI film I’ve watched that actually made me feel as if this was something I’d never have the opportunity to witness in real life. Now, you may say that Spiderman is not something one could truly witness in real life, however, there certainly are stereotypical young geeks accomplishing the extraordinary on a regular basis. What the CGI did was make me wonder, if what I was watching wasn’t in fact real, real actors, real makeup, real costumes, real settings.

For once, the CGI was believable, and it was the story that lacked luster for me.

The story of Avatar is not new. It’s one that can be found in the absurd. Take Zelda-Ocarina of time…here we have the story of a young hero, Link, who is an outsider in a village, the Kokiri Forest, built under the Great Deku Tree. As an outsider, Link strives to become a member of his chosen people by setting out to abolish their oppressor, with an underlying motive of saving the life of the princess, thereby ensuring his perfect assimilation into the people. Sound familiar?

The spiritual connotations in Avatar go almost beyond discussion. The idea that all things are explicitly connected, running on the same life energy and never divisible is the basis of my being. Watching Avatar is like experiencing a shrink-wrapped mushroom cloud of religion. It’s safe to say that every faith will find something to connect to in Avatar, if one so cares to look.

So, that leaves me wondering, what was James Cameron up to when he wrote Avatar?  He is noted for placing symbolic relationships in his movies. His stories are  littered with the lessons he wishes  the viewer to learn. Or is it just people like me…those of us unable to see something for strictly what it is? Is there the off-chance that Cameron made this movie, and all his others, simply because he could? Simply because he was boxing clever, and able to re-imagine the accepted standards of film-making?  Was it purely for our entertainment? Unfortunately for me, no.

Cameron had a purpose. My only wish is that his purpose fit the hype because  the hype surrounding the”originality” of the movie promised a revelation. I went into this viewing with the idea and understanding that Cameron was going to change the world. The hype informed me that what I was about to watch was a brilliant new concept, not only in the cinematics, but also in idea. In the past, I walked away from Cameron’s movies with something fresh to think about, something new to wrap my head around. With Avatar, I find myself largely disappointed with the lack of newness.  As much as I herald the ability present in the movie to manipulate CGI in a previously unseen manner, I recognize it as something that was inevitable, the next logical step in its developement. And the story is previously written in any dogma, any sacred text, any belief structure, from Hinduism to Islam, Witchcraft to Freemasonry.

The mundane has become original. Basics of life, human nature, have become the phenomenal, yet still, we rely on the predictable to enlighten us.

I can hardly wait for the sequel, in which I’m sure the Na’vi will spend three hours becoming assimilated into the ways of their new saviour.

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Turn the page and you will find me

Since recently joining Peace, Love, Books, in the hopes of finding new books and some intelligent people to discuss them with, together with Number 2 on the List, I’m inspired to post and possibly review my recent reads. My goal on the List is to read 100 books in 1001 days, which really isn’t much of a stretch for me, I’m sure I’m going to do it in far less than that. It’s been suggested to me that I shouldn’t list or include books that I’ve RE-read, but I’m going to anyway because to me, reading is reading.

Here, in no particular order, are 10 of the many  books I’ve read since writing my List on January 11th, 2010

Shutter Island-Dennis Lehane

Unfortunately, I read a lot of books. I read a lot of books, in a multitude of genres. This leaves me with limited resources for new material. I had thought, seeing previews for the movie, that this might just be something a little off the wall, and I purchased it in the hopes of finding a new favorite author. Alas, what I found was a predictable story, one that although it was well written, was one I’ve read before. I had it all figured out within the first few chapters. I even re-read the last few chapters  three times, in the hopes that I was mistaken in my predictions and that the story didn’t end as I had expected. But, it did, sadly.

 In The Gloaming-Alice Elliott Dark

This was a wonderful collection of  short stories, based on the dynamics of ordinary life. Set in the fictional town of Wynnemoor, the stories introduce the reader to a collection of characters, in common day situations, with exceptional complexities. I laughed, I cried, I ran the gamut. Each story was different, but all left me with thoughts running through my head.

Loose Girl-Kerry Cohen

This was your typical rendition of a “I was a bad person, but now I’ve learned the error of my ways” story. It tells the tale of a spoilt (surprise!) young lady, who had life handed to her on a silver platter, who found herself wanting (surprise!) in meaningful relationships whilst growing up. Not  able to get what she needed from family, she turned to promiscuity (surprise!)  in hopes of finding the ultimate connection with a soulmate. Although I don’t class the writing to be substandard, I certainly wouldn’t label it substantial either. It rates right along with any other book where the author has “turned their life around”.

The Importance of Living-Lin Yutang

I’ve read this numerous times over the course of my life, my current and tattered copy given to me about 15 years ago by a friend, Joe, a resident of  Hong Kong.  Knowing that I was a Witch, Joe and I had many, many  conversations likening my belief structure  with that of Chinese philosophy. Yutang’s is not a book of teachings, as much as it is a book of experiences, both his, and the people in his life. A person would be hard pressed not to find something to relate to in this book. All philosophy aside, The Importance of Living is a witty, entertaining, thought-provoking read.

Mapping the Edge-Sarah Dunant

Not one of her best. I usually love Dunant’s stories, as they’re very descriptive, leaving them both entertaining and educational, as fiction goes. This one left me with a feeling of being incomplete, as though Dunant had rushed it out the door. Every mother at one point or another (although 99% will never admit it) has had the thought of rushing out the door, leaving motherhood behind, no explanation, no forwarding address. Mapping the Edge tells the story of one such mother, and although it’s a story of acting on these thoughts,  it lacks in the definition behind those emotions.

Altar Music-Christin Lore Weber

I found this to be a very relevant book. It is a loving and compelling look at the intricacies of religion through the eyes of a Catholic nun. It’s a work of fiction, loosely based I believe, on the life of the author.  Receiving a rare glimpse into the life of a Cloistered nun, the  passions and disciplines it took to get there, and the heartbreak of doing battle to balance personal beliefs, left me wanting to live the experience firsthand. Altar Music is beautifully written with scads and scads of authenticity.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy-J.R.R. Tolkien

Does this really need a review? I think not. Love it or hate it, it’s one of those writings that should be experienced by absolutely everyone. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve read this series,  at least once a year, since I was about 10…probably more like 2-3 times per year, if you averaged it out.  If you haven’t read it, give it a try, if you have, read it again.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower-Stephen Chbosky

I must say, my review of this book is going to be completely biased. Quick anecdote: My oldest son is dating a girl (they live together, in a city five hours away from home) who is a real joy to behold. She’s beautiful, she’s intelligent, she’s an individual…and she’s also, very, very, shy. Just before the winter holidays I was discussing the girlfriend with my oldest daughter. I had said that I hoped to get to know her better while they visited, because I truly adore her, and want her to feel apart of this family. I mentioned that I hoped she would open up to me, as I really wanted to get to know her on a deeper level. Her name is Sarah. On the day Sarah arrived for the holidays, she threw her arms around me, with a great big hug, then reached into her bag and pulled out a small package. “I bought you something”, she said. I told her she didn’t have to do that, to which she replied, “yes… I did”. I opened the package to find this small book. Excited by a new read, I voiced my appreciation for any sort of book. Sarah leaned over, and quietly said, “This is my favorite story in the whole world, I just wanted you to have a copy”. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a series of letters written by a young boy standing on the outskirts of life. Poignant enough to fit in with the crowd  but withdrawn enough to not realize how poignant he is, Charlie tells a story of growing up that’s hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. Much like Sarah. Who gave me one of the greatest presents of my life.