Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year 2010

I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year 2010.

There are a lot of things that I am hoping for, and not just for myself. I do want to see a better world being made, and want to see the end to senseless wars, religious oppression, famine, poverty... More money for scientific endeavours and research and less money for armaments and wars. More money to help people in need, better education for the children wherever they may be.

No more wars on science, after all science is part of our daily lives. From pharmaceuticals to computers to modern cars, all those have come from science.

Please abandon religion, abandon dogmatism, misogyny and racism. Think critically and humanely, think logically, use your empathy towards other people and sensibility.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Avatar - James Cameron

The movie opened on Thursday the 18th of December in Greece. My friends and I wanted to see this movie, and we managed with some difficulty to get tickets for the early evening screening last night. After watching the movie, I can fully understand why this movie is a hit and why it was so fully booked. In fact I would like to go and see it again.

Let:s just take things from the beginning, and start from the script of the movie. A solid scenario, it has no contradictions, no corny love story! After the disaster of New Moon, I did not even want to go near a love story.

I liked the script, it is well structured and well written. The story keeps the viewer interested throughout the movie, and does not have any bad moments.

The story itself sounds simple, but there is more to explore... Jake Sully [Sam Worthington] is a veteran marine, crippled in some war on Earth. He is sent as a replacement to his twin brother on Pandora, an Earth like moon of a gas giant, named Polyphemus, orbiting one of the stars in A Centauri. Pandora is inhabited by a race of humanoid aliens named the Na'vi, which are bigger, stronger and more resilient than humans. In order to communicate with the Na'vi, humans have grown avatars, human-Na'vi hybrids called avatars. Each hybrid is genetically compatible with just one human host, the host whose DNA was used for the hybrid. What do humans want on Pandora? They want unobtainium, a mysterious element which is very very rare and very very expensive on Earth, but is abundant on Pandora. So, the science team led by Dr. Grace Augustin [Sigourney Weaver] has the task to learn about the natives and try to get them to cooperate. But things are not what they seem to be, neither with the Na'vi nor with the human-avatar connection.

I am not going to say any more of the story of the movie, go and watch it. Just one last thing. Humans have destroyed the Earth, and they are seeking now, because of greed, to do the same on other worlds.
One word on the love story of the movie, which is well tied with the script, with no corny lines, or anything that might look out of place with the rest of the script. This is solid story-telling from the beginning til the end of the movie.

As far as acting goes, I would definitely say the best acting in the movie is done by Sigourney Weaver. I loved her character, and the way Sigourney portrays Dr. Grace Augustin, and how the scientist and humanist side of the character are shown throughout the movie.

A second best, in my opinion, has to be Zoe Saldana, as Neytiri, the Na'vi woman that rescues and teaches Jake the way of the Na'vi.

Sam Worthington as Jake Sully is quite good throughout the movie with a few excellent acting moments. I especially loved the beginning when he records how he got to Pandora, his voice being that of a sad man, who has almost given up, and how this changes throughout the movie. Another excellent moment is before the big battle, when Jake speaks to the tribe of the Na'vi, as Torouk Makto, and the last moment I have picked is at the end, when Jake speaks about his birthday.
I also love the soundtrack of the movie. It is well suited to the film, made for the film, and part of the film. However, I was able to listen to it during the movie, without being distracted by it. Part of this movie's magic, and one OST I will definitely be buying, probably online.

The best part of the movie is its stunning visuals. You could say the visual effects, but there is something more here. I fell in love with Pandora, with the Na'vi people, with the trees and the Ikran, with the Tree of Life... One of the moments I was stunned by the beauty of it all, was when I saw the night of Pandora, with the bioluminescent life forms.

All these images, from the beautiful nights to the hovering mountains of Pandora, have been burned into my memory; and Jake Sully, our protagonist, will have to see and not just with his eyes, but with his heart and he will have to use his avatar body to the fullest, to survive, to love and, ultimately, to save the Na'vi people.

This is one movie that I really enjoyed, I rode with Jake and Neytiri on the Ikran, I cried with the Na'vi, I fought with the Na'vi, I fully immersed myself in the world of Pandora.

I see you

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blogger problems

Blogger is having serious issues. I am a European user and half the time, I cannot access blogger. I am thinking of moving both blogs, this one and the greek one, to my own website.

I have to think about this, and find good hosting and cheap prices. The problem with moving is the number of posts, which is not too bad in this blog. But in my greek blog, I have 80+ posts and they will grow by the time of the move.

Originally I had opened this blog as a test site, but lately decided to making it a proper blog, and write as much as I can.

I will have to make a decision before the year is out, if problems with blogger persist.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

God? No thank you.

I am an atheist, and I am OUT. I am a moderator in two atheist forums, one is the Richard Dawkins Forum, and the other is a greek atheist forum,, and in both I am known by the name Darkchilde.

There are some questions that come up all the time, and I thought of starting to collect them and answer them in my blog.

The first question I would like to address is: Why are you an Atheist?

Well, the first and main reason is that there is no scientific evidence for any god(s).

I rejected christianity and other forms of religion since I was a little girl. I remember being around 9-10 years old, and thinking how stupid the stories of Adam and Eve, and Noah's flood were. I was lucky in the fact that neither my mother nor father were very religious, and the only one trying to force religion down my throat was my grandmother.

I have been baptized an orthodox christian, which is the main religion in Greece, where I was born, raised and currently reside. Orthodox christianity is a bit different in some practices than other christian branches. First of all, the way the hymns are sung to my ears sounds more like noise than music. They are very loosely based to Byzantine Music, but to a child they mostly sound awful. And they did sound awful to my little ears as a child.

Not to mention that church is boring! You have to sit tight and listen to all that awful music, and to bible passages I did not understand! The Bible read in the orthodox churches, is in an old Greek language, a mixture between Ancient Greek and Modern Greek, which is not understood by the majority of the population. In fact, a translation of the Bible in Modern Greek did not exist for a very long time, having been translated and published in Modern Greek only in 1997!

Then there was the fact that my grandmother wanted to take me to church at every opportunity when I wanted to do something else, especially the 4-5 weeks before Easter. Each Friday in those weeks preceding Easter, there is a church service. Trouble is that, a certain year when I was a child still, every Friday on TV there was "Space 1999". And one of my favorite branch of literature/TV/Movies is Science Fiction and Fantasy, and it has been this way since I was a child. So, there comes this Friday a few weeks before Easter, and my grandmother wanted to take me to church for the service. I wanted to stay home, and watch "Space 1999". Of course, my grandmother being the elder and "more sensible" she won that round. However, I won the war! Because, I was constantly whining at church and for some time after, that I lost that episode, and how was I going to watch that [this was at a time before there were even VCRs!], and similar things. That episode I finally watched it at a much later date, on a VCR. Of course, now I have it on DVD!

And then, there was my love of science. And I am still in love with science. My influences when I was growing up included Isaac Asimov, and not just for his science fiction novels, but also for his popular science books, and Carl Sagan, with his series Cosmos. Watching Cosmos made me want to become an astronomer. Reading Asimov, made me want to study technology, specifically computers, and AI.

Then there was the question of gender inequality in religions. And since I am of the female gender, I could not understand why I was thought to be inferior in everything to males. And I was really angry when they told me that my goal in life should be to just find a man and get married and have babies! Just become something little better than a slave! I hated and resented that. And all that just because my reproductive organs are to be found inside my body...

The main attraction of the whole religion show in my childhood though was Sunday school. Well, that was still when my grandmother used to take me to church on Sunday, and then I would stay for the god lessons. I hated going to church on Sundays, even more. At the time, I had school Monday to Saturday, so Sunday was the only day I could sleep a little more and not have to wake up early.

But back to Sunday school. I never liked it. Why? because I never got a straight answer, and of course, the Bible teachers there did not like me too much either. So, after a few Sundays, it was commonly decided that Sunday school was not the best choice for me. That was before the Easter "Space 1999" trouble though.

And when I got to puberty? That was what was even worse. Because that's when the misogyny from religions strike. It wasn't because of sex, my parents explained to me all about sex, and what happens. It was because of my intellect as opposed to other people's. I have logic and critical thinking skills and applied them. Which meant that I outright rejected the orthodox church and christianity, to the dismay of my grandmother especially. I still though thought at the time, that we should respect religion, and still believed at a universal force behind everything.

I never was religious from that time on, and if I happened at church, it was because of a social event. I never gave it a thought about religion, as it never played a role in my life, other than my fights with my grandmother about it.

Another big influence on me, and never realized how big it was until recently, was my science professor in high school. Her name was Mrs. Casotti. Most students disliked her probably because she was quite strict. But I do now understand that she was also fair. She taught us real actual science, including evolutionary theory. I remember we had a whole session on Lucy, the Australopithecus Afarensis skeleton found in 1974.

I never remembered it until recently, that Mrs. Casotti had said that she was an atheist. And that was back in the second half of the 1980's.

How then did I realize that I was an atheist? In a period of 4 years, I lost 4 of my dearest people. I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer's; my grandmother to natural causes; my father to cancer, and the blow of blows for me, my then 26 (now would be 29) years old little sister.

At the time I was angry at everything and everyone; I thought that this was some cosmic joke against me. Then in my anger, I said that I don't believe in god or any universal force or whatever you want to call it. Even though, those were words of an angry spirit, of a person in a lot of pain, they were essentially true. And that, because in essence, I had never actually believed in any god(s) or any universal force(s)! But before I realized this, I still had to let go of the anger I felt.

That was a very slow process, that came about with the help and support of my family and friends. Although most of my family was devastated from such losses, we still held through. A couple of months later, I was on my way to healing and had started to let go of the anger. The pain mellows with time, but there is always a hole and a scar left from such huge losses.

About January 2008, I received an order from Amazon, which included the book "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. I had heard of Prof. Dawkins as an eminent biologist, and was curious about the book.

The book did not tell me anything new; I had argued a lot of the same arguments with my grandmother and other religious people. What it did though, was to put my thoughts and my ideas into a logical order, to make me say that "the god hypothesis does not compute" and to make me realize, that all this time I was really an atheist. I just did not call myself that and I was clinging to a notion of god, of higher power that made sense to me and me alone! I also realized that I had to let go of my last irrational taboos, that I held to them for no other reason than to please others and not myself.

So, I left behind any notion of fasting: I was doing it purely for traditional purposes, and not for myself. I wasn't eating meat for a week, only to please some irrational old tradition, and was going hungry, and resorting to eating all sorts of crap food just to make up for the growling of my stomach! Since I stopped doing it, I am much happier with myself.

Then, it was the time for blasphemy: but I had blasphemed a number of times, when I had criticized religion for the irrationality of the stories in the Bible, for the misogyny, and for many other things. What was then different about religious figures in comparison let's say to the Star Wars characters? [Okay, I admit it, DARTH VADER IS GOD!] Religious figures feature in a book and are the protagonists of a book. And I held them in respect because ... of convention! So, now I am finally free to complete blaspheme! And yes, Sweet Fucking Zombie Jesus!

Thus I realized, that I had been an atheist since I was a teenager, since I had rejected religion, any religion, and I always followed the evidence...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

New Moon

Yesterday, I went to see "New Moon" at the theatre. I have not read the books, so I cannot compare the two. I definitely want to read the books though, because I think that, at least the "New Moon" book, should be much better than the movie.

Let's start from the beginning though. With respect to the first movie of the series, (Twilight), "New Moon" is a definite loser. Twilight had more action and was not filled with cheesy romance and lines not even fit for a daydreaming teenager!

One of the most corny and ridiculous moments, was the scene where Jake takes off his T-shirt, and wipes the blood off Bella's forehead. I laughed really hard, because it was really obvious that the scene was meant for 15 year old girls to go "Ooooh" and "Aaahhh" at seeing Jake's quite athletic body. [I still prefer Edward!]

What I wanted to see and didn't get from this movie: more action! Werewolf vs. vampire! Not even a decent fight. There was only the one with Laurent, and Lawrent was just a wimp, as we already know from the last movie.

Where was Edward for more than half of the movie? Where were the vampires? Nowhere to be found. And I think that the absence of the Cullen and other vampires was what really was detrimental to the movie. Suddenly, Alice comes back to Forks, and the whole movie changes. There is action, interest peaks again and the race to save Edward... I hope we do get to see the Volturi again.

My advice? Keep the start and ending of the movie, the scenes with Laurent's death and when Bella realizes that Jake is a werewolf, and ditch all the romance between Jake and Bella.