Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sometimes your age really hits you

I remember when the phrase "if nothing else, just to see a 5 Megawatt laser fire" inspired boy genius Chris Knight to finish college.

Now, we have a laser which "lasting just a few nanoseconds, the system is capable of generation 500 trillion watts of power"

All I can say to that is: look what you have high power, limited firing time, unlimited range. All you need is a large spinning mirror and you could vaporize a human target from space...

I hope a responsible agency knows about this.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ethnic (mis)casting

This post is not about actors being cast to play ethnicities which are not their own (Mexicans as omni-Hispanics, Asians as omni-Asians, etc). For instance, the new movie Star Trek (awesome movie) cast John Cho, a Korean, as Sulu, originally played by Japanese George Takei. However, in this case, the actual ethnicity of the character is really irrelevant to the role or any underlying themes. (Well, actually, Sulu was deliberately post-ethnic in his original character concept.)

I am actually referring to films in which the ethnic undertones are specific to the films characters as displayed in the film. For instance, I love Strictly Ballroom (I'm a little gay sometimes), but I have always had a problem with the fact that the underlying message of the movie is "white people can't dance." Scott, who has been dancing since he was walking, can't understand the basics of "true" dancing until he is instructed by his Hispanic girlfriend's family. Sure, it's a common trope, but what really bugs me is that every character in the movie is blond-haired blue eyed white boy poster child, except that the actor who plays Scott is dark haired, dark eyed, and generally Hispanic looking himself. (I suspect he's Italian with a name like Mercurio, but my point remains). So, the "white boy" who learns to dance can't even be played by a white boy...

Not necessarily a big deal, but Hispanic/White relations are hardly a loaded topic. When we deal with Palestinian/Arabs and Israelis, however, there are some serious emotions, so much that it seems one can't actually cast two actors of the correct ethnicities in a movie together. Don't Mess with the Zohan, a wonderfully funny movie with the deliberate message of "why can't we all get along?" has Adam Sandler in the title role fall in love with Dahlia, the Palestinian hair dresser from the other side of the street (nice metaphor). Only problem is, Dahlia is played by Emmanuelle Chriqui, who is Jewish (Moroccan Jewish, strangely enough). Why couldn't Adam Sandler actually date an actual Palestinian woman, or at least an Arab. And there are plenty: Salma Hayek and Shannon Elizabeth are of Arab descent. Okay, they're a little too well known, and obviously American. Chriqui is not well known, I only know her as the chick from that Lance Bass movie and the lesbian ex in The OC (did I mention I was a little gay?). How about Amal Hejazy, Farah Bseso, Clara Khoury, Amal Murkus, or Nadine Salameh?

Finally, what brought these thoughts back up for me, was watching a little indie Israeli movie called The Band's Visit about an Egyptian band trapped in a small Israeli town. Nice, light, but touching movie about the possibility of overcoming ethnic differences. But the main character is played by Sasson Gabai, a Jewish Israeli actor.

I don't have any objections to ethnic- or race-blind casting in films. Or weirdness, Observe and Report had one of the coolest and weirdest moments ever with the casting of the crack gang as a white trash guy, a hispanic guy, a thug black guy, a random white guy, and an asian guy. I think it's best to go about it that way, but when the ethnicity of a character is integral to the plot, maybe there should be some truth in advertising...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I knew it happened with music

Reviewers, distributors, and producers all in each other's pockets, pushing what they think the big new thing will be, rather than letting the next big new thing emerge on its own.

But I always had a particular love of books, and I feel myself very disappointed to finally discover that the publishing industry seems to do the very same thing. Critics have a job to do by reviewing books and being honest. So imagine my surprise when I find six out of eight positive book reviews for a book which is just downright awful. I think the NYT review is most telling in its attempt to hide the negatives inside the overall positive review. But it's Entertainment Weekly which is the only publication with the balls to write an honest review. How bizarre and topsy turvy a world we live in.

I know it's an industry, and I know that the publishers are in it to make money. I accept that, I accept the lists that circulate around publishing houses for the identification of a best seller, and the fact that you can manipulate a book into being a bestseller. That's all fine, it's the market, whatever.

But when critics push a piece of tripe as a good novel (and seriously, there's a scene in this book I was expecting one of the characters to say "Oh, I like a girl with spirit!" it was so contrived), that bugs me.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

News Trolling

First, like a scene out of a movie:

By ANDREW DRAKE and FISNIK ABRASHI, Associated Press Writers Andrew Drake And Fisnik Abrashi, Associated Press Writers – Sat May 16, 3:23 pm ET

ALIABAD, Afghanistan – The bearded Afghan army officer dropped off bundles of pens and notebooks at the school and asked one boy which he preferred: The Americans or the Taliban?

"I don't know," the boy replied. But after a short silence other children in the classroom answered for him: "The Taliban."

Within minutes the discussion was punctuated by an insurgent ambush and the joint U.S.-Afghan patrol became pinned down in this area with forested mountains, caves and ravines that American soldiers call "the Valley of Death."

Seriously, are we that bad off in Afghanistan that the Taliban can stage an attack using schoolchildren???

Second, because it's funny. Apparently gay marriage is bad because it's more expensive. I mean, I'll accept the strategic brilliance of it, recasting the notion of gay marriage into an economic one. It's kind of like the F22 Strike Fighter, an amalgam of irrelevant electronics, being recast as a jobs program for the strapped economy, but ... really? Doesn't the argument that it will adversely affect small businesses actually add to the legitimacy of gay marriage in the first place? "We just can't afford it right now" doesn't exactly carry the same moral weight as "it's banned in the Bible and an abomination." Oh wait, that's shellfish, err... I mean cotton/polyester blend.

Monday, May 4, 2009


I wish I had the money to buy this:

Dr. Pepper is awesome!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Concidences in Science Fiction

So, I watched the first four seasons of Babylon 5 over the last few weeks. (I guess this is what one does when a dissertation is complete - nothing). Then, by random chance, my next choice was Jeremiah, which also happened to be a JMS show.

Coincidences abound, though, because there's actor after actor who show up in Jeremiah, who later starred in Battlestar Galactica.

First, I noticed that Tricia Helfer (Number Six) has a brief appearance in the first episode (looking VERY young...)

Then, Kandyse McClure (Dee) plays Kurdy's love interest.

Now, I'm looking and I see that Alessandro Juliani (Gaeta) plays a charismatic preacher in one episode.

So, sure enough, I start looking at the other actors from BSG, and I find:

Aaron Douglas
(Tyrol) was also on both shows.

Is it a Canadian thing?