Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Political correctness gone mad

Stewart Lee’s “Comedy Vehicle” show continues to be awesome! I loved the ballet slipper bit. Also I liked it when Hitler complained that you can’t say “bum bandits” anymore… and the bit of advice about the hejab for the next Weight Watchers meeting.

Tragic Ballerinas!

Muslims made me fat!

Political correctness gone mad!

It was a good antidote to some of the dumbassery I encountered today during the continuation of RaceFail 09.

Vacation with Saturn and proplyds

I'm in the parking lot of a motel staring at spectacular red and buff cliffs! It's the Kaibab Limestone and the Coconino sandstone and that other red rock formation I forget the name of. Spiky little lizards are playing on the fence next to me.

After a great but exhausting week at ETech and SXSWi, I'm on vacation in Arizona with a rental car and no particular plan. Last night in Sedona we picked up a flyer in the Super8 lobby, for Evening Sky Tours which I pictured as a couple of old retired guys out in a parking lot picking up some spare cash for new lenses by showing off their amateur astronomy knowledge. While this was close to the truth the Adventure was run in a scarily businesslike and professional manner and rather than being a once a week or sporadic deal it was clearly a real job. Three guys pulled up with a trailer or two full of telescopes with a D**'s mount sort of a huge wooden box like a box kite with mirrors stuck in and lenses and spotting scopes stuck on! They had a row of folding chairs with wooly blankets laid out. Reclining lawn chairs would have been more the thing.
The main dude went around in a bossy way reminding his employees the telescope flunkies to "tell 'em what they're lookin' at". It was excellent. They did an especially good job of saying "In Africa" or "In the MIddle East" when talking about the names of stars and the history of astronomical discoveries.

As the Milky Way began to slide into our consciousness we saw a few satellites and every time I wanted to scream "Satellite!!!" Might have done just that. We had out our G1 Skymaps at first but put them away so as not to be assholes. I knew Orion, Taurus, Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, the Big Dipper and North Star, and that is about it. With luck I can spot Cygnus and the Corona Borealis. Zond-7 knew where Sirius was, which impressed me. I guessed where Gemini was, but got it wrong. Then I did what one of the astronomy dudes suggested and learned "Arc to Arcturus" and "Spike to Spica". Now I know a new thing!

The Night Sky Adventure dudes explained what we were looking at very well and were patient and sweet about all the questions. It was a little hard to get them to go into any depth. But it was light years better than going to a planetarium!
Stuff we saw: M51 which is sort of colliding or interacting galaxies, M3 (a globular cluster), M81 and M82 together (they affect each other with tides!), the Beehive Cluster, the Pleiades, a red dwarf star among the Double Cluster,  Mizar A and B and Alcor, (The horse and rider!), Saturn and 5 moons, and a bit of the Orion Nebula where the Trapezium is. We looked at Sirius through a polarized filter to see its spectral lines.

Later, the Wikipedia entry on the Orion Nebula turned out to be incredibly great; hello, iron tipped glowing blue "bullets" of supersonic incandescent gas. It just got more and more extreme and crazy in the descriptions. Keep reading. It gets better and better. Like this:

The green hue was a puzzle for astronomers in the early part of the 20th century because none of the known spectral lines
at that time could explain it. There was some speculation that the
lines were caused by a new element, and the name "nebulium" was coined
for this mysterious material. With better understanding of atomic
physics, however, it was later determined that the green spectra was
caused by a low-probability electron transition in doubly ionized oxygen, a so-called "forbidden transition".

In between lurching up from my wheelchair to peer through telescopes, I kept saying over the things we'd seen, so that I could look them up later. "You must have studied this!" one woman said in amazement. "No…. I'm just repeating to myself what the guy just told us…"

I don't mean this meanly, but I have forgotten how dumb most people are. Or maybe not dumb but just, without the most basic snippets of information about things like what a moon or a constellation or a galaxy is. Compared to our amateur astronomer hosts Zond-7 and I were just a couple of people who grew up liking science magazines and who might read the Planetary Society blog once in a while. But the people around us, holy crap. One lady was asking what it meant for something to be a moon. As we explained (super nicely) she *got it* that moons go around a planet, and planets go around the Sun, and so the moons are also going around the Sun at the same time, but with extra wiggling. I could see her getting it, even in the dark! Zond-7 explained very clearly to someone else what it meant for Saturn to be in Leo (which it was). Earlier, someone else went "Is there a thing called a .. a 'quark'?" and boy howdy did I feel like Mr. Peabody just able to say "It's a tiny elementary particle" Zond-7 asked if she meant quasar, but she meant quarks which were mentioned in a movie she saw. When I hung out with large feral packs of theoretical physicists I noticed how they would speak with disdain of washed-up media whores meaning anyone who ever talked to the press or wrote a popular science article. Meanwhile I wish popular science was more popular and more people would learn how to explain (with strangeness and charm) what a quark is to a regular person.

Anyway, I was struck by how much people don't know. We don't need to know it, people go around and function and are smart as anything, but I forget that most people don't care for some of the things I like to know. And I was struck by the thought that I am used to being around people who do know and who have a fairly huge internal database of random knowledge not applicable to their daily life. The people who came to the astronomy event were self selected to be people who were interested and curious and willing to learn stuff, unlike the general population. I am not trying to be judgmental on people by saying this, it is just that I felt a gulf suddenly between my assumptions about what's in people's heads all around me, and what actually is. Heather Gold at SXSWi in her talk show at Plutopia touched on this rather sweetly when she mentioned the movie Powers of Ten and said "You know, like that thing you do in bed when you're a little kid, where you imagine you're in your address, St. Louis, Missouri, United States, North America, Northern Hemisphere, Earth, The Solar System, Milky Way, like that? … and the crowd just kind of stared at her…. As Heather did, I assumed everyone did that! Did you? But no – not everyone spends hours poring over photographs of galaxies and nebulae and reading encyclopedia articles. I have not felt like a freak for having a lot of book learning for a long time, not for years. As a kid that was a hard lesson – I thought all reasonable people would automatically know what mitochondria were, and so on.
This crowd, the idea of spectral lines was going to be so completely over their heads that it was impossible for the guys to explain anything. I was glad they showed it anyway.

Meanwhile, I don't know the parts of an engine or how to fix a toilet or knit a sweater or take someone's blood pressure as probably the people on our Star Tour do know.

Saturn's moons freaked me out the most. They just hang there. The light reflected from Saturn shades them like our Moon is shaped and shaded by Earthlight. They were more surreal to me than Saturn itself, because they looked so three dimensional.

There is a flythrough of a 3-D model of the Orion Nebula! Can't wait to try it!

When we get home I have a book called Agnotology waiting for me which promises to be about theories of Not Knowing. What don't we know? And why don't we? And how does that affect us?

One last note, Zond-7 asked one of the astronomy dudes how many stars
were in a galaxy and was told a trillion.  He gently drew out the guy a
little more and then shut up. Later in the car he told me that the
trillion stars theory was in the process of being debunked, as it is
based on "a trillion solar masses" but like 99.999 % of that is dark
matter so there are likely not a trillion stars in the galaxy at ALL.
Speaking of Agnotology!

If you are wondering about a proplyd you may go read the article on the Orion Nebula! Happy pointless knowledge voyage!

Video game sports commentary

BoB has just been pwnd on a whole other level, but as I read about that, I came across this amazing video!

I love games, that is an incredibly beautiful space battle, and the commentators are great even though I can’t understand 90% of the words coming out of their mouth. Would anyone care to explain the strategy of what happened here, in plain language?

Did inferior ships from the opposing group, Star Fraction (the Thoraxes) just gang up cleverly and rush the more powerful ships? What happened? I would like the Osprey guide to this epic & famous battle, with diagrams and maps, the order of battle, etc!

Feeling low

I’m feeling a bit low energy from being sick for so long. I have either some lingering annoying bronchitis or really really hair-trigger asthma left over from the bronchitis or both.

As I lie here working and reading blogs and listening to music, I’m fairly content but then it’s like the wall goes down, some kind of wall between between me and all the times I’ve fucked up and disappointed other people. Past failures are playing over and over in my head. I think of whole communities I was close to, that treated me so well, like I was a minor rising star or at least a promising talented person, and somehow… I’d just drop the ball and drift away. How many times has this happened! And how bitter it is when I not only do that, but someone then writes me to explain how I let them down.

Nothing in particular sparking this, I’m just annoyingly ill and my parents were visiting. I’m reading a lot and playing Galcon in odd moments.

Emotional flatness… or meltdown. Not a fun choice!

Here I am in bed being vaguely pissed off at the world, with a nasty headache.

i am so sick of being sick

Cheeriest music of the day: The Kabeedies…

12 days of Internet Freedom!

Donate to the Electronic Frontier Foundation! A membership makes a good gift, and you get a nifty tshirt as well. See my awesome “Defend Bloggers’ Rights” tshirt in the header photo? Well that’s an EFF tshirt, and you can have one too if you go right now and fork over some money, then wear it with pride!

Fair Users Empowered
Fair use law protects your ability to use copyrighted material for commentary, criticism, parody, research and beyond. In 2008, EFF took on large and small entities who tried to use copyright to chill speech — from music labels to diamond companies to land developers to tech companies and even psychic Uri Geller — and defended your right to mash-up, remix and create in the modern digital world.

Learn more about this video and support EFF!

Vital gender under-class lessons from a sabretoothed squirrel

Just like I enjoyed Twilight while noticing its perturbing elements, I can appreciate the fun animation in Ice Age while REALLY hating the sexist cultural referents its humor depends on. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Here, we have a host of assumptions underlying the narrative of the guy squirrel and the girl squirrel. Which we know is a girl squirrel because it’s wearing blue eyeshadow and acts sexually manipulative. (Hint! Little girls! That’s all you need to become a Woman! Start practicing today!)

The guy squirrel possesses the fruits of his labor, which he has rightly earned and which he needs to survive. The girl squirrel uses a combination of sexual manipulation and faked distress to trick the guy into entering an implied contract to share resources based on love and sex. This would not make sense unless we understood and accepted that the girl is unable to get an acorn through her own labor. The girl then screws the guy out of his earnings. He has been a fool! (Little boys, take note! Don’t let this happen to you! It’s just how girls are!) The end.

Let me unpack it a little bit more for you. Women’s efforts and labor doesn’t actually count. If they do anything, or work at anything, or achieve anything, that can be instantly invalidated by saying they stole that tangible success through sex, ie through a transaction with a man trading the only thing women have of value, which is their sexual availability to men. Or, in this case, to goddamned sabre-toothed cartoon man-squirrels. That’s either just the way girl squirrels are because of their essential nature which results in wry romantic comedy hijinks, OR they’re that way because society has denied them the ability to make a living or if they (barely) have it, the actual credit for making that living is denied them and it must have been due to some man in the background who they’re blowing on the casting couch (or the VC board room, or whatever). Therefore, it makes sense to believe, and to base humor that “we all can understand” on the “fact”, the weird, powerful, and false idea, that there is a huge category of women with no legitimate personal interest in any particular subject who are just looking for some powerful man to fuck in order to access (and steal) his power (though how are they stealing it if they are actually exchanging something of value, ie, sex?) These women are looking to sleep with you, the powerful (!?) man to get a tangible benefit because they can’t (legitimately by your standards) benefit from their own labor. Given the slightest opportunity they will turn on you (the man who has earned everything justly, even if it has been by exploiting others’ labor). Unfortunately there is NO woman so powerful and accomplished that this misogynist patriarchal myth cannot discredit. Go ahead and think of one and let me know if you come up with any answers.

Camille, with a gun, in pants!

Every time something exploded or there was a cliché in Quantum of Solace I punched Rook excitedly. He is now black and blue all up one arm. Yay, it was fantastic! Things were totally on fire and going very fast and there was broken glass everywhere and there were lots of guns! That makes it the best movie ever, just like XXX and The Killer and Bullet to the Head and, apparently, the new Vin Diesel movie which from the previews looks like heaven. NOT as heavenly as the Star Trek movie preview though. Holy crap! They seriously aimed that trashtasticness straight into my soul! You didn’t know I had a soul? Well I do, and it has Spock and Kirk in it looking like they’re going to kiss while their spaceship explodes.

Back to Quantum of Solace. The highlight of the whole fucking movie was PANTS. Camille is always whipping a gun or a knife out of somewhere when she’s wearing like 6 inches of fabric. And then finally in the ending scene she is wearing pants and has a big old gun. Thank you god and whatever movie director was like “yanno what it is fucking stupid these tough secret agent movie chicks are always in high heels and an evening gown in the middle of an airplane crash, how about we give her 5 minutes to prepare for going out to shoot this guy in the head on her secret mission and let her put on a pair of fucking pants. Tough ones with pockets in.” THANK YOU.

I will leave the intelligent critiques for later. For now it is all burbling and dreamy looks. Oh, but I did feel that though camera cutting from thing to thing in the action scenes was distracting and annoying, it was not ineptness or cheating but was meant on purpose to disrupt the linear narrative of violence. IN other words it was important that the violence be confusingly nonlinear so you don’t know what what hit what or where that grappling hook came from or where the crane is swinging to on the scaffolding, because it’s important that you be very unsure *what caused what*.

Fancy dress for narcissists

I had very specific feelings about this dress, and remember them well. I liked the color and the fact that it was fancy. I didn’t like that the waist was babyish, or the way the lace scratched, or how the elastic on the sleeves pinched to make a line around my arm. I thought the black bow was elegant, like Mr. Peabody‘s bow tie. Of course, who wouldn’t admire Mr. Peabody and want to be just like him?

me probably about 4

In my mind, when I wore this dress, I was professorly.

You’re laughing! I can hear you!

They thought I was a cute little girl in a frilly dress. When really I was Dr. Badgerabeth; kindly, bossy, superpowered, able to pull any book I wanted out of a secret pocket; a little vague; quick to invent, prone to giving history lessons.

I knew and deeply resented the contrast of reality vs. my imagined self, and would not have told anyone my Mr. Peabody feelings for the world.

Is it insane, or the sign of extreme narcissism, that I can remember all my feelings about this piece of clothing from when I was 4 or 5?

Last weekend at my grandma’s house, I pawed through only a few of her dozens of scrapbooks and photo albums and drawers of letters, and completely enjoyed hearing her stories of the past. On this photo

age 5

she described to me all her feelings about the dress. It was her best one and she loved it. But she had mixed feelings. They had to stand in lines all the time for clothes and food. I got the impression it was a hand-out that was fixed up for her, probably by her own grandma or her older sister (her mom was dead.) “It had a rip in it. RIGHT HERE.” and she pointed. The dress seemed to mean something complicated; I could see its ghost outline. A mixture of pride and desire-to-be and humiliation.

My grandma Hemulen told me when she realized she was an artist. She was 6 years old. Her uncle, a house painter, painted her and her sisters’ room a light spring green. He used something like masking tape or strips of paper to mark off a border around the bottom, and told her she could make a decorative border however she liked. As she described her plan for the border to me, my grandma’s face lit up with excitement and pride. She marked off stripes with the tape, then squares, then painted a checkerboard pattern, with tulips in every other square. I too have memories like this, intense strange memories of feeling very driven, and holding on hard to those memories all my life. It was strange to see the similarities in our strong memories and our documentary approach to life. The photos, the scrapbook articles, and for me the blog entries, aren’t so much proof of anything as they are keys, keys to all the doors of the past, of desire and identity I didn’t want to lose, and in part a desire to have the keys to other people, to the locked doors inside their heads, like those little eggs with peepholes and dioramas in them, but with infinite room or a maze that leads to through-the-looking-glass . . .

To all Republicans trying to keep a shred of decency

I guess stirring up people’s fear and hatred has some result. Can the Republican Party realize what it’s doing here? They try to make a scared, angry mob by pushing the culture wars and racism to extremes. And that is what they have done.

McCain is trying to put out the fire a bit while on the other hand with approval from his campaign and with impunity Sarah Palin fans the flames and adds fuel. You can see in the videos how she likes the boo-ing and the power and feeling of whipping people up into a frenzy of hatred. Fine, it’s hatred and fear that’s there, but you don’t have to FEED IT.

I have been doing my best personally to reach across party lines and across social differences to religious and conservative people who think I am damned to eternal hell for my sexuality or whatever or not allowed to have any place in society. And I make an effort to deal with those people in a rational and just and civic fashion and to respect them. I will continue to do that to the best of my ability.

I like what my friend Cynthia1960 said recently. “I don’t have to treat everyone as my ally. But I have to treat everyone as my possible future ally.” That applies perfectly in this situation. That is the attitude I will maintain to these people no matter what they do. That’s what it takes.

Republicans you had better step up and rein in your attack dogs. What, I’ve watched people get arrested and thrown around by police for years at peaceful rallies, anti war, immigration rallies, and when people do this at a presidential candidate’s speech, nothing happens, no blowback, no nothing? You really want to vote for that? You want that to be the image of your political party and its beliefs?

What I got from the debate

Besides my snippy jokes about McCain’s awful tie and being annoyed with Obama for overplaying his respect for McCain, here’s what substance I got from that debate.

McCain’s plan is to cut all government spending except for throwing money at the war, expanding the war, and shoring up Wall Street & big corporations. That’s not what I want to hear! And that’s not what I think should happen.

I also heard McCain try to say he knew exactly what to do and had been doing everything right. Then how come McCain voted 90% of the time with Bush? I don’t see how he gets around that. He was part of everything that has run this country into the ground.

McCain claimed he knows how to “heal the wounds of war”. But all he talked about was how horrible and dangerous other countries is. I got the feeling he was about to declare war on Russia right then and there. It was more like pathetic posturing and chest beating at the very moment when the country can’t even pay for the war we’re in! Meanwhile people are dying, how are you going to heal that? By whipping everyone up into a frenzy of fear and declaring war on like 7 other countries? Great job!

Obama was not afraid to say that the war was and is a giant mess. We need to get out of Iraq. Trickle-down economics isn’t going to work right now. Instead go forward with energy research, science & education. Really fund alternative energy sources. Cut taxes for most PEOPLE in the country… so they can build up their lives. And close the loopholes that let GIANT CORPORATIONS evade their taxes.

it was really a pretty boring debate but it did mostly stick to major issues. I enjoyed the Twitter stream for Election 08 a lot, with criticisms and triumph and snark from all sides.

Here’s the best moment of the debate:

Here’s a good summary of the whole debate, point by point, from the Boston Globe.