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Two Great Science Videos I Saw Today

First, allow dogs to teach you about chemical bonds. I wish I was this skilled a dog trainer. My dogs know some tricks and my parrot talks a little, but this is well beyond my league.  My hat is off to you, snuggliepupppy!

Next is another cool video that’s significantly more serious in its message: we’re doing students a disservice by not teaching any knowledge more recent than 1865.

minutephysics certainly drives the point home.

Woohoo More Hobbits!

There is another trailer out for the first of Peter Jackson’s (are you fucking kidding, you greedy bastard) three Hobbit films.  And while I may be grumpy that it will only be a third of the story, I am still incredibly excited.  Who wouldn’t be? Hobbits and dwarves and elves, oh my!

“If Baggins loses, we eats it whole.”

“Fair enough.”

Real Self, Identity and X-Men

Over the weekend, Thrack and I watched the X-Men prequel, First Class again.  I have no hesitation in saying it’s significantly better than any of the previous X-Men trilogy (and the less said about the abysmal spin off Wolverine movie the better).  But I was thinking about a favorite moment in the second film with Magneto and young mutant Pyro.

Magneto: What’s your name?

Pyro: John.

Magneto: What’s your real name, John?

Pyro: Pyro.

And I think I’ve finally figured out why I like that bit so much: as with so much of X-Men as an allegory for minorities, it speaks to trans people and how their real names are their real names and not their assigned names.  It subtly backs up the idea that they have the right to define a happy whole identity that is who they are, and not to be denied by those who demand to know about their former names or genitals.

It reminds me of something Natalie Reed wrote about some things about being trans that are awesome:

I know that my body and my identity are my own.

Being trans is definitely not something anyone makes easy for you. It’s something you have to fight tooth and nail for. ‘They’ do everything in their power to deprive us of the ability to define our genders for ourselves, and to make our own decisions about our bodies. I can certainly say that although abortion is perhaps one of the feminist issues that has the least direct impact on my own personal life, the concept of being in possession and determination of your own body, and how disgusting it is to see people try to take that away from you, is something I know very intimately.

But the thing is, at this point, it would be really difficult for anyone to ever take this away from me. And with every step forward one makes in transition, it becomes more and more difficult for anyone to ever undo your decision. It claims your body as definitively your body. It’s no longer the body that just happened to be assigned to you, it is the body you chose.

A lot like tattoos or piercings, it’s a beautifully empowering thing to begin being able to see your body as an expression and extension of yourself rather than the chance congruence of fate and genes and whatever you’ve been eating. It becomes symbolic of your life and your decisions, of your self-determination and identity. Your narrative, power, confidence, struggle, and possession of your own life become written into its contours and shape. It ends up being so much more than just a vessel.

When I used to look at myself naked I always felt heartbroken, defeated, hopeless and deeply sad. Now I can look at myself and feel proud of who I am and what I’ve made of myself. Proud of having claimed this little collection of flesh and muscle and bones and blood and stuff as my own to be what I want it to be, proud to have defined it rather than letting it define me.

And ultimately I know that nobody else but me is ultimately in possession of it, or the identity I use it to express. If they were, my body would not be what it is.

Stormtroopers Don’t Know Anything About Lasers

Movies about time travel far too often get bogged down with the actual time travel and paradoxes.  It’s like there is never a way to make a time travel movie where the main focus isn’t the actual traveling in time part.  Sometimes it’s awkward or broken, and sometimes it’s pulled off masterfully as in Primer.

Safety Not Guaranteed is a movie about time travel where the actual time travel isn’t important.  And it’s awesome.  (Which is probably why it won the Screenwriting award at Sundance this year.)

Before I go on, I should probably point out that yes, the film is based on the internet meme famous ad from a magazine that was added to fill space.  They even had the guy who wrote it make a small cameo in the film, which is always awesome.  The whole story of the film is basically, what if that was real?

While searching for articles in a meeting, a staff writer (Jake Johnson) and two interns (lead Aubrey Plaza and Karan Soni) are tapped to investigate the presumed loon seeking a companion to go back in time.  Of course, only the interns go intending to research the story; the staff writer’s motive of hooking up with an old girlfriend occupy the main sideplot, and his pursuit of a high school fling is often done at the expense of helping do the story.

This plotline is actually one of my superficially favorite things about the movie; it has the potential to be trite or sappy by forcing a happy ending that doesn’t match with the real world but they decided to make it feel human and believable.  It adds a nice bittersweet tone against the main plot and characters.  It alternately adds realism and humor to balance the emotional progression in the film.

At the Q&A following the film with the director, he noted that they were careful not to let any portion of the film feel too heavy, and I think they did a masterful job.  It has a good balance and is very, very funny.  It’s also incredibly geeky; I’m not sure if it’s just my generation growing up and creating things or whether we’ve become a large commercial demographic (probably a mix of two, really), but I’m always happy to see geeky and nerdy shit making its way into mainstream stuff.

For example stormtroopers.  They wouldn’t know shit about lasers because, as screenwriter Derek Connolly pointed out in the dialogue, they’re blue collar workers.  The movie is filled with this sort of quip, and that fills my geeky heart with joy.  Actually, pretty much everything in this movie fills me with joy.

I’m hoping it gets a decently wide film distribution because it really is wonderful.  Hell, I’ll probably devote another blog post to the movie once there’s a trailer circulating.  Like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, this is another example of how what comes out of Sundance doesn’t have to have a strong indie-movie stink* but sometimes can be just awesome gems.

Totally as an aside, I also loved the time machine itself.  It’s a boat.  I have never in my whole life pictured a time machine that’s a boat.  It was also incredibly neat to look at, and apparently was a collaborative art project assembled by local metal smiths and later disassembled by the artists to get their pieces back.

*Not that I don’t like indie movies, but they are definitely not for everyone.  For example, I loved Weekend, but the fact that it had no music during the movie is just one of the indie markers that some people find offputting.

The Ocampa Would Be Extinct

I started watching Star Trek Voyager on Netflix streaming.  If you don’t like the series, fine, but I admit I’ve always kind of liked it.

But there’s a problem.  I didn’t notice it when the episodes first aired, but now that I’ve seen it I can’t un-see it.  There is no way that the Ocampa could exist as a species, they would be extinct.  And it has nothing to do with a short lifespan, that doesn’t matter in any event.  It is clearly stated that their species is capable of only having one pregnancy (which produces only one offspring) in a lifetime.  That’s not even replacement birth rate.

I can suspend my disbelief for all kinds of shit in a science fiction show.  But this seriously damaged my enjoyment of the show.  (It’s science fiction after all.)

I Want A Freeze Ray

I’ve never been terribly good at filtering out public conversations by others, and on days where my mind is especially floaty or fuzzy, I can find it almost impossible to ignore assholes saying stupid shit in public.  Today was of the latter kind, and I found myself fantasizing as I often do about being able to punish people by shooting them in the face with a freeze gun (think ice beam rather than time-pausing device).

What was that you said about women “exercising their power” by “withholding” sex from a partner?  Ha! Now your face is encased in ice.

You think that Darwin’s theories encompassed what? Now you can’t cause pain to others by spouting off ignorant, not-even-wrong bullshit.

I imagine myself gleefully blowing vapor from the tip of my weapon and asking if anyone else has something stupid to say.  Guys, I think if I was smart enough and had the materials, I might just be a supervillian.  I don’t have the patience to be a hero and save assholes while ignoring the bullshit they spew without thought.  I could be a slightly less paranoid Reducto, but instead of making people travel sized, I would just immobilize them with ice so I don’t have to listen to hateful crap.

What Is This I Don’t Even

I…

I don’t, I can’t, you know, just watch it and then come back.

Where do we even start counting the wrong?  How can there be this much wrong in less than twelve minutes?  Thrack described this as the telephone game version of the Hobbit translated into Russian and back again.  That sounds about right to me.

  1. “…before men came to power and ruined magic forever.”
  2. Dale, everything about Dale is just wrong
  3. Slag the Terrible, the agent of evil on Earth? What happened to Smaug?
  4. General Torin Oakenshield?  Also, he’s clearly not a dwarf.
  5. Invented princess of Dale, really?
  6. Gandalf’s Tower?
  7. Prophecy about destruction and “the time of the hobbit?’
  8. Bilbo’s great-great-great-grandhobbit was a dragonslayer?
  9. Where are all the dwarfs?
  10. That’s not what the world looks like
  11. The “mines of dale” is not what the Lonely Mountain was.  And where are the dwarfs?
  12. “dragonslayer” is very different from “burglar” just sayin’
  13. Again with the princess shit?
  14. Trolls are replaced with Groans that turn to wood, not stone
  15. Rivendell?  Also, apparently there are no elves in the world
  16. “grablins” is an interesting substitution, not that we see any
  17. Gandalf is “still seeking” the one ring of power?
  18. “…magically the one ring of power had found its true bearer, Bilbo Baggins the hobbit.”
  19. Why isn’t Bilbo invisible?
  20. Um, goblins? Wargs? Eagles? Beorn?
  21. Mirkwood Forest is an obstacle that doesn’t slow them in the slightest?
  22. Elves?  Again, I guess not.
  23. So no Lake Town, either?
  24. Oh, so that’s why they changed the shape of the Arkenstone.  To make it an arrowhead for Bilbo Dragonslayer.  ARGH.
  25. “…his growing love for the Princess Meeka?”
  26. Bilbo and Meeka reigned over rebuilt Dale until they retired back to the Shire?  Seriously?

Just wow.

It turns out that this monstrosity was made by a single dude in a matter of weeks to preserve rights to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but I still can’t understand how this could have happened.  The hobbit is really not that complicated, so how do you get it this wrong?