Sci-Fi: the future of sex and sexuality

Saw this really awesome blog post by scientist and sci-fi enthusiast Kyle Munkittrick from Discover:

Science fiction knows how to play around with sex and gender. The free-lovin’ of A Stranger in A Strange Land, Commander Shepard’s bisexual proclivities, and William T. Riker’s seemingly universal interspecies compatibility are constant sources of entertainment.

And the fun doesn’t stop with organic entities. Androids, cyborgs, and robots make gender all the stranger. Why is Data fully functional? Isn’t it curious that, of all the characters in Ghost in the Shell the two most heavily cyberized characters, Motoko and Batou, are hyper-feminine and hyper-masculine respectively? And, my favorite: as a robot Bender has no gender, so if Bender bends his gender, what gender does Bender bend?

Sci-fi sex is fun to talk about, of course, but how can all of that help us understand the actual future of humanity? Simply put: we imagine what we hope to see. So the question is: what is it we imagine and hope for? An utter free-for-all of alien-cyborg-A.I. bacchanalia? I don’t think so. Instead, sci-fi is teaching the diversity of our own human sexuality back to us.

Science fiction allows for universes in which we can more easily accept alien forms of gender expression and sexual desire. For example, Ruby Rhod from The Fifth Element is perfectly and outrageously androgynous. In a normal action flick, I suspect Rhod would be a controversial and possibly distracting figure. In science fiction, however, Rhod is just another character caught up in the chaos. Sci-fi lets us explore sexuality free of the cultural and social baggage it carries in the here and now.

For more, click here.

Advertisements

127 Hours – a study in existential transformation in the most unlikely of places

So, a former housemate of mine introduced me to “127 Hours” with the idea that it is about a guy who cuts off his arm when he is trapped in a boulder in a canyon for five days.

I didn’t think much of it, but I did copy his copy of it. I had heard it nominated for the Oscars (as of press time it had lost out to “The King’s Speech”) and that made my interest a bit more piqued. But not sufficiently piqued as to actually watch it. The thought of another film, much like “Castaway”(can you actually bear tw hours of Tom Hanks? I didn’t think so) and “Ladder 49” where someone is trapped somewhere and you watch two hours of the person struggling, just seems unbearably boring for me. So I held out on it til yesterday, when I was at home, having watched all of my movies and now ready for “127 Hours”.

After finally watching it, though, I had to kick myself for not having watched it sooner. The difference between this film and the ones that came before it, was director Danny Boyle’s trademark filmmaking style and James Franco’s gritty performance as Aron Ralston.

Boyle’s frenetic, kinetic, filmmaking style, fraught with MTV-saturated images, backed by an upbeat soundtrack that pushes rather than constrains the scenes and breathtaking cinematography of the Utah canyons, does not interfere at all with Franco’s intense depiction of a solitary, secretive man who is more at home in the wilderness than in the office, and who, moment-by-moment, manages to infuse this character with more life even without dialogue or other characters. The script is fast-paced and clean, and clocking in at one hour, 30 minutes, and proves that the age-old adage, less is more, is true in this case.

There is no Wilson in this movie, no elaborate flashbacks to stretch the drama. In fact, flashbacks are not treated as such, and are actually both memory and introspection and imagination for Franco’s Ralston, who imagines his treatment of past lovers, family and friends with casual indifference at first, but gradually, as the days progress, with much regret. But the most fascinating thing about this movie is the age-old theme of literatures past, man vs. nature and man vs. himself, when, stripped of all the trappings of everyday urban life, Franco’s Ralston comes to appreciate the daily routine only a man trapped in a boulder can appreciate: 15 minutes of sun on his toes, a bird flying overhead for eight seconds, water, camera, the luxury of memories, and also comes to appreciate the devastating realization that he was responsible for where he was in now and no other, and thus, being responsible for himself and his actions, his destiny and his future, Ralston is able to break free from his predicament by doing the one unimaginably harrowing thing anyone can do: cut off his arm with a cheap, dull, China-made knife. I think that was the most compelling part of this film – the idea of accountability and of personal responsibility, an amazing existential moment that seems unusual in post-millenium cinema.

I like this so much I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a great film to watch this year. If you are going to watch anything, watch “127 hours”.

What’s your comfort film?

So last night, whilst talking to my housemates (a Chinese Canadian guy and a new British Chinese guy – yep, it’s two guys, a gay person and a house) we were talking about homesickness and what whether we have comfort films (like comfort food) that help get us through those dark times.

Housemate number 1 (Canadian) says his comfort films were Se7en, 12 Monkeys and  Fight Club (“Do you have a thing about Brad Pitt?” housemate number 2 asks.).

I remember the first time I was overseas, I was spending a disturbingly inordinate amount of time watching movies and television series (hence the birth of this blog), and I remember watching “Hairspray”and “Stardust”over and over again at the time. I also remember watching a few Filipino films (say that fast, 10 times) as well.

When I was in Canada, for some strange, inexplicable reason, I used to watch D.E.B.S over and over again.

Alright, it's probably the short, plaid skirts, the legs attached to them, and the hotness of two girls making out that probably made this a comfort film for me. 🙂

When I went back home to the Philippines, I used to watch “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”over and over again, as well as “Battlestar Galactica”, “True Blood” and “Glee”.

When I’m feeling down, I usually turn to light, romantic, usually teen films or comedies. I refuse to watch horror now because they’ll just depress me more.

Right now, it’s “Zoolander” that I love watching over and over again, along with “How to Train a Dragon”. If I could snag “The Producers” and “Team America”, I’m all set.

What about you, what’s your comfort film?

Retro-review: All Over Me

Back from a long absence!

So I’ve been just reading (speculative fiction anthology edited by Ursula K. Le Guin, book by Terry Pratchett), or hunting for books to read (Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” – which was already sold at the bookshop where I normally go to for good bargains. I have book two, but what’s the point of that if I don’t have book one, dammit?!?), or watching (All Over Me, Mulholland Drive, Harry Potter and the Death Hallows Part 1, I Love You Philip Morris, etc.) or looking for ways to get movies without actually spending atrocious amounts of money. Well, I’ve come across a nice friend with a massive external hard drive who’s been kind enough to let me watch the movies in her  drive.

So I’m going to talk about, “All Over Me“.

File:AllOverMeIndieFilm.jpg“All Over Me” (1997) (directed by Alex Sichel, produced by  Dolly Hall and written by Sylvia Sichel)  is a movie about coming out, coming-of-age and coming to terms with the changes without imploding or disintegrating. The movie is less like the big, clean, polished, Hollywood studio produced films about coming out as of late, and more like the hardcore underground indie films where the coming out process is painful, and sometimes downright traumatic, like a bandage being ripped from a wound that hasn’t completely healed yet. Set to the riffs (and sometimes pluckings) of music by Leisha Hailey (The L-Word) and Miki Navazio, the movie effectively captures what’s it like to be 16 and to come out through the eyes of Claude (Alison Folland). Claude has an intensely close, almost unhealthy and increasingly codepedent friendship with bestfriend Ellen (Tara Subkoff), with whom she hopes to start a band with. But Ellen is in love with the abusive, macho Mark (Cole Hauser) and this makes Claude jealous and confused, and eventually realizes that she’s in love with her bestfriend. Ellen’s new relationship with Mark, and with the drugs he supplies her, makes her drift away from Claude and their plans for a rock band, ocassionally appearing only to have Claude make her feel better when she and Mark have fights. Claude meets pink-haired guitarist Lucy (Leisha Hailey), first in a music shop, then in a gay bar, and they start making out after. Claude freaks out though and realizes that she is hopelessly, irrevocably in love with her bestfriend. This is a heartbreaking realization for her, and even more heartbreaking when we see her casually confessing her love to Ellen and having Ellen angrily tell her never to tell her that ever again. Claude struggles to accept  her budding homosexuality, her separation from her bestfriend and a budding relationship with Lucy.

The film feels a bit raw and would have benefitted from a bit more tweaking, but there is an honesty and accuracy to the film’s depiction of coming out that I liked. Coming out has never been easy, even though Hollywood likes to think it is. In truth, it’s messy, it’s painful, it’s heartwrenching, but as Dan Savage et.al. have said, it gets better. It really does.

I geek out, therefore I do: Jung and Descartes in comic form are much more fun!

So back when I was making my master’s thesis on sci-fi and mythology and motifs, I have had to read a lot of Carl Jung for related literature to support my ideas on the correlation between mythology, sci-fi and the collective unconscious. At that time, I enjoyed reading him, but not being a psych major had its drawbacks, especially since I struggled with some terms he would reference from other materials. However, be that as it may, his ideas were amazing, and certainly a lot more fun than the idea of perpetual repression Sigmund Freud perpetuated.

There was a point in my life as well when I was reading nothing but philosophy all the time, just for fun, and I had a great time reading them, until I got to Descartes.

In my search for worthwhile online comic books, I came across this one from eviltwincomics.com, which has chosen to make Jung and Descartes more intelligible. 🙂

Entitled “Action Philosophers”, this is a comic book series by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, that succeeds in simplifying Jung and Descartes and thus making them more understable for the internet-age millenium.

Their series on Jung chronicles the friendship (and closeness) between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, points out the friendly rivalry between, Carl Jung’s discovery of the collective unconscious, his inevitable break from Freudian ideas, and the falling out and bitter rivalry between them and their followers that resulted. The comic book succeeds in laying out the foundations of Jungian psychology as followsin making Descartes more comprehensible,  able to condense his ideas from his Meditations on Philosophy to bitesize form:

Jung discovers the collective unconscious

Jung discovers the collective conscious 🙂

 

“I think, there I am”: Descartes in comic form



Geek discovers: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the dangers of a single story

There are advantages to being in Africa.

One is that it expands your world further.

Another is that stereotypes you’ve had, misconceptions you’ve had, expectations you’ve had go completely out of the window, when you come and you realize that the things you’ve read about Africa are not all necessarily true.

For another, you may discover how different you are from them, but more often than not, you’ll discover how similar your lives are, how you think and feel and dream and wish for the same things, that at the end of the day, we’re all just living under the same sun afterall.

Another advantage you have: you discover a wholly different world, of books and music and movies and artists and writers that you wouldn’t have discovered had you stayed home. 🙂

Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story (speech at Oxford, England)

A few days ago the housemate downloaded a video of a speech from a writer I had never heard of, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This is my literary ignorance, and the fact that back home, it is mostly world literature is eclipsed by either self-help books or books by Stephanie Meyer.

I listened to the speech, whilst watching an episode of a Filipino telenovela badly dubbed in English. As the speech began, with Adichie talking about childhood reading memories filled in blonde-blue eyed children, white people talking about the weather, people eating apples, and producing the exact same stories later on, not realizing that these were removed from a country where it was always hot, and people ate mangoes, and there weren’t any blonde-blue eyed children, I found myself listening to her speech.As her speech progressed, talking about the time when, as a student in America, she had an American roommate who irritated her with her ignorance about Africa and its people, I couldn’t help but listen. By the time she was talking about the dangers of a single story, how that creates stereotypes, how stereotypes are dangerous because they are stories that are incomplete, and must needs be completed, I had turned the volume on the tv down, completely engrossed in her speech.

I have, since then, been looking for the complete  text of her speech. What I have found though is an excerpt of her speech at cnn.com:

“It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo (Nigerian language) word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali. How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power. Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story, and to start with, “secondly.” Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have and entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story. I recently spoke at a university where a student told me that it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had just read a novel called “American Psycho”—(Laughter)—and that it was such a shame that young Americans were serial murderers. (Laughter) (Applause) Now, obviously I said this in a fit of mild irritation. (Laughter)”

I remember my own childhood then, of stories about Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and of Beauty and the Beast, of white-skinned, beautiful young women who always seemed to need to be in danger and the tall, handsome, dashing young princely men who always rescued them. I never wanted to be these white young women, I was shorter, I had brown skin, I knew I could never be as pretty as they were…but I did want to be those young men – they always seemed to have more fun. 🙂 (but that will be a story reserved for another day).

As I grew, I was able to read books by Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and contemporary authors like James Michener, Leon Uris and popular authors like John Grisham and Sidney Sheldon. I’ve moved a step up, maybe, but maybe not. They were white, most times male, and they wrote about realities that were far removed from mine. Sure there were universal themes that I could relate to, love and honor and courage and all that, but at the end of the day, it was a different perspective still. This is probably why when I started writing, my stories were set in the Philippines, but they could just as well be set somewhere else – in some white, middle class suburb somewhere, with snow and maple trees and blue-eyed people talking about the weather. 🙂

I’ve since not written any story. There was a period of working and just looking for myself and wondering if writing fiction was what I really wanted. It’s a question I haven’t answered, since my years of journalism has made me want to write real stories, not fictional ones.

As I listened to Adichie, it made me want to write again. But barely. Maybe this time I might just write. 🙂

Buffy Studies 101: All the things I know about break-ups I learned from Buffy

So, in the previous post I said that I thought there was a romantic prospect on the horizon. Well, that was a bust! It came and went in the space of a week and thus I must needs go to the “Gospel of Buffy” to find some measure of comfort and truth in Buffy. I think maybe Buffy can help me get over this heartbreak.

1. Did your groom just leave you at the altar? No problem. Go back to being a demon!

2. Is your girlfriend the emotionally unavailable Chosen One? No problem. Go pay vampires to suck your blood then rejoin the Initiative.

3. Did your girlfriend dump you because you are using way too much magic? No problem. Use more magic.

4. Did your friends bring you back from the dead not knowing you were in Heaven because you are The Chosen One? Sleep with the vampire you hate the most and have earth shattering sex.

5. Did your girlfriend stab you through the chest and send you through a demon portal because your evil alter ego was about to bring the apocalypse? Come back, leave town and establish your own private investigation agency.

6. Did your girlfriend die from a gunshot wound because The Chosen Ones nemesesis (grin) accidentally shot her whilst trying to kill The Slayer? Go bad, suck the magic out of everything, skin your enemies alive and destroy the world.

7. Did you just propose to your girlfriend thinking it’s the end of the world but suddenly change your mind because you’re not ready? Wish for a musical demon to make everyone burst out into song. Then after, right before you get married, abandon your bride at the altar, disappear and appear again demanding that the ex-bride you just abandoned at the altar take you back again. And watch as she tries to eviscerate you.

Hmmm….I don’t have a lot of choices from the above, do I? What I want to do now though is become a vengeance demon. But since that can’t happen, I think I shall go for just randomly bursting out into song and joining an organization that will make me travel to other places. Wish me luck!

All I Ever Really Learned About Love & Relationships, I learned from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and other shows besides)

So there’s a potentially interesting dating prospect on the horizon and since being the hardcore geek that I am, I am always lost and stumped as to how to go about this, I have turned to television shows to help me deal with people who may potentially be the next partner.

I have realized that in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s six season run, it has quite capably tackled the very thorny, tricky issue of navigating the murky waters of relationships, something that now proves handy in light of the circumstances. Sure, nobody past 3 years old watches television to improve his/her mind, much less turn to TV to help you with relationships, but I find that all you’ll probably ever learn about relationships you’ll learn from TV. Or more specifically, Buffy.

1. If the object of your affection looks pale, only comes out at night, and has mysteriously long, sharp canines, think twice about dating him/her.

2. If the object of your affection doesn’t look pale, isn’t a night owl, and doesn’t have fangs, but cannot explain the impeccable posture, the alertness in his eye, or the many shades of fatigues in his closet,  then he’s probably working for a secret government organization out to shut you down.

3. If the object of your affection isn’t any of the above, but likes to float pencils, make spells that make friends into demon magnets, go blind, or marry the next git that comes along, then think twice. She may be gearing up to be addicted to the dark arts…and get you killed in the process.

4. Is the object of your affection your mortal enemy? Is she your complete opposite? Does she stake your kind? Do you bite her kind? Brace yourself. You’ll probably fall in love with her. And get yourself dusted in the process.

5. If the object of your affection used to be a demon, you’ll probably fall in love with her. Everybody loves obnoxious thousand year old demons!

6. If the object of your affection is a geek and a dork, is a drifter, bounces from one job to the next, is prone to making stupid, pointless jokes in the face of danger, is given to commitment issues, living in his parents’ basement and spanking, then you better not date him. When he proposes marriage, turn him down, like, right now.

7. If the object of your affection’s girlfriend just died, is a recovering addict, is prone to making friends disappear accidentally, and making herself look like the guy who killed her dead girlfriend…duck. Then come on to her shamelessly, til she gives in and sucks the power out of you to open a portal to another dimension.

8. If the object of your affection is a self-sufficient, self-reliant person prone to keeping things to herself, has a lot of responsibilities (say, like saving the world from an apocalypse), is prone to not having time for you because she has duties like taking care of a younger sister who’s also a mystical key that can open the portal to an apocalypse, a dying mother, a friend who just left his bride at the altar, another friend who’s a magic junkie, in short, not really there there for you then maybe it’s time to re-think your relationship prospects. Confront the object your affection, but if nothing happens, then it’s time to go to rejoin the secret government organization instrumental in your meeting and go down to Guatemala.

9. If the object of your affection is a spoiled, rich, trust-fund, boarding school hottie who is into you right from the get-go but doesn’t get your addiction to magic, and pursues you like hell on steroids, don’t panic. This will probably be the best thing that ever happened to you. Try it. The most unexpected is usually the most surprising, and the most fulfilling…unless until Season 8 comes into the picture.

10. It is possible to be friends with all your ex-es, no matter how terrible the relationship may have been. Some of them turn out to be your best friends, too, and save the world because of you.

11. All you need is love. Love is the one thing that triumphs over you staking your evil boyfriend in the gut right after he summons an apocalypse, condemning him into a demonic dimension, and it is the one thing that triumphs when he comes back and should be hating you but instead loves you even more, loves you so much in fact that he leaves so you don’t have to make the choice of choosing him over the world again. Love is the one thing that makes you die for your loved ones. Love is the one the thing that makes you quit your addictions and obsessions. Love is the one thing that helps you triumph over fear, grief, pain, death. Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, just when you think you have nothing more to give, just when you think you can’t take anymore of what life can give you, you find the strength in love. In the end, what matters most is that love is still, ever more, stronger than death. 🙂

Have a great week!

This just in from NY Times: Education ain’t just an Asian problem

ON A WINTER DAY five years ago, Doug Lemov realized he had a problem. After a successful career as a teacher, a principal and a charter-school founder, he was working as a consultant, hired by troubled schools eager — desperate, in some cases — for Lemov to tell them what to do to get better. There was no shortage of prescriptions at the time for how to cure the poor performance that plagued so many American schools. Proponents of No Child Left Behind saw standardized testing as a solution. President Bush also championed a billion-dollar program to encourage schools to adopt reading curriculums with an emphasis on phonics. Others argued for smaller classes or more parental involvement or more state financing.

For more click here.

11 Things I learned from watching “Battlestar Galactica”

Just finished watching Season 5 of “Battlestar Galactica“, arguably one of the best sci-fi television shows ever produced ever. My eyes are bloodshot, I am tired, but it’s all worth it, considering it’s a great show.

Since I have finished watching it, I have come to realize some important things about the human race and everything else, and I would like to write it down for posterity.

1. When robots evolve, all they’ll ever want to do is reproduce…with each other and with humans.

2. When robots evolve, the first thing/s they want to look like are a) Xena, b) a hot-looking Victoria’s Secret model, c) hot Asian chick. Oh, and the guys look okay, too.

3. Time travel is always an acceptable solution for any kind of impending extinction of humankind (please see the new “Star Trek” movie to illustrate this point as well).

4. When robots evolve, and are able to look human, they will only choose 10 faces and multiply that by millions, and have each one called by a generic name like “Six” or “Eight”  to confuse viewers.

5. It is possible to have cancer and live through 50,000 crises and only die at the very end of the show.

6. Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes) is awesome. Scary, but awesome.

7. You can be a woman and still be a) the complex president, b) a complex admiral, c) a complex lead fighter pilot, d) a complex villain  with intelligent lines.

8. Even if you are the most vile, dorky, deranged (but smart!)  villain in the fleet, for as long as you are  Gaius Baltar (James Callis), you will almost always get laid by a Number 6 (Tricia Helfer), anywhere in the universe (or multi-verses or alternate dimensions or time).

9. Even old people (William Adama and President Laura Roslin, Col. Sol Tigh and Ellen)  in the future have sex lives.

10. You can die and come back again for as long as you are Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff).

11. All this has happened before and will happen again.

12. Robots are humans too.

13. Battlestar Galactica rocks. 🙂

Now, for a trip down memory lane, the BSG cast on the David Letterman show.