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.

Because being an American citizen is overrated: “Superman Renounces U.S. Citizenship in Latest Action Comic”

He’s just so sick of being pigeon-holed as an instrument of U.S. policy. And “truth, justice, and the American way“ are ”not enough anymore.” That’s why Superman, in the latest Action Comic, has announced he is “renouncing” his U.S. citizenship.

Although he’s traditionally seen as an American hero (remember, though, he is an alien), Superman is fed up with being connected to the USA.

For more, click http://www.theblaze.com/stories/superman-renounces-u-s-citizenship-in-latest-action-comic/.

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?

DVD Marathon: Dollhouse’s Season 2 is a satisfyingly awesome mindtrip

So I’ve been looking for the DVD of Dollhouse’s Season 2 (2oth Century Fox) since the show ended (dang you, Fox! How could you cancel such a great show?!?). I finally found one during my forays into, ehem, pirated DVD shops (it can’t be helped…it’s where the kick-ass DVDs are).

So I loaded it up into my player and, armed with food that can last me three days, ample supply of water and a good recliner, I sat back and enjoyed the show.

Whedon's dolls: (from left) Tahmoh Penikett, Enver Gjokaj, Eliza Dushku, Dichen Lachman, Fran Kranz, Olivia Williams and Harry Lennix

The season picks up where they left off last season: Echo (Eliza Duhku) was kidnapped by Alpha (Alan Tudyk) and promptly uploaded with dozens of personalities until it would seem like she was going to implode, Dr. Saunders (Amy Acker) is revealed to be one of the top active dolls, Whiskey, before she and Alpha went awry, FBI investigator Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) bargains with Adelle de Witt (Olivia Williams) to let Mellie (Miracle Laurie) go, in exchange for working for the Dollhouse, Boyd Langton (Harry Lennix) is now chief of security, actives Victor (Enver Gjokaj) and Sierra (Dichen Lachman) are falling in love with each other and Topher Brink (Fran Kranz) is still the excruciatingly annoying, but brilliant scientist that he is.

Season 2 ups the ante a bit. Echo is now revealed to be more special than the other dolls. Despite the fact that Alpha almost fries her brain to kingdom come, Echo manages to survive the procedure intact and is back doing engagements and treatments for the Dollhouse. She has begun to have memories of previous engagements and personalities she has embodied. A trip to the Washington office of the Dollhouse, during the time she gets embroiled in a controversy about a Senate  Inquiry into the Dollhouse and manages to get kidnapped by the other office, accidentally unlocks even more of her potential. Guest psycho doctor, Dr. Bennet Halverson (Summer Glau, at her brilliant best as the strange doctor) who happens to have been a friend of Echo in the past when she was still Caroline, uploads many personalities into Echo, but uploads a different program that will enable Echo to still exist as the central personality. Echo manages to control the different personalities, and recall and suppress them at will, but not without a cost: her mind and body are deteriorating at each engagement (official business or otherwise) and it is a matter of time before her mind totally gives way to the different demands of each persona in her. She thus has a limited amount of time to control the different personalities and be able to use them to free the other dolls in the Dollhouse before she is caught and put in the dreaded Attic, boxed and stored and never to be used again. Little is explored about Echo’s past, although the episode with Dr. Halverson reveals that she has had a shady past with a more unreliable, criminal, selfish self. What this season concentrates on is how much she evolves, both as a character and as a doll. As each episode progresses, and as she is able to access each personality within her more and more easily and freely, we see her being empowered and being able to finally take control of her destiny and of the other dolls.

An interesting sidebar to this is the budding romance between her and Ballard, who resists any temptation, even during the time when they were cooped up together training Echo for what’s to come. Ballard gets to have some screen time with Mellie, too, and he is shown to be consistently virtuous, but the real complex characters are de Witt, Boyd and Brink.

There is a part in the Dollhouse when de Witt is ousted as the head of the L.A. office. As always, Williams delivers as the steely, conflicted, morally compromised and confused de Witt, obsessed with power, control and a sense of her own rules and protocols. When she loses her power and position, and is exposed to have had her own engagements, especially with the doll Victor, she is revealed to be vulnerable as well, but a moment’s weakness from Brink when he reveals that he has created the deadliest technology yet for Dollhouse, shows that de Witt is still capable of betraying newfound principles of honesty and integrity in order to get back her power and position.

Brink is a surprise in this season. When he finds out, through Echo, that Sierra is being abused over and over again by one client over a series of repeated engagements, and the client requests that Sierra be turned over to him for good, Brink reveals himself to be capable of moral redemption. UP to this point, as de Witt describes him, he has no morals and he views human beings as toys to be played with, so his sudden interest in trying to save Sierra from a fate worse than the Attic seems misguided and hypocritical. But this moral dilemma shows Brink struggling to save Sierra, and the consequences of his actions provide an interesting insight into his character.

Sierra and Victor’s past and present, together and apart are explored a bit more in this season. Sierra is revealed to have been a former budding painter artist. A doctor who was obsessed with her was  responsible for driving her insane and for putting her into the Dollhouse. Victor used to be a soldier in Afghanistan traumatized by the war. He had hoped his signing up with Dollhouse would make him forget whatever happened in the war.Their engagements and their unfolding love story, are a treat to watch in this film and provide an interesting respite from Echo’s altruistic, Messianic imperative.

Overall, I liked this Season. While, as I said, Echo seems to have developed this altruistic, Messianic calling to free the other Dolls, and Ballard reveals himself to be just effing virtuous, so that both have turned boring, the presence of the other, more interesting supporting characters, make this show still worth watching. The real suprises are Brink, Boyd and de Witt – who all are such well-rounded, complex, conflicted, perpetually morally ambiguous characters. The most fun to watch are Sierra and Victor. Though relatively unknown, actors Enver Gjokaj (Victor) and Dichen Lachman (Sierra) are brilliant as the dolls who are forever getting into different characters. Gjokaj was particularly a joy to watch trying to play Brink’s annoying self, scary as the psychopathic, murderous, rich mama’s boy,  and was hilarious as the persona of the college girl that Echo was playing,  while Lachman infuses each character or persona with the right touch of elegance and vulnerability. I particularly liked her playing the haughty, snobbish, politically incorrect socialite who didn’t like “Orientals” (Lachman is part-Asian) and said as much to Brink’s assistant, Ivy (Liza Lapira), who happened to be “Oriental” herself.  Echo took a break from her boring life as the Super Doll to channel the airhead version of Buffy Summers,when she took on the persona of a vivacious albeit annoying college girl. Her accusing Chaucer (or Chauncey, as she is wont to call him) as a poet who can’t spell, and likening the “F” she got for her report on Chauncey as akin to having an “F” on her chest like that scarlet letter, were hysterical.

As for the storyline – well, it is also interesting, as it discusses corporations and their responsibility and accountability to the public, the mind, the collective consciousness and the collective unconscious, the neverending debate on what makes us us, what makes the mind tick, memory, destiny and life in general.

Final sidebar: points and kudos to Joss Whedon and company for snagging Alexis Denisof (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) who plays an ambitious, vindictive senator in the show, who doesn’t know he is a doll himself, Summer Glau (Serenity, Firefly) as Dr. Halverson and Battlestar Galactica’s Jamie Bamber (Apollo Adama in the show), as the rich arms dealer/smuggler married to one of Echo’s many personas. The scenes with Bamber and Penikett seemed like some kind of BSG reunion and I suddenly found myself missing BSG (BSG! Why did you have to end?!?) If the show had gone on, I would have looked forward to guestings from other Joss Whedon regulars and alums (Sarah Michelle Gellar! Alysson Hannigan! more Summer Glau! Can you tell I’m a geek?).

This is a really entertaining, thought-provoking season overall and I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a new show to be obsessed with.

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!

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.

12 things I’ve learned from watching lesbian films

So I came across this blog post “17 Things I’ve learned about life from watching movies and TV“(good post, check it out). The blog post inspired me so much I’d like to do my own, except it’s the top things I’ve learned from watching lesbian movies.

1. Character. The leads will always be extreme opposites. One of them will usually be a) some repressed, conservative girl who gets attracted to the b) rebel without a cause who likes to drink, smoke and generally be her exact opposite.

Examples:

  • Lost and Delirious. Tory (Jessica Pare) is the nice girl-next-door who falls for orphan rebel smoker Paulie (Piper Perabo).
  • The Secrets (Ha Sodot) – The repressed Israeli student falls in love with the girl who just came from Paris.
  • The World Unseen – Lisa Ray’s repressed Indian wife  falls in love with the feisty (aren’t they always?) cafe-owning, liberal Amina (Sheetal Sheth).
  • I Can’t Think Straight – Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth reverse roles.
  • But I’m a Cheerleader – Natasha Lyonne plays the All-American cheerleader who falls in love with the goth-ish rebel without a cause trust-fund hottie, Clea Duvall.
  • When Night is Falling – Repressed Christian professor falls in love with the free-wheelin’ circus hottie.
  • DEBS – Hot, repressed, uptight top, perfect scoring DEBS spy falls in love with equally hot, uninhibited, liberal, very gay Jordana Brewster character.
  • Show Me Love (Sweden) – Promiscuous, rebellious teenage girl who’s slept with most of the teenaged male population of the town falls for geeky, mousy, teenage girl.-

2. The more “butch” lead will almost always be smoking.

3. The “femme” lead will almost always love Walt Whitman, opera and walks under the moonlight or in wide, open spaces.

4. The repressed latent homosexual will almost always be attracted to the outsider/rebel/sexually ambiguous and/or lesbian in the school because said repressed homosexual is sick and tired of boyfriend/fiance/husband or has slept with the whole male populace of the town or city.

5. The would-be lesbian lovers will have a series of meetings that may either begin with a) hostility or b) bonding but will almost always end with c) them hitting it off and then having trips to some exhilirating place where they realize they are meant for each other: the soccer stadium (Imagine Me and You), the gaming room (Imagine Me and You), the bar/pub, the circus, hang gliding, Oxford, some god-forsaken wide open space in the middle of nowhere where the two leads will then proceed to

6. Have a montage of talking, listening to music, reading, looking at each other with those longing looks that can either look like either or both are a) really into each other or b) constipated.

7. This montage will eventually lead to a mounting sexual tension which will then lead to a lot of vigorous making-out or a really contrived but inexplicably hot love scene featuring really dark lighting, red sheets, stock footage of the moon and stars, and some music by a band known only to the producer and director.This scene will end with both characters professing undying love to each other until

8. The  love struck lesbian  leads are discovered by any of the following: a) family, b) friends and/or c) complete strangers buck naked in bed which lead to the climax of the movie.

9. The  love struck lesbian  leads will almost always forget to lock the door whilst making love even though both are not out to their family, friends and/or complete strangers.

10. The inevitable tension mounts when family, friends and sometimes even complete strangers express disapproval over the lesbian relationship. Said family, friends and complete strangers will try to break said  love struck lesbian  leads.

11. Either leads will try to be straight.

12. One of them will almost always go crazy, end up in a mental asylum, or be married, or dead. And sometimes, they come back as ghosts and haunt the living daylights out of the ex-lover (Memento Mori).

DVD Junkie: Found “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” Season 2 (yay!)

So last year, in search of interesting things to watch and entertain myself with while I was in London, I came across a little-known anime show entitled “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”, which is about a girl who one day, in a fit existential depression, realizes how insignificant she is  and how she must change the world to make herself matter and thus inadvertently, by conscious evolution, changes the world. Is she a god? An alien? A powerful being? It’s anyone’s guess. But this is one of the best shows I have ever watched so far. Plus, it’s really funny.

If you haven’t watched it, get thee to a DVD shop and buy yourself one of these!