Nascent Nonsense

Blurbs of low rapport . . .

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Loved it!

A movie for which every animated moment was a tiny masterpiece. But then I don't find anyone at odds with the idea that this movie was visually stunning. That's what draws us out. It's the first movie to take full advantage of the new S3D technology that companies like Pixar and DreamWorks have been slapping haphazardly onto every one of their newest features. In the case of a movie like Monsters vs. Aliens, per a random example, it wasn't the movie I was gawking at but rather the technology. No. This movie is actually worthy of its techno medium, as the 3D isn't a crutch but just a compliment to groundbreaking visuals, one aspect of which that really stood out to me was the animation of facial expressions. My one personal issue with the final look of the film would be why are the 2D photographs and videos in the movie shown in the 3D? It's not a big deal. Just bothered me a little bit.

No. No. And finally--no. I'm not going to critique the story for this movie. It was a tribute to a specific genre. One that I recognize fully. Despite the handful of naysayers out there nitpicking the plot, I felt the post-apocalyptic setting, the action, and even the (admittedly cliche) boss fight all fall perfectly into the niche for a science fiction tribute. These things are ubiquitous within the genre and so make perfect sense to me. None of it has to be some over-moralizing political statement or some strong opinion about the state of humanity. There are far more compelling stories that already do that in the genre. Avatar merely paves the way for those who haven't quite understood what SF was all about. Now, here's a movie that might help them understand.

For so many, science fiction is about immersing the mind in an unfamiliar environment in order to discover things from a perspective they never knew they could have. It's about the transition from human to something more. Discovering limitations and breaking through them. Finding your feet planted on the ground and then learning to fly.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

When you polish a turd . . .

. . . you might actually get a diamond.

That's what Joss Whedon's newest episodes of Dollhouse have effectively proven. I don't honestly know why I've held out this long but this season's newest two hour weekly installments have kept my attention and left me wanting more. These cinematic episodes are loaded with action, suspense, emotion, you name it. I mean it's just stinking good stuff. The characters are following suit, really rounding out and becoming dynamic. Not to mention the acting is getting better. More good stuff from a strong supporting cast while Eliza herself is showing a tremendously better range as an actor. 

I can confidently say that if you haven't watched any Dollhouse up until now, consider yourself lucky. Start watching the earliest available episode on Hulu (you'll probably need to supplement the story with a plot synopsis from a quick Wikipedia search) and ignore the rest for the garbage for what it is. You'll be doing Mr. Whedon a favor.

Oh, and I'm in agreement with the sentiment among many Whedonites. Hopefully Syfy picks this gem up and gives it the 2nd or make that 3rd chance it deserves.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Healthy Drinking

Face-Off: Juice v. Soda

The local news in El Paso, TX did a groundbreaking report today on fruit juice and dieting. Apparently juice can cause weight gain if one drinks too much of it . . . well duh.

I maybe shouldn't get so worked up about something like this, especially considering it is a local broadcast, but I feel kind of passionate about this issue. Issue? Is it even an issue? I don't know. The thing that got me worked up was that they were comparing the health benefits of juice with soda. Soda won! The way they portrayed it to an already overweight population Coca Cola beat out some mysteriously unidentified juice label based primarily on calories. "Calories are calories," is how they put it. As if it doesn't matter where it comes from. Actually there's nothing true about that statement.

First of all fruit calories come primarily from fructose whereas your sweetened drinks come from sucrose and high fructose corn syrup. Okay, so you probably already knew that. What you may not have known is that the glycemic index (GI) of fructose is lower than both of these other sweeteners. What does that mean health-wise? Well, it means that fructose is absorbed into the system at a slower rate and takes longer to digest as the body breaks it down into glucose which is more directly used during metabolic processes. A higher GI means a higher blood sugar level which also means a higher risk of diabetes and obesity. 

Not only that, when your body digests food at a slower rate its going to more evenly distribute that energy throughout the day. So even though soda pop will give you some great feeling bursts of energy (that's from the sugar as well as the caffeine), it also comes with that awful crash and burn. What a drag. On the other hand, juice is going to allow you to use the energy at a more practical rate. In effect, your body will be storing less of the sugar as fat for later use. It's a much better weight control sugar.

A good point that they did fail to mention, is that many store bought juices sneak extra sugar into the juices to make them sweeter. It's a marketing tactic that serves to remind us that capitalism is indifferent to our health (thought I'd sneak in some propaganda there). Often the cheaper brands will sweeten the juices with high fructose corn syrup, which has a GI almost equivalent to sucrose. I should also mention here that most food products do this in forms you would probably not expect. Check your labels and see for yourself. 

Another sly method of sweetening juice that we should watch out for is the addition of apple juice to juices that are not advertised as apple juice. Apple juice has high levels of fructose so it's great for making other juices taste better. This is done very often with certain fruit juices like cranberry and grapefruit, which aren't the sweetest of fruits although delicious in their own right.

So are calories just calories? I hope I've helped someone understand how misguided that mindset is.

Something else to consider is that when you do drink soda basically all you get are calories. Good or bad as they may be, your body deserves more from what you consume. With real 100% fruit and vegetable juices, you're getting all kinds of great nutritional benefits from vitamins and minerals that make your skin, hair, eyesight, body, etc. look and feel great. And when you've got fruits like grapefruit that can dramatically help reduce weight when introduced as a regular supplement to a person's diet, well, there's just no contest now is there.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Caprica - Pilot Episode Review "Sex, Robots, & Religion"

A Simple Review

For those looking for a spoiler free glance at the pilot episode, here's my take on Caprica. Well worth watching! Minus the cool spaceships, the spin off is taking up the reigns from Battlestar Galactica in all the right ways. The writing quality is superb, dialog believable and interesting, and the plot feels very focused. Having believable characters is a sign of a really quality SF series from my experience.

My one major complaint would be that the acting was a little shaky at certain points. For example the chemistry between Amanda Graystone (Paula Malcomson) and Daniel Graystone (Eric Stoltz) was a bit stale. But then again, there's no way of knowing if this was intentional. On the other hand Alessandra Torresani gave a fantastic performance as Zoe Graystone and I was impressed by her. 

Basically, if you liked BSG for being an intelligent space drama, chances are this show is going to be right up your alley.

Now, if you've already watched the episode, read on.

Sex, Robots, and Religion

Under the wings of writer Ronald D. Moore, allegory and religious symbolism were commonplace in the 2004 remake of Battlestar Galactica (or BSG as die hard fans have come to know her). No surprise then that BSG's spin off, Caprica, should sport it's own flare of religious imagery at it's onset. Caprica's leading lady and poster child (actor Alessandra Toressani as Cylon and computer whiz Zoe Graystone) comes with a red apple in hand fresh picked off the Tree of Knowledge -- actually the apple and a precocious smile is all she's wearing as you can see.

Considering the BSG timeline it makes sense that she would be a kind of SF Eve, a temptress that leads to the fall of mankind from the Garden of Eden. Caprica, of course, being our Utopian-style paradise version of the Garden of Eden. We come to find out in the episode that Zoe has introduced a very dangerous kind of knowledge to humanity: the knowledge of the creation of life.

Humanity inevitably bites off more than (s)he can chew. In this case the characters begin to obtain god-like accomplishments while still privy to human vice. So their motivations for using this kind of power (immortality, creation of life, and the like) remain muddled by the negative aspects that make them imperfect human beings. The only example I have at this point would be Zoe's father, Daniel Graystone. But no less an important one.

Rather than being pragmatic, his motivation for resurrecting Zoe is based on a plethora of conflicting emotions. He does it because he loves his daughter. But something seemingly virtuous could be taken as selfish. Besides if he was really doing it solely based on his love for Zoe then why would he not reconsider at the moment she says to him "a part of me hopes you'll fail" just before he attempts the dangerous experiment to turn his daughter into the first Cylon. So what else is motivating him?

One wonders if Daniel is motivated by ambition and curiosity. Does he just want to prove that he is capable of doing it? Prove his godliness in effect. After all, the character makes several statements challenging the Utopian society's conventional religious ideas in the episode. In order for him even to accomplish creating the Cylons he must recruit Joseph Adama (Asai Morales) to work with the Tauron mob in order to steal technology from another company. And in the act he becomes indirectly responsible for the assassination of a man by a terrorist group.

The episode portrays an interesting dilemma. A unique battle between the heart and the mind. When is humankind going to be ready for divine knowledge? This kind of intelligently developed Man v. Self conflict was something that BSG heavily emphasized, and I'm ecstatic at the prospects that it's going to be a major player in this promising new series.

"O, Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying to ourselves that we are born to eternal life. Amen." ~Saint Augustine