Thursday, January 08, 2015

Quote of the Day: Charlie Hebdo

Time to repeat this fundamental point:
... it is vitally important to resist the impulse–so common among “responsible” institutions, whether foreign ministries or large newspapers–at a time like this to somehow imply that the victims brought their fate upon themselves and that the best line of defense against such attacks is to practice greater self-restraint in the future. ... That is giving the terrorists precisely what they want, indeed the very reason they carry out such attacks is to deter others from similar mockery in the future.

The right to offend is the very essence of free speech–and as long as a publication doesn’t incite violence (which neither Charlie Hebdo nor The Interview did) its right to say whatever it likes must be defended to the last inch.  That is, after all, the very bedrock of freedom upon which Western democracies rest–and the very opposite of the kind of totalitarian state that Islamists have created in Iran and a large chunk of Syria/Iraq.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Nerd News: Home Schooling in the News

Article in the New York Times.  Honestly, with education being the mess that it is with No Child Left Behind and Common Core and the obsession with standardized testing, I would probably want to home school too if I had a Mini-Me.  As it is, I've already been asked to consult a bit on my areas of specialization by some friends home schooling their little ones.

LOL: New Book Satirizes Overbearing NYC Parents

Mommie dearest.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

LOL: A Deliciously Demented Detail

I just saw this hilarity on Imgur: "After ten years and many viewings, I just noticed the streets of Paris are paved with croissants in Team America, World Police."  OMG, HOW HAVE I NEVER NOTICED?!  Go and look for yourself!

Thoughts on Broken Windows

William Bratton, NYC police commissioner, and George Kelling, criminal professor emeritus from Rutgers, take time to write:
Critics have posed a variety of arguments against Broken Windows.  Some assert that it is synonymous with the controversial patrol tactic known as "stop, question, and frisk."  Others allege that Broken Windows is discriminatory, used as a tool to target minorities.  Some academics claim that Broken Windows has no effect on serious crime and that demographic and economic causes better explain the reductions in crime in New York and across the United States.  Still other critics suggest that order-maintenance policing leads to over-incarceration or tries to impose a white middle-class morality on urban populations.  It is rare to have the opportunity and space to correct all the misconceptions and misrepresentations embedded in such charges.  We will counter them here, one by one.

Friday, January 02, 2015

DVD Review: "Pacific Rim" (2013)


The holidays are for watching all the things you never had time to watch before!  This time it's 2013's unabashedly silly summer popcorn flick Pacific Rim, which is really more entertaining than it has a right to be.  Disclaimer: I was a kid who loved Voltron and mech suits and Gundam and Godzilla and all that, so I was pretty much going to consider Pacific Rim a guilty pleasure and love it (and then feel no guilt about any of it), especially since it has a cast that includes Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, and Ron Perlman.  Anyway, the premise is simple enough: gigantic monsters called kaiju are invading the planet via a fissure in the ocean floor, and it's up to hotshot warriors in enormous mechanical suits called Jaegers to fight them.

Sure, there's plenty of nonsense and silliness in the flick, but - hey, let's be honest - I didn't care!  I was willing to let it all slide because the movie itself is so much bombastic FUN.  It's style over substance, but come on, it's hilariously entertaining.  This is a movie that features Idris Elba (!) as a commander named Stacker Pentecost, for goodness sakes!  Charlie "Jax Teller" Hunnam plays a pilot named Raleigh Becket (seriously), and he has a Jaeger called (I'm not making this up) Gipsy Danger (ex-girlfriend of Anthony Weiner perhaps?).  A trio of hoops-shooting Chinese pilots run a machine named Crimson Typhoon.  Another pilot is named (with a straight face) Hercules Hansen.  The nomenclature of everything seems to have an uproarious Engrishy twist to it.  Alessandra, watching with me, shouted, "It's pure anime!" and meant it as a compliment.

Ignore the silliness ("drift compatible" and whatever), logical pitfalls, Rinko Kikuchi's almost unintelligible Mako Mori character, and a climax that is a little too reminiscent of Independence Day and The Avengers.  Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the sight of giant robots battling giant monsters while wrecking Hong Kong with cheerful abandon.  For an hour and a half you can be a kid watching a cartoon and having a grand old time.  You can be a sensible adult before and after, but for the run time of Pacific Rim you can be a schoolboy/girl enjoying eye candy mayhem, monsters, and mechs.  Oh, and be sure to sit through the first bit of credits.

Mad Minerva gives Pacific Rim the grade of B+ for sheer enjoyable popcorn amusement.  Yes, it's ridiculous, but it's ridiculous fun ... and rather more fun than the latest Godzilla.

Pacific Rim runs 132 minutes and is rated PG-13 for monster/mech action, some disturbing images (kaiju guts are gross!), and Charlie Hunnam's abs (they could give Thor's a run for their money).

Rotten Tomatoes gives Pacific Rim the Fresh rating of 72%.

I could give you the actual trailer, but I think it'd be far more amusing to give you the Honest Trailer:

Friday Fun: The Scaredy Swan

Nerd News: Winter Commencement at the University of Hawaii

A nod to one's heritage.  Congratulations to all the new grads!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

The 2015 Rose Parade

This year's Tournament of Roses, one of my favorite New Year's traditions, has the theme "Inspiring Stories" to honor remarkable men and women.  I was surprised and delighted to see this beautiful float!

Recognize the motto "Go For Broke"?  It's from the 442nd, of which several veterans were on the float this morning.  If you aren't familiar with its history, please do look it up when you have a moment.

Happy 2015!

Delightful Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has a great message about optimism and the conscious resolution to do some good this year to make the world a better place:

Sunday, December 28, 2014

I'll Fly Away: Jetliner Cross-Section

Since we're all traveling a lot for the holidays, here's something cool and relevant.  Ain't technology grand!  

*tries to hang onto sense of wonder about human flight even as babies howl in crowded cabins and people drop bags on one's head from overhead compartments*

Mamma Mia! 30 Best Fictional Parents

Atticus Finch et al!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Movies of 2014

How many have you seen?  I reviewed a selection, and you can find all my raves and rants under the movie reviews tag!

MM in the Kitchen: History via Recipes!

Specifically, recipes from 1600-1800.  Edible research!

Nerd News: Diversity Initiatives vs. Asian Americans

Yet again.  One could do an entire case study on Stuyvesant in NYC:
These challenges have a bearing on K-12 schools, too, suggesting that the the bamboo ceiling may be even lower than once thought. Stuyvesant, one of New York City’s nine specialized public high schools, doesn't consider race in its admissions process; students only need take a standardized test to apply. Still, the policy has come under fire because of the student demographics that result: 73 percent of 'Stuy's' current students are Asian, while 22 percent are white. Just 2 percent of the school's population are Hispanic, and 1 percent is black.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Movie Review: "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies"

"Will you follow me one last time?"

Thorin Oakenshield asks the other dwarves this question, and it might as well be director Peter Jackson asking his now-exhausted audience to finish his seemingly interminable Hobbit trilogy. By the time my friends and I went to the theatre on opening weekend, I was mentally prepared to slog through the final installment not because I was actually excited to see it, but because I wanted to finish it and get it over with already. I felt pretty much like I did when I went to go see the last Star Wars prequel. Thank goodness the Hobbit finale is better than that, though prequel fatigue set in with a vengeance, and it was not helped by the news that Jackson had included a battle sequence that lasts 45 minutes. There is one point in the movie when something ludicrous happens, prompting a character to burst out with mingled disbelief and annoyance, "Come ON!" and the audience can't help but agree wholeheartedly.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Quote of the Day: Sony Hack Debacle and Its Discontents

Shot: A wee bit of appropriate profanity from George Clooney regarding The Interview:
"Stick it online. Do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I'm not going to be told we can't see the movie.  
That's the most important part. We cannot be told we can't see something by Kim Jong-un, of all f*cking people."
Of all f*cking people!

Chaser: Things took a turn for the ludicrous with Paramount canceling several sassy theaters' attempt to screen 2004's Team America: World Police instead:
"Terrorist threats are no laughing matter, of course, but the Department of Homeland Security has found no credible threat and evidence that the Guardians of Peace have any sort of manpower that could do anything within the boundaries of the United States (much less at thousands of locations simultaneously) is practically non-existent. This sort of panicked cowardice would be laughably absurd if it wasn’t so damn sad."
What I find even more disturbing still are all the self-righteous people who are blaming the victim and saying that it's the moviemakers' fault for making a flick that offended the wrong people.  I'm sorry, but THAT IS EXACTLY WRONG.  Tyrants are precisely the sort of people who should be mocked by free peoples.  Comedy as a genre should be a free space, while we're at it: everything is game.

By the way, I wasn't even interested in The Interview at first because I really don't care much for the oeuvre of Rogen and Franco, but now I bloody well want to see that flick.  Meanwhile, amuse yourselves with this:

Friday, December 19, 2014

Movie Review: "Exodus: Gods and Kings"

Schlock like an Egyptian.

It should tell you something that after I saw Exodus: Gods and Kings on opening weekend, I went home and watched 1998's DreamWorks animated The Prince of Egypt on Netflix ... and had a much better time.  I would have watched Cecil B. DeMille's monumental 1956 production of The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as Ramses, but - alas - it wasn't streaming.  Then when I sat down to write a movie review, I seriously contemplated framing it all as a "I'm sorry, please take me back, I love you!" letter to Chuck Heston.

Come on, babe.  You know it's always been about you.

OK, OK, let's get to Exodus: Gods and Kings (and why in the world do we need that colon and its little subtitle?  Isn't Exodus enough?)   All cards on the table: I wanted to like this movie.  I wanted to like it a LOT.  There's no disappointment quite like dashed hope.  I almost entitled this review Exodus: All Washed Up.  In fact, it would probably take the entire Red Sea to wash all the guyliner off Bale and Edgerton ... though I suppose I must give some kind of grudging acknowledgment of an entire movie in which the men wear more makeup than the women.