Brain Drippings

I love sharing my thoughts and ideas with everyone. That’s why I’ve been loving writing this blog. But every once in a while, I’ll learn something or come up with something that I really want to share, but is way too short for a single blog post.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who has this problem. An online video blog I follow came up with a clever solution: just dedicate a special blog post to sharing these mini-blog ideas. I think that’s brilliant, so this week that’s what I’m going to do.

Here, for your enjoyment, are a few of my brain drippings of the past few weeks:

So Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary, meaning that all the talk of Mitt Romney being the Republicans’ anointed son have come to an embarrassing end. Oh, and it turns out Rick Santorum actually won Iowa by 34 votes, rather than Romney winning by eight votes as we were originally told.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, there is something important to remember. Newt Gingrich “won” in the Palmetto State with 40% of the vote. That means 60% of the state’s Republicans voted for someone other than Newt Gingrich. Romney’s “victory” in New Hampshire had a similar margin. And let’s not forget that we have 47 other states to go in this primary race, so there is plenty of opportunity for this election to take all manner of twists and turns. I think we should all chill out before we start jumping to conclusions about the Republican nomination.

And while we’re on the subject of the primary race, Stephen Colbert fans will want to watch this.

It seems polygamy in the United States has become much more visible recently. I guess the idea is that if the definition of marriage in this country is up for debate anyway, polygamists might as well have their say in the matter. I’m not a big fan of the practice, as these relationships always seem to be all about the guy’s ego instead of mutual love and respect, but I basically figure “live and let live”.

I have made an interesting observation, though. In every documentary I’ve seen on polygamist families, when the children raised by such a family reach marriage age, they tend to be monogamous. Just sayin’.

Deadpool is one of my favorite comic book characters right now. I just love the guy’s wit, crazy schemes, fourth-wall humor, and generally being an awesome mercenary who tells it straight to the other comic book characters, who can be quite pretentious when you think about it. I think the guy is great material for a movie adaptation.

Unfortunately, having followed movie news for a while, it’s looking very much like the fan-demanded Deadpool movie is not going to happen. At least, not within the next few years, not at Fox, and not starring Ryan Reynolds.

Yeah, I know there are claims about there being some kind of test footage. Doesn’t matter.

Yeah, I know Ryan Reynolds says he’s more than happy to play the character. He’s an out-of-work actor whose attempt at a breakout film last year flopped horribly. What do you expect him to say?

Yeah, I know 20th Century Fox will lose the movie rights if they don’t fulfill their contract to have a movie out by 2014. But think of it from a business standpoint. X-Men: First Class was highly reviewed and earned a whole lot of money. Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern was an absolute disaster. It just makes more sense for them to focus their efforts on making more really good X-Men movies than to invest loads of money on a risky project starring a guy who failed in his attempt to prove he could play a superhero.

I’ve seen this ride before, back when it was the Halo movie that never happened and the Justice League movie that never happened. Let’s just say I’m not optimistic.

Have you tried these? If you haven’t, try them. They are awesome. I love them.

Well, I guess that’s enough random thoughts for now. Until next time, Cat Flaggers!

Newt Gingrich’s up and down day in South Carolina Primary

Newt Gingrich and his current wife, Callista. Image from Reuters.

Today was a bizarre roller coaster ride for Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and his campaign. It started with good news for him, but bad news started to emerge during the day and it ended with a debate where he criticized the media and scuffled with rival Rick Santorum.

Gingrich started the day in second place in South Carolina Tuesday according to polls conducted by NBC News and Marist, trailing Mitt Romney by 10 points. But the really good news for him was when Rick Perry dropped out of the race this morning, and threw his support behind Gingrich. CNN reports Perry said, “I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country. We’ve had our differences, which campaigns will inevitably have, and Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?”

Just look at that face. Image from Reuters.

Perry had planned his campaign around a strong showing in southern states, skipping campaigning in New Hampshire to focus on South Carolina. When poll data showed him with only 6% support, he concluded “there is no viable path for me in this 2012 campaign.”

This boost to Gingrich, though, was followed in the afternoon by an announcement from ABC that would monkey with his campaign in the final stretch. Gingrich’s ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich, agreed to be interviewed for Nightline. In the interview, she claimed before their divorce he approached her and asked for an “open marriage” so he could continue to carry on his six-year affair with Callista Bisek (Gingrich’s current wife). She also accused Gingrich of hypocritically carrying on this affair while publicly speaking about family values and investigating Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky; she further claimed Newt Gingrich divorced her shortly after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

During the CNN debate tonight, Gingrich responded angrily when host John King asked him about his ex-wife’s accusations. He said, “I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run of for public office and I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that… To take an ex-wife, and make it two days before the primary a sign question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.”

For the rest of the debate, Gingrich spent most of his energy in a tussle with Rick Santorum, who was virtually tied with Mitt Romney in Iowa and is believed to be popular among evangelical Christian voters. According to CNN, Santorum said, “Grandiosity has never been a problem with Newt Gingrich. And that’s really one of the issues here, folks, I don’t want a nominee that I have to worry about going out and looking at the paper the next day and … [worry] about what he’s going to say next.”

In response, Gingrich countered, “You’re right, I think grandiose thoughts. This is a grandiose country of big people doing big things, and we need leadership prepared to take on big projects.”

The four remaining candidates swear the Pledge of Allegiance before the debate. Image from Getty Images.

The final vote in South Carolina is scheduled for Saturday, making today’s roller-coaster ride for Gingrich especially challenging as it comes only two days before polls open.

Though the field of candidates who are actually running has narrowed to four, the South Carolina ballots have been locked for some time. Still appearing on the ballot are Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Gary Johnson, and, yes, Rick Perry. It is unclear how much confusion this could cause during the final vote Saturday, but comedian Stephen Colbert is encouraging his fans to vote for Herman Cain as a spoiler.

Speaking of Stephen Colbert, a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling regarding the perceived “favorability” of candidates gave the comedian a 36% approval rating, above every single Republican contender. Mitt Romney was the highest-scoring Republican with a 35% approval rating, while Gingrich sat at the bottom with only a 26% approval rating. President Obama received a 47% approval rating.

Information primarily from CBS News, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, and the Wall Street Journal.

Four Ways Japan is Way Ahead of us in Technology

When we here in the U.S. watch science fiction movies and TV shows like Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly or Avatar, we marvel at the amazing, futuristic technology presented. In Japan, the just shrug and go, “Meh. That’s our daily life.”

Okay, so I’m exaggerating, but still, there are several areas where the Japanese are just way ahead of us in technology, living the sci-fi dream as their researchers develop technologies we used to think were fantasy.

Robot Assistants

The dream: Remember C-3PO from Star Wars? The protocol droid who was Luke Skywalker’s servant/clumsy comic relief?

Of course you do. Who doesn’t?

People have been dreaming about having some sort of robotic assistant since long before the Jetsons came out. Imagine having some non-complaining mechanical servant fetching stuff for you. Wouldn’t that be cool?

At least until they unionize.

The reality: Meet EMIEW 2, an office assistant robot built by Hitachi. That’s right, the computer, TV and appliance people.

This little guy may only be 2’7″ tall and weigh a mere 29 lbs., but it has a computerized “brain” that can identify and carry out voice commands as it navigates cramped office spaces. It can fetch your coffee or an important document, and can guide visitors to someone’s desk.

The robot is still in development, so it may be a while before we can buy one. Still, secretaries around the world may face some robotic job competition in the very near future.

Androids

While we are on the subject of mechanical people –

The dream: Remember Data from Star Trek?

Stop with the rhetorical “Remember This” questions and get on with it!

The human-like android was portrayed by a very human actor, Brent Spiner, since an animatronic person was pretty much out of the question when filming the show. Still, it’s a common nerd fantasy to imagine a robot so realistic, it looks and acts human. See also: Blade Runner.

AKA Ridley Scott’s other sci-fi movie.

The reality: Check out what scientists at Osaka University are working on.

Her name is Repliee Q1, and she has been creeping out audiences since she was unveiled at the 2005 World Expo.

Her realistic movements were programmed through a motion-capture system that “taught” her how to mimic the little subtle gestures and body language that live humans make subconsciously in conversations.

And she’s not alone – these researchers are also building a male counterpart, named Geminoid DK.

Better hope they don’t figure out how to breed.

3D Holograms

The dream: Remember how in Star Wars you saw those super-cool 3D holoprojections?

GET ON WITH IT!!!!!

Now that is something that just has to be far, far beyond what we are capable of today. Right? Right?

The reality: Meet Hatsune Miku, Japanese pop sensation.

That’s right, Hatsune is not a real person, but a fictional character presented to the audience with a computer-animated 3D holoprojection. I’m not sure how they did that, but it looks in the video like she’s being projected on some sort of specialized glass (you can see the reflections of the audience’s glowsticks). So, I guess we’re not quite to the Star Wars “projections in the air” effect just yet… but darn if that isn’t an impressively close try.

Hovercar Racing

The dream: Okay, okay, I won’t start with a “Remember This?” question.

When we think of futuristic hovercraft, we usually picture something more or less like the racing hovercars from the WipEout video game series:

But, unfortunately, real-life hovercraft look much more like this:

Until now, that is.

The reality: At least on a miniature level, scientists at the Japan Institute of Science and Technology have managed to build WipEout-like hovercar racers using liquid nitrogen and magnetism.

The researchers say they hope to go full-scale with their experiments very soon. Could we be seeing futuristic hovercars in the near future? I hope so!

An Open Letter to J.J. Abrams: Advice from a Trekkie

An Editorial

The upcoming “Star Trek” sequel is set to begin filming this month, and is due out May 17, 2013. To say that there is a lot of online buzz about it would be a severe understatement… one of the biggest things Trekkies are trying to do is make stabs at the movie’s plot. However, at this point all that is known is that all of the cast of 2009’s Star Trek will be back, that they will have no more cameos from the first series, and that British actor Benedict Cumberbatch is to be cast as the villain. Almost as a tease, it was recently announced that an upcoming Star Trek comic book could provide hints about the plot.

But I’m not here to speculate. I’m here because I want the new movie to be the best Star Trek movie it possibly can. I want to come out of the theater thinking this was the best Star Trek movie ever. I don’t want to walk out disappointed.

I’ve been a Trekkie my whole life. I grew up with The Next Generation. I used to watch Deep Space Nine and Voyager marathons on Spike TV and what have you as a teenager. Our house has Star Trek movies I, II, III, IV, and VI. What’s more, both of my parents (and especially my dad) are huge Trekkies, too. So, I think I have a good idea on what could make Star Trek 2 work.

I may be spitting in the wind here, but I’m putting some suggestions out there on what I think J.J. Abrams and company should do.

1. Don’t make it a Khan movie.

"You better be careful about what you say next, Cat Flag."

Yes, I know Khan is Star Trek’s most popular villain. Yes, I know there is a nice symmetry to the second movie of the new franchise having the same villain as the second movie of the first franchise. And yes, I know a lot of fans are hoping to see Khan appear.

I’m worried, though, about the Law of Unintended Messages. Think back to 2008/2009, when the success of Abrams’ Trek reboot was far from certain. Millions of Trekkies, myself included, were a bit put off that Hollywood had the gall to just reboot Star Trek like they reboot everything else. One of the key ways Viacom’s PR machine sold the movie was by promising new, original stories that would not be constrained by generations of continuity.

If the new Star Trek 2 is a retread of the old Star Trek 2, then it will show that this promise was a lie, that Star Trek is just the latest Hollywood desperate cash grab, and that the franchise is creatively bankrupt.

2. If you have to make it a Khan movie, make it original.

That said, I understand that pressure from fans and studio executives alike can be hard to fight, especially if the idea spreads that including Khan is necessary to make the movie profitable.

However, there is another way out of this creativity-blocking corner: make it an original Khan movie.

Remember this movie?

Think about the challenge Christopher Nolan and company faced: EVERYBODY knew the Joker story. It was the most retreaded and retold Batman story ever. It was the plot of Tim Burton’s first Batman movie, after all. So what did Nolan do? He threw out the classic Joker story and made up a completely new one. And it worked!

That’s what Abrams, Orci, and Kurtzman need to do. It’s not that hard to do, actually; my younger brother came up with an original Khan-based plot that involves Klingons and a self-aware supercomputer, and I think it would make an awesome movie.

3. Focus on the B-team.

The first movie was, at the end of the day, all about Kirk and Spock. This was fine, indeed it was necessary, but I felt some of the Star Trek B-team were left rather undeveloped because of this. Simon Pegg’s Scotty has an ocean of untapped potential; Uhura’s surprise relationship with Spock is something that could be explored more deeply; and I’d like to see more from Chekov and Sulu. We now have a good idea about what Chris Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock are all about, but some of the other characters have stories in them waiting to be told. It would help give the new franchise a level of depth and complexity it currently lacks. And speaking of depth…

4. Don’t dumb it down.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from fellow Trekkies about Abrams-Trek as opposed to Roddenberry-Trek, besides how the new Enterprise’s dimensions make no sense, is how the new Star Trek is dumbed down for the masses. Let’s face it, 2009’s Star Trek was not so much a Star Trek movie as it was an action movie with Star Trek characters. I don’t deny this. But I’m totally fine with it.

Why? Well, Trekkies all remember when Gene Roddenberry first tried to put Star Trek on the air. His first pilot was rejected for being too intellectual for the audience, and the networks forced him to go back to the drawing board. His second try, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, ended with Kirk in a fistfight with the bad guy, and that’s what got the show put on the air. After Star Trek had time to establish itself, Roddenberry was able to bring back the intellectual stuff and make Star Trek the nerd paradise we all know and love.

To me, the Star Trek reboot story so far mirrors the beginnings of Star Trek itself. Paramount needed butts in those movie theater seats, so they made an action movie. But now Star Trek is on the path to profitability again, and J.J. Abrams needs to start pushing the envelope of making Star Trek smart again.

Obviously, this would seem like a risky move, but playing it safe has been what has kept Hollywood churning out uninteresting and unoriginal sequels and remakes for the past two or three years. There are plenty of people, like me, who want something more satisfying. Pirates of the Caribbean 4 was not satisfying. One of the big reasons Hollywood keeps movies at the lowest common denominator, besides not wanting to take any risks with appealing to the largest domestic audience possible, is that they are also trying to appeal to a global audience. Not everyone gets American sensibilities and humor, but everyone gets boobs and explosions. But you can’t argue this with Star Trek, which has had global appeal for decades. Last but not least, a more intellectual Star Trek movie would reassure us that Star Trek is in the right hands.

5. Get the details right

If there is one thing that sets nerds apart from other types of fans, it’s that nerds are big on details. Truth is, if the Marvel movies have been any indication, nerds just melt when you throw in nerdy in-jokes and hidden Easter eggs that longtime fans will get while going right over the heads of ordinary moviegoers. Maybe you can have a scene where some guy in the background is trying to sell Tribbles, or put a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in Captain Kirk’s quarters. Details like that will show to nerds that you do care about us, while not taking away from the actual plot, which as I said above, needs to be original.

So that’s my piece: five tips on what I think would make the best Star Trek sequel, if I were in charge of it, which I’m not. What do you think? Do you have ideas of your own about the next Star Trek movie? Let me know in the comments!

Information mainly from Screen Rant.

Happy New Year, and Thank You!

Happy New Year, Cat Flaggers!

2012 has come at last. 2011 brought tremendous changes in my life and those of many people I know, including many of you. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe it has only been a single year; to me, it has felt like ages. Cat Flag isn’t even a year old yet, and already it feels like a part of my identity!

This new year promises to bring even more change, now that I’m a Cal Poly grad looking to apply for jobs. I’m also thinking of changes to the blog… in a few weeks, I may introduce a new category!

I’d just like to take a moment and thank all of you for all you have done to help me and this blog get this far. And to plug this article my mom wrote about lucky New Year recipes… be sure to try them out! And to remind all of you to see Homeless in Paradise if you haven’t yet done so.

Here’s to a great 2012!

… unless those Mayans were right…