29 December 2008

Merry holidays!

It's been a eventful two weeks here in the Exaggeration Household.

We drove up to Maryland for various familial obligations on the 19th, and seem to have almost timed it well enough to miss the worst traffic on 495. (It would have been more perfect if we'd left at 9:30 like I wanted to, rather than closer to 10:30 before getting on the highway, and if lunch hadn't taken longer than expected.) We went to dinner with my sister, which was tasty.

Saturday morning, we met a friend at the Smithsonian, looked at dinosaurs and the new oceans exhibit at NMNH, and went to Teaism for lunch. I love that place, and I wish DC were a little closer. You can buy their tea online, but not the excellent food from the restaurant. Then we wandered around DC a bit before I had to go up to Frederick for dinner with my dad's side of the family. That was tasty, and I got to catch up with my cousins.

Sunday it was back up to Frederick to meet my mom for brunch before going to her brother's for that side of the family's gathering. It's less weird now, I think, that most of my cousins are also grown-ups, so the conversations are easier. Afterward, Ben & I went to Brewer's Alley and chatted with one of my cousins. She's graduating from college this year.

Monday, we had what was possibly the best drive south ever. We left from Shady Grove around 10:30, hit NO traffic on 495 or in Richmond, and made it home around 2:30. Pretty sweet.

I didn't work on Tuesday, because we were closed the 24th-26th, but I went to the dentist to get impressions made for my retainer and for the refinement on the bottom teeth. Yes, I'm mostly done with my Invisalign. Yay.

While I was not working at my regular job, I spent time with my novel. I rather enjoyed that, hacking through and typing up and the like. But I need a regular paycheck for my sanity, so quitting isn't in the cards right now.

For Christmas, I made Alton Brown's overnight oatmeal. Aside from a little burning due to a slightly over-enthusiastic crockpot, it was really good. Then we opened presents with Heino's Christmas CD in the background. (Heino is an old German Schlägersänger, and a friend of mine is a fan. For my part, I find Heino amusing, though I think the best thing is buying Heino CDs in Germany, and the cashier trying not to look at us like we're insane.)

Then we went out for Chinese food for dinner with some friends. Apparently, we missed half of the traditional Jewish Christmas thing by not seeing a movie as well. But it was fun.

I got about 8000 words transcribed/written, from the handwritten first draft. I edit as I transcribe, so it's not just transcription. I've only got about 10 handwritten pages left to turn into electrons, and I started with 40 left. So I got about 30 pages typed up. Shiny. Then I get to go back and add all the details, the flesh to the skeleton. With any luck, and perseverance, I'll have this monster ready to submit by this time next year.

I can hope.

17 December 2008

More Avatar: the Whitewashed Airbender links and things

Lemon Water

Some individual links you should read
Angry Asian Man: A break-up of Sorts What does this casting choice say to me, the angry Asian man? It says that every time somebody speaks more slowly and loudly to me because they assume that English isn't my first tongue, they're right to do so, because I'm not normal. [...] It says that even though Konietzko and DiMartino took pains to articulate themes of diversity and multiculturalism, all their work was for naught, because people don't really want to look at people who look like me. It says that every time somebody thinks of me as the other, they're right, because I am.

We'll let the show speak for itself - an extensive set of screencaps depicting the rich Asian feel of the show.

The Last Airbender Gets a Cast What’s irritating here is not that these kids are mostly unknowns or had bit parts in retarded movies, but that they’re all whiter than Mormon Jesus. “Avatar” self-consciously created a world and characters from non-Western cultures, they being the source of philosophy and metaphysics the show drew upon. Shyamalan and Co., in taking us to honky-town, have stripped one of the more original elements of the story.

Sad, Racist, or Firebendingly Hillarious? Okay, okay. So, the uproar isn't that they cast white people. We are upset because this is one of the few movies where they could have cast diverse actors--but didn't.

Who do I have to blow to get some representation around here? I'm not the irrationally Angry Asian (Wo)man, I really don't care about picky knee-jerk stuff like Kung Fu Panda characters being voiced by white people, or Zhang Ziyi (and Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh) playing Japanese women, because I know people were being super finicky about 'em. But this? Ah.. yeah, all this tells me is that Asian actors are too Asian for the most Asian show on TV, soon to be on the big screen. Fan-fucking-tastic.

what we talk about when we talk about During our early Christmas dinner this weekend, the oldest of the nephews, who is 13, brought up the subject of the incredibly white child actors that had been picked for the film version. The three of them were confused and disappointed but unable to articulate exactly why. Then the youngest, all of 7 years old, asked me whether this meant that he couldn't be Aang when he played Avatar with his friends from now on. [seriously, this last sentence makes me cry.]

White Cast of ATLA Besides, it's not like Asians are lacking opportunities in Hollywood. It's not like we want those leading roles, right? There will always be work playing Chinese delivery boys, liquor store clerks, nail salon workers and Asian gangster thugs number 1 through 6. Thanks again, Hollywood!

Racefail Bingo Dead Bro Walking is a community dedicated to exploring portrayals of race in the media.

11 December 2008

White Privilege: You're soaking in it!

There's a belief among the people who promulgate entertainment that people will only enjoy reading books/watching films/watching TV shows about people who look like them. Unfortunately, for these people, that means making the protagonists (straight) white men.

Women (half the population, after all!) and minorities are expected to sympathize with the white male protagonist and his (usually also white, male) buddies. Sometimes the buddies are women; sometimes they're minorities. But it's never their stories, only Mr Whiteguy's.

Imagine there's a popular kids' TV show about a group of (pre-)teens who come from a world which is based extensively in East Asian cultures, like China, Tibet, and Korea. Two of the main characters are siblings, who are drawn with a medium brown skin tone and whose culture is clearly Inuit-derived. Another main character is clearly based off of Buddhist monks. One of the nations in this world wears topknots to denote rank. There is extensive use of Chinese martial arts in their world.

Imagine a famous director, himself of Southeast Asian origin, wants to make a movie of this, and the creators give him the go-ahead. Imagine that this director casts every main character, including the 2 who are clearly depicted as darker skinned, with white teenagers.

You don't have to imagine too hard. This is the proposed cast for M. Night Shyamalan's Avatar: The Last Airbender movie.

Change the scenario slightly, and you get the SciFi channel's whitewashing of brilliant SF writer Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea books. She purposefully wrote a fantasy where the main character was non-white and the villains are blond, blue-eyed white people. Then SciFi cast a white kid as the main character (and changed the entire story, but that's a rant for a different day.)

Ms. LeGuin:
I didn't see why everybody in science fiction had to be a honky named Bob or Joe or Bill. I didn't see why everybody in heroic fantasy had to be white (and why all the leading women had "violet eyes").

But when stories with people who aren't "honkies named Joe" are made into movies, the casting is full of honkies. Because it's OK to make people who aren't white males watch movies about people who aren't like them - we're supposed to identify with this character, who is the default and ideal in modern American society - but it's impossible for white males to identify with characters who aren't white males.

There seems to be some sort of cognitive dissonance at work here. Oh, wait. That's privilege.

Edited to add: A fan has made a convenient how-to post for letting Paramount know your displeasure here.

09 December 2008

Beer blogging: Duvel, Delirium Tremens, and 1554 Enlightened Black Ale

While on holiday in St Louis, I tried a variety of beer.

The first I tried was the 1554 Enlightened Black Ale, by the New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, CO. This was in the fridge at Ben's parents' house, left over from a mixed pack, and the label described it as a dark malty ale with chocolate flavors. Sounded right up my alley!

I poured it into a glass and found it to be quite black, almost stout-like in appearance, except with more head. The taste was also stout-like, with a nice malty chocolate aftertaste. It's only 5.6% ABV, so it doesn't pack too big a punch.

It's a pretty tasty brew, and if you like stouts or would like them better if they weren't quite as heavy, give this a try.

Then when we went out for dinner the next night, I tried Duvel. It's from the Duvel brewery in Belgium. It's a Belgian strong pale ale, which means that it's hoppy, slightly fruity, and may contain spices. An SPA is pale in color, ranging from whitish-yellow to gold, and has a higher ABV (around 8%). Hence, strong.

The Duvel was a clear yellow-gold color, and because I don't know the trick of the perfect pour, it didn't get the big foamy head. But that's OK; it still tasted good. The flavor was nice, not too bitter, with hints of spices (coriander, maybe?)

It's a lot like Hoegaarden, if it were less yeasty and twice as alcoholic. Considering that I'd be content to drink Hoegaarden forever, that's saying a lot.

The next day, we went out to a famous restaurant/pub called Blueberry Hill, where I tried Delirium Tremens. It's another import, from Brouwerij Huyghe in Belgium. It's also a strong pale ale.

The lighting was too dim to get a good look at the color of the beer, but it was pale amber. The taste was nice; slightly hoppy but not horribly bitter. I'd drink it again if given the chance, though it's more of a summery brew than winter. I'm finding it difficult to recall precisely the flavor of this beer, but that doesn't mean it's an unassuming, bland beer. It's kind of like if a white beer didn't have the spices in it and had twice the ABV. It doesn't have the yeasty sweetness of a Hefeweizen, either.

03 December 2008

So much for more-regular updates.

I'll blame Thanksgiving travel for my laziness.

Speaking of Thanksgiving travel, getting home on Sunday was Exciting. Here's a short recap. Got to STL in plenty of time to catch our 1:40 flight. Then the departure board flipped to 2:20, then back to 2:00. Our plane arrived around 2:30, and we got on it, then were told -- on the tarmac -- that Chicago had a ground stop because of weather, so we'd be sitting on the tarmac for an hour until the 4 pm update. Then until the 5 pm update. We got to Chicago around 6:30, and Ben got us on standby for the next (and last) flight out, which was a 6:30 flight that was delayed until 8:45. We got seats, and the plane boarded around 9, and we got into RDU at 12:45 am, home at 1:30.

Never flying through Chicago between Nov 1 and May 1 again. Atlanta or Dallas only.

Haven't been up to much. I've been working on the final project for my epidemiology class, which has been eating a goodly chunk of my time. I didn't get to submit the story to that magazine, but they extended the deadline to this coming Sunday. Maybe I'll hack at the tale some more and make it work better, and see if I can get it ready by then. (It needs a lot of work.)

I have tai chi class again tonight. I think I'm about ready for an evaluation, though I should really read the parts of the book and learn the terms before I think too much about that. My goal was to be evaluated before the end of the (lunar) year, which gives me until late January, and I should be able to swing that, no problem. (As long as the evaluation doesn't happen outside. I think I'd freeze to death.)

I also sprung for internets on my cell phone. The crappy RAZR doesn't have enough java memory to run the gmail app, though I can access it through Opera mini. Depending on how much I use it, etc, I might see if I can find a refurbished iPhone or Crackberry or something.