Month: February 2015

The Science of That Dress – SciShow

I see it as white and gold, but as explained above, it’s a matter of perspective. Which I mentioned in my tweet yesterday…

That’s right. I’m on #TeamPerspective. Or #TeamScience. And #TeamEquality. #TeamMutualUnderstanding. #TeamTryingTooHardToLookSmartAndSophisticated

Okay. I’ll stop.

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Big Hero 6

What happened to Disney?

Wreck-It Ralph was awesome. Frozen is a massive hit, and now this. Big Hero 6.

Wow.

There’s so much to gush about. The gorgeous animation, the fun action, the emotional moments, the well-timed comedy, the simple yet effective plot…the only thing I’m a smidgen annoyed about is it makes me feel awful for even wanting to criticise a film so beautifully crafted and so well written.

I have to admit tearing up at Tadashi’s death, because the writers decided to build his character beforehand. And rightly so, because so many films fail to realise that if you want the audience to connect to the protagonist, you have to let them experience what the protagonist experiences. It also helps that Tadashi was written as the sort of friendly, brotherly character that’s so easy to connect to, and doesn’t require much time to develop, saving the precious minutes for Baymax.

I have to say, the only thing that sort of lets the show down is the characters. Most of them aren’t really that well developed, but we can’t all have multiple movies for each character to build to a massive team film. There was enough for Hiro though, and while he does undergo a cliché emotional development (grief, anger, acceptance, HERO!), it’s a friendly formula that works well for a children’s movie like this.

The rest of the team are pretty standard types, and GoGo isn’t much of a nerd as nerds go. But the film did its best to make every character fun and entertaining in their own ways (with some really unique ‘powers’), and that’s about as much as I can ask for.

The true main character is Baymax though. The writers deliberately made him less robot and more person, including that hilarious scene where he was low on battery and behaved like a stereotypical drunk. The robot is just too darn adorable with his constant bad timing, and that final scene where Baymax sends Hiro to safety? I know it’s a robot, and obviously Hiro got to rebuild him at the end, but damn if the tears weren’t welling up.

That does bring me to the plot. Other than the complaints that the final bit where Hiro needs to save Abigail was too long (I mean, the portal’s destabilising, and you have time to hug Baymax?!), everything else was great. It was targeted at children, who will love the simple, exciting, yet extremely heart-warming plot. Even the most critical of watchers have to admit that the film made the basic formula work.

I criticise formulaic films all the time, but only because they bore me to death with predictable events. Sure, Big Hero 6 was predictable. But it was also fun. It was sweet and adorable. It was touching. Most importantly, it connected with the audience. When you end a film with a profound sense of emptiness, you know that film was epic.

Of course, no Marvel-based film is complete without a Stan Lee cameo, this time in the post-credits. But I didn’t care for the Stan Lee cameo, because it has lost its charm over so many Marvel films, and the movie itself was far, far more interesting.

Sequel? Nah, because a sequel at this point will really just be trying to earn money off Baymax toys. It’ll be much harder to replicate the same sort of emotional connections the first film made, and it would have shed a lot of its charm.

But I’ll watch one anyway. And I need to get me a Baymax toy…

John Wick

What. A. Blast.

I went into the film with a pretty good idea of what it was going to be: Keanu Reeves kicking ass. And it lived up to its billing, and then some.

It’s been far too long since Keanu has done something that amazed me, but this is it. John Wick is a brilliantly paced film with great action, great choreography and is a perfect vehicle for Keanu Reeves. He really channelled the character, and given his own life experiences, it seems almost perfect for the man (much like how Birdman is a reflection of Michael Keaton). He does a brilliant job of portraying the deep anger and pain of John Wick, and frankly, it was quite intense.

But the main point of the film was the action, and boy was it good. There was no ridiculous shaky cam to cover up poor choreography, just a lot of great shots of well-choreographed fights. The fights were gritty, brutal, and felt so real; The Expendables could learn a lot from just the physical combat.

And then the guns. Oh my goodness. HOLLYWOOD HAS LEARNT THAT GUNS RUN OUT OF AMMO. It thrilled me to see Keanu reload his pistol, and even if there was an ungodly amount of muzzle flash, impossibly silent suppressors, cars acting as bullet shields, obvious digital squibs and explosions that were too fiery to be real, just to see a gun needing a reload was brilliant. The way the film integrated the reloading into the fight so seamlessly only made it that much better.

Also, props to the scriptwriters for keeping the dialogue simple and the backstory clean. I wouldn’t say they were extremely fantastic lines, but they didn’t detract from the action, and allowed the characters to breathe and live beyond the simple concept of assassins or crime lords. It was a far more subtle attempt at character development than plenty of action films these days, and it succeeded in giving characters that bit of life that allows the audience to connect to them.

I loved the fact that the film also didn’t treat us all as idiots by keeping things suggestive, to encourage the audience to think a little and thus connect to the film. None of the characters tried to deliver awkward exposition, and they looked so natural in their world as a result. I love that kind of storytelling, which is a form I try to mimic.

What can I say? Stallone, eat your heart out. This is what The Expendables should have been. This isn’t Bourne, but it doesn’t have to be. I usually don’t advocate for sequels, but I’ll watch the hell out of a John Wick 2.

The Science of Anti-Vaccination

This is why science education is so important. Understanding that science is the least biased form of knowledge helps me keep my human biases in decent check. I find comfort in numbers and figures, and replicable experiments that prove theories with a high degree of certainty. Not anecdotes and stories about certain people experiencing certain things that run contrary to a far more rigorous set of experimentations that prove something beyond reasonable doubt.

Aptly, I just had a conversation with my family over breakfast, and the issue of rhino horns used in Traditional Chinese Medicine came up. My parents are still holding on to the belief that rhino horn powder boiled in water are actual cures for headaches and fever, due to their own experiences drinking it.

My view? I might as well collect my hair and nails, grind that into powder and boil it in water to serve them. It’s all keratin, a protein we can’t digest and has absolutely no medicinal properties. There are plenty of amazing treatments in TCM, especially herbs that contain compounds with great medicinal properties. But rhino horns are NOT one of those things.

I’m willing to bet the headaches were normal tension headaches that passed with rest, and the fevers were mild and hydration helped the body recover. Heck, it could even be a placebo effect. And of course, memories from childhood, especially at a more advanced age, will most likely deteriorate. I certainly don’t believe that rhino horn powder has any ‘cooling effect’, especially since the idea of balancing the ‘heat’ in the body is ultimately derived from Taoism, a religion.

So yea, science education people. Ignorance is NOT bliss. Get your facts right. And for everyone’s sake, get vaccinated. It’s not for you, it’s for those who can’t get vaccinated.

La Tormenta – Chapter 23

Recently, I’ve been trying the writing advice littering the internet about sticking to a writing schedule. So I decided to be more conservative, and aimed for a 1000 word/week target. So far, it’s working quite well, and I’ve managed to get a new chapter out within 3 months! Well, I guess trying to avoid studying for the hardest semester of my university life also helped.

I’ve fought my urge to write multiple stories at one time ever since I’ve started to work on La Tormenta, to try and minimise distractions. That urge ebbed for a while, but now it’s back. I really want to do a pure Narutoverse story, but to do it justice, I have to devote quite a bit of time to it. So, instead, I’m musing a Naruto/Highschool DxD crossover. It’s more brainless, hopefully funnier, and much, much sexier. Damn me and my hormones!

…but seriously, Highschool DxD is pretty entertaining. The light novels anyway. The anime doesn’t really do it justice.

Fifty Accents of Grey – The Tonight Show

It’s really funny, but again, I find myself just stunned at the sheer ridiculousness of the lines. Who the hell says that sort of thing, even in an S&M relationship? My medulla oblongata? I didn’t know Anastasia was a healthcare professional. And I don’t think healthcare professionals (or academics) even say that sort of thing. I’m training to be one, and I certainly don’t think or talk like that, unless I’m trying to be mocking. This just reminds me of the video where gay men read out lines from the book. How the hell did this become a bestseller and turn into a trilogy?

Maybe I should write an erotic novel.