Friday, November 24, 2006

Lock the door, throw away the key

Let me simply say that Michael Richards' verbal diarrhea has been so ridiculous that I cannot take it seriously. His hateful rant at the comedy club could only have been drug-induced since any racist with half a mind would been more subtle (think Russell Peters). His spluttering apologies and desperate, clammy grasps at civil rights leaders for redemption are embarrassing, to say the least, because they are so transparently self-serving.

The latest turn of this train wreck is, of course, litigation. The two men who were the targets of Richards' anger have enlisted an attorney to help obtain a personal apology and "maybe some money". Apparently, they were "humiliated, and even scared at one point", despite the fact that they were in the company of 20 friends.

The Associated Press article is hilariously dismissive of the whole case as it recounts in the following order:
"Our clients were vulnerable," [the lawyer] said. "He went after them. He singled them out and he taunted them, and he did it in a closed room where they were captive.''
The video of Richards' outburst shows several people getting up and walking out as he shouts at the audience.

Michael Richards is an idiot and anyone who seriously considers him a threat is naive. The targets of his rant are shameless opportunists. Now that they have all been clearly identified, let's just ignore the whole thing; like a bad migraine, the event serves no purpose and just makes my head ache.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Your friendly neighbourhood rapper

I just found out from that rapper, Warren G will be a participant in the latest season of VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club"! Just how much extra fat is Warren G carrying to make this humiliation worth his while? Most hip hop fashion flaps at muumuu like proportions anyways.

Back in the 1990s, when Warren G released classics like "Regulate" and "This DJ", I never would have imagined that the smooth rapper would end up on a weight loss reality show.

Warren G is just the latest example of the gentrification of rap. Black men from the projects don't look so threatening when they worry about their paunch and create entertainment for the whole family. For example:

  • Diddy (or whatever he calls himself now) used to hang out with Biggie Smalls and other individuals of ill repute. Now, he throws parties in the Hamptons with his pal, Ashton Kutcher.
  • Snoop Dogg used to look mellowed out by the permanent haze around him. Recently, Snoop made a public declaration that he no longer indulged in the weed (a short lived refrain according to a recent drug arrest) and turned to self-parody in Starsky & Hutch and Soul Plane.
  • Ice-T use to be a self-professed "Cop Killer". Now, he plays a good cop on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit".
  • Ice Cube used to scare parents when they heard him advising their kids to "fuck tha police". Now, he embraces the whole family with films like Are We There Yet?.

I am not in favour of keeping black rappers in the margins of society but is looking harmless the only way to bring them into the mainstream? The transformation that seems to be required of hiphop artists in order to be accepted is comparable to the famous Saturday Night Live skit where Natalie Portman became a 'gangsta rapper'. Portman's transformation was played for laughs in that we would never seriously consider her having street cred because of the skit. Yet we're supposed to believe that Ice Cube is now a children friendly entertainer because he's helpless against kids in a family comedy?

Well, at least Ice Cube was clearly comfortable with his weight when he ate his way through xXx:State of the Union.

"Shaken and stirred" or "Licence to thrill" or "I like!"

I saw Casino Royale and I loved it! Combine this movie with Borat and I haven't been this eager to throw money at a box office in, possibly, years.

The experience of seeing Casino Royale was better than Borat since I expected nothing of the latest 007 franchise. Also, unlike Borat, the best parts were not already shown in the trailer.

The Casino Royale trailer made the movie look like a typical action thriller. Yet, here was a action flick that actually offered original chase sequences, a believable love story, and truly dirty innuendos. And any film that features significantly more male than female nudity holds a special place in my heart.

I did not have strong objections to Daniel Craig as Bond. Having seen him in Layer Cake, I thought he would be a good fit. It was a shame that unimaginative bullies like the one behind the website, (mysteriously defunct), attacked Daniel Craig without having seen the movie. The anonymous cowards used puerile tactics like posting a scene on YouTube from the film, Enduring Love that featured Daniel Craig kissing a male co-star then citing it as proof of what a travesty Craig's James Bond would be.

The idiots behind and their like can keep Pierce Brosnan and the last three Bond films, which pretty much meld into one film in my memory. James Bond was becoming indistinguishable from Austin Powers with the ridiculous 'world domination' villains, over the top gadgets, and a male lead that is promiscuous yet completely neutered.

When Daniel Craig finally identified himself as James Bond in the movie, the audience at my screening clapped and cheered. That means money well spent.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thanks for nothing, Vincent Lam

Photo: Rick Madonik/Toronto Star
I was shocked and dismayed to learn that Vincent Lam had won the Giller Prize yesterday. It is the fairy tale ending to a fantastic journey that saw a hospital ER doctor write a book of short stories, get published, then get nominated for a prestigious literary award.
I am not objecting to the excellence of Dr. Lam's work, Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, since I have not read it nor the work of any of the other nominees. What I am upset about is the nonstop grief that I will get from my parents when they hear about the win.
For years, my parents tried to wean me onto the idea of becoming a doctor. "You're smart," they kept insisting before referring to a memory feat I used to perform as a preschooler where I would recall my father's credit cards in order. To my mind, this showed the promise of a great con artist and not a doctor. Plus, a second aunt, twice removed or whatever, was also a doctor so by some genetic relation, I should also have medical abilities in me, so the logic went.
Unfortunately for my parents, science and math did not come easily to me. English and visual arts did. I fought for years with my parents to avoid becoming a doctor or a nurse or a scientist. On angst alone, I was bound to become an artist, a profession my parents equated with "living on the street."
I finally got my way and my parents settled into a state of resignation. I had my fun with art for a few years but it turns out that my parents were right: art doesn't pay.
As I struggle to find a more practical way to make a living, it's a bitter pill to see Dr. Lam dabble successfully in both worlds. His winning novel will only rouse my parents to wag their finger at me, saying, "See! You could have become a doctor and done art successfully as a hobby, too." To his credit, Dr. Lam objects to anyone referring to his writing as a hobby since it hardly qualifies as a relaxing pasttime for him. I pout sullenly, nonetheless.
So, thanks Vincent Lam, thanks a lot. You have raised the bar for scientific and artistic professionals everywhere and given at least one set of Asian parents fodder for another round of 'I told you so'.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Borat! Will I like?

After four months of waiting, it is finally here! Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan! I really hope I didn't overhype this for myself.

If you can't be bothered to get to a movie theatre to see it or find it morally repugnant, enjoy this until you come around:

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Chit chat fodder cornucopia

Here's the latest chit chat fodder courtesy of my former customs broker.

$200 even less popular than $50
The Bank of Canada has withdrawn a proposal to introduce a $200 banknote after a survey of retailers revealed strong opposition. 59 per cent of those surveyed said they were opposed, with 40 per cent "strongly opposed." The central bank had been looking for a higher-denomination replacement for the $1000 banknote after it ceased to be printed in May, 2000, to help thwart money launderers and drug dealers who prefer large bills.

Oompa Loompas in disguise
Even before the recent security scares, the Conference Board in the U.S. found at the start of the summer that 40 per cent of consumers had no plans to take a vacation over the next six months, the lowest percentage recorded by the group in 28 years. About 25 per cent of American workers in the private sector do not get paid vacation time. Another 33 per cent will take only a seven-day vacation. Some companies are shutting down completely twice a year to ensure people stop working.

Better in the hand than on the wrist
Last year, the U.S. watch market saw a 4.9 per cent dip in sales. Rival electronic devices such as personal digital assistants and cellphones are the reason. Even sales of watches under US$50.00, rarely affected by overall market trends, are down.

Spray me guilty
Rich people can beef up their home security with the automatically activated SmartWater spray system. The technology, mounted on the walls or the ceiling, squirts the intrudes with a solution containing a unique forensic code that remains detectable on the skin and hair for weeks and on clothing indefinitely.

Pirates will become robbers
Films arrive in projection rooms as 10,000 feet of film printed as a copy of the original. Now, digital projection systems are the latest thing. The release copy of the movie is delivered on a hard drive, sporting 100 gigabytes of the latest Hollywood blockbuster, a digitally scanned copy of the master film print. Once put into place, the movie is simply unloaded to a server and is one button-push away from being digitally projected. The biggest advantage of digital projection is picture quality.

More discounts on naughty foods predicted
New research in the U.S. confirms that grocery circulars announcing the latest grocery specials are an effective means of connecting with consumers. Grocers spend some US$8-billion on feature ads each year, which amounts to two per cent of their sales. The research shows that at least 10 per cent of shoppers chose their store based on the week's ads and that shoppers were most influential when the ads promoted discounts on cereal, snack chips, pizza, cookies and hot dogs.

Unpopular paint has its day
An unpopular pigment used by 18th century artists could lead to more energy efficient, faster computers. Cobalt green, as it is known, has been tested by a US team who believe that, because of its magnetic properties, could be used in "spintronic" devices. Spintronics involves manipulating the magnetic properties of electron to do useful computational work. Cobalt green is a mixture of zinc oxide and cobalt and artists of the 18th century found it expensive and that it created relatively weak colours.

Nerds: 25 years in the making
This past August saw the 25th anniversary of the personal computer with the introduction of the IBM 5150. Costing $1,565, the 5150 had just 16K of memory, about enough for three or so e-mails nowadays. This machine which was developed by a team of 12 IBM engineers, altered the way business was done forever and sparked a revolution in home computing.

Spinach, carrot juice and now, cantaloupes
Cantaloupe melons have been identified as a common source of food poisoning. Researchers who studied records in Canada and the U.S. identified almost one large outbreak caused by cantaloupes every year over a 30-year period. It is believed that the problem lies in the rough skin of the cantaloupe being hard to clean meaning that bacteria on the outside can contaminate the flesh when it is cut open.

Shop until you drop
Shanghai has constructed a massive underground bunker complex capable of sheltering 200,000 people from a nuclear attack. The million-square-foot complex connects to shopping centres, office buildings, apartment buildings and the subway system via miles of tunnels. The complex has water, hydro, lighting, ventilation and protective doors and can support life for as long as two weeks.

Self-help is cheaper
A recent study shows that shoppers purchase impulse items such as snacks, candy, beverages and magazines 45.5 per cent less often when they use self-checkout than when they use a staffed checkout lane. The impact is greater for women, 50 per cent, versus a drop of 27.9 per cent for men. In 2005, consumers spent over US$111-billion on self-checkout transactions at retailers, up 35 per cent over the previous year. The average number of items in a self-checkout transaction is 6.7 with a value of $32.85.

Economic loss equals weight loss
The U.S. is warning India that bans on soft drinks like Coca Cola and Pepsi could blight its hopes of attracting American investment. Six Indian states have now announced partial or complete bans on soft drink sales in schools, colleges and hospitals after claims that the drinks contain harmful pesticides. Coke and Pepsi account for nearly 80 per cent of India's more than US$2-billion soft drink market

Impulse buying in seconds
The Polo Lauren Group is taking impulse shopping one step further with technology that allows passersby to purchase clothing they see in the windows of one of its New York stores by using a touch screen on the glass. Projected on the window of the store is a 67-inch image of items. Customers can purchase them by using a credit card swiper on the window.

Big Brother cares about your education
British university students are being monitored by a unique electronic tagging system designed to ensure that they attend lectures. About 1,000 undergraduates at the University of Glamorgan have been issued with key rings containing microchips that store each individual's name and other enrolment data. Every time he or she attends a lecture, the students press the key ring against a sensor that acts as an electronic receiver which records attendance.