Who Can Play Who?

I was born in the Bronx and became a young man in Los Angeles, so I lived in racially mixed neighborhoods during my formative years. I’m aghast at the pain we cause over what are essentially paint jobs and accessories. It’s a vast and vital topic — a needed ongoing conversation. For now, suffice that “race” should never be the answer to any important question.

Such as the question of who can — as in “is allowed to” — have what acting roles in movies and TV shows. Specifically, the issue of “race swapping” in previously established roles. Complicating the matter is an asymmetry; swapping X for Y isn’t the same as swapping Y for X.

There is also the question of “gender swapping” and the “strong female character” in modern writing. We’ve forgotten Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor.

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Sci-Fi Saturday 9/24/22

The Sci-Fi Saturday posts lately have reported on books by Robert J. Sawyer, my new favorite science fiction author, or on books by Ben Bova, one of the notable stars in the SF firmament. A couple of posts recommended interesting movies (this one and that one).

This month I’ve been exploring other things. For instance, other parts of YouTube than I usually frequent (see yesterday’s post). Relevant here, other science fiction authors. (And maybe a TV show if there’s space.)

Today’s post reports on books by: Isaac Asimov, William Gibson, Neil Gaiman, and James S. A. Corey.

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Friday Notes (Sep 23, 2022)

The older I get the more surprising it is to find myself in whatever MM/YY it happens to be. And a bit more surprised with each one that passes. 09/23. I did not expect to make it this far. Surprise!

Those with a weekly schedule know the rhythm of the days. (Rainy days and Mondays. Hump day. TGIF!) The months have a rhythm, too, and September was always a pivotal beat for me. The Autumnal Equinox — the portal into fall (my favorite season).

This particular September has been interesting enough to distract me from winter’s dark approach and to call for yet another edition of Friday Notes.

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Sideband #76: Fun with Op Amps

Last November I posted about electronics “shortcuts” — rules of thumb that help interpret, even design, a circuit. These are approximations of more complex behavior but work well enough for a first cut at understanding a circuit.

Do not confuse these electronics shortcuts, which are generally good, with electronic short-circuits, which are almost always bad. While both offer shorter paths, that’s not a good thing in the latter case. Sometimes the journey is the only reward.

I intended to continue with op amps but kept putting it off. There are other Sidebands pending, though, so it’s time to drop the other shoe.

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Lee Child on Jack Reacher

Lee Child (James Grant)
[from Wikimedia Commons]

The last three Mystery Monday posts have all mentioned the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child. I’ve really taken to the character and his stories since I met him in the first Tom Cruise movie. (Which is actually the second-worst way to meet Reacher. The worst is the second movie, and even that’s not awful.)

Last week I stumbled across the Mysterious Profiles series published by Mysterious Press (founded by Otto Penzler, owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan). Each volume is a short essay by a mystery author. Based on the titles and the one I read, they’re about how the author conceived and built their series character.

The one I read was by Lee Child about Jack Reacher.

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50 Words for Snow

Everyone knows “Eskimos have 50 words for snow.” Everyone knows that’s an urban myth. Both statements are true for appropriate values of everyone. The truth, of course and as usual, lies in the middle and is both more elusive and more nuanced.

The frosting: as with many of life’s more vexing issues, there is also a definitional component, and things depend, at least somewhat, on perspective. What constitutes a word and how does the basic language structure introduce new concepts, with new words or phrases?

But no matter because this post isn’t about the 50 words for snow.

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Everything Everywhere All at Once

I had plans today but woke up feeling less-than-great (still have a headache). Fortunately, friend was fine with tomorrow. Meanwhile, here’s a post planned for next Sci-Fi Saturday. Ironically, after my complaints about modern movies, here’s another delight.

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), starring Chinese superstar Michelle Yeoh, written and directed by Daniels (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), is wild and wacky — a comedy action thriller about family, choices, and saving the multiverse. Also, a bagel with everything on it.

Gets a Wow! rating. Recommended (as ever: if you like that sort of thing).

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Reversing Reality

“Time is out of joint.”

I’ve long puzzled over the idea that physics is reversible. That its laws, with some caveats, work the same if time runs forwards or backwards. It’s even been suggested that, except for entropy, time could run backwards just as easily as forwards.

But this seems contrary to our everyday experience. With some exceptions, we can tell if a film or video clip is shown in reverse. Objects that fall, break, or grow (such as plants or crystals), look different seen in reverse.

I think there is more going on there than just entropy.

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StoRy: FiRe vs WateR

I complain a lot about American cinema and rightly so. Given the vast amount of money and effort expended in Hollywood, there often doesn’t seem much bang for all those bucks. Yet if you go through my Movie Reviews, you’ll find I’ve given plenty of Wow! ratings to American films.

Just usually to the smaller films, the “little gems” that come from a filmmaker’s heart. I rarely find much value in the bland American McAction McBlockbusters. (Certainly not in the increasingly worn-out superhero genre.)

But, oh, my goodness, RRR (2022), by Indian filmmaker and screenwriter S. S. Rajamouli is the best, most interesting, most enthralling, most exciting, surprising, colorful, amazing, delightful action (superhero) blockbuster I’ve seen in… well, it feels like ever.

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Sawyer: WWW

What if, as more than one science fiction story has imagined, the sheer size and complexity of the World Wide Web made it become self-aware. And what if, contrary to most of those stories, it was wonderful in every sense of the word. What if it meant world peace, freedom, and humanity at long last growing up.

That’s the vision Robert J. Sawyer presents in his WWW trilogy, which consists of Wake (2009), Watch (2010), and Wonder (2011). It’s the tale of a young woman blind from birth who gains sight, a bonobo-chimpanzee hybrid who makes a choice, and an emergent machine-based superintelligence who wants to serve man.

And not, it (or rather he) adds, in the cookbook sense.

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