Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ai Weiwei "harmonized"

(image grabbed from archinect.)

Artist/architect/activist Ai Weiwei is probably best known in the US for designing the iconic "Bird's Nest" Olympic stadium in Beijing and then disassociating himself from the project in protest of China's "disgusting" political conditions. But his art has long had a political component, and lately his activism has been nothing short of fearless. In recent months, Ai has investigated the casualties in the Beichuan quake, in attempt to fully document the names of the victims, many of them children. In the last week, he reported being harassed in a pattern all too familiar to Chinese activists - visits by anonymous authorities, invitations to "chat" and "drink tea."
At 7:40 pm, I exited the embassy, which has at least three levels of prison-like security. Listening to Ms. "Human Rights" Pelosi, I was struck by the amount of money that could turn a once-crafty heroine into an obsequious, felonious old bag. Even more ridiculous is the claim that the US Embassy inherits from ancient Chinese styles. Gag.

So that my mobile phone wouldn't be confiscated by US Marines, I left it in the car. When I returned my mother's phone call, she said anxiously that four plainclothes policemen were waiting at home and were continually asking about my residence out by the airport road. I immediately said I was coming home. It had been a few days since I'd seen her.

What happened afterward is like an absurdist novel gone bad. The seemingly nice domestic security officer was not carrying a police ID, and I refused to talk with someone whose identity was unknown. He said his colleagues had ID, I said my comrade was Clinton. He began to talk about feelings, something I avoid altogether. I had to ask them to leave, and then called 110. The mincing 110 response — two pitiful policemen who hadn't brought any ID. They said, it was you who called us, so I said, I'm a tax-payer, and he said, we've got badge numbers on our uniforms and there's a police car outside, so I said, where's the proof you didn't steal them, so the two of them had to go back and pick them up at the station. Then we all went to the station, and the officers there were a little surprised to see a domestic security officer being brought in to make a statement. One officer did both the questioning and the recording. It was a little comical, but I benevolently signed my name. Then they refused to issue a written acknowledgement of the report, saying, we were just talking and it wasn't a crime. I said, I didn't call 110 for fun, and then I called lawyer Hao, but the signal was poor in Shanxi, so I called Liu Xiaoyuan, who said that state security had chatted with him in the past. The domestic security officer I had reported vanished. I stormed out of the station and, I'm not exaggerating this at all, said, you've wasted tax payer money, you're dishonorable, you're pathetic. If you don't unlock the door, your station's not going to have a door anymore.
I strongly recommend you go to Danwei and read the whole thing, which also includes a post by lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan on the right of Chinese citizens to refuse to "chat."

Two days ago, Ai Weiwei's blogs were shut down. The last entry, titled "I'm Ready," was translated by China Digital Times. Be sure to read that too.

UPDATE: According to Danwei, Ai Weiwei has a new blog: http://blog.aiweiwei.com and Twitter account @aiww. If it is Ai Weiwei, he's only following one person on Twitter, "There is no Ai Weiwei on Twitter." Which sounds about right...

(NOTE: "Harmonized" is China Netspeak referencing one of the official goals of the Hu Jintao leadership, building a "Harmonious Society." Anything insufficiently "harmonious" invites censorship)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Glorp....

video

Road trip!

The Good...


The Bad...



And the Ugly...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday cat blogging...


Because it's a holiday weekend...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When Cuteoverload isn't enough...

Go to Zooborns! BABY LION CUBS!!!!!!!

Never thought I'd be a pro-wrestling fan...

But I'm with "friend of blog" Evil Willow...I am liking Jesse "The Body" Ventura!

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Yes We Can!"

"But that doesn't necessarily mean we're going to."

Jon Stewart's Moral Kombat...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
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Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Name is Other Lisa, and I am a Trekkie

I refuse to call myself a "Trekker." It's way too pretentious. But yes, I know the Star Trek episodes by name. I can recite much of the dialog. I have been to a Star Trek convention - only one. I've gone to the San Diego Comi-con a bunch of times though. That was actually where I first saw the Star Trek bloopers. Talk about different times - the convention was held at the El Cortez Hotel in downtown San Diego. I may have already hit double-digits, age-wise - but we are talking tween as opposed to teen (I'm guessing I was about 11). My dad dropped me and my younger sister off at the convention and said to have fun and he'd pick us up later. We had a blast. Do kids get to do stuff like this any more, just run around on their own all day at a comic book convention?

Anyway, I have a long history with Star Trek. The original series only, thank you very much. The one that was truly iconic. All the other iterations are just TV shows. So I pretty much had to go see the new J.J. Abrams "reboot" (NOTE TO CULTURAL ARBITRATORS: Can we eliminate the term "reboot" as it applies to a new version of an old cultural product. And while you're at it, would you please remove "mash-up" as well? Thanks. Much appreciated).

Today I walked to Santa Monica and plunked down my $9.50 (and THIS for a matinee! I am so spoiled by free studio screenings). My thoughts:

First, AMC Santa Monica, fix your damn screen. This was the big screen theater and the bottom half of it was all scuffed and had, like, huge water-marks on it or something. I mean, this big damn blotch on the lower right that you'd see every time the scene had any kind of lighting. I thought about leaving but figured most of the movie would be in outer space, which tends to be dark. I had reckoned without the bridge of the Enterprise, which as some have remarked, resembles an Apple Store. But I did forget about the ugly blotch and skid-marks after a while, and anyway, those weren't the movie's fault.

On to the movie.

The story: meh. I mean, another time travel story, Kirk, he is teh REBEL, and uh, red matter? Huh? It's best not to think too much about the story; it falls apart on close examination.

The direction: I could have lived without so much shaky cam, but that wasn't as distracting as I'd feared. (NOTE TO HOLLYWOOD FILM DIRECTORS: Shaky Cam and Lens flares actually do not create realism. These visual devices have become a cliche). So it was okay.

The cast: here's where the movie rocked. Really. When you have actors who are so closely identified with roles, as the actors who played the crew in the original Star Trek, it's really hard to imagine anyone else playing those parts. But this is where the "iconic" nature of the original Star Trek comes in. Those weren't actually caricatures, they were archetypes. Who knew?

I'd had serious doubts about Chris Pine, and if I were Queen of the Star Trek universe, he wouldn't have been the guy I'd cast. He's too young. Too callow. But you know, he had the cocky, arrogant, womanizing part down, and at the end, I swear he was actually channelling the Shat. This is a good thing, no matter what anyone thinks.

Zachary Quinto. Great job. I'd read reviews complaining that he was too pissy, too insecure, too emotional, too conflicted. Um, guys who wrote these reviews? Did you ever actually watch Star Trek? That's the character! He's actually a little too sexy for Spock, who in spite of his teen idol status back in the day, was not really sexy. He was repressed, and he was the guy with whom so many fans identified - super brainy, doesn't fit in, pretends he's in control when he's really not - except he was also super-cool! Which most fans were not, but wished they were.

Karl Urban - wow. Now here's a guy who is much more attractive (IMO) than Chris Pine, and he's playing Dr. McCoy. Cool! Hunky McCoy! He was just spot-on. He actually wore a pinky ring, and those of you who are Trekkies like me know the significance of this. More McCoy in the next movie, please. They need to get that Star Trek triad thing going.

Simon Pegg - inspired casting. More Scotty next time out as well.

The rest of the crew were okay. They did give Uhuru something to do, and that's a good thing, but I can't say that Zoe Saldana is a really knock your socks off actor, or maybe it was the part. But she was okay. And John Cho - isn't he too old for Sulu? And, not as cute? Though at least he got to fence.

But, you know, whatever. I'm old school, but I'm not a purist.

The other than main crew casting...Bruce Greenwood - VERY good. He owned it.

Spock's parents...eh. Okay. Didn't stand out. I stand alone in thinking that Winona was actually a little better than Ben Cross, but what the hell was that outfit with the breast shelf?! I'm a little miffed with certain aspects of messing with canon here, plus the inconsistent performance of the transporters, but, well, I won't get into that. This is a spoiler-free zone.

Eric Bana as the villain Nero - well, it's not his fault. Not a particularly interesting part.

So, my recommendation. Do the sequel. Write it better. Keep it focused on the characters, because that was the part of this that really worked.

Oh, and the music. Sigh. Typical boring hero movie. The first Star Trek had some seriously kick-ass music. Weird stuff from real composers. Great music. Iconic, even. This score was another typical grandiose theme, a little tribal percussion for the bad guys thrown in, whatever.

And then, at the very end, finally. They played the original Star Trek theme. A kind of lame version, I thought. But still. They played it. And that's Star Trek.

Now, if only they'd used Shatner's original narration....seriously, guys. That would have been cool.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Waiting is eating my brain...

How is it that it's Thursday night - well, technically Friday morning - and I haven't written a post since Sunday? Where did the last four days go? Did I actually do anything?

Well, a little bit of writing - and by the way, the next writer-type person I hear/read who says that they have to write all the time, they can't stop the words, they enjoy writing so much, the words just flow through them, it's quite possible that I will reach through the Interwebs and throttle them, because I don't even want to talk about where it feels like I'm pulling the words for this latest thing from...since hitting 40K a couple of weeks ago (whenever that was), I've managed to achieve a grand total of 3,000 more words. Sheesh. That's pretty sad.

Oh well. The last book I wrote wasn't always a joy to write either, and it came out okay in the end. Though I'm still not sure about this one JUST DON'T THINK ABOUT THAT DON'T THINK ABOUT THAT DON'T

Redrum Redrum Redrum

M'kay.

Pretty much what's been going on is waiting. Lots of it. I've had an interesting little writing gig with a Chinese publication (more on that some other time), I've been squeezing out my little dribble of words on the WIP, waiting to hear about the book that's out in the cold cruel publishing world, waiting to hear about a job, waiting to hear about...well, a bunch of other stuff. Which means I'm waiting to figure out what I'm going to do about my house, about where I'm going to be and how I'm going to get there. And of course under those decisions are a geometrically multiplying decision tree of many other little decisions. With a ticking clock.

Feh.

Okay, I'm at least going to exercise some control over one of the things that I can control, and that's this irritating WIP.

500 words, baby. That's all I'm asking for tonight. 500 words...

UPDATE: I think the internet is eating my brain too. The amount of time I have wasted following and even participating in stoopid internet sh1t-storms is just embarrassing. I swear I was more productive back in the dark days of dial-up.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Brain bleach needed...

Ugh. Here's a question about writing I frequently ask myself: why does writing so often take me to unpleasant, dark places? What does this say about me? Obviously I have some control over the process, right?

This particular internet field trip started out, not exactly innocently but routinely. I needed some information on a notorious cluster of bars in a Mexican city. Photos, if possible. I'd never been there (and wouldn't likely go) but I don't like to just make stuff up - to the extent that I can have a real place to picture in my head, the happier I am as a writer — unless I'm writing speculative fiction and just, you know, making sh1t up — oddly, those completely created environments are very vivid to me. I can picture exactly what everything looks like.

My last book was set primarily in China, and it featured a number of net bars and karaoke clubs. I've been to enough of them to create plausible environments. Mexican tourist bars, art bars, even a few dodgy ones, I've been to plenty of them too. But not this kind of place.

So, research. And yeah, in a way, I hit the mother lode. All the descriptions I needed. Pages and pages, post after post on a chat board for a "club" that's all about men who like to pay for sex.

It was disturbing, though maybe not in the way you'd think. I mean, men have been paying for sex for a few thousand years at least, and I was not unaware of this fact. It was the insular nature of it, the "community" aspect, the jargon they used, the way they rated the girls according to looks, enthusiasm and performance, the fact that I had to keep running to the Urban Dictionary to understand what they were talking about, what each particular combination of initials stood for.

By the time I reached the place where one member was calling out certain newbies for not posting their "field reports," you know, for taking information from others and not reciprocating, I was nodding my head and thinking, "yeah, that's not fair, this guy's been really generous about sharing."

I think the post that got to me the most was from a guy who wanted to get information about typical tourist activities and popular places to go in the area. Because as many times as he'd been to this town, he never went to any of them; no, he stayed at some sleazy hotel by a br0thel and went out for cheap wh0res, and that was all he ever did. And he wanted to make sure he could lie plausibly to his coworkers, about, you know, what he did on his vacation.

Ick. I think I'd better get over to Cute Overload. I need kittens and puppies, stat.