Wednesday, May 28, 2014

How to Smash the Refrigerator. Gleefully. With a Hammer.

Note: Grr, I found this in the drafts folder. Silly internet trying to eat my blog posts...

The Avengers: Compared and Contrasted

Last week I talked a little bit about the movie Oblivion, and how I found it ultimately disappointing and fairly sexist.

In contrast, I watched The Avengers (Here thar be spoilers. If you haven't seen this movie, get off my blog. No, seriously go watch it, then come back.), and was immediately struck by how beautifully and effortlessly Joss and the team smash not only the obvious gender roles (like having Black Widow nonchalantly kick serious ass in the first 10 minutes of the film), but also pay attention to the little details, that make me feel like maybe, just maybe, they consider women to be people, not set dressing. Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) could easily have been played by a male. To me, that's one way you can tell if a female character like that is well written. She gets the job done, she doesn't get hysterical, but she's just a person. Like Fury. You could easily swap the actors (aside from some fans freaking out about a female Fury and calling it a gimmick).

I love the power dynamic between Natasha and Bruce when she's recruiting him. She's so calm, and very clearly sure she can kick his ass at any point- provided he doesn't turn into a gigantic green monster. And when he makes her think that might be about to happen, does she cry and whine like Julia in the spacey-jet thing? No. She calmly pulls a gun. (This scene, by the way, is phenomenally acted by Scarlett Johansson. She cocks her gun, pulls her head back just a bit, and her eyes look like she's tearing up, but she doesn't cry. She's just waiting, gun cocked, head averted, to see what happens next.)

Even when The Hulk is chasing her, she's not screaming (here's where you want me to say, "like a little girl" but I'm not going to) hysterically, she's running away, hiding silently, climbing with purpose and a plan. Like a male character would in an action movie. Like, say, Tom Cruise's character in M:I, just to take a completely random example. (Maybe not that random.)

But all that aside. Sometimes the little details make a huge difference. Let me tell you about a little detail that impacted my enjoyment of these movies. In Oblivion, Vika walks around their refrigerator condo in the sky in five inch heels and a tight little dress. She looks like a 1950s housewife, and acts like one as well.

I was going to post a picture of Vika here, but found the image too distressing.

In contrast, let's talk about Pepper Potts. She dresses up when she needs to, when she's going into the office or representing Stark industries. She is the picture of a professional woman. Feminine and powerful. (I don't personally agree with this picture as having completely evolved yet, but that's another blog post.)

BUT. But, but, but...

When Pepper is lounging around Tony's apartment at Stark tower, what is she wearing? Jeans shorts and a button down shirt (which looks like cotton to me, so, comfortable and serviceable). The shorts are short, but they're also loose, and her shirt is only half tucked in. She still looks fabulous (unless you're one of those nutjobs who thinks Gwyneth isn't pretty, and frankly that has nothing to do with what she's wearing). But she also looks comfortable, and casual. And. She's barefoot. Yep. No spiked heels for Pepper when she's chillin' out at home. Her hair is just down. She might have done nothing more than run a comb through it when she woke up that morning. (Believe me, I lived with a beautiful blonde with naturally straight hair for two years, it's possible.)

And then there's Black Widow's manipulation of Loki. She allows him to think he's broken through and made her cry like a girl, but in reality she is always in control of the questioning. She lets him think that he's exploiting her feminine side.

Oh, I promised I'd get back to Jack's name, didn't I? Jack Harper. Sounds an awful lot like Jack Harkness to me. Now, maybe the writers just aren't Whovians, maybe it's just a strong male name, and it's a coincidence. It could totally be a coincidence. Right?


Oblivion is not a very good movie. It is pretty though, I'll give it that. The Avengers is a freaking amazing movie. And also pretty. And funny. And clever.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Balticon 2014 Rundown: Day 1 : Frikkin' Lasers!

Space Weapons and Future Warfare in the Real World

You'll be happy to know that Charles E. Gannon arrived safely. He was joined on this panel by James Daniel Ross (who was wearing a Serenity shirt... Sweet!), Jack (John) Campbell (Hemry) (no one could figure out what to call him), Myke Cole, and Walt Boyes.

I have to be honest with you, my dears. At this point I began to be a little dismayed. You see, last year at Balticon, one of the things that I found to be utterly fantastic and totally exciting was the number of women on the panels. I think there were women at nearly every session I went to last year, including some of the hard-science ones. And I was now two-for-two of panels peopled entirely by white males. Taken individually these guys are all interesting. I enjoyed both panels immensely. I just hope this is not a trend that holds out for the whole con.

This panel was everything I expect from hard science at Balticon. Some of the things they argued about went ... well maybe not COMPLETELY over my head, but certainly above the ear region. Chuck and Jack had a fascinating conversation about insulating spaceships with water, and how hard it would be to get that much water off the ground. There was discussion of how everything in space is a weapon (see: Gravity).

I learned that a M-16 puts gritty gas into the chamber, and therefore requires cleaning more often than an AK-47. (I hope I got those model numbers right... because Myke Cole is honestly a little scary in real life, and is approximately the last person on the planet I'd want to misquote.)

Random Quotables

I see your biosphere and raise you a holocaust. -- Gannon
Marines with rocks are dangerous. There are lots of rocks in space.
Space warfare is a matter of seeing things coming from days away. -- Jack Campbell

Suggested Reading

I can pretty comfortably state that I will be needing to read all the books by all of these guys. They're all fascinating to listen to, and I can only imagine how interesting their fiction must be. Also, one of them recommended the book Kings Who Die, but a quick Google search is not coming up with it, and I didn't write down the author. So I'll have to do some digging later and see if I can figure it out.

Balticon 2014 Rundown: Day 1: Podcasting

As you may know, I'm at Balticon this weekend. In addition to hob-nobbing, elbow rubbing, idea getting, and swag grabbing, I try to attend a few panels. You know, for the look of the thing.

At 4 o'clock, I was planning to take a virtual tour of the universe with Chuck Gannon. I attended some of his panels last year, and I really enjoy listening to him wax scientific. He's a seriously smart dude, and I think I get smarter just being in the same room. It's also really awesome to listen to smart people geek out about the science of things that don't exist yet (that we know of). Unfortunately, at 3:55, he was stuck on the side of the road with a broken down car. Someone had been sent to get him, but he was not going to make that session. So, I decided to wander and see what else there was.

I ended up in...

Podcasting -- Where to Begin

It seemed like it might come in handy if and when The GXG resumes. Don't look at me like that, we all have busy lives. We'll start back up soon. Probably. Especially if you harangue us and tell us how much you love and miss us. We're geeks, we're suckers for attention. I digress. Contain your shock.

On this panel were Christopher Morse, Mike Luoma, Gary Lester, Dave Robison, and Thomas Gideon. (Here's hoping I got all those linking to the right places.)

Random Highlights

Dave Robison, when asked what one should podcast about, said, "Anything that changes the vector of thought..." I liked that turn of phrase, so I wrote it down. Thomas Gideon pointed out that Podcasting is peer media, so really it's okay to talk about anything, so long as you are interested in it. That the cool thing about listening to podcasts is hearing people bringing their passion about the subject... WHATEVER the subject is... into their assessment of it.

There was some talk about content versus polish, and what's important, and I liked Gideon's answer... that there's a baseline of quality that needs to be achieved in order to reduce listener fatigue. In other words, if the quality is so poor that it's hard to hear, or hard to listen to, you're not making it easy for your listeners to enjoy your content, even if it's incredible. That makes a lot of sense to me.

Unfortunately for me, none of them really had a lot of experience with using Hangouts On Air as podcasting tools, but they did point me towards someone who might.

I also took some notes about the gear they use for my later researching.

One more thing before I close up the Podcasting portion of this evening's rundown... I would be remiss in failing to mention Disasterpiece Theatre, whom I had the great pleasure of discovering at last year's Balticon. I fully intend to be at their "After Dark" session tonight. Possibly with drink in hand.

Done, Done, on to the next one...

We will now take a brief break, and when we return...

Space Weapons and Future Warfare in the Real World!