Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Little Brother Watches Back

"Regimes may fall and fail, but I do not."

Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Disclaimer: This story is like totally fictional, and I totally did not break a bunch of laws.

The first time I was ever pulled over by the fuzz was when I just passed my driving test. I went out for supper at 2:00 AM in the morning and the copper thought I looked too young to be driving - but I was let off after he had seen my papers. The second time that happened was when I was the designated driver of a car-ful of drunks (your truly included). However, I tended to sound strangely coherent when I'm under the influence so I got off free-of-scot once more. The third time happened just last week, and there's a story in that.

Once, when I was a kid, I remember being in my mother's car when she was pulled over by a traffic cop. She was not wearing her seat belt, methinks and I can still recall that dreadful feeling of powerlessness that pervaded the interior of our vehicle as the paunchy, mustachioed officer took his time to dismount from his tricked out police bike and strut to the driver-side window. I remembered how he slyly impressed on my mother the amount that she would have to pay if he issues her a summons, indirectly angling for a bribe - one which my mother paid. The price was a fraction of the hefty official fine plus a fraction of dignity. I remember that sharp, metallic tang of hatred I tasted at how casually that despicable cop abused his authority to extort a quick buck off the citizenry he had sworn to protect. That early experience completely tainted my respect for the law and of authority - they are just the club and the brass knuckles bullies wield to to get what they want.

Last week, I was coming back from my second viewing of Pixar's Brave and just as I was entering the roundabout right outside my house, two traffic cops materialised into view from behind some shrubbery. One of them had spotted the lack of a safety belt across my chest, and gestured for me to stop. What he did not spot was my phone on my lap from which I was browsing the web, and my 20-ounce Starbuck tumbler on the passenger seat, recently denudated of its homemade spirited content (specifically a Mudslide; a delicious blend of vodka, coffee liqueur, Bailey's Irish Cream and vanilla ice-cream). You see, movies are twice as good when I'm well-liquoured.

As he swaggered towards my passenger side car window, I furtively rolled my tumbler down my seat in case he catches the scent of booze from it and positioned my phone innocently on the passenger seat. Then, I braced myself for the incoming confrontation.

"Do you know what you have done wrong?" he asked rhetorically in Malay, leaning in on the passenger side window and requesting to see my identification card and driving license. He looked like he was in his late twenties and stank of too many cigarettes.

'Being caught by you' was an answer that I contemplated but wisely discarded as I hunted through my wallet for the ID's he wanted - I needed to be in control of how the show goes. It was then I realised that my driver's license had expired months ago. Yeah. It was at this point that I realised I must have been subconsciously trying to win the Traffic Misdemeanour Olympics all along. To sum it up, I was driving without a valid license, intoxicated and surfing the web on my phone without wearing a seat belt. The only way I could have made it any worse is if I was also hiding a couple of dead bodies in the trunk.

"That's two offences. Driving without wearing your safety belt and not having a valid license," the cop said smugly. "That would cost you RM 600 if I write you both the summons."


"Okay," I said.

Then, there was a pause.

"Do you understand that you would have to pay RM 600?" he said emphatically, breaking the mini-silence. Then, giving me a look as if I'm the densest retard in the world, he added: "Don't you want to ask me to help you out?"

"Help how?" I asked stupidly. He looked as if he was using every ounce of his self control to stop himself from rolling his eyeballs into the back of his head.

"If you pay me RM 150, I can help you pay the fine, and you won't need to drive all the way to the police station to settle it," he told me.

I nearly laughed out loud; the long thieving arm of the law finally showed its filthy, filthy hand. At this point, I picked up my phone and stopped the video recording of the entire conversation. Looking at him squarely in the eyes, I played a little of what I've surreptiously filmed. Shah mat, motherfucker. The features of his face changed subtly; his lips tightened and his eyes widened in realisation as he saw himself talking on my phone. For the briefest of moment, I feared that he might just dive into my car and snatch it right out of my hand.

"Let's not make a big deal out of this, alright?" I spoke before he did. "I'll renew my driving license and wear my seat belt from now on. So what do you say? Can you give me another chance?"

"Please don't upload that to YouTube or show anyone," he asked limply like a used condom trying to hold in a monster-load of ejaculate. "Delete it, please." I told him that it was also a video recording of my own transgressions, and assured him that I honestly didn't want to make this any more inconvenient for myself than it already had. He was clearly staking out the roundabout to squeeze a few motorists for some easy cash, and I bet he's not terribly excited about being inconvenienced either.

He thought about it for a few seconds, eyeing my phone the whole time. Finally, he wordlessly signaled for me to go - and went I did, feeling like a real magnificent bastard.

Remember all those times you were flagged down by a cop for something minor and you were glad that you lucked out by meeting a corrupt officer (which is odd considering that that's a statistical certainty) and got away by bribing the guy who pulled you over in the first place? Well, you're the worst. They are not doing you a favour; they are doing themselves one. You're the reason why our police force is stuffed full of dirty uniformed extortionists. These profligates proliferate and prosper because you encourage them and reward them for being on the take. Unless you're impoverished (unlikely as you own a fucking car), giving in to profiteering pricks who abuse the power our state had granted them is a betrayal of your dignity and honour. I would sooner pay my fines than pay those thugs. And I would even sooner pay nothing.

Related post: Something's Rotten in the State of Malacca

Tries to have a contingency plan for anything,
k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Brave: A Review

"To tell a woman everything she may not do is to tell her what she can do."

Spanish Proverb

Nutrition Facts: This review contains spoilers. Some are spoilers for Disney's Brother Bear.

There are few studios with visions that I have so much trust in that I would watch anything they create. Pixar, Ghibli and Laika are three such studios, and I wonder if there's something about animation that breeds visionaries.

Brave is one of the most anticipated films of the year for me, and after the relative disappointment that was Cars 2, I hungered for something truly new from Pixar. When I found out that Brave was going to be Pixar's first foray into fantasy, and that it will feature a female hero for the first time in Pixar Animation history, I was stoked. When I realised that they also got their first ever female director to helm the project, I was overjoyed - partly because I've always been interested in seeing the female perspective of anything but mostly because they hired Brenda Chapman, director of The Prince of Egypt (one of my favourite animated films of all time) to make this happen. At the same time, I was appalled at myself for not noticing the distinct lack of feminine voice in the past dozen Pixar films.

However, a substantial bit of my excitement was undermined when I learned that Chapman left the project in October 2010 over "creative differences" and was replaced by a dude. In my mind, that did not bode well for a film which tells the story of the coming of age of a strong-willed young woman who's into breaking traditions and besting men at what they do - but Pixar had always shown a great commitment to prioritising the telling of stories in their films more than anything else so I remained cautiously hopeful that the film formerly known as The Bear and the Bow would be nothing less than a masterpiece.

Brave family
Queen Elinor, King Fergus, Princess Merida and the triplet princes, Harris, Hubert and Hamish.

Like how I feel about most women, I do not know how to feel about the plot of Brave. One one hand, it subverted my expectations and told an entirely different story from the one that the trailers and the first act of the film had led me to believe. On the other hand, it re-hashed a plot element from Disney's Brother Bear where a headstrong character is magically transformed into a bear, go on a life-changing journey, and becomes wiser and more compassionate at the end of it. While recycling a trope does not break a story (and I recognise that Brave does tell a very different tale from Brother Bear's), it didn't help that I'm constantly being reminded of a film that I love which ultimately moved me more than Brave did. Maybe it's because I'm not this film's target audience. This is clearly one for mothers and their teenage daughters.

The film opens with a young Merida with a shock of red hair playing with her mother, Queen Elinor, who was pretending to be a monster which wants to gobble her up. Foreshadowing? Check. In that same scene, her father gave her a bow and after she botched her first shot, her parents let her wander into the woods on her lonesome to retrieve her errant arrow. There she met some creepy Will O' the Wisps that led her back to her parents and her mother. Her mother tells her that the Wisps are the spirits who led people to their fates, while simultaneously setting up the fact that her father does not believe in magic. I think there might be some circular logic here - because if someone chooses to follow the wisp, whatever happens to them subsequently is their fate by default, isn't it? Dur hur hur.

Anyway, a man-eating behemoth of a bear appeared right out of the forest that itty bitty Merida was just prancing about in chasing fey lights, and attacked the family. It's a bear that's famous enough to have a name, and it's called Mor'du (which echoes the Latin word for death and is French for "bitten"). Fergus leapt into action and BAM! Prologue ends.

Holy crap, that's one terrifying bear.

Flash forward a decade or so, Merida had grown into teenage girl with a mane of red hair still as shocking as ever and she was forced to undergo princess-training everyday (which she evidently loathed) under the relentless supervision of her mother, the queen. Then during a scene at a dinner table, Elinor broke the news that she would be married off to one of the firstborns of the three clans ruled by Fergus as per traditions. What Merida thought of that was best summed up by her father's hilarious impression of her: "I don't want to get married, I want to stay single and let my hair flow in the wind as I ride through the glen firing arrows into the sunset."

Her three suitors are from the clans Dingwall, McGuffin, and Macintosh (an obvious tribute to the late Steve Jobs, to whom this film was dedicated to) and they were suppose to win her hand in an archery contest - but in an awesome sequence in which Merida utterly shows them up in terms of marksmanship, she won her own hand in marriage. Her glaring into her mother's face defiantly after loosing her last arrow made me want to stand up and clap.

The film's most emotional scene came right when Merida lost it in a quarrel with her mother and slashed a tapestry depicting her family which her mother wove for her with a sword, neatly dividing her from her mother in the picture. There's just something about the act that's deeply disturbing to me. And so intense was the scene that I half expected her to wound or even run Elinor through with the blade. Meridor also called her mother a "beast", signalling more foreshadowing there.

After the kerfuffle, Merida rode off into the woods and following a trail of wisps like as if she's in a video game tutorial, she chanced upon a witch's hut where she managed to bargain for a spell in the form of a cake that would "change her fate". The characters made it a point to mention the spell's fate-changing attributes several times just to hammer the point home and I was wondering: how stupid would you have to be to get a spell from sorcerous stranger that would "change your fate" without specifying how it will change it? And you give this pastry-shaped spell to your mother?

Here is where I wondered if the wisps aren't actually more like their malevolent real life mythical counterparts that supposedly led traveller's astray. I was also baffled by Merida's decision to follow the wisps - which are specified earlier by her mother as spirits which would lead one to their fate - when what she really wants to do is escape her fate.

Anyway, at this point, I guessed the entire film, down to the fact that Mor'du is in fact the cursed form of a power-hungry prince from a legend Elinor told Merida earlier. This had the effect of making Brave felt a little paint-by-numbers to me and subsequently ruining my experience with the movie. I also expected a much more expansive adventure with Merida and her Mother Bear in this lovingly-rendered medieval Scottish landscape that the animators have brought to life but all they did were catch some fish in a brook and visited some old ruins (courtesy of those bastard wisps again) to uncover a plot point before returning to their home, where Fergus had not noticed that his wife and daughter had gone missing for an entire night and day.

Mordu, Merida and Mom
Plot point acquired. Evacuate!

I saw Brave twice already and there are definitely scenes in it that are worth the price of admission. I was not as moved by it as I was by Up and Toy Story 3, but it may be because I am neither a mother or a daughter (and the predictable storyline and chunky storytelling certainly didn't help). But as with all Pixar film, this film is a very pretty thing to stare at for an hour and a half. Merida's hair must have taken up at least half of their workforce just to animate and apparently, most of the film was supposed to have taken place in winter (but doing so much snow wasn't a feasible proposition to them... yet). I also liked how subtly and chillingly they show Bear Elinor changing internally into a real bear by having the whites of her eyes receding till they are inky black. While I think the 3D in Brave is the possible the best I've seen in a Pixar film, I felt that it was undermined by the fact that most of this film took place at night.

Besides Merida, Elinor and maybe Fergus, every single character in Brave are caricatures and comic relief characters. Merida's triplet brothers are indistinguishable from one another while the lords of the three competing clans share the same personality. I did enjoy Conan's lawyer-friendly cameo though and judging from the audible "awww's" in my audience, the baby brother bears went over great too.

The best bit of the Brave experience was probably the La Luna short appended in front of the feature and it too shared thematic elements with Merida's story, of children outgrowing their parents and making their own way in life. It was whimsical, beautiful, utterly nonsensical and may induce happy tingles in the hearts of susceptible individuals. Me? I had goosebumps when the boy splits the giant star into hundreds of tinier ones with a single tap of his hammer.

Brave ended not by having Merida meet someone she truly loves or having some guy come to her rescue in traditional Disney shlock, and for that alone it deserves commendation. There are too few films that allows female characters to just do their thing without making the quest for male companionship a major motivation. In fact, I was left with the impression that Merida would never get married, and that is perfectly okay. Now, can someone remind the 21st century women of my generation about that, please?

P.S. Brave's Scottish-flavoured soundtrack certainly gave Cécile Corbel's Celtic-oriental fusion score for Studio Ghibli's Kari-gurashi no Arietti a run for its money. It's nowhere as iconic as Michael Giacchino's sore for Up but then again, what is?

P.P.S. Stay after the credits. There's a brick joke at the end.

Wants to visit Scotland now,
k0k s3n w4i

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Myths, Science and Medicine of Prometheus

"Big things have small beginnings."

David 8 in Prometheus (2012)

By now, anyone to whom this information would mean anything had already found out long ago that Ridley Scott's latest foray into science fiction after 30 years, Prometheus, is a not-so-stealthy prequel to the Alien films. I have thoughts about this film and in the interest of full disclosure, I must volunteer the fact that I had only saw Aliens (the James Cameron action movie sequel to Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror) from the series - but after watching Prometheus, I went back and saw the original 1979 film. While Prometheus is not astounding in its quality of storytelling, it is a true blue science fiction story in the questions it tried to raise.

Prometheus Poster
I see what you did there.

This review/discussion is very much a child of those questions, many of which I take a pedestrian interest in. Expect unrestrained spoilers.

The Myths

The name Prometheus itself suggests the premise of the picture: one about the quest for knowledge, and the damning of consequences. It was the name of the Greek Titan who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind, and for that he was chained to a rock where an eagle visits him daily to lunch on his liver, only to have it regenerate overnight to be eaten again the day after. Prometheus the film tells the story of not only the xenomorph's origin but also the origin of mankind. Disparate human civilisations which were separated by thousands of miles and thousand of years all retained the motif of an arrangement of celestial bodies in their art, and only one star system fits that configuration - and only a moon dubbed LV-223 orbiting a planet within that system was deemed Earth-like enough to support life.

Star Map Prometheus
I understand that this looked awesomeballs in 3D.

In find it interesting that Pandora from James Cameron's Avatar is also a habitable moon and the story surrounding the first woman, Pandora, in ancient Greek mythology is closely linked to the story of Prometheus. Zeus, to counterbalance the boon of fire which mankind had received, created the first woman as a curse for mortal men (yes, misogyny was quite a thing back then) and she carried an amphora with her filled with all the suffering, diseases and strife that ever was. Coincidentally, her arc was also one about the dangers of curiousity and discovery; she would eventually release the contents of her jar and literally unleashed a world of hurt into existence. That is basically the premise of Prometheus. The movie even kept the jar motif. Considering the similarities and mythic connections, one can't help to wonder if LV-223 was in fact Pandora in the past or future.

As for how everything relates to Christian mythology, an element brought up repeatedly in the arc of Elizabeth Shaw, I direct you to this impressive article which caused me to rethink what Prometheus is really about, blowing my mind in the process. I am now ready to accept Space Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.

The Science

The distance between Earth and LV-223 was stated as 3.27 x 1014km. I calculated that that's 34.56 lightyears away i.e. it will take light more than 34 years for light to travel from here to there. The journey via in the titular spaceship, Prometheus, took 2 years. This must meant that they were travelling about 17 times faster than a speed of light which according to Einstein's special relativity, is a fundamental impossibility - but we wouldn't have much of a movie if we adhere too closely too it. Also, I was surprised that Charlize Theron's character, the hard assed ice queen Meredith Vickers, could do pushups after 24 months of being cryogenically frozen on a spacecraft. As artificial gravity is apparently a thing in Prometheus' universe, the effects of microgravity would be neutralised, but try sitting up after a two-year coma. Heck, try moving your legs after a two-week coma. While I was watching the film, I simply suspended my disbelief by assuming that there's magical future tech that prevents disuse atrophy of muscles.

The Prometheus starship
Fuck you, laws of physics.

The film opened with a suspiciously humanoid alien drinking an obviously biohazardous dark liquid before quickly decomposing, falling into the water system and seeding what was presumably a young planet Earth with its DNA and cellular material. That is a reference to panspermia, the idea that life on our planet was kickstarted by an external source of organic life, accidentally or intentionally - as opposed to abiogenesis, which is the prevailing hypothesis that life arose from non-life through natural processes (as supported by the Miller and Urey's landmark experiment). The foreign genetic material from the extraterrestrial's body was implied to be the kernel from which all subsequent living thing on our planet evolved from, so it was not at all surprising that after analysing the severed head of the Engineer alien they found should possess DNA as its carrier of genetic information rather than some hitherto unknown compound.

There was an initial scene where Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) explained to the rest of the crew of Prometheus regarding the nature of their mission, about how they believed that the human species was created by extraterrestrials - a conclusion I couldn't see how they could draw from the limited archaeological evidence they had show on screen. There is shades of Erich von Däniken's crackpot ancient astronauts hypothesis here (but unlike von Däniken, the character's within the film had good reasons to believe in their version of the Chariots of the Gods).

A botanist rightly called them out on it, asking them, "You're willing to just throw out three centuries of Darwinism?" Never mind that no self-respecting biologist would refer to the theory of evolution as "Darwinism" (and that may or may not have betrayed a creationist bias within the script), but supposing that humans are created the way they are and did not evolve from precursor species - that directly violates common descent which is supported by an overwhelming amount of molecular evidence. Francis Collins, American physician-geneticist, leader of the Human Genome Project, director of the NIH and a Christian famously said: "Yes, evolution by descent from a common ancestor is clearly true. If there was any lingering doubt about the evidence from the fossil record, the study of DNA provides the strongest possible proof of our relatedness to all other living things."

Shaw's reply to the botanist's challenge was "It's what I choose to believe." No real scientist would let that steaming pile of words tumble out of their mouth when it comes to their field of study. That is just not how science works. Besides, the opening scene clearly proved her beliefs wrong.

Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw
Noomi Rapace as yet another Liz.

What subsequently made zero sense was that the Engineers' DNA should be a 100% match with human DNA after almost 4 billion years of evolution. How did that particular genome get preserved through that much time? My personal feeling is that the screenwriters screwed up here. Supposing the opening scene was an accurate representation of their intent (i.e. panspermia), that botanist wouldn't make that quip about "Darwinism" because the theory of evolution says nothing about how life arose on Earth - merely how it changed and diversified. Also, they shouldn't have portrayed the Engineers as having an identical genetic code as human beings but instead point out how some basic genes common to most life are present within the Engineers' DNA, even though there are other variations which can code for the same proteins. Of course, scientific accuracy isn't as dramatic as "ZOMG THE ALIENZ IS US!!!"

The Engineer's morphological similarity to us can be explained as an extreme case of convergent evolution, but I think the likeness was meant to relate to the identical DNA (which we learnt later in the film) so that wasn't it. However, they are also way taller, paler, have weird eyes and hairless, so how can their genomes be the same? This is not impossible if you factor in epigenetics, and depending on the environmental pressures in the earliest stages of an organism's development, the expression of genes may differ, producing disparate phenotypes from the same DNA. Okay, that's a bit of a hand wave of an explanation but at least it makes logical sense.

But in its totality, the scientific premises of Prometheus simply do not compute for me - the facts they presented do not add up. Either the screenwriters didn't understand evolution or they didn't understand genetics.

Another tiny nitpick I had was the character of Millburn, the resident botanist of the expedition. He simply does not act or think like any biologist I know. He's on a moon that could possibly harbour alien life but he's not in the least bit excited. He was surprisingly unconcerned about how they might be seeding LV-223 with their own personal bacteria flora on a place with a very Earth-like atmosphere and therefore corrupting (and possibly destroying) what ecosystems it harbours. He allowed his teammates to take off their helmets and following suit without knowing what contagions there might in the very Earth-like air. Spoilers for H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds but the invading aliens in that were killed by Earth bacteria and viruses.

When they found the dead body and decapitated head of an Engineer, Millburn was not at all interested in examining the first ever fucking specimen of extraterrestrial macro-life that was ever discovered but instead, was spooked and wanted to leave. Later, when he encountered a living eyeless space-cobra and have a genuine reason to be freaking out, he thought it was adorable and wanted to fondle it, displaying a complete lack of caution and - not to mention - a baffling change of personality from before. Serves him right for being killed by that proto-Facehugger.

Dumbass Botanist in Prometheus
Not pictured: a real biologist.

As for Holloway's throwaway line about how "God does not build in straight lines" - and assuming that he's using the word "God" poetically to refer to nature - he was quite wrong. Naturally formed tessellated pavements like those found at Eaglehawk Neck on the island of Tasmania showcase very straight fissures. Basalt columns like those famously found at the Giant's Causeway also feature polygonal formations with straight sides and sharp angles. I've seen similar basalt columns at St. Mary's Island off the coast Malpe a couple of kilometres away from my med school in Manipal and I can attest to the fact that they do look freakishly man-made.

Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania
Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania.

The Medicine.

Now, the medical aspects of the film are the only things I'm actually qualified to speak about and when they showed Shaw marvelling at a Chekhov's gun Med Pod 720i (which can apparently perform open heart surgery), I knew at some point that it would be used to cut a growing alien out of someone's body. Sure enough, after Shaw and her boyfriend (who was unwittingly infected with some alien goo) got their bone on, her barren womb was impregnated with the fetus from hell. When the baby started um, kicking, Shaw headed right for Meredith Vicker's Surgeon-o-matic, which was apparently programmed for male patients only. I immediately had a quick succession of thoughts: Was Vicker's a tranny and how surprised was Janek? They can program a very lifelike android which can easily ace the Turing test with its motherboard tied behind its back but they can't program it with extra information on how to operate on a woman's body? Oh wait, does that mean that Peter Weyland is actually hiding somewhere onboard the Prometheus? Yeap.

However, I think that that was simply a plot point to show how resourceful and tenacious Shaw is when she had a freaking womb-burster quickening in her belly.

Med Pod 720i
The next stage in the evolution of the iPod.

While the audience I sat through that scene with retched, screamed and covered their eyes, I was all, "That's not how it's done!" The robotic laser simply cut her open, reached in and pulled out a gross, murderous squid baby. Okay, even assuming that the single cut neatly penetrated through all the layers of the abdomen down to where the squirming cephalopod was, one simply cannot patch that up by just stapling the gash on the outside. If you don't suture the womb up, it's just going to continue bleeding inside her and she'd die from overwhelming blood loss. And that horizontal incision? That must have severed her rectus abdominis muscles clean through. Without having those muscles fixed, I was surprised she could even stand up, let alone leap across bottomless chasms or run from a humongous rolling alien spacecraft. While it did not outright break my suspension of disbelief (I maintain it by mentally chanting "Magic future medicine... magic future medicine..."), I still find it a tad distracting.

That bit where they stimulated the locus coeruleus of the severed dead Engineer's head to animate it was not without basis in neurology as it is a part of the brain that excites and stimulates pretty much the entire central nervous system - though I highly doubt that the neural connections within the Engineer's brain could still function after 2000 years of being dead. My question was how the fuck did they knew that this alien being even have a locus coeruleus prior to them finding out its genome? It's a freaking alien. Its brain could have been located in its arse for all they know.

And the locus coeruleus is a pea-sized collection of pigmented neurons located in the pontine region of the brainstem. If any of you remember episode 16 from season 5 of The Big Bang Theory, that's the piece that Sheldon had so much problem dissecting from an exposed, sliced slab of brain. I like how Shaw and her friends could just stab blindly into the side of the Engineer's head and somehow locate it without using any precision instruments.

Final words.

There is no doubt that the star of the show is Michael Fassbender, who I did not realise is in Prometheus and it took me a full minute to be sure that that's him. If that isn't a testament to his ability to vanish into a role then I don't know what is (or maybe I'm really a racist and all white people simply look the same to me). The first scenes of the film which features him having the run of the Prometheus while its crew sleeps certainly invokes the beautiful melancholy of the first third of WALL·E. The motivations behind the actions of his character, the android David 8, is baffling and his motivations are inscrutable - if he's capable of having any at all. In respond to his handler's insistence that he should "try harder", he deliberately infected Shaw's boyfriend with the dangerous-looking black goo of unknown providence. Did he do it maliciously or out of curiousity? I can't tell.

Michael Fassbender as David 8
Michael Fassbender's range includes "uncanny" apparently.

One can't help think that he might be harbouring some degree of contempt for humans. When discussing the origin of mankind with Holloway, who spearheaded this expedition in the hopes of finding out why the Engineers created his species in the first place, David asked: "Why do you think your people made me?"

"We made you 'cause we could," quipped Holloway.

"Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?" said David. I find this simple bit of dialogue to be the most profound and insightful element in the entire film. Of course, when they finally managed to find a live Engineer to talk to, his answer was basically, "KILL ALL HUMANS!" and immediately went postal on Weyland and his entourage's ass. I actually laughed when I was watching that scene.

I wonder what David actually said to the Engineer.

If nothing else, this is a very gorgeous film, which was to be expected coming from Ridley Scott. While the original Alien was claustrophobic, Scott went the opposite direction with Prometheus where he not only expanded the spaces but the ideas as well. What I am going to say next might be blasphemous in some circles but I far enjoyed Prometheus than I did its predecessors. Was it a poorer film compared to Alien and Aliens? Maybe, but I don't think very much about them long after the credits rolled.

Found Space Jesus,
k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Whiskey Sour and Good Music

"Down on Lexington they're wearing
New shoes stuck to aging feet
And close their eyes and open
And they'll recognize the aging street
And think about how things were right
When they were young and veins were tight
And if you are the ghost of Christmas Past
Then wont you stay the night?"

Ne Me Quitte Pas (2002) by Regina Spektor

I had my first Whiskey Sour several years ago when a good friend of mine took me to a bar which he thought made it the way it's supposed to be made, and I can't say I was terribly impressed with what was presented to me that night. Now that I'm making them myself, the Whiskey Sour had a became a personal after-dinner staple of mine. To a shaker filled with ice, I pour in one-and-a-half shot of Maker's Mark bourbon whiskey, a single shot of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and a half shot of simple syrup (which you can make at home by mixing equal parts water and sugar). Then, I gave it a good 15 seconds of vigorous shaking before straining it into a rocks glass filled with new, crisp ice.

Homemade Whiskey Sour
Some people like a little egg white to go with it, but euuughhh.

This is a boldly flavoured cocktail. The tartness of fresh lemon juice blends quite well with the sweetness of the bourbon (a balance you may not be able to achieve with say, a scotch). For garnish, I usually float an orange wheel on top - and if I don't have any oranges at hand, I would still sling a teeny-tiny splash of orange juice in the mix anyway. I find that it goes a long way in taking the edge off.

About me? I'm okay, I guess. I have reached a kind of plateau of misery and there are just miles and miles of monotonous emotional wasteland stretching out in every horizon. The highlight of my week was pretty much the moment when I heard The National's rendition of The Rains of Castamere at the end of the Blackwater episode of Game of Thrones. It was every bit as chilling as I imagined it when it played during its iconic moment in the third book of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Oh, Regina Spektor's new album, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, also debuted last week and let me tell you: it did not disappoint one bit. My immediate favourite track from it was How which (like One More Time With Feeling from her 2009 album) has that familiar iconic flavour which made me think that I must have heard it a long time ago, but I couldn't have. Maybe it's the simplicity of the arrangement. Maybe it's the old-fashioned romance and naiveté shining through in its lyrics. Or maybe, it's just the heartbreaking sincerity in Ms Spektor's beautiful voice.

"Oh baby, how can I begin again?
How can I try to love someone new?
Someone who isn't you?
How can our love be true
When I'm not, ooh, I'm not oh-ver you?"

Call Them Brothers, which she sang in haunting duet with Jack Dishel of Only Son, was another track I have on loop in my playlist. There's also Patron Saint, a deceptively jaunty song which I like very much and in it, she laments the fact that true love exists. I tend to agree. After all, only hopeless romantics who believe it exists would try to look for it, right?

Today, my posting in Neurology ends. Tomorrow will be my first day in Cardiology in an entirely different hospital. I feel nothing.

Asking how,
k0k s3n w4i