Monday, April 05, 2010

Jimmy Carter and the Hugos

I recently posted the following Jimmy Carter speech to my Facebook page:

It's rather prescient, no?At the other end of the spectrum is this oft-linked Ronald Reagan speech warning of the "evils" of socialized medicine:

I don't doubt Reagan's sincerity. But it is instructive to note the Right's philosophical objection to socialized medicine, at least according to Reagan. It's twofold: (1) if you can't afford it, you don't deserve it; and (2) it's the beginning of telling doctors where to work, and that ain't American.

Interestingly, I think few today --other than many doctors themselves-- would object to legislating where and to whom doctors must provide service. In Canada, we are almost there, with an incredibly polarization of services leaving rural and remote regions almost completely unserviced. The market has no solution for such disparities.

But back to Carter. It's not a popular view, but I've always held that Carter was a great man who let his good soul get in the way of being a great President. He did what was right, not what his electorate wanted of him. Some would argue that doing what is right is what makes a great leader; others would argue that serving the needs of the people is what defines greatness. I do know, though, that many of Carter's beliefs and predictions are only now being appreciated. The speech above references a real crisis of energy that is only now being taken seriously. In other speeches, he chastises citizens' greed and wastefulness --a stark contrast to today's leaders who toady to the electorate and insist that we are good and right when we clearly are not.

Carter came two generations too early. His manner and approach are sorely needed today.

I'm a bit worried about ol' Jimmy. I haven't seen him in the news of late, and he is pushing 90, after all. It will be a sad day indeed when President Carter shuffles off this mortal coil. Let's hope it's later rather than sooner.

In Other News

The nominees for the 2010 Hugo Awards were announced this week. If you don't know, the Hugos are the premier science fiction awards, the Pulitzer for the nerd set, if you will. I won't mention the novels or short stories, since few of you have heard of them. Rather, let's look at the dramatic entries, bot long and short form.

Nominees for the long form (i.e., movies) include Avatar, Moon, District 9, Star Trek and Up.

I reviewed Star Trek here. It's a fine action movie. But it's neither science fiction nor clever. If it wins, I am through with the Hugos.

I reviewed Avatar here. It's genuine science fiction, though heavily derivative and hardly worthy of an award that celebrates originality. If it wins, I won't be through with the Hugos, but I will lose a hefty amount of respect for them.

Up is an excellent, moving and entertaining little film. But is it science fiction? I really don't think so.

That leaves Moon and District 9. I must admit to not having seen Moon. I hear it's quite good. But from what little I know of its plot, I question whether it's actually science fiction. An astronaut on the moon is not particularly far-fetched. That leaves the sole option for winner being District 9.

Now, on to the short form, The nominees are an episode of Dollhouse, and episode of FlashForward and three episodes of Doctor Who. All are very good choices, though we can all wonder how Lost or Fringe didn't make the list.

More baffling, however, is how this past year's true masterpiece of TV science fiction failed to make the Hugo short list. I'm talking about Torchwood: Children of Earth, which I reviewed here.

I don't use the word "masterpiece" lightly. It's a difficult accomplishment to manage in a general public prime-time TV format, especially within the confines of an existing TV show with existing characters and relationships. But Children of Earth is that good, it really is. Not only is it pure science fiction --something the actual nominees dance around-- but it's poignant, heartbreaking, terrifying and exhilirating.

A big raspberry to the Hugo people for omitting Children of Earth. As compensation, let's inaugurate the first annual TV award for the best science fiction dramatic short form. I hereby award it, without hesitation, to Russell Davies for his --wait for it-- masterpiece in Torchwood: Children of Earth.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nothing To Do With Skin

As some of you are aware, I'm the new editor of the national newsletter of the Canadian Society for Epidemiology and Biostatistics (CSEB). The first issue with me as editor was just published this morning. The newsletter is only available to paying members, but I am reproducing the first feature article here:


Nothing To Do With Skin
By Raywat Deonandan

I remember well the first time I saw an epidemiologist on a movie or TV show. It was the creepy 1995 John Carpenter remake of the classic British horror flick, Village of the Damned. In the film, Christopher Reeve heroically tries to understand why all of his town’s children are blonde and demonic and possibly alien. At one point, the entire town goes unconscious simultaneously, long enough to attract the attention of the CDC (Centres for Disease Control), who send an epidemiologist to investigate.

A sveldt Kirstie Alley plays Dr. Susan Verner, a tough no-nonsense outbreak investigator who arrives –get this—brandishing a badge and a gun and leading a battalion of policemen. Ahhh, thought I, this is the career for me! Aliens, guns, badges, excitement, action... why doesn’t every young person want to be an epidemiologist?

A more serious portrayal of the outbreak investigation aspect of epidemiology was presented in the 1995 film, Outbreak, in which Dustin Hoffman played a military epidemiologist studying a new, weaponized type of haemorrhagic fever. He not only carried a gun, but also had a helicopter! The famous stills from the film include Hoffman in the biocontainment “spacesuit” that so many lay people now falsely associate with epidemiology. I’ve been trying to buy one on eBay ever since.

And, really, this is the crux of society’s misunderstanding of our science: their conflation of epidemiology with virology and other bench sciences. We all have stories of being introduced at parties as an epidemiologist, and being met with uncomfortable silence, or worse, medical questions about skin rashes. For the last time, epidemiology and dermatology are different sciences! (I’ve been toying for some time with the idea of writing an epidemiology-for-the-masses manifesto called, “Nothing To Do With Skin”!)

A former professor of mine was once held at the US border as inspectors searched her luggage for “possible dangerous insects” after she self-identified as an epidemiologist. All the border guard could hear, apparently, was “entomology”. And I’m surprised that people don’t regularly ask me about the origins of words. (That’s an etymology joke, by the way.)

Now, Village of the Damned and Outbreak were both released over a decade ago. In the interim, we’ve seen real epidemiologists all over the mainstream media in the wake of such emergencies as the SARS outbreak, the Walkerton disaster and last Fall’s H1N1 pandemic. Surely, the media has learned some sophistication in the mean time?

Well, one of my favourite current TV shows is Fringe, which is an American science-fiction program about weird science and its intersection with crime. In one episode, someone was systematically murdering “epidemiologists” by infecting them with a virus that that grows to the size of your head. Yes, a single virus the size of your head. Leave aside the fact that such a thing would physically have to be multi-cellular, and therefore not a virus, and we’re left with the disappointing realization that once more the media has confused epidemiology with a bench science; because every murder victim on the list of “epidemiologists” turns out to actually be a virologist or microbiologist.

Yes, I know that some epidemiologists actually are lab scientists, as well. And even more epidemiologists are also physicians. But most are not, at least not in this country. So who is responsible for the failure of society to appreciate the role and contribution of the population epidemiologist? The lowly cubicle jockey with his SAS licence and penchant for odds ratios needs his day in the sun.

Our contributions are profound and dramatic, after all. It was epidemiologists who figured out how to address AIDS at the population level, long before the HIV virus was discovered. It was epidemiologists who eradicated smallpox from the face of the Earth. It’s epidemiologists who regularly figure out where governments should best apply their dwindling health care dollars, and which vaccines to manufacture, and whether something that appears serious really is serious. But you know the drill; I’m preaching to the converted here.

Maybe the responsibility is ours? Maybe we need to engage the world more openly and actively and push for our worth to be acknowledged and our function accurately portrayed? I recall fondly one of my favourite New Yorker cartoons, in which a party hostess is congratulated by her friend, “And it was so typically brilliant of you to have invited an epidemiologist.”

Well, I thought I was doing my part some years ago. I advised a script-writer for the Canadian TV show ReGenesis on some protocols for outbreak investigation and infection control, in order to make the content of the show more reflective of real life. ReGenesis is (supposedly, I’ve never watched it) about bioterrorism and the brave, shiny and young crime fighters and scientists who take on global biological evildoers.

To thank me, the writers created an extremely minor character who would be an epidemiologist and who would be named after me. This new, accurately portrayed Dr. Deonandan would only appear in one or two episodes, but would at last be a fairly representative example of Canadian epidemiology. Better yet, I was promised, she would be female and really quite attractive.

As an enterprising, self-obsessed, heterosexual man, I began to wonder whether I could engineer a new DSM diagnosis, based on me, for someone who is sexually attracted to his own fictional portrayal on television. Some sort of “trans-media narcissism”?

Imagine my disappointment when the Dr. Deonandan of TV turned out to be, not only male, and not only a physician, but a surgeon. Yes, a surgeon-epidemiologist. I’m sure such a thing does exist, and I’m sure they are superstar intellects who do extraordinary niche research. But it’s not exactly the representative portrayal of the population epidemiologist I was hoping for.


So what’s the lesson here? I’m not sure that there is one, except that maybe we should never expect our media to accurately portray any profession and any aspect of science. And that maybe we epidemiologists need to take a more active role in promoting the details of our work, responsibilities, skills and accomplishments to greater society.

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Friday, January 01, 2010

2010: Odyssey Two

Know what's sad? A Google image search of "2010" and "Odyssey" results in scores of images of freakin' Honda minivans.

Those of you in the know, however, will recognize the reference is to a classic novel by the late great Arthur C. Clarke, whose recent demise is still felt these many months later by a science fiction industry yet to find someone of his stature to fill the empty seat of Grandmaster. No, Bradbury doesn't count.

The thing about the book, and subsequent movie, is, of course, is that the world of 2010 described bears little to no resemblance to our world today. For one thing, Clarke failed to anticipate the fall of the Soviet Union, and still couched his story within the confines of the Cold War, a conflict of which today's young people have little concept. And Clarke's depiction of thinking, feeling and creative artificial intelligences really has no place in a world in which my email filter tags emails from myself as spam. The lesson, of course, is that, as far as I know, no one has ever accurately predicted the future. How's that for deep?

Regular readers of Deonandia know that the tradition here, going back to 2001, is that the first post of every year is when I list the things I was thankful for during the past year. Here are my comments from 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 (you'll have to scroll to the bottom for those), 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. So, at the risk of being maudlin, let's begin...

1. My family. You know the drill.

2. The University of Ottawa. I mock the U of Zero, but Zod knows how grateful I am to be a professor there. It really is the greatest job in the world, despite the mountains of work and frustration.

3. My students. See "frustration" above. They drain me and infuriate me at times, but for the most part their genuine desire to learn fills me with joy.

4. Facebook. Yeah, you read that right. I still have my various websites, endless email accounts, Twitter, text messaging, etc. But Facebook has provided a one stop shopping locale for accessing all of the above. It also provides a fake social life for those 3:AM late worknights.

5. Physiotherapy. Finally, after more than a year of agony due to herniated discs, I'm on the path to a life of manageable pain.

6. The women I've dated. Like other years, 2009 brought me more delightful women generous enough to spend their time with me. I believe I even managed to squeak out something resembling a relationship once or twice, but don't ask me to confirm details.

7. The Interwebs. For rescuing me from commercial TV, an office, isolation and paper.

Is that enough? Can I go now?

In Other News

Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod.... there's going to be a LIVE ACTION STAR BLAZERS MOVIE! (For you not in the know, the Japanese name is Space Battleship Yamato, one of the finest anime products of the 1970s!)

For comparison, here's the opening to the original 1974 anime:

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Pompeii and Circumstance

Image stolen from here.

Today marks the 1930th anniversary of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius and the destruction of the Roman town of Pompeii, a holocaust that lasted 48 hours. Today Pompeii is celebrated as a still-life museum. It's a weird and disturbing thought to consider how close-- biologically, culturally and even technologically-- those doomed people were to ourselves. Consider modern holocausts and how they may (or may not) be remembered in 2000 years.

Just sayin'.

In other news, NASA's Stardust spacecraft has provided proof of amino acids in the tail of a comet, giving credence to the panspermia, or exogenesis, theory of life, in that it arose extraterrestrially and was seeded on Earth.

What's also interesting is the existence of the Stardust mission itself. I remember in the 1970s reading about futurists' conception of such a mission, that it was decades away in the distant future, if possible at all. And here we are today, collecting comet dust from such a craft, and it barely makes the news.

In even other other news, D-Mack sends us this list of forgotten or underrated science fiction films. I don't like the list. Equiilibrium and Existenz sucked. City of Lost Children and Brazil were not strictly SF. Pitch Black was okay, but was essentially an action film. Same goes for Dark City, which was a great concept and spooky film, but without an inspiring SF ending. I'm sure you will disagree.

Lastly, check this out. It goes best with this music.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Pluggity Plug Plug

Today, it's all about me!

There's a new article up at This time it's a review of the really tremendously good Torchwood: Children of Earth miniseries.

My latest column is up at The MicroSoft website.

My most recent radio interviews are now archived on the reviews page (finally updated after 5 years of idleness).

And if you're in Toronto this coming Friday, July 24th, come on down to Ryerson University where I will be judging the first ever SpeakOut Slam Poetry contest! I'm sure it will be a lot of fun, so don't sit at home watching TV, come out and jeer --I mean support-- your local slam poets.

In Other News...

Sean M. sends us The 10 Most Awesome In Search Of episodes. He also points us to the, um, Indian He-Man:

How can we top that? Well, how about news from The Other Ray that someone is claiming to have been impregnated from ...wait for it... sperm from a swimming pool. Yeah.

Ray also sends us the following chart showing just which human broadcasts aliens are presently listening to. We're all screwed; you know that, right?

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Until I Have Time For a REAL Post...

Check it out...

An sign of intelligence from space? Now if only we could find a sign of intelligence here on Earth. (BOW! HELLO! TRY THE VEAL, I'M HERE ALL WEEK!)

(Video of alien intelligence here.)

The BBC apparently stands for "British Broadcasting for Christ" because it's received 115 complaint emails since announcing its new Head of Religion is a Muslim.

Um... why does the BBC need a "Head of Religion"?

I'm sure many of you have seen this:

Well, it's a lie!!!

So revel in your pervishness, my droogies.

Remember my review of the new Star Trek movie? Recall that it's a JJ Abrams project, much like two of my favourite TV shows: Lost and Fringe. Well, I just finished watchin the season finales for both shows...

...Wow! Now that's writing! HOWEVER... JJ is showing his unmentionables. All three products --Fringe, Lost and Trek-- rely heavily on either time travel or alternate realities. I'm a little sick of this science fiction crutch. Suddenly I'm not too optimistic about the continuing resolution of either of the TV shows. I'll let you know.

I'll leave you with some Facebook goodies. First up is my new profile pic, the Hasselwat:

And lastly, here's the profile pic of my friend Sara F. Looks like he's been out all night drinking, no?

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Real Life Superheroes

I'm sometimes asked to explain my semi-retirement from the world of fiction writing. The long answer has something to do with not believing that we should flood the world with books unless we actually have something of value to add... so many authors write because it's their job, not because they have something to say. The short answer, though, is probably more pithy and digestible: truth is a billion times more interesting than fiction can ever be.

Case in point: the recent emergence of real-life "superheroes" on American city streets. Let's be clear here. By "superhero" we mean dudes with issues who wear costumes and prowl the streets looking to exact vigilante justice. Cincinnati's "ShadowHare" is the most famous:

You can see them all at, well, the World Superhero Registry.

Predictably, with the emergence of real life superheroes has come the emergence of real life super villains. That's right. We have witnessed the birth of ROACH: Ruthless Organization Against Citizen/Chubby Heroes.

ROACH is so diabolical that they have posted an ad in Craigslist offering a staggering bounty of $10 for anyone who can provide the secret identity of ShadowHare.

I think there's one thing we can all agree about this story: it will not end well.

In Other News...

Adam S. sends us this neat commercial showing what Bruce Lee would have looked like playing ping pong with his nunchaku:

Meanwhile, Cousin Ajay sends us today's classic Daily Perv Link (TM):

Lastly, my review of the new Star Trek movie is available at

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Monday, April 13, 2009

TV Shows and Electric Sheep (No Dreaming Androids, Though)

Quick post today. I just watched the 2009 Easter special of Doctor Who, titled "Planet of the Dead". Ohhh, it was atrocious! As much as I love David Tennant's version of The Doctor, I'm now pleased that he's leaving the show, if this turd of an episode is what we can expect from the franchise's future.

On the other extreme is a little noticed gem on Fox TV called Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. The 2nd season finale aired earlier this week, and it seems unlikely that the show will be picked up for a 3rd season, making the episode the likely series finale. (See's review of the first season.)

Originally, I'd complained that she show has a stylistic dysfunction: everyone clearly drew their wardrobe from the same trailer. They all wear the same brand of jeans and cowboy boots. But once you're over the growing pains, Terminator benefits from one fantastic quality: it's unpredictable. This second season in particular, I had no idea where any of the story lines were headed --a rarity in American television! But the finale was singularly powerful. Its final scene, in particular, was touchingly acted with much depth and gravitas. If it really is the final moment for the whole show, then it ends on a very high note.

It's so good, in fact, that I'm not particularly intrigued by the new Terminator movie, which apparently does not adhere to the TV show's fascinating canon.

In Other News

Thanks to Richard von E. for this: LED sheep art! Must be seen to be believed.

And if sheep aren't your thing, Dawn L. sends us this and this.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Definitely Not Battlestar Ga-craptica

Scene from the Battlestar Galactica finale "Daybreak", featuring my two favourite characters, Caprica Six and Gaius Baltar

Happy birthday to William Shatner, who turned 78 on Sunday. Wow. 78. Further wow: I know William Shatner's birthday.

Apropos of nothing: Melissa G. sends us Hamlet's Facebook page! And as usual, Dawn L. sends us someone's top 5 weirdest fetishes. Does this count as a Daily Perv Link (TM)? Heck, why not. The piggy-back rides sound particularly odd to me.

As I currently await the most recent episode of Heroes to finish downloading, I'm reflecting on the series finale of the "re-imagined"Battlestar Galactica, a show considered by many to be the best American TV show ever witnessed on free television. I had previously listed what I consider to be the best sci-fi finales in TV history. I'm not quite sure Galactica lives up to that list, but it is an extraordinarily well produced and evocative ending. Unlike many who've written about it, I'm not the least disappointed.

Expect a full review of the finale on sometime very soon. I will say, though, that I'm unsure of how I feel about Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" playing such a prominent and unironic role in the finale. Music has long been BG's "other" character, pushing mood and content further than I think any previous TV score has managed.

The secret Cylon "summoning" music was one of this season's open secrets. Composer Bear McCreary has been candid about borrowing heavily from the Dylan song to elicit the summoning tune. Without giving away too much of a spoiler, it was a bit of an anachronism to have the Hendrix version erupt later in the show, even having Starbuck utter the line, "There must be some kind of way out of here" before engaging the Galactica's FTL drive.

The brilliance of the finale, as I hope to make clear in a future article, is in its reliance on character, rather than plot, to tie the elements together. No plot could have satisfied the legions of rabid fanboys eager for resolutions to all the show's lingering mysteries. The right approach, then, was to relegate exposition to deus ex machina, and to focus both on the rightness of character reaction and on some underlying theme or messaging.

Here's a fan-made compilation of scenes from the series, accompanied by McCreary's version of "All Along The Watchtower".

In Other News...

And further apropos of nothing, here are a few random photos from the past couple of weeks.

Giving my talk at the WHO simulation in Montreal.

At a "bhangra and Caribbean" party in Toronto this past weekend.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dr Manhattan is NASTY

A Facebook friend, aware of my twin loves for both Watchmen and all things pervy, sent me this:

Not sure if it counts as a Daily Perv Link (TM), but why not?

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Burlington, Vermont

I just wanted to say a quick note about my recent weekend in Burlington, Vermont. What a lovely town! With a population of only 40,000 or so, it still feels like a cosmopolitan centre, ringed with gorgeous natural beauty. As with many American towns, the cuisine benefits from the best of a variety of traditions, in this case both New England heartiness and Southern fattiness. I will not soon forget my excellent breakfast of sweet potato waffles, battered chicken covered in sausage gravy, buttery grits, and an omelet filled with kelbasa and sauerkraut. How inspired!

While I was there, I partook of a wine tasting at a local liquor store. Mmmm, free cheese and lots of free South American wine. Can't beat that. The town is so quaintly small, that the somneliers from the liquor store were later encountered at the same restaurant where I had dinner that night. They were hesitant to comment on the restaurant's wine list, however.

Driving from Ottawa to Vermont is an interesting experience. It's actually shorter than the drive to Toronto, but a bit more hectic. See, you have to go through Montreal, which is some of the most unpleasant stretch of highway to be found in the North American northeast. Once you're past that hell, there's an hour or so of nothing.... by which I mean lovely scenery, but no gas stations or pit stops.

Crossing into the USA, the driving picks up noticeably. One thing I absolutely love about driving south of the border is that Americans know how to treat long distance drivers. Along major highways are rest stations with clean bathrooms, snack machines, free coffee and tourist literature. We could sure use that in Canada.

Actually crossing the border was sort of odd. Crossing into the USA, the American border guard was very polite and friendly and just waved me through after a couple of brisk questions. I guess the new Obama era openness is already percolating to the fringes!

Returning to Canada was another story. The Canadian guard pulled me over and searched the car. I guess he was concered I was smuggling sweet potato waffles.

Just south of the border there's a sign for the 45 degree latitude mark, declaring it (accurately, though somewhat ridiculously) to be "exactly halfway between the equator and the north pole." Speaking of signs, I was bemused to find a street parking spot in Burlington reserved for the mayor. Don't know why I find that odd, I just do. Just adds to the quaintness.

Final verdict: I recommend a visit to Vermont. What a nice place!

In other news: New article up at, this one about the new animated series, Wolverine & The X-Men.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009


The beautiful animal above is Bahloo, the shepherd-labrador mix that belonged to one of my ex-girlfriends. I just learned that Bahloo recently passed away. He was a very healthy old dog, living till the ripe age of 14 --Methuselah's age for a dog!

I'm not one for posting obituaries for dogs, but this one was pretty unique and interesting. For the first few weeks of knowing him, this fellow hated me. He was a natural alpha male and reflexive leader. It was only after being left alone with him on an island on a river somewhere in Quebec that I managed to earn his respect, pretty much by growling at him whenever he growled at me, and threatening him with my magical thumb.

Yes, my magical thumb. Whenever he got uppity (and believe me, a huge, masculine dog like that gets really scary when he gets uppity) I'd growl at him and point to my right thumb. Pretty fast, he grew to respect my thumb. I kid you not.

We got on pretty well after that. We were never pals. Whenever I walked him, it was more a case of a wary soldier providing an armed escort to a dangerous super villain than of a master walking a dog. The photo above was taken on my cell phone during one of our walks. It's a miracle the camera actually worked and managed to pop out a decent photo; it never does ordinarily.

The thing about Bahloo is that he was not an affectionate dog. He wouldn't snuggle with you if you gave him treats and took him for walks. You were expected to do those things, and your reward for doing them is that he would not look at you with disdain... or as if you were food. This was a dog with dignity. He was nobody's bitch.

There was also something mystical about this animal. His owner had dreamed of him long before actually finding and adopting him. Myself, I often dream of him still. In fact, though I had not seen him nor his owner in years, I knew the moment he died. A switch went off inside me.

Why do I mention all of this? It's an excuse to relate one of my favourite tales from the great Hindu epic The Mahabharata. In the end, the perfect emperor Yudisthira is old and alone, his kingship long done and his family long dead. Only he and his dog remain, and they are paupers walking in the wintery cold of the Himalayas.

Suddenly, a window opens from the clouds and a rope ladder hangs down before Yudishtira. A voice bellows, "Yudishtira, you have done all that you need do in your honourable life. Climb this ladder and enter bodily into heaven."

Yudishtira answers, "But what of my dog?"

"There is no place for a dog in heaven," the voice responds.

At this, Yudishtira decides that his loyalty to his dog is more important than his final celestial reward, and turns his back on the ladder. Just then, his dog magically transforms into the god Shiva, who tells Yudishtira that this was his final test, and the two ascend together into heaven.

Well, that's my version of the story, in any case.

In other news, check out the latest post at "The Best TV Series Finales".

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mr. Jindal's Neighbourhood

Okay, okay, I will write about Cuba soon enough! But first, let's get to something a bit more topical...

Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar. So what? Who cares? Well, it is sort of important. I enjoyed the movie, but it wasn't great. It was no Chariots of Fire or Citizen Kane or American Beauty. It's a just a well-filmed, colourful romp through Mumbai. The characters were shallow, the plot predictable and the "message" --if there was one-- was tagged on and superficial. Like all tiresome Danny Boyle movies, it has way too many scenes of people running. And running. And running. And of course a scene of someone diving into shit, 'cause that appears to be one of Mr. Boyle's obsessions.

But that's not why this matters. It matters because it further solidifies the arrival of all things South Asian into the Western (and thus global) mainstream. If you haven't figured it out already, India is the future. Ironic for a nation so steeped in the past, no?

Now, how's this for a segue? Further indication of the arrival of Indians was the US Republicans' choice this past week of who would deliver the rebuttal to President Obama (praise be upon him) after his first televised speech to Congress. They chose --drum roll, please-- that doofus from Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, a 37 year old American of South Asian origin.

I don't like Jindal. I wrote about him briefly here. He's a freakin' Creationist with a science degree. I know his type all too well, the kind of self-serving South Asian who got into politics, not because he wants to serve, but because it's a good career move. Enough with those cookie cutter bastards!

Even with how much I dislike the man, I was braced for the racist comments. On cue, here was Ann Coulter:
"Even Gov. Bobby Jindal, whom I suppose I should note was the first Indian-American to give the Republican response to a president's speech, began with an encomium to the first black president. (Wasn't Bobby great in Slumdog Millionaire?)"
Really, Ann? Weren't you great in The Machinist and TransAmerica? Is your only cultural reference for Indians a pop movie made by an Irishman and starring a Brit? You have no other historical or political reference or connection to make? This is it? This is what your vaunted Ivy League education and personal media empire have wrought for you?

But back to Jindal. Well, we all know now that he tanked. Even those who are supposed to support him, like the National Post, gave him a fail. This, my friends, is officially the nadir of the US Republican party. Their choice of Jindal showed the baseness of their thinking: "Well they've got a darkie, so we should counter with our darkie!" Because that's the only reason I can see for selecting the clearly out-of-his-league Jindal for this task.

Take a look at his pathetic 3rd grade performance:

As one of the commenters put it, how out of touch are these idiots? The frakking Governor of Louisiana is criticizing the new President for spending money on disaster preparedness. Katrina, anyone? Idiots.

PS, Apropos of nothing, R.I.P. Philip Jose Farmer, one of the finest and most underrated American science fiction writers in history.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What? You Want A Title, Too?

This is pretty cool. I got it from Dawn's Facebook page. It's a list of history's weirdest cases of mass hysteria. People are so lame.

Also in the cool category, Richard sends us this video of something called "Red Bull Crushed Ice", which is a sort of extreme skating event:

It gets better. Nasty Nicky B points out that I'm not the only one noticing the clearly Irish origins of President Bartholomew Paddy O'Bama, with the song, No One As Irish As Barack Obama.

Check out the following drawing by artist Dusty Abell, showing all the skiffy icons from the 70s. Amazing how a crap decade can seem some awesome in retrospect, no?

What to hear something fascinating? It's something I've noticed about my own records keeping practices with respect to this and my other websites. In the digital age, content is updated so rapidly that there is little or no record of what came before. In other words, for the first time in history, the written word is no longer a record of history. One fellow is taking it very seriously, and is taking steps to combat this trend. But it's an aspect of the paperless revolution that few saw coming.

Lastly, in a sign of the arrival of the genre, The Guardian has a list of the science fiction novels "everyone must read". Some questionable choices there, such as Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, a lot of books I've never heard of, and a saddening tendency to confuse space opera and fantasy with true skiffy. Oh when will they learn? IO9 takes a crack at them here.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Space Nuts. Yes, Space Nuts.

It's no secret that I consider Alan Moore's Watchmen to be the finest "graphic novel" (i.e., comic book) ever written. I've mentioned it here, here, here and here. Most of you are probably aware that the long-awaited film version of the book has already been filmed and, as the smarmy types say, is "in the can". What you may not know is that a bloody battle has been ensuing between Warner Brothers and Fox Studios over who exactly owns the film, putting its release date in jeopardy. Well, the powers came to an agreement recently, and Watchmen is slated to adorn cinema screens sometime in March.

If you don't know the story, it's ostensibly a mystery about someone killing off the world's superheroes. But it's more of an exploration of what it means to be a hero --super or otherwise-- and, most interestingly, what it means to be a costume-clad human vigilante when a real, honest-to-Zod superhuman finally arises.

The following is a "leaked" clip meant to serve as viral marketing meme for the film. It shows a 1970-esque news clip celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the "birth" of Dr. Manhattan, Watchmen's erstwhile sole superhuman. It's done quite well:

The most memorable part of the Watchmen novel, for me, has to do with a line spoken in the above video. The newsman says, "The superman exists, and he's American." In the book, it's revealed that this was edited. Before being censored by his uppers, what he'd meant to say was, "God exists, and he's American." This is the essence of Watchmen, that a truly superhuman being is essentially a god. And if a god walks among us, what then can define the extraordinary for we mortals?

If you haven't already seen it, here's the excellent trailer for the upcoming Watchmen movie:

While we're on a science fiction theme, ever heard of the skiffy porno classic Space Nuts? Well here's the best scene, leading up to sex with the blue alien babe:

Ahh, what acting! Oscar worthy, to be sure.

And just because I love you all, I leave you with today's Daily Perv Link (TM): a special toy for Fido.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Last Cylon

Obama about to take office, war in the Gaza strip, Russia freezing out Ukraine, enormous military movements in Sri Lanka, the world economy tanking.... so what will I blog about? Well, Battlestar Galactia, of course.

I have long held that the reborn (or "re-imagined", as the Powers like to say) series is the single finest current television show in the world. I am not alone in this assessment (see here, here and here.) Few other mainstream entertainment products offer such dark assessments of the human soul, drawing fairly obvious analogies to modern American military policy, primarily the "war on terror". It takes courage to present a universe that clearly mirrors our own, North American world, but in which the polytheists are the ostensible good guys and monotheists the bad guys. It takes further courage to miraculously get us to sympathize with the mass-murdering, robotic bad guys-- and yet somehow the show manages to do this.

There are many ripe philosophical fruits to be plucked and devoured in this show. Among my favourites is the anti-heroic path of Dr. Gaius Baltar. He is demonized as a villain for having made some selfish, but very human, self-serving decisions. But if we are honest with ourselves we recognize in Baltar (in all but his genius intellect and creepy narcissism) the truth of our existence. He, unlike other impossibly and predictably heroic members of a typical TV show, behaves pretty much how a normal human being would behave, given the truly extraordinary circumstances in which he finds himself.

Baltars quest for redemption underlies, for me, the lesson of the show: that everybody is both good and evil, that everyone both deserves life and deserves death, and that only the honest among us can embrace this truth and thus seek justification for our continued existence. Dark? Of course; it's Battlestar Galactica.

The other, more accessible philosophical plumb presented by the show is the number of models of "skin jobs", or human-form Cylons. There are exactly 12 of them. Why? It is never expressed explicitly, but the implication is that the race of mechanic Cylons took a good, long look at humanity and saw only twelve of us. There are only 12 archetypal human beings, so simple are our motivations, so predictable our behaviours and responses.

Others have discussed this aspect of the show's mythology. The show's producers have encouraged this discussion, and most have landed upon a summary of the archetypes, as summarized well by a poster on

The innocent
The regular guy
The warrior
The caregiver
The explorer
The destroyer
The lover
The creator
The ruler
The magician
The sage
The jester

Now, as fans of the show know, while there are 12 archetypes, there are only 11 Cylon models so far identified. The lasting mystery is, of course, the identity of the final Cylon. As shown in the image below, Cylon D'Anna glimpsed the faces of the Final Five Cylons, four of whom are now known to us as occupants of the Colonial fleet.

The producers have fed the speculation, most famously by issuing the following manipulated photo, based on "The Last Supper", with the message that none of the characters portrayed is in fact the Final Cylon:

A series of snippets were also released by the producers on a website called, that further fed speculation and planted clues (or, more likely, misdirections). A summary of those clues is given here.

For a lot of reasons, I believe the identity of the Final Cylon boils down to two candidates: Felix Gaeta and Anastasia Dualla.

Now, I know that I have discussed this several times in the past. And I have linked to at least one thorough analysis of the clues. But I love a good mystery. I am so satisfied that the Final Cylon is one of these two individuals that I'm even willing to put money on it.

Part of the charm of the mystery is the bizarre, almost secretive, evolution of Felix Gaeta. If you're a fan of the show, I doubt you will ever be able to forget the haunting, creepy yet beautiful song sung by Gaeta as his leg was amputated. The composer of the song talked about it on his blog, and called it both "Gaeta's Lament" and "The Stump Serenade". Much analysis has surrounded the eerie song, as it supposedly contains clues to the identity of the Final Cylon, to whom God (or the gods, depending on which of the show's faiths you subscribe to) has bestowed a special fate relating to the dispositions of both races, the humans and the Cylons.

This post has, for my money, one of the more intriguing analyses, specifically that Gaeta's secret is his transsexualism. The theory has some appeal to me, since the nature of the hidden Cylon(s) has been something of a bridging of gaps or paradigms. Much the same way that the "skin jobs" cross the divide between men and machine, a transsexual Cylonic Gaeta would cross the divide between male and female.

Then again, for all I know, the Final Cylon is the dead cat formerly owned by Apollo's lawyer buddy. It's just a TV show, after all. The identity of the Final Cylon will be revealed to all in a matter of weeks.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Old Year's Night

In the final minutes of 2008, I have nothing important to share with you. Instead, you get, from EK Hornbeck, a fascinating list of Ten Things That Won't Survive The Recession. And over at, we have a new article: 2008 Science Fiction Year in Review.

Tomorrow I will have my traditional New Year's post of things I am thankful for. So until then, have a drink for me... 'cause I'm sick in bed!

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bring Back Kirk

Hmmm, what shall I write about today? Discord in the middle east? The upcoming prime ministerial showdown in Canada? How about Obama's reactions to emerging global concerns?

Nope. Today we talk about Star Trek... and not just because Majel Roddenberry is dead.

I re-watched Star Trek: Generations the other day, the one in which one of my boyhood heroes, James T Kirk, is killed. I really enjoyed that movie; I think it had a lot of heart, even though it was clearly made on leftover change. What I didn't like was how they killed Kirk. See, I was one of the few people walking into the theatre who had no idea they were going to off the good Captain. I sat there with my mouth hanging open when it happened.

As Kirk said inThe Final Frontier, he always knew he would die alone. Well he wasn't alone. He was killed first when Malcolm McDowell shot him in the back. Then, when test audiences protested, the studio spent an additional $5 million re-shooting a very lame sequence in which Kirk dies when a bridge falls on him. A bridge!

A timeless icon of American culture, a man who fought (and defeated) Klingons, Romulans, the Gorn, humpback whales and even the god Apollo himself was taken down by... a fucking bridge?

Kirk should have taken command of the Enterprise D, as the original script idea had called for, and led the Next Generation crew into battle against the Klingons... but not before first goosing Commander Troi and knocking Worf on his ass.

There are several websites dedicated to both regretting Kirk's death and calling for his resurrection --like this post by Battlestar Galactica writer Ronald Moore and, of course,

My favourite of these sites, though, is the ever popular Top 100 Reasons Why Kirk is Better Than Picard. Here are some gems:

  • When Picard went back in time he brought back Data’s head. When Kirk went back in time he brought back a blonde.
  • When Sisko met Picard he told him he hated him. When Sisko met Kirk he got his autograph.
  • When Picard has a problem he talks to Guinan about it. When Kirk has a problem he shoots it.
  • Kirk’s Enterprise did not have a day care.
  • The only Klingon serving on Kirk’s bridge would be a dead one.
  • When Sarek mind melded with Picard, Picard cried a lot. When Sarek mind melded with Kirk, Kirk decided to hijack the Enterprise and bring Spock back from the dead.
  • Kirk’s dress uniform does not actually look like a dress.
  • Kirk would never allow his first officer to get more tail than he does.
  • Picard’s first officer is named after a bathroom code.
  • When Data hijacked the Enterprise, Picard was helpless to stop him. When Spock hijacked the Enterprise Kirk fought him to the death.
  • Picard once wore formal Klingon robes for a Klingon ceremony. If Kirk ever wore Klingon robes it would be because he took them off a dead Klingon.
  • When Kirk disguised himself as a Romulan, he stole a cloaking device and used it to escape to Federation space. When Picard disguised himself as a Romulan he ate some soup and then got captured.
  • Kirk went to the center of the universe, met god and wasn’t impressed.
  • Style: Kirk did it first, he did it better and he did it wearing gold velour and Beatle-boots with a space girl on each arm.
I also just finished watching UFC 92. Frank Mir is an inspiration. And the deaf fighter, Matt Hamill, was fascinating, especially how his corner has to communicate with him. That got me to finding this, a tape of some of the more brutal moments in MMA history. Dig John McCain's contribution:

As well, here's a rare online clip of the now famous war between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin, a match that in many ways changed mixed martial arts history in North America by showing a regular broadcast TV audience how unbelievable this sport can be.

In Other News...

Here's a BBC documentary on how much science the new incoming US President needs to know.

And here's a slideshow of the the biggest douchebags of 2008. Enjoy!

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