Kung Fu Hustle


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Which Superhero Movie Should Have a Female Lead?

Hero Villian
Wonder Woman Egg Fu

Supergirl Bizarro Supergirl

Lex Luthor
Black Widow Snapdragon

Silver Samurai

Batwoman Alice

Bloody Mary
Wasp Baron Zemo

Arnim Zola

Any Avenger Villain
Rogue Mystique

Any X-men Villain
Power Girl No one special
Black Canary Lady Shiva

Batgirl James Gordon, Jr.

She Hulk No one special
Storm X-men Villain
Gamora Thanos


Reviewing the list of possible heroes who could have their own films, I wanted to see what the best options were for female leads.  So I came up with the above list.  I tried to avoid heroes who were simply defined by their male counterpart, unless the character is well know outside comic fandom.  So, that removed Hawkgirl, Mary Marvel, Big Barda, Ms. Martian, Mera, Arrowette, etc.  Also, I removed any lesser versions of a character, Dr. Light, the alternate Batgirls, the female Captain Marvel, etc.  And I removed female characters who are mainly defined by their group; Legion of Superheroes, X-Men, Birds of Prey, Blackhawk, Asgardians.

Reviewing the above candidates shows the major problem, a lack of easily identified villains.  This has always been the problem for Wonder Woman.  Only two of the above have villains who are specific to them alone, Wonder Woman and Batwoman.  However look at Wonder Woman's villains; Egg Fu and Ares.  With one you have an extreme racial stereotype who has the major advantage of tying up Wonder Woman with his mustache.  The other assumes the audience understands Ares is not a Dodge vehicle, but the Greek version of Mars, the God of War.  

Most of list really depends on villains from other heroes.  Black Canary and Batgirl have Batman villains, though I did list those who have a stronger connection to B.C and Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) than Batman.  These both could make good films, but DC has been killing off the best villains like the Joker.  So unless they start playing for the long run, they will quickly run out of the best villains.  The Wasp uses villains from the Avengers and largely from Captain America.  Depending on how they introduce her in Ant-Man, she might make a stand alone film.

Storm and Rogue could an excellent choice for a team up in a film.  Both are X-Men and both have been seen before by audiences.  Halley Berry as Storm is one of her better performances and could easily get backing for a female lead film.  But the choice of villain is important.  You can't use Magneto, he has been reformed.  You can't use Mystique, Rogue's personal foe and stepmother, she is not evil enough.  Perhaps introducing Apocalypse might be a start and that way you could have Rogue become the first of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.   

Black Widow would seem to be a natural, except two of her best villains were killed in The Wolverine, Silver Samurai and Viper.  That leaves just Snapdragon.  Knowing how studios love multiple bad guys so they can make more toys, it seems unlikely.

I like She Hulk, but that would be a really tough sell.   She is a female version of the Hulk who is also a lawyer.  With that description, all I can here is Tom Hanks in Big when he looks at the robot that turns into a building.  "I don't get it."

That pretty much leaves us with Batwoman.  I can already hear the bitching and moaning about having a gay superhero as the lead, but really she is the best fit.  Batwoman has a couple of iconic villains, Alice and Bloody Mary.  She stands on her own and an original film would not be as tedious for fans as another retelling of Batman or Superman.  She can draw from the Gotham menagerie as well.  She has a lot to recommend her and it could become the Brokeback Mountain of superhero films. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Solar for Dummies Part 1: Why Solar?

Today, I thought it might be a good idea to share my understanding of the solar industry with you.  I know many of you have been following solar for years and think you have all the answers, but let's just look over what I try to get across to people on a daily basis:

Why Solar?

Looking over the various forms of energy, each has its own problems.  

  • Oil produces spills that are incredibly hard to clean up, produces CO2 emissions which might make the world uninhabitable for humans, and is a non-renewable resource.  
  • Coal is dangerous to dig, produces CO2 emissions which might make the world uninhabitable for humans, and is a non-renewable resource.
  • Fission plants, currently the only form radiation being used to generate electricity, are incredibly dangerous and produce radioactive waste that remains dangerous for a long time.
  • Hydroelectric requires a constant flow of water.  Pollution in the water can damage a hydro-electric plant.
  • Wind turbines cause a continuous whine, usually among those who find them unattractive.
  • Solar only works during the day and is less effective on cloudy days.
So many people think CO2 emissions can't be a big deal.  After all there is so much air on this planet how could we ever produce enough CO2 to be harmful?  Well, movies have really done a crappy job of helping people understand how easily you can be killed by lack of oxygen.  Air pressure in a room always has to fall to zero before someone dies in a movie.  In real life, it is much easier to die.  CO2 levels at 1% can make people drowsy.  If you black out and fall to the floor, there is likely to be a higher concentration of CO2 there since CO2 is heavier than air.  If you do black out and fall into a higher concentration of CO2, then how do you get yourself out?  If the concentration reaches 3%, then you start breathing faster because your body is trying to get rid of the CO2, which binds with your hemoglobin and prevents your body from getting oxygen.  Carbon Monoxide (CO) binds more readily and can kill you faster than CO2, but CO2 will do the job given the conditions we are creating.

CO2 is harder to get out of the environment as well   CO2 will cause plants to grow faster and larger, which might help decrease CO2 levels, but we are producing CO2 faster than plants can remove it.  Additionally, CO2 will cause the atmosphere to hold more heat (causing climate change).  It is believed that this was what happened to Venus to make the atmosphere so hot.  Our ability to measure CO2 levels in the atmosphere is not reflective of the actual numbers.  We can tell there amounts are increasing, but even if we stopped introducing CO2 into the atmosphere today, it is like applying brakes on a train going downhill.  You would still see increases in speed until the brakes catch and begin to slow down the train.  Well that is what is happening with CO2, we need to stop the acceleration of CO2 into the atmosphere and then reduce it to a manageable level.  That is why burning hydrocarbons; oil, coal, natural gas or even biofuels are all harmful to the environment.  

Radioactive waste, even dumped into what might seems a lifeless desert, will kill off a variety of lifeforms, some of which are essential to our ecosystem.  And radiation takes an incredibly long time to wear out.  Fukushima shows the potential for damage and we cannot do anything to stop the damage occurring there.

So that leaves wind, hydroelectric and solar.  Of those, everyone gets wind and sun. Given that the Caribbean has about 4,500 pumping platforms for oil companies, I don't see why we could not get them to put 10 MW turbines on each platform.  But that is out of the reach of the common person.  What is available is solar panels on top of a home.  Each person could have a 2.5kW - 9kW array on their homes, offsetting their electric bill and reducing production needs with the utility companies.  Some portions of the country would do better with wind, but the sunbelt, especially Southern California would do well with solar.  Why Southern California?  San Diego Gas and Electric has the highest utility prices in the continental U.S., with only Hawaii being higher.

Using renewables has the effect of also reducing our need as a country for both foreign oil from OPEC countries and support from China allowing us to purchase said oil.  Considering how many of our military actions in the last 40 years have been focused on securing oil for our use, we could ease international tensions as well.

This is only part one, I will continue with Part 2: What Options Are Available With Solar

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Message to Guys Regarding What is Fair.

I spent today looking back at games I had played online. One major experience was the first MMO I had ever played, Ultima Online. Back in the late 90’s, Ultima Online was the largest MMO, a massively multiplayer online game, around. It was a fantasy roleplaying game with a huge number of players. You could hunt monsters, craft items, sell goods to other players, and build your own home, up to and including castles, and set up vendors to sell your trade goods to other players. That part was great. It was lots of fun.
But there were some problems. Every time you left a city, you were subject to attack, not by monsters, but by other players. PVP, player versus player combat, was not consensual. PKers, play killers, could anyone outside a city and kill your character, then they would be allowed to loot an item from your corpse. Many PKers would stand over your corpse waiting for you to come back so they could kill you again. This was much easier for them as you often no longer had any equipment, or if you did, it was your second best set of equipment.
PKers had most of the options covered. Often they had the best gear available because they had taken it from other players. If you were fighting a monster, a PKer could come attack while you fought the monster and be fairly certain to kill you before you could finish the monster, then they would kill the monster as well and take that loot, in addition to looting your corpse. There were guilds of PKers who would camp just outside of a city and waylay anyone who left the safe zone. If you did kill another character, you were marked as an outlaw, but that mark faded in just a few minutes. In fact, if you saw someone marked as an outlaw, the rules allowed you to attack them. However the PKers knew to watch their time, get you to attack them just as the mark showing them to be an outlaw was removed and then would lead you into the safe zone around the city so the city guards would kill you.
Many of you, especially those who enjoy PVP, will be yelling at me to grow a pair and just get into PVP and beat them. Well, as a casual player, I did not want PVP. Also, PVP has almost always been the realm of those who are willing to spend more money, especially at this time. This is when most people were still using dial-up. So buying a buying a 33.6K modem for a couple of hundred dollars was much easier for a family man, than paying $500 for a 56K modem or going all out and getting a cable modem or DSL. Some people could afford that and that gave them a massive advantage. The same advantage you get in many games today for micro transactions.
For those of you who don’t play games, let me give you an example of how this works. Imagine playing a game of chess where you are allowed 8 pawns, a king, a knight, a bishop and a rook for free. If you want, you can buy a queen, a second knight, bishop and rook for an additional cost. So, is your top ranked chess player the best player? Not necessarily. You can only be certain that money will change the standings giving those with the money spend an advantage over players who play for free. In most games this is represented by faster connections, faster processors, better video cards, more RAM, add to that the number of hacks for ‘botting, macroing or any violation of the EULA which should get someone banned from the game.
What about GMs, game masters, who would ban these players? Well Ultima Online had a problem there, most of their service was volunteer and could only ban people they caught using a hack. At some times during the day, you might find only one person handling complaints for hundreds of players. Problems occurred including, PVPer using hacks to insure kills, Vendors (game purchased bots) being robbed of all goods, houses stolen including everything in the house and no satisfaction available for players who had lost hours of work within the game.
At this point some of you will point out the obvious: “If you think the game sucks so badly, then leave.” I did. I went to another game, with consensual PVP, and played there. But that brings me to the reason for writing this. Imagine a game with all the downfalls of the above. You will never be the strongest player, you might find yourself being attacked by a group, and the rules are set up where enforcement is spotty, leaving you without protection and subject to strict limits as to how you play the game. Sadly, what I am describing is not a game, it is called being a woman.
Men are almost always stronger than women. Most women are fearful every time they find themselves alone, without protection. When a woman reports abuse by a man, the laws are often very much in favor of her attacker. This was something that became very clear to me as I read Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy. Prior to that I assumed women just happened to find lousy men in their lives. After reading that, I looked back over the women I have known and realized most of them behaved in what seemed like an irrational manner because there were afraid. Women I had just met might be reluctant to go out with me because someone in their past was a monster. Even though I was a nice guy, so many women were afraid of what might lie beneath the surface. As I think about my early experiences with online gaming, even knowing that the people who ruined Ultima Online for me were less than 10% of the population, I can begin to understand why women fear.

Friday, March 14, 2014

St. Padraig's Rant

This is the time of year I begin to grit my teeth.  Just to warn you, this will be a rant.  Maybe even something you will disagree with, but it is my opinion.

To begin with, St. Patrick's Day, as celebrated here in the U.S. is the most racist holiday out there.  Everyone eats corned beef and cabbage (yuck!), a meal rarely seen in Ireland.  Green beer flows endlessly, both in and out of people who look at St. Patrick's as a reason to get so drunk they will call in sick the next day.  Cheap green hats abound.  Everyone wears green to avoid being pinched.  Every cheapass tenor thinks they can sing Johnny Boy, I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen (especially the Star Trek Fans), Mother Machree or some other tired old pub song.  If you get really lucky you might hear an Irish band play a good version of Whiskey in the Jar.  Everyone will wear a stupid "Kiss Me I'm Irish!" button.  And for one day out of the year, red hair is really popular.

  Rare is the person who could identify this style of artwork.  Mention the Book of Kells and blank looks are all you will get.  Mention the Book of Lindisfarne and again blank looks.  If you mention gaelic, especially in conservative neighborhood, you begin an argument over traditional marriage.  You are likely to be somewhat safe in referring to The Quiet Man or maybe Enya, but never hope to mention a film based on Roddy Doyle's books (I dare you, there are three, name one without looking it up).

If it seems weird that I should be complaining about all the stereotypes, ask yourself how you celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  What do you do to celebrate Ireland?  Do you watch a film with your favorite Irish actor?  If not I would suggest just about any film with Brendan Gleason (yes, even Lake Placid), though most especially The Guard.  If you want to listen to some Irish music, may I suggest:

I am just saying put down the fucking mint shake from McDonald's for moment and try to think of something Irish.  Look up a bit of history, or artwork, or learn which authors are Irish (Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker are two).  Even if all you do is try to figure out what it is that Brad Pitt is saying in Snatch, at least that is a more honest celebration of St. Patrick's Day than eating something with green food dye.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Two Films: Journey Into The West and The Wind Rises

There are two films you really must see.  One is Journey Into The West.  This is the new film by Stephen Chow, the director of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle.  The plot is:

This is a world plagued by demons, who cause its human inhabitants unspeakable suffering. Young demon hunter Xuan Zang, fearlessly guided by his belief in "giving himself for the greater cause," risks his all and conquers a water demon, a pig demon and the demon of all demons, Sun Wukong. He embraces them as his disciples, and melts them with love. Meanwhile, Xuan Zang discovers the true meaning of Greater Love himself. In order to atone for their own sins and save the common people, the four of them embark on a journey to the West that's full of challenges...

The other film I would strongly recommend is The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki.  Miyazaki is a briiliant animator who created My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle.  This is the last film Miyazaki will do as he is retiring from animation.  

This film follows the career of Jiro Hirokoshi, the designer of the Zero fighter plane.  In the film, you begin to understand Miyazaki's lifelong love of flight, watching the development of concepts from inception to the drawing board to flight.  Add to this historical events like the Great Kanto Earthquake from 1923 and characters who are truly nice, polite people as most of Miyazaki's characters are, you have a family film really worth seeing.

Monday, February 24, 2014

My response to an article by Michi Trota

Below is my response to Michi Trota's essay, I Don't See Color on Jim Hines' blog.

Let me start by saying thank you for your article and I really appreciate what you have written. I have a slightly different opinion. I see color. As someone who dabbles in art, you have to. You can’t always paint in monochromes. I see people in much the same way. I look at people through their cultures (usually food). Everyone uses pretty much the same stuff when cooking, what changes is the spice. And remember, variety is the spice of life.
One of the best books I have read recently is Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson. In this story, there is only one white character, a Muslim woman. All the other characters are Middle Eastern, but they are all interesting and smart. A different culture presented well.
Kylie Chan has a series of books that deals with Chinese Mythology and Martial Arts. True, she is not Asian, but she does write about the main character, an Australian woman, who loves a Chinese god and lives in Hong Kong. The only thing both these books have in common are that they are very readable and do not focus on white culture. I could give you more examples dealing with Australian Mythos, Hindu gods, African gods and Norse vs South American gods, all good stories, just using different colors.
Maybe part of the reason I look for stories dealing with different cultures is because I am a frustrated traveler. I would love to go around the world drinking in the differences in each country. Meeting new people, exchanging ideas and finding points of commonality. I spent this weekend taking my wife to fashion expo with clothes from India and Bangladesh. We were invited to go by a former co-worker. So while my wife shopped I talked with one of the guys working there, a film student, about the films of Stephen Chow and how I was watching Shaolin Soccer on a local Spanish language channel, but having seen the film before I could follow pretty well. That gives you a white guy talking to an India guy about a Chinese film in Spanish.
What I am trying to get across is that you should not be afraid to write about anything that interests you. You are the girl who brought chicharrĂ³n with spicy vinegar and garlic pork-filled siopao to the annual block party. Do the same with your writing (if you want). Sure, if you love a pseudo-European Tolkienesque world, go for it. But, if you want to write about the Philippines, there doesn’t seem to be much competition out there. I would think a story that has a knifefighting-based martial art form that shares the name of a Hindu goddess of chaos and destruction might be a good starting point (Kali). Or a story that includes a nice recipe for siopao.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My entry in Tim Morehouse's Contest

Tim Morehouse, a silver medalist in Foil on the USA Fencing Team has a contest asking who would win in a bout between Yoda and Zorro.  Below is my entry.  If you want to follow the competition, you can follow it here.

Having cleared a piste in the halls of Vahalla, Cyrano de Bergarac, acting as director, reviews the rules of the match, “Standard epee rules will apply, point only attacks, anywhere on the body. Master Yoda has agreed to forgo both Jedi mind tricks and Force attacks.”
Pointing to each side, he continued, “Our floor judges for this match will be Mme. Julie d’Aubigny and M. Miyamoto Musashi, they shall determine if the equipment registers an invalid touch upon the floor.”
“The piste has been modified to accommodate both combatants, so instead of 14 meters by 2 meters, the area of action is 20 meters in diameter. The bout will be to 10 touches. Time for bout will be 8 minutes and as with standard epee rules, double touches are allowed. Gentlemen, shall we begin?”
“Don Diego De la Vega, Master Yoda, ready? Fence!”
Zorro stands straight legged and begins to walk the perimeter of the circle. Master Yoda remains where he is en garde with his eyes closed, unmoving. As Zorro passes Master Yoda, he begins to tighten the circle, until he is almost directly behind the Jedi Master by six feet. As he reaches attack distance, he lunges, point directed to Yoda’s left shoulder. As the point reaches Master Yoda, his shoulder drops a few centimeters until the point passes, and then rises again to pick up the blade. As Master Yoda turns pushing the blade up and past him as he spins in place. Yoda’s blade is pointed Don Diego’s midsection. Don Diego stops just before running onto the blade.
“Try harder, you must.” Says the Jedi Master.
Zorro backs away. Warily watching the small, green Jedi, he begins again walking the perimeter of the piste. Again Master Yodi maintains an en garde near the center with his eyes closed. De la Vega continues until he has nearly made a second circuit around the Jedi Master and again closes from off to the right hand side. Again, as the point reaches Master Yoda’s right shoulder, it drops fractionally, just allowing the point to pass, and rises again, picking up the side of the point. As Yoda pivots, the point passes him and he again has his point directed at Zorro’s midsection. Zorro halts again before he can impale himself upon the point.
Yoda straightens his arm slightly gently, barely touching Zorro as the green light goes on.
“Halt!” yells Cyrano, “Touch left!” as he points to Zorro.
Don Diego De la Vega nods, removing his mask and says, “Master Yoda, I concede. I shall buy the drinks today.”
The crowd in Vallaha roars with appreciation and lines up for their drinks.