Category Archives: tv

tumblr: Such a sweet find- THE AMAZING GRACE HOPPER on…

Such a sweet find- THE AMAZING GRACE HOPPER on Letterman!

It’s only 10 minutes and definitely worth watching! Some of my favorite bits:

On going to bed instead of celebrating when she officially left the Navy after 43 1/2 years of service on 31 August 24:00:

“There’s something you learn in your first boot camp or training camp— If they put you down somewhere with nothing to do, go to sleep.”

On joining the service:

L: “What interested you about going into the Navy at 37?”
H: “Well, World War II, to begin with…” (laughter)
“That’s been one of the hardest things to tell people in this country— there was a time when everybody in this country did one thing together.”

On working on the first big computer in the US:

L: “You worked on the original computer in this country, right?”
(bit of talk about her work on the Mark I at Harvard)
L: “How did you know so much about computers then?”
H: “I didn’t. It was the first one.” (much laughter & clapping)

While showing a physical representation of a nanosecond (billionth of a second):

H: “That is the maximum distance that light or electricity can travel in a billionth of a second.”
L: “No faster, no farther…”
H: “When an admiral asks you why it takes so damn long to send a message by satellite, you point out to him between here and the satellite, there are a very large number of nanoseconds…” (illustrating with the “nanosecond” in her hand)

Explaining picoseconds, a thousandth of a nanosecond, and holding up a little packet:

“The best way to get ‘em is go to McDonald’s or Wendy’s or somewhere and get a small packet of picoseconds— they have the label ‘pepper’ on them, but they’re really picoseconds.”

Posted via tumblr: http://sindyjlee.tumblr.com/post/72791358104 published on January 09, 2014 at 12:17PM

Character Actors & Life

Personally, I think this seemingly peripheral, slightly silly comment sparked what ended up with kind of a profound statement on life (transcript below)

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Transcript

Sindy Lee
2 hours ago via Twitter
Why I love character actors: Austin Pendleton both dungeon-wedding serial rapist & genius physicist based on Stephen Hawking on #LawAndOrder

Surajit Bose
I’m pretty sure Stephen Hawking isn’t a dungeon-wedding serial rapist.
about an hour ago

Sindy Lee
In an SVU ep on the former, Criminal Intent ep on the latter.
about an hour ago

Surajit Bose
Oh. 🙂
about an hour ago

Sindy Lee
I’ve watched so much of all flavors of Law and Order that this kind of thing happens all the time– same characters in different episodes across all flavors of the show as defendants, family members of defendants, defense attorneys, witnesses, random New Yorkers, victims, prosecutors, even cops and jury members.

It can be kind of a mind fuck, but also sort of a profoud statement on how, but for the grace of (insert deity, force of nature, or completely random good or bad luck of your choice here), any one of those people could be you/me.
42 minutes ago via mobile

Sindy Lee
After thinking about it a bit, I thought that was oddly deep. Unless you object, I think I’m going to publish this thread on my blog.
a few seconds ago via mobile

Dark Knight Rises, Colorado Shooting & Violence in Entertainment

I loved The Dark Knight Rises— I thought all 2 hours and 45 minutes of it was gripping and had great twists and turns, surprising even someone like me who has been keeping up with all the pre-release buzz, news and teasers. Overall, it was an excellent finish to an excellent trilogy. (And I hope all the talk about rebooting the series already is just that– talk. Can’t we just take a moment to enjoy the long-awaited arrival of this film?)

However, the recent shooting at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises at a suburban Colorado movie theater raises some interesting questions– and not just about gun control. It’s hardly worth a “spoiler alert” to say the movie contains a lot of violence– if you’ve been paying any attention to all the press for the movie, you’ll know the much-advertised, primary antagonist of the film is the diabolical, masked Bane, one of the most violent, cold-blooded and ruthless villains in the DC universe (and the wonderful Tom Hardy’s portrayal of the character is much truer to the comic book and therefore, much more frightening than the almost farcical version in 1997’s Batman & Robin). As comic book fans know, Bane’s intelligence and cunning only make him that much more terrifying and dangerous– after all, he’s the only man to have “broken the Bat”*. His role in the story and the sheer scale of his nefarious plans up the ante considerably when it comes to violence.

So, there was one particular scene in The Dark Knight Rises where guns are being wildly shot in a crowded place during which I couldn’t help being reminded of the shooting in Colorado (there’s more than one of these scenes in the movie so I can’t even remember which specific one it was– just my immediate reaction). I don’t really subscribe to the much-debated idea that violence in entertainment somehow promotes violence in real life, especially among young people (think video games like Doom and Marilyn Manson being blamed for the 1999 Columbine High School massacre), but those who do often blame and point out the popularity and commercial success of movies like those in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy or, little more than a decade ago, The Matrix films. They say that, in addition to the large amount of it, the way in which that violence in such entertainment is depicted glorifies it and thereby promotes it. For example, Batman may have a strict “no guns, no killing” rule, but certainly those around him don’t always follow that rule, so there’s always plenty of both– and often more. And though Batman isn’t an alien or superhuman– ridiculously athletic, highly trained, and combat clever as hell, but still just a “normal” human being– he’s still kicking a lot of ass and taking a lot of names. After all, despite their efforts at diplomacy (how many times have we seen the “Superman achieves global nuclear disarmament” storyline?) and the admittedly key ability to outwit their opponents, superheroes ultimately win through the use of physical force– not non-violent protests, marches, or civil disobedience. And in the end, watching superheroes like Batman– the very definition of the “good guys”– beat up a bunch of bad guys is incredibly violent, but also incredibly satisfying (hello, they’re the bad guys?!) so there is certainly some glorification in that.

But long before there were riveting “Army of One” commercials, even before someone hit someone else for the first time so they could steal the Coke bottle to mash up their vegetables, humans have been telling fantastic tales of battles, wars, and ultimately, warriors– both fictional and real. And while violence continues to exist as part of the human condition, we will need warriors– in fact, heroes– to meet those challenges to not just protect themselves, but those around them as well. They fight so we don’t have to and certainly, there is and should be glory in that and those stories should be told, including on the screen. Of course, not every movie is so cut and dry on X being good, Y being bad, and therefore, standing on moral high ground when it comes to X having to beat the crap out of Y, not to mention all the collateral damage. And of course, with media, a lot of it has to do with context and tone: do we see at least some of the ugly, bloody, grotesque side of violence or do people bounce back like cartoon characters? Is the music– or any music at all– appropriate for what’s happening on screen? A violent rape is graphically depicted in the 2002 French film Irréversible, but I don’t think anybody who has seen it– and it is so powerful that many cannot tolerate just watching it– would say the act is in any way glorified. Even in comedy, violence can be put into a context in which we know not to take it as seriously, that we don’t have to be realistic here because the entire situation is absurd.

I suppose the real question is whether highly increased, repeated exposure to such violence in media– all of it or just the stuff you think glorify it– desensitizes us, especially people like teenagers who are either too young or otherwise so impressionable that they become swept up in romanticized depictions of violence and suddenly, moral high ground isn’t so important anymore. How exciting was it to watch Neo and Trinity blow that building and those Agents to pieces to rescue the beloved Morpheus? Yes, even in the fictional sense, they didn’t really do that since they were in the Matrix and nobody really died because those Agents were just computer programs, but that kind of goes along with my point, right? Such key plot points allow us to justify and reconcile such violence by “good” people. So, if we consume more and more of such violent media, does that subconsciously encourage us to lose touch with the horrifying reality and consequences of such events, thereby, if not promoting, at least justifying and distancing ourselves from the reality of more and more violence?

Yet, as I watched The Dark Knight Rises, rather than distancing myself from it, I felt like the realism provided by the high quality of the production intensified the seriousness and impact of what we were seeing. Perhaps more than any news coverage short of actual footage of the shooting could, the added drama created through movie magic somehow makes up for the fact that you’ve temporarily suspended your disbelief. You know it’s just a movie, but what you’re seeing is such a well-made dramatization that the terror of such a moment is really driven home and has the added benefit of not requiring the exploitative and tasteless showing/viewing of the tragic and ugly deaths of real people. Essentially, just the news of the shooting still fresh in my mind changed my visceral reaction to seeing the fictional presentation of a similar event– while I might have been more apathetic or, for the most part, unaffected by such a scene before, the experience and perhaps my outlook on such violence were fundamentally changed, much like how most of us felt and perhaps still feel about anything related to airplane/air travel safety and terrorism in the wake of 9/11 (think how sensitive Americans were about just seeing or not seeing the Twin Towers in the New York City skyline in movies released shortly after the attacks).

In the end, it’s a bit of a “chicken or the egg” problem– does watching “glossy” depictions of violence in popular entertainment and media promote violence in real life? Or do such realistic and/or dramatic depictions discourage such violent acts by giving us a “harmless” way to experience the severity and horror of such events? Considering all those “bombs bursting in air” in the lyrics to our national anthem alone, from music (in addition to the obvious, think lyrics to the popular French-Canadian children’s song “Alouette”) to movies, from books to TV (they get away with showing some truly sick stuff in countless police procedural and “true crime” shows), from Internet videos to even commercials (think the heavy amount of cartoonish violence in Super Bowl commercials), one thing is certain: depictions of violence are an essential part of the human art of storytelling. While some may like to think of violence in entertainment and media as something new– an unfortunate sign of modern times– we’ve actually been riding this cycle of violence from the very beginnings of human history and culture.


* On the name “Bane”: the film’s timing provides a nice little accent to the amusing coincidence that the character’s name is a homophone of Bain Capital, the frequently mentioned center of the Romney news story that just won’t die– with a pre-emptive apology for the pun, some might say one of the “banes” of the Romney campaign.


QI: Semantics

"QI" Logo My new favorite entertainment item/obsession is the British comedy quiz show “QI” (short for “Quite Interesting”). I won’t get into a detailed explanation of the format and rules, but briefly: host Stephen Fry asks his panel of four “contestants” questions on a variety of topics. Since the questions are usually very obscure, almost no one is expected to actually know the answers. Instead, the show and its appeal are more about the resulting, “quite interesting” and usually funny, often hilarious commentary and banter among the participants– especially since the guests are, by and large, comedians. And finally, I refer to the guests as “contestants” because, although points are awarded and deducted, the point system is, for the most part, seemingly arbitrary and irrelevant, much like that of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?“, another one of my favorite shows. For more complete and detailed info on the show, just check out the Wikipedia article.

Short "QI" Questions Animated GIF The show is a rather good example of the value in focusing on or enjoying the journey, not the destination. Interesting facts plus comedy– the perfect combination for me!* The show is a lot like many of my conversations except that, instead of among my friends and me, it’s among professional comedians, actors, etc. (and almost everything is in some kind of British accent). And luckily, even though (and because) I’m coming extremely late to the game, there are many years worth of series/episodes for me to watch and enjoy since the show has been running since 2003**. Of course, this is only thanks to YouTube since “QI” doesn’t air in the States– though there is a petition to get BBC America to broadcast the show to US viewers. If you’re a fan of the show, I encourage you to sign it– this tactic has already succeeded at least once when fans submitted a petition to get the first series released on DVD.

In any case, to the primary point of this post: Semantics and specifically a clip from Series A, Episode 4. Here’s a great example of one of the show’s many spontaneous, witty and amusing moments– in this case, a delightful bit of wordplay between host Stephen Fry and comedian Jeremy Hardy (jump to the 6:55 mark in the video):

STEPHEN
… I refute that with every fiber of my being. The actual answer is–

JEREMY
(interrupting)
No, you can’t refute it– that’s bad grammar, that, Stephen. To refute, you have to provide evidence. You mean “rebut”.

STEPHEN
No, I mean “repudiate”.

JEREMY
Fair enough.

STEPHEN
(during applause/laugh break)
Very good point.

JEREMY
If you weren’t showing off, you could have said “reject”.

STEPHEN
Yes, indeed. You’re absolutely right. Though it’s not bad grammar, is it? It’s just bad semantics.

JEREMY
Yeah, whatever.


And since we’re on the topic of language, here’s a hilarious clip on spelling (spoiler alert: “i before e except after c” is wrong):



* I particularly avoided using the term “trivia” here. While the questions/answers on QI may not be terribly useful for most people in their everyday lives, these facts are certainly not useless, unimportant, or inconsequential– i.e., “trivial”. Let’s just say they’re the finer details.
** It’s actually a (ambitious!) 26-year long project with each series covering topics that begin with a different letter of the alphabet.


Video: Womyn (Kids in the Hall)

Despite my recent run-in with the YouTube copyright police, I decided to post this Kids in the Hall sketch, entitled “Womyn”. I wasn’t worried about the copyright issue (although I did get a different kind of copyright message) since the most popular video on my YouTube channel is “God is Dead”, another KITH sketch, that I posted back in 2005. Instead of filing DMCA complaints against fans, KITH has thanked fans for uploading their favorite clips in the past, I myself receiving a thank you message.

So, here it is– KITH genius all the way back from season 1 (1989-1990), episode 2, “Womyn”:


“How does this not have a jillion views?”

That’s the first and only comment posted when I uploaded this video to YouTube (thanks, ImportOwner!) before it was taken down because of a copyright infringement complaint. I don’t know what their complaint criteria are because a quick YouTube search shows plenty of other Archer clips posted by fans (doesn’t count as snitching), but I should probably lay off a bit as this is my second strike. (I know, how ironic that I’m caught up in a three-strikes copyright policy situation…)

But of course, my intent (as usual) is not to infringe on copyright, but to show how amazing Archer is and actually get more people to watch, so I’m still going to try to share this clip with the world. (Hey, I would embed their video and drive traffic to FX directly to promote the show, but their video clip collection is a bit sparse.)

Anyway, so here is it: from “The Limited” (season 3, episode 3), a great clip with Archer & Babou (the ocelot) that perfectly captures a key part of how awesome the show is. I’m obligated to give you a SPOILER ALERT warning since the clip is from the end of the episode, but watching it really won’t ruin anything for you since almost every Archer episode ends with some crazy chaos. Enjoy!

[jwplayer mediaid=”6328″]

Conspiracy Theory

Just listen to this crazy idea for a second– there’s a nice and funny Colbert Report interview for you at the end:

Many believe World War II not only helped, but was one of the biggest factors in the US pulling itself out of the Great Depressionsome do not— and I’m sure it’s been joked many times over that another war– in addition to the one we just finished fighting like, 5 minutes ago (did you know military operations had websites?), and the one we’re still fighting in Afghanistan— would help us out of this Great Recession. Well, the thought of someone in government or similar sphere of power seriously considering that idea is a morbid thought, but perhaps this is an even more twisted one: although domestic growth created to support wartime efforts could help us get out of our current, particularly deep economic rut, the thought of waging war for economic benefit– essentially letting the blood of American soldiers be payment for a way out of our current economic state, one created by Wall Street’s high risk, shady deals with subprime mortgages and derivative markets— is too “distasteful”. So, instead, those in power look at alternatives and given the somewhat misguided, but constant ranting about how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its regulations are “job killers”, a conspiracy is born to systematically lower EPA regulations to allow corporations to redirect resources they would normally have spent ensuring they were abiding by various environmental laws and regulations, knowing that it may cause adverse health effects on millions of communities around the country. They decide that considering it takes much longer for you to die from cancer than a soldier to die from a bullet or a bomb, and it is much harder to prove that the chemical waste improperly dumped near your home’s water source is the direct reason why you get a particular type of cancer at a particular point in your life– especially if litigation gets tied up in the court system and you die before its conclusion, should you decide to sue your health insurance company and/or the owner of the factory or plant that caused the pollution in the first place– that slow, causally ambigous death of a few million is not only a more preferable and conveniently politically advantageous, but morally justifiable route for economic growth compared to more American soldiers dying in another war (or ideally, just working harder to come up with better economic policies). Besides, the increased health problems may boost the healthcare industry and once we’re out of the rut, the EPA can create even more jobs by raising– or in some cases, re-raising– regulations, therefore creating a need for corporations to go back out and hire workers and obtain other resources to abide by them.

And then the next time there’s an economic slump, all over again… until they find “the next thing”…

I’m not saying this is what could happen under a President and/or Congress that rails just a little too much against the EPA or that anybody is even seriously considering it, or if anybody seriously believes anybody is seriously considering it, but if I thought of it, someone else must have…

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Indecision 2012 – Job-Killing EPA – Carol Browner
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Intentional Americans

U.S. Flag There are many wonderful things I could say about the HBO documentary “Citizen USA: A 50-State Road Trip“, but here is a quote from newly naturalized citizen and intentional American Zeenath Larsen that captures not just one of the primary reasons people to come to the US (legally and illegally), but a valuable message for US-born American citizens (especially those who think immigrants come to the US just to steal jobs, collect welfare, and commit crimes), the politicians who are looking to influence, lead, and win over the support of the people, and any American who has ever taken America for granted (me included):

“The bottom line is that your country and you have to be on the same page where values are considered, principles are considered, what you believe in. And if that is not the case, then it’s… you may be born somewhere and brought up somewhere, but then you don’t feel that same type of loyalty. Because loyalty comes through ideas, not through the earth, not through mud and trees and hills. That’s the same everywhere in the world. Is there any country in the world that has it enshrined in the constitution that you have a right to be happy?”

And to underline the point even more, note that Larsen is originally from Pakistan. Food for thought– check out the trailer for “Citizen USA” below:

Trick Play

I don’t know why I thought of this recently, but back in the late 80s, my family got a second TV– a small thing, maybe 15″ at the most. It was around 1988; I distinctly remember watching coverage of the Bush-Dukakis presidential race on this TV that lived in my parents’ room. The TV came with a remote, something novel for us since our living room (and recently only) TV was still a big thing encased in wood and with a manual dial for changing channels, a task with which the youngest child (me) was usually privileged. The new TV’s remote had a button labeled “RECALL.” I thought this was such a smart and amazing feature: the ability to “recall” what you had just watched. Clearly, this button would replay the last few minutes of whatever was on TV in case, for example, you hadn’t been paying attention, had to step put of the room for a moment or just wanted to re-watch whatever amazing programming you had just seen.

This feature is now part of what TiVo calls “trick play”– the ability to pause live TV and play back up to the last 30 minutes of recently viewed TV. And of course, this feature was not actually this feature in 1988; the recall button was actually a “last channel” button, automatically changing the channel to the previous or last channel viewed. Never having had a remote, much less a TV that was capable of remembering what the previous channel was, I thought this amazing new TV– small, but with the channel displayed on the screen in neon green digital numbers and shiny silver buttons that silently changed the channel up and down (instead of a plastic knob and dial that clicked as you turned it)– was surely capable of “recalling” the last few minutes of precious TV.

But no, it would be at least a decade before somebody out there thought of this idea, along with a long list of other great ones, and came out with the first public trials of TiVo, debuting in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1998, around the same time I first came out to the Bay Area myself (and have yet to go back). Busy, busy, busy.