May 2009 Archives

Google Wave


Google announced Google Wave, which as Google puts it, is what e-mail would be like if it was invented today. Many of the modern electronic messaging tools are based on older forms of communication. The e-mail is the modern letter/telegraph, and instant messaging can be seen as the modern phone conversation. Google Wave essentially becomes a real-time version of those things plus a whole slew of collaborative work tools, such as wikis, clip sharing, context based spell checking and social networking. The origin story of Google Wave is an intriguing read; I honestly believe that this is the next generation of internet communication, but the big question for me is "Will it run on an iPhone?".

The Google Wave Developer guide describes how to integrate current webapps within Wave (some of the integrations include services such as Twitter and OpenSocial) so it will be interesting to see if this develops into a Facebook-like social networking product or if becomes something that is adopted in the same fashion that e-mail and web pages have become a part of everyday digital living.

Many of Google's projects have essentially laid the groundwork for widescale web-based computing to be made possible; Google Wave is the latest brick in leveraging the power of their network applications. If we take a look at the products that Google has released, the picture is coming together as the holes in their software catalog are filled; in many ways what Google is providing is not product at all, but a service, and Wave strikes me more as an addition and integration to the services they already provide (e-mail, mapping, chat, rss reader, YouTube, etc). Just as Twitter and Wikis exploded onto the scene a few years ago, I suspect the same will be true of Wave.

3 Colas with real sugar


Some years ago, soda companies began substituting sugar with High Fructose Corn Syrup; this changed the sweetness of the soda, and soda companies began a campaign introducing their "new formula". Currently, due to consumers becoming more aware of the abundance of HFCS in products, many soda companies are now reformulating their sodas to use sugar instead of HFCS. Jones Soda made the transition last year, switching over to using Pure Cane Sugar, and currently Pepsi is testing two products: Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback, which uses natural ingredients and sugar.

Mexican Coke, which uses real sugar, is available at some Costcos and mexican restaurants. The texture of the Coke with sugar is different than with HFCS -- it's less sticky and syrupy, and a lot less sweet than HFCS Pepsi.

While I'm not really a fan of Pepsi, their new Pepsi Throwback, which is made with sugar instead of HFCS is a good product that I hope will stick around; at my local Target, it was 2.50 +CRV for a box of 8 in 12 oz. cans. This product is currently available nationwide (and likely for a limited time only).

I also picked up a package of Red Bull Cola ($4.99 +CRV) for a box of 4. The production of these cans is a bit more involved than the standard cans of Red Bull in that each can features a red tab with a bull cutout. Taste-wise, the Red Bull Cola seemed very sweet, considering that Red Bull Cola uses sugar. Of the three colas, Red Bull Cola was the sweetest, and the foamiest.

It's interesting to see the differences and similarity in ingredients for these sodas:

Red Bull Cola: Water, Sugar, Carbon Dioxide, Caramel Color, Natural Flavors from Plant Extracts (Galangal, Vanilla, mustard seed, lime, kola nut, cacao, licorice, cinnamon, lemon, ginger, coca leaf, orfange, corn mint, pine, cardamom, mace clove), Lemon Juice Concentrate, Caffeine from Coffee Beans. Pepsi Throwback: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Caffeine, Natural Flavors
Coca-Cola (Mexican): Carbonated Water, Sugar, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavors, Caffeine

Notice that the Pepsi Throwback and the Coca-Cola from Mexico share nearly an identical ingredient list; this accounts for the flavor of the two being very similar -- Coca-Cola has a slight bitterness that the Throwback doesn't have, and the Throwback has a sweet aftertaste that the Coca-Cola doesn't have, but otherwise, these two are nearly indistinguishable.

Amazon's Kindle DX

Today Amazon announced their Kindle DX, an oversize version of their e-reader. Primarily aimed at the textbook and newspaper markets, the Kindle DX is in many ways a Kindle 2 with a much larger screen. The Kindle DX has a display size of 9.7 inches and a built-in storage capacity of 4GB, storing up to 3,500 books. Additionally, the Kindle DX comes with a built-in PDF reader, and the ability to rotate the Kindle into landscape mode. The Kindle DX is only available for pre-order now, and will begin shipping out in a first come, first served basis.

Some of the interesting UI choices they've made is a some button rearrangements as well as changing the shape of the keyboard keys (the keys are now oval instead of round). While the DX is certainly a step ahead of the second version of the Kindle, and the willingness of 60% of college textbook publishers to put titles on the Kindle is certainly a step ahead in the right direction of creating digital versions of their textbooks, at $489, it's quite expensive for a e-reader, and partially out of the budget of most college students, and the paperback-sized 6-inch Kindle 2 is $130 cheaper for nearly the same feature set. However, conversion of 1300 PDFs over the lifetime of the device for reading would more than make up for the cost difference.

The hit Nickelodeon TV Show Avatar: The Last Airbender, is being remade into a live action movie.

As in typical Hollywood style, an ethnic cleansing of the casting list has been performed, with the main roles being filled by Caucasians, despite the fact that the animated world of Avatar: The Last Airbender is highly Asian influenced and inspired, exists largely without caucasians. In many ways, this is similar to the whitewashing that occurred with Sci-Fi Channel's adaptation of Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea series, which introduced new characters within the story and filled the majority of roles with caucasians.

Comedian Margaret Cho wrote about The Last Airbender in her blog:

    I am never surprised when Hollywood takes a story with Asian characters and casts white people instead of Asians. This is so typical and happens with such frequency! I always thought that in order to make our presence known in entertainment, we should be writing, bringing our dreams and realities to the cinema, but now even telling our own stories isn't even enough.
    Why is it better to have white actors play the roles of Asians? I don't understand. Because it sells more tickets? I am not white and I have had no trouble selling tickets. Maybe the powers that be should ask me what to do. I would tell them. "The Last Airbender" is the last straw to a lot of people. is a non-profit group of fans who are opposing the racial discrimination in the production of this film, and quite recently had merchandise which was protesting the casting actions removed from the Zazzle store, even in cases where the merchandise was only text printed on a T-shirt.

Artist Derek Kirk Kim has asked for fans to write to Paramount and call for change, as well as a boycott on the movie:

    So if you're someone who believes in equality--if you want to see all of America reflected in our world's most popular and influential narrative art form--I implore you, particularly if you aren't Asian yourself, to write a letter of complaint to Paramount or show your displeasure in some form. If you have a blog, please post something to shame the producers of this film or feel free to distribute my little essay here. Especially if you're a professional in the arts or entertainment industry. With a strong enough voice, perhaps we can force them do what's right by recasting this movie. And lastly, if this effort fails, please boycott this film when it's released in the summer of 2010. Let Paramount and the rest of Hollywood know that this kind of blatant discrimination isn't acceptable to us. Not just for Asian Americans, but for all minorities in our country who never see themselves reflected in our country's media.
Comic Writer/Artist Gene Yang on The Last Airbender:
    To be clear, I don't believe that director M. Night Shyamalan and the other creators of Paramount Pictures' The Last Airbender movie are motivated by intentional racism. They probably just want to make the most entertaining (and profitable) summer blockbuster they can, the best way they know how. But intentionally or not, they are adding another chapter to Hollywood's long, sordid history of Yellowface. By giving white actors roles that are so obviously Asian - and by stating from the get-go their preference for Caucasians - they tell Asian-Americans that who we are and how we look make us inherently inadequate for American audiences, even in a movie that celebrates our culture. Like the schoolboy who pulls up the corners of his eyes at his "Oriental" classmate, they highlight our otherness.
    The way I see it, Mr. Shyamalan and Paramount Pictures now have an opportunity to take responsibility for the old wounds they've re-opened. Whether and how they do so will reveal quite a bit about their commitment to the source material, their understanding of their profession's history, and the respect they have for their audience.
Personally, I think Paramount should have learned from Fox's recent production of Dragonball Evolution that racial recasting rarely has good results.

It seems to me that Hollywood is stuck on the idea that they can make a successful movie by replacing the ethnic characters with white actors. They keep trying and trying, and thankfully they've met with minimal success thus far (mostly because other things about the film were failures, it was not solely due to casting choices). Of course, I can't imagine the flipside taking place in Hollywood conference rooms where the white management is complaining that all the stories they are getting don't have white characters in them.

The Hunt For Gollum

The Hunt For Gollum is an 40 min unauthorized fan film, inspired by the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien. The whole movie is available for free online viewing starting today in HD (or at a lower resolution