Actresses in Greenface

Two years ago some people were upset that Zoe Saldana had to wear green body paint for her role in Guardians of the Galaxy, citing a history of Hollywood requiring black actresses to wear body paint to exoticize them or emphasize their otherness.

Oops…sorry, meant to insert a picture of Zoe Saldana as Gamora but that’s actually Rachel Nichols in her role as Zoe Saldana’s roommate in 2009’s “Star Trek.” Just a minute…

Oops…sorry again. That’s not Zoe Saldana. That’s Karen Gillan, in her role as Zoe Saldana’s adopted sister in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Maybe I should just move on…

Now those same people are upset that the movie “Warcraft,” which opens in theaters on Friday, features another actress of color, Paula Patton, in greenface.

No, wait, that’s Anna Galvin who’s also in the movie. Hold on…

No, that’s Clancy Brown. Maybe I should get my eyes checked.

Okay, that’s Rebecca Romijn and I’m not going to apologize because it’s Rebecca Romijn in blue body paint and very little else and…and…what was I saying? Oh yes.

Gamora, the character Zoe Saldana played in “Guardians of the Galaxy” has been green since she first appeared in 1975. Which means she’s been green longer that Zoe Saldana has been alive.

Garona, the character Paula Patton plays in “Warcraft,” has been green since the first Warcraft video game came out in 1994. She hasn’t been green longer than Paula Patton has been alive but she has been green since long before anyone even thought there might be a Warcraft movie with an actress of color playing her. Now orcs in general have been green long before Paula Patton was born so there’s that.

Contrary to what the easily offended might think, this is not a case of racist Hollywood slapping body paint on black actresses just for the hell of it. This is a case of Hollywood casting black actresses in roles that would require body paint no matter what race the actress was.

People need to recognize that Hollywood has undergone a technological evolution that makes it easier to produce superhero, science fiction, and epic fantasy movies which opens the door to actors portraying mutants, aliens, fantastic creatures, and other characters that may come in colors that are not standard for the human race. Right now we’ve got the Marvel franchises, the DC franchises, the Star Trek franchise, and the Star Wars franchise pumping out movies and/or television shows as fast as they can. Social Justice Warriors need to decide if they want more diversity in movie casts or if they want to reserve extra colorful character roles for white actors like Jennifer Lawrence, Kelsey Grammer, and Alan Cumming. You can’t have it both ways.

My Third Party Manifesto

With yet another election around the corner I am once more seeing people posting about how if people vote Libertarian it will allow the wrong people to win the election. Well I’ve held my nose and voted “strategically” for years and that hasn’t worked out too well. That’s not terribly surprising when you remember that when you vote for the lesser of two evils you still vote for evil. So these days when it comes to voting for non-Libertarian candidates I have some criteria.

  • If your party has passed ballot access laws to make it difficult for third party candidates to get on the ballot, I will not vote for your party.
  • If your party has filed lawsuits to keep third party candidates off of the ballot I will not vote for your party.
  • If your party has worked to keep third party candidates off of the ballot while attacking another party for disenfranchising voters I will not vote for your party.
  • If your candidate refuses to engage third party candidates in public debate even when one of those candidates is polling well enough to affect the outcome of the election I will not vote for your candidate.
  • If your party has recently told a significant portion of its own base to sit down and shut up I will not vote for your party.
  • If your party is unwilling to meet me half way by adopting at least some Libertarian positions I will not vote for your party.
  • If the best argument your party can present to convince me to vote for them is that they suck slightly less than the other party, I will not vote for your party.
  • If your party tries to browbeat me into voting for your party, I will not vote for your party.

The major parties make a big deal over the importance of nominating “electable” candidates. By “electable” they mean politicians willing to compromise party ideals on issues in order to attract voters who will not otherwise vote for the party. If the major parties are unwilling to adopt parts of the Libertarian platform to win votes then obviously they don’t really believe they need Libertarian votes so why should I vote for them?

Comics History: Why Is Gamora Green?

While looking up information on the Guardians of the Galaxy movie I came across a claim that the movie is racist because they painted Zoe Saldana green to highlight her “otherness.” I can’t help but wonder if that means the movie is also racist for painting Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, and Josh Brolin, among others, assorted colors? In any case I thought it might be informative to take a little look at comics history to understand why Gamora is green.

First let’s look at a comic convention: aliens are often drawn as humans with odd colored skin and one or two minor cosmetic differences like pointy ears, antennae, one eye, funky chins, etc. In this comics mirror television and the movies though they do it for different reasons. They do this on television and in the movies because, ultimately, aliens are played by human actors and until the relatively recent advent of high quality CGI, attempts to make human actors look inhuman tended to look fairly cheesy. They do this in comics because comics are produced on a regular schedule and it’s easier, and thus faster, for artists to draw human figures, which they have a lot of experience drawing, than a bunch of weird, outlandish, alien figures.

Gamora first appeared in the June 1975 issue of Strange Tales which makes her 3 years older than Zoe Saldana. In that very first appearance she was green. She was also sexy, wearing a fishnet body stocking with a neckline that plunged to below her navel. Comics fans may be nerds but they still like their women to look human.gamora

Gamora is the last of an alien race known as the Zen Whoberi. The rest of her species had been exterminated by the Universal Church of Truth, a religious empire composed of diverse alien species and led by the Magus who, it is worth noting, is purple.


As a child Gamora was found by Thanos, who adopted her as his daughter and trained her as an assassin so that she could one day kill the Magus. Thanos, it is worth noting, is also purple with a funky chin.


In their quest to defeat the Magus, Gamora and Thanos allied with Adam Warlock, an artificial human and a Christ-figure destined to become the Magus unless he could find a way to alter his own timeline to prevent the Magus from ever coming into existence. Adam Warlock, it’s worth noting, was a golden color.


Rounding out our merry band of heroes was Adam’s friend, Pip. Pip was easily the most Caucasian member of the group. This was not a compliment to Caucasians.smPip

So, in conclusion, Gamora is green because she’s always been green, not because they want to make Zoe Saldana look alien.

Comic Book Adaptations

Someone said today that they thought I hated all movie adaptations of the comics when I said I liked Man of Steel. In response I thought it might be interesting for me to post lists of movies I thought were good, mediocre, and bad adaptations of comics. I will note that I am only listing properties where I have both read the comics and seen the movies. For example, I loved Kick-Ass but I’ve never read the comic so I can’t comment on the movie as an adaptation of the book. I will also note that these movies are being listed in roughly alphabetic order rather than how good or bad I think they are.

The Good

  • The Avengers
  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • The Crow
  • The Dark Knight
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • Hellboy
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  • Iron Man
  • Man of Steel
  • The Mask
  • Mystery Men
  • The Rocketeer
  • Sin City
  • Spider-Man
  • Spider-Man 2
  • Superman
  • Superman II
  • Watchmen
  • X-Men
  • X2: X-Men United
  • X-Men: First Class

The Mediocre

  • Batman
  • Batman Begins
  • Constantine
  • Daredevil
  • Ghost Rider
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Iron Man 2
  • Judge Dredd
  • Swamp Thing
  • Thor

The Bad

  • Batman Returns
  • Batman Forever
  • Batman & Robin
  • Catwoman
  • Elektra
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  • The Green Hornet
  • Hulk
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • Spider-Man 3
  • The Spirit
  • Supergirl
  • Superman III
  • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
  • Superman Returns
  • X-Men: Last Stand

The Blame Game

In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting people have rushed to place blame for what happened. I’ve noticed that where people lay the blame depends on what convenient scapegoat they can find that they’ve never liked and won’t be inconvenienced by if it’s banned. Right now the primary targets are guns, video games, and violent movies but in the past the scapegoats have included things like comic books, rock & roll music, and Dungeons & Dragons.

This blame is assigned without regard to the facts. Guns must be to blame because Britain and Japan have strong gun control laws and they don’t have this kind of violence. We’ll ignore Switzerland where people have easy access to military assault rifles, and I mean actual military assault rifles and not “military-style assault weapons,” and yet the Swiss violent crime rate is also low suggesting that easy access to firearms is not the problem. Violent video games and movies must be to blame because they desensitize us to violence while conditioning us to commit violent acts. We’ll ignore all the other countries in the world where they play the same video games and watch the same movies and yet don’t go on violent rampages.

Let me tell you where I place the blame. Back when I joined Facebook I did what a lot of people do. I “friended” a lot of my old college friends. About a week after reconnecting with one woman she made a snide comment about having just learned that her tennis partner was a fan of Ann Coulter. At the time I thought it was kind of tacky to be talking about the woman behind her back but I know Coulter is a polarizing figure so I just sort of shrugged it off. What happened next shocked me. Other people started posting some fairly vile, hate-filled comments about this woman that they clearly did not know. One man even said he’d like to whack her in the knees with a baseball bat. Most shocking to me was that my “friend” was clearly okay with this outpouring of hatred directed at a woman who probably thought she was her friend.

Since then I’ve seen many such occurrences from people ranging all across the political spectrum. When faced with someone whose beliefs differ from our own, all too often we don’t try to understand their point of view or engage them in a meaningful discussion of the issue. Instead we seek to demonize and dehumanize with hateful accusations that have no basis in reality. That way we don’t have to defend our own points of view much less consider the possibility that we’re wrong and they’re right. The thing is, our children learn by observing us. When we behave in a hateful manner we teach our children to behave in a hateful manner.

So if you’re looking for someone or something to blame for violence in our society, I suggest you start by taking a moment to look in the mirror and seriously reflect on what you’ve been teaching your children.

Assault Weapons: What Are They?

I’ve noticed when talking about gun control that there seems to be some confusion about what an assault weapon is and why it should or should not be banned. I thought it might be helpful to provide people with a side-by-side comparison of two semi-automatic firearms, one an assault weapon, the other not.

The gun on the left is an Intratec DC-9. The gun on the right is an Intratec AB-10. If you think they look a lot alike, that’s because they are basically the same gun. I mean that literally. The AB-10 is a DC-9 with a few cosmetic changes that don’t have much effect upon the operation of the gun. Both are cheap, mass produced weapons that fire the same caliber bullet from the same magazines and both guns are equally easy to convert to full automatic fire with the exact same parts. Yet one weapon was banned as an assault weapon and the other wasn’t. Why?

The Intratec TEC-9 was based on a prototype of a 9mm submachine gun developed for military applications. When they were unable to find a government buyer the company began production of a semi-automatic version for the US market where the gun proved popular with those wanting a cheap gun with an intimidating look.

Following the Cleveland School Massacre of 1989, California took measures to define and then ban assault weapons. Their definition was largely based on cosmetic factors in the apparent belief that guns are somehow more dangerous if they look dangerous. For example, one of the criteria for determining if a firearm is an assault weapon is if it accepts a detachable magazine outside of the pistol grip.

In order to circumvent California’s Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, which banned the Intratec TEC-9 by name, Intratec modified the TEC-9 into the TEC-DC9, the “DC” standing for “Designed for California.” The only difference between the TEC-9 and TEC-DC9 was that rings for a sling were moved from the side of the gun to a detachable metal clip on the back of the gun. That, along with a name change, was sufficient to circumvent California’s ban on assault weapons.

The TEC-9 and it’s variants such as the TEC-DC9 were also banned by name in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. Again the ban was based largely on cosmetic factors that had little to do with the actual functioning of the gun. To circumvent the AWB Intratec merely removed the barrel shroud, eliminated some threading on the barrel, and renamed the gun the TEC-AB10.

If this gives you the impression that assault weapon bans are useless, well, that’s because they are. Bans on guns simply because they look dangerous plays well in the press because politicians can pose with dangerous looking weapons and pretend they are doing something about violent crime. The reality is that bans based on cosmetic factors are easily circumvented by simply changing a gun’s appearance without making it any less lethal.

De-Cluttering a Cluttered Life

My parents’ washer and dryer are probably 10-15 years old and I can tell that the drum bearing on the washer needs replacing. Given their age I’ve decided it would be better to replace them than repair them. Which has placed cleaning the utility room at the top of my priority list. It’s an interesting experience. Like much of the house it’s sort of a miniature archaeological dig through the strata of my family’s history.

The top stratum consists of towels from my parents’ condominiums. When the management company replaced the towels in the units, my parents elected to keep the old ones rather than throw them away. I, on the other hand, have little compunction about getting rid of them. They are a symbol of my parents’ inability to get rid of anything that might conceivably be of use to them at some unknown point in town.

The next layer is old clothes belonging to me. Not sure why these are down here instead of up in my closet but given that it’s stuff I probably haven’t worn in 25+ years, I have no problem getting rid of them as well.

There’s a layer of baby clothes that were presumably worn by my brother and me. I don’t seem to be in any danger of having a baby anytime soon and I doubt my friends would be interested in them. Besides, there have probably been a few safety-oriented improvements in baby clothes since I wore them. Out they go.

There’s a layer of things that belonged to my grandparents. Not just clothes but stuff like dish towels and lace doilies and the like. I can understand my parents not wanting to get rid of the stuff. I feel a bit of nostalgia myself when I look at a particular hat that belonged to my grandmother. But my parents did the same thing I would do with the stuff. Shove in an out of the way corner and never look at it again, leaving it for my heirs to do something with it.

If there’s a lesson to be learned here it’s that we go through life accumulating things that we continue to hold on to long past the time we should. It feels so much better to clean out the clutter from time to time, getting rid of what we no longer need. Do you want to live with piles of things you have no use for or do you want to thoroughly clean house from time to time and have a home that you can enjoy to the full? I know what my answer to that question is.

In Memoriam: Anna Beth Vaglienti

Since my mother’s passing, people have been asking me if I’m going to hold a memorial service for her. It’s something that I’ve been conflicted about because while I can see there is interest in one, neither my mother nor I have ever really been the sort to host big events. When my father passed last year she considered having a service here at the house for just family but in the end chose not to have one at all.

This last week I was in San Antonio collecting her things from the nursing home. While there I stayed with my aunt and one day we drove over to Austin to see my cousin. The three of us found a quiet place to sit and there we shared spiritual readings while thinking of my mother. I think she would have liked that and it’s the only memorial service I intend to hold for her. I did want to share the readings I brought with others though.

I actually looked these up a few days before her passing and had been looking forward to sharing them with her at Easter. As head usher for my church, it is my duty to mail out the usher’s schedule for the month but I’d been lazy and hadn’t sent one out for April. We start each usher’s meeting with readings but since I hadn’t sent out the schedule, I hadn’t assigned anyone to bring any for the first Sunday of April. On such days I try to bring readings myself from one of Mary Baker Eddy‘s works; usually either Science and Health with Keys to the Scriptures or one of her other works. On this particular day I picked up Prose Works and opened it to a random page, trusting Divine Mind to guide me. I found that I had opened the book to a section of No and Yes that I thought was perfect for Easter. In fact, I liked the readings so much that I was looking forward to sharing it with my mother the next time I saw her. Unfortunately I never got the chance but I thought I could at least share them with her friends.

(No and Yes 35:24-36:26)

Jesus came announcing Truth, and saying not only “the kingdom of God is at hand,” but “the kingdom of God is within you.” Hence there is no sin, for God’s kingdom is everywhere and supreme, and it follows that the human kingdom is nowhere, and must be unreal. Jesus taught and demonstrated the infinite as one, and not as two. He did not teach that there are two deities, — one infinite and the other finite; for that would be impossible. He knew God as infinite, and therefore as the All-in-all; and we shall know this truth when we awake in the divine likeness. Jesus’ true and conscious being never left heaven for earth. It abode forever above, even while mortals believed it was here. He once spoke of himself (John iii. 13) as “the Son of man which is in heaven,” — remarkable words, as wholly opposed to the popular view of Jesus’ nature.

The real Christ was unconscious of matter, of sin, disease, and death, and was conscious only of God, of good, of eternal Life, and harmony. Hence the human Jesus had a resort to his higher self and relation to the Father, and there could find rest from unreal trials in the conscious reality and royalty of his being, — holding the mortal as unreal, and the divine as real. It was this retreat from material to spiritual selfhood which recuperated him for triumph over sin, sickness, and death. Had he been as conscious of those evils as he was of God, wherein there is no consciousness of human error, Jesus could not have resisted them; nor could he have conquered the malice of his foes, rolled away the stone from the sepulchre, and risen from human sense to a higher concept than that in which he appeared at his birth.


The spiritual interpretation of the vicarious atonement of Jesus, in Christian Science, unfolds the full-orbed glory of that event; but to regard this wonder of glory, this most marvellous demonstration, as a personal and material bloodgiving — or as a proof that sin is known to the divine Mind, and that what is unlike God demands His continual presence, knowledge, and power, to meet and master it — would make the atonement to be less than the at-one-ment, whereby the work of Jesus would lose its efficacy and lack the “signs following.”


This Truth is the rock which the builders rejected; but “the same is become the head of the corner.” This is the chief corner-stone, the basis and support of creation, the interpreter of one God, the infinity and unity of good.

In proportion as mortals approximate the understanding of Christian Science, they take hold of harmony, and material incumbrance disappears. Having one God, one Mind, one consciousness, — which includes only His own nature, — and loving your neighbor as yourself, constitute Christian Science, which must demonstrate the nothingness of any other state or stage of being.

Diet Tip: Read the Label

If you want to lose weight one of the first things you need to do is to start reading the label. Not just at the grocery store but also at restaurants. Many restaurants now provide nutritional information for their dishes which will help you make smart choices about what you eat. If the restaurant doesn’t have something you can look at there, check their website, if they have one, before you go.

A perfect example of this can be found at Pei Wei Asian Diner. Since beginning my diet I have tended to gravitate towards salads on the assumptions that they will be healthier than anything else on a restaurant’s menu and at Pei Wei that means I get the Asian Chopped Chicken Salad. Only when I looked at Pei Wei’s nutritional information it turned out that the salad wasn’t quite as healthy as I’d assumed. Like all of Pei Wei’s dishes, a single bowl is considered two servings and each serving contains 410 calories with 28 grams of fat. That means that the Asian Chopped Chicken Salad contains more fat than any other dish at Pei Wei except for the Mandarin Kung Pao, Sesame Steak, and Orange Peel Steak. So much for the salad being the healthiest choice on the menu. Now looking at the nutrition chart you’ll see they also have a line for the salad without dressing which reveals that most of the Asian Chopped Chicken Salad’s fat and calories comes from its sesame-ginger vinaigrette dressing. So the salad with no dressing is actually pretty healthy. If you have to have dressing on your salad consider asking if they’ll substitute the lime vinaigrette, which has less fat, for the sesame-ginger dressing.

Another place I like to eat is Red Robin Gourmet Burgers where I frequently get the Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad. Now I knew it has some unhealthy things on it but still, its salad so how unhealthy can it be? A visit to the Red Robin website today told me. The Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad is 870 calories with 55 grams of fat, about the same as Pei Wei’s Asian Chopped Chicken Salad. Their Apple Harvest Chicken Salad is slightly better at 812 calories and only 44 grams of fat. Still too much fat. What about their Simply Grilled Chicken Salad? Surely that is healthy? Well, with 2 oz. of lite ranch dressing it’s only 670 calories and 32 grams of fat. That’s better but it is still my entire daily allowance for fat. Does this mean it’s impossible to eat healthy at Red Robin? Not at all, you just have to pay attention. For example you can get the Ensenada Chicken Platter and as long as you don’t use the salsa-ranch dipping sauce its only 535 calories and 18 grams of fat. Similarly you could get the Blackened Chicken Sandwich, asking for a whole grain bun, no mayo, also for 535 calories and 18 grams of fat. (Just don’t forget to also substitute a side salad, no dressing, or melon slices for the bottomless fries.)

Where available always look at a restaurant’s nutritional information. It will help you make smart choices in what you eat. An informed decision is always better than one based on assumptions that may or may not be correct.

The Non-Diet Diet

I’m posting this as a way of keeping myself honest. It’s easier to stick with a diet when other people know I’m cheating.

I need to lose weight. I need to lose a lot of weight and that means I have to start watching what I eat. I’m not interested in fad diets because they’re generally not how you’d want to eat for the rest of your life. You go on a fad diet, you lose the weight and you get off the diet and return to your old eating habits and put all the weight you’ve lost back on. Better just to cultivate healthy eating habits that you can maintain for the rest of your life.

Losing weight really isn’t rocket science. It comes down to a basic equation. If calories consumed are less than calories burned you will lose weight because your body will have to burn fat or muscle to make up the difference. This is why you can even lose weight on the Twinkie Diet. Ultimately it is the principle that all diets rely on even as they make claims about adjusting your metabolism to burn more fat or whatever.

To reduce my caloric intake I am looking to reduce the amount of fat, starches, and sugars that I consume. Note that I said reduce, not eliminate. Many of us consume way more of these things than we need. To reduce fat ideally I’m looking to consume less than 20g a day but if I can keep it under 30g I’ll be happy. Additionally no food that I eat should get more than a third of its calories from fat. Fried foods are right out. To reduce starches I’m staying away from rice, potatoes, corn, and bread. Reducing sugar means staying away from sweets and sugary drinks.

One day of the week I am allowed to cheat. It’s easier to resist breaking your diet if you can tell yourself you can have whatever you’re craving in a few days rather than never again. In my case that day will be Saturday. On Saturdays I frequently have at least one meal with friends and this way they won’t have to accommodate the way I eat so we can have pizza or whatever people want to have. I’ll also make exceptions for traditional holiday meals like Thanksgiving dinner.

I’m also trying to accommodate the way I prefer to eat. I like food to be convenient. If it’s not a special occasion I don’t want to spend a lot of time on preparation and clean up. I have a bad habit of eating when I’m bored which I’ll have to watch out for. I also have a tendency to eat for pleasure which I’ll also have to keep in check as a lot of those kinds of foods contain a lot of fat, sugar, or both.

I won’t be weighing myself every day because that tends to be discouraging as you never lose weight as fast as you’d like to. Instead I will be concentrating on how my clothes fit.

And that, I believe, covers the basics of my Non-Diet Diet.