Computer Games and Hollywood Movies

It is amazing how much computer games influence our society. It’s often said that art mimics life. This is true in many regards, but sometimes life mimics art. Consider many of the science fiction type movies that have a common theme, and a common foundation of the computer game phenomena. Computer games have obviously only been around since such electronic devices have been available. It’s still a rather new industry, and just think, 30 years ago people didn’t have personal computers, therefore they didn’t play games on those computers. See my point?

The other day, I went to see the movie “Battleship” and the movie had some great special effects, and some of the futuristic technology war game computational radar screens, which looked very much like the electronic version of the family game “Battleship” and so you see computer games in Hollywood movies also have quite a bit in common along the lines of their foundation. Screenplay writers often weave into their storyline such gaming technologies, albeit taken to the next level. It is my contention that we should expect this trend to continue are off into the future, if not motivate humans to create that future.

Some say that computer games are a conspiracy theory to get young kids interested in fighting wars electronically, controlling mechanical weapons and combat equipment far away. It stands to reason that in the future these skills will be needed, and those kids that played video games all of their lives will most likely be the ones at the controls of our future fighter planes, stealth bombers, and unmanned ground vehicles. Today your kids might be playing the video game, tomorrow they might be working for the Department of Defense defending this great nation.

Without getting into the heart of that debate over the morality of such issues, you can see that the Hollywood script writers do indeed believe that this will be our potential eventuality in the future, and they are duly writing those scenarios into the movies we are watching today. We all know that the science fiction of today will become the science fact of tomorrow. Perhaps a lot of that is occurring in the entertainment world, as it is being introduced to our society and civilization in this way.

Now then, I would like you to stop and think for a moment how many Hollywood movies that you’ve seen in the last few years that have a computer gaming theme. I think when you do that, you will see exactly what I’m talking about. In fact, if you want to help jog your memory, go onto Google or Yahoo and search “Hollywood science fiction movies with computer games,” and you’ll be surprised how many movies pop up, and when you watch some of those trailers you will see just what I’m talking about. Please consider all this and think on it.

From American Expatriate in China To Hollywood Movie Deal – With Alan Paul, Author of Big In China

Moving to China with a job waiting for you around the corner is one of the more familiar routes to take as a newly arrived expatriate, but what happens when you leave home with not so much of a salary guarantee but a sense of adventure? And what kind of willpower does it take to start a cross-cultural blues band that tours China, and later honored as 2008’s Best Band in Beijing?

Author Alan Paul heeded the call of a lifetime when his spouse was appointed China bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal, an event that sent his New Jersey family of five packing and heading for China’s capital. The freelance journalist seized the overseas opportunity to play music with local Chinese musicians, write an award-winning column for the online Wall Street Journal, all the while raising his three children to be culturally aware global citizens.

When Paul returned home to pen one of the best, if not the most entertaining memoirs of expatriate life in China in recent memory, he didn’t just leave a lasting impression on his readers. Hollywood director Ivan Reitman of Ghostbusters fame picked up on Paul’s story and purchased the rights to the memoir, currently in movie pre-production. With regards to the movie, Paul explained, “I want China to be captured, as accurately as possible, and the experience of living as a Westerner in China, and the experience of living abroad… and that it’s all true to the complicated realities of life.” In an interview with AsianTalks, Paul recounts not just three years of magical thinking, but also plenty of doing that involved reaching across the aisle and befriending his Chinese counterparts. Here’s our conversation with a man of action.

AT: Alan, since you’ve published, you’ve also become something of an American expatriate ambassador to China. Do you feel you have played a bridge role?

(Laughs) Well thanks! There’s maybe a bridge role in two different respects. One is just for the expat world to the non-expat world. I think I helped demystify the whole concept of living abroad, and I think there’s obviously plenty of us who have had similar experiences. I feel that first through the column, and more so through the book and the subsequent publicity from the book, I was able to demystify that concept of who we are and what that whole experience is like.

And I think to a certain extent I was able to do the same thing for China. My column was translated into Chinese and I’m now completing some rewrites for the Chinese translation of the book, which I’m really excited about. I do think that with the column being translated, and now hopefully with my book next, I was able to break down some barriers of Chinese perceptions, misperceptions, and confusion about Americans.

AT: So your street runs both ways. You’re not just interpreting China for an American audience, you’re actually doing the reverse as well.

Yes I am! I certainly was doing that throughout with my column, and I’m really, really excited about the book coming out in Chinese to continue and further that. The Wall Street Journal has a great Chinese-language website, which has a large and growing readership, and obviously people in China who are reading the Journal are a select group. I mean it’s a large group, but obviously it’s educated people who are interested in Western things, and in many cases work with Westerners, or even with American or other Western companies, and didn’t always understand, you know, what made us tick, so to speak. So (via the column) they sort of understood Western life. There had been a lot of mystery – and a lot of confusion – about what we were really thinking, and what we were doing, and how we felt about China, so I provided some insight into that. I’ve always taken that role seriously, and try to do justice to it, going both ways.

AT: One of the highlights of your book is about reaching across the aisle to your Chinese counterparts. How did you take that proactive step? Do you have any advice for expats in your situation looking to make Chinese friends?

Well, I think in terms of advice, it really depends where you are in life, and where you are living, if you have kids. I think if you are a single person it’s a lot easier because you’re in control of your life and you can go out and do things, and maybe live in a more Chinese area and what not.

If you have kids, and you’re committed to them adapting, you have to make maybe more of an adjustment towards just helping them, so we lived the lifestyle a little bit differently, or definitely a bit differently than we would have if we hadn’t had kids. And so if you are in that kind of setting like you are starting out in the expat bubble, I think the first step towards not remaining in it, is to really, when you arrive somewhere, doesn’t have to be China, or wherever you are, to seek out friends in a social circle of people who are not living in that bubble.

I found that one of the interesting things about expat life to me is that it’s a lot like college, and so when you arrive an expat, you are like a freshman in college! Who you associate with has a huge impact, and I think it’s the same in college. So if you’re talking specifically about China, and some of the stuff has really gotten easier, and it had gotten easier by the time I left, compared to when I arrived, and it just continues to be more so, but you know there are certain people who would just always be complaining, because the Internet connection was slow, or it took a long time to get something fixed, and you know, I would sort of be more of the attitude like, “Hey you’re in China. You have Internet. That’s pretty cool.”

AT: So armed with a positive attitude about life in China, you began making inroads into involving yourself more in Chinese life. Could you tell us about the circumstances that brought you together with your Chinese band members, some of your closest friends? And what bonded you together across cultures?

It all happened when I met Woodie (Wu), because I had this broken guitar. At that point I had been in Beijing for a year, and I hadn’t made that key relationship that started opening it up, but I had been open to meeting other people, I was already quite close with my Chinese teacher, and I was getting out and about into Chinese life as much as I could, so that when I met the right person who turned out to be my good friend, I was sort of ready. I was open to it. So I think that’s really the key: it’s to be open to it, and not to limit yourself, because sometimes people put limits on themselves that don’t have to be there.

In terms of what brought us together, humor can have a lot of cultural barriers, and part of my humor is, it’s more subtle, and just kind of laughing at the absurdities of situations. And I don’t think my band members always totally got that. But I think the more time I spent with them the more they understood that, and you know, the more we would engage in just this normal kind of goofy humor, and even pranks that any group of friends or bands would do, like putting a ‘Kick Me’ sticker on someone’s back. (Laughs) That type of broad, silly stuff we did do. Things like that.

AT: Your Chinese band members are obviously some of your closest friends, but now with the book, and your column, you now have a global Chinese audience who’s learning about Americans through your life experience. What have they said about your book, and your story?

I think what a lot of people responded to in the book wasn’t necessarily what I anticipated that people would. And it was a lot about family, and my dedication to my family, to my children and my wife, and also to my father, who was a character in the book, and gets ill. That struck a chord with a lot of Chinese readers.

Traditionally for the Chinese the family is very front and center, in life there, and that’s been under attack a bit for various reasons. But I think there’s still a very heartfelt love of family. So a lot of people responded to my reaction to my father being ill. I mean, that was really important for me to have in there, but I didn’t necessarily expect that to have quite as much resonance as it did.

Africa – Destination Point For Shooting Notable Hollywood Movies

“Mister Johnson”, a novel by Joyce Cary was converted to a film. The movie was partly shot in Nigeria and was released in 1991. It was directed by Bruce Beresford and starred Mister Johnson (Maynard Eziashi), Harry Rudbeck (Pierce Brosnan of the James Bond 007 fame- Die Another Day (2002 amongst others), Waziri (Femi Fatobi), Brimah (late Chief Hebert Ogunde), Ajali (Sola Adeyemi).

Hollywood movies shot in African countries are carried out to recreate events that occurred at one time or the other (in a country, its people, or life of an individual) or simply because certain Natural sceneries are considered ideal as the setting for original / adapted works.

“The Ghost and the Darkness” (1996), starring Valkimer, Michael Douglas, was based on a true story in1898 with regards to Man eating lions which killed the men laying the Railway tracks. It was shot in South Africa. “King Solomon’s Mines” (1950) starring Deborah Kern and Stewart Granger was shot in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo and the U.S.A. “Congo” (1995) directed by Frank Marshall was shot in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda.

“A Far Off Place” (1993) was shot in Namibia and Zimbabwe, “Sheena” (1984) was filmed in Kenya, “Black Hawk Down” was shot on location in Sidi Moussa, Morocco. “Blood Diamonds” (2006) directed by Edward Zwick, starring Leonardo Di Carprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly, was shot in South Africa and Mozambique. “Tomb Raider” was filmed in Kenya, “Out of Africa” starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford was filmed in Kenya and was based on a true story.

“The Last King of Scotland” (2006) directed by Kevin MacDonald, starring Forest Whitaker, was filmed on location in the U.K and Uganda. “Hotel Rwanda”, was a true life story about Paul Rusesabagina, a Hotel Manger who hid Tutsi refugees from the Hutu militia during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It was filmed in Johannesburg, (South Africa), and Kigali (Rwanda).

Unfortunately the movie “Tears of the Sun” (2003), starring Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, was not filmed in Nigeria as most thought since it projected a Nigerian story line. It was shot in Hawaii with Non- Nigerians playing the native roles in the movie.

The Northern African countries have been known to host the shooting of popular movies. Jesus of Nazareth, Lawrence of Arabia, Othello, and The Gladiator were shot in Morocco. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, and The English Patient were shot in Tunisa.

The movie “Phat Girlz” (2006) had a spicy, romantic, Nigerian undertone to it with the presence of Dr Tunde Jonathan from Nigeria, played by Jimmy Jean-Louis. The movie was filmed on location in L.A / California U.S.A and at no time was any scene filmed in Nigeria. The average Nigerian might be puzzled over the consistent preference for a few selected African countries, with Nigeria excluded from the filming location list, despite being endowed with abundant Human and Natural resources.

Good image, International exposure of great Tourism spots, creative stories spun around us, safe and conducive environment to shoot in, willingness to extend hands of fellowship brokering into good partnership deals, support from relevant Government bodies, can stimulate the interest of Hollywood film makers(and those from other movie bodies) to come to Nigeria to shoot movies.

Let’s consider the hit film “Slumdog Millionaire” which was directed by Danny Boyle, produced by Christian Colson, and filmed in India. It portrayed the Indian version of the Game show “Who wants to be a Millionaire?” (Ironically we have the Nigerian version actively sponsored by Telecoms giant MTN). In the movie, the Show plays host to a poor young man from the slums of Mumbai, who relies on his experiences to answer the questions correctly, exceeds people’s expectations, arises the suspicion of the game show host and law enforcement officials in the process based on his outstanding performance, with the juicy package within his reach.

To say the least, the movie was shot in India, woven around an Indian plot and played by Indian thespians. The movie won an enviable number of Oscars, and has opened greater doors for Indian thespians (adults and children alike) with its Industry inclusive. I hope that our local Industry will not fold their arms and adopt a lackadaisical attitude, and watch as other movie bodies harness the products of a symbiotic relationship with the trail blazers of movie productions.

So long…[email protected]

Doomsday 2012 – Mayan Prophecy Turned Hollywood Movie Or Eighth Event to End the World?

The hype cycle of the film “2012”, working full tilt, about the Earth’s impending destruction has been so powerful that Nasa representatives have been shunted out to appear on American talk shows to reassure viewers that it simply that: hype. However, they have far from soothed the general public’s propensity for panic.

The timing of its release has been impeccable, with only a few weeks left before the Climate Conference in Copenhagen convenes. It is said that the conference, although unlikely to reach international agreement due to perceived unfairness over the burden of responsibility facing the undeveloped world, is essential and that the world’s governments must reach a consensus so that a Copenhagen Protocol can be agreed upon, thereby committing all nations to reduce carbon emissions dramatically to prevent further instability over “global warming” and climate change.

On the ground, however, public concern about doomsday in December 2012 has grown exponentially and is spreading internationally, causing almost mass hysteria. Indeed, some Mayan and Nostradamus believers, who predict Earth’s ultimate extinction in three years’ time, assert that this date will be the dawn of a new age and “spiritual growth” for survivors. Jokingly, a recent New York Times article mocked these soothsayers with: “It is kind of depressing if you were looking forward to taking a vacation from mortgage payments to finance one last blowout.”

Today, there are literally mountains of conspiracy theories that inhabit YouTube on the subject, most of which suggest an alignment between the Sun and the centre of the galaxy that will bring about a “radical event”, with maximum emission activity storms on the Sun’s surface which will pour out massive subatomic particles, known as neutrinos. All of this, astronomers say, is objectionably absurd, akin the putative black hole at CERN. Moreover, they argue, the Sun and the galactic centre will not coincide, as doomsday theorists would have us believe, in 2012.

The essence of this end-is-nigh school of thought is tied in with predictions that Nibiru, a planet supposedly discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth. The fallout from this, to paraphrase David Morrison, a CSI Fellow and Senior Scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, is that associated attributes to this event encompass a reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field, create severe solar storms associated with the eleven-year solar cycle, cause the reversal of the Earth’s rotation axis, long with bombardment by large comets or asteroids, and with a fanciful bit thrown into the mix about the Sun aligning with the galactic centre on December 21, 2012, subjecting us to potentially deadly forces.

This now populist theme, based on the Mayan calendar and ways to survive the coming apocalypse, seems to be causing havoc with the minds of the irrationalists and the huge hordes of the psychologically unhinged. According to one website, many people in Russia are saying they are “anxious by problem Nibiru”, with one woman asking: “Why doesn’t your government put a ban on the TV shows and report telecasting about Nibiru and 2012. If [the] US can [take steps] to protect the world physically from terrorism, why can’t it protect us mentally from [this] news, if they are hoax?”

If it’s clearly a hoax, then mentally we should ignore it. However, according to Wiki: “There are a variety of popular beliefs about the year 2012. These beliefs range from the spiritually transformative to the apocalyptic, and centre upon various interpretations of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. Contemporary scientists have disputed the apocalyptic versions.”

Whilst the film’s impact on the human psyche is building up to the “event” in 2012, let’s not be too hasty about denying the affects of climate change altogether though. While the world’s leaders assemble in Copenhagen next month, James Lovelock, a respected voice in the scientific community, said in an article in The Guardian newspaper, “Enjoy life while you can”, and talks about the catastrophe that will “inevitably happen” (for the full article see ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2008/mar/01/scienceofclimatechange.climatechange ). For interest’s sake, let’s look at some of the extracts:

“Working alone since the age of 40, Lovelock invented a device that detected CFCs, which helped detect the growing hole in the ozone layer, and introduced the Gaia hypothesis, a revolutionary theory that the Earth is a self-regulating super-organism. Initially ridiculed by many scientists as new age nonsense, today that theory forms the basis of almost all climate science.”

Lovelock has been dispensing predictions with consistent accuracy since the 1960s, which have earned him “a reputation as one of Britain’s most respected – if maverick – independent scientists.”

“His latest book, The Revenge of Gaia, predicts that by 2020 extreme weather will be the norm, causing global devastation; that by 2040 much of Europe will be Saharan; and parts of London will be under water. The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report deploys less dramatic language – but its calculations aren’t a million miles away from his.”

“Somewhat unexpectedly, Lovelock concedes that the [Daily] Mail’s plastic bag campaign seems, ‘on the face of it, a good thing’. But it transpires that this is largely a tactical response; he regards it as merely more rearrangement of Titanic deckchairs.”

Then the pièce de résistance: “There have been seven disasters since humans came on the Earth, very similar to the one that’s just about to happen. I think these events keep separating the wheat from the chaff. And eventually we’ll have a human on the planet that really does understand it and can live with it properly. That’s the source of my optimism.” Why then, I plausibly ask, after seven “events” already, weren’t we the source of our ancestors’ optimism?

However, seven disasters already of this magnitude? Is he saying that the micro disaster scenario, that is to be debated by the world’s leaders next month in Copenhagen, is a complete waste of time? Well, I suppose he is, yes.

He argues in the piece that: “Most of the things we have been told to do might make us feel better, but they won’t make any difference. Global warming has passed the tipping point, and catastrophe is unstoppable. It’s just too late for it. Perhaps if we’d gone along routes like that in 1967, it might have helped. But we don’t have time. All these standard green things, like sustainable development, I think these are just words that mean nothing.”

In this quote there is no allusion to a cyclical macro pattern, but in his interview with The Guardian newspaper ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/video/2009/apr/22/james-lovelock-gaia-space-biochar ) he reiterates the coming of the “Eighth Event”: “Don’t forget that in the Earth’s history, while humans have been on the planet – that’s about a million years – there have been seven major climate events of this kind. And I think the geneticists say that at one of those events, we were reduced to a mere two thousand individuals; a genetic bottleneck. If that is true, then they are very violent events indeed. And the one up ahead looks every bit as violent, if not more so than the ones that have happened in the past…”

He continued: “As soon as the system grows unstable, it goes into positive feedback. And as the positive feedback strengthens, then any small perturbations, in either direction, get amplified. So the tendency to cooling will give you a really cold winter,” he suggests. “More extremes are likely because the system is becoming stressed.”

While the greenists run about suggesting that we all plant trees to alleviate the impact of climate change, he warns: “This is the trouble with climate science and green actions: they theorise all the time and never do experiments. Now, people have seemed to have forgotten that experiment and observation are at least half of science.” When he planted 1,000 trees years ago he found out it really wasn’t a good idea at all, because “you can’t plant an ecosystem”.

So, while the film “2012” is an obvious and clever marketing hoax – one that is based on the exploitation of human fear in return for quick returns – dig a little deeper into both the micro level (Earth’s biosphere) and the macro level (the course and interaction of all celestial bodies) and the conclusion is that we really haven’t got a clue about what could potentially become reality; unless, of course, you believe in the stern warnings of Mr Lovelock.