Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kate Middleton, Emma Watson and Four Loko: Hot topics for November 18, 2010

Three new items today, this time from an upcoming movie (Emma Watson), an upcoming royal wedding (Kate Middleton), and an energy drink (Four Loko).

Emma Watson presumably shows up because of her appearance as Hermione Granger in the upcoming Harry Potter movie.  I haven't been able to bring myself to read the HP books: first, I am still peeved at Rowling for going after fan websites for "copyright infringement", but more importantly, from what I have read in excerpt and in summary, I just don't like her sort of writing.  She breaks at least some of Lawrence Watt-Evans' laws of fantasy; at the very least the second, fifth, and sixth.  As far as I can tell, in her books magic is used almost entirely as a macguffin to advance the plot or to create a desired effect, rather than being an integral and necessary part of the fabric of the universe against which the characters interact.  (Contrast the role of magic in LWE's Ethshar books, which I adore, or in his equally excellent Dragon trilogy.)  I also don't like the racist and classist overtones in her writing.  Also, like so many fantasy novelists, I have caught the glimmer of what I call "superman disease": as a series like this progresses the main characters become increasingly powerful, with experience and time, forcing their opponents to be equally inflated so as to make for interesting conflicts.  This typically results in each book ending with some massive conflagration, only to be outdone in the next book by an even more massive conflagration.  (This does make for good movie material, admittedly.)  For another example of this, see Raymond Feist's Riftwar saga, although I think he did well in recovering from that with the later Serpentwar saga, set many years later with entirely new primary characters.  Avoiding this basically requires the author to create a complete and consistent universe in which many stories with different characters can be set; this is far harder than just creating a handful of characters and just enough of a universe for them to move around in.  Another reason I like Lawrence Watt-Evans. 

Kate Middleton is, for those who don't follow the British royalty, Prince William's recently-announced fianceĆ©.  Royal-watching is not one of my major pastimes, but apparently both the dress she wore and the ring William gave her are hot items on the "celebrity replicas" market.  Ok, whatever. 

The last item, Four Loko, is of somewhat more interest: it's one of those caffeinated alcoholic beverages that the FDA has been going after of late.  Four Loko is apparently the first such beverage to be decaffeinated in response to the FDA's effective ban on the addition of caffeine to malt liquor beverages.  One has to wonder if this will also apply to Cuba Libres or to Irish coffee.  Then again I don't think anyone sells a premixed Cuba Libre or Irish coffee (nor would I want to drink such a thing), and besides those are made using distilled spirits instead of malt liquor.  Frankly I find energy drinks revolting; while I have no problems with caffeine (I have three or four cups of rather strong coffee a day, and also occasionally drink Mountain Dew or Pepsi when I can find the 'throwback' formulation made with sugar instead of corn syrup), one of either guarana or taurine (I know not which) has a flavor which is nearly vomit-inducing for me.  So I'm not going to cry any tears over the loss of these products.