Sunday, March 31, 2013

ACI: A New Way Of Measuring Pretentiousness

(By Calvin Trillin,, Jan. 13, 2012)

When I entered the nearly empty bar near Grand Central, I was unsurprised—and, I’ll admit, rather pleased—to see, sitting on the stool he’d occupied when I was in the bar some months before, the mature gentleman who had told me that the economic crisis was inevitable once smart people started taking jobs on Wall Street. (“Our guys would have never invented credit default swaps,” he’d explained. “They couldn’t have done the math.”)  I settled myself a few stools away, but I did nod; in return, he lifted his martini in my direction as a sort of understated toast. He was dressed, as he’d been the other time I saw him, in gray trousers and a tweed jacket and a blue button-down shirt—none of which differed from what could have been purchased in close proximity to a New England college campus in 1959. Again, he was wearing a club tie. This time, it appeared, from my vantage point, to be decorated with tiny artificial-heart valves.

No sooner had I ordered a drink than we had occasion to exchange glances that communicated dismay: Three men who were sitting at the other end of the room had begun discussing wine in voices that seemed intended to enlighten oenophiles who were strolling past Rockefeller Center.  The man at the end of the bar nodded in their direction and said, “Among people who think of themselves as wine connoisseurs there’s a 61 percent ACI.”  I was puzzled. “What’s an ACI?” I asked.

He lowered his voice a bit, as if he was about to use somewhat offensive language and wanted to make certain no women (he would have said “ladies”) were in ear-shot. “Asshole Correlation Index,” he said.  I said, “You mean that 61 percent of people who talk a lot about wine are—”  “Correct,” he said, before I could finish. “That’s not even particularly high, as these things go. That means that nearly 40 percent of people who think of themselves as wine connoisseurs are people who have learned a lot about wine for one legitimate reason or another and are not pretentious about it. Those guys over there are in the other 61 percent, I’d wager. When they get through analyzing a few pinot noirs that they wouldn’t actually be able to tell apart, they’ll probably turn to cigars or single malt scotch. People who spend a lot of time discussing both cigars and single malt scotch, by the way, have a 78 percent ACI. That’s high—much higher than connoisseurs of either one singly. If you add wine to those two, it’s off the charts.”

“But how do you arrive at these ratings?” I asked.  “I have my methods,” he said. “You’ve seen those World War II movies where the German line officer is talking to the downed American pilot in a room where a blond guy in a long leather coat is sitting silently, and the officer is saying, ‘I hope you’ll agree to tell us what we want to know. If not, Herr Mueller here has his methods.’ Well, think of me as Herr Mueller.”

“But aren’t you stereotyping people?” I asked.  “Only a certain percentage of them,” he said. “For instance, what do you think when you see a guy who’s wearing a blazer over a sport shirt, and the shirt is unbuttoned nearly to the navel? What’s your first reaction?”  “Creep,” I said.  “Not me,” he said. “I think 93 percent ACI. Admittedly, that’s high. It’s one of the highest ACI’s on record. It’s 25 points higher than the ACI for males who wear designer jeans and 12 points higher than males who wore Nehru jackets or bell-bottom pants in the ’70s. But it still leaves room for the 7 percent who have their shirts unbuttoned for some reason that makes perfect sense—maybe a skin condition that requires them to keep air circulating across the chest hairs at all times. So you might say that the ACI is a device that allows some people to be a bit more tolerant than some other people—no offense.”

That sounded disturbingly logical. Also, although I wasn’t quite ready to say so out loud, I’d been thinking that a 93 ACI for the guys with unbuttoned shirt was a bit low. Also, I happen to have in my safety-deposit box a list of people I know who wore Nehru jackets in the ’70s.  “Or take the example of East Hampton, a community known for its luxurious summer homes,” he went on. “I believe you were once overheard to say that anybody who could take a bicycle ride around East Hampton and not be turned into a Marxist by the hedges—just the hedges—can be considered safe for capitalism.”

“How did you know what I said about the hedges?” I asked.  “I try to keep up,” he said, as if it were perfectly normal to keep up with the conversation of someone he’d seen only once before. “At any rate, the ACI for people who live behind particularly imposing hedges is 61—coincidentally, the same as the ACI for people who talk a lot about wine. Of course, people who live behind the hedges and also talk a lot about wine have an ACI of 82. I haven’t calculated yet how much that goes up if they also take their winter vacations in St. Bart’s during the party season there, but there’s definitely an increase. These things mount up.” 

At that moment, we both realized that we had finished our drinks. “I’ll get this round,” the man said.  “No, I’ll get it,” I said. “I insist.”  “People who insist on getting the check have a 57 percent ACI, because a number of them are show-offs,” he said.  I threw up my arms in surrender. He signaled the bartender to bring us each another drink, and said, “That’s 9 percent higher than the people who always seem to let someone else get the check.”  “The next round’s mine,” I said.


Control Freaks

(By Harry McCracken, Time Magazine, Jan. 09, 2012)

Hollywood has long specialized in artfully managed, highly profitable scarcity. A new film debuts in theaters. Months later, it arrives on DVD, Blu-ray and pay-per-view. Next, on premium channels like Showtime. When the flick finally gets sliced to smithereens on some basic-cable station, you know that pretty much every last nickel has been squeezed out of it.  Reinventing this time-tested business model for the Internet age hasn't been easy. Increasingly, consumers want to watch whatever they want whenever and wherever they choose, on an array of gadgets--TVs, PCs, smart phones and tablets. Studios and networks are working to make that happen, and despite the pesky holdouts (no American Idol, no regular-season NFL), the proportion of programming that's available online has never been higher. At the same time, content owners remain cautious about doing anything that might cause too many folks to switch off prime time, stop buying DVDs or quit paying for cable.

In 2012 the way we watch TV will continue to be shaped by these conflicting agendas--innovation tempered by paranoia. "A lot's going to change," says Phillip Swann, president of the industry news site "And it's all going to stay the same."  Just look at Netflix. The company that crushed the once mighty Blockbuster by mailing DVDs and dispensing with late fees now has more than 22 million customers streaming movies and TV shows over the Internet. Netflix has made its way onto more than 700 kinds of devices, including HDTVs, game consoles, smart phones and tablets. It's also on middlemen like TiVo and the sandwich-size Roku, which offers access to tons of channels via the Internet.  Netflix is starting to view premium-cable channels as archrivals--and to act like them too. To shore up subscriptions, it is helping produce exclusive content, including an Americanized remake of the BBC series House of Cards in 2012 and new episodes of the canceled cult favorite Arrested Development in 2013. It will also start streaming DreamWorks cartoons before their cable debuts.

Netflix's new ambitions help explain why Starz terminated its distribution pact with the streaming service, a decision that will deprive Netflix subscribers of Disney and Sony releases starting in February. It's also why HBO (a subsidiary of this magazine's parent company, Time Warner) is adamantly uninterested in selling such shows as Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones to Netflix or Hulu, the streaming service that's a joint venture of all the major broadcast networks except CBS.  But the cable companies that aren't playing nice with third-party streamers like Netflix aren't trying to undo Internet TV; they're launching their own watch-us-anywhere services. HBO is ramping up HBO GO, which puts its current programming lineup and past seasons onto PCs, smart phones and tablets. Starz says it's working on something similar. Comcast offers 65,000 on-demand choices from its Xfinity TV website and apps combined. And since none of these companies want to encourage consumers to dump cable TV altogether, they are making their Internet services available exclusively to people who pay for conventional cable. Cut the cord and the Net services go away too.

The broadcast networks' attitude toward online distribution is almost as passive-aggressive. In August, Fox started protecting its prime-time-ad revenue by delaying free Hulu availability of its shows until eight days after their broadcast debut. Don't be startled if other networks, which currently put shows on Hulu as soon as 24 hours after their initial airing, make similar moves in 2012.  Get ready, too, for Hollywood to introduce you to a technology called UltraViolet. Backed by all the major studios except Disney, it lets you buy a movie on DVD or Blu-ray and then unlock a digital copy for streaming and downloading. A handful of UltraViolet titles are already out, at the same price as standard discs; many more will appear this year.

With no single video service offering anything close to a comprehensive selection, hardwaremakers are left trying to stitch multiple content deals into a coherent whole. Microsoft's recent software update for the Xbox 360, for instance, features ESPN, Hulu, Netflix, Verizon FiOS TV and other services, with more on the way. But the most interesting thing about the Xbox as a TV device isn't the wealth of stuff to watch. It's the pairing of Microsoft's search engine and spoken commands, like "Xbox Bing Breaking Bad," to help you hunt down a particular show.  All this fractured abundance can leave you pining for Internet TV that's genuinely easy to use. Even Apple, the grand master of simplification, hasn't introduced an iPod-like breakthrough. Its Apple TV box suffers from some of the same content and usability challenges that other products do.  Still, rumors persist that the company is building its own HDTV for release as early as fall 2012. A tantalizing passage in Walter Isaacson's book Steve Jobs, in which Apple's genius confides that he's "finally cracked" the code for making TV simple, has put the rumor mill into overdrive.  So for all the intriguing things that other companies are doing, many industry watchers are going to spend 2012 obsessing over unannounced, possibly imaginary Apple products. Steve Jobs may be gone, but the notion that he might yet transform TV is alive and well.



The End Of Cash

The End Of Cash
(By Deirdre van Dyk, Time Magazine, Jan. 09, 2012)

Walk into a store, submit your shopping list, and a map directs you to the peanut-butter-brittle ice cream you crave. When you get to the front of the line, just bump your phone on the reader and you also get a discount via an e-coupon you've downloaded. Or scan pictures of the lasagna, salad and French bread you want for dinner from a Safeway ad as you wait for the train and pick up the bag on your way home. This is the year the surging popularity of the mobile wallet--a smart phone that also acts as credit card, checkbook and shop-bot--will radically shift shopping habits. It's the biggest thing in retail since the credit card got us talking about a cashless economy. The driving force is communication: cash can't communicate, but phones can. Your alarm clock, radio, camera, landline and GPS, even your laptop, have already been displaced by your phone. Why not the $69 and four credit cards the average American carries? "Everything eventually migrates to the cell phone," says Scott Ellison, an analyst with IDC who tracks the mobile industry. "And when it moves, people tend to do a lot more of it."

Tammy Lam, 26, a p.r. executive in San Francisco, uses her T-Mobile HTC myTouch phone to pay for just about everything. "I ordered dinner from my local Thai on GrubHub while sitting on the bus on the way home from work last night. I bought all my Christmas presents on my phone. When friends and I are out, we use Groupon to buy a meal," says Lam, who uses her phone instead of her computer for shopping even when she's at home. And she prefers it to cards or bills when she's out. "I hate cash," says Lam. Lam is an early adopter, but there are enough people like her to set off a mobile-wallet war that will escalate this year, converting billions of dollars' worth of transactions to cashless in the $4 trillion retail economy.

Google, the company that changed online search, just launched Google Wallet in partnership with Citibank, MasterCard and Sprint's Nexus S 4G phone. PayPal, the company that solved secure online payment, will announce 20 partnerships this year designed to allow you to order ahead, self-check-out in stores and simply use your phone number and a PIN to pay for purchases. Isis--a Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile wallet with Visa, AmEx, Discover and MasterCard partnerships--launches midyear in Salt Lake City and Austin. Visa's own virtual wallet, V.Me, is also on deck. "Anything with an on switch could be a payment device," says Anuj Nayar, PayPal's communications director. And of course, everyone anticipates a move by Apple, whose stores are already processing sales through iPhones. Apple will announce a wallet this year, predicts Mark Beccue, a mobile analyst with ABI Research. "They have such a loyal following, and they're so vertically integrated--they'll help move everything forward."

Mobile wallets work in different ways. Google and Isis rely on NFC, or near-field communication. Basically, this means the phone and the sales terminal talk to each other. The Subway sandwich chain is installing NFC in about 7,400 of its 25,000 locations; 219 Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores have it up and running; Jamba Juice, OfficeMax, Coke vending machines, even New Jersey Transit trains are set up to take payments with a tap of your phone. Some of the more fantastic aspects of these schemes--like tapping a sign at Home Depot that automatically calls a service rep--require stores to be fitted with NFC equipment throughout, something that hasn't quite happened yet. But the pattern is set. "Consumers expect to use one click to buy just about anything," says Osama Bedier, vice president of payments at Google. "There are no checkout lines online."

Mobile wallets can also be your shop-bot, sniffing out exclusive offers--say, $2 off oatmeal at Jamba Juice as you walk by. Not hungry? Save the coupon to the wallet, which will automatically activate it when you buy your next oatmeal. "Twenty years ago, we had zero need for digital payments," says Bedier. "But today you can't buy a song or a game or an app without them. Increasingly, it will be hard to get a lot of experiences on offer with just cash." There's something ironic about getting your money's worth only if you're not actually using money.

PayPal, with its 103 million account holders and 9 million merchants, is betting on the cloud: store your information and access it from any computer or phone. It has been buying up companies, at least a dozen in the past year, that specialize in bar code readers, inventory tracking or offering location-based deals. And PayPal is working with retailers to put it all together in apps. Like Google, PayPal is building in loyalty cards and coupons and trying to wrap up other capabilities--like skip-the-line checkout at coffee shops, grocery stores and home-improvement centers--before NFC is built in. "There is nothing you can imagine that isn't happening," says Scott Thompson, president of PayPal.

The goal is to reduce friction in retail. To solve the lunch-hour crunch at Pizza Express restaurants in London, for instance, PayPal created an app that allows customers to enter the number from their bill into their phone and then pay without waiting for a server to run a credit card. The potential glitch? If your cell service or wi-fi goes out, so does your ability to pay. Starbucks' app, which has been used 26 million times, allows customers to tap their phone to pay for their triple-venti lattes; mobile payments hit 6 million in a recent nine-week stretch. LevelUp users get their own QR codes they can scan at 1,000 retailers to pay for coffee or pizza. Shop Savvy, a price-comparison tool, has added a buy button. AisleBuyer is a line buster, allowing you to do scan-and-buy self-checkout.

Certainly consumers seem ready to ditch paper and plastic. Every day, apps are launched that accommodate person-to-person transactions, giving you the ability to pony up your share of the rent as well as the ability to skip the checkout line. And 32 million banking customers are managing their money very comfortably on cell phones. Chase alone moves $3 billion a year on mobiles with an app that allows you to deposit to checking via a cell-phone photograph or pay friends for your share of the moo-shu pork by phone transfer. PNC Bank's app allows you to move money from one account to another by sliding your finger along a bar. The future of mobile transactions has already arrived--in Africa. In a market with few banks and even fewer ATMs but with a cell-phone network that makes the U.S.'s laughable by comparison, mobile banking is the standard. In Kenya, 18 million M-Pesa users now move 20% of the country's GDP via simple text messages. Pretty impressive for a program that started in 2007.

This Christmas season is a window on the mobile wallet's development. Salvation Army Santas used mobile phones to take payments, there were 500% daily jumps in mobile sales on PayPal, and customers pulled out their cell phones to check reviews and compare prices in stores in never-before-seen numbers. Amazon even offered $5 off to customers who scanned a bar code in a store--so Amazon could offer a lower price on the same item. This "scan and scram" behavior infuriates brick-and-mortar retailers, who fear they are simply being used as a showroom for online retailers. They may be right--but consumers now have a price-discovery tool that gives them more power, and they aren't going to give it up.

Our comfort and routine with cash and credit cards have been barriers of a sort. But mobile payment could jump the fence and move faster than anyone expects. When Haiti was hit by an earthquake in 2010, the Red Cross raised $32 million, $10 at a time, via text. Ultimately, mobile payments made up 7% of the money raised for Haiti. "We call it the game changer," says Roger Lowe, the charity's spokesperson. "If they say people aren't already using their phone for payments, I have 32 million reasons to believe they are." Mobile-payment platforms could power social movements too. WePay, an online-payment system that helped the Occupy movement raise $680,000, will launch mobile capabilities in the summer.

The mobile wallet, predicted to be worth $12.5 billion this year according to ABI Research, is about not just the Minority Report--style cool-retail factor but also practical things like ... money. "The consumer will save money, in part through deals that are based on past purchases, not just random offers. And they'll get better financial control," says McKinsey's Philip Bruno. But on an everyday level, the mobile wallet's big promise may lie in the little problems it can solve. "If it's a busy lunchtime and I can preorder and prepay at Chipotle, skipping that long line," says Charles Wilson, who helps companies with social-media strategies, "then it's a godsend." Or as Ed McLaughlin, head of emerging payments at MasterCard, says, cash will never go away but will only become less useful. "Cash is going to be like the postage stamp. If you aren't used to using it, it won't make a whole lot of sense why one would.",9171,2103289,00.html

The Most Dangerous Thing In Your Wallet
(By Bill Saporito, Time, Feb. 10, 2014)

A thin magnetic stripe is all that stands between your credit-card information and the bad guys. And they've been working hard to break in. That's why 2014 is shaping up as a major showdown: banks, law enforcement and technology companies are all trying to thwart a network of hackers who are succeeding in swiping account numbers, names, email addresses and other crucial data used in identity theft. More than 100 million accounts at Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels stores were affected in some way during the most recent attacks, starting last November.  Swipe is the operative word: cards are increasingly vulnerable to attacks when you make purchases in a store. In several recent incidents, hackers have been able to scoop up massive troves of credit-, debit- or prepaid-card numbers using malware inserted surreptitiously into the retailers' point-of-sale system--the checkout registers. Hackers then sold the data to a second group of criminals operating in shadowy corners of the web. Not long after, the stolen data was showing up on counterfeit cards and being used for online purchases.

The solution could cost as little as $2 extra for every piece of plastic issued. The fix is a security technology used heavily outside the U.S. While American credit cards use the 40-year-old magstripe technology to process transactions, much of the rest of the world uses smarter cards with a technology called EMV (short for Europay, MasterCard, Visa) that employs a chip embedded in the card plus a customer PIN to authenticate every transaction on the spot. If a purchaser fails to punch in the correct PIN at the checkout, the transaction gets rejected. (Online purchases can be made by setting up a separate transaction code.)
Why haven't big banks adopted the more secure technology? When it comes to mailing out new credit cards, it's all about relative costs, says David Robertson, who runs the Nilson Report, an industry newsletter: "The cost of the card, putting the sticker on it, coding the account number and expiration date, embossing it, the little mailer--fully loaded, you are in the dollar range." A chip-and-PIN card currently costs closer to $3, says Robertson, because of the price of chips. (Once large issuers convert en masse, the chip costs should drop.)  Multiply $3 by the more than 5 billion magstripe credit and prepaid cards in circulation in the U.S. Then consider that there's an estimated $12.4 billion in card fraud on a global basis, says Robertson. With 44% of that in the U.S., American credit-card fraud amounts to about $5.5 billion annually. Card issuers have so far calculated that absorbing the liability for even big hacks like the Target one is still cheaper than replacing all that plastic.

That leaves American retailers pretty much alone the world over in relying on magstripe technology to charge purchases--and leaves consumers vulnerable. Each magstripe has three tracks of information, explains payments-security expert Jeremy Gumbley, the chief technology officer of CreditCall, an electronic-payments company. The first and third are used by the bank or card issuer. Your vital account information lives on the second track, which hackers try to capture. "Malware is scanning through the memory in real time and looking for data," he says. "It creates a text file that gets siphoned off."
Chip-and-PIN cards, by contrast, make counterfeits or skimming impossible because the information that gets scanned is encrypted. The historical reason the U.S. has stuck with magstripe, ironically enough, is once superior technology. Our cheap, ultra-reliable wired networks made credit-card authentication over the phone frictionless. In France, card companies created EMV in part because the telephone monopoly was so maddeningly inefficient and expensive. The workaround allowed transactions to be verified locally and securely.  Some big banks, like Wells Fargo, are now offering to convert your magstripe card to a chip-and-PIN model. (It's actually a hybrid that will still have a magstripe, since most U.S. merchants don't have EMV terminals.) Should you take them up on it? If you travel internationally, the answer is yes.  Keep in mind, too, that credit cards typically have better liability protection than debit cards. If someone uses your credit card fraudulently, it's the issuer or merchant, not you, that takes the hit. Debit cards have different liability limits depending on the bank and the events surrounding any fraud. "If it's available, the logical thing is to get a chip-and-PIN card from your bank," says Eric Adamowsky, a co-founder of "I would use credit cards over debit cards because of liability issues." Cash still works pretty well too.

Retailers and banks stand to benefit from the lower fraud levels of chip-and-PIN cards but have been reluctant for years to invest in the new infrastructure needed for the technology, especially if consumers don't have access to it. It's a chicken-and-egg problem: no one wants to spend the money on upgraded point-of-sale systems that can read the chip cards if shoppers aren't carrying them--yet there's little point in consumers' carrying the fancy plastic if stores aren't equipped to use them. (An earlier effort by Target to move to chip and PIN never gained traction.) According to Gumbley, there's a "you-first mentality. The logjam has to be broken."  JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon recently made overtures to do so, noting that banks and merchants have spent the past decade suing each other over interchange fees--the percentage of the transaction price they keep--rather than deal with the growing hacking problem. Chase offers a chip-enabled card under its own brand and several others for travel-related companies such as British Airways and Ritz-Carlton.
The Target and Neiman hacks have also changed the cost calculus: although retailers have balked at spending the $6.75 billion that Capgemini consultants estimate it will take to convert all their registers to be chip-and-PIN-compatible, the potential liability they now face is exponentially greater. Target has been hit with class actions from hacked consumers. "It's the ultimate nightmare," a retail executive from a well-known chain admitted to TIME.

The card-payment companies MasterCard and Visa are pushing hard for change. The two firms have warned all parties in the transaction chain--merchant, network, bank--that if they don't become EMV-compliant by October 2015, the party that is least compliant will bear the fraud risk.  In the meantime, app-equipped smartphones and digital wallets--all of which can use EMV technology--are beginning to make inroads on cards and cash. PayPal, for instance, is testing an app that lets you use your mobile phone to pay on the fly at local merchants--without surrendering any card info to them. And further down the road is biometric authentication, which could be encrypted with, say, a fingerprint.
Credit and debit cards, though, are going to be with us for the foreseeable future, and so are hackers, if we stick with magstripe technology. "It seems crazy to me," says Gumbley, who is English, "that a cutting-edge-technology country is depending on a 40-year-old technology." That's why it may be up to consumers to move the needle on chip and PIN. Says Robertson: "When you get the consumer into a position of worry and inconvenience, that's where the rubber hits the road."


Eden Center’s Vietnamese community worried about image

(By Luz Lazo, Washington Post, 30 March 2013)

Inside the red gateway arch flanked by stone lions, the parking lot just off Wilson Boulevard is jampacked on a recent Saturday. Children play near a fountain where groups gather to savor fruity or coffee bubble tea.  The merchants and most of the patrons speak Vietnamese, and the few non-Asians navigate the sidewalks and shops intrigued by the strong immigrant footprint at Eden Center. The Falls Church shopping plaza is a community gathering spot for many of the nearly 80,000 Vietnamese Americans in the Washington region.  It is a refuge of rice noodles, tropical fruits and Asian spices. People drive for miles to buy the sandwich special at Nhu Lan Sandwich or for dinner at Pho Xe Lua, where the noodle soup tastes as if it came straight from Saigon.

But merchants and community leaders worry that, outside their circle, their home away from home is increasingly viewed as a place for gambling and gang activity- a perception that some business leaders say hurts business and threatens the vibrant social hub.  That impression was reinforced last year when police raided the plaza, said Liem D. Bui, a Springfield resident who visits Eden Center regularly. The Aug. 11 sweep at 13 businesses resulted in 19 arrests on misdemeanor charges that included gambling and alcohol violations. 

At the time, authorities said a gang known as the Dragon Family had been operating illegal gaming machines. Law enforcement officials say that the investigation continues and that they are tracking down gang members with a presence at Eden Center.  But business leaders say that police were insensitive during the operation and apprehended several bystanders. Six cases were not prosecuted, two people were found not guilty, and the rest were found guilty or pleaded guilty, according to authorities.  “Nobody knows exactly who the Dragon gang is,” said Bui, 66, who came to America in 1975 after fleeing the communist takeover of South Vietnam and hosts a Vietnamese news talk show on local public television. Last year’s raids increased the community’s distrust in the police, and some people resented the way the South Vietnamese flag was displayed in mainstream media reports of the raids, he said.

“That flag is the symbol of the spirit of the refu­gee,” Bui said, pointing at the large yellow flag with three red stripes that flies above Eden Center. It’s an emblem of freedom for those who fled Vietnam in the 1970s. “The bottom line is, somehow and somewhere it hurts. It hurts.”  Small stalls and a clock tower at Eden Center evoke memories of the central market in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, but the bustling shopping complex bears little resemblance to Vietnam’s economic center. In a way, though, Eden Center has become an extension of it. 

The businesses, mostly family-owned, started to settle here in 1984. Some of the businesses had been around since the 1970s, starting in areas such as Clarendon and Ballston, but development forced them to reestablish in Seven Corners.  Today, there are about 120 businesses at Eden Center, including a large grocery store and a variety of jewelry stores, bakeries and restaurants.  “It is for Vietnamese [Americans] what Potomac Mills is for other people,” said Joseph Wood, the provost at the University of Baltimore, who has studied the area’s Vietnamese community for decades. “But even more, because on top of being just a place to go shopping, it is a place for socializing in a comfortable kind of way.”  According to Wood, many of the goods sold at Eden Center aren’t available anywhere else on the East Coast. Many Vietnamese Americans have a tradition of spending weekends there. Some come for lunch, grocery shopping or to send money home. Some stay for hours, drinking chilled coffee with richly sweetened condensed milk or lingering over friendly games of chess.

Some shops have been there for decades and have built loyal clientele. Hung Hoang, 48, has cut hair there since the late 1980s. His father immigrated to the United States and established Hoang Tho Barbershop in 1986. The shop has seen three generations of customers, and many longtime clients have become friends of the Hoangs.  “It is Little Saigon of the East Coast,” said John Tran, a Silver Spring resident who has been getting his hair cut at Hoang’s for more than 20 years. “In Vietnam, we had a special spot during the weekend. The same thing happens here again, just like in our own country.”  Tran escaped from Vietnam by boat in 1980. Eden Center, with its traditional foods and streets named for South Vietnamese leaders, such as Maj. Gen. Nguyen Khoa Nam, offers a place of comfort where he and other expatriates can share memories.

It was at the center that Tran unexpectedly reunited with a friend he had made on the boat leaving Vietnam, and they had a chance to relive their rescue at sea and their arrival at a refu­gee camp in Malaysia.  “I made several attempts to flee [Vietnam]. I was captured and put in jail. One time they hit me in the head with a rifle,” Tran, 51, recalled as he talked to Hoang. “We are so lucky. We have so much freedom here. When you live in communism, you have to do what they say, you cannot do what you feel like.”

Concerns about the raid remain. Foot traffic is good, but some business owners say they were already squeezed by the lingering effects of the recession and high rents.  Falls Church officials say that they are working to improve the relationship between the Vietnamese community and the city and that they want Eden Center to be viewed not as a threat but as a cultural treasure.  The city is also working with businesses to provide training on licensing, taxation and how small businesses can maintain success, said City Council member David F. Snyder, who calls the shopping plaza an asset to Falls Church.  “It is a wonderful, unique environment,” he said. “I often say to people, ‘If you want to get a great, wonderful taste of Vietnam without going, taking your passport and spending a couple of thousand dollars on flying . . . just pop in your car and go to the Eden Center.’ ”

Ha Lu, 62, who took over her sister’s sandwich stall at Eden Center 14 years ago, shortly after she arrived in the United States, said she doesn’t make much revenue but is grateful for her loyal customers. Some come from as far as North Carolina and New York for the banh mi sandwiches she prepares, piling meats, cilantro, cucumber, radish, carrot and jalapeno on French bread.  “I feel very happy. I came here to find a job and work very hard,” said Lu, who talks proudly about her two daughters who grew up helping in the business and are now dentists.

David Hay, 41, a resident of Anne Arundel County, is a regular at Ha’s shop. On a recent visit, he and his mother, Julie Hai Nguyen Hay of Prince George’s County, ordered six banh mi subs to go and talked about how the strong flavors reminded them of home.  “We love it,” said Hay, whose American father met his mother while serving in Vietnam. “I try to stay with my culture, my heritage.”

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Verizon, Cablevision Emerge As Unlikely Allies Of Cable-TV Customers Fed Up With Bundling

(By Cecilia Kang, Washington Post, 19 March 2013)

Cable viewers have long complained about paying ever-higher bills for hundreds of channels they don’t want to watch. Now, in a twist, some cable companies are beginning to agree.  Verizon and Cablevision are publicly pressing media companies that own the programming to stop pushing them to distribute unwanted channels and instead offer cable bundles based on what viewers actually watch.  If successful, the efforts could lead to cheaper options for consumers and a sea-change in how the television industry has done business — and protected its profits — for more than two decades.

Such change has become necessary, Cablevision and other cable companies argue, as more Americans cut their cable cord in favor of cheaper Web-based video provided by Netflix, Apple and Today, 5 million households get their television solely from the Internet, up from 2 million in 2007, according to Nielsen.  But Hollywood and media companies have said that breaking up the bundles would lead to the demise of smaller niche programming that does not have mass market appeal.  Analysts say it is too early to tell whether the spat between cable firms and their media partners will lead to lower bills or the long-sought goal of consumer advocates: a la carte TV. Even the federal government has failed in its efforts to persuade the television industry to charge viewers only for what they watch.
The dispute is being closely watched because it has broad implications for consumers, as well as for the way television is funded and created.  “This is the beginning,” said Gene Kimmelman, a former senior antitrust official at the Justice Department. “If the conflict between cable distributors and content owners persists and prices keep rising, there will be enormous market pressure to begin unbundling offerings, give consumers more choices and, from my perspective, ultimately let consumers control what they buy and how much they pay.”  

Late last month, Cablevision took its case to a federal court in New York, suing Viacom — owner of Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, among other programming — for forcing the cable company to buy and distribute 14 channels that are hardly watched (including VH1 Classic and Logo). The penalty for not carrying those channels is more than a $1 billion. The suit was cheered by a host of other cable providers, including Time Warner and DirecTV.  “This anti-consumer abuse of market power is a key reason cable bills continue to rise and programming choice remains limited,” Cablevision said in a news release.
Verizon, the nation’s sixth-largest cable television provider, says it has the technology to measure exactly what people are watching. While it is not part of the lawsuit, the company said it is trying to negotiate new contracts that would allow it to pick and choose which channels it wants to distribute through its Fios service.  “The fact that these cable companies are coming out publicly about their disputes with programmers [is] in itself significant,” said David Kaut, an analyst at investment research firm Stifel Nicolaus. “These developments hold some potential for disrupting current cable TV bundling, and more generally, I suspect the drip, drip, drip of broadband Internet video developments will put market pressure on the bundle over time.” 

Verizon would not say how the new approach would ultimately impact consumer bills.  “The idea of trying to tie content costs to people who watch it makes sense, and that is the gist of this,” said Bob Elek, a spokesman for Verizon, whose Fios service reaches 4.7 million customers.  In a statement, Viacom said, “Cablevision is crying foul over a standard business practice that expands choice and lowers cost for consumers — a practice they use extensively to sell their own services.”  Viacom and other media companies have argued that bundling allows creative minds to start new programming with less risk. The approach seeded channels such as the Food Network and Bravo, which eventually produced the “Real Housewives” series.
The offerings on television now seem endless. On average, consumers watch five to 10 channels regularly, said Jeffrey Kagan, an independent telecommunications analyst. But a cable service can easily pump more than 1,000 channels into the living room. Meanwhile, bills have tripled in cost over the past decade.  Streaming-video services offer more-limited programs at a lower cost and have a growing appeal for younger audiences. In the last three months of 2012, Netflix, the leading streaming-video provider, added 2 million subscribers, bringing its total to 27.5 million. Meanwhile, Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, saw the number of subscribers drop to 21.9 million at the end of 2012, compared with 22.3 million at the end of 2011.

Upstarts such as Aereo are offering live television through streaming Web connections. The practice has drawn the ire of companies such as News Corp., which owns Fox, and Walt Disney, which owns ABC. They and other media firms are suing the company in federal court, accusing it of copyright infringement.  Founded by IAC/InterActiveCorp founder Barry Diller, New York-based Aereo serves more than a dozen markets and won a first round of court battles.  “Aereo is very interesting and could be very disruptive because young people are not as wedded to the cable bundle and increasingly used to getting entertainment online,” said Andrew Schwartzman, a telecom media lawyer.  But Schwartzman cautioned that consumers should not expect cable companies to loosen their grip on their pay models too quickly. And traditional television, for now, still has appeal.  “Just watch, two weeks from now, when the NCAA tournament heats up . . . there will be another reminder of the pull traditional TV has and what a long way there is to go for changes in the industry,” he said. 



Wednesday, March 13, 2013

You Say “Best.” I Say No. It’s Time To Kill The Email Signoff

(By Matthew J.X. Malady,, March 12, 2013)

For the 20 years that I have used email, I have been a fool. For two decades, I never called bullshit when burly, bearded dudes from places like Pittsburgh and Park Slope bid me email adieu with the vaguely British “Cheers!” And I never batted an eye at the hundreds of “XOXO”email goodbyes from people I’d never met, much less hugged or kissed. When one of my best friends recently ended an email to me by using the priggish signoff,“Always,” I just rolled with it. But everyone has a breaking point. For me, it was the ridiculous variations on “Regards” that I received over the past holiday season. My transition from signoff submissive to signoff subversive began when a former colleague ended an email to me with “Warmest regards.”

Were these scalding hot regards superior to the ordinary “Regards” I had been receiving on a near-daily basis? Obviously they were better than the merely “Warm Regards” I got from a co-worker the following week. Then I received “Best Regards” in a solicitation email from the New Republic. Apparently when urging me to attend a panel discussion, the good people at the New Republic were regarding me in a way that simply could not be topped. After 10 or 15 more “Regards” of varying magnitudes, I could take no more. I finally realized the ridiculousness of spending even one second thinking about the totally unnecessary words that we tack on to the end of emails. And I came to the following conclusion: It’s time to eliminate email signoffs completely. Henceforth, I do not want—nay, I will not accept—any manner of regards. Nor will I offer any. And I urge you to do the same.
Think about it. Email signoffs are holdovers from a bygone era when letter writing—the kind that required ink and paper—was a major means of communication. The handwritten letters people sent included information of great import and sometimes functioned as the only communication with family members and other loved ones for months. In that case, it made sense to go to town, to get flowery with it. Then, a formal signoff was entirely called for. If you were, say, a Boston resident writing to his mother back home in Ireland in the late 19thcentury, then ending a correspondence with “I remain your ever fond son in Christ Our Lord J.C.,” as James Chamberlain did in 1891, was entirely reasonable and appropriate.

But those times have long since passed. And so has the era when individuals sought to win the favor of the king via dedication letters and love notes ending with “Your majesty’s Most bounden and devoted,” or “Fare thee as well as I fare.” Also long gone are the days when explorers attempted to ensure continued support for their voyages from monarchs and benefactors via fawning formal correspondence related to the initial successes of this or that expedition. Francisco Vázquez de Coronado had good reason to end his 1541 letter to King Charles I of Spain, relaying details about parts of what is now the southwestern United States, with a doozy that translates to “Your Majesty’s humble servant and vassal, who would kiss the royal feet and hands.”

But in 2013, when bots outnumber benefactors by a wide margin, the continued and consistent use of antiquated signoffs in email is impossible to justify. At this stage of the game, we should be able to interact with one another in ways that reflect the precise manner of communication being employed, rather than harkening back to old standbys popular during the age of the Pony Express. I am not an important person. Nonetheless, each week, on average, I receive more than 300 emails. I send out about 500. These messages do not contain the stuff of old-timey letters. They’re about the pizza I had for lunch (horrendous) and must-see videos of corgis dressed in sweaters (delightful). I’m trading thoughts on various work-related matters with people who know me and don’t need to be “Best”-ed. Emails, over time, have become more like text messages than handwritten letters. And no one in their right mind uses signoffs in text messages.
What’s more, because no email signoff is exactly right for every occasion, it’s not uncommon for these add-ons to cause affirmative harm. Some people take offense to different iterations of “goodbye,” depending on the circumstances. Others, meanwhile, can’t help but wonder, “What did he mean by that?” or spend entire days worrying about the implications of a sudden shift from “See you soon!” in one email, to “Best wishes” in the next. So, naturally, we consider, and we overthink, and we agonize about how best to close out our emails. We ask others for advice on the matter, and we give advice on it when asked. The Internet is littered with articles that examine the strengths and weaknesses of various email signoffs and purport to offer guidance for those who just can’t close the deal. But rather than debating which to use and how best to avoid signoff-related disasters, can’t we all just agree to opt for “none of the above” and finally take comfort in ending our emails with the actual last thing that we want to say?

I realize that, at first, this new, message-minimalist fashion may feel unnatural. But we can do this—together. You see, all those holiday “regards” prompted yours truly to take a good, hard look in the mirror. And what I saw was someone who could not begrudge anyone on the signoff front. Up until this point, I have been far worse than your average offender when it comes to sign off stupidity. I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but my go-to email signoff has always been: “My very best.” There’s no beating around the bush here: That’s awful. I intended it as shorthand for something like,“Until next time, I wish you my very best.” But by beginning the signoff with a word that references me, it comes off as rather self-centered—the exact opposite of what I intended. Plus, it’s confusing. Might some of my friends, co-workers, and acquaintances have believed that, for all these years, I meant not to wish them well but to imply that the preceding note was basically the best I could come up with on the topic at hand?
What a nightmare. But that’s all over now. Things will be different for me from here on out—especially if you join me in slaying the email signoff. And while we’re at it, why stop at the signoff alone? Unless the person you are writing to doesn’t know you, or the two of you have never met, you can do away with your name at the bottom as well. And you can generally leave off your recipient’s name at the beginning, too. Including a formal greeting brings its own manifold headaches: Dear? Hi? Hey? Kill me now. The recipient saw your name in the sender field when she clicked on the email, and she knows her name, too, it’s generally safe to assume. There’s no need for repetition. Remember, we’re streamlining here. All our lives are about to get simpler.

Now, as with any long-overdue movement aimed at upsetting the status quo, our efforts will be met by protestations and bellyaching from the old guard. At the end of phone calls, you don’t just hang up after your final sentence, these sticks-in-the-mud might counter. But of course that’s because you need to know when a phone call is about to end. With an email, you can see the conclusion. No one needs to give you a warning. Shouldn’t there be an exception for formal business communications, or for one’s first-ever correspondence with someone? Aren’t signoffs kind of nice? Don’t they make notes more personal? Without them, wouldn’t email become too detached and impersonal? Maybe. But, to be blunt: Tough. We need a hard and fast rule here, people. We’ve been wishy-washy for far too long, and at a cost of time lost and awkwardness gained. We’ll all get used to scaling things back after a short time. In the end, it will make things easier on everyone. So let’s do this. I’ll go first.
A few days ago, I emailed this piece to my editor as an attachment. It felt good to write the corresponding message: “Here’s the piece on how email signoffs are the worst and why we should get rid of them for good. I hope you like it.” There was nothing more. No “Hello,” no “Take care,” or “Best,” or, heaven forbid, “My very best.” A few hours later, I received the following response: “Looks good. I think you’re onto something here. More soon.” And, for that moment at least, all was right with the world.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Jewel Staite's Blastr Blog

Jewel Staite Reveals Funniest Stargate/Firefly Cast Member + More!
(Jewel Staite, Blastr, 05 March 2013)

Why, hello, Blastr. Something's changed. Did you get a haircut? Lose weight? Get lucky? Whatever it is, you look fabulous.
OMG soooo much has happened since you heard from me last! All right, nothing's happened. My TV show The LA Complex bit the dust, so I'm back to the grind of finding yet another TV show in the vortex of Hell known as pilot season. On any given day, you can find me auditioning to play the role of hot werewolf/petulant lawyer/sexy MD who's in love with her boss/wronged wife/supportive girlfriend of guy in the mob. Eventually they all blend into one and I end up having dreams where I'm giving a court deposition in defence of my mob-surgeon boyfriend while holding a defibrillator and sprouting copious amounts of chest hair.
Sorry, what day is it again?
Suffice it to say, darlings, my wine collection's looking mighty sparse. As these things go, sooner than later the right fit will come along and I'll be back to working a million hours a week, so I'm trying to enjoy this little period of rest by getting pedicures, socializing like a butterfly, doing lots of yoga and making the men that love me pay for dinner (hi, honey!). Oh, and answering your questions, which you so kindly sent my way via Twitter. We're going to go ahead and ignore Michael Shanks' "What are you wearing?" question, because he probably knows it's sweatpants, as well as Paul McGillion's "Is that a glass of red or white in your hand?" question because he knows the answer to this depending on the hour of the day. Let's commence:
If you could go back in time and relive one moment of your life, what would it be and why?
I'd relive that time I decided it was a good idea to eat three bowls of corn with the flu and then threw up corn for a day and now I have a phobia against it and look like a weirdo when I'm at barbecues where everyone's eating corn and I'm breathing through my mouth to keep from gagging. Also, that time I met Matthew Fox and sounded like I was missing brain cells.
Were there ever any romances between cast members on Firefly or Stargate: Atlantis?
Not that I know of. Jason Momoa had the hots for a mirror for a while (rightly so), and Gina Torres always looked at me a little funny, but can you blame her? I'd say the closest I came was the platonic romance between girl and gay best friend that still burns like the flames at a Beyonce concert. You are the Thelma to my Louise, Sean Maher.
How do you keep getting prettier?
Hi, Dad.
Standing in the soul-searing presence of the divine, what boon do you request of her?
"Can I have a side of mayo?"
Name three actors with whom you would love to work with but have yet to work with.
Clint Eastwood, Jodie Foster, Lumiere the candlestick from Beauty and the Beast.
If you became independently wealthy, would you still act?
Yeah. From my yacht docked off the island I own in the movie I'm funding where the plot consists of Channing Tatum dancing for me and my friends for three hours while we guzzle Cristal. Box. Office. Smash.
Which Stargate/Firefly cast member was funniest off-camera?
David Hewlett was unintentionally funny because he would whine and get really grumpy when he got hungry, and I find his grumpy demeanour to be my favorite demeanour. Seriously, next time you see him, try starving him: you'll laugh your ass off. Nathan Fillion was the court jester who would do just about anything for a laugh (and always got one outta me -- still does), but I always found Morena Baccarin to be unexpectedly, hilariously dry. Mostly because she was really uncomfortable in what they made her wear all the time, and when she's uncomfortable, she's pretty grumpy. Grumps make me laugh. That grumpy cat thing circulating all over the Internet is a daily source of amusement for me. Did you see him dressed as the Pope? Hahahahahaha I need a job.
Favorite restaurant?
Mama's Fish House. Transcendent. Decadent. On a beach, in Maui. I also really enjoy In-n-Out Burger and the french fries at a local spot here by the name of McDonalds.
If you could pick one movie for Hollywood to remake with you starring in it, what would it be?
I'm going with a recent pick, so Les Miserables. Because I'm a musical theatre loser nerd who knows every word to Les Mis and I don't care if you hated it, I loved it and would have died to be a part of it. If that takes away whatever cool cred I have left in your mind, then so be it!I AM A NERD! TWO FOUR SIX OH OOOOOOONE!
Paul Newman once said, "Acting is in my blood and I can't ignore it even if I try." Do you feel the same way about your career?
Why else am I driving myself insane through pilot season right now? Sure, the money's peachy and the perks are super fun, but aside from that, it's the thing that makes me the happiest. Really. Even more than burgers and shoes. It's all I've ever done as a job, and it's all I would ever want to do. I adore it, it fuels me, and it gives me a high that is totally indescribable. I'm pretty lucky to have made my passion into a career. I wish that for everybody. 
Okay, I gotta memorize this weepy girl-next-door monologue.
Be good.
xo Jewel
Jewel Staite: My Most Embarrassing Costume, David Hewlett's Teeth + More
(By Jewel Staite, Blastr, 29 October 2012)
Oh hi, Blastr. Guess what? I'm on hiatus from The LA Complex! Which means I get to sleep in every day! And eat whatever I want! And bug you with my idiocy! Aren't you thrilled? Didn't you miss me? (Okay, just pretend like you missed me.)
In all honesty, the past month has been nuts. Besides wrapping up the show and packing up my very well lived-in hotel room, I moved houses in Vancouver and somehow flew around the globe for four conventions in the middle of it all. I'm tired. My friends who helped me move are even more tired. For the rest of the year, my deviant plan is to do nothing but watch a boatload of television from the comfort of my own brand new couch. No more trips. Except one to wine country, maybe. Or Mexico. I dunno. Fact of the matter is, it's time to relaaaaaaaax.
And what's more relaxing than answering your crazy questions? You guys have really lost the plan this time.
1. If you had a time machine and could visit any historical event, which snack would you bring?
WHAT? That's the most ridiculous question I've ever heard! Pringles, obviously.
2. Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?
(I'd like to point out that this question is from someone named Drunken John, which probably means we're related.)
All depends on the size of the duck. Size matters. (Ah—thank you.) I'd say 100 duck-sized horses, only because the bill of that horse-sized duck could do some damage to my money-maker. This is truly a very difficult question best pondered over hallucinogens. I'll come back to this later.
3. What would you do that "Raquel" from The LA Complex would never do?
Apologize. Just joking! I think it's more about what would "Raquel" do that I would never do, which is quite the list. That list is about as long as the list of apologies I have to make.
4. Did David Hewlett ever try slipping you the tongue on set?
Judging by the fact that he still has all his teeth, that would be a no.
5. What qualities do you look for in a guy? Intelligence? Height? Humour? Good Credit?
All of those things are nice. I'm a big fan of scientists. My mother taught me that the geeks shall inherit the earth, and she ain't wrong. But mostly they just have to laugh at my jokes and buy me shoes.
6. What is the alternate vector for a slingshot landing on Venus?
Pretty sure I skipped the class in school that would have given me any inkling of this. So I'm gonna go with Beyonce. Final answer.
7. What's the most embarrassing costume you've ever had to wear for a project?
I wore a rainbow wig once for a TV show that I've never quite lived down. I was 12 then, so I thought it was pretty sick. Now, not so much. Rainbow wig jokes get old when you're 30, which I am not ... So in ten years, those jokes have gotta stop.
8. Death being imminent, would you donate live tissue for cloning? You know, for future Jewelies and Kaylees?
I'd like to keep my tissues to myself, please. The only things I am not opposed to cloning are my cocker spaniel, Maui pineapples and the cast of Magic Mike.
9. You'll be abducted by aliens in 24 hours. You are now invisible, mute, and can teleport anywhere on earth. What do you do next?
Well, robbing banks is kinda moot since the cash isn't going to do me any good on the alien spacecraft. Shopping is sort of pointless since I'm pretty sure alien probing is done in the nude. Also, why am I mute in this scenario? Are you saying I talk too much? And are these aliens ala Contact or aliens ala Alien? Because these things make a huge difference. I'm gonna go with the 1 duck-sized horse.
10. You're called up to join The Avengers. How does the interview go?
Swimmingly, until we pass the wit and repartee part with Tony Stark and move onto the combat portion of the interview, where the Black Widow knocks me out. And then Mal shows up and shoots her in the face.
Okay, nutters, signing off until next time. Be good.
Jewel Staite: Fantasy Comic-Con Auction, Firefly Audition And More
(By Jewel Staite, Blastr, 11 June 2012)
Yep, they're still asking me to do this. How are you, Internets? Miss me?
I've been up in Toronto, the land of ice wine-making, hipster-glasses wearing, "centre of the world"-gloating gorgeous people I've come to know and love, and I'm having just about the best time.
We're smack-dab in the middle of shooting season two of The LA Complex, so I'm in full-on "Raquel" mode, strutting around in more circulation-defying dresses, mocktail in hand, giving everyone the gears and spiralling ever-further into a deliciously deep hole, all for the sake of your viewing entertainment. I'm having the time of my life.
For those of you living under a rock, you can catch up on all six episodes of the first season on Hulu before season two starts airing July 17th. Fair warning: this show gets under your skin like an addictive, dirty, shameful, Iwantitneedithavetohaveit itch. Crack out at your own risk. I hope you love it as much as we love doing it, because as we all know, nothing beats getting paid to do what you love. And boy do I love what I do. Almost as much as I love Channing Tatum.
Since it's been awhile, I figured you might have some especially creative questions to ask me on the old Twitter, and I sure wasn't wrong. I'm gonna go ahead and skip the age-old "When's Nathan going to have you on Castle?" because I figure at this point I'll just wait for the remake. Called Ricki Castle, starring Jewel Staite. Nathan may or may not be asked to guest star. It's all depending on Jason Bateman's availability.
On to your questions:
If you opened an all-you-can-eat buffet, what would you serve there?
Sliders. The only thing better than a cheeseburger, in my mind, is when they're mini. Because you can justify having more than one. And trust me, I can take down a lot of sliders. Also, this slider buffet would be accompanied by copious amounts of prosecco poured by white shirt/black suspender-wearing young Italian gentlemen. I don't care if it doesn't make sense. It's my damn buffet.
When you get a liver transplant, will you auction the old one off at the next Comic Con?
Absolutely. As long as it was packaged in a Tiffany blue box and was auctioned off for more money than Chris Judge's. I promise you, my old one would still work better than his.
Do you prefer innuendo drenched in sarcasm or loaded with pretentious expectation?
What? Sorry, I'm still thinking about the Italian gentlemen. I'm gonna go with pretentious sarcasm on this one I think. Aw hell, any innuendo is good innuendo.
Would "Raquel" audition for the part of "Kaylee" in Firefly? Would she take it if she was offered it?
Raquel would audition for just about anything at this point, but she wouldn't book the part in a million years. "Kaylee" was all heart, and Raquel has a rather massive ugly hole in hers. But she'd campaign like the devil for it anyway. Seriously, I'm pretty sure Raquel would eat a kitten for an Oscar.
What's one thing you want all your fans to know?
That I'm bloody-well grateful for every last one of you. Thank you for sticking with me. That's all you really need to know, and I'm going to keep reminding you of it all the time. I'm extremely appreciative. Also, I'm a 39 1/2 in Jimmy Choo shoes.
Until we meet again, I'll just be over here watching the Magic Mike trailer.
Jewel Staite: Firefly's Kaylee Vs. Stargate's Keller: Who'd Win?
(By Jewel Staite, Blastr, 19 January 2012)
Dear Reader Who's Probably Forgotten About Me Now:
Them was a lotta caps!
So yes, I've been super scarce. It's embarrassing really, all this flitting around the world I've been having to do, for both personal and professional commitments.
Maui for the holidays was all personal, mostly because of the personal beef I had to pick with a mai tai (or ten), followed by an incessant inquiry on just how many surfers it takes to screw in a lightbulb ... Man, oh man, is that a whole 'nother blog. Maui!
But more importantly, I want to tell you what I spent the rest of last year doing, 'cause I'm rather stoked about it, guys. My pal Martin Gero from the good ol' Stargate: Atlantis days wrote six amazing episodes of a little show that had no name for the better part of 2011. But we can now safely say it's called The L.A. Complex, a gritty, edgy, funny, sexy, all-too-real TV series about the goings-on behind the scenes in Hollyweird. Sometimes it hits so close to home, it scares the Versace right off me. But that's what I love about it.
I play a sneaky little vixen named Raquel, a slightly past her ingenue days, a former child star who's itching to get back up to the top and will do just about anything (anyone?) to get there. She's fierce and maybe a teeny bit mental. And I love her. If you're lucky enough to live in the great white Canadian north, you can catch The L.A. Complex on MuchMusic every Tuesday night at 9, but for those of you living in the US and A (it's never too late for a Borat reference!), you can see it on The CW later this year.
And you'll want to, trust me. One word: spaceships.
Okay, there are no spaceships this time, I lied. Lemme try again.
One word: pleather. Just as good?
But what I'm really here for is to answer your questions, as per usual. And some of you are out your minds.
Was there ever a part you really wanted to get? Or one you wished you stayed away from?
Yes. And ohhhhh, yes.
Have you ever done or will you ever do nude scenes?
If I say yes to the former, will you watch The L.A. Complex? Honestly, I'm not opposed to them in general as long as they're not completely gratuitous, and if they make sense and carry the story forward. Having said that, I prefer showing a side boob/cheek than the whole whammy. Basically, I'd rather do something half-assed. No pun intended. Oh, who am I kidding ... Pun always intended.
If you were a stalker, would you be any good at it?
That is a question for Channing Tatum. CHANNINGILOVEYOU
Would you rather be attacked by one horse-sized duck, or twelve duck-sized horses?
I'm worried about you, Morena.
If you were a fruit, what kind would you be and why?
Ever heard of a durian? It's got one heck of a thorny husk, but once you crack it open, it's quite soft and sweet on the inside. It's an acquired taste. Furthermore, it's known as the "king of fruits" in Southeast Asia. And you know how I feel about being likened to royalty.
Kaylee vs. Keller, the ultimate death match: Who wins?
That's kinda like saying "My Little Pony vs. Simon from Alvin and the Chipmunks: Who wins?" But I think it's safe to say Kaylee's friends fight dirtier. So, Kaylee. (P.S.: They also have a cooler ship. I don't care if it doesn't go under water. Think Atlantis can pull a Crazy Ivan? I don't frigging think so.)
What's your beauty routine? You haven't aged a day!
Well, so glad you asked! I'm fanatical about moisturizers and eye creams and facials and all those other freaky things vain people do. Drink water, wash your makeup off, get lots of sleep, blah blah blah. Or just take vacations and treat yourself and laugh a lot. Question for you: What's your address so I can send you the check I owe you?
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if the species that won the race for global dominance had not been us, but woodchucks?
...... Is this Adam Baldwin?
What's your favorite comfort food, both homemade and gourmet?
If you're a reader of Happy Opu (and if you're not, you're dead to me), then you know I'm a big fan of comfort food. I've never met a bowl of pasta I couldn't take down, and me and a meatloaf be likethis. But my very favorite gourmet comfort food would have to be the individual lobster pot pie from Michael Mina in Las Vegas. I may have pounded the table with my fist in blissful outrage with every bite of that stupid pie. I dream about it. Almost as much as I dream about Channing. And as far as homemade goes, I make a mean butternut squash four cheese macaroni. Guys, I'm sort of a dream girl.
What's your favorite thing about Vancouver?
If you've missed last year's news, I've recently moved back to Vancouver, the place of my birth, my subpar education, my dreams, my aspirations, my first fake ID ... What!! Mom, I'm joking! Hahahaha!! I love Vancouver. Every time I'm away for too long, I forget just how beautiful it is. And then on the way into the city from the airport, the downtown core appears with those ridiculously pretty mountains behind it, and I swear my heart flutters. Cheesy, but true. It's laid back and cosmopolitan all at the same time. We've got crazy good restaurants, hot yogis, beaches, ski hills, even our very own wine country a few hours away. Plus, actresses who answer your questions and stuff. I be here, too.
That's all she wrote for now ... Check in with me on the old Twitter for our next rendezvous, dahlings. Muah.
When The End Of The World Comes, Jewel Staite's Hitting The Beach
(By Kathie Huddleston, Blastr, 12 August 2011)
Actors Jewel Staite and A.J. Buckley admit they wouldn't mind if their new Syfy movie, Doomsday Prophecy, had a different title.  "The working title I think was Doomsday Scrolls," said Staite.  When she heard that there were plans to change the name of the movie, "I was like, 'Well, what are we going to change it to? Like Doomsday Octopus? Snakehead Doomsday Terror?' Yes, I was sort of hoping for one of those titles, but obviously it wouldn't make sense," she joked.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), no octopus or snakehead critters pop up in Doomsday Prophecy, which follows the adventures of a book editor (Buckley) and an archaeologist (Staite) who join forces to save the world after the editor gets hold of a device that allows him to see a future geological nightmare that threatens to tear Earth apart. The Syfy original movie premieres Saturday, Aug. 13, at 9 p.m.
Staite and Buckley chatted with journalists during a conference call about their new movie, past projects and what they hope to be doing if doomsday ever manages to become more than a Syfy movie.  "If you're into 2012's coming and any sort of conspiracy, Doomsday Prophecy definitely touches [on those things]," said Buckley. "It's a fun little film. I think people would really enjoy watching it. It's action-packed."  "This is a fun, crazy movie. ... It's a disaster movie. Who doesn't love disaster movies? I know I do. ... It's one of those sci-fi movies that you sit back on a Saturday night with your bowl of popcorn and you zone out and you have fun," Staite said.
"These sci-fi movies are a lot of fun to do. They're a riot. I'd done a sci-fi movie before called Mothman. Everybody knows it. Award-winning," joked Staite. "And I had so much fun on that shoot. I had a blast. So I knew that I was going to have a good time" on Doomsday Prophecy.  When it comes to Buckley's book editor character, "he didn't really know his past, and has had somewhat of a troubled life growing up. Bounced from home to home, but wasn't really connected to anyone that he could remember. And this journey that he goes on, I think, answers a lot of questions for him really quickly. Of course, the end of the world is coming, so he realizes that he's the guy that has to do this. And he needs a partner in crime ... has to be Jewel. I'm like, 'Sweet, this is going to be fun.' And it is our job to save the world."
As for Staite's archaeologist character, "the thing that I like about Brooke is that she reminded me a lot of Dr. Keller, who I played in Stargate: Atlantis. She's very much in her element when she's at work. When she's on a dig, she's totally relaxed. She's very smart, and she's really in her element. But when she's not and she's in these crazy situations, she goes into panic mode. And that's the way I am, too. I don't deal with any kind of peril very well. And it's always really important to me to play that as real as possible," she said.  "I like that she's not a hero. She's a reluctant hero. And at the end of the day, she has to step up to the plate and do what needs to be done," added Staite.
While the actors admit they had a blast when it came to filming Doomsday Prophecy, there were some challenges they faced.  "I get really nervous—A.J.'s going to laugh—I get really nervous around guns. And a lot of the time ... I get put in these sci-fi movies and whatnot where I'm battling various alien races. And they put a gun in my hand and I have to look like I know what I'm doing," she said.  "So for this one, every time a gun was aimed at me, I would go into panic mode, especially since they were giving the gun to Rick Ravanello, who plays Henning in the movie. I mean, anytime you hand an actor—who's not really trained in weaponry—a loaded gun, you get a little nervous, even if it is blanks. I don't care. I definitely had to curb my anxiety somewhat."  Buckley added: "And I think probably my challenging thing is when a gun was pointed at Jewel, I was trying not to laugh, because she was freaking out so much, and we're trying to play the panic. And she keeps freaking out."
Staite, who's a veteran of Firefly and Stargate Atlantis, and Buckley, who's known for his work on CSI: NY and Supernatural's Ghostfacers, agree that they love working on sci-fi projects.  "The more that I've done it, the more that I want to keep doing it. I would love to—like with CSI, whenever that ends — I would love to go into some sort of sci-fi series or thing," said Buckley. "There's unbelievable sci-fi shows that are out there. So I would jump at the opportunity to continue in that world. And going back to what we were saying with the fan base and how much they follow you on that, when you get that love and respect from people it makes you want to continue in that genre and do good work for them."  In fact, he wouldn't mind returning to Ghostfacers, the comic Supernatural take on Ghost Hunters. "To get to do more Ghostfacers would be unbelievable," he said. "One of the most fun characters I think I've had the privilege of playing is definitely the Ghostfacers. I love playing these guys."
Staite agrees that sci-fi has been good to her. "As an actor I just look for really fun characters to play. And a lot of really well-written female characters happen to be in sci-fi. I mean, it just works out that way," she said. "But I do know a lot of actors that are kind of chomping at the bit to get in with the sci-fi fans, so to speak, because they really are so loyal. And as an actor this kind of stuff is fun to do. It's fun to stretch and go beyond the limits of your imagination and just be in these crazy situations that you have to play out. It's always an adventure every day. And that's why I like staying in this genre so much."
When asked about her work on Firefly and Stargate Atlantis, Staite had this to offer: "In terms of which show had a bigger impact on my life, I mean, Stargate was obviously a longer job. I was on that job for three years, and I got to shoot in my hometown for a whole three years and see my family and see my friends and sleep in my own bed, which is really great. ... But with Firefly, it feels like unfinished business. It's like, you know, when you have this really amazing love affair with someone and then you break up over something stupid and you can't stop thinking about them and you always wonder, 'What if?' It's sort of like that."
"We're still holding out [for another movie]," she added. "In Nathan [Fillion]'s big media room, we sit around and listen to Nathan talk about winning the lottery, which I think he said in the press at some point. And he was like, 'If I win the lottery I'm going to buy the rights to Firefly and we're going to make another movie.' And we're all like, 'Whatever, Nathan.' ... There is no bigger Firefly fan than Nathan Fillion, let me tell you."  In the meantime, Staite's present gig is Doomsday Prophecy, and she's thrilled to continue making Syfy originals and hanging out in Nathan Fillion's big media room.  And if the end of the world actually does roll around? "Just in case the world ends, let me tell you, I'm going to be sitting on a beach in Maui with a Mai Tai in my hand. That's exactly what I'm going to be doing," said Staite.  "I will be right there too," added Buckley.  "And we're not joking."
Jewel Staite: How I Feel About Stargate's End And More!
(By Jewel Staite, Blastr, 15 May 2011)
Guess what time it is? Time to watch the Royal Wedding footage again? No, silly! Time for more ramblings from me, Kate Middleton's best friend Jewel Staite! (Okay, not really. But I'm working on it.) 
So just to catch you up, the last couple of months have been spent here in sunny Los Angeles, taking some much-needed R&R after the whirling dervish that was pilot season. I think I read so many scripts and became so many different people, it took me a couple of weeks just to remember whether it was me who actually liked jam on my toast or not. (I don't.) Once the dust settled and the cobwebs cleared and the wine fridge got emptied, I was ready to get back to being my creative old self. Only problem was, this town was so dead, I think I saw an actual tumbleweed roll by on Hollywood Boulevard. Or maybe that was some poor girl's hair extension gone awry. Either way, I had to find something else to do besides get massages and wine-taste.
Lucky for me, and unlucky for him, David Hewlett was just as bored to tears as I was. So we decided to embark on a little super secret project of our own. I can't tell you much about it, except that you may quite possibly love it. Or you may hate it, in which case, I'm going to go and join that tumbleweed in the middle of the road. Or move to England to be closer to Kate, whichever. Regardless, wish us luck, will you? And hopefully we'll be able to show you something soon!  Aside from that, it looks like I'll be heading out to the Midwest next month for some special appearances! Look for me in Omaha, Nebraska at "Contagion," happening June 10th-12th, as well as in Tulsa, Oklahoma for "Tulsa Trek" June 24th-26th with flippin' George Takei! Also, any and all fabulous restaurant recommendations for both cities can PLEASE and thank you be sent my way to
Maybe I'll even blog about your recommendation! Unless it's McDonalds or something, in which case, we need to get you out more.  At any rate, you sure as heck had a lot of great and hilarious questions for me to answer this time around, you cuties, you! I've picked ten for now:
What's the strangest request you've ever gotten from a fan at a convention?
Oh, how hard it is to whittle this down to just one ... I gotta say, being asked to sign someone's scythe is always a bit weird. I mean, why do you own a scythe in the first place? Are you a farmer who dresses in a floor length black pleather pantsuit on your off days? Or another good one was when someone asked me to sign a blank check. I mean, I was born at night but not last night. But for the most part, the people I meet at conventions are pretty darn sweet. And I'm happy to oblige them in almost any special request—operative word here being "almost".
Has the characters you've played ever specifically changed your personality or outlook on life?
Well, I'm not really sure. I bet my friends and family could tell you better than I could if a job or specific character really changed me or not. I tend to think that every long-standing character an actor plays has some sort of effect on their personality. But then again, I'm one of those actors who doesn't like to take work home with me and doesn't really get the whole "method acting" thing. It's just a job, after all, like anything else, albeit a really fun one. But I will say playing Dr. Keller sure did give me a new appreciation for brain surgery. That @#&! is hard.
What are you wearing?
The rainbow wig from Space Cases.
What currently running sci-fi show would you love to make a guest appearance on?
I'm still holding out for a guest appearance on Sanctuary, because I miss Amanda Tapping and I love the snot out of her. It would also be fun to guest star on V, so Morena and I could get into some sort of duel. But, like, a duel we actually get paid for, for once. And then go out to dinner after. I'm also really digging the new version of Being Human, and not just because my friend Meagan's on it. (Hi, gorgeous!) Ghost duel?
Why do you always have to be so awesome?
Gosh, I know, right? Soooo annoying!
Does Adam Baldwin smell like whiskey and old leather?
Hysterical! Honestly, I don't know if I've ever actually gotten a big whiff of Adam. I'm guessing more cognac and expensive high-end Italian leather, though ... I'll get back to you.
Every time a show you're connected to/participate in gets canceled, what are your thoughts and feelings?
Ever seen the movie Groundhog Day?
Do you find it difficult to be an actor who also has an addiction to good food?
This is gonna sound super crazy, guys, but: actors eat. They really, truly do. Actually, a lot of us tend to turn into foodies because we're always traveling to different cities and looking for restaurants to eat in. I don't think anything's wrong with indulging in a tasting menu every once in a while, but I'm a big fan of moderation. I think if you're going to become a wee bit food obsessed, you also have to have a healthy obsession with working out, which I do. I have to do something physically active every day or I sort of go insane. My go-to exercise of choice is a thing here in LA called Pilates Plus, which is a pilates cardio strength training hybrid of sweaty, intense, calorie-burning hell I do for an hour four times a week. And then I go and eat hot dogs.
In real life, who would you choose: Mal or Simon?
What are your feelings about the Stargate franchise coming to an end?
Honestly, I can't really believe it's actually over. I've been lucky enough to be a part of a lot of cast and crews over the years, but I can truly say I'll always look back on my time on SG:A with a special kind of fondness. That show was a total dream job for me—shooting in my hometown, sleeping in my own bed every night, working with a fabulous and hilarious cast and crew who made me laugh on an hourly basis, being handcuffed and kidnapped in the woods ... Well, maybe not so much on that last part. Truthfully, I was accepted with open arms into that family, and I will always be so incredibly grateful and proud to be a part of it. And I hope the fans are proud, too, of all of those seasons of television they helped get produced. Without them, it wouldn't have gone on as long as it did, and I really hope they know that. It's their show more than it was ever ours, and I'm just so thankful I got to be along for the ride.
On that sappy note, I'm off to blow my nose! Thanks once again, internet world, for reading my blathering. See you next time.
XO Jewel
Jewel Staite: What Nathan Fillion Stole From The Set Of Firefly
(By Jewel Staite, 23 March 2011)
Yes, it's been two months! I know! I'm lazy and fickle and I forget that you're out there, pining terribly for my next blog entry! You are, aren't you? Don't answer that.  I've been caught up in yet another whirlwind lately, this time one full of house guests, scripts piled to the ceiling to read/memorize, and, because I'm a complete moron, a move to another house right in the middle of it all. To say I'm exhausted and spent is an understatement. But the good news is, we're settled in to our lovely new abode, we've spent some time with some amazing friends, I'm feeling creatively inspired, and all I can hear is the sweet sound of silence. And the occasional weeping coming from Paul McGillion while he watches The Biggest Loser. Paul hasn't quite left yet.
In other news, my food/drink/public declaration of gluttony blog is up and running at Opu means tummy in Hawaiian, and growing up, my grandmother's not-so-subtle way of commenting on somebody's expanding midsection was "Well, he sure has a happy opu..." So in homage to her, happy opu seemed like the perfect name. And now I have an actual excuse to be eating the way I do all the time, which is a relief. I'm now also one of those ass-hats who takes pictures of food in restaurants, too, which is a humiliation I've had to come to terms with in order to please my readers. See what I do for you people? But it really has been fun. Especially when the people who work in those restaurants think you're somebody special and start giving you free stuff. Maybe I need a shoe blog so I can start getting free shoes!  All right. More importantly, your questions:
1. Who is your favorite science fiction character and why?
I'm assuming I can't choose my own characters here, and if I say Dr. Beckett, Paul's going to start crying all over again, so I think I'll go with someone from Lost. I know there are some discrepancies on whether Lost is really a sci-fi show or not, but it's about people on a magical island that moves through the spacetime continuum, so something tells me I'm good. I'd say John Locke would be my very favorite, because of his faith, his mysticism, his wisdom, and that "I may be nuts enough to shoot you at some point" glint in his eye. Kind of like the look Paul's going to give me after he reads this blog.
2. Where do you get your quirky and sometimes misunderstood sense of humor from?
The credit for that one has to go to my dear old Dad. My dad looks like a cross between the Marlboro man, Jack Palance, and maybe the guy in Tales from the Crypt. As Dad would say, "Thank heck you got your mother's genes." He's one of the most hilarious people I know, and can pretty much reduce me to a helpless fit of hysterical laughter every time I talk to him. Case in point: on his birthday last year, I bought him a tequila shot. After shooting it back, I asked, "How was it, Dad?" He said, "Well, it put some lead in my pencil, but I got nobody to write to!" I mean, does he need his own show or what? I have the best dad in the world.
3. What's your favorite part of your craft vs. the hardest part?
First off, I don't know why, but that word "craft" drives me mental. It just sounds so uppity and pretentious and thespian-like. What I do is just a job, a really fun, really rewarding and wonderful job. I choose not to take it too seriously, and I also choose to separate it from my real life as much as possible, because I think that's important for maintaining your sanity as well as maintaining your ego in this business. Having said that, I'd say the hardest part is the in-between-jobs part, where you're looking for the next "right fit." It can be really daunting and exasperating, and sometimes downright boring. But the next part, which is my favorite part, is when you've found something to do that inspires you, and inspiring people to work with, and everything just comes together like magic. Those moments, when you're so creatively fulfilled you feel like bursting, are the best.
4. If you could play an actual person in a biopic, who would you choose and why?
Beyonce. 'Cuz we look alike.
5. What kind of mementos have you stolen I mean forgot to give back from the shows you've worked on?
Now, listen. I'm an honest kind of girl. I've only taken the things that have been so graciously given to me.... by other people that have stolen them. Like Nathan Fillion. (The irony that he's playing a guy who helps cops right now is not lost on me.) I had some lovely things from Firefly, such as my "Kaylee's Room" door sign, my hammock from the engine room, some Alliance money, and one pink bra I swear I forgot to give back to the wardrobe department. Most of these things have since been given away to charity auctions, except for the bra. Because that would be weird. And also because I can't find it, and I'm scared to look in Nathan's underwear drawer. Sadly, nothing came back with me from Stargate: Atlantis, except for Paul, who's still on the couch. He says hi.
Okay, I'm off! Thanks for the questions, as always! Until next time,
XO Jewel
Jewel Staite: Why Watching Serenity Makes Me Cry Like A Baby
(By Jewel Staite, Blastr, 13 January 2011)
HAPPY 2011!
I feel like I've been around the world and back since my last blog, living out of suitcases and switching climates more than I switch my Manolos! It's been a ca-razy holiday season, and before my tan fades away completely, let me tell you all about it.
We (that's me, husband aka Matty, and Teddy the cocker spaniel) left LA at the end of November for Sonoma valley wine country, which—wait for this newsflash—is one of my most favorite places in the world. We were there for the annual Sonoma Valley Holiday Open House, two wine-soaked fabulous days of visiting the local wineries and sampling their culinary treats. We laughed, we indulged, and we made some new friends, which ended with me playing a game of pool in a dive bar with a man dressed in a floor-length raccoon fur coat. If you're reading this, nice to meet you Jim! Or John. Or Sam.
Once we slept that off, we headed further north to home sweet home: Vancouver, British Columbia. We spent two jam-packed weeks seeing our family and friends, as well as taking care of Boring Life Stuff we enjoy putting off for most of the year, i.e. dentist and doctor check-ups, sorting through boxes in our storage locker of stuff we forget we own, the occasional humiliating meeting with our accountant where he tells me just how much I spend on retail, then back to the doctor ... But accomplish it all we did! Just in time for our trip to Maui.
Heavenly, beautiful Maui, where all the world's problems are solved. Or at least mine. I love this place more than I love shoes, more than I love tasting menus, more than I love most wines! When I was a baby, my grandparents managed a resort in Napili on Maui's west side, and we lived there for the first few years of my life. That little stretch of beach on Napili Bay saw a lot of my life's milestones: my christening, my first steps, and twenty years later, my wedding. Maui is imbedded in my being in every way. It's my one-stop shop for recharging my batteries at the end of the year, it's my kokomo, my end of the rainbow, and my happy thought.
Guys, I kinda like Maui.
Every day was spent doing yoga while watching the waves, snorkeling with sea turtles, barbequing lunch, having an afternoon swim, watching the humpback whales frolic on the horizon, having a nap, then heading out to watch the sunset. Oh yeah, and mai tais. Lots of mai tais. Or at least enough to partake in an inane conversation with your equally-mai-tai-loving friend about how to spell the word cutip. Or Q-tip. Or kewtip. In short, I had the very best time of my life. And, batteries charged, headed back to LA to take on the monster that is pilot season, so I can pay for all of these damn trips.
On to your questions, dear reader!
1. Do you prefer projects in sci-fi, or are you open to other projects i.e. drama, etc.? Awesome actress!
I swear that last sentence was part of the question. And to answer, I don't have a particular preference to any genre. The first thing I consider is the role: is it interesting? Have I done something like this before? Would this be a fun thing for me to do? Is Matthew Fox in it? I guess the reason why I tend to choose so many sci-fi-related projects is because they're fun to do, the roles are great, and I know I'm going to have a good time. But a lot of the work I've done in my career hasn't been sci-fi based, believe it or not. I've always chosen to do a job based on so many other reasons other than genre. Like who the caterers are, for instance.
2. What's one thing you've always wanted to do, but haven't had a chance?
Go to Bali. Write a book. Enter a room on horseback.
3. Best meal you've had in the past week?
The past week has been spent in a car with a dog and a husband en route via the I-5 highway to LA, so the most you're going to get out of that would be the pasta salad I had at Granzella's Inn off exit #5,874. But if we could stretch that to the last two weeks? I'd say the incredible chef's tasting that was prepared for us at Campagnolo in Vancouver. Crispy fried chickpeas with chili and mint, pork ragu with tagliatelle and pecorino, BC mussel risotto with saffron, Bianca pizza with mozzarella, potato and sage, red wine braised beef, fried cauliflower florets with bacon, and olive oil cake with roasted bosc pear. Go to Campagnolo. Run! Now!
4. Why do you "cry like a baby" (you tweeted that) when you watch Serenity? Regrets? Memories? Good tears or sad tears?
I don't really know why. Have you ever enjoyed something or someone so much that you just feel like bursting into tears? No? Just me? Great. I think it's a combination of being really proud, really grateful, and really frustrated at not being able to play that character or see those people all together on a regular basis anymore. I experienced so much joy and fulfillment and happiness while working on that show, and the movie was such a bittersweet experience, because it was like a final and proper good-bye. It makes me happy to watch it, and at the same time it sorta breaks my heart. Also: it's kind of a sad movie, guys. People die and stuff. Are you made of stone?!
5. What words of wisdom do you have for up and coming actors/actresses?
First thing I'm going to say is don't quit. Unless you're going out for my parts, in which case, this business is too hard and you'll never make it so you should quit now and go back to school. Seriously, though, quitting is the easiest option. And the suckiest. If acting is what you love and what makes you truly happy, then don't let anybody get in your way. Study with coaches, work hard, be on time, don't get discouraged, be humble enough to keep learning every day. And thank me in your Oscar speech.

Alright, seriously, I have stuff to do. This stack of Glamour magazines aren't going to read themselves.
Till next time,
XO Jewel
Jewel Staite: Stargate Stunts, My Favorite Superpower And More
(By Jewel Staite, Blastr, 05 November 2010)
Bonjour, dear Reader.
Yes, I know, it's been longer than a month. But I'm still on Parisian time! My mind is muddled with excess, having just lived on copious amounts of champagne and cheese, meats stewed in lusciously decadent sauce, chocolate soufflés and salted caramels, and more champagne to wash it all down. The fact that I'm still breathing is impressive after the whirlwind trip I just had. Also impressive? I can still do up my pants. While lying down.
We started off in Ghent, Belgium, for FACTS, an annual pop-culture extravaganza where we bumped in to some old friends (the hilarious Robert Picardo being one—j'adore!) and made some new ones (the lovely Kristanna Loken, and Pinhead himself, Doug Bradley, who is a lot better-looking than he is in that movie). We bonded like all actors do at these things and ended up capping the weekend off at an amazing restaurant on the river called Belga Queen, where we gorged ourselves on sea bass and shrimp croquettes and drank copious amounts of red wine. My apologies to the wait staff, who weren't having as good of a time as we were. And to Joos the waiter in particular, who my husband kept trying to hug. I told you to cut him off, Joos.
Next stop was Paris for some R&R, which turned into more gorging and feasting. Luckily Paris is great for strolling, and we walked for hours every day, exploring each arrondissement for the perfect café to sit and watch the world go by. Man, do you French people have this whole living well thing down! No one bats an eye at you for drinking champagne in the middle of the afternoon! If anything, they encourage it, with a little side of duck confit! (My Pilates instructor is crying right now at the last year of work I've totally destroyed.) I won't bore you with our culinary pleasures, but I will say that there was many a wine-fueled conversation on how to get our cocker spaniel shipped over to the City of Light so we never had to leave. Nothing's cuter than a cocker spaniel in a beret! When you're drunk!
But leave we did, for one of my favorite places in the world, London! Hallowhedon was happening that weekend, an all-things-Joss Halloween party, and I was fortunate enough to be invited. Once again, we ran into some old friends (Alan Tudyk, one of my very favorite people) and made some new ones (the beautiful Stephanie Romanov, the impossibly nice Anthony Stewart Head, and the devil himself, Robin Sachs, who made me laugh until I cried on an hourly basis). Every day was filled with Joss-themed events and parties, including a trivia game with crazy-hard questions even some of the biggest fans there couldn't answer. "What's on the poster in Badger's office?" Seriously?? That's like asking, "How many people has Inara slept with?" Um, insurmountable much??
Suffice to say, we had a fabulous time. Thank you to all who made the trip better than I could have ever imagined. My liver, however, hates your guts.  Okay, on to your questions, since you've been so patient:
#1: Dear Kaylee: Does it annoy you when people use your characters' names to address you?
First off, adorable! And nope, doesn't bother me at all. My favorite nickname, however, is Meryl Streep.
#2: What's the one question you've always wished someone would ask, but no one ever has ... and how would you answer it?
Question: "Hey Jewel! Any chance you could star in this hit show that's guaranteed to run for the next seven years?" Answer: "Is the Pope Catholic??"
#3: Did you do your own stunts as Elia the Wraith in Stargate: Atlantis?
Some, but not all. My first day of work on that show was the scene where Sheppard and I go toe-to-toe in the woods. We had to do this wrestling bit where I was on top of him (get your mind outta the gutter) and he's basically trying his best to kill me. On one of the last takes, my face somehow connected with his fist, and at the end of the day when they took the prosthetics off, I had a wicked little cut and a bruise under my eye. The next morning I was due to fly out to LA for a publicity photo shoot for Serenity, which was just about to come out. So for the entire shoot, I had a little black eye, courtesy of Joe Flanigan. I never told him about it, since he obviously isn't in the habit of punching girls in the face on purpose. But I never forgot it, either. Watch your back, Flani. Watch your back.
#4: Do you ever imagine yourself with a superpower?
Doesn't everybody? Mine would be the power to heal, which isn't all that funny or interesting. But I wouldn't go around telling everybody about it. Just the people I liked. My husband has this bizarre fantasy of having the power to produce bacon out of his pockets. Which may heal the world in itself, really. Plus, how cool would it be to be able to tell people I was married to Bacon Boy?
#5: What would be your dream role? Steel Magnolias? Sigourney Weaver kick ass? Sigourney Weaver goes Steel Magnolias then kicks ass?
Hmm. How many times do you think that guy's seen Alien? But to answer, I have a few, usually involving Johnny Depp in some capacity. Oh wait--you said dream ROLES!
Alright, enough outta me. Thanks for your questions, once again! Send them my way at for the next blog installment!  Until then, adieu.
Jewel Staite: How Firefly Should Have Ended, Dragon*Con And More
(By Jewel Staite, Blastr, 15 September 2010)93
Welcome to my Blastr blog #2! That's right, friends! Because all of you faithfully followed my online links and shameless plugs and so very loyally told all of your friends to read it too, this blog was a small success and they let me write another one! So where do we start??  Oh, I know. How about Dragon*Con?
So, let's just explain for those of you living under a rock/in a cave/in David Hewlett's house exactly what Dragon*Con is: If San Diego Comic Con is your handsome older brother with a Phd wearing a fancy suit and driving a Prius, Dragon*Con is your loud-mouthed sister who's dressed just a tad inappropriately and most likely coming off a bender in Vegas. My kinda girl. It's a wild and wonderful four-day pop culture extravaganza with thousands upon thousands of people ready to party down.
In costume. Or in chain mail. Or just body paint. This is the only place where you can find yourself in an impromptu stormtrooper "elevator party" (I've never been so afraid of an elevator breaking down in my life), walk into a secret Star Trek cast reunion (nerdgasm!), eat lunch next to zombies, have a conversation with "the keeper of the unicorns" (whatever you say, lady), and get prank-called by Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk in front of 2,000 people.  Suffice it to say, we had a blast, and a huge thank-you goes out to all of you who attended and made it one of the most memorable weekends I've ever had. Except a lot of it I can't remember, because some nut kept putting bottles of champagne at my Q&A podium. Can we keep doing that, please?? But I digress.  I vowed to answer your questions. And answer I shall!
#1: What is your most embarrassing acting-related moment?
And how right you are to assume I have one! Or several! However, because I'm a bit of a modest girl (I can hear the collective snorts across the internet), I'm much too proud to divulge every little detail of my most embarrassing moment. I will say it involved a rehearsal room full of actor dudes who were too infantile to save me from my embarrassment, and me wearing a tube top and not paying too much attention to how far south my top had fallen. I'm sure you can imagine what happened, and I will never live that boob down.
#2: Which wines go best with watching which one of your shows?
Excellent question, as this encourages the consumption of alcohol while watching my acting. I'd say a nice Zaca Mesa cuvee for "Firefly", a beautiful Perrier Jouet champagne for "Serenity", a lovely Joie: A Noble Blend from British Columbia for "Stargate: Atlantis", and a bottle of moonshine for "Mothman". Cheers!
#3: Do you consider yourself a good cook and, if so, what's your favorite dish to make?
Here's the thing: I'm a really good reader, and I'm great at following directions. Meaning if you give me enough time, I can cook an all right meal. However, I am a much, much better eater. Such a great eater in fact that sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't get paid for it. I've been known to throw myself at a croque madam, well up over a beautiful plate of pasta, and swoon at the sight of a cheese soufflé. I'm the type of person that makes lists of the restaurants I want to visit, in order of greatest to least-greatest. And if for some unconscionable reason the acting bug were to leave my being, I would become a professional food critic, just so I could eat and eat, all the live-long day. And my Pilates instructors would become even richer than they already are.
#4: And that quite happily leads us to.... How cranky is David Hewlett when he isn't fed?
Have you ever seen a mini-horse?  A couple hours drive from our house in LA is an actual mini-horse farm. These furry mini creatures spend their days frolicking in their pasture, nipping at each other's backsides and flipping their funny little hair do's around. (When we shared a house with Paul McGillion, I almost spent the $1500 just to put one in his bedroom when he was away for a weekend. I was going to call it Dr. Beckett.) They look cute and cuddly, but let me assure you: catch them at a bad time, and they're anything but. They sort of stick their little pot bellies out and wait for you to be stupid enough to get close so they can take a chunk out of your hand. David hungry = mini horse. (Let's hope he's eaten when he reads this.)
#5: How would YOU have wanted Firefly to end?
Well, I wouldn't have, now would I? But in my perfect imagination, it ends a little something like this: Nine glorious seasons later, Kaylee and Simon have had several beautiful brunette babies, a couple of which have turned out to be crazy geniuses like their Auntie River (Firefly: the Next Generation?), and one who mysteriously looks a lot like Matthew Fox, who became a regular cast member in season six. River has finally found her marbles and is now captaining her own ship with her loyal second-in-command, Jayne, who claims that River is the best captain he's ever known. Saffron is now their mercenary, and Jayne's lover. And because this is the future and vast discoveries have been made in the world of medicine, Jayne is pregnant with their first child. Inara and Mal finally profess their undying love for each other while Inara is, well, dying in his arms (something gruesome, lotsa blood), and Mal finally realizes that life is short. And promptly confesses his (other) undying love to Zoe. And she promptly punches him in the face.

Come on, somebody pick up that show for a second season already! We can come up with the budget! I've got 20 bucks in my pocket right now!  And that concludes blog #2. Be sure to send me your weird/wild/wonderful questions on Twitter to @jewelstaite for next time.
Until then, dear reader,
Xo Jewel
Jewel Staite Talks About Firefly Fights, Her Dream Role And More
(By Jewel Staite, Blastr, 16 August 2010)
Hello and welcome to my very first blog for Blastr! I'm absolutely thrilled to be blogging on this site, and even more thrilled that my ramblings will not have to be reduced to 140 characters or less!  However, as you know, we actors need constant inspiration, and so I called upon the creative minds of my Twitter followers ( if you want to join the dark side—and yes, that was a shameless plug, don't judge me) for some juicy questions to answer for my blog. And man, was I ever flooded with the juicy! Since my very first blog can't exactly be 50,000 words (nobody likes a rambler. Oh, wait....), I've only picked 10 to answer for now.  "Will there be a Serenity 2?" did not, sadly, make the list. Because I'm already asked that on a daily basis.  Shall we?
#1: What would be your dream job that a character of yours would have in a movie?
Superhero. I would even settle for Superhero Sidekick, as long as I got to beat up at least one bad guy. This qualifies as a job, right? How much do Superheroes get paid?
#2: Top five favorite albums, the ones you'd bring to a desert island?
This is, obviously, impossible to answer. So thanks a lot. But I would say that right now at this moment in time, the albums are as follows:
-Ingrid Michaelson: "Everybody"
-Robert Plant/Alison Krauss: "Raising Sand"
-Elbow: "The Seldom Seen Kid"
-Stanley Turrentine: "Never Let me Go"
-Amy Winehouse: "Back to Black" (remember what I said about the judging?)
#3: Will you be appearing on Stargate: Universe?
That's a great question. Did you hear that one, Syfy? Thoughts? I still have the same phone number, in case you were wondering how to reach me! Unless you want me in prosthetics, in which case, I'm super slammed. With, like, this blog. And stuff.
#4: What character that you've ever played has been the most opposite of you in real life?
The goth girl from Dead Like Me. I'm not a fan of the black vinyl and matching lipstick. I know that's coming as a shocking surprise to you all.
#5: You can invite five people to dinner, past, present, real, fictional, alive, or dead. Who'd it be?
Again, it's impossible to think of only five. And even more impossible to figure out the menu! But I'll try my best. Off the top of my head:
-Meryl Streep. And after dessert, I would lock her in my basement until she taught me everything she knew.
-Chef Thomas Keller, so he could do the cooking.
-Django Reinhardt, to provide the music.
-Conan O'Brien, to make us laugh.
-And Sawyer from Lost. Cuz he's hot.
#6: Would you rather be a murderer or a victim if you were offered a role on Capt. Tightpants' Castle?
Well, since the victim's usually dead by the first commercial break, I'm going with murderer. Or Castle's rival. Or his gardener. Does he have a garden? Just joking! I never miss an episode!
#7: Who do you think would win in a fight: Sheppard and Ronan, or Mal and Jayne?
Guys. Let's be real. Sheppard and Ronan are a great team and all, but Mal and Jayne fight dirty. They don't need P90s to win a fight. Plus, they have one heck of a backup team: a rifle-toting super-hot soldier in leather, a lethal holy man, and oh ya! River "the Terminator" Tam! I know I'm going to get flak for this, but I'm just being honest. If it were Teyla and Ronan, however.......
#8: If all the characters you've played got into a talent contest, who do you think would win?
I'm going to go with Dr. Keller. Fixing someone's brain kind of trumps all other talents, don't you think?
#9: Ever been asked to autograph a body part you've refused to?
I've been asked to autograph many a strange item, such as scythes, report cards, birth certificates, pictures of Kirsten Dunst (the resemblance is striking), stargates in every shape and size, pictures of Paul McGillion (again, we could be sisters), Jayne hats aplenty, and one boob. And I haven't refused anything yet. But Dragon*Con is coming up, so I may have to change my answer after that.
#10: Do you sometimes wish you could explore your dark side?
Do I ever! Playing the villain is So. Much. Fun. I've only played a couple in my career, and I'm itching to do it again! Especially if it's a superhero villain! I'm not going to drop this superhero thing any time soon. Better get used to it.

Thank you for all the great questions! And a double thank you for reading this, especially all the way to the end! I always appreciate yet another outlet for me to express my gratitude to the fans for their endless support and senses of humor. Who knows? Blastr may actually let me do this again sometime. Or not? :)
Until then,
Yours truly, and always hungry,