Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Memorize Your Lines

I'm about the biggest fan of Robert Downey, Jr. this side of the Atlantic. There's always something magical about his performances which rivet me. Barring his unfortunate dalliances with various narcotics five years ago, he is indisputably one of the finest actors of our generation. As they say, madness is the flip side of genius.

Finally, Downey seems to have set aside his substance distractions and landing roles displaying his whole spectrum of talent (this summer's comedy Tropic Thunder lets Downey portray the ultimate method actor who darkens his skin to play a black man!). While I was on holiday with the family this week, I found a good article in the L.A. Times covering some of Downey's meticulous preparation for his role in Iron Man.

Once you read the article, you start to see the real genius behind Downey's acting talent—he memorizes lines so completely that he doesn't even have to think about them. His lines become so infused with his subconscious that they form a solid foundation on which he can layer intriguing sub-text or riff a clever ad-lib not accessible to a less prepared actor.

Boldface is mine:


Given his spark-flying mind, it's easy to assume that Downey ad-libs what he does on screen, quipping, prancing, dancing with effortless humor. Ironically enough, however, when auditioning for "Iron Man," he prepared for the test of his life.

Not that he likes giving away his trade secrets. "I'm a little far out with my methods, but it works for me," he says, explaining he believes in energy, and "the feng shui of it all." Still all the mysticism appears grounded in basic hard work, memorizing lines so thoroughly that "literally if you woke me in the middle of the night I could tell them as quickly as I could tell you my driver's license. Then I write it out illegibly so as I think I'm knowing it, if I can read it in this kind of gobbledygook then I actually know it. Then I write it out in an acronym so that the first letter of every word is just a cue. And then I literally read that as fast as I can read it because I'm training my subconscious now to respond to it."

Then he checks himself, and annotates the script with notes about the action's subtext or alternate lines, which he hopes are funnier or more poignant. "You've got your wheels under you and you can start moving upstairs a bit," he says.

"His mind works so fast, and his thought process continues in such a unique way. He's able to make these brilliant connections -- metaphors spring out and he's able to stay right on scene," says Feige, who got to see Downey Downey-ize the character. "A lot of it was in the script, and it sounds like he's riffing. A lot of it was riffed. Most of it was 'branched out' " from what was written. The script had two bland robot helpers for Stark, which Downey transformed into twee British adjuncts in the John Gielgud mode. Link.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Copyrighting HTML? I no sink so.

Here's a brainteaser for you:

Writers string words together to create sentences, paragraphs, and stories. We call this "writing". It's considered an art form to choose words in a particular order to achieve a unique meaning, and we've built an entire legal structure to prevent others from passing off someone's word choices as their own. We call this "plagiarism".

Programmers string code together to create phrases, arrays, and software. We call this "programming". While not an art form per se, it's still considered artistic to choose code in a particular order to achieve a unique meaning, and we also have an entire legal structure to prevent others from passing off someone's programming choices as their own. We call this "stealing intellectual property".

However, programmers also string HTML code together for web sites, and that HTML code is downloaded right onto a user's computer... meaning anyone can easily view the web page's HTML source code and cobble it together to create their own web page, altering it enough to keep the casual user from noticing the HTML is the same. In fact, if someone really wanted to, they could copy all the HTML code from the 10 most popular web sites and form a completely new web site using little, if any, code of their own. And if they stripped all the HTML of any references to the original author, it would be no different than plagiarism, except the content is programming instead of writing, and it resides on a web site instead of in a software program.

If a writer were to do something equivalent by copying writing from 10 different authors and removing any reference to them, that writer would immediately be sued for plagiarism and slapped with a massive legal action. But programmers do exactly that all the time without fear of any retribution... because all programmers do it. And because everyone does it, it's not considered plagiarism—it's called "reverse engineering". Pervasiveness has leveled the playing field: when everyone can steal, everyone will steal, but they won't call it stealing... they'll call it sharing.

And that's why no programmer, regardless of how artistic their coding is, will ever receive residuals from writing HTML—how can you claim ownership over something in the digital domain when you can no longer realistically protect how it is distributed?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I'm telling you: Obama = Superman

Barack Obama once said, "It seems like the longer we're in the race, the better we do." Which is why this doesn't surprise me at all:

Here's an excerpt from the article about it:

In late January, before Obama scored 11 straight primary and caucus victories, 56 percent of Democrats saw Clinton as the stronger nominee, compared to 33 percent for Obama. Now, Obama leads on that question, 56 to 43 percent....

The most encouraging sign for Obama is that many Democrats who previously saw Clinton as their party's best hope now give him that role. About one-third of them still prefer Clinton, but they have lost confidence in her electability.

"I would love to vote for Hillary," said Nancy Costello of Bellevue, Ky., one of the more than 1,800 randomly selected adults whose opinions are rechecked every few months. "I'm 67, and I'll probably never get another chance to vote for a woman."

But Obama now appears to be the stronger candidate, she said, and electing a Democrat in November is paramount. Link.

Friday, April 18, 2008

My Shortest Apposition, Day 3

Josh and I shot the B roll for My Shortest Apposition on Wednesday and I'm very happy with the footage. I still need to massage the stills into black & white, give them a white border on the printouts at Long's Drugs (with their supercoolio self-use photo machine), put the pics in a photo album, then shoot them on video.

I also have to shoot the credits with Zoë, but on Wednesday, she had her Chicken Pox vaccinations and they told us she'd be woozy for a couple of days, so Josh and I decided to punt it; thankfully, the bulk of the work had already been done, since the B roll footage had to be shot by someone other than me, since I was in most of the shots. [For posterity: I will never star in my own film again—it's one too many hats and frustratingly time-consuming; the only reason I did it this time was because the film is about me and Zoë.]

But the good news is, the crayon title credits are 95% finished. Josh took a peek at them yesterday and loved them... I can't wait to put this sucker to bed because with music and credits and everything, it should look pretty swanky. This started out as a simple project for Hans and me (yes, "Hans and me" is correct) to horse around with 16mm, but I never seem to do anything half-cocked: the end result has been 1000% better than I anticipated.

And then there's the silliness on set, which is always fun:

I am Key Man! I can kill you with a single key!

Tracie and I go down to L.A. next week, so hopefully I'll have a rough cut to show Hans by then. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


I missed this blog the first time around, but my Google Alerts just let me know that—apparently—I invented something called "PACBF":

Meaghan and I casted ourselves as the leads opposite each other [for short film In Dutch] and we were coached in numerous rehearsals by Ross. Ross was fantastic with both of us and was a true actor's dream. Both Meaghan and I started our rehearsals according to Ross at a number 2 in the scale of "Pruden's Acting Compass Believability Factor", otherwise known as "PACBF". Meaghan and I had to get past our humerous friendship and dig deep within each other to induce the PACBF. We rehearsed normally twice a week for two months. At the same time Meaghan and I funded our movie together and Co-Produced it. At the end of the rehearsals, we had passed the PACBF and Ross gave his stamp of approval with a number 10.... Our crew was assembled in the two months that we rehearsed and we were very fortunate to find very hard working and knowledgeable, outrageously, friendly, caring, and considerate people to help us.

PACBF t-shirts will be sold via Cafe Press.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

To compete or not to compete?

Here is Matt Mason's keynote speech at The Medici Summit last month in Scottsdale, Arizona, and one of the best videos I've ever seen on piracy. It's a good primer on his book, The Pirate's Dilemma, which deals with how to compete with and/or fight a swiftly emerging business model.

  • If the average person were sued for the maximum amount they were liable every day for copyright infringment—meaning photocopying, backing up CDs to your computer, remixing tapes, etc.—they would be liable for $12.4 million. Every day.

  • American foreign policy during the Industrial Revolution was to completely ignore international copyright and patent laws... which allowed America to industrialize quickly and cheaply.
  • Initially, innovators are branded pirates by their peers—Thomas Edison created the phonograph, which musicians hated because they thought it jeopardized their income. Since then, musicians have made more money off the record industry they could have ever made by only playing live.
  • When Thomas Edison first created his film projector, he charged a license fee to use it. Many filmmakers thought Edison's licence fee was too high, so they ignored the law and set up their own film community far away from Edison's lawyers on the West Coast... that film community we now know as Hollywood. (The leader of these rogue filmmakers was William Fox, of 20th Century Fox.)
  • To compete with Chinese software pirates, Microsoft offers their software for only $3.
  • When pirates encroach on your market, the question is: do they add value? If they do, then you must then ask yourself, what business are you really in? What is your product? For example, Apple doesn't sell music or movies—they sell convenience.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Producers suing consumers

I've been having an on-again, off-again discussion with Dave about J. K. Rowling's lawsuit against a fan who is publishing his own Harry Potter encyclopedia. The fan runs a Harry Potter fan web site with over a million visitors, and the site includes an online encyclopedia detailing everything in the Harry Potter Universe—an encyclopedia which Rowling herself has admitted using—but the moment the fan converts that encyclopedia into a book format, Rowling sues him over copyright infringement.

Surely the fan had already been making money from his web site's advertisers... so why didn't Rowling sue him then? When the same content hops from one format to another, suddenly the content is a financial threat to Rowling?

Disney co-chair Anne Sweeney conceded in 2006 that "piracy is a business model", not a war on its own customers: “We understand now that piracy is a business model. It exists to serve a need in the market for consumers who want TV content on demand. Pirates compete the same way we do—through quality, price and availability. We don’t like the model but we realize it’s competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward.”

Tomorrow, I'll be posting a superb video on piracy which really shows how current copyright laws are no longer applicable to the modern world. For now, here's the full article on the Rowling lawsuit:

Rowling suing fan over new Potter book
NEW YORK (AP) -- Best-selling author J.K. Rowling said Monday that her efforts to halt a publisher's "Harry Potter" encyclopedia have been crushing her creativity.

Rowling told a New York court that she had stopped work on a new novel because the federal lawsuit had "decimated my creative work over the last month."

Rowling is suing RDR Books to stop publication of Steven Vander Ark's "Harry Potter Lexicon" on the grounds that her copyrights are being violated.

"This book constitutes wholesale theft of 17 years of my hard work," she testified Monday.

RDR's lawyer, Anthony Falzone, has defended the lexicon as a reference guide. Falzone called it a legal effort "to organize and discuss the complicated and very elaborate world of Harry Potter."

When Rowling's lawyer asked how she felt about Harry, she replied: "I really don't want to cry." But she looked like she was about to do just that.

A smiling Rowling, who brought the lawsuit last year, earlier arrived at the lower Manhattan courthouse wearing a gray pinstriped jacket and a gray knee-length skirt, but did not speak as she entered the building.

She says her copyrights are being violated by a fan who plans to publish a "Harry Potter" encyclopedia.

The showdown between Rowling and Vander Ark is scheduled to last most of the week in U.S. District Court. The writer will spend her breaks in the seclusion of a jury room -- away from any die-hard Potter fans.

The trial comes eight months after Rowling published her seventh and final book in the series. The books have been published in 64 languages, sold more than 400 million copies and spawned a film franchise that has pulled in $4.5 billion at the worldwide box office.

Rowling is a fan of the Harry Potter Lexicon Web site that Vander Ark runs. But she draws the line when it comes to publishing the book and charging $24.95. She also says it fails to include any of the commentary and discussion that enrich the Web site and calls it "nothing more than a rearrangement" of her own material.

One of her lawyers, Dan Shallman, on Friday told Judge Robert P. Patterson, who is hearing the trial without a jury, that Rowling "feels like her words were stolen."

He said the author felt so personally violated that she made her own comparisons among her seven best-selling novels and the lexicon and was ready to testify about the similarities in dozens of instances.

David Saul Hammer, a lawyer for RDR Books, said the publisher would not challenge the claim by Rowling that much of the material in the lexicon infringed her copyrights.

But the judge will decide whether the use of the material by the small Muskegon, Michigan, publisher was legal because it was used for some greater purpose, such as a scholarly pursuit.

In court papers filed prior to the trial, Rowling said she was "deeply troubled" by the book.

"If RDR's position is accepted, it will undoubtedly have a significant, negative impact on the freedoms enjoyed by genuine fans on the Internet," she said. "Authors everywhere will be forced to protect their creations much more rigorously, which could mean denying well-meaning fans permission to pursue legitimate creative activities."

In court papers, Vander Ark, 50, said he was a teacher and school librarian in Byron Center, Mich., before recently moving to London to begin a career as a writer.

He said he joined an adult online discussion group devoted to the Harry Potter books in 1999 before launching his own Web site as a hobby a year later. Since then, neither Rowling nor her publisher had ever complained about anything on it, he said.

In May 2004, he said, Rowling mentioned his Web site on her own, writing, "This is such a great site that I have been known to sneak into an Internet cafe while out writing and check a fact rather than go into a bookshop and buy a copy of Harry Potter (which is embarrassing). A Web site for the dangerously obsessive; my natural home."

The Web site attracts about 1.5 million page views per month and contributions from people all over the world, Vander Ark said.

He said he initially declined proposals to convert the Web site into an encyclopedia, in part because he believed until last August that in book form, it would represent a copyright violation.

After Rowling released the final chapter in the Harry Potter series that same month, Vander Ark was contacted by an RDR Books employee, who told him that publication of the lexicon would not violate copyright law, he said.

Still, to protect himself, Vander Ark said he insisted that RDR Books include a clause in his contract that the publisher would defend and pay any damages that might result from claims against him.

He said it was decided that the lexicon would include sections from the Lexicon Web site that give descriptions and commentary on individual names, places, spells and creatures from Harry Potter stories.

In his court statement, Vander Ark still sounds like a fan, saying the lexicon "enhances the pleasure of readers of the Potter novels, and deepens their appreciation of Ms. Rowling's achievement."

But the affection no longer seems a shared experience.

In court Friday, Hammer said Rowling's lawyers did not want Vander Ark in the courtroom while Rowling testified.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

April 13, 2029

Twenty one years from today, we'll know for sure if 99942 Apophis—a meteor a quarter of a kilometer wide—is going to collide with Earth in 2036.

To paraphrase the above article, if 99942 Apophis hits Earth, it would release more than 100,000 times the energy of the Hiroshima explosion with a blast affecting thousands of square kilometers: everyone on Earth would see the dust released into the atmosphere. (I actually wrote about Apophis some time ago.)

Sadly, we cannot wait until 2028 to act. If we did, it would already be too late. To design and test the necessary equipment to deflect an asteroid takes decades. And this should be a global mission because the potential consequences would affect everyone on Earth. Most scientists are waiting until 2013 to observe Apophis' pass and collect further data on its trajectory. After that, they'll know a lot more.

Below is the "path of risk" of the meteor's possible impact, which would mean 10 million deaths in Central and South America alone, not including the gargantuan tsunamis sure to hit North America's West Coast:

By 2029, Apophis will pass so close to Earth as to be visible to the naked eye. In fact, it will even pass beneath our geosynchronous satellites. If we're lucky, Apophis will miss a 600 square meter "keyhole"—if it passes through that keyhole, Earth's gravitational pull would alter Apophis' trajectory enough to swing back and hit Earth eight years later.

And if luck has anything to do with it, or if you're superstitious at all, you really don't want to know which day of the week April 13th, 2029 is.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Perfect Voicemail

I once worked full-time at a San Francisco ad agency for 9 months. For anyone living outside the bubble of the advertising world, you can view time in the advertising world like dog years: 9 months is a long ass time.

Why does it feel so long? Because, at peak time, I might have fielded as many as 200 phone calls every day. Sure, most of these calls were simple did-you-do-this-yet questions, but it wasn't uncommon to leave my desk for a loo break to find 8 voicemails waiting for me. That's 8 voicemails I had to slog through in their entirety before pressing "delete". At 1.5–3 minutes per voicemail, that's 12-24 minutes out of my day... which means I would likely get more voicemails while I'm collecting my voicemails.

Most of us don't think about the economy of words when leaving voicemails, but in a hectic (and stressful) business arena, every word on a voicemail must be chosen with extreme care. An unneeded sentence or two results in wasted time... and wasted time accumulates.

As with all things, we often learn how best to do something by watching how others do it so spectacularly unwell.

The unperfect voicemail:

"Hey Ross, how you doing? Haven't spoken to you in a long time. How's the fam? Hey, look, I've got this thing on my desk... I'm not really sure what it is. Someone handed to me and it looks pretty important. Does this have anything to do with the BMW job? Well, nevermind, I guess I could look at it right now. Hold on... [pause] yeeeeeeah... it looks like it is... okay... okay... let me see. Okay, let's do this: let's move the art into a bubble on the top right, and let the bullets flow beneath it in a 3" box—no, wait, that would look weird, huh? Hmmmm. Shit, I don't know... okay, why don't just call me when you get back to your desk and we'll chat about it then. My number is [speaks his phone number blazingly fast, near incomprehensibly]. Okay, I guess I'll talk to you later. Gimme a call. Bye."

Total time: 1 minute 21 seconds

I used to imagine throwing daggers through the phone at people who'd leave me a message like that. Not only do I have to repeatedly listen to the entire message simply to get to their phone number, which I can barely understand anyway, but the message is effectively useless and takes me hostage by forcing me to listen to pointless rambling lest I miss that one crucial piece of information.

Now, here's the perfect voicemail:
"Ross, Bob here. My number's 4-1-5-5-1-5-1-6-5-4. Call me about BMW. Just looked at the docs and I have some urgent comments. Again, my number is 4-1-5-5-1-5-1-6-5-4. It's 4:47 on Thursday. Bye."

Total Time: 20 seconds

Why this is a perfect voicemail:
  1. I know who's calling, and that they're calling me.
  2. I know what the phone number is at the beginning of the message—thankfully, I know while listening to the entire email that if I want to write down the number, all I have to do is replay the voicemail from the beginning. I cannot emphasize how helpful this one tip is to a listener!
  3. The phone number is clearly spoken, twice, so I don't have to stress about not being able to transcribe it. Twice is important because sometimes cell phones garble at exactly the wrong moment and you have to have a cow while waiting for the person to call you back.
  4. I know what the message is about, generally.
  5. I know what the message is about, specifically.
  6. I know that Bob has comments for me.
  7. I know Bob's comments are urgent.
  8. I know when Bob called, since some phone systems don't always say when people call.

Furthermore, I know Bob always leaves this kind of message so when I hear his voice come on, I'm not stressed out, but relieved. And when I finally delete his message, I think to myself, "I love getting voicemails from Bob. They're perfect."

P.S. It is also extremely useful when leaving large amounts of information to someone on a voicemail to say up at the beginning, "I'm going to leave you a long message now, but if you want, just delete this message and call me to talk about it."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Equal & Opposite. And boring.

There's a trend I've noticed with three recent Superhero movies/TV series:

* Iron Man fights... a more powerful Iron Man.
* The Incredible Hulk fights... a more powerful Incredible Hulk.
* The Bionic Woman fights... a more powerful Bionic Woman.


Give me Ang Lee's Hulk (yes, I liked it so stop rolling your eyes), or Steve Austin vs. Sasquatch, or Batman and any of his villians!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Epic 2015

Some insightful predictions on how the world will look in the coming years:

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The book's the thing

While looking over my the two and a half years of blogging about the film industry, it occurred to me that I write a lot about the form of digital entertainment, i.e., how digital content is delivered to consumers. For example, I was early to note how Netflix was developing downloadable movies through their site, how Universal was offering download-to-own DVDs, and how Steven Soderbergh tried to combat piracy by releasing his film Bubble in theatres and DVDs simulatenously.

A number of my readers have been after me to do a book, citing that many of my posts are entertaining and informative about the film business. Between my own projects and other work, I've thought about it. Indeed, a man cannot live on blog alone. Given my inordinate fascination about The Shape Of Things To Come for digital entertainment, a book about piracy in the entertainment industry seemed like the next natural step.

However, I've been testing the winds to see which direction I should set sail. Filmmakers in the mini DV world live in perpetual anxst, one foot in each camp: I'd like to get a sweet studio distribution deal, but will I fare better if I offer up my film for a $1 download? If I'm going to write a book on music and movie piracy, I have to figure out exactly how I feel about it, and why.

Over the last two months, I've started to see the entertainment industry in a different light. I used to get violently angry when I saw movies getting copied. "It's immoral and illegal!" I used to say. "Why does everyone keep doing it? Don't they know they're destroying the entertainment industry?"

However, after hearing about how pervasive piracy is in India, China, Brazil and Eastern Europe, I changed my mind about it... a lot.

The world has changed. People treat digital content much more differently than they would a car or a house. And digital content is different. You can't duplicate a car 1,000 times and give those duplicates away for free. So why are we applying the rules of car ownership to something so inherently different? The fact is, the world is deciding on its own how it wants to pay money for this new kind of object—we can steadfastly enforce our car ownership rules on it and watch people steal anyway, or we can listen to what the world is telling us and find a way to work within that framework.

Anyway, here's a section of the book I started writing, which will probably end up in the introduction somewhere:

Let's say you owned a shop selling pastries in a small town somewhere. Every morning at 8:00 sharp, you unlock the front door, turn off the alarm, get ready for business. Your doors open at 9:00 and you serve your customers as they come in. One pastry costs you $1 to make, and $5 to sell, leaving you with a nice revenue of $4. Kids in the neighborhood stare longingly at your yummy pastries through your shopfront window, and while you're busy serving customers, they might try palm a pastry or two without you seeing, but you almost always catch them. Once you've caught them, you might call the cops and have them prosecuted, or you might dismiss it as a harmless nuisance. At 5:00 that evening, you close your doors, turn on your alarm, and go home. This is perfectly sensible approach to doing business and making a living. In fact, you could do this your whole life, and even teach your children to do it, if they wanted to. There is enough profit in it to allow your business to continue well into the future.

Now let's say your shop selling pastries suddenly had some alterations to it, some real and some magical. Let's imagine that anyone could buy one of your pastries and duplicate it perfectly... which they gleefully do, and pass along these duplications to everyone they know. Additionally, your shop now has no windows so anyone can lean in and take a pastry from your storefront before you even know what's happened. Your business still has an alarm, but now it has a 24 hour delay before going off so by the time the cops come, the thieves would be long gone. On top of that, everyone in this small town is constantly awake so you can't possibly stand guard all day long to ward off thieves. Even if you could successfully jail all the offenders, the local jail is nowhere near large enough to hold all the offenders. Worst of all, many of the thieves don't think what they're doing is fundamentally wrong; for years, they've been grumbling that $5 per pastry is really too high a price to pay, and they're finally "balancing the scales" by taking back what is owed them. Your revenues plummet, and you shout at anyone who will listen, how could everything have become so unfair to your once idyllic lifestyle?

This is the state of the movie industry now. Where once a small town business thrived under the buying and selling of the commodity business model, it now exists in a different game with different rules. The Old Pastry Shop existed under a capitalist framework derived from an Industrial Age, and the New Pastry Shop functions within a new economic model forged from the Information Age.

As with all evolutionary processes, only the animals who adapt to their new environment will thrive, while the others clinging to their old traditions will starve over time and, with venomous hissing, eventually self-extinguish. When DVDs are priced at $35 and CDs are priced at $20, movie and music producers have only themselves to blame for seeing their customers rationalize pastry theft.

Our world is smack in the middle of a war over how to most effectively monetize the distribution of digital content. We've already seen some successful business models emerge, but only time will tell if these new approaches have any stamina. In a global market of the Information Age where digital content is no longer bought and sold under the old storefront paradigm, piracy is the genie that won't go back in the bottle. Thus, the question movie and music producers—and even software developers—must ask themselves now is, how do we make money off this new model?

Because the alternative is death by a thousand cuts.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Name of The Guru

IMDB news reports that Mike Myers' recent film The Love Guru is offending a Hindu leader:

Myers Upsets Hindu Community
Actor Mike Myers has sparked controversy in Hindu communities for "lampooning" the religion in his new movie The Love Guru. The 44-year-old plays Guru Pitka in the upcoming film and repeats the mantra of Mariska Hargitay - inspired by the American actress - as his calming technique. But Hindu leader Rajan Zed has accused Myers of stereotyping the culture, adding the movie "appears to be lampooning Hinduism and Hindus." Studio Paramount Pictures has agreed to a preview of the movie for Hindu leaders prior to its release. A spokesman says, "Love Guru, which is not yet complete, is a satire created in the same spirit as Austin Powers. It is our full intention to screen the film for Rajan Zed and other Hindu leaders once it is ready." Link.

If the definition of "lampooning" means to "publicly criticize by using ridicule, irony or sarcasm", I would think that the Hindu leader is sensitive to any non-Hindu making fun of Hindus. The closest thing Myers is doing—I should say probably since I've yet to see the movie—is an absurd misrepresentation (mockery), or a comically exaggerated representation (caricature). Why would Myers have any intention of publicly criticizing Hindus? It smacks of racism.

Take Lost in Translation—while it certainly poked fun of the much Japanese buffoonery, it was certainly not disrespectful or critical of the Japanese. In fact, had that same film had been made by a Japanese person, it would have been called hilarious. So to call that film racist is, ironically, racist.

That's the problem with humor, though. Being mocked by close friends, those who are unquestionably loving, is a qualitatively different experience than being mocked by those whose loyalties are in doubt. It's hard to take a joke when you're unclear if it's suppressed criticism merely veiled in laughter.