Asawin Suebsaeng

Asawin Suebsaeng

Reporter

Asawin Suebsaeng is a reporter at the Washington, DC, bureau of Mother Jones. He has also written for The American Prospect, the Bangkok Post, and Shoecomics.com.

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A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn., Asawin came back to DC with hopes of putting his flimsy Creative Writing major, student newspaper tenure, and interest in human rights and political chicanery to some use. He started cutting his teeth at F&M's student-run weekly, The College Reporter, serving as editor in chief. He has interned at The American Prospect, been a reporter for the Bangkok Post, and scribbled for ShoeComics.com. His favorite movie is either Apocalypse Now or Pirahna 3D, depending on the day or mood.

Film Review: Lunch Hour

| Fri Feb. 28, 2014 7:00 AM EST

Lunch Hour

BIRDSTREET PRODUCTIONS

"I know that I don't wanna eat it, and that I don't think it's healthy, but yet I'm serving it to 600 kids," a frustrated school official tells director James Costa, whose easily digestible 75-minute doc takes a hard look at the National School Lunch Program. Politicians, doctors, and administrators line up to discuss their war on artery-clogging meals, the obesity epidemic, heart disease, and the crap that ends up on kids' lunch trays. Lunch Hour doesn't deliver the wallop of, say, Fast Food Nation, but it packs enough outrage to make you dread your child's daily trip to the cafeteria.

This review originally appeared in our March/April 2014 issue of Mother Jones.

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Liam Neeson is "Pissed Off" at Bill de Blasio Over Horses

| Thu Feb. 27, 2014 5:24 PM EST

On Wednesday night's episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Liam Neeson (star of the Taken movies, Schindler's List, and Battleship) revealed why he was a little "pissed off" at New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The 61-year-old actor and New York resident wasn't mad at the new mayor for his socialist past or his leadership during winter storms. Neeson was upset over horses.

"He wants to close this horse and carriage industry in New York," Neeson said, referring to the mayor's goal to replace "inhumane" carriage horses with "vintage tourist-friendly vehicles in parks." Neeson also accused animal rights groups for spreading "false information" about the treatment of the horses in the city. (Neeson, whose close friend is a New York horse and carriage owner, previously wrote an intensely punctuated open letter to de Blasio on how he was "appalled to learn of [de Blasio's] intent to obliterate one of the most deep rooted icons of our city!")

Horse-drawn carriages have attracted controversy due to accusations of excessive harm to the animals. Carriage drivers of course vowed to fight a ban. Here is a clip of Stewart and Neeson's mini-debate, via TMZ:

This isn't the only cause Neeson is passionate about. The actor—recently famous for playing a good-natured CIA torturer who massacres ethnic stereotypes who kidnap his daughter—has a long history of working with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), including his work as a Goodwill Ambassador and his participation in a campaign to combat violence against children. And he once stripped almost completely naked to raise money for breast cancer research.

But of all his causes, this one might be getting him the most press. For years, Neeson has been vocal on the issue of New York's horse-drawn carriages, to the point that the Daily Caller asked in January, "Will Liam Neeson stand in the way of Bill de Blasio's horse carriage ban?" PETA has slammed Neeson over this. "Liam Neeson...has PETA wondering if one of his horses might have kicked him in the head," the organization wrote. In 2009, he issued a letter to city officials to rage against the "coordinated attempt by animal activists and a certain Queens council member to ban the industry from the city." Here's part of the letter, which you can read while keeping Neeson's voice in mind:

As a horse lover and rider, I am deeply disturbed by the unnecessary and misguided political and extreme rhetoric against the horse-drawn carriage industry and feel obliged to counter this action.

The horse-drawn carriage business is an iconic part of this city, employing hundreds of dedicated, hard-working men and women, caring for well-bred, well-trained horses and attracting tourists to New York City for over 100 years.

As a proud New York resident, I have personally enjoyed the beauty of Central Park on a daily basis for many years, and these horses are an undeniable integral part of that experience. The notion that a well-nourished horse pulling a carriage through Central Park is considered cruelty may fit in with animal activists' extremist view, but not with the rest of us. Surely we have a responsibility to protect commerce, especially one with such history, and one I truly feel helps define this city. May pragmatism prevail.

In 2009, Neeson made another appearance on The Daily Show—and discussed horses and carriages:

Neeson was also the star of the 2012 film The Grey, which was criticized by animal rights activists for smearing wolves as brutal and ravenous human-killers.

Mayor de Blasio's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, perhaps out of fear of Liam Neeson.

The New Bryan Cranston "Godzilla" Trailer is Awesome—and Explicitly Calls Out US Nuclear Testing

| Tue Feb. 25, 2014 9:55 PM EST

The upcoming Godzilla reboot (set for a May release) will offer its own modern take on the origin of the famous city-squashing monster. It's directed by Gareth Edwards, and stars Bryan CranstonElizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. The new trailer is out, and it's pretty great:

At about the minute mark, you hear characters explaining how mankind created its own colossal nightmare. Their explanation seems to call out actual American nuclear testing, specifically Operation Castle. Here are some lines of dialogue narrating images in the trailer:

In 1954, we awakened something.

With those nuclear tests in the Pacific.

Not tests...

They were trying to kill it.

And thus Godzilla comes back as a radioactive beast to destroy and rampage.

The nuclear "tests" mentioned in the trailer (and presumably the film) likely refer to Operation Castle, a series of nuclear tests conducted by the United States in early 1954 at Bikini Atoll. The original Godzilla film (Gojira) premiered that same year, and was cleverly critical of that kind of testing. (The critically maligned 1998 Godzilla, directed by Roland Emmerich, blamed Godzilla's wrath on nuclear tests in French Polynesia.)

Here's a declassified video on Operation Castle:

Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Kal Penn Set to Appear at the White House's First Student Film Festival

| Tue Feb. 25, 2014 6:05 PM EST

On Friday, the White House East Room is set to host its inaugural Student Film Festival. The winning entries, which include stop-motion animation and special-effects-peppered fare, were selected from over 2,000 submissions. The White House announced the contest for American students, grades K-12, last November, and put out a call for short films (three-minute max.) that demonstrate how technology is used in schools today and how it might change education in the future.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to make an appearance at the White House Student Film Festival—as are the following celebrities:

  • Bill Nye (the Science Guy), who has been on a pro-science, anti-creationism/denialism warpath lately. "I fight this fight out of patriotism," Nye told me last year. "[Nye has] been instrumental in helping advance some of the president's key initiatives to make sure we can out-educate, out-innovate, and out-compete the world," an Obama administration official said.
  • Kal Penn, the 36-year-old actor who served stints as associate director for the Office of Public Engagement in the Obama administration and delivered this speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He was at the White House Science Fair last year. He also wants to help sell you on Obamacare.
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson, another friend of the Obama White House and science luminary.
  • Conan O'Brien, though unlike the previous three, he is not set to appear in person. He'll be sending a video address.

The film fest will also include a sneak peek at the Fox series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (the successor to the show that made Carl Sagan famous), which will be hosted by deGrasse Tyson and executive-produced by Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane and Ann Druyan, Sagan's widow.

Click here to check out some of the White House honorable mentions in the festival. Here's one, titled "A Day In The Life of a Tech Nerd":

UPDATE, February 28, 2014, 7:04 p.m. EST: On Friday, Bill Nye posted the following photo of him, President Obama, and Neil deGrasse Tyson—a "Presidential Selfie" in Nye's words:

"So, an astrophysicist, an engineer, and the President of the United States walk into The Blue Room...." reads the caption on Nye's Facebook page.

Here's Comedy Legend Harold Ramis' Advice to Young Filmmakers

| Mon Feb. 24, 2014 4:03 PM EST

Harold Ramis, the influential comedy filmmaker, died on Monday in his hometown of Chicago from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. He was 69.

Ramis is best known for directing acclaimed comedies such as Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, and Analyze This, and for cowriting and starring in Ghostbusters. His work has had a huge impact on American comedy over the past 30-plus years. "The simple idiot's advice I give to screenwriters who say they want to sell a screenplay is, 'Write good,'" Ramis said during an interview for American Storytellers in 2002. "Nothing sells like a good screenplay."

Here's more advice for young filmmakers from Ramis' American Storytellers interview. It's worth taking to heart:

You have to live your life with a certain blind confidence that if it's your destiny to succeed at these things, it will happen, if you just continue to follow a straight path, to do you work as conscientiously and as creatively as you can, and to just stay open to all opportunity and experience. There's a performing motto at Second City...to say yes instead of no. It's actually an improvisational rule…It's about supporting the other person. And the corollary to that is if you concentrate on making other people look good, then we all have the potential to look good. If you're just worried about yourself—How am I doing? How am I doing?—which is kind of a refrain in Hollywood, you know, people are desperately trying to make their careers in isolation, independent of everyone around them.

And I've always found that my career happened as a result of a tremendous synergy of all the talented people I've worked with, all helping each other, all connecting, and reconnecting in different combinations. So…identify talented people around you and then instead of going into competition with them, or trying to wipe them out, make alliances, make creative friendships that allow you and your friends to grow together, because someday your friend is going to be sitting across a desk from you running a movie studio.

Watch the full video below:

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