Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pacific Rim (movie review)

A change of marquee at The Bagdad and I'm back for more "mindless entertainment" as it's called.

Lets watch some monsters rip up some cities.  Spectacular.

And it is spectacular.  Loud professionally-mixed sound has everything to do with it, plus there's that audience complicity we bleep over called "suspended disbelief".  How come when we go to book stores there aren't whole shelves on "suspended disbelief" -- isn't that an amazing concept and doesn't it ultimately cover so much outside of just movies?

A less nice term for it is "being in denial" but that's so unfriendly.  Doesn't it just mean having a good imagination and willfully coloring one's own life with what "special effects" one might bring to the picture?  If movie-makers do it why can't we?

Why do they call it escapism?  Yet at the same time "curling up with a novel" is a healthy thing?  No consistency there then.  If you wanna believe you're doing something "wrong", you will always have evidence, built in to the very fabric of the universe.  But "right" is there also.

Reading (fiction or non-fiction) actually keeps you in practice as a reader.  If you stop reading, the habit erodes, as it has for many non-reading TV-aholics.

Anyway, it's really rainy and stormy here after a pretty summer and people were packing the theater big time.  Indoor entertainment this weekend, not hiking, not exploring the great outdoors.

I don't like missing beginnings, especially holes opening into other dimensions, but I wanted my beer 'n pizza (this was dinner -- though I'd snack more too), so I head tripped about how they weren't firing on all cylinders (some cashier positions were open -- and some filled as I got closer) when I should have gotten there earlier.

Which reminds me, I need to give my mom her meds that I picked up on the way... hold on.  OK done, she has them.

Code Guardian on steroids.  With the Chinese Restaurant from eXistenZ, just a little.  These ugly bugs have parasites that are just as ugly.  It's ugly all the way down... but for sale and prized in Hong Kong (conjure the laugh track).

This movie knows to get a little goofy sometimes (I've not even mentioned the science types).  It's not as seriously scary as World War Z (also with its science type, just the type to slip up), which is more horrific by far.  The UN was at it again (like in WWZ) appearing to make the big decisions ("build walls!"), with the US fitting in, not playing the standalone "superpower" so much.

The fighter pilot hero seems American idol like, but most around him in command seemed Australian, see below.

This is just epic science fiction and fun with special effects.  Alexia had already told me it was so silly it was satisfying, just the mind-chicken one might need after a gnarly day at some office.

Let's just watch the world ending and see some bold heroics to save it, why not?  Lots of allusions to Godzilla.

I'm largely skeptical of Jaegers by the way.  I suppose they're more believable than Transformers and believability ain't even the point.  Just I don't think that super heavy metal with hoses the pneumatics is ever going to achieve that level of gracefulness quite, certainly not at that scale -- even the level of grace depicted, which is still pretty lame.  Sound is what makes it believable.

All that clanking.  Definitely heavy metal, yep yep.

I think it was Saving Private Ryan where the movie-makers suddenly paid more attention to bullet and gunfire noises, not using Hollywood stock effects.  Breakthroughs occur on that level.  I'm not saying this film had such breakthroughs, or that it didn't, just it gets me thinking about movie-making wizardry again.  So much goes into these productions.  I'd gladly watch The Making of Pacific Rim on special features.

Another plot element that gets me is you don't get to practice "drifting" (mind melding) with your battlefield partner, you just dive into it, already aboard a giant robot.  And when did you get training with that?  Learning to drive is hard enough but here you get converge your memories with someone else's and pilot a skyscraper all in one go?

Seems like you'd want to gradually build up to such onerous real time duty with the drifting and start more casually?

But that'd turn a science action film into a romance or other voyeuristic nonsense (as she and he got to know each other better, other than by fighting that is).  Nope, not what you came to see.  It's a monster movie for gosh sakes, not about adults doing lots of kissing (but then you're supposed to get how you might wanna, if you're only fourteen).

Probably the deepest aspect of this movie is its title, and the blend of East and West it concocts as a backdrop (not forgetting "down under").  This clearly can't be the present, as we don't have Jaegers yet and the UN doesn't cohere all that well (no external threat is really that big I guess, no "other dimension").

Speaking of the UN there are some big talks on nuclear disarmament going on even now yet it's hard to dig up stories.  The US isn't wanting to be "told what to do" and has not yet embraced the view that it can afford to lose the business, though Countdown to Zero -- the campaign (aka Critical Will) -- continues to make inroads, including with top intelligentsia.

Code Guardian too seems set in the past, and has these giant retro robots, as the popular mind back then might have imagined them (projecting its own technology).  It's this "retro futurism" that informs the ambiance of this film, Aliens no question an influence (open homage is paid).

It's not the job of science fiction to always believably situate itself, in either time or in space, as an other tomorrow.  Here's another way the ability to "suspend disbelief" comes in handy.  Then disbelief can come flooding in again, as your lonely planet whirls its silent way along some geodesic.  Nothing unbelievable about that.

Another similarity with Code Guardian (a tiny budget film, entirely computer generated) is precisely this Pacific Rim focus, in some ways furthering the peace it projects, with a nod to lingering sparks of hostility.  Many Asian countries get left out though, as many as are included.  This isn't a documentary on Asian cultures.

I met Derek walking back and we talked about coming changes to the neighborhood.  He was on his way to a sports bar to watch a game.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

World War Z (movie review)

I judged this movie to be astoundingly good, because it really scared me.  The last time I remember being that scared (because of a movie -- life is plenty scary) was in Aliens.  Is it because I identify with the protagonists so completely?  They each do a good job (Signourney Weaver and Brad Pitt respectively).

I've been doing my homework in the zombies mythology, falling further behind with the vampires, which has also been undergoing strong development in these early years of this millennium.  When AMC's Walking Dead started showing for free at The Bagdad, I found a collection and watched several seasons.

The Bagdad, by the way, is about to undergo a transformation, shutting down for awhile as a theater (owned by a brewpub) to reopen as one equipped to show first run films.  I'm ambivalent as that means a jump in price and more people wanting parking (think of a way to come by bus or bike people -- no mega-mall parking lots, just sleepy neighborhoods).  I can see where it'd be fun to jump on that circuit though, as a brewpub.  I hope The Laurelhurst isn't planning to follow suit right away.

The film is scary and not very jokey except when you zoom back to appreciate the ironies:  the WHO, World Health Organization, frantically distributing dire sicknesses to children, that they might live.  I won't explain.  Brad has been hanging out with Angelina (who can blame him) and knows what that world of NGOs and UN people is like, mixed with NATO and all that stuff.

He and the other movie-makers paint with that fairly contemporary palette to make a globalized "good guy" and it's a refreshing divergence from the perpetual US / Hollywood rehash, where the "good guys" are always some Team America World Police (Man of Steel gets it right but that's a period piece, deliberately retro).

In this movie, the US prez is dead already, get over it, that's not even a big part of the plot.  When you've got humanity against misanthropists, you have an opportunity to bring us together.  Bring Israel back into the fold, why not?  They were winning against the undead until becoming over-exuberant, a known pitfall in Judaism (hubris, too sure God is on your side, the "loud Jew" meme).

That was another funny irony:  the Israelis were so close to encircling themselves with that stupid wall that just a few more bricks made it a done deal.  Most thought it was about the Palestinians but we meet the Mosssad mastermind who took rumors of the "undead" seriously and pushed the wall on that basis.

There's no evidence such a wall had any affect along the Mexican border though (Dallas and Mexico City were equally Zombie-lands).  The CIA is probably less vested in that technology for combating the spread of Zombie-ism (they say like Communism but you don't have to know how to read or raise your consciousness).  Some things only make sense in the Middle East.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Future is Now

If you're looking for a meditation theme, those of you who use meditation themes, or would like to try one, here's a good one:  the future is now.

Of course that's obvious.  When I was growing up the future was like 2000, wow, and we're well passed 2000 now (OK, 13 isn't a lot, but it's after 2000).  So this is that future.  Look around.  You spent a lot of time wondering what it would be like.  This is what it's like.

The problem about "the future" is you never get there, a mean trick in a way, as you're always in suspense even when the thing you were in suspense about is long over.  Meditation helps you relax and appreciate how many of your questions have already been answered.

Monday, September 23, 2013

...So Goes The Nation

"The Nation says Occupy is a failure" Lindsey was saying.

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Because some guy walked out of a meeting, said he had to go compost, and another guy behind a web site got a job working for Google."


"They don't know about Occupy Portland, she continued." "I'd send them an email but I'm not really into using computers these days, the I Ching says to practice my music."

And so it goes.

I don't think we're a failure.  Tweet or something, if you agree.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

An Introduction to Synergetics

From an outgoing email dated today (hyperlinks added):

Synergetics is a rather strange hard-to-categorize philosophy that tries to turn science into something readable as prose and imaginable in terms of geometric cartoons.

That is not a radical idea as we all watch cartoons of batteries and ions flowing or electrons flowing, while listening to some narrator say what's going on.  Synergetics is a lot like that.

But then I would always study it in conjunction with something else, like electrodynamics or computer programming.  I don't think it's meant to stand all on its own, as if everyone else should stop what they're doing and focus on this thing over here.

No, not like that.

More like the I Ching, something to consult from time to time, or like DSM V (another reference).  Fuller himself was a voracious reader and listener.  He took in vast amounts.  Synergetics is like Esperanto, or trying to convert what everyone is saying in different language to something more in the middle.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Leveraging Python

:: Special Feature | Director's Comments ::

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Version Control

I've been jeering at Washington, DC wannabe government types for not using version control for important documents.  No wonder these are not the real coders.

But then some of them do, and when you get down to it, the NPYM Quakers do not, for their Faith & Practice.  I've sort of crafted an identity stretched around such a framework and should backpedal from jeering to producing hearty exhortations.

We both should get serious (we in government, we Friends).

Someone with a commit bit is not necessarily hogging the limelight.  One commits on behalf of others after reviewing and passing their code.  You're a conduit into a shared asset of considerable value.

Needing to go back a branch because the stuff you've committed actually sucks is the reason version control exists, but do that too often and you might lose that commit bit.  Stop leading us down blind allies.  We'll even forgive a few, but followers have their limits, before their leaders become scapegoats.

Wikipedia is so interesting and would take lifetimes to really study.  The discussions that go on over small editorial changes, the feuds.  Sometimes you go to the page less for the end result than for the discussion behind the scenes.

Our Faith & Practice would be that much richer with such a background.  So would government documents, that could find the time to mature (some official documents are written hurriedly, under the pressure of events).

I'm not just talking from inexperience about matters of which I know naught.  I've done a Wikipedia page in concert with others, the one on Synergetics (Fuller's version).

Here's a snap shot that pretty much comprises my total contribution.

If you check the discussion tab, you'll see others played a big role.  I was not the originator of the page, it had simply long remained dormant.

The process of co-creation was reminiscent of giving birth in the sense that there was some pain and strife, as well as risk.

Although "version control" may sound cold and "engineery" it's actually more humane to preserve these timelines that register the passions of those who provided content, or experienced their content getting blocked.

Movie making is like this too, inevitably, as ultimately life collapses to what's so versus what it might have been.  Even those who work solo must make their compromises (to work solo is also a cost, a freedom lost or not chosen).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Quoting from Facebook

[In the original FaceBook version, comments by others are interleaved.  NPYM = North Pacific Yearly Meeting.  I am discussing a public document available at that Meeting's website. I've added some hyperlinks, refactored the paragraphs ]

Interesting the NPYM draft Faith and Practice already has renamed Oversight Committee to Pastoral Care Committee. This despite the fact that the largest meeting in the region has not switched to that nomenclature and some actively oppose such a name change.

In the old days, Faith and Practice was descriptive more than prescriptive (said what we did do, not what we "should" do per somebody's blueprint). Clearly there's an attempt at top-down management here, such as we've not seen hitherto?

For me it's about grass roots versus top-down. If individual meetings want to adopt a name change and go with Pastoral Care over Oversight, then F&P should reflect these choices. At the moment though, the meetings I'm aware of in the NPYM region are all using the traditional terminology. This new draft language is very out of step with the standard practice of its people. That's what seems surprising. I don't see it as splintering for some meetings to use different terms. I just don't think we're at a point where such grass roots choices should be codified at the NPYM level. Most of us say "Oversight" and don't assume there's a problem in saying that.

The paragraph I shared around Oversight before sending it off (not presuming to speak for anyone but me -- but it had come up as an agenda item to discuss NPYM's draft): "AFAIK, MMM has no plans to change the name of Oversight Committee to Pastoral Care Committee. I know there's a minority that wants to do that but without real discussion in Business Meeting I'd say F&P has gone beyond its light in making that name change for our region and/or meeting." (AFAIK = "as far as I know").

To me, advocating we drop "Oversight" in favor of "Pastoral Care" is like saying we should stop saying "master / slave" when talking about disk drives, or that tool users should stop asking "male or female?" when wanting to know if it plugs in, or accepts a plug. Bending over backwards to be inoffensive too often means pabulum in place of edginess.

Quakers have diluted their language sufficiently. Loss of "Oversight" looks more like self-evisceration, Hara-kiri.

To "oversee" means to have the big picture view.

"Pastoral" reduces people to seeing themselves as sheep, as a "flock" of bleating brainless (sorry sheep), needing to be led.

Why is that vocabulary less offensive than empowering Friends to be "overseers". Better to have "overseers" (a rotating position) than docile sheep expecting to be patronized by all-knowing (better qualified) "pastors" (ala the religion we divorced from, quite awhile back, no regrets -- or are we hankering for a caste of professional theologians -- clerics -- again?).

I go off Oversight / MMM in 2014 at which time I predict the clerk (continuing) will be expected to push through the name change, neatly dovetailing with Discipline Committee's plans to move us into a more mainstream churchy vein, more like "other Protestants".

Once MMM falls to Pastoral Christian Friends, it will be easier for them to take the Valley.

It's definitely a shift to the right from the point of view of ye old College Park Beanites and their liberal ways. Adopting mainstream churchy language helps consolidate a more "ecumenical" Christianity with less dissent (less outward divergence at the level of theology).

I propose to fight back by referring to churches as "steeple houses" once again (unless they really don't have steeples -- I pay attention to architecture).

I also support the narrative that some Quakers are "forking off" from Christianity, meaning a meeting may well stay a Friends Meeting without identifying as Christian, and indeed some meetings may publicly not want that "Christian" affiliation / moniker / brand for themselves (which doesn't mean they can't or won't study the Bible; no books are banned).

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Google Earth as Rear View Mirror

Google Earth + Panoranimo: Quarry in Thornton, IL w/ I-80 Crossing

What was that?

Sometimes you'll be on a car trip, like I was, and do a double-take, as I did. I was going over this bridge somewhere in Illinois, my GPS taking me to O'Hare.

Suddenly, on both sides, steep cliffs, a drop off. Clearly a quarry of some kind.

I wished I had a better view and quickly scanned for exits and a better viewpoint.

In retrospect, I could have found one, but Google Earth, linked with Panoramino, is the next best thing.


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

A Crossroads