Sunday, September 28, 2014

Women in Love (movie review)

This Ken Russell film came out some time ago and is tame by modern day standards.  However D.H. Lawrence was considered racy in his day, and Women in Love was controversial, or at least so I was warned in advance.

Although the film was made in the 1960s, it's set in an earlier time, emerging from Victorian.  The one guy, not the coal mine owner's son, is given to strong opinions but doesn't cite many contemporary authors, so from purely a textual analysis, I couldn't quite place him vis-a-vis some of the other luminaries, my fault for being an ignoramus in many dimensions.  No one mentions Freud or anything.

I just learned that Nietzsche died the day Hitler was born, is that true, or just the year.  Let me go Google... timeline = {"Adolf Hitler":"20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945", "Friedrich Nietzsche":"15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900"}.  Not even the year.  I've been reading in Nietzsche, Godfather of Fascism? recently and I guess I'm wondering what these D.H. Lawrence characters think about fascism.  Maybe it was the day he went crazy?

I'd look for attitudes towards fascism starting with the father I think, the old man.  He's more like an earlier industrial revolution steel and coal Quakernomics dude in wanting to see his workers taken care of, with widows getting free coal to not freeze to death.  He's more of a Luddite though whereas Quakers saw reason behind labor-saving machinery.  The son is more in the "let them freeze" school (ironic given his ending) i.e. the "not my problem" camp, not wanting much wholism in his diet.

Lack of interest in any "big picture" seems to be a key feature of most these players:  a willful obliviousness to their animal context from an analytic perspective, and therefore with only an ability to act out.

Such obviously intelligent people don't manage to get along very well at all.  But then what would be the plot if all were daises and roses?  There's some happiness in the mix, but these stars sometimes seem disappointed way beyond reason given their many social privileges.  They're disappointed that "love" is maybe not really an emotion?  Like in some Japanese manga (comic books), lots of soul-searching goes on, and that's part of the charm of the genre.

Given the build-up I'd received I was misinterpreting the title somewhat and expecting more attention to the topic of physical intimacy among cis and/or trans women.  One cannot say intra-female relationships go unexamined, however I'd say the film is rather male-centric.  That's not a criticism, just an observation.  Maybe the title could have been Women in Love with Weird Men as Distinct From Each Other (but who would have bought it then?).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lambda Versus Delta

:: algebra student asking herself:  what's next for me? ::

I suppose you could say this minor semantic innovation or marketing wrinkle is about leveling the playing field.

In calling differential calculus "delta calculus" in contrast to the already-named "lambda calculus" we're giving the public an easy mnemonic, a hook into the sometimes obscure Math Wars.

The first battle, which the computer science camp won, was to get more computer-related content recognized as credit-worthy along the math track.

The second battle, coming up, is to introduce a fork around algebra, such that going forward students have, in broad outline, these two tracks:  lambda and delta.

Currently, "delta calc" is the road hog du jour, with "lambda calc" the competing underdog, angling for more bandwidth / market share / attention.

The CS crowd needs to stay with its strong suit:  graphics and visualizations.  We get that with the network / polyhedron of nodes and edges, the stuff of graph theory and graph databases.

Stay tuned.

For further reading:
recent posting to maththinking-l
followup on math-teach (Sept 29, 2014) 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Jodorowsky's Dune (movie review)


This documentary bills itself is being about "one of the greatest movies never made".  The issue is Jodorowsky is from the "strong director" school and with such an ambitious film planned, investors in the Hollywood community couldn't stomach the risk.  I don't blame them and wonder why other movie-funding networks were not approached.  El Topo may have been a big hit in Europe, but fewer North Americans have ever heard of it, let alone Holy Mountain (which I've seen, though not on the big screen it deserves).

Jodorowsky comes across as in control of his talent.  At 85 and looking back on a dream "not coming true", he now sees in what ways his contribution was completely real and impactful.  I thought his son summed it up best:  Jodorowsky's Dune is a lot like Paul, slain in the end, only to be resurrected in the souls of others.

What Jodorowksy's Dune did become:  a complete comic book / storyboard for the entire film; a platform for future collaborations / relationships within film-making (all that rigorous training in martial arts would certainly have opened doors for his son, cast as Paul).  He had approached and was planning to cast in cameos:  Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, David Carradine, with music tracks by Pink Floyd.  His morning pep talks to the developers would certainly have been inspiring.

Judging the precise influence of these spin-offs (precessional by-products to use Bucky's language) is impossible, which is maybe another way of saying "immeasurably great" in some dimensions (as we say of the space program, likewise a junkyard of unfunded yet influential draft projects).  All the big studios got their free copy / proposal of the comic book (the 2D stills rendering, the storyboard).

For example, the idea of a POV shot from inside a robot, how that might render, with foreground information, as in heads-up displays, gets clear graphical treatment in the comic, only to show up quite like that in films going forward, e.g. Terminator and Star Wars.

Yes, such imagery bubbles up through the Zeitgeist and the director himself spoke about "channeling" so there's no need for direct attribution or intellectual property debates.  He recruited some of the very best talent in the business around a compelling vision, creating a giant-castle-based "meme factory" for many films to come; the developers literally rented a giant castle aimed at gelling the vision, from script to storyboard -- something we've also done in the software industry for coding sprints.

I agree with the talking heads who say the shared head space of movie-goers would have been different given this alternative past in which said movie had actually been funded.  Would this have been the blockbuster game changer Jodorowsky imagined it would be?  We'll never know in those terms, but as the director himself makes clear, the comic book is substantial enough to give rise to a the full blown picture, even posthumously, perhaps as an animation.  The documentary teases us with the possibility.

David Lynch got a crack at making the film, and Jodorowsky was gratified to see it didn't completely fill the void i.e. another could still be made.  Lynch's needn't be seen as the canonical Dune.

The talking heads make a good point though:  psychedelic fervor was at a peak when the film appeared most likely to be made.  We're a bit like a surfer waiting for a next wave perhaps.

The lower budget yet effective style in Serenity comes to mind.  Joss Whedon might do a good Dune.  But then maybe he, like me, was never super-thrilled by the novel in the first place.  That's not meant as a damning remark, more that of a potential future fan, still willing to be persuaded.

In the meantime, El Topo is now at the top of my queue.  I'll look for it at Movie Madness when I return these (a well-made docu-drama about Alan Turing was my other investment this time, having previously plowed through a season of Longmire).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Gender Wars

The gender wars, don't need to call it that, have much to do with grammar, especially around pronouns.  I'm familiar with pronoun battles as it is, given how often a speaker assumes the "we inclusive" i.e. including me in some "we" that I either (a) fight or (b) have nothing to do with or (c) maybe have huge respect for but do not consider myself a member of, and so on.  However that "we" stuff is a two way street as I learn new ways to use "we" on my side as well.

Nor is it like I'm in any way alone in my appreciation for pronoun battles.  The "we" fight, as in "what 'we' white man" is pretty dang old, hence that phrase.

In progressive Portland, Oregon, early 21st century, it's considered polite in some circles (circles I've been in, with people I know personally and appreciate as individuals as well as members of various other circles), especially in a work setting with strangers, to introduce oneself and the pronoun one prefers, the prevalent choices being she, he and they.  That's right, a 3rd person plural is more gender neutral and so becomes idiomatically singular.

Individuals with a background in show business are far more accustomed to the idea of a persona, a role, a character.  One needs a home base for one's avatar, a person to be in daily life, and then, with that as an anchor, one swings out into various alternative roles, professionally, as an actor / actress (assuming a determinate sex or gender for the character, not always the case, especially in cartoon voice parts where gender may be deliberately ambiguous).

Portland is big enough to attract a theatrical crowd i.e. we have enough readers, theater-goers, music fans, film addicts or whatever, such that separation of persona and avatar has come to seem natural, so if your DNA sex is XX yet you're more yourself, persona-wise, being a male, then the pronoun should go to your character, not to your "horse" ("dog") or physical "piece" (body).  Ditto if you're operating an XY, apparatus-wise, but feel home-based in a female persona, then it's the persona that gets the pronoun.

The person's self-declared orientation is accepted and the pronoun goes with the persona.  Ergo, in polite society referring to a person as "he" or "him" who is biologically (DNA-wise) not male is grammatically accepted.  By many.  We might accept it, your group might not.

Just to go into the anthropology a little more, these people who identify with a gender other than their gender at birth are considered "trans" whereas those identifying with their birth gender (i.e. decision as to sex at birth or pre-birth) are considered "cis".

Should it come up whether a sister or friend is a cis-woman, that's meaningful to ask, though may not be polite company discussion in the Victorian sense.  Inquiring directly about DNA or one's "cis-or-trans-ness" is quite possibly somewhat intrusive as "does this relationship involve community policing of some kind?" ("What?  Are you a cop?" -- "cop" as in "officious busy-body" i.e. a "need to know" person with a perhaps self-assumed right to pry).  A trans-woman was most likely cis-male at birth if this grammar is followed.

Helpful in this connection is the mnemonic GLTBQQI, sometimes with L first.  The final "I" is for inter-sexed and refers to bell curve phenomena wherein sex is biologically ambiguous at birth, issues of persona aside.  The more clinical term might be "hermaphroditic" but that comes with cultural baggage.  "Inter-sexed" is not synonymous with "uni-sexed" and "androgynous" though these are all related concepts.

"Asexual" and/or "gender-neutral" are in many ways fixed points of reference regardless of one's personal orientation or persona, but of course we're into "eye of the beholder" country.  People come calibrated differently, which is somewhat the point / cause / driver of the gender wars in the first place.  "War" as in "tug-o-war" maybe:  it's played out in grammar as the battlefield, is semantic in nature.

Obviously in busy street life you do not always have time to learn a person's preferred pronoun and they may dress ambiguously, and in those situations polite society accepts a shared but more rude public space wherein pronouns often fall into the wrong places, and a kind of jarring occurs, as when riding a bus or subway (metaphorically).

People use the wrong pronoun with you, about you, making wrong assumptions or not obeying the rules of grammar you're used to given your ethnicity as a Portlander.  We have lots of tourists after all.

Speaking of public spaces and miss-assumptions, gender-typing public restrooms is an age-old architectural feature and gender-queer learn to bend their characters sometimes.  Many a trans-male has a fallback or secondary fem character when needed and vice versa.   Gender-neutral restrooms are already the norm where a small coffee shop or restaurant has only one shared public toilet.  Turning two gender-biased restrooms into two gender-neutral is just a matter of changing signs on the door in some cases (not others -- plumbing also an issue).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ecosystem Software


wxPython (classic) has been released and is now available for
download at  This build adds some
updates of the 3rdParty libraries that were left out of the last build
by mistake.

Various binaries are available for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows, and also
for OSX using the Carbon and Cocoa APIs, for Python 2.6 and 2.7.
Source code is also available at of
course, for building your own.

What is wxPython?

wxPython is a GUI toolkit for the Python programming language. It
allows Python programmers to create programs with a robust, highly
functional graphical user interface, simply and easily. It is
implemented as a set of Python extension modules that wrap the GUI
components of the popular wxWidgets cross platform library, which is
written in C++.

wxPython is a cross-platform toolkit. This means that the same program
will usually run on multiple platforms without modifications.
Currently supported platforms are 32-bit and 64-bit Microsoft Windows,
most Linux or other Unix-like systems using GTK2, and Mac OS X 10.4+.
In most cases the native widgets are used on each platform to provide
a 100% native look and feel for the application.

Robin Dunn
Software Craftsman

       Support the Python Software Foundation:

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Quoting Nietzsche

Walter Kaufmann of Princeton University, where I met him late in his life -- he'd had a long track record before that -- used to quote with approval Nietzsche's  advisory:  "be a hard bed for your friends."

Now why would anyone wanna be that?  Aren't friends precisely those people with a soft lap, more cuddly?

Well, if you think of cop or doctor shows where there's some conflict -- or lawyer shows -- you get the alpha apes playing racket ball.

They're on the opposite side of some issue at work, so there's a plot.  They've been at loggerheads before.

That's part of what drives the season (plots involve opposition and tension).

"These two women are friends" (just to go against the stereotype) one soon realizes, yet they're each into trouncing the other in some professionally recognized way, like in sports.  Racket ball becomes a metaphor.  Or tennis.  The CIA executive director (e.g. Nora Slatkin) is always leaving her 7th floor office to go play tennis with the FBI director (DiCaprio?); the spy novels are full of that stuff.

So in that sense I think Nietzsche was saying to be a strong racket ball partner for your friends, like a coach or better, a sparring partner.  What better way to develop your immune system, your defenses, than by working out against a lesser enemy, i.e. a friend.  I know it sounds weird to put it that way, which is why I did so on purpose.

When you have someone's interests at heart and yet appear to present obstacles, you're in well known territory where storytelling is concerned.

Married couples often confuse themselves in not recognizing that they're also racket ball partners i.e. well positioned as trainers to play hard ball in such a way as to improve the others' performance.  That's the theory anyway.  The mindset to adopt is your opponent is not "unfair" or "out of line" but "highly paid by invisible others to serve just exactly in that way".  That's a meditation, like when the Dalai Lama says to imagine everyone as your mother.  I'm not trying to make you paranoid.

Monday, September 01, 2014

DjangoCon 2014

Portland is lucky to get so much of the open source world coming through its venues, this week, Labor Day week, being DjangoCon 2014, produced by The Open Bastion.

As per usual, I'm ensconced in the office suite, using Hilton Wifi to perform some tasks in Cyberia.

Today being a holiday, post Burning Man's man burning, and the temple too, I'm also kicking back to watch Little Stewart, Mrs. Swan and other MAD TV offerings.  I get my mini-vacations through multitasking sometimes.

At lunch I enjoyed the company of Jeff Tripplett, one of the in-on-the-ground-floor people around Django, a web framework originating from the Lawrence Journal-World and its newspaper culture.

Portia, local like me, and Leah, from Seattle spoke of Angular.js and the morning tutorial.  Steve Holden and others joined us later.  This is a small conference, which I like.

We talked quite a bit about version control systems as applied not to source code necessarily, but to contracts and legislation.  A lot of legal language is about amending this or that, what we call "patching" the code.  The gentleman to my left, from Minneapolis, was aware that the practice of using software for version control behind legal contract language was already spreading.

I'm interested in version control software within Quakerism.  How might the differing meetings swap DNA around to find the right rules just for them, yet with a family resemblance to the others?

Forking and branching as a managed process makes a lot of sense in this context.

Coming home on the 14 bus, I read Polo's piece in Asian Reporter, about Asians succeeding in mainstream America and needing to maybe adjust to having arrived.  He was giving a talk at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and seeing that as a metaphor for really making it, as an ethnicity and minority -- but then we all qualify in having those attributes (some minority ethnicity, such as "djangsta") in some dimensions.

I know my daughter really enjoyed her high school summer internship at OHSU, doing some pretty serious lab work for a person her age.