Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'musings (general)'

Words, Words, Words

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 23, 2017 @ 9:18 am PDT

Words, words, words!
I’m so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?
(“Show Me” from My Fair Lady, M/L: Lerner and Loewe)

Words, words, words (and their underlying concepts): we use them everyday, but as they say in The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Here are some articles that have passed through my various RSS feeds and sources of late that relate to words/concepts, and their use/misuse:

  1. Words You May Be Using Wrong. This is an interesting summary of a scientific paper that explores 50 terms that people regularly confuse and use wrong. For example, there is a significant difference between asocial and antisocial, and most people use the latter when they mean the former. Envy and jealousy are similarly confused. Race and ethnicity. Serial killers vs mass murderers. Quite an interesting read.
  2. Lost Words That Deserve a Comeback. Here’s another interesting word list: 30 Lost English Words that Deserve a Comeback. We had a good example of such a word in the last few days: dotard (meaning “an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile”). I’m not sure that’s the word I would have used.  Sillytonian seems better to me (A silly or gullible person, esp. one considered as belonging to a notional sect of such people). In any case, it is worth reading the list.
  3. Open and Closed Minded. Speaking of Sillytonian people, one of the major complaints about that group is that they are so closed minded (but they would say the same about us). But what does it mean to be open or closed mined. Here’s an exploration of 7 significant ways you can tell open from closed minded. For example, closed-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged. They are typically frustrated that they can’t get the other person to agree with them instead of curious as to why the other person disagrees. Where are you on that spectrum?
  4. Infinities of Infinities. Infinity is a concept that has fascinated me since high school. The math surrounding the concept is so weird: ∞ + ∞, for example, equals ∞. The infinity of all even numbers is the same as the infinity of all numbers. However, for the longest time, we have believed that the infinity of all rational numbers (that is, those that can be represented by a fraction of two integers) was actually smaller than the infinity of all numbers including transcendental numbers (i.e., the real numbers like π that can’t be represented by a fraction). It now appears that we were wrong, and all infinities are equal. I expect this is something we’ll keep seeing come back, because it is in someways counter-intuitive, like the ever-present Monty Hall Problem.

Words, words, words!
I’m so sick of words
I get words all day through
First from him, now from you
Is that all you blighters can do?

P.S.: If you like words, here’s a newly discovered Kurt Vonnegut short story.

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Confederate Statues and Route 66

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Aug 31, 2017 @ 4:12 pm PDT

While riding along Route 66 and stopping for lunch in Seligman, AZ, an odd thought popped into my mind. It was amplified, a bit, by listening to a 99% Invisible Podcast on a Plaque for Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis. That podcast pointed out that monuments don’t just appear in the wake of someone’s death — they are erected for reasons specific to a time and place.

I noted in a past post how many towns along Route 66 are dying or waning, but have a growing business in Route 66 tourism. There are loads and loads of Tourist / Money Separators being produced with variants of the Route 66 logo. But there’s no love for Route 6 or 60 or 70 or 80 or 99. There’s just a little love for the Lincoln Highway (US 30 / US 40). Why so much love for Route 66?

But then I began to think about the nostalgia, and who you see in the material. I thought about the Green Book, the guide for Negro motorists that told them where it was safe to travel. I thought about the implicit Jim Crow rules in many states, and wondered how many Negros and minorities traveled US 66. Remember, the heyday that is being remembered is from the Steinbeck days to the Eisenhower era and the starting of the Interstates. That was the period of loads of discrimination, even in non-Southern states (think about Las Vegas and the Casinos, for example).

I then begin to think about Trump, “Make America Great Again”, and the nostalgia for the “Good ‘Ol Days”. Often, that is code speak for the days when men had the privilege, when more specifically, white men had the privilege. The 1930s through 1950s, those “Happy Days” that were lily white, except for that jungle rock music.

And so I wondered: Could the Route 66 nostalgia be similar to Confederate Statues? Could it be a veiled longing for when America was last perceived to be great, the days when minorities were in their place, when the White Male breadwinner could get behind the wheel of his gleaming Buick or Chevrolet and motor down the road, secure in the knowledge that they could find a clean motor court that would accept them, and gas stations with servile attendants to address their every need. Even during the dustbowl migration, when the great road was a path for survival, it was survival for the White Farmers escaping Kansas, looking for work in the fields of California, which didn’t have the need to import those braceros.

I thought about it, and the romance of the Mother Road wasn’t quite so romantic anymore. Bringing down the statues is raising awareness of many other ways of memorializing.

 

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Sex and Drugs

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Aug 06, 2017 @ 8:15 am PDT

We’ve had the rock and roll, so how about some sex and drugs before the next writeup. Here’s is some news chum I found particularly interesting in these areas:

Sex

Three interesting articles related to the subject of sex:

  • Bespoke Porn. Technology changes the porn industry. As free porn has become increasingly available on the Internet through sites like Pornhub, the primary industry in the San Fernando Valley — porn — has been hurt. When people don’t pay, how are actors to earn a living? The answer is a bit of a surprise: Bespoke Porn. What this means is porn specifically made for one individual for their particular tastes. This isn’t always the sex you think. The article notes cases of women fully clothed swatting flies or destroying stamp collections. To each their own; I find this interesting less for the sex aspect and more for the statement it makes about the larger industry.
  • Cosplay Capers. The second article I found explores the trend for cosplayers (usually buxom young women) to create patreon pages where followers can pay to see even more risque photos (usually at the edge of R towards the S T U, but not getting as far as X or multiples thereof). I see this on FB: I have one friend that has befriended a bunch of cosplay models and comments on their pages; thus I see them promoting their patreons. It bothers me what such comments telegraph to others, but that’s neither here nor there. As for the evolution of cosplay, as long as this is the player’s choice I guess it is OK, but I can also see how such images play to the troublesome double standards we see in society.
  • Sex on Stage. Here’s a fascinating article on intimacy directors: that is, those individuals whose job it is to choreography intimacy onstage to make it believable, and yet not cross actors’ personal boundaries.

Drugs

Here are two articles related to … well, not quite drugs, but something that acts like a drug for the current generation: smartphones.

  • Smartphones and the iGen. As I wrote in my last post, we’re dealing with a teen who constantly has her face in her phone: snapchat, youtube, constant selfies. We don’t think it is healthy, and this article gives some facts and statistics to confirm it. It leads to significant sleep deprevation and depression, and serves to isolate the generation from personal contact and interactions with friends (not in all cases, but as a general statistical sample). It really is an interesting read.  Here’s an example of such a statistic: “All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. Admittedly, 10 hours a week is a lot. But those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time.”
  • Sinister Screens. Here’s a shorter article that addresses the same subject, and again an interesting quote: Brain-imaging studies have shown that the dopamine released when users are getting their technology fix is akin to what is seen in other forms of addiction — one of the reasons Peter Whybrow, director of UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, has referred to digital technology as “electronic cocaine.”

Bringing It All Together

Now, think about these articles in the large. Are we creating a generation that finds intimacy online through individualized porn and patreon girls? Is this an unanticipated side effect of the growth of the Internet? What does that say about society as a whole?

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Mottos Matter

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jul 05, 2017 @ 7:34 pm PDT

userpic=divided-nationI was getting all ready to do a post about NPR tweeting the Declaration of Independence and the kerfuffle over the CNN video and its source, but then I realized there was something deeper to say about the implication of mottos.

Since 1956 — the height of “godless communism” — the motto of the USA was “In God We Trust” and “Under God” was added to the pledge. Before that, the unofficial motto — since the founding of the nation — was E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One).  The change was made — ostensibly — to distinguish us from the godless Commies. I think our decline into partisanship began then.

Think about the two sayings. When you say, “In God We Trust”, the first question is: Whose God? Is it the God of the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Hindu, the Buddhists, the… And what about those who do not believe in God, or who question God? “In God We Trust”, ultimately, is a motto that divides us. It also explicitly gives a religious basis to what makes us strong. If “In God We Trust”, then it is God that makes us strong. Actually, it is my God that makes us strong, and your God that makes us weak, so you better do what my God says.

Now consider “E Pluribus Unum“. This is a strength that comes not from the Divine, but from the people. It says that it is our diversity that makes us strong — our different ideas. It is all of us working together that makes this nation great, setting aside religious, cultural, and political differences to find compromises that move us forward.

Our National leaders — starting from the era of Eisenhower and “In God We Trust” (for this is when both Nixon and Reagan got their starts) — have increasingly emphasized the divides in our nation. Religion. Class. Color. Gender. They have played those divides to accumulate power and wealth. We see the results in Washington DC today. People work for party over the nation, believing what is good for their party must be good for the nation, unquestioningly. We have seen a populace that unquestioningly hates the other side, considered them to be sub-human. We have seen the hatred grow, and the unity disappear.

For America to survive, we must remember that we were founded for E Pluribus Unum, not In God We Trust. We must come together to celebrate our diversity, find the strength within, and work together for all people. We must elect leaders who feel the same. We must remind our currently elected leaders that if they do not work for all the people, then they may soon be looking for a new job.

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Fears and Frailty

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Mar 30, 2017 @ 7:19 pm PDT

We all have fears. Some find strength in them. Some let them shape their lives.

Fear, thy name is Apple.

This post, of course, is brought to you by the letters “i”, “t”, “u”, “n”, “e”, and “s”. Put them together, and they spell “iTunes” — the reason for this musing, especially after reading an article titled “How iTunes built, and then broke, my meticulous music-listening system“. I’m one of those folks: curing my iTunes library, making sure the meta-data is right, the album art reflects the version of the album I have — for all of my 40,000+ songs (yes, I’ve crossed the 40K song mark). Although the article discusses the problem of iTunes with newer devices, I’m dependent on the software to sync with my modded iPod Classic (512GB storage). I’ve even stayed on iTunes 11, because I know that will work with the device. I will never get an iPhone, because that would mean upgrading iTunes — and we all know that will spell doom.

So what are my fears?

Well, my iPods could die. I’d still have the music of course: tracks lovingly downloaded, ripped from CDs, recorded by hand from LPs, extracted from videos. Most of the music not available elsewhere digitally. But that’s why I have a backup iPod Classic. Primero and Segundo. Prime.

But what if iTunes 11 no longer works when I move eventually to Windows 10. How will I sync my music? How will I move everything to another library system. I really do not want my music in the cloud. There are so many places where streaming just does not work. Not to mention, of course, that it is MY music. I paid for it, I should be the only one to control it.

That, by the way, is why I tend to buy digital music from Amazon, but not use Amazon Music.

This brings us to the problem with MP3 download collections. Unlike CDs or LPs, there’s nothing tangible. Nothing to pass on. It is in a fixed format that might not be supported in the future. Then what? Pay for your music again, if you can find it. I can still listen to LPs from almost 80 years ago (alas, I can’t deal with 78s). We can still listen to CDs from 30 years ago. 30 years ago, the MP3 format didn’t exist.

30 years from now, how will we listen to our expensive MP3 downloads? We will probably still be able to find CD players (although forget those CD-ROMs you recorded — they’re likely toast now). We’ll find the cassette players, and LP players. But will our computers still be able to play MP3s? Ask yourself this: Could you open a Wordstar file?

So a big fear of my: My music won’t age well with me. Of course, in 30 years I’ll be 87. I probably will have forgotten how to use a computer. Hopefully, my iPod Classics will still be working 🙂

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Be Careful What You Wish For

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Mar 29, 2017 @ 11:27 am PDT

Over the weekend, I read an interesting article in the LA Times about how studios are currently shuffling leadership around as they attempt to adjust to the declining revenues of films in theatres. The explanation that was given was that the business model of the film industry is changing. The only “successful” movies on the big screen are the blockbuster tentpoles; the previous mid-market movies just are not succeeding in the theatres (although they do well on the smaller screen). The other “success” are the very low budget movies, but it is easy to make money on those with a modest success.

Well, duh.

This is a clear demonstration of being careful what you wish for, combined with not understanding the market. First, we have been pushing the quality of televisions up and up. We had HD, and UHD, and 4K, and even more. So for stories that are more slice of life, non-special effects, stories, why do I need to go to the theatre to see them. Further, I think filmmakers and actors are discovering that the 2-3 hour movie is limiting, and a story can be told with more depth of character as a 10 episode limited miniseries (which is also why you’re seeing more sequelitis).

So what will succeed?

Blockbusters work for a number of reasons: first, you need the big screen for the spectacle, the sound, and most importantly, the shared experience. If you are watching something where the mood of the audience will feed into the reaction, it works better when you watch surrounded by people.

What else? One word: Live.

Broadway musicals are growing because the live experience is different every time, it is a shared experience, and it is something that cannot be duplicated in the living room. “Live on Film”, such as the limited one-or-two time broadcasts of shows, can also be successful because of the limits. Live is why professional sports remain successful: the shared live experience is unique, and time sensitive.

Could this be why many big name studies have gotten into the Broadway show business?

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Deep Questions

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Mar 19, 2017 @ 10:14 pm PDT

Inspired by some podcasts I’ve been listening to and some articles I’ve been reading, here are some deep questions:

  • Is cereal a soup? After all, soup is food in a nutritious liquid.  [Corollary: Is oatmeal stew?] (inspired by this)
  • Is a taco a sandwich? After all, when you take a single slice of bread, put PB&J on one side, and fold it over, it is still a sandwich. (inspired by this)
  • Is a Snuggie a blanket or clothing? (inspired by this)
  • Is a cheesecake or a tart a pie? [Corollary #1: Is pizza a pie?] [Corollary #2: Is yellowcake a cake?] (inspired by this)

 

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Conspiracy Theories: The Key is Plausibility

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 18, 2017 @ 9:32 am PDT

userpic=trumpPresident Trump is a never ending source of conspiracy theories. From his farcical belief that Obama directly wiretapped his phones, to the notion that the former President is part of some sort of “Deep State” conspiracy with George Soros to usurp his throne his office — it’s all conspiracy, all the time.

It’s Just an Excuse

On Friday, news came out that a laptop was stolen from an Secret Servent agent’s car. The agent told investigators the laptop contained floor plans for Trump Tower, evacuation protocols and information regarding the investigation of Clinton’s private email server, according to sources. An agency-issued radio was also taken, according to Politico. Other items stolen include “sensitive” documents, an access keycard, coins, a black zippered bag with the Secret Service insignia on it and lapel pins from various assignments — including ones involving President Trump, the Clinton campaign, the United Nations General Assembly and the Pope’s visit to New York, sources said. Sources and neighbors said the thief stepped out of a dark-colored sedan, possibly an Uber, and darted into Argentieri’s Bath Beach driveway about 3 a.m. According to the neighbors, a video of the theft “showed somebody running to the car and running back out.  They knew what they were doing, absolutely. They knew what they were hitting.”

In parallel news, the Secretary of State threatened North Korea. On his first trip to Asia this week, Tillerson had declared that diplomacy has failed to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, and that a new approach was needed. On Friday in Seoul, he warned ominously that all options were on the table to counter the threat from Pyongyang. President Trump weighed in Friday by goading China over Twitter for not doing enough to help prevent its ally from “behaving very badly.”

What if these were connected? What if this was just a coordinated conspiracy to frame North Korea and to give us an excuse to preemptively attack them and remove the threat. Another part of the government could easily have worked with the Secret Service on the threat to give the attack a public start, and then arrange an attack on Trump Tower that looks like it was from North Korea. We would then have to respond.

But its only a theory.

Budgets and Donations

Another headline I saw this morning talked about a significant surge in donations to Meals on Wheels after they were threatened with funding cuts. There have been similar significant surges in donations to Planned Parenthood. Environmental organizations are seeing donations surge. ACLU is seeing memberships and donations surge. Non-profit news organizations are seeing donations surge. NPR, NY Times, WSJ — all surging. On the other side, there has been a significant drop in gun and ammo sales since the election, although the NRA reads the stats differently.

What if this was the plan all along? What if Trump is making all these outrageous budget plans specifically in order to make people treasure the endangered organizations more, and to get them more money in donations?  He then lets Congress eviscerate the proposals, simultaneously convincing the arch-conservatives he tried to do the right thing, getting them to change Congress to be more right-wing at the next election for voting them down (thanks to gerrymandering), and bringing in more funds for the organizations.

But its only a theory.

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