My final office cooking project, before I buckle down and get serious about the walk, will take place this coming Friday, when I plan on bringing in two Brazilian specialties: feijoada and moqueca. The former is a meat-and-bean stew that is hailed as Brazil's national dish, but which can be made in different ways, with different ingredients (see here and here for an idea of how ingredients and methods can vary); the latter is a seafood stew about which I've heard many, many good things. I plan to serve both of these lovely dishes atop rice and/or with some sort of lovely bread on Friday. This ought to be amazing.
I am, in fact, impatient to make the feijoada tonight, as I have all the ingredients. The moqueca (see a recipe here) will wait until Thursday night because it makes little sense to craft a seafood stew and then wait several days to serve it: seafood, especially shellfish, doesn't tolerate reheating very well, and flavor-marriage is less of an issue with seafood stews than it is with stews made with terrestrial meat.
So expect some interesting photos this coming Friday or Saturday. It'll be sad to stop cooking for my boss and coworker, but the special meals will continue once I'm done with the walk.
feijoada = "fey-ZHWAH-dah"
moqueca = "moh-KECK-ah" (or "moh-KEH-kah," if you please)
Monday, February 20, 2017
My final office cooking project, before I buckle down and get serious about the walk, will take place this coming Friday, when I plan on bringing in two Brazilian specialties: feijoada and moqueca. The former is a meat-and-bean stew that is hailed as Brazil's national dish, but which can be made in different ways, with different ingredients (see here and here for an idea of how ingredients and methods can vary); the latter is a seafood stew about which I've heard many, many good things. I plan to serve both of these lovely dishes atop rice and/or with some sort of lovely bread on Friday. This ought to be amazing.
"Hell or High Water" is a 2016 film directed by David Mackenzie and starring Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges. The story revolves around two brothers, Toby and Tanner Howard (Pine and Foster, respectively), both down on their luck and trying to save their farm. Tanner, the bad boy, has been only a year out of jail while dutiful Toby has taken care of his dying mother and tried to manage a living despite being swamped with all manner of bills, including child-support payments owed to his ex-wife and two sons. Despite Tanner being the troublemaker, it's Toby who comes up with the idea of robbing various branches of the Texas Midlands Bank, the bank whose reverse-mortgage loan structure has left Toby's family in constant debt. The plan Toby comes up with is effectively a money-laundering racket: rob only the cash from the Midlands branches' front drawers (no traceable ink-spray that way), take the money to casinos, convert it all to chips, then reconvert the chips to cash plus a check...made out to Midlands Bank. In effect, Toby aims to pay off his various debts to the bank that ruined his family's life by using the bank's own money—a sort of poetic justice. Meanwhile, Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Bridges) and his partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham) begin tracking the robbers down. Hamilton, crusty, irascible, and on the verge of retirement, verbally spars with the multiethnic Parker while profiling the bank-robbery suspects. Much of this verbal sparring consists of politically incorrect ethnic jabs that will remind some viewers of Clint Eastwood's Walt Kowalski.
The plot of "Hell or High Water" is relatively simple; it has the slow, drawly, Texan feel of "No Country for Old Men," with Jeff Bridges in the Tommy Lee Jones role while simultaneously channeling Rooster Cogburn. The movie is also surprisingly funny for a crime thriller: Bridges's jokes are well written, and Ben Foster's precise comic delivery gives him some choice moments as well. Gil Birmingham, as Ranger Hamilton's partner, does excellent work as the comic foil for Bridges; the same goes for Chris Pine, whose Toby largely plays the straight man opposite Ben Foster's Tanner.
All in all, this is a well-made film. It contains no real shocks or surprises, but it moseys along and gets where it needs to get in the end. The one major question I was left with was how Toby arranged to have so many different cars available to him. True, at one point, we see Toby and Teller negotiating in a rather spur-of-the-moment way for a pickup truck (which will prove crucial to the plot later), but we're left to imagine that most of the cars that the boys use have been strategically placed. So how did Toby wrangle so many cars? The film leaves us with the thought that Toby was the smarter brother, so he had the brains to figure this out along with formulating the rest of his multi-branch robbery plan.
"Hell or High Water" is also very much a social-commentary movie. Texas Midlands Bank (which I assume is fictional) is portrayed as a clear villain unworthy of the audience's sympathy, and the movie spends a lot of time showing us the depressed conditions to be found out in west Texas. "Are you in debt?" billboards litter the dusty landscape—a message about poverty and predatory financial agencies that the movie drives home with all the subtlety of the earth mover that Toby uses to bury cars after each robbery. This makes Toby and Teller something like Robin Hood, although Teller is too violence-prone to be robbing banks out of a sense of justice: as Hamilton notes while profiling the Howard boys, Teller robs banks for the fun of it. Meanwhile, even Hamilton's partner, Alberto Parker, voices his disgust at Midlands for ruining the lives of Texan citizens.
As I noted above, the movie plods along at a calm, stately pace, and there are no shocks or surprises. That said, the screenwriting is smart enough that it'll be hard to guess the ending until you're at least three-quarters of the way through the film. "Hell or High Water" can proudly take its place in the pantheon of slow-burn thrillers, and the movie's ending is smart enough to let you, the viewer, decide whether justice has been done.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
The collective orgasm has begun: initial reviews for "Logan" are generally wildly positive, although there have been some complaints that the "main" villain, played by Richard E. Grant, is sadly underused. This deluge of good news for the movie makes me both happy and sad: like everyone else in the known universe, I like Hugh Jackman and think he basically carried the X-Men franchise on his well-developed shoulders. Wolverine deserves a good send-off, and almost everyone is saying that that's what "Logan" is: a great send-off for a beloved character. At the same time, I'm sad because I feel this is the sort of farewell that Batman deserved but never got. The DC folks—including Christopher Nolan—borrowed many tropes and moments from Frank Miller's signature work, 1986's The Dark Knight Returns, but in their movies, they failed to recapitulate Frank Miller's hard-hitting-yet-poignant 1980s storyline, which followed Batman to the conclusion of his career as the Dark Knight. Instead DC has seemed, over the years, more interested in portraying Batman near the end of his prime, working backward from the finale that Nolan had tried to give audiences. The result is a confusing mess, in my opinion, but perhaps one day Batman will finally have his "Logan" moment.
I subscribe to Charlie's YouTube channel, Emergency Awesome, and Charlie has a rave review of "Logan" up now; you can watch it here. (No spoilers.)
A UK publication called Metro has its own rave review here. (No spoilers.)
Enjoy! "Logan" is in general release in the States on March 3. Supposedly, it's coming out on March 1 in Korea, but I no longer trust IMDb to get Korean release dates right.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
The two-month book-making marathon is almost over, and I'm almost over, too. With the exception of one weekend, it's been nothing but seven-day weeks for this hunk of blubber since the year began. I managed to get a week ahead of my initially plotted-out schedule, which gives the boss some breathing room when it comes to proofing the manuscripts, so this intense period is going to end with more of a whimper (or more like a sigh of relief) than an out-and-out bang. I'll finally be able to concentrate on my own life—such as it is—which will mean doing some crucial shopping, writing Walk Thoughts, training and dieting, etc.
The boss has told me not to come in tomorrow (Sunday). I'm not going to know what to do with myself and all that free time, but I'm sure I'll think of something. Leave me alone in a room long enough, and to-do lists will start sprouting, as they're already sprouting on Google Docs: I have a whole folder devoted to personal projects for 2017. I'm determined to make this a better year than last year; here's hoping my aspirations don't get cornholed by the sudden appearance of leprosy or something.
Whoa... I might even watch "Hell or High Water" tomorrow, then write a review of it. Wouldn't that be something? (By the way, thank you all for your many comments on my "Arrival" review, which took me three days to write. It's always gratifying when a writer knows he's actually communicating with people.)
1. My buddy Charles writes a thoughtful review of "Hidden Figures."
2. One of the few right-leaning Zen Buddhists I know of writes an article (forgive the typos) that confirms something Charles wrote to me privately regarding what treason technically means according to the US Constitution. The article, by its very existence, also highlights the rhetorical and ideological contrast between Instapundit (i.e., the group blog) and Instapundit's fractious commentariat. Dipping into the comment-thread demimonde is not at all the same experience as just reading the blog posts.
Friday, February 17, 2017
Thursday, February 16, 2017
The headline at right-leaning Breitbart reads: "Dalai Lama Warns Against Taking Too Many Migrants, Arab Domination: ‘Migrants Should Return’"
The article says in part:
SUBHEAD: The Dalai Lama has said there are too many migrants pouring into Europe, warning against the continent becoming Arabised, and claiming the solution is the eventual repatriation of migrants.
MAIN TEXT: Agence France-Presse has reported that the leader of Tibetan Buddhism said: “When we look at the face of each refugee, but especially those of the children and women, we feel their suffering, and a human being who has a better situation in life has the responsibility to help them.
“But on the other hand, there are too many at the moment… Europe, Germany in particular, cannot become an Arab country, Germany is Germany”.
“There are so many that in practice it becomes difficult.”
The Dalai Lama added that “from a moral point of view too, I think that the refugees should only be admitted temporarily”.
“The goal should be that they return and help rebuild their countries.”
His comments are almost the same as those made by Europe’s anti-Islamisation PEGIDA movement, and similar to comments made by groups like France’s Front National, Germany’s Alternative Fur Deutschland, and to a lesser extent, Britain’s UK Independence Party.
I'm not sure how comfortable the Dalai Lama would be to know he's being associated with Pegida, FN, AfD, and UKIP. But what he seems to be saying strikes me as more enlightened than anything that has come out of the mouth of that addled old Latin Marxist in Rome.
There's another side to this story, of course. The Huffington Post has an article titled, "Did the Dalai Lama really warn about refugees and 'Arab domination' in Europe?"
The article says in part:
The publication of an interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the German media has led to some sensational headlines derived from an interview that included questions on the refugee crisis in Europe.
These representations, focusing on the Dalai Lama apparently warning against ‘Arab domination’ and Europe taking in ‘too many’ migrants are ultimately inconsistent with the well-known and compassionate approach of the Dalai Lama, who has been a refugee himself for more than half a century, and the longer-term perspective he seeks to convey.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate the Dalai Lama has for decades advocated tolerance, inter-religious dialogue and has rejected the concept of a clash of civilizations, calling it “false and dangerous.” It is ludicrous and clearly out of context to assert that the Dalai Lama would seriously state that Germany is at risk of becoming ‘Arab’ as a result of the refugee crisis.
What's interesting to note is that the HuffPo article doesn't quote from the actual interview, and it doesn't directly rebut the rightie spin on the matter. I read the HuffPo article all the way through, looking for a direct refutation, but the part I quoted above is as good as it gets: "These representations...are ultimately inconsistent with the well-known and compassionate approach of the Dalai Lama..." In other words, this is little more than assertion and speculation, not an attempt to do actual journalism with actual quotes.
So I went to some European sources. Interestingly, when I started typing "dalai lama trop de" in Google, the auto-complete immediately came back with "dalai lama trop de réfugiés en europe" (Dalai Lama too many refugees in Europe). Of the top nine French-language search results for French news, at least eight say something like "The Dalai Lama judges that there are too many refugees in Europe."
I'm writing about this turn of events now because it suddenly became an issue on Gab AI, my new social-media roost. In fact, it's old news that somehow passed most of us by. The original German interview happened in May of 2016; the above-linked HuffPo article dates to June 2016, and the Breitbart article comes from the very end of last May.
The Dalai Lama, being a realist and a pragmatist (as Buddhists are supposed to be, even if not all of them are), is only stating the obvious. Were he to grow some balls and go further, he'd point the finger at Angela Merkel and note the insanity of opening the floodgates—as a matter of governmental policy—to cultures that refuse to assimilate—a problem visible in France, where even third-generation Muslims prefer to remain in their banlieues, learning French but not becoming French. (And speaking of banlieues, you may have heard or seen the recent news about the Korean tourists who were assaulted and robbed while sightseeing in Paris. I'm not sure whether this is true, but it seems their hotel was in or near one of those banlieues, which strikes me as insane. The linked article says this: "An official at the embassy urged caution in the suburbs north of Paris where the [assaulted tourists'] hotel is located, citing safety concerns."—emphasis added)
Anyway, I'm sure you'd like a link to a translation of the actual interview with the Dalai Lama, but I'm having trouble finding that link. For the moment, and if you read French, let me distract you with this link to a French Slate article that quotes a good bit of what the Dalai Lama said. (Upon rereading it, though, I don't think it adds anything to what you can gather from English-language sources.)
If I find a link to a decent English translation of the Dalai Lama's interview, I'll add it in a postscript. If you find the link before I do, please place it in the comments, and I'll add the link in a postscript, along with due credit to you.
ADDENDUM: a Google-translated quote from the Dalai Lama found here:
"We know that many immigrants are fleeing from difficult situations at home, but a good heart alone is not enough to keep them all, so you have to muster the courage to say that there are now too many. Rather, [people] should intervene in the countries of origin in order to build up better corporate structures there. Simply welcoming the people here is not enough to solve this problem. We need to think in the long term to achieve a truly effective solution."
If you have a better translation of the original text, feel free to supply it in the comments. Here's the German original:
Wir wissen, dass viele Immigranten vor schwierigen Situationen daheim flüchten, aber ein gutes Herz allein reicht eben nicht aus, um sie alle unterzubringen, und man muss daher den Mut aufbringen zu sagen, dass es mittlerweile zu viele geworden sind. Man sollte vielmehr in den Herkunftsländern intervenieren, um dort bessere Gesellschaftsstrukturen aufzubauen. Einfach die Leute hier willkommen zu heißen reicht nicht aus, um dieses Problem zu lösen. Wir müssen langfristig denken, um eine wirklich effektive Lösung erzielen zu können.
The injunction Shit or get off the pot is a way of saying, "Don't be indecisive."* In life, you never expect to be faced with a literal shit-or-get-off-the-pot situation, but that's exactly what happened to me this afternoon.
I went into the restroom down the hall from where I work, locked myself in la cabine, and began to take a lusty shit. As is normal for me, the shit didn't come out all at once: for whatever reason, my ass is into dramatic pauses, so there was a lull. I filled the pot partway with my radioactive gunk, and during the pause, I hit the flush lever.
Within seconds, I knew something was wrong, and I cursed myself for not following SOP and flushing before even sitting down. (This building's toilets have a nasty habit of being perpetually clogged, but which toilet is clogged seems to alternate from day to day, suggesting that the toilets share some unspoken agreement as to whose turn it is to piss people off.) I could hear the water rising far higher than it should, and a moment after that, I felt the cold, undead caress of the shit-tainted toilet water on my ass and balls. Not even bothering to wipe, I immediately stood up and stared into the bowl to do a quick damage assessment: I knew I wouldn't be able to act until I had a read on the situation.
So here's what happened: the evil water rose almost to the bowl's rim, then everything sank down, draining completely in a slow, gentle flush. I could only guess that this was a partial blockage, and that the weight of the water in the bowl had been enough to push the blockage out of the way, thus facilitating drainage.
I cautiously sat back down. As I said before, this was the "dramatic pause" phase of my shit, so I still had more shit ready to launch. This, then, was my very own Shit or get off the pot moment: should I wipe and escape the cubicle, heading for another one to finish my shit? Should I tough it out in the hopes that my assumption about the un-blockage was correct? If I were wrong, the price would be horrific: the re-beshitted water would likely rise again, overflowing this time, releasing splattery chunks of my ass-children onto the restroom tile. And if Murphy's Law were in operation (when is it not?), the water level would remain there, creating a tableau that mocked my distress and exposed my leavings for all to see.
What to do? Shit or get off the pot?
I suspect that one of my ancestors was the Korean equivalent of a jusqu'au bout kamikaze pilot because, in the end, I chose to shit. Like a battleship commander, I fired two or three more salvos into the toilet, wiped myself, stood, examined the toilet tank's interior to see how much water was in there, then paused before enacting that fateful flush.
The toilet tank was full, as it turned out; it had refilled absolutely silently. The toilet bowl, on the other hand, had almost no water in it. Fist-sized midnight lumps of my foulness sat hunched at the bottom of the bowl like demonic toads, staring beadily up at me and croak-chorusing, "Hey. What's up?" while grinning malefic obsidian grins. I re-covered the tank and, whispering a prayer to the gods, I flushed, hoping to end this Stephen King nightmare.
And there were no problems at all. The water whooshed from the tank to the bowl. My shit and toilet paper were swept away, and all was right with the world. I had gambled and won. Before I left the stall, of course, I made sure to give my ass and balls a thorough wipe-down so as not to taint my clothing, but I knew I'd need to wash thoroughly once I got home.
And that's how I handled a moral dilemma. How has your day been?
*Wikipedia suggests an alternative meaning: "... a person should follow up their stated intentions with action." This is a close cousin to the decisiveness issue, I think, but the meaning is rather different. To me, the saying is akin to Yoda's, "Try not: do, or do not. There is no try." You either do it or you don't. When you shit, there's no half-assing. Wikipedia's interpretation seems to be saying "Words are not enough: you must act." Catholic thinker Bernard Lonergan stated that the four phases of cognition are experience, understand, judge, decide. According to this paradigm, decision is the cognitive phase that moves one from mere thought to concrete action, which is why I see Wikipedia's interpretation as a close cousin of my own.
Later on in the above-linked Wikipedia entry, we read: "The expression, in this way, is essentially instruction for someone to stop being indecisive or procrastinating, and act." See? Wikipedia and I aren't so far apart.
AFTER LIKENING TRUMP TO HITLER, JOURNALISTS UPSET THEY'RE NOT GETTING CALLED ON FOR QUESTIONS
Hilariously, the article quotes one disgruntled journalist as saying, "The fix is in."
Oblivious to irony, that one, even after eight years of media cock-sucking.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
[WARNING: MASSIVE SPOILERS. I can't address the movie's deeper issues without also revealing major plot elements, so if you don't want the plot revealed to you, you'd do well to stay away from this review until you've seen the movie.]
That summary leaves a lot out, but it'll do for the moment. More concretely: twelve alien ships suddenly appear around the planet, always materializing somewhere more or less temperate, disdaining the earth's climatic extremes. We Earthlings are unable to determine what material the aliens' ships are made of; we're equally unable to establish whether and how the twelve vessels might be communicating with each other. Teams all over the world—generally, a combination of scientists and the military—begin working furiously to answer basic questions about the alien ships and about the aliens themselves.
When we first meet Louise Banks, she seems to be remembering her daughter—how she was as a newborn, then as a little girl, then as a teenager with an unnamed terminal illness. These remembrances are accompanied by a voiceover narration. We learn that everything changed for Louise the day "they arrived," and the movie's focus shifts to Louise's job as a professor of linguistics at some university. The arrival of the aliens has caused most of Louise's students to abandon class; via the news, Louise learns that the aliens all arrived simultaneously, their twelve ships dotting the globe. The ships, which are as tall and wide as skyscrapers, simply float inert above the ground, not doing much of anything, while human beings set up camps and perimeters, beginning the work of examination and, if possible, communication.
Louise, while in her office, meets Colonel Weber; the meeting is tense, but Weber plays a recording of alien "speech" for Louise in the hopes that she can begin to decode the language. Louise says she needs to be on site to speak with the aliens directly, and while Weber is initially hesitant to allow a civilian too close to the Montana site (one vessel, having chosen the US mainland, sits in a fairly empty area in Montana), he eventually relents. Louise goes to the military encampment and, along the way, meets Ian Donnelly, the theoretical physicist who thinks science, not language, is the cornerstone of civilization. (There are several subtle and unsubtle nods, throughout the movie, to Carl Sagan's novel Contact, which was predicated on the idea that we'd most likely be using math to initiate communication with an intelligent alien species. "Arrival" acknowledges the significance of math, but its focus is primarily on language and cognition.) Soon enough, Louise and Ian join Weber and a team of soldiers to take a foray inside the alien vessel. This is obviously something the military guys have done more than once before Louise ever arrived on scene.
The trip into the alien ship is a bit surreal: gravity flips ninety degrees just inside the vessel, such that the humans must jump up to reach the new gravity zone, then quickly reorient themselves if they want to land on their feet and not fall on their faces (as Ian does). The humans then walk along a dark, rectangular tunnel until they reach an immense, transparent wall, beyond which is nothing but a spooky mist. The humans set up their equipment, then wait for the aliens to appear. When they do, we're treated to the sight of immense, squid-like creatures whose thick tentacles appear to be jointed. Six of the tentacles are oriented slightly forward, with one tentacle in the rear. (Imagine using your hand to mime a spider crawling across a table: four of your fingers are forward, and your thumb, very un-spider-like, is bringing up the rear. Now imagine the same spider-mime, but you have seven fingers—six forward fingers plus one rearward thumb.) These are the heptapods, as the English-speaking humans eventually name them; when Louise and Ian begin tentatively to communicate with the aliens, Ian suggests calling the two constantly reappearing aliens Abbott and Costello.
Much of the rest of the movie is devoted to two major stories: the "A" story is an exploration of the heptapods' written language, which apparently has no correspondence with the aliens' spoken language; the "B" story is a depiction of various human reactions, both worldwide and within the Montana military encampment, to the presence of the aliens. Many of these reactions are fearful, and a rogue group of soldiers in the Montana camp decides to take matters into its own hands and blow up the Montana vessel. The "A" and "B" stories are also presenting us with two very different worldviews, and the way this has been done is inevitably political: one worldview is that of openness and intercommunication motivated by a desire for understanding; the other worldview is rooted in xenophobia and militarism—the belligerent desire for self-defense that springs from primal (and willful) ignorance. If you're hearing "Let the immigrants in!" versus "Build a wall!", you aren't far wrong.
The question—meant for the aliens—that drives the Montana encampment is, "What is your purpose on Earth?" We ultimately learn that the aliens are offering a gift: their language, which Louise is beginning to understand at a more-than-superficial level. The aliens' "written" language has been described, by different reviewers, as looking like circular coffee stains, or like constantly moving ink blots composed of clouds and tendrils. Both the movie and the short story on which it's based, Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life," describe the aliens' language as semasiographic, i.e., a non-phonetic writing system whose elements are signs, not letters or characters that might have a corresponding phonetic value. (Think of a heart drawn on a whiteboard and symbolizing "love." You can express the concept of love by writing "L-O-V-E," or you can draw a heart. The latter is semasiographic communication.) Louise begins to realize that, for the aliens to write their "sentences"—whose syntactic elements are so utterly interwoven as to represent a simultaneous explosion of meaning that must be taken in all at once—they have to know how the sentence ends the moment they begin writing. This leads to the further realization that the aliens must in some sense know the future, and that their writing system is merely a realization, an articulation, of everything-at-once. The aliens, Louise guesses, see time and all phenomena nonlinearly: in a sense, the heptapods see the universe's unfolding not as an unfolding, but as a great now.
So here are the movie's two major revelations: first, the aliens' gift of their language is precisely to help humanity experience time in an utterly different way so that humanity, three thousand years hence, can help the heptapods with a future crisis. And second: Louise, among the first to truly understand and appreciate this gift, realizes that her remembrances of the daughter who dies as a teenager aren't actual remembrances: they are flash-forwards of a daughter who, from Louise's time-bound perspective, hasn't even been born yet. Louise's seeming reminiscences from the beginning of the movie were, all this time, glimpses of the future, which became accessible to her when she began to learn how to communicate with the heptapods. The emotional crescendo happens when Louise, now aware of her future, realizes she will fall in love with Ian Donnelly, have her daughter, lose Ian through divorce, and then lose her daughter.
The film ends with Louise and Ian embracing after the heptapods have departed, and when Ian asks in a whisper whether Louise wants to make a baby, she whispers back, "Yes"—accepting her destiny, and fully understanding that time runs neither backward nor forward, but is instead something omni-actualized and self-complete. This brings us back to Louise's voiceover meditation at the beginning of the movie: "But now I'm not so sure I believe in beginnings and endings." The movie is itself a loop; Louise's narration comes from a point that is, strangely, outside of time. The Louise who is speaking isn't necessarily the Louise from before her daughter's birth, nor is she necessarily the Louise from after her daughter's death; this is a Louise who is no longer moored to time's seeming linearity.
"Arrival" is both amazingly good and frustratingly bad. Denis Villeneuve proved himself to be a talented, thoughtful director when he made "Sicario," which I watched recently. I have no complaints about his pacing, his cinematography, or the way he pushes his actors to play their roles. Everyone performs admirably, and Amy Adams deserves whatever official kudos might be coming her way this awards season. But let's talk about the good first and the bad last.
"Arrival": what works
The very title, "Arrival," has several levels or layers of meaning. On the surface, it refers to the arrival of the alien spaceships, but more deeply, it refers to the arrival of Louise's daughter, and perhaps even more deeply, it refers to the arrival of a radically new way to picture the cosmos—a new way brought along by the aliens as a gift for humanity in return for future help (the aliens are optimistic to think humanity will still be around in 3,000 years!).
"Arrival" is an ideas movie; it wants us to think about the nature of time, cause, effect, life, and the universe at large. It wants to deal creatively with the issue of how two utterly different types of consciousness can communicate with each other. It wants us to ponder the question of fate and human freedom from an oblique angle—a perspective we're not used to inhabiting. I appreciate the movie's ambitious nature, and I think it largely succeeded in, at the very least, putting those questions on the table for thoughtful people to ponder.
"Arrival" is also a gentle movie, gently presented. It has a clever narrative structure worthy of Christopher Nolan's "Memento," but unlike "Memento," "Arrival" doesn't move in parallel time-forward and time-backward tracks: the story is more like an ouroboros, the cosmic snake that eats its own tail and forms an immense circle thereby. The movie's ending shows some of the same scenes we see at the movie's beginning, and while it's possible to piece together the movie's chronology by following the dialogue and visuals closely, the movie's obvious intent is to jolt us into thinking about the story the way the heptapods themselves think about space, time, and reality.
The movie is a somewhat sexed-up version of Ted Chiang's short story, "Story of Your Life." In Chiang's narrative, we never learn the name of Louise's daughter, but in the movie, the girl is given the name Hannah, a palindrome: the name is the same whether you run it forwards or backwards, with the implication that, for the heptapods, time, cause, and effect are just as palindromic (a fact pointed out by the physicist—named Gary Donnelly, not Ian Donnelly, in the short story: the mathematics of human physics can also be run backwards and forwards). Chiang's story, which I read a couple days ago, also never reveals the purpose of the heptapods' visit to our world; the movie provides a purpose, perhaps to create dramatic tension. The movie's one lone explosion—caused by a group of rogue soldiers who think the heptapods mean us ill—was also concocted for the movie purely to raise the tension level. In the short story, the heptapods engage in a brief-but-fascinating dialogue, give us many clues about their language, then leave. In fact, that's another movie/story difference: in the short story, the heptapods never actually see us humans face-to-face: their ships remain in orbit, but they use large, semicircular screens to interact with us on the planet's surface; in the film, by contrast, the humans enter the spaceships and interact face-to-face with the heptapods, with only a pane of glass(?) between the two species, probably because of differing breathing requirements. The heptapod language is also intriguingly sexed up for the movie, in which inky, living, squirming smoke rings are squirted out of the heptapods' tentacles. The short story is strangely coy in describing the heptapods' written language, but it does seem to be gracefully circle-shaped, with plenty of divergent curlicues along the circumference.
On a practical level, I needn't have worried about whether the movie would give short shrift to other countries' efforts to understand the aliens. "Arrival" actually does a much better job than its source material of showing how the American team operates in tandem with—and sometimes in conflict with—other teams across the world. The Yanks aren't always the first to make certain big discoveries, either: the Aussie team learns something about gravitational manipulation; the Chinese apply a dangerous game-theory approach to learning how to communicate with the heptapods; the Pakistanis make breakthroughs in decoding heptapod logograms, which are "free of time."
Continuing in a practical/technical vein, I enjoyed the movie's soundtrack, composed by Jóhann Jóhannsson, who also worked on "Sicario" with director Villeneuve. Part whale song, part chattering/chanting, part weeping cellos, plus a little of everything else, Jóhannsson's soundtrack manages to evoke a certain creepy otherness that seems atmospherically apropos for the goings-on. Jóhannsson is a good match for Villeneuve's meditative visual style; I suspect they will be collaborating on many future films.
As a student of religious studies, I've long contended that science-fiction films are often covers for smuggling in religious ideas, and while "Arrival" might want to bill itself as non-religious "hard" sci-fi, I'm pretty sure that I see some religious tropes floating around. In terms of Judaeo-Christian numerology, for example, there's the number twelve (twelve alien vessels) and the number seven (hepta = "seven" in Greek). The aliens provide humanity with an arguably deeper way of perceiving reality, which takes us slightly into Buddhist territory. Classical theism gets a shout-out, too, in the sense that the aliens' perception of reality as a singular now, in which time is not so much sequential as simultaneous, is reminiscent of the classical-theist notion of God as existing somehow "beyond space" and "outside of time." Imagine the history of the universe as a reel of film, in which every cosmic moment is represented as a single frame. Watching the film's action unfold, as we would in a cinema, is akin to how humans actually experience life and reality, but God, or a godlike being, can unspool the film and behold every frame at the same time because every frame is already there to behold. (Dr. Vallicella only just wrote a meditation on the B-theory of time, which delves into this idea.) The themes of fate and free will are, of course, the stock in trade for Western religions. The film doesn't shrink from these heady concepts.
"Arrival" is a heartfelt story that makes no bones about wanting to be an ideas movie, and it covers many notions that I myself have either studied or been intrigued by, among them the question of fate versus human freedom: if the future is already in some sense actualized, as it would seem to be from the heptapods' godlike perspective, then what are we doing other than playing out those sequential states of affairs, utterly unable to insert human freedom into the equation? That said, the movie is far from perfect, and it falls flat in certain areas where better screenwriting might have been able to rescue it.
"Arrival": what doesn't work
The picture we're given of the heptapods' written language (in the short story, the spoken language is referred to as "Heptapod A," while the written language is "Heptapod B") is deeply fascinating, but as well-done as it is, it does seem to be ensnared in a logical contradiction: the movie is at pains to insist that heptapod writing is completely nonlinear, but get this: the heptapods blow out smoke ring after smoke ring, a sequential phenomenon that is a clear indication of linearity. To get around this, the writers should have added some lines about how the sum total of heptapod utterances itself constitutes a gigantic meta-circle: all those smoke rings are to be taken as a single, complex utterance. The movie doesn't think this far, though, so we're left with the logical contradiction inherent in a faulty narrative.
Another problem is that neither the movie nor the short story really manages to untangle the paradoxes inherent in trying to marry freedom to foreknowledge. In a nutshell: if you foreknow some event, then that event must happen, or you didn't truly foreknow it. It's therefore impossible to foreknow that a person will choose a certain path: foreknowing means the person must go on that path, and choice is merely an illusion. Freedom and foreknowledge therefore exclude each other. The short story dodges this issue by saying, essentially, that the heptapods' knowledge of the future, because it comes from seeing everything as simultaneously actualized, isn't a species of foreknowledge, per se, so it's not paradoxical to believe human freedom exists even from the heptapod frame of reference. This fails to address the question of how human freedom is even possible if all moments are "written," so to speak. Saying "there's no such thing as sequential moments" merely kicks the existential can down the road; it doesn't resolve the issue in any satisfactory way.
The movie briefly mentions something called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which, explained simply, means that language determines your perception of reality and how you think. While there's evidence to support a charitable interpretation of this theory (see more here; it has strong and weak forms, apparently), I don't think it's taken all that seriously, these days, by people inside and outside the linguistics community. It's surprising that the movie would mention the hypothesis at all, given its shaky status among academics, and given that it's not mentioned at all in Chiang's short story.* Personally, I don't completely dismiss the hypothesis, but I do think it's more accurate to say that language, phenomenology (i.e., experience), cognition, and objective reality form a sort of feedback loop: reality, in its brute suchness, inevitably influences how we think and talk about it, but it's also true that how we talk and think about reality determines, to a significant extent, what aspects of reality we're able to perceive. As the Tao Te Ching says: "The five colors blind the eye; the five tones deafen the ear," i.e., once we parse reality in our minds, creating borders, it becomes hard to perceive the "platypus"—the transgressive, elusive phenomenon that straddles our mental categories. I don't think, however, that the movie believably shows that it's possible to begin seeing the future—the equivalent of acquiring a magical power—just by learning a new language, however alien that language might be.
The above are all more-or-less philosophical critiques, but I have another complaint—namely, with the movie's simplistic and painfully preachy politics. Like so many science-fiction movies before it, especially ones involving benevolent, godlike aliens, "Arrival" paints conservatives (the ones with the guns and the bunker mentality—you know them by sight in films like these) as bellicose idiots who understand only war and violence, and who have absolutely no sense of wonder or fascination when confronted with the numinous. We've seen this caricature before: in "E.T.," with the gun-toting government stooges; in "The Abyss," with Michael Biehn's crazy Navy SEAL and his last-resort nuclear warhead; in "Contact," with the conservative religious nut (played by the dentally gifted Jake Busey) who blows up the first attempt at building the wormhole device. Conservatives are the butt of every noble-alien sci-fi movie, and "Arrival" shows that it hasn't learned any lessons from the past in its portrayal of those who are circumspect about alien contact. This is a shame, especially given how mature and sophisticated the movie is in other respects. This is also the aspect of the movie that I absolutely despised—and not because I resented the portrayal of liberals as the ones advocating outreach and understanding: all I want to see, in some future film, is an opposition that is smarter, more complex in its motivations, and more articulate—people who can also be touched by the numinous and be fascinated by the unknown. It doesn't always have to be an oversimplified conflict between the educated sophisticates and the brutish bumpkins. "Arrival" ought to be better than that.
The rapidity with which Louise seems to acquire the heptapods' writing system also strikes me as implausible, but the movie doesn't reveal how much time elapses (time is irrelevant in "Arrival," remember?), so perhaps Louise could conceivably have gained a deep-enough knowledge of the aliens' writhing, circular script to have mastered it to a modest degree.
Yet another problem with the movie is its derivative nature. I linked earlier to this "smackdown" piece that very quickly launches into a litany of influences for "Arrival," which owes a creative debt to, well, just about every alien-visitation film before it. The heptapods' need for help resembles the way future five-dimensional humans must reach back in time to past humans for help in "Interstellar" (reviewed here); the heptapods' ability to manipulate gravity also recalls that film. I mentioned "Contact" earlier; another "Contact" parallel comes in the form of Agent Halpern (Michael Stuhlbarg), who is this film's analog to James Woods's prickly and paranoid government stooge Michael Kitz, a man prone to seeing boogeymen everywhere. The sudden appearance of multiple gigantic vessels will immediately call "Independence Day" to mind, and the aliens' apparent desire to get humanity to work together will remind some viewers of the angelic aliens in "The Abyss," who were ready to enact divine Noachide retribution on all of humanity until they witnessed the unselfish, sacrificial love of one man for his ex-wife. The way the alien ships disappear, instead of hyperspacing away like the Millennium Falcon or the Enterprise, will make some people think of the interdimensionally traveling aliens in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," whose vessel vanishes in a titanic, valley-destroying hurricane. "Arrival," which departs from its source material in significant ways, owes a creative debt to so many movies that have gone before it, and your own inner film critic won't fail to notice this fact.
But despite all those criticisms, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I see that it's up for eight Oscar nominations; here's hoping it wins some. Taken on its own terms, "Arrival" is a film with a heart that will also make you think—about time, about fate and freedom, about cause and effect, about what it means to live your life despite knowing for certain that that life will be painful—that it will involve love and loss, and that such a life is still better than never having loved at all.** While far from perfect, Denis Villeneuve's quiet, pensive creation hits all the right notes and will give the viewer plenty of grist for profound reflection.
*It could be argued, though, that Chiang's story is predicated on the validity of the hypothesis.
**John McCrarey calls bullshit on the loved-and-lost concept. I would not recommend that he see "Arrival"—for that and for other reasons.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Monday, February 13, 2017
Guess which side of the aisle called Senator Tim Scott a "house nigga" and also called Joy Villa (a young singer who made waves at the recent Grammy's with her Trump dress) a "coon."
Not your brightest moment, guys.
True: dig a little deeper, and the African-American woman who tweeted the "coon" slur was herself called a "coon" by an apparent Trump fan. I would certainly never imply that only one side is racist in what passes for public discourse these days, but I am suggesting that it's hilarious when one side thinks it can occupy the moral high ground.
And while there are undoubtedly good eggs and bad eggs on both sides, it's also true that both sides each have a collective voice, and those voices aren't pretty.
Although I got the fundamentals utterly wrong during last year's election, I think I did call it when I referred to both Trump and Clinton as national-security nightmares. This article at the Observer seems to bear that conviction out. Trump needs to watch his six.
ADDENDUM: for balance, though, you might want to read the Instapundit comments in response to the article.
UPDATE: Michael Flynn, the security nightmare in question, is resigning his post. Good. May the next occupant of that position be chosen more carefully.
I cackled like an acid-tripping moron through this video, which shows a fairground organ—over a century old—playing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." God, this is excellent. The adaptation catches most of the nuances of the Freddie Mercury original. What I'd like to know, though, is where the snare drums are hidden. You can hear them in the background at certain points, but you never see them (or at least, I didn't see them).
Sunday, February 12, 2017
If you're a Lord of the Rings nerd, you might enjoy these two YouTube videos:
1. "What You Need to Know About the Lord of the Rings Spinoff"
2. "False Facts About The Lord of the Rings You've Always Believed"
Both videos' narrators are at pains to pronounce Tolkien's name "tohl-keen," which is apparently how Tolkien pronounced his own name. (GRR Martin, of A Song of Ice and Fire fame, also pronounces it "tohl-keen" in interviews.)
(I wouldn't have minded the phrase "false facts" if "facts" had had scare quotes around it.)
Saturday, February 11, 2017
This past Thursday was a break from the usual Golden Goose routine. I had been alerted, back in January, to the possibility of a February 9 mock-interview gig as part of Seoul National University's chwi-eop kaempeu (job camp*) for students interested in getting a leg up in finding their first job. The whole day was to be devoted to various interview-format classes—most of which would be done in Korean except for mine, which was to be done in English. The students were divided into four teams—A, B, C, and D—and those teams would rotate among different teachers throughout the seven-hour day (six hours plus an hour for lunch). My contact, Ms. Park, told me that I'd be meeting the teams in reverse order (first D, then C, B, and A); my roll sheet showed about ten or twelve students per group, but in reality, only four or five students from each group showed up. This is probably because the job camp was occurring during winter vacation, and because it was free: students on vacation, taking a course they didn't pay for, have no reason to stick with the program until the end, so it's only natural that many should flake out.
I saw, on my attendance sheet, that one student in Team C was a French language and literature major, so I was excited to practice some French with him. Alas, he proved to be one of the no-shows, the bastard. Still, I had fun with the students who did make it. I explained the format for the class as each team walked in: we'd be doing one-on-one sit-downs for six minutes—three minutes for the mock interview, then three minutes for feedback and any questions the students might have. I had decided on the six-minute format based on the team sizes listed on my attendance sheet. When I saw that the actual team sizes were smaller, I chose not to extend the interview times, thus allowing the students to finish early. One big pedagogical mistake is thinking that you always need to run out the clock. You don't. While I do believe in the No Dead Time rule (i.e., never leave the students with nothing to do), I don't believe it's necessary to draw out the pain of being in class for purely bureaucratic reasons. When you're done, you're done. Let the kids go. They have lives, too.
Each 90-minute session with a given team began with me saying a few words and breaking the ice. Some of the kids were nervous; most of them were, frankly, clueless about what they had to do. Once I gave them a concrete procedure to latch on to, however, they became more comfortable, although some of the more tightly wound students remained nervous. When I'd finished my one-on-ones with the whole team, I spent some time going over some of the bigger issues involved with job interviews, then I let the students leave early. Ms. Park, who would pop in at the end of every session, was fine with my letting the students go early; she understood that attendance was woefully low. One student hung around close to lunch hour; he and I talked a bit. Another group of students asked me for my email address so they could send me their résumés to look over and evaluate. I know from experience that most of these students won't bother to email me; I've had people ask for my email address in the past, and nothing has ever come of that. No follow-through.
Lunch was awkward. I had been told to go to Room 207, a lecture hall next door to the closet-like classroom that I had been placed in. Lunch was held late because the class going on in 207 ran overtime (as is common with Korean profs, who seem to have little notion of how to budget time for lectures). After the lunch area was set up, I went into 207 and saw that a single long table had been placed in the very center of the large lecture hall; four Korean profs were already seated at the table and talking quietly with each other when I entered. We all politely bade each other a good meal ("mashitge deuseyo"); I said little, but I noticed that the men I was sitting with all looked a lot like some of the TV stars I've seen on certain Korean dramas. The guy who was obviously the stud/hero of the group sat across from me; he was very clearly the alpha—the manly man. Next to him was a guy whose earnest face looked perfect for the role of the hero's best friend—the guy who normally dies in an action movie, thus motivating the hero to exact revenge. The other two gents, fairly nondescript, looked like background extras—the actors who play characters that get run over by cars during street-chase scenes.
When I came into the hall, the profs were complaining about how the building's central heating system had shut off during the lunch break and wouldn't come back on until classes resumed. I joked that this was terrible for thin folks, which got a wry chuckle. The hero asked me one or two perfunctory questions about what I was teaching my students, then he left me alone for the rest of the meal, preferring to speak with the other Korean men. Can't say I blame him. I didn't want to be sitting with anyone, anyway, but the lunch setup left me with little choice but to take the empty chair at the table in the center of that large, empty hall. Lunch itself was mediocre: a box meal with cold bulgogi, Korean-sauced chicken wings, various banchan (sides), and a lukewarm cup of seaweed soup. Better than nothing, I suppose, although I wouldn't have minded skipping lunch altogether (something I may do next time). Soon enough, I finished my meal and headed out. Never saw any of those profs again. They seemed nice enough, but the atmosphere at lunch was about as warm as my food had been.
I was scheduled to finish my final session at 5PM, but since only five out of twelve students showed up, I ended up finishing shortly after 4PM. I packed up around 4:20, said goodbye to Ms. Park, hailed a cab, and headed out to Itaewon to pick up some items for my gyros. While I was at High Street Market, I spoke in Korean with the very cute Korean cashier, who told me she had learned a lot of her English from watching "Friends," and that Ross—the sad-looking one—was her favorite character. It would've been nice to get this pretty lady's phone number, but she was far too young for this graying old man. (Clint Eastwood, who was pushing 90 when he separated from his latest 30-something wife, would beg to differ, I'm sure.)
After finishing my shopping, I then hopped into a cab for the ill-fated cab ride that I've already written about here. When I got home, I could feel myself fading away, but because I had promised gyros to my boss and coworker, I slaved away into the night, prepping the meal, containerizing everything, and finally collapsing into bed and falling into a blessedly dreamless sleep. An eventful Thursday was finally over.
*The term chwi-eop actually refers to the act of getting/obtaining a job, but "job-getting camp" seemed like a weird translation. I risked "job camp" because the word job has a wide semantic field that includes getting a job.
Friday, February 10, 2017
Some shots of today's gyros lunch:
Above: a wide shot of my first gyro, which I did the classic way (except for not including red onions). Below: a close-up, food-porny shot of the same sandwich. You can see that a lot is going on in the lovely tzatziki sauce.
By the way, I call bullshit on the people who say you have to squeeze the water out of the cucumbers before you add the cukes to your yogurt. That's only true if you plan on overloading your tzatziki with salt. I used barely a pinch of salt to accent the flavor and add a tiny bit of umami, which meant I could just dump the minced cukes in without fear of pickling (a process that draws a ton of water out of the flesh of a vegetable).
For my second sandwich, I decided to take things in a more döner kebab direction, which meant adding heat. So I added chili peppers and my fiery/smoky version of harissa. My asshole is going to have words with me later tonight. Wide shot:
And the porny closeup:
Let's talk ingredients.
I was disappointed in High Street's ground beef, which contained a fair amount of gristle (I found this out when I cooked a test batch of meat). Because I used my tiny food processor to grind the meat down into paste, batch by small batch, I think I managed to break up some of that gristle, which didn't plague me or my lunch companions. Next time, though, I'll be sticking to Costco ground beef, which is ground down finely to American standards. The meat that I prepped was a 50-50 combination of ground beef and lamb (plus some panko for body) that I seasoned with my usual combo of cumin, chili powder, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, and herbs like parsley and basil. The cumin is essential to take the meat partway out of the northern Mediterranean flavor profile and into the Middle Eastern flavor profile.
The feta cheese was a find, too: I need to remember the brand Kolios, which was stocked at High Street. That feta, unlike the Président-brand feta that I normally buy at Costco, had less of a sour/tangy edge: it smelled, tasted, and felt smoother and gentler, which makes me wonder what sort of milk the feta was made from. (Milk for feta can come from a variety of animals; sometimes, a mix of milk is used.)
The tzatziki sauce was a joy to make: you start with Greek yogurt and minced cucumber, then build up from there, adding olive oil, a bit of salt, some black pepper, a dash of cayenne, some garlic powder, some onion powder, and a splash of lemon juice to brighten the flavors. When you're done, the sauce really doesn't taste like much at all: it's light and fresh, but far from assertive. Despite that fact, tzatziki is essential for a good gyro because it weaves in and through all the other flavors, unifying them and creating an integrated taste experience. A gyro without tzatziki would be boring as hell. I did a non-traditional thing and added dill weed, which I always do when making my tzatziki. Dill is a magnificent complement to lamb, so I knew this wasn't a mistake.
The naan (I don't do pita*), which I also bought at High Street, was strange: it smelled just like a tortilla, and it looked a bit like one, too. At home, I pan-heated six pieces of flatbread for lunch on the assumption that we'd be eating two sandwiches each. I knew I'd be reheating the naan in our office's microwave, which meant that the bread would get weird because bread and microwaves generally don't mix (unless you're trying to reconstitute dry bread). Sure enough, the naan ended up hilariously chewy; I'm not a fan of that brand. It was edible, and my coworker ended up eating three sandwiches (my boss ate only one) despite the chewiness.
The tomatoes, olives, and lettuce were nothing special; they all did yeoman's work inside our sandwiches. The boss, who can be stingy with his praise of my food, declared everything delicious. My coworker described the feast as "amazing." That makes me a happy camper. Despite not being effusive with his praise, the boss has sometimes hinted that he'd like me to cater a party at his residence some day. At this point, I've brought twenty-three different dishes to the office since I began working here in 2015: anything to break the monotony of the quiet work we do.
And that, friends, is the story of today's gyros lunch.
*I don't know what sort of pita is used in US-based Greek fast-food joints, but whatever it is, it's not the typical pita sold in groceries. Grocery pita tends not to bend well; you're normally supposed to cut it open and use it to make pocket sandwiches instead of wraps, but at the Greek fast-food joints, what you get is a large, thick, flavorful pita that curls around the filling without cracking or tearing. I've found that store-bought naan simulates this texture better than grocery pita bread does, which is why I'm a faan of the naan.
More and more people are leaving Twitter, variously named "Twatter" and "Sick Blue Pigeon" by the haters. Thanks to my buddy Mike, I'm on Gab AI (see feed link on sidebar).
My impression thus far is that it's true that Gab is a freer community in terms of unrestricted speech. That said, I don't think the lefties are wrong to view Gab as a sort of "safe space" for righties. The point of the leftie criticism is, of course, that righties are usually the ones who mock the concept of a safe space, and yet here's Gab, which acts as a haven for righties who feel harassed and oppressed.*
As I predicted, I haven't been anywhere near as active on Gab as I used to be on Twitter. Gab is still in beta, a fact that's obvious once you're there. The interface is ugly and clunky, and there aren't anywhere near as many functions available to you, the user, as there are on Twitter. You can't self-retweet, for one thing, and you can't retweet-and-comment, for another. On Gab, both "like"s and "dislikes" are visible (I don't think you can down-vote on Twitter), but they're not shown separately, as on YouTube: instead, you see only a single number of "points" that equals all "likes" minus all "dislikes" for a post. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Gab's two main advantages are (1) the freedom-of-speech thing (although speech is still policed there), and (2) the 300-character limit when posting. Aside from that, I'm finding it a bit boring, but maybe that's because I haven't posted enough to have any social momentum—not that that's my goal on Gab. In fact, I'd say my only goal on Gab is simply to explore the environment, build a humble network, and let whatever happens happen.
As Gab improves itself and becomes more of a challenger to Twitter, expect more people to jump ship. Whether the Gab newbies become a welcome addition or bring their onerous, Twitter-related mental baggage with them is something that only time will tell.
*To hear Gab tell it, the space is open to people of all persuasions, so in theory, everyone from Twitter—except the thought police—is welcome to leap over to Gab. In other words: while lefties might mockingly say Gab is a rightie safe space, Gabbers would counter that Gab is an open forum for all—as open as an omnisexual public restroom. Personally, I have yet to see any liberals on Gab, but I admit I haven't been searching all that hard.
My old friend Dr. Steve writes on Kellyanne Conway and the nonexistent "Bowling Green massacre." If it's true that Conway made the incident up out of whole cloth, then that's mighty disturbing. I see that she has backpedaled and claimed to have misspoken, but many folks aren't buying this, given her earlier insistent repetition of the meme. Conway has proved to have a quick and devastating wit when it comes to pointing out hypocrisy on the left. That she might be caught up in her own fake-news moment would be ironic, if that's what this is.
Here are Instapundit's takes on Conway and Bowling Green.
Thursday, February 09, 2017
Sad to say, but my friend Bill Keezer is closing down his blog, which had a good thirteen-year run. I, for one, will be sad to see the blog go, but Bill has his reasons for closing shop. Ever the gentleman, he offers a goodbye here, then offers some acknowledgments here.
Sometimes, a dashboard GPS works great. Sometimes, it sucks balls.
After leaving my Seoul National gig, I cabbed over to Itaewon, that wretched hive of scum and villainy, to buy some cumin, naan, and other materials necessary to make gyros for tomorrow's office lunch. It's my ritual to take a cab back from Itaewon to Daecheong Station, mainly because I'm lazy and don't want to lug groceries on the long subway ride. You pay extra for a cab because you're paying for a measure of privacy and comfort, but normally, you don't expect to pay through the nose for a regular ride.*
I fell asleep partway through the ride to my place, but I could see, once I woke up, that the cabbie—who had punched my destination into his GPS—had gotten himself lost. We were somewhere in Gangnam, on the back streets, going in random circles and ignoring one-way signs painted on the asphalt. Too tired to feel stressed, I looked at the meter, saw I was already a few dollars over what this ride would normally cost (even in rush hour), and quietly shook my head. The cabbie was in his seventies; yelling at him when he already knew he was lost wouldn't help the situation.
Initially, I had mentally praised the cabbie for using the GPS. Most Seoul cabbies have these navigation devices on their dashboards, but those same cabbies tend to be old-school drivers, too proud to rely on GPS and preferring to fly by the seat of the pants. This cabbie, in his seventies (the average age of a Seoul cabbie is, incredibly, sixty), was humble enough to refer to his GPS when he didn't recognize the name of the station I mentioned, so I tipped my invisible hat to him. Turned out his GPS had other plans; it led us on a wild-goose chase of random and useless back-street turns, which is how we ended up in the ruelles of Gangnam.
I'm deducing that the GPS was at fault, more than the driver, because when we did finally straighten out, I saw the GPS go nuts when we were half a kilometer from our destination. It tried to direct the cabbie to a neighborhood away from where I lived, way off to the right, so I had to tell the cabbie to go straight. It could also be, however, that the cabbie had gotten in trouble while I was sleeping by ignoring the GPS when it had been giving legitimate directions. I did see the cabbie ignore the device a time or two, so really, it's impossible to know how much of this mess was the cabbie's fault and how much was the GPS's.
We eventually got to my apartment building; I guided the driver during the final leg. My fare was W19,000—a good bit more expensive than the usual W13,000. "Expensive ride," I joked as I was leaving the cab. The driver chuckled but said nothing in return. He knew what I was referring to.
A dashboard GPS can be a godsend as long as the map data are up to date and the real-time navigation system is quirk-free. But add some quirks and some out-of-date maps, and you've got a recipe for anger and frustration. I can see why some people refuse to rely on GPS: not only are you allowing your own common-sense-based navigational skills go flabby, you're also putting your life in the hands of an inanimate object. But when a GPS device works, it works amazingly, undeniably well. Many have commented on how GPS navigation is proof positive that Einsteinian relativity is valid: for real-time navigation to work, minute instances of time dilation need to be accounted for: the satellites whipping by overhead at 14,000 kilometers per hour are moving through space and time differently from those of us here below—and the satellites in the GPS network have Einsteinian issues relative to each other as well. The whole thing is quite elegant and incredible, and generally speaking, I trust GPSes to deliver—yes, despite tonight's fiasco.
*You might also be paying for speed because a cab goes directly to your destination instead of stopping at every subway station, but how fast a cab is depends greatly on traffic conditions. At some point, you have to ask yourself whether stopping at every traffic light is any better than stopping at every subway station.
I'm doing a mock-interview gig at Seoul National University this morning and afternoon. This is the same gig I did back in 2015, but I've done about a tenth of the prep this time, now that I know the ropes and know what I don't need to prep.
We start at 10AM and finish at 5PM.
Charles, now settled in Boston, writes about his experience at the Extreme Beer Fest that took place just last week. If you're a beer connoisseur, you'll thoroughly enjoy his piece. As a beer troglodyte, I discovered that people who name their own beers have a cringe-inducing sense of humor. But Scott Adams might argue, from a persuasion standpoint, that it doesn't matter if a name sucks: what matters is that you remember it and continue to associate it with the correct beer. By that standard, then: the more cringe-inducing, the better.
Guess I should get back to brewing my Pikachu's Hot Load—a special blend that incorporates healthy doses of saffron, lightning, and rabbit semen.
Wednesday, February 08, 2017
I'm beginning to realize that, as this upcoming walk takes up more and more of my attention and energy, I'm going to have to roll back on all the other things I normally blog about, i.e., news topicality, politics, humor, movie reviews, and—very occasionally—religion. While I'm sad to do that, I just don't see any other recourse.
Have no fear: we'll be back to the fun stuff once the walk is over at the end of May. In the meantime, my final two gifts to you will be movie reviews of "Arrival" (yes, yes, it's coming) and "Hell or High Water." After that, it'll likely be All Walk Thoughts All the Time, with the occasional non-walk-related post just to keep me from becoming over-focused.
Here. Adams writes in part:
The left has done a stellar job of demonizing Trump supporters and Republicans in general. Their excellent persuasion involves conflating the bad apples with the entire group. Both sides do it. The right calls everyone on the left selfish snowflakes, and the left calls everyone on the right racists. They do it because it works. The brain likes to conflate things. And if the shiniest object in our view involves headlines about racists, or lefty rioters, those images stick in our minds and taint our impressions of the entire group.
So let’s try this thought experiment.
Read the rest. Adams does discuss the fact that he himself is generalizing... but not in a way that will be to everyone's satisfaction.
Tuesday, February 07, 2017
I have yet to write that review of "Arrival" (very busy at work, not much energy when home—please bear with me), but I did find this excellent piece that compares 2016's "Arrival" with 1997's "Contact" in smackdown form. The writer does a fine job of listing the various parallels and differences between these two largely overlapping films—so good a job, in fact, that I'm tempted not to write a review at all. But I'll write one—I promise.
Meanwhile, enjoy the above-linked smackdown.