Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are We Doomed to Repeat History (Literally and/or Figuratively)?

Last night's episode of Lost might be a metaphor for what happens in real life. Without many spoilers (or context), the episode in question is about a physicist named Daniel Faraday who used to believe that the events of the history of the Universe are set and "whatever happened, happened." Somewhere along the way, Faraday changed his belief system and tried to alter the future by changing the past. Faraday failed at his attempt to change the future, but believing that he could defy the Universe seemed to be what he was supposed to do anyway. In other words, whatever happened, happened. It is cosmic irony, where determinism ("fate") creates the illusion/perception of free will for individuals, but the outcome is already predetermined on the whole.

With our 2009 and earlier technology, we cannot yet travel back in time to see whether or not we can change history or it is truly a Universe where "whatever happened, happened." However, we have experienced the cyclical nature of civilized human history, and have theoretically an expansive knowledge of it, but we - as a sprawling local/regional/national/global civilization - don't quite know how to truly learn from history. Therefore, as the proverb goes, we are doomed to repeat it.

In broad strokes, a successful civilization struggles in its infancy, competes with other forces (whether rival societies and/or physical conditions) in its adolescence, prospers in its adulthood, overreaches in its middle age, and breaks down in its old age. We're not going to touch the more-or-less Roman Empire model for this rant, but I'm just placing this idea on the table.

In slightly more detailed strokes, in recent (let's say) American economic history, there is a recession, which is followed by a recovery, which is followed by prosperity, which is followed by greed - and depending how big this bubble becomes - this is followed by a collapse. With some variation, the cycle repeats. If you don't want to think of the recent housing market bubble, think about last century's Internet bubble. Think of the late 1980s.

In recent American economic politics, the voter zeitgeist tends to favor progressive/liberal/bigger government-type spending during an economic downturn. As the economy recovers, the ideology of the moment becomes more moderate. At some point, the status quo is favorable, and fiscal conservatism/smaller government (when it comes to domestic spending) is en vogue by the majority. Beyond that point, greed creates some sort of chaos in the balance - it might be toxic loans, outsourcing to other nations, and tax cuts that may counter-intuitively have the wrong effect - which creates a new downturn. And we choose our elected officials with fiscal policy in mind, depending on the moment in this seemingly infinite loop.

As far as social politics goes, that's a bit harder to align with fiscal issues, without making several contradictory generalizations. In any case, the "status quo" (whatever that is at the time) reigns supreme when there is a "feeling" of "majority prosperity," to the exclusion of a significant disadvantaged "minority" of the population. Social change happens during a time of tumult, whether economic, political, or natural. This social change is soon met by a backlash (by a usually equal and opposite ideological movement), which may somehow settle as the new status quo. Then the cycle repeats.

In any case, if history is cyclical as a whole (the rise and fall of civilizations) and in part (eras during a civilization), then we might be doomed to repeat our triumphs and mistakes with both similar triumphs/mistakes and greater triumphs/mistakes. We can choose to recognize that we can't truly change the cycle, and therefore resign ourselves to passively let the spirit of the time shift from damage control to recovery to prosperity to greed to collapse and back to damage control.

Or we can fool ourselves that we have the free will to end the cycle of civilization. If we are progressive, we can believe that science, innovation, technology, education, social programs, etc., will never end in an ever-advancing utopia. If we are conservative, we can believe that our idealized past should be the guide of our civilization, lest we stray and suffer any number of consequences. If we are moderate, we can believe that nuance and caution will provide sustainable - albeit mundane - prosperity. Maybe perceiving that our chosen ideology is better than the rest IS what we're supposed to think. And so we attempt to fight, persuade, and eliminate our ideological foes in the process. If the left has a victory, the right will eventually have a successful backlash - and vice versa. If the middle finds balance, something inevitably happens to create an unbalance, which is eventually counterbalanced, and temporary balance happens long enough for another shake-up to happen.

Whatever happens, happens. But the perception or reality of free will is still a good thing. I think that's what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to believe in our own free will and therefore take responsibility for our actions, so that whatever happen will happen because of our choices. Keep fighting and deciding, my friends. The choice is yours, even though it really isn't...or is it?

Then again, this is an incoherent rant that won't do much to affect the future or change anyone's thought process...or will it?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ᴛʜᴇ ᴀʟᴘʜᴀʙᴇᴛ ɪɴ sᴍᴀʟʟ ᴄᴀᴘɪᴛᴀʟ ʟᴀᴛɪɴ ʟᴇᴛᴛᴇʀs


ʙ



ꜰ - This appears as "A730" instead of F on my netbook's Firefox browser.
ɢ
ʜ
ɪ


ʟ

ɴ


 - Possibly. I can't confirm that "E8R1" is a small capital Q.
ʀ
ꜱ - This appears as "A731" to me, but a small s makes a fine substitute.




x - I could not find an actual Unicode small capital X, but a small x does the job.
ʏ


Of course, the title of this blog post - "ᴛʜᴇ ᴀʟᴘʜᴀʙᴇᴛ ɪɴ sᴍᴀʟʟ ᴄᴀᴘɪᴛᴀʟ ʟᴀᴛɪɴ ʟᴇᴛᴛᴇʀs" - and much of this entry's content probably aren't very search engine friendly. I must redundantly write, in regular text, that the title of this entry is "The Alphabet in Small Capital Latin Letters." I have done this so you and I can creep people out on Twitter and Facebook with small caps tweets, reminiscent of how Terry Pratchett's Death's spoken words are written in the Discworld series.

ᴄʜᴇᴇʀs, ᴀɴᴅ ʙᴇ ᴡᴇʟʟ.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Apparently This Swine Flu Is a Big Deal

First thing's first: Why panic? If your immune system can handle the varied strains of human flu, you should be at the very back of the panic line. If your age and/or overall health puts you "at risk," take a bit more precaution than you usually do for the yearly flu bug or the common cold.

In any case, if you're healthy, try not to get sick, wash your hands, keep clean, eat well, sleep well, and laugh well.

If you're sick (likely with a cold but possibly with the swine flu), try not to spread the illness, stay home, rest, drink lots of fluid like water and hot soup, cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, take a pain killer if it hurts, take some cough syrup for a sore throat, take some pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) if you can't breathe through your nose, see a doctor if it is urgent, and laugh well.

Most of all, don't let the paranoid propaganda of the evening news spook you. Sure, parts of Mexico - where the pandemic hit first and so far hardest - look like the middle of a modern zombie movie. Sure, the medical experts caution that the pandemic may turn deadly in the States, and elsewhere, as it has done to Mexico. Sure, if you get a sore throat sometime soon, your first thought might be of the swine flu.

Just don't worry; take care of yourself; take care of those for whom you care; remember to laugh. I'm not going to say that laughter is the best medicine, but it does keep an even worse epidemic - the zombie flu - at bay.

Think about it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Misanthropic Rant: Impatience + Ignorance = Stupidity

This might be the few almonds (the dinner of champions!) chased by a Heineken, a Guinness, a Stella Artois, and a Heineken talking, but I'll probably stand by this rant (but probably not the potential typos and grammatical errors herein).

I was at the Smashing Pumpkins' website, and apparently, a bartender inherited a former Pumpkin James Iha's (now of Tinted Windows, etc.) platinum award - by way of one of Iha's ex-girlfriend - for Siamese Dream. The bartender is putting that award for auction on eBay. Some commenters think it's Iha doing the auction, when in fact the article on the SP site plainly says a third party is responsible for putting the award on eBay. Those commenters are accusing Iha for wanting to make a buck from his former band by putting the aforementioned award on eBay. Apparently, these article commenters either don't have the time to read a measly paragraph, or some of them have the uncanny ability to write coherent sentences but are simultaneously illiterate. To be fair, I sometimes come to conclusions without reading things well enough. Sometimes.

In any case, some (possibly many) humans are stupid.

Another reason: I like my 2G iPod Shuffle. I like it so much, that I protect it with a sillicone case. Unfortunately, I have to remove the case in order to charge and resync my Shuffle with the standard 2G dock. I used a Best Buy Dynex-brand non-dock cable, but it recently crapped out on me after three months of service. Even that had special extra plastic bits on the mini-connector side of the USB cable.

I recently learned that the dock-dongle technology and/or the extra plastic bits are there to prevent people from foolishly inserting the special mini plug into a non-iPod Shuffle device, which would fry those devices. Even inventors, innovators, and R&D must take into account potential stupidity of a substantial sampling of the populace, in order to prevent litigation.

In any case, some (possibly many) humans are stupid.

It almost makes me want to believe that the lamenting God of Genesis 6:6 -

And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
- was commenting more on man's stupidity than his sinfulness. Or possibly sinfulness is stupidity, and the forbidden fruit was actually from the Tree of Dumbassness. Biblical translators, take note.

And don't get me started on the criminally evil and/or stupid humans mentioned on the local and evening news.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Swine Flu and Other Animal Observations

Apparently, "swine flu" is the big subject on my Twitter feed. According to the CDC (or what The Man wants you to know):

Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza among pigs. Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans, however, human infections with swine flu do occur, and cases of human-to-human spread of swine flu viruses has been documented. See General Information about Swine Flu.
That's what you get for hanging out with the pigs from Animal Farm. You get swine flu.

Speaking of animals (I tweeted this before): Why are condors the "good guys," but vultures the "bad guys"? They're, like, the same kind of scavenging bird - sometimes the same bird. The California Condor is heroic because the species is recovering from the brink of extinction. The California Vulture is the same animal, but it sounds like a buzzard you wouldn't want to meet if your car breaks down in Death Valley.

Furthermore, why are sheep the "good guys," but goats a symbol of "evil"? Is it the horns? Male sheep - rams - tend to have the cool, rounded horns, while goats apparently have the horns (and beard) of Satan.

In any case, the sheep/goat dichotomy is a lose-lose situation: Who wants to be sheeple? Who wants to be a scapegoat? Who wants to be a black sheep? For that matter, which is worse: To be a black sheep within the sheep population, or a a scapegoat exiled from the sheep? Do the sheep and goats actually care about this, or is this the doing of the herder(s)?

Bah. I mean, baaaahhhhh.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Star Wars Holiday Special, Starring Bea Arthur (R.I.P.)

Like The Beatles, the land of the living has only two Golden Girls. I received the news via @ABC7's tweet earlier today, faster than you can say "Wikipedia edit." My friend Rama better eulogized the recently departed Bea Arthur at Rama's Screen. Embedded below is Ms. Arthur's obscure-to-some-but-infamous-to-many role as a Tatooinean bartender at the Mos Eisley Cantina in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special:

Friday, April 24, 2009

What I'm Doing Right Now

OK, this is essentially a filler post that would have been better as a series of tweets. I am running out of Friday in which to write a Friday post, and I haven't been hip to what's hip/hype for today about which to rant. In lieu of actual, meaningful content, I'm just going to write a script of what I am doing or planning to do before today's long day and the Cabernet I had with dinner (a nice lamb and sausage stew) finally catch up - in which case, I then enter the Universe of my subconscious's creating.

1. Until next Friday, AmazonMP3 has Jim Gaffigan's latest comedy album King Baby on sale for $5. I will download the album, and his post-Hot Pockets material had better be funny.

2. I will sleep for Friday night and hopefully wake up sometime on Saturday.

3. Before I listen to King Baby, I must finish the audiobooks of both John Milton's Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, as read by the fantastic volunteers of LibriVox. Right now, I like being read to more than reading. It's strange.

4. After being read the books, I must blog about Milton's video game theology. Seriously, that epic war in heaven part between immortal armies was full of video game mechanics. Milton is an example of Puritanpunk.

5. Then I will listen to King Baby.

Goodnight!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

EnD oF aN eRa: GoOdByE, gEoCiTiEs!

I joined the greater Web community in late 1997. Back then, I was mostly relegated to the America Online dial-up subculture, often to the exclusion of the CompuServe and Prodigy folk. AOL people couldn't IM non-AOL people, and launching AOL's AIM program was just a hassle. It was a bit of a stretch for our Pentium I chips with 32 MB of RAM to have the AOL program and AIM open simultaneously, lest Windows 95 crash both programs or reboot the computer.

Anyhow, if you remember, in those days, people were given what I think was server space for each screen name (email address), so that they could attempt to build their own homepage - or web page - or web site (if they were ambitious). It was a world of bAd DeSiGn, with animated GIFs and "Under Construction" notices and tiled wallpaper images that clashed the tExT. Of course, alternating capitals and small letters were cute back then, until that became annoying. While these pages also haunted the members.aol.com and Angelfire servers, the reputation for bad design fell on Geocities - at least to my knowledge.

Somewhere along the dot com boom of the turn of the millennium, Yahoo! (then at the top of the world) acquired Geocities. Well, Yahoo! is now not at the top of the world, and their Geocities division is essentially a graveyard of abandoned late 1990s websites. And so recently, Yahoo! announced that it will cease their Geocities service.

If the new MySpace CEO doesn't turn their service around, I suspect that MySpace will be the new graveyard for poorly implemented social networking design. Instead of bad HTML sites, MySpace profiles are full of CSS, buggy Flash code, and possible phishing schemes.

Then again, when there is freedom, there is good design, tolerable design (hopefully this blog is tolerable in its aesthetic), and poor design. Freedom is good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring Cleaning and Time Traveling

It's amazing how quickly (and often exponentially) junk mail, receipts, and documents pile up when one is busy working on...other documents. I've been sorting through this paper waste to see which documents can go directly to the trash (recycle bin, perhaps?) and which needs to go through the shredder, to prevent dumpster-diving identity thieves from gathering information.

While it takes a lot of time to do this task, a welcome side-effect is time travel via memory recall. Before sending a receipt (with credit card info) into the shredder, I can vividly recall (probably with a partially skewed misremembered memory) the context of a meal at a particular restaurant, or a birthday delivery from Amazon.com, etc. It's almost like one's consciousness time traveling to where you were before, except there's no real interaction...just temporary sentimentality.

I found some documents when I was a high school teacher. Those were good times. The freshmen at the time of my employment are now seniors who are about to graduate in a few short weeks. I'm glad that I get to "see" what's up with some of the then-freshmen, then-sophomores, then-juniors, and then-seniors on Facebook (and MySpace when I used to go there). I hope to find them, as well as the ones with whom I have lost contact, when the social networking paradigm shifts beyond Facebook and beyond Twitter.

Anyway, it's back to the paper mines I go. I almost feel like WALL-E, sorting through the trash of my neglect. I wish you all a Happy Earth Day (and Birthday to a couple of friends)!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Freedom with Entropy or Totalitarian Efficacy?

The talking heads (and typing fingers, like yours truly) won't let go of the whole Miss California opinion debacle. This partisan, ideological divide is no longer liberal vs. conservative, progressive vs. traditional, bailouts vs. failouts, socialism vs. capitalism, equality vs. elitism, change vs. status quo, or whatever is the current, pop cultural, pop political, false dichotomy. No, if there is a real dichotomy in which to choose sides, it is freedom vs. totalitarianism. Freedom is respectful disagreement and nuanced debate. Totalitarianism is idiotic dittoheadism that is problematic no matter the ideology. I've swept through some comments on news sites and web logs, and I've come up with (I know I'm being ironic) generalizations:

1. The totalitarians on the left tend to judge Miss California (Google has her name) as stupid for sticking to her opinions and anticipate her to become (if she isn't already) a right-wing icon in the same vein as Joe the Plumber. In any case, this means that the current popular opinion of blue states/regions is somehow zeitgeist truth and all dissenters must be destroyed.

2. The totalitarians on the right tend to lionize Miss California as some kind of truth-bringer (especially the social conservatives) and a victim of the "liberal mainstream media" bogeyman. In any case, this means that the current popular opinion of red states/regions is somehow timeless truth and all dissenters must be destroyed.

Because they seek to form truths out of nothing, the totalitarians are wrong. I choose freedom, even if things get complex or chaotic. I choose even-handed debate. I choose liberty tempered by equal opportunity, and prosperity tempered by responsibility. I don't need a government to tell me that, but I would like a government to remember these principles while governing. In the years between 2003-2006, I rallied that dissent is often patriotic, too. Now that the shoe is on the other foot (?), I still believe it, even though it is slightly absurd to incorporate the question of patriotism in the same topic as a minor beauty pageant public uproar.

It makes me wonder what proportion of the "rally around Bush" conservative (non-moderate) totalitarian bullies jumped ship between 2006-2008 and are the loudest of the now-liberal totalitarians. That would just make "them" (whoever they are) sheep who "rally around what's popular." In that case - if we should respect opinions, but dittoheads have no opinions of their own, then totalitarians don't deserve much respect for their non-opinions - do they, now?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Freedom Ain't What It Used to Be: Jackie Chan, Miss California, Tea Parties

Recently, actor Jackie Chan pondered or asserted (depending on the actual context or your perception) that the Chinese, particularly of mainland China, "need to be controlled." He pointed to the other bastions of the Sinosphere - "experimentally" capitalistic Hong Kong and the democratic Taiwan - as examples of chaos that comes with freedom.

On the one hand, sure, a totalitarian regime creates neat and efficient order. For example, many of the pictures that the West has seen of North Korea show graffiti-free, litter-free open areas. The photogenic areas of Cuban cities are also clean probably for propagandistic purposes. Mainland China (rather, the People's Republic thereof) is the home to over a billion people. For those in charge, it makes sense to treat these hundreds of millions of people like sheep. The State gets to meet gross product quotas, and everything and everyone in the country is part of one big factory or ant colony or honeybee hive. Only those born into the elite class get a large degree of freedom; after all, the responsibility of freedom and overseeing the fate of the underclass obviously weigh heavy on them. (Hopefully, you all read sarcasm/cynicism in my words, since I do not agree with Mr. Chan.)

On the other hand, even though many governments and corporations and media outlets find it convenient to analyze demographics, people aren't sheep. Human beings still have the biological equipment in them to be free as tribalistic hunter-gatherers, or at least defy being pigeonholed and controlled by others. It's just the exponential level of humanity's social development that creates the desire for one class to control those deemed lesser: Some humans started herding sheep (and other animals); some of them settled and built civilizations; these populations multiplied so that civilized humans outnumber other humans; civilization ironically makes sheep of most civilized humans.

In effect, I'm trying to say a lot but neither have the space nor expertise to do so lucidly. In any case, without freedom, a lot of "bad" is prevented, such as the lack of productivity and the defacement of property. By the same token, without freedom, no one gets to choose to do "good," either. Everyone (rather, the controlled class) just obeys the "will" of the elite.

It's ironic that in a lot of Jackie Chan's movies (and animated series), he plays the underdog hero who saves the people not from chaos or entropy, but by the malevolent order of a big bad/dark lord/crime boss.

Let's bring this discussion about freedom home. In the recent Miss USA pageant, gossip-mogul Perez Hilton, in his capacity as contest judge, asked a question to runner-up Miss California about gay marriage. The beauty contestant had a nuanced answer that tried to incorporate both tolerance and firm stance of her own beliefs:

“Well I think its great that Americans are able to choose one or the other,” she said. “We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be between a man and a woman. Thank you very much.”
It sort of looks like that Miss California tolerated the option for same-sex marriage as a civil, legal reality while personally disagreeing with it. That's a decent answer in my book.

I believe that people, no matter their orientation, should have the right to marry the partner of their choice. Marriage, in the eyes of the State, is a civil matter that affects tax matters. Two straight dudes could have an open marriage so that they can save on income taxes, and that is their prerogative. (This is not to say the tax consolidators will be free from social consequences, for they might likely be branded with a weird/comedic reputation by their peers.) Churches and religions could do whatever they want with the sacrament of marriage.

I also believe that people have a right to their own opinions, no matter how enlightened or ignorant or progressive or status quo. Miss California has the right to her opinion, especially the second part of her answer, even if I disagree. It was grossly unfair for Mr. Hilton to expect one "correct" answer (A - gay marriage should be legal and B - the contestant wholeheartedly supports it), and call the opinion "worst answer in pageant history." I mean, Perez Hilton probably gave Miss California less points (being a judge), and Miss California ended up as runner-up. Miss California expressed an unpopular opinion relative to the pageant environment, and she suffered some consequence because of that particular judge's criteria.

Again, I'm painting a lot of broad strokes without much cohesion. One thing I'm trying to say is that if I were a beauty pageant judge, I would not expect one ideal answer during the round of opinion-based questions. I would judge more on poise and cohesion (which this rant ironically lacks).

I'm also saying that freedom is good, and opinions are natural. While I currently support the Obama Adminstration's current handling of the nation's finances, I like the overarching intent of the libertarian-heavy anti-tax, anti-big government (fiscally speaking) Tea Parties. I am happy that, in the United States of America, we still have the freedom to debate. We have the right to express our opinions. I like that fiscal conservatives hold those (Paris Hilton) Tea Parties, even though social conservatives also show up and don't quite fit in, as well as fringe ideologues who have signs with Hilter/Chaplin moustaches on President Obama's face. Those people have opinions, too, and the context of the debate will determine whether those opinions are valid for the situation. (They're often not.) As long as the fringes of any side don't conspire and commit criminal behavior, they have the right to be as loony as they want to be.

So take that, Jackie Chan.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Caffeine-Free Diet Soda with Lots of Ice

That's my prescription to these increasingly hot days. While regular ice cold water is the ideal solution, one that won't have chemical consequences later in life, I like the effect of drinking fake sugar. Since cutting down my sugar intake in mid-2007, I've gotten used to the taste of the caffeine-free varieties of Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, and Diet Dr. Pepper, as well as Sprite Zero. That weird fake sugar aftertaste is virtually non-existent at ice cold temperatures, and subjectively to one who doesn't mind it.

The upsides to consuming caffeine-free, fake-sugar soda in large quantities are (1) no caffeine jitters and (2) no hyperglycemia. Unfortunately, we'll have to see what damage the other chemicals are currently doing to my body. Like many things in life, it's a balancing act. Or a crapshoot. I don't know which metaphor is better.

I might have to eat some of that light Yoplait-brand yogurt that decently mimics actual deserts. Yes, I realize that I'm acting like the middle-aged female demographic targeted by the producers of yogurt and diet soda. And I'm fine with that.

We live in a world with fake sugar and Willy Wonka-like yogurt dessert substitutes. This present-day future is beautiful, isn't it?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Change This: Everything's Amazing; Nobody's Happy

A friend on Facebook, or maybe a couple of friends, posted a link to this Late Night with Conan O'Brien clip, in which comedian Louis CK laments that our technologically advanced generation is basically a bunch of spoiled brats who complain about the most trivial things regarding the conveniences they currently have:



By contrast, ABC's Nightline broadcast a news story about a kid named Devin McQueen, who was born with non-functional bowels, and couldn't eat (literally!) because of his condition. For the first several years of this five year old's life, Devin had to get his nutrition intravenously. After many trials and setbacks, doctors transplanted a donated small intestine to Devin, using our modern medical technology (the one that many complain about when trivial things go less-than-awry). The kid could finally eat, and you should see the video clip (somewhere in "The Boy Who Couldn't Eat," parts one and two) in which he rejoices over the prospect of eating oatmeal.

Yes, oatmeal.

This society would be a lot better if we treated our smart phones and netbooks and transportation like a kid eating oatmeal for the second time, after enjoying it thoroughly the first time. In fact, we should rejoice over the prospect of eating oatmeal again, as well as other otherwise mundane things and activities.

Logically, I would say to celebrate every inhale and exhale of breath, but it's better to get stuff done whilst breathing. Contributing to locality or society or humanity is to celebrate one's opportunity for life. Cheers!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bargain Bin Review: The Children of Times Square (1986)

Channel 5.2 on my digital converter shows the programming for a network called This TV, which shows mostly "forgotten" (sometimes "classic") movies that would have been shown on Channel 13 or Channel 5 on a Sunday afternoon if it were the 1990s or 1980s. Needless to say, it's a decent place to spend time when nothing else is on television (especially without cable/satellite), and the only thing you want to do is watch television. TV happens, I guess.

They showed a 1980s TV movie called The Children of Times Square, which is supposedly a cautionary tale about runaway kids going to the then-filthy Times Square in New York City. Unfortunately, it becomes a spoof, with the writers creating unintentional ironic situations, where the original intent is subverted:

1. The protagonist runaway (a kid from the suburbs) never truly earns the sympathy of the audience. At the beginning of the movie, he abandons his baby brother, who he was supposed to babysit, in order to see a concert. That pretty much brands the protagonist as a douche for the rest of the movie and deserving of all the ills coming to him (being tricked to be a whore for old men) and undeserving of various twists of fate in his favor (escaping from his first whore job; his mommy searching for him; etc.).

2. The supposedly evil drug dealer looks like he's exploiting the kids in his employment, but he actually comes off as a darn good saint of a man. Why? He provides the kids (below age 16) an opportunity to survive without being a whore, he gives them a pretty cool warehouse in which to live, he gives them an essentially win-win situation (if they are caught, they are too young for jail, according to the movie's legal system), and he protects them from bullies. What does he get for his benevolence? That's right - he gets killed in the end.

3. The subplot involving a female teenage runaway is unintentional, and possibly inappropriate, comic relief. At the beginning of the Times Square part of the movie, she comes to town and refuses an opportunity from a pimp. First of all, the pimp was hilarious and stereotypical in almost every way. She is caught by the cops to be sent home, but she escapes from a second- or third-story restroom and breaks her ankle. LOL. She gets sent home, but runs away to Times Square again. This time, she agrees to work for the pimp. At the last scene of the movie, now a teenage whore, the injured female runaway limps to a potential client at the corner: "Hey mister, you wanna have some fun?"

That pretty much sums up the movie.

I'm probably going to rant about more bargain bin-type movies if I have nothing else to write on this daily blog. I should come up with a rating system for these movies: On the "low end" of the scale, the movie is so genuinely good that nary a word is uttered in mockery during viewing. We'll probably not review good bargain bin movies here. On the "high end" of the scale, the movie is so bad that it is required to participate by talking to the TV and joking about what just happened with people with whom you are watching the movie.

For The Children of Times Square, I deem it worthy to make fun of virtually every scene, as long as you watch it with a least one other person. With real life danger replaced with unintentional comedy, the protagonist as an irredeemable douche, and the supposed bad guy as an obvious saint - good times will be had by all.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mid-April in Studio

With DeRamos Music (http://deramosmusic.com) and various other websites in "public beta" (a term I slightly grasp but not really), the Society of Gloves (http://societyofgloves.com) is headed back to the studio for a track for the end of April/early May. We're still in mellow mode this month, and we'll see if some experimental elements could work for this new song. Results may vary...

We'll be sure to hit you all with something aggressive, something that sounds like a buzzsaw or similar, sometime soon, maybe for late May/early June or the month after.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day Ramblings

Happy (?) Tax Day to everyone whose deadline for tax returns is April 15 (and Happy Birthday to a couple of friends). I don't feel like blogging about one specific topic today, so I'm going to do the list:

1. I'm glad I did my personal and LLC taxes well in advance for this deadline.

2. More pirates! The ones attacking aid supply ships are douchebags. That's like mugging Father Dollar Bill on Easter. Do not hurt the ones who want to help!

3. Lost is back to the '70s tonight!

4. Bo Obama the dog!

5. The Sandra Cantu murder case is getting stranger, with exponentially increasingly disgusting allegations on the suspect. It is disturbing that (some? many? all?) people are capable of this amount of evil.

6. I think Al Franken won his Senate race...? And that's okay.

7. Don't high five the blind guy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pirates of the Indian Ocean

Alternatively, it could be Pirates of the Aden. Anyhow, I would like to commend the brave captain of the Maersk Alabama, for giving up his freedom (and putting his life on the life) for his crew, and I would like to commend the U.S. Navy for rescuing the captain from the pirates.

By virtue of being an American, we are more likely to be on the side of the ship's crew and our own navy's ability to save the day in real life, which I am. Ironically, in much of our popular storytelling, the corporation and the government are usually the bad guys, and the outlaw pirates (with good intentions to save their people) are the good guys.

In the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, while there are bad pirates, we are supposed to root for the good pirate Captain Jack Sparrow and crew, and we are supposed to dislike the alliance of the villainous empire government and greedy mercantile corporation.

In Star Wars, we root for the outlaw smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca. The empire is evil because the evil Sith are behind its power. The criminal syndicate of Jabba the Hutt is usually the analogue to the greedy multi-planetary corporation, as well as the Trade Federation (?) in the convoluted prequels.

The real pirates of the Indian Ocean, whenever they pull off successful maritime heists, are heroes to the people of their hometowns. The shipping corportions (and foreign corporations in general) are probably seen as exploiters of their land, with the respective governments of these corporations as supportive of this perceived evil.

The reality, however, is that the captain and sailors of these ships are usually honest workers, and the government that protects their citizens are doing what a government is supposed to do.

By the same token, some of the pirates might have decent ends to their outlawish means (feeding their families in their wartorn land), and some of the warlords who support these actions might be more benevolent than their rivals. Alternatively, the pirates/warlords/outlaws/rebels might be at war with an oppressive government. The world community might begrudgingly accept corrupt regimes as legitimate government, and the underdogs are forced to improvise. Of course, the pirates could also just be in it for the ill-gotten profit and fight for no justifiable end.

How are we supposed to remedy this disconnect? Are we supposed to advocate moral relativism in most cases, with only a few (if any) examples of absolute right and wrong?

Monday, April 13, 2009

#AmazonFail

Hold the phone: Amazon.com still sells books? There about two explanations why Amazon.com's entire LGBT library was suddenly delisted in the bestsellers list and/or relisted as "adult" themed books: (1) Outright censorship, or (2) a computer glitch.

Censorship: Even the books with no explicit paragraphs (but have gay characters) are lumped into this recent reclassification. It is a conspiracy by social conservatives in the ranks of Amazon.com still reeling from last year's elections and their current feud with fiscal conservatives.

Glitch: All the books categorized as "LGBT" (or however Amazon.com used to list them) experienced some bad code and 100% were shifted into the category "Adult." Alternatively, let's say the computer shifted a subcategory from one supercategory to another: "general > LGBT" to "adult > LGBT." With an bugs in the servers' operating system, that's possible.

Then again, a human could do the category shift, in which case, that's censorship.

So I ask again: Amazon.com still sells books? Currently, they're good for some on-sale electronics and the random daily MP3 album deal. I recently bought 150 slightly annoying children's songs for $1. Why? It was a dollar; that's why.

If you want books, go to the public library. Your tax dollars pay for the place, and it's not currently a good economy to buy books. Librarians seem to be guardians against censorship. Pro-censorship politicians are outed whenever anti-censorship librarians are fired.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Harrowing of Hell: The Movie? The TV Series?

As was my sentiment yesterday, there is a dichotomy of emphasis regarding the Friday and Sunday parts of Easter. Many of the sermons of various Christians churches focus on the Resurrection, which is essentially central to the religion itself. However, especially in American popular Christianity (and American pop culture as a whole), there is a bit of obsession as to the gory parts of the story, as is/was evidenced by the success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004). I'm not going to comment further whether this is healthy or not, or to pass comical judgment onto those who found some sort of conversion after merely watching Gibson's movie. I'm just going to suggest that we might need another paradigm shift regarding the Easter holiday; one option would be taking it back to medieval times, when they took the story mostly off script (not from the Gospel versions of the story): The Harrowing of Hell.

One theology (well, my brother told me he saw a televangelist talk about it on TV) behind this story posits that there was (at the time of the Crucifixion) two regions of Hell: A Limbo for the good souls, and Hell Hell (with fire and demons and stuff) for the bad souls. Basically, according to the televangelist, Jesus went to Limbo and preached to the good, and then lead them all the hell outta there. Jesus basically ignored the bad souls.

Since last blog post, I've been pondering how to present The Harrowing of Hell to modern audiences: A three-hour epic film or a 100 episode television series? I think there should be flashbacks (like Lost) to cover some character development, and a series would cover that nicely, with character-centric episodes. In any case, lots of religious groups would protest due to the inherent "blasphemy" of this concept, since Jesus Christ himself is the protagonist of this epic - and not, say, John Locke/Aslan/Neo as a metaphor for Jesus. Also, this epic won't totally fit into one denomination's brand of theology, so that could create discord among various protest groups.

Anyway, we'll call the Jesus character "the Protagonist" to alleviate some inherent irreverent South Park-like humor when placing the Protagonist into epic battle scenes or whatnot. (Try reading "the Protagonist" as "Jesus" below and witness the absurdity.) Without further ado:

The Harrowing of Hell

Hell wouldn't be the two-tiered Hell (Limbo and Hell) from the some forms of theology. Both good souls and bad souls are mixed up in this crazy, cavernous, twisted, oft-fiery world. As a rule of thumb, good souls would still be pretty sane despite their stay in Hell - cuts and scrapes eventually heal on these individuals. Bad souls would mostly turn into mindless, deformed zombies during their stay in Hell, but especially evil souls would either (1) remain in a deceptive, sane human form or (2) be promoted as some sort of ghoul or demon.

Anyhow, the story begins with the Protagonist unconscious and naked in Hell (having just entered), with a demon dragging him to a pit of torture. The Protagonist awakens and recognizes the demon, calling him by his angel name. There's a flashback to pre-Hell times, with the Protagonist hanging out with the pre-fallen angel. The scene ends with the demon asking for forgiveness, the Protagonist destroying the demon (who'll probably respawn elsewhere in Hell, since there is no afterlife for the afterlife), and the Protagonist wearing the demon's armor for clothing. We can't have the central figure of a major world religion stay unclothed throughout the entire movie/series (lest an offended fundamentalist cause violence in the real world in reaction), can we now? If you thought Dr. Manhattan's clothing situation was awkward on film...

In this retelling of the Harrowing, the Protagonist needs to assemble a team from various souls to make the mission successful. While having most of his divine power, the Protagonist is also cut off from absolute power (being imprisoned in Hell). In other words: He can easily take down an army of demons, but he doesn't know the geography of Hell and must adapt to this new environment.

For the most part, the Protagonist will be a flat character, since doubt and character growth aren't really part of this character's m.o. After all, he's the conquering Messiah with God powers and all. The real dynamics of character-driven storylines will come from the rest of the ensemble:

Judas Iscariot. This is a controversial story decision, but it might make good story sense at the end. Basically, this plays into the alternative interpretation that Judas is a sort of "Dark Knight" who "betrays" because it is part of the plan and accepts the role of being historically misunderstood. As the Protagonist's co-conspirator, Judas is basically the Protagonist's first mate and a sounding board to the Protagonist revealing the plans of this heist/prison break of Hell.

However, near the end of the movie/series, Judas will truly betray the Protagonist and his team, thus cementing his legacy as a traitor.

John the Baptist. Apparently, in some theologies, even in Hell, John continues his role as preachy forerunner to the Messiah. John basically tells the Protagonist where there are large pockets of good souls that are safe from demons, and where there are possibly good souls isolated and tortured. John also probably sees through Judas' ruse, but to the audience, it will seem that John is the betrayer and is trying to steal the Protagonist's thunder as Messiah. When Judas betrays the team (and disappears until the final scene/final episode), John becomes the Protagonist's right hand man.

Samson from the Old Testament. While Moses or David or someone more popular would have been better choices for the Protagonist's team, it will be explained that those characters are isolated deep in Hell and must be rescued. Besides, every team needs a strong man.

Eventually, Samson will go one-on-one with a demon version of Hercules, and both will fall into a deep chasm, never to be heard from again. It will be an emotional moment for the team.

Michael the Archangel. His backstory would make for great action/drama, as well as anger lots of the devout, who expect accuracy for their particular dogma. Basically, centuries before this Harrowing, Michael descends to Hell to try to create a revolution of souls in Hell - his own harrowing, possibly to prevent the Protagonist from being born and dying. Unfortunately, Michael fails and is stranded in Hell, constantly being hunted by demons/bad soul "zombies" and in turn hunting demons/"zombies." By the time the Protagonist finds him, Michael has almost become mad from his stay in Hell.

Michael is useful to the team because (1) he has wings, (2) wields a Heavenly sword, and (3) knows the terrain of Hell and the general location of the Exit point. He lacks the Key to the Exit; that's why he's stuck. Also, there could be a self-referential conversation between the Protagonist and the Archangel regarding possible confusion between the two, as many believe they are one and the same.

At one point during the movie/series, Michael will go face-to-face with the Devil, and lose. The Archangel will then be the Devil's personal captive, with great dialogue debates between the two characters. Somehow, Michael's sword will pass along to the Protagonist to wield.

Eve. Yes, that Eve. She's been separated from her husband Adam for several millenia and must find him. Of course, Eve's flashbacks will contain lots of nudity. Being the mother of humanity, and also due to unscientific film/TV DNA theory, Eve contains half of all possible genes of humanity. Sometime during her stay in Hell, Eve discovers that she could shape shift to various human forms - usually female but sometimes (a relatively unconvincing) male. Basically, if Samson is B.A. Baracus and Michael is Murdock, then Eve is Faceman. Even though she is a shapeshifter, Eve will either be played by an extremely multiethnic/multiracial actress, or a Brazilian supermodel.

Besides the inevitable reunion with Adam, Eve's story arc climaxes with a catfight, er, battle with Lilith and a bunch of succubi. It will be hot, I mean, move the story forward tastefully.

Token minority, non-Judeo-Christian, virtuous pagan - a good soul in elderly philosopher/sage/wise man form. Since Hollywood would cast the main characters - including the Middle Eastern Jewish Protagonist - with white actors of usually Western European descent, we'll need a token minority to seem "fair." If he's an Asian character, it'll be hinted that this team member is Buddha without explicitly saying so.

In any case, this character will have a sort of Sawyer/Miles sarcasm, usually giving the Protagonist himself some pet names: Mithras, Osiris, Quetzalcoatl, Dionysus, and even Persephone (when he's not in a good mood). The Protagonist apparently takes this mockery in good humor (as should the viewer).

Good Souls as minor/guest characters. We should probably throw a Neanderthal in the mix for controversy's sake.

As for the bad guys:

"Zombies." As mentioned previously, these are bad souls gone insane. They're basically the Stormtroopers (mass quantities, bad aim) of the movie/series.

Demons. Most are fallen angels, but some are promoted bad souls. Some demons might have flashback scenes/episodes. The team, when separated from the Protagonist, fight demons with great difficulty - even Michael struggles against the largest of demons.

The Grim Reaper (Death). He holds (or at least knows the locations of) the Key(s) out of Hell. The team will have to find all the Keys to gain access to Death and the main Key, which only the Protagonist can use. To win the last Key, the Protagonist plays a game of chess (or similar) with the Reaper.

The Devil. He's the big bad of the movie/series. If we're talking a full-length series, the Devil shows up in the characters' flashbacks, and possibly has a few Satan-centric episodes. He only shows up in Hell a few times: (1) To torture the good souls deep in Hell, (2) to fight and defeat Michael, and (3) to have an epic swordfight with the Protagonist. Consider the following:





At the conclusion of the epic fight with the Protagonist, the Devil and Judas (previously revealed as a traitor, again) fall into the frozen lake at the very bottom of Hell. The Devil then takes out his frustrations on Judas.

And that's pretty much the movie or the entire series. Yeah, I'm thinking series. Animated? CGI? Live action with lots of green screen/CGI? Low budget with lots of closeups and cheesy costumes? Would most devout Christians accept of reject this presentation of the Easter story?

Alternatively, instead of both the Good Friday sadism or the Holy Saturday epicness, we could have a paradigm shift emphasizing the Last Supper of Maundy Thursday - not in the communion sense that is the norm, but in the party sense that involves Passover lamb, matzo, and copious amounts of wine. Having just eaten some lamb and about three glasses of wine (Australian Shiraz this time), I can definitely get on board with that.

In any case, I wish you all a Happy Easter, in any sense you celebrate it: the Christian salvation (rebirth) holiday, the pre-Christian springtime (rebirth) holiday, the modern day commercial chocolate eggs and bunnies holiday, or not at all.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Day Before Easter

Much attention has been given to Good Friday (the Crucifixion) and Easter Sunday (the Resurrection and non-sequitur Easter egg hunts), but I can't recall much attention paid to the Saturday (Holy Saturday) between both days. Depending on your brand of Christian theology (if any), today commemorates either when Jesus took the concept of Sabbath rest to its extreme conclusion (i.e., death as sleep) or when Jesus' soul played the most badass game ever of dungeon-crawling Diablo and pulled off a cosmic heist/prison break of souls. Considering the latter option isn't technically akin to a lucid dream (but actual exhausting work), both options are quite incompatible with one another. I don't know which makes better story sense:

1. Taking a well-deserved daylong rest after doing a lot of work and stuff sounds good to me.

2. Hunting demons after possibly finding a long-lost archangel sword (with magical powers? you betcha!) to wield in Hell also sounds good. An epic (non-philosophical) duel between the devil and the rebirth deity, near the end of this day, would be simply fantastic. Oh yeah, and the whole rescuing imprisoned good souls is also cool. (I think Mel Gibson should film an equally bloody, action-packed sequel to The Passion called The Harrowing.)

We're also in the midst of Passover, too, and likely other holidays. In any case, whatever you believe (or not believe), celebrate today, for whatever reason, even if you can't quite utter a reason. There's almost always a reason, for not having a reason is a reason in and of itself.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, April 10, 2009

http://deramosmedia.com

Specialists wanted.

The website for the DeRamos Group's division for web design and other Internet media is up and running. We're in the process of filing our Rolodex (note to self: buy an actual Rolodex...okay, maybe not) with people who kick ass in their chosen field of art/science/trade/etc. Our first call is for computer artists (that is, artists who use computers for their work, not so much computers that create art) - graphic designers and illustrators. Having good artists on-call would help with various aspects of DeRamos Media, from making aesthetically pleasing websites for our clients, to cool album art for our music division's recording artists (DeRamos Music's website is still in progress), and whatever else needs to be done.

At the risk of sounding like a self-important douche (which I am, albeit mostly hyperbolically), I am not wired to focus. Sure, that could mean that I'm a "jack of all trades" - doing various things decently well, in broad strokes - but it also means I'm a "master of nothing." It is actually quite the liability to be constantly shifting gears. To take DeRamos Media's output to a higher level, for various projects, we will need to collaborate with, subcontract to, and hire people who know their stuff and do it well. Plus, it almost looks like we're trying to do our part to save the (local? state? national? global?) economy by creating and maintaining this network of kick ass. I don't want to jump the gun and congratulate ourselves for being good citizens just yet; there's a lot of work to be done in the meantime.

That said, we'll post more calls for more types of positions as the DeRamos Media ball continues to roll. We'll update the Help Wanted section of the site.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

In the Year 2059

On Facebook, a friend posted a status update about listening to a "MindPod" (the music in one's head), and it got me thinking about a few of my favorite speculative topics: Futurism, transhumanism (posthumanism), time travel, corporate monopolies, timeless human nature, and cool electronic gadgets. I commented on my friend's status update a couple of times. First:

I have the brand new mindPod ESP from Goopplezon. Too bad it's only 750 yottabytes. Wait, this isn't 2059. Forget I said anything. :-)
Then:
LOL thanks. BTW, 2058's mindPods are on clearance at goopplezon.porn!
I'm no John Titor, but I'll rant about the future of corporate monopolies, the Internet, and electronic gagdets tonight. Yes, my idea for the merged conglomerate Goopplezon (Google-Apple-Amazon.com) is derived from EPIC 2014's fictional Googlezon corporation. Since the facetious Facebook interaction mentioned earlier involved the "mindPod" product (iPods installed in one's brain), Apple had to be involved.

Now, since Apple is part of this triple merger, you might ask, what happened to Microsoft? Well, in this facetious layout of the future, Microsoft's Windows family of operating systems met stiff competition from Google's ever-evolving Linux derivative Android. The Android platform eventually became synonymous with PCs, redubbed gCs. "gC or Mac?" became the new false consumer computer dichotomy.

However, this was actually a calculated sequence of events by both Google and Apple (Google CEO Eric Schmidt being on both boards) to defeat Microsoft once and for all. Before the Feds could clamp on this conspiracy, Google and Apple merged to form Goopple, powerful enough to repel anti-trust lawsuits. The iPod and iMac were then renamed to the gPod and gMac, respectively. Android, the once bright hope for the open-source revolution, betrayed Wikipedia, Creative Commons, LibriVox, Project Gutenberg, Joomla, Linux, etc., and ushered in a renewed era of proprietary technology: All hail Android X Laser Cats (the latest version) on the gC!

This isn't too bad for Microsoft because this defeat prompted philanthropist Bill Gates to return and take control from Steve Ballmer. Instead of trying to regain the company's place in the computer industry, Gates used Microsoft to help oppressed people in developing nations. How? BSoD technology was used to repel exploitative forces and warlords from these countries. The same base code for pesky Windows viruses was used to exponentially duplicate food for the hungry. (Don't ask how.)

Eventually, Amazon.com - after decimating brick and mortar stores with Super Saver Shipping and eliminating public libraries with Kindle - merged with Goopple to form Goopplezon. No antitrust laws were broken because Goopplezon essentially became the government. While our current (2009) recession eventually recovered to some prosperity, the next economic cycle with Goopplezon's government gave us a superdepression - so bad that the only real means to make money and keep Western Civilization alive was through pornography and, ironically, prostitution - the world's oldest profession. Hence, Goopplezon's URL became goopplezon.porn. Amazon.com's warehouses doubled as Goopplezon whorehouses. It was common to soak all your deliveries in antibacterial cleanser...just to be safe.

Oh yeah, and iPods that became gPods became smaller and smaller. Then they became mindPods with no more buttons, so that a unit had to be installed in one's brain to work. Within a few decades, storage capacities grew exponentially from mere gigabytes to yottabytes (you'll have to Google/Wiki the magnatude of which I write). The entertainment value of these mindPods started as personal and expanded into the realm of extrasensory perception - with all sorts of killer apps!

A live album downloaded into the mindPod ESP could become a virtual concert experience that you can share with your friends (who also have mindPod ESPs and multiyear contracts to work at a Goopplezon whorehouse). With the mindPod (all versions), dreams come with pop-up windows! The possibilities are only limited by processing speed, hard drive space, and the digital rights managment installed directly into your brain.

Anyhow, for better or for worse, whether a safe anticipation or crazy predictions, a lot of the above could happen in the future. It's up to you and you and you to attempt to steer the present-day into a favorable future. It's up to the Universe to verify or deny your attempt(s). Good luck!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dream Memories from Dream Realities

The series finale of the American version of Life on Mars (the show that follows Lost) finished with a punchline ending: The detective was actually an astronaut on a manned flight to Mars (with the significant people in 2008/1973 being his crew mates in 2035). I'll just copy and paste from Wikipedia my point:

To sustain the crew, their minds were routinely kept active while asleep using virtual reality "neural stimulation" programs of their own choosing, but Sam's choice of a 2008 scenario was changed abruptly to 1973 by a meteor-storm induced glitch in the computer.
Each hibernating astronaut was given a Matrix-like reality, with back stories and new memories appropriate for the dream reality (i.e., the main character Sam Tyler's dream reality has an abusive, criminal father while his real father outside of the dream was only a father-figure/boss in the dream reality - something like that). This is just like some of my own dreams. I guess to make sense of the sometimes alien territory of the subconscious - defying the laws of physics at times - one has to compensate by providing oneself with context, false memories, and background information relevant to the dream reality. The most complex of dreams creates its own complete artificial universe, if only for minutes of unverifiable existence. When one wakes up from a dream, some of these context memories are remembered, only to be refuted by the fact that none of it happened in real life (or did it?).

If these universe-building dreams only happen a few times a week (I can conjecture that some may have these dreams several times per night), how many universes have we been creating and destroying? What if we can harness this sort of processing power? What if those dreams can be harnessed into reality? What if this universe were just a quasi-lucid dream?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Kumar Goes to the White House

There are probably a billion and a half blog entries and news articles with that title, as apparently actor Kal Penn ditched old Hollywood for the new Hollywood (Washington, D.C.), had his House character Dr. Kutner written off the show by suicide, and ditched both Harold and fictional Neil Patrick Harris to work with President Obama. Come to think of it, this entry should've had this title:

Barack and Kumar Go to White House

Quite the stoner movie, I suppose. For more details on this movie (and cool stuff that's happening for real), head on over to my friend Rama's film blog Rama's Screen.

By the way, this is the "half" entry added to the billion entries. I think I'm suffering from blogger's block today. I had a lot of good stuff done today (to be revealed later), so I'm okay with this temporary condition.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Google Won't Tell Me What � Means

I recently tweeted this quandary of mine. What is �? If your computer setup doesn't show this character the same way I see it, � looks like:

____
|FF|
|FD|
----

Or something like that. Not a Google search*, nor a Yahoo! search, nor a Wikipedia search will tell me what � means, or even incorporate � in the search results. Actually, the Google search teases me with suggestions to go with �, such as " character" and "� unicode." I guess it's a special Unicode character with some significant meaning. (*The Google search URL somehow transformed "�" into "�.")

Maybe I should let
� slide, as some mysteries are better left unexplained.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Seven Minute Silence, 4/4/2009

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I was in a band with Seven Minute Silence's lead singer John Ingles. Fast-forward ten years, I was in the audience at Seven Minute Silence's first official gig at Friar Tuck's in Pomona. The bar itself looks like a castle from the outside, and that's pretty cool. Anyhow...

The band's performance was delayed about an hour and a half, due to technical issues, and the lead vocals weren't loud enough in the PA system (virtually quiet, really) during their first song. The next four songs of their five-song set had a better mix in the PA. All in all, the show was awesome.

The three songs posted on their MySpace were played during the show, as well as two other songs. Meet the band:

(L to R): drummer Nick Bidart, vocalist/guitarist John Ingles, and bassist Miguel Caraballo.

(L to R): Guitarist/backup vocalist Matt Bidart and drummer Nick Bidart

There were three or four other bands after Seven Minute Silence, but I had to leave due to my busy schedule (geez, it's a Saturday night!). I hope the rest of the show went well. The next time they're in my neck of the woods, I'm definitely going to see them again. Here's to Seven Minute Silence!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Catorcemom (Octomom + 6) Has More Clout than Madonna RE: Kids

That's pretty much it. The Malawi government rejected Madonna's request to adopt another child, while some part of the news (local and/or syndicated soft) still devotes some time to the woman in whom science went awry (this blog too, ironically). At least Catorcemom (catchier than Quattuodecimomom, also thanks to U2's "Vertigo," and more accurate that Octomom) gets to keep all her kids (so far). Too bad for Madonna. Scratch that: Sympathy goes to the orphaned kid(s) involved, as well as the eight kids born simultaneously, and the six kids that seem to be ignored by the media (but hopefully they are well cared for by someone).

Births and adoptions shouldn't get this sort of hype. Hype itself is a load of crap. The only entity that gets a marginal pass in this department is "Brangelina" - and that's only because they're compared relative to Catorcemom (who allegedly wants to be Brangelina minus the prefix) and Madonna.

P.S. I just did a quick Google search, and some people agree that Octomom should be Catorcemom because, of course, she is a mom of 14 and is currently in minute 14 (of 15) in the spotlight.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Well Played, Google. Well Played, Twitter.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/03/AR2009040304363.html

I guess the makers of Twitter are going to make some money after all (maybe). I think the story goes this way:

1. Facebook wants to buy Twitter with Facebook stock. Since share prices for private companies are usually overinflated, Facebook is laughed out the door. Dejected, Facebook changes its homepage interface yet again to try to compete. Exit Facebook from the story.

2. Twitter introduces a way for real-time searching, or at least the Twitter platform lends itself to this innovation, outdoing Google's asynchronous webcrawling, cached search - because that's so '90s. Ask Yahoo!

3. Microsoft wants to own Twitter, so they can beat Google in the search engine game. While Bill Gates has been able to shed his '90s monopolistic persona in exchange for a save-the-world megalomaniacal one (release the mosquitoes!), Microsoft with Steve Ballmer as CEO has not been able to shed that very same '90s monopolistic persona. Windows Vista's reputation doesn't help, either (as I write this on an XP netbook). In contrast, both Apple and Google have yet to suffer a significant anti-trust, anti-conglomerate backlash from pop culture (and the government).

4. The founders of Twitter sold Blogger to Google for a pretty penny half a decade ago. Their friend Google is now interested in Twitter search. The chances are good that Google will own Twitter very soon.

5. Twitter will then be full of Google Ads.

Full disclosure: If this goes as planned, I will make money from Google, and I will lose money from Microsoft. At least the market as a whole seems to be on an upswing. Oops, I may have jinxed the market for today. C'est la vie. Be zen, my friends.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Miles and Hurley's Reflexive Conversation on LOST FTW

A week or so ago, I ranted about the mechanics of time travel, as stated by the TV show Lost, to try to clarify what some people don't get about time travel (which, in the real world, doesn't matter at all). I'm glad Miles played the role of remedial time travel tutor, while Hurley reflexively represented the viewers that don't quite get it.

The next show's series finale was okay. I only caught maybe a couple of episodes of Life on Mars, but got filled in - like Battlestar Galactica - by Wikipedia (and fan Wikis). I'm glad that DVD box sets are feasible ways to make a profit from a TV show, so that the old model of "at least five full seasons (100 episodes), then syndication" that I learned in college is not the only path to profitability in television. It's more like build a fanbase, complete the main story arc before cancellation (or pull some strings to wrap it up in a direct-to-DVD movie), then sell a DVD box set for every season aired (with extras...on Blu-ray). $$$

Speaking of DVD box sets, it's good that President Obama was a bit more thoughtful in his gift to the Queen of England - personalized, filled iPod and related songbooks - than his gift to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (which was a stack of DVDs, if you'll recall).

On Twitter, @Nightline asked:

Nightline CLOSING ARGUMENT: The Obamas give the Queen a personalized iPod, signed songbook. A good presidential gift? What would you give her Majesty?
I replied:
DeRamos ObamaPod meh OK @Nightline I would time travel to WWII and save the future Queen, then return to the present to say "You're welcome." :-)
Now THAT'S a thoughtful gift. I doubt they talked about it on last night's Nightline.

Also on Twitter, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich wrote:
newtgingrich I am doing greta van susteren tonight at 1030
I hope Newt had fun, then.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Android + PC: Open Source FTW or Google Pwns?

http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/mar2009/tc20090331_280536.htm?chan=technology_technology+index+page_top+stories

I'm pretty excited that there can possibly be a new contender in the personal computing platform wars: Google's Android operating system, thus rendering the whole "Mac or PC?" pop culture gimmick even more confusing (for non-sheeple). Since people are still weirded out by open source Linux derivatives, Microsoft Windows still is the dominant operating system on non-Apple PC hardware. If made/played/marketed well, I think Google's quasi-Linux/open source OS has a chance to make a significant impact in this market, taking away heavily from Microsoft's and Apple's proprietary market shares. It might not be far-fetched that the new false computer dichotomy of the future will be "i or G?" - that is, if Google overtakes Microsoft in the third party PC market. At that point, Apple's Boot Camp will have to officially welcome some open source to the club to run on a Mac. Then again, at that point, OS X - or some future permutation thereof - will officially appear on third party PC hardware, thus destroying all consumer dichotomies.

Then the new dichotomy will then be: "Human or Cylon?" Yes, I watched the last episode of the new Battlestar Galactica (my only episode ever). With a Wikipedia browser tab open to fill in some details, that episode rocked. Or at least I think it rocked. It rocked.

In any case, I'm still pondering this: How is Google CEO Eric Schmidt still on Apple's Board of Directors?

Oh yeah, full disclosure: I'm losing money on Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Since they're not banks or auto makers, who am I to complain?