brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
So there's a six-part miniseries on Amazon Video right now called Comrade Detective. It purports to be a rediscovered buddy cop show from mid-eighties Romania, Eastern Bloc propaganda/entertainment. It isn't; it was filmed in Romania in 2017, with Romanian actors, and then dubbed into English by actors like Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nick Offerman, and occasionally guest stars like Debra Winger and Daniel Craig.

Leonard heard about it on Twitter and suggested we try it. I thought it was going to be sort of a longform SNL skit. And then I thought it was going to be kind of a nostalgic buddy cop show with a few jokey swipes at Cold War anti-American propaganda. And now we've watched all but the last episode and I think the show is doing, or trying to do, something much more interesting, and is using and critiquing the copshow form better than Life on Mars did.

It's useful to me to think of Comrade Detective as having four audiences (1 & 2 being Watsonian and 3 & 4 being Doylist):

1. the in-universe Romanian political censors
2. the in-universe Romanian citizenry (purportedly the main audience for the show)
3. the actual main audience, mostly middle-class US residents
4. Amazon corporate & media critics

Audiences 2 & 3, plus some of 1, are reasons that people do or say things in Comrade Detective (e.g., claiming that the Romanian healthcare system is the best in the world, or arguing that health care is more of a fundamental human right than freedom of religion); audiences 1 & 4 are reasons people don't.

But I want to watch the final episode before I make strong claims. Anyone else here watching?
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
Every ... year? or so, Leonard and I find an offer for a free month of Netflix and take it, and watch a chunk of Netflix-only stuff, then cancel. For instance, we did this when Season 4 of Arrested Development came out.

Evidently a bunch of other folks have caught on that the current White House bears a strong resemblance to the Bluth family. In particular: "'House of Cards w/ the characters of Arrested Development' is th most accurate description of our current political situation i've ever seen".* And indeed I am also catching up now on House of Cards (I'm a few episodes through Season 4), which I find is just as escapist now as The West Wing was during the Bush 2000s. As Jonathan Sterne pointed out in July 2001, The West Wing was Star Trek in the White House: beyond The West Wing's "kind of wish fulfillment, where the people at the top of the executive branch actually believe in what they're doing and work on principle", The West Wing also, like Star Trek, is "stories about the ambitions of the professional-managerial class". Well, I guess I feel about House of Cards now as Leonard felt about Dave (1993) when watching it in 2007 ("Well, this president sure is a jerk, and he cheats on his wife, but at least he didn't start a disastrous war or have people tortured."). In its fantasy of competent governance and, you know, "hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue" and so on, House of Cards has really achieved the effect of "Slytherin West Wing" in at least one viewer (me).

Anyway, so, I just watched several episodes that have dream sequences that bored me, and now I'm asking myself what it is about dream sequences and monologues that makes it easy for me to label them "self-indulgent". Maybe it's because I can imagine myself as the writer, banging out a scene and loving it more as an expression of my own fantasy than as an integrated and effective component of the communicative act. Maybe it's a genre/medium expectation that I should reexamine. Anyway, reflecting.

Leonard does not watch House of Cards; he is watching the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 which I tried a little of. Those of you who enjoy MST3K: what proportion of the jokes (during the movie) do you find funny? Leonard has a whole taxonomy of MST3K jokes and I wonder whether it is really as hard to find good observational/commentary jokes, 3 times a minute for the length of a bad movie, as he seems to think. I guess I could try it myself and see I DO NOT NEED MORE PROJECTS I REJECT THIS EXPERIMENT GET OUT OF MY HEAD

* If you look back you'll see further and deeper Arrested Development comparisons going back several months, e.g., from mid-November, "2016 is the worst Arrested Development/House of Cards crossover fanfic I've ever had to live through". Oh, and for fun: "America right now is what you'd get if Dan Brown tried to write a Le Carré novel."
brainwane: The last page of the zine (reconcile)
I'm getting slightly better at a certain kind of habit formation or habit change, the kind Mel writes about here -- so, like, I start noticing that I'm about to do a particular thing as a response to boredom/fear/other stimulus, and so I let myself do that, as a conscious choice, but I tell myself that not next time but the time after that, I'm going to make a different choice, and then the time after that I'll do the unconstructive thing. And then each day I decide that the next day I'll choose to do that thing slightly fewer times. And over time the habit fades. Or for a website where I spend time unproductively, I'm getting more in the habit of using LeechBlock.

For predictable cues that works. But sometimes reminders come at you sideways, you know? Like, walking through an airport, on my way to a flight home, and seeing that there's a flight boarding to a different city, and what if I could just get on that plane and talk to them and it would all be okay?

A little ways into my last community management job, I told someone that my two main tasks were to create processes that scaled and to inculcate empathy in others. Uh turns out this is basically always applicable on micro and macro and intra levels.

Selves! Argh!

media

Jul. 13th, 2017 08:36 am
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
Experienced recently, keeping it short here more as a log than as reviews:

Reading:
Nicola Griffith's Slow River on an accurate recommendation from [personal profile] watersword. So good. Wow for the realistic abuse content, ggggnnnnnngggh for the competence in water treatment facility management scenes. I feel like people who liked China Mountain Zhang, for the personal journey stuff and the mundane futuristic scifi stuff and the emphasis on physical labor and managing complicated processes, might be likely to also like this.

(Reread) a few Tamora Pierce books from The Protector Of the Small quartet for comfort. Still comforting.

All the Birds in the Sky: finished, LOVED everything except the last 10 pages which were just okay.

Started Hild and am having a tough time getting the world into my head.

Am most of the way through Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which is fairly breezy.

A bunch of Jon Bois stuff which is SO GREAT.

Visual:

In Transit, documentary, loving and unexpected. Way more about people and way less about the train itself than I thought we'd see. I had a lot of nostalgia for my times on the Empire Builder.

Schindler's List -- saw this for the first time. Stunning, of course. I'm glad I saw it on the big screen. I am glad I saw it on a Friday night when I'd had a good day and I didn't have anything in particular to do the next couple days.

Jurassic Park -- awesome and fun, maybe my 3rd or 4th time seeing it. I could probably see this once every 12-18 months.

Steven Universe -- all caught up now, love the songs, love Lion, amazed and surprised every few episodes.

A Man For All Seasons -- saw this in high school I think? So many good burns in this movie, and a fascinating portrayal of an actual conservative.

Wonder Woman -- better as an Event than as a movie (in contrast some movies don't have to be Events, like, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever or whatever). The message the movie wants to speak is in direct opposition to the basic visual and structural form of a tentpole superhero blockbuster film. But there are fun bits.

Yuri!!! On Ice -- I'm glad I saw this and I respect it a lot but I don't love it. I think that it's the restaurant that doesn't punch you in the face for a bunch of the intended audience, and I'm not part of that audience.

Audio:

Leonard's podcasted conversations with our friend Lucian about 90s nostalgia -- I enjoyed Lucian's recurring "because Kurt Cobain" explanations of his teenage quirks.

Jon Bois

Jul. 9th, 2017 11:57 pm
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
I need to go to sleep, but:

There are some people making speculative fiction right now who don't get enough mainstream attention, in my opinion, or even enough attention from the circles of feminist scifi fans I generally hang out with. Like, some of you know about them, but others don't, and if you don't, I feel an urge to shake you by the lapels as I tell you about them, to ensure you are fully aware. Like, Alexandra Petri is consistently doing really interesting speculative work in her Washington Post column. Alexandra Erin's "Women Making Bees in Public" is an amazing piece about the necessity of being fierce and spycrafty in order to be a woman, about bees, about unexpected beauty, and about doing a chunk of work every day and witnessing what emerges.

And Jon Bois does some digital humanities writing and videos (often using the lens of sports history to dig up interesting stories and statistics), and writes fiction, again, often using the lens of sports to think about meaning, uncertainty, loss, and kindness. Jed's blog post about Bois's fiction pointed me to a few of his pieces and I'm just enthralled -- The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles is 40,000+ words and is complete, and 17776 is in serialization right now (here is a MetaFilter thread where I'm discussing the chapters as they go up).

His work is so loving and he's so consistent about making connections, stories, ideas that feel immediately real and of-course-it-would-be-like-that, finding the alien in the familiar and the familiar in the alien. The humaneness, that is what I am trying to get at. I need to sleep -- I hope you give him a try.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
I recently saw and loved the new movie The Big Sick and shared some thoughts about it on MetaFilter. Kumail Nanjiani is just so consistently excellent. Some of my favorites among his standup routines: on Benjamin Button, on Call of Duty: Karachi.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
From "An Excerpt From My Definitely Not a Presidential Campaign Book" by Alexandra Petri, Washington Post, June 5, 2017:


People always ask me what I'm passionate about, and I tell them the following story: When I was a little kid, my grandmother took me to see an injustice. I got so mad! I threw my red white and blue popsicle down on the ground. My grandmother picked it up and said, "Winner, these colors are sacred. Never let them drop." And I said, "I know, Grandma, but I don't like to see injustice!" and she said, "That's just the world we live in. Unless you grow up and devise common-sense policy solutions to do something about it. And don't forget the men who died to give that right to you, and proudly stand up to defend her still today."

....

I think sex is bad unless it falls into one of the five categories below that also conveniently align with my policy proposals:

-- you are thinking about tax reform during it
-- other people are having it and you are vocally disapproving of it
-- at least one of the people involved is committed to being a great dad
-- it involves one willing participant who is a male celebrity
-- it is binding Americans together and serving to restore our common values


So one way I know that I am hopelessly sentimental about civic virtue and so on, and that part of me is an utter sucker for "common-sense policy solutions"/"binding Americans together"-type rhetoric, is that even this parody makes me mist up a little bit. Also I have literally cried (albeit on an airplane) at a Doritos ad that championed bipartisanship.

(As a young'un I came across a copy of Art Buchwald's I Never Danced at the White House and read it and thus learned about Watergate. Art Buchwald was a political humor columnist for the Washington Post. I am imagining some twelve-year-old girl in 2039 reading a Petri collection, getting about 30% of the jokes and enjoying it a lot.)

(Also I should look up whether there is critical scholarship discussing Alexandra Petri, Alexandra Erin, the Toast work of Mallory Ortberg, and whoever else is doing .... this kind of thing in this era. *handwave*)
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
Post-WisCon, I have a new hairdo (a pretty butch sort of fauxhawk) and my spouse and I have started watching Steven Universe. We're around the beginning of Season 3 I think which means we just saw the episode that had the duet-with-piano "Do It For Her". Is it just me or is that the song (so far) that sounds most like it could fit into a Broadway show? Like, change the words a little and it could go into Wicked?

(Also the theme tune just switched to a new arrangement and I am still getting used to this.)
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
I was waking up today and was glad my phone was in the other room. I'm trying to do that, to not have my phone right next to me when I wake up, because it's so easy to stay in bed and surf the net.

And I realized that it really does feel like the internet is a big hole that I leap into every day and then need to crawl back up all the time. And I do my work on the internet so I need to wear a harness to keep me from falling too far. Protective gear, like anyone doing anything dangerous.

("The abyss is no Sunday swan ride," as one Steven Universe character has said.)

I have sometimes referred to Twitter as an attention casino. And that is true and it's a metaphor that helps remind me that there is someone else specifically working to make money off other people's addictions and that the experience is designed to keep me there in the hopes of intermittent reward. But this sinkhole metaphor reminds me that it is the nature of the Internet to be an endless sink to fall down, and that I can wear a harness to help keep myself safe. And therefore I have just installed Leechblock on this machine.

Meditation would also count.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
learned today:

* installed Go, and thus learned a little about Go package installation
* remembered some things about Python virtualenvs
* it doesn't matter what directory you're in when you run a psql command to, for instance, create a new PostgreSQL user
* when helping a newer team member who seems to be floundering, it really does help with overwhelmption to say "ok, is this a list of all the problems you are facing? ok, let us address them one at a time" and then knock off the easy ones first
* petl is a Python library to make it easier to extract, transform, and load data
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
I've written a MetaFilter post curating links to some interesting thinking from the past 40 years on how we do accountability in progressive groups -- from Jo Freeman and Joanna Russ discussing "trashing" in the US feminist movement to people in the last few years and weeks talking about times to get on the phone, making trusting relationships for accountability, and lessons from Occupy.

Consider checking it out.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
I went to WisCon and had a pretty good time. I am sad that I missed all of the vid party but I am glad that I used that time to catch up on sleep. I went to most of one panel, and didn't serve on any, and went to very few parties, and spent a lot of time in small group conversations with friends. The Guest of Honor speeches were thought-provoking and rhetorically neat as usual -- WisCon GoH speeches set a high bar and most tech industry keynotes do not meet it, in my opinion. I got a couple neat clothes at the Clothing Swap; I regret that I barely looked in the Dealer's Room and I never got to the Art Show.

I believe this year I saw multiple women of South Asian origin whom I did not know already, and by the end of my WisCon weekend I still had not quite met all of them! So exciting as a signal!

I was the auctioneer again this year for the auction benefiting the Tiptree Award. It looks like I will serve as that auctioneer yearly for the foreseeable future. I hear people really enjoyed the Tiptree Auction - the best compliment I got was (close paraphrase as memory permits): "it is weird that we use this capitalist approach to fund this feminist project! But you named that, and made fun of it, and made it so we could all play with it. You made it so we were all performing capitalist drag." People also livetweeted with #tiptreeauction in case you wanna see that. [twitter.com profile] radhardened made and ran an electronic signboard that displayed the current bid, and that helped me so much to keep track of things! In future years I need to:

* more frequently mention what the Tiptree Award is
* ensure pre-auction advertising of what we will be live-auctioning
* ensure pre- and at-auction advertising of what items are available for direct sale and at the silent auction
* rearrange stage furniture so the audience can see me better for whole-body schtick, and potentially move around the audience more
* remind audience that we take credit cards
* remind audience that they can always simply donate, in person or online
* ensure pre-auction advertising explicitly saying that it is absolutely fine to just come and not bid
* prepare somewhat more "if we get the bid to x then...." group crowd incentives akin to last year's onstage smashing of a "Pilates for Weight Loss" DVD

I rode home in a car with a friend I too rarely get to see, and am glad for the opportunity of long conversation where it's okay to go on twenty-minute tangents because the road and the trees and the topic and the friend will still be there when the tangent's over. Partly based on that conversation I wrote up a blog post on my other blog, about resilience.

at WisCon

May. 27th, 2017 02:39 pm
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
I'm at WisCon right now, and leaving early Monday morning! Right now I'm preparing for the Tiptree Auction, which is tonight, about 7:30pm-9:15pm. I am not on any panels this year. Please feel free to say hi if you see me!
brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (hackerschool)
I'm going to OSCON in Austin, Texas to represent Zulip in the Open Source Alley -- would enjoy meeting any Dreamwidth folks there tomorrow! Or if you have free time in Austin Friday in the morning or afternoon, I'd enjoy hanging out.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
I posted about the WisCon 2017 schedule in [community profile] wiscon and mentioned some items I find particularly interesting. The only program item I'll be on is the Tiptree Auction, which suits me fine since I'll be coming to WisCon straight from a week at PyCon.

A few years ago I wrote an invitation to first-timers to come to WisCon -- [personal profile] alexandraerin has done better than that and written two comprehensive guides called "So, you want to go to WisCon?", on logistics and on expectations.

WisCon

May. 3rd, 2017 10:22 am
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
I'll be at WisCon Friday May 26 through early Monday May 29.
brainwane: My smiling face in front of a brick wall, May 2015. (Default)
I saw Antitrust on an airplane in the summer of 2001. I didn't leave with a high opinion of it; it seemed campy fun.

I found a used DVD at a local thrift shop last weekend, so last night I watched it with my spouse.

It actually holds up better than I predicted on a technobabble level! We freeze-framed a lot and marvelled at how reasonable (mostly) all the command-line stuff was. And as mainstream fiction movies go, I think there still hasn't been a movie that takes the conflict between proprietary and open source software more seriously than Antitrust (I'd welcome corrections on this point).

details, including spoilers )

At some point in the future I will watch the special features and listen to the commentary. (One of the special features is a music video for the Everclear song that plays at the end of the movie. The music video includes clips from the movie. It's like Everclear made a vid!) I imagine I'll have more thoughts then.
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