Friday, March 30, 2018

Ready Player One (movie review)

I'd been looking forward to this, however reality was not supportive of my taking time out.  I did anyway, in addition to getting new rear tires for the long drive, a hair cut, and my taxes done by H & R Block.

The fact that I'm self employed and work hard for the public good (Global U, Trucker Exchange, Coffee Shops Network, better thinking in schools) means I'm someone the government would like to take out, financially if not in other ways.

I understand why Descartes tried to avoid the Inquisition.

Or so it feels.  What did I get for my money as a taxpayer?

In 1967 the State Department was at least close to authorizing a Macroscope pavilion.  Since then, the USG has been hijacked by Wall Street.

The Business Plot, warned against by Smedley Butler, then Eisenhower, finally succeeded. Miltary personnel, sworn to uphold the Constitution, have been reduced to mercenaries, whom I'm supposed to help pay for as they shill for business interests owned by shareholders around the world.

Speaking of sieges, which Descartes liked to study (he'd tour Europe, visiting them), a lot of people in Gaza were marching today, in protest of their ongoing imprisonment.  USSA media, very controlled by a six-headed corporate person and its loyalists, hasn't been very focused on that conflict.   We're fed a steady diet of vapid propaganda.

Media moguls can't resist exercising their power to self marginalize.  They go down with their ships.

With all that going on outside, in the so-called real world, why am I hunkered down towards the front of the Bagdad taking in a Spielberg movie?  Why am I so self indulgent? Duh, because I'm escaping, I guess.  Unfortunately, my mind wandered, especially during the big battles.

Does that dystopian future shown in the film makes me happier with my lot?  That's a purpose of theater, of tragedy especially.

The dark future portrayed in this film is about a species that has given up on itself and retreated into its collective unconscious.  They've substituted cyberspace for reality.  How different is that from our world today, right?  Media World is is continuous with Cyberia.

Coincidentally, I saw this movie as a double feature with The Man in the Machine, about Steve Jobs.  Glenn had me over for lunch and had this DVD from the library.

I'll review that documentary separately, but note the allusions to his demi-god status in Ready Player One.

Don't they know there's an off switch on those haptic suits?  I guess there isn't in most cases, which is why they cost so much.

In a way this world, dominated by Oasis and electronic toys, is another step towards civilization, as the only ones brandishing real guns are the obvious losers.  That point of view I understand.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Fifteen Years

Margo Guryan/"16 Words"

Some channels are remembering this is a fifteenth anniversary, to the month, from when a massive PR campaign drove Americans to take out their frustrations against an enemy they'd been presented with.

The challenge was to shape the fury unleashed by 911, and turn it into something positive.  Fury and frustration.

Two of the documentaries I watched followed much the same story line, revisiting the build-up, from yellow cake from Niger to aluminum tubes from all over.  Elements within the British, German and Italian spy services, along with Iraqi expats, colluded with a DC cabal on pushing the war agenda forward.

I'd been following these stories at the time, as someone who'd always dreamed of such as Internet newsgroups and search engines.  I was like a duck to water, an early geek, weighing in as someone with a dog in the fight.

Biological weapons labs, the story sources... indeed, the two documentaries were so close on these facts that they probably came from agreeing authors.

One contained former ambassador Joe Wilson as a talking head, whereas the other featured Valerie Plame.  In both films, the reflective intelligence professionals are chagrined by how insistent the war hawks had become, about sticking with discredited stories.  But hadn't they promised a dramatic response, in retaliation for 911?

Before those two documentaries, I was looking at long documentaries about developments in Iraq, produced by Al Jazeera and Real Stories.  One of these also featured interviews.  Then we had another episode of CrossTalk on RT.  I notice Twitter is consistent in labeling VOA as at least in part funded by a government, not unlike these other networks.

What's been difficult to regain since 911 is much sense of a consensus reality.  Peter Sloterdijk writes eloquently (I read translations, also flowing) about our shared bubble going away, giving way to a more foam-like environment.

People shoulder more of the overhead of having whatever beliefs, not necessarily mirrored by geographic neighbors.  The internet has contributed to making such "foams" sustainable (in some cases), as "virtual nations" in their own right.

Don't expect any one institution or belief system to dominate the vista.  Expect many.  We learned of this more fragmented multi-channel reality from television, and enjoy the power a remote gives us, to select among offerings.

We have lots of reflection and reviewing to do.  I'm not telling anyone to turn away and forget the past.  On the contrary, lets let ourselves dive into a deeper examination of what's been happening, under a microscope, with help from a macroscope.

Lets get off the treadmill long enough to think back and take stock.  Why wait until you retire to ask what it all means, right?

That's what Fifteen Years is all about, reflecting, though I notice many channels can't afford the time. "Reflect about what?" They wouldn't know where to begin.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Crow Town

Crow Town

I may be at odds with some official narrative when I put my own spin on this sculpture, which I took pix of today in route to March for our Lives, a nationally syndicated shot across the bow of the NRA.

To me, this looks like a crow atop a plump-looking pigeon.  The pigeon sits atop a stack of books, which sit on pillows, which sit on a crate.  Except the pillows are likely sacks of grain.

The crate symbolizes Stump Town's beginnings in the forest economy, partaking of the lumber mill know how needed to build all these stately wooden homes.  Like RVs with hookups that can't move (no wheels), made of wood.  Very heavy.  Heated with forced hot air, using natural gas, refined oil, or electricity in some cases.

Then Portland became a port, albeit an inland one, but then then the Columbia is a pretty big waterway. Portland maybe doesn't get the mega-ships Seattle does, but there's enough commerce to support a class of literati and digerati.  That's the bookish layer, what makes us scholarly.

But then whereas if this were Italy we'd likely be a city of pigeons, more like Florence or Venice, we're in fact more a city of crows.  The crow is the top bird species in this chapter.  Crows are closer to ravens, more Poe like.  For that reason maybe Portland is more Gothic and northern than Mediterranean?

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Founder (movie review)

I like having this review in sequence with Suburbicon (below) as both are set in the 1950s and roll forward towards our time.  The Founder is about Ray Kroc and the story behind the McDonald's franchise.

Deke came over to watch it with me.  I picked it up from Glenn at lunch over at his apartment.  This copy is from Multnomah County Library.  I'll return it tomorrow.

In the Quaker circles I frequent, we inherit from way back the idea of a utopian business, like a company town that really provides.  I think religious orders that make chocolate or beer, may seem idyllic in the same way, at least from a distance. There's no need to grow bigger.

Ray starts with his country club friends, getting retirees to park their savings in his new restaurants.  Then he hires mom and pop couples who get the vision and stick to the script.  However as the franchiser he's not meeting expenses nor has he the leverage he needs.

The McDonald brothers who started the whole show in San Bernardino had tried franchising but didn't see a way to maintain quality.  The solution, according to the movie, came not from Croc but the future CEO:  make sure you own the land, meaning you can yank the lease if a franchise fails to conform.

I think the "welcome McDonalds" scene set in Minnesota tells the real story.  Americans were extremely eager to have this restaurant chain spread.  Kroc was right to see it as more than just a drive in (they movie doesn't mention the drive through window innovation).  He wanted to create a "religion".  He invented branding in many ways.

Deke stayed to watch the panel discussion as a bonus feature.  The actors, producers, and director, as well as McDonald brother grandsons, get to weigh in and share their personal perspective on the making of this 2016 film.

Micheal Keaton, who plays Croc, explains his understanding of the American Dream as something much more modest and attainable than what has become the caricature:  making a huge fortune and joining the tiny inner circle of mega-rich and famous.  Making that a goal may more likely be a source of nightmares.

I'd like to see the spread of "company town" campuses, somewhere between universities and Martian bases (on Earth), in terms of product placing and high technology.  Would these towns feature assembly line style kitchens?  Maybe so, though not exclusively.  I recognize the need for efficiency and appreciate the role of automation.

This movie takes a "tip of the iceberg" look at the more current McDonalds, mostly in the Bonus panel discussion on the DVD.  Ronald McDonald, the trademarked clown, is nowhere mentioned, nor the children's hospital.  The meat doesn't look frozen.  The new shake machines get zero focus.

In other words, there's room here for many more movies, whether they're ever made is another question.  We could make movies forever on the material already stockpiled, yet new generations are anxious to "make history".

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Suburbicon (movie review)

Rather than watch the Academy Awards of 2018, I'm watching and reviewing movies, so don't call me disloyal to the industry.

I don't remember Suburbicon showing up on marquees in nearby zip codes, including mine.  However I found it on the New Releases shelf and Movie Madness and thought it looked interesting.

The film is set in the stereotypical post-WW2 burbs, the new utopian paradise where white people fled to be with their own kind.  A black family moves in and at the same time, a crime occurs next door.  The neighborhood is already going downhill. 

The neighbors, jerks that they be, start trash talking, building fences and otherwise wrecking the neighborhood, in an effort to reject this shared heritage as Americans.

Against this background, of whites being jerks, the crime next door turns out to be the tip of some soap opera melodrama that only gets worse, turning wickedly ugly (more than daytime TV would usually show) and heightening the contrast, between a wholesome black family, and these ugly suburban Americans.

I'd say the genre is dark comedy and satire, a send-up of a certain demographic. 

Thanks to talk shows on daytime TV, audiences are a lot more savvy today (I'm thinking of Oprah and Donahue, the mom and dad of a specific boob tube generation).  True, Americans are still herded around by cowboys, taught to fear Russians on cue, but maybe not as much as in the 1950s and 1960s?

The protagonist is the young son (of Matt Damon's character), who befriends the black boy next door, only to be told later by his dad to cut off the relationship, by a king of the hill master of depravity.  Oh, and by the way we're sending you away to a military academy for your own good.

In the last scene, we see the relationship restored (with the black kid, not the dad).

It'll be hard to blame any more crimes, or nasty social trends, on these wholesome newcomers in particular, but as we know, those into shame and blame don't usually see their blame as unbecoming.  The suburbs still come across as somewhat ugly, when it comes to attitudes.