Wednesday, February 03, 2016
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Jump to LINKS OF NOTE
The other night, the news that Steven Moffat had one more Christmas Special and a season left of Doctor Who hit the Internet. The news also provides notification that the next Doctor Who episode will be the 2016 Christmas Special and the next full season will happen in 2017. Moffat's position as showrunner ends then.
The audience has gone through what boils down to two deaths of very close companions to The Doctor. These two characters mean more to the Doctor than just the characters themselves. Their exiting his life permanently means that he has returned to a solitary life.
Sure, the Doctor has friends out there, like Vastra, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, Osgood, Martha and Mickey, Captain Jack and whoever else he might have out there. As much as they mean to him, though, he never lets his emotional guard down the way that he has with the Pond Family or even Clara Oswald. Even with Rose, the full Time Lord Doctor never lets down his emotional dampers to express his true love for her.
I think a one-year hiatus will do good for the show dramatically. Even after that, having the Doctor travel alone will would do him and the audience some good (even though apparently 2017 will bring us a new companion). The Doctor has some major mourning and finding himself to do.
Ever since The Silence in the Library, the Doctor's emotional and identity fate has become intertwined with the Pond family. Imagine the surprise of the audience, though, when Moffat actually fulfills the demands of the plot/world building hooks that he leaves laying around.
Clara becomes a footnote. An important one that resolves some major plot points, but nonetheless a footnote crutch to the Doctor avoiding something he has to face. The Husbands of River Song turns on our head the assumption that River and the Doctor have their night at the Singing Towers of Darillium before The Snowmen.
After all, in the DVD extra for Series Six, Last Night, River tells another version of the 11th Doctor that they are going to see the Singing Towers of Darillium. Both Doctors have a downcast moment, both thinking it is the last night.
I like to think that this scene occurs during Let's Kill Hitler, during the length of time that just regenerated Mels poisons the Doctor. He wears the same tux. The Doctor, seeing no way out of death, he fetches River for their last night.
I have no idea what causes him to change his mind, to understand that he somehow makes it through the events of Let's Kill Hitler, but he delays their final night again. Maybe she mentions something about an event he had yet to experience or she makes a comment about the tux. Does she ruminate about him wearing it the first time they met and make a comment about how that was a difficult one but everyone made it through somehow? I don't know, but I imagine something like that.
The Husbands of River Song communicates to the audience that the Doctor delays seeing River once again when they part sometime after The Angels Take Manahattan. Not a surprising reaction for a man who has lost his closest friend, the woman who, in many ways, he has grown into maturity with, having met Amy Pond as a child soon afterregenerating. She also acts somewhat as a mother figure, in some ways.
Losing River means accepting the loss of Amy and that formative part of himself. He needs to develop his own identity and complete his mourning. Avoiding River after that point means that he can put off the hard work of mourning and rebuilding himself.
The Husbands of River Song helps make so much more sense of their parting scene in The Name of the Doctor. The ghost of River knows that he won't see her again until he regenerates. She needs to let him know it hurts, though, something like that is worth expressing. Who doesn't wish they could express the pain from a relationship or interaction after it ended? Who doesn't want that kind of closure?
The Doctor's feeling that he has a "duty of care" to Clara provides context to him delaying seeing River again, from Clara's time as the Impossible Girl to the control freak to her death. Seeing her die twice makes a good explanation for his passion to keep her alive, going as far to make grand speeches about it to trying to break the Rules of Time to keep her alive. After all, doesn't he do the same thing as the Time Lord Victorius for someone he had less connection with?
Trying to stop Clara's death, no matter the cost, now feels like the desperate struggle of the Doctor avoiding his fate. Accepting the death of intimate family then moving on with life with one's own identity is scary. The Doctor doesn't want to accept the responsibility and have to face the existential void of having to find new meaning.
If anything, having this psychodrama continue from one regeneration to the next feels the most peculiar. Then again, upon witnessing the death of a stranger that Doctor knows will become one of his most intimate relationships feels peculiar, too. Such a thing will stay with someone, especially when the sacrificor does it for the other's future. Could the parallel have escaped either of them when Clara jumps into the Doctor's grave/timeline.
The Pond era of the Doctor's life has ended. He may not have to mourn Clara since he has forgotten her. Frankly a lot of the audience also may not care enough to mourn for Clara since they never liked her.
Myself, I prefer her as the Impossible Girl than the control freak. The control freak could have worked just fine if the writing transitioned better between the two versions of her. I have a hard time accepting that the Clara in The Day of the Doctor became the control freak starting in The Time of the Doctor. Showing the transition could have helped there.
Having a year off will help take the edges off the ends of Clara and River (even though both have hooks enough to return if the writers want them to do so). Some of the audience needs to do some of their own mourning. It sounds silly to say it. It is just a TV show, after all!
The world of Doctor Who has been around for more than 50 years, though, whether in the form of television, audio dramas or the written form. Paul McGann may have acted in only two episodes of TV (and one of them only a few minutes long), but the 8th Doctor has affected tons of fans through the Big Finish Audio Dramas.
Even New Who has been on for nearly 10 years. People can't help but make emotional connections to fictitious characters that have lasted this long and even to a few of their ancillary characters. New Who makes this connection especially so as the Doctor has displayed more emotions and vulnerability than the cantakerous patriarch of the TARDIS in Classic Who. He has become easier for the audience to connect with.
A year off may not provide enough transition and mourning, though. As with the transition between the Impossible Girl and the control freak not having enough dramatic play out, the Doctor moving onto another companion too quick might not give enough, either.
Doctor Who has done well transitioning from the tragic loss of companions to taking on a new companion. After Rose's exit in Doomsday, Donna helps the Doctor focus a little and gave him an empathic ear.
Martha doesn't have the best run compared to other companions. Nonetheless, she had a reaffirming exit that may have come as a loss to the Doctor, but he can always visit her. Donna's all but death occurs as the Doctor comes to terms that he militarizes people in place of him actually taking on the responsibility, then the David Tennant Specials helps provide a buffer.
For all intents and purposes, the loss of Amy and Rory hasn't come to its full end. I put Amy's exit in a similar category as Martha's, one of reaffirmation where she exits by her own choice and for her own interests, not by circumstances killing her. She has the choice to abandon Rory to the past, but chooses to go to him. Her heart truly lies with him. It ends well for Amy and Rory.
The Doctor's reaction to Amy's exit leaves one of the worst tastes in my mouth than this show has ever put there. The Doctor acts so childish. He should have more maturity. He's the Doctor!
As the show has shown, he never truly deals with that loss. Does trying not to militarize friends apparently have the effect of making the Doctor more vulnerable and open to more feeling and pain than he has let himself show on broadcast TV.
Maybe Moffat will pull off the Doctor's mourning and transition well in the 2016 Christmas Special. I have my doubts, but he has dealt with most other plot hooks that he left hanging about. Only the hybrid hook possibly remains, but debate has occurred whether that one has already resolved or not. He could have left enough room for someone help him transition and get some focus.
I don't like the idea of him getting a full time companion during the Christmas episode, though. It feels too early.
I like the idea of the Doctor not having a full time companion for Series Ten. From media reports, it sounds like Capaldi will likely exit after Series Ten. The part of the Doctor has proven physically grueling, especially on the knees. Even Matt Smith complained about all the running and physicality doing a number on his knees.
Capaldi's two seasons hasn't felt like two seasons of time. He has had some bright spots as the Doctor, especially his speech at the end of The Zygon Inversion and his performance throughout Heaven Sent.
Still, he hasn't FELT like the Doctor yet, at least not like his own Doctor yet. Even Tennant, the only other New Who Doctor who had the same companion after regeneration, came into his own as the Doctor by the end of his first series.
Capaldi has played the Doctor well. Donning old Doctor's wardrobes has had its cute points, but it doesn't feel like he has come into his own as the Doctor. This lack of coming into the character has made the last series feel like they've just rushed by.
The Doctor's avoiding mourning the Pond family has probably contributed to this situation. Capaldi hasn't felt like he has come into his own because the 12th Doctor still hasn't come into his own.
Now, though, he has little choice but to do so. At least if he doesn't get stuck in an inward depressive cycle. Also continued grim darkness could do the show some disservice. The audience can only take so much. More rompy fun would help the show after so many years of grim dark.
If the Doctor can get through believable mourning during the year hiatus and a Christmas episode, great! I have the feeling it will take a little longer, though.
His functional resolution of mourning Rose doesn't feel to have reached its fruition until Martha told him she couldn't be around him. If not for Martha, he may not have even completed his mourning until he regenerated.
People never really get over the loss of a loved one. Being buried in loss has a part in the process of mourning. Nonetheless, people go through a process. It can end in a positive light or end up with someone stuck in their mourning. Both designations can have believable portrayals and both have a place on TV.
The audience has already seen the Doctor wallow in halted mourning. It lasts a long time and weighs on the patience. In real life, sensitivity to someone in this state can matter a lot. So much prolonged reality doesn't always have its place on television. At the same time, process instead of instant end doesn't provide satisfaction.
However it happens, though, whether the Doctor chooses to live agan during the Christmas Special, at some point in Series 10 or at the end, the audience deserves to go through that journey with him. I hope we get this experience.
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LINKS OF NOTE:
Saturday, November 21, 2015
Please behold The Lexfeed! It houses a stream of uncurated daily updated links to news articles, fiction, poems and whatever links that look like they have a passing interest to me that I want to read at some point in the future. The only real principle: these links reside in one place. I offer The Lexfeed for your use, pleasure and learning. The Internet holds a lot of interesting and entertaining content. It has the problem of disorganization and housing at multiple sources. Links on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and wherever else we might frequent. My gathering of links as browser bookmarks had gotten out of hand. Bookmarks syncing between all my devices helped. It didn't do enough, though. I couldn't catch up with reading them all while I neglected the articles that my RSS feeder gathered. Offhand, it doesn't sound bad. Reading stuff is reading stuff. I find different types of articles from people I follow on social media (social justice, writing, science fiction & fantasy, politics, etc) than what I have my RSS feed grab (economics, finance, investing, pop culture, local news, world news, etc). I would have loved to find way of adding my social media feeds to my RSS feed, but I can't find anyway to do it. Twitter allowed it at some point in the past but not anymore. Social media needs to make money, and it can't do so if people don't use their website or apps. The Lexfeed provides an imperfect solution. I use the following process: bookmark articles that catch my interest, once per day I post as many of the links to The Lexfeed using the AddThis app on Google Chrome. This process has a drawback: I can post around 50 links a day this way. Once I hit that point, Blogger starts hitting me with human tests. Understandable. I agree with the spirit. We don't want annoying spiders crawling the Internet or pointless news aggregators looking for hits. As an amateur researcher, I hate automated, redundant news aggregators clogging up search engines. Sure, I'm looking for hits, but I do what I can to keep the Feed off search engines. I DO aggregate links, but I'm doing it for selfish, not directly profit-oriented purposes. I want to integrate links into my RSS feed that wouldn't otherwise appear there. I offer it to those "in the know" as a side effect while trying to avoid collateral cluttering of the Internet. Hopefully it provides benefit. If you find The Lexfeed helpful, great! Please don't link to individual entries. Link to the actual articles, stories, whatever it is directly. If someone else wants to access such an unfocused feed and/or put it onto their RSS feed, give them the link to whole blog, not any individual entries. What's funny: I haven't reached any of these links on my RSS feed yet. So much posting on social media! Someday this process should yield some ROI. I look forward to it. Link of Interest:
Please behold The Lexfeed! It houses a stream of uncurated daily updated links to news articles, fiction, poems and whatever links that look like they have a passing interest to me that I want to read at some point in the future. The only real principle: these links reside in one place. I offer The Lexfeed for your use, pleasure and learning.
The Internet holds a lot of interesting and entertaining content. It has the problem of disorganization and housing at multiple sources. Links on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and wherever else we might frequent.
My gathering of links as browser bookmarks had gotten out of hand. Bookmarks syncing between all my devices helped.
It didn't do enough, though. I couldn't catch up with reading them all while I neglected the articles that my RSS feeder gathered. Offhand, it doesn't sound bad. Reading stuff is reading stuff. I find different types of articles from people I follow on social media (social justice, writing, science fiction & fantasy, politics, etc) than what I have my RSS feed grab (economics, finance, investing, pop culture, local news, world news, etc).
I would have loved to find way of adding my social media feeds to my RSS feed, but I can't find anyway to do it. Twitter allowed it at some point in the past but not anymore. Social media needs to make money, and it can't do so if people don't use their website or apps.
The Lexfeed provides an imperfect solution. I use the following process: bookmark articles that catch my interest, once per day I post as many of the links to The Lexfeed using the AddThis app on Google Chrome.
This process has a drawback: I can post around 50 links a day this way. Once I hit that point, Blogger starts hitting me with human tests. Understandable. I agree with the spirit. We don't want annoying spiders crawling the Internet or pointless news aggregators looking for hits. As an amateur researcher, I hate automated, redundant news aggregators clogging up search engines.
Sure, I'm looking for hits, but I do what I can to keep the Feed off search engines. I DO aggregate links, but I'm doing it for selfish, not directly profit-oriented purposes. I want to integrate links into my RSS feed that wouldn't otherwise appear there. I offer it to those "in the know" as a side effect while trying to avoid collateral cluttering of the Internet. Hopefully it provides benefit.
If you find The Lexfeed helpful, great! Please don't link to individual entries. Link to the actual articles, stories, whatever it is directly. If someone else wants to access such an unfocused feed and/or put it onto their RSS feed, give them the link to whole blog, not any individual entries.
What's funny: I haven't reached any of these links on my RSS feed yet. So much posting on social media! Someday this process should yield some ROI. I look forward to it.
Link of Interest:
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
I encountered a passive aggressive "You're Welcome" today that contradicted how I thought it worked.
Riding my bike home tonight, I crossed straight through a 3-way street/bike trail/park entrance ramp intersection. A woman walking some amount of dogs walked out toward the road from the entrance ramp.
Both us humans stayed on our right, allowing us to pass each other with little issue. Her dog(s), however, were all the way to her left, on my right, the leash(es) blocking my path. Gaining control of the animal(s), she had gotten them back to her side.
I passed them, no trouble at all, with no more thought than returning to monkey brain ruminations my brain engages in when minimally occupied. The incident would have had little mark on my conscious if nothing else occurred.
But the woman yelled "You're welcome." I can't say for sure, but my memory injects an offended tone of voice. I apperceive that this woman expected me to say thank you for her moving the dogs out of my way.
I didn't and still don't feel any obligation to say "thank you" in this situation. It's an issue of me having the "right of way." She didn't have full control of her dogs before I arrived, then she gained control of them, which I view as her obligation.
Frankly, I don't care if she met that obligation before and after my passing. People should maintain full control with cars, since things can happen fast and without warning. On sidewalks, walkways and trails, I don't think it's as big of a deal. These areas have that much more of an informal ambiance to them.
I still think some level of base etiquette has its place here. People don't necessarily have to keep to that base when there's no one else around or there's a common understanding and acceptance of etiquette breaking. Such breaking down of etiquette can communicate an increased closeness between friends and acquaintences.
Between strangers crossing each other on sidewalks, I don't think such break from expectation should occur lightly. Someone breaking away from said etiquette, especially if doing so risks injury to themselves or to a less sentient creature, should not be seen as an act that deserves extra gratitude.
Performing a simple act of decency and treating another person with basic respect does not deserve special attention or congratulations. Getting out of the way of normal traffic to allow normal flow should not deserve reward.
Peventing injury to a suddenly powerless person or unpremeditated uncontrolled animal deserves congratulation. An absent minded person, a person not really caring about their surroundings or someone being careless for their pets until the last minute, not so much.
PREVIOUS EXAMPLE OF PASSIVE AGRESSIVE "YOU'RE WELCOME" THAT I'M OK WITH
Near the end of my bike route to work, I walk my bike on the sidewalk around a corner. The sidewalk has a lot of features that can make for a tight squeeze: entrances to buildings on the left while on the right: a mailbox, garbage and recycling cans, some light posts and even a barrel or two with decorative plants.
To make things even more interesting, there's a bus stop. Not just any bus stop, either. Drivers switch out there. Suffice to say: that ten to fifteen feet of sidewalk can get crowded. It doesn't always provide the roomiest space for passing with a bike alongside.
Two or three times a few months ago, a Woman of Color yelled "You're welcome" at me after I passed. She was obviously a bus driver waiting for the next bus to do a switchout. She and typically someone else would stand back near the wall of the building while I passed by between them and the inanimate objects on the other side of the road.
I could only perceive her "You're welcome" as passive aggressive. We didn't make eye contact, body contact, no other contact other than maybe disturbing the air between us. We didn't know each other.
To me, courtesy dictated that we each had the job of staying out of each other's way. If one of us bumped into the other, one or both of us would apologize and laugh uncomfortably. Maybe one of us would get angry and some type of social transaction would occur, either escalation or de-escalation.
I can see myself de-escalating then slinking away. I created the abnormal situation by taking up more space with my bike. Even if she did the bumping and got angry, I'd probably de-escalate. My main motivation may actually have more to do with avoiding tardiness at work, or maybe I just don't care for pointless confrontation that accomplishes nothing.
(When there's an ideal, breaking of etiquette or a blatant selfish miscommunication, that could short circuit my de-escalation impulses. Breaking etiquette for no good reason just causes a disruption of smooth flow for no good reason.)
The woman's status as a Woman of Color changes the whole dynamic and instills higher ideals into the encounter. I'm a white guy. If our spatial positions were switched in the past, I probably could have harassed her with impunity if she walked by me without any sign of acknowledgment.
Breaking the normal flow of etiquette, this woman engaged in some performance theater, she disrupted the normal everyday to provide some social justice. She provided a reminder of my white male privilege.
I'd like to think that I don't deserve such passive aggression. I'd like to think that I'm a decent person who does the right thing. I'd like to think that the performance theater did more to expose white male privilege to bystanders around us or even to people who hear this story.
Maybe this woman acted passive aggressively out of anger. Maybe she just wanted to get a rise out of a boring environment. Maybe she didn't see herself embodying a larger expression of social justice. Maybe she wanted to escalate an encounter into conflict.
Who knows where she came from. Any non-virtuous motivations could unconsciously put a more meaningful message into the milieu. Even virtuous actions can fortify unjust privilege.
I have a few non-white non-male friends who have no issue confronting me with my privilege or, at the least, bringing up the topic. Numerous people have told me I'm a decent guy, but I often find myself like a deer wide-eyed in the face of headlights when my privilege becomes uncovered and raised to the conscious level.
Rounding that corner, being the target of performance theater, brought to my attention that unconscious privilege and the history of injustice such privilege hides. Maybe I am a decent guy who treats people right. I should still have the consciousness of that history and its implications.
Who was it that said something to the effect that we study history so we don't repeat it. I like to try acting kind as much as I can. I like to remain conscious of those efforts. People sometimes express an uncomfortable amount of gratefulness at me trying to be decent. Others say that I try harder than I need to, that I do too much out of conscientiousness.
I fear that by not trying so hard to act decent, my decency will fade from lack of practice. I fear without consciousness of decency, my decency will fade for lack of practice. I see decency as a habit, a muscle even.
Without discipline, acknowledgment and working it, pushing it, decency will atrophy and fade. Being a dick and looking for short-term selfish reward can have an appeal for the conscious mind.
It has the appeal of laying back on the couch watching TV all the time. The body atrophies, weakens and so does the mind. Unhappiness and tiredness seep in. Inertia slows things down. The body and mind will let itself dissolve and fall apart until death occurs. The body and mind has little reason to stick around, no challenge, so it eventually removes itself from wasting resources.
This Women of Color did me and society a service. It exposed an unhealthy habit and sparked a remembrance of the damage caused by social injustice. We need these reminders sometimes, so we remember the capacity for injustice humanity has and know what to exercise against for a better, stronger more intersubjective society.
I don't deserve cookies or any reward for these thoughts. I don't deserve a pat on the back. I don't want any of that. I just want to be a decent person. I want a decent society, one that will throw off this bullshit treatment of each other, even as we remember the bullshit so we know to avoid it. I'm idealistic, but I like to think a society of people treating each other more decent, more openly, more honestly, more justly, more valuing, more enjoying all walks of life will lead to an experience that is rewarding all in itself.
This is also probably nothing new. My privilege has likely blinded to instances such as this in the past. To me, this is a sharing to interact with the world and to understand it more, not to say that I've provided any great insight. Others probably have a better perspective on these matters than me. I hope to see and hear more, so my perspective can expand. I encourage other readers to seek out more perspectives on such matters, if you don't already have any, or to share your perspective to add to the mix.
The woman with the dog this evening was white, so I have a hard time thinking of any good purpose for her passive aggressive "You're welcome." Am I wrong? Did I engage in some injustice by just wanting to breeze by, wanting to get home, avoid a storm, and not have any lasting memory during my commute home? Am I blind to another aspect of my privilege?
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Fixing the World Starts with Fixing Ourselves: Learning to Appreciate Our Humanities as Step to Peace
I wrote the following while having an e-mail conversation with a friend about the US bombing of the Doctors Without Border hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. At this point, the conversation had gotten into whether the US should intervene or not in other countries. I got into the nuance that intervention is a broad term that can also refer to providing aid to civilians. My expansion into how arguing anti-intervention can back you into a corner if you're pro-aid for "non-aligned" citizens yielded the following:
One issue with providing aid to people of a country with a dictator but doing nothing about the dictator, you're somewhat enabling the dictator. But if there's sanctions, then we're really not doing anything because then either other countries can come in to help (see Russia and Syria) or the dictator of the country can become isolationist & use the US as the icon of evil (see North Korea).
But I think like any kind of social change, it starts with ourselves. The other night on the Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (around 17:12), Eddie Huang said that one of the steps to a lot of unrest in the Middle East, we should just provide freedom of mobility. He even made a joke about giving them Clear Water, FL.
That's an OK start, but do you know what? This country of ours is pretty prejudiced, racist, against Muslims, etc., anything that doesn't fit the norm of "white culture." Heck, our ageism against younger people is also causing radicalization of our own citizens born and bred here.
Look at all the school/work shootings in our country, people defecting to ISIS and shit like that. We have to work on ourselves and be more accepting to ALL people unless there is fact-based evidence against an individual of a crime they have performed.
One of the panelists on that Nightly Show panel made a great joke that the US shouldn't export their policing because we can't even police well in our country. See black or brown skin, SHOOT! Or, at least harass.
But even if people are subtle with their racism, it makes other people feel less human & more angry. Same thing probably happens with those school/work mass shootings. Other people treat them like shit, they feel less human & more angry, they want to be acknowledged. How do they do that when no one will respect them normally?
Look at the latest public back and forth feud between Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj. Miley is basically telling Nicki that she shouldn't be listened to because she's so brash and disrespectful. Well, Nicki's being brash and disrespectful because um, white people will shut her up otherwise. It's either be loud or be invisible. The politics of respectability is BS because it's used to silence.
But we're definitely stuck in a difficult place. Where's that line of where it's OK to act out because your being silenced & being violent for self-(respect) defense? Is having your humanity picked away by micro aggressions just a slow murdering of someone?
I think the solution will start with people who have privilege and power examining themselves, their beliefs, their meta-psychology, their meta-ethics, history, human nature and shit, see how we make our enemies in our propping up our narcissism and our own lack of self worth & self esteem. Then we need to support each other by helping each other examine ourselves and see our own problems.
And that's probably one sticking point of my college project. This has been the primordial base of my hypothesis/issue. But our world is just a horrible example of getting this kind of positive intersubjectivity working well. And it's not because it's against nature, but because it's hard to maintain. Humans have fragile souls, but we need to learn how to treat them with care as a form of prevention.
The follow up question is definitely how to return someone to humanity after they've fallen off the cliff, even the asshole racists, sexists, homophobes and other people who project their fears and angers onto others?
Anybody have any suggestions or perspective for promoting this type of approach to add?
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Racial Inequality is more than just an economic issue. It's a structural feature of our society that requires a structural solution We will implement a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice developed by Black and other oppressed peoples, Day 1.
I don't pay attention to Twitter all throughout the day a lot and only through my starred favorites, so this is probably only a small proportion of what she said yesterday and before. Nonetheless, the statements say enough to make me OK with not even with adding to the entry, especially since I don't want my maleness to outshine Dr. Stein.
I would think any amount of fame that she has gotten through her political career outshines my privilege from maleness. It doesn't matter. The Tweets quoted below are the important part. Read them. Take them and Dr. Stein seriously as a viable candidate for the United States President in the 2016 Election.
Even though she's late to the party, I think she issues better statements on these issues than Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton put together. As for the Republicans, they have to fight hard to get attention from me, and Mr. Trump definitely repels me.
Racial Inequality is more than just an economic issue. It's a structural feature of our society that requires a structural solution— Dr. Jill Stein (@DrJillStein) July 21, 2015
We will implement a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice developed by Black and other oppressed peoples, Day 1. #BlackLivesMatter— Dr. Jill Stein (@DrJillStein) July 22, 2015
Saturday, July 18, 2015
I found the guide below the other day at work after running into another consumer who didn't seem to understand the importance of staying network. It's a long one but worth reading if you want to learn the importance of staying in network.
At least it's a lot longer than my succinct spiel on the topic: "Stay in network, or you're really screwed, from Sunday to Saturday. You'll regret it. Just don't do it."
On the positive side, it does provide a tip or two if you can't get the medical service you need in network.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Comedy duo Pure & Weary (Katherine Biskupic & Leah Frires)
Directed by Jo Scott
Running Friday, July 17, 2015 and Friday, July 24, 2015, both at 7 PM
On the stage at The Annoyance Theatre & Bar, the Small Theatre
851 W Belmont Avenue
50 Minute Performance
Finally reaching the point where I have free time today for projects, with at least three of them at the top of my priority list, I choose probably the least urgent one of them all: writing a blog entry! Amplifying this local, short nerdy comedy act makes for a worthy cause, though, and I'm hoping to keep the entry short, too.
SPOILER ALERT: I've tried to minimize spoilers, especially in regard to punch lines. I hope my efforts proved successful.
Nerd Alert made for a great affordable spontaneous thing to do when I got home from work and Michi offered to take me out on a date to see it. I'm sure the quality remains high when you plan to see the show, too. For $6, Pure & Weary provides a great deal well worth the money.
It would be worthwhile for $10, even. Apparently last night made for consuming entertainment and food that the providers could have charged more than they did. If you get the chance, check out Four Belly: Asian Street Food. Tasty food for a good price, and the place was empty last night. Please go and help keep it in business. I would hate to see another yummy place go out of business for no good reason.
Anyway, back to Nerd Alert: The name captures the premise of the show. They put on a show about nerdy stuff, and it got comedically melodramatic in a good way. Pure & Weary capture the nerd experience then put it on stage for all to see. Every once in awhile they cross over some delicate lines of social nicety to make you feel uncomfortable and thought but laughing at the same time, like jesters do.
I most fondly remember the skit about the perfume marketing party (you know, like a tupperware party). I can't remember the brand being used. The themes of products revolved around Greek mythology and the possible side effects that come along with them. Putting just a modicum of thought into Greek myths will bring up A LOT of uncomfortable themes. Despite that, hilarity ensued while causing thoughts about how things may not have changed in the millenia since the writing of those myths.
Biskupic and Frires had a ton of fun parodying the behavior at said parties, which proved infectious, symptoms including laughter. Said reaction also leads to some thoughtful discomfort, and I'm not entirely sure which direction that thought should go.
Another skit provided a more heartwarming scene than a comedic one. Two shy, nerdy girls at a party individually sneaking into a dark corner to get away. They don't know each other, but they bond over social discomfort and discover their mutual love for nerdy things. The jokes they make, I don't totally get, in realms of nerdiness that I don't dwell. The heartwarming bonding, however, dwarfs the semi-obscure comedy and makes for a scene that many nerds fantasize about or remember with warm nostalgia.
I don't remember tons of details from their NPR/WBEZ skit. Compared to the pacing of NPR, though, it comes as a rapid fire montage of silly versions of All Things Considered; Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me; This American Life and many more. Even though I can't remember details, I know it had strong nerd themes and did a lovely job of touching on our love for the station with its awkward, crunchy authenticity that bounces between elderly and young at the same time.
How does that network go from cornballiness informing the listener to introducing them to "young," relevant, hip music that I falls somewhere between college radio music and mainstream rock stations? NPR/WBEZ, I love you and your complexity.
Pure & Weary provides an oh so disturbing and guffawful interpretation of select lines from Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime & Punishment. They could probably make a whole show inspired by this skit.
One skit had a principal giving out punishment to a girl who wrote Holocaust victim fan fiction. The sincerity of the girl reading her fan fiction sprinkled with bathos made me think twice about how bad of idea such a thing would be. Maybe it just needs a rebranding with a new genre name to make it something more palatable.
And many many more skits that will have you laughing, thinking and having that awkward discomfort that comes with seeing the lines we draw in social sand crossed. In this case, though, Pure & Weary do it in a constructive way. I think the warm feelings nerds and geeks get help make up for it.
After the fun I had last night, I need to start paying more attention to announcements of fun things in Chicago rather than depend on Michi enticing me to go out. Sometimes it sucks being one of those people who have a lot of talent at filtering out ads and announcements.
LINKS OF NOTE:
Tuesday, June 16, 2015
A Play by Charles Busch
Produced by the Otherworld Theatre Company
Directed by Tiffany Keane
Running until June 28, 2015
On the stage at City Lit Theatre (2nd Floor)
1020 W Bryn Mawr Avenue
$20.00 Tickets - Purchase Here
The Otherworld Theatre Company puts on the best gender transgressive '80s/'90s fantasy b-style dialectical reluctant hero's origin story entrenched in a mythical revenge tragedy theatre production I've ever seen. Suffice to say, I have seen none other. Queen Amarantha made for a fun night at the theatre, no matter my level of experience in the genre.
Charles Busch's screenplay follows a fairly standard plot arc. Otherworld provides the following synopsis:
Headstrong and transgressive, Amarantha is far from a meek and mild medieval monarch. Yet, when her enemies destroy her reputation, she abdicates and runs away from her duties. The throne then falls to her hopelessly weak ward, Roderigo, and soon the kingdom is imperiled, forcing Amarantha to choose between her freedom and saving the country.The two-act play runs 2 1/2 hours, a fair length paled by mainly modern epic science fiction and fantasy motion pictures. At least Amarantha provides an intermission for a bathroom break.
The first act expends much of its time setting the stage for the frenetic pace of the second act. Act one maintains your attention but takes its time introducing a lot of details in the form of dialogue exposition.
Unfortunately, it engages the head more than it resonates with the heart. It makes sense as a stand in for the struggles of an alienated youth without their own voice dealing the pressures of the world.
Even with all that time, though, Amerantha doesn't allow itself to breath to let the feeling of the people and setting settle. Fact after fact comes, the feelings also coming as fact rather than drama.
All the exposition has its purpose. The play already stretches to 2 1/2 hours. Expanding on the main characters or adding more dramatic scenes would add a whole lot of time. It could stretch easily to 4 hours by dramatizing more of the characters or even a whole season of a television show. We already have enough trouble managing our time.
The first act, nonetheless, still feels like the narrative forcing the characters to move forward. Blame can't fall too hard on anyone. Audiences generally want familiar narratives, this one being the coronation of a peculiar leader, their fall then rise again to restore the natural order of things.
Unlike the first act, the action of part two avalanches inevitably to its conclusion where the two main women, Amarantha and Thalia, face off with swords in the climax. The second act doesn't feel forced, the audience gets pulled along for the ride. Instead of getting lost in all the exposition of facts, the audience gets lost in the moment, just trying to keep up with the action.
Act two also counteracts the first act by having time to breath. One of the most memorable moments comes during an argument between Amarantha and her partner as she heads toward her chosen destiny. He wants to pull her back to freedom away from the path of justice.
In her maturity, though, she has come to appreciate a variation on feminity, which she had detested previously. This variation has a tougher edge, but it doesn't go as far as her partner who wants her more radical expression.
This gives the audience a touching experience as Amarantha comes closer to her real self acting out radically because it's opposite of what everyone else expects. The softening of Mona Begale's portrayal of Amarantha feels palpable here, reaching out to the audience, even as everyone in the room has to grit their teeth, knowing that Amarantha has to harden herself for the battle ahead.
All the while in the court, Thalia, takes it over, both in political power and dramatic presence. She becomes more erratic, paranoid and wretched, drunk with power and fearful that everyone else wants to take it from her.
Mary-Kate Arnold channels Thalia's perverted force, commanding the stage and towering over the weak-willed Roderigo who used to act as the dilletante and the politicians who use to try bullying the unsure Amarantha. Elliot Sowards, David Servillo and Dylan Schaefer all subdue their characters into their just humiliation, as they have all brought it upon themselves.
The end dance of sword play between so many characters highlights the fight directing of Kai Young and the intimidation of Justin Veistiaete's Champion, who stood in the background for most of the play. Now, though, he faced three enemies, nearly besting them all, showing that his swordmanship equaled his intimidation.
Among all this action, the real transgressor, the jester, the radical, the noble feeling savage becomes embodied in Adrian, portrayed by Brendan Stallings. He starts as an assassin who falls in love with Amarantha then tries to tempt her with peaceful isolation from civilization. An interesting quirk: he prefers Amarantha when she cross dresses with a beard and has a masculine edge.
In all but a couple parts, Adrians transgresses traditional norms with ease that most everyone else fights against or struggles to break away from. Even in our contemporary age, when accepting such subversions, we wonder if we should embrace it with tons of attention or to brush over it, treat it like a norm but to do so in such a way that it gets disempowered.
Adrian feels refreshing because for most of the play, the other characters accept him as a person with an identity. These subverting characteristics of his just come off as an expression of him, not as features assigned to him by others.
Even Adrian can disappoint, though, and fall into the complacency of his identity. His feelings for for Amarantha cause him to exert his will over her environment, controlling what information reaches her and what doesn't. In his fight against the majority culture defining him, he comes to exert unjust power over Amarantha, who has allowed herself to become vulnerable to him.
In the same scene that Amarantha softens into finding herself, Brendan Stallings expresses Adrian's disappointment with himself by simple silence. Masterful ease when things matter little becomes sad awkwardness along with all the other characters' wondering about their own identities or covering up their own emotional voids by exerting control over those around them.
His joining the assault on the castle felt surprising. I thought he would disappear into the woods, trying to keep a hold of his freedom. He proved a standup guy, though, showing that even transgressors have to support a mature natural order to allow for true freedom.
The lack of denouement and getting no answers feels disappointing at first. When the dramatic conflict ends, the victor takes their spoils, and the play ends. The audience never becomes privy to the actual final synthesis or any final answers.
Sometimes creative works should do just that. They should open frontiers, not close them. As with Amarantha, we need to exprience things on our own, through success and failure then think on our own to find our own mature answers and identity. Maybe it means exalting in the undefined wild or return to civilization on our terms, using what works for us and discarding what doesn't.
I think my initial uneasy reaction to the seemingly formulaic Queen Amarantha came from my own desire to be led into an "innovative" formula that I had never seen before. Finding on the surface a seemingly unoriginal plot arc that sacrificed answers for still somewhat controversial issues, I had felt the narrative strangling the interesting parts to please everyone for the cost of not making anyone happy.
For a play written 18 years ago, though, it can still give an open mind something to think about. We may have same-sex marriage gaining support more everyday, but when that becomes fully accepted without question, how do we define ourselves after the fight?
Wasn't there something out there about Barack Obama getting into office meant we entered a post-racial world? But now, eight years later, some of the biggest news out there is Ferguson, Baltimore, white cops of privilege having unconscious against black people contributing with their ease to shoot and put black people into dangerous strangleholds.
We, as human beings, have a lot of maturing and growing to do, both as individuals, as societies and as a world. We need to ask a lot of questions to ourselves and the world around us to find out who we all are. Sometimes we may have to for the identities, justice and surivival of ourselves and others at the expense of those who try to overdefine everything else around them.
Like the ambiguity at the end of Queen Amarantha, we have to get used to uncertainty. All the questioning and seeking will have its slow times and other moments of progression that we have a hard time keeping pace alongside but gets our dopamine and blood pumping. We can't give up on the battle of the human spirit, though. We have to keep pushing for a more just world.
Tiffany Keane, artistic director and founder of Otherworld Theatre made a good choice with Queen Amarantha for getting this energy out there. A theatre company focused on putting science fiction and fantasy onto the stage makes for a fitting vehicle to do so (even though I can't help but express some disappointment in some in the wider SFF community for pushing more for a closed off, overly defined world).
The cast and crew seem to agree with Keane on this decision. Passion emanated from them both during and after the productions. Congratulations on a job well done!
I now very much regret missing out on their production of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. After all, that book very much inspired the creative path that I now find myself. Ah well. Such is life. We all miss out on things we would have liked to witness.
Don't worry, though. I'll be keeping my eyes open for future Otherworld Theatre products.
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Increasing Workflow Productivity and The Misnomered 80/20 Rule/Pareto Principle: More Process, Less Projects
I have a philosophy about establishing processes in workflows rather than looking at every task as its own individual project. Addressing each task as an individual project might help highlight unique situations that can become problematic in the future. Maybe addressing the issue before it becomes a problem can cut down on stress later.
Nonetheless, those unique situations come up rarely compared to the norm. The misnomer of the Pareto principle ("80/20 rule") applies here. 80% of our attention goes to 20% of the load. Nuance can make the principle more complicated, but while working on that 20% difficult load, the other 80% of the load gets ignored. Either tasks pile up or people get pushed aside, making routine tasks that should take a relatively short time to address become part of the problematic load.
Making as many things into processes vs treating every single thing as a project can increase overall productivity. It may make those unique situations a little more difficult and taxing at the time. A process heavy workflow, however, reduces escalating routine tasks into problematic projects.
That being said: Always keep eyes open for when problematic situations become routine enough to warrant a routine process to address. Making identification of the problematic as part process help integrate it into the routine. If you don't, someone else will, either the competition or the client/prospect. Whoever makes the problem into a process will win. You will lose. Don't let your competition take away clients because of bad workflow habits.
Please note this approach can have problematic issues on the social, cultural and sociological level. In light of social justice, this approach causes problems. Integrating a proper routine for recognizing problematic injustice (in yourself and others), identifying it as injustice and addressing it as a project that requires proper attention can prove a valuable skill to yourself and the world. Productivity does not give an excuse to treat people like shit and as not human in your eyes. Don't be surprised if you feel like they treat you horribly. They're just giving back what they're giving.
[I expect this entry to get long. I don't want to post a series, so I'm posting it piecemeal. If you find it at this stage, cool, thanks for coming by. Hopefully you find some useful tips. Keep coming back to find more. Given time, I'll finish listing all my tips and post a link to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. Follow me on one or all those social media sites if you'd rather wait until I'm done to get all these tips at once.]
Our computers have a lifespan longer than four and half years. Yet, on average, home computers get replaced that frequently.
With proper maintenance, however, our Windows PCs can last quite awhile. This blog entry will provide tips on maintaining your computer for speed and performance. I stay away from manual adjustments to the Windows Registry and other sophisticated hackery. That type of stuff can make the computer unusable, so I don't want go near that type of advice.
These types come from a Windows 7-centric viewpoint. I will base all instructions on Windows. I think Vista and 8 will have some type equivalent structure. Some features may have been added or removed between Vista, 7 and 8, though, so I wouldn't worry too much if you can't find what I'm talking about. If you can't find it after 10 or 15 minutes, I suggest moving onto the next tip.
I'll stay away from Apple computers, too. I've seen Macs last almost a decade without any tweaking. I don't know enough about Apple products, either, to provide this type of advice.
Some of these tweaks, I discovered myself. Others, I found on the Internet. Considering a couple posts I've posted on Facebook elicited a few responses from frustrated Windows PC users, I think The Lextopia makes for a great place to provide these tips. I also don't think I've seen all the tips I'll provide all in the same place, either.
TIP #1 SEE HOW MUCH VIDEO MEMORY YOU HAVE
This tip has more the point of getting information. Some of the first few tips I provide might not worth your while if you have a lot of video memory. I don't really know how much is little and how much is a lot. I've fiddled around with computers with anywhere between 16 MB to, I think, about 128 MB.
That whole range of video memory proved too feeble for many of the graphical features that come with a Windows PC that you bring home from the store at factory settings. I don't why Microsoft or the computer manufacturers send these systems out with the implicit impression that they have the optimum configuration. They don't.
Anything with a higher video memory than 128 MB might work fine, for all I know. I just know that up to that point, eliminating a lot of graphic features encourages better performance in a Window's PC.
Find out your graphics memory by:
I don't know at what level video memory makes for a good amount. My next few tips have the goal removing and downgrading graphical features to free up resources. You're free to use what you want and discard the rest. High video memory might make the tips pointless.
Some people prefer the nice graphics over a high performance computer. They, and you, have that right. These are all tips, after all, not commands.
TIP #2 TURN OFF AEROS
I'll admit, the Windows Aeros graphics features make for a pretty interface. It's enjoyable to watch. It also provides some useful tricks to help with human memory, like when you put the pointer over an active icon on the taskbar, it will show the active screens for different documents, web pages and what have you. It's cool and useful if you prefer visuals. It slows your computer down a lot, though.
Turn off Aeros by doing the following:
After changing to a non-Aeros theme, I like to find a memorable picture from a relaxing vacation to put on my desktop. Do that by:
The Aeros themes are under "Aeros Themes." For my home computer, though, my "Installed Theme" from the manufacturer is an Aeros theme, but it's not under the "Aeros Themes" category. Each selection has two or more simulated screens. if there are more than two, it's definitely Aeros. If it's two screens but the front one is transparent, it's still Aeros.
If the front screen is opaque and has a couple lines, it's non-Aeros. You can be sure that the options under "Basic and High Contrast Themes" are not Aeros.
TIP #3 ADJUST YOUR GRAPHICS CARD TO PREFER PERFORMANCE OVER QUALITY
Per my previous spiels, this blog entry focuses on increasing performance, not graphics. That said, adjusting this setting at home and work has only improved performance and my computing experience. Adjust your graphics card for performance, not quality, by doing the following:
TIP #4 TURN OFF HARDWARE ACCELERATION IN INTERNET BROWSERS
We're still gearing down those graphics! Hardware accelaration has the intent of offloading the heavy lifting of graphics onto the graphics card. Problem comes down to with little video memory, the graphics card really can't handle too many things at once.
At this point, your computer's CPU ends up doing a lot of work organizing and mediating what work and jobs go to the graphics card at any time, put not so urgent graphics information into regular memory and switches between the all these jobs. . .all the while handling non-graphics calculations and actions.
By turning off hardware acceleration, your computer's CPU doesn't offload the work to the graphics card. That doesn't sound like a good idea at first. Why have the CPU do all that work when you have a graphics card that should do it?
In the long run, turning off hardware acceleration takes a step out of the process. Your computer then can use the resources it had been using to shuffle data onto the graphics for actually processing the graphic data. Having your CPU process this data ends up more efficient than a graphics card doing it.
This status may not prove true with a powerful graphics card. Experiment a little if you have a powerful graphics. I plan to when I get my next laptop that will have a more powerful graphics card.
Turning off hardware acceleration in Internet Explorer 11 (obviously this advice will become obsolete in a year or so when Microsoft stops producing and supporting IE):
Turning off hardware acceleration in Mozilla Firefox:
Turning off hardware acceleration in Google Chrome:
TIP #5 TURN OFF HARDWARE ACCELERATION IN MICROSOFT OFFICE
Turning off hardware acceleration in Microsoft Office has the same goals as turning it off in Internet browsers. Specific directions can help a lot of people.
These directions will apply for Microsoft 2010. With a couple adjustments, though, you should be able to figure out how to make these adjustments for later versions. I don't know if earlier versions have the options available.
Without further ado, here are some directions:
I have yet to find a hardware acceleration option in Microsoft Outlook. If you find one, don't hesitate to point it out to me.
Disabling hardware acceleration in Microsoft Office won't necessarily speed up general performance of your computer. If you use Microsoft Office a lot, though, it can help a lot.
TIP #6 TURN OFF HARDWARE ACCELERATION AND LOAD AFTER COMPUTER BOOT IN SPOTIFY
As with Microsoft Outlook, turning off hardware acceleration only really makes a difference if you use Spotify on a regular basis, like I do.
Telling the program to not load after boot will help a lot, though. Note that a later tip will provide directions on not loading Spotify at startup, also. Both these steps should be done.
I'm providing specific directions in different places, however, because they're options in totally different programs. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Windows has multiple places to turn the same thing and off.
The directions for within Spotify:
TIP #7 TURN OFF EXTENSIONS AND ADD-ONS IN INTERNET BROWSERS
Extensions add functionality to browsers and the computer. I like having Facebook Chat and Google Hangouts available without having the respective Websites open.
The downside: Those extensions use up valuable resources, downgrading computer performance. A bunch of random extensions get installed onto the browsers, also, especially onto Internet Explorer.
Disabling/Removing Add-ons in Internet Explorer:
Disabling/Removing Add-ons in Mozilla Firefox:
Disabling/Removing Extensions in Google Chrome:
I like Chrome because it makes turning Extensions on and off easy. As I said above, I like to use Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts when I'm not on the webpages. In the Extensions page, I turn them on and off.
If you find yourself unfamiliar with an Add-On and Extension, I suggest researching it online before disabling or removing it. It might be useful when you least expect it.
This point provides a good time to start doing this kind of research, too. Names of programs, apps, extensions and Add-ons can start becoming esoteric at this point. Learning some research skills now will prove invaluable for the rest of these tips and for as long as you're using a computer. Get good at it!
TIP #8 TURN OFF EXTENSIONS AND ADD-ONS IN MICROSOFT OFFICE PRODUCTS
Turn off these extensions has the same rationale for turning them off in Internet browsers. Let's just get right to it.
Microsoft Outlook 2010:
I will add more to this tip section later. I got distracted with another blog entry inspired by this one. Oops!
My rationale: I use the search function infrequently in comparison to my overall Outlook use. More often than not, I'm more concerned about going through my e-mail boxes linearly to clean them out than finding particular e-mails or e-mails that fit a particular search string. Indexing uses so much resources all the time that it destroys my productivity on a regular overall basis compared to the ad hoc frustration and time used for particular times. I'm willing to suffer occasional increased frustration and impatience rather than suffer it all the time for infrequent convenience.