Sci-Fi Predicting the Future?

September 6th, 2011

The other day there was a NY Times article about novelists predicting the future. Now, on a long enough time scale, that’s going to happen with fiction. Of course the NYTimes article don’t talk about how Asimov had sentient androids with “positronic brains” wandering around the same world where people still used slide rules for calculation. That sort of missed prediction just gets swept under the carpet, despite the fact that people have long looked to Asimov for ideas on the kinds of tech they should try to invent. On some level, there is predictive power in science fiction, because if it’s possible, compelling, and grabs the mind of someone at a young enough age, they will grow up to try to invent it. The possible becomes the real. And IO9 had a nice little takedown of the article, much needed. So it was with a sense of self amusement that I notice today, while looking for oxygen bleach, that Target sells compressed scented air. Oh my God! Spaceballs predicted the future!

Emerging From Stasis

August 11th, 2011

Finishing a graduate program can feel like getting back a life you did not know you had lost. I finished with the bar exam a few days ago, and suddenly feel as if parts of my personality I had not known were shut off have re-emerged. It is a surreal feeling. I look around and find that I am judging myself, not on my past actions, but on the viewpoints that I have. I do not argue with the viewpoints themselves, but I find myself questioning why I had felt the need to shut off certain ambitions, hobbies, etc.

Two nights ago, I picked up my bass guitar for the first time in at least a month. I had done scale work when I was highly stressed during finals, but this was the first time in a long time I had picked up the instrument purely to enjoy playing it. It was as close to revelatory as you can get without actually experiencing a revelation. I found myself wondering why I had voluntarily subjected myself to this kind of self abnegation.

I’ve also pushed through several books without feeling guilty. More on that later. It’s a great feeling, a feeling of freedom, a little fear over the debt that’s looming. But it was a reminder, I think I got out fairly close to unscathed. But in this economy, people talk about the debt you can take on going back to school. There are other things you can lose. I should have considered that more closely.

Proxies for Thinking

December 16th, 2010

I am often dismayed by the willingness of political writers to use the lives of individual legislators as proxies for the state of the nation, thus saving themselves from having to think too hard. Witness today’s article about Patrick Kennedy cleaning out his office, used, by several of the commentators in the article to connote the decline of liberalism in America.

Here are the two quotes I’m thinking of:

“This is a family that once had the presidency and two Senate seats, and they’re now down to the mayor of Santa Monica,” said Darrell M. West, a Brookings Institution scholar. “It’s a pretty dramatic fall, and it’s symbolic of the decline of liberalism.”

Norman J. Ornstein, a political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, said that while Mr. Kennedy’s departure was minor in the scheme of things, that he and his father were being replaced as the only father-son team in Congress by Representative Ron Paul of Texas and Senator-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky, who hail from the libertarian Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, was indicative of “the kind of sea change we’re going through” on Capitol Hill.

The first one attempts to hide the absurdity of his sentiment by calling it symbolism. But even as symbolism it’s hollow. To be sure, the far left has taken a drubbing. But the presence of blood relations in Congress has nothing to do with it.

Try phrasing it like this: “The power of a political ideology can been seen in the number of blood relations that semi-dynastic families supporting that ideology manage to get elected.”

It really reveals how colossally stupid the idea is. Yet that sentiment is essentially what these two quotes try to accomplish. Sadly, the strong personalities that the Kennedys, Bushes, and Pauls of the world represent are too much for many commentators and reporters to ignore. All too often political ideologies are conceived of by the commentariat as simply the manifestations of these powerful personalities. If they’re blood relations? So much the better. You just wave your hands around and call it symbolism. I don’t think many of Rand Paul’s votes came from people who wanted to symbolically endorse Ron Paul’s viewpoints by electing his son.

As an aside, the first quote calls the lack of Kennedys in national elected positions a “dramatic fall,” but really, it’s only a fall if you think later generations not choosing to go into politics is in some way a failing of those younger generations. Maybe Joseph P. Kennedy would have thought of it that way. But I doubt Edward M. Kennedy Jr., who founded his own company and to the best of my knowledge never ran for any elected office, loses much sleep over it.

Now if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to go back to studying for my federal courts exam…

The Tying of Ties

November 16th, 2010

I don’t have time to watch many full games of hockey, what with school and all (so of course I’m posting here). But I watch highlights on TSN’s site from time to time. They have little ads that play before the clip reel. Today one of the ads had a guy complaining that only a Full Windsor would do for tying a tie. He thinks less of those who don’t use a FW. The tagline is that if they are that careful about the ties, they must be careful about the money. I don’t know. Maybe they’re so busy worrying about the ties that they don’t have time to pay attention to the money?

Two of my favorite comic creators, Ryan North and David Maliki have defeated Glenn Beck in Amazonian combat. Their book being number one on Amazon and not his pissed off the Paranoia Artist to the point that he attacked the book. This included the hilariously egocentric statement that his books are always #1. Man, if that guy ever falls off the map, he’s gonna fall hard. What I love about this is that it basically casts Beck in the role he usually assigns to the Dems, complaining that a media insurgent with no gravitas is spewing about stuff that has a negative impact on society. North and Maliki are in the Beck role of making money just because the bigger entity has taken the time to attack. This is not to say that I think North and Maliki are crazy like Beck, just that they’ve turned the tables on him.

Transcript of the Beck stuff from the Machine of Death website: Sound and Fury

Predictable

September 18th, 2010

I submit that any of my friends could have heard these two tracks, and without knowing whether I’d heard them, predict that I would like them. They are like a catalog of my guilty and not so guilt pleasures compressed into easily accessible four minute tours of “Production Techniques that Ian is a Sucker For.” That’s not to say that they cover every single one of them, but the number of bases covered is nevertheless impressive.

Azure Ray – Don’t Leave My Mind
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjpyBGAayF4[/youtube]

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Nothing But Our Love
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh4etIJx7Oc[/youtube]

I feel like these tracks are lineal decedents of The Notwist’s “Pick Up the Phone.”

Quick Check

August 26th, 2010

Do you think that it is advantageous to have a name that is generic enough to make Googling you hard? My first instinct is that unless you are trying to work in the arts it is. I started thinking about this because career services here at the school talks about sanitizing your online presence. There’s nothing on this site I’m particularly embarrassed by, though I suppose potential employers reading my short fiction could be embarrassing. But I’m also “protected” by the sheer number of Ian Macleods out there. We are legion. But what if both your first and last name were common English words. I knew a guy in high school who’s first and last names were both building materials. I imagine it’s almost impossible get Google information on him, or at least it takes a fair chunk of digging. Does he think that is a blessing or a curse?

“EpicWin”

August 19th, 2010

Depending on a few factors, this could be a good thing or a bad thing in my life. Luckily, I don’t own an iPhone, or really a particularly fancy phone at all. I suspect that after a few days it’s just one more distraction. It does remind me of a classic xkcd comic though.

Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl makes an excellent wink and nod appearance near the end of Scott Pilgrim. They use the original album version, which is sung, if I recall correctly, by Emily Haines, also of Metric. Now, barring some special appearances, she hasn’t toured with BSS since 2002. A rotating cast of women have taken up the song. If you see it in concert who is best? Well, it turns out that’s an interesting question.

Broken Social Scene has had numerous touring lineups. I’ve found four versions. If Feist has done this song live, I didn’t find it on youtube. [oops, I was wrong, but she isn’t the sole vocalist in that performance]

The current female lead vocalist: Lisa Lobsinger
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YHIwNleV2o[/youtube]

The long time lead: Amy Millan
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GS56z_MSk_w[/youtube]

The irregular fill in: Elizabeth Powell (regularly in the touring lineup, but I don’t know that she does this song often)
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQDlBmhvn7k[/youtube]
Best I could find on that, lots of semi-hilarious crowd “banter.”

The originator: Emily Haines
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0cx-y9VDhA[/youtube]
Impressive if only for the ear splitting screams from just inches from the camera. Also, I could do without the girl sort of sing chanting from the audience, but them’s the breaks on youtube.

And because I was wrong: Amy Millan, Leslie Feist, and Emily Haines all in one performance. (with bonus air guitar from Feist)
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ty_LAi0dleU[/youtube]

It seems that Amy Millan (who did not record the original) manages to get closest to the album version’s distortion of Haines’ vocals. Haines, understandably does an amazing version of it herself. I think hers edges out the others, just barely, for its strong clear vocals on what can otherwise be a mumbly song. Elizabeth Powell gets a couple of the lyrics wrong, but really seems to get the daydreaming nature of the song. Plus it’s fun to watch her get more confident and have more fun with the song as it goes on. Lisa Lobsinger’s version of the song is interestingly vulnerable at times, but I’m not a fan of the almost clipped crisp enunciation she uses for the “park that car” chant at the end. The song loses some of its dreamlike quality as a result. It may be better singing from a technical standpoint, but it doesn’t suit the song as well. She gets my sympathy though, as some of the commenters on for the clip complain that she isn’t as pretty or as good a singer as Emily Haines. Commenters, come on, the real answer is that all five of these women kick ass.

This review of Scott Pilgrim reviews from one of NPR’s reviews puts its finger on something I see all to often in the reviews I read. Reviewing the supposed audience rather than the work itself seems to happen more in music than in movies, but it is everywhere in modern criticism.

As for the movie, I liked it. I had the hardest time dealing with the idea that Scott as played by Cera was in any way successful with the ladies. If his awkward wooing really worked in real life, I’d have had a very different high school experience. That ridiculousness aside, it was a fun movie. I’m right in the core demographic though, bass playing half Canadian who loves video games and was in a band that couldn’t get gigs? How could I not like it?

Detour: An interesting entry among the reviews was Anthony Lane’s review for The New Yorker. In his attempt to pick up on cultural cues that simply don’t stick out to him, he conflates random bits of the movie and interprets them as character cues… or something to that effect. What he says is that the fact that Ramona dies her hair frequently is what puts her out of Scott’s league. Interesting interpretation. Not really what I think the director was going for, but… interesting. He also gets bonus points for being a New Yorker taking a dig at Toronto in a review of a film that makes jokes about New Yorkers being snotty and dismissive of Toronto.

Scheduling on Gmail

August 17th, 2010

I can’t set a time for emails to send through gmail. How the hell am I supposed to prevent review staffers from knowing I’m still up and working on stuff at two in the morning? If I leave it in the drafts folder then I’ll forget to send it entirely. Come on Gmail. What you want me to use Outlook or something? Not that I’m about to start using mail.app, but that would necessitate cron last I checked. More Google staffers should spend time catering to my whims, and bringing me grapes. Someone needs to dedicate their 20 percent time to making my life mirror Hedonism Bot’s.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpugML3CsSQ[/youtube]

Losing Time to Catching Up

August 17th, 2010

I have, over the past couple of weeks, come to realize how much time I lose to “catching up” with where I think I should be. Something about the process of doing something you already think should be done (answering email, listening to those old podcasts, reading those articles you bookmarked) takes longer. I think that people already have a hard time estimating how long a task will take, but I would like to propose a new rule. I don’t have a set ratio yet, but catch up tasks seem to take something like 1.25 times the amount of time they would have taken if I’d just done them first things first. Maybe this is just me realizing all the wasted time I’ve left sitting on the side of the internet’s yellow brick road. But over the past couple of weeks I’ve caught up on a lot of things (alas still not up to date on emails, several people are now nodding their heads, should they happen to read this space). What has struck me is that things that were spiraling out of control, as soon as I caught up on them, seemed almost effortless to maintain. Now, I’m about to go into another semester, so who knows, but with an internship, the managing editor position, working at the computer lab, and looking over the job postings, it’s not like the summer has all been a romp through a field of wildflowers.

So, do it now in one hour, or do it later in an hour and a quarter. Your choice. Am I being too conservative with this? Does it sound crazy? Do you get stuff done faster when you wait until the last minute?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.