May 2-6, 2015

Saturday we went to see Clouds of Sils Maria, an interestingly uncomfortable movie about an actress (Juliette Binoche) and her assistant (Kristen Stewart). For a movie in which comparatively little happens plot-wise, there’s a lot going on – commentary about the relationship between actors and their roles, about the possibility of emotive performance in action movies, about the nature of fame. All the things you would expect from a movie about the business of acting, I suppose. 

I love Juliette Binoche, and I was psyched by how good Kristen Stewart was. I liked her in The Runaways, but I definitely couldn’t be bothered to see the Twilight movies. I see from IMDB that she’s attached to an Untitled Kelly Reichardt Project along with Laura Dern, Michelle Williams & Rosanna Arquette, so that’s something to look forward to.

After the movie, M wanted to get a cocktail before dinner, so we headed in the direction of Alley Twenty-Six. But just as we were turning the corner onto Chapel Hill Street, the fucking trolley pub pulled up to the curve and disgorged its cargo of a dozen “whoooooo!”-ing drunkies, all of whom piled into Alley Twenty-Six ahead of us. So we went to Dashi.

Did you know that the Durham City Council passed a special ordinance specifically to enable that thing to do its business? Keep that in mind next time they come up for reelection.

I have a ton of programming projects for WXDU that are sitting around un-begun. I really don’t want to have to wait until next Christmas break to dig into them, but it’s difficult to tackle a new coding project when you only have an hour here & an hour there. 

There was a typical amount of Internet Outrage this week – a couple of richie riches bought a lovely 90-year-old bungalow in a historic neighborhood (for $385,000) and are now probably going to tear it down because they didn’t do sufficient due diligence before buying it (the lot isn’t subdividible, and the foundation won’t support a 2nd story). It’s not my neighborhood, but given the number of larger houses within, oh, 2 miles of that location, I’m not sure I see the point of tearing down a perfectly good 1400-sq-foot bungalow to build something bigger.

On Tuesday I bought the new Bell Witch album, which is absolutely phenomenal, assuming you’re into epic funeral doom with 20-minute songs. Embedding Bandcamp in Tumblr requires extra effort, but here’s a link.

I also went to the “Rise of the Rest” startup pitch competition, which was sponsored by Steve Case, you know, the guy who cofounded AOL. He should probably do something else memorable because most of the people I mentioned this to kinda guffawed at the mention of AOL. 

Nowadays he’s a venture capitalist & vineyard owner in Northern Virginia. This month he’s been driving around the country in a bus, handing out $100,000 checks to startup companies located in places other than NYC, Boston, or Silicon Valley.

Part of my day job involves training students to give four-minute presentations that are very similar in structure and content to the type of pitches the local startups were giving at this pitch competition, so my initial reason for getting a ticket was to see how my students would compare to the teams pitching for money. I’m happy to say that by the end of the summer, most of my teams would be able to hold their own on that stage.

After I got my ticket, I found out that one of the local startups participating would be ArchiveSocial, a social-media archiving & analytics company that was founded by some former IBMers. Two of their eight employees, including founder/CEO Anil Chawla, are alumni of Extreme Blue, the internship program I work for. 

So even though they broke my heart a little by leaving IBM, I was still there to cheer them on. Anil totally nailed his pitch, and at the end of the afternoon, they took home the giant $100,000 check. It was totally worth sitting through a few minutes of Steve Case talking out his ass about how startups are the solution to literally every problem facing the world today.

May 2-6, 2015

April 27 – May 1, 2015

I feel like I’ve written about rioting and looting before, so I won’t rehash all of those arguments again. I’ll just say this: If you were born & raised in a prison, one you were in through no fault or action of your own, one in which the guards could beat & murder the inmates with impunity – when things finally broke & the prisoners revolted, would you not burn the whole fucking thing to the ground?

Tuesday night we saw Ex Machina, a sci-fi movie that is ostensibly about the moment of creation of a true Artificial Intelligence but which somehow still managed to mostly involve a lot of footage of two dudes sparring verbally, and a lot of female [uh, robot] nudity. The gratifyingly violent ending redeems it somewhat, but it still doesn’t pass the Bechdel test.

Nevertheless, it’s an interesting cultural document, especially when read, as suggested by Sasha Geffen, as part of a posthuman feminist trilogy, along with Her and Under the Skin

Wednesday night I trekked to Chapel Hill to see one of my favorite bands, USX, at the Cave. It was a four-band bill because of course, and USX didn’t go on until after midnight. They played a great set, but even though I slept in a bit Thursday morning, I still felt entirely unproductive all day. Well, at least until 3pm when I made a cup of tea. I don’t generally drink any caffeine, so it doesn’t take much to thoroughly wire me.

We’ve been watching the latest season of Girls, but I’m not quite ready to stake out a position on it yet.

Friday night we were just about to settle down & watch a couple of episodes when I was notified that the web stream at WXDU was conveying nothing but a really harsh buzzing noise. So instead I drove over to check it out. Somehow the Aphex Compellor (about which I wrote so glowingly a few weeks ago) was sending garbage down its digital output, instead of digital audio.

The “fix” was as easy as unplugging the cable & plugging it back in (weirdly, this only worked at the Compellor end of the cable), but the root cause diagnosis has thus far stumped me. Lightning? Randomness? 

Or perhaps the fact that some asshole had arbitrarily twisted all the knobs on the front to new positions? Which shouldn’t have caused this particular problem, but had caused our over-the-air sound to be all fucked up for however long it had been since it happened. Why do people do that? What do they hope to accomplish?

April 27 – May 1, 2015