November 28 – 29, 2014

It was so exciting to watch all the Black Out Black Friday protests unfolding via Twitter. In a society where legislators are for sale to the highest bidder, it’s eminently sensible for political activism to strike directly at the capitalist/corporatist power structure. And I was hugely impressed at the size of some of the protests, especially in St. Louis. 

Certainly enormously bigger than anything I’ve ever seen associated with Buy Nothing Day.

We drove into Roanoke and went ice skating. It’s actually kind of difficult to skate immediately after the rink has been Zamboni’d – my skates were going all over the place. I only skate once or twice a year anyway, so I’m operating at a consistent heavy deficit, but this was yet still more difficult.

Ten minutes of the little ice hockey hellions skidding everywhere, though, and it was just fine. 

Oh! The other day I promised some thoughts on Birdman when I got back to civilization. Here they are:

I mentioned that Birdman is a tour de force, and it is, of cinematography. It’s constructed to resemble a single take, and the camera is nearly constantly moving, swooping from set piece to set piece, following one person into a scene and then following another out of it.

It’s a movie about the theater, and about the tension between Hollywood and Broadway, or rather Hollywood actors and New York actors, since any actual line between Hollywood and Broadway was erased sometime long before The Lion King became the longest-running Broadway musical ever.

In that sense it’s extraordinarily old-fashioned, or rather it pretends to be, because it’s not really about all of that stuff, so much as it’s about confidence, in all of its permutations.

Despite the endlessly moving camera & other cinematographical trickery, the dialogue is hopelessly stagey, as perhaps befits a movie about the staging of a play, although I think I’d rather watch an entirely naturalistic movie about the staging of a play.

Edward Norton is amazing. So are Emma Stone’s eyes – they’re twice as big as anyone else’s. Everyone’s a little bit manic in a “theater people!” kind of way. Michael Keaton is fine, which is to say he’s actually pretty great, inasmuch as he’s playing sort of a hack actor during most of it, but one who has occasional flashes of brilliance onstage.

I don’t know how well it will age – there are a lot of Twitter references – but it’s probably the most interesting & engaging movie I have seen all year, so that’s something.

Drove home today (Saturday the 29th). Google Maps lady ignored my request to be routed via US 29 and instead sent me via a labyrinthine series of back roads. It was a gorgeous day & the roads were so obscure that there was very little traffic, so it was actually pretty awesome. Lots of rolling hills & small farms.

I listened to the new Tender Fruit album three or four times in a row in the car, and confirmed that it’s a shoo-in for my top-10 list this year. I’m afraid it’s going to get caught up in holiday shuffles and the general indifference of the press at large, and get overlooked, which would be an enormous shame. It’s heartbreakingly good, and in an idiom – stripped-down rueful female singer-songwriter – that has wider appeal than a lot of what I listen to.

November 28 – 29, 2014

November 27, 2014

Drove to Smith Mountain Lake for family Thanksgiving, delayed for a day by the snow further north.

Listened to the first couple of episodes of Serial in the car. OK, yeah, it’s pretty compelling radio. I have seen (but not read) some bloggers talking about their discomfort with Koenig’s whiteness vs her subjects’ non-whiteness. Perhaps I will seek some of those critiques out & read them.

I’m less concerned about racism or cultural tourism than I am about her frequent foregrounding of her lack of distance, though. But at least she gives her subjects the opportunity to call her on that.

We are in cabins in the state park, so we’re blissfully free of TV (and Wi-Fi), and plenty far removed from the world of commerce. Best of luck to everyone out in Ferguson and elsewhere who are actively protesting at stores, and to everyone else who is boycotting.

Our family is small, and all of my grandparents are dead. Even when they were alive there wouldn’t have been much in the way of heated political arguments around the dinner table. I was picked on plenty at school growing up, for being a smartass and then a nerd and then kind of a freak, but I never had to argue with my own family about politics or society or anything else, and for that I’m eternally thankful.

November 27, 2014

November 26, 2014

The snow in Virginia postponed a planned trip to the Roanoke area by a day, leaving me at loose ends. Should have been a study day, but honestly I temporarily forgot that every day this week is supposed to be a study day. Was so annoyed at everything in the world that I just surfed the web and read comic books.

Comic book, that is, Strong Female Protagonist, which is loose and jokey and kind of web-comicy, which I guess makes sense, because it is:

Braved the wet and the mysterious crowds at Morgan Imports to have a BLT at Parker and Otis. It’s a damn fine BLT.

Dinner at Gocciolina, because I was about to leave town, and M wasn’t. It’s always just so good.

Saw Birdman, which is quite the tour de force. But I’m in the mountains of Virginia, writing this on my phone, so my thoughts on that will be written on my laptop tonight & uploaded whenever I get a chance.

November 26, 2014

November 25, 2014

Spent most of what was ostensibly a vacation day on the phone or IM with support, trying to get someone to fix my work website, since I only have indirect access to the filesystem, and no shell access at all. Why did it break? Someone had to reboot the VMs over the weekend, and despite the fact that they had ‘http’ IN THEIR HOSTNAMES, nobody bothered to check whether httpd had successfully restarted.

And nobody even managed to figure out that I had an application running on those boxes, so they didn’t even tell me they were performing a change that might affect me. I had to figure it all out by asking everyone on the support calls if they knew anything.

Didn’t go to any protests or marches. I’ve never been much of a joiner, and that spills over to anything that involves a lot of people standing or moving together in a group. I know I should probably try harder to get outside of that comfort zone, but to be honest, I was pretty sure there would be a CrimethInc contingent there, and I just don’t want to be anywhere near those assholes.

So instead we sat at home & listened to the helicopters circling overhead.

Watched A Most Wanted Man, which was very very LeCarre. I enjoyed it, even though I have a hard time getting even slightly worked up about the threat of international terrorism, given how many people are killed in the US every day for such an extraordinarily wide variety of terrible and stupid reasons.

November 25, 2014

November 24, 2014

It’s not as though the lack of an indictment was any kind of surprise. It’s sad that Bob McCullough couldn’t reconcile his conflicting allegiances, but hardly surprising. Prosecutors & cops are two sides of the same coin.

I look forward to reading the book[s] that will emerge from the 4700 pages of grand jury testimony released tonight, though.

I have successfully insulated myself, social-media-wise, such that I don’t have any friends in any of my various timelines making racist remarks – instead I follow folks like @YesYoureRacist on Twitter, who takes care of injecting that stuff from any of an infinite number of highly racist strangers.

It’s sad to see Barack Obama’s limits exposed – the limits of his ability to speak out as president, even one in his second term. Or the limits of any black American who is part of the power structure to speak out. Or the limits of his own empathy, as someone who is no longer young, no longer poor, no longer close to the streets.

People (mostly people in power) want to call for calm, for peaceful non-violent protest. They choose to ignore the fact that it has consistently been the police bringing the violence to the people. 

As tragic and uncontrolled and, yes, short-sighted as they are, though, rioting, burning & looting have their place. They send the message to property owners that the mere fact of their property ownership aligns them with the police & the capitalist power structure, against the workers, against the people, particularly the people who have nothing.

Listen to the rhetoric in the mainstream news, or on White Twitter. The consistent underlying theme is that property trumps human life, and specifically that any threat to property is de facto justification for taking human life.

This is how it has always been, ever since private property was invented. It’s certainly the story of America from the very first moment any European set foot here.

So horribly apt, then, to be writing this a couple of days before Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays, when we ostensibly commemorate the native peoples’ willingness to share what they had with the Pilgrims. A favor that wasn’t exactly reciprocated.

November 24, 2014

November 23, 2014

I’ve had a trainee during my shift at the radio station off on & for the past couple of months, and today was his last training. I feel like I’m probably a terrible trainer, because I’ve been doing it so long that it’s all kind of second nature for me. But it’s good to be forced to bring it back to the foreground and think it through now & then.

In any case, as I told him near the end of the afternoon, it’s not really about doing everything perfectly, but rather about staying calm when you inevitably screw something up, and being able to recover comparatively gracefully. There you go: a life lesson that’s worth at least a semester’s worth of Duke tuition.

After dinner we watched Adaptation, which I had never seen. It was about like I figured it would be, I guess, only somehow I had forgotten that (a) it starred Nic Cage and (b) he played twins. The makeup was truly appalling – I hope someone was nominated for an Oscar for Nic’s hairpieces, and whatever kind of crazy dental appliance Chris Cooper had going on.

M has all kind of family things happening right now, which are awful & a drag. As is the news, daily. I hope someone makes a top-20 list of good things that happened in 2014, because I could use some perspective.

November 23, 2014