Friday, June 28, 2019

Vintage Whisky, 2017

If I have a stand-out favourite in this bunch, it’s my profile of Georgia O’Keeffe at the AGO.
But do stay for the noodles.

  • The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Car.
  • Georgia O’Keeffe at the AGO.
  • TV Dinner alternatives, one and two.
As ever, if you'd like something included that I have somehow overlooked, lemme know, woncha?

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Vintage Whisky, 2016

We do what we can...
“Dumpster Fire” apparently entered public vernacular sometime in 2008, fittingly enough. However, “dumpster fire” pretty much feels like a permanent condition since 2016.

Let’s get the dismal out of the way.

The election of the 45th President of the USA:
And then November:
And finally: Mennonites!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

“Come — let us reason!” Or “discuss,” if you’d rather.

Wup — the incomparable folks at Blue Heron have cheerfully added to my night-table.
“Carrot”? Sez you!
Truthfully, Mr. Heinrichs’s book has been there for a while now. I keep meaning to delve into his bag of rhetorical tricks — which should have been a natural draw for the last two years. Alas, the cover makes the book look like work. Good luck competing with flashier covers — to say nothing of comic books.

Maybe there’s no point to it. Richard Geuss argues that liberal faith in “discussion” as a means of persuasion is misplaced. Quote:
Discussions, even discussions that take place under reasonably favorable conditions, are not necessarily enlightening, clarifying or conducive to fostering consensus. In fact, they just as often foster polemics, and generate further bitterness, rancor and division. Just think of Brexit. I get along with most people better the less I know about what they really think and feel. Anyone who has had any experience of discussions in the real world knows that they can get nowhere and peter out, they can cause people to become even more confused than they were at the outset and that they can lead to the hardening of opinion and the formation of increasingly rigid and impenetrable fronts between different parties. The longer and more intense the discussion, the worse it can get.
It’s a heady and entertaining piece, with lots of name-dropping and sound-biting. I couldn’t recall encountering Geuss before this piece, so I did the summary internet search. He seems to favour Hegel over Kant, for those who keep track of such things. I no longer have the mental stamina to read something like his “little book” from 1980 — but this survey looks snappy. I might just pick it up after I finish Alan Jacobs’ book.

Yup — that Alan Jacobs.

In April of last year I posted that link to my FB feed, with the caveat:
“[*deep sigh*] Why the hesitancy to post? Some reluctance to identify with Jacobs, whose opinions I often disagree with. Reluctance to identify as this sort of Christian  a reluctance to identify as any sort of Christian, frankly. To be even more candid, I am also not a little envious  of his output, abilities, audience(s), public recognition, etc. 
Scrub away some of the envy, though, and I admire Jacobs' spirit, his intellectual ethic, even his appeal. And anyone who loves Jacques Ellul is someone with whom I share significant common cause.”
I’ve been meaning to dig a bit into Jacobs’ off-line output. The Year Of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism In An Age Of Crisis is curious to me for the people Jacobs assembles — particularly Simone Weil, whom I do not claim to comprehend but who nevertheless is a compelling person in David and daughter Kate Cayley’s radio portrait, Enlightened By Love. This shouldn’t be difficult to finish.

Finally, there is Erik DavisHigh Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience In The Seventies. I get quite a kick out of Davis, and have been anticipating this book for some time. But I have to admit — I feel a little uneasy going in. He chiefly profiles three figures — mushroom man Terrence McKenna, the now omnipresent Philip K. Dick, and Robert Anton Wilson. I’m up for it, but RAW gives me pause, because . . . well, Crowley. I’m not sure if I take Crowley too seriously, or not seriously enough. Both, probably. Here are some earlier thoughts I’ve had about the man.

Also related: here is a podcast interview Davis had with Gary Lachman, discussing Lachman’s book Dark Star Rising: Magick & Power In The Age Of Trump. Lachman makes pointed note of how American Evangelicals have adopted, without the slightest alteration, the rhetoric of Chaos Magicians. And no, that’s not “nuthin’ up my sleeve” magic we’re talking about — that’s “summoning things that (IMMO*) should not be summoned” magick.

Hey, we’re back to rhetoric. Maybe I’ll crack open that book by Heinrichs after all. Heinrichs . . . Mennonite name, no?

*IMMO: “In My Mennonite Opinion

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Full-stack persuasion?

Persuasion, continued. Two cheers for me — I managed to persuade one kid to watch the video!

We agreed the metaphor of “voodoo dolls” (as opposed to the more widely-used and user-embiggening “avatar” or “user profile”) was both apt and thoroughly chilling, as excavated.
And twice as cute as Wicker Man!
She figured the speaker to be older Millennial, and his physical audience primarily Gen X. I had to mull on that for a bit, but I believe she’s right. She thought the audience responded in ways that revealed their susceptibility to suggestion — a trait I’d rather not ascribe to my generation (‘cos, you know, that’s MY generation we’re talking about). But when the shoe fits — and we are the generation that taped magazine photos of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to our workplace lockers — you gotta wear it.
There you go: "awesome" "quote"
Can coding engineers save us from the perils of the extractive attention economy and restore and buttress proper “Full-stack socioergonomics”? I have my doubts — and a presenter who resorts to presidential rhetoric, referring to the other side as “crazy town,” doesn’t help. But I truly wish them well.

I think the larger point is spot-on, and urgent. In fact, full-stack socioergonomics is what parenting is all about — by the time the urchins reach the age of majority a parent is looking rather anxiously for signs that the individual has acquired some skills at developing such.

‘Cos we don’t stop with the kids, do we? If you need one (very small) sign that you, personally, are doing a halfway decent job of assembling and contributing to your own full-stack socioergonomics — i.e., socially responsible adult life — pay some attention to those scary little voodoo dolls. If they’re pointing you toward someplace with no ground floor, you’ve got some non-screentime work to do.
To wit: full-stack socioergonomics, Amazon-style.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Persuade me: the Full-Stack Socioergonomics edition!

God save me — I have spent the last 12 years behind the blue-and-white velvet rope.

Back then, an early meme that came and went pretty quickly was this quote, attributed to E.O. Wilson (“father of socio-biology”):
Jinkers, the medium truly is the massage.
It has been toned down a touch and re-used to launch this video, which succinctly outlines the techniques, penetration and perils of digital persuasion. It also makes an impassioned bid for engineering full-stack socioergonomic solutions — about which, more later.

The video is 43 minutes long. While I don’t usually watch anything longer than 30 minutes, unless it is devoted to guitar technique, I easily made the exception here. A friend (a former drone from the Apple hive) passed it along with his highest recommendation. It has provided considerable food for thought. Check it out:

Thoughts to follow — but why not beat me to the punch and throw down a few of your own first?

Friday, June 14, 2019

For I am persuaded...

I’ve been mulling over what I find persuasive. The deeper stuff is a little too slippery to get much of a grasp on, so why not start with the superficial?

Brian Tallerico persuaded me to buy Dragged Across Concrete, a movie I hadn’t heard of before his blurb over here. The element that intrigued me was Tallerico’s opening gambit:
The turnaround time from theatrical to VOD to physical media gets faster every year. Take the latest from S. Craig Zahler, a film that didn't even have a release date a couple months ago, but has already spun through arthouse theaters and is now available on the home market. As the line between film and television gets blurrier, one wonders if things like this will even get any theatrical at all in the near future.
Oof — I feel that. Speaking as someone parked in the boonies, critics like Tallerico are regaining status for exactly this reason — slobs like me don’t have access to arthouse theatres. It has to capture Tallerico’s attention for it to capture mine.

Anyway, he segues from this to his closure, in which he describes the movie — twice — as “divisive.”

And that’s it.

I looked at the cast list — Mel Gibson, Vince Vaughn, Michael Jai White, Don Johnson. Perversely intriguing if not especially promising. What sort of director would gamble a studio film on a pariah like Gibson in this day and age? Check the director — S. Craig Zahler, who he? Brawl In Cell Block 99 I’d heard of and had meant to follow up on. Okay then ... add to cart.

After an umpteenth day of rain with a spotlessly clean house all to myself, I finally took off the cellophane, popped in Dragged and hit play.
"One more 'Bare in the Big Blue House' pun, and so help me..."
For two and a half hours I felt like I was caught in a very unpleasant dream — one I absolutely had to follow to conclusion. The ten minutes that followed those two-and-a-half hours were the only real disappointment, but not fatally so. I will definitely watch this again.

The less you know before you go in, the better, so I will save my short and mildly spoilery critique for the very end of this series.

I next went to MetaCritic to see what was “dividing” movie critics. Short version: the concern was less is it a poorly made movie but more is Zahler trying to gin up a little sympathy for the troglodyte MAGA POV?

That was not my experience, but if your nerve endings are more frayed than mine your results might vary. I have some further thoughts on the matter which I hope to get to, but first:
Again with the blue...
“FULL-STACK SOCIOERGONOMICS!” — oh, you are so going to want to come back for this! Tomorrow, hopefully...

Friday, June 07, 2019

“You used to be good-looking!”

My favourite version of iTunes was 7. If I remember right, it introduced the “cover flow.”
Such a handsome devil!
My friend gave me a tour of it, the same day he gave me a tour of his new apartment. He was just recovering from a divorce that had been nothing short of apocalyptic. In his trim new abode he had a burnished wooden desk, with a large-screen Mac flanked by Bose speakers.

He undocked iTunes, scrolled through his music collection — “Heard this?” — queued the album, then bade me sit. Perched within that sweetspot, beholding the austere minimalism of the iTunes GUI which jived so perfectly with my friend’s liberated aesthetic, I found myself deep inside the music — a sonic space I had not experienced in many, many years.

I had iTunes at home — for Windoze — but it was strictly for syncing the various family iPods. Still, I loved that cover flow. It brought me back to my friend’s apartment, where the music sounded so good.

A year or two later my friend introduced me to his Chromebook. “Apple’s in trouble,” he said. “Google’s outflanked them. The browser is the OS.”

I could see the appeal — better functionality across (nearly) all platforms. “What’s the Google version of iTunes look like?”

He showed me Google Play — a grid.
Music selection could stand some work...
I winced. “I dunno, man.”

“Just wait.”

Sure enough, Apple ditched the cover flow for a grid.

I have an old version of iTunes that I use to sync up my one surviving Infernal Device. I’ve stopped purchasing media from Apple. If it can’t be avoided I will resort to Google or one of the other content highwaymen. And I’ve taken to buying CDs again, directly from the artists wherever possible.

RIP, iTunes. You used to be good-looking.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

D-Day, 75 years later

Juno Beach
I had a great-uncle who landed on Juno, 75 years ago. He and his buddy made it through the fire and hunkered down behind the retaining wall, staring at each other in disbelief. I don’t know about his friend, but my uncle fought right into Berlin.

He had a million stories, most of them ghastly. When Berlin fell he signed up for service in the Pacific theatre, believing himself unfit for civilian life.

Back home he was fastidious about joining his fellow veterans for public remembrance. His first Remembrance Day a neighbour shook his hand then mused that he was actually sorry the war was over, as it had been good for his particular business. My uncle’s hands twitched, and he realised to his own horror he was reflexively reaching for his gun to kill this moron.

I don’t know when he gave up alcohol, but I only ever knew him as quiet, gentle and sober.

He was of Ukrainian origin, and married into our Mennonite family. I had two other great-uncles, however — Mennonite  who also served. They were both younger and enlisted later, a source of pique to the D-Day vet. If asked, at an opportune moment, he would suggest they came to Europe to party. Both launched respectable careers with their veterans’ benefits, but died early — one by his own hand, the other by cancer brought on by incessant drink and tobacco consumption.

My uncle was moved whenever someone stopped to thank him for his service. Really, this only accounted for three early years of his life — he accrued piles of achievements in the civilian decades that followed. But the echoes of those three years . . . not every night was plagued with nightmares, but they did indeed haunt him to his final day.

His official obituary is here. I also recommend Tony Hillerman’s account of post-war life.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

C’mon baby, light my fire...

June 5, and I am still resorting to one of these in the evening.
Yes, it has been just that rainy and cool up our way. And I’m not complaining — am grateful, rather, for this cast-iron buddy of ours. It saves us from the alternative — turning up the heat, firing up the boiler, and warming up the whole dang house when really just one room will do, thank you very much.

That said, if this summer ever turns warm, or even hot, I will be well and truly conditioned to not complain about that, either.


What would your teenage self think of you now? Over at Medium Tim Kreider asks the question.

I gather Mr. Kreider thinks more of his teenage self than I do mine.

I wonder how long I’d be able to hang out with the prat — my teenage self, that is (Mr. Kreider would be fun, I suspect — we have Tomi Ungerer in common, for starters). I live with my teenage memories, which is as much of my teenage self as I care to brook. I could have been so very much worse, I know that. I also suspect I could not have been much better — a thought that would throw me into a depression, were I to meditate on it.

Moving on, then...


Maude Newton has a new newsletter which I’m digging in a big way — Ancestor Hunger. Sez Ms. Newton: “You might want to subscribe to Ancestor Hunger if the name makes intuitive sense to you.” She lists other, cheekier reasons why her newsletter might be of interest, but she had me at intuitive sense. To my mind I have more than a few ancestors who died in a hungry state, and I am not altogether persuaded that condition has been sated.

Anyway, check it out for yourself. Ms. Newton’s dispatches roam in attitude and tone from charmingly woo-woo to earnestly scientific, sometimes within the same letter. Give it a look, and see if your dreams don’t get a bit messed up.


I used to dream about Everest, when I first read Krakauer’s blockbuster. He made the ascent seem so pedestrian and anticlimactic and Beckettian in its inscrutable proximity to the other side of this existence, my psyche was utterly seized by the thought of actually climbing the peak.

Rather than acting on the impulse (which I could in no way afford), I read more books. Joe Simpson’s Touching The Void, for starters. Dark Shadows Falling, his next book, illustrated just what an appalling gong show Everest had become. And now we have this headline: Traffic Jam on Everest.

The nearest mountain you’ll find me queueing up for is Wonder Mountain — IF I have a daughter keen to go.


I was tempted to type “Space Mountain” but right now Star Wars is the feature attraction to Disneyland. I’d be keen to check it out, but am afraid it might disappoint when contrasted with a truly immersive video game. But here are some tips, if you’re heading in that direction. Myself, I’ll stick with the advice I was given back in '77, and which erstwhile Everest ascenders would do well to heed — wait until the lineups have subsided.


It is the Age of the Fan — over 30,000 people sign petition to keep Game of Thrones showrunners away from Star Wars.

I haven’t watched a single episode, so I don’t have an opinion one way or the other. BUT. Disney and Marvel are (consensually) strapped into the same bed — Given how the comics are breathing new life into the most tired of SWU properties, why not send the GoT dudes home and give Marvel’s comics team the job(s)?

Oof. A lot of words, a lot of links. Hopefully they fuel a few thoughts of your own, and make up for last month’s Mulligan!