Thursday, October 31, 2002

happy halloween.
the wellstone thing took the punch out of mine, and i never managed to put together the costume i wanted to. have most of the parts, so maybe next year or something. anyway no parties tonight, and never been a big fan of the crowded drunken castro on halloween. just not my scene I guess.
its not that i don't like to dress up, but i think i like themes better, costume parties around a theme kind of thing, and especially when I can act it out as well. i hate pressure to be clever, and to put myself on display, because i'm rarely clever under pressure. that's what halloween always feels like to me.
sat night is dios de las meurtos, the day of the dead, my favorite "holiday," but i'm a little loathe to invite anyone to come along. last year was a bit of disaster basically missed the parade waiting for people, and then having to rush off to see some movie, no real effort to appreciate the nights solemnity or to honor the dead. still trying to recreate that time where liz andy nicole and i walked around. this year liz is gone, and i can't think of anyone else who'd appreciate it on that level. sure they are out there, even among my own friends
going to out together a little altar for wellstone and ximin's mother, and the dead in aghanistan -- no memorials to those civilians, not eloquent obituaries in the mass media for them.
i think the thing that scares me most about death is the idea that i will be forgotten. maybe that's why people have kids. i always had a notion that i'd be able to see everything that happens after i die, that that would be interesting in a "its a wonderful life" kind of way. but i suspect not, and that always kind of freaks me out whenever i take that in. Theres' life, there's death and then your bits and peices get recycled one way or another.
better go live a little tonight.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Rather depressing weekend all told. Could have easily been lost to cynicism, but I made myself get out and do things. Went to an amazing rally against War in Iraq on Saturday. Tens of thousands of people out marching, from all walks of life, of all ages. The march was really energizing, never been to such a big one before, ever. Didn't feel like "just a san francisco thing". The rally was a little more dissappointing, the message somewhat hijacked by pro-palestinian voices. I don't think they are wholly connected, and I do not think, as one speaker called for, that divestment of Israel as a whole is a good idea. Essentially calling for the destruction of Israel. That would not be a good thing I don't think. To their credit though, they probably did a lot of the greasework in getting it organized, so they probably earned their speaking time. Michalel Frante was pretty great doing a couple amazing songs, and it was nice to see Barbara Lee getting a standing ovation.

Sunday I went and delivered fliers for Tom. Trying to do my bit. But I spent the rest of the time just trying not to think. Saw a bunch of movies:

review the transporter dumb, don't go see it. cardboard characters. overly slick action ( that's somewhat of a pun given there was this ridiculous fight in an oil spillage ). bad editing. need I say more? ok (spoiler). it's a love story about a cynical ex military man (who was doing humanitarian special forces work?!) turned anal criminal who makes a mistake and picks up a chinese woman who is about to be executed for turning on her father who is smuggling chinese into france inside of containers. more? there's a really derivative fight scene that they practically copied straight from raiders of the lost ark (with some more martial arts and a parachute) but it wasn't anywhere near as good.

the brit should have stuck to semi-comic criminal roles a la lock stock and two smoking barrels and left his barrel chest and martial arts in the bag.

review training day great movie. somewhat depressing morality tale, but beautifully shot and well acted. ethan plays the rookie cop trying to do right by society well, treading the waters between enforcing the law and his obviously bent trainer.

review sexy beast not quite what I was expecting, but it was still fantastic. what's this name who played the bad guy was great. Not really your typical over the top raving lunatic, but tense wound up, quiet, coiled to strike, intense, someone who'd make just about anyone uncomfortable, unforgiving, unaccepting, creepy. He definitely made the movie, but the other main character did a great job as well, sweating away, trying to stand up to this man, without getting himself killed.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Today a sad day for Democrats, for good government, and for my wife. Paul Wellstone died in a plane accident this morning along with his wife, daughter and some other staff. Liz has been out there a work, helping with the campaign. She'd put a lot of herself in getting out there to help, overcoming various stresses at work, and general exhaustion from travelling so much this year. She'd developed a personal connection with him, having driven him and his wife to a fundraiser earlier this year, and always like to be in the thick of intense political campaigns -- and this one was going to be close. Yesterday she'd been driving him around again, and had met other people who were on that plane. It must be hard to see all that end, and it is sad to see a good man, one of the better politicians, not to mention the other peopl on the plane, come to such an untimely end.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Saturday night I dragged myself to a Burning Man decompression party. It was a huge block party a couple blocks of 3rd street in the DogPatch neighborhood. The music bounced through the buildings reaching me as I turned up 18th on my trusty old bike.

It was a bit of a stretch for me that night, I was tired and was in a somber and solitary mood, but I figured that this would be a good thing to check out if I want to go to burning man next year. I was happy to see that many people had ridden their bikes to the event, I had to seek for a while to find a pole to attach my bike to -- a much too rare experience I feel.

My first impression was that I wished I had dressed up more, my second was that I wish I had come with someone, and third that I would have been ecstatic had I been single. The main event was dancing, there was at least 6 different DJs/stages at various points along the 2 block party. There was a shocking lack of naked people (but i guess this because it is San Francisco weather rather than playa weather ), but a good percentage of the crowd was wearing some get up (or get down if you know what I mean).

The art, was well, the art that I had seen pictures of, and nothing new or particularly interesting struck my fancy, though I'm sure drugs would have made a difference there. The best was the plaster strobe swimming animation. But I'd heard about that before, so it was nothing new.

The crowd reminded me of a mixture of the Castro Halloween festivities and a Dot-com party, somewhat extravagant hedonism, in other words. My particular set of burning man friends had their karaoke glam clam firing up a small crowd of people, particularly when someone was willing to ham it up (the best being a queen song, "i'm just a poor boy from a poor family" can't remember the name ) usually the crowd responded. But I wasn't really in the mood to go there.

Neither was a woman standing near and she starting talking to me in a way that I knew was trouble (for me). It was a nice feeling to be hit upon again, and I admit to some dissappointment when the question of my status as a married man came up.

Yes, it would have been great if I was a single person again. Which makes me sad I did not invite any of my single guy friends (or girls for that matter) not already there.

There was certainly a lot of phermones flying -- not a few people making out and/or doing other things (there were plenty of dark corners).

But all in all, I have to admit, that I was bored. Not having participated or being attached to anything there (outside of my friends who hoved close to the clam), there was no sense of the famed community of burning man (well outside of the girl who gave me hummous crackers, and the one dressed in lots of foam who gave me a hug). I felt a bit sad judging the event so. But there you go.

Monday, October 21, 2002

review CULTURE JAM, with a couple of adbusters' head honchos whose names escape me.

I was excited about this event, because I think Adbusters is pretty amazing. They've done this amazing work turning advertising on its head, exposing some of the underpinnings of our capital driven lives.

But I came away from this lecture more than a little dissappointed.

The first reason is that some of the TV spots they showed were just not all that good. They came out as Political attack ads, very heavy handed, very little subtelty (with a couple exceptions), but nothing really I don't think that would counter the messages of hundreds of commerical ads.

The 2nd reason is that the message is fundamentally a negative one: don't do this, don't do that, things are bad, you're bad. it's not that I think that that message doesn't need to be heard -- I just think it won't be heard. There is no idea of what can be done differently -- or how that can be acheived. No hope, just anger.

I think this stems from the fact that a lot of my peeps, the left, are doomsayers -- and in some ways I think, want to see things fall apart, with this romantic and/or idealistic notion that they can pick up the pieces and put them back better than they were before.

I see myself doing this and I think this is a vision we have to give up.

I realize it is also an attempt to stir things up, to make people uncomfortable. In some ways the worst enemy of positive change is comfort. If people are comfortable, they are not going to get out of their chairs and fight. this is the genius of late 20th century capitalism. This is the true moral of "Monster's Inc" when you think about it -- if you make someone laugh, they are not going to fight you. Keep the people happy, give them what they want, and they will likely follow you like docile sheep.

The other final comment i have is that someone asked a question: "What happens when you're message or ideas get co-opted?" and railed against all the "corrupt environmental clubs" (I assume she meant the sierra club here). When your message gets co-opted, I think you've one. if corporations are taking you're ideas and running with them, rejoice! They have heard your message, they are taking it as far to heart as they ever will. If they start making more enviro friendly products, this is a good thing, no? I don't get the attitude.

One thing did strike true, "it takes many levels of action" to get things done -- from the conservative corrupt clubs, to the sign swinging activists.

I just don't think we can rely on anger to sustain anything - "Yay princess mononoke!"

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Sherlock home gets honored for his contributions to science. Got to love those Brits.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

movie review spirited away the new feature from the director of princess mononoke is amazing and beautiful. A little girl and her parents wander by accident into the spirit realm and become trapped there unable to escape. The girls' parents turn into pigs, and Chiroko has to fend for herself. The spirit realm is populated by all sorts of strange beasts and ghostly creatures and surrounded by water. With a little help, Chiroko finds herself working in the spirit bath house of Yubaba -- an ugly witch to end all ugly witches! The creatures are fantastic, the backgrounds are gorgeous, the girl convincing as she struggles with her fears and despair. A Japanese version of alice in wonderland perhaps. And it is a fun trip down the rabbit hole.

review ACT productions' of Tom Stoppard's play Day and Night. An introspection of journalists in war zones,2 journalists and a photographer come together in an african nation about to be ripped apart by war. The acting and writing are engaging enough, but ultimately there is no real "umph" as it were. The ideas are interesting, but nothing that hasn't been examined in the 20 years since this piece was written. It may have had more of an impact here, but in this day and age dominated by the media, we are know what good and bad the media can bring. As a more realistic peice, it also lacks some of tom stoppard's usual depth and complexity. Still it was better than most movies these days, that's all I can say.

Friday, October 11, 2002

reflection on "the other" I think people have a deep seated need for people to have an overwhelming opposition, "the dark forces" that are working to oppose you and crush you. This is probably why fantasy is so popular, and some sci-fi like Star Wars, where there exists a very obviously evil enemy who is out to dominate. Who also tends to have overwhelming superiority (of numbers at least). Left, right, conservative, progressive, business person, environmentalist, probably all feel like they are beset, beseiged on all sides, by their particular enemy, never recognizing that in some areas, maybe they do have the upper hand. Maybe its true though, everyone who does not think like you is your enemy. The enemy of your friends is not your friend!

What does this say? Who knows. The recognition maybe that there is no absolute evils in the world -- or very few at least, and the people who have them are lucky. The rest of us need to look for those grays I think. How much of strife these days is due to a feeling of rightiousness, your cause being the only good one(sp?)?.

It sucks though no doubt about it, seeing both sides of a story. Its easier to be one sided, more comfortable. Most people recognize the gray though, I think, and so sink into fantasy novels to regain comfort perhaps...

war on iraq so congress has handed bush the keys. but thankfully this time some democrats stuck out there necks and spoke their mind, including a great speech by Peter Stark, rep from CA. Kudos also to Senators Byrd, Wellstone and Boxer (among others!).

Check out for more information.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

design rant going back to the eternal egypt exhibit for a sec... it did have terrible exhibit design. Not that the things were improperly displayed, but that the accompanying text was hard and tiring to read. The cards set in akward places in very small type. The large explanatory text, were set in white type on black, with really long line lengths.

I barely managed to take in a word I read without going back and forcing myself to read it slowly. It was hard.

I really don't get it, it should all be easy to read, in places that more than one person at a time could actually take in the text, and take it in quickly.

Does nobody care, I wonder?!

review tobias wolf by word for word. The concept of acting out a short story, word for word, sounds a little odd, at first. but if one considers the enjoyment garnered from reading aloud to children or to adults, then it is not so strange.

especially when it is done as well as the word for word troupe. Not just a reading, but an enacted reading. One could imagine this done pretty badly, but word for word is amazing. the choreography of reading -- who reads what lines (one character or several) is really brilliant for one -- there is no narrator figure, it is all done by the characters themselves, chiming in when it is most appropriate. the stage design and lighting was also tremendous.

lay this atop the great short stories of tobias wolf, you then have an amazing thing.

if you live in SF, go see it! They play til Oct 19 at the Magic Theater in Fort Mason

Word for word is a part of zspace

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

review eternal egypt at the legion of honor. a collection of objects brought over from the british museum. the exhibit was packed, people milling around pretty much every box and statue, so that it was hard to sit and take stock -- but there was a lot of stuff to take in so maybe that was a good thing. I had a good time, focusing on various things and sitting back and sketching (I'll upload some pictures later). I fell in love with the big heads, and some of the detailed hieroglyphics. They all had beautiful lips, and it was nice to see them up close and feel their power -- it was also good to get different perspectives from what you might find in books. They looked as impressive from behind as up front.

The exhibit purported to show the changes in styles over the centuries of Egyptian history. This has garnered criticism that a) it ain't art, it's just craft, that's handed down from tradesman to tradesman, and b) it ain't all that different between the centuries. But I don't buy these arguments. Whether or not it was done by craftsman with no thought at the time as to Art is beside the point. We know in this century see the beauty and majesty in these figures, and take it as art, and are affected by it as art. But also the argument falls down for me because Art is an incremental thing in general. student inherits the techniques of his master and if he's a genius, adds maybe a technique or two to the canon. It is never wholesale reinvention -- usually just reinterpretation.

Now you could of course say -- yes but looking over the past 500 years has seen much more change than several thousand years of Egyptian history. This may be true, but look at the vast differences between the times. Egypt is a relatively isolated place compared to rennaissance europe and later, there is no large scale exchange of ideas, no outside source to compare oneself to, and there were fewer people in general in the world. The "progression" of human knowledge is related to the number of people out there, and how well they exchange ideas -- which is a function of geography and technology. So yes Egpytian art seems to have evolved at a glacial pace -- is this any surprise?

But were they artists? Who knows. How many painters today are Artists? Are filmakers, songwriters, writers. Much of what any one of these people do is a "craft" a study of technique. The art element comes down to the idea. The craftsmen of Egypt set out to project the power of Egyptian pharoahs -- living gods. This they did well I think, because after several thousand years something of that power is still projected. It was an Art I think. Will the art of today last as long I wonder?

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

taking stocks in stock listening to the radio this morning, I reflected again upon the mess that is the stock market. The continued sell off is happening because no one trusts the market anymore. The problem with public companies, in my opinion, is that the product of the company becomes the stock, not whatever the do or make. So is it any wonder that companies do all the finagling they can to make their stock more palatable? The price of the stock is what lines managements pockets, underwrites 401ks, it doesn't matter really if there car works well, or if their burgers are tasty, so long as they show they can turn a profit. Is it any wonder that investment firms and accounting firms help with this finagling? It is after all in their interest, the more they sell, the more they make in commissions, the more profit they can show so their stock does well. We'll see how far it can fall... or how it might be controlled.

java in lighter thoughts, I wrote my first java program last night and it worked exactly as I wanted was hoping it might, much to my amazement. Probably not the best code in the world, but not the worst either.