Archive for January, 2016

The Slippery Slope

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

And, so, Roku it is. Fifty bucks for the Roku 1 (I needed analog sound out as I am using a retired PC monitor and not a TV), a few trips up and down the stairs to input things on my PC, and I’m watching much better-than-expected video (with the puzzling exception of HBO Now, which has an alarming lack of black level and, surprisingly, the worst interface of them all considering it is also the most expensive of the streaming channels) and hearing terrific audio in my family room, making me wonder what on earth I’d been thinking all these years. I’m now binge-watching Larry David’s hysterical Curb Your Enthusiasm while sipping True Detective Season One like fine tea.

The New Republic’s David Thomson wrote, “True Detective has the aggressive casualness and dense texture of a novel by a writer who doesn’t care if he’s only ever going to be mid-list,” which also aptly sums up my own prose writing. The difference between commercial writing and writing for yourself is exactly that. I suspect the key to becoming a good novelist is to differentiate between being good and being successful; stop worrying so much about whether or not you are or will become successful, and concentrate on being good (or, failing that, at least enjoying yourself). (more…)

Windows 10: Bigger Brother

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Okay, Windows 10 is in. I now realize, I really didn’t want Windows 10. I wanted the Windows 10 UI, which you can get from Stardock’s WindowBlinds and spoof Windows 10 or Mac GUIs. Windows 10 itself likely has lots of positive and good things about it, but, had I realize the major downside of W10, I’d have stuck with W7.

The major problem is that Windows 10 virtually destroys any shred of privacy the end user had left. We didn’t have much, but we had at least a little control at the end-user side of things. W10 does away with all of that. For instance, I no longer have a local login but must use my Microsoft Store login on my machine. I’m not at all sure why MS thinks this makes my PC more secure: it does not. In fact, it severely weakens my security because now all anyone needs is to hack one login instead of four. Every machine I link to my MS acct will now use the same login and have access to all of my info. I understand why they’re doing this, chasing after the Google Chrome –ne-Apple models, but I find it really annoying that I can’t use “Pookey” or some other silly vanity name for each of my PCs; they now are named whatever my MS acct is named.

Beyond that, the W10 EULA tells us MS will now be reading our email. I’m not making this up. MS will now scan all of your email the way Google and Yahoo do, but are now doing it at the local level which means, even if you’re not using a MS (or Outlook) account, your PC will now read your email and report back to Microsoft. This is done presumably for advertising purposes, to create an advertising “key” to provide to advertisers so they know which ads to show you. But I also assume if you keep typing things like “jihad” or “Allah Akbar,” they’re report that to somebody, too. Got pics of your kids in the bathtub on your PC? Expect a possible visit from the cops. MS’s cloud drive wants to, essentially, clone your file structure on “The Cloud” for easier access. But, note, they scan every byte of data sent there. (more…)

Playing To Win

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Can Bernie Sanders win the general? Seriously, will people vote for a withered-looking Sanders over a vibrant-looking (but, IMO, incredibly empty) Marco Rubio? Will people actually, seriously, cast a vote for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton–like her or not–in a general?

I’m just a little baffled by primary politics. I love Bernie Sanders, but get serious: the vast majority of American voters are going to vote a personality or a haircut. Martin O’Malley looks and sounds a lot more like a president than anybody running. I don’t understand why people–Dems or Repubs–vote their rabid partisanship rather than vote strategically in the sense of voting for the more electable candidate.


Open Range

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

So, I’m in Safeway Christmas Day looking for a whistle. Safeway, of course, does not carry whistles. Nor does Walgreens or 7-Eleven or any other retailer open on Christmas Day, but when you’re desperate to finish wrapping the kids’ toys, you’ll waste gasoline driving around anyway. This white male, typical of many white males here in Ourtown, passes me in the aisle. He’s wearing a dark tee shirt, shorts and athletic shoes, and has what appears to be a Glock-18 holstered at his side. Now, what alarms me most about this guy is the outfit, not the gun. It’s about ten degrees outside and this man is walking around in a tee shirt and shorts, which immediately makes me question his state of mind. He is also open carrying in a state where obtaining a concealed carry license is about as difficult as ordering a pizza. There really is no reason to open carry in Colorado other than that you just want to be seen with your gun. Whether for political reasons or other, open carriers have made a conscious choice to raise the blood pressure of everyone around them by wandering supermarket aisles with their pistol hanging off their hip; thus making Safeway not so safe.

They know full well the discomfort and alarm they are causing. I can prove it by wandering the aisles of Safeway with my penis hanging out. I’d be drawing attention to myself, and needlessly so. In Colorado, if you can stand a background check, you can get a Concealed Carry Weapons permit and put your gun away. If you’re open carrying here, you simply want to be seen. That, or you’re trying to make some political statement about background checks leading to gun confiscation or the Apocalypse or some other lunatic nonsense. (more…)

TFA (No Spoilers)

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a brilliant film, the latest empty-calorie frenetic 120-miute chase scene from director J J Abrams, who is threatening to become the Michael Bay of franchise remakes as he cheerily goes about strip-mining better films while demonstrating, amid astonishing creative wizardry, that he doesn’t actually understand them.

As with Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, TFA serves up heaping helpings of nostalgia like Grandma’s delicious chicken and dumplings, albeit served with a trowel from a plastic bucket and flung from the window of a speeding minivan. Keep up, open your mouth wide enough, and there are wonderful morsels. Also, as with Abrams’ Trek, the pace and nostalgia efficiently mask the film’s alarming lack of depth. Whereas the quasi-religious overtones of the original Star Wars disturbed the Force of Evangelical Christian Televangelists, triggering fierce debate and even condemnation from religious conservatives, TFA never slows down enough to provoke any level of academic or religious discussion.

In its headlong lunge to un-do one of the greatest pop sagas in human history, TFA makes absolutely no statement about the essential nature of mankind, the existence or role of God, or the role of spirituality. TFA says, essentially, that we can never again believe that evil has been vanquished. All of that Ewok dancing was for nothing because the Bad Guys Always Strike Back.

Which means, if I take this shiny, delicious candy-apple Star Wars into my heart, if I take it seriously, I have to now severely devalue the original trilogy, which I, at my advanced age, honestly can’t do. I similarly accept Abrams’ Star Trek for the fun Saturday Night Live sketch that it was but can’t possibly take that film seriously. TFA is a substantial improvement on the satirical Star Trek and the apocryphal sequel Into Darkness wherein Abrams, already choking on his ideologically bankrupt Trek Lite, virtually rapes the Holy of Star Trek Holies—The Wrath of Khan—while the family is tied up and forced to watch. (more…)