Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Weakerthans @ the Granada Theater 4-1-08

Weakerthans @ the Granada

Went to see the Weakerthans play tonight with my sister. I haven't seen them play in a few years but it feels like I haven't missed anything in that timespan. The band was solid as always, coordinated and professional. They've added a keyboardist to the line-up and while she didn't have a big role in the sound, when you did catch her it certainly filled out the sound. But the acoustics of the Granada tended to wash her out. Otherwise the band was good. They played a good selection of songs from their entire catelogue and packed the playlist as much as they could for the time alloted them. Even the encore was planned out, featuring four songs that closed the set dead on at midnight.
Unfortunately the Granada Theater is one of those dreaded "no smoking" places so I made several trips outside for my nicotine fix. In doing so I ended up noticing a cute bartender who I chatted up for ten minutes or so. While she had a boyfriend (no love for your dear blogger) she was quite interesting so it was worth the slight embarrassment. More importantly, as she said herself, while she could make more money at other bars, she enjoyed the atmosphere of the Granada more. That kind of attitude is heart-warming since it shows that there are still people out there who would rather make less money and enjoy their job than make more money under less than desirable conditions.
All in all, it was a worthwhile evening out on a Tuesday night. That's something of a rarity these days. It was cathartic and while the show didn't blow my mind I did get a chance to truly relax. So now I'm off to bed and the sleep of a content person. I wish there were more nights like this.

Monday, March 31, 2008

When Does Virtual Become More Than Virtual?

Creepily lifelike CGI woman - Cory Doctorow @ BoingBoing

What you see to your right is a computer generated image, that's right, a CGI. Apparently some Brazilian firm was tasked to create a lifelike CGI person without falling into the uncanny valley problem. This is true hyperrealism as the image is nothing more than a simulation. Much like Rei Toei of William Gibson's Idoru and All Tomorrow's Parties the image is a step toward an era of simulated actors and musicians and other celebrities. That celebrities are mainly manufactured and simulated anyway, this isn't much of a leap but that the tech is already here is amazing.

H7 Emits Roses and Pancakes

BMW Hydrogen 7 Emissions Well-below Super-ultra Low-emissions Vehicle Standards, Government Says - Science Daily

I've long heard about BMW's mythical hydrogen-powered car. Initially, I read about a dual-engine version of the 7-series that could switch from hydrogen to gasoline on the fly, but that model was strictly for Europe. I could see such a luxury car working well here in the States, specifically California where hydrogen stations are slowly being built. The dual-engine model was meant as a compromise due to the lack of hydrogen stations. And the dual-engine is a bit misleading as the car actually has one engine but runs on either hydrogen or straight petrol. So the idea of a mono-engine is a little confusing.
Despite all that, it's heart-warming to find that not only will BMW put the car into production, albeit a limited run, but that in some cases its emissions are actually cleaner than the air that enters the engine. Through my initial travels in the arena of car modification I've learned about the importance of air intakes and how clearer air works to the advantage of the engine so I'm wondering if BMW will rig a system to reuse the air emitted from the car and inject it back into the engine. It's an amazing advance in engine technology that unfortunately is limited to a few high profile people to show off the car and the tech. What's more, it makes me wonder when other companies will try their hand at hydrogen engines (I'm looking at you Audi/VW).

Ten Little Piggies

Shocking Lingerie--CamelToe Party Undies - Trend Hunter

Now Trend Hunter has a habit of focusing on the more sex-ploitation trends than anything else and I do click through to some of the articles, but this is just bizarre. Of course, that the camel toe fashion is a hit in Japan isn't much of a surprise. Still, this is beyond strange, even for Trend Hunter.

Diamonds Aren't Shaped Like Vaginas

Ivy Hymens: Why Glorifying Virginity is Bad for Women - Jessica @ Feministing

I'm not really going to comment on the linked post so much as I'm going to laugh as hard as I can at that damnable graphic. Who thinks this shit works? "Guard Your Diamond"? Who decided that this was a good idea and where can I find them so I can put a lead pipe on the back of their skull? I'm just glad that there are other sites like Feministing out there that point this ridiculous shit out. Even my cat is laughing at it.

To Protest or Masturabate in Public

Praying for Rain: Protest Culture's Gnarled Husk - David Forbes @ Coilhouse

It's comforting to read that there are others out there just as annoyed and bored with contemporary protests as I am. While I've long believed in the power of protests, I've also believed that protests are meant to do something versus merely represent something. Throughout my childhood the representations of protest I saw came from the 1960s in the Civil Rights movement, the fall of communism and that single man with a shopping bag staring down a column of tanks in Tianamen Square. That is protest to me. So when I watched the coverage of the 'protests' against the Iraq war in early 2003 my opinion of protest reached its breaking point. The protests of today do no accomplish anything because they are not meant to accomplish anything. It's all about representing something abstract or other.
For a modern protest to work it has to actually do something modern protest can't do--make people pay attention. If you aren't getting in someone's way then your protest isn't working. Civil disobedience is a phrase that means something to me that modern protests don't. It's that mix of non-violence with intentionally acting outside the norm that makes a protest work. More pointedly, if the police aren't afraid of you and your fellow protesters then you have failed in achieving anything. That means the fear exists on the side of the protesters: fear of being arrested, fear of being hurt, fear of violence. Non-violence doesn't mean being afraid of violence. It means that you don't use violence as your means of showing power and control. You have to make your opposition afraid of you and resort to violence. Tear gas, police dogs, riot squads, water cannons, rubber bullets and all the other means of crowd control should be thrown at protesters. Disobedience is about getting in peoples' way and not letting them shut you out. While they may consider it uncivil, the use of non-violent means to achieve real attention is the way of the true protester.
Last week I witnessed some real protests for the first time in my life as Tibetans took to the streets. Police crackdowns, media spin-control and all the tools of an authoritative government were thrown at these protesters and yet we still know about it. They made themselves something we couldn't ignore. Someone standing on a street corner with a sign I might hit with my car. Someone with a crowd standing in the street with sticks and bottles on fire will make me turn around quickly. But instead we get the guy on the corner.

Book Clubs

Essay About Love and Literary Tastes - Rachel Donadio @ NYT

I have a rather diverse reading history, more so than most well-read people because my interests vary so much. So I don't often expect the women I date to have the same tastes as I do, much less having heard of the books I've read. Still, there are some common books that are the 'make or break' type for me. Atlas Shrugged is one of those books and while I have read it (except for the fifty page speech by Galt near the end) I was a devotee for all of five minutes. I could go on a rant about Rand and her silly notions of objectivity or her terrible, long-winded writing style but that misses the point of this post. For the well-read what you have read is important but equally important is how what you have read has influenced you. Seeing a copy of The Unbearable Lightness of Being isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I took away a different interpretation than most others based on my readings of Nietzsche and nationalism. The same goes for Camus' The Rebel, a book few have read but one that I think is critical to understanding some of the modern problems in the world.
For the most part, there are few books that are the 'make or break' type for me. It's how attached that person is to that book that concerns me. Someone who finds Maybe He's Just Not That Into You an inspirational book obviously hasn't read enough while someone who finds Neil Gaiman to fantasy-oriented has read a good deal and holds an aversion to anything that smacks of the fantastic. I wouldn't expect someone to have read Invisible Cities or The Master and Margarita but I would expect some knowledge of authors like Sarte, Camus, and Kafka, even if they hadn't read anything by them. And when it comes to non-fiction, the field widens even more. So literary tastes do matter to a degree, as much as music tastes do. And whether someone has a fetish for Dan Brown or a serious interest in Italo Calvino are not the only factors one should use when determining whether a relationship is viable or not. Still, it is an indicator of who that person is and how they see the world.

Home is Where the Heart Is

Despite Awareness of Global Warming Americans Concerned More About Local Environment - Science Daily

I find the results of this study unsurprising. People are most concerned about what they see every day. Their drinking water, their quality of air and the look of their town or city is something that they can't simply wish was different. And, as the old maxim goes, politics starts at home. What politicians can do is make the local issue of pollution a national one and thus begin pushing for state and nation-wide action. Moreover, these environmental concerns are symptoms of the larger problem of global warming. For a nation like the U.S. that does produce the majority of global impacting pollution, local efforts could pay off in a big way. Not only would the quality of live improve in the cities but you would have many examples to draw from when other cities finally decide to tackle their own pollution problems. The federal government has a lot of ways of addressing the issue of global warming through trade relations and human rights issues, but those efforts will only have a marginal effect overall. What the U.S. can do by making the issue of global warming local is show how an economy such as ours can still turn a profit while going green. If we wish to stand as an exemplar of action taken on global warming then we actually need to act, and act in a way that others can copy. Making global warming a local issue is a good way of doing just that.