Friday, September 14, 2018

Buffy, again

Watching Season 1 from scratch. Within four episodes you know the main characters as if they were your best friends in high school too. You know they live on the hell mouth. You know that upon first laying eyes on each other, Buffy and Angel have fallen for each other hard, eternally, like the Juliet and Romeo they are. You know that Buffy loves and respects her mom, and vice versa, no matter how bad it's been... and it's been bad. You know that Willow and Xander would willingly go to hell and back and even transcend their stereotypical teenage selves for their new best friend Buffy... and not just because– in spite of being so much cooler and beautiful than they are– she treats them like human beings, but because, yeah, she is the Chosen One, and that's, like, really really important. You know that Giles is smart, lonely, and (mostly) platonically smitten with this strange creature he is nominally in charge of. Most of all, you get Buffy, TV's single greatest creation.

Meanwhile, as a bonus, you also get ridiculously clever plots, and even more ridiculously clever dialogue. This is the TV show that loves our crazy English language more than any other.

Our old DVDs are a bit fuzzy on our ridiculously large screen. And apparently the HD versions are insultingly badly rendered. Mr. Whedon, this is your claim to immortality, so why don't you spend a few of your well-earned dollars and give us the definitive version that we, and you, deserve?

Rachid Taha, RIP

Project Cybersyn

Driving around with the radio tuned to KALW the other day I stumbled across a great episode of 99% Invisible on Project Cybersyn, which first aired a couple years ago. Project Cybersyn was a plan to use networked computers to connect and coordinate Chile's factories under Allende's socialist government. I had no idea. The whole scheme reminded me of the earlier Soviet plan that inspired Francis Spufford's Red Plenty.

As a believer in the virtues of market coordination, I'm pretty skeptical that Cybersyn could work under the best of circumstances, and it's clear that even frontier computer technology of the early 1970s was not remotely up to the task of coordinating an industrial economy. Regardless, in 1973 the generals, with a little help from the CIA, put the kibosh on the whole episode.

Still, you have to wonder. Once Amazon is the intermediary for all transactions between producers and consumers, will decentralized markets still play a role as a coordinating device? Or will Amazon's AI set the market-clearing prices to match orders on both sides? Red Plenty, by capitalist means?

Monday, September 10, 2018

Martina on Serena

I agree with her completely. Just because the men get away with bad behavior more often doesn't make it right. On the other hand, I can't help thinking the umpire should have shown more forbearance and refrained from administering the one-game penalty, rather than have risen to the bait. When it comes to refereeing, I generally favor the more minimal "play on" school of thought... especially when being a stickler for the rules ends up tainting the innocent opponent's victory, as it did in this case. Osaka sure didn't need that game to win the match.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Yes, scholars in the past had it worse...

... After all, they pay me pretty well to teach supply and demand and regression discontinuity and write my little papers. Then again, the ghost of Cold Mountain can take some comfort in the likelihood that another thousand years from now, not just the homeless dogs but the clever computers who succeed us will probably still be reading his wry poems, translated to some machine language they understand. For now, Burton Watson will do quite well.

By Cold Mountain (Han-shan), translated by Burton Watson.
Here we languish, a bunch of poor scholars,
Battered by extremes of hunger and cold.
Out of work, our only joy is poetry:
Scribble, scribble we wear out our brains.
Who will read the works of such men?
On that point you can save your sighs.
We could inscribe our poems on biscuits
And homeless dogs wouldn't deign to nibble.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Serena quote of the week

“I just feel like not only is my future bright, even though I’m not a spring chicken, but I still have a very, very bright future,” she said. “That is super-exciting for me.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


"Ah, but I was so much older then... I'm younger than that now." (Photo credit)

Sex and pop culture

I'll get to that momentarily...

Laura and I spent four nights in beautiful Ashland, OR, last week. Lovely place, even as the oppressive smoke from various wildfires drifted in and out. We took in a couple plays, rafted the Rogue, and shopped for local crafts, wine, and peaches.

Smoke is a serious issue. Ashland's Oregon Shakespeare Festival has had to cancel many of their outdoor performances this season, taking a $2 million hit. We had tickets to Romeo and Juliet, which was moved to the local high school auditorium due to hazardous smoke levels. We opted instead to trade in our tickets for their indoor production of Oklahoma!

This Oklahoma! came with a trendy twist: both of the lead couples were same-sex. I'm not fond of musicals; I prefer my Rodgers with Hart; and politically correct theatre generally leaves me cold. Three strikes... but I loved it. The performers were first-rate and the staging was brilliant. I couldn't help thinking that the bawdy, leering, but good-natured double entendre and physical theatre (think butter churn operated vigorously between trans legs) would be considered distasteful if not oppressive in a "straight" production... but the LGBTQ version was liberated, and liberating. Bravo!

Meanwhile, we've been watching The Innocents on Netflix. It's mostly a snooze. Perfunctory plot involving some shady researchers and reluctant shape-shifting human guinea pigs. Beautiful locations squandered. But the leads, a couple of innocent teenagers in love, keep your attention. Spoiler alert: In Episode 4 they finally do it. Tender– a little bit of heat, a little bit of flesh. True love. Then by Episode 5 we are back to the standard fare of smart characters acting dumb. So disappointing.

While in Ashland, we also escaped the smoke one night to watch BlacKkKlansman. I liked it a lot... but that's a topic for another post. Suffice to say that there is less exothermal chemistry between the two leads in Spike's joint than there is between the kids in The Innocents, or between the same-sex farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma! Thank goodness for the youngsters and gay folk who are keeping sex safe for entertainment.