Justin Beiber has a forehead

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Finally. If that kid is going to be all over my TV and internet, I want him to brush his hair back out of his damn face — as much as I want teenagers in the street to pull up their idiot pants and wear a belt. I’m old and cranky; do as I say, damn it, or I’ll cut you.

bieber forehead
bieber forehead
2022-03-12 Update: Little did I know how bad it would become.
Continue ReadingJustin Beiber has a forehead

Skins: British vs. American

Skins is a British TV show finishing it’s fourth season in the UK. It’s fictional, set in Bristol, England, it focuses on teenagers, and it’s very raw and realistic, covering drug and alcohol abuse and sexuality as topics. It’s raunchy and hugely popular in Britain. I’ve been watching the British version streaming through Netflix, and I like it a lot. It’s a bit shocking in that there is a lot of stuff one would never see on American television, but it seems really real; like these are real teenagers and how they really act, and despite their adult behavior, there’s a sweetness and longing to the kids that betrays how innocent and hopefully they really are underneath their facade of cynicism.

So of course they brought the show to America. And fucked it up. Because that’s what we do.

The American version is almost a shot for shot recreation of the first season of the British original, but with American teens, so of course they look just a bit slicker and cuter. That shot-by-shot recreation is an important point, though — because when they deviate from the original, it means that there’s a calculated reason for it. And the calculation is what’s disturbing.

The story centers around a teenage school kid named Tony and the friends that revolve around him: his girlfriend Michelle, buddy Stan (Sid in the original), and several other pals. Tony is an attractive jerkwad who manipulates his friends, usually for selfish reasons. But he has charisma and charm and they hang around him despite his jerky behavior, because he can talk them out of being mad. He regularly cheats on his girlfriend Michelle, and she knows it, but she overlooks it. Usually. In the British version of the show, this is what brings their relationship to a halt halfway through the first season, and is the source of conflict through the rest of it — Tony decides to fool around with their gay friend Maxxie. It’s not because Maxxie’s a guy that Michelle gets upset, but rather that Tony does it openly where everyone knows about it. She’s been overlooking his cheating for a long time, but now that it’s no longer a secret, she can’t look the other way and she dumps him. The storyline is daring because Tony is so casually fluid about his sexuality; he’s clearly straight but isn’t freaked out about fooling around with another boy, and he’s so vain that he enjoys the attention. He only ends up apologizing for his behavior because he loses Michelle, but for that he wouldn’t care or have any moral problems with it.

And that brings us to the American version, and the homophobia problem with it — in this version, the gay boy Maxxie has been changed to a lesbian girl named Tea. She’s a cheerleader and is open about her sexuality to her friends. She casually sleeps with girls because she enjoys it, but she’s bored with most of the girls she meets and can’t find one that “matches” her level of interest in the world around her or her curiosity. She agrees to go out on a blind date arranged by her dad, and it turns out to be with Tony – whom she fools around with. He makes a case that he is the one that “matches” her. And despite her declarations that she’s gay, she appears to be considering him as a potential interest, at least for the first few episodes in.

Given that every single other element of the show is the same – dialog, jokes, shot for shot recreations of the original – this change is really blatant. Clearly, they were too freaked out by the gay male storyline, or the idea that a straight boy could be fluid about his sexuality, to leave the original story. But in making the gay character a gay girl, they made her sexuality fluid, which is already a stereotype about lesbians that we have to fight constantly, because the idea of a lesbian being “changed” or “corrected” by sleeping with a guy is so pervasive that a common hate crime directed at gay women is “corrective” rape. Having been a victim myself of that particular hate crime, these kinds of perpetuations of the myth that gay women aren’t really gay are painful to watch. It’s the reason I hated The Kids Are All Right, among other things. It’s just not true, and it’s annoying when guys have that false notion in their heads validated onscreen.

I’m going to continue to watch the American version of Skins, but if they end up putting Tony and Tea together, I’m going to be hard pressed not to throw my remote at the screen in disgust.

UPDATE: Of course they went there. Ugh.

Continue ReadingSkins: British vs. American

The Indiana Humanities Council

Yes, I have gotten really lazy with the blogging, as MJ calls me out in a comment on the last link blog post I just put up.

  • "the Council encourages Hoosiers to think, read ­and talk. How? By creating its own programs, such as Community Conversations, Evenings at the House and Novel Conversations; by providing grants for humanities programs throughout the state; and by providing a space–physically and digitally–for people to connect and converse."

On Nov 29, 2010, MJ commented on links for 2010-11-29
I’d love to know the context for this link. I miss your bloggy-type words that used to wrap around the links. Do you have any of them for this one? Pleeeeeeease?

Yes. Yes, I do….

I decided to look up this not-for-profit the other day because I remembered them from the Pecha Kucha presentations as a part of the Spirit and Place festival that took place in November. I failed to blog about those, too.

Pecha Kucha is a lightning-fast presentation – 20 slides, and 20 seconds of explanation about each of them. It started in Tokyo in 2003 as a way for designers to present their work, and became instantly popular there. Organizations around the world have taken up the style of presentation. This past year I did one myself at work presenting on how the new ways that fonts can be displayed on websites. Yes, I really should get a hold of the video of that an put it here on my blog, too, because I was really proud of how it came out. Lazy lazy blogger. Bad me.

There is an Indianapolis organization that hosts a Pecha Kucha competition – presenters give an idea for a not-for-profit business they’d like to start, voting happens and the winner is awarded prize money to start the business. The competition we witnessed in November was apparently the 11th one in Indianapolis. Blow me down – I had no idea it was even going on. How does this shit managed to sneak by me? I’m curious and (I thought) reasonably well-informed as to the goings on in town, but this is something I hadn’t heard of until this year.

I went to the presentation with Stephanie and MJ, and noticed that the Indiana Humanities Council was one of the sponsors. That one made me go HMMM? also. I haven’t heard of them before that event, but this group seems right up my ally; promoting reading and the arts. Who are these people doing stuff I’m interested in and not informing me about it? Sheesh, man.

IHC has a very beautiful website, and I poked around on it trying to figure out how long the organization has been around, without quite putting my finger on the answer. They have a blog on the site – that would be the “think.read.talk” tab on the site – that goes back to March of 2010, but that only indicates the blog page was started then. There’s not indication in the “about” materials of when the organization formed, or it’s history. They have some big league people on their board of directors.

And notably most of all – they’re located in my neighborhood – Old Northside – in the Meredith Nicholson house. I didn’t realize that house was still in existence – a good chunk of the historically significant houses in Old Northside have been torn down, unfortunately. Meredith Nicholson was an nationally prominent author in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Indianapolis, and a pal of James Whitcomb Riley. He lived in the house at 1500 North Delaware Street while writing most of his books, including the The House of a Thousand Candles the most famous of his works and one I read just last year.

We’ve been living in the neighborhood for almost 5 years and we’ve toured or visited pretty much every significant house in the neighborhood. Most of them are discussed or linked to on the neighborhood website, but this one hasn’t been discussed much. Odd.

So – the Indiana Humanities Council. They have first Fridays events, although it looks like there isn’t one is scheduled for December. [First Fridays is a art tour that takes place on the First Friday of every month, sponsored by the Indiana Downtown Artists and Dealers Association – something that I’ve also failed to write about, although we went to several First Friday events this summer. Lazy blogger. No cookies for me.]

We need to go, MJ, to one of these IHC event dealios. Because I have clearly been out of touch with what’s going on in the city for some time. And I need to get up to speed.

2022-03-12 Update: I live 5 blocks from the Indiana Humanities House and I still have not visited there. So yeah, I really got on that one.
Continue ReadingThe Indiana Humanities Council

After Facebook

After seeing The Social Network, I was curious what the other parties to the lawsuits were doing today. I can’t find information about what Tyler Winklevoss is doing, but this is what I could find on some of the other early facebook competitors & partners.

Cameron Winklevoss
Guest of a Guest
A site dedicated to promoting exclusive parties in New York. In their words: “Guest of a Guest New York covers the People, Places & Parties of Gotham; from the ballrooms of the Upper East Side to the barrooms of Downtown and all the hotspots in between. So come along for the ride and be the guest of a guest as we bring you the pulse of the city that never sleeps.” This seems to be the strongest of the post-facebook ventures, and you can see some of the facebook blueprint there – the exclusivity part, especially.

Divya Narendra
“SumZero is an exclusive financial utility focused on helping top tier investors share actionable ideas and grow their professional networks.” – No way to actually see how this works behind the scenes, so it’s working with the exclusivity factor, too.

Eduardo Saverin
Still owns 5% of Facebook, and made the list of American billionaires this past year. No word on other ventures that he might be pursuing, from what I can find.

Sean Parker
Still on the board and drawing a paycheck, although not directly involved after the cocaine party bust. And he’s now associated with Causes, which is connected into Facebook.

Business Insider has a list of 27 amazing things you didn’t know about Facebook – The List is culled from the book “The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World.” Unfortunately the list on BI is one of those stupid articles that places each of the 27 items on a separate screen so you have to click through. I hate that shit.

Here’s an item I thought was interesting, though:

LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and Zynga owner Mark Pincus own a crucial social networking patent – and that’s why they own some Facebook stock.

Given that these guys had some really bright ideas, I expected to see a bunch more creative stuff coming from them; maybe The Next Big Thing. I don’t see it there, though. But in hunting around, on a tangent I saw that Caterina Fake, the founder of Flickr was working on Hunch– I’d heard that before but hadn’t taken the time to figure out what it was. Very interesting – that actually could be the next big thing.

2022-03-12 Update: It was not the actual next big thing. I’d totally forgot I had an account there and can’t remember it. The site is dead; the URL isn’t even parked anywhere.
Continue ReadingAfter Facebook

Me and my shallow brain

Howdy? How have you all been. It’s been so long since we talked. I’ve been cheating on you with Facebook, I admit it. But Facebook is giving me tennis elbow, (damned Farmville!) so I need to lay off the junk for awhile.

Also, according to Nicholas Carr in his rather alarming book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains – Facebook is making me stupid. Actually, the whole internet is. It’s probably your fault.

Seriously, though – the book set off some alarm bells for me. The central idea is this – the way we read on the internet is fundamentally different than how we read books and longer works of literature, and that difference in the way we read is re-writing our neural pathways and fundamentally changing the way we think as well. People who have been reading and writing on the internet, because it makes us prone to skimming, focusing in short bursts, and jumping from one thought to the next, have lost the ability to concentrate on reading a single lengthy work. We’ve lost the ability to focus on tasks for long periods of time. We’re addicted to feeding our brains with short bursts of knowledge, and we keep going back to that like lab mice to the food.

I heard Carr speak at SXSW, and I immediately could recognize on a personal level what he was talking about – it’s partly the concept I was struggling to express in my “Goodbye Twitter” blog post:

2) Micro-thinking
When you have to parse every statement down to 140 characters, you throw out complexities, paraphrase, and, inevitably, make your meaning less clear. You start to think in simpler thoughts. After tweeting for so long, I find it to be a struggle to think things out and examine ideas in a more complex form. Hence the lack of longer writing on this blog. That is a trend I desperately need to reverse.

I can sit down and read light reading, but if I have to sustain attention for any length of time, I’m screwed. I’ve been trying to pick up and read Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” for three years. It’s only 7 volumes. I read more than that in a year. I should be able to read and comprehend it. But I can’t stay focused for anything more than the first 30 pages. That’s ridiculous.
And other books have given me problems, too. The Diane Arbus biography was a struggle. Non-fiction leaves me stranded mid-chapter. To tell you the truth, even this book “The Shallows” is giving me fits. And I whole-heartedly want to read it.

So how do I “fix” it? That is indeed my question, and one that I tried to ask him at SXSW in vain, because I couldn’t get his attention. So I snapped up the book as soon as it was published in hopes that he provides an answer. I haven’t finished the book yet (see above problem) so I don’t know the solution.
Carr dives pretty deeply into how the brain works – especially the insight science has gathered over the last 30 years. Turns out that our brain makes new neural pathways throughout our lives – our development isn’t stuck in one place after adolescence. We can re-write and re-map our brain’s functionality throughout our lives, simply by doing different things, training our brain to act differently. And the internet is training us to think differently than we have in the past — that may or may not be a good thing.

I’m going to finish this book – I swear I will. And at that time I’m going to revisit this subject and answer some of the outstanding questions in my head. We’ll see if I get there.

UPDATE 2012: I never finished this book. So…
2022-03-12 Update: I went back to Twitter eventually, but not under my own name, and I mostly do political posting.
Continue ReadingMe and my shallow brain

Richard Dawkins

I went with our friend Mike down to Bloomington to visit our friend Joe and to see Richard Dawkins speak at the IU auditorium last night. He was there to read from and discuss his newest book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution.

I don’t have the book and haven’t read it, but the lecture was interesting enough that I’ll pick it up. Dawkins is a compelling speaker and like anyone who regularly engages in scientific inquiry, he rigorously examines his own ideas and lays out premise and conclusions well (unlike, say ME). An excerpt from chapter 2 the book:

We can turn to the example of dogs for some important lessons about natural selection. All breeds of dogs are domesticated wolves: not jackals, not coyotes and not foxes. But I need to qualify this in the light of a fascinating theory of the evolution of the dog, which has been most clearly articulated by the American zoologist Raymond Coppinger. The idea is that the evolution of the dog was not just a matter of artificial selection. It was at least as much a case of wolves adapting to the ways of Man by natural selection. Much of the initial domestication of the dog was selfdomestication, mediated by natural, not artificial, selection. Long before we got our hands on the chisels in the artificial selection toolbox, natural selection had already sculpted wolves into self-domesticated “village dogs” without any human intervention.

Only later did humans adopt these village dogs and transmogrify them, separately and comprehensively, into the rainbow spectrum of breeds that today grace (if grace is the word) Crufts and similar pageants of canine achievement and beauty (if beauty is the word).

Coppinger points out that when domestic animals break free and go feral for many generations, they usually revert to something close to their wild ancestor. We might expect feral dogs, therefore, to become rather wolf-like. But this doesn’t happen. Instead, dogs left to go feral seem to become the ubiquitous “village dogs” — “pye-dogs” — that hang around human settlements all over the Third World. This encourages Coppinger’s belief that the dogs on which human breeders finally went to work were wolves no longer. They had already changed themselves into dogs: village dogs, pye-dogs, perhaps dingos.

I’ve had a copy of The God Delusion since I saw Dawkins speak on the Bill Maher show in 2006, but haven’t read more than the first few chapters. I have to admit I put it down a few weeks ago because as I was reading it, I became depressed about the fact that there is no afterlife and that this life is all there is. Terrifying to me. And terrifying that the idea of an afterlife is so strongly comforting to me that I was willing to put down a book and turn away from critical examination of an important subject out of fear. The childhood indoctrination of religious belief has a powerful effect on rational thought.

I’ve written critically about organized religion on this blog, and particularly on the religion of my family – Roman Catholicism. All of that writing has been reactionary in nature (like almost everything I write, I admit) in response to news stories and I haven’t explored the topic of religion in any depth – in truth because I haven’t done that for myself outside of the context of blog writing.

I guess there’s no time like the present, is there? (Especially if this is all the time we have.) I’ll pick The God Delusion back up and complete it, and do the same for Dawkins’s new book as well. And hopefully I’ll have something intelligent to say about them after.

A few thoughts on visiting the IU campus – wow, college students are young, given the questions they asked Dawkins after the lecture. Many of them gushed to him and about him because he’s famous, and it seemed to me that few of them had read his books or even had a clear as picture of what they were about. It’s odd that they’re on a college campus surrounded by the tools of learning and yet they’re so full of not-fully-formed thoughts. And yet they get to have Urban Outfitters on campus, and trucks that do “to your door” cookie delivery. How unfair.

2022-03-13 Update:
Didn’t Dawkins turn out to be misogynist Mother Fucker? I unlinked his books. I did finish The God Delusion and as far as religion goes, I agree with him. But not on much of anything else.
Continue ReadingRichard Dawkins

Blue Meanies

I’ve been in quite a blue funk lately. A large chunk of that is due to hitting 41, which seems to have affected me more than 40 did by a large margin. The “thinking about mortality” issues that advance with each turn of the year tend to thrust themselves into my conscious mind with alarming regularity. It does not help at all that I’ve had friends die in recent years, and parents of friends are having serious health issues. It occurs to me that this is one of the purposes of babies – watching them grow and discover the world and all the promise of youth is definitely a positive distraction from looking in the other direction.

The other source of the blues is work-related, which is mainly why I haven’t written much about the blue meanies going on in my life right now. I’ve had a long-standing policy of not blogging about work, in order to avoid creating problems with my source of income. I’m somewhat violating that here, but I think it’s fair to say that my morale about our product development is quite low, and that has affected practically everything else in my life; my weekends are filled with pouring over problems and frustrations, and I find it hard to let go and just enjoy the times when I’m not at work.

Photography and knitting have been lifesavers recently — normally I’d take out my frustrations on some fun online project, but web design is the last thing I want to think about when I leave work these days, so other creative outlets have filled in the gaps. I love photography and have learned a lot; I think I’m a bit suspended figuring out where I want to go with it next. I’ll land in the right spot on that soon.

Knitting. Knitting is awesome. I’ve found I’m quite good at what I’ve learned so far, and as a zen “take your mind off things” activity, it’s stellar. Have I even mentioned it here? Holy moley, I haven’t have I? Other than a photo I put up back in May, I haven’t.

Stephanie has been a crocheter for 17 years or so, and has made afghans, scarves, blankets, etc. for people in that time. She’s been wanting to learn to knit, but my mom hasn’t had a chance to teach her because she’s been so busy. One of Stephanie’s skating friends taught her some really simple knitting on a trip to a competition, but she needed more info, so we went to Mass Avenue Knit Shop to find out about classes. I was charmed by the atmosphere of the shop and the wild varieties of yarns they had available, and asked if she minded if I took the class too. So we signed up together. The class teaches how to create a beginner sweater, which covers pretty much everything you need to learn to knit well.

On the side, I’m working on two other winter scarves – one of alternating red and yellow stripes that will look somewhat like this:

Gryffindor Scarf
Gryffindor Scarf

Evoking a bit of that Gryffindor magic, doncha know.

The other scarf is my own variation of a Dr. Who Scarf, which is far enough different in concept to be actually not a Dr. Who Scarf at all, except that it will be super-long and striped. I find I have to disclaimer that because Dr. Who Scarf fans (they are legion) are very religious about their patterns and making their scarves match the props used in different seasons of the show exactly. I find that the preciseness of people who fit into the cross-section of Dr. Who fans with knitting fans to be charming, if not a bit on the unnerving side.

Part of my motivation for this scarf is that it will replace one that I lost – I had a great multi-color striped scarf from the Gap that disappeared from work last winter, and I haven’t been able to find a winter scarf that I liked as well as that one. So I’m making my own!

Tom Baker Doctor Who Scarf
Tom Baker Doctor Who Scarf
Doctor Who Scarf
Doctor Who Scarf

Mine will be alternating stripes of color with black. I’ve restarted it several times; I started with it being too wide and with lots of dropped stitches and holes, so I’ve taken it out and started over repeatedly. I finally have it going the way I want, but I imagine it’s going to take a while to do, because I’m knitting in the round to create a tube so that the “finished” or knit side is the only one that shows (that’s another variation of mine from Canon; real Dr. Who Scarves are garter stitch, not stockinette.) The yarn I’m using is all the left-over bits of stuff that Stephanie used on various crochet projects over the years, so I have the bonus of using up lots of scraps and having a really varied color combination.

Photos of both of my scarves in progress will be coming forthwith. Eventually. Really Soon.

2022-03-12-Update: I made exact replicas of the Doctor Who Scarf and of the Gryffindor Scarf. It took a long time, but it was great. I’m really good at this knitting thing now, former me. Here are the photos, as long ago promised.

My Doctor Who Scarf
My Doctor Who Scarf

Gryffindor Scarf
Gryffindor Scarf
Continue ReadingBlue Meanies

Knitting project

Knitting project

I’m learning to knit. This piece will be a scarf alternating brightly-colored stripes with stripes of black.

2022-03-12 Update: After starting and stopping this 12 times, I ended up knitting it in the round and then stuffing it as a bolster pillow that is uneven and lumpy. It’s now in the attic. I should get it out.
Continue ReadingKnitting project

Anchovy-stuffed Olives

Anchovy-stuffed Olives
Anchovy-stuffed Olives

As long as I’m blogging about silly stuff — Anchovy-Stuffed Olives are yum!

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love these. So much I put ’em on my Amazon Wishlist.

2022-03-12 Update:
Well literally nothing about this post is relevant anymore. Every link broke, I decided I like garlic-stuffed olives better… It’s interesting though, that I became aware of my olives/anchovies/capers savory sort of taste enjoyment right about this time. I know known that the savory flavor profile is sometimes called Umami. Between this and sour beer, I’ve got that flavor profile covered.
Continue ReadingAnchovy-stuffed Olives

Words that end in “-ist” for a thousand, Alex

In creating my current “recently read” list today, I noticed an oddity in my reading choices…

Previously, my reading list included The Sonambulist, and a few years back, one of my very favorite books was The Intuitionist. I also recently enjoyed The Illusionist on DVD.

I know there’s at least one other “-ist” title in my “recently read” list, but when I started to go back and look for it, I realized I have 11 years worth of book lists to look through, and I decided I was too lazy for that. You’d think I’d keep a running list after all these years, but, well, refer to previous sentence re: lazy.

“The suffix -ist is used to denote a person who either practices something or a person who is concerned with something or a person who holds certain principles, doctrines, etc.”

Yes, well people seem to like to write lots of books about such people, don’t they? I have not read The Alchemist, or The Alienist, but I’m not going to be compulsive about it and put them on my “to read” list. The first doesn’t interest me, and the second I heard about from others and I’m pretty sure I might not like it.

The Impressionist is on my bookshelf now, and I’ll probably give it a read.

Given the prominence of the suffix in published works, I thought I might title my own future novel with an “-ist” ending, so I began reading through 1201 such words.

Alas, both The Balloonists, and The Little Balloonist are taken, so it seems that non-engine powered aeronautics covered.

I could go with the Anarchist – there doesn’t seem to be a novel by that name, although there is a Cookbook, and apparently, they are in the Library of late. (that last one is on my reading list, BTW. The first is probably going to get me on watchlists just for linking.

So, how about the Aviarist, or The Bronchioscopist? Well, maybe not that last one. That sounds a bit squishy. The Anecdotalist? That sounds a bit like Auntie Gert telling stories with endless tangents and no endpoint.

An “aquarellist” is a person who paints water colors.

A “cinquecentist” is a poet or artist in 16th century Italy. Both would require me to do research. See: lazy.

The Deconstructionist! Ugh. I think I’d rather shoot them that write about them.

The Fabulist — I think that’s it. Yes, the Fabulist. Damn it — that’s already written. And about that fine fellow Stephen Glass, too. That title almost makes him seem whimsical.

A Feist is a small dog – or a singer whichever you prefer.

A funambulist is a tight-rope walker.

Where the hell am I in this list? F? This could go on forever. or perhaps all the way to
Z. Best quit now.

la·zy·ish: \-zē-ish\ adjective – a: disinclined to activity or exertion : not energetic or vigorous. Indolent, Slothful.

2022-03-13 Update:
I have since read The Alchemist, The Alienist,and The Impressionist.

I did avoid the Anarchist Cookbook. I am still thinking about the The Anarchist in the Library.

And I’m thinking there are more books with -ist since 2008. I may do a revisit. Alas, still la·zy·ish; I may not.

Continue ReadingWords that end in “-ist” for a thousand, Alex