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True Blue Door

True Blue Door's Journal
True Blue Door's Journal
November 6, 2013

My Nature Photos #1 (San Gabriel Mountains)

I haven't been out into the mountains lately due to mechanical issues with the car, but I have a huge backlog of photos from previous drives and hikes that I'd love to share here. Here are a few of the best, and I may share in subsequent editions if these are appreciated. Oh, and I don't do any Photoshop chicanery with my photos, so what you see is what I saw when I was there:

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710964376/]P1011920[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710869245/]P1011927[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710945304/]P1011931[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710959806/]P1011933 - Copy[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710941674/]P1011940 - Copy[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10711136503/]P1011941[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710862675/]P1011942[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710938744/]P1011952 - Copy[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710937514/]P1011963 - Copy[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710936164/]P1011965 - Copy[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710935264/]P1011966[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710934144/]P1011974[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710857115/]P1011976[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10710949826/]P1011985[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

I love going out into the mountains to get these photos. I just love it. My time waiting around my while car gets fixed has been purgatory. A rental just can't handle it.

November 6, 2013

Hopes and Worries for the new Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio

Every time an apparent liberal heavyweight shows up on the horizon, heading into a big-time office with grand ambitions and lofty rhetoric, the light and shadow of politics deepens. Bill de Blasio is one such person, who has (rather radically) reintroduced wealth inequality and class disparity into the public debate in a way that it has not been present in a very long time despite the issue being the elephant in the room for decades (and I do mean elephant - smirking, flag-lapel-pin-wearing, teabagging elephant).

He won the mayoralty of America's flagship city by speaking to what the sclerotic political institutions had long deemed a third rail in American politics - the glaring fact that a very few among us are increasingly reaping all the benefits and luxuries of society while the rest are left to foot the bill as workers and taxpayers. Nowhere is this fact more painfully in evidence than in New York City, where one part is a 21st century Versailles of soft living, infinite options, glittering (and heavily guarded) skyscrapers, Michelin restaurants, and grownup playgrounds where anyone who appears "not to belong" could be followed and whisked away by police at a moment's notice; and the other New York where things keep getting harder, landlords rule with an iron fist, and if you're a minority, the police behave like predators to your entire family day and night.

But only time will tell if Blasio is equal to the challenge he sees and dares to invoke, because (not to sound like a Matrix character) but knowing the path and walking the path are not the same thing, and convincing the people of New York to give him the authority to try is not the same thing as convincing the myriad interest groups, political blocs, and semi-gangster parasites who make up the New York political machine to go along with his plans. Furthermore, only time will tell if he can withstand the onslaughts of the VAST assortment of powers and resources that will be arrayed to sabotage him and ensure he goes no farther than city politics.

We can already surmise the shape of some of these traps in the very nature of the government he inherits. Bloomberg has created one of the "safest" times in New York history in terms of crime, but he did so by cheating - he turned the city into a police state where minorities have no civil rights and police are not bound by the 4th Amendment at all. Obviously crime is going to go down when the police have unchecked power, but that's not a bargain a free society is willing to make, because it just substitutes crime by criminals for crime by authorities. If/when Blasio intends to cut the Gordian Knot of Bloomberg's NYPD policies, he is going to walk a tightrope that on one side are skyrocketing crime statistics as the relationship between police and citizens returns to "balance," and on the other side are merely cosmetic changes that preserve an indefensible circumstance making life oppressive and frightening for the city's minorities.

That's just one of the many Roadrunner booby traps Bloomberg has left in his wake, that Bill de Blasio will have to either defuse, avoid, or spring with such alacrity that they can't do the intended harm. And even then, it remains to be seen how he intends to force a thoroughly corrupt, 1%-puppeteered city government into addressing the aforementioned elephant in the room, and how he intends to cultivate relationships with a state and federal government that are no less under the control of their own cadres of rich sociopaths. Either he will learn multi-dimensional politics very quickly and play a municipal version of Ender's Game on the streets of Gotham, or he will - sadly, as most do - flounder in the face of traps and sabotage from all sides, then quietly disappear into the background, another failed hope.

November 5, 2013

Five directors who "Get it."

What is "it," you ask? Well, the thing they have and others don't.

1. Martin Scorsese

I would watch grass grow if it was filmed by Martin Scorsese, and it would of course have a killer soundtrack. Thanks to my parents unwisely having allowed me to see Goodfellas on HBO at age 13, I spent the next two years neglecting my education in favor of petty crime. And I don't regret a moment of it, because it was the most fun I had until college. The cautionary parts of the movie had gone right over my head, but the part where Henry Hill did whatever he wanted and collected money as if it were laundry lint made perfect sense to me. And somehow it worked and I got away with it for two years. Basically, Scorsese is the devil - but the devil you love. He breathes driving, pulsating life into everything, including more benign subject matter like "Kundun" and "Hugo." A true avatar of the Italian-American spirit, no matter what subject he's addressing.

2. Stanley Kubrick

As visceral as Scorsese is, Kubrick was ethereal, and yet equally powerful. His cold eye was piercing with the light of a thousand suns, razor-sharp, and yet the environments he created were woven with impenetrable intricacy and immersive experience. Every moment is fraught with pagan intensity, glaring eyes laden with meaning, words packing a weighty wallop, and visuals from heaven's own vault. Reportedly a tyrant to work with, his actors' sacrifices on set were always worth it. Unfortunately, he's dead, so there will never be another entry from the Director of Directors.

3. Roman Polanski

Geniuses tend to be crazy or immoral in some way: Scorsese created one of the most beautiful films of all time (if not THE greatest) based on the life of a useless junkie hoodlum and made it seem like the most epic thing ever; Kubrick was a sadistic tyrant who emotionally and sometimes physically tortured his cast to get the desired performances out of them; and Roman Polanski...well...you know. But Polanski's movies tend to be seamless Gothic masterpieces, as if immaculately conceived from wafting smoke in the midst of a symphony orchestra. If there is an "it," he most definitely has it.

His Holocaust film "The Pianist" is probably the best movie ever made on the subject, reducing colossal horrors and wrenching chaos to the human-scale struggles of one man's survival. No self-important melodrama or sweeping, operatic depictions of larger events - just desperation, fear, and determination amid events not under the main character's control. Polanski's contributions to the horror (Rosemary's Baby) and noir (Chinatown) genres are no less amazing, and I happen to also be a fan of his more deprecated smirky horror movie "The Ninth Gate," which I recommend to anyone who hasn't seen it.

4. Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson is basically all of the writing talent of David Mamet with the addition of good camera instincts, music, and an extended attention span. While it's often difficult to enjoy his movies as entertainment because they're so kaleidoscopic, and also hard to remember details about them for the same reason, there are so many powerful scenes with inescapably weighty performances, perfect soundtrack accompaniment, and unexpected dialog that you almost have to grudgingly admit that Anderson gets it. Probably the most iconic example would be Mark Wahlberg's character Dirk Diggler hitting rock bottom in a crack house in Boogie Nights just as his friend goes berserk and tries to rob armed drug dealers.

You can see it in his face as he's internally collapsing, all while chipper Rick Springfield music plays in the background and a sleazy crackhead/dealer played by Alfred Molina dances around manically in his underwear. It's the most ludicrous, pathetic thing ever, and the two main characters (including John C. Reilly's character) know it and try to bail, setting in motion a piss-pantsingly realistic shootout. If you were ever in a situation where you were around two really dangerous people who got into a fight, you can sympathize with the main characters as they ran like rabbits from the scene.

5. Coen Brothers

Technically these are two directors, but since they always work together, I'll include them as one. They not only "get it," but they get it in a way that no one else does - their films all have a certain grounded, solemn moral sensibility, even when the material is purely comedic. Even in a movie as deliciously silly as The Big Lebowski, the characters are profoundly solid, and rooted in human truth. And in their remake of True Grit, an Oscar-nominated action-Western, there's a pervasive air of tragedy and horror every time someone gets shot - no one is a disposable redshirt, even if they have barely any screen time. Even though the main character is an old-hand gunslinger with a long line of bodies behind him, you see his face darken and collapse when he's forced to shoot someone. The Coens are by far some of the most humanistic filmmakers, and yet their morals are never preached - simply embodied in living motion.

November 2, 2013

Would this be a good place to continue some of my science series?

I had run a popular science blog elsewhere called "Getting to Know Your Solar System," structured like a guided tour of the regions and major bodies of the solar system, with lots of beautiful probe images and my own explanatory narrations and diagrams. What remains of them is only partly salvageable, but it was my proudest work, and I'm hoping to eventually resurrect the series here. Basically its' like this:

Each entry shows lots of beautiful images of a celestial object in the solar system, while also describing the science behind it, its environments, its orbit and other behavior, how humans discovered it, and what we might some day do with respect to it.

It can get quite involved, and some of the entries have run many pages long. When they get too long, I've had to break it up into multiple entries. For instance, I broke up my discussion of Earth into six different postings to at least superficially cover the vast amount of knowledge we have about it.

What do you say, folks? Some of you might have seen my Getting to Know Your Solar System series in its original home, so now that it can't continue there anymore, would you like to see it resurrected and brought to completion? And is this the right folder for that? Let me just whet your appetite:

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10634450526/]Saturn Clouds 3[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

[url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/106981058@N06/10634428915/]rainbow[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/106981058@N06/]brianswiderski[/url], on Flickr

November 2, 2013

You might be a geek if....

You tried to buy a hooker with Bitcoins.

You know the Three Laws of Robotics more intimately than the Bill of Rights.

You thought Paradise Lost was a ripoff of The Silmarillion.

Someone calling on the phone rather than texting is invading your space.

You tried to use a Jedi mind-trick on a mugger, with painful result

November 1, 2013

5 Republican jokes.

1. Why do Republicans hate wine?

In vino veritas.

2. What do you call a Republican in poverty?


3. What do you call a Republican science teacher?

A failure.

November 1, 2013

I like Downton Abbey as entertainment, but it's a whitewash as history (a few spoilers).

The compassionate, fair-minded, mutually respectful relationship between the noble Crawley family of Downton Abbey and their house servants is pure fiction, and a retconning of modern values to a time when they hadn't really penetrated the British aristocracy (assuming they ever have). The job of house servants in a lordly estate was to be invisible, and the more high-falutin' the estate, the more stick-up-the-butt prim and obsequious the servants had to be to get and keep their jobs.

In the show, butlers and maids are free to act like human beings while doing their jobs - to look directly at the Lords and Ladies while taking instructions or inquiring about something, and to stand comfortably while acting as waiters. That's not how it was. They had to basically be human statues while waiting on the Lords and Ladies, eyes unfocused and still, standing and walking and serving with utmost military precision, no movement wasted and all superfluous sounds avoided. Their job was to be the human equivalent of robots, and to the maximum extent possible avoid making anyone aware of their existence. And they were treated accordingly if they ever broke form - not as people doing a job, but as machines that were no longer useful. They would be cast aside without a second thought, and be unable to get a job anywhere else as servants to the aristocracy.

The rage that fueled British class warfare was real and 100% justified. Aristocrats were beyond-the-pale arrogant and callous toward their servants, in ways that make the most psychotic Wall St. corporate executive seem like a hippie. People sought jobs as house servants because it afforded them food, shelter, and some above-average spending money - and because it was cleaner and safer than working in a factory. But there was no kindly Lord inquiring about your health and family life - just some entitled jackass glaring in fury because his butler with a broken arm hadn't buttered his toast properly.

The social wall between the aristocrats and the servants of an estate was absolute, and fraternization of any kind apart from maybe Christmas was considered an outrageous breach of decorum and natural order. A "good" employer was one who paid slightly better and didn't fire people at the drop of a hat, but characters like Lord Crawley simply did not exist, and a Lady of the estate marrying her Irish chaffeur? Please. The Lord wouldn't just fire him - he would have him arrested on a fake charge and shipped off to some labor camp.

Communism didn't arise out of a bunch of intellectual theorists musing about economics - it came about because the aristocracies were straight-up evil and brutal, even in the relatively fair-minded culture of Britain.

Profile Information

Name: Brian
Gender: Male
Hometown: Southern California
Member since: Mon Oct 28, 2013, 05:48 PM
Number of posts: 2,969

About True Blue Door

Primary issue interests: Science, technology, history, infrastructure, restoring the public sector, and promoting a fair, honorable, optimistic, and inquisitive society. Personal interests: Science fiction (mainly literature, but also films and TV), pop culture, and humor.
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