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Saturday, June 22, 2013



Friday, June 21, 2013

The Revolution Will Be Televised

No one had expected a worldwide protest would have erupted after a video went viral. In the video, several uniformed security guards tried to shoo away three boys loitering in front of the Neiman Marcus on Rodeo Drive on Halloween night. They began to argue, and the guards pulled out their guns and shot them full of bullets, killing two and severely wounding one.

Protests exploded on Twitter. People all over the country joined an unprecedented online war over class warfare. The campaign snowballed on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and Vine. New online applications sprung up in response to the inadequacy of the existing social media, such as "Town Square" and "Million's March." Online and print news outlets were spent half their staff to report on the daily movements, which soon spread to involve all the major grievances that concerned more than a few people. The young complained about high unemployment rate and exorbitant college tuition. The old complained about near-zero interest rate and diminishing fixed income. The poor complained about massive and growing income disparity. The middle class complained about stagnating wages and rising cost of living. The rich ... It's hard to identify .
who was truly rich with online remarks, but there were no small number of people defending the rich's positions.

The anger and complaints burned across the Web, leaving a trail of scorched cyber earth. At its height, the movement even spilled into other media, as complaints and coverage of complaints dominated the airwaves on TV and radio. By then the grievances had expanded by economic inequality to everything ranging from traffic congestion to car thefts.

The streets were quieter than ever, as more people stayed home. Half were watching the raging debates and protests with interest, feeling a release of all their own frustrations and disappointments. Half were absorbed into the battles and spent hours and hours every day tweeting, posting, and trolling the hottest battlegrounds on the Internet.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Now You See Me

While the hubby was watching "Man of Steel," I sneaked into another theater and watched half of "Now You See Me." The movie is a bit stupid and irritating, but a couple of people in the movie I found utterly fascinating.

One is Jesse Eisenberg. I'd never seen his movies before (not even "The Social Network") but seen his face here and there. Now he seems to have lost the baby fat on his face that the cheekbones and chin are so sharp they might give you a paper cut with merely a peck on the cheek. It's almost like within a year or two his face transformed from a forgettable one to one that stabs me in the eye. Ouch!

The other person that fascinates is Boaz Yakin. Such an unusual name would stick in your memory for years, and his has in mine since the first time I saw "Fresh" in the 1990s, which he wrote and directed when he was very young. It was an extraordinary little movie about ... a boy playing chess with drug dealers and gangsters. Over the years he has written and directed an interesting mixture of movies with varying degrees of success. His name was listed with a couple of others as the screenwriters for this movie. Can't say the end product is a success, but perhaps his draft was better.


Surprise. Not only is Eisenberg a playwright, but he loves Stephen Sondheim. Huh. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Fume

It was Saturday night. I was finishing up some work. From the window in drifted chatters of people on a pathetic patch of lawn at the back of the building six floors below. Along with that was a pungent smell of some sort. Possibly cigar or maybe weed, but I've never been around people openly smoking weed to know for sure. (What rock have you been living under? Well, the one the hubby has been living under, because he doesn't know either.) After a while the stink was irritating enough to drive us to closing the window. Then I developed a pain in the back of my head. No a hint of high. 

The research is going in the direction that one day we can look in a person's nucleus accumbens and know whether he will become addicted to something or not upon using it. People will then be able to make a fairly reliable decision whether to experiment with something or not.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Dispossessed

Obviously everyone knows that Ursula Le Guin is Taoist (I mean it philosophically, not religiously). The Dispossessed is part Ying-Yang, part hypothetical communism/utopia/anarchism, part a reflection of 1970s political protests and movements. But that's not what had my attention. As a Chinese person, all that communist theories and fantasies on the planet Anarres are not unfamiliar. Actually most of the book seems a bit slow and boring. The opposite of Anarres, the capitalist twin planet Urras, is a bit pale and insubstantial (odd considering that it is based on her most familiar reality) except the explosive violence at the end that recalls the real-life time and events. OK, all that is fairly straightforward social sci fi.

Again I have to bring up my cultural background as a Chinese person because the way she describes a not-so-perfect utopian Anarres. There is no law on Anarres, and people enforce social order by customs and social pressure on conformity. It seems nice on the surface that people cooperate willingly and voluntarily, but it is suffocating individualism and free thoughts. The tyranny of the majority. Conformance enforced by the threat of isolation and rejection. Perhaps she modeled it on what she learned of the Soviet society, but it really fits much more snugly in the conventional (not even communist) Chinese society. No laws. No rules. Just soft and intangible pressure to purge the individualism out of you. The bloodless violence and coercion. The smiling cruelty. I began to feel disturbed reading the Anarresti chapters in the second half of the novel because I was reminded of the society built on a mix of communist and Confucianist ideologies in which I grew up, plus the material scarcity and hardship the struggles every working family went through.

The ending doesn't quite work but one has the suspicion that any kind of resolution would be false in this story. The violence is a bit jarring in the otherwise subdued and undramatic novel overall, but I could feel an appropriate rage that must have come out of the Vietnam War.

I generally like Le Guin but do not love her novels, because her characters are not particularly memorable to me, perhaps because they are not particularly emotionally vulnerable. The only exception is George Orr in "The Lathe of Heaven" (my favorite of hers). The main characters in "The Lefthand of Darkness", "The Dispossessed", and the first Earthsea book were all nondominant men who left almost no impression on me. The female characters neither. Sorry.

Another interesting tidbit about "The Dispossessed" is bits of homosexuality casually thrown in. The novel was written in 1973, about the same time APA removed it from DSM in a highly contentious vote among delegates. In Le Guin's anarchist utopia, children experiment with various kinds of sexual partnering in their youth. She approached the issue of sex and homosexuality with the attitude of a true anarchist and a flower child of the 1960s and, of course, a Taoist.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Another Story Idea

Our lives seem real enough, but in reality we might be only a 2-dimensional simulation of a world inside a black hole. But we don't know it.

Need to do research on current understanding of black hole.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Story Idea

A steampunk story set in 1930s Shanghai about a local gang, a few Europeans, and perhaps a Jewish family. The only character I can see now in my mind is the gang boss --- a large, muscular man in his late thirties. He is completely bald and has piercing eyes.

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