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> OCTOBER 24: The Digital Void
> OCTOBER 16: The Pause Button
> OCTOBER 7: To Infinitively Split
> OCTOBER 2: Internet Figured Out
OCTOBER 30, 2013: Supernatural Tricks
The harvest season is here and it’s time to put on a scary face to keep away evil spirits. As part of a primitive superstitious tradition, Hallow’s Eve is a treasure trove of stories from the “dark side” of our imagination. Masks, skeletons, witches, jack-o’-lanterns and ghosts have given children nightmares for countless centuries, but it is our ignorance of the afterlife that creates such a grim cornucopia of horror. At least, that's what it used to be.
Although considered a topic within the domain of organized religion, Hallow’s Eve has become more of a secular, holiday time for crazy parties and decorating. In the past, people put on rags and smeared ash on their faces to disguise themselves - in order to hide from supernatural creatures. It was believed there was only one night of the year when the spirits of the dead were allowed to cross over into our world and spend time with the living. The only way to escape these spirits was to trick them into thinking you were not one of the living.That was the theory.
There's a common folk tale, of which there are many versions, about a greedy man named Jack who tricks the devil into letting him live even though it's supposed to be “his time” to depart this world. When Jack’s trick goes wrong, however, he is trapped between Heaven and Hell - doomed to wander the Earth for eternity looking for a place to rest.
We also used to celebrate classic monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman, but today the Zombie rules when it comes to the most disturbing side of horror. Most major cities now have zombie walks or parades where huge crowds of people dress up and stagger along toward a cemetery or pub. Of course, the object of their desire is no longer the soul of victims, but their brains.
In the cinema, Zombie films have descended from a long tradition of horror that deals with our fear of “the undiscover’d country, from whose bourn no traveller returns.” Perhaps the most creative latest example has to be R.I.P.D. (Blu-ray just released yesterday) with Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds. The film was a financial disaster. Its total domestic box office was only $33 million with $42 million (foreign) for a total Worldwide of $76 million. The production budget was almost twice that. Personally, I loved the film. The frozen time scene at the beginning was astonishing! Jeff and Ryan were great. The story is a bit of a buddy movie with afterlife cops looking for dead people who didn't want to leave the world of the living. I thought it was great.
It still doesn't explain, however, how "dressing up" has evolved to the point where horror is no longer part of the event. No. Now it can be any concept at all including inanimate objects like pianos, kitchen appliances or slot machines. Then there are the normally shy and bashful women who put on fantasy adult costumes portaying sexy pirates, hot cops or scantily clad cute rodents. Such portrayals may not trick the dead, but it's bound to make them wonder.
OCTOBER 24, 2013: The Digital Void
In the 21st Century we're all pretty used to job websites with huge databases full of tempting postings requesting electronic résumés and portfolios online. Some of them look perfect as if someone wrote a description just for you where you are the obvious ideal candidate. The truth is, however, no one ever hears back from anyone anymore. It's like there's this giant black vortex out there that just flushes our personal data into a parallel dimension called The Digital Void.
What happens to all the data you spend hours writing and formatting that represents years of your life? What happens to all that binary code when it gets overwritten on a hard drive or deleted from a database? Is it really gone forever? We've all heard stories about recyclers who pick up a hundred used, expired lease CPUs from a satellite office of a national government or some gigantic corporate kaiju of a company and somebody forgot to erase the drives. Thousands of memos and volumes of secure information is available to anyone who wants to sift through millions of files. Maybe WikiLeaks could put it online. At least it would get some attention from someone (even if it might only be a lonely, single, perverted field officer of a clandestine secret agency).
I've even seen jobs where you have to do tests and competitions where you write and design a project as if it was real. You can take a shot and spend a lot of time on it if you want to. It all depends on how much you want to work without getting paid. Then you upload it and wonder, "What if I started a company and got all the work done by unpaid freelancers who are just trying to get a job this way." You just don't mention it's real work, but that would be unethical. Sometimes you think stuff like that.
I won't even mention the heartache of interviews. Finding out you've been selected for an interview is like hearing a rumour you might be nominated for an academy award. Don't get your hopes up. Chances are when you read the HR minimum requirements they want a Knighthood, a Medal of Honour and a Nobel Peace Prize. The only trouble is, they're only offering 50 cents above minimum wage.
Of course, there is also the opposite situation where the former CEO of Ultra-Mega-Corp is trying to get hired by the local coffee shop, because the family doctor told him or her to find a job with less stress for health reasons. In that case, the applicant gets the same treatment as everybody else - TDV - and that's why we have lotteries, casinos and racetracks.
OCTOBER 16, 2013: The Pause Button
A common set of coordinates here on Earth is longitude, latitude and elevation. The Prime Meridian and The Equator establish cartesian zero values. The conformally projected grid imposed on the surface of Earth can then be divided into bands of 6 degress (longitude) to project a series of 60 ellipsoids (pointed at each ends) which is the Universal Transverse Mercator. Measuring the distance from the Earth's centre is how we establish the geodetic height of any topographical location above the surface (although there is some ambiguity regarding the precise value of centre from country to country).
There is also the Galactic Coordinate System which is a celestial system in spherical coordinates using the Sun as the centre and the galactic plane or galactic equator to measure positive and negative values relative to it. The fundamental plane was defined by the International Astronomical Union in 1958. Of course, we also have to allow for anisotropy in cosmic microwave radiation to account for the alignment of galaxies rotating on their axes as well as polarisation angles, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
In the Star Trek universe they don't use any of those coordinate systems. They use the Grid, Quadrant, Block and Sector system to define the locations of planets. So for example 43.89.26.05 represents the coordinates of Qo'noS (or Kronos - homeworld of the Klingons). I think it used to be 09.68.27.70, but that was before the "alternate reality" where they have portable transwarp beam devices to perform long-range transportation across multiple lightyears. Really?
Try looking up 184.108.40.206 which is supposed to be the coordinates for Jupiter (according to Khan - played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the movie Star Trek Into Darkness). He speaks the numeric address beautifully, but if you look those values up as an IP address, it is actually registered and hosted by Telus Communications and refers to their geographic location in Canada, British Columbia, Burnaby and you can even reverse lookup the postal code and phone number . . . Latitude 49.250000, Longitude -122.949997. Really.
I've got to disable the pause button on my Blu-ray player.
OCTOBER 7, 2013: To Infinitively Split
The good old split infinitive is at a point of endemic insertion. Many writers are not even aware anymore when they include one. The most famous example can be heard in both series of Star Trek and STNG where the phrase "to boldly go" is heard in the Captain's opening speech. Of course, that first line of the speech isn't even a sentence, so I don't know why I'm even going into this. "Space: The final frontier" does not have a verb. So I guess it might be considered an interjection. By way of illumination, I could introduce the view of my washing machine by putting on some ambient music and talking into a microphone and saying, "Water: The laundry habitat. These are the adventures of my vest and pants."
After declaring it's going to be either a five year or continuing mission, the next three lines all begin with infinitives, "to explore, to seek and to go." Aren't they all kind of the same? Exploring and seeking are pretty similar. I know there is a difference between discovering North America and looking for car keys, but in the Star Trek speech their search refers to "new worlds, new life and new civilizations." Wouldn't they all be found in the same place? You find one and the rest are just foregone conclusions.
The trick is the Captains don't say "to painstakingly explore" or "to vigorously seek." No. The infinitives remain intact there. They are not modified or corrupted. They remain simple, direct and effective, but then again, they aren't really sentences either. They sound like they were written by Yoda. "To explore strange new worlds, we will." is the way he would say it if he was captain of the Enterprise. At least he doesn't split his infinitives.
Kirk and Picard could also have said "to explore enthusiastically or assiduously or diligently." They could have said "to seek eagerly, ardently or energetically," but no, they don't abuse those particular bare infinitives. They save that until the end. My suggestion would be to fix, to modify and to improve the last line by having them say, "To go courageously beyond grammatical boundaries and explore, our quest is."
OCTOBER 2, 2013: Internet Figured Out
There was an article in Wired recently by Ryan Tate @ryantate that got a huge number of hits, because the headline suggested Ev Williams had figured out the Internet. Ev helped create Twitter and Blogger so the comment made everyone sit up and pay attention. To turn his words into a synopsis, it was all about giving people what they want. It's that simple. Isn't that the same as Ryan's story about Ev? It's exactly what people want to know. For example, how do you invent the next Twitter? How do you get the attention of people? How do you go viral? What on Earth do people want?
This is one of the shaggiest old stories! Go back to the great Tom Hanks 1988 movie BIG. That scene in the boardroom, where he says, "I don't get it" illustrates how the research people are trying to prove that popularity can be defined by statistics. Of course, they are wrong. As an innocent, unsophisticated child, Josh (Tom) is just being honest when he says the building that turns into a robot isn't fun. The adults who run the toy company (where he works) no longer know what fun is. They have to rely on marketing reports.
Most business strategies are based on research out of necessity. What people want seems to be a baffling mystery to them. Look at the movie business. It is one of the most volatile industries where we can see the evidence publicly from week to week. How can you spend $200 million on a project no one wants to see? As a matter of fact, it happens all the time. From Green Lantern to John Carter to R.I.P.D., those films left a lot of people in financial flames. On the other hand, there are little films that only cost $5 to $15 million and earn $200 million. Go figure.
No wonder the NSA is trying to find out what all of us are doing. It's why market research companies keep track of everyone's credit card activity in order to predict what they are going to buy next. I wish they would pay attention to my requirements. I can never find my favourite sandwich when I go the to coffee shop or my favourite fruit smoothie when I go to the grocery store. They are always sold out of those, because they are too popular. Too popular? Doesn't anyone notice when one item is constantly out of stock while all the others hit their expiry date?
Of course, it's all about "delivering what people want." That's a secret? We need the co-creator of Twitter to tell us that? It's so obvious it's almost absurd. Apparently, Ryan Tate's article got more hits than Wired's home page yesterday! The only people to whom it may not be obvious is the US Republican Party.
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