“Get Out” and the outsider

Aloe plicata. -00290

We saw Get Out, the horror movie by the comedian Jordan Peele. I am not a horror movie fan or, more accurately, I didn’t think I was until I heard the genera explained on Terry Gross’ Fresh Air the day before the movie. Apparently, there are two species of horror films, the slasher in which some relentless force, like Freddy Kruger, is chasing the protagonist and movies in which the protagonist is sucked into what looks normal but seems slightly off. I want to add that a horror film must also have creepy music.

The second kind of film, the sucked in one, turns out to be the kind of film I really like. Rosemary’s Baby is one of my favorite movies and I have always chalked it up to  Roman Polanski, turns out that I just like horror movies (although Polanski did a great job). One of my favorite movies from last year was  10 Cloverfield Lane.

Get Out is stylish, witty, and great fun to watch. It also approaches race and racism in an eye-opening way and we saw it in a racially mixed, packed theater. As an aside, when I say racially mixed, I really mean a higher than usual proportion of African-Americans. Silicon Valley is about 32% Asian, 26% Hispanic, 35% white and only 2% black and I think most of the 2% are former pro-ball players who are now investors. End aside. Peele, the director, is black and so is the protagonist and point of view of the movie – which, I  suspect, changed our usual theater demographic breakdown – but most of the actors in the movie, and the guys we are rooting against, are white.

Looking back at my headline, the hero being black is an integral part of the movie in that he is an outsider. Like all outsiders, he has outsider-radar and is seeing things that are slightly off but his desire to please, to be a good black man, keeps overriding his instincts (but, of course, not ours). The instincts, that are not reciprocal,  that any outsider, including women I suspect, must have about the insiders…if they are going to survive.

If you want to catch a movie that you will walk out of feeling great, I whole heartily recommend Get Out. If you want to stay home, try 10 Cloverfield Lane.

As an after thought, the movie is also funny at times and there was one scare, after which the audience clapped, in effect saying Nice, you got me! 


Blowing up mailboxes

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When I was a kid, a teenager, we blew up a guy’s mailbox several times. I don’t remember the reason, if there was a reason, but it couldn’t have been much of one. But were just beginning to realize our powerlessness as teenagers, on allowances, in a world of rules not of our making.

A couple of years ago now, we were turning right onto 4th Street in San Francisco and a homeless man cut across the street in front of us. He walked as slow as possible, just dawdling across the street while, eventually, four lanes of traffic were stopped, all of us watching him through angry eyes.

The New Yorker has an article about the White House Pressroom in the Trump era. Part of the article is about an infuriating a troll named Lucian Wintrich who is now an accredited reporter complete with a “make America Great Again” hat. According to the article, Wintrich blogs and posts posts like “BuzzFeed Admits Liberal ‘Fake News’ No Longer Works — Points To Gateway Pundits as  News Of Future” after BuzzFeed ran a story  accusing the GateWay Pundit, among other right-wing blogs, of using “alternate facts. Wintrich seems to be smart and he is surely smartass but he seems to be more interested in mocking the news rather than reporting it.

I think the tree antidotes above have, as their common denominator, a theme of powerless men trying to exercise the only power they can muster.

A thought on getting a new camera

Yosemite-00079I got a new camera the other day and I am having a harder time, than I expected, adjusting to it; physically, mentally, and, most surprisingly, emotionally. Physically, the camera is much smaller than my antique Canon 5D – which is why I bought it in the first place- and there is not as much real estate on which to put dials so it takes two steps to get to many things I want, like exposure compensation, and my fingers don’t fall on the dials the way I would like. The zoom ring is manual on both cameras but they zoom by rotating the lens in opposite directions. I know that but I don’t remember it when I am looking through the viewfinder. But all of that fades in comparison to the emotional adjustment. Carrying a full-frame SLR around, especially with a tripod, puts one in the Serious Photographer League. Now there are no more head nods from other Serious Photographers and we pass on the trail in Yosemite. That was unexpected and bothers me more than I liked to admit.

The upside is that it is a way more capable tool.



Intelligence is not a virtue, it ia a measure of something else


What an idiot. My first thought when hearing Trump’s scheme to add 10% to the military’s already bloated budget (last year’s military band budgets totaled $437 million dollars, for example, as compared to 148 million for the entire National Endowment for the Arts).

My second thought was How ironic, calling Trump is stupid is exactly what I’ve been ragging all my friends on for the last six months. Trump is not an idiot, he is smart, very smart. He is also an asshole and I think that is the problem. We Coastal Elites tend to think of reasonable behavior as a sign of high intelligence, and boorish behavior is a sign of low intelligence. It isn’t.

I’ve spent most of my life in the development business and successful bosses, guys who’ve gotten rich, who act boorishly are very common. A good case can be made that being insensitive to the wants and needs of others is a prerequisite for success in the development business (and unmannered and crude are merely tag alongs). 




We have a new transportation appliance

IMG_9075It is a Hyundai Tucson and it is a dreaded SUV. it is also one of the very few cars that I’ve owned in which my relationship is passionless. Actually, when I think about it, this Hyundai is the first vehicle l have ever bought from my left brain. We ended up with the Tucson for three reasons, it is one of the few small SUVs that has a differential lock so it should be at least sort of off road capable, we rented a Hyundai on a drive to Albuquerque and it was surprisingly quiet and comfortable, and most importantly, it comes with free service for 75,000 miles – including a brake job and the 60,000 major service – and Hyundai has a 10 year 100,000 miles warranty.

My justification for buying such a practical car – if soulless, using the term very broadly – is that buying this vehicle will be like an arranged marriage in which the bride and groom learn to love each other after the marriage.  And I think it may already be happening. Yesterday, we were driving over a narrow road that had the right shoulder covered in packed snow, I stopped with the two right wheels on the snow and the two left wheels on dry pavement and floored it. The Tucson drove away quicker than I expected with no wheel spin, channeling all the power to the wheels on dry road. That is sort of astounding and it is all done electronically.

Hyundai has taken on the same philosophy as Samsung, trying to get a jump on the competition by betting the house on an emerging technology. Samsung was making cheap TVs, limping along in the world of Cathode Ray Tubes that everybody knew how to make cheaply. They got out of the CRT business and took a flier on the, then, very esoteric and expensive flat screen technology. Now they are the leading manufacturer of flat screen TVs and monitors. With Hyundai, it is the world of auto-related electronics. The car – and I’m using car in the most general sense – drives OK, but it is not outstanding; this is not a car I would take out to drive the Pacific Coast Highway for fun, but it is quiet, comfortable, and fast enough. What is outstanding are the peripherical electronics like door handles that light up when we get close to the car or a tailgate that opens automatically when we stand next to the back of the locked car. I think that it is the electronics that also control the traction.

As an aside, I was reading a couple of days ago, that smartPhones take such good pictures, not because of the lenses, but because the software is getting so good at interpreting the raw data (much like our brain interpreting raw data from the eyes). The reason the software is so effective is because the cost of development can be written off against the sale of a huge number of smartPhones. High-end digital cameras never sell at the same rate resulting in the software, used to fine tune the picture, being much cruder. We are  nearing the time when smartPhones will take better pictures than profesional grade SLRs. End aside.

Ending here seems slightly incomplete but there is not any more to say. In the meanwhile, we are planning our first big  trip…to Big Bend National Park in Texas. Hopefully, the Tucson will work perfectly.