Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Cool Place to Live

So this week a bus tour group from Ohio and West Virginia stopped in Pawhuska and used our church Family Life Center for dinner, a Native American traditional dress style show and a presentation by top fancy dancer Mike Pahsetopah. Afterwards, while people were waiting to talk with Mike, one of the tour participants asked how we were able to get him to present for the group. I deferred to the tour people, since I hadn’t done anything but unlocked the door.
But it made me reflect, because this man — who was probably about 10 years my senior — was astounded by something I’ve seen more times than I can count, and I’m whiter than flour. Mike was great, and (to my limited knowledge) a very skillful dancer. The thing is how many people I have to compare him too. Heck, I remember when Woolaroc first built their cultural building and the “Arrows Skyward” presentation featured live dancers. We get cross-cultural encounters every day here, and we can explore a dozen nations without leaving the state. Maybe it takes getting old to do it, but I’m sure glad I grew up here.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Get the Title Right, And...?

I'm not sure if I'll see the new Marvel movie, Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.  I eventually did catch the most recent Spider-Man movie but other than that, I've taken a pass on a lot of the screen product originating in the Mighty Marvel Bullpen.

I read a synopsis of the movie and it doesn't sound all that interesting. Yes, there were spoilers, but trust me, if it had sounded worth it I would have seen it anyway. Apparently Wanda Maximoff drives a lot of the action and one episode of Wandavision was enough to convince me I liked nothing about where that character was going and how she was being used. Still a maybe, though. If some afternoon there's nothing going on and a showtime happens to coincide with the open schedule, who knows?

But I have to say kudos to whoever dreamed up the title. That's a great big beautiful piece of pulp-era wordage right there. Alliteration, a little high-sounding language, a protagonist's name that sounds mysterious and promises a shrouded journey, phrasing that gives the impression that it's one of a series of adventure, sci-fi or mystery thriller novels...someone did some excellent work there.

Now if the excellent work extends to the script, well, we'll see.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Artiste

One of the things the young Friar appreciated in his comic-book consumption -- which, despite claims from certain authority figures, was not indiscriminate -- was a well-done realist style of art. Yeah, you're reading a story about a guy who was born on another world or one who dresses up like a bat to fight bad guys, but they had to look plausible.

His favorite artists of that time leaned heavily in that direction -- Mike Grell, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano and, king of them all, Neal Adams. It was only later I realized how important Adams' art was to some of the medium-changing ideas circulating at the time. Denny O'Neil's far more grounded Batman stories would not have worked if they'd been drawn by Dick Sprang. Sprang's cartoony style matched for the sometimes goofy adventures of the 1950's and '60's Dynamic Duo, but the decision to emphasize the "detective" aspect of the hero left little room for giant exploding jack-in-the-boxes.

Adams also help maximize the new trend of characters' facial expressions resembling those of real people. His classic cover to Green Lantern #85, in which the Lantern confronts fellow super-hero Green Arrow with undeniable evidence that Arrow's ward Speedy was using heroin, shows the expected gritted-teeth judgment of GL, the wide-eyed horror of Arrow and the haunted shame of Speedy. Though there are dialog balloons, they really aren't needed to read even deeper into the three and see GL's confrontation with Arrow's self-righteousness, Arrow's own lament that he missed the entire situation and Speedy's self-disgust and loathing at being exposed by men he had grown up respecting.

As I aged I saw how creative the supposed "cartoony" art could be -- Jack Kirby's blunt, forceful action, Steve Ditko's trippy visions and non-standard heroic characters and Darwyn Cooke's clean retro style. But a Neal Adams cover, inked by frequent collaborator Giordano, could always draw my eye (heh), even if the book featured not one single character I would ever read.

Neal Adams laid down his pencil for good on Thursday, at the age of 80. Comic-book-wise, he leaves behind several who draw in the style he pioneered and who built well with the excellent example they were given. Fans of the medium are certainly better for his choice to enter the field.

Friday, April 22, 2022

At the Appointed Hour

A friend posted pictures of her daughter at the prom, resplendent in a lovely red gown and dancing with her handsome date.

One of the pictures keyed the memory of what I always considered the best time of any dance, especially one where you had to start out in a jacket and tie. Maybe an hour or so in, maybe a little more, when the jacket is somewhere draped over a chair that you might remember, you've perspired your way through the starch in the shirt so it's noticeably more flexible than when you started, your sleeves are up at least a turn and your tie is at half mast. Girls have traded heels and pumps for Chucks or running shoes or maybe just bare feet. The frequency of slow dances has increased but some top 40 jive still remains and you'll have a few more chances to rip it up.

I didn't know dances worked that way anymore -- seems like lots of prom pics show girls in dresses they can't really walk in, let alone dance, and guys eschewing ties or even tuxes for blazers and jeans. It's nice to get an inkling that the important things are still the same.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

An Overlooked but Essential Point

Many online pundits and commenters today have kicked around what it might mean were billionaire Elon Musk to purchase Twitter outright, as he has made an offer to do. Musk says he will take the company private and make many changes.

On the one hand, this is a fun fracas to watch. Musk's commitment to free speech bothers folks who are less happy with it, and their reactions have ranged from disapproval to angry denunciation to weapons-grade tantrums. These are amusing because the number of people who use Twitter regularly is still a small percentage of the world's population and there's a certain glee in watching people get bent out of shape over something you don't care about. Folks appreciative of irony can note that among those shapes most bent out are persons who claim the title of journalist -- people whose right to work and say what they think is protected by the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech and a free press.

On the other hand, even if Musk does buy the company and spends a glorious several weeks making a bunch of its employees get jobs, the end product will still suck. Because the end product of a drive to make a better Twitter is, unfortunately, still Twitter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

General Relativity Works...Change My Mind

A popular meme has comedian Steven Crowder sitting behind a table with some statement on a piece of poster board in front of him. Underneath the statement is the phrase "Change my mind." It comes from a segment Crowder does on his Louder with Crowder program. The meme offers users the chance to insert their own opinion phrase and some clever folks will Photoshop new faces onto Crowder's body or just an entirely new person behind the table.

In a recent Back ReAction blog entry, physics professor Sabine Hossenfelder notes that Albert Einstein's what seem to be absolutely correct formulations of special and general relativity have been proven correct with many experiments -- dating back to just after he published the papers containing them through today. But, Dr. Hossenfelder notes, many physicists spend a great deal of time and energy trying to prove both theories wrong. Why?

Well, she notes, both theories deal with what is called classical or Newtonian physics. Such a study rests on Isaac Newton's famous laws of motion which describe the behavior of moving and stationary objects we might encounter in daily life. But when the objects of study are incredibly small or incredibly fast, Newtonian physics do not apply and researchers turn to the fields of quantum physics and quantum mechanics. Not unexpectedly, theories based on Newtonian physics also do not work well when applied to quantum studies, and that includes both theories of relativity.

Hossenfelder sums up several different areas of inquiry that have proving Einstein wrong as their ultimate goal. The problem is that he was indeed brilliant and his theories have a way of showing true during experiment after experiment -- we lack the ability to make the kind of observations and measurements of quantum phenomena that would show where he erred.

It is as though Einstein himself responds to the efforts to show him wrong with a frequently repeated, "I may not be right, but I'm still closer to it than you are."

This kind of thing interests me because it shows that self-examination is always a part of science and the idea of "settled science" is not a particularly serious one. And it highlights a very important aspect of my day job as a clergy person. Questions designed to investigate and uncover the truth ought never be unwelcome, especially when one claims to be following a God who claims to be in all things exactly that: True.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Ain't A-Gonna Pay No Toll

From the days when our country still had enough of a common culture that a single novelty song could send a mid-level fad into a national craze. Even my aunt bought a CB radio. Let them truckers roll, C.W.  

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Blue Texas?

The post title does not represent the biennial wish of the Texas Democratic Party -- at least until they realize they might be saddled with Governor Beto. No, it's helping me point you to a link on Ted Gioia's Substack newsletter, The Honest Broker.

Gioia describes how a couple of books let him to give a talk on Mississippi Delta blues music while in Austin, and how thoroughly he was then castigated by another speaker for omitting any reference to Texas' own blues history and tradition. In the post, Gioia helps you avoid his mistake by offering some representative and potentially defining tracks of Texas blues for your listening. Which you should, by the way, do.

Much of the time, writing about music gets to be a little tiresome once we wander outside the purposeful realm of the review or critique. The difficulty of describing something aural with words links up with the malleability of the words themselves to create what's just as likely to be fannish fog as focused insight. Check out any of the blurbs for entries from the old Daytrotter Sessions at Wolfgangs.com for numerous examples.

Gioia, however, seems to have been granted the gift of fog removal and sharpening focus and is, as usual, worth reading on the subject while listening to the tracks he suggests. As mentioned before, as long as Substack puts Ted Gioia's thinking and writing about music within my reach, it justifies its existence.

Monday, March 21, 2022

The Virginian Meets Tony Soprano

Recently the free TV streamer Pluto TV -- it's free because they insert commercials, and I wish I could remember where I'd heard of that before -- began airing the first three seasons of Taylor Sheridan's modern Western Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner. I watched the first season and a few other episodes.

The post headline gives you a picture of what you're watching. Set on the sprawling Yellowstone ranch, owned and run by Costner's clan patriarch John Dutton, Yellowstone calls to mind the 1962-71 series The Virginian, starring James Drury and Doug McClure. Drury was the foreman on a ranch owned by Judge Henry Garth (Lee J. Cobb) and McClure was his top hand, Trampas. Like the Duttons, Judge Garth often faced schemes to acquire part of his land or his cattle and was always battling the folks in second place to keep them from pulling him down. The Virginian's fast draw (Drury's character never had a name) or perhaps Trampas's would finally be called on to end the threat.

Yellowstone's Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) combines Drury and McClure's character, but Dutton's daughter Beth (Kelly Reilly) is a far cry from Judge Garth's charge Betsy. She's a borderline sociopath fiercely loyal to her father and other family members. She's devious, manipulative and when holding the power in a relationship clearly a bully herself. Wheeler himself has little to no hesitation about killing John's enemies when required or when John directs him to, and violence seems to be the first item in his toolkit when handling about any situation.

Borrowing a little bit from Dallas, Kaycie Dutton (Luke Grimes) is the good son, married to a local Native American teacher and father to Tate. His past as a Navy SEAL often haunts him, even though he is mostly content with life. Bad son Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley) is loyal to his father but has his own ambitions that don't always parallel the family's. Dutton's recurring opponent is Chief Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham) of the nearby Broken Rock Indian Reservation. The tribe seeks the return of large portions of the Dutton ranch to their ownership.

The show offers a lot of trappings of a Western drama and characters are regularly framed against gorgeous Utah-standing-in-for-Montana scenery. A lot of the Western ideals about self-reliance, protecting your own and standing for the rights of the individual against faceless corporations or bureaucracies feature prominently. But as the other show in the headline might indicate, the people espousing these ideals rarely hesitate to set them aside if need be. The code is held most strongly when it is to their advantage, otherwise it's a tissue to be held up and imperfectly cover bloody violence.

Yellowstone suffers from the tendency to bring forth Great Philosophical Pronouncements from its characters (especially when they are framed by the aforementioned gorgeous Utah-as-Montana scenery), as well as all too frequently having them declare that the previous nasty fight wasn't nasty and now things will really get nasty. The acting hits a wide range. Costner is essentially playing himself, and while Grimes and Kelsey Asbille as his wife Monica bring a lot of layers to their characters, Bentley is all too often not much more than a handsome profile -- what's meant as conflicted appears more as wooden -- and Reilly chows down on more than her share of scenery. Perhaps Beth is supposed to be larger than life but she usually just winds up as over the top.

In more ways than one, Yellowstone also recalls the nighttime soaps of the 80s: Dallas, Dynasty, Knot's Landing and others. Perhaps its storylines are a little more realistic and perhaps its setting a little more believable than the sprawling mansions inhabited by the Ewings, the Carringtons and the denizens of Seaview Circle. And perhaps cowboy hats, Wranglers and aviator shades look cooler than the padded shoulders wielded by Joan Collins and Linda Evans. 

But even so, Yellowstone seems to be a chef's salad of several other dramas, pulling violence and language from The Sopranos, outrageous family drama from Dallas and the like and the ranch-against-the-world setting of The Virginian. The seams show, the blend is off and the show...can be skipped.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Lessons Learned in the 2020's, #236

Those who call a meeting on Zoom do not always mute rabbit-chasing conversations as readily as they might. If Zoom doesn't include that ability, then I have just learned Lesson #237. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Just a Wee Gesture

So over in Ireland at the Russian embassy to that country, a truck driver backed his vehicle through the gate as a protest against that nation's invasion of Ukraine. He then politely handed out fliers explaining why he did it -- in his own words, "I just done this to create a safe corridor for the Russian ambassador to leave Ireland.” -- and walked off with the Gardai officer who arrested him for "dangerous driving."

The Russian embassy reacted with customary hyperbole, issuing statements that suggested CĂș Chulainn himself had arisen and stormed the embassy walls. In fairness, the embassy has been vandalized in recent days, with its fence and other areas well-decorated with anti-Russian and anti-Vladimir Putin graffiti.

An amusing note in the story is a comment from the ambassador, Yuri Filatov, who complained about the protestors. They were, he said, "rough and really aggressive." They're Irish, you cossack-wannabe simpleton.  "Rough and really aggressive" is how they greet dear old mum on her birthday.

Rumors that several gentlemen down at the local have been discussing "infarmin' the Rooshin gentleman jus' what 'roof and really aggressive' means 'round here" are, as yet, unconfirmed.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Endgame

So, the end point of my phone journey was the purchase of an unlocked GSM phone and the purchase of a special kit to transfer my current number to the new phone.

The new phone is bigger and physically clumsier. It doesn't fit in my pocket. It's loaded with Google crap I don't want on my desktop, let alone my phone. It cost me twice as much as the previous phone did. The kit I had to order was shipped with two-day delivery and came in six.

All of this because the phone I had stopped working and I wanted to keep my number in addition to not signing up for some multi-year plan and get on the carousel of new phones every other year.

And not one damn flying car yet.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Must Progress Slaughter All?

So today I attempted to buy a new cell phone. I use a pay-as-you-go service and my current phone has stopped doing the one thing that every other phone from Alexander Graham Bell on down has been supposed to do: Make and receive calls. Why? Who knows? Spent a morning with tech support and neither of us do. Bought a new one at the store where I had bought this one. It uses a different SIM card, which doesn't work in my ZIP code. Returned to the store and learned that none of the phones they sell use that kind of SIM card any more. An interesting bit of post-sale information to be sure.

I search from the company from which I buy my pay-as-you go plan. The chat agent says they no longer sell any phones which use the SIM card that works in my area. I need to buy any of a certain kind of phone -- a description full of jargon that has to be explained -- and in order to keep my phone # they can sell me the proper kind of SIM card, which he offers to do right now, "does that sound good?"
The technology and ability to make and receive calls anywhere is useful. So too, to a lesser degree, is texting. But the jump-through-hoopage swamp of constantly upgrading models making the device you're comfortable with obsolete, arbitrary system changes and the like, masked by a veil of games, toys and pretty, distracting brain softeners made me wonder, on my second trip back home this afternoon, whether I'd be all that upset if I flung this chunk of plastic into the river.
But then I remembered I would rather not litter...

Monday, February 21, 2022

Get Your Grump On

I'm going to do a little curmudgeonly practice here and suggest that we return the name "President's Day" to the shelf from which the retailers plucked it and call this "Washington's Birthday" again. I don't think we need to be clumping in utter failures like James Buchanan, vicious racists like Woodrow Wilson, office-dishonorers like Richard Nixon and so on with some of the men who have held the office of President and served our nation with honor and distinction.

Those of you who have been inflicting my blog upon yourself for lo these many years may remember that I have said this before. I have indeed, which only buttresses my pretensions to curmudgeonly status.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Dangit

 

Always worth a read. Especially today.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Believe It or Not!

1985: Actress Jackie Swanson lands a role in a Prince music video; she is the girl in the titular "Raspberry Beret" who hands His Royal Badness his guitar at the beginning of the song.

1989: Actress Jackie Swanson begins a four-year stint in a recurring role on Cheers as Kelly Gaines, girlfriend of and eventual wife to dull Indiana-born bartender Woody Boyd.

WOODY BOYD STOLE PRINCE'S GIRL!

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Worth the Trip

It's always neat when one's preferred baseball team does something really cool, like covering admission for anybody who wants to visit the Negro League Baseball Museum during the month of February, designated in the United States as Black History Month.

The role that the Negro Leagues played in building African-American communities in many cities and in the long fight towards desegregation is one that people should know if they want to consider themselves aware of our nation's history. As a multiple-time visitor of the NLBM, I can recommend it as an excellent way to begin learning about this important era.

And in February, "tuition" is free...

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Old vs. New

I'm late to the party (pal), as Ted Gioia has made a couple of TV appearances talking about his essay on how older music is crowding out new music. 

I think it is, and not just because a huge percentage of new music is, um, gunk. A few years ago a band called Walk the Moon had a very catchy hit called "Shut up and Dance With Me." In addition to being a neat reminder of the classic Pearl Harbour and the Explosions "Shut up and Dance," it was a fun 80s-sounding throwback that topped the US rock charts and hit No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. The next single managed #4 on the rock chart and #65 on the Hot 100. Two subsequent releases cracked the top 20 on the rock chart but showed up nowhere else.  "Shut Up and Dance With Me" would probably have earned Walk the Moon a couple of top 20 albums back in the 80s and a career that would last at least as long as Loverboy's.

Gioia offers a much more detailed take, but it seems to me the upshot is that the modern audience attention span isn't long enough to keep new bands or performers on top for much more than a song or two. And the music industry responds, which means we never really get to hear how a group or a singer might sound after maturing or gaining experience with songwriting and playing.

Kind of depressing. Think I'll go play some Meat Loaf. Which might mean I'm part of the problem, but since the new music I hear is usually very niche-y in style, there's not much chance of them falling from the charts.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Pun!

Sometimes, it's the sneeze of a clown that causes the problem, not the tears...

Friday, January 14, 2022

Non-Sensible Token

Caleb Scharf, writing at Nautilus, notes some interesting things about one of the latest crypto-currency related crazes, called "non-fungible tokens."

Simply put -- and I admit upfront that I am not at all sure I properly understand this whole shebang -- NFT's are some kind of electronic or online asset to which provenance is unbreakably assigned. If the NFT is a digital image, for example, the same blockchain technology that backs crypto-currencies "marks" one image in such a way that no matter how it is copied, the original is always distinguishable from the copy.

In order to ensure a painting is real, its history is traced from artist's easel to purchaser's rec room wall. Should the history not be available, then recent advances in scientific testing can compare brushstrokes, pain composition, canvas, and so on. So a stolen painting that suddenly resurfaces is tested and can be pronounced real, establishing its provenance.

NFT's, as mentioned, use the same blockchain technology that backs up digital currency. The problem is that, as a part of its anonymity and validity, the computational work in a blockchain is widely distributed -- and highly power-hungry. Environmentalists have been grumbling about the energy use level behind digital currencies, but their defenders can at least point out that such currencies are a means of exchange and might have some utility.

It's hard to say the same about the utility of NFT's. If I take an online image and use it as, say, the background photo of a blog, I really don't care if it is the original. And if some people do care, unless we're talking about a request to take down a copyrighted image I don't care that they care.

Perhaps it's because I'm some middle-aged dweeb who has a job in the real world and deals with people who live in it, interacting with them as real people and thinking that's of some value that I can't stop thinking, every time I hear people talk about NFTs: "That's just about the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my life."

Until someone tells me how much money this or that NFT sold for, that is. That's even stupider.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

It Might Be Just What We Needed!

Gen-X single men who have been exhibiting our generation's well-known slackitude, our time has come!

Our task is before us, gentlemen. I have every expectation we will acquit ourselves with honor and distinction.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Data Error?

Writing for the American Council of Science and Health, Cameron English outlines "four awful science journalism trends that should die in 2022."

The majority of the trends have been exposed or exacerbated by the pandemic and have a common thread as English presents them. They mainly fumble when that old-fashioned quality of "nuance" is required. Correct facts are used as the basis for significant overreaction, alternative explanations are shoved to the side, the amazing diversity and curiosity of science is covered over by being lumped as "the science" or "science," a point of view that overlooks the reality that settled ideas are usually not a goal, but a scientist's biggest target.

I know a few scientists and was in college with a bunch of students exploring its various fields, so I echo Isaac Asimov's statement that what makes scientists' eyes light up are data that seem a little wonky. Their greatest joy is not in saying "Eureka!" although figuring out a problem is a welcome development. No, a scientist's favorite phrase is, "Hmm. That's odd."

The kinds of errors English describes come from science journalists who have gotten so tribal in their outlook that oddity is crushed, ignored, explained away or called an "outlier." But in reality oddity means it's time to crack the knuckles, lean forward over the microscope or computer or data chart and say, "The game's afoot indeed."

If they are Sherlock Holmes fans, that is.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

A Magical Disappearing Act

According to this story at MSN, viewers of the recent HBO 20th anniversary special of the release of the first Harry Potter movie learned several things. Ten, in fact, although when you read the story you'll find more than one that was already known to most fans of the series.

You'll also find out that an entire reunion special about the movies, which are based on some of the best-selling books of all time, can be done with their author shown in only B-roll archive footage talking about how hard it was to cast the title character.

You see, Potter author J.K. Rowling has staked her claim on the idea that gender is a fact. In an essay on her website she makes this and similar statements several times; acknowledging the reality of transgender people while insisting that those who claim there is no material difference between folks who transition to a gender and ones who are born to it are incorrect. Much of modern culture disagrees, and so naturally both sides frequently and calmly exchanged ideas as they sought to open everyone's mind to new points of view.

Just kidding! We live in a world where instead of flying cars scientists gave us Twitter, so the people who tweeted the more hateful, divisive, dismissive, inflammatory and angry posts the fastest won and we're treated to a spectacle of a Harry Potter reunion and reminiscence special that left out the woman without whom none of it would have happened. Whether one believes her views on gender are accurate or inaccurate and harmful, it's simply ludicrous to leave her out of a discussion of these characters and stories.

Rowling isn't completely erased, mind you. She appears in the aforementioned archive footage and is referred to now and again during the discussions. She's talked about a little, kind of the way that the late Richard Harris and Alan Rickman are. Of course, they're dead, while Rowling isn't. She's just an un-person, if I may borrow a term from another author.

Who made every ungrateful wretch in that special stinking rich.