Fiftieth anniversary

Today was a very joyous day in Greenwich Village. The fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall brought out a lot of people to celebrate in style.

Yet seeing all of these happy joyful young people, coming together for a giant party, reminded me of the historical complexity of such situations. It’s wonderful that so many are able to join together to celebrate something positive, yet the people celebrating are, inevitably, at a certain remove.

The daring act of defiance of authority that led to so much progress took place long before most of these celebrants were born. To them those events must seem somewhat abstract.

Would the young people enjoying today’s celebration be willing to risk their own lives for a similar cause? Fortunately for them, they will probably never need to find out.

Those brave individuals who stood up to an unfair society so long ago are now in their seventies or older, if they are still here at all. I imagine some of them are watching today’s celebration with a mix of satisfaction and bemusement.

For I am sure they know that some wars are never completely won. Mindless hate and intolerance are always waiting in the wings, looking for a new opportunity to arise.

One day that opportunity may rear its ugly head, and the battle will be joined once more. Should that sad day come to pass (and I hope it never does), I hope the young people out celebrating today will find themselves able to rise to the occasion.

Sometimes it’s the little things

This evening I called up Peacefood Cafe and ordered food to pick up. When the man who answered the phone asked what I wanted, I was ready.

“I’d like the Shanghai style dumplings,” I said, “and the vegetable tempura. Also, a slice of the strawberry cheesecake.”

There was a slight pause. I wondered whether the man had heard my order correctly.

Then he said “Oh, I really like that order!”

I know it sounds completely irrational, but in that moment I felt total triumph. I had managed to impress the guy behind the counter in a NYC restaurant with the perfection of my take-out order.

Nobody ever impresses those guys. But this evening I did.

Sometimes it’s the little things.

That bad movie you enjoyed watching

Yesterday, on an airplane, I watched the new Aquaman. It was a bad movie.

There were so many things wrong with it that I couldn’t even begin to enumerate them. Fortunately, you have the critics for that (pretty much all of them, it seems).

Yet my traveling companion and I really enjoyed watching it — even the bad and unintentionally cheesy and ridiculous parts. There is something about watching a bad movie together that brings its own pleasures.

I subscribe to the theory that a large part of movie watching is the person next to you. When we watch movies with somebody we know, we are learning at least as much about them as we are about the movie.

We notice when they laugh, when they groan, when they gasp in disbelief. If you subscribe to that theory, then even you can see how even bad movies can be enjoyable, because they help to connect you with the person you are with.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking here about every bad movie. Some movies are so bad that they are unredeemable. When you watch a movie like that, you and your friend just end up feeling as though somebody has stolen an hour and a half from your life.

Fortunately, Aquaman isn’t that kind of bad movie. It’s the kind of over the top experience that you can genuinely enjoy picking apart for its gaping plot holes, eye rolling inconsistencies, cheesy characters, over-obvious cliches and missed opportunities.

Also, Jason Momoa is great no matter what movie he is in, so there’s that.

All in all, if you’re looking for a bad movie to enjoy, I highly recommend Aquaman. Just remember to see it with a friend.

Imaginary t-shirts

When I read the news, sometimes I respond by making imaginary t-shirts in my head. The question I usually ask myself is “If I wanted to publicly comment on this latest development through a t-shirt, what would I say on the t-shirt?”

It’s tricky, because you can’t put too much. People who see your t-shirt are not going to read long screeds in tiny text.

On the other hand you need to say enough so that people get the point. Sometimes this is easy — so easy in fact, that you don’t even need to make a t-shirt — you can simply buy it.

For example, I bought myself a nice black t-shirt in early 2017 that just says “Nevertheless she persisted.” I knew there was no need to make that one — you could purchase them on-line within one day of the precipitating event.

When I wear that shirt in public I often get an appreciative thumbs up from women passing by. Interestingly, I have never gotten that response from a man.

Reading the news the last few days, I immediately created a particular imaginary t-shirt in my head. I suspect that some people who get the reference would really like it. Others not so much:

      What if your
      daughter were
      “‘his type”‘?

June 26

Today is the date that they started the reign
Of that crazy King Richard the Third
That didn’t end well (the man was quite a pain)
There’s a play on the topic, I’ve heard

Sometimes a leader is really insane
And sometimes is merely absurd
Alas, history is repeating again
And I think that it would be preferred

That rather than wait for a play to explain
The weirdness of what has occurred
This time we just skip the annoyance and pain
And depose our new Richard the Third

The meta-language of corporate campuses

In the last two days I did whirlwind tour of both the Google SF and Facebook Menlo Park campuses. In both cases I met with really interesting and brilliant people, and had great conversations.

But also in both cases I observed an interesting similarity between the two campuses. The architecture of each was marked with a distinctive flavor.

Google has a kind of low-key “cool nerd” vibe. The message seems to be “we may be geeky, but we are cultured, and we appreciate good art and music.”

Facebook has more of a bro vibe. It’s architecture is a bit like your friend who likes to party more than you do.

Yet so many of the details — the cafeteria, the art on the walls, the mini-kitchens and little tips about work above the urinals — were eerily similar. I realize that there is a sort of meta-language of corporate campuses. Beyond the individual differences,
they are all of one species, and it is a fascinating species indeed.

Shades of meaning

In my post yesterday I blocked out a particular word. It actually took me a while to work out exactly how to block it out.

I realized, in the process of experimentation, that different ways of blocking the same word convey different meanings. I am speaking not of denotative meanings, but rather of connotative meanings, which in some contexts are more important.

If you block out a █████ word, readers get interested. You are obviously trying to stop them from seeing something naughty.

If you block out a ◙◙◙◙◙ word, readers just get curious. Whatever could be going on behind those funny little circle things?

But if you block out a ░░░░░ word, readers understand that you are simply removing something unpleasant from polite conversation. Which was exactly my intent.

Such a scamp

Today I read this rather astounding account in the NY Times. I’ve redacted a name here and there:

WASHINGTON — President ░░░░░ on Sunday shrugged off the brutal dismembering of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, just days after a United Nations report described how a team of Saudi assassins called Mr. Khashoggi a “sacrificial animal” before his murder.

The U.N. report urged an F.B.I. investigation into the slaying. But in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. ░░░░░ said the episode had already been thoroughly investigated. He said the Middle East is “a vicious, hostile place” and noted that Saudi Arabia is an important trading partner with the United States.

My very first thought when I read this was: “Oh, that Adolf. Such a scamp. He does have his vicious little ways, doesn’t he? But hey, what can you do? Germany is an important trading partner with the United States.”

Cephalopod week

For those who may not be aware
Today is part of something rare
Rejoice if you’re a fellow geek
Yes, it’s cephalopod week

Those creatures living off our shores
With tentacles and leucophores
Their brains are largely in their feet
And all of them are really neat

An octopus or cuttlefish
Is strange as you could ever wish
A genius on the ocean floor
With arms that number eight or more

Their skin is like one large display
That changes many times a day
And best of all, oh let’s give praise,
The celebration lasts eight days!

They have cats

I am staying with friends. They have cats. Six cats to be exact.

Each of their cats has a unique story, an entire history waiting for the telling. I have come to realize that when you visit friends who have cats, you become a participant in an ongoing saga.

This cat is nineteen years old, that one is as big around as a volley ball. Those two cats there are sisters who wandered in one day, deciding they needed to adopt some humans.

As I am sure you know, cats are imperious. They decide what they want and when they want it, and cat people make sure that they have it.

Sometimes I wonder whether the cats are simply biding their time, waiting for some universal signal, something tuned to a high pitch beyond the range of human hearing. And then they will take over, and we will never see it coming.

But then I realize that there are two reasons why this can never happen. One obvious reason is that the dogs are watching, ever vigilant.

They know all too well that the cats can strike at any moment. And for some reason the dogs are eternally loyal to us humans, unlike the cats. They are, I fear, our only line of defense.

But the other reason this can never happen is even more obvious. You see, the cats have already taken over.