Archive for May 22nd, 2011

Today, James and I went to see “Pirates of the Caribbean (4): On Stranger Tides“.  It’s another of the summer block-busters and it’s basically pure Disney entertainment.  The reviews I saw were BAD, but the movie I saw was good…  Go figure!  It doesn’t have the originality of the first and it’s missing two of the three main characters, but the main man (Johnny Depp) aka Captain Jack Sparrow is there and he pretty much carries the movie.  The romantic interest is played by Penelope Cruz and she’s ok.  The camera still loves her, but they are both just a little too old for these roles.  The action is not as swashbuckling as in prior editions, but it’s still ok.  I say that because the scenes seem to lack the spontaneity of the first two.  Like the third, they are starting to become set pieces always calling forth the Pirates Theme music.  Still, both James and I found it very entertaining and a good summer flick.  I’ll definitely add it to the other three when it comes out on DVD.
I’ve added three songs to my Poems page: Patches, This Ain’t Nothin’ and Tough.  The first (Patches) is a song I remember from my teens (1970 – although it seems like it’s from an earlier time).  Some vague memory came back to me and I looked it up on Google and YouTube and found it.  The song was originally performed by Chairmen of the Board, but it’s the Clarence Carter version which I remember.  His voice still haunts me when I hear this song today.  If you’re too young to know this song, you have GOT to go listen to it on YouTube!  (Check out the lyrics first…)
The second and third songs are performed by Craig Morgan.  He’s not a real big country star on my radar (yet).  I guess because he’s only been around for about ten years, but he keeps putting out songs I like.  These two are about loss (“Nothin’“) and almost losing (“Tough“) and what really matters most in life.  I admit I’m a softy and both of these songs make me cry.

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Today I finished “Who’s Afraid Of A Large Black Man?“, by Charles Barkley (edited by Michael Wilbon) (2005©). This is a book about racism in America. More specifically, it’s a book about asking successful people to discuss their experiences and views about racism in America.
Charles Barkley is a famous former professional athlete. In this book, he interviews thirteen people to open a discussion about race and racism in America. The list includes: Tiger Woods, former President Bill Clinton, former Senator (current President) Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, and George Lopez. Each of the interviewees brings their perspective to the issue. All say essentially the same thing: we’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a ways to go.
I found the book a fascinating (and very quick) read. My own view is, of course, mixed with my personal experience – racism exists and is a powerful force for division in the country I love. I have seen it face to face, experienced it, seen people look away, and seen people rise up to the challenge of it.
I believe racism in America is about fear and economic opportunity. The fear is the fear of “others”. Those not like us. Those not from around here. Them. I believe there is a natural tendency in humans to bond with those we are near and associate with. Call it localism, nationalism, tribalism or some other kind of “groupism” and it still results in the same thing – “us” against “them”. This tendency is played upon and magnified by those who seek to “control” the majority of Americans – the majority who just want to get on with their lives, get ahead a little financially and raise a family. The tactic is to divide and conquer and, as I mentioned previously, race is one easy way of dividing people who might otherwise find common cause.
There is a perception in modern society that we can’t ALL have great jobs – whatever “great jobs” means. That may be correct. But, we should all be able to work hard for a living wage. Note, I said “living wage”, not “minimum wage”. “Work hard” means more than just showing up, although that is a very important part of working hard. It also means giving your best effort during the time you are working. It normally means using your brains as well as your muscles.
I question this perception / belief / assumption. I believe we can all earn a living wage. We are not all going to be “rich”, but I believe our nation is unique in its ability to fund equal opportunity. I’m not sure we always had this ability, but I certainly believe we do now. I believe we are moving into a post-industrial (post-standardized, post-mass produced) world where the benefits of industrial scaling are beginning to decrease and the benefits of limited, customized, specialized manufacturing are starting to dominate. On top of that, we are now better able to use technology to make very specific (small scale) manufacturing cost effective for the majority of products. And finally, a significant portion of the economy is now purely digital, meaning: it isn’t consumed by use.
There is a saying that a smile is something you can give away freely and never have less of. This is what we are approaching with an economy based on digital use without consumption. The trick will be the distribution of wealth and opportunity for economic advancement. It will be a disgrace to see race rather than ability as the determinant factor in distribution.
The book is a terrific thought provoking read and I highly recommend it!
Finding this book was pure serendipity. A co-worker is also an avid reader and she brings in books and just leaves them for anyone who wants to take and read them. I was walking along the bookself and there it was…

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The advantage of probabilistic systems is that they benefit from the wisdom of the crowd and as a result can scale nicely both in breadth and depth.  But because they do this by sacrificing absolute certainty on the microscale, you need to take any single result with a grain of salt.  Wikipedia should be the first source of information, not the last.  It should be a site for information exploration, not the definitive source of facts.

—  Chris Anderson
From “The Long Tail

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