Primer (2004)

Primer, 2004. Debut by a 31-year old engineer, Shane Carruth (playing Aaron). The wikipedia article about the film, and imdb page. Two friends, engineers journey through the process of small company, invention and the consequences. Twisted and recursive plot, with lots of cues spread on different shots and dialogs. Complicated and twisted story line. Difficult to understand all the connections and loose ends after single viewing. Many explanations on the internet. Very good movie for those more engineering/math oriented people –  Ula went to sleep after 15min. The existential and moral aspects might have been pushed deeper in the film. 


The Virgin Suicide

The Virgin Suicide, 1999, Sofia Coppola. Script. Rather poetic, visual, slow and symbolic take on teenager’s world view, ambitions, desires, passions. Dreamers. Fantasies. Love, friendships and affections, all shaping and leaving permanent marks on the entire adulthood. Not spectacular but exploring a difficult subject matters, and doing quite a good job on the narrative level. 

Quotes

“Unable to go anywhere, the girls travelled in their imaginations
to Siamese temples…
… or passed an old man with a leaf broom
tidying a moss-carpeted speck of Japan.

We ordered the same catalogues…
… and, flipping through the pages, we hiked through passes with the girls,…
… stopping every now and then to help them with their backpacks,…
… placing our hands on their warm, moist shoulders…
… and gazing offat papaya sunsets.
We drank tea with them in a water pavilion.
We did whatever we wanted.
Cecilia hadn’t died.
She was a bride in Calcutta.
The only way we could feel close to the girls…
… was through these impossible trips
which have scarred us forever,…
… making us happier
with dreams than wives.

Collecting everything we could of theirs,
the Lisbon girls wouldn’t leave our minds.
But they were slipping away.

The colour of their eyes was fading, along
with the locations ofmoles and dimples.

From five they had become four,…
..and they were all living in the dead,
becoming shadows.”

 

 

“So much has been said about the girls over the years.
But we have never found an answer.
It didn’t matter in the end how old they had been,…
… or that they were girls.
But only that we had loved them,…
… and that they hadn’t heard us calling, …
… still do not hear us calling them out of those rooms…
… where they went to be alone for all time,…

… and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.”

 


Atari musings.

Yesterday, there was an article about Atari’s Golden Years. It made me reflect on some of my teen years, and it made me deeply appreciate those little things that shaped entire trajectories of my life. Like the simple event of my parents decided to buy me my first computer, Atari 800. This is when the love and obsession of computing has started. Coding the first programs and getting my head around “for” loops. And of course, spending endless hours with my sister and brother trying to work out the Montezuma’s Revenge. It is rare to be able to identify a simple event that had such an incredible effect on one’s life, but that Atari 800 shaped my and my brother future.

Interesting stories from the history of Atari include among others these two cases. One is a story of Bill Gates being fired from Atari for not finishing the Atari Basic port – the full story is in the interview with David Crane. Another interesting piece is about another two Apple employees, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak – their prototype personal computer system did not got traction with “in-house” Atari product commitments – instead, they forked and formed Apple Computers. Both inspiring stories – especially for young “visionaries” that work nights to follow their dreams. Everyone has dreams, but having enough guts to follow them is easier said than done.  

10th anniversary – aluminum.

The 10th wedding anniversary makes me reflect on the past – for a while. For one thing, the years have passed incredibly fast, and it does not feel like a decade at all. Emilia, almost 3 years old, and Lidia just 10 weeks. And then us, both of us, working and walking together through various landscapes of daily life. Our little special day ended up with a very warm celebration among friends, with Tony, Sharmila, Rexy, Jaya, Mutu, another Indian friend and another Tony sharing food and cake with us. 

The reflective mood was with me for the last few days. I would not be in the place I am now if it was not for Ula, family and friends that are always around, supporting and helping out.

 


Meeting with the Prophet: Richard Stallman in Otago

Richard Stallman gave a seminar today to a Dunedin crowd in Castle 1 lecture theatre, University of Otago. Introduced by local Green Party representative, Richard was called “Bill Gates of the free software” – a somewhat unexpected insult.  The talk started shortly after 19:00 and went on till 20:30. The termintellectual property” has been discussed first, then the talk concentrated on copyright laws and the philosophy behind Free Software Foundation.  There has been the usual advocating of GNU/Linux terminology and GNU software model, the complaints about greed, power, american politics and disappearing democracies (“even Bush is a freedom fighter”), WTO (“very evil organisation”), DRMs, blue-ray and HD-DVD, music industry, arts, etc. Of course, all of it spoken by a real person in front of me, felt differently to reading about it on the web and watching online videos.  Extremely well presented and narrated story with funny, nerdy but serious arguments along the way. Engaging, powerful and empowering. Very motivational.

No compromises. All software should be free. Richard advocates a refusal any form of compromise or integrity violations. All content created in digital form should be free to copy and share non-commercially by anyone. Referring to basic human freedoms. Presenting a media distribution model with voluntarily payments and taxation to promote arts – this might have been a bit weak and not completely thought out through. Labels and distributors are thinking along the same lines. The difference is, that some argue this idea for the labels and publishers. Stallman argues those voluntary payments should go directly to artists (cutting off the middle-men). As with everything – cutting off the middle man is easier said than done – and you be better prepared for a huge fight. 

Same for books and textbooks. Stallman advocates the same mantra as others, eg. Prof. R. Preston McAfee: “What makes us rich as a society is what we know and what we can do. […] Anything that stands in the way of the dissemination of knowledge is a real problem.”

Film industry would probably redefine itself as they would not be able to sustain multi-billion dollar productions  (“still, the majority of Hollywood produced films are crap anyway”). Talking also about the uses of creative content: 1) content used to conduct daily activities or work (all should be free, for the common good); 2) content as an expression of one’s mind, opinion, knowledge (should be free for non-commercial use, limited copyright); 3) content with artistic intent or entertainment (content should be freely shared, with copyright and fees for commercial use). Digital content should be freely distributable. All software should have source code available, and should be legal to be modified and copied/redistributed. People should not give up their freedoms – they should protect their freedoms instead. Stallman puts emphasis on the concept of sharing.

The talk made me feel bad about the MacBook (or liking using my MacBook). I also wonder about BSD licensing and general models for the software industry and workings of the software vendor. Being open source limits the offering to services, giving proprietary software market advantage (not in idealistic world in which people would be able to see through. But as long as people are excited about Apple products and buy iPods, GNU puts vendor house in a disadvantaged market position). Stallman made a good case, that proprietary software creates giant monopolies (for support, expansion, value-added services etc), whereas GNU-like software opens up the markets, and creates entire ecosystems where independent vendors and companies provide services and support. 

Strong message about non-compromise and integrity. Governments and educational sector have no excuse not to promote and advocate GNU software. If you cannot have it your way, just walk away, do not compromise. Do not use proprietary closed-source software – boycott it. Do not buy it. Do not use it. Make your say. Make your code say which side are you on: do you want to share and give the freedom to the user, to the people? Or are you money-driven and greed-driven corporate career seeker? The talk uses many metaphors with lots of references to evil, good, personal choices and general personal life objectives. 

Final concluding remarks and discussion drags the meeting till 21:10. Final question by Andrew Trottman questioning the validity and motivation of the GNU model. Andrew argues that the availability of both, GNU-like and proprietary software offers more than just GNU-like software alone. Richard points out the potential for abuse, and the restrictions on basic freedoms that proprietary software causes. Not advocating any legal or formal restrictions – instead, appealing to the spirit and ethical values of individuals.

Strong message, with clear objectives. Somewhat idealised view on reality and human condition, with some steps and guidance as to how this might be changed. Focusing on government and legal mechanisms, preaching, motivating and educating the public. Perhaps that’s what needs to be done – informing people about it all and letting them to make their own decision. Strong political stance and insights into corporate politics. 


9 tygodni, 2 dni.

Rosne dobrze. Mam juz 4.85kg, 55cm (za kazdym razem cos jest nie tak). Obwod glowy 39.2cm. Usmiecham sie do wszystkich, zoczynam troszke uzywac moj glos. Jestem troszke chora, i mam troszke zapchany nosek. Bardzo lubie jak moja siostra, Emilia, czyta mi ksiazeczki. 


The bitter taste of chocolate.

Last month we have finished the Monk’s Mind experiment – one of the rules throughout the month was refrain from eating chocolate. As with everything else that I have been deprived during that month, I asked myself lots of questions: why I eat chocolate in the first place, what is chocolate, how it works on my brain, how it is produced, can I go without it, and if so what impact will it have on economy, pollution, etc.

To most people chocolate is just a sweet, good-mood inducing treat, but, behind the seemingly innocent cocoa substance, there is a dark multi-billion dollar industry, with a long history of exploitation, slavery, injustice, greed, and possibly large amount of pollution and byproducts. All, in the name of our sheer pleasure alone. 

One of good reasons to not support production of chocolate is the controversial cocoa manufacturing itself. Ivory Coast the major supplier is causing lots of concern with child abuse and child labour. Even though major industry players agreed in 2001 to take action, after seven years little progress has been made, says Christian Parenti in his article posted early this year. Only few brands embrace the Fair Trade agreements, with majority of industry big guns such as Nestle and Mars  ripping the benefits and good profit margins from cheap slavery labour. Cadbury seems to purchase (most if not all) their supply from Ghana. 

Strong arguments in the debate has been recently (April 2008) published in two books:  “Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet” (here’s treehuger review) and “The Bittersweet World of Chocolate: Sumptuous recipes using fair trade chocolate“. 

I’ll continue to refrain from eating chocolate. I may have occasional one (one that complies with Fair Trade agreements). Cadbury’s dark ghana chocolate might be a good one to follow up on. Not sure what the ecological footprint of chocolate manufacturing is though – I can live without it relatively easily as I’ve learned last month.