Saudi Arabia: A Country in Motion

>> Thursday, March 11, 2010

Just so you know!

Country In Motion from Federico Costa on Vimeo.


"Google is evil!" or "Is Google evil?"

>> Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I suppose it's the context that really matters, but I came across two mentions of Google in the world recently.

The first was this video produced by ABC (Australia).

When it comes to privacy and the mentions of medical records and genetics, well, that's going a little too far for me.

The second was a blog post on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish from last Friday entitled, "Google Is Making Me Stupid." Chris Bodenner reiterates points made by Nick Carr's Atlantic cover story, "Is Google Making Us Stupid," and survey results from the recent Pew study on the internet, The Future of the Internet IV. Obviously the study isn't solely about Google, but this statement did remind me of Google's privacy issues:

Anonymous online activity will be challenged, though a modest majority still think it will possible in 2020: There [is] more of a split verdict among the expert respondents about the fate on online anonymity. Some 55% agreed that Internet users will still be able to communicate anonymously, while 41% agreed that by 2020 “anonymous online activity is sharply curtailed."

Ironically, political dissidents in countries such as China and Iran are recommended to use Gmail due to its security. Go figure.

Back to the "evil" question regarding Google, I saw these two quotes in the Pew survey specifically regarding Google:
“Google will make us stupid and intelligent at the same time. In the future, we will live in a transparent 3D mobile media cloud that surrounds us everywhere. In this cloud, we will use intelligent machines, to whom we delegate both simple and complex tasks. Therefore, we will loose the skills we needed in the old days (e.g., reading paper maps while driving a car). But we will gain the skill to make better choices (e.g., knowing to choose the mortgage that is best for you instead of best for the bank). All in all, I think the gains outweigh the losses.” -- Marcel Bullinga, Dutch Futurist at
“I think that certain tasks will be “offloaded” to Google or other Internet services rather than performed in the mind, especially remembering minor details. But really, that a role that paper has taken over many centuries: did Gutenberg make us stupid? On the other hand, the Internet is likely to be front-and-centre in any developments related to improvements in neuroscience and human cognition research.” – Dean Bubley, wireless industry consultant
Perhaps I watch too much sci-fi television, but I just read quotes that could easily be heard on Caprica, the new prequel series to Battlestar Galactica that documents the creation and rise of the Cylons. And, no, I'm not kidding on that one. All that online information constituting and creating online identities, "offloading" certain tasks to a computer, it's all right there in a tv series most people aren't watching.

Perhaps it's not the best clip to demonstrate the similarity, but it was the best one available.

The Google Monster...
(“Google Monster" by Asaf Hanuka)


Lost: Baywatch

Fitting since Sawyer has his shirt off almost every other episode.


Sherlock Holmes

>> Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My mother decided she wanted to see this last Friday. I was pretty shocked. I told her it was more action-y than other Sherlock Holmes films. That didn't dissuade her. We saw it on a Saturday matinee, no way were we going to see it at 4:30 on Sunday during the Oscar red carpet.

I've finally seen a Guy Ritchie film. I'm not quite sure what the fuss was all about; although, I did enjoy Sherlock except for the first half hour where I thought my ears were going to get blown out. Mon Dieu! I thought I was at a rock concert without the ear plugs. I'm not talking about sound design, the volume really was up too high. They must have turned it down at one point. I'm not sure when, but it made watching the first part way too difficult because it was just down right uncomfortable.

I really liked RDJ as Sherlock. The only other Sherlock Holmes film I've seen was Young Sherlock Holmes, which always freaked me out as a kid. The two Sherlock films I've seen both have story lines or investigations into the occult/paranormal. But back to RDJ, I seriously can't see anyone else in the role at this point. He talks so fast so naturally that it seems to follow that his mind would click at a light-quick pace.

Above all, I really like the score. I've had that banjo and piano in my head in one way or another for a couple days now.

Shame it lost the Art Direction Oscar to Avatar. I would have liked to see Sherlock win something. At least there will be a sequel.


Just making it worse

When you invite the media to observe and report on the strife within your congregation.

Last Monday, March 1st, an article was published in the local paper about an ELCA congregation considering changing its affiliation from ELCA to LCMC. Let's be clear about this: they already had a vote in January and it failed. Yet many just can't move on. So they had a public forum last Thursday where non-members were allowed to attend and discuss moving from the ELCA to LCMC.

On Thursday, while watching the news during dinner, one of the local stations aired a short segment on the congregation. (Yes, KSL is owned by the Mormon church and that anchor doesn't know how to pronounce 'ordained.')

Video Courtesy of

I can't imagine that it makes the situation better when the whole state gets to find out what is vexing your congregation, particularly in the state with a Mormon majority.

Naturally, the local paper did a follow-up article after the Thursday meeting. I'm left with the notion that since this is now in the public realm, we're going to get more articles in the months ahead about this. That church's current newsletter (pdf) is already documenting the problems within.

On page 2:
It saddens me to see this family torn apart by recent events in the ELCA. I hope that a happy medium can be reached before my family is torn apart even more. I love this church and every person who is part of this very special family.
On page 9:
Comment box questions were discussed as to why we would continue to research other churches when the congregational vote was otherwise.
I don't know who decided to invite the media into all of this, but, at this point, I suspect the pastor. He didn't seem to have any problem talking on camera in the sanctuary about these problems. He also hasn't been at that congregation for very long from what I've heard, which is less than five years.


They left out the best

When Entertainment Weekly decided to name the 20 best Oscar dresses of the last 20 years, then Marion Cotillard's white revelation should have been in the top 10.

It is definitely better than Jennifer Lopez's lime-green sari from 2003. Seriously, why is that dress even included?

Same with Claire Danes's blue skirt and sweater combo. I don't even remember that sartorial choice existing. I do, however, remember Catherine Zeta-Jones appearing in a stunning red dress either that year or about the same time. That dress was worthy of a mention considering it helped to establish her as a star.

Marion's white dress is still far superior to Angelina Jolie's white dress from 2004. Without the Jolie in that white halter with a shitload of jewels, there's nothing memorable about it.

Who does the fashion section of EW? Seriously, every time I review their best dressed after a huge gala I cringe because they pick the most boring dresses. (And I don't even consider myself to be much of a fashionista.)


I like this cover

It's a few weeks old I know. Generally, I like what they've been doing in this season of Lost. It's taken a little getting used to, but they've been tying up some questions with answers, similar to what Battlestar Galactica did in its final season. I don't know if they'll be able to wrap everything up like BSG did or not. I remain hopeful.

However, I don't like that Sayid is now a sucker. Dude, has he never heard the saying, "If it's too good to be true, then it probably is." I don't think his deal with the Locke-ness Monster is going to end well. Damn, I hate to see a good character go bad. He always struggled with the badness within. Last week, he decided to stop. I don't know if I can like him anymore. Perhaps the ghost of Shannon will appear and smack some sense into him. Here's hoping.



I put the question to William Gumede, a third-generation ANC activist who, as a leader of the student movement during the transition, was on the streets in those tumultuous years. "Everyone was watching the political negotiations," he recalled, referring to the de Klerk-Mandela summits. "And if people felt it wasn't going well there would be mass protests. But when the economic negotiators would report back, people thought it was technical; no one was interested." This perception, he said, was encouraged by [Thabo] Mbeki, who portrayed the talks as "administrative" and of no popular concern (much like the Chileans with their "technified democracy"). As a result he told me, with great exasperation, "We missed it! We missed the real story." --Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, p. 258
Before transferring power, the Nationalist Party wants to emasculate it. It is trying to negotiate a kind of swap where it will give up the right to run the country its way in exchange for the right to stop blacks from running it their own way. --Allister Sparks, South African journalist
Reconciliation means that those who have been on the underside of history must see that there is a qualitative difference between repression and freedom. And for them, freedom translates into having a supply of clean water, having electricity on tap; being able to live in a decent home and have a good job; to be able to send your children to school and to have accessible health car. I mean, what's the point of having made this transition if the quality of life of these people is not enhanced and improved? If not, the vote is useless. --Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chair of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, November 2001
These are the things that were going through my head when Invictus was initially released last year. I was reading The Shock Doctrine, a book I still have yet to finish, and its chapter on South Africa. That chapter is about how South Africa was screwed by the transfer of powers because the economic policies left in place crippled the country. Specifically, goals outlined in the Freedom Charter were/have never been accomplished. I noticed a reference in the film to South Africa's financing situation when Mandela was in South Korea for an investment meeting, and it's mentioned a few times the how the unemployment rate is impacting the country.

Then I watched District 9 and listened to Neil Blomkamp's commentary. I learned even more about South Africa from a South African. I thought his comments that things already happening in South Africa such as overpopulation, income disparity, inadequate resources, and increases in refugees were quite prescient. District 9 isn't really about apartheid, but how South Africans view refugees in the mix of overpopulation and lack of resources. Yet apartheid and Mandela are the only things most Americans seem to know about the country.

So when it came to watching Invictus a few weeks ago, I was skeptical about watching it. And I still am about the film. It had some interesting points such as the integration of the presidential bodyguards. But it fails because it tries to be two things at once: a film about Mandela and a sports flick. The parts about Mandela work because he's what most people know about South Africa, and when it gets down to it, they should have just made a film about him. The rugby parts? Well, I learned more about rugby than I had the few times I've watched it on tv, but the final World Cup match scenes were so montage-like that I couldn't appreciate it as a game. I was somewhat bored by the time it got to the end. That plane stunt they put in the film in the final match was a cheap shot and didn't even happen in real life.

I'm glad this didn't get nominated for Best Picture. I don't think it deserved it. I don't really like The Blind Side in retrospect, but it is an excellent sports film. I will give it credit for that. I would have much rather seen a movie that was purely about Mandela rather than a film that tries to take the South African Rugby World Cup win and spin it like the country moved on, as if there were no more problems stemming from the apartheid legacy. So not true.

Did Morgan Freeman deserve his Oscar nomination? Hm, I waver on that. I remember a few instances where the accent he was using was missing, yet he does hold the film together. But hell to the no, Matt Damon did not deserve his. He was nominated for playing rugby, doing a South African accent, and star power. I would have much rather seen Anthony Mackie nominated for The Hurt Locker. That was a performance that clearly took a lot more than just working out and learning to play rugby.


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