The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Funny things

First, something legitimately funny, especially if you're Jewish:

And some things that are funny, as in, "the President is a little funny, isn't he?"

OK, that's too much funny for this morning.

The Matrix at 20

The Atlantic's David Sims takes a look back:

The film came out exactly 20 years ago, before 1999’s summer action-movie season had even begun; The Matrix’s big competitors at the theater were comedies such as 10 Things I Hate About You and Analyze This. As an R-rated sci-fi epic about hackers who know kung fu and do battle with machines in a postapocalyptic wasteland, The Matrix was difficult to describe. Yet it somehow became a word-of-mouth hit, the rare blockbuster that opens at No. 1 at the box office, falls to No. 2, and then climbs back to the top position (which it did in its fourth week). It’s the kind of dazzling, original film that inspires a generation of fans and imitators—and the kind of movie Hollywood wouldn’t make in today’s franchise-heavy media landscape.

Twenty years on, much is being written about 1999 as a crucial turning point for Hollywood. By the end of the 20th century, the industry was suddenly crowded with directors fresh from making indie cinema, buzzy music videos, and commercials, many of whom had grown up with the rebellious New Hollywood filmmakers of the ’70s as their artistic lodestars. The future of moviemaking was foreshadowed in the year’s big hits, which included the relaunched big-ticket franchise Star Wars (The Phantom Menace), the low-budget horror of The Blair Witch Project, the provocative teen humor of American Pie, and the twist-ending virality of The Sixth Sense.

Watching today, Neo seems like the poster boy for a disaffected Generation X, a nonconformist who escapes his dull life as a cubicle drone to become a god. (In fact, one of The Matrix’s closest thematic companions from the fertile cinema du 1999 is probably Mike Judge’s Office Space—another sad ballad about humans being swallowed whole by faceless corporations, though Judge’s film has a few more jokes.) The villains of The Matrix are invincible computer programs known as Agents, led by the stone-faced Smith (Hugo Weaving), that take on the appearance of anonymous-looking government officials in bland suits and ties. Meanwhile, Neo and his compatriots, including Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), dress like they’re attending a fetish club, and they do battle to a thumping soundtrack of heavy metal and techno music.

In other anniversaries, yesterday marked 80 years since the German Army poured into Poland, officially igniting World War II.

Happy autumn

Summer ends in about two hours here in Chicago, after a kind of perfect late-summer day. The day is ending with a cool, gentle rain, which will clear up before dawn.

The end of August being the end of summer infused art and music for millennia before meteorologists set September 1st as the first day of autumn for statistical convenience. Maybe this is happy alignment of science and art?

Here's Dar Williams with the verdict:

Long weekend

Walking 26,000 steps, catching Oklahoma!, and eating pastrami and a random slice on Lexington Avenue in the last 24 hours have distracted me from posting. Regular blogging continues tomorrow.

And wow, Oklahoma! was totally worth it.

Mid-morning link roundup

So much to read, so much eye strain from the fluorescent lights:

And finally, this year's Punderdome competition took on food; the audience ate it up.

The Golden Age of Comics

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Art Spiegelman (Maus) submitted an essay for a Marvel Comics compendium to be published this fall, but withdrew it when Marvel asked him to delete a reference to the "Orange Skull." The Guardian published it instead:

Auschwitz and Hiroshima make more sense as dark comic book cataclysms than as events in our real world. In today’s all too real world, Captain America’s most nefarious villain, the Red Skull, is alive on screen and an Orange Skull haunts America. International fascism again looms large (how quickly we humans forget – study these golden age comics hard, boys and girls!) and the dislocations that have followed the global economic meltdown of 2008 helped bring us to a point where the planet itself seems likely to melt down. Armageddon seems somehow plausible and we’re all turned into helpless children scared of forces grander than we can imagine, looking for respite and answers in superheroes flying across screens in our chapel of dreams.

I turned the essay in at the end of June, substantially the same as what appears here. A regretful Folio Society editor told me that Marvel Comics (evidently the co-publisher of the book) is trying to now stay “apolitical”, and is not allowing its publications to take a political stance. I was asked to alter or remove the sentence that refers to the Red Skull or the intro could not be published. I didn’t think of myself as especially political compared with some of my fellow travellers, but when asked to kill a relatively anodyne reference to an Orange Skull I realised that perhaps it had been irresponsible to be playful about the dire existential threat we now live with, and I withdrew my introduction.

A revealing story serendipitously showed up in my news feed this week. I learned that the billionaire chairman and former CEO of Marvel Entertainment, Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, is a longtime friend of Donald Trump’s, an unofficial and influential adviser and a member of the president’s elite Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. And Perlmutter and his wife have each recently donated $360,000 (the maximum allowed) to the Orange Skull’s “Trump Victory Joint Fundraising Committee” for 2020. I’ve also had to learn, yet again, that everything is political... just like Captain America socking Hitler on the jaw.

Apolitical indeed.

Latter-day horoscopes

Today's Washington Post takes up the world-bending news that people put their Myers-Briggs types into their dating profiles:

The Myers-Briggs assessment categorizes people into one of 16 personality types, using an extensive questionnaire of nearly 100 questions such as, “Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world?” and “Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning?”

Many critics argue that people’s personalities exist on a spectrum — people possess varying degrees of both introversion and extroversion, logic and sentimentality — and therefore the Myers-Briggs test is an oversimplification.

Despite its shortcomings, the test has persisted with professional team buildingemployment recruiting and, now, for love.

Crafting an online dating profile is an art: Singles must whittle their most impressive yet personable characteristics into a few hundred characters. In an attempt to give a tl;dr on one’s entire essence, some daters display their Myers-Briggs personality type as a way of disclosing their essential selves.

As it turns out, people aren’t that great at figuring out to whom we’ll actually be attracted. In a study published in 2017, researchers asked singles to describe their ideal qualities in a partner. After examining daters’ stated romantic preferences, researchers created an algorithm to match participants based on their self-reported personality tastes. The machine could not predict who ended up pairing off. The researchers concluded that “compatibility elements of human mating are challenging to predict before two people meet.”

So I wonder, what's the MBTI equivalent of telling someone your sign is "Neon?"

If only I had a flight coming up this week

...I might have time to read all of these:

And now, back to work.

Sunday afternoon link round-up

Including sitting with a lost dog for 45 minutes this morning, I've had a pretty lazy Sunday. Here are some of the articles I might read if I decide to do anything productive today:

Finally, in part because of the proportion of depressing things listed above, I want to post a photo of this dog:

Why? Because she's just that adorable. And not at all troubled by the newspapers.

Bear down

Yesterday, I attended my first professional NFL game* at Chicago's Soldier Field. I can't complain about the view:

The Bears did not play their best, but I had a great time at the game. And after, I got to walk in sticky August weather with a stadium's worth of people to the Red Line, which everyone loves after 11pm.

I'm being unfair. The tickets came from last April's Apollo After Hours, via a generous donation from one of our members and a lucky bid on my part. And now, I've been to a professional NFL game. And don't have to go to another one. (More on that, later.)

* "Professional football game" means something different in every country on earth; so I used the construct "professional NFL game" to distinguish between the US National Football League and what 7 billion other people call "football."