The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Stuff I need to comment on when I have a moment

In the last couple of days:

If I have time in the next couple of days, I'll return to the student loan problem, because I think it will become the fight of the ages in a few years. Shortly, I would guess, after I've paid off my MBA.

I also have some thoughts noodling around my head about how right-wing politics works. The ongoing student-loan crisis fits right in, as does the book I just finished.

A long time ago in a valley far, far away

On this day in 1977, the Apple ][ went on sale.

The base model had 4 kB of RAM, a 1 MHz 6502 processor, and could display 24 lines of 40 columns in 8-bit color. You could buy one for $1,298 ($5,029 today), or if you wanted to upgrade to 48 kB of RAM you would pay $2,638 ($10,222 today). It came with a cassette interface at first, then later with a 5¼-inch, 160 kB floppy disk drive.

I learned how to program in assembly language on one. Ah, memories.

Neil Jordan was right

The Showtime series The Borgias will end its three-year run next week, mainly due to salaries increasing while ratings decrease. But creator Neil Jordan also understood the story had ended:

[W]hile filming a pivotal scene in the Season 3 finale, Jordan said [Jeremy] Irons turned to him and told him that “this feels like the end of something, that the family has come to an end.” While mulling a potential fourth season, Jordan said he wasn’t sure he had enough material for 10 episodes and wasn’t sure whether Showtime would want to commit to another season either. “As a compromise, I proposed to finish the arc of all the characters with a two-hour movie,” Jordan said, adding that Showtime commissioned the script and he wrote it. “When they looked at what it could cost, it was just too expensive,” he said.

Having just finished the penultimate episode of the series, I might go farther: the final scene of tonight's episode was, in fact, the technical climax[1] of the story. I would have liked more of this story; but tonight, the central conflict—the driving force of the story—resolved.

But what is it about penultimates in modern television fiction, though? Every Game of Thrones season builds up to Episode 9 and then uses Episode 10 to set up the next season. It's becoming a trope.

Ah, show business.

Let me say that again: show business.[2]

I plan to write more about the connection between The Borgias and that last bit there. For now, let me just say: Babylon 5, The Prisoner, and Lost. Three great stories, none of them finished right. (But J. Michael Straczynski at least had a plan.)

[1] The technical climax of a story is the point where the story can only go in one direction from that point. The dramatic climax is the payoff. For example: in The Godfather (one of the best films ever made, as far as I'm concerned), the technical climax happens when Michael visits his father in the hospital, and says, "I'm with you now, Papa." The dramatic climax occurs during the baptism. If you don't know what I mean, you really need to watch this movie.

[2] This is how my dad begins every screenwriting course he teaches. It's shocking to every student in the room. And it's the best description of entertainment I've ever seen.

Is Dr Who a feminist role model for boys?

Guardian op-ed writer and feminist Claire Budd makes the argument:

I’ve heard some funny comments this week, Dr Who being racist, sexist and not dealing with real issues being three of them. Having watched hours of the programme and its spin off series The Sarah Jane Adventures, I’ve heard all of those issues being dealt with beautifully. And episodes like Richard Curtis’ 'Vincent and the Doctor', which tackled the taboo of mental illness, have given me some great material to work with as a mother. Not to mention the introduction of many other historical figures – bringing them to life and making them interesting – as well as the parts of our story written into the Doctor’s adventures, including slavery and the stealing of natural resources.

But by far the most valuable contribution to the younger generation has to be the fact that the Doctor is the only non-violent “superhero” male role model. He solves problems through talking and he’s proud to be a science-loving, socially awkward geek. He’s the hero of boys and girls. But most of all he shows boys that violence and aggression won’t get them what they want. Being clever, not conforming, being kind, talking – these are the ways to be a hero.

This comes directly from speculation about Matt Smith's departure. I've heard arguments on both sides now, and I have come to the conclusion that as long as the actor playing the Doctor remains true to the role, it doesn't matter whether the Doctor is male or female.

Ribfest 2013 regurgitation

Oh, yummy ribs. Yesterday, Parker and I hiked up to Lincoln and Damen as planned, and tried out a different set of bone samplers than in years past.

  • Mrs. Murphy's Irish Bistro (pictured above) started the ribanalia, and led the pack—for a moment. Once again, they had fall-off-the-bone, lightly smoked meat with a tangy, spicy sauce. 3½ stars.
  • Second was a newcomer, Wrigley BBQ, which actually surpassed Mrs. Murphy. They had flavorful, smoked meat, with a spicy dry rub, just a hint of a sweet Memphis sauce, and just the right tug off the bone. 4 stars.
  • Corner 41 was good. Not great, but good. They have a smoky, fall-off-the-bone meat, with good spice and flavor, but they get a half-point off for presenting the smallest sampler I've ever encountered at Gibfest. 2½ stars.
  • Uncle Bub's had the longest line at the festival, possibly because they had the largest stall. They had smoky, tug-off-the-bone ribs with a really great crispiness. They also provided branded moist towlettes which, when you think about it, every vendor should hand out. 3 stars.
  • Sadly, last was least: Real Urban BBQ from Highland Park. Their tug-off-the-bone meat tasted almost processed (though I know it wasn't), too chewy and salty, on which they put an indifferent sort of sauce. I'll have to skip them next time. 2 stars.

Over the next few months, I'm going to have proper rib dinners at my five-year favorites: Mrs. Murphy's, Wrigley BBQ, and Smoke Daddy, plus my cousin Matt's favorite Fat Willy's.

Parker, as usual, had less fun at the festival than I did:

Maybe I should have tried this? No; there's no way Parker would stay on the wagon:

As for our traditional stop on the way home, SoPo: it no longer exists; it's boarded up now. Before we discovered that, however, we came upon a new place, A.J. Hudson's. Great beer list, friendly staff, and dogs. New tradition!

Off to Ribfest 2013

I follow few traditions. That said, walking up to Ribfest Chicago on the first weekend of June has become one. In just a little bit, Parker and I will head out into the crystal-clear, 19°C, late-Spring weather, and get us some ribs.

Before we go, a recap. This will be our 5th Ribfest in six years. Before we started our hike I thought it would help me to remember which vendors I've tried in years past:



2010: We didn't go to Ribfest because of my sister's wedding. A fair trade, I think.



The 5.1 km walk should take us a little over an hour. On the way back I'll probably continue the tradition established in 2008 by grabbing a beer on SoPo's dog-friendly patio. This also helps by stretching the return walk out to 6 km, in order to work off more ribs.

I may not eat more than a few lentils for the next two days, though...

Rachael Yamagata at Lincoln Hall

You've heard her music, you just don't remember where.

I went last night with a friend who worked as Yamagata's de facto publicist (and Web designer) when she was just starting her solo career ten or so years ago. That means we were close enough to the stage that my little camera phone actually got a result:

Yamagata usually does really long sets; last night's went almost to midnight. She played mostly songs from her last two releases, and only one or two from her debut, Happenstance. On that point she expressed what some of us were thinking: wow, has it really been that long? (The album came out nine years ago today.)

I also have to say how much I like Lincoln Hall as a venue. It's casual, but you can tell the crew and lighting guys know what they're doing. And nothing beats getting front-row seats—or, anyway, front-row real estate to stand on.

"Rains of Castamere" reactions

Last Sunday's Game of Thrones episode portrayed one of the most gut-wrenching scenes from the books. People who hadn't read the books had understandably strong reactions:

Via Sullivan come two more-considered reactions to the scene, and to the series' portrayal of violence in general. First, from Alyssa Rosenberg:

[T]he attack on Talisa seemed to stand out for some viewers even in this context as uniquely stomach-churning, evidence that the show is participating in some of its characters disgusting enjoyment of violence against women.

Though Talisa’s murder is unspeakably cruel, it didn’t read that way to me. Rather, the decision to kill her by killing her fetus made, within the astonishingly cold-blooded context of the Red Wedding, a great deal of sense. A comprehensive attempt to make the Starks extinct would include an attack on everyone in their family line, born and unborn. And as an attempt to make Robb Stark feel unspeakable emotional pain before his physical death, an attack on his wife and his unborn child that he has to witness while he is physically incapacitated is a twistedly brilliant thing to do. As Talisa died and Robb held her, the focus was on their faces, and their shared pain, just as they’d shared joyful glances during Edmure’s wedding vows, and flirted during the banquet. Our sympathies and focus were on them, rather than on a pornographic contemplation of the violence to which they’d been subjected.

But Talisa is part of a larger tradition of television women who die during childbirth, or are subjected to terrible violence during pregnancy or labor...

Meanwhile, Rowan Kaiser thinks GoT indicts patriarchies in general:

In the world of Westeros, Robb's innate goodness was at odds with his job title. As heir to Winterfell, and then as King IN The North, he had obligations that had to be fulfilled, which included marrying for strategic gain—obligations that he didn’t keep. Marrying Talisa Maegyr instead of Roslyn Frey wasn’t his only shirked responsibility. His inability to maintain relations among his vassals led directly to his death as well, in large part because he was unable to punish his mother after she worked against him. So Robb didn't just die because he'd married for love; he also died because he'd been kind to his mother. Both of those actions seem like they should be no-brainers, but because of the world he was in, they combined to ruin the hero.

The chief weapon of the patriarchy in maintaining and destroying its men is the drive for honor. The most surprising development of the second season was the elevation of Theon Greyjoy, the Stark family ward, into a major character and villain. Theon was the only son of a rebellious father, who journeyed to visit that father as another rebellion was brewing. Theon was forced to choose between his actual life with friends and lovers among the Starks, and his imagined life with honor and pride as a Greyjoy. Theon chooses honor, which takes him down a path of betrayal and child-murder.

I'm interested to hear whether Anita Sarkeesian agrees. (More on Sarkessian in a later post.)

Then there's this blather:

The appeal of the series seems bound up in the senseless violence and amoral machinations — not to mention the free-wheeling sex — that the writers use to dramatize this brutish world of shifting alliances and dalliances.

That, in turn, has prompted intense debates about whether Christians should watch "Games of Thrones" at all, or whether the show's only possible virtue is depicting how the world would look if Christ had never been born — or what it could look like if Christianity disappeared tomorrow.

Right. Christianity would have made Westeros a peaceful place, just like it made Europe an Eden in the middle ages.

Texas jury finds prostitute murder justified

I can scarcely believe this story out of Texas:

A Bexar County jury on Wednesday acquitted Ezekiel Gilbert of murder in the death of a 23-year-old Craigslist escort.

During closing arguments Tuesday, Gilbert's defense team conceded the shooting did occur but said the intent wasn't to kill. Gilbert's actions were justified, they argued, because he was trying to retrieve stolen property: the $150 he paid Frago. It became theft when she refused to have sex with him or give the money back, they said.

I'm speechless. There are so many awful things with this acquittal I don't even know where to start. The only thing I even remotely agree with is the principle of jury nullification, but in this specific instance its use shows how utterly reprehensible the jury was.

Hey, Texas, you remember all that stuff we said in 1865 about how we didn't want you to leave the union?

We take it back.