December 26, 2012

“Quentin Tarantino finally comes of age as a filmmaker”

Filed under: History, Media, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:04

While I doubt I’ll catch this in the theatre, Kurt Loder makes this sound like an interesting film:

With Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino finally comes of age as a filmmaker. Tarantino’s brilliance as a writer and craftsman have always been clear. But even his last picture, the Holocaust revenge fantasy Inglourious Basterds, was overwhelmed by his geeky obsession with vintage genres (in that case, old war movies). When he showed us a group of Jews huddled in a basement being shot through the floorboards above, but declined to go below and show them actually dying (it might have clouded the film’s comedy), he shortchanged the movie’s putative subject.

With Django, the director has brought off a perfect marriage of style and history. He has appropriated the universe of another beloved genre, the spaghetti western (in particular Sergio Corbucci’s brutal 1966 cult film, Django), and set within it an unsparing tale of American slavery. The movie is outrageously funny, but it’s also unflinchingly committed to a full exploration of the horrors of its subject. Where many movies about black bondage are diluted by liberal hankie-wringing, this one feels fueled by a black rage that still simmers today. It might be the most savage cinematic depiction of slavery ever made.

Some early reviewers have expressed dismay about the movie’s extensive deployment of the word “nigger.” (“It’s a nigger on a horse,” says one marveling cretin as a black man rides by on his mount.) It’s hard to know what to say about such a reaction, except to point out that, hey, it’s a movie about slavery.

QotD: Those who have given up liberty for “security”

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:13

Furthermore, do we really want to live in a world of police checkpoints, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, X-ray scanners, and warrantless physical searches? We see this culture in our airports: witness the shabby spectacle of once proud, happy Americans shuffling through long lines while uniformed TSA agents bark orders. This is the world of government provided “security,” a world far too many Americans now seem to accept or even endorse. School shootings, no matter how horrific, do not justify creating an Orwellian surveillance state in America.

Do we really believe government can provide total security? Do we want to involuntarily commit every disaffected, disturbed, or alienated person who fantasizes about violence? Or can we accept that liberty is more important than the illusion of state-provided security? Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place. Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal, because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives. We shouldn’t settle for substituting one type of violence for another. Government role is to protect liberty, not to pursue unobtainable safety.

Our freedoms as Americans preceded gun control laws, the TSA, or the Department of Homeland Security. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference, not by safety. It is easy to clamor for government security when terrible things happen; but liberty is given true meaning when we support it without exception, and we will be safer for it.

Ron Paul, “Seeking Total Security Leads to a Totalitarian Society”, Eurasia Review, 2012-12-26

What we gain in accuracy we lose in romance

Filed under: History, Media, Science, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:27

What am I talking about? Digital maps:

It’s not often that maps make headlines, but they’ve been doing so with some regularity lately. Last week, tens of millions of iPhone users found that they could suddenly leave their homes again without getting either lost or cross. This was because Google finally released an app containing its own (fairly brilliant) mapping system. Google Maps had been sorely missed for several months, ever since Apple booted it in favor of the company’s own inadequate alternative — a cartographic dud blamed for everything from deleting Shakespeare’s birthplace to stranding Australian travelers in a desolate national park 43 miles away from their actual destination. As one Twitter wag declared: “I wouldn’t trade my Apple Maps for all the tea in Cuba.”

There was one potential bright spot, though: Among the many mistakes found in Apple Maps was a rather elegant solution to the continuing dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku islands. Japan controls them; China claims them. Apple Maps, when released, simply duplicated the islands, with two sets shown side-by-side — one for Japan, one for China. Win-win. (At least until the software update.) Call it diplomacy by digital dunderheadedness.

As some may recall, it was not so long ago that we got around by using maps that folded. Occasionally, if we wanted a truly global picture of our place in the world, we would pull shoulder-dislocating atlases from shelves. The world was bigger back then. Experience and cheaper travel have rendered it small, but nothing has shrunk the world more than digital mapping.

[. . .]

There is something disappointing about the austere potential perfection of the new maps. The satellites above us have seen all there is to see of the world; technically, they have mapped it all. But satellites know nothing of the beauty of hand-drawn maps, with their Spanish galleons and sea monsters, and they cannot comprehend wanderlust and the desire for discovery. Today we can locate the smallest hamlet in sub-Saharan Africa or the Yukon, but can we claim that we know them any better? Do the irregular and unpredictable fancies of the older maps more accurately reflect the strangeness of the world?

The uncertainty that was once an unavoidable part or our relationship with maps has been replaced by a false sense of Wi-Fi-enabled omnipotence. Digital maps are the enemies of wonder. They suppress our urge to experiment and (usually) steer us from error—but what could be more irrepressibly human than those very things?

Update: And the Apple Maps fiasco has them leading most of the tech world’s “Top 10” lists for mis-steps, fumbles, and self-inflicted wounds.

There really could be only one pick for the number-one spot on this list. The Apple Maps fiasco has done more to hurt the company’s image than anything else this year, leaving their reputation — and those of some of its supporters — in the dust.

At the start of the year Apple was riding high. The loss of cofounder Steve Jobs had been handled better than many in the industry had expected, and Tim Cook looked like a safe pair of hands to take the company forward. Apple was on its way to being the most valuable in the world in dollar terms, and was beating the competition like a red-headed stepchild.

[. . .]

When iOS 6 with Apple Maps launched, there was initially little fuss. Apple’s policy of only letting friendly reviewers get advanced access to kit held up well, and virtually none of Cupertino’s chosen few even mentioned the mapping function in their glowing reviews of the new operating system. But then users actually tried it out and the results were plain to see.

Apple’s Maps app simply didn’t work correctly. Sure, it could get you from point to point — just about — but the level of detail included was poor and mapping information was frequently wrong. The list of cock-ups grew day by day as people realized that the application just wasn’t fit in any meaningful way.

Even the Australian police warned against using it for fear of getting lost in the desert.

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