Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.



Filed under: Art,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

People who know me, know that I love my goofy t-shirts.

You know, it’s been a long couple of months and I’m pretty drained creatively, in part due to being super busy at my day job, so I’ve kind of given up sharing anything but purely fun links on Fridays for the next couple of weeks. Deal with it.

This week, it’s t-shirt sites.
Yes, I wear a lot of strange and interesting t-shirts from a lot of places.  I don’t remember why…
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Creative Lists

Filed under: Art,Fun,Personal,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

This is not a new idea.

But, then, I remember hearing when I was in high school that there are no new ideas under the Sun, only new ways to implement them.  And, remember, every story you tell, is uniquely your own.  So, the age-old question about creative ideas, right?  Where do they come from?  The answer I got was that they come in a plain, brown wrapper from Schenectady.  (That was from Frank Herbert, author of Dune, via a phone…
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Review: Repo Men

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Movies,News and Current Events,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 4:47 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Repo Men last Friday.

I loved this movie!
No, really, I was half expecting it to be total cheese, but it was surprisingly good. I read a review before hand wherein a reviewer complained that there was no dark humor in this film. Frankly, I wonder if we saw the same movie, because, though there wasn’t a laugh track, there was tones and tones of dark humor. Though, maybe some of it was lost on the reviewer and, frankly, the audience I saw the movie with, too. Thankfully, my usual movie companion is a fellow cancer survivor who has a similar sense of humor and we were laughing at the same things.

So, first, know that this is a bloody film. It’s not gory in a slasher sense of things, but there is a lot of carving on people as well as shooting and other fighting action.
Remember, the basic premise of the film is that, in the future, The Union has cornered the market on artificial, replacement organs. Anyone who has a problem with, say, their liver or their kidneys or their heart or their lungs, can go to The Union and get a perfect artificial replacement. For a fee. In fact, for very, very large fees, which the Union will let you pay them off at “reasonable rates to fit any lifestyle”. Of course, those “reasonable rates” aren’t very reasonable. And, the Union will send someone to repossess their property if payments aren’t made. Yeah, that’s right, they’ll repossess your heart.

The story follows two repo men as they hustle their way through this futuristic dystopia of corporate greed and consumer debt. They’re hard, brutal men, like many repo men are, only more so.
Jake, played by Forest Whitaker, loves his job. He loves the work, the people, the fear that he strikes into the hearts of others. His partner, Remy, played by Jude Law, is less into the work and he’s getting pressure from his wife to get into a safer, more savory, line of work anyway. But, then, something happens on what Remy plans as his last job. There’s a malfunction, a short-circuit and Remy finds himself in need of the Union’s special hardware. He wakes up with a Union “heart” keeping him alive and a massive debt schedule. The only problem is, now, he doesn’t have the heart to repossess other people’s organs.

So, that’s the setup, and if you want to avoid the spoilers, stop reading here.
The problem is, Remy defaults on his heart and goes on the run. Naturally, the barely human local Union rep, Frank, played by Liev Schreiber, sends Jake, Remy’s old partner, to collect. Remy knows all the tricks, though, and off he goes into that strange place that’s off the grid in a future world ruled by a network of data that we’re only just starting to be aware of now. Along the way, he picks up a torch singer who also happens to be riddled with organs on which she’s defaulted. She introduces him to the black market and the underground economy. The chase is long and winding and ends up in the heart of the Union itself. I won’t tell you how it ends, but it is a surprise and a twist, but it’s not disappointing in the slightest and it is a real surprise.

Now, there are a couple of things that I think are interesting about this movie.
First, I can’t tell if they’re making an homage to Blade Runner, or if they’re making fun of it. The sets and settings all remind me, and every other reviewer out there, of Blade Runner and Ridley Scott’s vision of a future L.A. It also reminds me of William Gibson’s descriptions of a gritty future. But, it still works, either way. Also, that future is interestingly contrasted with a shrinking suburban landscape where Remy lives. A setting, incidentally, that also becomes a backdrop for at least on bloody repossession by Jake. The contrast is, well, a little shocking, even to someone as jaded as me.
Secondly, there’s a scene where Remy and Beth, the torch singer, cut into each other to scan their defaulted organs. Remy only has the one, but the part of the scene where he inserts the scanner into her goes on, um, somewhat longer. Though this was a bloody and gruesome scene, it was also disturbingly erotic, which I found a little unnerving. It’s not an entirely bad thing, but it was a surprise to see in a major motion picture, even one that’s R-rated. So, you’ve been warned.
Thirdly, the music was used expertly in this movie. The contrast of happy, pleasant “elevator” music during a violent scene is, at first, funny, but eventually, a kind of beautiful, violent dance that takes on a kind of surreal feel that was really fantastic. Music can certainly enhance a film and the director really makes fantastic use of it in this movie.

Right, so, here’s the thing. I loved this movie which I found fun and yet insightful and filled with the darkest of black humor. The entire theme is a commentary on the current health care crisis and the American personal debt crisis as well. I found a personal connection with that bit because of my own medical bills as a cancer survivor. They do seem never ending and oppressive at times as I’m sure they do for millions of other Americans who are far worse off than I am. So, I’m not sure how that will sit with the general viewing public, but it really hit home for me and, yet, also tapped into my own, personal reserves of black humor.
So, as I was mentioning, I loved this movie, but I imagine it’s not for everyone. It is dark, and violent, and bloody, and bleak, in it’s way, in the outlook on where things are going in our society, especially in regards to healthcare, debt and personal responsibility. But it does end with a kind of hope, in a strange and twisty way.

I can’t recommend this film for everyone, but if you’re open to something new and different and dark and violent, then this is your film. I suggest you take a chance, roll the dice and go see it, especially if you like science fiction, but even if you don’t.
If you’re not sure, then hit a matinee and minimize your risk.
Go ahead, take a chance.

(Sorry this is so late this week, but I’ve been busy and working late.)


Review: No Maps For These Territories

Filed under: Art,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Movies,Red Herrings,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:42 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I watched No Maps For These Territories this weekend.
I’m not a huge fan of documentaries, even though I like shows in the Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel.  But, I’ve been really getting into my Netflix subscription lately and, as a result, I’ve been renting DVDs that I might not otherwise get.  So, since William Gibson is one of my favorite authors, I thought a good “stretch” for me to take was getting a documentary on, and starring, William Gibson.  In general, it was okay.  It’s certainly not something I’d be interested in if it were some other author, but, somehow, hearing and seeing Gibson talk about his work and the future and writing in the back of a moving car was an oddly engaging format.  I think, in particular, hearing his voice talking much like he writes was appealing, at least to me.

Of course, it’s not something that would interest anyone who wasn’t a Gibson fan.  It’s not the kind of thing that someone who’s interested in simply science-fiction or writing, for instance, would find all that appealing.  I think, too, that Gibson himself is an acquired taste.  Even people who have enjoyed his writing may not be particularly captivated by this documentary.  The “arty” portion of the film was somewhat, well, annoying, to be honest.  When the film-maker was being subtle, by altering the view outside the car’s windows, it was good.  However, when the effort was more obvious, it was just distracting and irritating.  I don’t know quite what he was going for with some of that video stream-of-consciousness but it failed at being anything but confusing and silly.  A straight interview with Gibson talking to us from the back of the car would have been better, I think.  He is, after all, the draw for this film.

Some of the extras were nice, though.  For instance, some of the things that were cut out and compiled with the DVD were as interesting as anything that were included.  In fact, I think I would have just left them in the main part of the film.  There were also several readings, by Gibson and others, which had no video with them, that were nice, too.  I just closed my eyes and listened to Gibson read his own writing, feeling the pace and timber of his voice.  Really, that may have been the best part of the whole thing.
I could have done without most of the film-maker talking about making the documentary itself, though.  There was only one section worth including and that was really about the interaction between the crew and Gibson as they filmed in the car.  The rest of the segments where the documentarian talking about his “process” are, to me, worthless crap.

In all, it was an interesting departure for me.  Worth a look for the hard-core William Gibson fan, but not really for anyone else.


Review: Spook Country

Filed under: Fiction,News and Current Events,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Late Friday night, I finished reading Spook Country by William Gibson.

Even though Spook Country follows the trend that Pattern Recognition started, taking Gibson further away from science-fiction, I still loved it. For that matter, I loved Pattern Recognition when I read that. Both books take place in the recent past, and share some characters and invented, Gibsonian organizations. (In fact, while Googling some things in the book, I found two websites that “create” a proto-magazine from both books, called Node.)
Gibson’s latest work takes us through a twisting landscape populated with former spies, current criminal families, GPS-programming gurus, and assorted other mystery-men of action. Not to mention a mysterious shipping container, Cuban folk religion and governmental shennanigans. The result is pure Gibson and highly entertaining.

The MacGuffin, the thing that drives the story, is a mysterious shipping container and its equally mysterious contents. Everyone seems to be looking for this container, or trying to figure out why someone is looking for it. Along the way to finding it, which eventually happens, Gibson takes the reader on a tour of pop culture and through a winding maze of artistic landscapes that are so avant garde that they still seem like low-grade science-fiction. One of the things I like so well about Gibson’s recent work is how true it all rings to me. Now, I’m far from being tapped into the art world, but I am fairly tapped into the tech world and when he describes tech, Gibson is very accurate, very real. Yet, somehow, he doesn’t seem to date himself too much either. That’s a real trick when you’re dealing with tech. And, as always, his characters are just strange enough to seem real, like people I might have met once. One of his two main characters, Hollis Henry, former “singer in an early-nineties cult band” The Curfew who’s trying her hand at journalism, put me in mind of a friend of mine who’s an artist now, but used to be the lead singer in a punk band called Culturcide. And, well, I’ve known assorted esoteric hackers of all stripes, not to mention former Special Forces guys, and I’ve even met a former CIA field agent, who was a friend of my father’s.

Oh, and, eventually, Gibson does reveal what’s in the shipping container, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is.


Movement vs. Action

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:03 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

“Never confuse movement with action.”
–Ernest Hemingway

Funny thing, that difference between movement and action. Things change. It’s the way of the world. It happens whether I actively participate, or not, but it’s not the same as me taking action. Action implies that I’ve made a choice, a decision. Movement, simple movement, is just me drifting with the tide. Action is me setting my sails. I can set them to run with the wind or tack against them, but I have to choose which way to sail and act accordingly. I may not end up where I intend to sail, but, at least it’s movement with a purpose. If I just drift, well, then I’ve given up any hope of arriving at a destination of my choosing. It may be good, or it may be worse than where I started. Personally? I prefer the choice.

Today, I cleaned up some of my Bloglines subscriptions. I added one to William Gibson’s blog and removed two that linked to my former step-daughter’s very inactive pages. I kept them in there with the excuse that someone needed to keep up with what she was doing on the web. And someone does, but not me. That hasn’t been my job for quite some time now, so there’s not a need to keep those subscriptions alive.
I hope one day she comes to find me, to find out, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story. I honestly doubt she will, though. Either way, it’s someone else’s problem now. I did my part. I did what I could. Now, the rest is up to someone else.

God, help her.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else."


Cool Hunter

Filed under: Art,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:31 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

No one coins a phrase like William Gibson.
And, I’m pretty sure he at least popularized the phrase “cool hunter” in his book Pattern Recognition. Well, now Cayce Pollard can take a vacation because there’s a website to help her out called, of course, Cool Hunter. (For those of you who haven’t read the book, Cayce is a cool hunter. Oh, and, uh, go read the book!) And, I have to admit, the stuff on this site is, well, cool.
Like, for instance, Pleasure Cards. They’re the opposite of business cards. They’re name cards with contact info for when you “network” at a very social event and don’t want to use your work information as contact info. Very cool idea, really.

So, go check out what else they’ve hunted up!


Review: Rastafari: Roots and Ideology

Filed under: Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:28 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Not the usual Diary of a Network Geek book.

But, well worth looking into. I first got interested in Rastafarianism by way of William Gibson, who had several characters who were Dreadlocks. My ignorance of what that was all about was, well, somewhat shocking for me at the time. So, I started poking around. Quite a few years ago, I found Rastafari: Roots and Ideology by Barry Chevannes. It followed me around, unread, in a box for several years. Well, I finally read it this past week. What a shame I waited so long!
This was a very good book about the history and origins of a relatively new religion. Among other things, it was fascinating to track the birth of a new faith from its very start through the modern day. As a sociological look at a small, but growing, religious or spiritual movement, this is a great book. It is, however, a rather schollarly look at this movement and, as such, is somewhat dry at times. Still, it presents not only a well-rounded look at the religion, but also the socio-economic forces that shaped it. One of the main “pillars of faith”, for instance, is the concept of “repatriation” to Ethiopia. This would never have come about if not for the practice of black slavery in the New World.
I’ll not attempt to describe the intricacies of Rastafarianism in a short message, but, if you’re interested in knowing more, this book is a great place to start.

(Note: This review also appeared on my other blog.)


New Additions

Filed under: Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:28 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Looks like we’re finally getting a puppy!

Four months ago, when I suggested getting a puppy, my wife thought it was a bad idea. But, Saturday, when she suggested it, it was a great idea. Go figure.
In any case, there was an adoption station setup at our local petstore and my wife just couldn’t resist. So, we filled out the form and bought supplies. We’ll be “checked out” this week to make sure that we really are suitable doggie parents. Then, assuming we’re found to be acceptable, we’ll pick her up next weekend. We’ll be able to get a puppy crate from my in-laws and the rest we have. Also, I’m trying to convince my wife to bake home-made doggie treats for the new little girl. Our daughter is home from school on Spring Break this week and I thought it would be something they could do to keep busy. In any case, we’ll be gearing up for a new puppy this week. Horay!

Oh, and it’s William Gibson’s birthday, too.

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