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And the Oscar goes to…

Thursday, 7 January, 2016 0 Comments

… the landscape. Sorry, Leonardo DiCaprio, your performance is compelling, but there’s more to acting than being attacked by a bear. The Revenant is a feast for the eyes, but not so much for the ears. The score by Ryuichi Sakamoto, in collaboration with Bryce Dessner and Alva Noto, is appropriately chilling but it lacks all traces of humanity. The other pain-in-the-ear is the accent of the dastard John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). “I’m talkin’ to you,” he says in one scene, and it’s about the only understandable thing he utters and mutters throughout. Dave Schilling in the Guardian nails it:

“Fitzgerald is supposed to be from the south or some other rural area and has plans to go back to Texas to re-enlist in the army once he receives a fat payday. This affords Hardy the chance to sink his teeth into yet another dialect and boy, does he chew away at that thing. Again, Hardy’s accent seems to ride in and out on the wind, appearing when necessary and getting usurped by a generic, Star Trek: Nemesis-esque growl when he can get away with it.”

With The Revenant, director Alejandro G. Iñárritu has made a unique visual statement about survival in the face of almost impossible odds and viewers are treated to some memorable graphic moments, but the film has no soul. Worse, it is littered with the inevitable PC sops that must be offered these days to the “victims” of history, but they are too clumsy and transparent to be anything but cliché. When the dust settles after the 88th Academy Awards ceremony on 28 February at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, The Revenant will be remembered mostly for reviving a 19th century word for someone who returns from a long absence. The noun comes from the French revenant, the present participle of the verb revenir (“to return”).

Prediction: The Revenant will win an Oscar: Best Cinematography for the magnificent camerawork of Emmanuel Lubezki. He creates a truly imposing wild West from a variety of scenes shot in Canada, Argentina and the United States.


Epiphany poem and painting

Wednesday, 6 January, 2016 0 Comments

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.

The Journey Of The Magi by T S Eliot

It has been said that Eliot’s imagery in The Journey Of The Magi is similar to that used by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings. Balthasar, Caspar and Melchior speak and act in a mystical world where their frankincense, gold and myrrh are both real and mysterious. Sometime around 1475, Hieronymus Bosch attempted to capture this in The Adoration of the Magi, which is displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The Magi


The Twitter story in fewer than 140 characters

Wednesday, 6 January, 2016 0 Comments

Twitter

@twitter is said to be mulling increasing its per-tweet character count from 140 to 10,000. The news sent the share price into a tailspin.


Pot luck at the Iranian souk in Abu Dhabi

Tuesday, 5 January, 2016 0 Comments

The coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stretches for more than 650 km along the southern shore of the Persian Gulf. It’s a tough neighbourhood, as current headlines prove, but despite their Sunni/Shi’a differences, the UAE and Iran have a working relationship because of their economic ties across the Strait of Hormuz.

One can see this cross-border trade in action in the “Iranian souk” at Mina Port in Abu Dhabi. Here, the bargain hunter will find carpets (frequently from Pakistan), pottery, plastic stuff (mostly from China) and kitchen utensils, especially pots. Some of these could hold a sheep, comfortably, and they evoke visions of meals for families where “extended” takes on a completely new meaning. Two rules: Shoppers are expected to haggle before buying and women should not visit on their own.

The Iranian souk in Abu Dhabi


I, for one, welcome our old meme overlords to 2016

Monday, 4 January, 2016 0 Comments

Back in July 1977, a film adaptation of the H.G. Wells sci-fi horror story Empire of the Ants, was released. Joan Collins reacts to the ant threat at one point in the movie by declaring, “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.” And, thus, a meme was born, and it has proved more enduring than those mutated insects were in the world of Wells.

Example: Yesterday, the Globe and Mail published “Biggest technology trends to watch for at CES 2016 in Las Vegas” by Shane Dingman. Snippet:

Bonus category: Next Christmas’s ‘hoverboard’ replacement: These days, convention-goers have been banned from using them on the show floor, but there are another clutch of personal transportation devices ready to get hot for a holiday season. I, for one, welcome our next hip-breaking, head cracking, self-immolating wheelie-gigs.”

The “I, for one, welcome our our new X overlords” phrase survives because it is as flexible as the Formicidae family. It can be used used to express mock submission to an obsessively controlling person, or to suggest that a group or thing is powerful enough to rule over humanity. So, both the rise of the robots and the fear of AI have given it new legs, as it were. It even transcends language barriers.


Industry four point oh/zero

Sunday, 3 January, 2016 0 Comments

Backgrounder: For people learning English, the pronunciation of the number 0 can be a challenge. Consider: tennis 30–0 (“Thirty love”); phone number 504 7721 (“five oh four double seven two one”; soccer: 3–0 (“Three nil”); temperature 0C (“zero degrees”), and, of course, the number 0.4 (“zero point four” or “nought point four”).

This brings us to what Germany calls “Industrie 4.0,” which is going to be big in 2016, especially in Davos later this month. By the way, Industrie 4.0 can be translated and pronounced as “Industry four point oh” or “Industry four point zero”, depending on one’s preference. Then there are the #hashtag rules: because spaces or punctuation in the words preceding or following a hashtag will break the link, we’re left with “#Industry40,” which looks awfully like “forty”. Oh dear.

So what is this Industry 4.0 that everyone is talking about? The German Academy of Science and Engineering, acatech, offers this definition:

“The first three industrial revolutions came about as a result of mechanisation, electricity and IT. Now, the introduction of the Internet of Things and Services into the manufacturing environment is ushering in a fourth industrial revolution. In the future, businesses will establish global networks that incorporate their machinery, warehousing systems and production facilities in the shape of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS). In the manufacturing environment, these Cyber-Physical Systems comprise smart machines, storage systems and production facilities capable of autonomously exchanging information, triggering actions and controlling each other independently. Smart factories that are already beginning to appear employ a completely new approach to production. Smart products are uniquely identifiable, may be located at all times and know their own history, current status and alternative routes to achieving their target state. The embedded manufacturing systems are vertically networked with business processes within factories and enterprises and horizontally connected to dispersed value networks that can be managed in realtime – from the moment an order is placed right through to outbound logistics.”

A shorter definition might go like this: “The next stage in the organization and management of the entire manufacturing value chain process.”


It’s not about the bike. It’s about the app.

Saturday, 2 January, 2016 0 Comments

There’s no web address to be seen on the brand being pedalled here. Instead, foodora, an “on-demand food boutique that offers meals from the most beloved restaurants that traditionally don’t deliver,” urges people to download the app from the Apple and Android stores. By the way, foodora is what you get when you mix Hurrier (Canada), Suppertime (Australia) and Heimschmecker (Austria) with Urban Taste (Germany). They’ve all been gobbled up by Delivery Hero in Berlin. It’s about the app; not the bike.

foodora


Fiction

Friday, 1 January, 2016 0 Comments

Pulp

“That was enough dialogue for a few pages — he had to get into some fast, red-hot action.

The story flowed like a torrent. The margin bell chimed almost staccato, the roller turned with almost piston-like continuity, the pages sprang up almost like blobs of batter from a pancake skillet. The cigarettes gave up their ghosts, long thin gray ghosts, in a good cause; the mortality rate was terrible.

His train of thought, the story’s lifeline, beer-lubricated but no whit impeded, flashed and sputtered and coursed ahead like lightning in a topaz mist, and the loose fingers and hiccuping keys followed as fast as they could.” — Cornell Woolrich

Photo: Winter timber cut and stacked on Slievereagh in County Limerick, Ireland. The main uses for wood pulp are paper and board. Fiction is a byproduct.


Perfect moments were had in that garden

Thursday, 31 December, 2015 0 Comments

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory,” said Leonard Nimoy, who died in February. The year was still young when the world’s most famous half-Vulcan passed away and our great gardener was still creating those perfect moments. They ended in September and we were left to ponder the words of Kahlil Gibran: “Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” As we say farewell to 2015, we remember the fortitude and courage and every other aspect of the great human soul now gone to her eternal reward. Perfect moments were had. For those we are grateful and they are preserved in memory.

Farewell, mother


Time passes, love fades and Dylan meets Big Data

Wednesday, 30 December, 2015 0 Comments

Although he’s a poet and a philosopher, Bob Dylan is not so ivory-tower that he scorns advertising, especially if it helps the Bob Dylan business. Back in 2004, he appeared in a commercial for Victoria’s Secret lingerie. In 2008 he did ads for Cadillac, and in 2009 he partnered with will.i.am for a Pepsi spot that aired during the Super Bowl. In October, IBM pulled off quite a coup when it coaxed Dylan into appearing in a commercial for its artificial intelligence software Watson. “I can read 800 million pages per second. My analysis shows your major themes are time passes and love fades,” Watson tells Dylan as the two riff on a song idea.

According to IBM, five Watson services analyzed 320 songs from Dylan’s archive and came up with the key trends of time passing and love fading. The message of the ad is that Watson not only thinks but learns about a topic. Among those topics are Big Data, Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT), all of which will be major themes here on Rainy Day in 2016.

The IoT is about connecting devices to the internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from phones to washing machines to wearables and almost anything else you can think of. The concept also covers machine components such as an airplane engine or the drill of an oil rig. According to Gartner, more than 20 billion devices will be part of the IoT by 2020.


The Christmas Candle

Friday, 25 December, 2015 0 Comments

The Christmas candle is such a beautiful thing. It is quiet and gentle and gives itself to all, unselfishly, as it illuminates the world and then ebbs away.

The Christmas Candle