What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege

I have nothing to add to this. It is very accurate and an experience I share and will cherish as an example.

A Little More Sauce

The phrase “white privilege” is one that rubs a lot of white people the wrong way. It can trigger something in them that shuts down conversation or at least makes them very defensive. (Especially those who grew up relatively less privileged than other folks around them). And I’ve seen more than once where this happens and the next move in the conversation is for the person who brought up white privilege to say, “The reason you’re getting defensive is because you’re feeling the discomfort of having your privilege exposed.”

I’m sure that’s true sometimes. And I’m sure there are a lot of people, white and otherwise, who can attest to a kind of a-ha moment or paradigm shift where they “got” what privilege means and they did realize they had been getting defensive because they were uncomfortable at having their privilege exposed. But I would guess that more often than…

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The opening scene sets the movie.

Hope is a Furious Road

My name is Max. My world is reduced to a single instinct: Survive. As the world fell it was hard to know who was more crazy. Me… Or everyone else.

This is part of Max Rockatanksy’s opening narration to George Miller’s spartan tale of survival and hope in a world on fire. There are currently two focal points for reviews on this film:

  1. This is an amazing action movie, shot almost entirely in sequence on the backs of cars, full of amazing, tactile explosions and over the top insanity.
  2. This is a feminist story at its finest, with the heroine not only being a capable leader, but a disabled woman to boot.

See this movie for either of those reasons, because they are well fulfilled in the movie itself. I’d like to propose another reason to see it, however. This movie is a master course in story telling. It’s rare to get a movie that is so fully aware of itself that it does away with the need to have a character to ‘bring the audience up to speed.’ It’s exceptionally rare to find it in an action flick that borders on science fiction, both notorious for using the coming-of-age tale to expound on their universe. Miller’s Fury Road is uncompromising in its story telling, however, and does not pander to an audience unwilling to literally ride along on the ridiculously over worked car-steeds.

The cars themselves are as good a place to start as any. Gaudy, over worked, gas guzzling monstrosities, the cars are full extensions of the characters being portrayed. This is a simple issue to miss, in the frenzy of the movie, possibly mistaken for a well played trope, and to be sure, they are the very core of the world of Mad Max. This movie does something amazing with them, however, and to miss that is to miss the larger point of the story. The cars themselves are like the viking ships so prized by the Danish raiders of the 8th and 9th centuries. The clear correlation here is made with various mentions of Valhalla and the prayers of the War Boys to their cultish god of war and conquest, the V8, as well as their desire to be ‘witnessed’ and ‘die historic on the Fury Road.’ This cult is embodied by their leader Immortan Joe, who rules like a feudal lord, dispensing water, rather than riches, to his people, and hoarding ‘clean’ women as ‘breeders’ for hopefully healthy sons. Don’t mistake the over-the-top cars with simple eye candy, they tell the story of the War Boys, Citadel, and the apocalypse very clearly, their life is secured and advanced by those cars, and their status in the ranks of Citadel is illustrated in how unreasonable their modifications can be. The cars are idols, to be worshiped and revered, decorated and viewed with awe.

This bare bones story telling (none of this is ever mentioned directly) is a hallmark of great writing that colors so much of this movie. This is a lean film, spartan in the way it doles out details. I was worried at the initial narrated voice-over, setting up Max’s past, but that small moment of letting us in as an audience was the entire introduction we get. From that point on, we’re along for the ride. And that ride is truly magnificent.

The other great rarity of such a clear action movie, is the development of character. For a hero to gain some sort of self-awareness in one of these movies is very rare, for a secondary character to even be more than a flat reflective surface for the hero, is even more rare. Fury Road deftly handles three characters through an entire plot arc of self-awareness and growth, and then juggles the stories of at least two more very complex characters (one being Immortan Joe himself, despite his villainy) with very little screen time wasted on introspection or dense conversation. I’m going to focus on an aspect of Max’s growth for the sake of this part of the review.

You know… Hope is a mistake. If you don’t fix what’s broke, you’ll go insane.

~Max Rockatansky

The nihilism present in the Mad Max films is always a sore point with many viewers. Miller has, in Max, a character that illustrates that people live on long after they stop hoping. Max is no hero, he is a survivor. At the time we catch up to him in the movie, he has survived too much, and his guilt is gnawing at him continually. Every action he takes for the first half of the film is an animalistic, reflexive move to survive. It’s clear he has no desire to ‘be witnessed’ in a heroic death, but what’s unclear is why he doesn’t simply succumb. For some reason, he struggles to live, despite having nothing to live for. In many ways, his nihilism is a fear of dying, because there are things waiting for him on the other side of death’s door that are far worse than the scrabbling existence on this side. Gradually, and subtly, Max is given something to live for, and by the end of the film, we see that maybe something is being fixed. Not only is he a more than a hopeless survivor, but he is become a champion of a cause greater than any of the individual characters in the tale.

Opposed to Max’s story, or perhaps in a sort of counter point harmony to it, we have the story of Imperator Furiosa, the female hero that is being much raved about in the media. The truth of the matter is, she fits no trope of a female hero that we see regularly in film. She is all too human, and this is the threat of this character. She is approachable, and as a viewer, we can follow her arc from beginning to end in a very believable progression. She wastes no time on screen being impossibly hard (as many female leads tend to be) or in distress (as a romantic interest), rather, Furiosa is a story unto herself, and a damned fine one as well.In all, Fury Road is one of the best movies that will come out this year. If you go see it for either of the reasons it is getting a lot of press, you’ll likely leave wondering why it was so much more fantastic than you thought. I hope this post goes a little way to clearing some of that up. There’s obviously much more of the movie to review. In an ironic sort of turn, I’ll leave you with a quote from Ernest Hemingway on what makes a great story to explain it better than I could:

The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.~Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon

Image found on wikimedia. I'm not stupid enough to take a picture of a police car.

Functional Anarchy

I was going in to a local grocery to get some things for my wife this weekend, and had to pause as I saw a police cruiser pull to a stop in the fire lane in front of the store. The officer got out of the cruiser and left it running as he went into the store in front of me. I thought this was interesting, and wondered what he was doing. Responding to a call? Getting a donut?

Image found on wikimedia. I'm not stupid enough to take a picture of a police car.

Image found on wikimedia. I’m not stupid enough to take a picture of a police car.

Turns out he was just going inside to get a Mother’s Day card. This isn’t the interesting part of the story. What caught my attention was the fact that he left the cruiser running. Keys in the ignition, in the fire lane, in front of the store. This is anarchy. You may balk and say, well, he’s a police officer. It probably wasn’t his best move (definitely doesn’t fit office regs, I’m sure) but it illustrates a point.

Anarchy isn’t about people being crazy and doing whatever the heck they want, whenever they want. It is about people respecting property, either out of a sense of propriety, or a sense of self-preservation. The officer, rightly, assumed that no one would simply jump in a police cruiser and drive off with it. The point I want to make is the reason he was right in this assumption has less to do with ordered society than with functional anarchy.

A ‘law abiding citizen’ wouldn’t jump in the car and drive off because that would be illegal. There are all sorts of reasons they might come to this conclusion, “I’d be arrested”, “I’d be fined”, “I’d be shot”. All of these are valid reasons not to take the cruiser. The funny thing is, it isn’t the officer’s property, it belongs to the police force, and thus is payed for by the citizens’ taxes. It’s more right to say that the citizens own the cruiser, and the officer is borrowing it. But none of them take it.

Now, you may say this isn’t anarchy, and you’re right. What an anarchist would think on seeing that same situation is, “It’s not mine, so I’m not going to take it.” You might throw up your hands and say, “well that’s what I thought before those other things as well,” and I’d tell you, “then you are an anarchist.”

We should all be able to drive up to a store, leave the keys in the ignition and the car running, and go in to grab a mother’s day card without fear of our car being driven off by someone else. It shouldn’t take the fear of a badge to keep people behaving. If you think this is idealism, then why are the police officers the only ones able to do this kind of thing?

"Lujuria / Lust: Pecado Original" by Gabriel S. Delgado C. is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Let’s Talk About Sex

"Lujuria / Lust: Pecado Original" by Gabriel S. Delgado C. is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

“Lujuria / Lust: Pecado Original” by Gabriel S. Delgado

There’s a lot of really great food in the world.

I love tasty food. I like to taste food. I regularly feel like I shouldn’t go quite as long between meals as I do, because I’m sure to miss out on something. My belt, however, is telling me that I haven’t been balancing my meals out with enough exercise lately. Apparently, I’m in the majority in the United States.

Sure, I snack, but it’s because I can’t concentrate well if I don’t. I drink a good amount of coffee, because it’s important to my productivity as well. I’m not addicted to these things, however, so they aren’t really necessary, I just like them. I indulge in an occasional alcoholic beverage, but I avoid milk like the plague. That stuff’s bad for my stomach, seriously. I’ve been a happier person since I stopped drinking it. Well, mostly stopped, I do like the taste of cereal every once in a while. I was told a while back that you could never put as much sugar on your corn flakes as they have in the sugary varieties, so I do that, rather than buy the really color rich kid cereals. I’m an adult, after all. Don’t get me started on office snacks, it’s not my fault we have those cheesballs in such large quantity in there… or that I don’t bring my own lunch very often.

Point is, I know what my mouth’s for. It’s for tasting stuff. Well, that and chewing on stuff, like my pens, and maybe my nail beds (nervous habits die hard.) Straws are a relentless target, for sure, and who can resist crunching ice every now and again time I get a fountain drink? These things are fine, surely they don’t do as much damage as my dentist tells me.
The most important reason to eat is for the taste.

State of my FOSS, 2015 – The Youtube Enthusiast

Video Editing and Prep –Making it look good everywhere

Kdenlive-> Replaces Adobe Premiere / MovieMaker

Kdenlive (I have no idea how to say that) is a full feature video editor for Unix systems. This one won’t work on Windows, so you’ll have to find another alternative for that OS. This program does what Premiere does, and it does it well. It even feels faster on the render times, though I can’t say that with perfect experience. The biggest bit you’ll be missing out on with this, and the others in this post, is Adobe’s interconnected functionality. Not being able to just plop an editable AfterEffects composition in here is tough, but manageable.

Natron-> Replaces Adobe AfterEffects

Iniria (a research group in France) has hit a homerun with this sole replacement for AfterEffects. Natron does what you’d hope for in AfterEffects style. Kinetic Typography, moving images, quick transitions, all with a nodal editing system. I’m becoming a huge fan of this program, and am only not using it in my regular pipeline because I already have so much set up in Adobe.

Handbrake-> Replaces {Media Encoder / Compressor} and AdobeEncore (sorta)

Another French entry here, Handbrake gets a crack at every video that I output, even from commercial software. The compression alone is worth the effort to try this program out, but it also converts videos very handily between formats, and transcodes if you take the time to learn the closet space in this one.

MakeMKV-> Rips video from DVD to make MKV files.

MakeMKV is an indispensable tool to rip DVDs and BluRays to digital files. The legality of doing this is all in what you do with them. I have a media ‘server’ at home with our DVDs ripped out to it, so the kids can click and play. You can get short clips from movies to use elsewhere, just be careful for the copyrighting. My most common use for this, however, is in getting a video presentation for display that I’d rather have digitally than in a solid format. Works every time.

State of my FOSS, 2015 – The digital sculptor and game maker

This is the stuff I use for 3D images and games, there are other items, but they are less in the spirit of FOSS than they are just free versions of more robust programs (Sculptris, for example.) I threw the game stuff in here, though it doesn’t strcitly fit the 3D bill, I’m just starting out on trying Blender’s Game engine.

3D Art and Game Programming – Makes fun stuff

Blender -> Replaces Maya / 3DS Max / Unity (sorta) / Adobe After Effects & Premiere (sorta)

Blender is probably my personal favorite from this list. This plucky 3D graphics render program is a lot of bang for a single piece of software. If you aren’t into 3D rendering, the video editing tools are still good enough to pull your attention. I’ve been able to do nearly all my learning about how to use this program (with a tremendously steep learning curve for those not used to 3d rendering) online for free. The resources are out there, and the community is fantastic. Add to this, the fact that you can write scripts in Python for the program, and you have me sold. The game engine is not half bad, it probably can’t compete with Unity (also free) yet, but it is open source.

MakeHuman -> Procedurally generate human models

MakeHuman exports to a format useable by all 3d rendering programs, and dramatically reduces setup time for people images. Incredibly valuable for 3D artists who aren’t great modelers, but want to make images of people.

PyGame -> Versatile game coding for python

PyGame is a great framework for creating simple games in Python. Combined with other resources, it can be a really powerful engine builder, and it plays very well with Blender.

State of my FOSS, 2015 – The Web Builder.

If you are interested in connecting in the modern world, there are a great many ways to do it. If you are interested in building a website yourself, there’s some important stuff you should have from the FOSS community.

Web Software – Gets you connected

I should note here that if you are not developing in Python, you’re missing out.

MariaDB -> Replaces MySQL

This is a fun one, because MySQL is technically ‘free’ but isn’t open source, and that’s why there is MariaDB. If you need a database manager, I recommend Maria over MySQL, primarily because it is a drop-in replacement with more features. The creator of MySQL (Michael Widenius) created MariaDB after seeing how Oracle closed down MySQL after they purchased it, so this is a version of his creation that is sure to stay open source.

Web2Py -> Replaces {Content Management System}

Web2Py is a robust CMS for website development. If you know python, you can do just about anything in this that you need to. The alternatives are Rails for Ruby (not bad, but steep curve for learning) or PHP (yuck).

Synfig Studio -> Replaces Adobe Flash

Although Synfig Studio is a fullish featured vector program, the real power lies in its ability to animate graphics for web export. I don’t include it in the 2D art as much as here for the use it has as an animation program over a strictly art program. If you are interested in 2D animation, this is a must have. If you’d like some spiffy, moving graphics for your website, this is a solid choice.