Quiet in the skies

Pretty much anyone who lives within 25 km of Amsterdam lives in at least one of the flight paths for Schiphol airport. (See this nice little article at 99% Invisible to understand how airport runways designations work. For example, Schiphol’s longest runway the Polderbaan is designated as as “18R-36L”.)

Most days, the skies over our house are criss-crossed with contrails. How many planes come zooming by, at what height, and how much noise they make all depends on the wind direction. On busy days, there’s one every few minutes. They can make a lot of noise, but you get used to it very quickly.

And now it’s not there any more. The skies are quiet and empty. I noticed it earlier this week as I was sitting downstairs having a sandwich for lunch, and I noticed the silence. Nothing moving in the street outside. The constant background noise of A8 motorway a few hundred meters away was minimal. And no planes.

Looking up out of my office dormer window, there’s nothing but cool, pale blue from horizon to horizon. The last time this happened was in 2010 when the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland erupted and air traffic in northern Europe was shut down for a week because of the ash cloud.

I only have a vague memory of how everyone reacted over that. I seem to remember stories and speculation about what would happen if that became the new normal, and air travel was shut down permanently. But that passed, and everything carried on. Will this time be different?

Contrails casting shadows on clouds below them, September 9th 2009

Mixed media, Saturday 7 March 2020

Films

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood A film so memorable I forgot to include it in my last mixed media post, despite updating that post twice with items I’d forgotten when I first wrote it. It’s a very pretty film. The cinematography is amazing, and it evokes a wonderfully moody feel for Los Angeles in 1969. It just doesn’t have anything to say.
  • ⭐️ Birds of Prey Fiona and I went to see this to celebrate her being able to watch 16+ rated films here in NL now! It’s very good. Fun story, great use of narrative structure and editing to tell it in a way that echoes Harley Quinn’s manic and fragmented personality.
  • ⭐️ Train to Busan Zombies on a train!
  • ⭐️ Uncut Gems I saw the Safdie brothers’ previous film Good Time in 2018, and thought it was excellent. Uncut Gems has the same frantic energy and characters right on the edge of chaos. Don’t let the presence of Adam Sandler fool you: this isn’t a comedy. He plays a terrible person, and the awful situations he finds himself in are all of his own making. He’s an anti-hero all the way. The film didn’t make me care about him in the sense of wanting him to be happy, but his story was relentlessly compelling. I was practically holding my breath the whole time, wanting to know how (and if) it was going to work out in the end.
  • The Last Thing He Wanted Wherever the line is between “understated” and “bland”, this film was on the wrong side of it.
  • ⭐️ Sonic Yes, genuinely good. Despite a characteristically cartoonish performance, Jim Carrey contributes but he doesn’t steal the show. The heart of the film lies with the friendship that develops between policeman Tom and Sonic. It’s corny, but it works.
  • ⭐️ Parasite Amazing. Deserves all the praise it has got. I’m sure there’s a lot of symbolism and cultural meaning I missed, but no matter what I missed it’s still an amazing thriller with universally relevant themes.
  • ⭐️ Better Luck Tomorrow Early film by Justin Lin about a group of teenagers whose indiscretions and petty crime spiral out of control. Alex pointed out that this film is actually set in the Fast and Furious universe, with the character Han (played by Sung Kang) making his very first appearance.
  • Spenser Confidential Why. Whyyyyyy. Why does this film exist? Working theory: it exists to entice and then disappoint Robert B. Parker fans everywhere. This is not a Spenser film. Wikipedia (currently) says that the film is “very loosely based” on the novel Wonderland by Ace Atkins, who took over writing the Spenser series after Parker died. How about we go with, the film is based on the names of characters featured in the book. Because other than the fact that Henry runs a boxing and MMA gym, and that Pearl is a dog, these characters are completely unrecognizable. The thing is, this would have been a perfectly serviceable crime thriller otherwise. Just give the characters different names, and I would have been down for this anyway. Mark Wahlberg, Winston Duke, Alan Arkin, and Iliza Shlesinger have some good on-screen chemistry! So if you have no prior knowledge of the Spenser books, you might enjoy this as a relatively lightweight crime/corruption thriller. But I’m feeling grumpy about the naming, so it gets no star from me.

TV

  • ⭐️ Road Quest A Kickstarted YouTube series produced by Loading Ready Run, in which six of their hosts drive three second-hand cars on a road trip from Victoria, British Columbia, to Dawson City in the Yukon. It has certain elements of Top Gear, but it’s a completely different experience. It’s kinder for a start. Also, although it’s professionally produced, it’s still beautifully amateurish in the sense that these people don’t make automobile content for a living. They’re just a bunch of friends (presenters, comedians) who decided to make a video series about a journey they thought would be fun to take. It’s relaxed, relatable, and full of geek culture references. Alex was a backer on Kickstarter, and he’d been looking forward to it ever since it was announced. When it started streaming, I became a fan, too. It’s just so Canadian and lovely. The soundtrack is great, too.
  • ⭐️ Locke and Key (season 1) I love the comics, and I thought this was a great adaptation. It dials down the family tragedy, violence, and existential horror by quite a bit, but it retains much of the mystery and wonder. The season finale leaves the door open for a season 2, but wraps the story up in a sufficiently satisfying way that it doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger. (Come to think of it – TV shows are starting to get good at this kind of ending. Consequence of the streaming “all episodes at once” era?)
  • ⭐️ Runaways (season 1) Same as above. Love the comics, love the adaptation. Unlike Locke and Key, which sticks fairly closely to the books, Runaways takes the basic elements of the source material but runs them very differently. The fact that the adults get equal screen time (and are developed sympathetically) is one of several major shifts. I think it works. The show has two more seasons already out in the world, but they haven’t landed on Disney+ yet, presumably because of licensing issues.

Cat

I’m pleased with this photo of Solo sleeping.

Categories
Mixed Media

Mixed media, Saturday 1 February 2020

Fuck Brexit!

The words Europe and Scotland linked by a heart, projected onto the side of the European Commission HQ
Europe ❤️ Scotland

Town in Netherlands replaces Union Jack with Saltire in EU flag line-up

I haven’t quite figured out how to make a European Flag tattoo design that works for me yet.

Fuck Brexit!

Knives Out movie poster

Films:

  • El Camino (Breaking Bad movie) A good chaser after having finished watching all of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
  • ⭐️ Knives Out I’m a fan of Rian Johnson’s, and I’d been looking forward to this for ages. Watched it at the cinema with Abi and Fiona on my birthday, after rushing down a pineapple and jalopeño pizza (yes) at the Domino’s around the corner to catch the movie start time. Excellent film, absolutely loved it.
  • The Irishman Boring. The facial digital de-aging was good, possibly the best we’ve seen to date, but they forgot to de-age the actors’ gaits. In scenes where he’s supposed to be playing a man in his 40s, De Niro still walks and moves like a man in his 70s. Also, did I mention the film’s boring? Because it’s boring.
  • Rise of Skywalker Yes, it’s stupid and full of plot holes, but I liked it. Kinda glad that the cycle is done now, though.
  • ⭐️ Warcraft You know what? Not at all bad. It’s not Moon or Source Code, but it’s not a turkey. It’s not subtle, it’s not groundbreaking, but it’s sincere in putting on an entertaining and exciting big-budget fantasy spectacle that isn’t set in Middle Earth. I enjoyed it.
  • Roman J Israel Esq Knowing nothing about this film other than having watched the trailer clip showing a single scene of dialogue between Denzel Washington and Colin Farrell, this went in a completely different direction than I’d expected. Thoughtful, uncomfortable, pretty good.
  • 💩💩 6 Underground I tried watching this, but I couldn’t. A billionaire faking his own death so he can mete out vigilante justice with no regard for collateral damage is…troublesome at best, the I found the opening car chase scene so abhorrent that I deleted the download from my phone so that I wouldn’t be tempted to try returning to it. (Yes, Bruce Wayne/Batman, yes, Tony Stark/Iron Man. I know.)
  • Frozen 2 Good. Kristoff’s “Lost in the woods” eighties music video parody is hilarious.
  • My name is Dolemite Excellent. Funny and moving story of a comedian trying to make it big, and do it his way.
  • Song of the Sea Beautiful film, gorgeous animation.
  • Jojo Rabbit Brilliant. I found the start uncomfortable, with how much it leaned in to painting the nazis in a normal and humorous light, but it turned into something altogether sharper, more subtle, and more emotional.

TV

  • Rick and Morty season 4 (or at least the first half of it) – still funny.
  • Watchmen Excellent, intense, twisty & turny, although the use of kinetic weapons in the final episode felt inconsistent in its execution.
  • The Good Place season 4 Wow. Hard to keep up the level of comedy and still bring that to a satisfying ending, but they really did it.
  • October Faction season 1 I won’t be surprised if Netflix doesn’t renew this for a second season, and I won’t be super disappointed, either, because they brought this first story arc to a pretty solid conclusion. It’s relatively low budget, relatively low key and downbeat, definitely not the flashiest or best piece of TV out there. But what can I say? I enjoyed the family story, and felt a strong connection with the two parents, struggling to deal with two teens who themselves are trying to figure out their own identity in a new and difficult situation.
Slow Horses by Mick Herron book cover

Books

  • ⭐ The first 5 books of the Jackson Lamb series by Mick Herron: Slow Horses, Dead Lions, Real Tigers, Spook Street, and London Rules. Loved these. I came across them via Warren Ellis. Serious spy stories, with elements of Archer-like inappropriate humour that creep in around the edges. Looking forward to the next one.
  • 😐 Measure What Matters by John Doerr. He never comes out and explicitly says there is a causal link between the use of OKRs and corporate success (maybe his editor balked), but he sure as heck implies it at every opportunity. Now, I like OKRs, but I also like supporting evidence. This book is a selection of the most successful case studies from his personal acquaintance. Pretty! But completely lacking in balance, or in guidance for anything but the happiest of paths.

Music

  • Manic by Halsey is amazing. Varied and richly textured. And I can actuall play the bass part for “Finally // beautiful stranger” because it’s super easy (E-D-C-A) and at a tempo I can still handle. ❤️
  • The track “Alanis’ Interlude” on Manic features…Alanis Morissette, who I haven’t listened to for ages. As in, I hadn’t heard Flavors of Entanglement from 2008 or havoc and bright lights from 2012 at all. But now I have! I prefer the latter.

Update: I’d forgotten that in the time period for this mixed mediastravaganza I also had a subscription to Amazon Prime. This was accidental. I generally avoid Amazon (I disapprove strongly of their labour practices), but when I do use them, I always avoid signing up for their offers of Amazon Prime. But this time they caught me with one of their dark patterns. Something like a “no, I don’t want to not take advantage of opting out of this free offer” checkbox that I misinterpreted.

Anyway, so there I was with an Amazon Prime subscription, and Season 4 of ⭐ The Expanse just having been released as an Amazon exclusive, so I stuck around for that. And season 1 of ⭐ Fleabag. But not season 2, because despite season 2 being “Available on Amazon Prime Video” this apparently doesn’t mean it’s, you know, available on Amazon Prime Video in the way media are available on other video subscription services. Of course not, what was I thinking.

So anyway, that subscription is gone now.

And then there’s Disney+, on which we’ve watched season 1 of The Mandalorian. Mixed opinion. On the one hand Baby Yoda, on the other hand droid slavery and mass murder. So.

And as I was looking back over this media collection, I thought it was looking a bit light for a three month gap since the previous one…and then I remembered that ⭐ Spider-Man on PS4 kinda took over my life for while there. Time well spent.

The Human Capital Hoax

Ordinary capital refers to tangible items and investments: cash, property, equipment. It can be sold, split up, moved around. Human capital is the accumulation of knowledge, skills, abilities, etc. inside a person. As such, it can’t be separated from the human in which it resides.

Human capital comes in two types: specific human capital is the set of skills that someone needs to do a specific job. (For example, knowing how to use a particular home-grown piece of software, or an idiosyncratic manufacturing process.) This is non-transferable: if the person goes to work for a different company, they can’t really take it with them. General human capital is the set of skills and abilities that an employee can take with them, and hence makes them (theoretically) more valuable to employers in a supposedly free marketplace.

So the question is: who should pay for a person to develop that general human capital, which by definition cannot be separated from the person in which they reside? Back in the 1960s, neoclassical economics said: well, duh, the person is responsible for that themselves of course. Say hello to human capital theory, the fall of free education, and the rise of the gig economy, zero-hours contracts, and out-of-control inequality.

On my course this term I’m doing the Learning & Development module! And in the first week, our lecturer Dr Rebecca Whiting dropped this paper on us: “The Human Capital Hoax: Work, Debt and Insecurity in the Era of Uberization” by Peter Fleming, which takes an axe to the whole edifice.

He stands clearly in the corner of human dignity and social equality, but he uses the tools of economics to draw a straight line from the foundations of human capital theory to the obviously flawed practical outcomes we see in the world right now: “This has allowed the genuine yearning for worker independence to be hijacked and transformed into an instrument of proletarianization”

Fuck yeah. One more quote I’m especially fond of:

“[…] a more balanced employment relationship is indispensable if self-determination is to be successfully renegotiated to create fairer life chances. […] One cannot truly express individualism, self-reliance and choice when desperately dependent on an unequal power relationship.

Fleming (2017)

It’s an academic essay, so it’s not quite a casual read, but it’s a powerful tonic when the world outside looks a bit grim.

Genuine Apple Advice for SD card problems

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204384

What. The. Hell.

Insert faster! Faster, damn it!

And for the SD card I’m using right now…this tip actually works.