I hadn’t planned to post today, but cool things I want to memoize and share continue to accumulate (it’s worse than having to dust — that I can ignore). I already had one Holy Cow! item paired with a So Cool! item, plus another little piece of beko mochi beauty to share.
Then this morning I read an OMG, Yes!! article about actress Michelle Gomez, and then a really touching piece by musician Rosanne Cash. Lastly (technically firstly, as it was the first item added), I have a cute bit of AI research to make you smile.
So once more unto the breach, dear friends,…
I like these more than the stop-motion cooking videos. I think I’d like those better if, at some point along the way, the stuff turned into edible food.
What’s kinda cool about these beko mochi videos is both the real-time aspect (they aren’t stop-motion, which is a form of cheating) and that the product is edible.
For me that makes these way cool in addition to beautiful.
I generally like all the YouTube videos Tom Scott does (but of course it varies with his topics and my interests).
I especially like his videos about language. He has a background in linguistics, and he covers some really interesting ground. (In contrast, he also has a computer science background, but orients his CS videos towards a general audience, so I just nod along with those.)
This recent one light a huge light bulb for me. I literally exclaimed, “Holy, Cow!” (I don’t mean “literally” literally here, because “cow” wasn’t the word I used, but I did literally exclaim out loud.)
The light bulb was the sudden realization of why I misspell most of the words I misspell. It’s almost always about the schwa.
Three examples, nemeses all: occurrence, mandatory, propaganda. (Even nemesis sneaks onto the list sometimes.)
Typing those just now, I got the first one wrong! I almost always do. The word occurrence, in my mind, is a dance, not a dence. (It’s hard enough remembering there are two “arrs” — maybe I should think pirates. Pirates rent the sails… Arr!)
Here’s another of his language videos that I got a huge kick out of:
Vegan tomatoes and asbestos-free cereal. It is funny. (Now you know why.)
It’s a so cool! aspect of how we interpret the world and, especially, others. The complex fabric of social interaction is fascinating to me. I am, in particular, fascinated by ways of saying things without actually saying things.
The Japanese are very good at that, especially compared to blunt westerners; they have many modes of subtle communication.
One thing that’s always attracted me to C.J. Cherryh stories isn’t just that she does such great aliens, but that she does such great aliens with complex and subtle communication and understandings. Often they are warrior cultures reminiscent of ancient Japan.
The title was an immediate clue: The wicked spells of Michelle Gomez
If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you know her as Missy — the female incarnation of The Master. If you’re a fan of the Netflix TV series, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, you know her as Lilith (aka Madam Satan).
I’ve only watched a few episodes of Sabrina (or do they call it Chilling?), but Gomez definitely caught my eye there already. As Silverman points out, Gomez has constructed two very different characters in Missy and Lilith.
Yet what lights up the screen is a common quality. Silverman said it so well, so perfectly, I can only quote her:
At first glance, Missy — the first canon female incarnation of the iconic villain, the Master — might not seem all that remarkable. Missy’s look, a sort of demented Mary Poppins (complete with umbrella), falls firmly in the line of Steven Moffat-era Who‘s most-favorite type of female villain: slightly anachronistic, impeccably dressed, and with the ever-present hint of governess meets dominatrix to her. But while this look had been a go-to for villains played by the likes of Celia Imrie, Keeley Hawes, and Diana Rigg, Gomez is the one who most felt like perhaps she had just brought her own stuff from home.
When I read that last line, I just lit up. Yes. That’s exactly the feeling Gomez communicates.
Missy completely owned the screen, and you could, maybe for the first time, see why The Doctor was so bound to The Master. Missy was as completely compelling as The Doctor.
As Silverman goes on to say:
But this tiny Scottish woman with cheekbones you could slice vegetables on brought such chaotic fire to the role that made it feel like the show had just turned into a documentary, that Missy herself had just invaded the set of Doctor Who and the crew were forced to just turn the cameras on and react to whatever she did.
Again, totally nailed it.
That said, as I was just saying, it’s good not to get too carried away with our attachment to an actor or story. Actors, especially, are not their characters.
(A lesson that’s caused chagrin more than once: Of course Loretta Swit isn’t Major Margaret Houlihan from M*A*S*H; Bebe Nuewirth isn’t Doctor Lilith Sternin from Cheers; and Lisa Edelstein isn’t Doctor Lisa Cuddy from House, M.D. It can be a bit of a shock the first time one sees them on a talk show.)
((Not as big a shock as seeing Hugh Laurie after only knowing him as the American doctor Greg House. I did not know that actor was British until that show.))
There is also, as Silverman acknowledges, that Missy and Lilith are, in part, creations of the writers. What we see is a synthesis of actor, director, and writer.
It’s about how hard life on the road is for touring musicians (in the best of circumstances, it’s a grind; for most, it has major aspects of misery). I highly recommend it.
Cash tells about a time a year ago when:
I was walking through an airport parking garage in Reno at midnight, pulling my bag behind me, following John and my tour manager, David, to a rental van, when I suddenly felt as if glue were pouring through the top of my head and working its way to my feet. I stopped and looked around at the rows of rental cars. “I don’t want to do this anymore,” I said, loud enough for them to hear me.
Over the 40 years of touring, the misery had begun to outweigh the reward, even though the rewards of performing are (indeed) considerable. Cash writes eloquently about the connection between performer and audience.
She also writes about the impact touring had on her health and life.
However the COVID-19 pandemic brought all tours to a screeching halt, and suddenly musicians couldn’t tour if they wanted to. It’s always when we lose something that we reevaluate its value. Sometimes we realize what was good was more important than all that was bad.
The truth is, I will miss what I wanted to lose. I will miss the end-of-the-world ebullience, the temporal beauty of live performance, like a monk’s sand painting; swept away at the end of the night, but held in memory, jewel-like. I will miss seeing those faces as mirrors to myself, and making myself a mirror for them. I want to see the audience, and I want to be the audience.
I’ve realized, during this unfathomable world event, that I can tolerate a certain number of parking garages and identical hotels without undue stress on the blood supply to my heart. It turns out that when I’m performing, I have only half the available light; the audience has the other half.
To which, again, I can add nothing except, yes, exactly. Performance is a compact between the stage and the house. The proscenium is the interface.
Lastly, here’s a cute video about AI research into the fragility of deep-learning neural networks, which are the focus of most AI research these days:
Isn’t that a basic life lesson? Throw them off by doing the unexpected?
We do have a lot to learn about how these networks function and, more importantly, how they break. The intriguing, or perhaps scary, thing about these is that we don’t always know how they do what they do.
What’s fascinating is how easily they are thrown off by abnormal input.
Stay schwa, my friends!