Jan. 29th, 2016

maxomai: dog (dog)
It's been a while since I did one of these. Let's get to it.


  • My predictions for the Iowa caucuses: Clinton, Cruz. Sanders and Trump look good on paper but they suffer from the same fundamental problem, that is, a comparative lack of organization and less experienced supporters. The period between Iowa and New Hampshire (Feb 9th) will be the first big test of whether Trump is really as unstoppable as the paleocons say he's become, or whether, on the contrary, he's the new Howard Dean.

  • Why has housing, particularly in Oregon, gotten so fucking expensive? Progressives like to blame gentrification, but in fact, it might be simple good old fashioned anti-competitive behavior by home builders. This is why having a government that "knows the difference between antitrust and antifreeze" (M. Dukakis) matters, kids.

  • We won't know for sure until the Fed releases their 2015 Q4 GDP numbers later today, but the evidence is that we're not entering a recession. More here.

  • Five years later, post-mortems of the Arab Spring abound. Check here and here and here and here for good ones. For an opposing point of view, one analyst notes that the Arab Spring was probably just the beginning of a period of Arab world revolutionary fervor, driven as much by ideology as by socioeconomic factors.

  • Iraqi Kurds are about to hold a referendum on sucession from Iraq. The Iraqi government is already warning that such a referendum is likely illegal. If it passes, which I think it will, then IMO war between Iraq and Turkey on one side, and the Kurds on another, is inevitable. I would count on the Kurds getting crushed unless they manage to get help from Iran or Russia.

  • An analysis of the radio communications of the Malheur occupiers here. The gist of it is that they relied on "secret frequencies" to keep their communications secure. The problem is that these provide no protection whatsoever against an FBI agent or State Police officer with a HAM radio that has a Seek button. I would go as far as to say that their de-facto open communications probably led directly to their arrests. I suppose they could have fixed this by encrypting messages with PGP or GnuPG and sending via packet radio, but they didn't have the gear for it, and probably didn't have the expertise, either. I'm also not sure that's legal on the frequencies they used. (It's a violation of FCC part 97 to send encrypted transmissions as part of amateur radio operations, but I'm not certain that applies to all the frequencies they used.)

maxomai: dog (dog)
I saw The Zoas: I Have Seen The Future! Wednesday night at The Secret Society. Basically, it's Welcome to Night Vale meets The Muppet Show, wherein we see the guts of a variety show on a network run by an evil, mad god. I was very impressed with what I saw, which isn't to say that it was all great. Which brings us to "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly."

The good is twofold. First, this production showcases the substantial talents of the cast quite handsomely. Portland theater doesn't do this often enough. Matthew Feranda, Caitlin Nolan and Jennie Spada particularly shined. The second is that the writing is energetic, often weird, and very, very funny. The Night Vale influence is obvious, but The Zoas tones down Night Vale's occasionally cloying political correctness. The show timed in at three hours, and it was well worth the investment of my time.

The bad is that this is a very complicated production --- particularly considering that Wednesday night's performance was supposed to be just a reading --- and the quality of the end product suffers for it. There were technical issues and rather obvious missed queues along the way. A lot of this is attributable to the intention to have a multi-media extravaganza for an end product. IMO if they re-wrote it as a radio show rather than a television show, they could remove a lot of the complexity without hurting the premise or the quality of the remaining writing. The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society and Welcome to Night Vale both know how to pull that off.

The ugly The Zoas promises the next episode will come in May. That's a very ambitious timeline to carry out a very ambitious project, and I'm concerned that we'll see the same issues in the next episode as in the last. If I were them, I'd give it six months, not four.

There's also the more fundamental matter that this story line shows every indication of falling into the same trap as most weird tales these days, most of all Welcome To Night Vale, which the master of the weird tale, H. P. Lovecraft, described thusly:

We have millions who lack the intellectual independence, courage, and flexibility to get an artistic thrill out of a bizarre situation, and who enter sympathetically into a story only when it ignores the colour and vividness of actual human emotions and conventionally presents a simple plot based on artificial, ethically sugar-coated values and leading to a flat denouement which shall vindicate every current platitude and leave no mystery unexplained by the shallow comprehension of the most mediocre reader. (Source)


I congratulate the entire cast on putting on a hell of a good show despite the difficulty, and I wish them the best of luck next time.

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