Monday, February 19, 2018

Incompetent AI: Volume 011010

If you're someone who worries about the takeover of artificially intelligent machines horning in, take comfort in this algorithmic fumble. I've heard Tom Cruise bears a striking resemblance to Tig Notaro, but I've never confused him with Mike Birbiglia.



Sunday, January 14, 2018

Lulu's Bakery & Cafe, open 24 hours





Tonight I went to my favorite haunt, Lulu's Bakery & Cafe. It's a downtown diner of the sort Charles Bukowski wrote about in "Nirvana", only with real frenetic substance.

I like going there to do something by myself around other people. "Yeah, this is a good place for that!" my waitress Barbie laughs, adding her tips in the seat left of me at the counter. That's her real name. 

Bob Seger plays and my mind rolls backward: A few years ago I used to stop by every night around 12 with a book, Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins or David Griffith's A Good War is Hard to Find or Douglas Adams' Mostly Harmless. It was there I learned decaf still has some caffeine, the riddle of why six or seven cups left me unable to sleep solved.

On my right was her husband, Freddy, and on the other side of him sat their daughter Penelope, face pressed into the glow of a large broken phone screen. That's another name you don't hear very often. 

"I've waited here hours for her to get off," he tells me. Tonight, or over time? "No, like every night she's here." Wow. That sucks, I say. Aside from the hours, it seems like a pretty good place to work though. "Oh yeah, she makes like $200 a night. This place is always busy." 

Sometimes while waiting for her he goes fishing on the Riverwalk off Josephine Street. He's caught a big catfish and some suckermouths. Catch and release, of course. I wouldn't trust a fish from that part of the river either.

The carne guisada taco is not that good, it's kind of runny, Barbie cautions me. What do you recommend? They both answer, the bean & cheese & potato & bacon taco. Well, how could I not try that?

In between sprints here and around, she complains to him about her day and they talk. Sometimes he yaps as she dashes by, "Hey, I'm hungry!" She still hasn't taken his order. It makes me a little nervous. 

After a while, she yells to him from behind the register, "Queso or gravy?"

"What?"

"Queso or gravy?"


"On what?"

"On your chicken!"

"What??"

"On me!" and they laugh.

A few minutes later, "Look what I got you!" she says and slides him a big plate of chicken fried steak and corn and mashed potatoes and gravy as sightly as moonlight on a midnight river.

And my meal was particularly good, too. And the coffee.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Better Things

Anyone who's yet to see the Season 2 finale of Better Things ought to do that first. If you're not planning on seeing it anyway, go right ahead.

A little background: Better Things is a show loosely based on the life of its writer, director, and main actress, the very talented and always hilarious Pamela Adlon. It follows the lives of Sam and her three daughters: Max (Mikey Madison), the oldest; Frankie (Hannah Alligood), the middle; and Duke (Olivia Edward), her youngest. The show also features Sam's mother Phylis, played by Celia Imrie.

In this scene, Sam choreographs a dance sequence as a high school graduation present for Max. It caps an episode in which Max haggles for a mother-free graduation party and then suffers the broken promise of an absentee father during the ceremony.

Pay attention here to their facial expressions: Sam's relaxed and steady focus, her self-assured grin. She knows the dance may go under-appreciated like pretty much all the insane work she puts into parenting, but she wanted to do this thing of beauty for Max, and she's nailing it.

Alligood is exceptionally talented, but whereas her mom is also a professional actress on the show, Frankie is just a child. Like any teen, she's very selective about where she keeps her attention. She's quick-witted like her mother, but brash and inconsiderate in an adolescent way. Still a good kid wanting to rally, she's more careful here, more absorbed in her movements.



Sunday, January 7, 2018

FOR THE TIME BEING - W.H. Auden

III
Narrator
Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes —
Some have got broken — and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week —
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted — quite unsuccessfully —
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
For the innocent children who whispered so excitedly
Outside the locked door where they knew the presents to be
Grew up when it opened. Now, recollecting that moment
We can repress the joy, but the guilt remains conscious;
Remembering the stable where for once in our lives
Everything became a You and nothing was an It.
And craving the sensation but ignoring the cause,
We look round for something, no matter what, to inhibit
Our self-reflection, and the obvious thing for that purpose
Would be some great suffering. So, once we have met the Son,
We are tempted ever after to pray to the Father;
“Lead us into temptation and evil for our sake.”
They will come, all right, don’t worry; probably in a form
That we do not expect, and certainly with a force
More dreadful than we can imagine. In the meantime
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the Spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the Soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God’s Will will be done, That, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph.
IV
Chorus:
He is the Way.
Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.
He is the Truth.
Seek Him in the Kingdom of Anxiety;
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.
He is the Life.
Love Him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.