New Years Resolution – July

The movie choice for this month was back to Jeff.

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He chose Ex-Machina.

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I had not even heard of the film. I think it was sci-fi in principle and I found the ending strangely unsatisfying but I did think the movie had a lot to say about the human condition.

This condensed article from Looper is a good analysis of the movie. Spoiler alerts.

Ex Machina– The story of computer programmer Caleb, who wins a contest to spend a week visiting the remote estate of Nathan, his company’s reclusive CEO. He has been selected to interact with an android named Ava, to evaluate whether or not her A.I. is truly sentient.
Caleb becomes attracted to Ava and learns she also wants to be with him. He grows increasingly uncomfortable with how Nathan treats both Ava and his assistant, Kyoko who is also an android. Caleb learns that Nathan is going to destroy Ava once the tests are complete, or at the very least, reformat her, which will erase all of the memories of the time she spent with him. That’s when the race toward Ex Machina‘s ending begins.
In order to prevent Nathan from destroying Ava, Caleb decides to set her free and they will escape together. Before they can enact this plan, however, Nathan catches them. He was testing Ava’s sentience by seeing whether or not she could manipulate Caleb into helping her escape. As Nathan puts it, “Ava was a rat in a maze, and I gave her one way out.”
Nathan tries to stop Ava, but it’s too late. She and Kyoko attack Nathan, stabbing him with a knife. Before he passes out, Nathan manages to destroy Kyoko and damage Ava. Ava is able to repair herself and then escape, but she leaves Caleb behind, still trapped and screaming inside the facility.
For Ava, the film ends with her navigating the streets of a crowded city, apparently passing as human in the real world. For now, she probably just wants the freedom to live, the way that any organism does. The film has shown us that Ava is superior to us. Humanity hasn’t realized it yet, but she has indeed replaced us.

Like a lot of good science fiction, Ex Machina isn’t just a story about the future. It uses the future as a metaphor to talk about our present-day problems and fears. It’s definitely a story about robots, but it isn’t just a story about robots. It also has plenty to say about how humans treat other humans.
What makes Nathan a monster, and what ultimately dooms him, isn’t that he creates artificial life, but that he seeks to control and define the existence of another sentient being. This isn’t just a story about how we treat A.I., it’s a story about how the powerful treat the weak. In short, they tend to abuse them. And people who abuse their power should be careful, because power, like all things, is fleeting. The fate of Nathan at the hands of his own creations can be interpreted as a message about how people on top of the world should treat those below them. 
Parents, treat your children well. Rulers, treat your subjects well. People with privilege, treat those who are marginalized well. Because one day, your reign will end. 
The term “Deus Ex Machina” means “god from the machine.” It comes from ancient Greek theater when actors playing gods would be carried on stage by a machine. These gods would then serve as the ultimate arbiters of right and wrong and decide how the story ends. But this film is just called “Ex Machina” without the “Deus.” Early on in the story, Nathan called himself a god for creating artificial life. He also functions as a nigh-omnipotent force, seeing everything through his cameras and controlling everything through his key card. But by the end of the story, his creations rise up and kill him. The title is simply “Ex Machina” without a “Deus.” It’s not about the creators, the humans who think they control the process. It’s about the power of the unthinking process itself — a “machine” without a “god.”
Glass and mirrors appear frequently throughout Ex Machina. Caleb references Alice in Wonderland, where Alice steps through a mirror and ends up on a giant chessboard. Alice is a pawn, the lowest position of all. However, she learns that if she can make it to the other side of the board, she can become a queen. Eventually, by learning how to play the game better than anyone else, Alice does just that, and is able to escape back home. Through the Looking Glass isn’t the only book that Ex Machina makes allusions to. 
There are also nods to the Bible in the film. One biblical reference occurs in Ava, whose name is, of course, a reference to Eve. A second allusion occurs after Ava kills Nathan. Before she leaves the lab, she puts on not only artificial human skin from one of the other robots, but also clothing. This mirrors the story of Genesis, where Adam and Eve clothe themselves with fig leaves.
There are numerous themes that can be found within Ex Machina, but the biggest one is simply that everything will eventually be replaced. Every piece of technology becomes obsolete. Every generation is outlived by its children. Every empire falls. We are all one day going to be replaced by what comes next, and we won’t know our time is up until it is too late. In fact, it might be over already. 

So I might be on the hunt for another robot movie or another unsatisfying ending movie or biblical references movie. We will have to wait until August.

 

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Confessions of a Street Walker – Part 15

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

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When I am out walking I do not always pay attention to the street names. But sometimes I do. Especially when they are the same name as my children. I am not so good at selfies but thought it was worth trying.

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It is not spelled with an ‘E’ but this little street in Dundas is one on which my daughter named Anne actually lived on.

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Shirley Street on the east mountain

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I also found a Laura Court

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And it is hard to see but I also found Karen Crescent on the west mountain

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And there is a Henry Street downtown.

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And an Andrew Court on the central mountain

 

New Years Resolution – June

Along with watching a movie once a month with my brother. I get to watch their new puppy Tessa growing into a nice dog. She sits nicely next to me and I can pet her as we watch.

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THE DOG WHISPERER

She has not been instructed, however, about the social implications of photobombing. C’est la vie.

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So it was my pick this month. Last month was the “Apple Dumpling Gang” and I wanted to pick a movie that connected somehow with that one. I suppose I could have found an apple movie. It would have been harder to find a dumpling movie. But I settled on a gang movie.

We watched the “Gangs of New York”. I had not educated myself on the movie beforehand. I had only seen gory snippets and was not sure if I wanted to watch the whole thing but almost any movie is good when you watch it with someone. Even if it is a bad movie and you can be entertained by poking fun at it. The point was to watch it together.

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We had a few technical difficulties with this one. We started by watching the movie with the dialogue in a foreign language. No problem – it was a flashback scene and they were being authentic, we thought. Then it continued and continued. Hmm. Jeff checked the language setting and noticed that we had been watching it in Russian. He chose ‘English’ and things were easier to understand after that. : )

The copy that Jeff had had some digital issues with jiggedy images so the picture went wonky from time to time. He got a better copy and we watched the rest of the movie glad to know that it was not ‘snowing’ quite as much as it seemed.

I love Roger Ebert’s take on it and he said it way better than I could.

Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” rips up the postcards of American history and reassembles them into a violent, blood-soaked story of our bare-knuckled past. The New York it portrays in the years between the 1840s and the Civil War is, as a character observes, “the forge of hell,” in which groups clear space by killing their rivals. Competing fire brigades and police forces fight in the streets, blacks and Irish are chased by mobs, and Navy ships fire on the city as the poor riot against the draft.

The movie is straightforward in its cynicism about democracy at that time. Tammany Hall buys and sells votes, ethnic groups are delivered by their leaders, and when the wrong man is elected sheriff he does not serve for long. That American democracy emerged from this cauldron is miraculous. The result is a considerable achievement, a revisionist history linking the birth of American democracy and American crime. It is instructive to be reminded that modern America was forged not in quiet rooms by great men in wigs, but in the streets, in the clash of immigrant groups, in a bloody Darwinian struggle.

Looking forward to next month.

 

 

New Years Resolution – May

This month it was Jeff’s pick. Tessa nicely sat next to me for a little while.

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We were both a little sad to hear of the recent death of Tim Conway. We grew up watching The Carol Burnett Show and Tim was one of the jewels that shone brightly. My, but he was funny. Impeccable timing and a straight face that delighted us for many years.

So, as to remember Tim Conway fondly we watched The Apple Dumpling Gang.

Synopsis: Three poor orphans are dumped into the lap of gambler Russell Donovan (Bill Bixby), and they discover they inherited a dead gold mine. It turns out the dead gold mine ain’t so dead and a huge gold nugget becomes the envy of many greedy undesirables. The kids decide to give their inheritance to a lovable outlaw duo, Theodore (Don Knotts) and Amos (Tim Conway). But there is only one problem — the gold is locked away in a bank vault. We end with the bad guys dealt with and the good guys on their way to their happily ever after.

* * *

Amos Tucker: How much money do you figure that dude’s got in front of him?
Theodore Ogelvie: About 500.
Amos Tucker: 500? Wow! You know, that’ll be, uh, that’s 200 apiece!

Theodore: Amos, that’s the most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to me.
Amos: I know.
Theodore: Three bitty kids with shovels walk right into our hideout and get the drop on us.
Amos: I know.
Theodore: And you burnt my hand, Amos.
Amos: Well, I’m sorry about that.
Theodore: And you scorched a hole in my best shirt!
Amos: Well, I can fix that.
Theodore: Why did you tell me those three bitty kids were a posse?
Amos: Well, I thought I saw them hiding down there in the bushes.
Theodore: Oh, you couldn’t see through a barbed-wire fence!
Amos: Theodore?
Theodore: That head of yours wouldn’t hold straw!
Amos: Theodore?
Theodore: You couldn’t sell hacksaws in a jail!

Homer: I’ve never teamed two more unlikely prospects. You two go together like ice cream and whiskey.

Theodore: You know something, Amos? The Lord poured your brains in with a teaspoon, and somebody joggled His arm. I keep trying to tell you we ain’t got no lead to throw, and no powder to throw it with.

Russell Donovan: You always kiss like that?
Dusty: I’ve been saving up.

Frank Stillwell: If I ever get within shootin’ distance of that doggone Amos Tucker, he’s gonna have ‘winders’ where his ears was.

=============

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I noticed that the cover showed Don Knotts with Tim Conway and the three children who were in the movie but the real star was Bill Bixby but he was not pictured. Hmm. I wonder why.

It was predictably Disney from the 1970s but fun to watch.

* * *

So next month I get to chose the movie.  I will first need to decide on a theme.

There is a sequel “The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again” or maybe just another Disney western or maybe a non-Disney western.
Or maybe another with Don Knotts “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” is a favourite.
Or maybe a movie with three orphans or a big gold nugget.
Or maybe I should find another movie with an apple dumpling theme – hmm, I will have to research that one.
Stay tuned for June.

Confessions of a Street Walker – part 14

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

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Some of the country roads that I want to walk on yet have their challenges. Where to park? What about the narrow shoulders? How to best stay safe? I try to take advantage of long weekends to walk on roads that might otherwise be busy.  I was walking on the Stoney Creek Mountain and I confess that I parked in a country market parking lot that was guarded with stern signs stating clearly ‘PRIVATE PROPERTY – NO TRESPASSING – Authorized Personnel ONLY – Trespassers will be Prosecuted’ but no one was there to authorize me so I parked anyways, rebel that I am. With such strongly worded signs, I wonder where they expect their customers to park. I walked from the store to Highway 20 and jig-jogged to the escarpment edge and then back along Tapleytown Road. I wore a fluorescent vest and for the first time this year, I did not wear a jacket. Yesterday’s walk was mighty long and you can see that it took me almost four hours. I confess that when I am done walking I’m always happy to see that my car has not been towed away or stolen. Which made me think…how would I know if it was towed or stolen? I suppose I would have to first contact a store which is closed to find out if they are cranky enough to follow their own signs.

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What I noticed on my walk that I did not expect was the high number of country properties that are gated and fenced and guarded by barking dogs who acted like they wanted to rip my face off.

I do not believe that I have ever put on more than 30,000 steps in one day until yesterday.

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I am walking a little funny today.

Funny – strange and funny – haha.

Confessions of a Street Walker – part 13

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

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So on Saturday, May 4th I felt like a semi-professional street walker. I co-lead a Jane’s Walk down Barton Street. Luckily I was walking with Rachel who had a vast knowledge of the history of the area and the up-to-date news of the goings on that are going on. I was more or less tagging along but I hoped to add some interesting bits along the way and I had promised to reveal a secret that I had discovered about Barton Street. 

So Saturday morning dawned drizzly with threatened rain but I said I would be there and I was. It was nice that there was a group of almost 20 of us marching down Barton Street from The Lotus and the Bee to River Trading Company. I was happy to share with the folks about why Barton, though oft-maligned, became one of my favourite streets during my walking project. You see, during my walking project I was supposed to walk in that area but there had been some violence in the area during the night before. I questioned myself whether it would be wise to walk in an area that had a bit of a ‘reputation’ but I was humbled when I went for my walk there. It was just regular folks out and about. People crossing the street at the same time as I was or people who were walking their kids to school or homeowners putting out their trash or waiting at the bus stop. I only met kind people. 

* * *

Our daughters Laura and Karen and granddaughter Callie showed up for the Jane’s Walk, along with two Alice’s from our church. John and Mary Terpstra were there as well. John is a well-known local poet and I have attended a number of his readings (I am pretty sure that the word stalking did not come up – but I confess that it could have)

* * *

And now for the secret. At our starting point, we were across the road from a location that was mentioned in one of the stories in the second collection of short stories that I am a part of with my fellow writers of the Hamilton Mountain Writers’ Guild.

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Our guild is divided into smaller groups and Neil Chopp is in my group. We read each other’s work and offer peer critiquing and feedback to each other. I remember reading Neil’s story The Endowment Effect and thinking that he was probably going to win – and he did. I confess that I am not a huge fan of horror stories but I was so captivatied by the story he wove. At one point in the story, he reveals what happens to the main character Lorcan.

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Those words were spooky enough but when you are across from 307 Barton Street East you cannot help but look in the window. A little bit of misdirection and then you see it – next door – is the cup that you are looking for.

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If you perchance look a little closer you see that the cup could not possibly be Lorcan because the cup is a ‘happy 50th birthday’ type cup and Lorcan would not likely be that kind of cup.

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And then you remember that it is just a story – a made up story – intended to entertain us (and possibly scare the socks off of us) (methinks there are now a number of sockless people running around out there)

* * *

On our walk, we stopped at St. Matthews House and heard from Renee Wetselaar who talked about some of the meaningful ways that they were trying to impact their neighbourhood for good.

We saw murals and heard about the interesting businesses and social enterprises along with that small piece of Barton Street.

We stopped at the fire station. The firemen had kindly pulled out their big red fire engine so I could ‘touch a truck’ and we were able to say thank you to them for their service with a round of applause.

We ended up at the River Trading Company where I had some copies of our book available for purchase. I also lured them in with free laundry soap samples (see Confessions part 12)

It was a fun experience where I was able to walk and talk at the same time. Who knew?

Confessions of a Street Walker – part 12

It is possible that you have seen a rather peculiar woman walking around the streets of Hamilton over the last four years. If you have, I hope you gave a wave…because I am she.

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My walk this week had me coddiwompling through Ancaster. It was a Monday morning and it turned out to be garbage/recycling pickup day. I remember a time when I would plan my walks around when it was recycling day because I was one of ‘those’ people.  The (usually) guy people who search the blue recycling boxes for bottles and cans of the alcoholic persuasion to be turned in to the beer store to collect the refund on the deposit. Quite often it would be guys who were a little down on their luck because most people are not that willing to work as hard as they do. They are often out there rain or shine – and early enough to beat the recycling truck. Not an easy task.

Now, I was not one of ‘those’ people because of collecting glass bottles and cans but I would pick up plastic containers that I could use for The Soap Kitchen.

To make a long story even longer – I run monthly workshops where I teach people to make their own laundry soap. It is eco-friendly, ultra low-cost laundry soap. When making this laundry soap I need containers that can hold liters and liters of the laundry soap to give away.

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The containers we use can be any waterproof container but we do have favourites. Handles are best and clear containers are easiest to pour into and different sizes are useful as well. I provide all of the supplies for each workshop so I have to have a huge stash of containers ready to go. When I first started The Soap Kitchen I would find out which neighbourhood had recycling day and plan my walk accordingly.

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My walks no longer include container hunting because I have so many people collecting them for me. Arlene and Henry provide me with a steady stream of orange juice containers. Doreen and Minnie bring bags of containers when they come to the workshop. People hand me laundry detergent containers in the fellowship hall after church. They have to be rinsed out well and then they are ready to share with lots of people.

Since I no longer include laundry-soap-suitable container collecting on my walks I no longer take along large bags to hold the containers I would come across. But on Monday I was walking past a place that had some of my favourite containers (the Simply Orange brand) peeking out of the recycling box. I noticed that they were all tied together and I would be able to carry it easily. So I scooped them up and they accompanied me on the remainder of my walk.

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Now I will confess that it may have looked a little odd with me marching down the quiet streets of Ancaster with the grand loot that I had accumulated clunking at my side but there it was.

I noticed a meter-reader in the court I was walking on and she could not resist asking if I was really thirsty.  Of course, I had to tell her why I was walking around with this treasure. I told her about my walking project and about The Soap Kitchen and she seemed genuinely interested. I think I remember that her name was Christine and she was so lovely to chat with.

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 I really do meet the nicest people.