The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2014-07-20T19:54:38-07:00 http://thecoredump.org/ Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Book roundup, part 15 Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2014-07-20T00:00:00-07:00 http://thecoredump.org/2014/07/book-roundup-part-15/ <h3><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Console-Wars-Nintendo-Defined-Generation-ebook/dp/B00FJ379XE/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?sr=8-1&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=console%2Bwars&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405821695">Console Wars, by Blake Harris</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>The story of how Sega rose to challenge Nintendo&rsquo;s market dominance in the early 1990s. Well researched and sourced and tells the story of an interesting era in video console gaming.</p> <p>The book is upfront about how much time has passed since the events it chronicles and that quotes are mostly made up and intended to capture the essence and spirit of conversations rather than being verbatim, which is fine, but unfortunately Harris is far from an Elmore Leonard, so most of the conversations read awkward and odd, which detracts from the immediacy of the narrative in a fatal way. </p> <p><em>Console Wars</em> could also have benefited from another proofreading pass—there are instances of missing words and misplaced quote marks in too many places. Though unless you&rsquo;re plagued with a proofreading eye that won&rsquo;t shut off, it won&rsquo;t bother you.</p> <p>Despite its faults, it&rsquo;s worth reading for a very interesting look at a pivotal time of video gaming.</p> <h3><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Your-Inner-Fish-Journey-3-5-Billion-Year-ebook/dp/B0010SKTRA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=your%2Binner%2Bfish&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405908996">Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>A wonderful journey back in time through our and our ancestors&#39; anatomy, Shubin shows how we can trace the shape of our bodies—especially the arms—back through the mists of time.</p> <p><em>Your Inner Fish</em> is a wonderful read, unravelling evolution through time with joy and wonder. Highly recommended.</p> <h3><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Flash-Boys-Michael-Lewis-ebook/dp/B00HVJB4VM/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_kin?ie=UTF8&amp;sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=flash%2Bboys%2Bmichael%2Blewis&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405909455">Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>This book made me very, very angry, and it will probably do the same to you. As usual, Lewis writes with flair and draws out the human drama in what could be excruciatingly dry material, this time about high frequency trading. Which as it turns out is a parasite on the stock market and thus on our entire global economy.</p> <p><em>Flash Boys</em> is required reading.</p> <h3><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Wars-Google-Microsoft-Internet-ebook/dp/B007C1T1D2/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?sr=8-1&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=digital%2Bwars&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1397684658">Digital Wars, by Charles Arthur</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Chronicles the battle between Apple, Google and Microsoft for the future of computing, focusing on search and mobile.</p> <p><em>Digital Wars</em> is well sourced, especially inside Microsoft, and reads almost like a techno-thriller in its descriptions of the thinking inside the companies. </p> <p>Arthus is best sourced inside Microsoft, which is good since that&rsquo;s the company I&rsquo;ve paid the least amount of attention to over the last 10 years, and he answers the question of how Microsoft managed to miss the boat so badly in both search and mobile and how it&rsquo;s attempting to turn things around in those sectors.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re at all interested in the business side of technology, <em>Digital Wars</em> is a given.</p> <h3><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Storm-True-Story-Against-ebook/dp/B002EF2ALQ/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?sr=8-1&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=junger%2Bperfect%2Bstorm&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405822353">The Perfect Storm, by Sebastian Junger</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>The tragic story of the Andrea Gail which perished with all hands in the Atlantic &ldquo;perfect storm&rdquo; of 1991. It&rsquo;s a fascinating book that discusses the fishing culture of Massachusetts, the mechanics of fishing boats, the physics of waves, the meteorology of storms, the resources of the coast guard, and the lives of the men aboard the Andrea Gail as it went to its tragic end.</p> <p><em>The Perfect Storm</em> is a tragedy, a page turner, and an education. You should read it.</p> <h2>Fiction</h2> <h3><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Tower-Lord-Book-Ravens-Shadow-ebook/dp/B00G3L6ML6/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?sr=8-1&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=tower%2Blord&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405822833">Tower Lord, by Anthony Ryan</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Now, this is how you do page-turner fantasy. The follow-up to the excellent <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Song-Ravens-Shadow-Novel-ebook/dp/B00ABKGG0C/ref=sr_1_1_ha?ie=UTF8&amp;sr=1-1&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=blood%2Bsong&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405822918">Blood Song</a></em>, <em>Tower Lord</em> continues the story of our hero Vaelin, but expands to the greater struggle in which he&rsquo;s involved and the secondary characters (some already known and some new) who also play big parts in the larger war to come.</p> <p>Now, <em>Tower Lord</em> is not as good as <em>Blood Song</em>, let that be said up front. But then, <em>Blood Song</em> was one-in-a-million. <em>Tower Lord</em> moves the story forward and feels a lot like a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Gemmell">David Gemmell</a> novel (which is high praise indeed) in its relentless pace and addictiveness. There are way worse authors to emulate, and <em>Tower Lord</em> keeps you turning the pages to the end.</p> <p>As a sidenote, it&rsquo;s great to read a <em>story</em> instead of &ldquo;I wrote down my awesome D&amp;D campaign&rdquo; which too much modern fantasy consists of. So if you liked <em>Blood Song</em>, get thee to <em>Tower Lord</em>, and if you haven&rsquo;t experienced <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Song-Ravens-Shadow-Novel-ebook/dp/B00ABKGG0C/ref=sr_1_1_ha?ie=UTF8&amp;sr=1-1&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=blood%2Bsong&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405822918">Blood Song</a></em> yet and you like fantasy, run don&rsquo;t walk to click that mouse.</p> <h3><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Live-Last-Werewolf-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EGMQIFY/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?sr=8-1&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=by%2Bblood%2Bwe%2Blive&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1402075372">By Blood We Live, by Glen Duncan</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>The third book in Duncan&rsquo;s gritty reboot of the Werewolf mythos is as full of gore, sex and literary allusions as the previous novels in the series, <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Last-Werewolf-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B004G60FUY/ref=sr_1_1?sr=8-1&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=duncan%2Blast%2Bwerewolf&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1402075558">The Last Werewolf</a></em> and <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Talulla-Rising-Glen-Duncan-ebook/dp/B006S3HAJW/ref=pd_sim_kstore_1?refRID=0WXJH81GWZAVB9YKFVSM&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;ie=UTF8">Talulla Rising</a></em>, but while as enthralling and likely to keep you up past your bedtime as the other ones, <em>By Blood We Live</em> stretches the mythology past its breaking point. </p> <p>There&rsquo;s (clears throat) <em>prophecy</em> and <em>visions</em> and Oldest Vampire Ever Who is Tired, and it does indeed feel, well, tired.</p> <p>Nevertheless, if you liked the previous novels, you&rsquo;ll enjoy this. Just not as much as the previous awesome novels.</p> <h3><a href="http://www.amazon.com/I-Am-Pilgrim-Terry-Hayes-ebook/dp/B00D3NSDVO/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?sr=8-1&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=i%2Bam%2Bpilgrim&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1405613413">I am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p><em>I am Pilgrim</em> should be with you the next time you&rsquo;re on an airplane or on the beach. It&rsquo;s a huge, sprawling techno-spy novel and murder mystery rolled into one.</p> <p>The novel reads like a gritty reboot of classic Robert Ludlum with some Tom Clancy thrown in for good measure.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s far from perfect, though: The plot relies enough on coincidences and chance encounters to make you roll your eyes and most characters stay two-dimensional. And if you&rsquo;re a nerd like me the novel also hurts from some utterly ignorant techno-movements where hard drives start flashing red lights because the CPU is stressed too hard. <em>Ay, ay, ay</em>. Those moments make you doubt all the other Tom Clancy-style Cool Tech Things that happen in the novel.</p> <p>But be that as it may, it&rsquo;s a damn fun ride that will have you turning the pages way too late into the night.</p> <p>Bonus fact: Hayes co-wrote the script for <em>The Road Warrior</em>.</p> <h3><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Lexicon-Novel-Max-Barry-ebook/dp/B00AEBETMK/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?qid=&amp;sr=&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;_encoding=UTF8">Lexicon, by Max Barry</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Taut and fast-paced with an interesting conceit, but plagued a bit by a confusing plot.</p> <p>The idea is that our brains are hard-wired to respond to certain words in a way that bypasses our conscious thought and will—anybody who masters the difficult art of using the right words can make anybody do anything. </p> <p>So naturally there&rsquo;s a secret organization that rules the world and finds children it trains to become masters of this art.</p> <p>And then, not surprisingly, things go horribly wrong&hellip;</p> The rumored iWatch won’t be what you think Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2014-07-12T00:00:00-07:00 http://thecoredump.org/2014/07/the-rumored-iwatch-wont-be-what-you-think/ <p><img src="/images/pebble-knife.jpg" /></p> <p><i>A Pebble on the author’s slabby big man wrist.</i></p> <p>The rumor mill has been working itself into a fever pitch about the new product category Tim Cook has stated Apple will enter this year. Most of the speculation has focused on the so-called iWatch. But speculation is all it is.</p> <p>The only thing I&rsquo;m sure about when it comes to this new product category is that it won&rsquo;t be a watch. Why? Because a smart watch is a niche device and Apple isn&rsquo;t interested in anything that won&rsquo;t ship millions of units per quarter. A smart watch will not do that. At least not a smart watch as we know them today.</p> <p>I say this as a happy <a href="https://getpebble.com/">Pebble</a> owner. I love my Pebble. For me it&rsquo;s great: Getting notifications on my wrist is <em>fantastic</em> and having a stopwatch and timer as well as the ability to control music and podcast playback from my wrist is very nice. But then, I&rsquo;m a huge nerd, the kind of person who thinks it&rsquo;s worth it to charge yet another device twice a week in order to get notifications on your wrist.</p> <p>The smart watch market just heated up when Google recently announced <a href="http://www.android.com/wear/">Android Wear</a>. Ars Technica has a predictably <a href="http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/06/reviewing-android-wears-first-watches-sometimes-promising-often-frustrating/">thorough look</a>. It is essentially an upgrade to the Pebble with nicer screen and UI and deeper integration with Android.</p> <p>From reading the Ars article and listening to various nerd podcasts, Android Wear looks like it was rushed to market, presumably as a first strike against the iWatch of which, again, people outside Apple know nothing.</p> <p>(Which, if I&rsquo;m correct, is a sad commentary on the intellectual rigor of a company as large as Google. All those meeting, all those planning sessions, all that work against a phantom idea? That&rsquo;s just sad. I hope I&rsquo;m wrong about all of this. But then, these are the people who thought Google Glass was a game changer.)</p> <p>My money is on the first generation of Android Wear devices to sell poorly to say the least. First off, you have to own a recent Android phone to tether the devices to, which cuts the market significantly, and second, from what I&rsquo;ve seen of Android devices in the wild here in Phoenix, there are two distinct sets of Android users: </p> <ol> <li>An extremely vocal minority of hard-core nerds who love changing their ROMs and skins and keyboards; and</li> <li>The vast majority who picked up whatever phone the salesperson at the carrier store was pushing that day. <em>Hey, it does texts and Facebook: It&rsquo;s fine.</em></li> </ol> <p>The first group will no doubt pick up an Android Wear device and install strange hacks on their wrists. The second will have no idea what you&rsquo;re yammering on about.</p> <p>That second group is who Apple wants to reach. An iteration on the Pebble or Android Wear with the customary Apple polish won&rsquo;t do that.</p> <p>So what is coming? I have absolutely no idea, but I know that it will be successful if it meets one condition: When Apple announces it you look at it—just like with the iPhone—and go, <em>Wow, that is so obvious</em>.</p> After the empire fades Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2014-06-29T00:00:00-07:00 http://thecoredump.org/2014/06/after-the-empire-fades/ <p>The fourth season of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/George-Martins-Thrones-5-Book-Boxed-ebook/dp/B00957T6X6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&amp;sr=1-3&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=rr%2Bmartin&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1404085967">George R. R. Martin&rsquo;s <em>Game of Thrones</em></a> has ended and to console myself I just finished a re-read of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/First-Law-Trilogy-Boxed-Set-ebook/dp/B00GU3ATPM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;sr=1-1&amp;s=digital-text&amp;keywords=first%2Blaw%2Btrilogy%2Bkindle&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1404086026">Joe Abercrombie&rsquo;s <em>First Law Trilogy</em></a>. </p> <p>The two series are similar in that they both have fleshed-out people attempting to survive in horrible realities and are both loaded with brutal, sociopathic violence. But they differ in the kinds of realities the characters face, and I think those differences are telling in that they call out how America and England are dealing with a new era. Martin is American and Abercrombie is English and the worlds they build reflect the Zeitgeist in those different countries and cultures.</p> <p>Martin&rsquo;s Westeros is of course a horrible, horrible place, almost post-apocalyptic, where wannabe-king warlords rule according to their whims, spreading chaos and horror, and might makes right. It is also what happens after the fantasy ends: Our heroes have defeated the mad king and one of them is the new, just, king and has married his beautiful queen while his stalwart friend has has returned to his family holdings to raise his family in peace. But our hero has been too long at war and soothes his PTSD with drink, women and hunts—anything to give him a thrill—while his queen has, ahem, her own issues. And things fall apart, to out it mildly.</p> <p>This feels very post-Cold War American: Hey, we won! We are the only standing super power! And now we have to deal with all the internal problems that were overshadowed by the larger struggle against the Russians. Those problems can&rsquo;t be swept under the rug anymore. </p> <p>Issues are coming to the surface. How do we deal with them? Are they going to tear the country apart? Some people want to secede from the union, some demand their religion be the only religion allowed, some want to believe the Russian threat is still out there, and some want the armed forces to be kept strong because we have needed the strong armed forces before and not having them would betray what the country is all about.</p> <p>Abercrombie&rsquo;s Union, on the other hand, is European. It is also a horrible place to live, a crumbling remnant, but not a Road Warrior nightmare. Instead it&rsquo;s ossified, a place that worships its old glories and the Way Things Are Done. A place where a self-made man is looked upon with suspicion and denigration. <em>How dare he?</em> A place where blood is what counts and no matter how unsuitable a man may be he is still a member of the aristocracy and thus better than you, <em>sir</em>.</p> <p>Which of course is very British and a remnant of the way things used to be in the heyday of the British Empire, where the troops pillaging the colonies would be lead exclusively by the classes that could afford to buy commissions for their sons, no matter how incompetent they might be.</p> <p>The Union is corrupt, an empire in the last, unfit years of its life, and Westeros is tearing itself apart.</p> <p>But of course it&rsquo;s entirely possible I&rsquo;m overthinking this&hellip;</p> Happy midsummer! Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2014-06-20T00:00:00-07:00 http://thecoredump.org/2014/06/happy-midsummer/ <p><img src="/images/midsummer/swedish-landscape.jpg" /></p> <p><i>Sweden sure is pretty on a sunny summer day.</i></p> <p>Today is <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midsummer">Midsummer’s Eve</a>, the number one day for Swedes living abroad to get mopey and homesick and the number one day for Swedes in the motherland to consume traditional food and drink, dance around the maypole, and stay up late, late in the never-ending light.</p> <p></div></div></div> <img src="/images/midsummer/swedish-folk-dresses.jpg" alt="Swedish traditional dress" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Rocking Swedish traditional dress is socially acceptable on midsummer.</div></p> <p>Midsummer of course has its roots in the pagan solstice celebration, with the longest day of the year a time to beseech the gods for a good harvest, plant the maypole—a huge phallos—into the fertile ground, and have drunken orgies. </p> <p></div></div></div> <img src="/images/midsummer/pickled-herring.jpg" alt="Pickled herring" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Pickled herring—delicious with new potatoes and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akvavit">Akvavit</a>.</div></p> <p>When Sweden was converted to Christianity the monks, as it turned out, were not super fans of the sacrifice to the pagan gods and drunken orgy bits of the celebration, and tried to have it banned. That didn&rsquo;t go so well, as people who live in cold, dark, and rain for most of the year really like to let loose when they get a chance.</p> <p>So the cross bar was added to the maypole to turn it into a cross and the solstice feast, it was decided, was to celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist. And could you please take it down a few notches with the drunken orgy? No?</p> <p></div></div></div> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"> <iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/u8ZLpGOOA1Q" allowfullscreen></iframe> </div> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Watch a short midsummer primer.</div></p> <p><em>Photos by Nic Lindh.</em></p> Damnatio memoriae Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2014-06-01T00:00:00-07:00 http://thecoredump.org/2014/06/damnatio-memoriae/ <p>Once again a young man has gone off his rocker and murdered a bunch of strangers in cold blood.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s disgusting and disheartening and worst of all it&rsquo;s endemic. For decades now young men have, for whatever reason, decided that killing as many other people as possible and then capping it off by taking their own lives is the best way for them to deal with whatever thing is happening to or inside them—going out in a blaze of &ldquo;glory&rdquo;.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s sickening and hideous and worst of all it seems we as a society are getting used to it. Which is completely unacceptable. Time after time a young man takes to the streets to slay whatever demons are in his head and we are shocked and horrified. And then we talk and wring our hands. And then another one follows. And another. And we talk. And it&rsquo;s numbing in its horror.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s clear that the one issue that connects all these sprees is young men. Young men and their egos.</p> <p>I do think it all boils down to ego—you&rsquo;re being kept down by your teachers and parents and especially the women who won&rsquo;t let you make sexy time with them and you <em>need</em> to feel powerful, <em>must</em> feel powerful and grabbing a weapon and wasting people is such a shortcut to power—you will literally have the power of life or death. You, the guy who can&rsquo;t get a girl to let you touch her boobs, <em>you</em> now have the ultimate power.</p> <p>And you will be remembered throughout history. No more sobbing and jerking off in your room after your parents go to bed: You&rsquo;re a star! You will be remembered through the ages. All the girls who wanted nothing to do with you will see your picture on the news and in the paper. You are immortal now.</p> <p>And that&rsquo;s what we need to put an end to—the immortality. It serves no purpose for us to know the name and picture of the latest asshole to go on a spree. The Romans had a practice they called <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damnatio_memoriae">Damnatio Memoriae</a> where a traitor&rsquo;s name would be stricken from the record and his name would then effectively be lost from history. That&rsquo;s what I propose for these kinds of men: Let&rsquo;s forget them. Not their crimes and especially not their victims, but <em>them</em>. You go on a killing spree and your name becomes &ldquo;Asshole 25&rdquo; or whichever number we&rsquo;re up to. Since we do need a unique way to refer to them, let it just be a number. After &ldquo;Asshole 25&rdquo; comes &ldquo;Asshole 26&rdquo;, etc. We will not use your real name, and we will never show your picture. You will get no immortality—only your family will mourn you and the rest of us will never have any idea who you were.</p> <p>This is as it should be. If your only legacy is that you murdered a bunch of innocents, nobody should ever know your name. Only that you were an asshole.</p> Movie roundup, part 22 Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2014-05-25T00:00:00-07:00 http://thecoredump.org/2014/05/movie-roundup-part-22/ <p><strong>[All movie titles link to Rotten Tomatoes, so you can see what the people who get paid to write about movies think.]</strong></p> <h3><a href="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1019441-sorcerer/">Sorcerer</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Released in 1977, <em>Sorcerer</em> was a huge flop, and it has gained a reputation over time in film nerd circles as an overlooked masterpiece with <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorcerer_(film">speculation</a>) as to its theatrical release failure being due to coming out at the same time as <em>Star Wars</em>, being poorly marketed, etc.</p> <p>Or, it could have flopped on release due to it being a film (or <em>feeeelm</em> if you wish) for film nerds instead of a mass market audience.</p> <p>Off the top of my head, here are some reasons why this is not a mass market movie: There isn&rsquo;t a word of English spoken the first 30 minutes; every single person in the film is on the asshole spectrum; nothing but bad things happen. Nothing. But. Bad. Things.</p> <p>These are not the ingredients that a blockbuster make.</p> <p>The film nerds have a point though in that it&rsquo;s a decent movie—good performances, good directing and a relentlessly bleak plot. But damn, it&rsquo;s hard to watch a bunch of terrible people doing terrible things for two hours. So yeah, I don&rsquo;t think <em>Star Wars</em> had that much to do with the failure of <em>Sorcerer</em>.</p> <h3><a href="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/generation_iron/">Generation Iron</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Documentary about professional body builders preparing for <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Olympia">the Mr. Olympia competition</a>. </p> <p>It&rsquo;s fascinating to watch to unbelievable commitment and discipline these men display in their commitment to turn themselves into grotesques.</p> <p>Also fascinating is how they&rsquo;re always eating and never on plates—always out of tupperware containers. It&rsquo;s hard to imagine living an existence where one of the basic joys of life has been turned into nothing but the planned, scheduled and pre-measured intake of nutrients.</p> <p>And the stress on their systems from the &ldquo;nutrients&rdquo; (nudge, wink) necessary to grow that kind of musculature and maintain such low body fat levels must be incredible.</p> <p>As sympathetic as I am to its subjects, the biggest problem with <em>Generation Iron</em> as a documentary is that it doesn&rsquo;t really probe and above all doesn&rsquo;t answer the question at least I had: What drives them? Why would anybody go through these lengths? We see the men go through their daily routines with their omni-present tupperware containers, but what made them decide to go down this path and feel it&rsquo;s worth the pain?</p> <p>I&rsquo;d like to know.</p> <h3><a href="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/restrepo/">Restrepo</a> ★★★★★</h3> <p>Harrowing documentary about a 2007 US outpost in the Korengal valley of Afghanistan. It&rsquo;s visceral and raw and provides stunning insight into both the suffering of the soldiers and the futility of their mission.</p> <p><em>Restrepo</em> is required watching—a kick in the nuts.</p> <h3><a href="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_numbers_station/">The Numbers Station</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>The Numbers Station</em> is getting ripped apart on Rotten Tomatoes even though it&rsquo;s a tight, paranoid thriller with a tense cold war vibe and John Cusack putting in a blank-faced &ldquo;I&rsquo;m psychologically damaged&rdquo; performance as an over-the-hill secret agent.</p> <p>Very few things blow up, and instead we watch actors deliver a plot we have to think about, so I guess I can see why the critics weren&rsquo;t happy.</p> <h3><a href="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/pacific_rim_2013/">Pacific Rim</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p><em>Pacific Rim</em> is a really stupid movie my 12-year-old self would have loved. </p> <p>Mechs are cool. Obviously. So the movie has that going for it, but there&rsquo;s little else except for loudness, testosterone and some extremely dumb plot points.</p> <p>Nevertheless, it&rsquo;s well made, things go bang a lot and mechs are cool. There are worse things to watch while you consume a bowl of popcorn.</p> <h3><a href="http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/300_rise_of_an_empire/">300: Rise of an Empire</a> ★★☆☆☆</h3> <p>Well, that was pretty unnecessary. The first <em>300</em> sure had its problems, but it brought a new visual style and a good story. <em>Rise of an Empire</em> copies the look, but in a ham-fisted way, and has a much weaker story. Instead, it amps up the gore. Boy howdy, there&rsquo;s a lot of oddly-colored blood spurting all over the place.</p> <p>Eva Green saves the movie from complete irrelevance by turning in a gleefully over-the-top performance as a psychotic naval commander—it&rsquo;s almost worth watching just for her performance. Almost.</p> White privilege in extremism Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2014-05-11T00:00:00-07:00 http://thecoredump.org/2014/05/white-privilege-in-extremism/ <p>Public reactions to the standoff <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/04/15/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-long-fight-between-cliven-bundy-and-the-federal-government/">between the supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management</a> in the Nevada desert have fallen mostly into two camps: 1) The federal government is overreaching and should leave this hardy individual alone; or 2) Bundy is a welfare rancher who is defrauding the tax payer.</p> <p>Not surprisingly option 1 is the most common among people who type into comments fields on the Internet and write letters to the editors of newspapers.</p> <p>Which is very interesting. What we have here is a person who has unilaterally decided which laws apply to him and which do not and is ignoring court orders he doesn&rsquo;t like. A person who has stated publicly that he does not believe in the federal government. And this individual has now attracted a bunch of like-minded people who apparently believe <a href="http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/bundy-ranch-speaker-warns-civil-war-vast-scale-promises-harry-reid-will-have-his-balls-rippe">they are the nucleus of a civil war</a>.</p> <p>This is the Weltanschauung that led to the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oklahoma_City_bombing">Oklahoma City Bombing</a>, a retread of a mindset that&rsquo;s been around America for a long time, the idea that the federal government outlined in the constitution is somehow the enemy of freedom.</p> <p>While we put ice packs on our foreheads to soothe the headache trying to parse that particular logic causes, let&rsquo;s think about the sheer amount of slack these kinds of extremists are given. Remember: You consider the federal government to be the enemy of freedom while you are an American patriot fighting for that freedom. And the people who write letters to the editor of newspapers think you are correct.</p> <p>Let&rsquo;s do a quick thought experiment: Let&rsquo;s say the people of Bunkerville were Black Panthers and that it was a group of black men with military training pointing automatic rifles at federal agents. How would the people writing letters to the editor about freedom and states’ rights feel about that?</p> <p>Or, heck why not, let&rsquo;s say it was a group of bearded Arabs in turbans doing the same thing, ranting about not acknowledging the federal government? While pointing sniper rifles at federal agents.</p> <p>Think about that one for a while. How do you think that would play out?</p> <p>So why does America cut anti-government extremists a ton of slack as long as they&rsquo;re white?</p> Further to the right Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2014-05-03T00:00:00-07:00 http://thecoredump.org/2014/05/further-to-the-right/ <p><img src="/images/american-flag.jpg" /></p> <p>Politics in America has drifted far to the right: Kooky militia ranchers are occupying the spotlight, and tea partiers are occupying state houses and school boards. Nevertheless the media narrative is that both the left and the right are getting more extreme. Which is at best lazy reporting and at worst deliberate propaganda.</p> <p>Allow me to explain.</p> <p>The other day I had coffee with a Norwegian friend and we of course ended up talking about politics. Now, by Scandinavian standards I&rsquo;m slightly left-of-center and my friend is middle-right. In Scandinavia that&rsquo;s a huge gap—we are far apart in our views. </p> <p>We&rsquo;ve both been in America over 20 years each, so we&rsquo;ve both had plenty of time to adapt and &ldquo;go native.&rdquo;</p> <p>And yet by current American standards we are both progressives. That&rsquo;s right: The entire political spectrum in Scandinavia takes up a small portion of the liberal side of the American spectrum. </p> <p>What constitutes mainstream Republican thought these days would be considered extreme right in Scandinavia and the militia surrounding Cliven Bundy, well, they&rsquo;re right off the charts.</p> <p>This isn&rsquo;t to say there are no hard-right views in Scandinavia: We had the tragedy of the <a href="http://thecoredump.org/2011/07/the-monster-of-norway/">Monster of Norway</a> murdering innocent children to satiate his fantasies and there are several nationalist organizations attracting the disaffected, but, and this important: Those views are far outside the mainstream.</p> <p>By contrast, in America today pointing a machine gun at a federal officer is just something that, you know, happens. <em>Shrug</em>.</p> <p>As a sidenote, there are few things more ironic than a person who carries a copy of the constitution in his pocket at all times for the purpose of telling people he carries a copy of the constitution on his pocket at all times renouncing the federal government defined by that constitution while waving around his copy of the constitution. </p> <p>You need to be a special kind of snowflake to do that.</p> <p>So if there&rsquo;s anything the Koch brothers&#39; billions have bought them it&rsquo;s this: The political compass of America is drifting hard to the right.</p> <p>If the false equivalency of both sides getting more extreme was correct there would be a senator right now advocating for Bank of America to be taken over by the federal government with the tax payers getting the profits. Then this senator would bring that bill to a close vote in the Senate. It might lose, but it would be close. That&rsquo;s actual socialism. And it&rsquo;s not happening here. </p> <p>No, both sides are not getting more extreme. The far right is getting more funding, more attention, and more extreme.</p> Enter the rumble roller Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2014-04-27T00:00:00-07:00 http://thecoredump.org/2014/04/enter-the-rumble-roller/ <p><img src="/images/rumbleroller.jpg" /></p> <p>I&rsquo;ve struggled for the last few years with knee pain most likely resulting from <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iliotibial_band_syndrome">IT Band Syndrome</a>. At least that&rsquo;s the best guess—correctly diagnosing these kinds of things is tricky in the extreme. But at the very least I&rsquo;m sure my IT bands, like most of my muscles—as <a href="http://thecoredump.org/2014/02/tiny-victories/">I&rsquo;ve discovered doing yoga</a>—are much too tight.</p> <p>To illustrate just how tight they are, when I went to physical therapy I had a substitute therapist one morning and she just looked at my legs and said, &ldquo;Well, those are some tight IT bands&rdquo; without even having to touch them.</p> <p>They are also frustrating muscles to try to stretch since they are fantastically strong, like all the load bearing muscles in your body.</p> <p>Using a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0040NJOA0/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B0040NJOA0&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=thecoredump-20">foam roller</a> is a part of the physical therapy and as a bonus is in general considered a <a href="http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/25/ask-well-do-foam-rollers-aid-workouts/">good thing for muscles and fascia</a>. So there&rsquo;s been foam rolling a-plenty for me. Problem was it didn&rsquo;t really do much for my IT bands. I could feel the knots, but it wasn&rsquo;t doing anything to alleviate them. So I stepped up to <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0040EGNIU/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B0040EGNIU&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=thecoredump-20">The Grid</a> and it was better, definitely digging deeper, but still wasn&rsquo;t getting deep enough.</p> <p>Then I found the <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E4YWG3M/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B00E4YWG3M&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=thecoredump-20">Rumble Roller</a>, a roller with knobs that looks like it&rsquo;s straight out of some kind of BDSM dungeon. This thing gets in there—it&rsquo;s deeply uncomfortable and leaves your muscles feeling like you got a thumb massage on a day when your therapist had some aggression to work out.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;ve been using a regular black foam roller but feel like it&rsquo;s not getting deep enough, definitely try a Rumble Roller. But do not buy one unless you actually have found regular black foam rollers to not do the job. <em>It will hurt you.</em></p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> All product links are Amazon affiliate links. If you buy something through these links I get a tiny kickback from Amazon. It doesn&rsquo;t cost you anything extra.</p> Review: The Pet Shop Boys Electric tour hits Phoenix Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2014-04-19T00:00:00-07:00 http://thecoredump.org/2014/04/review-the-pet-shop-boys-electric-tour-hits-phoenix/ <p><img src="/images/psb-phoenix/green.jpg" /></p> <p><i>The Pet Shop Boys: Yes, we have many, many lights. How are you?</i></p> <p>My first job out of high school was driving a delivery van for an electrical supplies company. This involved many hours on the back roads of rural Sweden, with my only companions endless mix tapes. Pretty much all those tapes featured the Pet Shop Boys, who were hitting their zenith in the late ’80s with hits like <em>Opportunities (Let&rsquo;s Make Lots of Money)</em>, <em>West End Girls</em> and <em>Domino Dancing</em>.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;d told me back then I&rsquo;d be fat and middle-aged halfway around the world in Phoenix, AZ in 2014 and hearing them perform <em>Opportunities</em> with my daughter, I would have laughed.</p> <p>But here we are. The Electric tour hit Phoenix last night and it was epic. More stripped down than I&rsquo;d expected, with Tennant singing, Lowe doing whatever it is he does behind a stack of electronics, and two dancers in various more-or-less creepy outfits and headgear.</p> <p></div></div></div> <div class="supermax" style="background: url('/images/psb-phoenix/minotaur.jpg') no-repeat; background-size: cover;"> </div> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Things got pretty True Detective there for a while.</div></p> <p>But they made up for it with a massive light show, strategic use of videos and creative use of transparent curtains. As you&rsquo;d expect from people who have been touring for over 20 years, they know what works and how to make up for the lack of live instrumentation. They&rsquo;re also smart enough to realize that the vast majority of their audience are middle-aged people who want to relive their clubbing days, so the setlist went heavy on older hits.</p> <p></div></div></div> <div class="supermax" style="background: url('/images/psb-phoenix/bigstrobe.jpg') no-repeat; background-size: cover;"> </div> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">The Pet Shop Boys brought the big lights. Boom.</div></p> <p>Since the Pet Shop Boys have been huge in the gay community since they started out, I was curious what kind of crowd would come out to the concert. Turns out, a lot of people like my wife and I: Middle-aged people who were into the band back in their clubbing days. I was expecting a lot of gay people, and they were indeed there, lots of middle-aged gay couples. We&rsquo;re all people and we all like the Pet Shop Boys. It&rsquo;s not a sin.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re into the genre at all, it&rsquo;s definitely worth seeing the Pet Shop Boys both for the nostalgia and to see the fusion of creativity and road-tested professionalism. It&rsquo;s a good time.</p> <p>As a postscript I do believe somebody enjoyed the light show more than the rest of the audience: Mid-show I made a pit stop at the bathroom, and it just <em>reeked</em> of weed. Hope you enjoyed the strobes, whoever you are.</p>