Movie Review: West Side Story

I’ve always thought the original West Side Story (1961) was close to perfect. I was not excited to see a remake of it. Remakes should focus on flawed films and make them better.

Much to my surprise, the new West Side Story (2021) shows the flaws in the original I simply didn’t see before. It’s a better movie is every way that matters. Highly recommended.

Pathways of Success

You’re obviously a very capable, smart person: would the Aella story would have landed in the same spot if you had a different start in life? If you hadn’t worked in a factory say, or if your family had been different? Would you be a Y Combinator founder right now instead? Nothing against the current line of work, but I often ask myself the counterfactual of where I’d be if matters were otherwise.

It’s unlikely. Part of the reason I’ve been so successful is that I accidentally ended up in something smart, young women don’t end up in, which is sex work. Most people with some level of competence end up in college, and I didn’t for various reasons. That put me already into a minority….you mentioned earlier that you yourself stand at the desolate intersection of a Venn diagram of two different worlds. That has propelled me at a greater level of success than would have otherwise happened.

I really tried to go to college. Because I was very much stuck in the standard this is what success looks like. I had very, very small world view of what was possible for me. And when I didn’t get to go to college, I cried. I was really sad: “well I guess minimum wage jobs are forever.” That’s what my world was.

I think sex work really helped broaden that; it taught me kind of by accident that you can have success in life through very different ways. If you take risks, if you do the thing that other people don’t typically do, but you do it very seriously and you do it very well, then that in itself earns some sort of respect or validation or the skills translate to other things. And I would never have been able to predict that beforehand.”

-Antonio Garcia Martinez, “Wherein I pay Aella for sex, and we just chat instead*ThePullRequest.com. January 18, 2022

That last paragraph is on point. It’s one thing to be the best. It’s another thing to be the only. And the path to both can be helpfully thought of as a manifestation of the Helsinki Bus Station Theory.

“The Long Telegram” by George F. Kennan

“In atmosphere of oriental secretiveness and conspiracy which pervades this government, possibilities for distorting or poisoning sources and currents of information are infinite. The very disrespect of Russians for objective truth–indeed their disbelief in its existence–leads them to view all stated facts as instruments for furtherance of one ulterior purpose or another. There is good reason to suspect that this government is actually a conspiracy within a conspiracy, and I for one am reluctant to believe that Stalin himself receives anything like an objective picture of [the] outside world. Here there is ample scope for the type of subtle intrigue for which Russians are past masters. Inability of foreign governments to place their place squarely before Russian policy makers–extent to which they are delivered up in their relations with Russia to good graces of obscure and unknown advisers whom they will never see and cannot influence–this to my mind is the most disquieting feature of diplomacy in Moscow, and one which western statesman would do well to keep in mind if they would understand the nature of difficulties encountered here…

…We must see that our public is educated to realities of Russian situation. I cannot over-emphasize importance of this. Press cannot do this alone. It must be done mainly by Government, which is necessarily more experienced and better informed on practical problems involved. In this we need not be deterred by [ugliness?] of picture. I am convinced that there would be far less hysterical anti-Sovietism in our country today if realities of this situation were better understood by our people. There is nothing as dangerous or as terrifying as the unknown. It may also be argued that to reveal more information on our difficulties with Russia would reflect unfavorably on Russian-American relations. I feel that if there is any real risk here involved, it is one which we should have courage to face, and sooner the better. But I cannot see what we would be risking. Our stake in this country, even coming on heels of tremendous demonstrations of our friendship for Russian people, is remarkably small. We have here no investments to guard, no actual trade to lose, virtually no citizens to protect, few cultural contacts to preserve. Our only stake lies in what we hope rather than what we have; and I am convinced we have better chance of realizing those hopes if our public is enlightened and if our dealings with Russians are placed entirely on realistic and matter-of-fact basis.”

George K. Kennan, “The Long Telegram.” wilsoncenter.org. February 22, 1946

Looking & Acting Bad

““Do you want material that looks bad before it acts bad, like shingles or clapboard, or one that acts bad long before it looks bad, like vinyl siding? A whole philosophy of maintenance falls one way or the other with the answer.”

-Stewart Brand, “How Buildings Learn.”

True of maintenance, true of life.

In 1997, the BBC aired a three-hour documentary based on Stewart Brand’s book, How Buildings Learn. Brand has posted the whole program on YouTube in six 30-minute parts: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six. Below, it says it is unavailable, that is just the first one if you aren’t in the right country, copyright-wise. You can either switch your country using a VPN to the United Kingdom or start with part two.

h/t The Prepared and kottke.

Losing My Religion

“Nowadays the market for religion is in flux, perhaps more than ever. On the demand side, churches in the Western world are suffering from the global secularisation that began long before the pandemic. Even in America, the most patent example of a rich country that has thrived alongside religion (some say because of it), the share of citizens identifying as Christian has been dropping, from 82% in 2000 to less than 75% in 2020 (see chart 1). According to the latest poll by the World Values Survey, a global network whose secretariat is in Austria, about 30% of Americans say they attend a religious service at least once a week. That is a lot compared with other rich countries. But the figure has fallen steadily from 45% at the turn of the millennium.”

-“The world’s religions face a post-pandemic reckoning.” The Economist. January 8, 2022.

If you can’t find a way to be relevant during a pandemic, perhaps you aren’t relevant?

The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant

“Once upon a time, the planet was tyrannized by a giant dragon. The dragon stood taller than the largest cathedral, and it was covered with thick black scales. Its red eyes glowed with hate, and from its terrible jaws flowed an incessant stream of evil-smelling yellowish-green slime. It demanded from humankind a blood-curdling tribute: to satisfy its enormous appetite, ten thousand men and women had to be delivered every evening at the onset of dark to the foot of the mountain where the dragon-tyrant lived. Sometimes the dragon would devour these unfortunate souls upon arrival; sometimes again it would lock them up in the mountain where they would wither away for months or years before eventually being consumed…”

-Nick Bolstrom, “The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant.” nickbostrom.com. Originally published in Journal of Medical Ethics, 2005, Vol. 31, No. 5, pp 273-277.

And now, almost 17 years after the publication of this fable, there appears to be the first weapon against the dragon tyrant of the tale:

“Senolytic vaccination also improved normal and pathological phenotypes associated with aging, and extended the male lifespan of progeroid mice. Our results suggest that vaccination targeting seno-antigens could be a potential strategy for new senolytic therapies.”

-Suda, M., Shimizu, I., Katsuumi, G. et al. Senolytic vaccination improves normal and pathological age-related phenotypes and increases lifespan in progeroid mice. Nat Aging 1, 1117–1126 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43587-021-00151-2

I’d guess probably 20 years until this is a regular feature of clinical therapy.

PSA: Tics, lol

There has been plenty of discussion of verbal tics: such as standpoint modifiers, fillers, endpoint modifiers, softeners, up talk, fast talk and vocal fry. The funny thing about that kind of discussion is that it normally assumes the speaker is not aware of what they are doing and/or it reflects the speaker’s internal emotional state.

But, I have some of these problems. Sometimes, I’ll use a “softener” because the person I am talking to doesn’t like conflict. The reality is sometimes you do these things out of consideration for others, not unconsciouslessly or because of personal anxiety, insecurity or whatever.

However, I recently noticed someone that uses “lol” after every sentence in an online forum. I’ve known a few people that do that, and I’m sure you do too. It’s generally a very clear sign that there is no point interacting with that person beyond a surface level, and there isn’t much interesting they are going to say. Perhaps that is unfair, but it seems true. It’s the first writing tic that I have noticed. Now, I want to start discovering others.