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.

bash: Last Day, The People Who Lived As Many Days as You

Definitions

  • bash: This is the command line, where you can run relatively simple scripted programs, available on all three major computing platforms.
  • SPARQL: On the Internet, there are repositories of information. Some of these repositories are in a format called RDF, or Resource Description Framework. Users of these repositories typically need a subset of the information contained in them. In order to get the desired information, they need a way to query these repositories in a structured way to get the information they want. SPARQL is that querying language.
  • Wikidata is an RDF repository. It is hosted by the same organization as Wikipedia, but it is subject to different rules. I do not think Notability and some of the cultural problems of Wikipedia extend to Wikidata. I’d be happy to hear if anyone is aware of problems in the dataset, since this is one of the few times I’ve worked with it.

Inspiration

Most mornings, my wife and I read The New York Times The Morning Briefing. Typically, this will include an obituary of a celebrity. If the person is less than 80 years old, my wife will say something like, “They died young.” She thinks everyone should live to be a hundred years of age.

I tend to think more relativistically. Someone died young, if they were younger than me. It got me thinking, “Is it possible to write a script to find out who lived exactly the same number of days I have lived today?”

It turns out to be fairly easy to do using bash, a SPARQL query link and Wikidata.

bash script

#!/bin/bash
# variables
BIRTHDAY=$(date -d '2000-01-01' +%s) # enter birthday in YYYY-MM-DD format
TODAYS_DATE=$(date +%s)
DAYS_ALIVE=$(((TODAYS_DATE - BIRTHDAY) / 86400)) # converts seconds to days

# Test output
# echo "birthday: ${BIRTHDAY} | today's date: ${TODAYS_DATE} | days_alive: ${DAYS_ALIVE}"

#url for sparql query of wikidata can be obtained: https://query.wikidata.org/, click link to it below
firefox 'https://query.wikidata.org/embed.html#SELECT%20DISTINCT%20%3Fperson%20%3FpersonLabel%20%3FpersonDescription%20WHERE%20%7B%0A%20%20SERVICE%20wikibase%3Alabel%20%7B%20bd%3AserviceParam%20wikibase%3Alanguage%20%22%5BAUTO_LANGUAGE%5D%22.%20%7D%0A%20%20%7B%0A%20%20%20%20SELECT%20DISTINCT%20%3Fperson%20%3FpersonLabel%20%3FpersonDescription%20%7B%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20%3Fperson%20wdt%3AP31%20wd%3AQ5%3B%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20wdt%3AP569%20%3Fborn%3B%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20wdt%3AP570%20%3Fdied%3B%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20wdt%3AP27%20wd%3AQ30%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%20%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20BIND(%3Fdied%20-%20%3Fborn%20AS%20%3FageInDays).%20%0A%20%20%20%20%20%20FILTER(%3FageInDays%20%3D%20'"$DAYS_ALIVE"').%20%20%0A%20%20%20%20%7D%0A%20%20%20%20LIMIT%2025%0A%20%20%7D%0A%7D%0A'

bash script output

SPARQL query

You can input the following into the Wikidata SPARQL query interface and change the perimeters. Specifically, the bash variable $DAYS_ALIVE needs to be changed to an integer to work in the query interface, e.g., FILTER(?ageInDays = 11000). You can also do ranges using multiplication, e.g., FILTER(?ageInDays < (31*365) && ?ageInDays > (30*365)), if you want people between the ages of 30 to 31.

SELECT DISTINCT ?person ?personLabel ?personDescription WHERE {
  SERVICE wikibase:label { bd:serviceParam wikibase:language "[AUTO_LANGUAGE]". }
  {
    SELECT DISTINCT ?person ?personLabel ?personDescription {
      ?person wdt:P31 wd:Q5;             # any person
              wdt:P569 ?born;            # that has a birth date
              wdt:P570 ?died;            # and a death date
              wdt:P27 wd:Q30             # that was a citizen of the United States
      BIND(?died - ?born AS ?ageInDays). # calculate days they lived
      FILTER(?ageInDays = $DAYS_ALIVE).  # match the number of days to your current number of days alive
    }
    LIMIT 25
  }
}