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How else can one explain what is happening in China over the last few years? Mr T Tweets at 3am, and now he’s calling the Taiwanese Prez, which is like snubbing your nose at your big (or little depending on your POV) brother or sister. Only this sibling doesn’t sleep, and could suffocate you with his or her pillow all while continuing to pollute our environment.

Remember back in February when I recommended a compelling non-fiction book about China? “Age of Ambition – Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the new China” by Evan Osnos. https://mountainmornings.net/2016/02/27/mj-fever/

If you’re not one for the long read, how about a couple of articles in this month’s Atlantic, “China’s Great Leap Backward?” Kisssinger explains China 101 and tells us how to avoid a trade war, among other things. And James Fallows tells us that freedom is even harder to find in the new China; “It has become repressive in a way that it has not been since the Cultural Revolution.”

We Americans have been asleep. We don’t want to wake to the nightmare of last month’s election, and why should we? We would rather come home from work, open a craft beer, and watch Netflix. Only the latest sci-fi series I told you about, Black Mirror, is actually coming true in China! https://mountainmornings.net/2016/10/25/feeling-twitchy/

If you need a respite from politics, and all the mud-slinging of this election, I have a Netflix show to recommend from England. “Black Mirror” (a trope to our attachment to the smart screen) is about how technology is changing the course of human history in a very scary, sinister and smart way. I’ve only seen the first few episodes of Season 1, created by Charlie Brooker, but if you are wondering where our dystopian obsession with devices is going, tune into the future.

So that’s what I said in October…and now China is creating a nightmare for its citizens with their tacit consent.

It is collecting “Social Credit Scores,” in other words, the dragon has a highly developed Big Brother with a big pillow under his head. All electronic purchasing data, social media networks, and algorithmic sorting devices are being collected to give each citizen a score between 350 and 950. This system not only monitors whether or not you could pay for your apartment. but how compliant you are politically, and what kind of spouse you might make! If you hit a score of 700+ you are allowed to travel to Singapore…

Black Mirror is no longer science fiction, it is becoming fact. The Regime can now keep a tally of any message with a mention of Tienanmen Square for example, which would not only lower your score, but those of your friends and family! All of the scores are available to everybody in China online, and strangely enough like salmon swimming furiously upstream, citizens have embraced this system.

And just like the American 12 year old I overheard bragging about how many Instagram followers she had, I am finding this brave new world frightening. After all, we have Google and Amazon and Facebook et al collecting our data, but our government isn’t quite yet in cahoots with them, is it? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-34592186

It’s enough to make me want to crawl right back under the covers and hibernate the winter away. But first a prayer for what it’s worth, please God, let Mr T pick Romney over Giuliani for Secretary of State. We don’t need any more bulls roaming free in a China shop. Let me know when it’s time to wake up and get off the grid. From an exhibition in LA at the Broad Museum – this is Jenny Holzer 1979 – it’s strangely prescient

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Almost every day I notice something about technology and its intrusion on our species.

The feeling leaves me twitchy, which is the opposite of feeling groovy. Feeling nervous, even jumpy about the upcoming election might be normal, but here’s where it gets downright “nasty.”

The new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll — conducted among 1,999 registered voters Oct. 13 through Oct. 15 — shows that Trump’s repeated warnings about a “rigged” election are having effect: 73 percent of Republicans think the election could be swiped from him. Just 17 percent of Democrats agree with the prospect of massive fraud at the ballot box.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/10/poll-41-percent-of-voters-say-the-election-could-be-stolen-from-trump-229871#ixzz4O6sJNgAE

Now I always thought we could trust in our electorate to bring us the best democracy, with a capital “D,” in the whole wide world. I thought the Trump supporters, fully one third of the voting public, were just delusional about the system being “rigged.” Sure it’s rigged when the polls show their candidate losing, and fine when he was neck and neck. And if somebody says something enough, some people are bound to believe it.

But then I read about bad technology, via a Katie Couric Twitter link to US News. Granted it’s an opinion piece, and Jason Smith uses the word “could,” but it made me think. Maybe it’s not mass hysteria, maybe there is something rotten in Denmark?

U.S. elections offer scant assurance of accuracy or security, and our nation would fail recognized international election criteria that we impose on emerging democracies. This November, millions of Americans will cast their ballots on unverifiable paperless voting computers. These machines incorporate flawed, buggy software that would not pass a college freshman computer science class.  http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2016-10-18/our-election-could-be-rigged-because-of-bad-technology

Today 32 states employ some type of internet voting, and let’s face it, the computers they are using are dinosaurs – think the kind of behemoth we lugged into the Bride’s dorm room almost twenty years ago! Even when I was studying Technology in the Classroom at the Master’s level, we were always told to keep a back-up lesson plan IN PAPER at hand because you never know. Modems can get hit by lightening. Russians or a middle school student could hack them!

And to top it off, after a delightful dueling chef’s dinner last night benefitting “Georgia’s Healing House,” Bob and I sat down to a PBS episode of “GerryRIGGED.” A documentary film featuring politicians from both sides of the aisle, including Tim Kaine who probably didn’t know he would be the Veep pick at the time, explaining how legislators in both houses can redistrict their state to ensure their reelection every few years.

Gerrymandering is the enemy of representative government. It deliberately manipulates the system to take away from voters the very choice that should be a hallmark of our system,” says program producer William Oglesby. “We hope with this documentary to help citizens understand that this isn’t the way it has to be; that the voters have a right to choose their representatives rather than the representatives choose them.”

Needless to say I was up and wandering about at 3 am again. Our country is just like Great Britain drawing lines in the sand of its post-Colonial empire.  Let’s get a few more Republicans over here in District 12 shall we? And VA had a chance at reform, but who would vote for their own demise? Certainly the Old Dominion didn’t.

If you need a respite from politics, and all the mud-slinging of this election, I have a Netflix show to recommend from England. “Black Mirror” (a trope to our attachment to the smart screen) is about how technology is changing the course of human history in a very scary, sinister and smart way. I’ve only seen the first few episodes of Season 1, created by Charlie Brooker, but if you are wondering where our dystopian obsession with devices is going, tune into the future.

Parental warning, the first episode of “Black Mirror” involves a pig in a compromising position. Like any great science fiction writer, the truth isn’t too far off.   http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/10/black-mirror-nosedive-review-season-three-netflix/504668/

Forget the myth of voter fraud, put your feet up and your devices down, talk to your children about kindness and nastiness, and maybe go leaf-peeping this week!   img_5481

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about food. Is it theatre, is it purely sustenance, or is it love? This morning at daybreak I clicked on an article about “Gay Chefs” on Slate. I read the whole piece on my phone, which I will rarely do. It was an interesting historical take on how gay men never had anything to prove when they cooked. Unlike women, who were trying to prepare a home cooked meal for a family on a budget and satisfy a husband at the same time. And by the way, start working outside the home too if you don’t mind. Hence the invention of the crock pot!

The Gay community treated food like fun; they enjoyed entertaining at home because as a whole they were living a secret life. They loved Julia Child, and lovingly mocked her Queenish mannerisms.

Then the 80s hit and AIDS took its tool on such frivolity. With the beginning of cooking shows on TV, and finally a whole channel devoted to food, macho male chefs took over the airwaves. Spices were added to dishes by yelling “Bam!” and cooking wars became de rigeur. An Englishman yells at us, an Australian wants us to get healthy. If we saw a woman chef on TV, we were lucky to maybe get Nigella Lawson on BBC. Finally along came Ina Garten, a woman who looks normal and not quite goddess-like. She prepares good food, she’s the real deal! Plus, I must admit I like her approach. I just made her pesto before I left Cville.

Keep it fresh, keep it simple, keep it fun.

And now I’m watching “Chef’s Table” on Netflix while Baby Boy naps. http://decider.com/2015/05/09/chefs-table-netflix/ It’s exactly what we’ve been missing. Foodies everywhere must be rejoicing. A Japanese American woman, Niki Nakayama (LA, California) creates a truly Japanese restaurant that doesn’t serve sushi. There is a folding screen between her kitchen and her dining room because in her culture, women are not chefs. And she is mad about that, but also sensitive to her customers. She talks about her older brother telling her it probably won’t work out – which only made her more determined.

Certain doors were always closed to women, but bit by bite, we slowly opened them. Cooking should be done to please yourself, your own palate. And of course, I’m making the Love Bug Mac and Cheese tonight, from scratch. Just because.

This is what eating a fresh peach feels like!

This is what eating a fresh peach feels like!

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The first time I heard this phrase, “The mobility of content,” was yesterday while driving along the most glorious mountain views of Albemarle County. It was a sunroof-open-mobil moment on the good ole fashioned radio. I was listening to NPR and an interview with the creator of Netflix, talk about how they came up with the idea of original content. Most people think “House of Cards” was their first original pilot series. But no, Little Stevie’s “Lilyhammer” was being produced in Norway; they were six months in, when The Boss’ bestie cringed at the idea of releasing all of the Scandinavian mob-driven drama at once. Think of it like a record album, Steven Van Zandt was told, and so we begin.

While celebrating Ada’s 91st birthday, I grabbed her iPad and told her, “You’re gonna love this.” Ada has been a Marriage and Family Counselor for almost as long as I’ve known her. In fact, when she returned to school in the 60’s, thereby creating a role model for all young feminists in the NY/NJ metropolitan area, I had just started dating her son. “It’s about two couples, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play the wives,” I crooned in her ear. I had just finished semi-binge watching “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix, a comedy about divorce loosely, and I wanted her to enjoy it as much as I had. https://www.netflix.com/title/80017537

Now I hate to get prejudicial, but for the most part I’d bet not many octogenarians+ know from streaming content. Ada is unique, in many ways, but her tech skills are particularly excellent. She gets her news online and in paper form, she shares photos and corresponds via email, although she prefers actual phone calls! She can Facetime with her Great Grandchildren in Nashville, and now I’ve got her on Netflix! We only watched two episodes of “Grace and Frankie” while I was there,  but I’ve got a feeling this woman who wrote her dissertation on humor in conflict, will become addicted in no time.

My guilty pleasure is watching “Bloodline” late at night when Bob’s working the evening shift. I’ve plowed through all the original content Netflix has to offer, “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black” and yes, I even started out long ago with “Lilyhammer” when we first got our Apple TV. I can watch Netflix on a plane, on a train, or even in the rain. I don’t like to watch on my phone however, even though “Lawrence of Arabia” has been watched on cell phones worldwide more than any other content. Imagine that.

But “Bloodline” is skeeving me out. It’s Shakespearian in its ethos, a family tragedy enfolding in the beautiful Florida Keys. If you want to see what drug/alcohol addiction is really like, how it can corrode character from the inside out, just watch Ben Mendelsohn play the “bad” brother Danny. And our Albemarle neighbor, Sissy Spacek, is compelling as the Rayburn family matriarch.

“Bloodline” is cleverly constructed, but a lot of the mystery hinges on Danny. Mr. Mendelsohn (who made his name in the United States in the Australian crime drama “Animal Kingdom”) is suitably inscrutable — his character is a quicksilver manipulator who can seem benign one second and malevolent the next. His good looks are bleached out by bad behavior, and only his smile, wryly sweet but fleeting, restores his boyhood charm. At his best, Danny seems well-meaning and misunderstood; at his worst, he looks a little like a middle-aged Robert Durst.     http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/20/arts/television/review-bloodline-on-netflix-depicts-a-family-with-nasty-secrets.html

Since we can carry our entertainment with us, wherever we go, and now not just with Netflix, but Amazon, Hulu, Google and even HBO will be streaming content, http://www.digitaltrends.com/movies/best-media-streaming-sites-services/ I wonder how this will change story telling. Or is a good story a universal thing of beauty, passed down in its oral tradition from generation to generation, since we could paint an image on a cave.

Scene From a Birthday

Scene From a Birthday

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Bob’s been working a number of evening shifts lately, so I try to stay up past midnight to welcome him home. It’s also a self-serving move, since many times if I fall asleep, I have trouble getting back to sleep once he wakes me. Reading would definitely put me to sleep, so naturally, this is when Netflix comes in handy – I’m a serial, binge watcher. I’m all caught up on House of Cards, and believe me I didn’t see that end coming. Now I was ready for something new. And this new Tina Fey number delivered, ear worm and all. http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/03/unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-theme-song

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is like cotton candy in your mouth; it’s sweetly cloying and gone in a New York minute. The episodes are short and were originally developed to fill a half hour TV slot. The idea is some women are kidnapped by a crazy, end-of-days preacher and kept in a bunker for 15 years; but we start with their ascension into sunlight, prairie women garb and all; oh, and that song. Leave it to Fey to make this funny. Because Kimmy was in 8th grade when she was taken, her world is stuck in the 80s. With Manhattan as a backdrop, and filmed in vivid, sunlight-soaked primary colors, she finds work as a nanny (sort of) and a Black/Gay room mate. It’s as if Sleeping Beauty woke up to Hammer time.

Kimmy’s vision of the good life has exactly that vibe: she wants to enjoy what she’s missed out on. Roaming around New York, she binges on candy, like a crazed toddler. She buys sparkly sneakers. Peppy and curious to the point of naïveté, she acts as if she’d learned about life from sitcoms—she gets into a love triangle, she goes back to school, she’s eager for every party. But there’s also something tense and over-chipper about Kimmy’s zest, an artificial quality that even the cartoonish characters around her can sense is “off.” Yes, there was “weird sex stuff” in the bunker, she blurts out to her roommate. She has an unexplained Velcro phobia. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/30/candy-girl

I’m reminded once again about the nature/nurture question. Think about Elizabeth Smart, how she managed to overcome nine months of unbearable”…boredom, hunger and rape.” Also at the hands of a would-be “prophet.” What might break some, actually forges a stronger identity in others. Because at the heart of Kimmy’s pop/yet/dark dramedy, lurking on the margin, is sexual violence and religious fruit cakes.

Let it be known, in my small way, I’d like to continue to fly over Indiana. “Religious freedom” to my mind means don’t layer your religious beliefs into our public policy. Keep them hidden, in a bunker maybe.  GOAT-Cultural-Clicks-3-27-690

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Since moving down South I’ve loved collecting Southern phrases, words that had no possibility of filling my Northern ears in the past. Lovely clerks will call me “Darlin” for no reason, and speak to a single person in the plural “Y’all” ALL the time. There’s calling a grocery cart a “Buggy” and “Directly” could mean soon or a month from now. You will hear me say that’s the “High Doller” restaurant, and I am partial to the word “Catawampus” but the funniest phrase I’ve heard is “Peckerwood Mayhem.”

Unlike Redneck mayhem, which if I watched that Duck Dynasty show I’d probably understand, Peckerwood Mayhem is in a class by itself. It found it’s way into our vocabulary by way of a Southern author, Julia Reed. She wrote “Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenomena.” http://www.gardendistrictbookshop.com/content/queen-turtle-derby-and-other-southern-phenomena In her book she talks about a shrimper in Louisiana who is trying to deal with an Austrailian giant jellyfish invasion that manages to eat the shrimp in his nets and yet elude capture. His theory for why this is happening in the Times Picayune is;

“They got some kinda sonar connected to ’em or somethin…that’s what I think anyway and it’s good enough for me.”

Anyway, she explains the difference between rednecks, who will “aspire” to things like nice watches and trucks and a house “…that looks like Tara” etc and “peckerwood.” The latter are people who are too pitiful to even aspire to much according to Reed. In her opinion, these are the people, direct descendants of the Celts, who leave their broken down washing machines and cars in their front yard. Makes me happy Bob finally fixed that John Deere tractor we had sitting out front for a week!

All this to explain my day at the hand therapy clinic yesterday. First of all, there’s a sign on the door that says “No Guns Allowed” and my first thought is “Nice” and of course my second thought is “What the #%*+ is wrong with Target?” Right? Then I realize that I’ve been in the South for almost ten years and the signs about guns no longer surprise me!

So they sit me down and stick my hand in a machine that blows hot corn husks at me. I’m sitting there pretending my hand is in some tropical HOT (really really HOT) Caribbean beach trying to catch sand blowing in a typhoon and I look over right next to me is a policewoman, with obvious guns and locks hanging all over her and she’s wearing a bullet-proof vest. Across the table from her is a policeman, decked out in much the same fashion. They are talking with the therapist about speeding tickets in a good ole Southern drawl. And right next to him is a nice looking man, quiet, in an orange jumpsuit with his hand in some painful contraption. And right out of my mouth loud and clear since all these machines are making noise I say,

“Are you a prisoner?” 

He smiles and says, “Yes,” and I say, “Well, orange is the new black!” And then we’re off to the races talking about that show which is my guilty pleasure on Netflix and those cops are totally oblivious since they don’t have Netflix and never heard of it. And I can tell they are uncomfortable… but the prisoner, he’s feeling good, like finally someone is talking to him, seeing him. Then he tells me they only have basic cable in prison and I could almost cry.

And in all my years on this earth I’ve never talked with a prisoner or been inside a prison, but now I feel like I want to know how this well spoken, thoughtful guy found himself there. I want to get all those non-violent criminals paroled and out of the feedback loop of our justice system, and get rid of “For Profit” private prisons which seem to be cropping up all over the South. Because we all know if you have money in America, you can OJ the system just fine.

Watching the woman cop place his handcuffs back on and sling a metal chain around his waist and shuffle the prisoner out of the hand clinic, I feel like I had a little taste of Peckerwood Mayhem, corn husks and all.

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Londoners wouldn't get Woody

Londoners wouldn’t get Woody

Have you been following the Woody Allen pervert/or/not show? I had not, although I’m aware that I no longer flock to the latest Allen movie. There was a time, around Annie Hall, when I loved him. His jokes, his angst, his heroines, especially Diane Keaton. A sister-in-law from MS once told me you had to be from NYC to “get” Woody Allen, and I suspected she was right. For the longest time I would quote him:  “80 percent of life is showing up,” because I truly believe it! And I dressed like Annie Hall, in a sort of androgynous mix of comfy meets funky vests.

But after Allen was given a Cecil B DeMille Award at the Globes and Mia Farrow and kids took to bashing him on Twitter, I found myself wondering again if he did it. He was accused of fondling his adopted daughter Dylan at the age of 7 in an attic. Now we all know he married his other adopted step-daughter Soon-Yi (who was actually Andre Previn’s adopted daughter), which was creepy enough. That was about the time I had seen Mia Farrow at the Big Apple Circus, in the first row right across from me. She was surrounded by so many adopted kids I was reminded of the woman who lived in a shoe, “…she had so many children.”

Maybe because my BFF had been an assistant DA, and she once told me that kids never lie, I was predisposed to believe Mia’s story, even when a judge and many investigators never found any evidence credible enough to bring charges against Allen. That was when I stopped going to his movies. Knowing what I do now about the proximity of the abuse charges to their separation over Soon-Yi, it does seem possible that Mia may have been vindictive enough and possibly “coached” Dylan to say that he touched her. Will we ever know the truth? Finally Allen is speaking out: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/feb/08/woody-allen-denies-abuse-allegations

And so is Dylan’s brother, another adopted child, Moses Farrow now 36, now speaking up in defense of Allen. He likened the atmosphere in their home as dysfunctional at best.  “I don’t know if my sister really believes she was molested or is trying to please her mother. Pleasing my mother was very powerful motivation because to be on her wrong side was horrible.” http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/feb/05/woody-allen-dylan-farrow-moses

Whatever happened over 20 years ago we may never know. But I did happen to watch Blue Jasmine on Netflix recently and it was incredible. Allen takes us back out to overly sunny California with a lapsed heiress, Cate Blanchett, who is exquisite in the role. It is a study in social class and psychology, in love and betrayal. It’s a modern day Streetcar. “Blue Jasmine feels like tragedy without catharsis—an interesting thing to pull off, but not particularly moving or maybe even admirable.” http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2013/07/movie-review-blue-jasmine-woody-allen

It left me feeling strangely sick, and singing Blue Moon for days.

“I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That’s the two categories. The horrible are like, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you’re miserable, because that’s very lucky, to be miserable.” Annie Hall

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