Author Archives: J39M

About J39M

Julian is something of a (self-declared) weirdo who enjoys quiet pondering and aimless wandering. When that's not on the roster, he can be found practicing his scales and arpeggios on any nearby piano. Julian has a singular, non-homosexual fixation on the pianist Rafał Blechacz, and can be frequently heard spazzing out about him. Julian loves Studio Ghibli films and won't miss up any opportunity to fanboy about any one of them. His running favorite is probably "Spirited Away," closely followed by "Howl's Moving Castle" and "My Neighbor Totoro." The film score that holds his heart, though, is Yuji Nomi's gorgeous creation for "The Cat Returns."

Some notes on “March of the Resistance”

The first time I heard the Resistance March blast out in the skirmish on Takodana, it rubbed me the wrong way. Back when I had studiously blindfolded myself to avoid reading the track titles in the mass-market OST, I assumed the march was for the First Order (incumbent, structured military force). When the X-wings roared out over the lake to deliver a few minutes of sustained kickassery, I was shocked and disheartened by the choice of music: a very straightforward concert suite full of pomp and bombast. This (to me) made the victory seem routine and altogether expected. (It was also quite an ego hit to be totally wrong about my guesses for the music.)

Historically, the “good guys” have always fought hard to win. You can get rousing and heroic music heralding your wins; that’s fine – but my rule of thumb is that if you could reasonably play it in its entirety at a military parade, the cue won’t do for a Star Wars battle.

TLJ to the rescue, as always! The Resistance theme gets a fantastic showing in here.

…in an unreleased cue from the Da’qar battle

The mass-market OST shows off an absolutely crazy transformation of the Resistance theme that I think I’ve written about previously. It translates the duple-meter march into triple time, giving it a swashbuckling drive to contrast with the straight-laced original. I’m not sure where this would have sat in the film, though, but it would have been fantastic on the merits of the music alone.

…in the shot of the bombers sallying forth

The first time we see those clunky old things swing into view to confront the Fulminatrix, we hear the violent opening unisons of the Resistance march. It works for the scene because it’s a grand entrance by these huge, unwieldy beasts called in to save the day. It also takes care not to overstay its welcome as more fitting “action” scoring kicks in.

…in the introduction of Amilyn Holdo

I had to listen carefully for this one. The Resistance theme is transposed (roughly to F major) and given a quietly stirring but optimistic tone as Holdo gives her speech. It’s everything that I would have wished for Giacchino’s Rebellions are Built on Hope and then some.

…twice to open the Battle of Crait

The shot of the Resistance fighters taking their positions in the trenches is underscored with a menacing, ponderous rendition of the Resistance march. It’s good stuff that avoids drawing itself out.

When the mine skiffs go skating out across the salt flats, there’s this gorgeous shot of the dozen-ish craft soaring across the land, facing down a line of vastly more powerful gorilla walkers. The Resistance march kicks in the familiar duple meter, but at a slightly faster tempo than usual (complementing the slower version used moments prior). It’s not exactly straight heroism here – more like saluting the courage to partake of this blind folly, so characteristic of these Resistance types.

This is by no means a complete list; they’re just the ones I can recall off the top of my head (having mulled this over for a few months now). They’re great ones, to be sure!

J39M

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If I were a teacher

Some time last week, I had a delightfully twisted brainwave. I wish that I had the chops to design and teach a portion of the standard high-school English curriculum just to incorporate a unit that I would christen “Offensive Writing / Defensive Reading.”

The endgame of said unit would be to prepare students against manipulation when consuming media. The most engaging path to learning this power is to engage in some shadiness yourself. I daresay that students would find delight in this half-malicious study.

  • We begin by studying propaganda – written, spoken, and depicted. Students will be given a couple of simple propaganda projects to practice (and experience) amplification and distortion.
  • We progress into op-eds, a much longer study. Students will produce essays deliberately and fallaciously misconstruing reality, learning to artfully deploy and deceive.
  • The final portion of this incorporates public speaking, splitting the class in half. We choose an issue and have each half choose a side. Then, each side prepares 2 cases.
    • The first case is objective, carefully researched, and generally “defensive.”
    • The second case is mendacious and slippery, bordering on the intellectually dishonest (like the loudest radio show hosts) – generally “offensive.”
    • We hold two rounds of debate, complementing offense and defense on both sides to let both halves experience both attacking and being attacked.

Great care must be spent choosing topics that are not hot-button current events. Historical, well-documented, but non-common-knowledge events are good candidates. There is a nonzero chance that students will sustain some offense (or even trauma) along the way. And if any student is unlucky enough to believe some of the crap that comes of these teachings (e.g. “what if Jonathan Swift is right about eating children?”), it may calcify as a lifelong impediment in determining truth. That would be the ultimate failure in teaching.

J39M

It’s a bold move, being wishy-washy

I was roving across LinkedIn today and came across the line “My passion is people.” It sounds confident, self-assured, and succinct. It’s not insincere or arrogant. It makes a good impression without pigeonholing he / she who utters this phrase.

What am I? What kind of blurb headlines my LinkedIn self?

“I don’t have strong opinions either way.”

Here is the pinnacle of wishy-washiness, the ill-defined jawline in congress with the wobbly lower lip. This is a fellow you don’t want to hire. Perhaps he’s worth something for the collaborative spirit he’s sure to have, but it’s no good to take pride in lack of character.

“I like making things work.”

Who doesn’t? Next applicant.

“I value invisibility.”

This sounds arrogant. You think you’re a master valet to old money? Actually, what does this even mean? If you want to be invisible, why should we hire you?

“Maintainability is my joy.”

Ugh.

etc. etc.

I could spout these smelly aphorisms all day and not come any closer to something useful. The above headings are all true, but they’re no use in networking.

Never mind faith and proselytizing – works are the thing I must show. I would do well to really ramp up my OSS game.

J39M

A silly wish to transform policing

I write this fully aware that I have a nasty authoritarian streak and zero civic training. These are sketches of a crazy rando who dreams about nicer things, but lacks the power and vision to make them materialize.

And as always, I could be totally wrong and just suffering from Silicon Valley Syndrome (“throw more money and tech at the problem instead of thinking of simpler human solutions”).

We must begin by solving the human authentication problem. Suppose humankind can develop avatars that can represent people in the real world. Then we must in tandem develop some sufficiently secure scheme to make sure that your avatar cannot be usurped, cannot be taken over, cannot be misrepresented, cannot be masqueraded as. Verifying that an avatar maps one-to-one to exactly one particular human being must be fast, accessible, and highly accurate.

Obviously, this presupposes that we perfect all the plumbing needed to deploy masses of cyborg avatars. Robotics and highly available internet connectivity would have to scale much larger and much quicker than they have historically. I imagine a lot of jury-rigging ad-hoc infrastructure solutions in rural areas. I’m going to hand-wave all these questions away in pursuit of the bigger picture.

From there, any interested state (county, municipality?) could contract with the avatar-makers to work out a distributed scheme that ensures every avatar is always recording what it sees and does. Since these avatars will be extensions of individual human beings, the avatars do not themselves have any innate right to privacy. Avatars do not need worry about forgetting to turn off body cameras in the restroom. If your proxy is just a soulless subservient extension of yourself, there is never a good reason to tamper with its record-keeping. Nevertheless, control must be given either to the masses or to a totally apolitical / nonprofit / unaligned third party to guard against the worst case.

We arrive at the conclusion. Policing can be done entirely remotely but in a way that still guarantees that every officer of the peace is individual identifiable and accountable for his or her actions. This removes essentially all immediate physical risk from an officer’s day-to-day work. Therefore the officer should never be discouraged from acting generally and should always be discouraged from overextending. With no danger to life and limb, all excuses for police brutality (flimsy as they may already be in the status quo) should vanish. Unnecessarily roughshod treatment at the hands of an avatar will be captured in the public record and duly scorned.

There are many problems here that I’m slowly turning over in my head.

  1. Officers bound and determined to be bad (most common example: being racially selective) can abuse the system just as easily (if not more so). This is only somewhat offset by the always-on body cams. The public does not have the time to monitor all video feeds 24/7 to detect patterns of racism etc. etc. and it has been a historical toss-up as to who can reasonably have oversight on this.
  2. Better-prepared criminals no longer have any incentive to hold back if resisting arrest. A maimed avatar is a much lesser sin than a deceased police officer, so if legislation does not keep pace, a dynamic may well develop in which criminals are always incentivized to disable / “kill” police avatars.
  3. Where does all the money for this come from?

A wishlist for the IX

I know I’m just spinning shitty fan-fiction, but I would really love to be vindicated about my thoughts on the Holdo gambit. (I’ll live and still love Star Wars just the same if I’m not, though.) Just one thing in the next film – one little thing – could probably quell the angrier fans a little. Maybe someone else tries to use a capital ship against the First Order in the same way and fails in spectacular fashion. Maybe they pass straight through like a neutrino through the entire planet (something something mass shadows). Maybe the First Order, much better-prepared this time, stops the maneuver cold (e.g. Interdictor-style hyperspeed countermeasures, or maybe just the standard shields work as they are to stop these shenanigans).

Big shrug. It doesn’t really matter either way (come on, it’s a fictional universe that was never big on steady world-building). I’m here to escape and have fun, not to nit-pick and wave my world-building dick around.

2018-01-05

I just popped out a piece of imagery so vivid that I feel the need to double-up from writing it down on paper to cross-posting it here. This isn’t even the Oscar Isaac on ice thing, this is just me ranting to myself (as I have for a while now)…

My very first mistake was not communicating about [that thing] in a calm and adult manner. It’s very well to blame her for coming up with such a demeaning pet name for me, but it’s my duty to cast off burdens which are not mine to bear (like that).

In the end, she stopped. So that was good. But only good insofar as it would be good if your visibly zoosadistic first cousin once removed stops killing weasels in your back garden. It’s an improvement, to be sure, but more work is yet to be done.

I don’t have any weird cousins (much less weird first cousins once removed). But now that I know how the “removal” deal works, I love bandying it about like a baguette sword.

J39M

Headcanon: the lazy private aboard The Supremacy

I sauntered to my post, coffee in my right hand and briefing in the left. At a full fifteen minutes early, I was in no hurry, though my pace quickened imperceptibly when I saw that there was no-one for me to relieve. My eyes roved over the schedule and found his name. I would snitch on him to the captain later.

I didn’t blame him, though – it had been a very slow day after D’Qar. The loss of the Fulminatrix and Captain Canady had been as much a shock as a fluke. The Supremacy had faced down far more imposing enemies than a lone unladen cruiser like the Raddus. Hux was often an awkward man, but his sterling record in the field was unimpeachable.

Maybe I wouldn’t rat out my predecessor. I just wanted the day to end. I flipped a few pages through to check on the Raddus. She had precious little fuel left, enough for just a few hours at sublight or an extremely short hop (1 or 2 systems, if that) at light. It was Hux’s assessment that there was no point in even marshaling 2 destroyers ahead to pinch her off. Sooner or later we would have caught up, and then we would resume the same old song and dance, totally outgunning the Raddus without any chance for her escape.

Of course, that point was moot now that we knew the Resistance game. I glanced out the viewport. The distance shelling was on. That decloaking scan was entirely worthwhile; I could see the Resistance transports popping like Coruscanti kettle corn. I imagined that maybe 5 of them (very pessimistically speaking) might escape onto Crait. The ground battle then might take…

The Raddus changed course. Hux’s voice echoed distantly through the deck, barely registering green as he ordered no attention given to the empty cruiser. It was only a silly ploy. I pressed to speak. “Orders, Captain?”

The captain paused a few seconds before answering. He was having a slow day, too. “Attend your post. Have a finger on the shields for our partition, but hold for now.”

Thump, thump. I could see more transports being gunned down. I supposed Hux was saving the ghostly Raddus for last. Knowing that it was abandoned made it look gaunt and sad. Hux had been right not to put all that pressure on them to force a confrontation while they still held their main cruiser: that would have been irksome in the extreme. I took my hands off the controls and sat back to watch the fireworks.

Suddenly, Hux’s voice cut through all the hubbub on deck and all flashed red. “Concentrate all fire on that cruiser, NOW!

Our partition suddenly flooded with crosstalk. I fumbled with the receiver controls, trying to remember the dedicated channel for our command on this partition. I looked outside. The Raddus was now pointed squarely at us. This was silly – did they even have any gunners left on board?

I spun the dial. Suddenly I caught my captain’s voice and stopped, backing up a few channels.

“Gravity, gravity! Project external wells now, private!”

My blood ran cold. The powerful external gravity wells on the Supremacy were used to drag lesser ships out of lightspeed. The Raddus was the only ship big enough to interact with the Supremacy‘s substantial mass shadow in hyperspace. While the rest of our destroyers did not cast mass shadows, they were all arranged behind and around the Supremacy. If the Raddus collided with our mass shadow, it would eject an enormous debris field in normal space –

I keyed in the sequence to start the external wells. In my haste, I flubbed the initialization. I rekeyed as fast as I was able. The Raddus seemed to lean forward.

The other partitions were calling in now on the cross-channels – their wells were now up and running – while I sweated. Another flub. I frantically rekeyed as the Raddus suddenly vanished –