All posts by ricbretz

A Vote for Engaging Political Movies

person dropping paper on box
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by Rick Bretz

Every two years the voting public absorbs the wave of political commercials, email voting reminders, and US Postal Service flyers about getting to the polls to do their civic duty.   After election day is over and we all come up for air, we can only hope that we did not make a mistake that we can’t correct for another 2, 4 or 6 years, whichever the case may be.

Why should the movie industry be any different? The cinema has its collective lenses on all the social issues including politics.  Among the movie industry’s favorite genres is the political or election themed movie.  What follows is a list of political movies that make you think.  The Founding Fathers certainly did the movie industry a favor when they gathered in Philadelphia and engineered our representative government. So here’s my vote for a few of the best.

 

1. The Candidate- 1972-Starring Robert Redford, Peter Boyle, and Melvyn Douglas

Robert Redford portrays Bill McKay, a somewhat naive political candidate, that gets in the race for a California Senate seat for noble reasons.  He starts out the campaign without any chance of unseating the incumbent but soon momentum grows.  His political handlers want to control him, but he fights to be his own person.  Melvyn Douglas, who plays Redford’s father, a former governor of California, is a favorite character.  He is cynical, politically savvy, and opportunistic. He is not fully involved with his son’s campaign until he determines he has a viable chance to win the thing.

In a televised debate near the end of the campaign, he breaks away from the predetermined closing statement, stunning his staff, and delivers his own message.  It’s a brilliant movie about the trajectory of a campaign and of a candidate as the election cycle moves fast towards election day.  It’s has one of the best closing lines in movie ever put on screen.  After winning the election and beating the incumbent, Redford is with Peter Boyle, in a small room as he is ready to meet the adoring crowd.  Redford says to Boyle, his campaign manager, “What do we do now.”

Good Story about the Bill McKay effect

http://www.governing.com/topics/politics/Bill-Mckay-Effect.html

Quotes: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0068334/quotes

 

2. Ghandi-1982-Starring Ben Kingsley, John Gielgud, Rohini Hattangadi, Roshan Seth

When thinking of this movie, a viewer might say, “well this is a good autobiography of Ghandi.”  This is an incisive, penetrating study on the politics of getting what you want through public opinion.  Ghandi’s struggle for independence from British control over India and what is now Pakistan glued the biopic together.  Ghandi’s tactic, played brilliantly by Ben Kingsley, of fighting bad laws and oppression with non-violence, boycotts and media outrage was adopted by Martin Luther King to fight racism in the 1960s.  Ghandi studied law in England and practiced law in South Africa before returning to London and then British controlled India in in the early 1900s.

Ghandi’s ability, through out the movie, to understand the British ruling group, with their class mentality and preconceived notions of intellectual aptitude, enabled him to outmaneuver authorities.   His nonviolent strategy and willingness to sacrifice prison time made the ruling government impatient.  This led to many mistakes that turned public opinion.

About Dr. King’s trip to India

https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/india-trip

https://www.biography.com/people/mahatma-gandhi-9305898

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083987/?ref_=ttls_li_tt

3. Being There-1979-Peter Sellers, Shirley MacClaine and Melvyn Douglas

Melvyn Douglas seems to be in the most perceptive movies about politics.  Sellers’ character is a an intellectually challenged gardener whose rich boss has died and he doesn’t have anywhere to go when the lawyers kick him out of the house.  He walks around until he is taken in eventually by Shirley MacClaine’s character Eve Rand.  She is married to Melvyn Douglas’ character, Benjamin Rand, who knows the President of the United States.  Sellers answers questions in terms of gardening or what he has seen on television.

For example, when the President, played by Jack Warden, asks Sellers a question about the economy and temporary incentives he responds.

“As long as the roots are not severed, all is well in the garden. And all will be well in the garden.”

“In the Garden,” says the President.

Sellers responds with, “ Yes. In the garden, growth has its seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.”

The President looks puzzled but Melvyn Douglas steps in and interprets the statement in economic terms.  After the meeting, everyone thinks Sellers’ character Chance the Gardener is a genius. 

It’s a statement about how simplistic someone can make an issue and the political environment, in their zeal to find a new idea, accepts it. Sellers is brilliant because he plays his character in calm, tightly controlled manner so it keeps everyone guessing.  But as soon as gets confirmation from the President and other political leaders, he is accepted.  The movie is also interesting in how people communicate and interpret messages and words into a deeper meaning.

Story about the ending of Being There

http://screenprism.com/insights/article/what-are-the-interpretations-of-chance-walking-on-water-at-the-end-of-being

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078841/quotes/?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu

 

4. The Contender-2000-Starring Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges and Advise and Consent-1962-Starring Franchot Tone, Walter Pidgeon and Henry Fonda

In today’s heated political world, these two movies capture the vendetta climate perfectly.  Both movies involve  a President’s selecting a choice for public office and then the political process of trying to destroy the candidate’s reputation by his opposing political group.  Joan Allen is the target in the Contender while Henry Fonda receives the smear campaign in the form of a communist sympathizer in Advise and Consent.  Both Presidents dig in and back their choice through the process but both outcomes at the end are less than satisfying.  Each movie analyzes how far the process will go toward achieving their goal of ousting a candidate for office. In today’s climate, both movies dive into themes the public should be rethinking.  How much is enough and how far will we go to win against the other side.  Will both political parties work with each other or will there always be a chasm from now on, with the in-power pendulum swinging back and forth between the left and the right.

Article on the confirmation process

http://themoderatevoice.com/the-broken-confirmation-process/

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055728/?ref_=ttls_li_tt

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0208874/?ref_=ttls_li_tt

 

5. All the Kings Men-1949-Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Joanne Dru and Mercedes McCambridge

Based on the Robert Penn Warren book, “All The Kings Men”, the movie and the book is based on Louisiana 1920s and 1930s politician Huey P. Long’s rise to power and ultimate death.  He was the state’s governor and later a US Senator who was shot in Baton Rouge, LA, on September 8, 1935, and died two days later.  The movie’s title refers to Huey Long’s share-the-wealth motto, “Every Man A King.” Broderick Crawford delivers an award  winning performance as a populist, fighter for the poor and disenfranchised citizens of Louisiana.  He quickly falls into a power trap of intimidating enemies, with plenty of corruption and blackmail to achieve his goals. It asks the question are Machiavellian ways justified as long as the outcome is righteous.  Crawford’s performance hit all the personality traits that first endears someone to the people and then how absolute power poisons the relationships close to a person.  This movie mirrors another that explores the idea that power reveals a personality deep within a soul.  Power doesn’t change a person but reveals the true self.   That movie starred Andy Griffith in the movie that predicted the future titled, “ A Face in the Crowd.”

PBS article on Huey Long

https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/hueylong/educators/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Huey-Long-American-politician

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041113/?ref_=ttls_li_tt

Henry Fonda's Lincoln

6. Lincoln-2012-Starring Daniel Day-Lewis——-Abe Lincoln in Illinois-1940-Starring Raymond Massey and Ruth Gordon——Young Mr. Lincoln-1939-Starring Henry Fonda and Marjorie Weaver

These 3 movies together capture the substance of our 16th President.  What they all capture with performances by Daniel Day Lewis, Raymond Massey and Henry Fonda is his ability to understand people and react to the moment.  His gift for moving people to his side on a political issue aided him as he moved through the political ladder.   The earlier movies with Massey and Fonda gives the audience a window into how his personality worked for him.   Massey’s interpretation of Lincoln reflects Lincoln’s moodiness in addition to his sense of humor.  Fonda’s portrayal highlights his sense of humor but also his intellectual ability to handle professional challenges with poise.

In Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis shows the President’s ability to command a room and work with people. In fact, most of his cabinet was composed of people who ran against him for the Republican nomination for President, Secretary of State William Seward being one who ended up being a strong support and friend after the 1960 election.

Website about Lincoln’s personality and other aspects of his life

http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/abraham-lincoln-in-depth/abraham-lincolns-personality/

7. The Manchurian Candidate-1962-Starring Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Lawrence Harvey and Janet Leigh

This is a film noir thriller about McCarthyism, communist sympathizers, assassinations, and brainwashing and psychological control.  The most politically motivated and strategically ruthless personality jumping off the screen is Angela Lansbury’s portrayal of the controlling mother to Lawrence Harvey.  The movie is released during the height of the cold war when espionage, the nuclear arms race and the domino theory concerning Vietnam, North Korea, China, Cuba, the Soviet Union and their motivations to spread Marxist and Communist ideology.

Article on the Manchurian Candidate

https://www.realclearhistory.com/articles/2012/10/30/manchurian_candidate_was_no_mere_fiction.html

8. All the President’s Men-1976=Starring Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Robards, and Hal Holbrook

No movie list about politics is legitimate without the inclusion of this movie based on the Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward book of he same name.  In addition to the Watergate break in and the election slush funds and cover up, the movie is an excellent demonstration about how journalist work and the decisions that lead to printing a story.  The scenes where Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman put in the leg work to confirm facts and get additional sources for the details make the movie authentic.   The movies shows the audience is behind the front page story and headline so when government officials denounce the story, the newspaper or television news program can fight back.

Story about the source behind the Watergate story and why he became a source

https://slate.com/culture/2013/04/robert-redford-watergate-documentary-all-the-presidents-men-revisited.html

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074119/

9. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-1939-Starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, and Claude Rains

Stewart’s Mr. Smith fills a US Senate position and gets an education in how some of Washington’s power players work the system.  His reality check sours him on the whole system but Jean Arthur coaches him parliamentary procedures as he fights his way toward a dramatic conclusion.  This is another movie that is required for any movie list about the nature of politics.

Article about the making of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/133569%7C0/Behind-the-Camera.html

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031679/

10. The Mortal Storm-1940-Starring James Stewart, Margaret Sullivan, and Robert Young

Another movie with James Stewart that is not at top of most James Stewart movie lists, This is a story about politics dividing a family and the slow disintegration of civility and rational thought.  The Roth family is caught up in the pre-war Nazi hype.  Nazi policies and propaganda divide the family as the country moves toward inevitable war. James Stewart is against the Nazi ideology and it pits him against his former Roth family friends.   The movie is a study in how a cult of personality can poison a whole country and divide a family living in a small village in the Alps.  It leads to a heartbreaking conclusion.

Article on the rise of Nazism and the power of propaganda 

https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/teaching-holocaust-and-human-behavior/power-propaganda

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032811/

Considered: Nixon, Frost/Nixon, American President, Dave

Drop the Mike Inventions, Creations and Innovations

by Rick Bretz

Let’s face it.  People love stuff that makes their lives simpler, easier and efficient.  These gadgets and other products have gotten the mistaken reputation of making all of us lazier.  It’s time to champion these universal monuments make the world safe again for inventions that keep us bolted to our lounge chair.

closeup photo of person holding panasonic remote control in front of turned on smart television
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TV Remote 

Back in the day of cheap gas, people controlled their televisions in two ways–leg power, or children power as in “Ricky, please change the channel from 7 to 4 for Daddy and Mommy.”  The other way was a tethered remote control that traveled from your seat in the corner of the living room to the television, creating a booby trap for anyone entering the room, .  The tethered remote was invented in 1950, which is a surprise to the baby boomer generation because our parents could have saved us several low crawls across the living room to change channels.  Managers in the Zenith organization thought there was a better way.  Time for Eugene Polly, an electronics engineer, to bring his awesomeness.

Eugene Polly-Zenith Electronics-1955-He used light beams transmitted from the remote to receptors on the TV to change channels or mute the sound.  This worked most of the time but it had its drawbacks due to the receptors misreading other light sources like the sunset or sunrise.  However, Mr. Polly, because he got the whole thing started, deserves a big five from every sports fan on earth.

The remote was perfected by Robert Adler-Zenith Electronics Physicist-1956-Adler’s remote used hammers striking metal rods that produced ultrasonic waves to change channels and control the TV.  This was the standard until infrared technology became the new way to control a TV more than 25 years later.

auto automobile automotive car
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Global Positioning System (GPS)

Back in the day of cheap gas, drivers had to multitask in the worst way.  Forget about texting and driving, try reading a map while driving.  It was doing that, or pulling over to the side of the road, getting the map out of the glove compartment where no gloves were kept and try to determine your current location and how to get your destination.  Now, it was easier if you had a passenger, like a spouse, to look at the map and navigate while driving but often this just created arguments and shouts of, “You’ve got the map, can’t you read a map!” if you were driving alone and had enough forethought, you could list your highway and road numbers and the exits and turns you had to take so you didn’t have to look at the map.  Later on, drivers could print it out on MapQuest or some other navigation site but that didn’t come along until the 1990s.

Roger Easton-Naval Research Laboratory-1964– Easton called it the Timation for Time Navigation-He developed the technology to track satellites orbiting the earth, specifically ones the Soviet Union Launched during the space race.  He was granted a patent 10 years later and in the 1970s the Department of Defense took certain features and developed and renamed it the Global Positioning System.  That steered the technology (See what I did there) to what we use today in automobiles.  We can all thank Mr. Easton for getting us back home and preventing millions of arguments among friends and spouses.

grayscale photo of luxury car
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Automobile and All Things Travel Oriented

Back in the day when there were no gas stations anywhere let alone cheap gas, people traveled by horseback, carriage, ships crossing the ocean and moving down the rivers.  Then trains and locomotives entered the culture, followed by the motor carriage or automobile and then passenger airplanes crossing continents and the oceans.  We can all thanks several people for saving us time and creating a mobile society where we can see people thousands of miles away in a matter of hours.  It also enables us to receive food products and other consumables in our stores and restaurants faster by truck, train, and air freight.  When we want our pizza, we want our pizza.

bulb close up electricity energy
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The Light Bulb

Back in the day there were only candles and the light by the fire place or, later,  using oil burning lamps that you had to carry around.  Then electricity was harnessed and then Thomas Edison and his  team perfected the light bulb and got his patent in 1979.  Inventors and scientists first experimented with electricity properties producing light as far back as 1800.  The issues they faced included finding an inexpensive filament and making it burn for several hours.

Thomas Edison-Inventor-1879-As with any important development that is life changing, it takes someone who takes what is already been tried and perfecting it from there.  This is what Edison did.  He also hire intelligent and hard working people to work in his laboratory.  One of these was a scientist named Francis Upton from Princeton University.  We can all thank Thomas Edison and his staff for bumping into the furniture at night and being able to read a book anywhere in the house.

low angle view of electric post
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Electricity

Benjamin Franklin-You know, the Kite flying thing-You can argue about Benjamin Franklin’s experiment just establishing a connection between lightning and static electricity.  You could also point out that many inventors developed electricity to the point when it could be managed and used for greater purposes.  Benjamin Franklin must be given his recognition though.   Nicolas Tesla’s experiments with Alternating Current was a game changer despite Thomas Edison’s propaganda against AC in favor of his Direct Current technology.  The game changer for society was the ability to send electric current through wires to homes and businesses in a fashion that used electricity only when a person needs it-Turning lights on and off in a room when you need it.

apartment bath bathroom bathtub
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Indoor Plumbing

Isaiah Rogers-Architect-1829-The first modern case of indoor plumbing occurred in 1829 when Isaiah Rogers planned indoor plumbing for 8 water closets at the Tremont Hotel in Boston, Mass.  Before that, historical records proved the existence of several plumbing systems going back several hundred if not thousands of years.  The flush toilet appeared in 1851 but was first invented in 1596.  The whole human race thanks everyone involved for this one.

books on bookshelves
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Printing Press

Johannes Gutenberg-1439-Before Gutenberg’s movable type printing press, books and documents were hand written or printed using wood block letters with ink covering the raised letters.  This was pressed against paper to create a word, a tedious process at best for both techniques.  It would be nice to think that Gutenberg invented the movable machine type printing press for the betterment of mankind but, as with most inventions, he was interested in producing mass amounts of a product in a short period of time to make the most money.  Now in the digital age with downloading books to your laptop or mobile device, it’s all done with binary computer instructions and data centers that send pages and pages over the internet.

board chip circuit circuit board
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All Things IT relatedThe First Microchip

Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce- Texas Instruments-1959- The invention and the development of the Microchip began the revolution. The Microchip let computers do what they do like logic gates and controlling instruction sets.  This ushered in the future of smaller chips and faster computer memory for today’s computers.   Everything from garage door openers, mobile phones, software for fixing pictures you take on your smart phone, digital music playback devices that keep your entire music collection in a shirt pocket, gaming devices, streaming devices for television, credit card hardware at the store for purchases to all of the information technology that makes your car run,  these are all due to many engineers and inventors constantly thinking of ways to change the way we live all due to the original microchip.

forced perspective photography of cars running on road below smartphone
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Mobile Phone

Martin Cooper Motorola-1973-Everyone carries around a small computer to be accessed when we need it, it’s the mobile or smart phone.  We carry around the ability to  ping data centers placed around the world in strategic places for answers to any question.  You don’t even have to type it anymore, just ask Siri.  Using satellite technology and the power of the microprocessor and application development, we use the power of our search terms to buy, read, navigate and find a good restaurant.   We can thank Mr.  Cooper for making that first mobile phone call.

food breakfast fork bagel
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Bagel Slicer

Sometimes the simple developments are the most satisfying.  Cutting a bagel can be hazardous. While researching, the term BRI came up. It’s a Bagel Related Incident.  One wrong move with a knife, or a distraction in any way, you could hurt yourself all in the name of preparing the perfect bagel  Several designs are on the market but one of the best is the Bagel Guillotine.   The name gives you the picture of what it looks like. Some one hit a home run on this one.

food peanuts shell healthy
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Chocolate and Peanut Butter Combination

Harry Burnett Reese-1928-Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups-If a choice had to be made between one of these on the list and peanut butter cups, most people would probably remove something else and keep the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  People have to have their priorities. In fact, anything that combines peanut butter and chocolate makes the whole world a better place.  If more people ate Peanut Butter Cups there would be less arguments and the two parties in US  Congress would be able to get along and get more done.

astronaut standing beside american flag on the moon
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Moon Landing

NASA-July 20th, 1968-This moon landing was significant because it forced the space agency and its subcontractors to step up their game.  One of which was the way computer language was processed.  The Apollo Guidance Computer had to process instructions differently.  MIT hardware and software developers developed restart protection and priority task scheduling where the most important systems like attitude control  and landing guidance get the highest priority compared to other instructions that are not life threatening. The computer core systems told the AGC that this task is more important that that task so ignore the one that is not as important right now.  This was different than previous computers where computers were batch scheduled where each instruction was given the same priority in a round robin fashion.  This became important in the development in home computers in the 70s.  The world of computer hardware and software development was pushed forward because NASA had a goal of reaching the moon before the end of decade.

Notable Links

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/tv/eugene-j-polley-engineer-who-invented-the-first-wireless-tv-remote-control-dies-at-96/2012/05/22/gIQAv4J4iU_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.136b36854f90

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/06/the-man-who-created-gps/372846/

https://www.sciencefocus.com/science/who-really-invented-the-light-bulb/

https://www.bltdirect.com/who-invented-the-light-bulb

http://www.unmuseum.org/lightbulb.htm

https://www.electricityforum.com/who-invented-electricity

https://theplumber.com/plumbing-in-america/

https://www.psprint.com/resources/printing-press/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-microchip-1991410

http://www.knowyourmobile.com/nokia/nokia-3310/19848/history-mobile-phones-1973-2008-handsets-made-it-all-happen

http://www.galttech.com/research/household-diy-tools/best-bagel-slicer.php

http://www.harryburnettreese.info/History_Book/REESES_Peanut_Butter_Cups__The_Untold_Story.html

https://www.britannica.com/story/moon-landing-just-the-facts

https://history.nasa.gov/computers/Ch2-5.html

https://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/ForDummies.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1nz7vgyUh8

Where Do We Go From Here…?

business computer connection contemporary
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by Rick Bretz

In the movie “Six Days, Seven Nights” Harrison Ford tells Anne Heche, “we’re going to be here for a long,long.long…..long,…..long,,,,,,,,long time.”   Well, that’s where we are with information technology and the Cloud Computing environment and this technology wasn’t built in six days and seven nights.   Computers have been around since mechanical computers were invented such as the Abacus and the Babbage Engine concept and have steadily infused themselves in its many forms since then.

http://www.computerhistory.org/babbage/

From the Abacus to the SMART 8K Television. Computers and their handy friends, the microchips that help create the SMARTness of the “Internet of Things”,  are all around us. The microprocessor jump-started the imaginations of engineers and inventors in the years afterward.  This is the computing power along with size and heat requirement that got the whole Internet of Things started.

https://www.techspot.com/article/874-history-of-the-personal-computer/

It’s in the mobile phone, the electric car, the hybrid vehicle, and even gas-powered transportation.  It’s in our airplanes, trains, hotel rooms and are a big part of our security posture with the cameras on houses and businesses.  It has let us get cash from ATMs and buy stuff from grocery and mall stores by sliding in our computer chip credit or bank card when we just can’t get to the ATM.

gray and white robot
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Once we get into the house, the Information technology stuff lives in our security system, our home network, our SMART refrigerators, our high tech televisions.  It has even let bloggers reach thousands of people at the creation of blog site on WordPress.

The security that protects all of our data in our hard drives and CPUs has lagged behind historically but has not stalled at a red light on the information superhighway. A Black Hat hacker has to only be right once while network security defenses and protocols have to defend all attacks, much like terrorist going after soft targets.  That area of Technology is trying to keep up but it is a wall chat constantly renovated as security professionals keep stacking the bricks but the territory gets longer and wider.  All the while, the buying public has purchased and purchased, waiting for the next, biggest and smallest and fastest with all of the bright colors associated with it.

Moore’s Law

The law is based on Moore’s prediction that the number of components on a computer chip would double every two years. More accurately, Moore predicted that the number of transistors placed on a single square inch of an integrated circuit chip would double every two years.

With all the “Whiz Bang” stuff out there, what’s really important is not the latest and greatest from a historical standpoint.  The worthy topic is a discussion about value.  In another string of words:  “How much did people pay for the latest hot shot device and how many forked over the cash?”  The follow up question would be ”how long did the cash light set have to wait before they could get it.” Let take a look.

For several years, the power and features of computers increased while the cost dropped at a rapid cycle, some people said 18 to 24 months where costs dropped and computer specifications raised to another level.  That concept is obsolete now because companies need more time to develop ideas, test concepts and generally raise the technology bar.

According to a USA Today article in June of 2018, the price of an HP 3000 in 1971 costs 95 thousand dollars. In 1977 an Apple II computer costs 1298 dollars, adjusted for inflation would be more than 5300 dollars.. In 1990 a Commodore VIC costs about 300 dollars, adjusted for inflation it would be a little over 900 dollars.  These prices were for computers with considerably less computer power and speed of today’s models. Today, a consumer can get a laptop, PC or even a SMART phone for a few hundred dollars and be able to run apps, software and use the speed and power of the device that people could only wish in 1971 and 1980.

Today, you can access the world wide web from any device from just about anywhere where the infrastructure exists. That brings us to the age of Cloud Computing.

Technological Evolution

Technology seeks the most efficient form, unless otherwise constrained. Efficient form is defined qualitatively as one that is best adapted to its application or as one with the least number of problems.

 

This means that the technology evolution has brought us to this point where we can go get any document and work any any place we want to work, be it at the beach, the cafe, hotel room, or hotel lobby.  Today you don’t have to be in the “Office” to finish a job you started in the “Office.”  To bring the idea home, you don’t have to start working in an office when beginning a new job today,

Cloud Computing serves as the next step on the timeline from local area networks, storage and infrastructure and desktop applications residing on local hard drive to accessing personalized desktops, data files and applications while sitting at your favorite coffee shop while the power of the Cloud goes out does the work for you.

 Since this began with a movie reference, here are two more to ponder. Two movies recently released reveal the potential for technology.  The movie “Lucy” showed how integrating computer technology and information with human beings can bring dangerous, unintended consequences in the wrong hands but in the right hands can be a force for good.

The other movie aired on Netflix and was called, “Extinction.”  You have to decide who is doing the dirty work and who is being selected for extinction.  The movie centered around Artificial Intelligence and how far humans are prepared to advance robot technology in 100 or more years from now.  Without spoiling the movie’s plot and conclusion, it surprises you when trying to decide who are the protagonists and who are the evil doers and whether there are any categories at all.

Notable Links:

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/the-end-of-moores-law-why-the-theory-that-computer-processors-will-double-in-power-every-two-years-10394659.html

https://www.techspot.com/article/874-history-of-the-personal-computer/

Article on the history of computer prices.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2018/06/22/cost-of-a-computer-the-year-you-were-born/36156373/

Here’s an excellent computer timeline that outlines when each type of computer was introduced to the scientific community and then the buying public.

http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/computers/

https://ethw.org/Early_Popular_Computers,_1950_-_1970

 

 

 

 

In Defense of “Mailing It In”

closed_mailing_envelope_clip_art_17066

by Rick Bretz

There is a phrase in its many forms that has been used for decades to criticize less than stellar effort.  That phrase is “Mailing It In”,  “Phoning It In” or in today’s vernacular, “Mobile Phoning It In”, “Texting It In” or “Twittering It In”.   Twitter by its nature reflects a lack of effort or a thought process as Twitter users prove each day. They all define the same state, “A lack of enthusiasm or effort when engaged in an activity or job.”

“To deliver a performance without commitment or effort, with lackluster results.”

Examples of “Mailing It In” are everywhere for committed people to admire or show disdain.  It’s the person who leaves their grocery basket in the parking spot rather than return it to the cart holder. A shocking lack of effort by many grocery store customers that creates more work for stock clerks the world over.

Take the person who connects to a Skype conference and then does something else for the next half hour. It happens all the time.  There may be times in the United States or in other countries where the briefer with a PowerPoint presentation is briefing him or herself thinking they have 9 other people on the conference call.

The spouse who says “yes” periodically to their significant other during the telling of a story while watching a favorite television show is just another instance.  The conversation “continuer” so that you can trick your wife or husband into appearing that you have heard each word from that day’s activities while engaged in “Dancing with the Stars” or “Ice Road Truckers.”

The parent who brings home dinner from a fast food establishment. Alright, that one may happen do to a tough day at work or, in the case of a single parents, they deserve a break.

The driver who parks a car over the parking lines so another driver can’t park in the next slot.  Ok, that one is on purpose but  it deserves a mention because the person is “Mailing It In” in the consideration of others department.

The pseudo-environmentalist who lectures people about saving the lakes and forests before driving away in a truck getting 19 miles per gallon or before getting on their private jet for the next lecture.

These “effort” fails are pointed out so that they can be held up in defense of “Mailing It In’.  Without examples of “Mailing It In” many citizens of the world would not have a bar to reach beyond.

An argument can be made that multi-tasking is a form of “Mailing It In”. splitting up maximum effort among many jobs.

However, after listing all of these examples, “Mailing It In” may be vital for the society to evolve, save time, generate jobs that clean up any less than 100 percent effort.  For example, the guy who “Mails In” a poor parking performance is providing work for automobile repair business.   The spouse that doesn’t completely hear a conversation misses the part where  the car was hit during the day because the trucker is driving on this ice. It’s funny how the world works.

 

 

 

The Reason I Write-Tom Wolfe

the right stuff

by Rick Bretz

The recent passing of the legendary author Tom Wolfe caused a reflection on why I write this blog. I am a fan of many authors, one being David McCullough.  Two other writers have influenced me and given me the inspiration to keep on writing.  They are Frank DeFord, the sports writer who wrote about many topics for Sports Illustrated as well as authoring books.  The other writer is Tom Wolfe, who wrote a page turner for all time.

A friend first introduced me to Tom Wolfe’s writing style in 1981. she said that if you  want to read terrific writing pick  up the book “The Right Stuff.” The book is an insightful look at the Air Force test pilot fraternity in the late 1940s and 1950s as well as the birth of NASA’s astronaut selection and training program.  Hollywood made a movie out of the book later in the 1980s.  Before getting into those topics, Wolfe introduces the reader to a name, Chuck Yeager, the pilot that has the best “Right Stuff” of all test pilots.

The book opened my eyes to a different kind of writing style. He pioneered the style of “New Journalism”, using non-fiction narrative techniques to fill the story for the reader.  He may not have been in the room or inside someone’s mind but gave the reader a good idea of what it might have been like.  His writing style delivered dynamic prose in a descriptive style that was entertaining and informative. Here’s an example of his style:

“Well … things are beginning to stack up a little,” said Gordo. It was the same old sod-hut drawl. He sounded like the airline pilot who, having just slipped two seemingly certain mid-air collisions and finding himself in the midst of a radar fuse-out and control-tower dysarthria, says over the intercom: “Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be busy up here in the cockpit making our final approach into Pittsburgh, and so we want to take this opportunity to thank you for flying American and we hope we’ll see you again real soon.” It was second-generation Yeager, now coming from earth orbit. Cooper was having a good time. He knew everybody was in a sweat down below. But this was what he and the boys had wanted all along, wasn’t it?”
Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff

The direct quote, “Well … things are beginning to stack up a little,”  many of us have heard a number of times on Astronaut documentaries.  But this was written before all of those documentaries hit cable television.  He took the quote and absolutely blasted it out of the park relating it to the original man on the top of the Pyramid, General Chuck Yeager.  In the book he talks about the Pyramid and his chapter on Naval Aviator pilot training is a thing of beauty.

“A persistent case of the bingos was enough to wash a man out of night carrier landings. That did not mean you were finished as a Navy pilot. It merely meant that you were finished so far as carrier ops were concerned, which meant that you were finished so far as combat was concerned, which meant you were no longer in the competition, no longer ascending the pyramid, no longer qualified for the company of those with the right stuff.”
Tom Wolfe, The Right Stuff

I read “The Right Stuff” three times in the span of two years.  The first time to enjoy it as a great read.  The second time to analyze the writing style and the third time so I could analyze the word choices he made and how each sentence flowed into another.  His writing style demonstrated what was possible for me when writing my own articles for newspapers and magazines.  I’ve won a few writing awards through the years and the reason I still write posts for this blog is due to the craft of great authors like Tom Wolfe. I may never get as descriptive and smooth as my favorite authors but I like like trying

Tom Wolfe wrote many other books, among them being “Electric Kool-Aide Acid Test” and “The Bonfire of the Vanities” equally as well received.  He also authored several magazine articles.  But for me, “The Right Stuff” kept me writing and forced me to constantly seek the perfect sentence, paragraph and more.   I am just one of many he influenced. Tom Wolfe left us on May 14, 2018. He left leaving the literary world  his wordsmith genius and the golden treasure of his work

Notable Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Right-Stuff-Tom-Wolfe/dp/0312427565

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Right_Stuff_(book)

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/tom-wolfe-right-stuff-author-and-new-journalism-legend-dead-at-87-w520325

https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/907221-the-right-stuff

 

The Path to Statehood: Hawaii and Alaska

erupting lava during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

by Rick Bretz

The Hawaiian Islands’ volcanic eruptions generating the long stream of hot lava is analogous to the extended years and upheaval it took to join America as a 50th state.   As the lava flows in nature’s effort to reclaim territory, many of its citizens and towns are seeing their houses and roads taken over.  This island paradise that has become a vacation spot and tourist destination surrounded by the Pacific Ocean is a stark contrast to Alaska, a frosty, just as remote scenic territory due north.

 

Alaska was a state that nobody wanted and many government administrators and elected officials  thought Secretary of State William Seward’s venture to purchase the Alaska territory was ill-advised at best.  The newspapers at the time called it “Seward’s Folly.”

snow light sky winter
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Hawaii, in contrast, was not only wanted, but literally taken over with the Island Queen Liliuokalani under house arrest in the palace.

Why would the American government want the territory and the Islands as part of our eventual United States?  The answer is found in that both were sought after for the same purpose and yet for a couple of different motivations.  The United States government purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867 for 7.2 million dollars.  At the time, the treaty to purchase Alaska seemed like wasted money but the purchase ended the presence of Russian influence  in North America at the time.  Russian influence allegedly would revisit us later in the form of hacking, spying and social media posts during our 2016 elections.

Later, the 1896 discovery of Gold in the Yukon and its strategic importance during World War II in the Pacific Theater vindicated William Seward’s push to purchase the territory which began before the civil war.  Alaska became the 49th state a few months before Hawaii on January 3rd, 1959.

Alaska’s significance remains strategically important but today the state is well known for the large number of reality shows situated there from “Deadliest Catch”, “Gold Rush” and “Ice Road Truckers” to “Alaska State Troopers”. Who knew when Congress approved the purchase of the Alaskan territory that it would be a boon to the television entertainment industry in the 21st Century and make several Alaskan citizens relatively wealthy from something other than gold mining?

Hawaii took a divergent path that centered on what can be called, “the protection of the good old American dollar.”  Specifically, the influence of plantation owners and their wanting to protect their financial interests from the rise of the Hawaiian Monarchy.  The United States annexed the Hawaiian Islands in 1897 at the urging of the American plantation owners.  This annexation was in the form of a takeover as the Queen Liliuokalani was put on trial before a military tribunal, forced to relinquish all claims to the Monarchy and imprisoned her.  This just because she wanted to exert some power as as a monarch. This power threatened European and American land owner however so these men literally asked the United States government representatives to call in the Marines.

https://www.iolanipalace.org/history/queens-imprisonment/

The financial interest was the primary reason for the forced annexation of Hawaii but it also served a military strategic importance for naval bases.  Along with several other islands, such as Guam, the Philippines, the Kwajalein Atoll and Alaska, the annexation gave the United States a presence in the Asian theater.  This first line of defense proved vital at the outset of World War II.  The Hawaiian Islands had citizens that came from many countries other than the United States, like Japan and Portugal.  Hawaii became the 50th state a few months after Alaska on August 21st, 1959.

Why so long of a wait for Alaska and Hawaii statehood?  As with everything that the government does, it comes down to power and what the current political landscape at a particular time, as in Southern Democrats who didn’t want civil rights legislation passed. The number of democratic and republican votes in congress figured in the decision.  The racial mixture of each state and Alaska’s low population figured in the long wait.  The economic advantages with Alaskan oil reserves and Hawaii’s tourist industry added to the attractiveness of having them as states.  In the end, the political issues and resistance from certain groups in Hawaii were overcome and the territories became states.

Becoming a state can take a long circuitous route as the Puerto Rico effort to become one shows to everyone following it. The status of statehood depends just as much on political concerns as the financial ones.  The original 13 colonies had a  significant issue to overcome on their path to become a member the select group of the United States of America-the war to gain independence from the crown.

Notable Links:

https://www.alaska.edu/creatingalaska/downloads/Statehood-for-Alaska.pdf

http://teachinghistory.org/history-content/ask-a-historian/25769

https://history.state.gov/milestones/1866-1898/alaska-purchase

https://www.english-online.at/history/alaska-and-hawaii-at-50/alaska-hawaii-at-50.htm

http://statehoodhawaii.org/2009/05/12/the-statehood-plebiscite/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawaii

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-puerto-rico-learn-hawaii-180963690/

 

 

 

Crossing the Line with Hate Speech

crossingtheline

by Rick Bretz

During the congressional hearings on Facebook management responsibilities concerning data,  one of the questions to CEO Mark Zuckerberg was “What is hate speech?”  Zuckerberg hesitated for a moment and the congressmen interjected, “I can tell you what it isn’t, hate speech is not something you disagree with.”

[Amendment I.] Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The congressman wanted to drill down on the accusation that Facebook selectively let liberal political viewpoints get through their algorithms designed to block hate speech and bullying type posts and but also block conservative slanted articles. .

Who knows how their code is written and what type of firewall configurations they use? The more interesting part of the exchange was “What is the clear definition of hate speech?”  Do you know it when you see it and is it actual hate speech?

The representative had a point but he wasn’t completely right because most people also disagree with certain forms of hate speech.  Hate speech can have a general definition but the details concisely and clearly defined.  As Mark Zuckerberg testified at his hearing, “Details matter.”

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

George Orwell

The Supreme Court defined it this way in 1942. In the case of Beauharnais v. Illinois , Justice Frank Murphy explained where free speech can be judged as outside the accepted normal speech. These instances include,  “lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous and the insulting or ‘fighting’ words — those which by their very utterances inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”

All hate speech and free speech does not fall into the verbal or written bucket.  Hate speech can also be an act or symbol such as a burning cross on a yard.  It is noteworthy the Supreme Court has sided with the defendants or refused to hear the cases over such hateful acts as Nazi marches and a cross burning on yard.

Adolf Hitler’s escalation of the subtle hatred to the blatant gave him time to build his military and economy before waging war with Europe, Eastern Europe, Britain and its commonwealth, Africa and the Soviet Union.

From Adolf Hitler’s speech in 1937, given on January 30th, the anniversary of the Nazi takeover of power in 1933, nuried deep within the pages of the text comes this, “.…the failure to recognize the importance of conserving the blood and the race free from inter-mixture and thereby the racial aspect and character which are God’s gift and God’s handiwork. It is not for men to discuss the question of why Providence created different races, but rather to recognize the fact that it punishes those who disregard its work of creation.

And further along this, “…so the blood-and-race doctrine of the National Socialist Movement will bring about a revolutionary change in our knowledge and therewith a radical reconstruction of the picture which human history gives us of the past and will also change the course of that history in the future.”

He was talking about the Jewish communities and culture and also was warning everyone who paid attention that his words would be followed by action.

This passage is notable because of his words after 1940 when giving speeches.   These words were spoken later during World War II, speaking to a crowd at the Sports Palace in Berlin, January 30 1942, “And we say that the war will not end as the Jews imagine it will, namely with the uprooting of the Aryans, but the result of this war will be the complete annihilation of the Jews.”

Hitler’s party and propaganda ministry later published a pamphlet with the offensive title, “The Jew as a World Parasite” in 1944 for “educational” purposes.

Hate speech in America could be just as vile when referring to races, gender and sexual orientation from groups like the Ku Klux Klan and other organizations.  Hate speech can be and often is protected by the First Amendment.

Freedom of speech ceases to be protected when it incites violence against people resulting in injury or death.  The crossing of the line should be recognized when it initially occurs.

Recognizing hate turning into violence several years later as in the case of Germany and the holocaust, or in the case of way the United States treated the Indian Nations in the 1800s can be disastrous for a whole section of society.   Issues remain concerning  the Trail of Tears episode and President Andrew Jackson’s decision.  Many countries have their records that force their citizens to hang their heads in shame when reading the pages of history.  The British have theirs, and so do the Russians, Australians and the Japanese.

What is important is that leaders and citizens learn from it so the world will be a better place.  It’s a constant struggle as we all can see when turning toward the Middle East or more recently when looking back at the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s.

Facebook is confronting tough questions about what is permitted on their social network as well as what they do with their data metrics.  Discerning real hate speech from different viewpoints is an issue that must be resolved so bad actors don’t have a platform for recruitment.  These are questions that should answers by getting all of the right people in a room.

Some people talk or post and then go back to their cave.  Some people talk and then they turn it into action.  These are the people we all have to guard against and prevent them from carrying out a plan that could maim or kill innocent people.

 

Notable Links:

http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/about-educational-outreach/activity-resources/what-does

https://www.recode.net/2018/4/10/17216734/live-facebook-mark-zuckerberg-testimony-senate-hearing-data

https://www.thoughtco.com/hate-speech-cases-721215

https://www.npr.org/2011/03/03/134239713/France-Isnt-The-Only-Country-To-Prohibit-Hate-Speech

http://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/hitler1.htm

http://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/weltparasit.htm

http://www.worldwarii.org/p/hitler-speeches.html

http://ww2history.com/key_moments/Holocaust/Hitler_talks_of_Jewish_annihilation

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/nazi-statements

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/anti-semitism