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2010

Huntington Theatre in Boston IS BACK!

They may not like me to say this, but as a longtime subscriber, I've been very disappointed for the last several seasons at the Huntington Theater in Boston. A very hit or miss program with only a few memorable plays.

Well I did stick with the Huntington and it's time for me to say, like, Randy Jackson of American Idol: "The Huntington Theatre Is Back (man)"

This year we've been treated to a series of memorable, interesting, well produced shows. It's been a pleasure.

Most recently, and still running are Becky Shaw and Stick Fly. They are both excellent shows. They are maybe similar in that they are new plays, I think they are set more or less in the present, representing complicated and interesting relationship dilemmas, yet with humor. (Whoops, as I write that, I wonder, do I like them because that sounds like a TV Show?) I recommend you see them both though, they are really worth while.

Yes even this season had a couple of weak plays : A Long and Winding Road (boring autobiography by/about/with Maureen McGovern), A Civil War Christmas (ok, but somewhat hokey Christmas show)

But, on the positive: here are the great plays of this season at the Huntington:

  • Becky Shaw (Relationship drama: two love triangles overlapping and a really awkward double date.)
  • Stick Fly (Relationship drama surrounding a young couple who is seeking and not getting the approval of the family)
  • Fences (Fiftys father and son story)
  • All My Sons (World War II family story involving fraud and redemption)

Way to go Huntington! I think Becky Shaw and Stick Fly are still running. Go see them.

How to write dramatically

David Mamet (supposedly) wrote this compelling note to tv writers for the now-defunct tv show "The Unit" (which I thought was a really good tv show.) If you like TV you will enjoy reading this. Gems such as:

"THE PROBLEM IS THIS: TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN DRAMA AND NON-DRAMA. LET ME BREAK-IT-DOWN-NOW."

"ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT."

And much much more. See "Letter From David Mamet".

Health Care Letdown

I stopped posting thoughts about the mess that all of congress has made of health care reform. There are daily articles in the news to confirm the dysfunction in government today. Here are key quotes two from today which again hit home. I recommend that you read both articles in full:Health Care Letdown in the New York Times and The Spirit of Sympathy in The New York Times

"Three in four Americans say the health care system needs to be overhauled, and many provisions in the pending legislation have strong support. What’s more, the core of the Senate’s legislation closely resembles the very bill the Republicans offered in 1993 as an alternative to the Clinton plan. This makes clear that bipartisan reform was achievable, and indicts Congress for its failure to realize that goal with broad public support."(from Health Care Letdown in the New York Times)

and

"As a result of this sympathy and these sentiments, people are usually pretty decent to one another when they relate person to person. The odd thing is that when people relate group to group, none of this applies. When a group or a nation thinks about another group or nation, there doesn’t seem to be much natural sympathy, natural mimicry or a natural desire for attachment. It’s as if an entirely different part of the brain has been activated, utilizing a different mode of thinking." (from The Spirit of Sympathy in The New York Times)

The Semantic Web, RDF, Freebase and now, DBpedia

I was talking with Noah Mendelsohn this morning and we got into a discussion about RDF and it's role in the world. Noah mentioned something called DBPedia which I had not heard of.

DBPedia but it turns out to be a platform that grabs and analyzes Wikipedia content and delivers all that it can as an RDF Service. This sounds a lot like Freebase, another service which I am a fan of too, which has it's own representations and standards, but among many other things, grabs and analyzes Wikipedia content and optionally delivers it, yes, as an RDF service.

Check out my write-up on Freebase if you'd like to know how I see it.

I know that I am selling both services short. But the point is that they sounded so similar that we started thinking were confusing the two. Apparently I am not the only one to see the similarity and wonder about it. Here's an article by James Simmons wondering about the same thing:

"Now that Freebase is available as Linked Data a big question that comes to mind is whether these two major projects will move to assimilate one another. DBpedia and Freebase – two endeavors primarily focused on curating unstructured and semi-structured data about everything and releasing it back into the wild (with structure) – get the bulk of their information from Wikipedia, so the amount of topical overlap is assumed to be extremely high" (from Cross-Pollinating DBPedia and Freebase)

Computers are still so hard to understand…

Dave Winer wrote a bit recently called "What we don't understand" that lists all the ways in which computers are still so confusing, not only to our elders but also to many others who's brains are not just wired that way.

I (we) am not talking about when your computer breaks, fails to print, hangs or crashes. That's a different problem, also pretty unacceptable.

It's just all the simple simple things. I agree with all his examples. Here's one: how do you add a contact to the Address Book application on Mac? Oh click that tiny "+" icon. Oh not that tiny plus icon. This one over here. Or, how do you explain why I double click on this icon but single click on that one? And the perennial one : try to explain to anyone how to adjust margins in your favorite editor/wordprocessor.

So I won't rehash Mr. Winer's argument.

But let me ask this: it seems to me that there's a real (and large) market for a device that does email, text editing (which is part of email) and web surfing. Specifically designed for people over say 60 or anyone who could care less how to tweak all the dials.

Maybe one or two more things beyond email and text editing. But that's all. And that never ever crashes. And that has fonts and colors that are big enough for someone over 30 to read. Why doesn't this exist? There's got to be a very large market of people with money who would be willing to pay for it.

And by the way:

  • No, it's not an iPad (it has no keyboard and is way too precious).
  • It's not an iPhone : Forget about multi touch for this audience
  • No, it's not a Mac (see above.)
  • No its not Windows 7 (OMG)

It doesn't exist. Yet.

Everything is getting more complicated not simpler

Following on on my post yesterday about "What we don't understand."

As I was writing it, I was trying to use examples of simple things that just work without handholding, like an old dial telephone. Oh there's an example. But did you notice how all the old examples are slowly falling away because they are also becoming too complex?

  • Cellphone: Ok it just works, but look at how fat the manual is. What percentage of users know how to use what percentage of the features
  • Television: Oops. Do you have the right remote? Wow the picture's on but no sound! Oh wait, the sound is for Channel 5 but the picture is the DVD
  • Camera: Again, just weigh the manual
  • iPhone: Forget about it. Yes it's easy for a technophile. But multi touch? Press and hold?

No I am not underestimating the abilities of people out there. I claim that normal intelligent people are being asked to become technicians and geeks just to survive.

It shouldn't be rocket surgery.

Handy site for Boston area techies

I came across VentureFizz. It's a broad resource for Boston area techies: "VentureFizz can help you see what's buzzing in Boston's tech community" Particularly useful is their Event's calendar, which as far as I can see is one of the better ones. An analogous site is Greenhorn Connect, which is trying to achieve something similar but seems more focused on up and coming entrepreneurs.

Ebert, in his own words

A beautifully written comment (positive) by Roger Ebert on the article about him in Esquire that I mentioned the other day:

"Well, we're all dying in increments. I don't mind people knowing what I look like, but I don't want them thinking I'm dying. To be fair, Chris Jones never said I was. If he took a certain elegiac tone, you know what? I might have, too. And if he structured his elements into a story arc, that's just good writing. […] I knew exactly what he started with, and I could see where he ended, and he can be proud of the piece." (from Roger Ebert's Journal)

[insert your title here]

"I am so disappointed in the government"
"Are we driving off a cliff with two sets of hands on the steering wheel?"
"What is wrong with those people!"

You can pick your own headline, depending on your political leaning. I remember my father, living in Curaçao 30 years ago, would admire the US Congress noting that it was the 'worlds greatest deliberative body'" No more. No more.

"Yet rarely has the political system seemed more polarized and less able to solve big problems that involve trust, tough choices and little short-term gain. The main urgency for both parties seems to be about pinning blame on the other, before November’s elections, for deficits now averaging $1 trillion a year, the largest since World War II relative to the size of the economy." (read the whole article in The New York Times)