Friday, January 06, 2017

How I surrendered my digital life to Google…

We all take pictures. We used to take them with cameras; I even used an SLR (yes I’m that old) and then a DSLR, in my more artistic years. But now, like almost everyone else I take them with my phone. The question is what I do with these thousands upon thousands of pictures. Well, I periodically empty my phone, and the pictures go onto a hard disk, on my pc. I have been promising myself, and my wife to delve into that stash of pictures, memories, and bright moments of our lives and try to organize it, so we could enjoy them.

I have failed. With each year, the task becomes more arduous, more complicated. Plenty of duplicates, low resolution, blurry, and missing pictures, makes that task impossible. The pictures lay forgotten and unseen; except for a few I posted on social media, or immediately sent to our close family on Whastapp. I tried to use automated programs to make sense of that mess. Picasa seemed promising. Yet, it fell by the roadside, Google stopped updating it, and it failed at the most important aspect: ease of usage!

Organizing pictures by date, place, and removing duplicates is one side of the coin. The other more important aspect is using these pictures. What good a program like Picasa is, if it does not help me rediscover these memories, in a meaningful way, without spending hours trying to find one specific picture or memory? This where Google Photos brilliance is. Here allow me to thank my friend Mustapha Hamoui for re-reminding me of Google Photos in a post a few days ago!

Google Photos has the basic features of any photo-organizing program. You upload your files, and it sorts them by date, place, and then apply its facial recognition algorithm. Yet, that is not all, its brilliance is in the videos, collage, and GIFs it starts producing. All automated, all on its own, and constantly updated. Every day, It became a pleasure to open the app and see what old memories it has dragged up, packaged and offered me. Yesterday I had “the smiles of 2016 video”. A short video of around 20-30 pictures of me and my family, smiling! Today it brought tears to my eyes with a “They grow up so fast” video of my little girl, speeding up from zero to three years old! Two days ago, it was the highlights of our latest trip.

Google Photos does not stop there. It also apply its amazing AI to help you sort out your life, making a sort of a “search engine for your life”. Here I will quote Mustapha on this “Often times, we ask ourselves questions relating to our lives and frequently, embarrassingly, we can’t quite remember the answer. You know that the answer to almost any other question exists online. But what you may not know is that you can as easily search your life as Google crawls and indexes the web.”

My advice? Surrender your digital soul to Google and let it organize all pictures in one glorious, accessible cloud. Now could they come over and organize my physical life: books, papers, odds and ends for me? 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

That scene at the DOOR!

Against my better judgment, while the wound was still too fresh I delved into that scene trying to analyze exactly what happened.

Just to make it clear I used past/vision for when bran is in the past having a vision of his father Ned Stark and his grandfather Rickard Stark, while Ned is saying goodbye and going to the Vale as a ward of Jon Aryn (where he will meet Robert Baratheon, another ward of Jon Aryn and become friends)
Present is Bran in the cave, being attacked by the weights and the white walkers.
Wylis is Hodor in the past, in the vision.
Hodor is Hodor in the present with Bran and Meera escaping.

Let us start; Bran and the Three Eyed Raven are in a vision, seeing the past. They are witnessing the moment (at least 30-40 years before the present time) when young Ned Stark was being sent to Jon Aryn. This is a special vision for several reason:
 1- Before going Three Eyed Raven tells Bran “you are going to be me”.
2- when Bran is pulled away from the tree root by Meera the vision does not end, like it did before with the White Walkers when the moment Bran let go of the tree root, the vision ended.
3- Three Eyed Raven can hear and see what is happening in the present, while he is in the vision (he tells Bran to do as his friends are telling him –Meera was calling for him to warg into Hodor to escape). Three also knew exactly when the Night King was in front of him and about to kill him, so he told Bran goodbye.

All hell break loose, the white walkers and their Night King break through the Children of the Forest magic and they are in the cave. Meera tries to wake Bran up, without success, so she screams at him to warg Hodor. Bran can hear Meera from inside the vision and Three Eyed Raven tells him to listen to hear. Thus, Bran look at Wylis, who is totally oblivious to Bran, in fact looking away from him, and Bran use Wylis (in the vision/past) as a conduit to warg Hodor in the cave. Indeed, Hodor, in the cave, has his eyes turn white and then back to normal, and he spring to action. This sequences (eyes turn white, then back to normal and then Hodor moves, was repeated several times in the past when Bran warged into Hodor. For example, check in season four when Bran escaped the Black Watch traitors at Crasters)

Therefore, we have Bran inside a vision with Three Eyed Raven, looking at Wylis (young Hodor) and using his power to warg Hodor in the cave. Hodor picks up Bran sled, Meera puts Bran on it, removing his hands from the tree roots. Bran doesn’t wake up, unlike previous visions. The events continue, and after the sacrifice of Summer and Leaf, they arrive at the Door.

Here, Bran still warging Hodor, break through the door, and Meera seeing the horde of weights, asks Hodor –still warged by Bran- to Hold the Door. Bran, hearing and probably seeing, from his vision what is happening to Meera, Hodor and his body, watches on horrified.

At this point, Hodor is holding the Door and Meera keeps screaming at him to hold it. The pressure becomes too much and Wylis (in the vision/past) is overwhelmed. Wylis, turns to Bran, seeing him for the first time, and start hearing Meera screams “Hold the Door”. His eyes turn white, and he falls on the ground seizing. It seems that Wylis has been warged too, and now his mind can see, hear, and experience what is happening to Hodor holding the Door. Poor Wylis mind is warged along with Hodor’s at the door, being shredded alive by the weights.

There in the Land of always winter, under the Weirdwood tree of the Children of the Forest, Hodor sacrifices his life, and the mind of his younger self to save Bran Stark, and maybe the fate of all westeros…

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rhaegar Targaryen!

Rhaegar Targaryen, the last Dragon Prince of House Targaryen, was born in Summerhall, among the grief of the false spring. He was the Son of the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen, older sibling of Viserys and Daenerys Stormborn, the Mother of Dragons.

He was a quiet, shy child, who spent his time reading in the Library in Kings Landing, instead of training to become a Knight as befit the Heir of House Targaryen. Yet, around the age of ten he left his books behind and presented himself to his household’s knights asking them to train him in combat. Many wondered at this sudden change, few whispered that the young Prince read a prophecy in one of his books, about the Long Night to come and the need for a Champion.

Regardless of the reasons, the young Prince rose in the ranks and became a Knight to be reckoned with. He constantly trained and became close friend with Ser Arthur Dayn, the Sword of the Morning, who held the great sword Dawn. Rhaegar was not enamored with fighting or tourneys, but once he entered the fray few stood against him.

He married Princess Elia of Dorn, and had two children. It is whispered that the same prophecy that pushed him to become a Knight, foretold a Dragon with three heads, and a Prince that was promised. Elia, being frail and ill, was unable to bear him a third child, and the last Dragon Prince feared for the fate of Westeros. 

Meanwhile, his father, the Mad King fell deeper into insanity. Rhaegar, beloved by the common people, and many of the nobles, became the hope of the seven Kingdome. With a heavy heart, the Prince shouldered his responsibility and in an effort to gracefully replace his father, he organized a large tourney at Harrenhall.

The greatest lords and knights of Westeros were invited, to hold a Grand Council and depose his father. Somehow, the Mad King learned of his son’s effort and attend the Tourney. With his plans in shambles, the Dragon Prince fought fiercely and won against the best knights of the realm, even the fabled Sword of the Morning fell to his lance. As custom dictate, the Prince was given a Crown of beauty to present to his beloved. Yet, he rode past his wife Elia, and gifted the crown to Lyanna Stark, the betrothed of Robert Baratheon. At that moment All smiles faded…

Instead of uniting the great houses, and ushering a new era of peace under his wise leadership, Rhaegar angered many nobles houses, and once the tourney ended, the Prince and Lyanna Stark disappeared. The hot headed wolf, Brandon Stark, brother of Ned, took off in anger to King’s Landing demanding the return of his kidnapped sister. The Mad King considered it an act of treason and summoned Brandon’s father, Rickard Stark to court. Once he had both stark he summarily executed them in a gruesome way. 

Lord Jon Arryn, fostering Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon raised his banners and rebelled against the Mad King. Thus started the war of the usurper. After months of skirmish and minor battles, Prince Rhaegar reappeared and led the formidable loyalist forces against an equally large rebel host, formed by the houses of the North, the Vale, and the Stormlands.

In a great battle on the river Trident, the fate of the House Taragyen, Westeros, and even the world was decided. In single combat, Robert Baratheon wielding his war hammer faced the last Dragon wearing his famous armor, adorned with a three headed dragon made of rubies. The combatants, both loyalist and rebels, stood still, transfixed by the epic duel…

The world held its breath, as blows were exchanged, until with the fury of storms and the anger of a scorned lord, Robert Baratheon drove his massive warhammer into Rhaegar’s armor, shattering the ruby dragon piercing the Prince’s heart.

Rhaegar Targaryen, the last Dragon Prince, died on the trident, on a ford forever know hence, as the Ruby Ford.

What drove the wise Rhaegar to choose Lyanna Stark as the Queen of beauty? What madness seized him to disappear with her? What spell impelled him to risk his father thrones, his house’s fate for a woman. We may never know, yet a single word can be heard, whispered by the water of the trident, echoing through the hall of Harrenhall… PROPHECY… The Dragon Has Three Heads… There must be one more, the Prince that was promised…

Thus, end the sad tale of the last Dragon Prince. Remember travelers that when pass the ruby Ford, to look hard and long in the turbulent water. It is there that the fate of the Westeros was sealed, it there that the world was doomed, or possibly saved. Look hard for you also might still find rubies in those waters…

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Arthur Dayne!

Sir Arthur Dayn, the knight whom Eddard Stark called "The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who fought with a blade called Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star." He was famed for his prowess and his chivalrous and kind heart.

Arthur Dayne was the deadliest Kingsguard of Aerys II the mad king (father of Rahegar, Viserys and Daenerys the mother of Dragons.) He carried a greatsword, called Dawn, milky white and made out of a meteorite. It is not made of Valyrian steel, but it is thought to be as strong and sharp.

He was a friend and close campaign of Rahegar, the Crown Prince who was killed by Robert Baratheon at the trident, in his revolt against the Targaryens.

Finally, Ser Arthur Dayne was killed at the tower of Joy, and his sword was returned to his sister. His fate, why he was there and not at the battle of the trident is of critical importance to our story. However, i will leave that for the show to reveal...

The Great Sword Dawn is currently in the ancestral home of the Daynes, far south close to Dorn, and is awaiting the next worthy knight to hold it and become the next "sword of the morning". The only Dayne we came across in GOT is the young squire Edric Dayne, who is with the brotherhood without Banner.

For more info check these pages (some spoilers, especially about the death of Dayn)

Monday, September 08, 2014

Leftovers finale review

The music, oh heaven, the music!
Starting us up with Nina Simon’s extraordinary interpretation of Jaque Brel’s sorrowful “Ne me Quitte pas”, then whisking us out on the show’s hypnotizing piano theme, passing through Apocalyptica’s interpretation of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”, to end with the theme again.
What magic is this! Unbelievable!

The final of “the Leftovers” did not disappoint. It kept on emotionally hammering us, until the last few minutes, to end with a faint glimmer of hope, normality, that I believe is going to be short lived.
The show ambiguity, cradling us between what reality and dreams, between prophets and con men, between white and black, between grey and greyer still. It is this post modernism malaise once again, the moral ambiguity that we all feel in this crazy world, where heroes are nowhere to be found, and where villains hide in plain sight…

I ll just leave you with this: part of a characters monologue, just savor it sheer poetry, while listening to Nina Simmons:
“I was pretending
Pretending as if I haven’t lost everything
I want to believe It can all go back to the way it was
I want to believe that I am not surrounded by the abandoned ruin of a dead civilization
I want to believe that it is still possible to get close to someone
But it is easier not to
It is easier because I am coward
And I couldn't take the pain, not again…”

Do yourself a favor, go watch this excellent show, a study in human nature that is seldom so thoroughly interpreted, and just listen to the music, the heavenly music

Monday, August 25, 2014

The leftovers, a review

The music. The music is faeric, it works as a feedback loop, feeding off the images, and the images grow, feeding off the music, both transcending their immediate meaning. Just for the play of music and images, I would watch this series. That haunting piano melody, it transforms you, I am becoming a perfect Pavlov dog, every time I hear those few piano strokes I cringe, my heart constricts, and I hear…

The series follows a few tortured souls, adrift in a world devoid of meaning, of anchors, of purpose, except for a few fanatics full of raging, deadly purpose. This opposition reminds me of “the second coming” poem by W.B. Yeats:

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Dreams intrudes on reality, nightmares takes shape, and the haunting music swirls around. Symbolism abound, images, relations, and links can be made, yet I don’t feel the urge. That is the genius of the show’s creator, I care more, much more, about these tortured souls and their struggle, than about what caused the departure, and what powers are hiding behind the curtain, pulling the strings.

The characters struggles, their emotional turmoil awaken feelings in me, new old feelings that are forgotten, yet vaguely remembered, like the memory of a bittersweet dream fading away. I hate it, yet I’m slowly falling in love with it, with these new feelings...

Thankfully, you might think, we live in this world, not in theirs. Until you open the TV and watch all the horrors happening a few miles away, perpetrated by people who also had a purpose, a purpose to live for and a purpose to die for. And you fervently wish to stay lost, without a purpose, adrift …