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  1. Sopranos uncertainty

    October 26, 2014 by Saar Drimer

    When The Sopranos came out in 1999 I was living in the US and had TV and HBO. I watched the first two seasons and then stopped having a TV. For the past few months Caroline and I were binging on the Sopranos and last night viewed the last three episodes in succession. I’ve been thinking a lot about the final scene and what has led to it.

    Throughout The Sopranos we got commentary on current and past American life, often through AJ. I’m certain, however, that Chase wanted to end it with a statement that transcended the particular narrative of the show. No one could resist that. The Sopranos did away with the formulaic episodic format and lowst-common-denominator-hand-holding of past TV and so it’s no surprise that the ending requires the viewer to think and invariably feel uncomfortable and introspective. There are no easy answers here, and that’s the whole point.

    The final scene is an ordinary restaurant scene. Chase is trying to throw us off with movement and iconography. This doesn’t matter: people go to the toilet, enter the restaurant, and eat. It’s ordinary. The only unordinary thing about the scene is how The Sporanos eat their onion rings. They are too large to be eaten whole like that, and the way they put it in their mouths is more the way you’d take communion or drugs. It doesn’t matter what they are taking — pharmaceutical and other drugs for AJ and Tony, and Catholicism for Carmella — what matters is that whatever it is, it is mentally taking them to another place.

    In the leading episodes Tony tries peyote and experiences a “different place”. Dr Melfi brings up alternate universes or the idea of the Multiverse, where — loosely described — there are infinite universes for every possible decision or outcome. The Sopranos’ consumption of the onion rings starts their journey to an alternate universe that’s outside the viewers’ scope. It is therefore meaningless to ask whether Tony is dead or not. He is both dead and alive; both in jail and free; both married and divorced. Or none of those. We don’t know and we cannot know. Their life continues in a universe that is not the one we live in. Even Chase himself doesn’t know. (He said that “it’s all there”, and it is.) After a climatic anticipation, Chase forces the viewers to make up their own mind.

    To strengthen this explanation, a cat is introduced in the last episodes, which motivates metaphysical thoughts and discussions amongst the characters. This is an allusion to Schrödinger’s cat, a thought experiment involving a theoretical cat that’s both alive and dead at the same time. Schrödinger’s cat deals with uncertainty.

    Chase is therefore telling Americans to embrace uncertainty and learn to live with it. This, in turn, is a veiled criticism of religion (and to an extent, tradition), which functions as a filler for uncertainty and focuses on the different — the diverse restaurant setting is the contrast for this. Religion is also a primary motivator for many of the show’s characters. Chase even chooses a song that explicitly tells the viewers “don’t, stop believing”. It’s subtle, but could not have been done directly.

    What about Meadow? She’s late after a few bumpy attempts to “fit in”. That doesn’t make any difference as she will eat an onion ring later. Or not.

  2. A noob’s view of the World Cup

    July 14, 2014 by Saar Drimer

    I don’t follow sports. Never have. If I had, I’d much more likely follow basketball than football. This World Cup, as it happened, I watched most matches. I was partial for Brazil because they’ve hosted and also because Caroline is Brazilian. Here’s how clueless I was about football: it was only when I saw the tribute to Alan Hansen on iPlayer a few days ago when I realised that Match of the Day was going on for a few decades and not a World Cup specific programme. Earlier on in the World Cup — before seeing his informative round-ups — my working assumption was that Gary Lineker was just there for the comic relief.

    All that said, I do know what an off-side is so I’m quite qualified to commentate.

    The social aspects surrounding the Copa were very interesting to me. The demonstrations, favela “pacification“, the politics — a sports tournament that had, and will have, a direct impact on a country’s leadership? Wow — and Brazil’s efforts to elevate their position in the world stage and in general perception. It turned out that this event has had as much impact outside the stadium as it did inside of it.

    Two matches defined this World Cup. The Brazil-Germany semi-final and the Argentina-Germany final.

    The humbling semi-final was a clash of cultures: Deus É Brasileiro — God is Brazilian — versus The Terminator. God, the Brazilian, seemed to tune in last-minute against Columbia. But, I suppose, he too was embarrassed by David-Luis` abysmal performance and over-reliance on prayers instead of training, and decided to skip the Germany match entirely. I couldn’t watch past the fourth goal as it was too painful to think of all those passionate Brazilians witnessing their team being decimated. (Caroline later told me that she thought that the fifth was a replay since it happened so fast.) Introspection must follow; this wasn’t a bad day, or two. As a nation often defined by the stereotypical football fanatic is “Brazil” going to realise that excelling in other areas is a more worthwhile investment in the long run? I’m confident that this introspection will take centre stage once heads role and eventually have a profoundly positive impact on Brazil.

    In terms of football, it’s embarrassing to see a team fall apart so colossally in the absence of one or two of their players. Actually, Brazil sent a group of individuals, not a team, loosely attached with a bit of prayer and one Neymar. Without knowing much, I have the feeling that very little practice actually took place, trusting that the two gods were going to work something out. I’m very familiar with the notion. Where I come from the prevailing ‘smoch’ — ‘trust me <wink>’ — culture was eventually deemed as harmful. Germany sent in a team!

    Neymar is the other winner of that semi-final match. He should anonymously send the Columbian player who knocked him out a box of bitter chocolates. Secretly, he must realise that Germany would have won even if he was playing. But he came out of all of this unscathed; the injury he sustained is insignificant compared to an involvement in the defeat.

    Since I don’t regularly watch football this tournament seemed exceedingly violent to me. Neymar, everyone’s favourite frail punchbag, seems like a very relatable character, and I kind of felt his pain whenever he was hammered throughout the Cup. Schweinsteiger, Müller, and others took some serious beating as well. I think that perhaps something should be done to tone this down. The constant acting doesn’t help. Thomas Müller, you’re clearly a talented player and dancer, so either take some acting lessons or stop doing that; it looks bad for your team and is beneath you. The attempts of the Brazilian players to squeeze a foul to save face was particularly sad. Oh, while we’re here, is there any documented case of referees changing their minds on seeing a footballer’s crying face? I don’t get it. Get on with it!

    And, of course, that performance by Chewy Luis and the News was disgusting and disgraceful. There was the bite, but then there was the absence of disgust from other Uruguian players and manager. Then FIFA’s reaction reinforced the perception that it’s all about the money in a time where the organisation’s integrity is in the gutter. A player intentionally bites, BITES, other players three, THREE, times and is not banned for a few years to life? Pathetic. I don’t care how good he is.

    During the final I was rooting for Argentina; it seemed wrong to have The Terminator, who has figured out the football formula, win in a sport that can have so much human creativity. That was silly. I anticipate that the German win will significantly change football. It’s clear that Joachim Löw knew what he was doing when he quit the boy-band and made a career change into football management. I hope that Brazil and everyone else take the spirit of the German team and combine it with their own style. Maybe then we’d see a Brazilian team that matches past glory.

    All considered, the heroes of the World Cup, for me, are Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer. (It was a repeated disappointment to learn that the match was shown on ITV.) They taught me so much about the game with such clear delivery and beautiful style. My thanks to them for keeping me interested!

  3. Things are well

    July 28, 2013 by Saar Drimer

    It’s a distinct kind of joy to have my inner-engineer take over. One such memorable period was during my undergraduate senior design project when I worked like mad for twelve weeks to build a camera with an FPGA on it from scratch, PCB included. I didn’t quite finish the whole thing, but was the only one who got an ‘A’ in the class. This project got me the ‘Dean’s Award’ and later let me nail an interview, after which I got a job at the only company I really wanted to work for, at a time when no-one else was getting jobs in Silicon Valley back in Autumn of 2002. I’m really proud of that work. I’m not writing all this to boast — trust me, I’ll happily tell you that I’m not that smart — but to say that ever since I’ve been looking to replicate this elated feeling of engineering-driven obsession.

    That time was a peak that I wasn’t quite able to experience since, not professionally nor academically. Sure there were some local maxima along the way, but not quite that long-lasting feeling of “I want to shout to the world that I love what I do!” kind. Recently I stumbled on something that got me to that peak again — a combination of my life-long obsession with doodling, love for hardware design, and an awesome programming language called Python. By luck — yes, luck — I got into a situation where starting to write PCBmodE seemed like a good idea, combining years worth of random ideas and concepts that I kept in my head. Embarrassingly too long into the project I realised that since I’m enjoying this so much I should try to make a business out of it. It was one of those duh! moments in the shower. You know the kind.

    So I aim to make PCBmodE and Boldport a successful and dynamic company. It will be hard. It might fail. But the good news, to those who know me and those who have been following me on this blog for years, is that things are going well for me right now — I love what I do!

  4. World Olympic Entertainment, Inc.

    July 8, 2012 by Saar Drimer

    The Olympic torch passed by Cambridge yesterday. I was walking to a pub to meet a friend when I heard the distant cheering as the torch arrived to Parker’s Piece near the center of town. I wondered to myself why I wasn’t there, all excited about the torch — after all, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see it; I wondered why I could care less about “The Games”.

    The Olympics is all about entertainment. Without entertainment value, people wouldn’t want to see it, so it wouldn’t be profitable to broadcast, and so it wouldn’t exist. And why do most people watch The Games? They watch for the opportunity to see extreme failure — drama — and/or extreme success — breaking records. Extreme failure doesn’t need help — athletes fall, fail, break down and cry naturally; it is without a doubt a stressful occupation. Guaranteeing the breaking of records requires technology and chemicals.

    Records are being broken all the time. If we assume that the human body hasn’t evolved dramatically in the past 50 years (it hasn’t) we can attribute performance improvements to technology and science. Our understanding of the human body, nutrition, and advances in materials helped extract better performance out of athletes. Performance can also be enhanced through the use of chemicals. Technology is allowed, but some chemicals are not.

    I find the demand for entertainment value and the prohibition of what could provide it hypocritical to both athletes and viewers. Let’s be clear: I think that performance enhancing chemicals are categorically bad all around, and I wish they — legal or illegal — have never existed. But it’s too late now; chemicals already influenced the game. Pretending that the Olympic events are fair, and that the prohibition of chemicals is effective, requires suspense of disbelief. That bothers me — we shouldn’t pretend something is something when it isn’t.

    Everyone knows that the WWE is fake, and that’s OK; can the Olympics follow a similar model, and stop pretending that it’s real? Should it? Would people watch a genuinely fair Olympic games — where records are rarely broken — if that was physically and practically possible? Have the Olympic games become sport’s equivalent to TV’s “reality shows”?

    In any case, I won’t be watching; I never watch sports anyway.

  5. shower caps — useless?

    April 24, 2012 by Saar Drimer

    Shower caps. Meh. Well, I’ve got five words to say about them: perfect bicycle-seat rain covers. Thank me later. Oh, email me if you know where to get those in bulk — I want a hundred at home and hundred at work, and for gifts. Meantime, I’m collecting them from hotel rooms ;)

  6. Good music makes you feel older

    March 25, 2012 by Saar Drimer

    We went into Ryman’s for some reason and actually entered my teenage years. RV from Faith No More was playing, and I started rocking my head in three degree movements. I told Caroline to keep moving to Sainsbury’s while I stayed there enjoying my teenage space among the stationary and oblivious pen-seekers.

    When we last went to the Natural Science Museum a guy was playing Enter Sandman from Metallica in the tunnel between the South Kensington tube station and Museum Cluster. Think about the age demographics he’s appealing to for 20p. I’m it. Rapidly approaching middle age with a rebelion spark that’s still brought out by what has become background musac in a store and fermented underground passages.

    When I hear Highway to Hell in an elevator, I’ll retire.

  7. Hot sauce

    January 5, 2012 by Saar Drimer

    I was left with a bunch of semi-dry lovely hot peppers from the summer/autumn yield. Some I cut up and put in olive oil for “chili oil”, and others I used to experiment with making my own hot sauce. After some research, the recipe shown in this video appealed to my senses — I particularly liked the sherry twist to quickly add that aging flavor. Shopping for distilled vinegar, I discovered sherry vinegar and thought that this could do the trick, combining both ingredients. I blended a few peppers, sherry vinegar, garlic, and salt and the result is pretty good; very hot. Fresh, there was a slight aftertaste that I did not particularly like, but it might be the amount of vinegar — I usually don’t like hot sauces to taste too vinegary (like Tabasco, and unlike my favorite sauce, Cholula). It might be the garlic, though; I need to experiment more.

    This simple sauce is not far off from what you can get in a bottle at a supermarket, but it’s cheap, quick to prepare, and doesn’t have the typical additives. Also, one can tweak the ingredients according to taste.

  8. Box of nails

    October 1, 2011 by Saar Drimer

    Box of nails

    Box of nails

  9. Party of squares

    September 7, 2011 by Saar Drimer

    Party of squares

    Party of squares

  10. My first lesson in sales

    September 1, 2011 by Saar Drimer

    Thirty years ago, I was about six years old; I lived in Netanya, Israel; my best buddy was named Teddy; the currency was the Old Israeli Shekel; and, together with Teddy, I found a large stack of last week’s TV-guide that went (new) for a single Shekel. Teddy and I figured that since these are almost new we could still easily resell them for a bargain half a Shekel each, the street value of a popsicle.

    Under our building in Ha’Galil Street there was a gap in the hedges and a nice wide stone fence where we could set up shop and display the merchandise. People passed uninterested for a while and then we got our first customer — an old man. This old man gave us half a Shekel and a bit of wisdom: an explanation why people aren’t going to pay for last week’s TV schedule, news, and gossip. We understood. We folded.