This essay is a brilliant rumination on how and why different mediums, visual motion and text, do what they do so differently and so well. Each able to excite and convey information in different ways.
Justâ€¦ ponder that beautiful scene for a second. Â John Wick did well with general audiences, but from action fans I heard a collective scream of joyÂ for, among the filmâ€™s other virtues, itsÂ return to legible fight scenes, andÂ rejection of the Bourne Consensus of Shakey-Cam Combat. Â TheÂ choreography in John WickÂ is clear and sharp, the cuts minimal andÂ explicative rather thanÂ meant to mystify. Â There is a point to the Bourne style fightâ€”it mimics pretty well what itâ€™s like to beÂ in an actual grappling match with intent toÂ kill or maim or at least defend oneself, which is to say deeply confusing and unpleasant. Â This camerawork, by contrast, shows us the battlefield as John Wick sees it: composed of clean angles and short, sharp stops. Â The fight scene is ballet and the camera one more dancer, intended to highlightÂ rather than obscure the performance. Â NorÂ does the choreography stint from displays of sheer strength and determination, highlighting this important element of the character. Â While we begin (from 0:17 to 0:35) withÂ angle,Â rotation, speed, and precision, we end (as the movie itself ends) with an uncomfortable forty seconds of flailing over a knife.
After the credits rolled, IÂ stood and paced the house thinking, how on earth could I accomplish that same effect in prose? Â How could I write scenesÂ that felt like those?
Now, for most of my life my instinct has been: well, you just describe what happened! Â So, first he shoots the one guy, thenÂ spins and shoots the other guy twice, then changes angle to shoot the third guy. Â But that doesnâ€™tÂ capture the information coded inÂ the elegance of Wickâ€™s motion, or evenÂ the tiny details that make the first four-shot sequence stick, like blood spray or the spatter on theÂ photographÂ on the back wall. Â (Let alone the musicâ€™s heightening of tension and discomfort, or the cinematographyâ€™sÂ coding ofÂ shadow as threat and moonlight as exposure and the way that plays with the bad guysâ€™ darker wardrobes and balaclavas, the gunshot flares as revelatory instrument.) Â Capturing all of that would require a denser, fullerÂ prose approach that wouldÂ conflict with the speed of the scene, unless we wanted to embrace the Proust.
So, what can prose do well…
â€œThere are not enough opportunities in a childâ€™s life to be taken seriously, to be given autonomy and to learn authentically,â€ says Tulley. â€œI think they need learning opportunities that respect and incorporate their ideas.â€
Tulleyâ€™s book presents 50 challenges (with instructions), each utterly at odds with todayâ€™s rampant helicopter parenting, such as Stand on a Roof, Taste Electricity (by licking a 9-volt battery), Dam a Creek and (Iâ€™ll admit Iâ€™m not ready to allow this one yet) Cross Town on Public Transportation.
â€œ50 Dangerous Thingsâ€ emphasizes the importance of introducing risk, facilitating autonomy and letting kids know that with danger comes discovery. This book comes to life at The Tinkering School, a program Tulley started here in San Francisco in 2000. (There is also a K-12 school, Brightworks, and a sleepaway camp down the coast; the program has recently expanded to Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin and Buffalo.)
This isnâ€™t just a bunch of kids messing around with stuff. Behind the chaos you can see the gears turning. There is no template, no set of instructions (and no screens). They need to be attentive, engaged and curious. As they begin a project, theyâ€™re learning how to collaborate, identify the skill sets of their group and deploy those talents accordingly, and problem-solve creatively. â€œThe use of real tools dramatically increases agency,â€ says the Tinkering Schoolâ€™s manager, Joshua Rothhaas. â€œItâ€™s like learning Spanish and suddenly realizing you can talk to about 400 million more people in the world than you could before you knew Spanish. It fundamentally changes the way your kid thinks about the world, how it works, and what they are capable of.â€
3.Â We know where youâ€™ve been: Automated License Plate Readers
I really want to start digging into FOIA and open records laws to see what other kinds of information is available…
If you have driven in Oakland any time in the last few years, chances are good that the cops know where youâ€™ve been, thanks to their 33 automated license plate readers (LPRs).
Now Ars knows too.
In response to a public records request, we obtained the entire LPR dataset of the Oakland Police Department (OPD), including more than 4.6 million reads of over 1.1 million unique plates between December 23, 2010 and May 31, 2014. The dataset is likely one of the largest ever publicly released in the United Statesâ€”perhaps in the world.
After analyzing this data with a custom-built visualization tool, Ars can definitively demonstrate the data’s revelatory potential. Anyone in possession of enough data can oftenâ€”but not alwaysâ€”make educated guesses about a targetâ€™s home or workplace, particularly when someoneâ€™s movements are consistent (as with a regular commute).
For instance, during a meeting with an Oakland city council member, Ars was able to accurately guess the block where the council member lives after less than a minute of research using his license plate data. Similarly, while “working” at an Oakland bar mere blocks from Oakland police headquarters, we ran a plate from a car parked in the bar’s driveway through our tool. The plate had been read 48 times over two years in two small clusters: one near the bar and a much larger cluster 24 blocks north in a residential areaâ€”likely the driver’s home.
â€œWhere someone goes can reveal a great deal about how he chooses to live his life,” Catherine Crump, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told Ars. “Do they park regularly outside the Lighthouse Mosque during times of worship? Theyâ€™re probably Muslim. Can a car be found outside Beer Revolution a great number of times? May be a craft beer enthusiastâ€”although possibly with a drinking problem.”
â€œProject forward to a world where LPR technology is cheap and they can be mounted on every police car and posted at every traffic light,” said Crump. “Do you think that anyone with a badge should be able to search through that data at their discretion? If not, then you should support restrictions on how long law enforcement agents can store this data, and who can access it, and under what circumstances.â€
ANDREW Bate well remembers his light-bulb moment. He was sitting alone one night in the dark cab of his powerful new tractor spraying weeds on the family cropping farm near Emerald, in central Queensland. He recalls thinking about where it was all going to lead.
â€œMachines were getting bigger, wider, heavier and more expensive. There was this mad boom to get more hectares sprayed or harvested in a day,â€ he says. â€œI was frustrated with spending more time in my tractor, less time with my family. If the one machine broke down everything stopped.â€ The 36-year-old Bate was also having trouble with weeds that had become resistant to chemicals. â€œI started to wonder if we were doing it right; if we couldnâ€™t be more efficient and timely, and do it all at a lower cost by farming in a completely different way. I decided then that everything had got way past the point of a farming system that was best for the growing of a good crop.â€
Out on his farm at Gindie, 300km south of Emerald, Bate has two of his prototype robots at work in the field killing weeds. His previous weed sprayer weighed 21 tonnes, measured 36 metres across its spray unit, guzzled diesel by the bucketload and needed a paid driver who would only work limited hours. Two robots working together on Bendee effortlessly sprayed weeds in a 70ha mung-bean crop last month. Their infra-red beams picked up any small weeds among the crop rows and sent a message to the nozzle to eject a small chemical spray. Bate hopes to soon use microwave or laser technology to kill the weeds. Best of all, the robots do the work without guidance. They work 24 hours a day. They have in-built navigation and obstacle detection, making them robust and able to decide if an area of a paddock should not be traversed. Special swarming technology means the robots can detect each other and know which part of the paddock has already been assessed and sprayed
Another program built into the robots by Bate and his collaborators means the machines can also detect when they are running out of water, chemicals or fuel, and go to a nearby tanker to refuel. They can dock with the tank without aid, fill up and return to their midnight spraying. â€œThatâ€™s where the swarm comes in,â€ says Bate. â€œThey can communicate with each other, know what each other is doing and change their behaviour and actions accordingly. They wonâ€™t come in to refuel at the same time and if one has found an area with many weeds and is taking longer to cover it, the other will adapt its grid pattern to compensate.â€
“What a strange machine man is. You fill him with bread, wine, fish, and radishes, and out comes sighs, laughter and dreams.” – Nikos Kazantzakis
If you were forwarded this newsletter and enjoyed it, please subscribe here:Â https://tinyletter.com/peopleinpassing
I hope that you’ll readÂ these articles if they catch your eye and that you’ll learn as much as I did. PleaseÂ email me questions, feedback or raise issues for discussion. Better yet, if you know of something on aÂ related topic, or of interest, please pass it along. And as always, if one of these links comes to mean something to you, recommend it to someone else.