Wednesday, March 28, 2007

GPS - Addendum

On NPR's "All Things Considered," there was a charming commentary about GPS, "A Love Affair That's Going Places."

"Commentator Jay Keyser is having an affair. But it's not with another woman. He's falling for the sultry voice and competent navigational skills of "Vicki", his car's GPS. Keyser explains the dangers of his affair."

So, this takes the anthropomorphization I mentioned in my previous post to another level! He even discusses Vicki's "dark side" when she leads his wife to a dead end road.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Imagine if Columbus had GPS…

I’m not a Luddite or Amish. However, I still need to figure out how GPS (Global Positioning System) fits into my world. Maybe because I work with technology, I’m hesitant to let it control my car? I don’t know.

Map it! Map it real good!
I can tolerate online mapping tools like MapQuest and Google Maps. However, the directions may not always be accurate or the best route. I think there are many more advancements in the searching capabilities in the past few years (i.e., choose main roads vs local roads). I’ll search for the location and just use the map to plot out my own route. I can’t follow it word for word.

For all that is said about women and directions, I think if they have accurate information, they are all set. I’m excellent with landmarks and always provide them and ask for them. Maybe it’s my navigational insecurity, which makes me weary of technology. My father and husband need to drive somewhere once and remember it.

I wish I could do a psychology test based on how people handle directions to my house. My house is off the main road without a visible marker in one direction. Therefore, we provide specific directions: “At the 25 mph sign, put on right blinker. Start looking for a mailbox.” Even with directions, people have missed it or ended up in the wrong driveway. So, when people just Google for directions, they can’t find the house. Another friend mistyped the house number and ended up on the opposite end of the road. Only common thread I can say is that these drivers have been men.

GPS –Get People Somewhere
The next stage of navigational technology is GPS. One friend said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s great. If you do know the route, it’s not going to work for you.” We used it in a friend’s car when we went to Boston to visit other friends. Using the GPS, we were stuck at a railroad crossing for 20 minutes as a freight train passed. When we told our local friend, he was so surprised we went that route. “But GPS told us to do that!”

In the interest of balanced presentation, on the same trip, the GPS came through for us when we were searching for restaurants and gas stations in the area. However, if one has a Blackberry or other device that can access the internet, it would be just as efficient.

As a non-GPS user, I find it interesting how dependent the driver suddenly becomes on the tool. A friend who has lived and worked in the area for years declared the tool will navigate her home from the city. Drivers turn off their own steering sense and just listen to where they need to go.

The GPS will say “next exit on the left”, but did the driver pay attention to whether it is northbound or southbound exit?

“Well, it doesn’t really matter, since it’ll recalculate for you.” Ok, so a complicated u-turn is acceptable now?

A former colleague once told me about a Japanese artist, I believe. He said that people lose some skills with advancements. People used to tell stories, and kept their memories sharp by retaining oral histories. When books were being printed, they lost that skill. Now, we can see with computers that the skill of writing by hand is being replaced by typing. (I admit that writing by hand more than 10 lines is taxing!)

Personally, I believe if you’re losing one skill, your brain would be making other complex connections. While you’ve been lax on your spelling, your brain is sharper in knowing where to find a correction tool and dig through the multiple icon/menu bars.

However, does reliance on GPS free your brain to do other things while driving?

The Anthropomorphization

When the directional voice is turned on the GPS, it’s an even more fascinating phenomenon. The tiny computer with screen becomes a person. “She said to turn left.” “Did he say this right?” The system has earned a pronoun and becomes another entity in the car – one whose opinion is valuable to the passengers.

A colleague mentioned how she loves her ‘GPS lady’ because she is so non-judgmental. If you miss a turn, she doesn’t berate you or make you feel bad. She remains polite no matter how many mistakes you make and adjusts her plan.

Maybe this is important as to how the driver forms the ‘relationship’ of trust to their system. And, since I don’t have a GPS, I have to be skeptical of the blind trust.

By the way, we do know people who can’t find themselves out of a paper bag without directions. They call us and ask for directions consistently, as if their memory retention for direction is stored on an Etch-A-Sketch. For them, we insist they get a GPS unit!

I’m still old-school and want my directions written out for me.

To prove I’m not a Luddite, here’s a tech tip: When I get directions to a friend’s house, I paste them into the friend’s record in my Outlook Address Book. Then download it to my Palm, so I can quickly access directions and information.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Review: Y Tu Mama Tambien

So, I'm about 6 years behind on my foreign films. I've always wanted to see "Y Tu Mama Tambien," especially after my friend Z had enthusiastically recommended it 3 years ago.

It was a lot more light-hearted than I expected. I've heard "sex and drugs" in relation to this movie, and thought, "oh, it's another one of those drug dealers, prostitution, violent movies." Was I wrong!

It's actually a good road-trip-through-Mexico-get-to-know-each-other-(in the Biblical sense ) -and-get-high-while-you're-at-it type of movie. It's absolutely steamy and calls for a nice margarita on the rocks to cool off.

I loved Gael Garcia Bernal in "Motorcycle Diaries," a film that has possibly one of the most beautiful cinematography of South America. "Y Tu Mama" reminded me of it in a way that ordinary people in the background add to the landscape and the story.

And, Diego Luna actually stayed in my mind for a long time after I saw.. gulp..embarrassed to say I saw this.. "Dirty Dancing 2 - Havana Nights." He was absolutely hot as a jalepeno in that movie. Movie was dumb as hell, but the dancing was intense.

Anyway, as a woman, I felt the storyline with the female character, Luisa, was stronger than the one for the two male leads. While this is the 'coming of age' story for the boys, it was an "awakening" for the woman. At the end, it is revealed why she had such a desire to suddenly live for every moment: "Life is like the surf, so give yourself away like the sea. "

It's also unbelievable that director Alfonso CuarĂ³n, also directed "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Children of Men." Gotta love the diversity and the creativity of such directors.

Also, I'm seeing on message boards that this is what teenaged boys are really like and what they really talk about. That's really scary! No wonder my father used to say, "Stay away from boys. I used to be one and I know exactly what they're thinking. Just stay away!"

One good thing about watching this movie so late is that everyone in the film has moved on to other projects, so I can catch up. I don't have to wait.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Speaking the Words We Write

I was thrilled to catch Def Poetry Jam on HBO last night. If you haven’t seen this program, it’s a spoken word and poetry performance. These poets do not speak from the heart. They whisper and roar from every molecule in their body and your body.

People often say, “Oh I don’t get poetry” and wouldn't try to read two lines. Performances like these visually illustrate the simplest purpose of poetry – the need to express and communicate to another.

I have to admire these artists because they can voice their poems. For me, writing is an act that is necessary as breathing. Yet, I’ve only read my poetry aloud to a few friends in writing groups. A year ago for the first time among strangers at a workshop, I read my work aloud. Afterwards, I was overwhelmed physically - blood was rushing and my body temperature must have risen 100 degrees. I received a positive response, which was encouraging and gave me confidence.

I don’t have a problem with public speaking. I taught and led presentations to clients, colleagues, professors and classmates. I’ve been the MC and made speeches at various Indian events. Not a problem.

I have public speaking confidence when what I’m presenting is not me. To read poetry or my writing would be to step into a zone of vulnerability and exposure.

When I watch spoken word poets, I know they’re taking their talent to the next level, which is where I need to be.

Another point for me is that writing is as solitary and silent act. I do read my work to myself, usually to check for rhythm.

When I read or write, I have this ‘voice’ in my head. The voice doesn’t trip over words, she glides and breathes into them. I like to write about ethereal topics. By actually articulating the poems, my voice makes the words seem so ordinary and lose their magic.

This is why I have to admire the talent of the Def Poetry performers. They know how to breathe life into the words and make them the voice you recognize in your head.

There was a girl in one of my writing groups, who was a poet. We found ourselves having difficulty connecting to her as a person because of her insecurities. She was inconsistent; she resisted sharing simple things, but then revealed too much. I saw her present one of her poems in a public performance. I was amazed how she transformed. She owned the stage. That was her space, those were her words, and that was who she was! For some poets, the public performance is a validation of who they are.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Broken Music - Sting

So, the Universe is pulling me to Sting this week.

I had an hour to myself yesterday and my car drove itself to the nearest Barnes & Noble. I went to the first place I always go in a bookstore - the Bargain Books. I believe one person's junk could be another person's treasure. I collect classics and books by Indian writers, which they may not mean much to the mainstream reading populace. So, I've found some great finds for under $5 or $10.

Yesterday, I found Sting's memoir "Broken Music" for $4.98. I've read only 30 pages and I'm captivated by his writing style. His prose is so lyrical and poetic it leaps off the page. For example, here's a line from the first paragraph:

"My wife, Trudie, and I are sheltering beneath an umbrella, while high above our heads two seagulls wheel recklessly in the wind; and the sea is a roaring threat in the darkness"

He could've said "Trudie and I stood under an umbrella and we could hear the seagulls and the water."

Actually, what made me buy this book were 2 paragraphs on page 298. Sting is in an old French hotel next to the alleyway where prostititutes have stood "for a thousand years." In the hotel foyer, there is an old poster of the play by Edmond Rostand, "Cyrano de Bergerac," which prompts this musing:

"He is a tragic clown man with an enormous nose and a plumed hat. He is a man entrusted with a secret; an eloquent and dazzling wit who, having successfully wooed a beautiful woman on behalf of a friend cannot reveal himself as the true author when his friend dies. He is a man who loves but is not loved, and the woman he loves but cannot reach is called Roxanne. That night I will go to my room and write a song about a girl. I will call her Roxanne. I will conjure her unpaid from the street below the hotel and cloak her in the romance and the sadness of Rostand's play, and her creation will change my life. "

I think that's what is appealing to me about this book that it's a memoir, not so much of an autobiography that zips through significant events. It pauses long enough to evoke significant moments.