Linkdump for August 1st through September 1st

Sometime between August 1st and September 1st, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • The P-I error that changed Seattle history: "Occasionally, newspapers report factual errors. A well-intentioned interview subject gives bad information, a name is spelled wrong, a breaking news story is inadvertently peppered with grammatical errors. But no incorrect newspaper story has had a bigger impact on Seattle history than one published June 7, 1889."
  • 98.6 degrees is a normal body temperature, right? Not quite: “Forget everything you know about normal body temperature and fever, starting with 98.6. That’s an antiquated number based on a flawed study from 1868 (yes, 150 years ago). The facts about fever are a lot more complicated.”
  • The “I Am Steve Rogers” Joke in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Is the Definitive Captain America Moment: That’s who Captain America is, a man who listens to and believes in people when they tell him who they are. That’s a lesson we all should take away from that moment.
  • The Bullshit Web: “An honest web is one in which the overwhelming majority of the code and assets downloaded to a user’s computer are used in a page’s visual presentation, with nearly all the remainder used to define the semantic structure and associated metadata on the page. Bullshit — in the form of CPU-sucking surveillance, unnecessarily-interruptive elements, and behaviours that nobody responsible for a website would themselves find appealing as a visitor — is unwelcome and intolerable.”
  • Ignorant Hysteria Over 3D Printed Guns Leads To Courts Ignoring The First Amendment: "…in the last few days the hysteria [over 3D-printed guns] has returned… and much of it is misleading and wrong, and while most people probably want to talk about the 2nd Amendment implications of all of this, it's the 1st Amendment implications that are a bigger deal." Interesting. I'm not at all comfortable with wide availability of 3D-printed guns, but this analysis of the issues is worth reading.

Linkdump for July 16th through July 30th

Sometime between July 16th and July 30th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

Linkdump for May 26th through July 11th

Sometime between May 26th and July 11th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

Linkdump for April 19th through April 30th

Sometime between April 19th and April 30th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • John Scalzi: Thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War (and Yes, There are Spoilers): "As impressively well put together as it is, and as enjoyable and exciting as the film is in the moment, the film suffers and for me is ultimately unsatisfying. Not for anything the film itself does or doesn’t do; it suffers not because of what it does, but because of what I know."
  • Avengers: Infinity War ending: Incredibly bold — and a little cheap: SPOILERS: “…as I talked over the ending with friends, the less it sat well with me. I certainly admired the gutsiness of it, the big swing it took, but I also struggled to feel as emotionally invested in it as I was supposed to. For lack of a better word, none of it felt real.” I might not go quite so far as this analysis does, but I don’t argue with its core idea, and was having similar thoughts.
  • “When people say ‘spinster’, they are trying to conjure up an image of a little old lady who is lonely and bitter.”: “What I HEAR are the smiles and laughter of a million women as they earned their own money in their own homes and controlled their own fortunes and lived life on their own terms, and damn what society expected of them.”
  • When Toronto Suspect Said ‘Kill Me,’ an Officer Put Away His Gun: Look, I know that there are going to be situations where the use of deadly force is a necessary step. But it should be a last step, not a first step — something that seems all too mysterious to far too many people, not least many police here in the United States. De-escalation should be the default approach, rather than the "shoot first, ask questions later" approach seemingly favored by far too many people (both law enforcement officers and armchair analysts).
  • What Does Invoking The 25th Amendment Actually Look Like?: "Let’s take a deeper look at the 25th Amendment and think about what each section of it has meant in the past — and what it might mean for Trump-era politics." I'm rather fascinated (and disappointed) that we're in a situation where this is even being seriously discussed. But it is, admittedly, and interesting discussion.

Rogue One Mini-Review and Machete Order Thoughts

I saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (man, that full title is clunky) last night, and really enjoyed it. Here’s the brief mini-review I posted to Facebook:

Brief spoiler-free review of Rogue One: as many have already said, it’s good, and well worth seeing in the theater. Manages to be very much a part of the established Star Wars universe while also being very different from every other Star Wars film made to date — and, yes, part of that is that it’s darker than the rest, and parents might not want to assume that young ones will be fine with this one just because it’s part of the Star Wars universe. Very effectively sits just before A New Hope while also being a very modern film; I was particularly impressed with how well they pulled this off, especially as so many of the costumes and hairstyles had to be consistent with the very ’70s aesthetic of ANH. Lots of little (and some not so little) touches, Easter eggs, and in-jokes for long-time fans to enjoy (one conversation between a couple stormtroopers made me laugh out loud, and I didn’t hear anyone else react to it; it didn’t seem that obscure to me, but maybe this Trekkie has a bit more Star Wars cred than I’d have thought). I’ll enjoy watching this one again down the line.

In another discussion, a friend asked where Rogue One should go in a Star Wars binge based on the Machete Order (which omits Ep. I, and puts Eps. II and III between V and VI, for a final viewing order of IV-V-II-III-VI). My initial thought was to just drop RO in at the beginning, since chronologically it comes just before ANH. When combined with The Force Awakens, this would make a full Machete viewing of RO-IV-V-II-III-VI-VII).

On further reflection, though, I actually think that RO (and, most likely, the rest of the forthcoming standalone films) should be omitted from the lineup, and that Machete Order should be restricted to the “primary” films (those with formal episode numbers).

(Keep in mind, the following is from the theoretical perspective of subjecting someone to a Star Wars immersion course under the assumption that they’ve never seen the films and are so divorced from popular culture that they don’t know the characters, beats, or revelations. So, basically, this is a fun little bit of geekery not very related to the real world at all.)

Spoilers for various films in the Star Wars saga up to and including Rogue One follow, so I’ll just drop the rest of this post behind a cut…

Continue reading

Star Wars Without Politics Wouldn’t Be Star Wars

Disappointed that these two tweets by Star Wars: Rogue One writers were removed (but not terribly surprised, especially if the deletions were decreed by the Powers Above):

On November 11, 2016, Rogue One writer Chris Weitz tweeted: “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.” He later deleted that tweet after receiving lots of complaints from other Twitter users, many of whom asked him to stop “injecting politics” into Star Wars. Weitz clarified in one response tweet, “My apologies. You have a right to enjoy it as you wish; and I don’t wish to harm my colleagues’ work either.”

Weitz’ colleague, Gary Whitta, had already written his own response to the tweet comparing the Star Wars Empire to white supremacy, which said: “Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.” Whitta’s tweet has also since been deleted.

I have just as much sympathy (to wit: absolutely none) with people whining about “injecting politics” into Star Wars as those who did the same with Star Trek (most recently, regarding Bryan Fuller’s preparation for Star Trek: Discovery). Politics are integral to these stories. Even if you try to ignore the parallels between the Empire and the Nazi regime (which were explicit and intentional in both the original films and in The Force Awakens, so attempting to ignore that is rather ridiculous), the Star Wars prequels open with the Trade Federation controlling a blockade around a planet at the bidding of Chancellor Palpatine…but, no, sorry, that has nothing to do with politics. How silly of me.

All these people really mean is that they don’t want their politics to be called out as the bad guys…but, c’mon, if the shoe fits….

So Rogue One has already been passing the Furiosa Test (Do people on the internet get mad about it being feminist?), and now Trump supporters might be staying away as well (though, really, the two groups do seem to have a lot of overlap)? I don’t see much of a downside to that. I’d certainly be quite happy going to a movie knowing that there’s a smaller-than-normal chance of being surrounded by those types of people, and given the juggernaut that Star Wars is, I just don’t see a major impact on their bottom line from this. Win-win for everyone!

Except the Empire, perhaps.

Architectural Psychology in The Shining

If you’re at all interested in movies, Stanley Kubrick, Kubrick’s version of Stephen King’s The Shining, set design, psychology, or any combination of the above, you really should take twenty minutes to watch both of the following videos.

The Shining: Spatial Awareness and Set Design Part One:

The Shining: Spatial Awareness and Set Design Part Two:

(via Daring Fireball)

Mechanical Life and Intelligent Design

From On the Origin of Transformers:

The advocates of ID, who are arguing that their belief should be included in science classes in Texas, Tennessee and other states, say that if a living organism has a design that cannot be explained by the theory of natural selection, it is proof of an Intelligent Designer. If you consider a Camaro, for example, wouldn’t it obviously have had a Designer? Could its parts have been assembled by a hurricane (or a trillion hurricanes) blowing through a junkyard?

Certainly not. Therefore, this is proof that Autobots were not assembled on Cybertron by hurricanes or any other means envisioned by Darwin, and were Intelligently Designed. That makes the Transformers series a compelling parable for ID, and I expect several of this year’s Republican presidential candidates to recommend the movies on that basis alone.

Roger Ebert, making the case for Intelligent Design…at least within the universe of the Transformers.

Skyline Review by @hogbiker

Last night, a friend of mine in Anchorage was getting together with some friends. The plan was to watch the new sci-fi movie Skyline, then have a “boys’ night out.”

When I got up this morning, I thought the results needed to be saved for posterity. Here, then, is Karl‘s review of Skyline, assembled from his Twitter posts.

hogbiker: Looks like I’m going to see “Skyline”…

hogbiker: Cool! Boys night out! Bud’s have “kitchen passes.” Skyline then off to other “wet” locations around town. #debauchery

(Two hours later…)

hogbiker: I’d rather watch animal porn than Skyline. #absoluteshit

hogbiker: Thanks to Skyline, ‘Ninja Warrior’ is now a damn good movie! #worthless

hogbiker: Skyline is ‘clap’ of science fiction movies

hogbiker: Never in my life has a movie downed the party enough to call it a night. #historyinthemaking

hogbiker: Where do I start? Like I said, this POS makes ‘Ninja Assassin’ oscar worthy!

hogbiker: People were warning those waiting in line to go & watch something else till the ushers intervened!

hogbiker: …I’d watch [Battlefield Earth] on the BIG SCREEN over Skyline!

hogbiker: Skyline is the Chlamydia of science fiction movies!

hogbiker: Time to wash away that movie with some SERIOUS booze. G’night tweeps!

So there you have it, folks. Skyline: Makes Battlefield Earth look good.