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Category Archives: Miscellaneous


Review: Blade Runner 2049

Minor spoilers ahoy.

Blade Runner 2049 is getting ridiculously high ratings, which disturbed me because people like a lot of crap I don’t like and I’m in general agreement with these ratings. What to do? Subconsciously (or not), a lot of the praise may be from the visuals, which isn’t an off-the-mark assessment since films are a primarily visual storytelling medium, and these visuals are apparent in the trailers and such. To that end, the cinematography is perfection; every shot is a perfect cut diamond-angle shot of beauty, and director Denis Villeneuve lets those diamond-visuals breathe by not spraying dialogue and distracting you from feeling the moment. This might be the reason for its 265 minute length: cutting it down to the talky, expositional scenes would make it more compact but far less better to look at.

Set 30 years after the original, there are newer-better-stronger waves of replicants (artificial humans) that have been created, legally, after they had been banned for some time. Ryan Gosling, doing the best (and appropriate to the role) resting asshole face for nearly the entire movie, is a replicant working for the LAPD, who hunts down expired replicants and retires—kills—them. Why a kill switch was never installed in these replicants when they are manufactured is never explained, to my knowledge. The explanatory text in the beginning states that the newer replicants have an open-ended lifespan, but that doesn’t excuse the creators for not implanting a “die immediately, sucker” function, controlled by authorities, that will off a wayward replicant from a safe distance. I’m sure a writer could come up with a good technical reason for the switch’s nonexistence.

The plot, aside from this setting, isn’t a new nut: there’s mysterious box found buried at an expired replicant’s property, and it holds secrets that could “blow the whole thing wide open” if it were made public. This is standard fare for thrillers, but its sci-fi patina absolves Hampton Fancher
and Michael Green, the screenwriters, from wrongdoing. Being connected in every way to the original no doubt helps with this absolution. As lauded as the original Blade Runner was, it was still a gumshoe-noir caper set in the future. I disagree that it “explored what it means to be human,” any more than The Maltese Falcon did, and that’s not bad, and I disagree that a film has to be “deep” to be good, or even enjoyable. Blade Runner stylishly plopped you down in this possible scenario with some really realistic androids and let the audience figure out the philosophical implications. That’s probably the preferred way, if a writer or director wants to go that route, to ask fundamental questions than explicating it like we’re born yesterday*.

Here we go, about that philosophy. There was one scene that really injected a thematic point, out of nowhere it seemed to me, that showed a rallying of unretired replicants to “gain acceptance” in wider human society. We are lead to believe, as modern cinema goes, that replicants are stand-ins for whichever oppressed demograhic the viewer feels fills that role in the real world. This plot element actually demonstrates something about stories in general, and cinema specifically: that stories hijack the human’s installed empathy firmware to create an emotional attachment to an unreal person. Film is much more devious in this way because we have the sight and sound of real humans on screen to dial the effect’s signal strength. The characters on screen aren’t human, they are simply images and sounds of humans doing human things, but our brains’ system processes under the hood haven’t been oriented to consciously distinguish between senses that pick up on humans within our immediate physical plane, and humans elsewhere. We know a film’s event aren’t real, logically, but our empathy centers don’t don’t travel those circuits to pick up on that information, which is why we can feel sympathy for, for instance, victims of a natural disaster upon hearing even basic news about them. We recreate the possible disaster scenario in our imagination centers, not unlike a movie running in our heads, and establish an attachment to how someone might feel in that scenario. Again, logically-speaking, the scenario may not even be close to what actually happened, but our sentiments don’t parse and don’t care; they need to attach themselves to something, and this imagination-movie is the closest thing available. In this same way, replicants can use this phenomenon in their struggle, because with replicants there is no uncanny valley as, aside from an odd personality and a small number visible underneath their bottom-right eyelid, they are indistinguishably close to real humans as anything else.

*This was kind of a pun on replicants being “born” as ostensible adults. I couldn’t really make it funny or fully sensible.

Crowdsourcing: Anyone Know What This Camera Effect Is?

You can see it a few times in the Sherlock Holmes clip, the first one, at the 1:37 and 1:50 – 1:54 marks, and also some parts during the fighting scenes after that. It seems the same effect is used in the second video below, from Elysium, but to a much milder degree, from 0:35 – 0:42—right after Good Will Hunting blows Chappie up a few times.

It’s like the focus of the camera is trained onto one spot or area at the center, and the movement kind of warps around it.

I have no practical reason for figuring out the name. Just sheer curiosity. It’s hard to Google anything accurate when I barely know any basic terminology.

About That Band Playing During the Las Vegas Shooting

There’s been more than a few things written about Jason Aldean, the pop-country artist that played during the recent Las Vegas shooting incident, that has passed in front of my eyes. Some of the more notable things written involve Aldean, his band, and/or the production crew being willing conspirators in the shooting, or at least acting incompetently. These sentiments is dumber than a truckload of broken pink hammers, and I’ll explain why.

Source: I have played in zillions of bands, played zillions of live shows, seen zillions of bands play, and have intermediate knowledge of how basic live production works.

1. Bands, playing live, have next to no knowledge of what’s going on off the stage. They may see people, people’s heads, and maybe a red exit sign or two in the back, but mostly they see bright lights in their face. Additionally, they have no mental energy to spare bothering to figure out what’s going on offstage, since they are concentrating on not screwing up. A vocalist might have more of a perspective, if he’s not tied down with an instrument or a mic stand, but only very little more. In Aldean’s case, he is high-profile enough to have a large live budget, so he and the band will only know something weird is going down through their ear monitors, and it will probably be a stage manager or, at the very least, the soundboard tech letting him know.

2. If there’s a possible security issue occurring, the first people to react are floor security, and they’re not going to be looking at nearby buildings for a shooter. Just like the Spanish Inquisition, no one is expecting a shooter at a live music event; the most dangerous “attacks” that happen at those events are the drunk guys passing out face down on the house floor. Security on the audience floor—those on the perimeter and the ones in the “pit” between the audience and the stage—are focused 100% on the audience members, and since they are “first responders,” they are the ones who walkie-talkie the crew, the lighting guy included, if something big enough to warrant a full stop to the show. In this case, security saw commotion in the audience and responded appropriately.

3. Given 1 and 2, it’s likely Aldean and the band were the last ones who knew what was going on. The band probably got a “cut” command in their monitors (you hear the music kinda peter out and stop), and the audience-facing stage lights went on because of the commotion in the audience, which is standard ops. The lighting guy wasn’t “lighting up” the audience so the shooter could see potential targets a little better, neither are production crews genius Navy Seal sharpshooter detectives, who are thinking or acting like Jason Statham when a crisis goes down.

Two New Javascript Projects Done

A mostly boring, semi-technical post…on the Internet, no less. I have two new Javascript projects done up at GitHub.

randomNumberGenerator (repository here)
Returns an array of numbers, chosen from a range. Granted, plenty of other developers have done this, but I wanted the mental exercise of coding it myself. I found myself needing random numbers for coding projects when they come about, and it pays to not have to repeat yourself.

workoutRandomizer (repository here)
Randomizes workout moves from a Javascript object. Easy to customize, even if you don’t really know Javascript object syntax and aren’t afraid of tinkering with source code. Something a little more practical, and something I actually use whenever I work out.

Clones All the Time

The subject of clones has been coming up too much in my life in recent moment for me to ignore. I half-wish God would insert a literal clone in my life for various reasons, but that might cause more problems than solve them.

Here’s a numbered list, in no significant order, of related things.

1. If my clone appeared, I would play chess with him, then possibly arm wrestling. I’m average at both, but so is he.

2. Another Earth is about an exact replica of Earth that appears in the sky, and the girl (Rhoda) who forms a relationship with a man whose family she killed in a car accident. She was set to attend MIT for astronomy, but her incarceration derailed that opportunity entirely. Minor spoiler: it’s discovered the people on Earth Two mirrored those on (our) Earth One exactly, up until the moment the two Earths observed each other. The accident occurred when Rhoda was trying to look up at Earth Two in the sky while driving. What do you think happened to the Rhoda on Earth Two?

3. Melancholia was released the same year, about a estranging wife and her family that deal with the titular planet that existed on the opposed side of the sun, but is now on a course to pass, or collide, with Earth. It’s much less open ended the way Another Earth is, but Melancholia is somewhat of a metaphor for depression, so unless you keep that in mind, some of the plot point might confuse you. Melancholia also boasts a fascinating 8 minute prologue, comprised of music and slow-motion visuals, that acts as an overture for the entire plot arc of the film, using the prelude from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. It comes off as very influenced by Kubrick, like the prelude for 2001, that still haunts me when I watch it, but with…what is really the opposite of a blank black screen.

Alien: Covenant Nearly Passes the Jay Test

I re-watched Alien: Covenant the other day, and I was floored to realize that it nearly passed the Jay Test, wherein 90% of all the human deaths that occur are female. I say “nearly” as a relative descriptor, since it was so close to being 50% of all deaths, which is far and away a better rating than any other movie you might see.

I know the specific metric is nearly 50% because the crew of the Covenant is made of up all couples that are on a colonization mission. There are a few thousand colonists in stasis aboard the ship, as well as over a thousand human embryos. All their fates are unknown until the next sequel, so their deaths won’t even count towards the ratio. However, 40 of the colonists are killed in an accident, their sexes unknown, so again the male/female ratio of those deaths can’t be considered.

The ship’s crew, however, all die in the course of the movie except for two: a man and woman, though it’s heavily implied that they are going to buy the farm at the end.

So, if the crew is all couples, and they all die, except for a man and woman, why is not an even 50/50 ratio of deaths? Well, one couple was gay*: Sergeant Hallis and Sergeant Lope. In the scene where David appears after the neomorph attack in the wheat field, you’ll catch one half of this (formerly) happy couple speaking an informal elegy over the corpse of his better half. If you watch one of the deleted scenes it’s very obvious that Hallis and Lope batting on the same team. So there is one more male death to cast.

Leave it to the gay couple to screw up Equality™.

* A note on this: of all the plotholes, goofs, and in-universe non-realistic plot points critics make up point out in the Alien franchise (the Ridley Scott installments, anyway), I don’t think I’ve read anyone else mention this. There’s no way a director would put a non-breeding couple on a colonization mission. It seems far too risky to not have as many people as possible able to populate a planet. But what do I know? There’s probably a good counter to that.

Don’t Send a Rabbit

“Don’t send a rabbit to kill a fox.”
-Chief Daisuke Aramaki, Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Nevermind What I Said About Buying a Domain

In this post. Well, mostly nevermind. Mostly. As the way things are going now, you really can get a domain taken away from you, if you are known to have Very Bad Ideas™ and incite violence. Most of you that read this won’t need to worry about that since my readership aren’t of that stock (that I know of), but folks who have the ear of powerful people can be very touchy these days, and it’s getting to be that expressing the Very Bad Ideas™ will be synonymous with inciting violence. You’re far less likely to be deplatformed if you incite violence but think Very Approved Ideas™. Humans are excellent at rationalizing a special plead deal with the unwavering gods of logic when it comes to the behavior of their in-group.

Some quick ideas. At the very least, if you’re neck-deep in Google’s services, schedule backups every now and then with Google Takeout, and store the archives locally, or on Dropbox or your hosting (not on Google Drive, obviously). Register a non-Google email address, like at Protonmail, and maybe one that doesn’t identify you personally. Use Firefox or a Gecko-based browser, or Tor, for browsing. Use Startpage or DuckDuckGo for searches. Buy another domain and, like your email address, keep it non-identifiable back to you.

When Androids Grow Hair But Not Beards

“Do make yourselves at home as best you can in this dire necropolis.”
-David, Alien: Covenant

An Album’s Closing Song I Actually Like

This song is a blast from my past, reminding me of my days in Philadelphia.

The post title is somewhat inaccurate. Traditionally, an album closer is one of the artist’s stronger songs from the recording session, since they don’t want to leave a bad parting impression. With indie bands, the requirement is more optional. You’ll see a lot of bands in that scene do a longer and/or quiet(er) song to finish out albums, and to me they’ve always come off as an acoustic b-side than an actual album track. “Happiness By the Killowatt” only skirts this idea: it’s not as hectic or truncated as the rest of the tracks on Watchout!, and at times when it seems like they’re going to go full-on again, they kinda hold back. The singing vocals are more the focus here, as you can hear from the piled harmonies on the chorus.

Some interesting bits of trivia: Watchout! was released a week prior to genre-brothers Underoath’s They’re Only Chasing Safety, although Underoath flaunted a more major-key pop sound—Alexisonfire had Rise Against’s punk rock urgency. Both albums really pushed their respective bands into the limelight, and both albums have the same kind of closing track. Both albums, too, still hold up very well over a decade since.

And more: Alexisonfire’s guitarist Dallas Green does a piano-only version of this song. Goodness…ponderous and haunting.

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