Wildly excited to see The Master in September.
First preseason game is August 5th, and the season proper starts September 5th. Can’t wait.
Girls to ‘Magic Mike’: Less Heart, More Flesh
The thong GIF hit my email inbox on the morning of July 4. In it, six men with chiseled chests pull off six pairs of tear-away army fatigues, revealing six packages wrapped in red, white, and blue thongs. An American flag falls from the sky. Repeat.
It was a scene from Magic Mike — the Steven Soderbergh film that crossed the $100 box office mark last month — and when I copied the link to my Tumblr, it exploded with a kind of orgasmic fury. Within a matter of minutes, hundreds of women had reblogged the image, many of them too young to even buy tickets to the R-rated film. The puns on “America the Beautiful” were obligatory. (“From seam to shining seam!”) “Why has no one made the [GIF] of Channing Tatum walking away butt naked yet?” one girl cried. Another joked, “my ovaries passed away due to explosion from watching Magic Mike. R.I.P.”
Or, “ugh I went to a Steven Soderbergh movie and it turned out to be a Steven Soderbergh movie. Also, I’m obtusely claiming the high moral ground for some flimsy reason.” Tumblr you are the worst.
Everything is more expensive. Everything. This one I’d actually been warned about in advance, but it still shocked me how much it was true. And since it’s based off weight more than production costs, it’s the cheap stuff that kills you since it’s all bumped up by the same amount. I bought cereal and a 12-pack of coke at the grocery store, and my bill came to $17.
The roads are curiously good for two reasons: no winters, and very few trucks (with 0 semi-trailer trucks). The former means essentially 0 potholes or cracks in the road, and the latter means whatever wear happens to the roads happens much more slowly.
There are so many different environments on the big island. Since the Kona airport is on the opposite end of the island as the Volcanos National Park, we ended up circumnavigating it heading too and from there. In between was a staggering variety of climates, with as little as a few minutes separating literal rainforests and deserts. Why? Hawaii is really a series of tall mountains in the face of fairly invariant wind, which means that rain tends to fall on the same side, always. And since a half-dozen volcanoes make up the big island, this means there are all these little pockets of varying temperature, rainfall, and lava-freshness. Travel through the national park and around the island, and you’ll see it all.
I started writing a grumpy post about Penny Arcade’s Kickstarter this morning, reconsidered it, and then ended up saying essentially the same things on another forum tonight—so I thought I’d post it here as well with a dorky title!
The thing that worries me about the PA kickstarter is how it’s essentially ditching the “project” requirement of Kickstarter—and Kickstarter approving it because they’re getting a 5% slice of what’s bound to be a big project.
Kickstarter is already in this weird place where they’ve cultivated the idea of it as a pre-order QVC, but without any of the protections you have when dealing with any other merchant. They’ve created this expectation at their peril, because eventually one of these projects is going to blow up and damage their reputation.
Now, on top of that, you have PA’s venture which seems to skim by on being a project just by virtue of having an arbitrary end-point of one year (something that I imagine was added in their back-and-forth with Kickstarter to get it approved, along with some of the ancillary stuff). And while they’re promising some additional content if several beyond-the-requirement funding figures are met, they’re tacked-on and not the core concern of the project: removing ads.
A good way to ask yourself whether this qualifies as a “project” under the Kickstarter guidelines is to ask if anything would not be created if they didn’t breach the number they’re asking for; as PA admits themselves on the Kickstarter page, "things stay how they are now." And all the ancillary add-ons are ancillary: the clear thrust of the project is in simply removing ads— and an empty ad slot doesn’t count under any conventional idea of something that’s “created”.
How big PA is or the snarky tone of the rewards are asinine—who would expect anything else from the creators of dickwolves?—but they’re beside the point in that this is a proposal that should never have made it onto Kickstarter. This should have been handled on their own site or elsewhere, and I’m sure they would have still made plenty of money there.
Enjoying lovely Hawaii this week—my first vacation in a very long time. Bringing Infinite Jest along was the best decision.
Microsoft unveiled their new tablet this week, and the reaction revealed how bifurcated the tech press is becoming. On one side, you had the Apple-centric press which quickly pointed out its similarity to the iPad introduction. Really, you don’t say? Two events introducing tablets being similar?
Unfortunately, most competitors to Apple are in a bit of a squeeze, PR-wise: Apple did a lot of really great things with the iPad, and not doing them too means you’re quickly criticized as inferior. But do some of the same things as the iPad, and you’re characterized as being another copy.
It’s a no-win situation that both incentivizes doing things differently just to be stupid, and ignores the very real benefits that can come from doing the same things but better. Polish competitive features enough, and they become strengths.
On the other side, the Apple unenthusiasts applauded the cover as keyboard. Finally, a company willing to make a no-compromise tablet. It’s like Microsoft heard all those stubborn forum-users who busily theory-crafted their perfect hardware—USB ports, an included keyboard, support for non-tablet apps—and gave it to them. Finally, a piece of hardware that won’t make us choose between a tablet and a laptop.
But here too, there are problems. Nobody’s been able to touch the keyboards yet and tell us if they’re any good. And will allowing mediocre-on-tablet windows apps to run on the tablet lead to a healthy ecosystem of high expectations for quality? Maybe, maybe not.
Every argument for Apple’s focused iPad approach still holds today, and won’t be tested by reality until the Surface hits market. And in the meantime, you can use a keyboard with your existing iPad perfectly well—using either the standard bluetooth keyboard like I do, or with Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.
A lot of the big questions about the Surface—developer uptake, app economics, etc.—are still unanswered. We know more about it now that the announcement has come and gone, but it’s still an idea that allows all parties to have it both ways.
Battleship is a movie that surprisingly very few people will see in theaters, having had the misfortune of coming out so soon after The Avengers titanic success. So this probably sounds crazy, but in my estimation it bests The Avengers in every category but fan-service: more action, genuinely fascinating antagonists, minimalist world-building in service of mystery, actual emotional arcs for characters, and a plot that actually coheres for more than five minutes at a time. I was very worried going in—enough to get drunk beforehand with two friends—but exited the movie genuinely elated at how good it had been.
One of the things Battleship does strangely well—better than any other film of its kind—is capture how essentially inscrutable first contact would be. After the very opening skirmish, there’s a strange détente, neither side willing to move against the other as they try and guess their motives and plan out their next goals. Berg even shows us glimpses of their faces through the helmets, imbuing them with just enough difference to be alien, but enough humanity to make us constantly search their faces for clues of emotion. It’s like they’re warring against an enemy barely on the good side of the uncanny valley, and it weirdly works.
And that’s the thing: we never really get any solid clues that the bad guys are really all that bad! They zap in from space, lose a ship because we have tons of space junk, almost immediately get fired at, try to set up a shield to keep shit from getting too crazy, and try to call home so that someone can come and pick them up. They even have IFF-systems more advanced and discriminating than any of our drone weaponry can claim, which the movie takes care to visually show you all the time.
But at the same time, the movie uses all the typical language of action films to set you in the usual moral stance: disaster striking cities and suburbs, rallying around shared convictions of honor and duty, elision of the atrocities in previous wars, even a damsel in distress. It is so serious and incidentally self-parodying that it’s hard to tell how far the director meant for it to go.
(I’m inclined to give Berg more credit than most because he directed the aggressively genre-breaking Hancock who most would at least agree had a fairly great premise and first act. In Battleship, in addition to liberal zooming around in space, he also pulls from a popular YouTube video. It all feels like a more thoughful, controlled, and deliberately-unpredictable version of the dominant Michael Bay aesthetic that you see shoveled into most action films.)
It’s hard to talk much more about it without spoiling the film—and delight at how strange the movie allows itself to become adds to the fantastic first-watch experience—but the film manges to brush up against a bunch of topics that you’d never expect to see in an alien-invasion film like this. For example, one of the main characters is a double-amputee veteran who is an odd reminder for a genre who tends to uncritically advocate solving problems militarily.
For another example that’s more of a reach, they start the movie engaged in exercises between over a dozen nations—principally among them the US and Japan—but end it deploying the same WWII weaponry against this entirely novel foe. It adds to the unease of casually deploying this hardware against an enemy they barely understand, when you step back to consider that the Allies did some deeply fucked-up shit during WWII (like firebombing hundreds of Japanese cities, and eventually dropping two nuclear weapons). The movie deftly sidesteps an overt raising of the issue by having the main character and his Japanese counterpart in a bro-partnership for most of the film, but it’s still weirdly there.
Some of these you can certainly disagree with, but there are a lot of examples—the unease with and ultimate uselessness of technology, alien technology that’s read The Power Broker and regards military bases and major freeways as the only dangers worth destroying in Hawaii, etc. All of these point to a deeper subtext to the film than there’s any right to be, and a subtext that’s more interesting and respected than The Avengers casual acceptance of a surveillance state manned by individuals of unparalleled power, and simple dismissal of trying to repliate that same sort of power under an institution more amenable to democracy.
And on top of all that, the scene where they essentially play the game Battleship against the aliens is one of the most gripping and effective scenes in the entire film. What’s not to like about that?
Can’t come across this video and not immediately share it with everyone, from your closest friends to strangers on the street. The finest bit of YouTube weirdness I’ve ever seen.