Link Dump

Link Dump

The usual link dump of interesting stuff, plumbed from the depths of ye olde internets:

Stomp on the Mystery Box – An exploration of the merits (and lack therein) of J.J. Abrams’ concept of the Mystery Box.

A mystery box is an effective way to get the audience into the characters’ head space. We want to know what the answer is. They want to know what the answer is. We are instantly on the same team.

The fact that the mystery box is empty is extremely handy because it ensures that nobody can guess the ending ahead of time. Just keep tabs on the fan theories and you can stay way out in front of them. If you do have any particular plans in mind, and somebody gets close, throw out your plan and throw a new element into the story which voids that possibility. If asked directly whether a theory is correct, say no. By definition, it can’t be correct — because it was asked. And because there is no solution. Relatedly, a mystery box makes it very difficult for anybody involved in the production to leak the ending.

And finally, obviously, a mystery box saves you some (but not all) of the work of constructing the story in the first place. You have a solid beginning, you have some sketch ideas for the middle, and… you’re done. This is an especially efficient use of your time if your project is, for example, a television show with a strong possibility of being cancelled before it goes anywhere, or the first film in an ongoing franchise.

The Answer to Why Humans Are So Central in Star Trek – I don’t remember what made me look this up again, but this is some classic Star Trek nerd humor (that is genuinely funny, not, like, sad or something). I’m glad someone collected all the ancillary thoughts too. For the record, the actual original post is here.

That Federation vessels in Star Trek seem to experience bizarre malfunctions with such overwhelming frequency isn’t just an artefact of the television serial format. Rather, it’s because the Federation as a culture are a bunch of deranged hyper-neophiles, tooling around in ships packed full of beyond-cutting-edge tech they don’t really understand. Endlessly frustrating if you have to fight them, because they can pull an effectively unlimited number of bullshit space-magic countermeasures out of their arses – but they’re as likely as not to give themselves a lethal five-dimensional wedgie in the process. 

the girl from the movie who doesn’t believe in love – Pitch perfect parody of romantic comedies…

The Decay is Real: Streaming Films on Netflix (and others) Lose Viewership Very Quickly. Interesting data here. Kinda resembles movie theater blockbuster performance, only dropoff from week to week seems even steeper. I have to wonder how much of this is driven by Netflix’s advertising and curation strategy (i.e. when a movie is first released, Netflix pushes it hard by making it the first thing you see when you fire up the app… but then it disappears and gets harder and harder to find as time moves on…) While interesting, this is still based on a very small dataset, but it appears to be better than the “anecdata” that Netflix releases themselves…

John Waters bequeaths his art collection to Baltimore Museum of Art, whose bathrooms will be named in his honor – If you find this “honor” to be odd, you need to watch some John Waters movies. It’s perfect.

Fellow Travelers in the Halloween Ways

It seems I’m not the only lunatic that is practicing in the Halloween ways, so let’s take a look at our fellow travelers. You will recognize a few of these as mainstays of the Halloween game, but I’m trying to branch out to some newer folks this year too. Let’s take a spin through ye olde internets and see what people are doing to celebrate the Halloween season.

Old Hands

Film Thoughts – Zack has been a long time practitioner of the Six Weeks of Halloween, and as per usual, he’s watching at an even higher pace than I am and doing writeups nearly every day. This year, he’s been tackling a crapton of the Amityville Horror movies, some Coffin Joe, and much, much moar.

Final Girl – The quasi-annual Shocktober is another countdown of user-submitted votes resulting in… 951 different films. Just blowing previous polls out of the water. Anywho, lots of good stuff going on over there, including some deep dives into particular lists, which is a nice touch.

Horror Movie a Day – Brian Collins doesn’t post a review every day of the year anymore, but he appears to be doing so during the Halloween season. He’s always got an interesting take. HMaD is always a good reference as well, and I do still refer to his book when seeking out themes or more obscure movies to watch. If you find yourself looking for movies beyond the recognized classics, the book is worth checking out!

New Hands

The Dwrayger Dungeon – Seems more focused on spooky television, like this excellent episode of The Twilight Zone called The Howling Man. But will also tackle horror movies like The Beyond. All good stuff, and it appears to strike a good balance between familiar and obscure stuff.

Cinema Crazed – Another blog doing a Halloween Horror series of posts including reviews, like Scare Package, and various roundups, like this roundup of Horror Shorts (which may come in handy while I’m trying to schedule the shorts between movies, as I like to do).

Severed Hands

Joe Nazare – It’s not all movies for the Halloween season. Joe Nazare covers lots of things, including podcasts, book reviews, and even original content, like a two sentence horror story.

LimerWrecks – A series of horror movie themed poetry, complete with screenshots. The movies covered seem to be classics, including a recent bevvy of RKO/Val Lewton favorites.

Countdown to Halloween – If you’re still craving that Halloween punch, this blog has a long list of blogs participating in some form of Halloween marathon. (The new and severed hands in this post mostly came from here.)

Phew, hard to believe we’re already in the homestretch of the Six Weeks of Halloween. This weekend, we plan to watch a few movies starring the Trinity of 80s Scream Queens. However, depending on how Joe Bob’s Halloween Hideway goes, I might call an audible and cover that. I’ll be watching both, so don’t worry. Whichever one I don’t cover on Sunday, I will cover in the traditional Speed Round (just in less detail)).

Link Dump

Another link dump of culled from the depths of ye olde internets.

Sharpest egg kitchen knife in the world – Riveting video that feels a bit like the kinder, gentler, more productive version of HowToBasic. Stick with it to the end. It’s going somewhere you probably don’t expect. If del.icio.us was still a thing, this would get filed under #idontknowwhatthefuckisgoingoninthisvideo.

An Oral History of ‘Steamed Hams,’ the Funniest ‘Simpsons’ Scene Ever Recorded – Sure, they start with the actual writers from the show, but it quickly evolves into interviews with memesters, isometric exercise trainers, food truck owners, chefs, and Aurora Borealis experts.

Stream Resolutions Are Quality Maximums, Not Minimums – A good point about streaming claims, particularly around HD and 4K.

Stream resolution puts a maximum quality on a stream. For a given codec setting, the more bits you allocate to a stream, the better it will look, until eventually it gets to the point where there’s no more quality to be had. A 720P stream will reach this point sooner than a 1080P stream, which will in turn reach it much sooner than a 4K stream.

However, prior to that point, what really matters more is the bandwidth of a stream. A “720P stream” pushing a megabyte/second will be higher in quality than a “4K stream” pushing 800kilobytes/second. It’s completely possible to have a higher quality “lower resolution” stream.

Motion Smoothing Is an Abomination – A solid overview of the problem that gets into some very detailed specifics as to why motion smoothing systems on televisions are so bad. It’s still amazing to me that these are the default settings TV manufacturers use.

EXCLUSIVE: Meghan and Harry’s new home sits behind a spooky estate once owned by the schizophrenic son of the inventor of the mechanical reaper who developed a foot fetish, carrying his slippers in his arms as if they were live pets – Ok, fine, I’ll read your stupid article.

2020: an isolation odyssey – Some people are using their lockdown to do… things like this. Could be a whole lot worse, I guess. Um, spoilers for 2001: A Space Odyssey? I think? Kinda?

That’s all for now. We may have another link dump coming soon, but then smooth sailing. Did you know that the Six Weeks of Halloween are only a few short weeks away? Most exciting!

Link Dump

It’s been a while since our last twirl through the depths of ye olde internets, so let’s get movin with some interesting links:

The Serendipity Engine – Dude quits his job to go on a “serendipity break”:

The concept of taking a serendipity break is based on my belief that luck doesn’t exist and that new, unexpected opportunities can be the result of feeding the Serendipity Engine. …

The Serendipity Engine works just like an internal combustion engine and, like with a high performance muscle car, you need to feed it with the right kind of propellant. In this analogy, the fuel is made of different activities, skills, and conversations. In my case I select them so that they are deliberately out of or tangential to my current professional domain. The engine also requires maintenance and fine tuning via iterations and changes to the activities or skills I become involved with.

I’ve been thinking about serendipity lately because social media used to be a good way to traverse obscure depths of the internet, but has lately become moribund medium. I will grant that maybe I’m no longer following the right people, but that’s also become more difficult. Speaking of this subject:

A Q&A with Rob Walker, Author of The Art of Noticing – This guy has written a book about observation skills and includes lots of exercises. This interview features a couple of good ones:

KPG: If you were going to a new city or destination, which exercises would you recommend trying as a way to better explore a new place?

RW: One would be Get There The Hard way. At least once during your trip, go to some destination without taking directions from your phone. Plan out a route in advance—you can consult a paper map if you want, or written directions, just don’t rely on your phone—and if you get confused, ask someone for help. Be engaged with the space you’re in and the people you’re around, find your way, and be open to discovery as you go.

The other is Eat Somewhere Dubious. Have one meal at a restaurant that you didn’t find on Yelp or through any sort of recommendation and that doesn’t even look trendy or hip. First you’ll have fun keeping an eye out for it: “Is THAT our dubious restaurant?” Second, even if you have a mediocre meal, you’ll have an unpredictable experience! And this, by the way, is how the best food writers make discoveries and find the places that later get hot on Yelp. So maybe you’ll get lucky.

I did a hike recently where the trail wasn’t especially well marked and my phone wasn’t much help. This just underscores how dependent we’ve become on our phones for stuff like directions. The “Eat Somewhere Dubious” idea actually sounds like a lot of fun, and I will have to try it out. I’ve definitely done something like “Drink Dubious Beer” before (i.e. Vermont Beer Roulette or Belgian Beer Roulette), and it’s always been fun, even if I didn’t much care for the beer.

The ’70s Independents Who Took on the Mafia – Overview of 70s gangster/cop flicks from Mike Malloy, who clearly knows his stuff. Naturally, this vid lead me down a rabbit whole of other Malloy videos, notably this one:

I Don’t Need to Ever Read Another F*cking Word About Sergio Leone – Malloy takes on the glut of books about Sergio Leone (and Sam Peckinpah). Unlike a lot of people complaining about this sort of thing, he puts forth examples of other “tough guy” directors who could use some scholarly treatment…

A Theory of Hot Sauces, with Recommendations – I enjoy hot sauces just fine, but I’m always fascinated by posts like this where someone just talks about their favorites. This guy has been using his pandemic lockdown to explore hot sauce:

OK, so one thing I’ve been doing during pandemic era is trying out hot sauces. Like a lot of hot sauces. Like a really unbearably large number of hot sauces. Like setting up hot sauce tastings where lunch is me making sad fish tacos out of my toddler’s abandoned day-old fish sticks but there are 15 different hot sauces to try with it. Like, when I got the new dream job, I was like, “I need to celebrate!” and… immediately went to an online hot sauce store and bought ten new hot sauces. This is apparently how I pandemic when I’m cut off from exploring restaurants and stuff.

As usual when it comes to hot sauces, the grand majority he lists are things I’ve never heard of (again, not an expert here, but still). Incidentally, I’ve been enjoying Hank Sauce; recommended if you’re in the market for reasonable hot sauces (i.e. tasty but not going to burn your face off).

And that’s all for now. Despite the serendipity explorations above, finding links for posts like this is harder than it used to be… We’ll have to work on improving that.

Link Dump

I debated writing about something political today, which was a bad idea and now I’m depressed so here, fun links that might brighten up your day.

That’s all for now. Stay safe out there.

Link Dump

The usual links from the depths of ye olde internets:

  • How I’m Handling Online Teaching – Watch until the end; sheer perfection.
  • It’s Time to Build – Interesting view on where we are that is ultimately optimistic, if only we can overcome our inertia:

    The problem is desire. We need to *want* these things. The problem is inertia. We need to want these things more than we want to prevent these things. The problem is regulatory capture. We need to want new companies to build these things, even if incumbents don’t like it, even if only to force the incumbents to build these things. And the problem is will. We need to build these things.

    And we need to separate the imperative to build these things from ideology and politics. Both sides need to contribute to building.

    One of the books I’ve read during lockdown was The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and this goes well with the article. One of Taleb’s main points is that our inability to predict a fabled “Black Swan” event means that our institutions need to be flexible and prepared… but that sort of robustness can appear to be inefficient or redundant during the longer periods of normalcy. A lot of the stuff in the linked article is talking about exactly this sort of thing. Weirdly enough, Taleb mentions in the book (multiple times) that our overly interconnected globalised supply chain makes us vulnerable to certain events… like a pandemic (i.e. he didn’t so much predict the pandemic as he did the poor response to the pandemic). I like the linked article above because it’s at least thinking about a path forward, while most people are stuck politicizing anything and everything for no benefit whatsoever. It’s frustrating, but again, there’s a way out, and maybe it’s worth thinking about that more than, I dunno, masks.

  • Inside Joe Manganiello’s Epic Dungeons & Dragons Campaign – Among many weird little tidbits in this is that Tom Morello invited Vince Vaughn to play in this campaign. I don’t know, I just find it funny that they’re friends.
  • The Architecture of Dread – So some prepper billionaire bought an old underground nuclear missile silo and turned it into an inverted skyscraper/self-contained bunker full of luxury accommodation and video screen windows and now he and 57 other people have gone inside and shut the doors…
  • ‘Expert Twitter’ Only Goes So Far. Bring Back Blogs – I had kinda hoped that this whole lockdown situation would result in a resurgence of blogs, but that’s probably just wishful thinking. Still, it’s heartening to see I’m not the only one who thinks Social Media is too slight to carry the burden we’ve place on it.
  • Quibi Sent These Podcasters A Cease-And-Desist, So Now They’re Out For Blood – Utterly bizarre response to fans of a service that was facing enough struggles as it was without shooting themselves in the foot on purpose.

And that’s all for now…

Link Dump

As per usual, just a list of fun stuff seen on the internets of late:

  • Choose Your Quarantine Character – Perfect little parody by filmmaker Alina Polichuk. Every detail of this is well observed and executed perfectly. And there’s a Part 2
  • What Day Is It? With Todd Meany – Cleveland news programs are having fun with people apparently not realizing what day it is anymore because they’re just sitting in their house all day.
  • put me in coach – I have no idea what is going on in this video, but the comedic timing is absolutely perfect
  • The Movies Behind Your Favourite GIFs – Interesting video exploring the concept. The guy’s voice is grating at first and ew could probably use more examples, but it’s a good exploration of the topic.
  • Pizza (2012) Movie Review by Dylab – This Indian movie about a pizza delivery guy getting stuck in a haunted house was a contender for Weird Movie of the Week, but it’s not quite weird enough… but this review of the film is really fantastic and you should read it. (The movie is far too long for what it is and some of the haunted house stuff is overbaked, but it’s got some kooky twists and is pretty fun otherwise.)
  • Getting In My Ex-Girlfriend’s Back Door – This locksmith video is a hilarious deadpan April fool’s joke.

So there you have it. Stay safe and sane in lockdown, folks.

Link Dump

Just the usual interesting links from the depths of ye olde internets.

  • Is My Pastor an Alligator? 7 Gospel-Centered Takeaways – A recent gem from the #idontknowwhatthefuckisgoingon tag, the entire Matthew Pierce Evangelical Thought Leader™ site is a doozy, but I loved this one in particular:

    Have you ever heard horrible snarling and grunting sounds coming from your pastor’s office and walked in, only to find your pastor’s wife quickly trying to button her Mandy Moore Walk to Remember good girl white shawl with her stubby little arms and your pastor holding a copy of Systematic Theology in his lap but it’s upside down and he clearly wasn’t reading it, he’s just trying to hide his man goodies and you’re like oh, my bad, and your pastor is like “oh, uh, Sherri and I were just praying” and Sherri is so nervous she knocks over the lamp with her green scaly tail.

    Brilliant.

  • The Two Generals’ Problem – Pretty good overview of a classic computer science problem. In case you can’t tell, I read a lot of science fiction (and, for the record, science fact), and one of the concepts that comes up is that we could, like, digitize ourselves and beam copies to other planets/systems/wherever. You’d need to travel there via conventional means first, but once you have a receiver… but then you’d have to contend with the Two Generals’ Problem, which is terrifying in this context.
  • Long Chile, Ohio2, and the Snack Rack – You may have seen the strange and brilliant alternative USA map drawn by a creative teenager; this is the story behind that, as well as some other antics from their family.
  • We Interviewed David Lynch and Now We’re Trapped in This Diner Forever – I mean, what did you expect man?
  • Gone Girl Commentary: Four Days – David Fincher calls Ben Affleck unprofessional in this short clip from the Gone Girl Commentary. I can’t tell if this is an actual, true story, or if Fincher just has a really dry sense of humor and is just messing with Affleck.
  • A family bought a 20,000-square-foot Freemason temple in Indiana for $89,000, and they’re now turning it into their home – Living the dream. I mean, I assume the place is a total Money Pit in the long run, but it seems like a no brainer otherwise. It’s also apparently haunted.
  • America Uses Fahrenheit. The Rest of the World Uses Celsius. America Is Right. The Rest of the World Is Wrong. – There are arguments to be made about the rest of the metric system, but Fahrenheit vs Celsius is a different story. The chart on this page is dead one.
  • Why are they called Triscuits? – Twitter is often a cesspool of political bickering, but stumbling upon stuff like this is just the best.
  • The Lord of the Rings with Lightsabers – Normally, I’d say that people have too much time on their hands, but then, you know, pandemic. Pretty sure someone would have done this anyway though.

That’s all for now. Stay safe and healthy, everyone.

Link Dump

The usual roundup of interesting links from the depths of ye olde internets:

  • And Now, An Intimate Conversation With Elijah Wood – Scott Wampler’s interview with Elijah Wood is, well, it’s something else:

    I’ve interacted with you often enough on Twitter to know you’re a regular social media user.

    Oh, yeah.

    So then you must be familiar with Daddy Culture.

    (long pause) …Not really.

    I don’t believe that.

    Do you…are we talking about, like, someone who’s looking for someone else to take care of them? Like a Sugar Daddy?

    Yes, it could be that. Anyone can be a Daddy.

    I don’t –

    People said Venom was Daddy.

    Okay.

    A lot of people said Venom was Daddy, in fact.

    Sure.

    So, was there ever any concern on your part that titling your film Come to Daddy might therefore be considered an intrusion, or co-opting of, Daddy Culture?

    I don’t think that was ever a concern.

    Mhm.

    The first thing that came to mind when I read the title was probably the Aphex Twin song, and there’s actually another Aphex Twin song in the movie, it’s beautiful. But no, I don’t think we thought about Daddy Culture, or how we might be appropriating it.

    Well, maybe that’s something for you to think about.

    You’re absolutely right.

    Do you consider yourself a Daddy?

    Well, I mean, I am a dad.

    Yes, you’re a recent father, but are you a Daddy?

    (long pause) I don’t think I quite know what that means.

    Alright, Elijah, if we’re gonna continue to play games I’m just gonna have to move on to the next line of questioning.

    Honestly, Scott, I want to help you, I just –

    Moving on.

    They talk about things other than Daddy Culture too.

  • It’s Time for a Best Stunts Oscar – The trials and tribulations of trying to get a Best Stunts Oscar off the ground. It’s more complicated than you might think, but it’s also stupid that it doesn’t exist.
  • Why Didn’t Ancient Rome have Dungeons and Dragons? – Ruminations on the nature of innovation and how infrequently it actually happens.
  • Predators And Danny Glover Dancing On The Set of Predator 2 – I mean, what is going on here?
  • Spiders On Drugs – Stick with this until the end, it’s not what you think. Or maybe it is. I don’t know what you’re thinking.
  • This Grasshopper Mouse Hunts Scorpions, Howls at Moon – This mouse is much more badass than the bigoted stereotypes surrounding mice.

That’s all for now…

Link Dump

Just the usual twirl through the depths of ye olde internets:

  • The Five Stages of Being Adapted by Martin Scorsese – Interesting article interviewing authors who’ve had movies adapted from their novels. I particularly liked Dennis Lehane’s thoughts on writing for the screen:

    I hate the term “cinematic” when it’s applied to anything besides cinema. I feel like saying, “What it is is perfectly detailed. What it is is giving you the impression of cinema before cinema existed.” Good writing is vivid. Good writing is visual. Good writing makes the brain turn into a film projector. What I would consider “cinematic writing,” and I would disparage it, is writing so it can be made into a film. Just write a script.

    And this bit about the reception of Shutter Island is good too:

    Critically, the response to [Shutter Island] was pretty tepid. I remember A.O. Scott at The New York Times practically had an embolism over it. He hated it so much. I thought it was hilarious. I had a blast reading that review and I would read that out loud to my friends. I know that the general critical response was, “It’s OK, but in the Scorsese lexicon we throw it around the Cape Fear general area.” But the popular response is bigger than anything else I’ve been associated with.

    “Oh, you’re a writer, what do you write?” Like, people expect you to say you’re a copywriter or something like that. I’ll say, “I wrote Mystic River,” and sometimes I get a kind of, “Oh, I think that was a movie.” But I say Shutter Island, everybody goes, “Oh, DiCaprio?” Everybody knows it, so …

    I guess there still are movie stars these days…

  • ‘Parasite’: How This Year’s Wildest, Buzziest, Most Unexpected Breakout Hit Came to Life – This interview with Bong Joon Ho features this insane exchange:

    Would you direct a Marvel movie?

    Bong: I have a personal problem. I respect the creativity that goes into superhero films, but in real life and in movies, I can’t stand people wearing tight-fitting clothes. I’ll never wear something like that, and just seeing someone in tight clothes is mentally difficult. I don’t know where to look, and I feel suffocated. Most superheroes wear tight suits, so I can never direct one. I don’t think anyone will offer the project to me either. If there is a superhero who has a very boxy costume, maybe I can try.

    Now I do kinda want to see him take that on.

  • Sporty – From the #idontknowwhatthefuckisgoingoninthisvideo file. As speculated by the commenters, I’m pretty sure they found the jacket and just had to make something to capitalize on it.
  • Hermit Crabs have an interesting form of cooperative competition:

    As the hermit crab grows in size, it must find a larger shell and abandon the previous one. Several hermit crab species, both terrestrial and marine, have been observed forming a vacancy chain to exchange shells.[8] When an individual crab finds a new empty shell it will leave its own shell and inspect the vacant shell for size. If the shell is found to be too large, the crab goes back to its own shell and then waits by the vacant shell for up to 8 hours. As new crabs arrive they also inspect the shell and, if it is too big, wait with the others, forming a group of up to 20 individuals, holding onto each other in a line from the largest to the smallest crab. As soon as a crab arrives that is the right size for the vacant shell and claims it, leaving its old shell vacant, then all the crabs in the queue swiftly exchange shells in sequence, each one moving up to the next size.

    It’s not all rainbows and sunshine (“Hermit crabs often “gang up” on one of their species with what they perceive to be a better shell”), but it’s neat when it works out.

  • Captain Picard sings “Let it Snow!” – Some people have a lot of time on their hands.
  • The greatest talk-show entrance of all time – Nicolas Cage on Wogan, 1992.

That’s all for now…