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McSweeney's Classic Wednesday Music

Black Sabbath: Your greatest joy is painting in unventilated rooms.
David Bowie: There is still, somewhere, a Dig Dug or Zaxxon machine with your high score on it.
Mott the Hoople: You are David Bowie.
Rush: You carry a small flashlight everywhere, and use it at least three times a day.

Steppenwolf: You have three or more cigarette burns in hard-to-reach places.
Golden Earring: You have three or more intentional cigarillo burns.

Derek and the Dominos: You have successfully used cooking spray as tanning oil.
Jim Croce: You have worn only socks and sock garters to a nude beach.

(what the heck, three good McSweeney's in a series? Normally they turn whiny after one or two)

So anyway, that's my playlist today.

What I'm Watching: In the Tall Grass

This might be the dumbest film I've ever seen. I've seen every real MST3K (up through Pearl, not the boring new loser), and even Red Zone Cuba or Beast of Yucca Flats aren't this dumb. Written by Stephen King & Joe Hill (his son), so I had some hope. But hours, years later, no, all hope is lost. Save yourself, don't come in.

Walking into this grass field by a vacant small country church gets you permanently lost. There's a steady flow of idiots walking off the road into this shitty midwestern Narnia/Blair Witch, but it's not corn so there's no He Who Walks Between the Rows. There's no sets, just a grass field with some paths stomped down, and a big rock, and a ruined Bowl-A-Drome (or "OWL-A-DME" as the sign says) makes the usual B movie filmed in the woods look like Ben Hur. I miss the variety of sets in Cube.

90% of the dialogue is just characters calling each others names. Beckay does tell a couple good dirty limericks but the wuss brother is useless, the drummer ex-boyfriend does think of marking a trail… not very well, like everything he does. Tobyn (the spirit guide, nice GB reference) is either part of the field or its first victim. His Ted Bundy-lookin' dad is exactly what he seems. His mom and dog appear when needed as props but have no plotline or role.

Of course there's a time travel thing going on, because all movies are time travel now apparently. Oh no I'm stuck in an endless loop of watching bad movies in my comfy chair.

The horrible ancient evil and time loop are trivially defeated by just helping someone out of the field. Every part of this was unnecessary.

★☆☆☆☆ and I'm glad I had a lot of beer.

Building Command Lines in zsh

I love zsh, but sometimes it's a tough love. Building command lines in strings is very hard because zsh doesn't want you hurting yourself on argument splitting like bash, so I just banged my head on that for like 15 minutes before I quit being dumb. Building them in arrays is super trivial:

% a=(args foo bar)
% b=$(ls)
% a=($a $b) # expands $a, adds $b to the end as a single argument
% $a
1=foo
2=bar
3=file1
file2

Note that arg 3 is multiple words/lines, but one arg. That's a nightmare to express in bash, but makes perfect sense at the exec level used by "real" (non-shell) programming languages.

args is a very useful debugging script I've had in some form since the '80s:

#!/bin/zsh
i=1
while [[ $# -gt 0 ]]; do
    echo "$i=$1"
    let i=i+1
    shift
done

What I'm Not Watching: American Horror Story: Apocalypse

About half the AHS seasons are good, the other half are total trash. Hotel was fun. Roanoke annoyed me with yet another haunted house story. Cult had two of the most pathetic protagonists ever—by the second ep I wanted both dead just to end the fucking series—clowns, and a political story I had no interest in. Apocalypse is a great premise: A post-nuclear bunker.

The iPhone nuclear missile warning isn't bullshit this time, but somehow LA has an hour warning instead of 15-30 minutes like a real nuclear war would have (time from the DEW Line to continental US for a suborbital missile). A random bunch of idiots are spirited away to a bunker by a secret organization.

And for a while, the internal politics and weird Victorian rules of the bunker drive a good enough plot. Even when one of the secret masters shows up and starts testing the survivors with an obviously malevolent bent, it's on plot. Maybe they'll go all Masque of the Red Death, I think.

But then magic creeps in, because the writers just got bored and started recycling from Coven. Half the cast are discarded so this shitty old plot can be dumped on anyone dumb enough to still be watching. When the goody-goody blonde witches start calling the warlock Satan I check out.

Garbage and a wasted premise.

★★★★☆ for the initial premise, then ★☆☆☆☆ after the witches & warlocks take over.

BBEdit 13

The "Pattern Playground"
Added the Grep Cheat Sheet.

I've been doing regexp for 35 years, and still don't remember every pattern (especially all the ?= stuff). So what chance do normal people have?

BBEdit allows you to make rectangular selections in documents for which "Soft Wrap Text" is turned on.

Woo! I use this all the time in my MultiMarkdown tables (sadly, "Columns" doesn't recognize them) and it was annoying having to switch to hard wrap (where I can't read any paragraphs), wait for it to reflow, edit table, switch back to soft wrap, wait for it to reflow.

The "Deploy Site" command for configured web projects will now:
Generate and upload HTML for Markdown (and Textile, if any such are in use) files.
Perform placeholder and include processing on HTML documents (including HTML generated from Markdown and Textile, if applicable).

Interesting, now you don't even need a static site generator. I could rebuild my neocities site with this…

Big changes to the way appearance and color schemes are managed. Settle in for the read:

Thank goodness! I'd had a couple serious color scheme bugs over the last version, and now it seems like I don't have to constantly resave my color scheme if I tweak it. In addition, I see it's leaving saves of my color scheme in ~/Documents/BBEdit Backups (maybe too many, if I screw around with sliders instead of typing hex RGB).

And tons more, these are just the ones that affect me daily.

What I'm Watching: Time Trap

Apparently this is the season of low-budget time travel movies, because I get another one. This was a much better ride.

An asshole archaeologist goes caving alone except for his dog, trying to find some hippies who went missing 40 years ago. He passes thru a weird wet invisible wall and never returns.

So then his two students go looking for him. They pick up a random girlfriend, younger sister, and "Furby" who is (as they point out) like Chunk from the Goonies but not as heroic or competent. They rappel down thru the wet invisible wall.

The cave areas are mostly classic Dr Who quality warehouse floors with dust and plaster stalagmites, but the centerpiece tower chamber looks OK.

SPOILERS ahoy

They get many clues that something's wrong with time, even if they can't read the title, but don't put it together for a long time. The wet field is of course condensation at the time barrier. The "Furby cut the rope!" hypothesis is kept up much longer than is plausible, but they do eventually figure out why ropes break.

It's great that they all have gopros, so we can see the same scenes multiple times on tiny phone screens (or a projector but with no silver screen in a cave) in lieu of anyone talking it over. The mythology is finally explained in some detail, but it's after much too long of everyone saying "what is happening?!"

Finally the random encounters start. The cavemen are ridiculous, scampering on all fours. There ought to be generation after generation of invaders, instead of just cavemen, conquistadors, lone gunslinger, hippies, archaeologists, and spacemen.

There's some unexamined bits. What do the cavemen eat? Where do they get wood for fires, leather for clothes? Cannibalism and healing in the spring? Where does the Fountain come from? Why is it able to do this? No idea.

[Update: I just realized. This is set in Texas. Where the hell did they get cavemen? Native Americans got here only 15-20KYA, and they're the same Homo sapiens as everyone else, not these sorta-Neanderthal/Homo habilis looking grimy monkey men. There have never been non-Sapiens hominids in North America, Bigfoot claims aside.]

The final scenes are a bit neat and tidy, and really could've used a freaky post-Human Martian coming in to say something, but it did fine for a limited cast.

Minor point against it: The dog is never seen again, even though he should've been hanging around the truck when the students arrived. Maybe he survived, but probably the coyotes got him. I want a happy ending for the dog, too.

This is an interesting time for indie films, because even cheap cameras look good, so if you have a decent script and the special effects are just Photoshop on a few frames, you can make a professional film on a shoestring budget.

★★★½☆

Wendy's RPG

What. Wendy's made a free tabletop RPG about fast food kingdoms.

Very weird. It's D&D5E-like (but not explicitly; it isn't OGL, it doesn't use any WotC trademarks, but it rips 5E off completely), very rules-light. I don't like all the 4d4 rolls (some Wendy's marketing thing is "4 for 4", so this pun is all over), otherwise it's unexceptional.

I do like this variation on critical:

FEAST MODE
If you roll a 20 on an attack or skill roll, you go into FEAST MODE. You do the maximum amount of attack damage, plus an additional roll of the normal attack dice. You also get advantage on your next roll, making going into FEAST MODE again even more likely. Going into FEAST MODE can completely change the tide of a confrontation.
Likewise, rolling a 20 on any skills check will result in your character’s best possible outcome in their current situation. After all, you went into FEAST MODE.

The equipment list is ridiculous, with Ukuleles, Tiaras, healing by eating Chicken Nuggets, fishing poles. Armor's silly (Apron, Red Polo Black Visor, etc.) but an interesting idea: Some adds to Defense, some to Arcana (magic stat) or Grace (dexterity). Weapons range from Spoon (1d4) to Cast-iron Skillet (3d6). I kinda want to steal a bunch of these stupid ideas.

The book gives you buffs/debuffs based on the food the player eats, obviously encouraging Wendy's food and not anyone else's. What a bunch of jackasses.

The classes are Order of the Chicken (magic-user/thief depending on subclass, 5 subclasses), Order of the Beef (fighter, 4 subclasses), Order of the Sides (spoony bards, 5 subclasses). The powers are jokes but overpowered if you did play them out, and it goes up to level 5; there's no experience, the adventure just says "everyone levels up" after each boss fight. No choices anywhere, just roll stats, pick class, go.

PCs can't actually die, just pass out from hunger and then wake up when the team camps. I guess you could TPK a group, and that'd be a sweet merciful release to death.

So then there's the adventure, which is a pretty standard 5E railroad with five chapters and a couple side-quest areas; zero difference between this and any "adventure path" or recent WotC adventure book, except the branding is different. Some puzzles aimed at small children or drunk frat boys, some very silly monsters. Queen Wendy ("of the Clapback" which either means something very different than I think, or is rather rude) commands heroes who brave the french fry forest to yadda yadda light a bacon beacon, yadda yadda go murder an ice clown in his funhouse and castle. Dave is dead which by my understanding of the rules can't happen, so I suspect Wendy froze him into a statue to seize the throne. Really no sillier than that Chult book.

The art, maps, and layout are very professional (aside from the maps being so linear even Disney couldn't run them as rides), it really makes it clear how commercial-friendly Wizards of the Coast & Paizo are, as if He-Man was selling junk food instead of toys.

★★☆☆☆

Back in the latter days of TSR, Inc, there was a module WG7 Castle Greyhawk, with 13 short comedic adventures by different writers around the themes of Gary's mega-dungeon (some humorless people really take offense to this module; I think it's a funny homage and several levels are great). Level 8: Of Kings & Colonels, by John Nephew (who wrote for TSR, Ars Magica, and Over the Edge) covers a similar gag, with a cavern wilderness fought over by Colonel Sandpaper and King Burger. But he wasn't being paid by KFC to say how great their chicken parts in a bucket are.

What I'm Watching: In the Shadow of the Moon

So, a perfectly fine premise, well-acted, somewhat wrecked by the writers not thinking things thru at all. First hour I was fully on board, then nothing added up, and by the end I was annoyed. As with so many films, the color has been shat on with the orange/cyan filter, except where day-for-night scenes are grey filtered.

SPOILER land

There are two hypotheses about time travel. A is that everything forward and back has already happened, and if you vanish in the future it's because you already appeared in the past; you may be the cause of events but they can't be changed. This is the only rational argument, really. We know time is just part of space-time; each tick moves things "ahead" in the next frame.

B is that time travel rewrites the future; you kill a fascist and fascism vanishes and everyone's singing Kumbaya. But then there's no need for a time machine and assassin, so the fascist isn't killed and fascism spreads. Now you need a time machine again. This is madness.

The movie seems to be doing hypothesis A, but then ends as if hypothesis B happened. But only after decades of the original timeline.

Second, somewhat worse, is that the method of killing is preposterously convoluted. Why does the assassin need to inject targets now so someone in the future can push a button? She could just shoot them or give them a drug OD and not provide weird clues to make a cop go all Zodiac case on it for decades. I am disappointed the cop doesn't have a clue & string board in his car.

Third, completely nonsensical stuff about the Super Moon being a bridge between worlds or some shit. Absolute astrology-class woo nonsense.

Fourth, the idea that some newsletter about "real Americans" and a flag with 5 badly-placed stars is going to incite the Second Civil War, completely fails to understand our first Civil War, and the nature of populist movements. You'd have to kill millions to stop it.

Fifth, the idea that you'd use this to stop some bombings, no worse than what dozens of countries endure every day, including several at the hands of the US armed forces; rather than going back to stop Hitler, or Stalin, or Mao, or Pol Pot, or Nixon.

The writers previously worked together on Limitless, an equally vapid show about the "10% of your brain!" myth. I can't find their ages, but I'm pretty sure they're under 30, it has that earnest political certainty & lack of humor or irony. They've clearly never read a history book, especially none of the Presidential biographies they show.

★★☆☆☆ — definition of competent but unenjoyable.

Seventies Thursday Music

  • ★ '70s Greatest Hits ★: Very K-Tel, but a great collection from my youts. It's always bizarre to hear some of these without vinyl hiss or radio static.

I especially want to call out "Don't Fear the Reaper", "Dust in the Wind", and (not on this collection, but I heard it earlier tonight) "The Grand Illusion" by ELO, for making pop music from death and mortality, not just bullshit about love.