What I'm Watching: Get Shorty

I love Elmore Leonard's books, "Get Shorty" especially. The Barry Sonnenfeld/Travolta/DeVito film is silly, but a good take on it.

So this series made me wary. For good or ill, they've changed everything except the one-sentence summary: "Hoodlum makes a movie with stolen money". And it's full of "actors", visibly playing characters, rather than character actors; just like the prior movie.

They've replaced cool shylock & legbreaker Chili Palmer (Travolta's a stiff "actor" but was perfect for the role; he bleeds desperation and confusion) with inexplicably Irish scummy bagman & hitter Miles Daly (Chris O'Dowd), and piece-of-shit producer Harry Zinn with piece-of-shit producer Rick Moreweather (Ray Romano).

Miles is OK. Pathetic, chasing a separated wife and kid, but clearly more cunning than his job needs him to be and more optimistic than Chili. The mick accent renders his attempts at both menace and persuasion comical.

Ray Romano is loathsome, a humorless whiny Sienfeld-wannabe; but that's actually working here, Rick is not funny, he's sad and cowardly, the shittiest kind of Hollywood hack. And so Ray Romano suddenly fits. You can believe he's a man with no principles, with a rotten onion for a heart. His voice is still awful, and his Just For Men dyed beard and hair are preposterous.

They moved the mob's base from Miami and Vegas to a shithole casino outside Vegas. The mob boss Amara is interesting, but entirely too much time is spent on her pathetic crew, and Yago the "nemesis" our legbreaker isn't really needed. April Quinn (Megan Stevenson) is cute as the executive, and how they get her to do the job is good and dirty. Sidekick Louis (Sean Bridgers) is a Coen Bros type: Withdrawn & goofy one second, charming the next, instant murderous psychopath the next.

And: Peter Stormare as Hafdis the, uh, wise hobo when we first meet him. Stormare is more familiar to Elder Scrolls Online players as Jorunn the Skald King. I'm eager to do some draugr-slaying quests for ya, King.

As of S1E04, this is fun. I'd rather have another proper Elmore Leonard show, it's been too long since Justified ended. But as dark comedy loosely based on Elmore's themes, it's good.


Functional Thinking Books

Resize Windows with Applescript

So I downloaded it with youtube-dl (after more annoyances with MacPorts updates ) and a helper script ytplaylist:

youtube-dl -i --yes-playlist --restrict-filenames -o '%(playlist)s/%(playlist_index)s-%(title)s.%(ext)s' "$1"
osascript -e 'display notification "Youtube playlist downloaded"'

where $1 is the actual playlist URL; "show video list" under the video player or pick from DNA Lounge playlists

Now I have a folder full of properly-named videos. VLC can be opened from the shell with:

~/Applications/ jwz_mixtape_200 &

Frustrated by VLC constantly resizing, I then ignored the problem for most of the morning, finally wrote resizeWindow.applescript:


global appName
global windowX, windowY, windowW, windowH

on run argv
end run

on parseArgs(argv)
    set argc to (count of argv)
    if argc ≠ 5 then
        display dialog "Usage: resizeWindow.applescript APPNAME X Y W H"
        error number -128 -- User canceled
    end if
    set appName to item 1 of argv
    set windowX to item 2 of argv as number
    set windowY to item 3 of argv as number
    set windowW to item 4 of argv as number
    set windowH to item 5 of argv as number
end parseArgs

-- Wrap negative coords around to other side
on wrapCoords()
    tell application "Finder"
        set desktopBounds to bounds of window of desktop
    end tell
    if windowX ≥ 0 then
        -- no changes
        set windowX to windowX + (item 3 of desktopBounds) - windowW
    end if
    if windowY ≥ 0 then
        set windowY to windowY + 24 -- menu bar
        set windowY to windowY + (item 4 of desktopBounds) - windowH
    end if
end wrapCoords

on resizeWindow()
    tell application "System Events"
        tell process appName
            set frontWindow to the first window
            set appPos to position of frontWindow
            set appSize to size of frontWindow
            -- display dialog ("front window of " & appName & ": " & (item 1 of appPos) & ", " & (item 2 of appPos) & ", " & (item 1 of appSize) & ", " & (item 2 of appSize))
            -- display dialog (appName & " at " & windowX & ", " & windowY & ", " & windowW & ", " & windowH)
            set size of frontWindow to {windowW, windowH}
            set position of frontWindow to {windowX, windowY}
        end tell
    end tell
end resizeWindow

Now I can just leave it running to update every 5 seconds:

while true; do resizeWindow.applescript VLC 0 -64 720 640; sleep 5; done

Slight annoyance, sometimes it's still expanding the size further down than it should until I size it smaller, and then it works. Fucking software.

I don't know that what I've done is productive in any way, but I have my MTV.

The kids are disco-dancing
They're tired of rock and roll
I try to tell them, "Hey, that drum machine ain't got no soul"
But they don't want to listen, no
They think they've heard it all
They trade those guitars in for drum machines and disco balls
We can't rewind now; we've gone too far
Internet killed the video star
—The Limousines, "Internet Killed the Video Star"

Advent of Code 2018

I don't know how much I'll do this year, but I'll do it in Chicken Scheme as a way of improving the text-processing and math functions in my library, and publish it. Source is now on gitlab, above.

The competitive part is still bullshit, the single starting time of midnight EST is utterly useless to most people who could participate; even in Pacific time, that's late at night. On my quiet night schedule, that's way too early to wake up; in Europe, that's 04:00 or so, long before coffee could percolate. Mid-workday for Korea & Japan. So, only for Finns and Russians?

Blueholme Referee Repository

Just a collection of the charts from Blueholme, plus a new chart listing all the monsters with Size, AC, HD, Movement, Damage, Align, Treasure, Page; that's super helpful for a game with some weird monsters.

The front and back covers don't show up in Preview or Skim on Mac, only in Adobe's reader (ugh), but the clean art version does on page 3, and the interior seems to render fine. There's some scaling & half-toning artifacts in a few pieces, some of which are rendered differently but also wrong in Adobe. I think the editor needs to ship printable and screen versions.

There may be too much whitespace and large fonts. Holmes was Futura 10 or 11pt, mostly tightly-packed paragraphs; maybe that's too small for quick reference sheets, but this goes too far the other way. The art's great, though. Like the main book, it has the tone of the original Holmes boxed set, but modern artists.

You could make a home-made Referee screen out of these pages, but you'd have to do some editing: Pages 16-17 are the combat charts, but Turn Undead is buried with the classes on page 7, and page 11 has the movement & getting lost charts.

★★★½☆: It's a buncha charts.

Coincidentally, I'd been thinking about and writing some notes for using Blueholme in a Discord or Skype chat game, so this comes at a good time.

No Aesthetic Sense

You may think "Mark, you're exaggerating when you say:"

In order to run Windows, you need to have a total lack of aesthetic sense, a willingness to put up with "updates" that brick your computer, a tolerance for Microsoft-Quality™ software ("let's add more buttons to a ribbon bar and ship it!"), and a willingness to use junk hardware that consumes twice as much power as needed and makes noise all the time.
me, yesterday

And then immediately an argument broke out on Mastodon where someone (I'll not shame him here) claims aesthetics are unnecessary and ruining the world, artists are frauds, a computer held together with zip-ties is good, and runs better than a pretty, well-built machine (what's EM interference? what's noise? why doesn't Windows wifi work? He does not know.)

These people exist, and are the majority of the customers of Microsoft and other artistically-void software companies.

And I have to point back to Steve Jobs, in 1995, just before NeXT got "acquired" by Apple and immediately took over:

Steve Jobs-1995