The HTTP Sky Is Falling, Says Chicken Little

Dave's explanation is just absolutely wrong, and he has to know this, he's lying to frighten you away from security; I don't know why. Google's not planning censorship, just a warning being provided that a site taking your personal information is not secure.

Will this break plain HTTP sites?
No. HTTP sites will continue to work; we currently have no plans to block them in Chrome. All that will change is the security indicator(s).
Chromium: Marking HTTP as Non-Secure

Even if Google Don't Be Evil was Evil, you could still use Free-as-in-Drugs Firefox or whatever, and can just use curl to archive sites, or even by hand:

% telnet example.com 80
GET / HTTP/1.1
Server: example.com
(hit return twice, ctrl-D to end)

But you shouldn't be trusting anything you see or entering anything on an HTTP page.

If you connect to a site over HTTP and you do not fully control the wires from your computer to the server, that site can be spoofed and spied on. If you use public wifi to talk to HTTP, your logins and credit cards WILL be stolen. Guaranteed, some jackass in your Starbucks is wiresharking your connection.

Even if you think you have a secure connection, anyone on the routers between you and the server can read your connection. Routers are not secure, they have been routinely compromised.

The only protection you have against these "Man in the Middle" attacks is TLS (successor to SSL), using HTTPS instead of HTTP, SSH instead of telnet, SFTP instead of FTP, emailing with MIME and SMTP over TLS instead of unsecured ports, iMessage or Signal instead of IRC or Twitter & Facebook "direct messages" (which have bever been hidden from their staff).

In the early days of the ARPAnet and Internet, there was no security and we couldn't do much about it, but to resist warning people about insecure sites now is irresponsible.

Learn 2 JS

Almost the simplest possible tool for coding in Javascript, slightly above Hello, World!, I packaged up how I did my Advent of Code 2017 entries (up to the point I quit for lack of time/sleep). I start with something like this in every JS project, and now you can have it.

  • Setup

Download learn2js

Unzip it to Documents (or wherever you like).

Open Terminal on a Mac; or xterm on Linux; or I have no idea what the terminal/shell situation is on Windows, feel free to enlighten me.

% cd Documents/learn2js
% ls
run.sh  src
% ./run.sh
Serving HTTP on 127.0.0.1 port 8000 (http://127.0.0.1:8000/) ...

This will require you have Python3 on your system to use as a simple web server, since a browser can't open multiple local files without a web server, but there's no other Python in this.

Right-click that URL (the part in parentheses!) and open it in your browser, or copy-paste it, and you should see a simple page with an Input: box. Anything you type is uppercased, that means it's working!

  • Coding

Now edit src/main.js with your editor of choice, like BBEdit on a Mac; or Atom anywhere. Please don't use Notepad on Windows, even if it handles correct line endings now.

Should be pretty self-explanatory, the TODOs tell you where to start.

Anytime you make a change to the source, just reload the page and hit Run again. Just like hacking on BASIC code back in 1980, dudes & dudettes!

  • Exercises for the Student:
    • I didn't make a favicon for this, and you should, which will introduce you to the horrible world of W3C/WhatWG specifications.
    • You might want to move inputTable below the output div in index.html, but then it scrolls down all the time, so now you need to anchor it at the bottom and make output fixed in place and scrollable, as I do in Mainmenu… I may add that option later, but it complicates a very simple page.
    • I didn't set up eslint for this, configuring it is somewhat annoying; probably will next time I update it.
    • Setting up Node is even more of an advanced topic, and 90% of the interesting work is in front end JS like this.
  • Troubleshooting: If a change isn't appearing, you may need to empty your web cache: In Safari, turn on Develop menu from Preferences>Advanced, then Develop>Empty Caches; in Chrome, Chrome>Clear Browsing Data and then only select "Cached images and files"; I have no idea what you do in Edge on Windows. I can't easily fix that, and users would never see it, but you will.
  • License: I put all the code under BSD license, the documents under Creative Commons Share-Alike. You can keep your code more or less private (except in practice, you have to let everyone see your page to let it load!), but if you make changes, share them and link back to me. Don't be a Stallman. Note in particular, you cannot relicense this under a restrictive license like GPL, and don't just put it on github unmodified. Sorry to have to preach about this, but some people need to be told where the lines are.
  • Shipping: To let others see your masterpiece, just change DEBUG to false, upload everything in src somewhere, your own site or something like Neocities, and you're done! You only need run.sh & Python on your local system.

New Electron Dance

No, wait, that's the Neutron Dance, I get those confused.

Electron

Since abandoning any hope of the iOS App Store paying my bills, I've had to look back at the web or desktop. My current available time-at-computer and energy these days isn't sufficient for a day job or even contracts, much to everyone's dismay. So time for another hard look at the situation.

I like working on my Mac, but Mac isn't that big a market. I also want to ship on Windows (and Linux, I suppose). Objective-C is one of my favorite languages ever, Cocoa & UIKit (on iOS) were great APIs, AppKit on the Mac much less so, but since Apple's killed Obj-C and it's not portable, my happy years of typing [ ] are over.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!

Swift might be the worst mental disorder to strike programmers in decades. Swift is orders of magnitude slower than Objective-C, crashes constantly, the moving-target "spec" creates incompatible changes every year, and because they're too stupid to standardize a binary interface, every program has a 20MB+ blob of Swift runtime. For a single-platform joke language perpetrated by a C++ bozo who fucked off after a year to play with cars. So I'm all too happy to say good riddance to that bullshit. I mean exactly this: If you're using Swift, you either don't know better (it's OK to say you don't know!), or are defrauding your employer for hours, or have something wrong inside.

13 years ago, Project Builder/Interface Builder was a pretty good dev toolkit since I could use a real editor (BBEdit) with it, but Xcode locked that out, and then as Apple sucked in more tools over time, it sucked harder and harder; I can't stand the rickety deathtrap these days. I was getting by in JetBrains' AppCode, but still had to use Xcode for Interface Builder (RIP) and to get builds onto a device half the time. Xcode is a crashy, substandard pile of shit with maybe the worst editor in any IDE in history. Syntax highlighting stops working at random, for most of a decade it has code-completed "nss" as "NSStreamDelegate" rather than the slightly more useful "NSString" (before that it couldn't code-complete at all!), I could go on for hours or days about how Xcode kicks you in the input/output ports every time.

And the worst part is you can't fix the fucking thing, no user-serviceable parts inside, Radar is a black hole, no scripting or plugins. Just bend over and take what Apple Developer gives you good and hard. It's kind of a relief that current Xcode doesn't run on the last stable MacOS version (Sierra).

I'll stick with BBEdit for text and Atom for code, thanks. If I'm angry at Atom I can fix it myself or file a publicly-trackable ticket; I'm rarely angry at BBEdit but I can ask Rich to fix it.

So I'm writing web-type software in Javascript, with Node or Electron behind it. Javascript aka ECMAScript has become a good language in the last 5-10 years, and the V8 runtime in Node/Electron runs close enough to native now for most needs. I love that I can just write UI in HTML again. No fucking around with Apple's bullshit of deprecating APIs out from under me (I "get" to rewrite alert/menu code again?!), or promising to support SpriteKit/SceneKit across iOS & Mac and then doing fuck-all on either. WebGL (or Three.js, anyway) isn't fast enough for complex scene-graphs, but 2D work in Canvas is mostly fine (and it gets better every year, instead of bit-rotting like unused S*Kit APIs). localstorage in a web page isn't enough for any real program, thus Node is needed to reach the filesystem.

I slander Swift for leaving a giant runtime turd in every program, but Electron's the same way: It has to contain a browser, Node, and system APIs. But I'm not at the mercy of Apple's marketing-driven dev tools.

Certain Mac nerds obsess about Purity of Essence, insisting that everyone should love Xcode, Swift, and AppKit, and that use of any other technology is an abomination to the end-users, whom they clearly love more than me. Can you hear that slurping sound? That's someone fellating Apple marketing. Roughly 4 billion more people are familiar with web pages and will find a web-like UI more comfortable.

I intend to keep up my experiments in Scheme and Pascal when I have time, I'd far rather have small, fast, native binaries on every platform, but shipping beats purity.

Progress is being made:

tile-20180426-map

tile-20180426-view

(the + road texture there will get replaced soonish)

HP Lovecraft's Xenophobia

It occurs to me after a number of rereads (now up to "Dagon") that Ruthanna and Anne there live a callow, sunlit, happy existence, don't really know much of the world, and have never read a history book. "He was as wrong about humanity as it’s possible to be without actually believing that we’re all sessile pebbles"1: No, he was not.

World War I, which informed most of Lovecraft's despair at Human stupidity and imminent extinction, was then exceeded by World War II in every kind of atrocity, and that was exceeded by the Communist states during the Cold War and beyond. There is no depravity or horror to which Humans will not sink given power and the ability to "other" people. "Kindly, liberal, crippled, New Deal" FDR imprisoned and robbed 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry; the Tuskegee syphilis experiment treated Black people as test animals. The KKK was still terrorizing and lynching in the South (still is, if smaller). It's still unsafe to walk or drive or stand around in Starbucks while Black in America. Immigrants and refugees are treated like unwanted vermin in every country. Humans murder each other over minor differences in skin color, birthplace, language, or what name to call some fairy tale god (or for saying it's a fairy tale). No joke, Humans blow up other Humans over cartoons of their prophet. Half of Americans voted for the Cheeto thing that squats and defecates in the White House.

Any notion that Howard's xenophobia is excessive for his time, or even now, is just delusional. He was an asshole about race, and perhaps about gender (very scant evidence, from a time when few male writers wrote women except as objects), but the distinction is that he was more literate and expressive of his bigotry, while the assholes next door just couldn't write about it coherently. If he'd been into politics, he'd have been the William Safire of his time. Somehow he found his way to the weird tale instead.

So when his narrators see the real owners of the Earth, and they're nothing like Humans, of course they flip out. What are Humans going to do when confronted with fish-frog-humanoid things, unspeaking but greater in intelligence, ancient and undying, worshipping gods (or godlike aliens) who provide true power? As in "Shadow over Innsmouth", bombing the Devil's Reef is a minimum possible freak-out. Somehow they pull back from provoking a full-out war with billions of living demigods, and the Deep Ones (being our moral superiors) are uninterested in great conquests of the land.

Howard does have characters who don't flip out at the alien, like the narrator and some other abductees in "Shadow Out of Time", but then when he's confronted with the truth of our imminent doom, he loses it.

I am extremely pessimistic about First Contact, and I expect that true AI will end very very badly for Humanity. Nobody's going to show up and say "You're totally ready to join the Federation of Nice Planets!"; we'll either meet Conquistadors, exterminators, or if we get to a lower-tech species first, victims. Ideally, alien contact would unify Humanity, but more likely every group will seek their own advantage and agenda.

As for the reread, I'm switching to publication order, then see if they or someone else has any commentary for a story. I've previously read some of ST Joshi's annotated books, but his apologies and delusions are just as annoying.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

The movie has something for everyone, a comedy tonight, but I'm actually talking about:

Blogging is sometimes very different from "social networking", and one of the key things is that there are no private conversations. On the technical side, that's basically impossible: A blog post is public, or it wouldn't show up in feed readers, search engines, or micro.blog. And even "private" messaging in Twitter or Facebook is stored in plaintext on the server, where the staff can read it for laughs or social engineering or selling you to advertisers and Russians.

In the socially stunted worlds of Twitter or Facebook, often someone posts, and the first person to respond may feel like they "own" the conversation, anyone else responding is a "rando", and the lack of proper threading makes conversation very difficult so they just hate everyone. There is, I fear, not much that can be done for many of these; they grew up feral in an innately hostile environment, and won't or can't read about how to have longer discussions. Robert's Rules of Order this is not.

Blogging is about people contributing to a public dialogue. As we had in web forums, or USENET, or college dorm halls, or actual forums going back to Rome and ancient Greece. Threading and arguments about ideas are not just OK, but encouraged, just don't hit below the belt.

You may be able to learn from USENET netiquette (somewhat old link, but anything quoting Eugene Spafford is good).

When being sarcastic, if there's any danger of misinterpretation, use a smiley. Excessive sarcasm is often counter-productive and hurts people's feelings, even when it's unintentional.
—a rule I sure don't live by

New Phone Who Dis?

Dealing with my aging iPhone 6 and iOS 10, and even older iPad 3, was getting on my nerves, so I got a new "space gray" iPhone 8+, 256GB.

I considered the iPhone X, but after doing some maintenance on my apps, I loathe coding around the notch, and I loathe the way it looks. Chris Pirillo had some thoughts and followup that echo mine. Chris has since gone to Android, which to me is like eating only Soylent Green because you once got an undercooked meatloaf; overreaction isn't always wrong, though.

I would prefer the SE form factor, but I don't like a years-old hardware platform. And if this is going to be my only iOS device, I should get the biggest one possible so I can use it as a phablet. It's not like I ever hold a phone up to my ear anyway, it's either on speaker or headphones (dual speakers in the iPhone 8+! But USB-C headphone dongles 😡).

The device arrives, and I go to set up, and immediately hit a roadblock: I can't access my iTunes backups. I've used them to recover before, but now I have no idea what the password is, and it's not any of my previous device passwords. Well, now I'm boned. Had to upgrade iCloud and backup to iCloud, which doesn't preserve on-device logins or the actual apps. Many hours later (slow asymmetric bandwidth), it's done.

Restoring the phone from that backup wasn't bad, but now I have a blank phone with placeholders for every single app, which I have to tap on, wait for it to spin and decide "keep/delete" if it's not 64-bit, or paradoxically tell me to buy the app if the app is no longer for sale. And then for every app, go in and restore purchases if it has any, login if necessary, etc. I didn't set Downcast to archive all podcasts, so it had to sit there for hours downloading the last 2 eps of dozens of podcasts.

At this point, let me say: Going 64-bit only is the most user-hostile, art-destroying thing Apple has ever done, and it SUCKS. All of Llamasoft's and CAVE's games are gone from the App Store, and were 32-bit. So I can still play them on old dying devices, but that's it. I miss Gridrunner and Deathsmiles. Atari Greatest Hits is still updated, and works perfectly; Activision Anthology is not, so no Pitfall! Midway Arcade is gone. Lost Treasures of Infocom is lost.

Apple's actually fucked up in 3 ways here, by not supporting 32-bit with an optional API download, by not providing legacy download of apps, and by making the App Store a toxic race for the bottom by EA and other literal motherfucking mega-studios, so no independent developer can make money except the 1 in a billion jackpots. I'm not advocating leaving for Google Play, because that's even less profitable, it's just open theft. I'm advocating burning down the entire system and starting over. But for now I'll take my Big Brother-issued gruel and pretend to enjoy it.

That was most of day 1 before I could do anything with the phone at all.

iBooks is a special level of Hell. It's the shittiest-written app Apple's ever released, syncing barely works at all, downloading is flaky and eats the main UI thread. So I'd go Purchased > Books > Not on this iPhone > All Books, which actually shows maybe 20 books and then stops listing them, then click the download arrow for the 5-6 items visible, then the UI would lock up and I'd have to wait for 5-15 minutes for it to finish. Then once I had all my books, they weren't organized correctly anymore, which is I guess my fault for having slightly different setups on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. So I went full-on librarian. Protip: Disable 3D touch in Settings, because the 3D touch in iBooks is useless and makes it impossible to move books. I spent a good 15 minutes struggling with this before I learned. So here goes most of day 2.

ibooks-hell-1 ibooks-hell-2
ibooks-hell-3 ibooks-hell-4

Taking those screenshots reveals a new screenshot UI, which PISSES ME OFF: iPhone demands that I triage or edit every screenshot immediately, sitting in the corner of the screen like a Jony Ive dog turd. I don't see any way to turn this bullshit feature off.

Additional stress comes from my entertainments: The ESO Jester's Festival was all weekend, which I grind for items worth a lot of gold, but had to spend most of a day tapping thru my phone and then looking back to the game.

And at the same time, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp has two events running, a Mario anniversary crafting thing, and a gardening event. Happily I can still clear these in bed, in the bathroom, or while out, but having my phone be busy downloading books interferes with that.

I know, "do something useful, Mark", but really, games are supposed to be what recharge me, not extra stress.

I still haven't loaded my music onto the phone. I have enough space now for a good portion of my music library, instead of only the highest-rated curated lists. Yes, I still have a music library, so when I'm away from wifi, I can listen to music without burning thru my data cap. Ha ha suck it streaming-only kiddies. But I could also just take my iPod classic out, which has everything, but Apple doesn't want you to have nice things like that anymore.

As for the hardware:

The size is preposterous. 158.4mm x 78.1mm x 7.5mm, 202g. The old Palm III was 119mm x 81mm x 18mm, 160g, and the LifeDrive aka iPod touch 5 years before the iPod touch, was 121mm x 73mm x 19mm, 190g. I thought the Palm devices were almost too big for a pocket, but this is a big goddamned thing.

The screen's nice, bright, and rectangular. No fucking around with maybe-unusable areas at the bottom and top, just a big canvas for software to draw on. I can see the time, battery, AND phone signal at once. I can't really use it one-handed all the time. If I cradle it at the base of my fingers in my left hand, I can barely reach the other side of the screen with my thumb. I treat it more like the iPad already, set it down on a table or my leg and work on it.

The glossy case is irresponsible vanity. It should have a matte, grippable back, not be a perfectly-smooth, sliding-onto-concrete frictionless surface. FUCK Jony Ive and his obsession with things that look like nothing, and suck to actually use. I guess I need to find a new sticker-backing or very thin case for this. I don't want to add bulk.

Home button has a VERY satisfying haptic click, it really feels like the entire front of the device is pivoting down about 1mm, even tho it's solid glass. I do use TouchID when I'm somewhere safe, tho I'd disable that if I was travelling; I don't want the pigs to force me to unlock my device.

I haven't done any real photography with this phone yet, but the giant 2-camera hunchback is supposed to be quite nice.

Current setup, which will probably change again soon. Elric covers were just convenient, but the text under the icons doesn't look good, so I have to change that soon. You know what I want? Custom wallpaper per desktop, like we have on Mac OS X.

iphone-2018apr-1
iphone-2018apr-2
iphone-2018apr-3

Post-Facebook Microblogging

So, you've deleted your Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounts and all of their apps, right? Where do you social?

First, I'm the most technical boy in town, but you don't have to be for any of what I'm going to tell you. This is all fairly easy, even for a normal Human.

Second, you will have to learn things. You'll need to set aside a day or two to read, make decisions, go look terms up. I know learning is hard and scary, but go look at a motivational poster and do the thing:

I am a tiny cactus and I believe in you. You can do the thing!
original

Third, I'm on Mac and iOS; I have complaints with current Apple, but it's still the slowest-sinking ship. That said, you may be using Windows, BSD, Linux, or Android. Most of this is completely platform-independent, and there are some apps for other platforms.

Fourth, some of this costs money, up front for new software, and every month for hosting. As I have previously noted:

"If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."
—Andrew Lewis

  • Search: So, first, set your browser to search with DuckDuckGo. Google is just as bad as Facebook. In Safari, hit Preferences ⌘, > Search tab > dropdown. In Chrome, Preferences > Search engine > dropdown.
    • Now anything you type in the address bar goes thru a search engine that doesn't track you. And there's neat tricks in DDG: Type "!w blog" to see the Wikipedia page on "blog". Type "!g porn" to search Google if DDG's results aren't good enough, tho mostly they are.
  • Blog. I'm using DreamHost managed WordPress, found a nice domain, paid, and was up and running in a few minutes (new domains take a few hours to appear everywhere on the Internet; but while you wait there's plenty of setup and writing to do).
    • There's other options, but whatever you do, make sure you have your own domain name; the WordPress.com free blogs are not bad, but the site is owned by Automattic, not you. Own your own thing, but it's OK to let someone manage it if you can move it somewhere else.
  • Theme: I went with the Twenty Sixteen theme because it looks most traditional blog-like. Twenty Seventeen seems to be more business-oriented. Try both, and other themes, and see what you like.
    • The side menus are a pain to set up: WP Admin > Appearance > Menus, then Appearance > Widgets to create a widget showing that menu. Ask me or someone else with a blog you like, if you need more help; this is all fussy, not technical just annoying.
  • Social: I'm currently using micro.blog (MB) for a social network. Register, choose the "I already have my own microblog." option, the RSS feed is the "Entries RSS" link on your WP blog.
    • Add some WordPress plugins: Micropub, Webmention, Semantic-Linkbacks. These let replies from MB appear as comments under posts, with avatars and names, just like you can see here.
    • You might want to set up WP to "Publicize" to Twitter, and Mastodon Autopost does the same thing for the Fediverse. Alternately, MB can be paid to crosspost to Twitter.
    • I use the MB iOS and Mac apps for posting quick items, or the web site (WP Admin > Posts > Add New) to post here. I'm editing this in the browser, because WP's "classic" editor is OK; I'm scared of the next-gen editor but I'll see if I like it.
    • MarsEdit has a better Mac editor, and posts to all sorts of blogs. But if I'm on the Mac, the web page is fine.
    • I'm still using Fediverse/Mastodon some, and I want that to become bigger and more widespread. But be aware that the site admins have a lot of power, and there's no privacy. I'm likely to set up my own Pleroma instance just for myself so I control my Fediverse activity, and I don't like Gargron's Mastodon tech junkpile/stack.
  • Photos: The MB app does OK at posting photos. Not great, I take photos with Camera+, edit, save, then open the MB app and click the photo button; the share action didn't work when I tried it, but I think that's an iOS 10 issue? Tap tap tap tap stroke tap turn-crank tap tap tap.
    • Sunlit is the other app from Manton Reece (guy behind MB), formerly for App.net (which we all miss), and now a general-purpose photo-blogging tool. I'm not really into it yet, but if I was photo-blogging a lot I would be.
  • Messaging: Facebook can read every message you ever sent thru FB Messenger. Probably not a person (but they can, it's just in a database any FB dev can read), but a program can know everything about you. DELETE THAT SHIT.
    • You can use Email for initial point of contact with people, but realize that's not secure, either. Use iMessage, Telegram, Signal, maybe LINE, maybe WhatsApp (warning: owned by Facebook, so they can still read the metadata of who you're calling), for safe, secure chat; these use end-to-end encryption so nobody, not the company, not the NSA, not a fucking advertiser, can read your messages.
    • Skype, Slack, and Discord are nice for public chat, but realize these are NOT PRIVATE. They have access to everything you send, and of course everything is hosted on their servers. IRC is a complex service, it can be made secure, but any public instance is not secure.
  • Reading: So if someone's on micro.blog, you can just follow them, and see all their posts, and reply/comment on their posts as if it was Twitter.
    • Anyone who hasn't joined MB, you need to find the RSS feed link on their site, and add it to a feed reader. I use FeedBin and think it's worth paying for.
    • Reeder is OK, and runs on iOS and Mac. I like it less than the FeedBin web interface, but YMMV.
    • There used to be a great Mac app called NetNewsWire. It was then acquired, killed, rewritten badly, beaten, chained up, and abandoned to die in a corner with only the rarest bug fixes. I do not recommend the current version in any way, total catastrofuck.
    • Brent Simmons has a new app in development, Evergreen, but the alpha requires High Sierra, and I'm still on Sierra. Still, I expect this to be a good app sometime.

That gets you independent, publishing, and reading posts again, without a scumbag owning everything you do. I'm sure there's a ton of other things you're going to miss, and if you've got questions, ask.

Apple Education Event

Being out of the Apple & Twitter bubbles, I didn't see anything about the Apple education event until hours later. At a rich private school, and more pushing the iPad and "pencil" (still $99 for a stylus) in education.

The LA school district fiasco and cheaper Chromebooks make anything Apple currently does an uphill fight, if not impossible outside of isolated environments like private schools. How do you get a public school district to spend more for iPads with a thinner but maybe better set of apps, if their underpaid, part-time IT guy with a Windows XP machine can't figure it out? What happens after the next LA-style fuckup?

The new iPad at $329 ($567 for 128GB, with pencil & keyboard case) is good enough to replace an iPad pro, so at least something nice has come out of this—my ancient iPad 3 is crashing often, largely from battery and memory problems. Or maybe I'll just get a new cheapo Linux laptop which is massively more capable, with a built-in keyboard that doesn't suck to type on. That's the fight Apple's got with anything they sell to a price-conscious market.

(Finished posting from my iPhone because my iPad 3 crashed while writing this. Should I expect the next iPad to last longer?)

What I'm Watching: Stupid Superheroes Edition

I really shouldn't watch superheroes. Well, Amazon supposedly has Garth Ennis' The Boys in production, and The Boys cured me of reading superhero comics forever, it's the best but last superhero story you'll ever need to read. And I'm expecting Deadpool 2 to be the best sequel to the best romantic comedy superhero movie ever. I don't really count the Marvel space fantasy comics or movies as "superheroes".

But otherwise, it's a disappointing genre. No, I haven't seen Black Panther, not a fan of tyrants worshipped as demigods holding bloodsports in their isolated resource-extraction-economy kingdoms. I wouldn't want a movie aggrandizing Dr Doom any more than I want a T'Challa movie. I loved the Joker in The Dark Knight because he's an anarchist and having so much fun at it, but the real villain is WayneCorp's stranglehold on the world economy, run by a crazy billionaire with military hardware beating up poor people "to stop crime" instead of, say, funding schools and jobs programs, and paying and screening cops to end police corruption. Gotham can only be a shithole if the Batman wants it that way.

Man, I miss the two Richard Donner/Chris Reeve Superman movies, and the two Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman movies.

So anyway.

  • The Tick: The Amazon series is weird. S1 was confused, almost grimdark '90s foil-cover "Superman Is Beaten to Death Like Jesus and We Mourn for 24 Issues" shit, nothing like the surreal parody comics or the insane Warner Brothers-level zany animated series, or even the half-assed but occasionally funny Warburton live series. S2 is less confused, but still not good. Most of the show balances right on the edge of too serious to enjoy, with moments of ludicrousness.
    The Tick and Arthur have a good dynamic, but the Tick comes off strange, not wacky. I like his journey of discovery of self, but it's in the wrong show. Arthur's inadequacy and neuroses are semi-crippling until the plot demands him to act, and then he just does HEROISM while whining a bit. Any chance for humor is stepped over.
    Overkill's a parody of Frank Castle, sure, but he's not any funnier than the real one; in fact, I think Frank in all grimdark Netflix Daredevil and Punisher is funnier. Miss Lint is consistently smirk-worthy but not fully sexy, terrifying, or funny at any time. At one point some marketing people pitch an ad deck to archvillain The Terror, and commit violence at minimal provocation, which gets a "menacing chuckle" from Terror. Which is how I respond to this. Dangerboat's behavior with Arthur plays out creepy and rapey rather than funny HAL-9000 with a cyber-boner parody which maybe they intended. Superion's a smarmy bastard, but then lets his guard down to show… basic decency? He's just not funny. The mad scientist has a funny physical condition, which gives sight gags but no jokes, probably just as well since they'd be offensive.
    Played completely straight, which this almost is, this could be just another shitty Marvel or DC series. Played for humor, this could be a great adaptation of the comics, they have the budget, CGI, and actors. But Amazon just dumped it down the middle.
    ★★☆☆☆
  • Jessica Jones: Started to watch S2E1, but it's even more grimdark and seething anger, without any attempt at humor or irony. I got up to a douchebro asshole picking a fight with Alias and she gets arrested, bailed, and charged in the same day (man, the justice system in Marvel is fast, in my reality it'd take weeks to get on a court docket after an arrest). Nothing fun here, can't take this bullshit right now.

What I'm Watching: Film Noir Edition

Went for some rewatching of good films instead of trying to dig up a new Netflix binge. Spoilers spoilers everywhere. I'm sure nobody needs another commentary on either of these, but it's my blog and I like writing these, so fuck it.

  • A History of Violence: Quiet (too quiet and long) start, then we see small-town diner jerk Tom Stall exhibit skills no small-town diner jerk should have, and all the shit in the world comes back on him.
    The stairway sex scene is the canonical "is that sex or rape?" borderline: It sure starts rapey, but takes a turn, and is the opposite of the earlier cheerleader outfit scene, because the wife has to learn who her husband really is; Cronenberg's sex scenes are the most important character tests in his films, Crash most obviously but just as much here or in Videodrome.
    The boy's inherited talents/same fight choreographer as his dad are impressive, but I don't think he'd have that vocabulary. The ending moves in like an oncoming train. Just a malevolent noir flick. I'm glad Cronenberg didn't fully adapt the very cartoony ending (chainsaws and 20-year tortures!) of the John Wagner & Vince Locke graphic novel, even if in other of his films that'd be a relatively mild scene. ★★★★★
  • Pulp Fiction: "None of you fucking pigs move, or I'll execute every motherfucking last one of ya!"
    "Say what again! I dare you!"
    "Why do we feel it's necessary to yack about bullshit in order to be comfortable?" "Do not be bringing some fucked-up puba to my house!" I don't really like the Mia Wallace date. She's a little too in control to be a cokehead, Vincent's too alert to be a junkie on new good shit. Disco dancing is still and always dead, but hey, Tarantino wanted to make one scene of a film he loved (speaking of films full of indifference to rape, don't ever watch Saturday Night Fever). Even back in the day, a lot of people didn't understand why snorting heroin like coke was a bad idea, but that baggie instead of balloon setup was like a ticking time bomb. Amusing set decoration: Operation and Life games in the dealer's house in that scene.
    "Five long years he bore this watch up his ass, then he died of dysentery." The book Vincent was reading is Modesty Blaise, so it's a hardcover comic collection? Just a prop making a cool reference? I dunno, I read Modesty when it was in the paper in my youth, and some collections more recently. Sex and quick bursts of violence were her MO, but not otherwise thematically connected to the film.
    "Bring out the gimp." Eeeny-meeney is a bad way to go. What's the gimp's story, anyway? This whole segment is just a lesson of why you don't ever go in a building with Confederate flags up, even to save your life, because Southern Confederate traitors are all same-sex rapists, as also seen in Deliverance. "You lost all your LA privileges, hear?"
    "You read the Bible, Brett?" This part of Ezekiel "25:17" being faux-quoted was recently covered by The Bible Reloaded — possibly this episode or one very recent to it. I have a problem with Vincent's shitty firearm safety, nobody carries a gun with their finger on the trigger. "You know what's on my mind right now? It's not the coffee in my kitchen." Jimmy's coffee and The Wolf are fucking amazing.
    "Then I'm gonna walk the Earth. You know, like Caine in Kung Fu. Walk from place to place, meet people, get in adventures.": Why didn't someone made this TV show, Jules in a modern Kung Fu?! Yeah, Sam Jackson was too expensive even then, but he's gotta have an understudy who could do the actual series, like Eric Pierpont played Mandy Patinkin's part in the Alien Nation series, or Michael Shanks played James Spader's part in SG-1. Did you even notice or care it wasn't the original dude? Nope.
    I don't even need to give stars to my 4th favorite movie of all time.