He Is Risen!

I obviously don't celebrate the one who died and was risen again, Osiris and his detachable penis, nor Ostara the goddess of the dawn, any more than I do christian syncretic myths (super NSFW, but you're not working now so go read all of Ghastly for the weekend).

It's a pseudo-random weekend in spring, because an obsolete lunar calendar doesn't match up with modern calendars. Hoboes dressing up as bunnies handing out eggs and candy aren't a holy celebration, just training kids to be furries (not that there's anything wrong with that). A fairy-tale rabbi (not rabbit) not attested to by contemporary historians didn't come back from lawful execution by magic, and won't be coming back again to take you to rock candy mountain while us sinners burn. Cocoa is a New World plant, so chocolate bunnies or penises or whatever are obviously heretical new additions to any mythology. Tasty, tasty heresy.

Also, merry pranksmas.

Anyway, I was raised from the dead too early, going back to bed. Try not to form any religions about me while I'm out.

How to Recover from the Ready Player One movie

  • There is a Youtube app for Playstation, presumably other consoles. Go in, hit Music, then a genre like '80s Pop. MTV is back, baby! Minus the cool bumpers. I just watched A-Ha's "Take On Me", Police's "Every Breath You Take", and Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon" as if it was 1984.
  • Get out Atari Classics or MAME and play thru every game.
  • Get Blu-ray, DVD, downloadable video, or preferably VHS of good movies, like The Last Starfighter (tonight's entertainment), Real Genius, WarGames, Ghostbusters, etc.
  • Reread the book, and pretend a good filmmaker or game developer will adapt it decently in 20 years.
  • Drink a lot. Working on that.

  • The Last Starfighter: CGI 34 years ago was low-poly and glossy or phong shaded, but honestly no worse for storytelling, as long as they didn't try to show living things. And the aliens in latex look FANTASTIC, so much better than the CGI chars in RP1.
    The orchestral soundtrack by Craig Safan is really quite good, it carries the film as much as the CGI does. Like Christopher Franke's Babylon 5 soundtracks, the mood swings from ominous to war to comedy can be a little abrupt.
    Far more character development is given to each of Alex Rogan, Maggie, Centauri, Grig, and even mad, traitorous Xur. I'm not especially a fan of the Beta unit's dating comedy. Short shrift is given to all the dead, maybe interstellar society is just that callous but we're not. But the fate of the Beta unit, the war, and the ending, are much more emotional.
    ★★★★½

Ready Player One

I loved the book of Ready Player One. It plays with deep matters of '80s nerdery, namely original and "Advanced" Dungeons & Dragons and especially S1 Tomb of Horrors, old microcomputer, arcade, and home video games (and the very different kinds of games on them), and Rush's more esoteric albums. It's kind of incomprehensible if you weren't alive in the '70s and '80s and into these specific things. It's pretty brilliant if you were. It's a story of logic puzzles, careful research, and follows much of the story structure of WarGames.
★★★★★

The movie is none of these things. It's a very pretty film, largely CGI inside the OASIS MMO, but replaces the intellectual challenges with a very stupid car race; a very precise and funny adaptation of a cinemaphile but not geek movie which was NOT in the book and very out of Halliday's interests; and a final battle, well adapted in scale and craziness, but the final key being in… is this a spoiler if it's in section 0000 of the book? Adventure for 2600. Well, it's kind of too obvious to even mention, if you're looking for an Easter Egg. Did IQs drop sharply in the Spielberg-verse?

SUPER picky detail (but this is in fact what the book is about, being super picky): In the funeral/contest video, the quarters on James Halliday's eyes in the movie were, if my eyes did not deceive me, from 1972. Book says:

"High-resolution scrutiny reveals that both quarters were minted in 1984."

Why change it? Because either they didn't care, or because Spielberg is literally older than dirt, older than rocks, older than "Steven Spielberg is old" jokes, so old that he thinks 1972 is "better" than 1984 (it is not). Everything else about the funeral video is wrong, too, but that's beside my point here about picky detail.

Ogden appears like a Willy Wonka at the end, in a fairly crappy, formulaic ending. It's fucking Spielberg, so you know it's going to be schmaltzy and fall apart at the end, but the extent of the failure is almost epic. The hobbits^W corporate research drones cheering Wade at the end is nonsense filmmaking.

The music varies from great '80s pop music, sometimes in appropriate places; a few pieces of '80s soundtrack music in exactly the right place; to poorly-timed, almost counterproductive incidental music. I loathe Saturday Night Fever, as previously mentioned, and having another dance scene based on it is annoying; the book does mention "Travoltra"[sic] dancing software, but you don't have to see or hear it. I felt nothing from the incidental music. Did Spielberg go deaf in his extreme old age? His old films at least had good scores, but this was vapid.

The final "rule" of disabling the OASIS, the global center of business, education, and entertainment, on Tuesday and Thursday is so stupid only a very stupid old filmmaker could conceive of it.

There is no Ferris scene after the credits, which would have been a great place to at least leave us smiling, instead of "huh, that was not good".

It lacks the brains, heart, and music of a classic '80s film. Go watch TRON or WarGames instead.

★★½☆☆ only because it is so very pretty, ★☆☆☆☆ for plot. Validates my movie policy that book adaptations are always worse than the book, and adds a new one: Don't watch anything by Steven Spielberg. Will some kind nursing home attendant not just put a pillow over his face and end our suffering?

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?)