Talented bastard

Steven Johnson on Learning From Get Back:

To me, the scenes where we see the Beatles reaching back to an idea they first started noodling on years ago — an idea that we know they will keep cultivating for another few years — are some of the most inspiring moments in Get Back. Yes, for most of us, the stakes and public spotlight are not as intense as it was for those four lads back in 1969, but all of us know what it feels like to crunch under the pressure of an imminent deadline. But ask yourself: how often do you find yourself venturing back to an idea you first had in 2018, or 2008, and exploring how you can refine or add to it in your present context? Every now and then, a pressing deadline can concentrate the mind and produce a fully-realized idea, ready for airplay. But most of the time it’s a long and winding road.

Dammit, I’m just going to have to watch Get Back, aren’t I? Because the clip of Paul McCartney coming up with Get Back a few weeks before the rooftop performance really is compelling (especially if you’re old enough to feel as if it’s been in your life forever, and yet here he is at the age of 26, putting it together on camera.)

In the long run, we are all dead

Tim Hartford on why the UK is braced for a grim Christmas:

Late in 2019, the British people decided that Chaos Kong would make a good prime minister and elected Boris Johnson by a large margin. Johnson has now decided to make a virtue of his own recklessness. After initially claiming that the shortage of truck drivers in the UK was entirely unconnected to Brexit, the government now boasts that the shortage is indeed Brexit-related and was the plan all along. True to the spirit of Chaos Kong, this tough love for the British economy is the only way to get it to shape up.

In preventing the easy recruitment of truck drivers, abattoir workers and care-home staff from the EU, the UK government is actively blocking the most straightforward way to get the economy running smoothly again. (To ensure everyone got the message, Johnson compared immigrants to heroin, complaining that businesses had been able to “mainline low-wage, low-cost immigration”.) The assertion is that if the government deliberately constricts the supply of essential workers, the economy will come out stronger in the long run. Chaos Kong worked for Netflix. Will it work for the UK? 1

One day, we’ll look back on all this and laugh. Or cry. One of the two, anyway.

[Via Memex 1.1]


Ridley Scott

Towards the end of a lengthy snark-fest of a MeFi thread, following an interview in which Ridley Scott blamed the poor box office of his latest directorial project, The Last Duel, on "millennials" came this comment on Scott’s career:

Ridley Scott is right about one thing. Blade Runner was ahead of its time.

Well, that and that it was his third movie (Alien was his second). If he had stopped at three, he would be a figure of mythic status, an unparalleled and unprecedented science fiction visionary. Instead he has chosen to spend the following four decades frittering away all his goodwill with tedium.
[…]
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:58 AM on November 28

In fairness to Sir Ridley, as befits his background in advertising, even the "tedium" tended to loook very good when seen on a big screen.

Might be more of a combination of…

a) His failing eye for a good script that can pull in a modern audience; plus,

b) A certain reluctance on the part of modern audiences1 to venture into a crowded, enclosed darkened room with several hundred total strangers while there’s still a global pandemic still capable of evolving into new variants out there in the wider world.


  1. Millennials, Boomers, Gen-X/Y/Z, and all the other age cohorts marketing folks love to divide us into. 

Share Your Flavor

Jenifer K. Leigh brings us a sweet short story called Share Your Flavor, about a world where humans and dolphins were able to use technology to communicate properly:

“Now, in a week you’ll be receiving your Knowledge Link Dolphin Communication Partner, or DCP.  In your first conversations with them, you’ll probably want to refer to all you’ve learned in the past year’s intensive study of dolphin history, culture, and ritual.  Maybe you want to put them at ease, or maybe you kind of want to show off.  I’m telling you not to do that, because you know nothing.”

[…]

“And what I mean by that is,”_ she continued, “you know nothing compared to the dolphin you’re communicating with.  Human biologists assumed that dolphins lacked a sense of smell because they lived in the water, but now we know that they can process water in ways similar to land animals using air for scents, and that’s just the most obvious example of something key to dolphin culture that humans got wrong until Knowledge Link was formed.” […]

I’d be surprised if dolphins and humans shared enough of a worldview to be able to communicate this well, but I’d love to be proved wrong. Anyway, for a short story it’s a premise I can certainly get behind. Good work.

[Via MetaFilter]

The Metaverse (minus legs, and a few other things)

Judging by the Wall Street Journal‘s Joanna Stern’s Trapped in the Metaverse video, Meta (and Microsoft, and every other tech giant hoping to get into the avatars-pretending-to-share-a-virtual-table market) have a really long way to go to turn the current state of the art into an enticing experience.

Start with adding virtual legs to the avatars, and then work your way up from there, guys…

[Via Daring Fireball]

Trains to Omelas

John Holbo brings us The Ones Who Take the Train to Omelas:

A couple years back I made a post about Le Guin’s “Omelas”. I teach it, and it’s been rattling around up there in the attic. I had this idea for a visual gag. And that led to a story, which led back to rethinking my story thoughts. I wrote a little essay. […]

Nice illustrations and valuable thoughts on a justly famous story.

[Via Crooked Timber]

Modern TV

Although Douglas Rushkoff hangs his story off How NFTs Will Kill Netflix on a particularly shiny/grubby bit of modern technology, the real issue is more about how consumers will react to having to chase their favourite TV shows from app to app, from subscription to subscription:1

A new world of NFT-based media may liberate us all to watch just the things we want. No more Netflix or Amazon subscription; I just buy my NFT version of a show via blockchain, straight from the creator. But it’s going to make for an almost unfathomably vast, unnavigable sea of individual offerings. It’s hard enough to find things now. And if we need to make a monetary choice every time we do the digital equivalent of flipping the channel — or maybe after a short preview — it turns an evening of viewing or reading into a series of purchasing decisions.

Plus, if every artist is out on their own, what happens to that feeling of content neighborhoods, a channel’s personality, a magazine’s perspective, or even a posse of artists? It’s an entropic extreme of every creator for themself. […]

Which gets to the heart of how I feel about Apple TV+. Since yesterday I’ve already watched the season finale of Foundation 2 and the latest episode of Invasion 3 and before the weekend is over I’ll have watched the next episodes of The Morning Show and Swagger and possibly Dr. Brain and Finch.

I can’t help but think that in the end those are stories from the various showrunners that happen to be funded and distributed by Apple TV+ because Apple offered the best deal for the producers, rather than shows that Apple TV+ are responsible for shaping and bringing to our screens and which are guided by a common sensibility. Obviously as an outsider I have no clue whether the showrunners are going to be telling tales in their memoirs about how helpful Apple TV+ was in shaping their projects, or going the other way and complaining that they had to fight off emails from Tim Cook urging them to keep it PG-13 4 or unhelpful casting suggestions, but at this early stage in the life of Apple TV+ it’s unlikely showrunners are going to be telling tales about the downsides of working with Apple TV+ when the company are still a very deep-pocketed potential source of funding.

It’s almost as if some whizzkid entrepreneur needs to invent the idea of a streaming service that brings together a bunch of shows under one banner and let viewers see shows that match their idea of fun. They could call it a "TV station," maybe?


  1. Possibly too late-breaking to be included in Rushkoff’s story, see also the way European Star Trek fans are going to have to chase down Star Trek: Discovery now it’s moved from Netflix to Paramount’s as-yet-unavailable-outside-the-US streaming platform just days before season four launches. I’ve enjoyed the first three seasons of Star Trek: Discovery, but I’m not sure I’ll bother adding yet another subscription service/app to my monthly roster. As with Succession season 3, another show I enjoyed but which is on a service I don’t subscribe to any more, I’m content to add Star Trek: Discovery to the list of shows that I’ll catch up with some day if I get a chance but won’t lose sleep over not seeing as it unfolds. It’ll be a shame not to follow events alongside the US audience and to end up searching for discussions of the twists and turns and plot developments a couple of years after they’ve gone cold, but that’s not really any different to following US shows that ended up exclusively on SkyTV in the UK only to show up on their associated terrestrial TV outlets well after they were old news to satellite TV viewers.5 
  2. A real curate’s egg of a show. The Terminus storyline, while mapping onto Asimov’s overall direction, is taking huge liberties with Asimov’s story and not in itself all that gripping. The story of the triple-headed Cleon dynasty is almost entirely invented from whole cloth and is the best thing about the show. 
  3. I respect the showrunners’ willingness to keep our focus on the fates of a small number of survivors scattered across the planet, but when the world is being rocked by a first contact that seems to have gone very, very badly for a large portion of the human race I’m not sure that keeping us in the dark about the bigger picture is such a great idea. Perhaps in season five I’m destined to look back and recognise the wisdom of this approach because I’ll be blown away by the scope of the story they’ve laid out for us, but that makes the assumptions that a) I’m still going to be watching come season five, and b) that the showrunners are still getting money to produce the show at that point in the story. 
  4. In fairness, that whole producers-gettingemails-from-TimCook furore early on doesn’t seem to have been borne out by the output of Apple TV+. I’ve not seen anything on Apple TV+ that would look out of place on terrestrial TV, but that’s just the nature of most of modern TV, trying to avoid putting off any more of the audience than it must while telling the story it wants to tell. 
  5. The likes of Eureka , Fringe and the various later Stargate series come to mind. Chewy speculative fiction, good genre fun often with lots of opportunities for fun crossovers with similar shows, but not major brands in themselves. (Though goodness knows the Stargate brand keeps on trying to be reborn before the SG-1 main cast age out of their former starring roles.) 

Canine performance review

Caroline O’Donoghue on How I imagine an annual performance review with the dog would go:

Hello, dog. Please take a seat. I’m so glad we could find time for this little chat.

Are you… Ok, you’re still sitting down.

So to begin… Still sitting down. Right. Maybe the tight circular movements can wait until after our annual performance review, and you can just stand for the meantime.

I know you only do the little circle movements when you’re anxious. I also know why you are anxious. You have sensed, correctly I think, that there has been a certain level of disharmony among the senior members of staff (me and Gavin) and much of that unhappiness has stemmed from our disappointment in your most recent work. […]

Probably doesn’t end the way you’d expect…

[Via Memex 1.1]

Jarvis sings!

Jarvis Cocker provides the vocal performance for this video of "Aline" from The French Dispatch:

Dammit, the cast listed in the credits for that film (which form the backdrop for the video) keep almost persuading me that I really should consider taking a trip to a local cinema for the first time since our first lockdown. Such a high concentration of actors I generally welcome whenever they pop up on-screen, classing up the joint.

And then I remember the last time I tried a cinema trip early in September, only to find that local cinema chains are packing audiences in at normal seating densities because they’re keener on maximising income having been allowed to open again than they are on providing reduced audiences with some spacing so as to deal with that whole virus thing. I’d naively assumed they’d at least seat audiences double- or triple-spaced and require that masks be worn, but apparently not.

All of which means I’ll be catching up with The French Dispatch via my friendly local streaming service when it shows up.

[Via MetaFilter]