2001 remembered

Stephen Wolfram, on the legacy of seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey when he was eight years old:

It’s hard for me to believe it’s been 50 years since I first saw 2001. Not all of 2001 has come true (yet). But for me what was important was that it presented a vision of what might be possible-and an idea of how different the future might be. It helped me set the course of my life to try to define in whatever ways I can what the future will be. And not just waiting for aliens to deliver monoliths, but trying to build some “alien artifacts” myself.

[Via Sentiers No. 37]

Farewell, Saga

I was so pleased to see that after four seasons The Bridge stuck the landing_ so nicely.

I’d half expected that the show would end with one of the leads killed off – very possibly having sacrificed themselves to save an innocent victim – but the writers resisted that temptation and instead showed us a Saga who had let go of the guilt that drove her to be a detective and seemed to have resolved to try to decide on a different career.

I’ll confess that I had a moment of doubt when Saga pulled in while crossing the bridge and went to peer at the grey, choppy sea below, but we left her driving away in her odd-coloured Porsche to a new life doing something she wants to do. Part of me wishes we’d get to see what she does next, but most of me is just glad that such a complicated, troubled character made it to the end of the story with, if anything, fewer psychological scars than she’s carried over four seasons. Good work, writers.

One obvious question now is what Saga is going to do with her life if she’s no longer going to carry a badge. Given her personality it’d be hard to see her becoming a private investigator and building up a client base: she’d definitely need someone with more people skills to act as her liaison with the rest of the world.1

Assuming that Saga is going away for a while, I wonder what sort of stories Henrik is going to tell his daughter Astrid (who, after all, only met Saga briefly and under extremely stressful circumstances) about his best friend Saga while she’s away?

Two keyboards

Michael Lopp’s Two Keyboards at a Bar is just delicious:

INT. EVENING. CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA. BJ’S RESTAURANT AND BREWHOUSE. A RECENT FRIDAY NIGHT

The bar is full. Two keyboards sit at the bar: APPLE EXTENDED II and MACBOOK PRO. The front door opens, TOUCHBAR looks around, sees the two keyboards at the bar, grins, and heads their direction. Skipping.

APPLE EXTENDED II sits at the bar nursing a Macallan 18. Next to him is MACBOOK PRO who has not taken a sip of his glass of water.

[…]

There are times when the only proper response is to stand back, recognise that you’re in the presence of genius, and applaud. Go on, follow that link. You won’t regret it.

Down the rabbit hole

It’s as if Brett Terpstra was looking over my shoulder, narrating my life:

Some of us always follow the rabbit. It’s not because we want to. It’s just that the rabbit…

10 a.m., somewhere in Minnesota

Sit down to write a blog post. It’s basically written already in my head, just need 20 minutes to get it down.

Double check some code I’m including, and realize it doesn’t work right in an edge case that just crossed my mind.

Drop back to Sublime Text for some testing. This edge case is revealing a more substantial failure. Get a little frustrated and head to StackOverflow.

Find a StackOverflow answer that wasn’t exactly what I needed but follow a link to GitHub and start examining some code, out of context, that I think might have the answer. […]

Other than the fact that at 10am I’m usually at work1 and not thinking about drafting a blog post: Brett Terpstra, c’est moi.

Pure, Grade-A Nostalgia

It’s mildly alarming to contemplate how many years ago Ultimate Play The Game were ruling the ZX Spectrum gaming world. Jetpac, Knight Lore, Lunar Jetman: classics, every one.

That said, I’d completely forgotten about Atic Atac introducing the Chicken-o-meter to the world of gaming:

It’s entirely possible to look at many of these videos and be amazed at how crude the graphics were, at how limited the gameplay was by modern standards. But consider that just a few years after the first generation of dedicated video consoles it was in the early/mid 1980s there were millions of households using cheap, mass market personal computers to play these games. If you were the right age in the early 1980s, these things were just plain miraculous!

[Via Flowing Data]

Hank Bezos

The Onion informs us that Jeff Bezos Announces Customers Can Delete All Of Alexa’s Stored Audio By Rappelling Into Amazon HQ, Navigating Laser Field, Uploading Nanovirus To Servers:

“[…] assuming you’ve trained for months in a full-scale model of our headquarters that you built in an old warehouse to plan your exact path through this labyrinth, it’s a relatively straightforward matter of uploading the nanovirus and shooting your way out of a building that is rigged to self-destruct within 60 seconds of a data breach.” Bezos added that once customers complete this process, they will still need to erase the backup copies of their Echo data stored in the drive he wears around his neck, a task that requires finding him in Amazon’s caverns miles below Seattle and fighting him to the death.

So, Jeff Bezos has finally morphed into Hank Scorpio. Good to know…

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

Hunks Punch Lunks

Prompted by the release of the first season of The Professionals on Blu-ray a few years ago, Taylor Parkes reminds those of us who grew up in 1970s Britain of [just how strange mainstream UK TV got] as the nation turned to Mrs. Thatcher to save it from the foreigners and lefties who were responsible for our losing the Empire (or something)1:

These early episodes are Clemens in excelsis. Not one line of the dialogue bears the slightest resemblance to anything anyone would ever actually say; logic and reason are abandoned; a strange kind of excitement is the only thing that matters. In ‘Close Quarters’, Bodie has a fortnight off because he’s been shot in the hand, so he takes Nick Drake’s sister out on the river at Marlow – only to chance upon the very boathouse in which the leaders of the Baader-Meinhof gang are staying whilst on a jolly to Britain. Despite only being able to use one hand, and having to wet-nurse a terrified woman who looks like Nick Drake, Bodie captures Andreas Baader (the gang have all been given false names – perhaps the producers were worried they’d write in and complain? – but it’s not hard to work out who’s meant to be who). He flees to a nearby vicarage, pursued by three angry RAFers all toting machine guns which they must have found lying around somewhere. In a subtly symbolic moment, the vicar tries to make peace with the terrorists and is shot to smithereens – although, as ever when people die in The Professionals, nobody gives a shit. Anyway, a thrilling siege ensues, and Bodie sees off the whole Baader-Meinhof gang, quite literally single-handedly – although of course, the task of dispatching the lady terrorist falls to Ms Drake, because we couldn’t possibly see Bodie do that. A nice day out for her, then. Unsurprisingly, we don’t see her again. Still, she learnt a valuable lesson: hot lead is the only language Marxists understand.

I have a horrible feeling that the only thing saving us from a post-Brexit remake of The Professionals is that they can’t possibly pay Martin Shaw enough money to turn up in this version to play the new George Cowley.

[Via [MetaFilter](http://www.metafilter.com/174451/the-very-epitome-of-the-good-bad-TV-show “”The very epitome of the good-bad TV show | MetaFilter)]

Sense8

I’m currently playing catch-up with Sense8 in anticipation of Netflix wrapping the show up later this month.

Having watched the first episode early last year when I found myself exploring my shiny new Netflix account to see what was on offer, it took me ages to get round to picking up the show again: the show’s introductory episode was necessarily a bit disjointed, what with eight characters living in very different circumstances and societies and (initially) with nothing in common to tie their plot threads together. But, prompted in part by my awareness that Netflix were about to fund one final episode and by my sneaking regard for most of what the Wachowskis have done over the years1 I decided to give Sense8 another go. Somehow, over the first few episodes of the story the characters’ different storylines and their occasional crossovers have sucked me in to the point that I’m now officially hooked. The show isn’t perfect, but it’s a delightful rejection of gritty realism in favour of sometimes having something very unexpected and totally off and yet weirdly appropriate happen. Sometimes that’s a moment of breathtaking beauty (e.g. a 4th of July fireworks sequence in episode 10 that drew all the sensates together, or that same episode’s scene combining the moments of the sensates’ birth with their mutual experience of a classical music performance,) and sometimes it’s an extremely silly moment (e.g. Wolfgang ending a gunfight by pulling out an RPG and blowing up the car of his retreating enemy, or Lito engaging in a fistfight and finding himself throwing potted flowers at his opponent.) The thing is, somehow these scenes just work for me, and leave me wanting more.

What’s weird is that despite his name showing up in the writing credits each week it took a few episodes for me to register the fact that J Michael Straczynski was involved in this. Given that he’s sharing writing credits with the Wachowski it’s hard to say for sure, but it looks as if he’s operating more in Rising Stars mode here than he is Babylon 5 mode. Whatever: it’s good to see someone whose first big show was a huge favourite of mine still involved in delivering quality work to this day.

Or, as one AV Club commenter put it, responding to episode 10:

Oh heck no, this gets an A and all of the pluses I can dig up from under the couch. I’ve never seen television like this – that last ten minutes, I was stomping my feet and hollering like I was at a damned concert or something. This far exceeded anything I hoped for when they announced a Wachowski series; you expect over-the-top, you expect some attempts at pushing envelopes, but you never, not in anything they’ve ever done, get something like this. This was sublime in a way that very few things are ever sublime. And it’s not just the audacity of the setup itself, but a show so confident that it can end with that long an extended sequence without dialogue or plot development, just allowing its conceit to unfold patiently and fully. Goddamn.

In a world where we’ve just spent a decade or so of quality television mostly defining itself by how gritty our antiheros are, it’s good to have something like Sense8 come along and offer us a fundamentally positive picture of what could lie ahead. This show is every bit as good at occasionally switching genres and elevating the story to another level as Buffy The Vampire Slayer. (For the avoidance of doubt, in my book that’s very high praise indeed.)