Blog posts

  • Every Samuel L. Jackson Performance, Ranked

    I was glad to see that Vulture's Every Samuel L. Jackson Performance, Ranked gave his performance in one of my favourite films of the last 20 years proper respect:

    4 Unbreakable (2000)

    Action movies are often only as good as their villains, and Unbreakable is emboldened and ennobled by Jackson’s superb, mournful performance as Elijah, a crippled comics obsessive whose reign of terror is actually a desperate attempt to find his superhero soul mate. […] Two decades later, people still debate Unbreakable’s final twist — but no one doubts the poignancy Jackson brought to the moment.

    "Action movies are often only as good as their villains" goes double for superhero films.1 I saw Thor: Ragnarok yesterday; fun as it was to have our Asgardian friends adopt a lighter tone there was some on-screen business that simply didn't work. Cate Blanchett looked the part as Hela, Thor's long-exiled elder sister and the person who had actually fought alongside Odin in establishing Asgard's domination of the Nine Worlds before Odin banished her, but given that much of the climax of the action involved her character and Thor slugging it out turned into a CGI-fest that didn't really matter. The film was still entertaining enough, and by no means bad, but it didn't really leave much of a mark on the Marvel Universe.

    1. Which is a major factor in my ranking Unbreakable well above almost all of the Marvel adaptations.23

    2. The exceptions to that rule? Magneto, when he's played by Sir Ian McKellen. Sadly, films have always miscast the other obvious contender for the crown: if they'd just get Doctor Doom right then we might get somewhere.

    3. To be fair, I've not seen enough of the DC adaptations to judge the quality of their villains (nor read enough of the source material, in many cases.) I get the impression that their cinematic bad guys have mostly not impressed, with the exception of Heath Ledger's Joker, but I'm not qualified to assess what Bane or Two-Face was worth on the big screen compared to their paper-and-ink incarnations.

  • How a password changed a life

    Having just returned to work after a period of sick leave, I'm in the middle of a deluge of demands from networked services that insist that I reset my password because it's been a while since my last login. I have my passwords to hand in 1Password on my iPad so this is a mildly less irritating process than it might have been, but reading Mauricio 'Momo' Estrella's account of how a password changed my life has given me a whole new perspective on the whole password-reset process:

    In its simplest form, a password enables you to get somewhere, in your digital world. Say, to copy a file, to unlock a computer, to email somebody. This feeling of micro achievements, this thought of 'my mantra helps me to get things done' can build up a momentum that motivates you to stay focused on achieving your monthly goals.

    So, why not set your password to Quit@smoking4ever and see what happens?1

    [Via Friday Reading]

    1. I've never been a smoker, so this specific password won't be something I'll be using on Monday. I can totally see the general principle of typing something that reminds you of a current goal is still going to be worth a try, though.

  • Steve sez…

    Call me shallow, but I'm tickled pink that one of the lessons of this epic tale of resurrecting an Apple Mac prototype is that it reminds us all that at one time the pre-release version of Mac OS's Finder displayed online help under the heading "Steve sez…", complete with a little cartoon/caricature of the great man himself:

    Steve sez…

    Just imagine if that bit of styling had survived to the release version of the software and become embedded in Mac lore as a beloved relic of the origins of MacOS. Would the world have moved on to see messages from Jobs' successors as CEO1? Perhaps Siri would have been renamed as 'Steve'?

    [Via LinkMachineGo!]

    1. John sez…? Gil sez…? Eventually, Tim sez…? Or would it have been a mark of Apple's pride/stubbornness to retain the Steve sez… declaration right up until one day they came up with a successor to MacOS and the familiar declaration was replaced by Jony sez…?

  • So. Many. Dependencies!

    If The World Was Created By A Programmer:

    Then You said

    'Let there be Light!'

    But the Light did not compile…

    [Via @cstross]

  • App: The Human Story, a trailer

    Not to be confused with Apple's own Planet of the Apps TV show, Story & Pixel are on the point of releasing App: The Human Story, a documentary talking to all sorts of makers and users of Apps about what the last 10 years has been like for folks with the knowledge and talent to turn their ideas into software. Here's the trailer:

    I'm slightly worried that the whole thing could overdose on euphoric pronouncements that the ability for users to use software on their smartphones is the greatest revolution in human affairs since the printing press, but I'd like to think that they're going to get beyond that superficial approach and explore a certain amount of the good and bad sides of how App culture has changed software production, sometimes for better (the relative stability and uniformity of the software platform meaning that it's a huge market) and worse (the way that Apple's enforcement of the rules on their platform has impacted upon the ability of software writers to deal with their customers compared to life before iOS.) Looking at the list of contributors from the project's Kickstarter page, I'd expect that there'd be some differing perspectives on display: that'll be the real test of whether the project was worth backing.1

    1. For example, I can imagine that this far into the App era there's some temptation to just close down the discussion by arguing that Apple's rules are just a fact of life that any app developer who wants to take advantage of iOS just has to live with, so what's the point of discussing other ways Apple could have set things up. I'd be really disappointed if that was the way the film went: not because I'm eager to see App developers re-litigate the arguments from the dawn of the iOS app era, but because it's important to recognise that these were choices nd other answers were available. Who knows, one day Apple will get round to a thorough revamp of iOS and it'd be good to keep in mind what could have been done differently.

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