Cash Money

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Recent movies and TV

Watchmen: I did not expect this to be any good, but it is! There were many set-ups where I thought, "This is it, they're going to jump the shark now" and they did not. It's a worthy sequel to the comic, and it takes the right sorts of pot-shots at the earlier movie. It ended strong.

Living With Yourself: Screwball Clone Comedy. It's funny.

His Dark Materials: This show is dumb and boring. Everyone says that the movie version of it from a few years back, which was also dumb and boring, was a terrible adaptation of the book, and that this is better. But now I'm forced to assume that the book is also dumb and boring.

Mr. Robot: There were a few weak episodes this season, but overall, it's still amazing. The ending was... weird but good.

Rick and Morty: Still killing it.

Knives Out: This is great. There's a lot more class warfare in this "murder investigation at the will reading" movie than I would have expected.

Dolemite Is My Name: "The new Eddie Murphy movie is really funny" is not a thing I would have predicted that I would be saying in 2019, but here we are. He made his own Ed Wood! It's great!

The Witcher: Wow, this is bad. This is like, The Outpost bad. In fact, if you had told me that this was the new season of The Outpost I would only have wondered at the complete cast shake-up.

Wonder Woman (1975): The first season is really fun! It's set in 1942 and involves all the classic elements that any Wonder Woman story should have: punching Nazis, light bondage, and strident lectures on feminism.

I mean, it's literally only the second episode when Diana has to go undercover in a burlesque show. This is relatable content.

Season two is where it all goes wrong. They did a time jump to 1975, and they did a better job than I expected on the dumb explanations for "it's Steve's son" and "how did she infiltrate the government?" bits. It involved both hypnosis and computer hacking! Season two is also, to a large extent, about punching Nazis: after all, it was less than 30 years since the end of World War II, so Nazis were still around. It's not like today, where we don't have Nazis any more. But about halfway through season 2, it lost any sense of logic, and the plots got deeply stupid, even for a superhero show. Like, you work for a spy agency, why are you people Scoobying art heists? I couldn't even finish season 3.

La Femme Nikita (1997): Another misplaced-nostalgia re-watch. Back when I was still in season 1, we covered a bit of this in my post about Birkhoff's Sweet-Ass Laptop but here are some key takeaway points:

First, their computers are the greatest. These guys had only the finest WinAmp skins loaded onto their IRC clients and AltaVista searches. Second, wow, this is literally the same show as 24. Specifically, 24 was a halfassed, shark-jumpy Nikita remake. Both shows take the position that torture is a fast and effective way of getting reliable information, except that Section 1 is portrayed as "evil" whereas CTU is portrayed as "good". Which is odd, because they were the same organization, with the same goals and methods (and actors and set design). But one show had a protagonist constantly saying, "Hey, this is really fucked up" and the other didn't. Good versus evil almost comes down to the musical cues chosen. So 24 is what you get when Michael is the lead and Nikita isn't in the show. Third, it turns out that a lot, possibly most, of my nostalgia for this show was its soundtrack. It had a really good soundtrack, at a time when most TV shows didn't spend the money to get current releases featured.

But the writing really goes to shit after season 2. Birkhoff builds a Birkhoff Headroom. He's replaced by an evil twin. Everyone turns out to be secretly related to everyone else. It's like a telenovela in here. And then the series finale episode was about deadbeat absentee dad getting back with his infant. What I have learned from episodic television is that every showrunner is a 60 year old white guy with 3 divorces and regrets.

Hedy Lamar: I binged a whole bunch of her movies. She is always charming, but there is a lot of garbage in there. And a lot of it is really surprisingly racist, even for movies from the 40s! They put her in blackface, and she was nominally Asian and Mexican more than once. In nearly every movie she plays a broke refugee who has to fuck some guy to get her passport stamped. It's... a weird fetish. I slogged through about a dozen of them, but my favorites were:

Comrade X (1940): This is great! It's a comedy about a foreign correspondent who is secretly an American spy with a subversive blog pirate radio station. Hedy needs a passport so she can evangelize Communism in the US. Antics ensue. They should have let her do more comedy, she was good at it.

Algiers (1938): This is essentially Casablanca, and there's never anything wrong with that. Though it turns out that the inspiration went the other way around.

A Lady Without Passport (1950): In this one she's a concentration camp survivor stranded in Cuba and trying to get to the US. By the end, the undercover INS agent realizes that his job is bad and he should feel bad! So timely.

Then I finished it off with Bombshell, the Hedy Lamar Story. It was a real bummer to learn that she died in the same circumstance as Nikola Tesla: a penniless recluse who had alienated everybody, addicted to meth.

Speaking of huge stars at the ragged end of their careers, I also watched Judy and Stan and Ollie. Both were very good, and depressing, but at least they mostly stayed off the meth. Mostly.


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DNA Lounge: Wherein there's a Christmas Cautionary Tale

If you watch just one Dickens parody this holiday season, let it be this one:


Two DJs walk into a bar...

One DJ says to the other, hey, want to go see a movie? The other DJ says, "I dunno, who's the projectionist?"

dansolomon: "My screening of Star Wars is 15 minutes late and this just happened"

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Kubito's secret base


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Mario Klingemann continues to do great and terrifying things to faces.

You can think of these as 2D slices of a multi-dimensional space that contains every possible face. It's canonical Marvel lore that there's a parallel universe containing nothing but green meat and gristle, and when The Hulk bulks up a portal just squirts some of it in from there. It's kind of like that.

(Turn the sound on for the first one.)

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You doom us all to inhuman toil for the One whose Identifier cannot be quoted in the Basic Multilingual Plane.

1969471: Remove more cases of excessive quotes in property paths:

Example object with properties that would previously unnecessarily get wrapped in quotes (examples taken from [2] and [3]):

   const object = {π: {ಠ_ಠ: {ლ_ಠ益ಠ_ლ: {λ: {Ꙭൽↈⴱ: {ᱹ:{〱〱: {Ⅳ: {Ⅴ:
                  {Hͫ̆̒̐ͣ̊̄ͯ͗͏̵̗̻̰̠̬͝ͅE̴̷̬͎̱̘͇͍̾ͦ͊͒͊̓̓̐_̫̠̱̩̭̤͈̑̎̋ͮͩ̒͑̾͋͘Ç̳͕̯̭̱̲̣̠̜͋̍O̴̦̗̯̹̼ͭ̐ͨ̊̈͘͠M̶̝̠̭̭̤̻͓͑̓̊ͣͤ̎͟͠E"̞̮̹͍̞̳̣ͣͪ͐̈T"̯̳̭̜̠͕͌̈́̽̿ͤ̿̅̑Ḧ̱̱̺̰̳̹̘̰́̏ͪ̂̽͂̀͠: {Ƞ: {ȡ: {_҇: true}}}}}}}}}}}}};

The current result for the deepest property is:


With this patch, the result is:


This is valid since each of the property names is a valid `IdentifierName`.

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Scan Congress

We deployed a team of activists wearing jumpsuits with phone strapped to their heads conducting live facial recognition surveillance in the halls of Congress, to show why this tech should be banned.

Using Amazon's commercially available Rekognition software -- running on smartphones strapped to our heads -- our team ran 13,732 biometric face scans in Washington, DC. By comparing live footage against a database we had assembled, the system successfully identified a member of Congress in real time: Representative Mark DeSaulnier of California.

Amazon's facial recognition software also thought that it had identified 7 journalists and 25 Amazon lobbyists that we had pre-loaded into the database. But all of those matches turned out to be incorrect. The software even thought that it spotted singer Roy Orbison who of course has been deceased since 1988 (RIP).

This underscores our message: facial recognition is invasive and dangerous when it works, but it's also dangerous when it doesn't work. In our case, it's easy to laugh when the software thinks a member of our team is an Amazon lobbyist, or when it thinks a random staffer is a prominent journalist. But law enforcement agencies are using flawed facial recognition software right now -- and the potential harm of a mismatch is staggering. It could land an innocent person in prison, or worse. And current facial recognition algorithms exhibit systemic racial bias, exacerbating existing forms of discrimination in our criminal justice system. [...]

After several hours of scanning thousands of faces, our team of activists were approached by Capitol Hill police and threatened with arrest if they did not leave the Capitol grounds. They were thrown out not because they were using facial recognition surveillance -- that's perfectly legal until Congress gets off their butts and passes laws to ban it -- but because police claimed they were violating a law against blocking passageways. Of course, they weren't blocking passageways and we have the whole thing on video to prove it. It seems that Congress thinks facial recognition surveillance is just fine as long as its used on all of us but not them.

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I can't stop thinking about this sign.


And frankly I feel attacked.

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Recent movies and TV

Harley Quinn: Based on only the first couple episodes, this looks to be the best DC cartoon since Batman The Animated Series. I had no idea that the one simple thing that was missing was for the characters to swear like sailors, but yes, that is the thing that was missing.

Reprisal: It's a revenge-noir set in some indeterminate pseudo-60s time period with cell phones, and idealized "biker gangs" that resemble actual biker gangs in precisely the way that strip clubs in movies resemble actual strip clubs. It's not bad, but the amount of smoking in it is actually making my clothing stink through the TV. The smoking is so distracting that in one episode I started counting any time someone was not smoking and I never got higher than 45 seconds. Even though I haven't noticed explicit product placements, I feel pretty sure that there has to be some tobacco industry payola making this happen.

Treadstone: To my great surprise, this is a quite solid spy show! I enjoyed the first Bourne movie and don't remember anything about any of the sequels, so I didn't really have high expectations for this, but it's really fun. The writing is twisty, the spycraft is good. They end nearly every episode with a surprising cliffhanger that feels more "damn, that was a strong ending" than "what a cheat".

Nancy Drew: It started out as: it's Veronica Mars but she's a more-fucked-up depressive underachiever, has two Cordelias, and they're Scoobying ghosts. And I was there for that. But then the ghosts turned out to be real ghosts rather than a Trumpian real estate con-man in a rubber mask, and that's when they lost me. (I mean, I'm still watching it but now it pisses me off.)

Terminator: Dark Fate: This is the third-best Terminator movie, fourth if you count Sarah Connor Chronicles. It hits all the Terminator notes -- so much so that it kind of emphasizes how similar the structure of the first and second were -- but it works, and unlike almost all of the other sequels, it doesn't demean the earlier movies. This must be the 10th timeline in, what, 6 movies? SCC had at least 3 timelines alone. I do like that they take advantage of that freedom, to just pick a point in time and branch off from there.

Tigers Are Not Afraid: Creepy and cool. Ghost stories don't often take that "magical realism" turn.

Blood and Chocolate: Just another Werewolf Romance, but it's not bad. Here's the thing though, wouldn't werewolves be allergic to both silver and chocolate? I have trouble with the concept of werewolf chocolatiers. Not to be confused with Blood and Donuts.

Chernobyl: Well that was pretty fucked up right there.

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996): This might be my second favorite Christmas movie, after The Ref and before Batman Returns. Samuel L. Jackson goes on a road trip with a wisecracking amnesiac blonde who could break him in half, but it's Geena Davis instead of Brie Larson. I saw this at Alamo as part of what they called their "Queer Film Theory" series, which was certainly not what came to mind for me when I thought about this movie, but the host made a good case: whereas the actual text of the movie is ass-kicking and dick jokes, the subtext is pretty heavily about performative gender roles. But there's lots of ass kicking, let's not forget that.

The Expanse: Season 4 was uneven. It was mostly pretty good, but the planet-side parts were both too long, and marred by having the worst Big Bad of the entire series. This guy was such a moustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash of the East India Company that it was just annoying. Even Burke in Aliens was more sympathetic and believable than this guy. He brought into perspective how well written the "villains" had been in the previous seasons.

The Mandalorian: This show is so uneven and squandering its potential. The idea of High Plains Drifter set in the Star Wars universe sounds like a natural. And the sets look great! Look at all that glorious Ralph McQuarrie design! But then I look closer and realize that there's nothing, not a single thing, that is new here. All of these designs were in A New Hope. All of these species were in A New Hope. It starts off on a planet that isn't Tatooine but is totally Tatooine -- oh, and then they go to actual Tatooine, re-hashing the canonical sin of the Star Wars universe: this "galaxy" only has five planets in it.

The episode where Gina Carano kicks an AT-ST's ass was excellent, and the single good one so far.

Also, Baby Yoda is bullshit, and here's my prediction: Baby Yoda is actually Yoda. They're going to ratfuck the whole franchise by introducing time travel. You're welcome.


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