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Hearthstone Battlegrounds

Hearthstone announced a new mode of gameplay at Blizzconn this year called Battlegrounds. I’m glad they announced something new, because while dungeon runs are still challenging and good for time killing, it wasn’t novel or interesting – you can only go so crazy in the powerlevel of the treasures.

Battlegrounds is an autochess clone. From a business perspective, it makes sense for Hearthstone to add a mode that is the same as the game that they are losing players too. I’ve tried playing autochess before, but the learning curve investment was just to steep. However, I watched a bunch of people stream Battlegrounds (trying to get an early access drop for it) and it seems pretty straightforward. In fact, I’ve watched so much Battlegrounds that I feel bored with the mode already. I’ll see what happens when the mode is launched live today, maybe it is different when you’re actually playing.

Pocket Queue 93

  • ‘Taaaake onnn meee!’ The unkillable, oh-so-profitable afterlife of a-ha’s ’80s classic
    I love this song but I have to admit it is an amazing hook and classic video. But a-ha is also a victim of their own success.

    “What’s more interesting,” Daniel muses, “is the ‘philosophical’ revenue the song has generated. A-ha is still big all over the world. I saw them play an arena in Chile three years ago. If not for that song, they wouldn’t have sold any albums, and there’s no 30 years of touring. That one song has probably generated hundreds of millions of dollars.”

    The winding saga of “Take on Me” illustrates both the randomness of having a hit and the degree to which it requires timing and calculation. “‘Take on Me’ is a proven flop, three times over,” says Harket. “It’s also a proven hit. There’s a lot to learn from that.”

    At the peak of a-ha’s ambivalence toward “Take on Me” (Harket can’t recall precisely when), they stopped playing it live.

  • Masterpiece Theatre
    This is a story about a master forger of famous artists (e.g., Picasso). He’s been caught and has written his own book, so I guess this is an attempt at an unbiased view of his life. It is also an interesting perspective about the value of art and “originals”

    Jansen goes even further: If fakes are as good as the real thing, aren’t they worth celebrating? “When a musician reproduces a sonata of Bach, one applauds him. Me, I reproduce a sonata of Picasso and I am placed under arrest,” he lamented to the CBC in 2008.

  • The Death of Hollywood’s Middle Class
    A look at how the OTT video explosion has affected the people behind the scenes (writers & etc)

    “If I was on a [network show like] Community, I would have been paid as a series regular,” Becker says. “But they didn’t make me a series regular, they made me a recurring guest star and paid me a daily rate. If I’d been number five on an NBC show, I’d be making $30,000 a week, but I was making $980 a week [at Netflix]. By the time you pay out taxes, your manager, agent, and lawyer, I was walking away with like $200.”

  • A history of modern capitalism from the perspective of the straw.
    This article starts off strong linking America’s disposable-first culture with the straw, and explaining how plastic straws came to be. But it kind of tapers off without making a point

    While functionally, paper and plastic straws might have seemed the same, to the keen observer who is the narrator of Nicholson Baker’s dazzling 1988 novel, The Mezzanine, the plastic and paper straw were not interchangeable. Paper did not float. Plastic did: “How could the straw engineers have made so elementary a mistake, designing a straw that weighed less than the sugar-water in which it was intended to stand? Madness!”

    Baker’s narrator wonders why the big fast-food chains like McDonald’s didn’t pressure the straw engineers into fixing this weighting mistake. “[The chains] must have had whole departments dedicated to exacting concessions from Sweetheart and Marcal,” Baker writes.

    But there was a problem: lids, which had come into vogue. Plastic straws could push through the little + slits in the cap. Paper ones could not. The restaurant chains committed fully to plastic straws.

  • Facing unbearable heat, Qatar has begun to air-condition the outdoors
    Trying to air condition the outside sounds stupid, but that’s really what Qatar is trying to do. It’s kind of like putting lights outside at night so you can see where you are going.

    Recently, the luxury French department store Galeries Lafayette opened in a shopping mall that features stylish air-conditioning grates in the broad cobblestone walkways outside. Each of the vents, about 1 by 6 feet, has a decorative design. Many of them hug the outside of buildings, cooling off window shoppers looking at expensive fashions. Though nearly deserted in the heat, by 5 p.m. some people begin to emerge to sit outside places like Cafe Pouchkine.

October, 2019

October saw several events:

  • Apollo’s Birthday – we combined it with Thanksgiving at home this year
  • Election – we did advance voting and beat the rush
  • Started soccer classes – all three kids are going, although 1 hr is a bit long for Katana
  • Samsung Developer conference – I was down in San Jose for a couple of days
  • Hallowe’en – We did some stuff the Saturday before, the day of, and also went to Wonderland earlier in the month

Fall arrived this month. The leaves were a nice variety of colors throughout the month, and our backyard is pretty full of them now (gotta rake next month).

Hockey season started and the Leafs are pretty mediocre. I started playing a gatcha hockey game, but it wasn’t very deep so stopped that as well.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Another Godzilla movie, I thought I had seen the previous ones, but a quick read on Wikipedia indicated I hadn’t. Anyways, no prior knowledge was needed. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters is about big giant monsters fighting (kind of like the Pacific Rim series).

In this one, all of the old Titans are awakened but it turns out their leader is an alien. It is up to Godzilla to fix the problem. Humans are confused, but eventually they realize Godzilla is on their side. For once, the bad guy story is interesting and complex; although ultimately the true villain is Godzilla’s nemesis rather than humans.

Like the previous movie I saw, the ending of this seemed to be setting up for continuation of the series, seemingly King Kong vs Godzilla. Unfortunately only a three out of five stars film.

Kingdom

Kingdom is a movie about historic China, but the strange thing is that it is a Japanese movie. They speak Japanese thoughout the movie, and all the actors are Japanese. I’m used to historical films from China so I was curious what the Japanese take will be like , and also why they would make a movie about Chinese history without mentioning Japan at all.

The story is set in the Qin dynasty, and is about two slave boys who dream of being the greatest general in the world. They spend their time swordfighting after they’ve done their chores, and eventually become quite proficient. A chance encounter causes (only) one of them to enter the royal court, but his death causes the other to go on the journey that this movie is about.

Apparently, the story is from a manga, so a lot of the fighting and rhythm of the action feels like it came out of a comic (e.g., it is not real at all). And I had a real feeling that this movie was a setup for a video game/movie series. Each of the generals and other main characters felt like they were being introduced; and each had a single, unique ultimate move. There are factions, each with different attributes, and a grand quest to set out on. I’ve never read about the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” series, and I’ll do that later when I have more time; but I can’t help but wonder whether this is the first chapter of that.

There was a distinct non-Chinese flavour about the movie, but it was enjoyable and I want to see more in this style, within the same universe. Four out of five stars.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Last Spider-Man movie in the MCU! Well, we shall see. Far From Home happens after Endgame and it starts off with some reflection on the events (no real spoilers though, I think this movie may have come out before Endgame?). In any case, there are no more Avengers and Spider-man is one of the higher profile heroes left.

But this movie feels like a teenage movie. It follows Peter Parker on a high school trip to Europe. In practice, it is a lot better written and appropriate for adults than Detective Pikachu. I am not even biased towards Spider-Man like I am the X-Men. The first half of the movie was pretty good and fun. In fact, it felt like it was parodying itself. Nick Fury was delivering canned lines and everyone was riffing off that. The circumstances around the school trip was ridiculous. But I thought all of this was in good taste.

It started getting a bit slow after the plot twist but still enjoyable. Strangely, I think the biggest appeal of this movie is the development of the characters and relationships; the action is just eye candy. Also, I felt it was a bit forced to visit so many European cities. But nonetheless I think this was a quality movie, four out of five stars.

Air Canada

Living in Canada, I think we’re pretty lucky to take Air Canada. Recently I had to fly on United metal and the experience is not great.

First, I was a bit confused by how their inflight entertainment system worked. They have a partnership with DIRECTV and everything was organized into channels rather than a VOD service. If you missed the start of a movie, well it’s like catching a movie playing on TV. Not having the control to watch when you want seems backwards in this day and age.

The flight attendants also seem different. They say the same courtesy words but there’s a hint of haughty attitude. AC agents are not all great, but they seem to be more laid back.

AC also spends money in a better way in their lounge. I don’t drink but I notice the magazines. AC has a wide selection of Canadian magazines that you can take with you. The United lounge only has copies of their own magazine.

Also, the AC Signature Lounge dining service at YYZ is amazing. I’ve never been to a Polaris lounge but the Signature Lounge seems without peer at least in North America.

Detective Pikachu

I don’t have a strong desire to see Detective Pikachu but I thought it would be interesting to leverage all the knowledge I learned from my kids in understanding this movie. Even from the previews, it was amazing to see Pokemon in the real world! Also, unlike Dark Phoenix, the CG was done well and made it feel like the Pokemon belonged in the world (maybe we’re just used to what they look like).

Much like Zootopia, the best thing about this movie is how they created the world. I like the idea where all the animals have been replaced by pokemon (although the balance is wrong as you don’t see that many animals in the city normally). And this idea isn’t a stretch because we live in the world of Pokemon Go where pokemon coexist in the world as long as you look through a screen.

The story itself is not that great. I had a little bit of struggle trying to decide whether the film is for kids, or adults who were kids when pokemon came out. I guess the right audience is a young teen. I hope this movie spawns a series where we can explore the world more, but hope that future movies are written for older audiences. Four out of five stars due to establishing the world and the promise of seeing more pokemon in movies

Men In Black International

Well it’s been a long time since MIB was in theaters. I guess they brought it back for the retro crowd. The original was an action comedy with Will Smith’s banter and Tommy Lee Jones being the straight man. MIB International doesn’t fall very far from the original. It has the same setup but updated to the new century – Tessa Thompson plays the straight woman to Chris Hemsworth. Side note: I can’t picture him as anyone but Thor, so it felt like Thor joined the MIB.

The same futuristic view of the world and aliens blending in is still there. Kind of how all Star Wars movies feel like the same movie with different characters and setup, this is how this movie felt like. Not a terrible thing since I haven’t seen MIB in many, many years. A fun three out of five movie.

September 2019

The school year started early this year, with Labour day on the 2nd of September. The school routine is actually easier this year as all three kids are at the same school, but it was still something that I had to get used to because the timing is different now (as Katana is in daycare and not actual school).

We have a good routine now, and I tried avoid travel this month to prevent further complications. It didn’t work out as I had a last minute trip to the Bay area at the end of the month. It was a short trip though, so served as practice/trial for the drop off routine when I am away.

Extracurriculars eventually started this month. This year, we tried to put them in more year-long programs so we didn’t have to change schedules every term.

Hockey also came back (preseasons at least). To celebrate, I started playing some more hockey-based video games.