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Wonder Woman

On my flight back home, I was surprised to find new movies in the inflight entertainment system! The movie I was most excited about was Wonder Woman. Ever since her introduction in Batman vs Superman, I’ve been waiting for her feature movie to come out. I’m not even a big fan of the character, I had tried reading some of her comics in the past but always ended up dropping them because the stories were boring (Amazonian stuff), or the supporting characters were lame, or the issues she had to deal with (e.g., her weaknesses) were not compelling. So I only saw her in Justice League adventures, or when there is a universe-level crisis.

But her appearance in BvS was amazing. This is a career-defining role for Gal Gadot and I don’t think I can ever envision her as any other character. I’m not sure what it is, but she is both what I imagined Wonder Woman to look like, yet also not what she looks like. What I mean is that when she is in costume, there is no one else that I can imagine as being Wonder Woman but her face is not at all what Wonder Woman would look like in my mind (I guess due to her heritage). This is more apparent when she is in plain clothes, and she doesn’t look at all like how I imagine Diana Prince would be.

Anyways, so how was the movie? I didn’t think it was as good as people said it would be. It’s nowhere near Ghost In The Shell bad, but it’s still polarizing. The story is clunky and I hate the origin story where they kept stressing her naivete and social awkwardness. The romance is unbelievable, but not as bad as sailing to London in one night (even if they got a lift). Also the motley crew of supporting characters adds nothing to the story (I only recognize Etta, are the others even from the comic?)

But once the fighting starts, it is glorious. Wonder Woman is magnificent in battle, especially the close quarters fighting (on the beach and before Act 2). Some people hate Zach Snyder slowing down the camera for certain scenes, but I like it and think it was effective. Act 2 was expected and cliché but I still thought it was a great twist. Honestly this whole movie can just be Wonder Woman jumping and fighting and it would still be three out of five stars.

La La Land

The best comparison to La La Land would be Moulin Rouge – both are oscar-calibre musicals. However, I much preferred La La Land over Moulin Rouge. My problem with Moulin Rouge is that the concept is too much of a fantasy and the music just isn’t that great, but La La Land deals with real life (Millennial) issues and has a better soundtrack (mostly original music).

It often felt like a showcase of theatre and the arts. It featured instrument playing, tap dancing, plays, singing, etc. I also noticed the extensive use of theatre stage lighting (thanks to the recent Apple keynote which highlighted this). The ensemble pieces were great and the two leads performed well too (even though they probably didn’t have those specific skills of piano, singing, tapping etc). I can see how this movie could easily transition to Broadway.

As the story progressed, I got a little disappointed that there were fewer ensemble dance numbers, but I guess those were expensive to produce (I saw that Mandy Moore choreographed it?). The story was decent and believable and the ending leaves you with a decision to consider. This is a solid four out of five stars from me!

In The Mood For Love

This is a giant in HK cinema which I had never watched, even though I watched the referential 2046 many years ago. I’ve heard it mentioned over and over with regards to its cinematography and after watching it, I think it lives up to its billing.

I think a comparable to this movie is The Godfather. The pacing is slow but not boring, and there are so many music and scenery shots. I can’t imagine them making a movie that can convey mood in the same way nowadays. Not only that, the dialogue is smart and complements the camera. Not everything is mentioned but the careful watcher can see the subtle hints in the story.

I also enjoyed the look at 60s Hong Kong which is near my parents’ era. Watching the film now, it doesn’t feel dated but more like a period piece.

I came with high expectations, and have probably seen Wong Kar-Wai’s influence in countless movies but was still impressed by In The Mood For Love. This deserves four out of five stars.

Ghost In The Shell

Ghost in the Shell was all around me when I was in my teens. I was never interested in anime, but this was one of the names I recognized. I might have even watched an anime movie version of it. And I definitely read an entire comic book series about it. Yet I don’t remember any details, the back story, or the potential psychological conflict of being part human-part machine.

This recognition is part of the reason why I watched the movie. Another is because I read some complaints when it was released about being white-washed (specifically Scarlett Jo instead of a Japanese lead). I don’t think the lead was the issue, but rather than a lot of it just wasn’t Japanese. The robotics company was completely staffed by Caucasians, the local police was a conglomerate of mixed cultures, and the entire thing was filmed in Hong Kong! I recognized Mong Kok in the beginning and it just became more and more obvious as I watched. I guess filming in HK made sense since a lot of the production companies at the beginning of the movie were Chinese.

The other issue with this movie is that it sucked. The decisions characters made made no sense and the dialogue was horrible. I hope Scarlett Johansson made a lot of money on this one because it is an embarrassment to have on your resume. It’s like Black Widow had a feature film and dyed her hair black.

A lot of the times the movie is just there to show off action sequences or body shots or the futuristic environment. I guess that is slightly cool and elevates this movie to 2 out of 5 stars.

Pocket Queue 76

  • The highly unusual company behind Sriracha, the world’s coolest hot sauce

    Reading this story, it either means that Sriracha is really secretive about its numbers, or maybe it just doesn’t keep track so they can’t tell you!

    Most commercially distributed hot sauces are made with dried chilies to make it easier to harvest, process and bottle the product at scale. McIlhenny, the maker of Tabasco, for example, buys its chilies from producers around the globe. But Sriracha is—and always always has been—made with fresh chilies. It’s what separates it from the competition, says Tran.

  • My Family’s Slave
    The author of this article had a domestic slave in their household as they were growing up, and this was in the 20th century. He talks about how and why she stayed with the family until she died.

    We couldn’t identify a parallel anywhere except in slave characters on TV and in the movies. I remember watching a Western called The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. John Wayne plays Tom Doniphon, a gunslinging rancher who barks orders at his servant, Pompey, whom he calls his “boy.” Pick him up, Pompey. Pompey, go find the doctor. Get on back to work, Pompey! Docile and obedient, Pompey calls his master “Mistah Tom.” They have a complex relationship. Tom forbids Pompey from attending school but opens the way for Pompey to drink in a whites-only saloon. Near the end, Pompey saves his master from a fire. It’s clear Pompey both fears and loves Tom, and he mourns when Tom dies. All of this is peripheral to the main story of Tom’s showdown with bad guy Liberty Valance, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Pompey. I remember thinking: Lola is Pompey, Pompey is Lola.

  • In Sync We Trust: Pop Music’s History of Lip-Syncing (and Lying About It)
    A look at the history and slow acceptance of lip syncing. I don’t think you can detail like this in a Wikipedia article so it’s nice to have a historical report collected. Especially now that lip syncing is not that big of a deal and people aren’t worried too much about it.

    An even more egregious example of this kind of pop-music bait-and-switch came via the Italian dance act Black Box, which released an album, Dreamland, in 1990 that was almost entirely sung by a woman named Martha Wash and with no credit to her. Instead, a model named Katrin Quinol lip-synced Wash’s vocals in videos for the group’s global hits “Everybody, Everybody,” “Strike It Up,” and “I Don’t Know Anybody Else,” and appeared on the covers of Black Box’s records. What’s galling about this particular case is Wash was already well known among dance-music fans—she was one half of the Weather Girls, whose 1982 single “It’s Raining Men” was a hit that time made an anthem, and before that she was known for her work with legendary disco diva Sylvester. Martha Wash’s soprano is as singular as it is titanic and it’s amazing that anyone ever tried to pretend that it belonged to someone else after it had already fallen on the listening public’s ears.

  • Will China Save the American Economy?
    China wants to move money out of their country and they are doing so by investing in America. Some are investing money into companies, but this article suggests that Chinese companies building/repurposing manufacturing plants in the US will save the American economy. I don’t see what or how Chinese management can bring to manufacturing jobs in American, when they left the US for a reason (high cost of labour, low efficiency, etc).

    In 2004, factory workers in China made $4.35 an hour, compared to $17.54 that the average factory worker made in the U.S., according to the Boston Consulting Group.

    But labor expenses are rising in China. According to the Chinese Business Climate Survey, put out by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the consulting firm Bain & Company, businesses there cite rising labor costs as their top problem. That’s in part because worker organizations are gaining strength, and strikes and labor disputes are becoming more common. Today, Chinese manufacturing wages adjusted for productivity are $12.47 an hour, compared to $22.32 in the United States, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

  • Exposed: How maulvis take money for one-night stand with divorced women trying to save marriage

    Under Islam law, it’s not possible to remarry your original husband unless you marry someone else. So clerics have taken it upon themselves to do one-night marriages in order to get around this rule.

    At Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, the team met Zubair Qasmi, a qualified maulana married with two wives. He nominated himself up for a third at the prospect of nikah halala, in exchange for money.

    “I spend many nights out. It’s much easier to manage this with two (wives). One would think I am with the second. And the second would think I am with the other. It’s not at all difficult with two (wives),” he bragged.

September 2017

We started this month by taking one last road trip in the summer, and across the border to Rochester to visit the Museum of Play and some shopping. This is the third time/year that we’ve went so we also decided to spring for a membership. It takes 3 visits (days) to make the pass worth it, and we already did two days on this trip. So one more visit and we’ll be in the black! By going “later” in the year, it gives us a lot of time to plan a trip next spring or summer.

Apollo started his fourth new school in as many years this year and with that a new route/timetable for dropoff. His school starts earlier than last year so we’ve moved up his sleep schedule to accommodate, and surprisingly the night and morning adjustments have been pretty straightforward. Jovian also started a new school, and it actually feels like a regression because he’s only in his nursery school three days in a week! Fall programs had the first two weeks off (I guess to give everyone time to adjust to the day school routine first) but they kicked off in the latter half of the month.

After an August that felt like fall, we had nice weather (including a couple of days of Indian Summer) during September. Most days were t-shirts and pants, with an optional coat in the morning. Leaves are starting to turn yellow, which feels a bit early, but we’ve already gone Apple picking and farm season is most likely finished for us this year (unless we have a pumpkin trip in October, but I doubt it).

To cap off the month, I went over to Korea for a week. It’s only my second visit this year due to Katana being born and some other weird scheduling/cancellations.

Pocket Queue 75

  • At Tampa Bay farm-to-table restaurants, you’re being fed fiction
    A lot of restaurants now use ingredients that are “locally sourced” or “from the farm”, but how true is that really? You usually just trust whatever is on the menu, but this food critic actually followed through and did some investigating. Not surprisingly, a lot of places lie.

    Dorsey said he buys pork from a small Tallahassee farm through food supplier Master Purveyors. But Master Purveyors said it doesn’t sell pork from Tallahassee. Dorsey said he uses quail from Magnolia Farms in Lake City. Master Purveyors said the quail is from Wyoming. Dorsey said he buys dairy from Dakin Dairy Farms in Myakka through Weyand Food Distributors. Weyand said it doesn’t distribute Dakin. Dorsey said he gets local produce from Suncoast Food Alliance and Local Roots. Both said they have not sold to The Mill. He named three seafood suppliers. Two checked out, but a third, Whitney and Son, said they had not sold to The Mill yet. They hope to in the future.

  • The Weird Economics Of Ikea
    This article talks about how Ikea handles its pricing for some of its most popular items, including two that I had around when I was a child – the lack table and the poang which I used as “computer chair” since it was more comfortable than a swivel chair.

    Indeed, the products have evolved. In 1992, part of the Poäng was changed from steel to wood, allowing the chair to ship more densely and efficiently in the company’s flat packs. (“Shipping air is very expensive,” Marston said.) And the Lack table was changed from solid wood to a honeycomb “board on frame” construction, decreasing production costs and increasing shipping efficiency. Baxter theorizes, though, that if a product is finicky — requiring design in Sweden, manufacture in China and intricate pieces from Switzerland, say — it may eventually be abandoned.

  • ‘I thought I was smarter than almost everybody’: my double life as a KGB agent
    A real life story from a former KGB spy where he discusses a bit about his training to become a spy. There are also some bits about being undercover, but frankly, that is pretty boring!

    Barsky, as he now was, moved to New York, carrying his new birth certificate. With that, he got a membership card at the Natural History Museum. And, with that, he got a library card and then a driver’s licence. He covered his hands and face with grime and did not wash for days before applying for a social security card; he had always worked as a farmhand, he told them, and never needed one. It worked.

  • ‘London Bridge is down’: the secret plan for the days after the Queen’s death
    This is a long article that serves as proof that various agencies within the UK have thought about and planned for the Queen’s inevitable death. Like much of the monarchy, this future event will be micromanaged to handle the press and reaction.

    The first plans for London Bridge date back to the 1960s, before being refined in detail at the turn of the century. Since then, there have been meetings two or three times a year for the various actors involved (around a dozen government departments, the police, army, broadcasters and the Royal Parks) in Church House, Westminster, the Palace, or elsewhere in Whitehall. Participants described them to me as deeply civil and methodical. “Everyone around the world is looking to us to do this again perfectly,” said one, “and we will.” Plans are updated and old versions are destroyed. Arcane and highly specific knowledge is shared. It takes 28 minutes at a slow march from the doors of St James’s to the entrance of Westminster Hall. The coffin must have a false lid, to hold the crown jewels, with a rim at least three inches high.

  • How Lego Became The Apple Of Toys
    This article raises the parallel that Lego is the Apple of toys because they are looking for innovative ways to get their products in the hands of children. I don’t really buy it though, particular because their goal is “that Lego continue to create innovative play experiences and reach more children every year”. Except then they go to great lengths to talk about how their products are appealing to adults.

    Eight years ago, a Chicago architect named Adam Reed Tucker, who had been building impressive Lego models of iconic buildings, reached out to Lego, suggesting that the company might be interested in making official kits similar to his homemade creations. “Doing anything that wasn’t for the target group, which was boys between, say, 5 and 11, used to be almost a complete no-go,” says David Gram, Future Lab’s head of marketing and business development. But a free-thinking Norwegian Lego exec named Paal Smith-Meyer—Holm admiringly describes him as “a true rebel”—saw value in AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego) and came up with a stealthy, shoestring plan to prove their worth to the company. It came in the form of a counteroffer—which would help usher in the current era of innovation at Lego.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

Marvel seems to have their movies spread out over the year and this one ended up as the one that was on my flight to Korea. I think I saw the original Guardians of the Galaxy on a plane too (as it was released after we had kids). Not a must watch, but I was curious because I thought I read that they were gearing up for Infinity Gems and a showdown with Thanos.

But this movie wasn’t it, it was just another adventure featuring these guys, a couple of old friends from the original movie, and the early 80s music, fashion and styles.

There have been so many movies in the Marvel universe that you can just pick a random one up and watch it to pass the time. They don’t feel like tent pole releases or must-watch titles anymore. I guess that makes it perfect for flights.

GG2 has a specific conversational style, lots of wisecracks and insults (but not to an extent as say Deadpool). I don’t find that particularly entertaining though. They also have Drax playing the straight man, until they find a new character who is even straighter! I find the former funny because Drax seems to know that he is being funny. The latter feels like they’re making fun of Autistic people.

Lots of explosions, some laughs, and a megalomaniac to defeat. Also, another movie about father issues (see Star Wars & etc). Three out of five stars from me.

August, 2017

Summer passed by really quickly this year, especially because we didn’t really take a vacation (ok we were in Boston for a few days at the beginning, but that was short). I felt like we didn’t end up doing much because we mostly stayed in the city and didn’t do many road trips. I guess we spent a lot of the time at run-of-the-mill festivals around the city, and went to Wonderland every other week (probably up to 8 trips this year).

But with the end of the month, we’re winding down and getting ready for the school year again. Yet again, both boys are starting new schools which means new routines and schedules. In fact, August was a new schedule too as Jovian stopped going to daycare and went to camp with Apollo (different class though). At least Katana didn’t have much change. She’s still starting on solids (cereal) and hasn’t graduated to other fruits and mashed foods yet. She’s more mobile now (rolling and rotating), but hasn’t figured out how to crawl yet.

The weather started getting colder halfway through the month (kids had to wear long sleeves to school) and it looks like things might stay that way. I was expecting to do some work travel this month, but the trips got cancelled/moved. However, I did end up dealing with a HDD crash at the end of the month and restoring all my data from backups/broken drive.

Facebook Not News Feed

I hardly use Twitter anymore, and I’ve noticed that I’m starting to get the same way with Facebook. I know why I don’t use Twitter anymore, and that’s because there’s too much garbage in my Twitter feed (RTs and what not that the people I follow care about, but I don’t). In the past, I even specifically stopped following people because they post too much. Later, Twitter went to an algorithmic feed to help create a feed of things I Twitter thinks I care about, but you know, I don’t really care about that so I stopped using it.

To me, the Facebook News Feed is following the same path. When the News Feed came out, there was a lot of content posted from the people I follow. That was interesting! Sure, sometimes the feed was sparse, because people weren’t posting anything about their lives, but I was OK with that.

Now, the News Feed surfaces all sorts of random stuff. I’m not talking just about ads – I mean it’s surfacing things that my friends may have liked (about random people who I have never heard of before). That is not interesting and it is just noise. I also dislike the algorithmic feed as it is not by recency and I have a FOMO of things that my friends have posted. So I’m back to using a polluted “most recent” list.

But you know, I don’t actually get a lot of value out of that News Feed feed anymore. I still have to use it because there’s no alternative, but it’s actually pretty crappy!