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Burning

Burning is a Korean film that I actually heard about reading thru the 2018 end of year lists. I guess it is a thriller or a drama and centers around a relationship between 2 guys and a girl. From reading the reviews, I had thought this movie happens mostly in Africa, but turns out it is based on Korea.

I don’t remember why it was rated highly but to me it is a psychological film where you are trying to figure out what the director is actually trying to do. The scenes seem random but I think you are supposed to think of them in an abstract sense (and so the intention is vague a lot of the time). For example, in the second scene in the film, two of the leads are in a typical Korean restaurant and the girl describes how she is learning pantomime by eating an imaginary tangerine. She states, something to the effect of, that the trick to pantomime is to avoid thinking that the tangerine is not there, but rather what you would be doing if it was there. Ultimately, I think this scene describes the entire movie (or at least one way to look at it).

I spent the majority of the film trying to figure out what is really going on, although felt it lost some steam in the second half. Four out of five stars.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse

This new version of Spider-Man had a lot of hype and I think it lived up to it. Essentially it is a yet-another-reboot of Spider-Man, but still in the Sony universe. For once, the long-lost cousin who owns a bit of the Marvel movie rights have a good comic movie on their hands.

Into the Spider-verse is a weird movie. The whole concept is wack and I think a bit too complex for the casual movie fan (collision of multiple dimensions). Not that they won’t understand it but it just seems too far-fetched unless you read comics where it happens all the time. Then it’s a “cartoon”, but not for little kids like Teen Titans Go To The Movies. I guess they made it a cartoon because some of the scenes couldn’t be visualized in a realistic way. The art style and constant breaking of the fourth way/dropping into comic book style is a huge risk and could have turned out incredibly bad. It didn’t though, although at times it felt a little too much.

What is amazing though, that the movie turned out to be great. Even though the premise was wack, the story kept the key themes of a Spider-Man story intact, but refreshed to be relevant to today’s youth. You have the geeky guy who accidentally gets bitten, learns to use their powers, and the a-ha moment of when he finally controls them. The plot follows the typical superhero/supervillain arch and they try to make it up to date for the pubescent crowd (with some laughs as well). But the real gem is how they were able to weave everything into something that works instead of flopping. Four out of five stars.

March, 2019

The prediction from Weather Canada was that Winter would bleed into the first 2 weeks of March (even though the groundhog said it would be an early Spring) and then suddenly the temperatures would jump up. Well in my mind, Winter felt done at the beginning of March and it was just clinging on for dear life. There weren’t anymore snow falls, but the temperature was still below freezing for awhile before warming up.

We moved the clocks ahead this month. Every time this happens, there are complaints and reports about how daylight savings time is bad and we should get rid of it. But for us, it works really well. Sun comes up right when the kids have to wake up for school, lasts through the entire day, and dusk is when they have to go to sleep.

I went down to the Bay Area for a few days at the start of the month. I don’t end up going there as often as I should, but this time I had some time to catch up with a few friends. I also took an Air Canada 737 Max 8 down, and marveled at the new entertainment system Air Canada had on it. Of course, later in the month the 737 Max 8s were grounded across the world.

This month was pretty light with weekends mostly free as kids were in-between extra-curricular activity terms. March break had them in camps so nothing out of the ordinary there either.

Hearthstone Not Heroic: Lich King

I’ve been stuck on the Knights of the Frozen Throne single player campaign for a long time. So long that the set is about to rotate out soon! And it’s not like I’m playing hard mode, I just need to finish the final boss battle against the Lich King.

The Lich King cheats. No matter what class you use, he summons a spell to give you a significant handicap. Originally I tried with Mage where the handicap is to start with 0 life. To handle that, I used a deck that cheated out a counterspell on turn one (this involved a lot of restarts). But even with that advantage, I was still not able to beat him.

So the Lich King stayed in slumber for awhile and I finally beat him now. This time I used a murloc deck with Shaman. Shaman’s handicap is that all his minions are 1/1 (but still cost the same). Not a big deal as murlocs typically start out with low stats anyways. Here’s my deck:

  • 2x Grimscale Oracle
  • 2x Murloc Tidecaller
  • 2x Bilefin Tidehunter
  • 2x Blowgill Sniper
  • Devolve
  • Ghost Light Angler
  • 2x Ice Fishing
  • Murloc Tidehunter
  • Primalfin Totem
  • Windfury
  • Coldlight Seer
  • Lightning Storm
  • 2x Murloc Warleader
  • Primalfin Lookout
  • 2x Call in the Finishers
  • Old Murk-Eye
  • Slitfin Spiritwalker
  • Bloodlust
  • 2x Everyfin is Awesome

Deck code: AAEBAfe5AgwzxQP1BOAF0AeTCdcP2A/2vQKRwQKGxALw8wIJ2wP+A+MFpwi/F4qtAuO7Aq28AovOAgA=

It still took a couple of tries for the combo pieces to land properly. I think this deck may only work with Shaman as the Call in the Finishers+Everyfin is Awesome combo is needed to amp up the damage on Lich King before he gets Frostmourne.

Well onto the other classes and Arthas…hopefully at some point.

Edge of Tomorrow

Never heard about this in theatres but found it in the sci-fi section of the inflight movies. It started Tom Cruise so it couldn’t be that bad right?

Edge of Tomorrow tells a story where an alien invasion via asteroid happens. The asteroid lands in Germany and begins taking over Europe. The world unites to fit these Brood-like figures, as well a development of an exoskeleton to help soldiers. Tom Cruise plays a former advertiser who ends up in media relations for the army. He is told to go to the front lines to film a concentrated human push, deserts, and ends up on the front lines. Somehow, he ends up in a time loop and can reply the day until he realizes what’s at stake and finishes his mission.

There are a lot of cliché and dumb things in this movie, but there are also a lot of awesome things. Exoskeleton/mechs are cool. Time loops are actually pretty fun. Tom Cruise’s role has the perfect background for him (although it could have been any male star). Watching this movie makes me want to read the book it’s based on and so this is a highly rated action film from me! Four out of five stars.

Argo

This was a movie I wanted to watch, but had shy’d away from in the past because it was too serious. It’s about a CIA agent who sneaks 6 US Foreign State workers out of Iran when that state has cut of relations with the US. Ben Affleck directed and starred in it and I kind of feel it was a twin to Syrianna. In any case, I typically want to have fun when watching movies so didn’t end up watching it till recently.

Argo is a good story and movie, but I couldn’t help but wonder about the parts that Hollywood added in vs the real event (time for some Wikipedia reading when I get of the plane). There was a lot of unnecessary running and just-in-time heroics which I suspect never took place. If nothing, it helped me get a long look at the style that was the few years before my birth. What I didn’t get out of the movie though is a real understanding of the Iranian issues or what happened to end the hostage crisis (end credits said it took 444 days for everyone to be released). Three out of five stars for Argo.

Dairy Queen Effect

I’ve been thinking about a way that media characterizes a scenario which I call the “Dairy Queen effect” because they had the first commercials that use it. This is pretty noticeable nowadays and it is when a scenario starts off normal but then it goes into crazy territory (can’t happen in real life at all). I don’t even remember the examples in the commercials but it could be something like buy an ice cream and unicorns will sprout out around you (now I just remembered a Skittles commercial that rained Skittles from Palm trees).

I’m guessing this works because this is supposedly what GenZ audiences like to watch (things that are funny). Now it’s propagated to short form video on Facebook and even movie plots!

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Kingsman was another movie that got truncated due to an end of the flight. I figure I got 2/3rds of the way through it and then the next time I took a flight, the movie selection had changed. At least 6 months later, I finally found The Golden Circle again on a SF flight. Kinda strange really as it wasn’t part of any special event (there was a new and improved entertainment system).

Anyways, I can’t remember why I picked this movie but I had seen the original and didn’t hate it. Watching this follows the MI discussion of what makes this franchise unique in the world of spy thrillers and I think this takes the “British” part of Bond (the gentleman), puts in a Millennial lead, and makes it more fun. The scriptwriters know that whatever villain they write will not be relatable, so they just use some scenario that would come out of a Dairy Queen commercial. It doesn’t really matter though because we all know how the spy thrillers scripts end.

The Golden Circle also had a double agent much like MI: Fallout did. Funny how movies around the same time frame use the same mechanic. But it’s not all copycat material, the villain’s plan was to taint the international drug supply so that all recreational drug users die unless the government pays up. Turns out that’s a lot of everyday people. It was a bit cheesy, but the fighting was good and the style is like an optimized Bond film. Three out of five stars.

Pocket Queue 85

  • Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?
    Randomly, I added several articles that took existing thinking around health and argued that they are wrong. The first is around sunscreen and whether everyone needs to wear as much as experts say.

    At the same time, African Americans suffer high rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, internal cancers, and other diseases that seem to improve in the presence of sunlight, of which they may well not be getting enough. Because of their genetically higher levels of melanin, they require more sun exposure to produce compounds like vitamin D, and they are less able to store that vitamin for darker days. They have much to gain from the sun and little to fear.

    And yet they are being told a very different story, misled into believing that sunscreen can prevent their melanomas, which Weller finds exasperating. “The cosmetic industry is now trying to push sunscreen at dark-skinned people,” he says. “At dermatology meetings, you get people standing up and saying, ‘We have to adapt products for this market.’ Well, no we don’t. This is a marketing ploy.”

  • You Don’t Need Sports Drinks To Stay Hydrated
    Next is an article about Gatorade. Do you really lose enough electrolytes while being active to need it?

    Deborah Cohen, an investigations editor at the BMJ who was involved in the project and wrote a summary of the findings, recalls a study in which volunteers who fasted overnight were divided into two groups, one whose members were given a sports drink containing water, salts and sugar and another whose members received water. “People who were given the sports drink fared better,” she says. “Well, no shit.” If you haven’t had any food in 12 hours and then you get a bit of sugar, of course you’ll perform better than the people still running on empty. But to say that this means the sports drink is superior to whatever a normal person would consume leading up to or during exercise just isn’t generalizable, she says. “Who starves themselves overnight and then goes to perform some exercise?” And yet the BMJ investigation found that this type of study design is surprisingly common among tests of nutritional products.

  • White gold: the unstoppable rise of alternative milks
    And finally, there is a rise in alternative milks (soy and others), but do and should they replace cow’s milk?

    We are all born milk drinkers. Babies’ guts produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, the sugar in breastmilk (and cow’s milk), into the simpler sugars glucose and galactose. But for the majority of humans, production of the enzyme lactase plummets after weaning. “From a human perspective – no, to go further than that, from a mammalian perspective – the norm is to be able to tolerate your mother’s breast milk, and then as you get past infancy, to stop producing lactase and become lactose intolerant,” said Adam Fox, a consultant paediatric allergist at Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospitals, and one of the UK’s leading food allergy experts. “Then you’ve got a small group of humans that have a mutation which means they maintain production of lactase into adulthood. Northern Europeans, the Masai [in east Africa], some Arab groups as well. But that’s the exception, not the rule.”

  • How chicken became the rich world’s most popular meat
    On a similar but less controversial topic, here are some reasons why chicken is so cheap (and popular).

    Fans of cheap chicken have selective breeding to thank. In the 1940s America launched a series of “Chicken of Tomorrow” competitions for farmers. The aim, as described by a newspaper at the time, was to produce “one bird chunky enough for the whole family—a chicken with breast meat so thick you can carve it into steaks, with drumsticks that contain a minimum of bone buried in layers of juicy dark meat, all costing less instead of more.” The result was something along the lines of the modern broiler chicken.

    Since then chickens have continued to get bigger. A study by Martin Zuidhof of the University of Alberta and colleagues documented this shift by comparing chickens that were selectively bred in 1957, 1978 and 2005. The authors found that at 56 days old the three birds had average weights of 0.9kg, 1.8kg and 4.2kg (see chart). As raising a single big bird is more efficient than raising two smaller ones, it now takes farmers just 1.3kg of grain to produce 1kg of chicken, down from 2.5kg of grain in 1985.

  • The Goalie Is a Hired Gun, and He’s Yours for $50 a Game
    This was a strange article because it appeared in the NY Times but is a very Canadian topic of the Uber market for goalies.

    Some even try to make itinerant goaltending their profession. Hamilton is one of those.

    A musician who plays the vibraphone in a six-person folk band called Beams, Hamilton said he makes more money being a rental goalie than playing music in clubs.

    He averages 10 games a week and keeps 40 Canadian dollars per game, paying 10 dollars in commission to a rental agency. His cut works out to about 1,600 Canadian dollars, or $1,220 in United States currency, a month. By his estimate, he has made well over 100,000 dollars in eight years as a rental goalie. And, yes, he said, he declares all of his income on his taxes.

February 2019

Whoops, forgot to blog about February until now. So what happened – well it was a short month, but it always feels long because this is the dead of winter. It didn’t feel as cold as January, but that might be because I was used to and expected it this month. There wasn’t as much snow, but still a snowfall or two. Driving in this month felt like the winters of old, where there is a constant layer of snow underneath your wheels (at least on the inner roads) and snowbanks along the sides. Fortunately, Spring is supposed to come soon and dramatically this year.

I flew out to Korea for a few days this month. I’m pretty tired of Seoul the city, so I connected through Japan on the way back. The connection involved a change in airport so I was able to catch some sights for a few hours before departing.

I made the conscious decision to stop playing Star Trek Timelines this month. I guess inertia kept me going but there wasn’t anything that I “needed”. I “bought into” Disney Heroes (meaning I paid $10 to get to a higher VIP level so I could avoid menial tasks) so I’m giving that a ~90 day run before deciding whether I should continue spending time on it. I also started playing Hearthstone some more (at least the questing and saving gold). It feels good to make this change!