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Top Music of 2018

My main impression this year was that there was a distinct lack of interesting new songs. For new music, I continued to listen to the radio but dialed back a lot on KPop. It wasn’t productive for me to keep paying attention to blogs to find out about new KPop. I also took a long break from radio in the middle of the year because the kids started listening to (the same) kid albums over and over. We attained a balance in the last quarter of the year so I had a chance to catch up (not that I missed much, if anything).

Due to this, here is an shorter list for 2018 – I think this list could have been cut before 10:

  1. New Rules – Dua Lipa
    This might have come out at the end of 2017, but it got in my ahead and I bought her self titled album this year. Catchy pop but I can only remember its chorus. I also have a weird mashup version of this that Pentaonix did with an Aaliyah song!
  2. Solo – Clean Bandit ft Demi Lovato
    If I had listened to the radio more in the summer, I think this would have been the song of the summer for me. But, because I didn’t listen to it that much; maybe I think this song is better than it actually is.
  3. Stay – 태연 (Taeyeon)
    Best Taeyeon song of the year. I like the uplifting style and the imagery of the video. Wish she released more ballads this year, but this is a pop song in the vein of Rain so I think it will remain in my rotation for awhile. I think this is the song that I should have been.
  4. Done For MeCharlie Puth ft Kehlani
    Charlie Puth released his new album this year, but first two singles were played in 2017 (Attention and How Long). I was waiting forever for this album since I enjoyed those singles as well as his first album. His second album has a high overall quality, but not many singles after this third one.
  5. 삐삐 (Bbibbi) – 아이유 (IU)
    IU’s songs are always so self reflective, and this is in a similar vein where she addresses her social media haters. That’s just one aspect of her marketing though. She’s really just a typical pop idol, fashioned in a particular way for her fans. This song is catchy, the video is stylistic, the dance is fun; but in a few years it will just be like her other pop hits (see: Good Day, You & I). And more generally, lost in a forest of pop.
  6. Something New – 태연 (Taeyeon)
    Not a fan of this video and I don’t think this song is in a style that will give it a lot of lifetime listening. I think they fit Taeyeon into this song for sales and awards, rather than writing a song to fit her.
  7. 몰랐니 (Lil’ Touch) – 소녀시대-Oh!GG
    I see this song as an attempt for SNSD to stay relevant. 3 more of their group have left (Tiffany, Soo Young, Seohyun) and so this “sub group” is an excuse to release something with the remaining 5 members. I guess you could say the song is an evolution because it’s not bubblegum pop but a little more progressive (reminds me of a jungle). However, the video just feels old – the band members are now pushing 30, which is ancient in the pop world. Their release this year was a single (not even an EP), and they have all had solo albums (except Sunny?). I can’t imagine the group will have another comeback next year.
  8. 다른사람을 사랑하고 있어 (I’m In Love With Someone Else) – 수지 (Suzy)
    I enjoyed Suzy’s previous EP (Yes? No?) and really tried to like her most recent EP. After listening to it several times, this ballad is the only one that stuck.
  9. Call Out My Name – The Weeknd
    The Weeknd released a surprise EP this year, which wasn’t great but paid some fan service if you like his style of music (which I do). Call Out My Name was the single, but I don’t think it was the strongest track on the EP.
  10. In My Feelings – Drake
    This song would be otherwise forgettable if it weren’t for the fact that Jovian loves this song. We end up playing it over and over while he tries to dance to it. He doesn’t care about the dance challenge, he just makes his own moves. Also, for the longest time, I thought this song had “Kiki” in the title…
  11. Calvin Harris ft Sam Smith – Promises
    Last minute entry. Sounds good and…promising after hearing it on the radio.
  12. I Got You – Bebe Rexha
    I actually saw Bebe Rexha perform at an iHeartRadio concert at CES at the start of the year. Prior to that concert, I did some research to see if I would like her music – and I didn’t. This song came back on my radar because I heard a cover of it (forgot by who). I looked up this original and it actually isn’t as good! Oh well, I think this is a decent song even if I never heard it on the radio.
  13. Lost In Japan – Shawn Mendes (Zedd Remix)
    Radio only played the Zedd remix so I had no idea what the original sounds like. The situation posed by this song is a bit ridiculous and watching the video for the first time, it looks like it’s trying to emulate Lost in Translation.
  14. Calvin Harris ft Dua Lipa – One Kiss
    This song benefited from New Rules and caught my attention because Dua Lipa sang on it. I guess it would be popular in the clubs.
  15. No Tears Left To Cry – Arianna Grande
    Never listened to a lot of Arianna Grande, as her songs haven’t piqued my interest. This one did mildly due to the lack of quality songs this year, so I wouldn’t call it an achievement.
  16. God Is A Woman – Arianna Grande
    As I was writing this list, I remembered this song…it’s memorable for 2018 (see above).

It’s kind of telling that this year, my most favorite song might have been released in 2017!

Ant-Man and the Wasp

I had to watch Ant-Man and the Wasp because it looks like these characters and their environment will be very important in Avengers: Endgame. Before seeing that trailer, I wasn’t really interested in this movie because I always thought that Ant-Man/Giant-Man/Wasp were dumb heroes (definitely B or C-List). In fact, I totally forgot that there was an Ant-Man movie and this was a sequel!

I thought the casting was interesting – I hadn’t seen Michelle Pfeiffer in any movies for awhile. She’s still quite recognizable (on the other hand Evangeline Lilly hasn’t aged well). The rest of the movie and story are forgettable – for some reason, I found the comedy and comedic set pieces to be pretty lame (maybe they reflect how the Scott Lang character is more lame than other cooler superheroes). I just wanted to learn more about the quantum zone and know all the characters/tech when they appear later.

If not for the Avengers connection, this movie could be a straight-to-video release. Two out of five stars, partly because the movie sucks, partly because the hero sucks.

Will You Be There?

Will You Be There? is a Korean time paradox movie where an older man travels 30 years into the past to visit his younger self and a regret in his life. As you can expect, there are butterfly effects of his actions that change the outcome, and that leads to subsequent visits in order to shape his present so that he has his desired outcome without changing other things that are important to him.

I enjoy experience this type of concept because there are always things in life that you wish you did better or differently. While we don’t have any mystical way to travel back and retcon out past, it’s therapeutic to imagine. The movie version is a fairy tale and you can just as well create a horror film from the concept. But I believe the director wanted to tell a satisfying story without pushing the boundaries of thought. That leaves this idea as a three out of five film.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

I came into this movie thinking that this was the reboot of the Jurassic Park that I had watched when I was a kid. I remember seeing a lot of Jurassic World toys this summer, which I supposed tied-in with this update. So I was surprised when I was watching Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that this was actually a sequel of another movie. Oops. Nevertheless, I hadn’t seen dinosaurs hunting humans for awhile so this was new to me.

Steven Spielberg is tied to this project, but I was pretty disappointed with the result. The pacing and dialogue was cheesy – not in a way that dumbs it down for little kids watching (why would they want to watching scary dino hunt scenes I’m not sure) but just not well written. Honestly, you’re watching this movie for dinosaurs and not the cast or story. There’s a dino-trainer aspect in this movie, and for a minute I thought I would be watching Rampage again, unfortunately without The Rock, it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining. Also, I can’t stop wondering why Star Lord is chasing dinosaurs.

With this, I’ve had my dino fix for awhile. I would give this movie two out of five stars.

Pocket Queue 83

  • Uber Is Headed for a Crash
    Some very good reasons why Uber will fail.

    But, but, but — you may say — Uber has established a large business in cities over the world. Yes, it’s easy to get a lot of traffic by selling at a discount. Uber is subsidizing ride costs. Across all its businesses, Uber was providing services at only roughly 74 percent of their cost in its last quarter. Uber was selling its services at only roughly 64 percent of their cost in 2017, with a GAAP profit margin of negative 57 percent. As a reference point, in its worst four quarters, Amazon lost $1.4 billion on $2.8 billion in sales, for a negative margin of 50 percent. Amazon reacted by firing over 15 percent of its workers.

  • High score, low pay: why the gig economy loves gamification
    Along the same vein, here’s a look at a Lyft driver and a discussion at what drives them to drive more.

    But one week, after completing what felt like a million rides, I opened my feedback summary to discover that my rating had plummeted from a 4.91 (“Awesome”) to a 4.79 (“OK”), without comment. Stunned, I combed through my ride history trying to recall any unusual interactions or disgruntled passengers. Nothing. What happened? What did I do? I felt sick to my stomach.

    Because driver ratings are calculated using your last 100 passenger reviews, one logical solution is to crowd out the old, bad ratings with new, presumably better ratings as fast as humanly possible. And that is exactly what I did.

  • Marvel Icon Stan Lee Leaves a Legacy as Complex as His Superheroes
    With the death of Stan Lee, the tributes are coming out. Here’s one that is not so flattering of him. I heard Stan Lee talk last year and he was a very entertaining and engaging speaker. I thought that that was a skill that he picked up as he got older (and out of the direct work of creating superheroes). But I guess that has been a talent of his since day 1.

    Yet Kirby’s legacy and Lee’s proved to be inextricable. Marvel fans noticed a creative malaise after Kirby defected, a period that coincided with Lee stepping back from Marvel’s creative fare and moving to California to establish what would eventually become, after many fits, starts, and incarnations, Marvel Studios. Kirby fans reading the Fourth World noticed that despite Kirby’s unparalleled visuals and creations, his dialogue and characterization just weren’t up to par with Kirby’s Lee-scripted Marvel work. Kirby ended up returning to Marvel in 1975 for a half-hearted reunion.

  • What the Hell Happened to Darius Miles?
    I don’t know who Darius Miles is and I don’t know what happened to him. So I thought this article was going to be a self-written essay about how he lost all of his money. But no, it’s a somewhat behind the scenes report of his short career in the NBA and what happened after he left. Oh well, there’s 20 minutes lost

    I knew I was speeding. So I pull over, and I roll the window down, and I’m reaching over into the glove compartment to get my papers ….

    … Then I hear this voice. Big, booming voice.

    “WHERE YOU G’WAN, BOY?”

    I’m like, Damn, they got the sergeant on me or something?

    I turn to look out the window, and I can’t even see this dude’s face he’s so big. All I see is his chest.

    “I SAID WHERE YOU G’WAN BOY?”

    Then he bends down and looks in the window.

    Big, dumbass grin on his face.

    It’s Shaq.

    I’m like, “Yo! I’m going to practice! You made me late!”

    He don’t miss a beat. He taps side of my truck, turns around and says, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll pay your fine. Just holler at me.”

    I’m looking in the rearview mirror, like, How the hell …

    Shaq’s got one of those old-school police lights that you put on the hood of your car like you see on C.O.P.S.

    He gets in, laughing his ass off, waving at me.

  • The Triple Jeopardy of a Chinese Math Prodigy

    I’m not sure I should feel sorry for this guy. He tried to rip off the company where he worked at (the article doesn’t propose any alternate rationale for his actions), and the company pursued him relentlessly from using their IP.

    Appearing without a lawyer and clutching a plastic bag full of documents, Xu cut a pitiful figure. “The defendant has already been punished once,” he told the judge, undercounting by one. “It is excessive to punish him again.” He disputed whether the trading strategies were really as valuable, years later, as the hedge fund claimed.

    While the courts processed the cases against him, Xu was granted bail. He walked out of Harmondsworth Detention Centre this March 16, three years and seven months after he was first incarcerated. His first act as a free man was to order a family bucket from Kentucky Fried Chicken. The same day, Allen & Overy wrote to British immigration authorities asking them to take “all necessary steps” to keep Xu in the country.

The Adventurers

After watching Crazy Rich Asians, this felt like the opposite movement in film. Chinese films have been trying to break into Hollywood forever, but this movie felt like a different strategy. Instead of converting or accommodating a movie for Hollywood, The Adventurers is a film that is fluid and presents itself without explanation. The movie is set entirely in France, half of it is in English (all the “local” French people speak English instead of French) and Chinese people inexplicably are woven into the French population (winery owner, insurance agent, etc). The language goes back and forth – which is OK for me to understand, but could be disconcerting for someone who only understands one. Also, as you can expect, everyone has an accent. Andy Lau does ok, maybe he wants to follow Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat.

The story centers around a thief, his final heist and redemption in the eyes of his loved one. As with most Cantonese films, it’s not going to win any awards with its script (although has your typical HK humor). You watch this like a Bond film: car chases, gadgets and action sequences. It is pretty engaging until we get to the plot twist where it then makes no sense. The ending explains how it happens, but not the why – which is the big question and confusion for me when the plot twist happened.

Oh well, I enjoyed this HK cinema situated in some random place in the world. Three out of five stars.

Crazy Rich Asians

I have been exposed to a lot of press about this movie and the underlying themes of what it represents for the Chinese dispora in North America. I don’t know if it is going to be a one-off or lead to a strong sub-culture of Chinese-American films. That’s a topic for someplace other than my blog. But I can tell you what I think about the movie without the pretense that this is a potential society-altering film.

How I see this film is that it takes a culture and brings it to a wider audience, much like the way a Marvel film might bring comics to the mainstream audience. I am versed in the Marvel universe and Chinese culture, and in Crazy Rich Asians I felt like I was beaten over the head about Asian family obligations vs American independence. I think some more subtlety or sophistication in this theme would have helped.

I also thought the film started out slow. When watching the parts with older Chinese folks, I wanted to hear it in Chinese. Also the gratuitous extravagance was grating and the comedy wasn’t funny. I thought that the movie would end up being a 2 out of 5 for me. Fortunately the movie got a lot better once they moved on to real human issues and began dealing with the relationship. That’s the kind of writing that I expect from a movie plot these days.

While cliche, the ending played out satisfying and didn’t feel cheesy. Crazy Rich Asians didn’t have to be stocked with Asian actors to be popular, it stands on its own as a decent movie. Three out of five stars.

November 2018

November was the first month we spent in our new home and things are finally settling in. We still have a bunch of boxes to unpack but all the day-to-day things are sorted and organized. We also did a bunch of home improvement things (fixed stuff and bought some furniture here and there) but it’s safe to say that the Home Depot trips are dying down. We also dealt with a lot of garbage and recycling – each week there were 5+ bags waiting for the waste disposal people!

We had the first snowfall of winter in the middle of the month – it was a pretty big one too (5-10 cm). That kind of freaked everyone out as they expected a heavy winter. But since then, we’ve only had a few dustings. Temperatures dropped below freezing in the middle of month too and haven’t really recovered.

For work, I flew down to SF for the Samsung Developer Conference. I ended up doing part of a talk there. Nothing too exciting but one more thing to put on my LinkedIn profile. We didn’t go anywhere for Black Friday – it was too difficult to plan with our house up in the air, and we wanted to leave that long weekend available in case we had to take care of anything around the house. Turns out we didn’t so we just went around Canadian stores and bought various deals.

Pocket Queue 82

  • Life and death on a superyacht
    The story of how billionaires have super yachts that may employ hundreds of people (I guess they are floating mansions). Sometimes the workers die, but are the billionaires criminally responsible? Even if they are not , then should be morally responsible?

    By the time Robin, Will’s mother Judith and his sister Rosanna, now 37, arrived in Monaco to join the search, the yacht had left. “The captain said: ‘Don’t worry, we threw some flowers over the side and gave his belongings to the police,’” Rosanna says, fighting back tears as she describes “the worst days of our lives”. “I couldn’t comprehend that the boat had gone before Will was found and before we got there,” she says. “How could they just leave a family to deal with the death of one of their crew, and the police and paperwork and everything? I can’t believe that if something goes wrong – if someone dies – they can just raise the anchor and leave.”

  • The Legend of Nintendo
    A high level look at the philosophy of Nintendo. They’ve been around since 1889!

    In the fall of 2012, the company was in one of its periodic slumps. It had just released the Wii U, the sequel to the phenomenally popular six-year-old Wii. The console featured HD graphics and a touchscreen controller, but from the start it felt off-kilter. The branding, for one thing. Wii U sounded so much like Wii, critics said, that it came across as a minor upgrade rather than an enthralling advance. Compelling games were slow to arrive, and sales were sluggish.

    When things click for Nintendo, a new console triggers a slew of good fortune. The metronomic release of exclusive, tantalizing titles draws gamers to buy the console, which in turn increases sales. Then the console achieves critical mass among hardcore fans, and other companies scramble to adapt their most popular titles for Nintendo’s system. Third-party games from major and independent publishers attract new console buyers. Marketers seeking licenses—for apparel, cereal, children’s toothpaste—rush in, desperate to capitalize on the delirium. The resulting surge of revenue pumps up Nintendo’s profits and replenishes its R&D coffers to start the process anew.

  • How Fortnite Captured Teens’ Hearts and Minds
    Fortnite is really big now, but I haven’t played it yet. So it is useful to see what the game is about, why there is so much hype, and how teens are actually playing it.

    He saw on his find-your-friends bar that a bunch of schoolmates were playing, so he FaceTimed one who goes by ism64. They teamed up and hit Lucky Landing. Gizzard Lizard wore an earbud under a set of earphones, so that he could talk with ism64 while listening for the sound of approaching enemies. From a distance, it appeared that he was talking to himself: “Let’s just build. Watch out, you’re gonna be trapped under my ramp. I’m hitting this John Wick. Oh my God, he just pumped me. Come revive me. Build around me and come revive me. Wait, can I have that chug jug? Thank you.”

    I’d been struck, watching Gizzard Lizard’s games for a few days, by how the spirit of collaboration, amid the urgency of mission and threat, seemed to bring out something approaching gentleness. He and his friends did favors for one another, watched one another’s backs, offered encouragement. This was something that I hadn’t seen much of, say, down at the rink. One could argue that the old arcade, with the ever-present threat of bullying and harassment and the challenge of claiming dibs, exposed a kid to the world—it’s character-building!—but there was something to be said for such a refuge, even if it did involve assault rifles and grenades.

  • The man who has eaten at more than 7,300 Chinese restaurants, but can’t use chopsticks and doesn’t care for food
    Well I’m not one the chastise another for OCD data tracking, but I guess it is a bit weird to visit thousands of Chinese restaurants without knowing Chinese. The actual number of restaurants (maybe 120 a year) and not going to one more than once* is not too crazy.

    “In 1978, people in LA started talking about this great new Hong Kong-style restaurant that had opened up in San Francisco,” Chan says. “It was called Kam Lok. People from LA would fly up there just to eat. My wife and I flew up in the morning, ate there for lunch, ate there for dinner, then flew back in the evening. It was so much better than anything we’d had here.”

    Two years later, Chan made his first trip to Hong Kong.

    “We saw all these restaurants selling seafood. It was something we’d never seen before,” he says. “Then, we came back to LA and, six months later, all of these seafood places started opening up. Within two or three years in LA’s China­town, San Francisco’s Chinatown, New York’s Chinatown, every new Chinese restaurant had seafood, or ocean, or something like that in its name.”

  • A Company Built on a Bluff
    I thought I had read another article about the history of Vice but I can’t find it now. This one gets into more details about how it’s essentially a company of scams, which a lot of reputable companies have invested money into. Unfortunately, they’re not delivering on that optimism.

    According to multiple employees who worked at Vice at the time, Smith went to the architecture firm across the hall from Vice’s Williamsburg office and asked how much it would cost to get them to move out ASAP. Vice’s 50 employees then worked around the clock for several days setting up the new space to look like it had been Vice’s all along. Vice constructed a glass-enclosed conference room to host the Intel meeting, and late one night, an employee answered a buzz at the door to find a plumber who’d come to install a fancy Japanese toilet.

    On the morning of the Intel meeting, Vice employees were instructed to get to the office early, to bring friends with laptops to circulate in and out of the new space, and to “be yourselves, but 40 percent less yourselves,” which meant looking like the hip 20-somethings they were but in a way that wouldn’t scare off a marketing executive. A few employees put on a photo shoot in a ground-floor studio as the Intel executives walked by. “Shane’s strategy was, ‘I’m not gonna tell them we own the studio, but I’m not gonna tell them we don’t,’ ” one former employee says. That night, Smith took the marketers to dinner, then to a bar where Vice employees had been told to assemble for a party. When Smith arrived, just ahead of the Intel employees, he walked up behind multiple Vice employees and whispered into their ears, “Dance.”

Dr Strange

After Dr Strange’s appearance in Infinity War, I wanted to see what the movie version of his origin story would be like. Although, I may have read his backstory in the past, I don’t really remember it so I didn’t have much to reference against. The movie version seemed relatively believable though.

I think Dr Strange is a little different than other Marvel films. While the other superheros have physical skills, Dr Strange’s powers are mystical so it’s not easy to predict what he can and can’t do. It’s like magic, but different than what Thor/Loki uses. That elevates the usual rote Marvel fare into unknown territory. Some of the fights are really intense because the world becomes an Escher playground when in the mirror dimension.

There was some Astral plane stuff too which was interesting to see how they would represent that in a movie setting. And of course, there was a big infinity stone preview – although I watched the movies in the wrong order so it wasn’t that surprising. The post credit scene was just a preview of Thor: Ragnarok. I guess this movie is a 3 out of 5 stars too.