On commentary

I have a few shows and podcasts I listen too.  They’re commentary in general, culture critique if you will.

There’s a lot of silly opinion on those who comment on things. I think Youtube comments have a lot to do with that but smart funny commentary makes better art or can cast art in a completely new way. These things are valuable to our culture.

The top three things I pay attention to, and I am saying this because if you don’t know about them they are worth your time:

Movies with Mikey

A Bit of a Chat with Ken Plume

We Got This with Mark and Hal

In no particular order,

Movies With Mikey

It’s probably no secret I love Mikey Neumann. His humor and insight blows me away. He’s one of the few people who killed me in a book he wrote. And I’m fine with that. It was a good death. Unexpected. Much like the one I actually had once.

What Mikey does is he takes a film, it could be a good film a bad film whatever, and Mikey CELEBRATES it. Let’s set aside his big brain analysis of story points or shot angles or holy shit he once celebrated COLOR CORRECTION.

That shit is Ebert level.

What Mikey does is make you feel, at the end of the episode, great. You just feel good. And you wanna go back and watch that film again to apply some of what he said but you will do it with a smile on your face. It’s quite literally not possible to watch Movies with Mikey and feel crunchy about it. Some try, but they reveal in their “I have opinions” level meta critique their failure to understand the entire point of what Mikey is doing.

The episodes have amazing production value and his opening theme song I don’t know why, just sings to my heart. He makes movies more fun to watch. Mikey has actually made me go pay for a movie I skipped just because of his analysis and passion for celebrating it. HOLLYWOOD DMCA LAWYERS LISTEN UP HE MADE YOUR CLIENT MONEY.

I adore this show.

A Bit of A Chat with Ken Plume

I bounce off Ken pretty well. Often when we have a phone call it goes 2 hours because we can disagree so easily and agree so hard on so many things.

But the reason this show is a favorite is that he is a master interviewer. He’s smart, funny as hell and brings a deep level of insight into nerd topics but that isn’t the best part.

A good interviewer isn’t afraid to take a strong counter position and challenge the other person. And a bit of a chat is A) well named and B) well done on that specific point.

And it’s its all improv. Ken isn’t afraid to let the conversation happen organically and man, he gets your favorite geeks and internet people to be unhooked and free to talk about things. It’s high value and some are really long but wow are they worth the investment.

Ken takes commentary to a great level. Sometimes it’s crunchy and it forces self-reflection but it’s always done with heart and love. This is a must listen for anyone interested in the things I am interested in.

We Got This with Mark and Hal

This one. Oh, this one. What a great premise. Let’s take a geek/nerd/Internet argument and actually argue it. It is so much fun. I was present for a live recording with Adam and Hodgman in San Francisco with Mark and Hal and holy shit it was a Star Trek vs Star Wars argument.

And again the trend here of their commentary is they come from love not “I HAVE OPINIONS’. This one you can really feel the love. Even when the argument gets down to absolute positions the other side gets its proper due. This podcast probably makes me laugh more than the others solely because Mark and Hal are so sharp. if you can see them live DO SO. Hal and Mark are great folk. And you know what? They got this.

So those are my go to items that give me faith when I read the youtube comments a little too close. There’s lot’s more quality stuff out there I could mention I don’t want to give short shrift to them by any means. These are the ones I think, if you were looking to spend some time you would be so well rewarded and I want to support them and help them continue.

I think we all need a little support and continuation of the things we love right now.

He had always told the truth (plot twist, he didn’t)

SPOILER ALERT for Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

Having said that Let’s get cracking!

Brandy, You’re a Fine Girl is a song from 1972 (my birth year!) performed by Looking glass and somehow, SOMEHOW James Gunn plucked this song from obscurity to serve as a primary narrative point Guardian’s of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

I cannot possibly fathom the level of creative genius that resulted in this and am awestruck.

The film presents Kurt Russel’s performance as Peter’s father from a story construct that seems at first heavy handed. THE GUY’S NAME IS EGO. but it earns every beat because of the use of Brandy as his explanation for his one flaw: He fell in love. Love is, when pure, the least Ego thing.

The lyric used in the story for Ego’s justification is interesting to me, “My life my love my lady is the sea”. Turns out that wasn’t true and he killed Peter’s mother because of it. And he betrays the other line in the song that he attempts to use as an excuse: “He was an honest man.” He wasn’t.

Her eyes stole a sailer from the sea.

He wanted Peter. He needed to create Starlord and in the process revealed something incredibly vulnerable about himself. He was lonely. He was not honest about that.

And thusly it is revealed through this use of Brandy as the opening song that everything you really need to know about Ego is played out over the next two hours. And Peter is the ultimate victim of this seemingly trivial tune about a ship port waitress because his mother was the single most important thing to him and there, right there, is where the small exhaust port weakness of Ego’s entire plan results in detonation.

He underestimated Peter. He overestimated his designs. And he callously threw a life away and Peter’s redemption in this moment is so righteous because he has a new family. And they have his back. And he has theirs.

The film earns this beat so hard that I actually have a crush on a piece of art.

My thoughts on the Nintendo Switch

So I got a switch once they were available after launch but I got the neon one and for some reason it had a system board error. I got my replacement one (Slate grey, SO SLEEK) 48 hours ago and I have some thoughts on it. This is probably the coldest of hot takes given how long it has been on the market but here we go:

I unboxed the thing and again marveled at the fact the entire console is just the little iPad mini sized touchscreen. It puts out roughly Xbox 360/PS3 style graphics when you dock it to the HDMI enabled mount at 1080p. It’s, like most Nintendo stuff except the Wii U (which felt plastic and kinda cheap), an impressive piece of kit.

Gaming around the house is fun and easy, even though I can already do that on my iPad mini. Late night Mariokart is going to be a big thing for me I think.

Zelda. I’m only partially into it and it’s such an amazing game. I actually am now putting off Horizon on PS4 to enjoy Zelda fully. By going stylized in terms of art they really maximized the look of this title either playing it on a 65-inch screen or on the console’s touch screen. Again I would rate the graphics on Zelda as very close to high quality Xbox 360/PS3 level in this tiny little thing. I can’t wait for some more optimization work that will probably yield stylized looks exceeding PS3 level quality.

I want every console maker to consider making a “previous gen” type experience like this. I can’t wait for Scorpio but man if you could give me an Xbox 360/Xbox One experience in this form factor I think you could still hit the consumer level 299/399$ price point pain for the fact it’s tiny, sits in an entertainment center like it’s hidden, and enables mobile experiences better than any second screen experience I have had to date on iOS or Android.

I worry Nintendo will orphan it.

The battery life sucks but I cannot really complain because it’s working pretty hard.

While the Vita promised this type of experience, the Switch is everything the Vita should have been. I love my vita but this is the new hotness.

I still think Nintendo should port all their titles to other platforms and charge a premium for the software. But hey what do I know, they seem to be doing pretty well without doing that.

“Nintendo Switch” is still sort of a weird name. But not as weird as “Wii U”

I don’t think I’ve been this pleased with a Nintendo device since my ex camped out to get me a Gamecube or I got my DSi.

Zelda. Wow.

 

I have a Jerry Pournelle story.

“We have an unusual request about this week’s security bulletins release. If you have the time can you talk to someone on the phone?” This was from my Waggener Edstrom liaison.

It was 2004 and I would get these requests often in my part time role as communications person for Microsoft’s Security Response Center. The PR team and I would weigh who the request came from, their audience, and several other factors in deciding who we would get on the phone with as opposed to responding in email. Not for spin or positioning purposes, (you can’t really spin a security vulnerability although many have tried. They tried and failed? No. They tried and died) but more use of time vs. how many people would be reached.

“Sure.” I said. “What’s the outlet?”

Waggener Edstrom has served as the major PR firm for Microsoft for such a long time. There’s a reason for that, they are whip smart and I knew that if they were asking for my phone time it was worth doing.

“It’s a gentleman who runs a fairly well-subscribed newsletter, he’s written for Byte and a lot of other publications back in the day. His questions are mostly technical about the attack vector, it seems like a good place to get any additional information out.”

It was a slow day for me, a Thursday as I recall and our monthly release had happened that Tuesday so most of the pressing outlets like CNN or the LAtimes/Boston Globe/NYT gamut or Wired or whatever had already had their calls with me, so I said sure let me set up a 30 minute block of time and give me five minutes prep for us to decide whether or not to do this or over email.

I stupidly never asked who the gentleman was who I would be talking to.

Ok prep for the call time. I’m in my office which back then was decorated in what my Wagg Ed support team referred to as “affluent freshman college dorm room” style. I had cool lava lamps and a projector with a liquid oil pattern cast on the wall, blacklights, a nice futon etc. Meetings all over the MSRC were sometimes held in my office just because. Once, our fearless leader kicked me out of my own office to have a meeting, but that was before we started pranking his office with greek architecture. I digress.

I picked up the phone for the prep, keep in mind my role here in my life was directly communicate guidance for Microsoft customers in regards to security threats and vulnerabilities and patches. We’re 60 seconds into the prep discussion when I finally open the newsletter and look at the web page and find out the caller is going to be

Jerry. Fucking. Pournelle.

*record scratch* *narrator voice* This is me, you may be wondering how I got here.

Well let’s start with The Mote in God’s Eye. The Niven and Pournelle team-up was formative for me because their voices were so interesting individually, but that story meshes so seamlessly (unlike say a Peter Straub/ Stephen King mashup which worked so brilliantly *because* of the slight tonal discord) that it made me seek out all of Pournelle’s other work. I had already consumed Niven’s.

“We’re taking this call” I blurted. “We are taking this fucking call. We are sooooo taking this call.”

I think I freaked the PR team out a little bit.

So now I’m 60 seconds away from speaking to Jerry. Fucking. Pournelle. In some random space in my life where his interests and my role collided and neither had anything to do with the fact I was a huge fan. I knew about his newsletter and website and his interest in computers and tech, I just had no idea *that* was the person I was going to talk to. And now it was my job.

Be cool man. Be cool.

Now I’m on the phone with him. He asks how I am and how my day is. I managed somehow to hold it together and chat like all this was perfectly normal but I didn’t trust myself to not screw it all up so I just said “before we get to your questions, if I may, your fiction has been a huge influence on me. I’m a fan and I’m a little weirded out that I’m talking to you”

I know that’s what I said, verbatim, because I had it typed in notepad to read from so I would not screw it up.

He laughed and spent like the next two minutes just sort of shooting the shit with me. Then he delved into his questions which were clearly from someone who wasn’t just a hobbyist, he understood the ins and outs of the threat and he wanted to articulate why applying the updates was important in the newsletter.

At one point I got bold. I said, “Well on the one hand the attacker could do X but on the gripping hand the patch does Y.”

He stopped me. “If I were to use that, there would be three elements, with the “on the gripping hand” being always the third. That’s how moties work. It helps see past a binary choice!”

I still use this today. I say things often like so: “On the one hand X, on the other hand Y. But on the Gripping hand….” and when it gets spotted by people for the reference I usually get an email or nod to the effect “I got what ya did there” and when people are confused I get to explain it and introduce them to The Mote in God’s Eye.

I have Jerry to thank for that. The call was simple and perfunctory, we got his questions answered, he was gracious and kind with my fanboyism. But that moment where he took an element of such a foundational influence that he and Niven had written and riffed it as “No no no say it like this, and people will get it” was one of those moments in my life where I was flummoxed and not at the same time, and won’t ever forget.

We never spoke again, I cannot claim to have known him or that we were Facebook friends or anything. I doubt he would have even recalled the conversation within a month or two of it just because he probably had lots of conversations like that with people.

I am just one more of millions affected by his work in some way saying, thanks Jerry. Thanks for the stories.