February 17, 2018

Black Panther

Marvel’s Black Panther earned a whopping $75.8 million on its first day, including $25.2m in Thursday previews. That’s the fourth-biggest superhero opening day in history, behind The Avengers ($80m), Batman v Superman ($81m) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($84m). It’s the second-biggest pre-summer launch behind Batman v Superman ($81m), the top single day gross for a solo superhero movie and the biggest single day for a movie not directed by a white male, the eighth-biggest opening day ever and the very biggest single day ever for a non-sequel movie.


We saw the film tonight in Redwood City with some folks from my extended family.  A few observations:
  • They ran about 30 screenings of it today, looks like they'll run another 30 tomorrow.  
  • When I bought our tickets at noon, the theater was empty (maybe they'd just put on another show), tonight the theater was full.
  • No one left the theater during the show.  The audience applauded at the end.
  • Disney had this budgeted as a single hero tentpole flick (about $200 mm, similar to Iron Man's $186 mm, but a bit above the $130-140 mm for the first Ant Man and Captain America films.  It looks like they could break even...this weekend.
  • If this is really a $200 mm+ weekend, Black Panther will be right there with the biggest Marvel movies ever made, Avengers and Age of Ultron, both of which ultimately had revenues of $1.4-$1.5 bn.   
As for the movie, damn...!

The last time I saw a movie that so fully realized and immersed me in an utterly new an alien world was...a long time ago, in a galaxy far away. The visual imagination and special effects of Black Panther are wildly beyond the normal high standard of the modern superhero movie.

All this, and relevance too.  Black Panther raises - even more effectively than The Winter Soldier - questions about loyalty to leader or country (how do you choose), and how a nation can wield power responsibly in a world where many will not.  And it asks, quite reasonably, if you let the monsters grow outside your borders, how long until they come to your door?

Finally, Black Panther has a wonderful villain.  One of our party quite reasonably asked:  "hey...is that Nick Young?"

Killmonger (courtesy of The Ringer)


Just sayin'...

February 15, 2018

From the Annals of Ill-Advised Coaching Ploys

Taylor just owned the Eagles.

From The New York Times:

Two Eagles quarterbacks – Ron Jaworski and Randall Cunningham – share the distinction of being Lawrence Taylor’s most frequent sack victims, each of them succumbing 12.5 times.

But it was the sacks of Jaworski, a sitting duck of a pocket passer, that most closely resembled the LT ideal articulated in his 1987 autobiography, “LT: Living on the Edge.”

“He doesn’t see you coming and you drive your helmet into his back so hard, he blows a little snot bubble,” LT wrote. 


February 14, 2018

Fuck it, we're going with kittens

February 12, 2018

Making little dots go away

Basically, take a satellite image of an airfield (or a town) and pick out the 80 things you want to make into a crater. Then load the coordinates of those things onto the jet and weapons and fly the mission. With the GBU-38’s accuracy rate just a few points off 100 percent, there is a very good chance a well trained B-2 crew and targeteers will make those targets selected in the photo disappear.



February 11, 2018

It seemed like a good idea at the time

February 10, 2018

The best prison movie of 2017, or... You'll Believe a Bear Can Cry

I went to this movie with a mindset of pure hate, intending to mock it relentlessly here, demonstrating my sophistication and dark, wry, humor.  But I'm afraid that will be impossible.  This is a very fine movie, fully deserving its 100% rating (184 reviews) on Rotten Tomatoes.  It's Metacritic score of 88 is, if anything, a bit stingy.

Key points:
  • This is a nice movie for nice people.  It pitches the idea that there is a little good in all of us, and keeps pitching it, and then pitches it some more.  I mean, they just will not shut up about it.
  • It is beautiful throughout, with visual interludes so dynamic and creative they took my breath away.  Cinematographer Erik Wilson crushed this.  I will be on the lookout for other films filmed by Erik Wilson.
  • Hugh Grant, whom I've hated in everything I've seen him in, plays an evil washed-up actor and completely redeems himself.
  • Several fine dance numbers.
  • Celebrates diversity.
  • Makes you miss London.  Make you wonder why the world can't be a tolerant loving family place like London.  Makes you wonder why we can't all find just a little more love in our hearts and have the whole world be more like London.
  • Double plus good prison scenes, including the best escape scene since Papillon. 
  • Encourages us to be kind to immigrants.
  • Best train fight scene since Skyfall.
  • Knuckles McGinty:

Full TVTropes assessment here.

February 08, 2018

Notes on "Messner" (2012)

Atop Nanga Parbat in 1978

Well nobody's perfect.

Nanga Parbat is the SEMI-final boss

It's bigger

And still breathing

The moment I wake up I'm already there 
  'cause I am obsessed by my vision 
  And if I would try one hundred thousand times 
  I'll still have to roll up that stone 
  Gravity grabs you by the hand and smiles 
  but who can contain your ambition? 
  and like a gambler's gamblin' all the time 
  you'll still have to roll up that stone 
  are you mother's favorite son? 
  Once you cross the borderline 
  the point of no return 
  you'll see the world through watchmen's eyes 
  you'll face the world as one 
  the borderline till kingdom come 
  should I stay or turn back home? 
  And still you'll keep rollin' that stone 
  are you mother's favorite son? 

The moment I wake up I'm already there
  and I will complete my mission
  and if I would try one hundred thousand times
  I'll still have to roll up that stone
  Once you cross that borderline
  the point of no return
  you'll see the world through watchmen's eyes
  you'll face the world as one
  and when it ends you'll have to burn
  and then you'll reach the sun
  And the kids, they'll be jugglin' your bones
  while your soul will travel on alone
  you'll ride that beam of light home
  With your mother and your brother
  and your father and your sister
  and the son of your daughter
  will call you mister mister
  with your brother and your sister
  and the cousin of your father
  and the neighbor of your uncle
  and the babies they will bother
  with the pink pony ridin' on the sky to the fountain
  of a big big mountain that they call big big mama
  Still you keep rollin' that stone
  rollin' that stone all alone
  rollin' that stone all alone
  still you keep rollin' that stone


All is well...!!!

Vix by the hour since Monday, w/ 8-hour moving average

More info on the final scene of Trading Places here.

February 06, 2018

Huh... Didn't think I'd like it. Was wrong. (YMMV)

It's true you know

Now we are safe

"The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France," said a military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the planning discussions are supposed to remain confidential. "This is being worked at the highest levels of the military."


February 04, 2018

Dude at 0:55 gets it

February 02, 2018

Family Crisis

Big gala coming up, 70's theme.  My wife is all we have to do this:

And I'm all like no this:

Anyway, I'm going dressed as a Pan-Am pilot who has just returned...from Funkistan.

When I read this headline...

Jeff Bezos’ master plan is to have no plan (link)

...I thought of:

Farewell to my favorite Temptation

The estimable Dennis Edwards passes on, The Ringer's Rembert Browne discusses here.

February 01, 2018

There's *another* one...!

January 31, 2018

Final panels of 'Hot Box' (1954)


King Kirby

I recommend this fine book. From the introduction by Neil Gaiman:

And it's the Iggy Pop and the Stooges title from 1973 that I think of when I think of Jack Kirby.  The album was called Raw Power, and that was what Jack had, and had in a way that nobody had before or since.  Power, pure and unadulterated, like sticking knitting needles into an electrical socket... 
Jack Kirby created part of the language of comics and much of the language of super hero comics.  He took vaudeville and made it opera.  He took a static medium and gave it motion.  In a Kirby comic the people were in motion, everything was in motion.  Jack Kirby made comics move, he made them buzz and crash and explode.  And he created... 


0:27 I can't even...

January 29, 2018

Searching an empty, dangerous room

After a global fundraiser, a plea to Pakistan's Army for help, an ill-timed snowstorm and a daring overnight climb by a team of volunteer rescuers, French mountaineer Elisabeth Revol has been rescued from Nanga Parbat, one of the world's tallest and most dangerous mountains. 
But her Polish climbing partner Tomasz "Tomek" Mackiewicz, whose life she was attempting to save had to be left behind. 


Nanga Parbat, even more than K-2 or Everest, is the final boss of the great game of Himalayan alpinism.  It is monstrous, forbidding, sacred, and for a certain kind of adventuresome person, irresistable.
Bring it, mortal.

E.R. Eddison gave these words to the narrator in chapter one of the first volume of his Spinozan Zimiamvian Trilogy, Mistress of Mistresses:
I remember, years later, his describing to me the effect of the sudden view you get of Nanga Parbat from one of those Kashmir valleys; you have been riding for hours among quiet richly wooded scenery, winding up along the side of some kind of gorge, with nothing very big to look at, just lush, leafy, pussy-cat country of steep hillsides and waterfalls; then suddenly you come round a corner where the view opens up the valley, and you are almost struck senseless by the blinding splendour of that vast face of ice-hung precipices and soaring ridges, sixteen thousand feet from top to toe, filling a whole quarter of the heavens at a distance of, I suppose, only a dozen miles. 

Before the first person ever got to the summit, in 1953, 31 had died trying.  Dozens more would follow.  Even Messner, one of the few high altitude specialists to survive to retirement age, lost toes and his brother here in 1970. 

Some of the credit or blame for all this must go to Hermann Buhl, the brilliant Austrian who made that legendary first ascent.  It was simple, if not easy:  he woke up and told his climbing partner it was time to go.  His climbing partner sensibly urged him to go on ahead, said he'd catch up later.  So Buhl went on ahead, into the arena, to dice with death.

How hard could it be?

Forty hours later - after an overnight standing bivouac just beneath the summit...

As depicted in the 1986 movie, The Climb

...he staggered, hallucinating, back into camp, having completed the only solo first ascent of an eight thousander without oxygen, ever.

A year later he made the first ascent of Broad Peak, another eight thousander, and died on another climb a few weeks after that.  But the legacy he left behind - climbing by fair means, total commitment to the objective, being willing to take the big risk - inspired a generation of climbers, and got a large number of them killed.

“Mountaineering is a relentless pursuit,” he once said. “One climbs further and further yet never reaches the destination. Perhaps that is what gives it its own particular charm. One is constantly searching for something never to be found.”

January 28, 2018

Mothers of the nation

In 1666, after three generations of French colonial presence, Louis XIV’s minister for the colonies, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, complained that Frenchmen who wanted to trade—mostly for furs—still had to communicate in the natives’ language.

Part of the solution to this was to send out well-brought-up French girls, filles à marier, to marry the settlers and create French-speaking homes. Among them were the famous filles du Roy, ‘king’s daughters’, mostly orphans from bourgeois families, whose travel and subsistence costs—and in some cases dowries—were borne by the Treasury. 

Some nine hundred of them were sent out between 1665 and 1673, to boost the population (3,215 according to the census of 1665), and improve the sex ratio (2:1 male to female). 

Fortescu-Brickdale, Arrival of the Brides

Although the intendant of the colony, Jean Talon, told Colbert that he would have preferred village girls, ready to work like men, rather than these delicate young ladies, they seem to have been a good investment. The population of Nouvelle-France reached 20,000 in 1713 and 55,000 in 1755. The fertility rate averaged a whopping 7.8 children per woman.

- Ostler, Empires of the Word

The Wikipedia article on the founder effect makes special note of Quebec:
While the French Canadians of Quebec today may be partly of other ancestries, the genetic contribution of the original [8,500 or so] French founders is predominant, explaining about 90% of regional gene pools, while Acadians (descended from other French settlers in eastern Canada) explain 4%, British 2% and Native American and other groups contributed less.

January 27, 2018

A compilation worth owning

I Know You Got Soul
Eric B. Is President
I Aint No Joke
Paid In Full (Seven Minutes of Madness)
Follow The Leader
Lyrics Of Fury
Microphone Fiend
Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em
In The Ghetto
The Punisher
Know The Ledge

January 26, 2018

Where the cultural boundaries are

This data visualization fascinated me: the #1 song on YouTube in 3000 cities worldwide (I think in a 1-month window ending 12/17/2017).

Look at the US and it's borders, internal and external:

If you look at the site, you'll see that Havana (Camila Cabello) and Perfect (Ed Sheeran) are international mega-hits. But the three biggest rap songs Gucci Gang (Lil Pump), Gummo (6ix9ine), and Rockstar (see previous post) are uniquely popular in the United States.

Have a listen to Gucci Gang and you'll scratch your head see why:

I don't see what the Chinese government is worried about

Finally, I'm old enough to be shocked by the music kids are listening to these days.

Here's a rap song that's been on the Billboard's Hot 100 for 18 weeks, peaking at #1 back in December, and currently at #3: Rockstar by Post Malone.

(The video is a tad violent.)

The song's opening verses:
I've been f**king hoes and poppin' pillies
Man I feel just like a rockstar 
All my brothers got that gas and they al-
ways be smokin' like a rasta 
F**kin' with me, call up on a uzi
And show up, name them the shottas 
When my homies show up on your block they
Make that thing to gra-ta-ta-ta
To be honest, I have started to use the phrase poppin' pillies when I take my daily meds/supplements or four Advil for my arthritis.

January 25, 2018

Glashutte on clearance

Get 'em while they last!


January 23, 2018

Battleground: Alberta v. Saskatchewan

Alberta would obviously win, but how much effort would it take to crush and subjugate Saskatchewan?


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Then there was the time Jack Kirby did a big project based on The Prisoner, and never published it.  Just $79.99...July 10th, 2018.  (link)

January 22, 2018

"I think I am a completely normal person now"

Ummm - no.

And also...
"Lauda retired early on in the race, unable to blink because of facial burns from his accident in Germany." - Wikipedia

January 21, 2018

The Economist appeals to reason

This is a bad time for the special relationship to be under strain

Populists on both sides of the Atlantic are dragging Britain and America apart

This is fine article, particularly the peroration.  Some choice bits:

It is tempting to see the embassy fiasco as a metaphor for the state of Anglo-American relations. The special relationship is more important now than it has been since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The obvious reason for this is Brexit: there would be no better way to get Britain’s post-European future off to a good start than to strike a trade deal with the world’s biggest economy. There is also a subtler reason. Britain and America are both liberal champions that have been shaken by populism. Strengthening their ties, which were forged in wars against Nazism and then communism, is a good way of reminding both countries of their common liberal heritage.

. . .

But at the same time the special relationship has never been more imperilled. It was shaken by the Iraq war, which associated the relationship not with national liberation but with lies, incompetence and strategic disaster. 

. . . 

Ever since Theresa May barged her way to the front of the queue of foreign leaders waiting to pay court to the newly elected president, holding his hand and promising a state visit with all the trimmings, Mr Trump has been nothing but trouble. He has promised to provide the prime minister with her all-important trade deal, but has done nothing to turn hot air into boring old policy. He has thrown a succession of verbal hand-grenades that have forced Mrs May to put the state visit on the back burner, retweeting inflammatory videos endorsed by the far-right Britain First and insulting everybody who lives south of the River Thames, which includes the author of this column. The special relationship makes sense only if it is undergirded by shared values. Yet Mr Trump has made such a habit of trashing liberal values that 75% of Britons don’t trust his handling of world affairs.

. . . 

Tony Blair was only the most recent prime minister who persuaded himself that he could act as Greece to America’s Rome. He ended up acting not as a Platonic guardian but as a rather tawdry cheerleader. 
. . . 

Since the Iraq debacle, it has been fashionable to argue that the special relationship is a dangerous illusion sustained by Britain’s nostalgic desire to punch above its weight and America’s liking for yes-men. This is mistaken. The Anglo-American relationship is special because it is both deeper and broader than almost any other bilateral one. Deeper because America has borrowed so much from Britain, from common law, to joint-stock companies, to a version of the English language. Broader because the countries have intimate relations on every front, from economic, to cultural, to military.

. . . 

The proper way to deal with the special relationship is not to romanticise or rubbish it, but to re-galvanise it. It has been repeatedly reinvented as communism, and then terrorism, took over from Nazism as the main threat to the world order. It needs to be updated once again. The British and Americans must recognise that they share common histories and ideals that are far too deep to be dislodged by a pair of popinjays. And they must realise that they have a common duty to cherish those ideas for a world in which authoritarian populists are on the march.


Look, the Belichick-Brady era is the bottle of Half and Half that expired 3½ weeks ago. Every extra January is a miracle. We get it. We know the White Walkers are coming. It’s fine.   - Bill Simmons


January 20, 2018

Three and a half text news sites

Because fuck the 2018 Internet.

Reuters RSS page gives a similar effect.

January 19, 2018

One-way knowledge transfer

Entering Mexico, this new virgin territory for the Church, where bilinguals hardly existed at any level of society, the Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian friars immediately realised that they would have to work through the people’s own languages if they were to make serious progress in spreading the faith. This meant the languages would have to be learnt. The population to be contacted was vast: many million to set against the 802 friars present in Mexico in 1557. Clearly, this was work for many generations. And since there would necessarily be a circulation of missionaries, with old ones retiring and fresh recruits coming out from Spain—i.e. the tradition had to be carried on without the natural transmission of languages through raising children—the languages would have to be taught afresh, over and over, to each new generation of adult learners. For the first time in the world’s history, there was a clear demand for language-learning textbooks, specifically grammars (’Artes’) and dictionaries, as well as native-language versions of the prayer books and confessionals that were the tools of the Catholic missionary’s trade...

[Footnote:] Almost all the dictionaries are from Spanish into the alien language, not the reverse. The aim is to teach, rather than to learn: to encode a Spaniard’s thought, and so pass it to the Indians, rather than to try to decode anything novel that they might have to say.

- Ostler, Empires of the Word

January 16, 2018

"Hello Police? Chris Paul tryin' to beat me up!"

January 15, 2018

I heard that was an exciting finish

I feel this is what rock music has been missing

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, from their 2016 album Nonagon Infinity