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Four More Eyebrows

In a continuation of my incoherent ranting and raving about Doctor Who from earlier (do not read it, you’ll waste too much of your life) I’m reviewing the last four episodes that have aired.

The Caretaker

I loved this episode. I didn’t care about the Skrillex Blister, or whatever, it didn’t matter. How it worked, it’s rules, didn’t matter. What mattered was Danny Pink, Clara, and The Doctor. This is the kind of Doctor Who episode I want to see. It’s about these people, these kids, not about some elaborate villain.

Kill the Moon

What the hell. What the fucking hell. I give Doctor Who a pass on almost all science, but WHAT IS GOING ON. They don’t follow their own rules, and they know things that they have no reason to know. For instance, the Doctor basically guesses that the spider can sense movement. Why? I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be scary if there was a monster that could sense movement here in this part of the script? SURE! That is what all subsequence decisions in this episode felt like. WTF.

I’m willing to look past a lot of silly things, but you can’t just remake the moon — twice — because it suits the story you want to tell. At that point, it doesn’t need to be our moon. Then I spend the whole time thinking about what a total crock it is.

The Doctor deserts everyone to leave the human race to their own decisions. I am opposed to this. I don’t think it’s inline with his behavior at all. Also, what if events hadn’t turned out how he had wanted? He would have blamed Clara? This was a mess. Instead of empowering Clara, it felt like it undermined her. Instead of “you’re smart” it felt like “well if you’re so smart.”

What the hell is going on? At the end of the episode I was totally lost. What a mess. What a fucking mess. I can look past things, but you expect me to look past that?! I was angry with The Doctor, but not for the reasons that Clara was.

Mummy on the Orient Express

I was totally confused for the first few minutes. I was thinking, intently, about Clara’s feelings at the end of ‘Kill the Moon’ so it didn’t make immediate sense. I caught on, real quick, that they had sorted out some stuff between these episodes. That was probably for the best, because I didn’t really need to know all the details, but it did throw me off when I watched.

Also, here’s the thing: I don’t care if Doctor Who battles a mummy on a future-space version of the Orient Express where every passenger is in period dress. However, I do care about episodes like ‘Kill the Moon’ where he goes to a place that we, as humans, know about. That we know it’s not a fucking egg. One is totally fine, and the other distracts me.

Crazy is fine! Sanity is hard.

Flatline

I really, really loved this episode. It might be my favorite of the series of episodes. I appreciate it for the role reversal, more than anything. Clara gets to be the Doctor (and by proxy, “we” get to be The Doctor).

The small TARDIS is silly, and fun, but that’s fine. It doesn’t throw off the seriousness of the rest of the episode. The mechanism works perfectly. It also allows Clara to shine in a really interesting way. Even my Doctor Who companion loved this episode, and he hasn’t liked anything since Rory and Amy left the show. Anything.

As a VFX guy, I do have to say that I wish they didn’t do those shots of the CG train. It’s almost like they already had the train model from the previous episode and felt like redressing it. It was too shiny, and overly lit. It really shouldn’t have been seen like that, and certainly not twice.

Oh, and then Missy. Ugh. I still hate these. They don’t work like the segments where Joss Whedon would build up a season’s villain, they read like “OOOOOOHHHHH, WATCH OUT! THIS IS GOING TO BE A THING!” Which is the exact opposite of how I like things to present themselves.

Looking Forward

The last two episodes of this season really piqued my interest. First the silly, conflicted relationship, and then Doctor Oswald? This is what I want. What I am in utter disbelief over is that ‘Kill the Moon’ and ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ were written directed by the same guy (UPDATE: Flatline and Mummy were written by the same guy though, Jamie Mathieson.) They’re totally different episodes, and my response to them couldn’t be any different. What’s going on? I like two of those way more than the other two. I want to see more of that kind of work. I really hope we do get it.

No more of this stupid moon stuff. Steal dimensions, more Doctor Oswald. And that’s just one small fraction of the main attraction. Thrill me, chill me, fulfill me, creature of time.

2014-10-20 00:52:38

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Yosemite Wait-and-See

I’m on Mavericks still. Why? Because I don’t have any deep, urgent need to upend everything in the world for something that’s shipped with a bunch of weird, crappy, buggy nonsense in it. I get that Yosemite is working fine for the vast majority of people, but what’s my rush? When Apple was doing releases like Leopard, I’d wait to install updates. Even for the point releases, I’d check on the Mac blogs to find out if WiFi did, or did not, work for that release. I’d rather read the reviews about Yosemite than install it. Particularly when I see that iCloud Drive deleted Nate Boateng’s entire photo library, and broke everything. Yosemite? More like YOLOsemite, amirite?!

The truly disturbing thing about what happened to Nate was that he didn’t trust Apple, and had a backup of everything. I don’t trust Apple, and I have a backup of everything. At what point is distrust a sign of a problem, and not just paranoia? Even Dan Moren, doing some Color Commentary™ on Thurday’s Apple Event seemed a little scared of the “Public Beta” moniker on iCloud Photo Library. I am not clamoring for the Photos app. (Yes, I reused the precious memories joke, deal with it.)

Apple’s seeing a decline in their iOS 7 to iOS 8 upgrade rate that surely has more to do with the size of the update, than for the reticence of the customers — but isn’t there a little reticence? What will the upgrade numbers look like for Yosemite over Mavericks? They’re both free, and everyone should have the required space for it.

I’m not talking about End Times, or we should all go back to Snow Leopard, we should all boycott until iCloud is perfect, or some other nonsense, but on balance, there is no compelling reason to upgrade to the first release of Yosemite. There was no compelling reason to test the beta. My Casey-ancient late-2011 MacBook Pro is too old for many headline features. That leaves the new visual stylings. Meh. I can wait. I’ll upgrade, but maybe in a month or two. It’ll be more an issue of social pressure (like using an iPhone 4) than an actual issue. Surely the problems people face are not universal, but that’s kind of the disturbing part. It’s a “maybe this will blow up in your face” lottery. (That is not my favorite kind of lottery.)

Things working > New things that might not work.

The really annoying part is that I don’t even like Mavericks. I was even pretty angry at one point. My observation then, and now, is that Apple needs to stop pushing forward to release, no matter the cost. If it doesn’t work, or it deletes the precious memories of a few people, then maybe take five? Do not ship it.

I’ll just read John Siracusa’s review a few times to hold me over.

2014-10-19 19:54:26

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Live Every Day Like it's National Coming Out Day

National Coming Out Day was October 11th. I didn’t have it iCal, so I did not GTD it or anything. I have been slightly circumspect about explicitly stating that I was gay on this blog. I talked about the whole Mozilla thing while not stating it, I danced around it. Not because it’s a secret (go listen to Defocused, or ask me on Twitter), or because I think it’s scandalous, but because I want to treat it as something that is not important.

Maybe if I barely say it then only the decent people will hear it? Maybe if I’m not “in their face about it” then people won’t care?

I also don’t want to be known as a “gay blogger”. I don’t need the prefix. I mean, I’m not really known for anything, so it’s not super important, but what if I want to be the Prime Minister of England some day? Huh? What then? Will I have some qualifier in front of my name that states I was a good “gay” prime minister? That’s not what I am aiming for.

It does make certain social interactions awkward though. We’d all like to think that they aren’t awkward, we’re all great with social stuff here! We’re open-minded! Lay it on me! But if you say that then you probably haven’t had a conversation with someone where they break eye contact with you, where they change the subject, where they hesitate before picking their pronouns. It’s really, really, awkward sometimes. Especially if you’re talking to someone you barely know.

“He was strange, but I think that’s because he was — you know.”
“No, I don’t know.”
“You know, gay.”

That’s literally a conversation I had with someone that did not think I was gay. It happens? I guess? We resolved that, and he’s really not a bad person, but it’s just an example of something that happens. Jokes in poor taste, winks and nods, it’s all very surreal to be a party to those conversations. On the one hand, if the first thing I ever said to anyone was that I was gay, then this would never happen, but why does that need to be the first thing I say to anybody?

People also tell you how their weekend was, with their wife, and their kids, and they ask you what you did. Do you know them well enough to use appropriate nouns, and pronouns? For a long time, I would just clam up. Not because I was ashamed, but because I didn’t know if it was worth talking about myself, and someone I loved, to this stranger. “Oh, I didn’t do anything.” I sounded like the weirdest shut-in ever.

It’s always easiest with strangers though, because fuck ‘em. If they’re weird about it, then so what? You move on. The hard part was people that were close to me. People I’ve known since I was a kid, a teen, in college. People from before I had any certainty about my life. People from back in Tampa, where being gay was not a good thing. I had a bad experience with being honest about things in college, but it’s not the end of the world. It has stuck with me though.

My coworker was asking me about my commute, and I mentally did the math on whether or not I should tell him about the different commute times from my place, or my boyfriend’s place. Not that he seemed like he would care, but because I have a certain fear of making things awkward.

Sure, on some level, people know, or they have (have had) suspicions. There aren’t many bachelors that go on vacation to Napa, Paris, Italy, and South Beach with “a friend”. But there’s a mutual agreement that takes place. They don’t want to make me feel uncomfortable by asking, and I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable by telling. We arrive at a draw.

The first family member I outright told was my sister. She was very supportive, because she always kind of knew. She pushed me to talk to my mom. I put off telling my mom until last year. That’s a really long time to keep someone out of your life. It was not worth it. It was not worth it at all. If you’re reading this, and you’re on the fence, just fucking do it. Don’t sit on it for years, there won’t ever be the perfect time to tell her.

Knowing that, knowing how it wasn’t a big deal in the end, how I should have just done it, should have propelled me on to immediately tell my other family members, right? No. I was scared because they were very traditional, and from the Northeast. There were protocols, and people weren’t open about any of their feelings. Only problem is that my sister is getting married, and my boyfriend is going. Whoops! Maybe we could do one of those comedic things where he’s introduced as a friend, and we pretend we don’t know each other, and people are running in to and out of rooms! Wouldn’t that be hilarious? No, it really wouldn’t. I had to tell that other side of the family, I had to tell my dad.

I called him up last week, and in the middle of talking about suits for the wedding, I told him. Then he said he suspected it was the case and changed subjects back to a guy he met that was a VP of a large men’s suit company. That he had some tips about suits. It was almost surreal that it was such a non-issue. So, once again, don’t sit on something for years of your life, it’s not worth it.

Basically? Not fucking worth it. There’s never the right time. Don’t wait for National Coming Out Day. It should only ever serve as a yearly reminder. Don’t wait for the zodiac to be properly aligned or some shit. Just fucking do it. Be clear about it, like I’m being right now. What benefit would I have extracted from putting this off any longer? None.

2014-10-13 00:54:48

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I Heart Brianna Wu

I follow Brianna Wu on Twitter. She came to my attention through her guest spot on Debug, and through her session at Alt Conf 2014. She went on to make the podcast Isometric, with Georgia Dow, Maddy Meyers, and Steve Lubitz. I really do love all of them, (even though I don’t play games), Johnathan Mann loves them too. She’s also appeared as one of the rotating panelists on The Incomparable podcast, for several episodes about games, women, and Star Trek. She’s there for a reason, of course, and that is because of her role as a game developer. If you have not played Revolution 60, go take a look.

Women in tech, and women in games, have been two issues (two very intertwined issues) all year long. (Not to say that there wasn’t issues before, but just that the conversation around these issues has really picked up this year.)

Adam Baldwin, the actor you probably remember from Firefly, has very strong views (views that I do not agree with). He started this whole thing called Gamer Gate. It’s been a total shitshow. Some horrible boys, and men, have gathered together in the darkest corners of the internet to engineer social campaigns against women in games under the flag of Gamer Gate. The women that have been targeted are all outspoken about the treatment of women in games as a medium, in game commentary, in games, period. I was always going to write about Gamer Gate, but I wanted to write when all the facts were on the table. It’s been a morphing, multi-headed thing, that is very difficult to talk about authoritatively because it’s not staying still. (I also don’t feel like I have a full view of the issues because while I’m totally a white guy, I am gay, and I am not a “gamer”. Nor do I have any desire to participate in any game communities because playing World of Warcraft and Halo gave me a really shitty view on that segment of humanity. It even feels a little weird to write about Brianna, but if I sit here in silence, aren’t I being a total jackass?)

Brianna Wu, along with Maddy, Georgia, and Steve, have talked about the ongoing events associated with this war on women on Isometric. There is a particularly strong, heartfelt episode that made me tear up while I listened in which Brianna detailed ways in which she was afraid.

To my absolute horror, Brianna’s address was exposed this weekend and death threats were made. She left her home and has not gone back since. She even had a panel lined up at New York Comic Con that she attended despite the threats.

I want her to be safe, above all else, and I want her to be able to express herself without fear of personal injury, or torrents of online abuse. Even before this became a threat associated with her physical address, it was one where people actively organized alternate, disposable Twitter accounts (sock puppets) to wage verbal abuse campaigns on her. Even at the heights of those online campaigns against her, she was still wading through the filth to reply to the decent people that wanted to communicate with her. She is, after all, a game developer and she does have fans.

The horrifying thing is that it is so easy to blame her for speaking up, and talking about these issues, when these threats to safety were are being made. Even today, she tweeted that she hoped she wouldn’t be known for this bullshit, instead of game development. Sure you can say “well then stop talking about these issues” but how the hell does that make anything better? If that is your initial reaction to this news, then I encourage you to reexamine that opinion. I do not want to live in a world that prescribes silence for abuse, and threats to any other human being.

2014-10-12 23:06:26

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Allons-y!

Jason Snell is on the scene, reporting from Çingleton in Montréal. (I like to imagine him with a fedora that has one of those “PRESS” things tucked under the band.) He writes about a presentation in which Bare Bones Software’s Rich Siegel says that the next version of their top-tier text editor will not be in the Mac App Store. Zut alors!

Holding the Mac App Store in contempt is a hobby of mine (you know, like stamp-collecting, or needlepoint). I don’t hate the idea of having a Mac App Store, it is the reality of the Mac App Store that I don’t like. The iOS App Store is far more effective than the Mac counterpart. It’s the only way to really get software for your iOS device, and there was no prior software for the platform that needs to be crammed in to it.

I highly recommend reading Jason’s coverage (and hopefully Rich’s talk will be available), and also Federico Viticci’s thoughts.

Once you’ve read real news, written by professionals, please stick around and enjoy the ramblings of an insane person:

Avantages et Inconvénients

Pros

Purchasing software in the Mac App Store is easy as tarte. You open the MAS app, you click to purchase, you enter your Apple Store password, and you’re done. You don’t have to worry about serial numbers, or upgrade price structures, you either have it, or you don’t. You can download it again, and you’re all set.

File storage offered through iCloud promises to make your files available everywhere. This is a boon for companies that offer Mac and iOS apps. (Except in the case that there’s a new storage service released on one platform and not the other, but nobody would release something like that!)

Software updates are all handled without user intervention. Software not in the MAS uses a variety of updating methods. Some run in the background and check for updates, prompting the user to download something. Others run only when an application is launched (which is the worst time to ask someone if they want to update their software, they just opened it to do work, not housekeeping.) Some pieces of software won’t even update at all, unless you manually trigger a “Check for Updates” menu item or push a button. My personal favorite is the combination, when a menubar item pops up to tell you there are updates, and asks you to open the updater app to update the apps. (I want to print out the codebase for Adobe’s software-updating apps and burn them in effigy.)

With MAS, it’s all handled one way, and the worst thing the user has to deal with is dismissing the annoying MAS notification that sticks in the corner. C’est magique!

Cons

In order to have applications you need to have funding to make the applications. There’s a wide spectrum:

  • Buy the app, at full price, always.
  • Buy the app and receive discount off the full-price of the next version.
  • Buy the app, get updates forever, for free, because it either cost so much this is possible, or the userbase continues to grow at a rate that can subsidize old customers.
  • Buy the app, pay for features in discrete, additional purchases.
  • Free app, pay for the features in discrete, additional purchases.
  • Free app with ads.
  • Free app with a subscription service.

Why should users care about the revenue stream for the developers? Do you like the software? (Nod.) Do you want more, better software? (Nod.) Well then they need money to do that. You know that free PDF app you downloaded, and it’s terrible, and you don’t know why? Well, pay for a good PDF app. It’s like night and day.

The nasty side of paid upgrades is that it can result in dispassionate development that is more concerned with keeping upgrade sales up. See: Adobe, Microsoft, Autodesk, etc. Apple does not want that (even though they also participated in paid software updates for many, many years.) Apple wanted this to be the ancien régime.

It’s a nice, but impractical sentiment. Some software needs decent funding for years of development work, and offering no real solution to that need, other than perpetual growth, is more than a little silly.

This has also resulted in In-App-Purchases rising. I’m typing this in Byword on my Mac. I bought Byword way back in 2012. I bought it on my iPhone too. It’s a great app. They’ve updated it many times, for free, but they’ve already done one release where they’ve put new features in to an in-app-purchase. That means that existing customers pony-up more dough. It makes sense, since they never promised to do those new things. However, any new customer is immediately petitioned to pay for more stuff after their initial purchase. This also means that there are apps that are “free” that rely on a series of IAPs to become a functional app. (Customers have a variety of opinions on this, and you can enjoy those opinions by reading one-star app reviews.)

Subscription fees, however, are far more insidious. Let’s talk about a top app, Autodesk’s Pixlr. It lets people apply certain looks, and effects to images. It’s more of a novelty than a serious app. It offers Membership Levels (copied from the text on the web version of the Mac App Store, because the Mac App Store app doesn’t let you fucking copy text.)

Membership levels:
• Starter - Download for free to get started with basic photo editing tools and over 600 effects.
• Essentials - Gain access to enhanced features such as advanced Double Exposure and additional effects, overlays, and borders simply by creating a free Pixlr account and signing in.
• Pro - Pixlr Pro members unlock powerful photo editing tools such as Influence Masks, control over specific color channels, and more for just $14.99/year or $1.99/month.

Memberships can be purchased through the app with your iTunes account and managed through the Account Settings page on www.pixlr.com

Additional Information:
• If you choose to upgrade to a Pro membership, you will be charged through your iTunes Account.
• Membership automatically renews for the membership period you select, unless auto-renew is turned off at least 24-hours before the end of the current period. You will receive a reminder email prior to the end of your current membership period.
• Manage membership preferences in the Account Settings page on www.pixlr.com
• You may cancel your Pixlr membership at any time but it will not take effect until the end of your current membership period.
• Autodesk Privacy Policy is found here: http://www.autodesk.com/privacy and the Autodesk Software License Agreements here: http://usa.autodesk.com/adsk/servlet/index?siteID=123112&id=10235425

What, exactly, about a perpetual membership fee paid to Autodesk is better than discounted upgrades? Note that Autodesk is making a ton of these little apps. Their professional software, like Autodesk Maya, is still not available for sale through the MAS, and I doubt it ever will be. But hey, you can screw with some photos for a low, recurring fee they hope you’ll forget to cancel.

Some applications have discontinued a particular app and introduced a new app. This is tricky, because you have to get the word out to your customers that they should go buy this other thing (sometimes leading to updates for the old app which prompt users to go to the store and buy something else.) For a long time, people waited to see what Apple would do for it’s professional apps. Surely they would not justify endless free updates to major software subsidized through hardware sales. Turns out, they charged for those new pro apps.

This is really unfortunate because some customers expect a discount based on an existing relationship, and they won’t get it. Some customers might also feel cheated if they “just” paid for one version, and a new one is out. They have to seek a refund through Apple, but from a customer perspective, this is the developers that they have a grievance with.

When I want to download software for my Mac I no longer go to the MAS to buy it. I go to the developer’s web site and I look to see if they have multiple versions available. There are usually features annotated as missing, or supported by the MAS and non-MAS versions. If iCloud is important, then the MAS one is your only option. However, if you are like me, relying on Dropbox has always been more important. There’s also the concern that I reflect on before a MAS or non-MAS purchase, “Will they leave the Mac App Store?” Sometimes, that is a relevant concern (Bon voyage, BBEdit). I bought Transmit from Panic, even though it is in the MAS, for precisely this reason.

Sure, I’ll have to deal with the crappy serial number systems, and the crappy software update schemes, but if it’s a worthwhile piece of software than it’s worth an extra time investment.

The decay of the Mac App Store over the last few years is pretty subtle. Developers are not leaving en masse, all at once. One by one, as new updates are being developed, they weigh the pros and cons for them, and their customers, and they pull out.

Just look at the main page of the store’s app and you’ll see bric-á-brac. of apps. They’re showcasing the Twitter Mac app right now. Yes, hey everyone, drop everything and check out this crazy thing called Twitter! The best part is the little bit of text. “New Features Added” — A.K.A. We totally don’t care about marketing at this point.

2014-10-12 13:12:05

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90s Sci-Fi Fan

A month ago, I was a guest on Anže Tomić’s podcast, Storming Mortal. (The episode just went up this past week, so you’ll notice a bit of a time difference.) He had a lot of questions about visual effects, and I tried to break everything down in, hopefully, an easy to understand way. The industry is so strange that it often sounds like I’m speaking in another language (I already am, technically). I didn’t mention subsidies at all because bidding seemed like enough of a downer.

One topic we did talk about is what inspired me to get in to visual effects at all, and I cited a few things. The Star Trek franchise, mostly Star Trek: The Next Generation influenced me a great deal since it was effects — however limited — once a week. What really sticks out in my mind is an episode of Levar Burton’s Reading Rainbow (Always check our shownotes.) He went behind the scenes on TNG and showed off the sets, as well as some of the effects process with Visual Effects Supervisor Rob Legato. Models, swirling glitter, cutting out mattes, it’s not the kind of thing you would see on TV — indeed, it’s not the kind of thing you can expect to find on TV at all. Sadly, the only version of it I can find is a garbled version someone recorded on VHS and put on YouTube in two parts.

A technical appreciation was only one component. I was also a HUGE NERD about Star Trek. Sadly, at the end of the 90s, Star Trek was waning. The last movie installment of the 90s was Star Trek: Insurrection which… well, it’s not the best. Fortunately, something came along, and that something was Galaxy Quest.

Galaxy Quest is not only a visually satisfying film, but one with absolutely magnificent acting, writing, and editing. So much is going on, and it all just works. I’d say it works better than a lot of the Star Trek franchise movies that have come out.

This past week, Dan and I were trying to think of something to watch, and I wanted to pick something that I really loved. We pick a lot of things that I like, but we haven’t picked one that I have unabashed love for. Of all of the movies we’ve discussed on Defocused, I like Dune, Super Troopers, Office Space, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Fifth Element, Empire Records, Hackers, Pirates of Silicon Valley^1, and Grosse Pointe Blank. Some people think I hate these movies because Dan and I pick them apart, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Thinking critically about something is totally fine. There are many episodes, and films, of Star Trek that I am very critical of. You haven’t lived life until you’ve argued with someone about how you rank the best, and the worst, Star Trek movies.

However, I have almost nothing but love for Galaxy Quest. While I edited the show this week[^2], I felt bad that I was mostly just reciting the movie at Dan for most of this episode. Where’s the criticism? Well, there are a couple little things I mention, but it turns out that I want to marry a movie, I guess. I’m not sure we’ll ever happen upon a film, or TV show, to discuss that works out quite that way again.

^1: I liked Pirates of Silicon Valley more in the 90s then I like it today… but I still like it.

[^2]: Dan edits all of our episodes, Blue Yetis pick up a lot of noise, but this week he was busy with a real-world project. I cracked open Adobe Audition and I was all, “How hard could this be?” LOL at me! Stupid me! I still tried to do the opening and closing cuts in the style of Dan.

2014-09-27 13:30:42

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4 2 6

My torrid love affair with the iPhone started with technolust. I was locked in on a plan with Verizon, and a KRZR, and unable to get the amazing device Steve Jobs teased me with on stage (just me, me alone). A year later, I gave Verizon the finger (not literally, but when they asked why I was leaving I flatly said it was because they didn’t have the iPhone). I had my iPhone 3G, in all it’s bulbous, plastic glory. I did not know it at the time, but I was on the “tick” side of the tick-tock cycle. I really did like my 3G, but I when the iPhone 4 was announced, my eyes were drawn to it. The Retina screen literally demanded my eyes — it was in the name!

A friend of mine, similarly enraptured by the announced device, ventured to Manhattan Beach’s mall with me at — what we thought was — the crack of dawn. We got there just in time to see a line stretching out of the parking lot. Our whole plan hinged on us getting the phone at this “remote” mall. Defeated, we went our separate ways. On my way home I couldn’t resist the impulse to go to The Beverly Center’s Apple Store. I knew that it would be a pointless endeavor, but my impatience was rewarded by a relatively short line with reservation numbers.

To other people in my life (Jason) this seemed to be an absurd amount of effort to go through. Indeed, it is. In the grand scheme it doesn’t matter if you have something on launch day, or if you have something a month later. I was not traveling in elite circles where my old phone would be judged, and I would be found wanting. He was on the tock cycle though, so he didn’t get it. He got the 4S, casually, a year later. No big deal at all.

I kept that iPhone 4 because it was fine, and then it was still fine, and then it was slow, and then it was unbearably slow, the home button didn’t work, and the battery was dying. I was saving money at the expense of my life. Oh man, that is so dramatic to say. Double first-world-problems to the MAXX, bro! Well, the only thing is that in our culture it is actually kind of important to have a working smartphone. Not just for status symbol reasons, but for practical ones.

Your Preoder is in Another Castle

Apple had a very bad week for technological infrastructure. It started with a streaming keynote kerfuffle, and it ended with preorder pandemonium. I can’t give Apple a pass on this. They have a gajillion dollars, they are not healthcare.gov. What is going on with them?

I couldn’t sleep. I kept refreshing. Jason slept, bless him. I finally got through and ordered my iPhone 6, 64 GB, Space Gray, an extra lightning cable, and a black silicone case. I panicked on shipping it to my apartment (I’ve had issues where people go to the wrong door, or just drop a slip without knocking.) I selected in-store pick-up.

Jason casually selected his phone the next morning without any issue and there was literally no reason for me to fret over my preorder. Thanks.

You Don’t Know Jack

Friday, I went to the Apple Store. They opened at 10. I was reading horror stories on Twitter from other stores. I was reading about successful package deliveries. What had I done? I walked up to the storefront. There was a line, with a sign for “Reservations” and another line behind stanchions. There were plenty of Apple employees around. I went in to the Reservations line.

An employee asked me if I had a reservation, and like a sweaty teenager being carded at a gas station, I shoved my greasy iPhone 4 with QR code toward him. He waved me off, he trusted me. He trusted me more than I trusted myself.

The reservation line was short. They would let in 5 people at a time. There were two guys behind me talking about the other line. “Why wouldn’t they just preoder?” I don’t know, you judgy-judges, maybe they had problems with the crappy site and app? Apple snobs! The worst!

(Cough.)

I was summoned inside and there was a very elaborate system for pairing people off with employees. I got a guy named Jack. He, like everyone else from Apple, was all-smiles. He was happy. I was at the dentist. He asked for information, and said that an employee was bringing my iPhone and cable over. I told him about my case marked for October mail delivery, and he said that they had cases in stock. If I wanted, I could get the case, buy it, and canceled my Forever-in-the-Future case. I selected the black silicone case and met back up with him. He apologized for things going so slowly. He asked if I was excited. I don’t know why he would ask that when I was obviously pale with terror. I told him I was excited to go start the setup process. He told me that he totally understood, that he had to wait until the end of the day for his 128 GB iPhone 6. Poor guy. I was ready to bolt for the door, but poor guy. Jack finished my order, I can confidently say he was impeccable, and I wish him well.

iTunes Restore

I wanted coffee but I was too anxious. I drove straight home. With shaking hands I gingerly extracted my new baby from it’s cardboard. I turned off my iPhone 4 and I started restoring my iPhone 6 with the old backup in iTunes. With the way my luck has gone on these restores, the chances were very high it would crap out.

I paced and went to get coffee. There was nothing in my pocket though. I kept feeling, and there was nothing there.

I don’t have a problem, I can not-check twitter any time I want!

When I returned, trembling with caffeine and adrenaline, I watched the progress bar like a hawk.

OMG OMG OMG OMG

The restore finished and I clawed at it. It was all mine now, all mine![^1] It was so light in my hands, but so large. I have large hands (you know what they say about… blah blah blah), but not large enough that my thumb reaches from the bottom right corner to the top left corner. I’m not a mutant. In truth, I’m still adjusting to this change, and I do think that I might have selected a smaller phone if one were available. For me, screen space was never as important as one-handed operation.

Literally everything about this phone is better than the iPhone 4. There’s no contest. The screen isn’t as smudgy, it has Touch ID, the camera doesn’t take 10 years to start, I can switch between apps without them restarting every time, everything is fast, etc. I couldn’t name a single metric where the 4 even competes with the 6.

Jason feels similarly, though he’s less enthusiastic. He was quite offended by the bundled software “junking up” the interface. He didn’t like that some settings were different. It all takes a little getting used to, you know?

This is the best phone I ever owned, even if it makes my pollicis muscles cramp in unison. You can pry this from my cramped hands, you bastards!

Uncle Bob Photography

In college, I took a course that studied film, and we went over a lot of principles for composing a shot. There were technical terms for things, like The Rule of Thirds, and there were his own terms for things, like Uncle Bob shots. Basically, any shot that looks like family photography in your backyard. It does what it needs to do, but no one would accuse Uncle Bob of being an artist.

A lot has changed since 2005! I no longer think that cute term means the same thing anymore. The iPhone blazed the way for a whole series of photos shared over the internet, with apps designed not just to share the photo, but also to edit it. The aesthetics of photography became very important to people. Impressing friends, and family, with your sunset, or your food, was important in a way that instant photography, or disposable cameras, never were.

I use a DSLR for most of my hobbyist photography, but it’s hardly something I have on my person when I want to take a photo. The iPhone 3G took absolutely dreadful photos — It was total Uncle Bob, to the max. The iPhone 4 took decent photos in certain lighting conditions, but it was still just a convenient thing to save noisy images.

The iPhone 6 is legitimately a nice camera. There’s no apology to be made for its photos. Even on total autopilot, the phone is way better than Uncle Bob. Even the time-lapse features have a reasonable, automated behavior. Here are my iPhone 6 Uncle Bob shots from Greystone Mansion:

Still, no one wants to just take automatic, unaltered photos. Hashtag no filter. Hashtag boring. The point isn’t that technology does it all for you, without you having to worry about it, but that you have new ways to work. Software tools, as well as fancy new sensors and lenses.

For instance: There’s no image stabilization, and the slow-mo video has a certain low-quality feel around fine detailed elements, like water droplets. The blockiness of it makes me think it’s compression settings rather than the sensor, or noise reduction. Also, if you upload the video with Vimeo’s app, or site, it will play the slow-mo video back at a regular frame rate. If you upload it with the share sheet from the Photos app, then it will preserve the frame rate you see in the Photos app. Example of compression artifacts:

Slow-mo test on iPhone 6 from Joseph Rosensteel on Vimeo.

The photos taken in broad daylight still seem to have a fair amount of some kind of denoising filter with almost painterly smudges when zoomed in higher than 1:1. That’s not to say it is bad, not at all, but it’s just a reminder that when people say the phone takes DSLR-like photos, it’s in no way similar to actual DSLR photos from a modern DSLR. Still a reason for many people to tote those fashionable camera bags.

Feedback

There is one peculiar quirk of the iPhone 6 that I did not expect, and that’s feedback with LTE and 4G bands when it’s near my car’s console. Moving it away, like to the passenger seat, mitigates the hissing, but it’s something my iPhone 4 would only do when it was on Edge.

Lost in the iCloud

Apple’s services continue to be the piss in my Wheaties. There were things that I couldn’t even do before on my iPhone 4 that I finally got to do with my iPhone 6, and they were just as disappointing as I imagined they would be.

My home address has been wrong in Maps since Apple ditched Google. At one point, my address was inside of the Four Seasons of Los Angeles. This is flattering, but inaccurate. Apple finally accepted one of my many requests for them to fix this and moved it slightly closer to where I actually live. I say closer, because they didn’t actually fix it. Yes, I report it about every three months. For all I know, the complaints are printed and fed to The Almighty Sarlac. With Siri, and voice navigation, at least I ought to be able to get to that close-but-not-quite address. Should be, but can’t. I’m back to living in the Four Seasons of Los Angeles. If I say, “home” it maps to a place that isn’t even the same city that is listed as my home address. My rage over this is incandescent, because I can’t think of any reason why this should be the case, and I have no legitimate recourse for reporting a Siri picking the wrong place when my address book picks the close-to-correct one. This is my home!

Even things that should be simple, like “The Grove” route me to “Grove City, PA”. Even an intersection tripped it up: “Intersection of Beverly and Fairfax” brought up the result “Beverly, MA”. If I say, “The Apple Store at The Grove” then I get a list of Apple Stores, with “The Apple Store at The Grove” at the top of the list. Maybe Apple will open enough Apple Stores that I’ll be able to navigate places using those? Google has no problem at all with any of those requests. I have not run a scientific battery of tests on it, but the only thing Siri got right were the directions to Greystone Mansion.

A fun thing anyone can do is ask Siri for directions to “City Hall”. Omit the name of your city. Instead of figuring out that you might want to go to the city hall of the city you’re in, or at the very least, the nearest building named city hall, it decides that you want to go to Philadelphia City Hall. Google doesn’t always nail the city, especially in a complex metropolitan area with multiple cities nearby. This is just silly, common sense stuff, that Apple utterly fails at. How is this a reliable service?

That is hardly the cardinal sin of this launch, because it’s been that bad forever, I just didn’t have Siri, and voice navigation, so I didn’t get to experience the utter futility of trying to use the things that rely on Maps’ data.

The thing that really sticks out is iCloud Drive, which doesn’t really work if your computer isn’t on Yosemite. You’re still prompted to upgrade to it when you set up your iOS 8 device (like a new iPhone 6). Maybe don’t do that, Apple? Maybe just kick that out with a point release? I had to tell Jason not to upgrade to iCloud Drive, and even after explaining it he didn’t understand why he shouldn’t. This is simply a dumb move. Get your product managers to work together on this stuff, guys.

Online backups is another situation entirely. I only trust iCloud with my old iPad (3). It is faster, and cheaper, to back up my iPhone to iTunes on my computer. It is unfortunate that that’s the case, but I see no logic in paying for a slower service. Sure, iTunes is a flaming hemorrhoid, but it’s my flaming hemorrhoid. My podcast cohost has run afoul of a situation where iCloud backup takes so long, that iCloud can’t backup, and warns you.

This iPhone has not been backed up recently because it has not finished being restored. Would you like to finish downloading any remaining purchases and media before backing up, or delete them along with any app data?

Hell of a way to phrase that.

Sto-Rage

Indeed the biggest problem with the iPhone is storage. I joke, frequently, with Bradley Chambers about how bad the storage situation is. This is also one of those things that sounds ridiculous, but actually has a large impact on how people use devices, not just how people buy devices.

People don’t think they have that much stuff, because people don’t want to spend that much money. Indeed, there might be people that can get by with 16 GB phones but I couldn’t tell you who they would be. Even for people that still have free space at 16 GB, they probably don’t have 5+ GB free for iOS upgrades. Then the bundled apps are another 2-3 GB. How is it even conscionable to sell a 16 GB device to someone that they will need to use for two years? Jason doesn’t listen to podcasts (I know, right?) and yet he’s stuck with that dinky app. Bundled apps are bloat if no one wants them, even if they are official Apple products. Jason might have moved from a 16 GB to a 32 GB, but that tier no longer exists.

The entry-level seems like a great way to get an extra $100 out of people that know 16 GB isn’t enough (like me, and everyone I talk to that’s owned an iPhone), but it’s a good way to burn people getting their first iPhone. It’s not great if it backfires and people hate their experience with their phone because they don’t understand why they constantly have to delete things. Especially when Apple provides such poor tools for managing storage. Seriously, go look at that usage chart on your iPhone and then figure out how you’ll selective remove things. Spend an afternoon on it, it’s fun. I hope those photos were backed up!

My Six Cents

The iPhone 6 is a fantastic upgrade for people that are already Apple customers — especially customers that have very outdated phones, like myself. I don’t know how it will win people over that don’t want to be bothered thinking about storage. How can I convince someone to move from Android’s Google services to Apple’s services? I can’t. I’ll literally tell them that same old story about my home address always being wrong and rendering Apple’s app useless. That’s not very encouraging, really.

When Tim Cook was on Charlie Rose, he said Apple’s biggest competitor was Google (32 minutes in). This is very true. Apple has not been able to match Google for services any more than Google has been able to match Apple products. This fundamental tension is going to continue until one of them figures out how to not suck.

Please Siri, there’s no place like home — a home with lots of storage.

^1: I didn’t read the fine print, but I’m pretty sure there’s a complex system of licensing arrangements that keep it from being “all mine”.

2014-09-23 15:35:23

Category: text


Five Eyebrows

I had seen some episodes of Doctor Who being rerun on PBS in the early 90s. It was utterly ridiculous and impenetrable to me. I couldn’t tell you the Doctor in it, nor the stories I saw, but it was not for me. I saw the Fox television movie, and… I was interested to see more of it, back then, but there wasn’t anything to see.

I gave it a shot when the series was revived on the Sci-Fi Channel. It was still utterly ridiculous, but it wasn’t incomprehensible. I would start, and stop watching it at random. The first time I started watching regularly was with the introduction of Matt Smith. BBC America made a big push to air it the same day as episodes aired in the UK, along with an all-out marketing blitz. Billboards for Doctor Who!

I also introduced Jason to the show. He still hasn’t watched anything from before Matt Smith, and doesn’t want to. To him, Matt Smith is The Doctor, and Amy and Rory are his companions. The last season with them disappointed him, and he didn’t like Clara because the character was a bland nothing for a whole season. I can’t say that I disagree with him.

There is an uneven, up-and-down mess with the episodes during this showrunner’s run. Casting is always good, character moments are very often well-executed, but narratives have been unreliable. Often episodes end with twists we saw coming, or with just a bunch of made-up stuff in the last five minutes. They’re more like episodes of Scooby-Doo.

Doctor Doo

Perhaps Moffat’s plot logic is more pronounced now that the Doctor has changed? Capaldi is a very serious actor (even when he’s being comedic, he plays it completely straight). The episodes, for the most part, have had serious, life-and-death moments where this Doctor has given up on saving people in under a second. Clara provides the touch of humanity, and morality, missing from our new Doctor – a role she didn’t have last season (series? Blah.)

To be perfectly clear: I don’t hate Doctor Who at all, but I am regularly disappointed in it. I am given to understand that this season has been particularly polarizing with different fans liking, and disliking, various episodes with seemingly little rhyme or reason. At least I don’t hate Doctor Who, like this guy in Manchester. I think we can all agree that he’s the real problem.

Seriously though, it’s just a TV show. Hate’s a strong word.

Deep Breath

I hate this episode. Moffat started by cutting in on an event in progress — a thing he loves to do – and it was confusing nonsense. The dinosaur was a ridiculous spectacle. We met up with the old gang, and the Doctor had some funny lines, and then we started doing a bunch of things that made no sense.

The things that happen in the episode are motivated around getting characters to pair off in certain ways to have conversations, and not conversations motivated by the story. Instead of, “What would he say if this happened?” It was, “How can I get them together so he can say this?”

I despise this writing. I’m watching a story, not a pile of index cards with yarn connecting them.

There’s a perfectly wonderful scene with Clara and The Doctor in the restaurant, but it doesn’t save all of the other scenes where people enter and leave rooms just to have conversations. Indeed, the first kiss between female actresses was explained by a whole lot of breathing based on sight nonsense. They could just kiss because they love each other, you know!

That skin balloon. Oy vey.

We’re also shown this year’s mystery, Missy. Jason asked me who she was and I said she was this year’s crack in the wall. The crack worked because it was simple. (The payoff on what the crack was is another matter entirely…) We don’t need a crack every year. Also, the worst cracks have been the ones with actors. I know Moffat is trying to go for a Buffy: The Vampire Slayer thing, but Moffat does it as a mystery instead of a villain with scenes and a motive. We don’t get the Mayor conspiring, and eating people, we get purposefully obtuse stuffing.

Inside the Dalek

I confess to having a preconceived dislike of the episode when I saw the preview and the title. Honey, I Shrunk us in to the Dalek starts with action (of course), and establishes some kind of conflict with Daleks. The effects here were atrocious. I don’t usually bad-mouth VFX, but it was a ship, stars, and some asteroids. No characters, no deforming geometry, this should be a cakewalk in 2014.

We quickly find out we need to go inside a Dalek with a shrinking device. Then we go to scenes with Danny Pink, and Clara Oswald at a school in England. These secenes all work surprisingly well. Then the Doctor shows up and takes Clara over to go inside the Dalek with him and we go back to the bad plot in this story.

The whole thing is laughable, but without the laughs. Shrinking people is always silly. Always. To make this serious instead of a comedy is a huge error. This isn’t even Whedon-esque where the characters comment on all the silliness of the things that are happening.

The Doctor is in denial about there being such a thing as a good Dalek, when… Uh… That’s happened more than once, actually. Most recently with a version of Clara copied through time that made soufflés. Clara is kind of with him, so it seems a bit odd to forget that time…

The inside of the Dalek was goofy. So. Goofy. Here’s some flexible, corrugated, plastic duct work. Let’s just put it everywhere! There are lit-up status lights, which seem like a bizarre thing to include at the scale they’re supposedly in. Think of how small those bulbs must be. Even the tiny, hovering antibodies, which seem directly taken from Let’s Kill Hitler are silly. They have a beam that vaporizes and vacuums people away to a waste reclamation system? These things are smart enough to divine the source of a grappling hook, but not see a bunch of tiny people as a threat?

To quote from one of my favorite movies:

Gwen DeMarco: What is this thing? I mean, it serves no useful purpose for there to be a bunch of chompy, crushy things in the middle of a hallway. No, I mean we shouldn’t have to do this, it makes no logical sense, why is it here? Jason Nesmith: ‘Cause it’s on the television show. Gwen DeMarco: Well forget it! I’m not doing it! This episode was badly written!

The stupid thing was fixing the Dalek after all that talk about the Dalek’s memory system. Of course, things go south. They realize that maybe the memory thing is not a good thing to have on. The Dalek says “Resistance is futile” twice, but once was enough, thank you.

The Doctor stands in front of a greenscreen and gives a speech while Clara crawls through … Uh… A service duct? Turning on light-up memory circuits like this is HAL 9000?

Hooray the Dalek kills the other Daleks and we can all live happily ever after!

My favorite part of this is when the Dalek tells the Doctor that he’s “the good Dalek”. It adds a layer to all of it.

We also get Missy, serving tea. So, here’s the crack again. In another jarring scene.

Robot of Sherwood

This is my favorite episode from this season. That is a controversial pick, because this episode is goofy. I criticized In to the Dalek for not acknowledging that it was ridiculous. This episode, in contrast, doesn’t take itself seriously at all. In fact, the Doctor is funny because he doesn’t believe in what is happening instead of going along with all of it.

The absolute worst part, of course, is the gold, and the golden arrow. None of that makes a lick of sense whatsoever, and it is the part that weighs down the episode. This is writing to have a teamwork moment happen, rather than writing what would happen and then inserting teamwork around it. Lazy, really.

I thought the Sheriff was a little odd. It didn’t seem to make any sense why the robots would follow his commands. Though there seemed to be some hinting at him being a robot. It was peculiar. I found out after the episode that he was supposed to be a cyborg of some kind, rebuilt by the robots after he was crushed by their ship. This was revealed in a beheading scene that was cut out of respect for current events. All very understandable.

We also get a reference to The Promised Land, but no Missy. This is also the second of three episodes to feature a crashed ship run by robots preying upon humans in England, in the past. So… Probably could have spaced those out a little more.

Listen

I hated this episode. None of the motivations for events made any sense at all. The Doctor starts the episode off by wondering, aloud, if it was possible for a creature to hide itself perfectly. This theory is seemingly confirmed by some rolling chalk, and the word “listen” scrawled on the chalkboard.

Danny Pink and Clara are going on a date. The date doesn’t go well and Clara returns home filled with regret. This is a very Clara heavy episode, and I don’t object in the slightest.

We get the weird telepathic circuits we’ve never seen before and we’re off to Danny Pink’s past because Clara couldn’t get him off her mind. Clara, however, lies to the Doctor at every turn about how much she’s thinking about Danny Pink, or why they would be here.

The thing on the bed is… well it could be anything, really. The Doctor is strangely non-confrontational toward it. His whole plan was to catch one, and here it is, and his big plan is to let it get away. Why? Well the reason is that Steven Moffat wants us not to know so he can do this again.

Clara lies some more and asks to go to her date. She wants to walk in at the point where she stormed out. Which is great except she forgot her coat and she totally makes everything worse. Now Danny is the one that leaves. This is interesting, this effect of time travel on relationships is fascinating to explore. Too bad about the spacesuit wandering through the restaurant full of people totally unshaded by seeing it! I really thought that was a horrible way to end the scene. It makes no logical sense, none of the patrons react, he doesn’t talk to Clara, and then they’re back on the TARDIS. The whole time, Clara is mad because she thinks it is The Doctor, it is not, it is Danny Pink with different hair!

Turns out that the Doctor scrounged around with the telepathic info he found from Clara, and it pointed him to some other person in the Danny Pink lineage. Clara lies some more about this.

Apparently, his name is Orson, and he’s from the not-too-distant future when humanity started to test their own time travel ships. He got lost at the end of the universe. The Doctor went there, retrieved him, suited him up, sent him in to a restaurant to retrieve Clara, and then took them all back to the end of the universe. Sure. Why not?

The Doctor is convinced that Orson knows something about the unseen creatures and decides to keep them all there to spend the night –there is apparently a night at the end of the universe, but that’s because night is scary, not because night is logical. This reveals the glow-in-the-dark reminder Orson wrote for himself not to let things in through the looked door.

The Doctor wants to let the things in. This is stupid for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because it is the exact opposite of how he handled things in the orphanage.

Yay it’s nothing, for reasons, and we can all go home. What a good use of an hour.

I don’t mind that it wasn’t a monster –or robots on a crashed ship– but why does anyone do any of the things they do in this episode? They didn’t even do those inconsistent, poorly-reasoned things to get us to some interesting conclusion. The most interesting part about it was the soap opera that is Danny and Clara.

Time Heist

We start off with more stuff about dates, and then a phone call. The phone call cuts directly to a dark room where Clara and the doctor are joined by two other people and they’re all holding worms.

This is the most interesting opening of the season. Everything was normal, then something mysterious happened. We didn’t start on a scene of them in action like Moffat likes to do. We got the chance to breath, establish things, and upend it all.

A voice recording establishes, to their immediate satisfaction, that they all consented to this. There is a mysterious Architect. They must all get in a crazy bank, and take stuff, using their unique abilities.

They run away from some ineffective law enforcement and we establish that one character has a computer in his head, and the other is a shapeshifting mutant human (this lets her genetically copy people, but that doesn’t make sense of she’s a mutant because then the gene that lets her do that wouldn’t match the targets genes.)

They go in the bank using a genetic identity that was gifted to them by The Architect.

They witness a creature, called The Teller (what’s with all the THEs?!) detect the guilt of someone else and cave in the guy’s brain. This is all directed by a very prim, posh, head of security. She is so arch, and her dialog so campy, that it makes the circle from ‘bad’ to ‘good’.

The Teller detects none of the guilt from the four people that know they have to rob a bank. Because, apparently, they didn’t know enough about how they would do it to be perceived as guilty.

Our robbers enter a room and they satisfy a genetic lock. The Doctor then uses a device from the case that he thinks is a bomb, and they shift part of the floor to another dimension, complete with burn marks, and then they shift the floor back and there are no burn marks. That’s not really how burning things works, but whatever.

They spread out and find another case. There are syringe-looking things inside the case and the Doctor guesses it will kill them. Which is an odd conclusion to jump to…

This is when logic was strained for me, because the case needed to be placed there, which means someone got past the security before. The Doctor says it might have been another team that was caught. It seems more likely that someone with a go-almost-anywhere box put it there.

They run through some corridors and there are things. They do the patented Wander Past the Sleeping Creature but Accidentally Wake Them Up Maneuver and we loose Sabra. This scene is really protracted and ends with something that looks more like a teleporter than a disinitigtrator. There’s probably a reason for that!

They moop about the “dead” person, except the Doctor, because he’s used to leaving a trail of dead extras in his wake. We get a vault thing and the Teller is awake, so they need to split up, because their telepathic trace will be weak, or something. Cyberpunk sacrifices himself to save Clara and uses another syringe. It was pretty clear to me at this point that The Doctor was The Architect and that they were being teleported. What wasn’t clear was if he was intentionally lying to them, or if he genuinely didn’t know. His callousness led me to believe it was the former, so I guessed wrong there.

We get in to the vault, and we get stuff that will magically repair Cyberpunk’s memory, Mystique-Rogue’s shapeshifting, give Clara ruby slippers, and give the Doctor a brain. I was kidding about two of those because they were captured.

They’re taken to the head of security, after a Bond speech she leaves them to be disposed of by her henchmen. One of the henchmen has no helmet, which is the first time we’ve seen this in the whole episode. It’s kind of important or the morph wouldn’t look as interesting. Surprise!

They all go to the private vault now, through some very wide ducts. The vault is filled with the contents of a 1920s propmaster’s dreams, and we meet the villain behind the bank. She looks like the head of security. She’s not, and she fires the head of security. Which will consist of burning the clone. She hates her clones.

We get a scene where the doctor finally puts it all together and says that he is The Architect. If you are in the audience, and you were remotely surprised by this reveal, then I have a bridge to sell you.

This is when we find out that the terrible line about not being able to trust someone with your own eyes was there just to set up a moment here at the end. Of course. Still doesn’t make any sense really. There are a lot of people that would really… uh… trust all over the place with themselves.

She leaves, because the solar storm got worse and bad things might happen to the planet. The Doctor gives her his number because he predicts she will feel guilty when she’s old and call him to set this all in motion. Indeed, editing and makeup reveals this to be true.

That doesn’t make sense though because she would have only called him after all this happened and he gave her the number. It’s a paradox. Oh well, no time for that, I guess? The Teller is here and he’s going to kill them! But wait, The Doctor figured out the thing that kept The Teller in their service, a captive mate.

They use the 6 teleporter syringes –which are fortunately immune to the effects of a planet-destroying solar storm– and they all escape. They drop off the aliens to somehow form a genetically viable population like they were on Noah’s Ark. We’ll name them George and Gracie. Celebratory take-out Chinese food for everyone!

We end on Clara going on the date she was planning on at the start of this episode.

Overall this episode was fine. If I didn’t see the twists so soon, then it might have been more enjoyable. My viewing companion for these episodes agreed Time Heist was fine, but he didn’t see any of the reveals coming. He just hated the ending in the Private Vault onward.

He still misses Amy and Rory though.

Doctor Who Episode Pitch

We start on a giant, alien monster crushing East London. There’s so much screaming, and no one knows what’s going on. We see the TARDIS flying around the alien monster, and The Doctor in the door, unspooling a cable. He’s wrapping it around the monster. Inside the TARDIS are two people the audience has never seen before. Monsieur Mars, an Ice Warrior stranded in France since the 1950’s, and his valet/lover Aristotle. The audience literally has no clue at all what’s happening and they start to wonder if they missed part of the episode.

The alien creature is subdued, AT-AT style, and the doctor makes up some story about using the cable to tow the alien creature through time and space to its home. Then he introduces the two people the audience doesn’t know to Clara. She’s quite alarmed by all of this, as she was in the middle of regretting how a date with Danny Pink went. She regrets it ever so much. We get some flashbacks to it not going well at all. Poor Clara and Danny, so awkward!

The Doctor says that they need to go back in time and find out what lured this alien creature to Earth in the first place. He says that it’s a special kind of alien creature that only shows up when it’s lured somewhere. Fortunately, The Doctor lands them all in the past on exactly the right day they need to be.

They are in Victorian London, once again. The TARDIS is in an alley, and a robbery is occurring. The Doctor ducks back in to the TARDIS and makes a plan with Clara, Monsieur, and Aristotle to foil the robbery. When they exit the TARDIS they see that the robbers have already been dispatched by Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. Strax calls all the robbers women and we laugh. Oh how we laugh.

After a long series of introductions with many sexual innuendos, they all agree to find the thing that drew the alien to earth, in the future. They leave the unconscious robbers in the alley and walk away, chatting. The camera stays in the alley as one of the robbers comes to. Just in time for an arm, enrobed in black, to grab the robber.

The gang arrives back at Madame Vastra’s home. Jenny and Clara go to make tea. They chat about their love life. Clara has some more flashbacks to things she said to Danny, and Jenny has some flashbacks to things that didn’t go well with her first dates with Vastra. The tea is ready and they return to the parlor to find that The Doctor has torn up a bunch of old newspapers. There have been disappearances of men in the area around the docks. Whatever they’re looking for must be in or near the water.

The Monsieur suggests that they all split up in to pairs to cover more ground searching the docks. Good idea, what could go wrong? Because splitting up is for the writers, more than the characters, we’ll pair them up as follows so we can have interesting conversations:

  • Jenny, The Doctor, and Strax
  • Madame Vastra, and Aristotle
  • Clara, and Monsieur

A nefarious-looking robbed figure watches all of this from the shadows. Of course.

The Doctor asks Jenny why Clara’s been acting so weird, and Jenny says it should be obvious that she’s having boy troubles. Strax talks about how confusing the anatomy of human males are.

Madame Vastra and Aristotle talk about philosophy, but only in double entendres.

Clara and Monsieur talk about why he chose to stay in Paris, with Aristotle. How Monsieur knew he was the right one, even though Monsieur was a warrior, and Aristotle wasn’t.

Just then, all three groups are surrounded by black-robed figures, because it was a stupid idea to split up and wander around the fucking docks.

They’re all cuffed with christmas lights and taken down to a specific dock. A large metal cylinder rises from the water and opens a door. The robbed figures herd the people inside.

Once inside, the doctor sees all the technology and surmises that they are aboard a crashed ship. A crashed ship! No way! The gang is herded past groups of workers welding things inside the crashed ship.

The gang stops inside of what appears to be a bridge. There’s corrugated plastic tubing EVERYWHERE. Monsieur demands to know who the robbed figures are. The robes collapse to the floor revealing floating spheres with singular, cycloptic, blue eyes. They look like large versions of the Dalek antibodies from In to the Dalek. The cuffs all drop to the floor as well.

The Doctor tells everyone to shut up, a lot, and calls Aristotle a puddinghead, and then tells everyone that OF COURSE they’re in a crashed alien ship, but not just any crashed ship, this ship is an enlarged Dalek. One of the Dalek antibodies speaks and says that they passed through an area of warped space on their way to The Promised Land, and that enlarged the Dalek, but killed the mutant at the core of the machine. They crashed in London in the 1500’s and eventually the computer system evolved enough that the antibodies could make conscious choices. For the last three years they’ve been abducting dock workers to fix the Dalek shell. Once it is capable of flight, they will dominate the Earth and use the population to build more large-scale Daleks, and antibodies, like themselves.

Clara wonders what any of this has to do with the alien creature that was lured to Earth. The Dalek antibodies say they have no intention of luring any aliens to Earth, that it would add an unnecessary impurity.

The Doctor puts it all together, and says that he knows who summoned the alien. He uses his sonic screwdriver on the Dalek antibodies and there’s a high-pitched squeal. He tells everyone he just sent the transmission that will summon the alien creature so they will all go back in time and find the Dalek army. No paradoxes at all here, none whatsoever. Let’s just keep moving, because this is ridiculous!

They all run down a corridor, while the Dalek antibodies regroup. One of the antibodies kills Aristotle with a ray.

Aristotle is having champagne with Missy in the Promised Land.

The gang runs through more corridors and then they all run back in to each other in the empty spot where the dead Dalek mutant would have been. Madame Vastra asks the doctor what their plan is. The Doctor says that they might be able to self-destruct the Dalek if they can trigger failsafes that prevent non-Dalek’s from operating the system. He says the way to do that is for someone to join with the machinery that connected the mutant to the machine. Clara asks if that person could leave once the failsafe is triggered, and of course they can’t. Monsieur volunteers to do it because he can’t go on living without Aristotle. The gang runs away, to find an exit back to the docks. Monsieur inserts some cables under his skin and the whole place (just the camera, really) shakes. Strobe lights flash. Clara, Jenny, Strax, and The Doctor shout for the dock workers to run for it. Dalek antibodies block the exit. The Doctor does the same alien transmission trick, disorienting the antibodies used to broadcast the signal, and they all escape to the dock while the water starts to boil, and glow.

Madame Vastra comments that she would have done what the Monsieur did, if Jenny had died. Jenny tells Clara, in a reference to earlier, that she should go talk with her own Monsieur.

The Doctor and Clara are traveling back in the TARDIS when Clara asks about the second signal. The Doctor casually remarks that they just have to go subdue another alien when they get back, and it shouldn’t take more than a few hours.

2014-09-22 11:03:58

Category: text


Analog(ue) #5: 'The Only Way Out is Through' ►

This is not a light-hearted episode. It is, however, a heartfelt one. I have an enormous amount of respect for these three.

2014-09-14 11:47:51

Category: text


Industry Paradox

No, I’m not referring to that time that James T. Kirk asked an industrial computer an impossible question. I’m talking about how things everyone is interested in, aren’t generating sustainable income.

This morning, Twitter started to circulate stories about the staff of Macworld being laid off. I read Jason Snell’s heartfelt post about his reasons for leaving his position, as well as the optimism he has for making things again.

Jason Snell was my metaphorical white whale. I think he’s the cat’s pajamas, the bee’s knees — that’s a lot of conflicting animals, but bear with me — He’s a real standup gent. He’s also been professionally successful in a geeky business doing geeky stuff. He’s hobnobbed with all sorts of Apple people that I would just gawk at, mouth agape. He’s a real pro, through and through. What I admire most of all, is his side project, The Incomparable. What started as a nerdy, panel discussion of rotating topics has turned in to a bit of a nerdy empire. He obviously draws great satisfaction from creating things for audiences.

I used to love buying Macworld issues. I was not a subscriber, but I would spend a few bucks, when I could, to read Mac magazines (I also read MacUser before it was acquired by Macworld, but honestly I couldn’t mentally distinguish specific articles from one or the other right now). This was, of course, during the dark times at Apple when they weren’t doing too well. You would not know that from the issues. They contained delightful spreads about upcoming projects. Glossy photos of Apple’s hardware (which they made look interesting, even though they were mostly reused cases) with artfully placed copy. Everything about it was a real, honest-to-goodness experience. How can you make an unimaginative product name like, “603e” sound interesting? They did! There were huge comparisons of all the Mac clones (they were mostly identical in performance). I vividly recall an image of a prototype Apple notebook that had a detachable screen (never shipped) as well as a special Japanese Powerbook that never shipped to the US. I lusted after these amazing things. That magazine is where I first saw Rhapsody, and read about Yellow Box and Blue Box. There was so much there, and it was all dressed to the nines, despite Apple teetering on the edge of oblivion.

However, Macworld, like almost every publication that existed, botched the internet. (Jason Snell talks a little about urging MacUser, and Macworld, to take the internet seriously in an interview with Anže Tomić.) I moved away from Macworld. Their monthly issues were still beautiful, but the information was often not current. When things around Apple changed quickly, the news lagged behind — something you wouldn’t notice in the 90s.

I started to go back to Macworld after I started listening to Jason’s creative outlet, The Incomparable, since many panelists were writers, editors, and contributors to the stories on the site. They revised their site to be less-bad, and I often refer to it for content that you don’t find on those “BREAKING! EXCLUSIVE!“, Betteridge’s-Law-breaking, feeding troughs of “Sources close to”, triple-paraphrased tech sites. Serenity Caldwell wrote great stuff about ebooks, because she was in charge of making them for Macworld. Lex Friedman (who left to go in to podcasting ad sales) has in-depth articles on things you don’t think you need to know, like managing your Gmail through Fluid app instances. It’s all really great, really geeky stuff, and not eHow stuff. Philip Michaels even made fun of this crazy, media world in his Macworld Pundit Showdown series. It’s not all news, it’s life, it’s meta.

It is strange that while Apple has risen to a level that surpassed where it was in the 80s, and interest in Apple has increased to match that, the old media outlets that covered Apple in the 90s declined. Layoffs, and turning around and publishing the web items as next month’s issue, have done very little to balance the books for Macworld. It’s a very cruel irony that the fortunes of these people, and this company, are moving in a direction opposite to the products they cover.

As someone that has gone through layoffs, I know that hearing things like, “good luck”, and “land on your feet” can sound kind of hollow, but it’s often the only thing we can think to say to one another^1. It’s certainly what I said to the Macworld people I follow on Twitter. I wasn’t sure what else to say, even though I’ve been on the receiving end. (While there are more VFX shots in films than there ever have been, almost all the work in California left with our water.)

From Jason’s interview with Anže around 47 minutes in:

There was a time when I thought that the media companies in the future would be all sales people, and that the editors would just all be fired, and that they would have freelancers, you know, computers writing things, and databases — and, and my job would be over, and it would just be the sales people. They would rule the Earth. But for the last five or ten years, I’ve been thinking: no, the future of the media is that the sales people are all gonna disappear, and it’s just gonna be the editors and writers because they make the thing that has value. And Google, and it’s ilk, are going to completely invalidate all the ways that things get sold. That’s probably extreme, but some of that is happening. It is — It is really hard to use those old sales approaches in a world where there are ad networks, and ad exchanges, and Google out there to do this stuff. So that will be interesting to see. What is the right model for a media company? Is it a bunch of single people? Is it a collective of, like, five writers? Or is there room for a fifty, or a hundred person company with sales people, marketing people, and an editorial staff, and some staff writers, and some freelancers? That’s what we are, and I don’t know if that’s a shape that will fit in the landscape in five years. I honestly don’t know, it might. But it might be that what you really want is a staff of five or ten editors, and writers, and then a couple business people, and then an ad network. I really don’t know what the economics are going to be like.

Jason goes on to say that the middle-ground has dried up. That small places can get by, because they’re small, and big places can get by because they are eyeball/content mills. The stuff between those extremes is not making money. Paywalls scare people away, requiring larger fees, there need to be huge ads, or creepy advertorials, etc. Someone needs to pay for the stuff, and it’s not the traditional advertising sales model of “We’ll print X of these.” There are rumblings around Kickstarter, and Patreon, but they’re not fully tested, and Patreon can often be about financing someone that has a proven track record. People that seek funding often turn to swag, like shirts, and mugs, to gather money. It seems dubious, and unsustainable, to encourage people to make things for free, for a living, until they make money (cough). It’s also unstable. There need to be rainy-day funds, there needs to be capital. Dramatic ups and downs are no way for people to live. Project-based freelancing, without benefits, is not comfortable for many humans over the age of 30. Retirement benefits sound silly, when you’re young, because it feels like it’s a long way off. It’s not.

Jason says we can’t all be Daring Fireball, surely no one is going to read 18 Daring Fireballs. Text has a very low barrier to entry (hi) but that is no guarantee it’s any good (I need an editor!) or that it will satisfy the specific, steady intervals people want writing released in.

The written word is definitely still a part of our society, despite print’s ever-demising demise. People still lie in bed, scrolling through text, sit at work (totally on a break!) reading news, or enjoy their commutes with all the things they want to catch up on. The former Macworld writers, and editors, are still capable of offering that crucial service they offered before. Hopefully, they are satisfied by whatever options presented, or the options they make for themselves.

Jason’s desire to create for audiences rings true to me. Even when I work as an artist, I don’t always feel artistic. Silly things that can fulfill me in ways that I don’t always get from working on movies. That’s not to say that I hate movies, or that the writers hate writing, or the editors hate editing — but when the industry you are in is crumbling, while the industry that benefits from your work is excelling, it can make you bummed about your work, and your career. (I should have gone to business school, then I could finally art-direct movies.)

^1: I hope no one said that, “When God closes a door, he opens a window” line because that is just the worst. “This could be a good thing for you.” Is my runner-up.

2014-09-11 00:33:32

Category: text