Friday, April 21, 2017

Tidbits

Random WPI flashback: forgetting to account for gravity in calculations on a Physics lab paper - and only losing a single point (out of 12).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sesame Credit

I am both aghast and intrigued by this new Chinese national game system, known as Sesame Credit.

First, historical context: when Mao took over, he indoctrinated the populace into Communism using an easy to understand media for the masses - comic books. When Deng Xiaoping wanted to convert the nation to Capitalism, he used comics as well. Both instances were among the biggest examples of comics - normally a pop culture fixture - being used for something far larger scale than story telling. In this sense, China adopting game design to reinforce their national message is consistent with past mass education movements. They take what we treat as "fun" in the west and figure out how to use it in a more serious manner.

Second, personal reaction. Yeah, this is horrifying. It decentralizes oppression to the individual level. The centralization of the state's hold on people is always the greatest weakness - they simply can never be efficient enough to suppress everything. This eliminates that bottleneck and does so in a way consistent with Brave New World more than 1984. Instead of a single data stream being broadcast from the government, it turns individual citizens into mini-radio towers that broadcast and enforce the party line.

Third, and the scariest point: it could easily happen here. We have interconnected data mining on a mass scale, just like China, as well as at least two major online companies willing to work with the government on anything (Google and Facebook). We have a rising tide of people who want echo chamber hug boxes in their friend circles and a demand for exclusionary "safe spaces." It would be child's play for the government to sponsor a gamified site that ranked people based on adherence to being "environmentally friendly" or "socially just" or any of a dozen other dog whistle terms that all translate to "OBEY."

If they wanted to be more low key, have a private company do it, but receive under the table support from the government in choosing what constitutes "good" and "bad" points. They wouldn't have to pass a law saying it's mandatory: just shunt all the data in there whether you want it there or not and refuse to prosecute them. You will participate, even if you object.

I think I just envisioned Facebook 2.0.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Fake Rights

"You don't have the right to do that."

"Sure I do! It's the right to public safety."

"That doesn't exist."

"Oh. Then, the right to protecting my community!"

"That's basically the same, but nope, not a thing."

"The right to stop people who look scary and act weird?"

"That's called 'profiling.' And it's definitely not a right."

"Look, just shut up and do what I say!"

"You know what is a right? My ability to tell you to go to hell."

Friday, April 14, 2017

Tidbits

Why are math teachers naturally Sith?

Because they deal in absolute values.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Once Upon a Time Reactions Part 7

Season 5 begins! And, boy, does it kind of sting.

Season 5:

Well, hello season 5. Time to catch up.

I'm so glad Belle picked Rumple in the end. That SHOULD end well, now. I look forward to seeing his recovery arc. Maybe he can become a proper hero now.

So the dagger is just the tip. Ha.
Head Voice Rumple? Or Clippystiltskin? Trying to come up with a good nickname for the voice in her head.

What's with Hook and Regina suddenly hating each other? Their antagonism feels forced.

Ha. Rumple has a rose-based health bar. And Belle is going with them on the adventure this time! ABOUT BLOODY TIME. Maybe she and Mulan will get another team-up.

MERIDA! Yay! Makes sense she'd be in Anglo-Saxon territory. She should get Excalibur and become king. Then she could be Saber-class! Alternatively, she leads the Scottish in revolt against Arthur and kicks his butt.

"You need a hobby. How about knitting?" Loving this version of Rumple.

I just realized that the sanitarium nurse is Ratchet from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I wonder if she's from a realm filled with Jack Nicholson movies?

Zelena's actress is having WAY more fun in the role than in season 3. The Wicked Witch as a gleeful yandere type works so well.

"And now we ride to...Camelot!" I am disappointed the Monty Python theme didn't come out of those horns. Someone needs to do a mash-up.

OH COME ON. ANOTHER TIME SKIP AND MIND WIPE?!

Jeebus writers. Learn another plot device already. It was fine the first two times (once because it was new, the second as a callback to the start). But this is RIDICULOUS.

Dark One Emma is pretty awesome, though. Liking the leather look.

Still getting used to an Arthur that isn't Graham Chapman.

The way it jumps between 3 times - founding of Camelot, 6 weeks ago, and today - is confusing. Not helping is the use of Granny's Diner in both the 6 weeks and modern.

HA. It really is only a model! Also, nice "comfy chair" reference drop. There's hope for more Monty Python still.

Ooo. Does Merida get to go Mel Gibson on King Arthur? I really hope so. She needs the blue war paint!

"I need you to make him brave."

AUGH. The writers must have been giggling hard when they wrote that line.

I really like the actress they chose for Merida in OUAT. Good accent, great hair, everything.

Dark One Emma continues to be far more interesting than her other versions (except season 1 Emma, who's snarkiness I liked).

The Belle and Rumple content of season 5 continues to please me. Makes up for the heart ripping moment of season 4. So glad that Will is gone. Also glad to see Belle FINALLY get more of a main character status.

I also love the Belle and Merida team-up. Belle is like the ultimate team-up companion.

Get Merida, Mulan, and Belle together. Rumple dispatches them to fight evil. RUMPLE'S ANGELS.

Maybe Rumple's time as the Light One will be made real when he overcomes his cowardice? I'm glad they're finally really digging into that character aspect. Before it's been his use of power to hide his fear (his fear of fear, basically). Now he has to face the underlying problem head on without a net.

One thing I like with both the Frozen and Brave integration: they feel like sequels to the originals, in a good way. It's a shame Tangled won't get the same treatment, since they already had Rapunzel. I could see Tiana coming in - she could easily be from a part of Cruella's 1920's world.

OUAT Merlin sucks. Hard. There are so many great actors who could've been Merlin. The guy they picked is just...terrible. Bad delivery, bad body language. He doesn't convey wisdom or skill at all. The Apprentice was a better Merlin than this guy.

Easily the worst part of season 5.

Emma's reason for going dark were kind of predictable. I was hoping for something more shocking. It at least makes sense in character and explains the mystery. It is also nicely ironic.

Arthur needs to get his limbs chopped off while screaming that he's invincible. I really want that to happen.

YAY FOR FRANKENSTEIN RETURNING. About time. He didn't fit in thematically with season 4, so I understand why they left him out, but he is pretty great. Love his one-liners: "I hope you don't throw me across the room like last time." WELP. Running gag established.

Looking back, they should have cast Neil Patrick Harris in this role. He'd have been perfect.

"My name is Merida Dunbroch. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

I wanted Mulan and I got Mulan! OUAT Season 5 is pretty good about pleasing me. It has Belle x Rumple, Frankenstein back, Merida and Mulan team-up, Zelena being a grinning evil lunatic, etc. That the thematic backbone combines two of my favorite properties - Brave and King Arthur - also helps.

Oh, so that's where Ruby's been. I was wondering.

Didn't Philip and Aurora get stuck as Flying Monkeys since Zelena's not dead?

So far season 5a is a big step up in quality. As much as I enjoyed Season 4a, this one feels better. The only reason it's not as amazing as it could be was the absolutely horrible actor they picked for Merlin. A better Merlin would've made this darn near perfect.

Oh, come on, OUAT. Now you're just screwing with Rumple x Belle fans for no reason. Seriously. There is no good narrative cause other than "Belle is an indecisive idiot" (and she isn't) that would keep them apart at this stage. They're probably setting up their reunion as part of the winter finale.

(Or they'll do something really horrible and have Rumple absorb all the other Dark Ones into himself, thus ruining this whole "Hey, look, he's a hero now" subplot.)

The Hook x Emma drama is just fluff for me. I'm not very invested in that couple.

I also think the writers have forgotten what made the Dark One interesting. He's a shadowy deal maker, manipulating from the shadows. Turning the Dark Ones into an army of magical mooks triggers the Inverse Ninja Law - none of them will be as particularly as powerful as a Dark One ought to be.
--

One of the reasons seasons 4a and 5a of OUAT have been better than season 3a is the thematic unity and contrast.

Season 3a was just a "we need to do the thing by chasing the thing." It was a chase sequence with no chasing. Blah. It's only good episodes were where it explored Peter Pan's motivations and drew parallels to Rumple's relationship with his son.

Season 4a focused on Frozen's theme of sisterly love and added a new dimension with the Snow Queen. Frozen was about two sisters mending ways. OUAT Season 4a followed it up by exploring what could happen when that desire for a bond went too far.

Season 5a seems to be exploring bravery and leadership. We have Merida contrasted with Arthur. Merida is the just and true queen figure, come into her own and able to lead. Arthur was a fearful person, who wanted the appearance of unity without doing the work.

In both 4a and 5a, they've found story cues from the original and pushed them to a next step for OUAT. It's very clever and is probably why I'm enjoying it so much.

--

Things I wish I could see in OUAT future seasons:

1. Chinese myths. They have Mulan, so this is possible. Sun Wukong and others would be a natural fit for OUAT. Since we know season 5b is Hercules themed, having them butt heads with the Chinese deities would be interesting.

2. Tiana. They've established another unnamed realm that is always the 1920's with Cruella. Tiana could easily be from there.

3. Atlantis. You not only have great potential of Milo interacting with Frankenstein (OUAT science bros!), but there are tons of Atlantean legends to mine. Since this would be a sci-fi theme, you can push it even further by mixing in John Carter (which Disney still has the rights to) and Treasure Planet. OUAT...IN SPAAAAACE.

4. The Incredibles. A long shot, but with a sequel in the works and Henry's established love of superheroes, this could work. It'd have to be yet another realm. For even more fun, mix in Big Hero 6 - a Disney Marvel property that isn't tied up with the MCU.

5. Tarzan and Jungle Book. An obvious pairing here. Mowgli and Tarzan together? This could have some good moments. For even more fun, insert Emperor's New Groove. "WRONG LEVER!"

The main ones I struggle to think of are the animal ones, like Rescuers and Great Mouse Detective. I grew up on those and would love to see them integrated, but turning them into people risks losing something. Still, I'd love to see them try.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Once Upn a Time Reactions Part 6

And now we wrap up season 4.

Season 4 Part 2:

Camelot! Another reference to Camelot! I wonder what unlucky knight lost their hand...I hope it's not just a model.

I'm also hoping the Sorcerer they keep referencing is Merlin. Too bad they killed Lancelot already. Hopefully we'll get a flashback to fill that in.

Ursula and Maleficent I get. They've appeared before. But...Cruella? How the heck does an old 1920's flapper type fit into the Enchanted Forest? Is she an eccentric sorceress who uses animal skin as magic components? I was expecting her to be modified, not appear straight-up in her movie outfit.

At least the dalmatian motifs are finally paying off, four seasons later.

Rumple: I'm assembling a team.
Ursula: For what?
Rumple: We're going to find the writers of this show and kill them.

Sadly, if you kill the Author, the Great Will of the Macrocosm will just reset everything.

"I don't know what those tentacles are for." - Maleficent

Okay, THAT was a good one-liner.

Bald Mountain! I knew Chernabog would get in here eventually. Only a matter of time with the other Fantasia reference.

The writers seem to be giving all the best snarky lines to Regina now. She has Emma's season 1 sarcasm.

Maleficent's costume in season 4 got a serious upgrade over season 1. Nice.

Season 4a was fun and good. Since I like Frozen, there was minimal annoyance and I really liked a lot of dialogue and costumes. Much better than all of season 3.

We'll see if this half can keep it going. Giving Snow and Charming a hidden dark secret that's only just coming to light and has never been mentioned before ever is kind of dumb. I'm worried I'm about to be very disappointed.

And Rumple and Belle. RUMPLE AND BELLE. That had better pay off in a good way or I'll be pissed.

Wouldn't it be funny if the donut shop in Storybrook was on Drury Lane and staffed by the Muffin Man and Gingerbread Man?

Belle...Your taste in men sucks. I hope Rumple rips his heart out.

I'd be fine with Belle's dark side (seen in her cursed life) coming back and going on to be the wife of the Dark One.

Honestly, I really want them to follow along the lines of Integra and Alucard from Hellsing. Him as the servant monster and her as the increasingly tough leader. That's the kind of dynamic I was hoping they were building toward.

Ernie Hudson is Poseidon? Long way from busting ghosts.

I like the back story for Regina and Maleficent. Now we finally have an idea of what happened to Philip and Aurora in the timeline.

That scene where Rumple is disguised as Hook. UNG. Feels. I really want him to get Belle back. I hope the actual Hook gets to punch Will a few more times.

Still wondering who is the father of Maleficent's baby.

Did they combine Ursula and Tiana? That's actually interesting.

I was wondering when they were going to use the voice stealing bit. Nice execution there.

So, Elsa can put ships in bottles now? That's a far cry from ice powers. Or was it the Snow Queen?

I'm still struggling to figure out how Cruella's back story fits the aesthetic of the Enchanted Forest. Unless she's from another realm?

Damn Regina. That was cold. I kind of hate you for that.

I like how their using the red under Emma's eyes to show her descent to evil. Though the "heroes don't kill" thing is stupid. Prince Philip killed Maleficent in the original. Snow White killed the Queen in the original tale. Fairy tales had plenty of cases of the heroes killing the villains as punishment for their crimes.

I loved the reference to Disney when they mention that Walt was one of the authors for the OUAT universe. Wonderful.

I want Emma's car to end up as Bumblebee at some point. I just do.

I like Zelena in season 4b a lot more than season 3b. She's much more competent in how she approaches things.

Season 4b is picking up. A bit of a meh start, but good progress.
Is it wrong I always think of Robin Hood as a fox because of the Disney film? I keep expecting the Sheriff to turn into a wolf.

I feel like the Sheriff got mashed up with Gaston. Belle's Gaston was actually a halfway decent fellow.

The author's origin story is set in the 1960's. Just after Walt Disney passed away. THAT IS SO COOL.

I like the guy they picked as the Sorcerer's Apprentice. I hope they get him out of the hat eventually.

...Oh, there we go.

I guess the writers realized the time travel of season 3 was well done, so they decided to do yet another "two part AU" story for the season finale again. I'm not complaining too much.

...They made HENRY the lead on this? This is going to hurt.
Belle and Rumple are married with kids? YAY. I feel happy now. This AU isn't all bad.

I love how they poke fun at the OUAT fanbase with the "Heroes and Villains" fan scene. They also lampshade our society's tendency to worship villains over heroes.

I though this would be bad, but Henry's actor is actually not bad anymore. I guess he recovered after the whole puberty thing.

"Who could ever love me?"
"I don't love Will."

Right in the emotions.

DAMN IT WRITERS.

MERLIN NAME DROP.

Whoo! (Called it.)

"Now we must ride...to Camelot!" If they don't put folks banging coconuts together or swallows somewhere in there I'll be very disappointed.

--

Assessment: season 4 was much better than season 3. Not quite as great as season 2, but better than season 1. It had some pacing issues here and there, but the tension was better.

The Frozen tie-in was a lot of fun. If the writers of Frozen 2 have a clue they'll borrow some of that material. I hope we get to see Elsa and company return!

The second half started with an absolutely gut wrenching scene. Seriously. That was the worst emotional distress I've felt from a TV show in a while. Good job, OUAT writers. And screw you. At least the resolution was okay, if mostly deferred to season 5.

Second half had more pacing issues than the first. A bit of the Peter Pan "We need to wander around and find the x before anything happens" syndrome. The flash backs were better. The concluding two episodes did not feel as punchy as the two-part finale for season 3, probably because you knew Henry would win in the end. With season 3, you had no idea what might trickle down into the future via butterfly effect.

I did like both Rumple's story arc and Emma's choice. Lily's father search should be fun. Maybe the daddy will be Mushu? Or Smaug? Or voiced by Sean Connery? Who knows?

And MERLIN. FINALLY. We get to go to Camelot after 3 seasons of teasing! If he's not the crazy one from Sword in the Stone I'll be unhappy. I'll be fine if he's a Connecticut Yankee, though.

So...yeah. Season 3 was disappointing. Season 4 has convinced me to keep watching. I just hope season 5 keeps being okay.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Tidbits

According to my students, Death Note is the Naruto of Mexico.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Once Upon a Time Reactions Part 5

Season 4! Lots of heartache here. I wrote the last bit in real time as I watched it happen.

Season 4 Part 1:

I'm really curious how they fit Arendelle into the EF universe and timeline. Elsa was locked away by Rumple (maybe?), so it took place in the ~200 year time span he was Dark One.

They gave Rumple Beast's suit! And Belle in her dress! And the Beauty and the Beast song in piano! Squee!

Good job, episode 1 Season 4. You're already better than most of season 3.

Man. They're just copying the Frozen aesthetic straight up here. The other ones they re-imagined. This one is like live action of the film. I'm not complaining too much - it feels like it fits in with the film rather seamlessly. Maybe this is because the writers went, "Hey, we need this in our show now! Because ratings!"

(I want musical numbers, though. Curse the lack of musical numbers.)

It does create some incongruities, though - why are the trolls here not the trolls who menaced Snow and Charming? Are they a different tribe? Are they like flat head Klingons and ridged brow Klingons? I want to know more about the different troll races!

So far, I like the Anna. The Elsa isn't quite as good - she lacks the outward maturity of her movie version. The dress also feels a little flat on her. Anna's dress was better designed. She has the hair, though.

Well, episode 2 just answered the timeline question. Kristoff and Charming as buddies? That's awesome. Good integration into the lore.

Bo Peep? The hell? That costume is ghastly. I hope one of her guards is named Woody.

And with the parent's deaths when it is, Ariel finding their ship under the sea and that prompting her to take an interest in humans totally works! HEAD CANON DETERMINED.

Oh, god, Henry. Stop opening your mouth. Your dialogue delivery has reached a new low.

"Anna was right. Reason and logic do work on you." Thank you, Kristoff, for succinctly stating why Elsa is one of the best Disney princesses.

"No one checked if it was empty first?" Kristoff is getting a lot of good lines.

Snow Queen's first act? Killing Hans. Okay, so you're definitely a hero. I guess we'll see which of the 32 flavors you are.

"I just push the Emma button and she usually answers." Another good one liner!

Grumpy took the stupid pills this time. Sigh.

Pretty sure the writers are dropping "let it/him/her go" as a meme to deliberately annoy the song haters. Ha ha. Keep it up, guys.

Season 4 is doing very good so far at combining tension - Marian's fate, mystery of Anna and Elsa, Regina's feelings - with lighthearted moments like this. It's already better than season 3. We'll see if it can keep it up.

"You're not the sorcerer."
"No, I'm his apprentice."

LIES. You're not a mouse! And NOW I recognize that hat. Oh, nice reference. Will Nicholas Cage appear?

Okay, now the Sorcerer's Apprentice is a mouse. Nice.

Walking broomstick! Hints of the music! Oh, I'm really enjoying this episode.

Loved the scene with Elsa building the staircase.

Snow Queen puts Elsa in chains? Ties into those Slave Princess Elsa variants.

"I'm going to build a snowman." I am thankful Olaf is not in OUAT.

Emma's learned the Kamehameha! I wonder when she'll get the Spirit Bomb.
The shop owner from Frozen! Wow, they nailed it. The voice and look.

Belle and Anna in the sauna together? Oh, my. (Now, Belle and Elsa in the sauna together? I'd need to go to my bunk for that one.)

I'm sad they couldn't get the original VA for Grand Pabbie. John Rhys-Davies is a good choice, though.

Oof. Nice twist with Belle and Anna. It explains why she was willing to throw herself at Rumple to save the others. And her own insecurities mirrors Rumple's, further explaining the attraction.

Oh! They even use that older guy with the nose from Weaseltown in a flashback! He's just as prone to yell, "Burn the witch!" too.

Robin Hood's "I'm confused!" is getting repetitive. You could just do the royalty thing and have a harem, you know.

Ooo, the origin of the gloves.

Episode 10 is pretty good. Honestly, this entire Frozen arc has been quite good. The mystery of what happened to Anna is interesting. The Snow Queen's twisted desire for family is a nice variant of corrupting obsession. The "Emma's power goes haywire" bit is meh, though, especially when she grabs the idiot ball over it.

"And I sang with you!" Wait. So Disney songs happen in real time? Now I really want OUAT to have a musical number at some point! Maybe get Neil Patrick Harris involved.

Damn it, Hans. Stay dead. But the back and forth between him and Anna is very entertaining.

I love the actress for Anna so much. She's written spot on. I also like how they did Sven. Elsa is warming up to me (ha, pun). I think I've been spoiled by knowing amazing Elsa cosplayers.

Gold becoming more evil is kind of weird this season. I could see it as a way of him reacting to Neil's death. He's lost his son, so now he'll get free no matter what. And screw the people he blames for his death. However, it seems a bit too diabolical at this stage - his marriage to Belle should have softened him a bit. The writers cranked up the evil a bit too much.

I like Regina and Robin more than Snow and Charming, even though they're basically recycling the season 1 subplot. At least they're watchably interesting.

Did they forget the elevator takes 2 people to operate?
That's no snowflake. It's a star! Did not see that one coming.

How many times does the Blue Fairy die in this series? That's two so far.

They keep putting in dalmatians as a visual motif in OUAT. But why only 1 of them? Where are the 100 others?

"Shattered Sight" (ep 11) has just the right mix of humorous reactions and serious moments. The number of one-liners making me chuckle has increased sharply these last few eps, in fact.

Elsa: We need to be careful and take our time.
Anna: Arendel was conquered by Hans.
Elsa: We need to go. NOW.
--

Uh oh.

Oh no.

Don't do it Belle...

No, Belle...

He just wanted to take over the world, Belle! Nothing wrong with that!

Oh, god. What have you done? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?

I'm actually tearing up over this.

AUGH. That was HORRIBLE.

It's been a long time since a TV show has managed to impact my emotions. I suppose that says that just how well written Rumple and Belle were.

Monday, April 3, 2017

One Punch Man vs. DBZ

Saitama would defeat Goku in a fight, serious or sparring. Why? Because the whole POINT of Saitama is that he is physically stronger than any regular shounen hero. And Goku is the archetypal shounen hero.

It's more interesting to think of other ways Saitama could be defeated. He's not particularly smart, so he can be out maneuvered and probably manipulated. Light, Lelouch, Yugi, and Gendo could all either defeat him or use him to their own ends. A powerful non-physical foe would do well, such as ghosts. The list goes on.

But, no, most of the DBZ cast loses hard to Saitama. Maybe Buu, but his regeneration has limits and he'd eventually get splattered to the point of disintegration.