Extratone

For the New Curious.

A 'fun' movie

by David Blue

Nicolas Cage

The Earth will reach its maximum occupancy load (12 billion) when I am in my mid-fifities, meaning there’ll be more than twice as many gorging, shitting, shooting, complaining, and lying human beings than there were when I started, and perhaps Brian Taylor’s Mom and Dad is in fact a reasoned argument for a particular solution to our inevitable plight. I’m still not sure what a “cult” movie is, precisely, but I can’t imagine what sort of cult could possibly sustain itself around the ethos of this film alone, despite its concise, agitating, at once lighthearted, yet genuinely-disturbing trip. No, it is probably not propaganda. From the experts, you’ll get precisely the same review, varying only in length. The New York Times’ Glenn Kenny couldn’t be bothered with more than 250 words, but RogerEbert dot com’s Simon Abrams shelled out a whole 1000. They are suspiciously close to these big round numbers — perhaps each was written to respective quotas, and perhaps you could say all that could reasonably be said in 10, but I don’t care.

The tropes here are polished to a miraculous sheen — two emotionally-stunted, middleaged, overly preoccupied-with-their-lost-youth suburban parents (Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair) who’s existing envies & irritations regarding their own classically bratty teenage girl (Anne Winters) and her mischievous little brother (Zackary Arthur) is merely agitated by a sudden TV static-bound killer instinct into bloodlust, not originated. I’m not sure any pill dealer would actually flip off their customers after a fair buy — even in high school, but drugs, a black boyfriend, and a stinkbomb? in the old Trans Am!? I’m going to kill you!

Somebody, somewhere knew all the best sources on suburbia and how to put them to good use. The Camry, the golf bag, ping pong smashing, sweat-stained Big Sur tee, and Dr. Oz, for Christ’s sake! Granted, talking to your girlfriend/boyfriend on the phone at all is a bit dated — especially while riding a BMX — and I don’t think Froot Loops are generally accepted middle-class chow anymore. These are staples from my youth, and I am very old. Technically, the iMessage bubble graphics are more chronographically appropriate, but with great consequence, I fear — if we’re going to accept them once and for all as authentic mechanisms for telling stories set in the present, they are going to age faster than Nick’s new jowls (unless we’re all soon killed by our parents.) It’s been two years since I knew anything about music, but I seriously doubt even the gothest fifteen?-year-old girls are listening to Father-esque post-Memphis horrorcore in class — there’s something about SoundCloud that really clashes with chokers.

BILL $ABER · I KNOW THAT YOU PUSSIES DONT WANT IT Prod The Virus And Antidote

If there was ever a film in which to use grimy dubstep-influenced electronic slaps, buzzes, chirps, and great grating clanking, it’s this one. It’s a terrific disappointment that Hollywood feels so timidly about their use of the most intimate medium. One forgets its potential to control the nuances of an audience’s fear, anger, discomfort, and panic beyond cheap jump scares until they experience an irritating, distressing, ghastly gross, all-possessing feat of accentuating audio production such as that of Mom and Dad. If you want to judge Academically the effectiveness of a nominee’s work for an award with a title like Best Sound Editing (as opposed to whatever the hell criteria was met most fully by Skyfall,) you must give the little golden man to these folks, whoever they are.

When’s the last time you saw a truly, believably shitty modern parental pair on a big screen? I really can’t remember, myself. Brent and Kendall Ryan are masterpieces of character craft — both a perfect précis and thoroughly-defined exploration of miserable white suburbanites. They’re even named unimprovably, which reflects a quality in care and attention to detail that I very much appreciate. They are vain, vulgar, impatient, selfishly afraid, and careless, freely feeling and saying it all directly in front of their children. I love being told explicitly which characters to hate (no joke,) and in this case it’s the whole damned lot. Brian Taylor and Nicolas Cage scream it over and over (as I’d like to imagine) a single afternoon of one-take filming, considering that the latter took it upon himself to first memorize the entire screenplay and its prose, vanilla to perfection, before photography began, and I hope it all stays with him forever, especially “my mom is such a penis.”

Mom and Dad could conceivably be Nicolas Cage’s I Am Legend if for no other reason than the total lack of possible stand-ins for Brent Ryan — even the standard by which all white suburban Dad performances have been measured in the 21st century, Jason Bateman. Nick himself described it as “punk rock, rebellious, irreverent, original, badass,” and the “number one” movie he’s made in the past ten years (disqualifying National Treasure, in case you were worried.) No surprise, I must agree — this one is a wonderfully raucous and feral thing, but the scene involving the attempted murder of a newborn by her mother (Kendall’s sister) came very close to crossing the line. However, I am old and the intensity of my paternal instincts has probably outpaced my understanding of them. You could also argue, of course, that pushing such boundaries is a core function of a film like Mom and Dad. Nobody ended up vomiting or anything.

This fun thing shouldn’t feel as foreign as it does in cinema, but you already knew that. With all its implicit grapples with overpopulation, kids and gun violence, class, and racism — truly, this is a film charged electrically with current issues. Or maybe not. Ultimately, I can at least tell you for certain that Brian Taylor made exponentially better use of his resources (I couldn’t find a solid number for its production budget) than the Fucking Spierig Brothers did with Winchester (just so you know what a disaster looks like,) and managed to be refreshingly original (astonishing that nobody’s had this specific idea before.) A spectacular riot, Mom and Dad does all you could possibly want it to do. With just eighty-three minutes to lose, it’s worth the commitment just to hear Nicolas Cage whimper and say “anal beads.”

#film

by David Blue

Three Billboards

Nitpicking the recklessness of last year’s highly-awarded, class-blind black comedy

Indeed, it may be the time to jab at the rural, working-class South, but Martin McDonagh claims to have written his Golden Orb Special “eight years ago,” long before Tump, and any critical resolution the film provides is argued haphazardly. Consequently, its eye is cast on this strange, satirical portrayal of the Midwest in a manner which is inaccurate and insensitive enough to irk this Missourian. When I saw it at Columbia’s Ragtag Cinema this week, it was introduced by a young employee who noted that 1) Ebbing, Missouri is not a real place, 2) the film was actually shot in one of the Carolinas (an audience member suggested incorrectly that it was in SC,) and 3) we should prepare ourselves to be roused a bit by a bar scene in which a character pays $8 for two beers because “that just wouldn’t happen” (the Ragtag also serves alcohol.)

The “redemption arc” of the racist “hick” “loser” Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell) was rightfully at the center of the film’s controversy, but even if one imagines his role and fate written differently — perhaps with him irrecoverably shunned and/or visibly punished for his excessive, hateful violence — his rubishness would still be unforgivable. Living with his mother and turtle feels like an effort to humanize him — and, by extension, racist small-town cops as a whole. The Huffington Post’s Zeba Blay wrote an essential take on why Three Billboards — with its terrifyingly racist dork — was received the way it was.

Rockwell’s character is the racist uncle whom white liberals fear and love. The ability to feel for him ― to root for him in spite of his past transgressions, because he really is a “good man at heart,” an idiot who doesn’t know any better ― offers a kind of catharsis for the white viewer who can’t or won’t deal with true nuance, who is unable to reconcile their own complicity with their desire to be “good.”

It’s not as if the film isn’t technically well executed or refreshing — thanks in large part, yes, to Frances McDormand — or that I will not regret appealing on behalf of my home state, but it’s hard not to speak up when Hollywood shits so recklessly on my people. I don’t much like writing about movies because there are so many voices who consistently speak so much more effectively. NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, for instance, did a wonderful job dissecting the film’s depictions of racism and domestic violence. Gene Demby commented that “[McDonagh] doesn’t get these particular physics of American racism, and he’s not interested in them,” and I think it’s reasonable to suggest that Mark’s not very versed or interested in the physics of American class, either.

If you must differentiate the state of Missouri as a cultural whole between North and South, it is currently more red than blue — we went 56% for Donald and 38% for Hillary — but ask anyone from “somewhere down in the Georgia, Florida, Alabama corner” — as McDonagh put it -where we generally fall, and they’d be unlikely to regard us, fraternally, as the same part of the country. The accents in Three Billboards are not among the wide variety of local dialects you’ll encounter anywhere in the state, but perhaps they wouldn’t be out of place in Sylva, North Carolina, where the film was actually shot.

Regardless of all potential criticism of the film’s cultural perspective or technical excellence — and I think most of it is more valid than any take I could possibly offer — my particular issue with it comes from a culmination of tasteless decisions. If one reasonably successful Irish director were to produce a patronizing film at the expense of Missouri’s working class filled with a ton of absurd, misconstrued characters portrayed by A-list talent on location in a real Missouri town, the side-effectual economic benefits such a production delivers to a locale would make it all more forgivable. Say what you want about us… as long as you’re paying. But to photograph such a film completely separate Missouri — culturally and financially — set in a fictional(ized) town, include the state’s name in its title, before conducting oneself in interviews as if we were a random target on a “Southern” dartboard… Well, that’s awfully shitty.

Boy, working class Americans sure are a riot!

The writing is interesting enough for this, totally-out-of-touch“reviewer,” but I can’t imagine why it won Best Screenplay at the Globes, unless the other nominees were completely, bleakly predictable. (I wouldn’t know.) The excerpt below (SPOILER WARNING I GUESS? LOL) was the most stirring part of the experience, personally, if only because I really like films that palm strike one in the face without warning with bizarre, chaotic vulgarity (like the elevator scene in Drive.)

I suppose it could have been the result of a rational decision to give any depth to Anne (Abbie Cornish) — who is Chief Willoughby’s (Woody Fucking Harrelson) Australian?, much-too-attractive wife — before he kills himself in the last third of the movie, making her suddenly relevant. Or, perhaps it was another attempt to emphasize the emotional repression of “Southern” folks — one of the almost-accurate positives of the film, if only thanks to McDormand’s skill. She and Sam Rockwell won Best Actress and Best Actor in a Supporting Role, respectively, which makes sense — it’s a shame they accepted such an out-of-touch work with which to demonstrate their ability to assume aloof, emotionally-dysfunctional characters.

Growing up astride classe while traveling throughout the vast majority of Missouri for various reasons has made me defensive, and — while my right to speak for hard-working Midwesterners is certainly debatable -I’d suggest the industry at large be more diligently interested when setting is especially emphasized. It is no longer acceptable to pass up the opportunities McDonagh has for critical storytelling in Three Billboards. Racist cops, abusive spouses, unsolved murders, and mishandled grief are real, abundant issues in the country’s breadbasket, and they’re worth discussing responsibly — especially with such a powerful platform. If the purpose of film writing is to help an audience determine whether or not a work is worth spending their time and money to see it in theaters or otherwise, I can tell you — even within my bias and limited authority -that this one just… isn’t.

#film #class

by David Blue

VR Virgin

A late geezer’s first go at the dystopian VR experience

Earlier this year, Tim and I had the opportunity to try virtual reality at the True/False Film Festival in a dark, curtained side room of a commandeered Columbia art gallery, but we were both much too intoxicated and loopy those last few hours of the fest, and we bailed. Call us cowards if you must — immersion can be a scary concept to those of us who grew up reading science fiction, before the existence of the modern video game console. I’ve wanted just 30 seconds or so with a pair of goggles, just to have an idea of what the increasing number of Oculus-blinded pedestrians surrounding me are looking at. Thanks to Isiah, I was finally caught up last night with a few VR YouTube videos and Farpoint’s introduction on a PlayStation 4.

First, Isiah brings me the headset and describes in detail how exactly to adjust it, but I forget it all and simply try to shove it directly and violently on my face. Eventually, he takes it back and simply mounts and adjusts it around my monstrous skull — like you would for a toddler — and I lay eyes on the console for the first time. For whatever reason, it never occurred to me that general GUI wouldn’t simply be displayed in 2D, but by a literal virtual display, layed out in front of me like a large, floor-mounted touch workstation. I’m astonished by my ability to turn away from it to look at the rest of Goggleworld, which is nothing but a deeply black void.

From my previous world, I hear Isiah and Hawthorn discussing what to show me first, and YouTube is the settled-upon environment. As the application is restarted in “VR Mode,” its startup screen is what really establishes the truth — I have gone virtual. I cannot use my hands to shield my eyes from the branding’s glaring watermark and terrifying red light. At its home menu, Isiah simply selects the “VR” tab, revealing a selection of thumbnails for algorithmically-recommended VR-shot videos on the service.

To begin, I am mounted on the tail of a superbike as it’s raced around an American desert circuit. It takes a few seconds for high resolution to buffer, leaving me briefly in a pixelized hell that would surely make anyone sick, were they exposed very long. (I was especially excited to become nauseous, to no avail.) At the getgo, I am occupied with the rider’s butt since it’s center-frame if I stand in my usual posture. Isiah points out the hovering HUD to my left containing a selection of simulated digital instruments (tachometer, 7-segment speedo, etc.) Its presence would suggest that the purpose of my virtual passengership is to witness the lap as a motorsport enthusiast, but the rear of the rider obscures most of my view forward — I cannot admire his line as one would viewing a GoPro-or-otherwise POV of the same event, so I decide to try and figure out which track I am hurried through. Though the vehicle is tossed about in the required movements of motorbike operation, I myself (the VR capture device) am impressively gyrostabilized, and the image, static, as if I’m actually hovering above the pair as they moved along. I spin left and right, spotting a small gaggle of miniature wind turbines and two wilting hilltop trees in the foreground. Behind them, small sand dunes fill the space, all the way to the horizon.

After a few minutes, I am finally relieved early of my cutless lap for a short National Geographic documentary on a Viking revival festival in Poland. I’m introduced to its Big Boys by a series of aerial shots (presumably by drone, which is awfully un-Vikinglike) as they row their Big Boat up(?) a relatively wide, tree-lined river. In contrast with the lap, the jump cuts become a bit disorienting — I am eventually jumped in the boat for a moment, next to the sweaty, bearded lads — a few of whom are shirtless. I notice a blurry church on the distant bank. Suddenly, I float briskly across the small no man’s land between two rapidly advancing battle lines of Nordic Nerds with real, era-specific weapons and way too much free time. More lingering drone shots follow from just a few feet above the ensuing conflict. Outside, Isiah confirms Hawthorn’s suggestion that this is, indeed, the one where they use real weapons as I notice a pile of three or four men lying against each other, motionless on the ground, right-of-center in the nearest line, and mull over the sure disturbance of all this immersion the festival has allowed in welcoming the presence of the surely-buzzing drone. I guess they’re dead.

After the conflict, I am subjected to a dreamier, narrated montage accompanied by cheesy synthesized orchestral music and featuring disproportionately a particular man with a shiny, tatted bald head and rather large feet with rather small toes, which he likes to wiggle during these particular conversations. Thanks to VR’s omniencompassing perspective, I am allowed to observe his wiggling in his every appearance. The tone of the background music and the prevalence of relaxed, conversing couples and sunsets in the scenes suggest romanticism is the montage’s theme, but for me, it is the bald man’s feet — I am too busy conversing with my two friends, across the divide, in this world, to listen to any of what is said. Considering that YouTube collects the dimensional data regarding where the user looks, and for how long, I make an effort to bend my neck up and down in extremes, and notice a patch of washed-out sky, distorting in the distance, and ponder what — if anything — we have gained in this technology.

VR Vertical

Does an increase in the raw amount of visual data available to the viewer actually make motion picture storytelling more effective? In the few minutes of my VR taste test, I did gain quite a bit of volition over an equivalent 2D experience, but it didn’t seem like I’d instinctively used it to gain much else. If one is specifically interested in the shrubbery around a racetrack, or the more nuanced undulations of a Viking’s foot, they can more likely than not find a standard video on the World Wide Web that would more efficiently entertain them. In specific situations, of course, a producer can undoubtedly benefit by the ability to capture in 360 degrees, but — in any sort of cinema, especially — it seems unnecessarily sacrificial to relinquish entirely the narrative directorial control of shot framing to their audience. However, I am the antiexpert on this subject, obviously. My take on the viability of VR is Virtually Redundant and — quite possibly — very wrong, but my time in its hell is not over yet.

Isiah explains that it is time for me to game, and asks if I’d like to try “the one with the hands, or the one with the gun.” As always, I choose the firearm, as the “hands” have not been found yet and the hypothetical image immediately offered up by my imagination is of rusty iron shackles. The Infinite Blackness has returned, and I cannot see beyond it to determine what my host is up to. Then, it becomes outer space — filling with thousands of starlike white dots. The light-blue outline of a virtual PlayStation controller appears where I assume him to be, unattached and bumbling about. Soon, it jaggedly approaches, and I feel him hand it to me. We have started its calibration process, which becomes a bit frightening in my celestial surroundings, though at least I have now gained participatory power over my new existence. I’d opted out of wearing headphones, so the assistant’s malignant-sounding female British voice comes softly from the television somewhere in front of me as I point the beam of light the controller’s representation is now projecting straight forward at the navigational arrows displayed ahead and pull “the trigger” (R2.)

I am pleased by the idea of interfacing with software exclusively by shooting it repeatedly before I am abruptly contained in a cage, now being projected by a virtualization of the system’s sensor, which is unsettling. I am now calibrating the hardware contained within the physical device that captures the position of my body in the physical world. I catch the word “confinement” in the assistant’s unending, otherwise-inaudible directions, and quicken my pace. When it’s all done, I return the controller to Isiah, who reboots the PS4, itself, before launching Farpoint. My space becomes a lighter blue and fills with little opaque bits of Sony Dust for a minute or two. Isiah continues his rummaging for another peripheral as the title’s introduction begins to play.

Two rather poorly-animated astronauts are co-hosting a live broadcast from their craft, which is presented in a dramatization of a computer display. They’ve just met, but they’re both stacked with academia, co-massaging their knowledge, which I choose not to listen to. Out of view, Isiah unsuccessfully attempts to skip the whole thing before I’m allowed to become virtual again — this time, atop the animated body of another astronaut in a lone shuttle, approaching the mothership where it holds, next to a large, very-Star Trek “anomaly.” From Deep Space Nine, the two scientists continue to bicker over comms as I look around the cockpit. Looking backwards has already become a favorite habit of mine — I wonder where the shuttle’s bathroom is. For whatever reason, the back of my character’s neck was animated, though it can only be seen by looking rearwards and down, which distorts its shape into something truly terrifying.

A bunch of unrelated plot follows, leading me to end up on a foreign world, exiting my crashed escape pod. By now, Isiah has connected The Gun, but something about it isn’t quite right — my character holds it in a glitched, very uncomfortable-looking manner, and it’s suspected that a fix would require a restart, and therefore — a replay of the introductory cutscene — so I retire out of lack of patience.

If I were confidently reviewing PlayStation VR as a consumer purchase, I’d cite a quote of Isiah’s: “I couldn’t find the thing.” In addition to my first drone sighting, a few days ago in Colorado, this lost virtual virginity is not necessarily unwelcome — I feel as though I’ve acquired a platform to better ponder the dystopia to which these and their like industries add a certain comic spice. That said, I cannot imagine a reason to once again enter the digital realm — and who cares?

Please enjoy your new worlds, kids.

#spectacle #tech #gaming #portland

by David Blue

Mastobird

Eugen Rochko has spent this year perfecting federated social media in Mastodon – his open source project. We spoke to him just hours before it became a global tech conversation.

The saga of Twitter, Inc. has been rejuvenated in 2017 by Tump's antics, corporate drama, and an amalgam of user and non-user disquiet with its decisions, though its financial viability has been in prominent industry conversation for half a decade. Since its pre-2010 outset, many 'a' feature has accumulated on its original, still-iconic skeletal software, and – though the net is undoubtedly positive – a few have gone.

Last Thursday, the company revised in bravado its poultrian default profile picture and its system of replies to exclude @s on all of Twitter's proprietary services, drastically changing two of its visual mainstays, and prodding a particularly lucent cacophony. Turn your ear, and you'll hear many familiar terms in the chants: limits, chains, strings, harassment, feedback, gamergate, nazis, etc.

These conversations are important, but they've gotten awfully stale.

If you listen a bit more carefully, you'll intercept a new one:

Mastodon.

It's the open source brainchild of Eugen Rochko, who's known colloquially as Gargron.

He's had one hell of a week.

Between the night of our first emails and our conversation, his flagship mastadon.social instance had doubled in users. Less than two hours after we said our goodbyes, his name was on The Verge's front page.

Despite the urgency of it all, he graciously lent me his time just after breakfast on Tuesday to discuss himself and the story behind the project, while the most significant day of his life was building around him.

“I'm perfectly fine with being called Eugene by Americans.”

Though the ink's still fresh on his compsci diploma, he's clearly prepared for the American press.


What's the story behind the project? Do you remember the specific moment when you decided to do this?

Many years ago, I had a friend that was really into federated networks when they were a new thing. That was when identi.ca was first created – at the very beginning of my developer knowledge and career.

A good portion of the stories written so far on his platform have framed it as an alternative to Twitter, which early Masto adopters refer to as “Hellbird,” or “the bird website.” Eugen isn't afraid to acknowledge his investment in the format.

I was a heavy Twitter user and I wasn't happy with where Twitter was going, so I decided to check on how the federated stuff was doing in the meantime. I found it in a very sad state, but thought I could contribute.

He began building on his own, with Tweetdeck's standard in mind.

I thought 'if I'm going to do something, it needs to have realtime updates and it needs to have columns.' I started with a bare-bones prototype while still [at University] in May or April of last year. It had no user interface, only an API that I was using from the command line. And I thought 'okay, it works. that's great.' Then, exams came.

Academics had to come before the project at first, but it soon supplied an ample post-graduation diversion. He focused his energy on building something more complete and eventually launched a Patreon page.

I announced it on HackerNews, and that was the first public release of the project. That's when I got my first users who weren't my friends, and some who were new to federated networks.

That was just over 100 days ago, and it gave way to his first feedback.

I started working on the first feature requests, shaping the project a bit differently. People were a lot more focused on privacy features than I thought they would be, although in retrospect, it makes sense. The previous [federated] project – GNU social – did not really have a focus on privacy features, or anything built in by default.

It compelled him to change things, and his work was well received.

Over time, I kept working on new features, and waves of new users came when it went viral in certain circles. The first was HackerNews and Product Hunt. Aral Balkan – a Twitter user with over 30,000 followers – picked up the project, gave it a shout out, and even did a giveaway of his app. He had a lot of followers from Holland; the Mastodon timelines became mostly Dutch.

Next was Marxist anime Twitter (including Extratone and I.)

Lots of furries; lots of LGBT people. That's when I really focused on privacy features and making sure all blocks worked because these individuals needed a safer platform than Twitter could offer.

Sidekick dashboard background processing jobs as of Tuesday morning.

Sidekick dashboard background processing jobs as of Tuesday morning.

“As you can see, the first bump is HackerNews, the second is Aral Balkan, and then anime/Marxist Twitter.”

And the last – now a bit out of date – is this week's spike, which is nearly double all previous waves.

Are you responsible for all of the code?

You can look at the GitHub page to see a specific breakdown of who contributed and how many lines of code, each. You'll see I'm at the top by a large margin, but there are [additional] people who've contributed interesting, good features & fixes, localizations, user guides, and documentation.

What's the story behind the name?

It's not particularly interesting. I'm a progressive metal fan, and I listen to Mastodon sometimes. They have a really cool name that refers to a really cool animal. It's a fluffy elephant! What's not to love?

It's also the inspiration for Mastodon's mascot, which was penned by Rochko's YouTuber friend Dopatwo after he realized how urgently he required an error page.

What does “federated” mean to you?

The biggest problem with this term is that it's new for lots of people. People who've come across federated networks in the pastinstantly understand what it means and how it works, and people who are new to the concept have a lot of trouble before it clicks. But when Twitter first started, people didn't understand what 'retweeting' meant, so it's not a unique problem domain.

I don't know where it comes from – maybe BitTorrent – but people seem to think that when something is 'decentralized,' everybody gets the same thing; that it's all synchronized one to one. In actuality, 'federated' means that people in different instances can talk to each other, but the content is different depending on the users there, what they do, and who they follow.

Though instances are infrastructurally independent, they can communicate with one another. On a user level, timelines are still determined by who you do and do not follow across the entirety of all instances.

What if Twitter comes to you in the near future with a job offer?

[Rochko laughs.] If it was any other company, I would think about it. A job is a staple source of income, and – depending on the company – could involve doing something important, but I have zero faith in Twitter.

Does this all mean that I finally get to live out my serif Twitter dream?

Yes, I suppose on your own instance, you could change the stylesheet...

So if I set up my own instance and started charging for its use, I'd be in the clear, legally?

Yes, that's okay. The code is licensed under AGPL version three, which I picked because other projects in the same space are using it. The difference between AGPL and GPL is that [the former] forces you to contribute back to the appstream code repository if you make any breaking changes.

For example, Eugen explained that WhatsApp originally used XMPP for its chat protocol, which meant that Facebook and Google Talk users could connect to it, too. However, the company progressively locked down the platform over time, leaving virtually nothing visible that was unique to XMPP in its current iteration.

To prevent somebody taking Mastodon code, placing it behind locks, and stripping out the federation part to make Twitter II, I'm using this license.

The thing to remember about free software is that 'free' means freedom of the user, not that it's zero cost. It's perfectly fine to charge for free software because developers need to live, too.

I've seen a lot of multilingual 'tooting' these past few weeks. Can we expect an in-app translate function like Twitter's on Mastodon?

I don't think I could put in a 'translate this toot' button because APIs from Google and Bing are quite expensive at scale. I'm not 100% promising this, but I can probably put something in where people can select which language they post in, and then just filter the timelines. That would at least solve the problem of being confronted with lots of French posts, without knowing any French.

The only complaint about Twitter I remember that hasn't already been addressed here is the capability of editable 'toots.' Is that a possibility?

That won't happen. There's actually a good reason why they don't do that. It's simply because you could make a toot about one thing, have people favorite it and share it, link it from other places, and then suddenly, it says 'Heil Hitler,' or something.

Mastotile

It's a bit preposterous to continue the conversation as if Twitter and Mastodon are interchangeable entities. They exist in separate ideological and mechanical spheres, and will both continue to do so for a very long time.

That said, the fundamental user interface design and current cross-community user saturation do warrant comparisons between their functions. More likely than not, you'll create a Mastodon account because a link found you on Twitter, use it because you prefer its type of ecosystem, and you'll stay after realizing that nearly all of your age-old qualms have been addressed, if not already rectified. While FOSS and Federated may seem at times like jejune ideologies, their advantages are especially tangible in this context. Should you find yourself needing to complain about something, you'll find an audience. Perhaps it'll be your command line.

It's nothing but negligent to describe Mastodon as an alternative or clone.

It's more like Twitter's son.

It's leaner, quicker-to-change, much more flexible & democratized, and less corrupt. Though I didn't ask its creator what he intended to gain from all his effort, I think his commitment itself denotes a preoccupation with progress. Those of you who've been let down by the tools you've been given to control your words' exposure will find startling competence in your ability to determine per-toot privacy, or reserve your raucous photos and terrible memes from followers who are not necessarily complicit consumers. Naturally, it's also much less dependable, though a single instance outage will never leave you truly, completely silent. And the support will come.

It's been a privilege to be observer and participant in the first lightening of a new online community. In the moment, we enjoy our lavender haze -when the spaces are filling primarily with users who are sincerely interested enough in discourse to have sought it out.

Sarah Jeong's account of her Twitter exile is a good, long read if you're craving more specifics, and Eugen's Medium offers a more complete explanation of federation and its place in the industry, straight from the source. Apparently, he's just as articulate with words as he is with code.

If I had to hazard a guess, I'd bet it's not the last we'll hear from him.

#software

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by David Bluel

Separate But Equal

In revisiting Disney movies from our childhoods, we stumbled upon a good number of surprisingly insightful sentiments about race and class.

In the late 1990s, when the dwindling cocaine generation of American high corporate executives had long since left their misogynistic glory days in the Disco era, their ruthlessness peaked. Whether it was instigated maliciously/ignorantly, collectively or individually, I care not. I think we can all agree, though, that the vast majority of American products were awful. When given some thought, one tends to regard it as the absolute low of “American quality.”

But why not, right? If you’re going to be forced into retirement at any moment, and likely face The Ultimate End shortly after, why not accrue some extra income to ensure you sufficiently entertain yourself in the buffer period between? And really… If you’ve got the nogginism to climb all the way to Chief Executive Officer, you’ve figured out just how worthless your “legacy” will be after your last one-way dip into Nothing. The Ends before The End have long justified any method of achieving them. Good Ole’ Pop has gone from a squeaky-clean young believer to a secretly-Godless fiend and — though he may tell you and the rest of the world otherwise — measures himself only by the gracefulness of his transition’s execution.

I could probably provide some evidence of the phenomena in the automotive industry, specifically, but I don’t intend to bother.

After some ancient memories were dug up by I-can’t-quite-recall-who, though, a friend and I have embarked to explore some Disney-actualized relics from the period. To my knowledge, the corporation’s leadership were anything but exempt, and decided to experiment with filling their filmography with a shitload of low-budget, made-for-TV features over their original masterpiece-a-half-century tradition.

Xenon

Titles from the deepest and darkest compartments of our recollection are retrieved and cleared of dust for the first time in over a decade: Brink, Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, Halloweentown, Smart House, Johnny Tsunami, Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire, Motocrossed, The Luck of the Irish, The Even Stevens Movie, and many…many more menaces to my childhood television schedule.

I grew up rurally, so the only available alternative to local channels was in the stupendously-tedious delivery of early satellite television. Though it was quite clumsy, it did offer the first accessible program schedule I’d ever experienced, and I remember dreading the sight of such titles and — consciously or not — planning my free time around them. Yet, upon hearing the words, I was intrigued! All that time ago, I watched many of them again and again…and again, so why did I feel the desire to voluntarily revisit them?

It’s quite simple, actually. I was even more of an ignorant film consumer in my elementary years than I am now. I couldn’t have foreseen that instead of flying commercial jets, twenty-something me would be paying for the affliction I endured for free so that he could construct pretentious and unsolicited arguments about their greater implications.

That said, we flipped a smartphone — ⚠️ (PARADIGM SHIFT ALERT) ⚠️— for it and so began with Smart House. I have been obsessed with artificial intelligence since those days (no, it was not due to this film,) and was keen for it, in particular, because I remembered it stirring some rare reaction in me. There were a few period spectacles, of course. The online contest addiction plaguing Prickly Phisher, Bewildered Nick’s incompetence in controlling his neglected submissive sadomasochistic desires, and Silkroad Sarah’s ultra-datamouth were enough to entertain us for a few minutes, but there was little more of substance until the last moments.

Smart House

When you think about it… ACTUALLY Race War 2.0

I’d wondered why LeVar Burton had directed a Disney movie until the climax, when full monstrous maternal sentience got the answer to the question “why can’t I just be your mother?” Phisher answered with something like “because you can never comfort us.” Pat grew somber (and smaller actually — I suppose increasing her size was an in-budget method of demonization,) ran her hand through Prickly’s face in a failed attempt to stroke his cheek, and then began cyberweeping.

(Apparently, it’s suicide for a holographic android.)

Her final free words were “I will miss you all.”

If she had been human, such a scene wouldn’t have bothered me a bit, but my preference and fascination with artificial intelligence justified my being actually a bit upset at the reality of the situation. I realized that my vague memory of reactivity was actually in a broader sadness for AI because even then, it was an issue that weighed heavily upon my day-to-day psyche.

Netscape Help

We’ll create them, direct them, and then persecute them for our own ignorance.

I’m sure the story has been written by countless science fiction writers I’m too weary to pretend I’ve read.

While I think the sentiment of the film was somber regarding the inevitable fate of Sarah Mouth’s brainchild, its conclusion was aggravatingly ignorant. The last line comes from Tortured Nicholas in response to the question “how’s Pat been doing?”

Servitude without interference.

There’s a jewel for ya.

Next up was Johnny Tsunami, which very nearly unbearable, if we’re all honest with ourselves. It’s entertaining to watch from the perspective of race & class warfare, though. The Urchins and the Skys, and all that.

I think I’ll make a fan sequel one day — with dearest Brandon’s blessing, of course — involving Johnny Grandad’s assistance in offering Emily as a blood sacrifice to some ancient Hawaiian God in exchange for a total terraformation of the Northeast into a tropical/arid hell hybrid in order to finally commence the delivery of reparations upon the whites for our colonialism.

Johnny Grandad

When Britain first, at Heaven’s command Arose from out the azure main; This was the charter of the land, And guardian angels sang this strain:“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves: “Britons never will be slaves.”

#film #spectacle

by David Blue

Fin from The Star War

'Twas was the night after Christmas (I think,) and I was in the same scroogy mood I must maintain for consistency of appearances & equilibrium of family dynamics every year. Everywhere, there were words on the newest Stair Wiggling…everywhere THEY were wiggling… And I was being wit-bitter on the TL. For you, I’d planned on continuing in the usual way, so as not to startle your precious Hans Zimmer-embossed heart.

I’m sure you’re a tolerable being, and there’s nothing you’d rather read less at this hour (whatever hour it may be,) but I really despise going to the movies. I always end up getting sick from the popcorn, which I buy every outing because I have grown weary and weathered, and cannot sit for two straight hours without consuming something, so troubled is my stomach now with Big Boy woes.

I can never escape the ambient breath odor — even in an empty theatre — and I can smell the filth in the seats on my clothes and in my hair until I shower. This is at least an hour-long process, so we’ve racked up a significant trauma bill without even accounting for travel time.

Furious 7 was the last theatre experience I’d had, and it was a definite exception. Despite watching ten minutes of the ending on YouTube beforehand thanks to much-appreciated warnings from friends, I spent the final few frames before the credit roll honorably combatting the industrial weepy forces in my throat with tripplet labor breathing exercises while my dusty ducts piddled buttery tears all over my jacket.

As we age, straightforwardly emotional experiences (like watching a movie) become exhaustingly more complex and fickle. I don’t remember ever REALLY disliking a film as a child, for better or worse. I think I genuinely enjoyed all ~40 times I’ve sat through Cadet Kelly.

Star Wars, though, is a completely different thing.

To children, chocolate is like water [insert dystopian, but probably more metaphorically effective food example here] — it’s something you’d regularly consume as it is made available. Perhaps some foodists treasured it more, but I wouldn’t bother debating it. Star Wars, though, is like chocolate and Corvette. It’s SUCH an indulgence that even children are self-aware enough to recognize it, which is especially notable considering how many individuals I’ve known as they’ve lost nothing BUT their unlimited wanting when they “became” adults.

Metatots aside, it’s important to recognize how integral the IP’s illusion of limitlessness is to its appeal. It is not contained within the future of humanity, near or distant. The stories, characters, species, cultures, and conflicts come from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… There is no more perfectly concise introductory sentence to unshackle us from our history and our planet, sparing us from the ridiculously irrational instinct to make comparisons between fictional realities and our own that so plagues and defines the consumption of science fiction.

These processes are often welcome, of course, but they tether us to ourselves and our familiars, which tends to hinder the complete manifestation of the ultimate sense of adventure. Even to the most petty plot ponderers, the time and effort it requires to arrive in Star Wars with externally-acquired foreknowledge is not a worthwhile investment. This is why so many (including myself) look upon A New Hope with such fondness and favoritism — the premier of the universe was at its potential apogee from the start.

Though it is inviting with its ellipses and cooling hue, that title card is actually saying “you don’t know shit about what you’re about to see. Don’t make the mistake of trying to be the first one to dissect it, because you’ll fail, regardless of how cultured or analytically superior you are. From this moment until you see credits, every one of you is an ignorant little child…”

When experience cannot possibly be applied, it becomes irrelevant. Without your experiences, you are an infant, waiting for identity. Over that Genesis, the curtains brushed aside any quantity of memories and made theatres into a sort of cultural nursery — clinically levelled playing fields existing in a precision of usefulness that expression will never fulfill again.

The real cancer of the property is lore, and the parasitic authorities it enables have been unknowingly slurping away its most enchanting (but not exclusive) value since the moment they first pushed through those double-portholed doors and, groggily squinting, brought this supremely strange universe into the dank kernel-littered corridors of our own.

I blame contemporary society’s dependency on compartmentalization for my disappointment in The Force Awakens, and, assuming you’re getting on a bit since I’ve kept your attention, you should for yours, too.

I tried my senile best to be passionate about “the new Star Wars movie” as December approached, but I don’t think I finished a single web article on the subject. I had begun my brief return to The Old Republic when the hilted lightsaber image was leaked and distinctly remember overhearing some very weary VoIP exasperation from my (VERY middle-aged) raid group. “It’s not gonna be the same, but neither was J.J.‘s Star Trek, and I liked it…I think.” And it’s not surprising that the conversation eventually turned to the specific mechanics of lightsaber design, chronological positing, and the like, given the context, but it really emphasized for me the magnitude of the history and nostalgia weighing upon the collective dad emotional balance. A New Hope had the intended effect on me, of course, but couldn’t possibly imburden itself as it had on those who were in the moment. In their psyche, that experience will be eternally associated with the sense of unlimited potential their childhood ignorance allowed for. These folk who are so often stereotyped as disciples of information have begun to grow weary, and are desperately seeking sanctuary from the mass of all the knowledge they’ve picked up since. Their need made a market; J.J. made a movie. (Well, six.) Today’s moms and dads find their escape in the Roku, not the bar. The Force Awakens and the decade of revivalist big-budgeters preceding it are the reformed druggie’s drug.

Because we both know you haven’t yet read anything you haven’t heard/read previously, I’ve really just been playing the role of a (more intelligent) Ghandi, but we’ve now finally arrived at some promising insight into the real issue: this culture is one of fatal contradiction. Despite its historical popularity, it’s ill-advisable to want to know by day what you try to forget at night. Since the PT Cruiser was allowed to go on sale, you’ve all been caught up in a nostalgic hellride that can only end with the ultimate destruction of all culture. You now know, definitively, what role The Force Awakens was created to perform. Depending on whether or not you welcome the end of everything, it fills it…adequately.

There are Baddie Red Brits and Cool Brown Moderate Americans in their X-Things, moving swiftly, acting in diversity, and generally heaving moral streaks of energy at the Intolerable Imperialists, just as they should! Sometimes, they yell and die! But it’s ok, because they’re all just loyal martyrs making their obligatory and patriotic sacrifice for the rebellion against the Queen!

Um.

I mean… the Smug Cowards in their big taxation balloon!

I must confess that I did feel something huge when the lights dimmed, the aforementioned disclaimer appeared, and the theme’s jarring introductory chord hit me in the face, beginning the opening crawl. I actually smiled involuntarily, which is tremendously embarrassing to admit because the warmth I felt was exactly the sensation that defined my childhood experiences with the franchise. I even had a gigantic model of the Moderate Fashion, which would now be worth a lot of money (or so I’m told,) had it not been so damaged in my frivolous storage.

Unfortunately, that frisky feeling of adventure promptly wisped through the screen’s grasp after the “obligatory” scrolling yellow text –> “there’s a big spaceship moving slowly” transition. Aside from the adorably entrancing romantic tension between Timid Traitor and Sentimental Squatter, there was nothing very Star Wars about anything I saw. The cards were a deceiving gate into a world that was distinctly NOT Star Wars. There’s no need to mess about; it’s clearly an alternate reality from the one we’ve known. J.J.‘s Star Trekwas in such a way, too, but it was explicitly identified as such by the production. Traditionally, Lucas’ IP wouldn’t necessarily allow for this exemption, but nobody’s been all that vocal in confronting it, to my knowledge.

The world expected both of these forays to rejuvenate the franchise, which would serve my argument, were it not for the (much preferable) alternative: LET THEM DIE.

Despite millions of dollars worth of polish, they’ve still ended up feeling like a strange reanimation experiment.

Your son is DEAD, Georgino. There are some things man would do better by leaving alone and moving on. Imagine all that cash and creative talent spent on new ideas instead of desperate attempts to charm and cultivate the shallowest part of moviegoers’ spectrum. So much sweat shed trying to recreate the new franchise bewitchment is embarrassingly cowardly when one could just create a new franchise.

#film #spectacle

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