The Racist Legacy of Computer-Generated Humans: “Moviemakers have perfected the art of rendering skin and hair—but only for white people.”
This is a list of films planned (as of May 2020) to be referenced in the upcoming documentary In Search of Tomorrow. I got curious as to how many I’d seen.
☑️ = I’ve seen it at some point, though it’s been a while and impressions may be colored by time.
✅ = I’ve seen it recently or often enough to have a reasonably current impression of it.
📀 = I have a copy in my personal collection.
Sometime between November 29th and January 2nd, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- 365 IETF RFCs: a 50th anniversary dive: "April 7th, 2019 is going to be the 50 year anniversary of the first ever Request for Comments, known as an RFC. These documents started out in 1969 as a way for ARPANET engineers to keep track of notes and discussions on their project. In honor of this anniversary, I figured I would read one RFC each day of 2019, starting with RFC 1 and ending with RFC 365."
- Is Grover swearing? No, it’s in your ears.: “As a phonetician, these types of misperceptions are sometimes fun because they force you to carefully listen to what people (in this case, Grover's voice) are doing as they produce speech very quickly. Phoneticians focus on the transcription and, more often, careful analysis of speech. Speech is fast, speech is messy, and when the conditions are right, one can misperceive one sound for another.”
- Against Peter Jackson’s “They Shall Not Grow Old”: "Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old is…a stunning technical achievement made by a filmmaker and producer at the top of their form. […] But…I can’t help but refuse and reject this picture in the strongest possible terms. It is a brilliant film that is also, unfortunately, a total mistake."
- On radical kindness (another aspect of hopepunk): “i will say this again: we are all going to die. the universe is enormous and almost entirely empty. to be kind to each other is the most incredible act of defiance against the dark that i can imagine.”
- The opposite of grimdark is hopepunk:: “The world is the world. It’s really good sometimes and it’s really bad sometimes, and it’s sort of humdrum a lot of the time. People are petty and mean and, y’know, PEOPLE. There are things that need to be fixed, and battles to be fought, and people to be protected, and we’ve gotta do all those things ourselves because we can’t sit around waiting for some knight in shining armor to ride past and deal with it for us. We’re just ordinary people trying to do our best because we give a shit about the world. Why? Because we’re some of the assholes that live there.”
Sometime between August 1st and September 1st, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- The P-I error that changed Seattle history: "Occasionally, newspapers report factual errors. A well-intentioned interview subject gives bad information, a name is spelled wrong, a breaking news story is inadvertently peppered with grammatical errors. But no incorrect newspaper story has had a bigger impact on Seattle history than one published June 7, 1889."
- 98.6 degrees is a normal body temperature, right? Not quite: “Forget everything you know about normal body temperature and fever, starting with 98.6. That’s an antiquated number based on a flawed study from 1868 (yes, 150 years ago). The facts about fever are a lot more complicated.”
- The “I Am Steve Rogers” Joke in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Is the Definitive Captain America Moment: That’s who Captain America is, a man who listens to and believes in people when they tell him who they are. That’s a lesson we all should take away from that moment.
- The Bullshit Web: “An honest web is one in which the overwhelming majority of the code and assets downloaded to a user’s computer are used in a page’s visual presentation, with nearly all the remainder used to define the semantic structure and associated metadata on the page. Bullshit — in the form of CPU-sucking surveillance, unnecessarily-interruptive elements, and behaviours that nobody responsible for a website would themselves find appealing as a visitor — is unwelcome and intolerable.”
- Ignorant Hysteria Over 3D Printed Guns Leads To Courts Ignoring The First Amendment: "…in the last few days the hysteria [over 3D-printed guns] has returned… and much of it is misleading and wrong, and while most people probably want to talk about the 2nd Amendment implications of all of this, it's the 1st Amendment implications that are a bigger deal." Interesting. I'm not at all comfortable with wide availability of 3D-printed guns, but this analysis of the issues is worth reading.
Sometime between July 16th and July 30th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- Is there any anti-abortion talking point that isn’t based on a lie?: "As I’ve investigated both sides of the abortion debate, I’ve become honestly curious to discover if there is any anti-abortion argument that isn’t based on a lie (or lies). I’m going through the most popular current US anti-abortion talking points and giving each a Politifact-esque truth rating. Let’s investigate!"
- Meet Mike Cernovich: Right-Wing Provocateur Who Got James Gunn Fired: “Cernovich didn’t dredge up Gunn’s old tweets out of a genuine care for women, children, or LGBTQP+ people. He didn’t write this as a feminist or left-wing activist hoping for a more productive dialogue surrounding trauma that gives these issues the seriousness they deserve; Cernovich directly accused Gunn of being a pedophile for these tweets, and Disney submissively just bent to that and fired him.”
- What it’s like when Nazis infiltrate your conference: Interesting look at how nazis trolled and attacked the narrative of a hacker con. Worth considering and keeping these techniques and brainstorming ideas of how to combat them effectively when planning for conferences/conventions these days.
- The 9/11 Country Music theory: "MY HOT TAKE: with very few exceptions, including goodbye earl, before he cheats, and daddy Iessons (side note – all women!) 9/11 ruined country music." Sounds about right to me. Country's never been my primary genre, but what I do like is universally pre- (usually very pre-) 9/11.
- “People like to think that Hitler came straight into power with ‘Kill the Jews y/n?’ and all the Germans were like ‘yeah totes’ but it’s just not how it goes.”: "No, the defining moment of this timeline was that people didn't show up to vote the Nazi Party out in the one last chance they had. The one last chance they had before the power grab was up and the whole thing was too far off the rails."
Sometime between May 26th and July 11th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- ALL POSSIBLE RESPONSES TO “THEY SHOULD GET IN LINE AND DO IT THE RIGHT WAY, THE WAY MY FAMILY DID,” WITH CITATIONS (ALSO JOKES): TL;dr: there’s a really good chance that at least some portion of your family came to the U.S. without a visa, and the “right way” from 1790–1965 has nothing to do with how things are done now.
- Civility. Some thoughts.: "It's hypocrisy to us because we believe that the behavior is the problem. It's not hypocritical to them because they believe the person is the problem."
- What To Do When ― Not If ― Roe Vanishes: "Now, it is almost certainly a matter of when, not if, we lose Roe. It’s time to prepare for life without nationwide legal abortion." That we have to be thinking seriously about this is incredibly sad.
- Really neat answer to this question about early Star Trek fandom:: “I would love to know more about when you first started thinking that there was more than friendship between Kirk and Spock and when fans first started talking about it. Was it Amok Time that first gave you the idea?”
- Why ‘Solo’ Works: SPOILERS: “A constant supply of ‘Star Wars’ requires an occasional double between dingers. Here’s how the low-stakes origin story of Han Solo makes clean contact.”
Sometime between April 19th and April 30th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!
- John Scalzi: Thoughts on Avengers: Infinity War (and Yes, There are Spoilers): "As impressively well put together as it is, and as enjoyable and exciting as the film is in the moment, the film suffers and for me is ultimately unsatisfying. Not for anything the film itself does or doesn’t do; it suffers not because of what it does, but because of what I know."
- Avengers: Infinity War ending: Incredibly bold — and a little cheap: SPOILERS: “…as I talked over the ending with friends, the less it sat well with me. I certainly admired the gutsiness of it, the big swing it took, but I also struggled to feel as emotionally invested in it as I was supposed to. For lack of a better word, none of it felt real.” I might not go quite so far as this analysis does, but I don’t argue with its core idea, and was having similar thoughts.
- “When people say ‘spinster’, they are trying to conjure up an image of a little old lady who is lonely and bitter.”: “What I HEAR are the smiles and laughter of a million women as they earned their own money in their own homes and controlled their own fortunes and lived life on their own terms, and damn what society expected of them.”
- When Toronto Suspect Said ‘Kill Me,’ an Officer Put Away His Gun: Look, I know that there are going to be situations where the use of deadly force is a necessary step. But it should be a last step, not a first step — something that seems all too mysterious to far too many people, not least many police here in the United States. De-escalation should be the default approach, rather than the "shoot first, ask questions later" approach seemingly favored by far too many people (both law enforcement officers and armchair analysts).
- What Does Invoking The 25th Amendment Actually Look Like?: "Let’s take a deeper look at the 25th Amendment and think about what each section of it has meant in the past — and what it might mean for Trump-era politics." I'm rather fascinated (and disappointed) that we're in a situation where this is even being seriously discussed. But it is, admittedly, and interesting discussion.
I saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (man, that full title is clunky) last night, and really enjoyed it. Here’s the brief mini-review I posted to Facebook:
Brief spoiler-free review of Rogue One: as many have already said, it’s good, and well worth seeing in the theater. Manages to be very much a part of the established Star Wars universe while also being very different from every other Star Wars film made to date — and, yes, part of that is that it’s darker than the rest, and parents might not want to assume that young ones will be fine with this one just because it’s part of the Star Wars universe. Very effectively sits just before A New Hope while also being a very modern film; I was particularly impressed with how well they pulled this off, especially as so many of the costumes and hairstyles had to be consistent with the very ’70s aesthetic of ANH. Lots of little (and some not so little) touches, Easter eggs, and in-jokes for long-time fans to enjoy (one conversation between a couple stormtroopers made me laugh out loud, and I didn’t hear anyone else react to it; it didn’t seem that obscure to me, but maybe this Trekkie has a bit more Star Wars cred than I’d have thought). I’ll enjoy watching this one again down the line.
In another discussion, a friend asked where Rogue One should go in a Star Wars binge based on the Machete Order (which omits Ep. I, and puts Eps. II and III between V and VI, for a final viewing order of IV-V-II-III-VI). My initial thought was to just drop RO in at the beginning, since chronologically it comes just before ANH. When combined with The Force Awakens, this would make a full Machete viewing of RO-IV-V-II-III-VI-VII).
On further reflection, though, I actually think that RO (and, most likely, the rest of the forthcoming standalone films) should be omitted from the lineup, and that Machete Order should be restricted to the “primary” films (those with formal episode numbers).
(Keep in mind, the following is from the theoretical perspective of subjecting someone to a Star Wars immersion course under the assumption that they’ve never seen the films and are so divorced from popular culture that they don’t know the characters, beats, or revelations. So, basically, this is a fun little bit of geekery not very related to the real world at all.)
Spoilers for various films in the Star Wars saga up to and including Rogue One follow, so I’ll just drop the rest of this post behind a cut…
Disappointed that these two tweets by Star Wars: Rogue One writers were removed (but not terribly surprised, especially if the deletions were decreed by the Powers Above):
On November 11, 2016, Rogue One writer Chris Weitz tweeted: “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.” He later deleted that tweet after receiving lots of complaints from other Twitter users, many of whom asked him to stop “injecting politics” into Star Wars. Weitz clarified in one response tweet, “My apologies. You have a right to enjoy it as you wish; and I don’t wish to harm my colleagues’ work either.”
Weitz’ colleague, Gary Whitta, had already written his own response to the tweet comparing the Star Wars Empire to white supremacy, which said: “Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.” Whitta’s tweet has also since been deleted.
I have just as much sympathy (to wit: absolutely none) with people whining about “injecting politics” into Star Wars as those who did the same with Star Trek (most recently, regarding Bryan Fuller’s preparation for Star Trek: Discovery). Politics are integral to these stories. Even if you try to ignore the parallels between the Empire and the Nazi regime (which were explicit and intentional in both the original films and in The Force Awakens, so attempting to ignore that is rather ridiculous), the Star Wars prequels open with the Trade Federation controlling a blockade around a planet at the bidding of Chancellor Palpatine…but, no, sorry, that has nothing to do with politics. How silly of me.
All these people really mean is that they don’t want their politics to be called out as the bad guys…but, c’mon, if the shoe fits….
So Rogue One has already been passing the Furiosa Test (Do people on the internet get mad about it being feminist?), and now Trump supporters might be staying away as well (though, really, the two groups do seem to have a lot of overlap)? I don’t see much of a downside to that. I’d certainly be quite happy going to a movie knowing that there’s a smaller-than-normal chance of being surrounded by those types of people, and given the juggernaut that Star Wars is, I just don’t see a major impact on their bottom line from this. Win-win for everyone!
Except the Empire, perhaps.
Saved here for my own reference, and possibly others’ if they should stumble across it: the easiest workflow I’ve found yet for converting DVDs or Blu-Rays (if you have a Blu-Ray reader, of course) for personal use on OS X, including OCR conversion of subtitles in either VOBSUB (DVD) or PGS (Blu-Ray) format to text-based .srt files suitable for use as soft subtitles, either as a sidecar file or included in the final movie file.
The flow diagram to the right gives an overview of the process I’ve landed on. Here’s a slightly more detailed breakdown.
- Use MakeMKV to rip the DVD or BluRay disc to an .mkv file (if I run into a stubborn DVD, or one with a lot of multiplexing, I’ll use RipIt to create a disk image first, then run that image through MakeMKV). To save space, you can select only the primary audio track for inclusion, or you can select others if you want other languages or commentary tracks archived as well (though this will require more storage space). I also select all available English-language subtitle tracks, as some discs will include both standard subtitles and subtitles for the hearing impaired or closed captions, which include some extra information on who is speaking and background sounds, or occasionally even transcriptions of commentary tracks.
- Use Subler to OCR and export the subtitle files. This takes two runs through Subler to complete.
- First run; drag the .mkv file onto Subler, and only select the subtitle track(s). Pop that into the export queue, and after a few minutes of processing (this is when the OCR process happens) Subler will output a tiny .m4v file.
- Second run; drag that file back onto Subler, click on the subtitle track, and choose File > Export… to save the .srt file(s). The tiny .m4v file can then be deleted.
Now, the OCR process is not perfect, and the resulting .srt file(s) are virtually guaranteed to have some errors. How many and how intrusive they are depends on the source. BluRay subs seem to come out better than DVD subs (likely due to the higher resolution of the format giving better quality text for the OCR process to scan), DVD subs are also affected by the chosen font and whether or not italics were used. For correction, I use one of two methods.
- For a quick-and-dirty “good enough for now” run, I use BBEdit (but just about any other text editor would work) to do a quick spellcheck, identifying common errors and using search-and-replace to fix them in batches.
- For a real quality fix, I use Aegisub to go through line-by-line, comparing the text to the original audio, adding italics when appropriate, and so on.
Of course, these two processes can be combined, done at different times, or skipped entirely; right now, I’m just living with the OCR errors, because I can always go back and use Subler to extract the .srt files for cleanup later on when I have more time.
- Use HandBrake to re-encode and convert the .mkv file (which at this point will be fairly large, straight off the source media) to a smaller .m4v file. You can either embed the .srt files at this point, under HandBrake’s ‘Subtitles’ tab, or if you prefer…
- …you can use Subler to .srt files into into the .m4v: Drag the .m4v file from HandBrake on to Subler, drag the .srt file(s) into the window that opens, and then drop that into the queue for final remuxing (optionally, before adding the files to the queue, use Subler’s metadata search tools to add the description, artwork, and other metadata). Then run the queue to output the final file.
And that’s it. Now, you should have a .m4v file with embedded text-based soft subtitles for programs that support that (VLC, Plex, etc.), or you can just use the .srt file(s) created by Subler earlier as a sidecar file for programs that don’t read the embedded .srt.