The Good Dinosaur

Pixar are pretty great at pulling at my heartstrings, but this is the first time they’ve made me cry during the trailer.

This looks amazing.

Authenticity

Casey Neistat just launched his new social network, Beme. It’s probably easiest if I just link to Casey’s video so he can describe it himself.

I really love the idea of Beme. I mean, is there anyone genuinely advocating for these awful, fake, rigidly curated lives on Facebook and Instagram? When these perfectly-composed, perfectly-filtered shot appears in my timeline, I get the worst fomo. The consolation, the thing that prevents me spiraling into a full-on, god-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life depression is realising that for someone to take the time to line up the shot, crop it, choose the right filter, and upload it - this all means that they weren’t actually engaged in the moment they’re depicting 1. So I understand the problem Beme is trying to solve.

So here’s another one of his videos, where he climbs a theater in Belgium.

This is the moment when I realised that even Casey Neistat is guilty of not being engaged in the moment. At 4’00 in that video, you can see him scrambling up a near-vertical wall. God, I haven’t ever climbed up a Belgian theater - the fomo is starting to set in! But hang on a second. To get that shot, he had to climb up the wall, set up the shot, climb down again and then climb up again. And then later on, he had to edit out the first two parts of that2.

Casey Neistat made a name for himself through his youtube videos. And his youtube videos are so watchable partly because of his enormous, planet-sized personality. But they’re also watchable because they’re really well made. They’re tightly edited, and they’re shot with a filmmaker’s eye. None of which are available with Beme - you get a potentially wonky shot (apparently worse if you have boobs), with no way to correct it. And since you don’t know what you uploaded, there’s no way for you to improve your skills. Chances are you’ll always be shooting wonky junk.

I really would like Beme to succeed, but I worry that heavy users of social media (i.e. not me) aren’t going to like the limitations, so we’ll just be left with videos like this one. Authentic as fuck, but that’s pretty much all you can say about it.

  1. One of my biggest personal achievements of the last year is when I climbed Croagh Patrick. But would you know I’d done it by looking at my Instagram or my Facebook timeline? Would you fuck.

  2. He addresses this in his vlog, where he often posts videos of him running in New York and he says his runs end up taking three times as long because he has to set up the shot, go back, run past the camera, then go back for the camera.

Slate's review of Armada

I hated Ernest Cline’s previous book, Ready Player One. I genuinely hated it with a burning passion. It was one of the worst books I read last year. And the fact that everyone else (even the New York Times!) loved it made me wonder if it was just something broken in me. Which is why Laura Hudson’s review of his new book, Armada (and by extension, her critique of RPO), has cheered me up no end.

Armada often feels like it’s being narrated by that one guy in your group of friends who never stops quoting the Simpsons, a tic that feels increasingly tiresome and off-putting in the face of the novel’s supposedly apocalyptic stakes. On more than one occasion, soldiers salute each other en route to world-ending battles by solemnly swearing that “the Force” will be with them, and one character flies to his supposedly tragic and moving death while screaming quotes from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This is a book that ends with someone unironically quoting Yoda.

See also I don’t even own a television’s review of Ready Player One.

Thank You, Mr Iwata

Remember when video games were fun? Remember when they were about colour and happiness? Watching E3 2015 a few months ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking that these were things that video games had grown out of. It was dour, brown, post-apocalyptic shooters as far as the eye could see. Bombast and spectacle were the order of the day. The thing that drew one of the biggest cheers from the Microsoft crowd was when they lowered a fucking Ferrari from the roof. A fucking Ferrari.

Here’s what Nintendo did for their E3.

They teamed up with the Jim Henson Company to make puppets of their corporate team and made the most adorable, dorky video imaginable. And it was lovely.

It was a uniquely Nintendo way of approaching the industry. It was showing that video games could still be about colour and happiness and fun. And it’s largely because of this man, Satoru Iwata.

When someone asks me to picture the president of one of the three largest video game companies in the world, this is exactly what I want to imagine. Not someone in a blazer and jeans with a focus-tested number of shirt buttons opened. I want a person who understands why we play games. I want a person who knows that games are about bringing people together, not just about shooting people in the face. I want someone who gets it.

Iwata got it. And the world feels a little less joyful now that he’s left it.

Thank you, Mr Iwata.

Guardian profiles Amy Poehler

“I see life as like being attacked by a bear,” she says. “You can run, you can pretend to be dead or you can make yourself bigger. So, if you’re my stature, you stand on a chair and bang a pan and scream and shout as if you’re going to attack the bear. This is my go-to strategy. I really liked being pregnant, for example, because I got to take up more space.”

Is Kickstarter covering up a scam?

I smelled a rat with the Holus early on - in the original pitch, they showed a video conference using a side angle, which would require a super-fancy camera on the other end. Joanie Mercier really dug into the project and showed what a goddamn mess this is. Strangest discovery: the “staff pick” badge means absolutely nothing on Kickstarter.

Paul Ford's What is Code?

I’ve said before that Paul Ford is one of my internet heroes. If you didn’t understand or remained unconvinced as to why I said this, you need to read his latest piece for Bloomberg Businessweek - a spectacular 38.000-word article about programming and computers. Which in the hands of most technology writers would be dry and boring, but this is why I love Paul Ford so much. He’s incredibly smart and intelligent, but he approaches everything from an extremely human point of view, so it’s a wonderful read.

Write a tune. Fuckin' start with that

I’ve said it before, but Noel Gallagher gives the best interviews.

Cards Against Humanity

Shut Up & Sit Down has reviewed Cards Against Humanity. Spoiler: they don’t like it.

Which is great because I’m not a fan of it either. It almost always comes out at parties and my heart absolutely sinks. Maybe I’m just going to the wrong parties.

The main reason I don’t like it is because playing it reminds me of this scene from Nathan Barley:

“I’ve seen idiots playing this, yeah? They don’t realise it’s not good cos it’s rude, yeah?”
“Yeah, it’s good cos it looks like it’s good because it’s rude?”

It’s not transgressive. It’s not shocking. It’s boring. But it gets trotted out at parties because pretty much everyone already knows the rules (it’s Apples to Apples, except where half the answers are ‘big black dick’) and for people who don’t know the rules, it’s easy for them to pick it up. But guys, it doesn’t have to be this way! There are lots of party games that are more hilarious and more chaotic and more creative and more fun.

So here are some party games I’d recommend instead:

Say Anything
If you’re looking for an immediate replacement for CAH, Say Anything is top of the list. It’s basically the same thing: one person reads the question, other players have to fill in the blanks. Except with Say Anything, you write down your answer. Whatever you like. Rather than allowing the game to be funny/shocking for you, you get to be as funny and as shocking as you can be. And it all comes from you, which makes it all the more rewarding and enjoyable. Trust me, ditch CAH and get this instead.

Snake Oil
In Snake Oil, one player draws a customer card with a particular role on it and the other players have to combine two cards in their hands to create an object to ‘sell’ to the customer’s role. So, for example, if the customer is a caveman, you might combine your ‘fur’ card with your ‘whip’ card to create a “fur whip”, which will whip the fur straight off an animal, meaning your cave will be nice and toasty and clean as a whistle. OH LOOK, I DON’T KNOW. The point of this game is that there is no ‘right’ answer here and the whole fun of the game is in the ridiculous stories people will come up with to sell things. I played this with my mother (who is in her seventies now) and she had a blast.

The Resistance
The Resistance is sort of like Werewolf, where some people in a group are spies and they have to make it through five rounds without getting caught. What’s so great about this game is that it will have you and your friends talking analysing everything and talking and re-analysing everything and then talking and over-analysing everything. This is probably my absolute favourite game of all time just because it always leads to chats and shouts and laughter.

Monikers
At the risk of coming across like a SU&SD fanboy, just go check out their review. If this doesn’t immediately make you want to go out and play this game, maybe ‘fun’ isn’t really your thing and yeah, maybe you should just stick with CAH.

Skull and Roses
You know in poker, they say you don’t play the cards, you play the player? Skull and Roses is an even more concentrated example of this. It’s serious bluffing where you have look all the other players in the eyes before you make your decision. The only problem I have with this game is that it’s about elimating other people, which means if you’re eliminated early, there’s a lot of sitting around watching other people play. Which is still fun! Just not as much fun as, you know, actually playing.

Aggregation is Broken

A few days ago, there was a bit of a kerfuffle between Vox and 538 (Nate Silver’s blog) over Vox posting some of 538’s content without ‘proper attribution’. Vox put up a poor mouth semi-apology in the way of a statement on vox.com called ‘How Vox Aggregates’. Here’s a bit of that:

I started as a blogger in the pre-social web, when the only way to build an audience was to have other sites quote or link to your work. Those links didn’t drive a ton of traffic back to the original site, but they drove some, and sometimes you would get a new regular reader out of the deal. And that was basically how my career began. Everything I wrote, I wrote in the hopes that someone else would take it and try to use it on their site, with a link back to my site.

The lesson of that, to me, was that writing on the internet is a positive-sum endeavor: I was creating content that helped other people make their sites better, and in using that content, they were helping me grow my site.

Vox’s approach to aggregation — which Nate Silver criticized today on Twitter— is informed by that.

There have been lots of Hot Takes on this. Here’s mine.

I firmly believe that in a post-social web, aggregation is completely broken. People aren’t looking to diversify their reading. If they see an image on Tumblr that’s been shared across dozens, even hundreds of sites, are they going to untangle that rat’s nest of attribution and find the original creator of that image? Are they fuck. At best, they’ll follow the last person to share it - they’ll follow the aggregator. Balls to the creator.

Gamification of the internet is only making it worse. And by this, I mean sites that award points to people based on the content they post. See something interesting or funny on the internet? Post it to Reddit under your name and you get all the glory! Win-win.

Back in February, I posted something on Twitter that accidentally went semi-viral, with a few thousand retweets and favourites.

I was bored the other day, so for shits and giggles, I googled the text of this tweet and found that I’d made it to Buzzfeed. I had no idea about this because I received no noticable bump in followers from them, even with their attribution. But I also found that someone on Reddit had lifted the text and image from my tweet and used it to score 47 points on /r/funny (I have a Reddit link score of 1. Yes, one).

Now I’m just a minor player in this whole thing. What about the people producing genuinely great and funny content? Last week, Mallory Ortberg (one of my favourite people on the internet) discovered that some of her work had been lifted by thepoke.co.uk.

To be fair, The Poke had attributed it to where they found it - an imgur gallery (later itself updated with proper attribution after its creator received a twitter backlash), which in turn came from a thread on /r/funny (4618 points, btw). This thread also included one hilarious comment that serves to emphasise my point: “atleast give credit to the person who made them, stolen from front page funnyjunk”.

Ugh.

Seriously, aggregation on the internet is a fucking joke.

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