Five things that are worth your time: January 10

Five things that are worth your time: January 10

Thanks for joining me for another five things! A few long reads this week, featuring Apple, Star Wars, and the the future of work, so if you want to save them for the weekend, I can’t blame you.

Has Apple Lost Its Design Mojo?

By Rick Tetzeli, Fortune

Couple thoughts on this “state of the union” article about Apple design. One, yes, Apple has always been at the forefront of technology design. But, Apple rarely gets it right right out of the gate. The article mentions the original iPod, with its barely functional click wheel, and the original iPhone, without 3G or apps. Apple iterates over time; it always has. Which brings me to my second point: Apple used to be a lot smaller. They could take all the time they wanted, and their customers would be patient. But now, Apple is everywhere, and every other company wants to be like Apple, and people just don’t have the patience for that anymore. So I would argue: Apple is still doing great design work on its products, just as it always has, but the world around it has changed. And I don’t think Apple should change, because then the design actually will suffer. (Besides, the real question here shouldn’t be about poor Apple design; it should be about their shitty software development efforts in recent years.)

A quote: “This creative process is Apple’s secret sauce. Its goal—innovating and improving simultaneously, delivering both annual updates and the occasional brand-new product—is commonplace. But few companies have done it as well as Apple, at mass scale over a long period of dramatic technological change. Chochinov cites Nike and the New York Times as two that have, but many of the sources I interviewed for this story couldn’t think of any comparable peers.”

This is Not Going to go the Way You think: The Last Jedi is subversive AF, and I am here for it

By Melissa Hillman, Bittergertrude.com

Melissa Hillman breaks down some of the ways that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is subversive and feminist, and I love this kind of take on the film—and, I suspect, deep down many of these themes are why some of the more traditional Star Wars fans are so angry about The Last Jedi. This isn’t a film that’s made with them—the white male (or heroic white male, as they see themselves)—front and centre. This is a film for everyone. I’m not entirely sure the filmmakers intentionally focused on some of the things Hillman brings up, but, good filmmaking allows different people to interpret things in different ways, and I would guess that The Last Jedi does that more than any other Star Wars film to date.

A quote: “The Resistance is impressive in its casual diversity. Women and people of color are valued for their expertise as a matter of course; nowhere does the film congratulate itself on its diversity by making a huge point of highlighting it, demonstrating white male benevolence by the generous inclusion of women and people of color, positing a white male audience nodding along, agreeing that we are so wonderful for allowing our White Male World to donate a very small corner for the Less Fortunate. The Resistance is naturally diverse, and no one even seems to notice. ‘”

The Imminent Death—and Amazing Life—of the Funny Highlight Guy

By Brian Curtis, The Ringer

Reading Brian Curtis on sports media is always a good bet. I enjoyed this look back at the era of “Funny Highlight Guy” sports anchors, in part because this whole phenomenon of sports highlight shows that masqueraded as comedy bits mostly passed Canada by. We got Gino Reda and Michael Landsberg while the U.S. had Dan, Kieth and Kilborn; by the time we got Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole the era was pretty much over. But in a way, that’s probably a good thing—check out the quote below to see why. (Also: Go and watch Sports Night; you won’t be disappointed.)

A quote: “One night in the ESPN newsroom, Beil recalled, “Gus had seen that the movie Jumanji was coming out. So he’s walking around the newsroom and trying to sell ‘Jumanji!’ as a catchphrase.
“He’s literally walking down three rows of computers. I was there. Karl Ravech was there. Brett Haber was there. Gus is just running into ‘No,’ ‘No,’ ‘No,’ ‘That’s stupid,’ ‘Get outta here,’ ‘Get away from me.’
“He gets to Kilborn. He says, ‘Jumanji!’ And Kilborn goes, ‘Yes.’ We’re all looking at him like, Are you serious? Sure enough, we do the show that night, and he did it in his tone of voice: ‘Ju … manji.’ The next day, nobody would stop saying ‘Jumanji.’””

Donald Trump Goes Full Fredo

By David Frum, The Atlantic

Trump is an easy target to aim for and hit, especially when he sets himself up for it so well (and so regularly). After his unhinged tweets about his own genius, I and many others noted how much he sounded like Fredo in The Godfather Part II (“I’m smart! Not like everyone says, like dumb!”). David Frum managed to put it into a great column. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rg8jODlrka0 To Frum’s point… where is America’s Michael? After Fredo allowed the Don to be shot on his watch, Michael stepped up. Who is going to step up and put everything right in America?

A quote: “From the start, Donald Trump was a man of many secrets, but no mysteries. Inscribed indelibly on the public record were the reasons for responsible people to do everything in their power to bar him from the presidency. Instead, since he announced his candidacy in mid-2015, Donald Trump has been enabled and protected. The enabling and protecting not only continues. It accelerates.”

The Real Future of Work

By Danny Vinik, Politico

This look at trends in labour is U.S.-focused but you can certainly see the same trends in Canada. More and more businesses are hiring contractors instead of employees; there is more and more competition among contractors, which is driving rates down, which means contractors are making less than they did as employees, and corporations are getting richer. And there are no protections in place to prevent it. It’s more than a little scary, especially for someone like me who is mulling a potential future os a contractor. Things are great right now, but if everyone is a contractor in 5 years, what are my professional options?

A quote: “Businesses prefer these arrangements, too, because they can shed expensive benefit packages and are not responsible for following federal labor laws. But that also gives them an incentive to “misclassify” their workers, overseeing them as if they were employees but officially classifying them as independent contractors to cut costs.”
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That’s all for this week! Come back next Wednesday for another five things.

Five Things that are worth your time: January 3

Five things that are worth your time - January 3

Five things is back! I managed to miss last week as I was too busy playing Battlefront II, eating junk food and enjoying my holidays. But now I’m back at it! It’s a Deadspin-heavy week, featuring posts about some historic sports photographs, Doris Burke, Star Wars, Titanic… and maybe the end of the world. Enjoy, I guess?

Read moreFive Things that are worth your time: January 3

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Five fan complaints I’m totally over (maybe)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker

So, seems Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a bit polarizing among the more die-hard fans. I guess you can’t please everyone, and Star Wars fans can be fickle and occasionally irrational; I’m one of them, so I would know!

But I’m not buying some of their complaints this time.

Here are some quick thoughts on a few of the main “complaints” from “fans” I’m seeing online. Big-time spoiler alert, naturally.

Read moreStar Wars: The Last Jedi: Five fan complaints I’m totally over (maybe)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Five things I didn’t like about the film

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - The lightsaber

I loved Star Wars: The Last Jedi; you can read my The Last Jedi mini-review here (spoiler-free) and see what I liked most in The Last Jedi here (spoilers in that one). But it wasn’t a perfect film; there are a few things I have issue with.

There are, of course, spoilers after this point.

Read moreStar Wars: The Last Jedi: Five things I didn’t like about the film

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Five things I loved about the film

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Adam Driver as Kylo Ren

I’ve seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi again, and with a little bit of time in between viewings, I’ve crystallized my thoughts. Here are the five things that I most liked about the film, its story and its characters. Later this week I’ll share what I didn’t like as well as my thoughts on the fan reaction to the film.

This post is spoiler heavy, so proceed with caution.

Read moreStar Wars: The Last Jedi: Five things I loved about the film

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Five thoughts on Rey’s background

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Daisy Ridley as Rey

One of the things Star Wars fans, including me, were most looking forward to in Star Wars: The Last Jedi was learning more about Rey.

Since Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out in 2015 theories have abounded about her parents, who apparently abandoned her on Jakku. Would The Last Jedi give us definitive answers?

Before we get into that, I wanted to put down on paper my pre-The Last Jedi Rey theory. It’s hardly original, but, you know, it’s the internet. There’s a theory for everything.

There are multiple spoilers for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi in this post so proceed with caution.

Read moreStar Wars: The Last Jedi: Five thoughts on Rey’s background

Movie review (100% spoiler-free): Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Continued my now three-years old tradition of taking in a morning screening of the new Star Wars movie with my buddy John. Here are five very quick (spoiler-free!) thoughts about The Last Jedi. (There are spoilers for The Force Awakens though!)

It’s really good…

Yep, the reviews are all correct: It’s a very good movie. It’s long, but it’s well-paced. It’s surprising, but not in any way that takes you “out” of the Star Wars mindset—it’s very much a Star Wars movie. It’s very nicely shot, nothing feel like too much of a callback to the original movies that it takes you out of the film. There’s not nearly as much “fan service” as The Force Awakens or even Rogue One. The movie stands on its own very well. And the music and sound design are also excellent; I definitely recommend seeing it in the theatre. (We saw it in IMAX 3D, and although I typically loathe 3D, it is done quite well.)

…and yeah, I’d say The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back

It’s obviously better than any of the prequels, and I would place it above Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens as well. Rogue One feels like the closest comparison, but the addition of the heroes we know and love, The Last Jedi definitely has the edge. But I wouldn’t place it above The Empire Strikes Back or Star Wars.

It is so wonderful to have Mark Hamill back on screen as Luke

I can’t even tell you the number of times I have popped in The Force Awakens DVD and just watched the last two minutes. That final scene still gives me chills! And his role in this film pays it off beautifully. I don’t want to say anything else for fear of anything spoilery, but every scene he’s in is great, and there are several in the film that gave me those same chills. I have been waiting for more Luke since I was six years old, and The Last Jedi doesn’t disappoint.

The performances were excellent

Sounds a bit odd to say about a Star Wars film, right? But everyone is really good, including Mark Hamill (although maybe let’s cool it a bit with the “best actor” talk, yeah? He’s still Mark Hamill!). Adam Driver is the highlight, I think; he shows wonderful range throughout the movie and you can really feel his emotions coming through. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega knock it out of the park again (as does BB-8, of course). The new cast additions all fit in nicely. And it was great to see Carrie Fisher again, one last time.

It’s not a perfect film

There are some goofy jokes that are too slap-sticky and fall flat. A couple of characters deserve more screen time and development. As wonderful as all the creature effects are—so much better than anything in the prequels—they may have overdone it a tiny bit (I could have used more BB-8 instead! Love that little droid).

And as much as understand it from a story perspective, I will always feel a little robbed that Han Solo was killed before we got a Luke-Han reunion.

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I don’t think I have to tell anyone to go see this movie; you’re going to see it if you’re into this stuff, you’re gonna avoid it if you’re not. But even if you’re not into it and you find yourself dragged out to see it, I don’t think you’ll walk away disappointed. The Last Jedi is extremely entertaining, and it’s a damn good time in a theatre. And if you are into it? I think you’ll be satisfied.

Five things that are worth your time: December 6

Five things that are worth your time: December 6

This week’s five things are highly movie-inspired, as I share articles on two of my all time favourites—or is it three of my all-time favourites?—plus the latest on the Marvel Universe. I also share some advice on an important soft skill, and one beautiful story of a Holocaust survivor, which—for obvious reasons—is an important story to share right now as we wind down 2017.

Remembering the Wonderful Little Idiosyncrasies of Good Will Hunting on Its 20th Anniversary

Shea Serrano, The Ringer

Good Will Hunting is one of the my favourite movies. Shea Serrano is one of my favourite writers. There was no doubt this was making the list this week! Shea nails the truth of Good Will Hunting here: For all of the things that we remember about the film that make it memorable and enjoyable, it’s the little things between the lines that make it a classic. I love “Here’s ya fuckin’ double burger” sooo much. But Shea missed a couple: Billy’s “That’s a good takedown” when Will and Chuckie are wrestling at the batting cages; and Morgan’s Brando-inspired “I swallowed a bug” as he extricates himself from the scene when Skylar finally approaches Will at the bar.

A quote: ”The way Will leans in to propose a fight with Clark. That’s how you know he was serious about fighting. If Will wanted to just show out for the girls, then he’d have been really loud and blustery so everyone could see and hear the confrontation. He wasn’t, though, which is why you see Clark get filled with fear so quickly. As soon as Will lowered his voice and proposed stepping outside, Clark was like, “Oh fuck, this guy really wants to fight.””

Secrets of the Marvel Universe

Joanna Robinson, Vanity Fair

Speaking of things in my wheelhouse, here’s the great Joanna Robinson with a great “state of the union” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a look inside exec producer/architect Kevin Feige’s head. It’s a little light on actual “secrets,” of course—Marvel and Disney guard those details as if they were actual infinity stones—but it’s still a fun read, and the photos of everyone in costume are brilliantly outrageous.

A quote: ”One day on set (of Fox’s X-Men, 2000), (Lauren) Shuler Donner and Avi Arad, then head of Marvel Studios, watched as an exasperated stylist, at Feige’s insistence, sprayed and teased actor Hugh Jackman’s hair higher and higher to create the hairstyle that would become the signature look of the character Wolverine. The stylist “eventually went ‘Fine!’ and did a ridiculous version,” Feige recalls. “If you go back and look at it,” he admits, “he’s got big-ass hair in that first movie. But that’s Wolverine!” The experience stuck with Feige.”

Debate Club: Which is Better, Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back?

Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, SyFy

I am a big fan of Tim Grierson and Will Leitch’s movie reviews (and also, possibly, their podcast, of which I’ve saved every episode but have not yet found time to listen to). Here they tackle the age-old debate: What’s the best Star Wars film? For most of my life I’ve leaned slightly towards Star Wars, because even though Empire is, technically speaking, a better film, how can you top the original? But this article makes the case for Empire, all while neglecting to mention one thing: The music. And as much as I love Luke’s theme, and as memorable as the Star Wars fanfare is, Empire contains the one piece of music that may in fact be more famous than the Star Wars fanfare: the Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme). It’s also got Yoda’s music and Han and Leia’s theme (used to great effect in The Force Awakens trailer). So yeah. With that in mind, I think I’m giving Empire the slight nod. For now.

A quote: Empire is enhanced by Lucas settling into his more comfortable position as producer and overseer, hiring Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan to work on the screenplay, and bringing in director Irvin Kershner and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky to give the sequel a more layered, somber tone. Also, Empire introduced some of the franchise’s best characters, including Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett, and Yoda, who’s the movie’s spiritual center”

I Have a Message For you

Matan Rochlitz, The New York Times

This is the story of Klara, a Holocaust survivor from Belgium; specifically, her escape from a train taking her to a concentration camp, and who she had to leave behind on that train. And of a message that she receives many years later. It’s more important than ever to pay attention to and share these stories like this right now, of course, since Nazis are all but running the United States, but even setting that insanity aside, it’s just a lovely story and it’s beautifully presented. Here’s Rochlitz with some more detail behind the story.

A quote: ”You know what those cattle wagons are like? There’s a little window, like this. I put my legs through and turned around and I slid between the two wagons. The train kept going and going. It was very difficult because the SS would shoot at us. I waited a moment. Then I put my hands up to protect my head. And then I jumped from the train.”

Here’s the Key to Great Conversation in 1 Sentence

Wanda Thibodeaux, Inc.com

Most of the time, when someone’s talking to us, we’re listening—but only so that we can respond. We’re focused on what we’re going to say next, not what the other person is saying. And that sucks. But active listening is a skill that takes time to master. There are some good tips here to help. (Just try and ignore the typo in the first sentence…)

A quote: ”Formulate your answer only after the other person has finished talking. Embrace the silence that happens as you think. Your partner isn’t going to care about the pause if you give a thoughtful answer that demonstrates respect.”

That’s all for this week! Come back next Wednesday for another five things.

PS I’ve changed my mind already. I still like Star Wars more.