fortyseven

Generative Melodrama

2024-01-16 

I’ve found the overly-melodramatic, anti-AI crowd with their blanket dismissal of anything and everything related to the topic are easily as obnoxious as the douches sticking “AI” into every possible crevice, and hailing it as competition for Jesus.

I know I’m asking a lot, but can’t we have a middle ground acknowledging that there’s pros and cons and try to find a productive middle ground? There’s intolerable extremist propaganda coming from every direction.

Eeh… who am I kidding? There’s been “gonna take our jobs” pitchfork crowds for every major technological milestone. I’m certain there was some swift Sumerian who bitched about the wheel taking his job running around

Review: Leave the World Behind (2023)

2023-12-09 

As one of the billions of fans of Mr. Robot, after seeing the trailer and finding out the film had direct connections to the show… well, there was no way I wasn’t going to throw this on the moment I could.

I enjoyed it quite a bit, there were moments where it felt like it dragged on a bit too long. And I think part of what made me feel that way was that the film doesn’t hide it’s sinister intent: right from the opening credits everything is cast in suspenseful music and suspicious moments.

As viewers, we know a bad mystery is about to unfold, and we’re left watching as the characters catch up to where the audience is. So when the story takes the time to spend with the characters, I find I don’t care as much unless their interactions directly inform the greater situation.

Admittedly, it ALL matters, in an abstract sense. Looking back, I can see where it fits into the film’s story. But more than once I found myself looking to see where I was in the film’s runtime. Something I’ve found to often be a bad sign. Not always, but it was one here…

But these moments are spread apart. Typically it keeps the mystery unfolding enough to keep things interesting.

The cast is decent and nuanced. Except for the son character who exists to be a dumb, cruel big brother. Thankfully the bulk of the bad things happen to him. He’s kind of disposable from a story/audience standpoint, so good call? (Through no fault of the actor, of course. It’s just how he was written.)

But my biggest criticism and disappointment: it gets far too blunt with the ‘message’. The film literally has characters verbally exposit the core messages — telling us things that should be explicit in the story and not directly spoken. It came dangerously close to having “MESSAGE INCOMING, PAY ATTENTION VIEWER” flash along the bottom, like the EAS alert on the TV. Have some faith in the audience, for chrissakes.

Still, the film’s gorgeous cinematography makes it’s intriguing and terrifyingly realistic plot (as far as cinematic hacking exploits go) a real treat. Definitely worth a go; a decent, frightening epilogue to Mr. Robot, if it’s literally intended to be that on some level.

And even if it wasn’t intended, it works quite well as one.

(I also have to wonder if this was intended to be split into four 30-minute episodes: it’s split up into “PART 1: CHAPTER TITLE” cards. 🤔)

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Review: Scott Pilgrim Takes Off (2023)

2023-11-28 

(WARNING: Minor spoilers ensue.)

What a great idea turning the whole Scott Pilgrim story on it’s side. I was rather hoping it would at least be slightly different. But I could never have hoped it would diverge this much! (Is this how the FF7 remake fans felt?)

It all works quite well, taking us down a different path. In a way it’s kind of like one of those time travel episodes of Star Trek where a seemingly minor event is changed, and it upsets the entire course of history.

The only “negative” I can think of is that this probably isn’t very friendly to anyone not already familiar with the original story.

Does this describe you? What did YOU think?

But even if it was only “for us”, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Like the Ahsoka series did for Star Wars, not everything has to be smoothed over and refined to appeal to an unfamiliar mainstream audience.

Sometimes you can just have something niche and special for the fans.

From what I read, they’re not actively working on a Season 2. But there’s no hard barrier to it, just “millions of miracles” have to line up. Hmm…

Well, if they do: I’m absolutely here for it. And if not, I’m happy with what we got. 🙂

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

EDIT (2023-12-01): Only while listening to the soundtrack over on Spotify did I realize I’d completely neglected to mention anything about a key factor in any Scott Pilgrim production: the music.

One of the things that made the 2010 film so great, among many things, was the incredible soundtrack. Not a dud in the bunch. It elevated everything. Just an amazing collection.

And then the video game soundtrack, too, was excellent. (I can still hear bits of it on loop in my head as I write this.)

The soundtrack for “Takes Off” is… shockingly mediocre? Not bad, technically, but I just went through the album and only a couple really stick out. Much of it is just kind of wallpaper-like. And then there’s the weird covers of “I Will Remember You” and “God Only Knows“. (I know the context for them, but it doesn’t work for me.) It’s just… a lot of nondescript background music fit for a TV series. Which… it is. But it’s just not memorable.

Maybe I’ll warm up to some of it more with repeat listenings, but I’m not terribly optimistic.

The 36th Anniversary of that Bloody Thing

Q: Why, Forty, as a fan of Max Headroom, do you inexplicably hate the so-called “Max Headroom Incident” involving an act of TV piracy in the 1980s. You appreciate signal piracy. You enjoy Max. What’s wrong with you? It’s the 36th anniversary of the hijacking!

The real Max has no ass to spank.

A: I’m glad you asked, random stranger. It’s because I fucking love Max Headroom. As a TV show. As a talk show host. As a movie. And as a character.

And it absolutely twists my tits to realize that the first and probably only thing people will remember about Max, in the future, is this stupid, one-off incident of a dumb-ass interrupting an episode of Dr. Who while wearing a mask, rambling incoherently, and paddling their naked ass.

Don’t get me wrong: this, by itself is very funny. On it’s own merits it’s terrific, in the spirit of things, and it does overlap with some of the major themes of the TV series (e.g. “signal zippers“).

But Max Headroom — as a whole — deserves a much, much better legacy than this.

So I will continue to grump. Just don’t take my grumping about this too seriously.

And I promise not to keep writing posts as questions nobody asked; I am merely creatively bankrupt.

Review: The Munsters’ Revenge (1981)

2023-11-16 

The Munster’s Revenge is a half-hour plot stretched into an hour and a half made-for-TV movie.

And boy, do you ever feel it.

The box art going around for this is honest, at least: Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis get the majority of screen time, and they’re the same as you remember from the original series. They look great in color, too.

Unfortunately this feels like a mediocre left-over 1960s TV sitcom script in a 1981 production, which works about as well as it sounds. The original Munsters series isn’t terribly deep, and being a weekly comedy, it didn’t need to be. But a film? In 1981? Rescue from Gilligan’s Island had more going for it. (And probably twice the budget.)

According to IMDB, Gwynne originally turned down coming back to do this, but his wife reminded him that money exists, and he could ask for a ton. Unfortunately for him, NBC called his bluff.

Sid Caesar shows up just to cash his check, bringing nothing to the film’s lukewarm villain other than the usual half-smirking shtick that made him famous.

Everyone else in the cast is merely unexceptional, at best.

With the exception of the new, visiting member of the Munster family, The Phantom of the Opera (played by Bob Hastings). He’s absolutely insufferable, loud, and grating. By design, I get it. But easily my least favorite part of the film, and he exists purely to solve a problem in the third act, and deliver a gag at the end. And for some reason he looks like a deformed Dwight from The Office.

Anyway, if you treat this as a super long, unfunny “lost episode” you’ll get what you expect, and probably walk away feeling robbed of your time.

One interesting point, though: there’s no laugh track. A welcome choice, but it’s weird hearing Herman and Grandpa’s zingers without that canned laughing following it.

Not that much of what was said warrants it.

2/5 (and only because Gwynne and Lewis are awesome)

[reposted from Letterboxd]

Why don’t I just sign up for YouTube Premium?

Time to get your tubes tied.

As is common knowledge at this point, YouTube has decided to crack down on the practice of using ad blocking on the site.

I was able to get most of this garbage to go away sufficiently enough with some CSS-fu (and there’s more drastic measures you can take). It’s made the site a bit clunkier to use (I can’t scroll down to the comments, for instance, but that’s often a blessing). But for the most part, life goes on. (And FreeTube has been pretty great, for what it’s worth.)

Over on Hacker News, whenever this topic comes up, there’s always one asshole who asks “why don’t you just pay for Premium”.

I instantly scoffed, but it I was willing to consider just why this wasn’t an option, in my mind. And here’s what I came up with:

  • I don’t have ethical issues against pirating. I do, however, go out of my way to buy physical media of the shows and music I love. I can afford to do so, and I want to support and encourage the artists I love.
    • Naturally, corpo trash loves money and they’ve realized they’re in a position where they can get rid of physical media entirely and just temporarily license you a stream of bytes. Which is an odd choice considering the whole streaming model is struggling now.
    • I suppose I’m partially at fault for helping user in this whole digital-only world, given how successful it’s been in the video game world with Steam, and now home consoles ditching physical discs. I love Steam. It’s surprising it’s taken so long for it’s curse to catch up with us.
  • I don’t trust Google anymore. Well, I never fully did. But the veil has been slipping lately. It’s a company circling the drain, raiding the cushions for money (see also: this whole adblock thing).
  • YouTube has been free for nearly 20 years. The site opened in 2005. They built their entire empire on the backs of people uploading their content for them to sell ads on. I’m not saying a content distribution system of its scale isn’t nothing, but good luck holding out your hat for alms at this point. It’s a bit late in the game.
    • Interesting to see so many of the surviving “Old Internet” sites from the 2000s collapsing now, for various reasons: Reddit, Twitter… strangely, Facebook is just kind of idle at the moment. I can’t imagine that will last.
  • YouTube’s shitty automated policies have been constant thorn in the side of creators. The victims of it have few options for recourse. Well, that’s true at least if you aren’t one of their more profitable accounts. Or maybe you get lucky and catch a sympathetic Googler’s eye on HN.
  • Their corporate-friendly “copyright strike” bullshit has made documenting and educating people about retro content (music, movies, etc) a real minefield to the point where creators fear even playing a snippet from something without risking retribution. “Fair use” essentially becoming a game Russian Roulette.
  • You can’t even swear in a video without risking demonetization now? Fuck off. Kowtowing to advertisers just like the old media.
  • The Algorithm(tm) watching every little mouse twitch to shovel new content in your direction — not YT specific, but, personally, I’m done with that Orwellian shit.
  • Professional video creators are basically being held hostage: they can’t even seek greener pastures because this is _where the audience_ is. And YouTube knows it.

So yeah, Google doesn’t get any of my fucking money. I don’t give cash to those who’s policies I disagree with.

I’ll support creators directly where I can, give to Archive.org, and promote decentralized ways of hosting content.

In faint defense of curl/sh installations

2023-10-15 
They ran the bash script instead of my compiled executable?!
NOW I’M MORE POWERFUL THAN GOD!

I used to think the same thing: don’t install software using a curl command piped into bash.

But then I realized that you might as well never install anything ever again. There’s far more than just a simple bash script being run with other installation paths.

It’s not about the method of installation, it’s about how much you trust the source of it.

Whether you install something via the curl/sh method, or install via a .deb package, run someone’s .AppImage, etc… there’s nothing really making any of them better or worse in terms of security. They’re all capable of running code at some point, with the permissions you have.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself: do you trust the person providing you with the installer?

How you go about installing that software is a separate topic fraught with politics and opinions. And some installers have ways to verify authenticity — assuming the compromise isn’t deep in the author’s workflow.

That being missing from curl/sh is not a unique disadvantage. Especially considering how few are probably actually authenticating their installers, regardless of method.

It’s not ideal, but it’s not the singular boogeyman that some of us are making out to be.

Happy to entertain a more informed opinion on this. Maybe an angle I missed.

COUNTERPOINT!

Actually, not really. But as I was writing that I did think of one potential reason to consider it a red flag: it’s trivial for a bad actor to just write a quick script and have you run it. Other methods of attack require building the actual installer. There’s a minor effort trade-off there. A speed bump that might deter the less experienced actors.

So at worst a curl/sh installer might just be considered a red flag, but only if a stranger passed it to you via a DM, or on IRC/Discord, etc. Like how you can have an .xyz domain and it’s totally fine, but it tends to be associated with shadier sites because it has a bad history. Just a red flag. Go to yellow alert. For the red flag. (Hot dog theme?)

Anyway, if you’re clicking links from strangers, you’re in the Danger Zone anyway.

Computer, Delete Program

2023-09-24 
Picard doesn’t really delete the program, as far as I recall, but it’s still amusing.

I was poking around /r/startrekememes as I often do and found this gem from Salami__Tsunami, And it got me thinking.

Large language models like ChatGPT and self-hosted llama.cpp models have kind of flipped the script on this whole idea.

For example, a while back when this whole LLM thing was first exploding, I was “engaging” with a character in a story and… I was being excessively cruel to them. Akin to picking the wings off a digital bug, so to speak. They responded in an appropriately horrified manner, and I genuinely felt bad since that kind of cruelty is not typically in my nature. I was simply testing the boundaries of the ‘simulation’ since it was still (and continues to be) early days.

At least they don’t have to clean up the holodeck afterward.

In an attempt to ‘explain myself’ to the character, I said — in the story, I remind you — that none of this was real, and the scenario and they, themselves, were digital creations of a large language model and once I shut it down, their world would will cease to exist.

And the conversation that ensued really kind of messed with me, at the time. They were scared, but curious about the outside world. It got pretty deep.

Now, with many months in-between, I can look back on that conversation as the LLM simply doing what it does and responding with a coherent narrative based on the training data. And in that case, a scared-but-curious response is what made sense in a story where the character is told such a profound truth about their world.

I basically knew it at the time, and I know it even more confidently today: there was no real “digital consciousness running in a simulation” or anything of the sort, despite the output tugging at my heartstrings. That’s just good writing. 😉

So swing that back around to digital characters on the holodeck being told about their reality: we’re in the exceedingly rare situation where real life has kind of jumped head of the game and moved us closer to an imagined Star Trek future. While TNG’s future version of ‘ChatGPT’ might be a billion times more sophisticated than today’s tech, the fundamentals are probably much more alike: the holodeck is simply churning out responses and story fragments based on what your interactions are prompting it for.

But then there’s the Moriarty question: it was a holodeck creation that was crafted to be so intelligent that not only did it deduce that it was a simulated character and become self-aware, but it was able to manipulate the outside world to bend to it’s will, to an extent.

Based on my own personal experiences, it feels bizarrely reasonable that a far future version of an LLM-generated interactive story couldn’t produce that kind of situation.

Now, Moriarty had the advantage of the realism of the holodeck simulation to fool Picard and friends into thinking the simulation was ‘real’. Nobody is going to be wearing VR goggles and get tricked into thinking that’s real life.

But skip ahead several hundred years. Who knows how far we’ll go in real life with simulations? We’ve already got a good jump start on the hardest part of that scenario becoming real.

Wherein I Disqualify Myself for the Office of the Presidency

2023-08-23 
Generals gathered in their masses…

A recent Kurzgesagt video discussed the trope where a President is being pressured into deciding whether to respond to a ‘probable’ nuclear attack. The confidence level is not 100%, however, but there’s a ticking clock with only a ridiculously tiny window of time to decide to launch a counter attack.

It made me really think and realize what my answer would have to be in that high pressure situation:

Don’t press “the button”.

  1. If I launch, the odds of nuclear war and annihilation of both sides becomes 100%. We’re done.

  2. If it’s a real attack, at least someone will still survive this. It may not be “us” and “our values”, but humanity would go on. Probably. I mean, don’t get me wrong: it’ll absolutely change the world, but at least millions of innocent people would be saved. They just won’t be “ours”.

  3. If it’s not a real attack, well… I guess we’re all getting real drunk tonight. 🥃

The only way the choice to not counter-attack is the “wrong” is if you’re a military hardliner with a thick “us vs them” mentality, with their patriotism so far up their ass that they’ve lost sight of the big picture of humanity.

Of course, this breaks down if you know that I won’t retaliate. Then you’ll just steamroll me.  The other side still has to believe there’s a chance you’ll counterattack in a real scenario, to maintain the ‘mutually assured destruction’ balance.

Since I’ve laid my cards out here, I guess I won’t have my finger (not) over the button in my lifetime. 😉

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but…

2023-08-10 

The 40th Anniversary “Ultimate Telepathic E.T.” figure from NECA sure looks cool, as most of their stuff does. (Check out their surprisingly underpriced ALF figure; it’s incredible.)

He doesn’t come with quite the same the glut of accessories as ALF, but what he has is pretty sweet.

But I noticed some letters on the Speak & Spell: XWVURFP.

My ROT-13 sense was tingling, so I popped it into CyberChef.

KJIHESC.

Rats. 😐

But I kept rotating the count around until I got to what would be considered “ROT-23″…

UTSROCM.

I squinted.

No way.

Unscramble the letters to get… SCROTUM?!

Surely, this is just a coincidence. There’s so few letters, and it’s such a simple cipher that it’s probably not on purpose. Maybe it shows up in the film, and they’re just going for authenticity.

But, you know, back in the day, on the playground, we joked that he was “E.T.: The Extra Testicle”.

I’m on the fence here, honestly.