although it is now a month old (doh!) this has to be Anna Minard’s funniest column yet – well DONE, sir!
including classic words like “I used to hear 30 seconds of a punk song and feel like my ears were going to throw up.” and “This is just all bells and talk-singing and waggling noises and some lady who sounds like she lives in a tree.”
I’m not sure when this one came out, but dare I get excited all over again? Oh yeah…..
although I just realized in getting a better link that this is a fan trailer – but still pretty good…….!
Saw Europa Report this evening – interesting movie. While the plot itself isn’t original – if you have read the book version of a certain sequel to a certain other VERY famous sci fi movie, you essentially know what happens here – but I will leave the clues to the reader.
The acting is good, the effects are well done and straightforward. The movie isn’t Gravity – and isn’t trying to be. Rather, I would put this on the level of Cloverfield or approaching District 9 (even sharing one of the main actors from District 9 as I discovered after reviewing the cast) – the effects serve the story, not the other way around (yeah michael bay and joseph kosinzki – I’m talking to YOU). I like the attention to detail and realism here too – you get the sense of how a real spaceship might look for a mission like this.
Like Gravity, there are some obvious visual influences too, but i’ll leave that to the reader/viewer to discover. And like all the movies I see, I’ve got some nits to pick – meaning spoilers, if you care about such things
1) No doctor on the ship? I realize Dr. McCoy was quite often just along for the ride until Kirk and Spock got themselves into trouble or hurt, but he served a purpose and barring a two-man spacecraft, I can’t see a mission of this size and ambition not having at least ONE person on the ship trained in medical stuff? They don’t mention it at all. Yet I think they spent a year in space minimum?
2) ‘decisions by committee’ – at one key plot point, the commander doesn’t get to make the final call, they in effect override him and vote. Maybe it’s 18th century of me to expect otherwise, but I think this aspect of movie plots is increasingly tiresome. I can’t remember an actual ship (military or otherwise, in space or on water) that allows ‘democratice decisionmaking’ when there’s a real crisis – that’s actually WHY they have a captain in the first place? That person is expected to make the decisions, and the others obey them?! Here, all of the crew are pretty young excepting the chief engineer, and the captain seems youngest of all but still, why have a ‘commander’ if you aren’t going to have him/her ‘command’? This is simply a mistake in the movie.
3) Spacewalk backup/contingency planning. In at least two situations, there are major problems (to me, anyway) with how they treat risk(s) inherent in spacewalks/EVA and then endure the consequences of same – there seems to be too much ‘cowboy’ and not enough ‘astronaut’ in how they do things. At least in 2001, you had a computer trying to kill people, and you had much more careful planning/control over the EVA than you see here – I think it was handled a bit slipshod. It’s not even clear that the rest of the crew CAN handle an EVA, although I guess it’s assumed.
4) The Prometheus problem. Nowhere near to the stupid degree seen in Prometheus, but the characters here display a somewhat disconcerting detachment when confronted with an apparent obvious danger, and allow themselves to keep moving forward instead of being conservative and SAFE by choosing a move obvious and safer route (like NASA would?).
All in all, I liked the movie, despite the nearly identical plot mentioned above (I really wonder whether the writers had read it or not?) and that it doesn’t overreach, despite the nits just mentioned. Well done!
So I saw a recent GeekWire post by local VC Nick Hanauer about Amazon:
which is a nice segue to talking about the recent Amazon ‘bio’ by Brad Stone, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. I finished reading this book last week – it’s a quick, informative and somewhat tell-all jaunt through Amazon’s history to date, focusing most closely on Jeff Bezos of course.
While in both cases, each book had the tacit approval of its centerpiece, the Jobs book was done in far more direct cooperation than this one. Bezos never sat down with Brad Stone to review all these points and/or approve the manuscript himself prior to publication – but at the same time, he didn’t really stand in its way, either, and provided some key interviews as it developed, albeit not necessarily intended at the time to end up in a book later. Both Bezos and Jobs come across as extremely driven, sometimes focused on seemingly the tiniest minutiae (that can appear from the outside or in hindsight sometimes as misdirected vs. the bigger picture), and they both exhibit hyper, sometimes abusive mgmt styles that aren’t unique to the tech industry by any means, but it sure seems to draw these traits out more often than not, IMHO.
A contrast between the two, however is that Jobs perenially sought outside approval and support as a tastemaker, innovator and to be lionized as a tech industry leader in the products he created, oversaw or ‘appropriated’ (e.g. the Mac’s mouse-driven user interface) as he went along – Bezos arguably never did (or does). Bezos seems completely, utterly focused on one thing: his customers. And Bezos keeps his cards far closer to the vest in nearly everything he does (Amazon or otherwise), although given Amazon’s size now, that’s much more difficult than it might have been in the formative years – they are in many ways as big as Apple, Microsoft and other large tech rivals and their influence ranges even more broadly outside the tech industry (ask Walmart or other retail rivals – ask other cloud providers – the list goes on).
My reactions to this book were similar to that of the Jobs book – I felt it was pretty balanced, although possibly a little less sympathetic to Bezos than Isaacson was to Jobs – likely because Stone didn’t have the longterm journalistic relationship to Bezos that WI had with Jobs. I like that it tries to understand Bezos’ background (personal and professional) explaining him as a person and exploring his motivations – but with this guy, it’s far less obvious and far harder to do that in the end – Bezos is just more enigmatic and probably on purpose. Plus, while somewhat comfortable in the spotlight, he probably doesn’t deep down care about it much, again unlike Jobs. Neither person was/is a triumph of philanthropy – Apple only came to it after Jobs passed, Amazon arguably still has yet to. But contrast that with Bill Gates who also came to it (in a big, big way, to be fair) after he had relinquished nearly all major control over Microsoft to found the Gates Foundation. And if you look back at moguls like Carnegie and the like – same deal. They use the later philanthropy to burnish and in some ways, re-imagine, their own past legacy in the marketplace. Whether we completely believe them or give them the benefit of the doubt is certainly up to us.
I had also read the Mike Daisey book about Amazon of several years ago (2002), but now having read this one, I think I’ll go read that one again to look a bit closer from the perspective of an employee in the trenches, as was Daisey at the time he worked there (1998, fairly early on).
But getting back to this book – to sum up, I liked the book, I (again) concluded I still don’t want to work at Amazon, I respect what they’ve built, and I think it could have been done in many ways with nearly the same focus on the market but not at the expense of some of its employees along the way. And I realize I’m looking at it in hindsight and from the outside – your perspective may vary. Bezos doesn’t seem too different than most titans of tech (or other industries) to me – likely often the smartest person in the room, possibly not the guy you want to go camping with? He’s still a big enigma in many ways….maybe that will be explained in the next book about him…..
NEVER time travel!
But mark your calendars anyway – June 6-8, 2014, Tacoma Convention Center….
In having dinner with friends yesterday evening at a deli in Pioneer Square (Delicatus, great, great food!) the subject of animal meat cut diagrams came up (they are all over the walls there of every major meat animal) and I noted the classic RoadRunner one was NOT up there?
Adventures of the Road Runner (1962) – diagram (below) explained at about the 2 minute mark: