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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Operations

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We don't need to learn what it IS as long as we can remember 8 or 9 specific rules for various situations.


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WorldMaker
46 days ago
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Logarithms do seem like dark magic in the era of slide rules and logarithmic tables. If there is a bright side to computing making all the boring parts of math faster (algorithms), it’s that we don’t need a slide ruler and a 300+ page book to calculate a log function today. But yeah, the fact that most people will never calculate a log in their head will probably mean it is forever doomed to be taught as black magic, despite being boring and simple but dull work under the hood.
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How to reason with a kraken in Sea Of Thieves

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Let us cast our minds back to pirate times now, as we embark on brand new adventures set in the sober nautical history simulation called Sea Of Thieves. In this intermittent chronicle, we’ll be following the story of Captain Bartholomew Humungus, played by Nate, as he attempts to go down in history by completing the legendary 12 Labours of Pirate Hercules (which tasks Nate has, of course, made up). He won’t get far on his own, mind, as he’s never played before – so assisting him (i.e. carrying him) will be First Mate Dolly Roger, played by Imogen, and Humungus’ biographer, the mysterious Mariana Hench, played by Matt Cox.

Will they complete all twelve labours? What strange people will they meet, on this ocean of kleptomaniacs? Are skeletons even real? Read on to find out…

(more…)

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WorldMaker
46 days ago
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Both very Sea of Thieves and not.

(AMA Sea of Thieves)
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Bojack Horseman Tackles the Suffering Artist Trope in a Standout Episode

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ivy tran and diane nguyen

(image: Netflix)

SPOILER ALERT: This article discusses plot points of episode 10, season 6 of Bojack Horseman.

Bojack Horseman is a show filled with lovingly realized and complex characters, but none have moved me more than Diane Nguyen. Diane started the series as a sober voice of reason, a grounding presence in the zany chaos of Hollywoo. But she’s become so much more nuanced than that. Just as Bojack Horseman began as a Hollywood satire and developed into a stunning meditation on depression and loneliness, so too has Diane become a layered exploration of the woman writer.

Over the course of six seasons, we’ve seen Diane struggle: with her ill-fated marriage to Mr. Peanutbutter, in her career, and with her punishing crusade against those she deems unjust. Diane has long been desperate for her life to be about something, to find a deeper meaning and purpose.

But she has been plagued with false starts: her trip to Cordovia traumatizes her and sends her into a spiraling depression. Her journey to find herself in Vietnam is unsatisfying. And her attempts to hold abusive Hollywoo celebrities like Uncle Hanky and Vance Waggoner responsible are drowned out by a system that refuses to hold powerful men accountable.

So Diane suffers. With every self-righteous rant, with every unpopular opinion (restaurants shouldn’t just give you water during a drought!), she alienates herself because of her beliefs. But it’s okay, because that’s what writers do. Writers are truth-tellers, and their lived experience and pain are all building towards a powerful reckoning that will spin all their suffering into literary gold.

But as we’ve seen in season 6, Diane’s repeated attempts to write her book of essays have been stymied by anxiety. In “Good Damage”, the viewer is invited inside Diane’s mind, which is filled with the same scribbling animation we’ve previously seen in season four’s “Stupid Piece Of Sh*t.” Diane’s disorganized, self-defeating attempts to wrestle insights from her traumatic childhood have resulted in an epic case of writer’s block.

We saw this in the first half of season 6, which resulted in Diane finally dealing with her depression by going on anti-depressants. And they are working for the most part. She is living a satisfying, loving life with Guy in Chicago. But she still can’t seem to write. After weeks of blown deadlines and increasing frustration, Diane decides that the meds are the problem and abruptly quits them. This sends her into a dark, vomiting spiral of anxiety and depression where she still cannot write.

The only thing Diane can seem to crank out is “Ivy Tran: Food Court Detective”, a YA novel about a plucky young girl sleuth that contains none of the gravitas or insight Diane is chasing. When she’s in crisis, Guy sends the pages to Princess Carolyn, who flips out over the potential franchise.

But that’s not what Diane wants. She’s been laboring under the delusion that to make truly great art, the artist must suffer. It’s a well worn and toxic ideal that equates suffering with hard work and success with spilling your guts onto the page (or stage or canvas). It’s something that plenty of artists do.

But not everyone has to do it that way. And Diane clearly she doesn’t want to, despite her protests. She wants to write a spunky YA novel, she wants to have fun. She wants to enjoy her life, but she struggles because she demands more of herself. In a heart to heart with Princess Carolyn, Diane says that if she doesn’t write her book of essays,

“That means that all the damage I got isn’t ‘good damage’. It’s just damage. I have gotten nothing out of it and all those years I was miserable was for nothing. I could have been happy this whole time and written books about girl detectives and been cheerful and popular had good parents, is that what you’re saying? What was it all for?!”

Princess Carolyn simply responds that she likes her book, and that she wants to live in a world where her daughter can read books (or enjoy movies) like the one Diane wrote. Diane demands a deeper meaning from her trauma and her pain, but often there is no deeper meaning. Shitty things happen. Bad childhoods happen.

Diane’s struggle echoes Bojack’s relationship to the corny sitcom that made him a star. Bojack has a love/hate relationship with the show that made him famous, and much of his journey has been to make people see him as more than just the horse from Horsin’ Around.

In the season 3 episode “That Went Well”, Diane tells Bojack “When I was a kid, I used to watch you on TV. And you know I didn’t have the best family. Things weren’t that great for me. But, for half an hour every week, I got to watch this show about four people who had nobody, who came together and became a family. And, for half an hour every week, I had a home, and it helped me survive.”

Princess Carolyn helps Diane realize that she doesn’t have to rehash and make sense of her trauma to write something that helps young girls like herself. Sometimes the only thing that makes it all a little bit better is escaping into a book like Ivy Tran: Food Court Detective. It’s a stunning breakthrough that allows Diane to carve out a healthy and successful path for her future. After all, Diane Nguyen has suffered enough. She deserves happiness.

It’s a truly cruel moment of bad timing that finds us saying goodbye to two of the most profoundly moving comedies of the last decade in the same week. But here we are, bidding farewell to both The Good Place andBojack Horseman within the span of 24 hours. Unlike The Good Place, Bojack has given us 8 final episodes which we can either binge immediately or take our time to enjoy. If you’re a Bojack fan, you already know what camp you’re in.

What a powerhouse episode from a truly unforgettable show.

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WorldMaker
52 days ago
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It was a really good episode.

Also, mostly unrelated anecdote this article reminded me of that may be useful or maybe is its own cracked bowl glued together with gold: in college I had a TA for a couple classes whose family name was Nguyen and to this day I cannot see the name in writing and not recall how much he happily believed that the best American pronunciation possible of his family name was Wayne (like John or Bruce), and that’s how he wanted to live, an adopted American cowboy or billionaire superhero.
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This Alleged Joker Alternate Ending Is Both Hilarious and Cringe

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Actor Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck / Joker in upcoming Joker movie from DC
Ah, Joker, the gift that just refuses to stop giving. Love it, hate it, or just don’t care enough to feel something about it, the film is one of the biggest of 2019, and with all the controversy around it, the fact that it made so much money at the box office with a small budget makes it an overwhelming success. But according to an interview with Kevin Smith, the ending of the film could have been much different.

In a recent episode of Smith’s Fatman on Batman podcast, the notable director and professional nerd shared a little insider knowledge he got from “somebody who works in the business” about an alternate ending to Joker that we were thankfully spared from.

As reported on /Film, the sequence, as described by Smith, went as follows:

“The final scene still happened in the mental hospital, but instead of killing the psychiatrist, Fleck laughs to himself after telling the story. The doctor would have asked why he was laughing, to which Arthur would have said, ‘I was just thinking of something funny.’

Suddenly, the film would flash back to the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, this time at the hands of Arthur Fleck. As usual, Bruce Wayne is left crying next to his dead parents. But as Arthur walks away from the scene of the crime, he would stop, look back, shrug, and shoot Bruce Wayne. Cut to credits.”

Can I get a Sideshow Bob shudder gif, please?

Personally, I think one of the weakest links in the Joker chain was that Arthur became the leader of clown Antifa, and his clown Antifa riot ended up killing the Waynes. Joker being, in some form, being responsible for the death of Batman’s parents isn’t something new, as it was done in the 1989 film, and honestly, it felt a little bit much then, so taking this out of Joker is actually a good decision, in my eyes.

I prefer the idea of Batman’s existence creating his rogues’ gallery, rather than the idea that his foil is a man 30+ years older who “created” him. Batman creating the Joker is more interesting than the reverse.

Also the “looking back and shrugging” I can see so perfectly in this script that I can feel the douche chills in my body. I think if that had actually happened in the movie, I would have laughed so loudly in the worst way.

I have sat through Joker once more since my first viewing, and while I still deeply dislike 90% of the film, the ten percent I do enjoy makes me wish that we could get movies that care this much about the backstory of literally any other character in the Batman roster.

Even Clayface.

(via /Film, image: Warner Bros.)

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WorldMaker
84 days ago
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There are like six different Clayfaces with at least twelve and half wildly different origin stories. If we are doomed to Batman Villain Origins Cinematic Universe, endless Clayface movies *would* actually be preferable to endless Joker movies because there is more depth there to mine.
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Santa

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The elves have thrown off their shackles.


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WorldMaker
93 days ago
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This was the plot of Noelle
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White Christmas, Blackface, and Minstrel Shows

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the minstrel number form white christmas

If you ask me what movie I put on first thing in December to get in the holiday spirit I’ll tell you right away that it’s White Christmas. The 1954 musical is a classic for a host of reasons: the sparkling dialogue, the incredible dances with Vera Ellen, the comedy of Danny Kaye, the fantastic costumes by Edith Head, and the indelible voices of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.

White Christmas exemplifies the best of classic Hollywood…but it’s also an interesting sort of rosetta stone for some of the worst tendencies of Hollywood’s golden age when it came to race: that rather than be inclusive of in anyway interrogate America’s racism, they just ignore it completely even when the now-classic songs have racists history. White Christmas ties directly into Hollywood’s checkered history with blackface, minstrel shows and the complicated legacy of one of America’s greatest songwriters: Irving Berlin.

I’m not going to mine for outrage and call White Christmas a racist movie. Explicitly and textually it’s not racist…but that’s only because there are no black people in it aside from one bartender in the club car in the “Snow” scene. The movie on its face has the same problems as most films of its era: it was made by white people for a white audience and carried with it the inherent racism of Hollywood and its time. And one of those people was the greatest American songwriter in history, Irving Berlin.

Irving Berlin, the composer of “White Christmas” and “God Bless America” was a Jewish, Russian immigrant who came to America when he was only a child. Raised the son of a synagogue cantor, Jewish music was a huge influence on his early life and music. He came up in the teens, garnering success as a songwriter and served in the army, writing songs for all-soldier revues during World War I (we’ll come back to that).

bing crosby danny kaye sing blue skies in white christmas

Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sing “Blue Skies”

One of Berlin’s first big hits and the second song we hear in White Christmas is “Blue Skies.” Originally composed for a forgotten Ziegfeld production called Besty, “Blue Skies” has one of the most complicated racial histories of any song out there. The way “Blue Skies” sounds, according to musical historians, was clearly “Jewish” to many listeners in the 20s, but it still became a hit. And it also became the first music ever used in a movie when it was sung by a Jewish character in blackface in The Jazz Singer.

The contrasts of The Jazz Singer and the first use of “Blue Skies” are emblematic of so much of how early and golden age Hollywood dealt with race. People who faced discrimination themselves – antisemitism in the case – still engaged in racist things, like blackface. I don’t know if Irving Berlin knew or felt that blackface was racist at the time, because The Jazz Singer wasn’t Irving Berlin’s first or last interaction with blackface and the larger minstrel tradition it arose from. And that’s what brings us back to White Christmas where this song and so many other are scrubbed of their racial and formerly racist context.

First, a detour. Minstrel shows and blackface arose first among white performers in the 1830s and involved those white performers painting their faces in caricatures of black slaves. They had their own tropes, stock characters, jokes, and musical language. Black performers eventually joined in these performances as well, and their versions often sought to subvert and mock the stereotypes in these shows.

While Minstrel shows themselves fell out of popularity in the 20th century, blackface persisted and so did the many tropes and stereotypes from those minstrel days, such as “Mamie” characters, or the visuals of a black or blackface character wearing white gloves (see: Mickey Mouse). We still live with minstrel relics in our culture – White Christmas being just one of them. The fading of these shows from the scene led some to be nostalgic for them, including a younger Irving Berlin.

the minstrel nuber in white christmas with clooney, crosby and kaye

Clooney, Kaye and Crosby look back fondly on the minstrel days they miss.

Now, back to White Christmas. Remember a few paragraphs back when I told you about Irving Berlin’s time in the army in WWI? Well, that was before he had ever heard of talking pictures or contemplated Al Jolson (who gets a shoutout in White Christmas) singing about a “Mamie” on screen, but blackface and minstrelry were part of his cultural vocabulary so much even then that he wrote several numbers for his all-soldier army revue that were either about or influenced by minstrel shows and one of those songs was “Mandy” and the so-called “Minstrel Number” that eventually made it into White Christmas nearly four decades later.

While “Mandy” is innocuous when taken alone, the number in White Christmas that proceeds it, when Crosby, Kaye, and Clooney sing of their longing for “The Minstrel days we miss” is more complicated taken in context. The three leads singing so fondly about shows that were just so funny seems quaint…until you realize they’re lamenting the loss of a racist, harmful artform that went out of style half a century before.

It was nostalgic racism in 1917, and maybe made more sense then, but just it’s just weird in 1953. If you don’t know what a minstrel show is, the song is perfectly fine…but if you do, its a very weird thing to hear in a musical that is otherwise pretty far removed from minstrelry. But that’s because White Christmas is a showcase for Berlin songs that were sort of stitched together from everywhere, including other far more problematic properties.

White Christmas is what we’d essentially call a jukebox musical nowadays. Most of the songs were not written for the movie, and it’s just a tour through decades of Irving Berlin’s music, including many songs he wrote when he was in the army because White Christmas is about a pair of WWII veterans. Many of the army related songs we hear in the show are from the same revue – called Yip Yip Yaphank – that “Mandy” comes from while others are repurposed from the 1943 movie Holiday Inn, where the song “White Christmas” was first heard on screen.

gee i wish i was back in the army in white christmas

One of many army-centric numbers repurposed for White Christmas.

The idea to make a movie based on the song “White Christmas” itself, which already had been featured in a movie, might have been a cash grab that came from the fact that the song became such a touchstone for soldiers serving in World War II (Bing Crosby talks about how singing it for the troops was a deeply emotional experience, one that’s recaptured in the film). But I like to think it also might have to do with the fact that, while White Christmas isn’t a really racist film…Holiday Inn certainly is.

Holiday Inn stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and is about a hotel that’s only open on Holidays (which seems dumb) and they start scraping the barrel for holiday songs really fast. The worst offender by far though it the super-racist “Abraham” number which is about Lincoln freeing the slaves. The number is not only performed by Bing Crosby in blackface (along with the band and dancers), there’s a section where the Mamie character (that’s her actual character name!) sings a verse to her kids…in the kitchen. A song where white people in blackface and a black family that’s kept in the kitchen praise a white man for freeing the “darkies?” It’s appalling to watch now.

This song, like other racially icky songs, is actually used in White Christmas in a non-racist way. We actually hear “Abraham” only in an instrumental version as Vera Ellen dances her tail off. The racist parts of it aren’t there. The same is true of the minstrel number, which has only the slightest hint of minstrel or blackface imagery in the caricatures we see on some of the backdrops. The same goes for “Blue Skies” which is just a brief song we here in a montage. Much of what was problematic has been removed from these songs – except their history.

vera ella and john brascia in white christmas

The “Abraham” number in White Christmas is purely a dance break.

White Christmas might as well be called White-washed Christmas because it does sweep so many elements of its songs that were used in racist ways in the past under the rug. But is that okay? Having “Blue Skies,” “Mandy” and “Abraham” in the film as they are is certainly better than the way they were presented in other movies and shows; and without context, they’re fine songs. “Blue Skies” in particular only gained racist associations with blackface after it became popular. But the past use of these songs in associations with minstrelsy and blackface also can’t be erased.

I don’t think there’s an answer here, only a conversation. White Christmas is a classic movie that I love and its music is iconic in many ways. But it’s important to understand the cultural context of the movie and the music to see where it fits in a larger, longer story of American culture and race. The same goes for Irving Berlin himself, who was part of a larger American cultural tradition that was suffused with racism, and he did his part both to perpetuate and subvert it.

“White Christmas” – the song, is the most popular song of all time and it was written by a Jewish man during the summer in California. Every movie and song and piece of art has a story, it’s not always merry and bright. But it always matters.

(images: Paramount Pictures)

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WorldMaker
107 days ago
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This is a conversation I find fascinating. My mom loves White Christmas and its one of the ones I enjoy revisiting each year. Because of that and half-remembering it being nearly as good, my mom got a copy of Holiday Inn and it is such a teachable moment of a period in time. It’s interesting in how much it probably knowingly straddled that line in trying its best to divorce the context that made Holiday Inn made only several years before feel so racist. The camera in White Christmas makes what feels to a modern audience as a long lingering shot of the board announcing that the Minstrel Show/Mandy piece was a “Dress Rehearsal / No Makeup”. Based on other shots in the film it’s so lingering simply that Hollywood directors had a different count on how long audiences need to read words on the screen from modern times. But that shot and it’s odd feeling of being too long remains in the film as a teachable moment, a place and a reason to have this conversation, why it was important (and thus incredibly fortunate to posterity) that those songs in this particular film were “just a dress rehearsal”, that no one was in makeup. You can see the full production in all its black face cringe inducing “glory” in Holiday Inn if you wish. As much as White Christmas avoids the direct racism there’s still at least that one lingering shot to give a space for the conversation of changing mores over the decades and there’s a reason why no one actually misses the “Minstrel Shows of old” like the song suggests we might, because hopefully we better recognize how problematic they were.

(Which is a modern topic again today in the “cancellation” era drama. Do we sing about the stuff we cancel or do we embrace we canceled it for a reason or do we try for some sort of weird middle ground such as this where we leave room for the conversation so we don’t forget why we canceled it decades later?)
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