Dec 20, 2017

While writing comment on another site, I accidentally came up with what I think is a pretty good definition of "gimmick", since the internet tends to throw the term around with wild abandon.

A storyteller that likes getting paid should do things that make the audience want to come back for more. A gimmick is when you do something that win in the short term, but is ultimately burning your audience as they tire of it.

The linked article talks about one of JJ Abram's go-to gimmicks. It's a good one that has carried him quite far, but it's ultimately a gimmick as people figure out that the answer to the questions that his stories pose is "There is no answer, and in fact, whatever you think it is, it's not that."

That latter clause in particular is not only gimmicky, but kinda a jerk move. When watching an ongoing series, the Internet as a whole will propose every sensible possibility, every crazy possibility, every wish-fullfillment possibility, and every out-right stupid possibility. If what is truly going to happen isn't in the set of things the Internet is guessing, you'd better have a really good reason, or otherwise, that is a strong signal that you have screwed up and written a dumb story, if nobody at all could guess what was coming next. You don't want 100% of the audience to be able to guess, but you also don't want to be writing stories where 0% of the audience guessed.

Motion controls for games are often referred to as "gimmicks", but using this metric we can distinguish some differences. Motion controls that are replacements for button presses are gimmicks. Nifty at first, but eventually the game instinctive notices the lower precision and higher latency of the motion control, and begins to hate it. Motion controls that use the continuous, physical nature of motion controls to do something that requires it is not a gimmick. I find even years later, using them to aim, or steer cars in Mario Kart, is still a superior control method, sometimes even the best commonly-available method.

The best test for a gimmick is time. If you want to go back to it a couple of years later, it's probably not a gimmick. If the fad rises, burns across the landscape, and then fades with hardly a trace (found footage movies, for instance), it's a gimmick.

Aging in the 21st Century
May 05, 2017

It's abstract to think about how one will someday be old and feeble, but as I was filtering over some spam a moment ago, it occurred to me that someday, my children will have to take away my email because I won't be able to properly process Mr. Al-Amin Dagash's email titled REQUEST FOR A LEGITIMATE BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP.

Now that's a sobering thought.

Feb 01, 2016

Around about 1998, I was talking to my electronic music teacher and ethused about the day that would come when we could put, say, everything Mozart ever did on a single cube, holding my fingers up in the air separated by about an inch. "You know, not everything Mozart did was great." "No, I get it, I just mean him as someone who put out a lot of stuff. Everything the Beatles ever did would work, too."

Silly me. I thought it would take a cube.

For $3, you can get the Big Mozart Box and for another $1, the complete Mozart symphonies. This clocks in at approximately 2.6GB of reasonable quality MP3s. (Not the bestest possible, but certainly pretty good.) It's not everything he did, I don't think, so let's call it 4GB total. That's a mere 1/32nd of a 128GB SD card, which is very much an areal storage device and not a cubic one.

In other news, if you've been inclined to buff your classical music collection, it turns out to be really cheap to just buy the MP3s, even if you've already got Amazon prime.

Jan 21, 2016

The generation gap just isn't what it used to be.

A couple of weeks ago I watched this video, a weird lip-sync riff on Star Wars. Fine. A moment's amusement, sure, and on I click.

Two days later I went to a birthday party with my kids, and as the older kids were running around I hear one of the 12-year-olds murmuring the lyrics of this song to himself.

Meanwhile, what are they playing on the computer? Minecraft. I play Minecraft on my tablet too. Maybe not as much, but, still.

Did I hear an acronym or slang term I don't understand? Pop out the smartphone, 5 seconds on Google, "oh, yeah, that makes sense".

The generation gap just isn't what it used to be.

Dec 13, 2015

In the last few years, there's a really good metric for "movie will be bad" that I've noticed: If Subway gets the license for their kids meals, it's not going to be a very good movie.

I first noticed this when Subway got the Brave movie license. By then Pixar had repeatedly fooled me with trailers that didn't seem all that great, but turned into fantastic movies, so even though the Brave trailers didn't wow me, I was open-minded about it. But then Subway got the license, so I put off viewing it. It turned out to be the almost worst Pixar movie to that point, though it narrowly beat the previous year's Cars 2 on metacritic. And I still haven't seen it. (Or Monsters University or The Good Dinosaur.)

Why do I mention this? Well... guess what license Subway has now? Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (That link will rapidly decay, of course, so you'll have to take my word for it in the future.)

That's... uhh... surprising... and probably not a good sign. Personally I'm generally with "Plinkett" on the Star Trek movies that J. J. Abrams made; certainly very fun, felt like a demo reel for Star Wars more than Star Trek. As long as I didn't try to pretend it was Star Trek, it's at least fine entertainment. So I actually expected the new Star Wars to turn out OK.

But the Subway Movie Metric says it's not going to be good. Well... time will tell. I won't call this a "prediction", but it's at least something to keep an eye on.

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