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Friday Fun Thread for January 6, 2023

Be advised: this thread is not for serious in-depth discussion of weighty topics (we have a link for that), this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

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Has anyone tracked down the origin of the odd phrases that liberal news outlets and institutions like to use? I'm thinking of terms like "racial reckoning," "Christian Nationalism," "the Big Lie," and "national conversation about race;" they're stilted and people don't seem to use them IRL but are nevertheless quite common on places like the front page of Reddit. "Christian Nationalism" in particular looked especially astroturfed, it was all over the news last summer with no apparent trigger and then disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. (Google Trends can confirm this.)

I suspect the spread of catchphrases like this are coordinated through something like JournoList or a foundation. If anyone has information about this I'd be interested to read it.

It’s more exciting if there’s a coordinated effort, but within publications via Slack and industry wide via Twitter, the media is now more connected to one another than they were, before. It’s a lot easier for this terminology to spread, and does not necessarily require a premeditated, coordinated effort.

"National conversation about race" dates to the Clinton Administration, when he called for just that.

"Christian nationalism" is a standard term for, well, Christian nationalism, just as Kurdish nationalism is the standard term for Kurdish nationalism and Zionism is the term for Jewish nationalism. As for why it was in the news, people like Marjorie Taylor Greene explicitly said this summer that she is a Christian nationalist, and several other candidates, including Doug Mastriano made campaign statements which seemed to be geared to appealing to Christian nationalists, such as criticizing the separation of church and state. So it is not too surprising that interest in the term surged in the summer of an election year.

It's conspiracy theory territory. I mean this approvingly, but that means you're not going to see much evidence of it barring some extremely unlikely circumstances, like a JournoList leak that you cite, Twitter Files, and orgs telling on themselves in an attempt to advertise.

I get the whiff of neurolinguistic programming from this. Calling Trump’s electoral fraud claims “the big lie” covers up for the variety of Big Lies the media proliferated: the pee tape, the dossier, the Russian connection. These were lies so flagrant and absurd, who would ever think to make up such a lie? This is the way the term was used by Hitler, and is not actually applicable to Trump’s electoral claims (in which it’s a reasonable thing to lie about). The idea is that the phrase acts as a linguistic revision in the viewer’s mind.

“Racial reckoning” is similar: it’s not about actually reckoning who owes what — there’s no calculation, no doing the math. The phrase is used to prevent the viewer’s mind from actually thinking about reckoning on race (tax input/output, productivity, who is owed what). So they say “racial reckoning”, then the media quickly points this phrase at emotional stories. This prevents the viewer from considering the actual avenue of thought regarding making a judgment on race.

The national conversation on race is similar. There is no such conversation, and they don’t want one. They don’t want you as a white person actually conversing nationally about your race. So they say “national conversation”, then they use this cue to point to what’s actually the passive listening to whatever these handpicked coastal pundits are saying. Again, the strategy is just to prevent you from considering what the phrase means divorced from what the pundits associate it with repetitively in their monologues.

So I don’t know, I’d look at the ADL and SPLC

white expat kids in Asia typically turn out very badly and entitled

Could you expand on this and why it particularly affects the white population?

I never thought I'd see a Pro/Con for NYC with "friendlier" in the Pro column, but I suppose it makes sense from an international perspective (NYC is routinely rated the least friendly city in the US).


Helena, Montana

I had a loft in the small downtown area which was sweet and the businesses threw tons of events. Free parking and rent was under $500.


Terre Haute, Indiana.

Steve Martin was right. Aside from college basketball it was a pretty boring place.

I really liked it, cheap, friendly citizens.

It was small, but if you weren't picky about what there was usually something happening if the weather was at least ok. The buildings and old homes were pretty nice, in the copper kings era it was a very wealthy place.

Winters sucked, but the other months were very pleasant.

It seemed like a good place to raise kids, probably less so if their interests are very specialized.

COPENHAGEN COWBOY is on Netflix, and I watched the first episode last night. I really like the emphasis on visuals. It's in Danish with English subtitles, and I think that makes me focus more on what's going on visually rather than literally. The story is interesting to me as well. I recommend it.

So I finally ended up watching Arcane after seeing many glowing reviews. I kept putting it off because "League of Legends spinoff" didn't sound particularly appealing on a cursory-level inspection, and the fact that Imagine Dragons was used for the opening credits track turned me off even further. And some of the talk surrounding this show made me worry quite a bit about it being woke.

I'm glad to say, though, that it's really good. I spent most of Act 1 smugly thinking I had the show pinned down, only to have my expectations brutally upended in Episode 3. And this is a rare example of subversion of expectations done properly, where everything is subtly set up and foreshadowed beforehand, and as a result it doesn't feel like a massive "fuck you, eat shit" to the audience. Watching Powder's lovable-underdog-that-proves-herself character arc be excruciatingly turned upside down in Act 1 felt less like having the rug unceremoniously pulled from underneath me and more like watching a trainwreck in slow motion - I had suspicions of where the writers might bring it once she came up with her plan to help her family, but didn't think they would take it to such a dark place.

As for the characters, they're well done and subtly written, and very morally gray. Many of the characters are pursuing their own aims derived from their own sense of "greater good", and are often willing to throw away some principles in the service of their vision (some, more than others). It doesn't particularly seem to push a specific moral viewpoint on the viewer, too - the characters' motivations for doing things are very simply and impartially presented, and whether their actions are justified or not is left up to the audience to decide. Speaking of subversion done properly, there's a character (Silco) who's introduced early on in Act 1 as the clear villain of the show, who has a fucking pet Dunkleosteus and regurgitates lines about how "power comes to those who will do anything to get it". The show drip-feeds you his motivations and slowly reveals his humanity over the next two acts, and it's finessed so well that it doesn't feel cheap, it feels earned. I ended up thinking some characters were utterly irredeemable, but still came away immensely sympathising with them and their perspective anyway.

The animation and voice acting is also incredibly effective in bringing the characters to life. Everything from Powder's breakdowns and Jinx's psychotic episodes to Vi's increasingly desperate attempts to appeal to her sister are just so well conveyed. Admittedly there is a slight bit of a Tumblr aesthetic to some of the character designs, but it is a League of Legends spinoff so I can't really fault them too much on this.

I do have some critiques. Firstly, while this is clearly a matter of personal aesthetic preference I still contend that the usage of music in the show leaves much to be desired. As nitpicky as this sounds, this might be my biggest issue with the show - music plays a huge role in setting tone. While the ambient soundtrack works very well, the actual songs featured in the show utilise a lot of very trendy and overproduced pop vocal performances (which I have no love for). They don't sound as if they fit into the world of the show well, and they really broke me out of my immersion sometimes. Probably the most egregiously awful usage of music in the show is an absolutely laughable scene with an Imagine Dragons cameo which I really think should've been cut. There are a few exceptions, for example the song "Our Love" is used in the end of Episode 2 to great effect, and despite being made for the show it's such a nice pastiche of '70s motown that if it weren't for the crystal clear production and sound quality you could definitely trick me into thinking it was of that time. It's a good song in and of itself too, I just wish I could say the same for most of the other songs utilised in the show.

There's also a bit of an issue with the season being a bit frontloaded, in the sense that you get surprised in the first act and a lot of the rest of the season is seeing the characters trying to deal with the downstream consequences of the events of Act 1. The rest of the season is fantastic as well, don't get me wrong, and the season finale delivers a particularly effective piece of writing, but I never got a gut punch nearly as strong as what was delivered in the first three episodes.

Regardless of these criticisms, though, Arcane is a very strong showing of writing and characterisation, and I'm definitely in for a Season 2.

Sounds like you would have liked it less if you actually knew League a little - everyone knows Jinx as a crazy murderhobo, so there was no subversion since you would expect some traumatic event to create her.

Sekiro and Demon Souls are considered the most difficult sword/adventure games. What are some of the most difficult games in other genres: puzzles, RPGs, survival?

Baba is You in the puzzle category, no contest.

Ever play those crappy motorcycle flash games that sort of maybe that but not really simulated the suspensions? Well the grand daddy of them all was a Hungarian game called Elastomania, released all the way back in 2000. You'd play the first few levels, thinking you actually got the hang of it, before being asked to squeeze in between narrow corridors, or perfectly time a midair rotation to catch a lip of terrain with your wheel (that the body of the motorcycle magically phases though). And finally you'd watch a replay where all the stunts your thought impossible are perfectly executed and quit the game in shame.

Are you familiar with Dwarf Fortress?

Regarding RPGs, many old-school roguelikes probably count. Ancient Domains of Mystery is one.

Dwarf fortress isn't that difficult unless you pick a deliberately harsh zone (with aquifers). It's just has an impenetrably bad UI. At least it used to, now there's a steam release with a more polished and pretty UI, and I'm looking forward to try!

Well now we get into the territory of "what does difficult mean".

I'm making the distinction between a hard to control game and a hard game where you know the controls.

To learn the controls is to spend a couple of afternoons on the wiki and learning key sequences to rival vim's, as well as memorizing what some of the characters mean in the odd and low resolution display. Once we're past that we get to the actual game.

My point is the fact that Dwarf Fortress has a reputation for being hard strikes me as odd. The game is involves managing an incresingly large populations of citizens that sort of have free wills, but will mostly execute the tasks that you ask of them. The game is quite forgiving with things like food abundance and storage. It's easy enough to train an army in DF that's effectively unstoppable, in RM it's a struggle from start to finish as gunfights get constantly harder.

By contrast RM is much easier to pick up and understand what's going on the screen. The lack of a z axis helps. However it's a harder game because acquiring, cooking and keeping food fresh is a struggle. Gunfights are always tricky as the enemies get harder as your colonists get better guns. In DF you're fighting goblins with trash bronze weapons or elves with wooden ones, fodder for the smelters!

To get some extra difficulty there's a literal hell deep below but getting to that point is a test of patience as the game gets inevitably slower, multiplied by your ambitious projects requiring more labour. All single threaded of course so all your fancy newfangled 60 core processor can do is remind you of Amdahl's law.

I can’t help but pedantically point out that Demon’s Souls is prob the easiest Soulsborne game, except maybe DS1. Elden Ring has to be the most difficult, followed be Sekiro.

I'd put path of exile up for difficult ARPG but you need to define difficulty somewhat strangely. It is the type of game the most knowledgeable and skilled players will take down the Uber bosses on a fresh economy in a couple days and you may not take them down in months. But that might not even by your goal and the moment to moment combat isn't that hard, the difficulty is knowing all of the different systems both in gearing your character/allocating your passive points in a tree that looks like this complete with items you can socket into the tree to change how it works as well as strategize about how you generate the gear/currency/crafting/boss fight invitations necessary to take down the big bosses.

EVE Online for MMOs

Eve is probably the best tool ever created for teaching comparative advantage.

For puzzle games, probably Zachtronics games if you don't have a background in programming/engineering. I guess a lot of 90s adventure games may count, insofar as they have hidden "puzzles" that are basically impossible to reason your way through and will softlock your progress if you don't get them right.

For strategy, an operational level game like Command Ops 2, which sees you as a commander in a number of WW2 battles. It has a ton of variables and simulation, of course (forests increase the indirect damage from artillery because the splinters from exploding trees act as extra shrapnel), but the main thrust of the game is that it's an actual strategy game. Instead of microing your little dudes on the map, you give orders to NATO icons on a top-down map representing companies. Your orders take time to reach your companies, and then take a little extra time to trickle down to everyone in the company, and then it takes a little bit of extra time for your companies to reorganize and gear up for the order. It's real-time and you're grappling with imperfect information and the simulated clunkiness of giving orders in war, so the game is basically one big exercise in the OODA Loop

A lot of people bounce off Zachtronics games, but the ones I've stuck with I've beaten, and I don't have a programming background. I don't go that far into the postgame puzzles, though.

(Zachtronics games are also games that I continually have a craving to return and play, but they're not really games you can dip in and out of.)

Xcom terror from the deep is quite difficult because there was a bug in the original game where the difficulty setting didn't actually change anything and there were many complaints the game was way too easy, and they fixed the bug and made the next game much harder.

I can never read the og XCOM bug list without cracking up. It's just so bad, and yet the game was amazing.

Do you have a link?

If you have an hour or six to read through them:

The specific one he was talking about was

The DOS version has a problem where no matter what difficulty level you choose, it will revert to "Beginner" level after the first mission. This is caused by one incorrectly set bit in all DOS versions of the game (1.0 through to 1.4).

But my favorite was the one where there was an entire radar UI that just didn't do anything. Building 10 radars would give no better detection than 1, except for filling up a meaningless detection bar.

The bugs in incendiaries and smoke might take first place if I could even understand them. And I don't even want to think about all the weird mind control glitches that led to disappearing soldiers and penalties for aliens dying like they were your own guys.

In some early versions I think soldiers could overflow their exp counter and level up into useless gibbering retards with their stats at 0.

Iirc there's a bug in the "going berserk" panic code where their action points underflow the counter and they get 255 actions to automatically shoot at any aliens in line of sight until their magazine is empty. Which is fucking awesome and I love that it's a feature.

I'm not sure this is exhaustive, but there's a long list here.

It's also easy to find games which can be set to extremely high difficulty, but the difficulty is always purely artificial, because it doesn't rely on making the computer-controlled enemies better at the game or making the scenario more complex, it simply makes the enemies stronger (impossibly so, given the ostensible rules and the narrative) while handicapping the player's units.

I never really got this complaint. Depending on how the game mechanics are set up, it may not be reasonable for the AI to be 'improved', and it's not even always the case that good AI makes the game harder. In addition, many games presume or establish asymmetry between the player and the enemy to begin with. In most FPS titles, for example, the player is usually vastly outnumbered by the enemy, but enemies are individually weaker and usually only have a single gun to work with.

Or creating an RPG character that's a dog's breakfast of classes and features that could not possibly make sense narratively, but allows for all sort of insane synergies that are possible because the makers of the game couldn't possibly have tested all the combinations of 8 races and 30 classes, each with a dozen different abilities. And characters like that are the only way to beat some of the "optional bosses" that no party that would be legal in a table-top game could ever hope to defeat.

I think stuff like this is fun, though. Isn't the point of high difficulty to force the player out of cookie-cutter builds and force them to explore the wider space of different options and combinations? Isn't that a form of 'mastery' too?

If the game is so hard that Pun-Pun nonsense-jank is necessary to beat it, then it isn't encouraging people to explore a wider space of options. Everything converges on the one broken nonsense build, and "cookie-cutter" archetypical builds become, perversely, rarer. everyone is a GensaiWarlockPaladin

My typical self-imposed challenge in RPGs is to find a sub-system or strategy or archetype that I LIKE or isnt used by Power builds and make it work anyways.

I never really got this complaint.

I don't mind loing to a strong chess engine, but I don't care to play a weak engine that is strong because it has two queens. The same is true for other strategy games. I want the computer to use the same options as the player not have a bigger economy/free troops etc that it mostly wastes. Also, many free resource games become gigantic slogs toward the end when the only sane option is pointing every resource toward the threat and the computer is sending an army that the player couldn't make in 20 turns every other turn. Not usually hard to beat, just quite full because you're beating the same army in similar ways to finish a game that was "over" some time ago.

Well, that's mostly the issue of asymmetric games pretending to be symmetric. In better designed games, the asymmetry is explicit and both the advantages and limitations of the AI are built around instead of the game pretending they don't exist.

And the second problem isn't really fundamentally caused by the asymmetry, it's caused by bad victory conditions. Plenty of strategy games become gigantic slogs by endgame when played in multiplayer as well. Which is why nearly all multiplayer matches in Starcraft or Civ end in forfeits.

I Wanna be The Guy for platformers.

Small Sample Size Heuristics Thread

I'm looking for rules you use in your day to day, that are based on tiny, statistically useless observed sample sizes. Obviously probably coincidence, but at the same time you saw it multiple times and you can't stop thinking it must be true. Somewhere between the "If I had a nickel for every time... ; I'd have two nickels" meme and an actually valuable observation. Stuff where it's not enough to actually judge anything, but it is enough that it sticks out to you.

-- If someone drives a late model Nissan or Dodge* other than an SRT Challenger/Charger, Z, or maybe a Frontier; I subconsciously assume they're not all that bright, have poor financial literacy, or make impulsive decisions. Partly based on those brands having historically flexible credit terms for sub-prime customers (the Journey is a meme in /r/askcarsales), partly based on their generally lower quality than competitors, mostly based on experience.

-- If your wife is Asian-American and has a CCW, she's cheating on you.

-- I will never recommend to any woman that she date a man who drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon. Not always bad guys to hang out and drink with, but never marriage material.

-- White sportsball players who get called students of the game at the draft will almost always underperform in the pros. If you're already getting called out for brains over brawn in college, you just don't have the horsepower to hang with the big dogs, while the athletic freaks can often learn the unathletic lunchpail guys rarely get bigger.

-- Politicians that the media calls stupid will always outplay politicians the media calls brilliant. Dubya, Obama, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Joe Biden. The list goes on and on.

What are yours?

*Excluding Ram Trucks, which were split off as a brand anyway circa the recession era Chrysler issues. I understand those are lovely, though I've never owned one.

Not white but I’ve been keeping an eye on Thomas Booker in terms of students of the game. He could have held his own as an NFL D-line coach coming out of Stanford at 22. Was only a fifth-round pick, so the Texans’ expectations weren’t more than rotational player. Also, guys that play as a 4/4i tend to do the dirty work so their teammates can put up stats. But rooting for him to develop.

Is hockey exempted because it’s mostly white? If not, when Kirill Kaprizov was drafted he was seen as crafty and undersized. Turns out he’s sufficiently crafty to compensate.

Is hockey exempted because it’s mostly white?

I'm not familiar with Hockey or how it plays into it. I would probably expect the opposite: for Black or Mexican players to get overrated because the league desperately wants a minority player to point to. Generally speaking, I mentally downgrade my expectations for most white prospects in Basketball-Football-Baseball because the demand for white sports heroes has outstripped the supply for basically a century now if you count Boxing (which, ironically, came back around to a decent number of white champions just in time for it to become culturally irrelevant). The "student of the game" thing is just icing on the cake really, but it tracks as an "intangible" that people will hang on a player they value for emotional reasons.

Hockey has similar rules to soccer and baseball in terms of the field of play — there are minimum and maximum rink width and length requirements but not one, standardized official rink size. The NHL rinks as a whole skew toward the smaller end of those tolerances.

Bigger rinks favor speed and smaller rinks favor strength, not that both aren’t broadly useful. So, smaller players aren’t always given their due by NHL teams. The 5’10” Kaprizov wound up on the Wild’s radar when a flight delay prompted some of their scouts to check out a Metallurg Novokuznetsk game in which Kaprizov was playing given they were stuck in Russia for another night. He would go on to sign the largest contract extension for a second-year player in NHL history.

The only exception to the student of the game one, I can think of is probably Peyton Manning, depending on whether you count overall career or post season only.

Manning was still a highly-rated physical prospect relative to a pocket passer — 6’5”, 230 pounds and a legit pro arm as a young man.

Drew Brees would be a better shout. 6’0” and seen as a system QB at Purdue, which pushed him down into the second round.

An opposite sex clerk at the ice cream parlor will give you more ice cream than a same sex clerk. Works for both sexes. Dunno why, but it's been true in a large majority of cases I've observed.

Similarly, you want the same sex to serve you at the electronics store - all my guy friends complain women csrs treat them like they would rather get fired than have to serve them, and my girl friends complain that the men talk down to them.

Vicky, Vivian, violet... You're on to something, old chap.

If your wife is Asian-American and has a CCW, she's cheating on you.

This is the most mysterious one. Is it because she’s promiscuous and carrying in case her extramarital dates go wrong?

I have no idea, can't even speculate probable causation. Just something I've noticed. Every Asian girl I've known who carried a pistol was unfaithful.

If your wife is Asian-American and has a CCW, she's cheating on you.

What's a CCW? Concealed carry weapon? Close-combat weapon? Counter-clockwise something?

Concealed Carry Weapon. Used colloquially to refer to the act, the permit, the firearm itself.

Who is she cheating on you with? Someone from her Realtors' class?

My friend, if I ever marry a woman who is, was, or will ever be a realtor; please doxx me, find me, and put a bullet in the back of my head. Act of mercy.

If a Great Pyrenees is walking suspiciously while giving you side-eye she has something in her mouth

I think that's any dog, lol.

As a counterpoint to the lackluster movie reviewed just below, Violent Night was surprisingly good. I took the kids to see it as their first R-rated movie, and we ended up liking it so much I bought it On Demand, and watched it another half dozen times over the holidays.

The movie itself is like a tongue-in-cheek mashup of Die Hard, Home Alone and Bad Santa. It was the best execution of a dumb concept I can think of. The script was surprisingly tight, and basically everyone on screen went above and beyond with the material they had to work with, especially David Harbour and John Leguizamo.

IMO, the acting by everybody, except David, John, and the little girl, was sub-par. Beverly D'Angelo was rough to look at, but I guess she suited the character. Other than that, this was a great movie. I kind of wanted more of Santa's origins, but maybe we'll get a sequel. Though I hope a sequel doesn't become 'we have to find even more violent, over-the-top ways to kill people' because that will wear thin quickly.

Like you said, the script was tight. Should easily become a classic. I wonder if it'll get cut down to a PG/PG-13 for television.

I thought almost all the supporting cast walked a fine line between hammy and caricature and playing it straight that really worked for that kind of absurdist dark comedy. The only real exception was Alexis Louder, but her character was closer to being the straight man contrast to everyone else.

I recently saw Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, Guy Ritchie's latest film. I had reasonably high expectations going into the film. Not that it would be high art or anything, but I thought it would be a fun action spy film in the vein of Mission: Impossible, with a pretty star studded cast. I left pretty disappointed. The film was incredibly mediocre, although not completely awful. I would say Guy Ritchie has lost his touch, but in hindsight now looking at Guy Ritchie's more recent filmography has been less than stellar. Some spoilers ahead.

The film was more or less trying to follow the formula of a film like Mission: Impossible albeit in a more tongue-in-cheek, more humorous way, but it fell short at basically every hurdle and failed to form anything cohesive. Jason Statham was Jason Statham, more or less doing what you expect, though I felt the film misused Statham, and forced him into the role of playing comedic foil to some of the comic relief characters which doesn't really work. Statham is there to punch people and deliver one-liners, he's not a comedic actor. Aubrey Plaza was awful, playing the primary comedic relief in the film while also being the spy-damsel-seductress while also being the team tech expert. Granted, I don't like her brand of frankly juvenile humour to begin with but this film it felt particularly bad, with her delivering constant sexual innuendos to her male-costars that would never be allowed to fly today if a male actor was delivering it to his female costar. Josh Hartnett's performance as the "fish-out-of-water civilian recruited into spy team" was acceptable, but heavily let down by the mediocre script that did nothing with the character. Cary Elwes plays exposition-man "M" type role and minor comic relief, there's nothing really to say. Basically the only standout performance was Hugh Grant's performance as a sleazy, creepy, yet charismatic British arms dealer (although it's kind of weird how they just make in kind of a good guy in the end unearned). Grant's performance honestly carries much of the film, and his character was just fun to watch on screen, even if the script went nowhere. All other minor roles were unremarkable, except I would say that Bugzy Malone, playing the supporting role as the team's 'henchman' field support or whatever. Not a lot of lines, but he played it well.

It's hard to describe exactly why the film and script failed, but everything just felt off. It felt like I was watching a first draft of a script that somehow actually made it into production. To give one example of how I think the film fails in trying to be a MI like spy film, at the start of the film we get the obligatory "we need to a team to deal with issue" scene to introduce the characters (We need Orson Fortune, he's the best!). Whereas in better films this would cut then to our star at the end of some other mission to introduce his character (like in Mission Impossible, or in Indiana Jones, or Bond or countless other films), instead we just get a scene of Cary Elwes in Jason Statham's hotel room trying to get him to come off holiday early with some not-so-witty banter. That's it. No action scene (talk about misusing Statham!).

There are plot threads that go nowhere - Statham's team has some rivalry with other ops team that goes nowhere and is meaningless - most characters are bland and uninteresting, are poorly introduced and have no character development. For example, Josh Hartnett's character, a Hollywood star who is recruited (blackmailed to join) the team as their "in" to get access to Hugh Grant's character. In better films, Hartnett's character would have a proper character arc, where he's an arrogant and selfish Hollywood star that only cares about himself and his wellbeing, to the end of the film where he becomes a true member of the team and asks when the next mission is. Except... they kind of forget to do that second part, and he just goes back to being the same, goofball Hollywood star except a bit less arrogant. It's what I mean but when I can see the film is trying to follow the formula of action spy films but drops the ball. They even managed mess up the MacGuffin, we don't even know what the MacGuffin actually is until 3/4 through the movie, and even when we do find out it's completely meaningless, the MacGuffin is so MacGuffin to the plot you can basically just substitute any big bad weapon or whatever, I was so uninvested in the plot. Action scenes has very little tension, the protagonists either managed to either easily defeat 30 guys, or lose to 2 guys. There were no really awesome tense scenes like Mission Impossible's cable drop scene, or MI:2's vent drop scene. There were also actual plot holes in the film, where arms dealer Hugh Grant wants to be paid his commission in currency... when it turns out the MacGuffin is a AI that the villains are going to use to crash the global financial system while they have hoarded gold to make themselves rich (Hugh Grant is literally assisting in deal that will wipe out his wealth). The film end quite abruptly. I was expecting some major twist and final fight at the end of the film, but it just never happens. It honestly felt like there was like 10-15 minutes missing from the end of the film.

The last thing to mention (and Culture War related) is that some of the villains in the film are Ukrainian, the film was reportedly reedited after the war broke out in Ukraine to be 'sensitive to current events', just as the film was nearly ready for release. It's hard to know for certain but it's very possible that large parts of the film were butchered because of this, and this new edit ruined much of the film. Still, even if that's true I think the film would still be pretty mediocre regardless.

In better films, Hartnett's character would have a proper character arc, where he's an arrogant and selfish Hollywood star that only cares about himself and his wellbeing, to the end of the film where he becomes a true member of the team and asks when the next mission is.

Or played it like he's super eager to be a spy, which leads to the comedy, and Statham plays the straight man.

I haven't seen the film (and don't plan to), but I wonder if it'd have been better if they made Aubrey Plaza the Hollywood star, have her eager to be part of the spy thing, she's over-the-top with being sexual/seductive, and then it allows her juvenile humour to shine.

he's not a comedic actor.

Clearly you have not seen Spy. He can deliver deadpan humor very well.

Yeah, he carried that film. That's around when Melissa McCarthy had gone full Chris Farley, relying far too much on physical humour and stupidity.

So last week there was a big scrap about the movie RRR which devolved into massive texts about the merits/pathologies of Indian intellectuals and the nature of colonialism and whatnot.

All a bit boring. But it made me realise that I have never come across an Indian movie that didn’t seem rather childish in its acting, humour and scenario before. Perhaps except White Tiger.

Any suggestions for Indian movies to check out?

The Apu Trilogy films are considered classics.

What was the new science on a pill for losing weight? Might be helping a friend with losing a lot of weight.

Are you thinking of semaglutide? It's something Scott wrote about in the past. It's a drug originally meant for treating diabetes (type B I think) but has the nice side effect of gradual, long term weight loss. It's also not addictive, unlike other drugs sometimes prescribed for weight loss, e.g. amphetamines. I for one wish to try it.

Anyone have any recommendations for good Wifi enabled speakers? I have a couple Sonos units but they are glitchy as hell. Would like something less frustrating.

You may have better luck buying wired speakers and a dongle, if you have somewhere to hide it? Most wireless speakers I've seen have terrible audio quality for the price.

I like AirPlay - you can get an old AirPort Express pretty cheap - but if you're on PC/Android you can probably find an old Chromecast Audio on eBay.

I've never heard of such things, any idea how they work? Does your audio driver sink in some kind of UDP stream directed at the speakers? If so the problem could be along the network. Does it get worse if either the speakers or the sound source (laptop?) get nearly out of range of the access point/router, or if there are a lot of devices connected to the same (causing a lot of collisions)?

Mostly they work by having an app on your phone direct the speaker to some internet feed by tying into services like Spotify or podcasts. They also tend to support using them more like a normal speaker via AirPlay (requires Apple phone/laptop)... and they probably have a similar way to do RTSP from other devices? Probably some support Bluetooth as well, although then you're using it as a Bluetooth speaker, not a Wi-Fi one.

Not sure what jeroboam is actually using them for or what aspect they find glitchy.

You're suggesting the wifi speakers are given a request to start downloading and playing a stream, as opposed to directly playing the audio stream off some computer in the network. That makes them much higher level than I thought, more of a network controlled media player, not what I would think of as a speaker.

The Bluetooth speakers I'm familiar with just play back the audio data they're given, and a bad connection will make them stutter. So that's why I figured a wifi equivalent will encapsulate the audio data in a udp stream.

I am curious how device discovery works in the network for the kind of device you're desceibing. If you have more than one set in the same network, is there a mode where a specific device will flash so you can confirm on the computer "yeah that's the one I want you to control"?

Perhaps this is a bit nitpicky, but no one has said this yet and I figure I should. It looks like the text for the previous Friday Fun Thread "Welcome to the final regular thread of 2022!" got copied over to this one - I doubt this is intentional?

So it did! Fixed now.

It will be nice to have these things automated again someday...

I haven't made a reddit bot before, but I expect it'd be the sort of small project I could do pretty easily and have fun with. Do you know if the code behind themotte has a similar API?

In theory there's an API that can be used, but it's not documented anywhere. Someone tried to run a bot but it just didn't work and we didn't have time to figure out why.

We do have an outstanding task for solving autoposting, and in fact I'm going to bump that up in priority to save @naraburns from doing this manually forever. The big issue is that it needs to reliably post exactly once when appropriate, and getting that to happen is a little bit tricky.

The good news is that it doesn't need a good UI - I'm completely fine if the config is, like, an XML file that I have to manually tweak and then restart the bot. So that makes it easier.

If you want to join the dev discord you're welcome to come chat about it, I'd love for this to get handled :)

I am not sufficiently tech-savvy to answer your question, but I know @ZorbaTHut is always looking for volunteers to work on the codebase.

What pepper did I eat? I once ordered a pepperoni pizza that came with a few small slices of pickled green pepper. I really enjoyed them: while hot, they had a complex fruity flavor. Today I bought a jar of pickled jalapeños and threw them away after tasting a slice: too hot and otherwise bland. What could it have been?

You can see if it’s banana peppers by going to a Subway restaurant and asking to sample one.

Russian Subway is a shithole like KFC is in the US and it has only bell peppers and jalapeños.

Probably either peppercini or banana peppers.

Most likely pickled sport or banana peppers.

Also, do you usually throw away food that you dislike? Most things can be prepared in a way where you can minimize the aspect of them that you dislike. E.g pickled Jalapenos are a good pizza topping, and are good in sandwiches too. Seems quite wasteful to me unless you are absolutely sure that you can never use them in any way and dislike them intensely.

  1. I disliked that jar of pickled peppers intensely.

  2. I don't see anything wrong with throwing away food I dislike. Trying to make it work is like buying and wearing a shirt you don't like because it was on sale.

  3. Actually, #2 sounded a bit too radical. But there's a difference between thinking "this chorizo is too greasy to eat in a sandwich, but I bet if I slice it, fry it and drain most of that fat it will go great into a bean or a pea soup that I might actually cook soon" and "this pepper is tasteless and hot, I ain't baking my own pizza and any sandwiches won't be improved by adding it, into the bin it goes".

Out of the blue, yesterday, I got a notification that someone blocked me. What’s the current state of our block feature? They just won’t see anything I post, right?

I believe the current implementation is what I suggested in the meta thread. We got some suggestions of refinements there, but someone had already implemented my original idea, and I thought the original idea was at least better than how the site initially worked, so we went with the implementation changes.

I'd like to do further improvements as suggested by users but I haven't had time to push that one, unfortunately.

@ZorbaTHut will have to field this one, or maybe a different mod or other volunteer who has some insight into the nuts-and-bolts.

What TV shows did you enjoy this year? Thinking about starting watching a new one with friends and figured I would solicit opinions.

So far this year I've watched Severance, Andor, and House of the Dragon; the former two I very much enjoyed and the latter I thought was mediocre.

I enjoyed Zeta Gundam a lot more than my abortive attempts at watching 0079 (in which I was filtered by the ugly animation) and ZZ (in which I was filtered by the goofy early episodes).

Were you watching the TV series or the movies of 0079? The movies cleaned things up a bit, though I would still recommend the TV series even with its very rough animation simply because the movies cut out so much. (There's also always the Gundam: The Origin manga series, but it makes so many changes that I can understand if one would be weirded out by the aesthetical shifts.)

I would also beg you to stick with ZZ, it does get better later on.

Were you watching the TV series or the movies of 0079?

The episodes. It's been my experience that episodes in Gundam series already feel very rushed, so I can't imagine how disjointed the compilation movies must be.

I would also beg you to stick with ZZ, it does get better later on.

Yes, I've seen the same said on /m/ about a zillion times. I probably will get around to trying again at some point.

It's been my experience that episodes in Gundam series already feel very rushed, so I can't imagine how disjointed the compilation movies must be.

I suppose they will move very fast for you; the movies really streamline and compress the overall storyline, but a lot of that is, again, cutting out stuff (some of it is forgettable stuff like Cucuruz Doan's Island or the salt episode; some of it is better stuff like more episodes with Ramba Ral or M'Quve's attempt to use a nuke against the Feds). They still have a proper cinematic flow, IMO.

We Own This City: if you like the Wire, you’ll really like this show. A detailed, gritty dive into Baltimore police corruption.

The Rehearsal: A comedy by Nathan Fielder. I never really watched his previous show, Nathan For You, but this dude is incredibly funny. This is an odd, odd surreal style comedy series on HBO. The closest comparison I can make is Borat, but it’s such a strange show it’s hard to describe.

Survivor: Forced to watch this by my girlfriend. I’ve never seen the show before and I’ll say that it’s ok. I wouldn’t watch if I had the choice.

I watched the Amazon Rings of Power. It’s worth a drinking game. Rules are easily found.

Finished Better Call Saul,, it absolutely pays off in the end. The episode where legendary comedienne Carol Burnett and hilarious comedian Bob Odenkirk play off each other is masterpiece television, but not in the way you might think.

Andor was the best Star Wars material I've seen since ESB, and had the interesting property of feeling quite edgily radical in its politics without actually being about specific contemporary controversies.

That’s because it’s about organizing an underground against realistic fascism, not an Internet tankie’s trite anti-corporate slogans. The stakes are far taller when you’re not a Skywalker and the universe doesn’t want you to win.

There was one downside to me. Gizmodo’s io9 fansite had an impossibly short-sighted article about how the final episode almost dropped an F-bomb, and they wish it had, but they had to be content with the several “Shit!” swears dropped throughout the show.

Really? This is a galaxy far, far away. They use kilometers because the meta-conceit is that the Skywalker Saga was translated from Galactic Basic recorded in the ancient Journal of the Whills to English for our benefit. Short Germanic words for bodily functions have no expletive heft in that context, they just sound wrong and shred my suspension of disbelief.

Wookiepedia has a whole article about The Galaxy’s various swear words. There are enough coarse expletive obscenities listed there that they could easily have picked ones which sound worst to American ears, had the lower-class characters use them throughout the series, and have that character use it at the climax. It worked for frakking Battlestar Galactica and for Firefly too, gorrammit.

After not watching much tv with my husband for a while for one reason or another, we started putting more on after the birth of our baby. It made the late nights surprisingly cozy.

Yellowjackets - rides a mystery box line where I think the writers might know what’s inside their box, but I’m not terribly sure. Most mystery box shows kinda turn me off. I saw the OG Lost. Please don’t put a polar bear on your island just for the mystery when it doesn’t relate to any other mystery. I didn’t feel like Yellowjackets made that mistake. Good, creepy fun. I’m down for the next season.

Midnight Mass - gets a little monologue-y, but I can only think of two that were just egregious. Thankfully, watching with subtitles on while trying to put a newborn to sleep got me through those bad moments. The rest of the show is quite good.

Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities - some of the episodes are pretty fun. Others are fine to catch while wrangling said newborn at 2am.

X-Files, Angel, Supernatural, and Star Trek: TNG rewatches. TNG was great hospital bed fodder as one of the only things on tv at 3am.

Marvel’s Moon Knight wasn’t too bad. I think it might fall under “guilty pleasure” since it has a lot of things I like but is clearly flawed like a typical middling Marvel entry.

Aw, man, Midnight Mass was great. It really depressed me that they gave the final monologue to the

"we're all stardust, so death is just returning to nature"

viewpoint. Out of all possible attitudes towards death, especially all the attitudes shared throughout the show, that's the only one that really strikes me as intensely meaningless. Not only that, but they give it to

the person who had previously described her unborn baby's trip to heaven--implying that essentially her faith was just copium against the harsh reality of death.

It seems like her point was basically that we all started out as atoms, and sentience is a useful illusion, so death is meaningless anyways. Well, that's certainly one way to look at it, but that really implies that you should have no values at all. e.g. if you truly believe that we're all just atoms anyways, then it's an utterly nihilistic perspective, and things like rape, torture, just about any bad thing you can think of, don't actually matter because it's just atoms moving around in configurations. If this is the case, why bother with something like killing the vampire? Well, because you actually do still care, and you're not truly convinced that it's all just atoms.

Great show though.

Yes! That was the worst for me. Borderline offensive on a personal level, since I can most identify with that character as a Christian woman who just gave birth. Honestly, she took her baby disappearing incredibly well. I think it would have been fitting to have one of the characters go through losing their faith because of what happened to the island, but I don't buy her losing it. Her initial monologue on heaven served as a foil to Riley's views. And if she didn't lose her faith then, I don't know that she should have after everything else. The monologue itself was ok, though I stopped paying attention once I got the gist. Being stardust is a beautiful thought, but as you point out there are darker implications.

The second worst was the sheriff's backstory.|| Terribly inappropriate moment for that. ||You just found out the island town, including your son, is being turned into vampires, and you think that's the right time to explain what brought you there? I don't even remember the point of it, if there was one.

To even this out, I did love the monologue for Monsignor Pruitt's story. Though, that may be cheating since you also see it happen and aren't just watching someone talk. And when you do, it's a very interesting shot of Father Paul in the confessional.

Stargate SG-1. I started from the first season on Netflix and enjoyed it immensely until season...9? I think. There were some big changes going into season 9 and it just didn't stick with me.

Fantastic show until then, though.

Depending on what you liked about it, the SG-A and SG-U spin-offs were quite enjoyable as well. I didn't like SG-A as much as it really leaned into the silliness of the series a bit too much for me. On the other hand, I think SG-U died because it tried to be too serious for much of the fan base.

The big changes made a lot of people drop it, but the final season is worth it, plus the two finale movies wrap it all up pretty cleanly.

Over the course of a decade, they went from killing worm parasites using minor superpowers to masquerade as gods, to depowering and killing actual metaphysical miracle-working gods (ascended humans, in this case) whose ethics they disagree with, while using acquired interstellar tech to uplift the US Air Force to a galactic superpower.

Babylon Berlin was fun. U.S. Netflix has the first-three seasons. Season four has finished in Germany, and is supposed to be out on U.S. Netflix sometime this year.

Fleabag. First time I properly laughed at a female comedian

I watched the first episode and found it a little bleak. Does it get lighter as the series goes on?

They lean less on constantly breaking the fourth wall after the first episode but the humour doesn’t get more slapstick

Fleabag is so great. My favorite show of the past decade, I think.

I enjoyed Andor once it got going--I enjoyed Mandalorian, but did not much care for Boba Fett or Obi-Wan, so I guess I remain cautiously Jedi-curious. I watched Moon Knight and promptly forgot about it.

After finding Wheel of Time simply excruciating, I skipped both Rings and House of the Dragon and have yet to hear a compelling reason to binge them after the fact. I also skipped Sandman and I am currently skipping Willow, to my sorrow, for much the same reason.

Season 3 of The Boys surprised me a bit, and finally stopped apologizing for its departure from the comics. Guess I'm in for Season 4. I also watched Season 4 of Westworld, which was not terrible but was nothing particularly special, either. The dude from Breaking Bad did a good job playing a pointless character. I watched Season 5 of Rick and Morty which was neither the worst season, nor the best.

From Japan, I watched:


  • Chainsaw Man: Beautifully-animated gore-fest

  • Spy X Family: Hilarious, plus you can enjoy it as not-so-subtle pro-natal propaganda

  • Lycoris Recoil: CGDCT genre mashup, plus you can enjoy it as not-so-subtle lesbian propaganda

  • Shokei Shoujo no Virgin Road: Moderately clever isekai deconstruction, plus you can enjoy it as blatantly overt lesbian propaganda

  • Isekai Ojisan: Exceptionally clever isekai deconstruction, and hilarious, too

  • Isekai Meikyuu de Harem wo: Unapologetically pornographic isekai deconstruction about a guy who just wants a wife, a house, and a job. Also, the wife is his slave. Maybe there will be more wives and/or slaves? The first one is literally a dog-person y'all, I'm honestly not sure how to talk about a show where the central message appears to be "work hard and grow a garden, but aspire to no further greatness, and you, too, can spend your evenings hot-tubbing with your submissive furry waifus."

  • Isekai Yakkyoku: Enjoyable isekai and the protagonist does real medical chemistry--sort of a Cells at Work or Dr. Stone meets Ascension of a Bookworm.

  • Cyberpunk: Edgerunners: It was recognizably cyberpunk!

  • Ya Boy Kongming!: I loved everything about this show


  • Ascension of a Bookworm: Probably the most endearing isekai out there, about a girl who just wants to read books (also: not-so-subtle pro-natal propaganda!)

  • My Hero Academia: Ameriboo superhero anime, wish it had more romance but this one is mandatory watching to keep my knowledge relevant to my students' interests

  • Overlord: I keep waiting for the MC to do something really overtly evil but I guess it's not that kind of show

  • Made in Abyss: Weird, boundary-pushing, occasionally graphic coming-of-age-but-also-metaphorically-aging-and-dying show, I don't know how this one got made actually, never mind imported

  • DanMachi: This dungeon crawler is not bad, but it's getting a bit tiresome I think

  • Mob Psycho: Weird coming-of-age kinda-battle-shonen-I-guess, but enjoyable

  • To Your Eternity: This one is conceptually interesting, it's about an immortal who can mimic its friends after they die, but the first season was a lot stronger I think

  • Rising of the Shield Hero: Season 2 was actually quite bad, which is a shame because Season 1 was quite compelling

I did not watch Attack on Titan because I have fallen hopelessly behind. I am also sorry to have not yet found time for Better Call Saul, or a bevy of others on a backlist that I doubt will ever be completed. The best things I watched this year were all movies. If you enjoy musicals at all, I highly recommend Netflix's recent adaptation of Tim Minchin's adaptation of Roald Dahl's Matilda.

Sandman was fine, speaking as someone who has never read the comics and also found WoT terrible. Willow never appealed to me, and I also skipped Dragon and Rings. It could have been better, and my biggest complaint is that the actor they cast as the vortex cannot act at all. She's stiff as a board for every excruciating minute she's on screen.

I'm sorry to hear Shield Hero was bad. I'd been looking forward to season 2 and I thoroughly enjoyed season 1 when I caught it years ago.

I did, however, watch all of Yu Yu Hakusho last year, and it is exactly as good as I remembered it being (very, if you don't mind fighting tournaments).

I'll have to check out Matilda.

Overlord: I keep waiting for the MC to do something really overtly evil but I guess it's not that kind of show

Uh...are we watching the same show? IIRC, he personally slaughtered tens of thousands of people. He had captured prisoners slowly raped and tortured to death. How much more overtly evil does he need to get?

Rising of the Shield Hero: Season 2 was actually quite bad, which is a shame because Season 1 was quite compelling

In what way? I actually enjoyed season 2 more than season 1.

IIRC, he personally slaughtered tens of thousands of people.

With the baby goats, right? In that big war? The morality of winning a battle is tricky, I guess.

He had captured prisoners slowly raped and tortured to death.

...really? That was not clear to me. I assumed he was feeding those people to carnivores who subsist on human flesh. The fact that humans aren't at the top of the food chain is unfortunate, but it's hard for me to perceive predators as overtly evil by that fact alone. I did catch some allusions to torture (albeit arguably justified, IIRC, as an enhanced interrogation technique) but I missed the rape entirely.

I haven't read the manga so it's possible I'm missing some details, but so far my impression of Momonga is that he feels mostly swept along by everyone else's natures and desires. He seems pretty sure that if his underlings rebelled as a group, they could defeat him, so he needs to maintain their loyalty simply to survive. He wants to build a peaceful, advanced civilization, but his underlings will only go along with that aspiration insofar as their natures are fulfilled. So he's conducting this massive utilitarian balancing act that keeps bringing him into inevitable conflict which he must win for the greater good. It reminds me of HPMoR:

Learn all that I have to teach you, Mr. Potter, and you will rule this country in time. Then you may tear down the prison that democracy made, if you find that Azkaban still offends your sensibilities. Like it or not, Mr. Potter, you have seen this day that your own will conflicts with the will of this country's populace, and that you do not bow your head and submit to their decision when that occurs. So to them, whether or not they know it, and whether or not you acknowledge it, you are their next Dark Lord.

In short, Momonga is only shown killing when there is good reason to kill, and he never personally eats or rapes or tortures anyone, while showing generosity, charity, and mercy at seemingly every opportunity. The show seems to hint that he no longer feels empathy for humans, as a result of his new physiology, but his actions often suggest otherwise. I do enjoy the show, but Momonga doesn't ever seem very evil to me. Which is fine, I just find it interesting how often I see others recommend the show as being about an evil overlord.

That said, maybe this says more about my own moral compass, comparatively, than it does about the show...

In what way? I actually enjoyed season 2 more than season 1.

The plot just seemed... random, I guess. Stuff happens but doesn't go anywhere. The Shield Hero was interesting when everyone hated him. Now it just seems to be a few irrelevant nobodies. Again--perhaps the source material would give me greater insight as to what is happening and why, but I'm not usually the kind of viewer who keeps a wiki open while watching a show.

With the baby goats, right? In that big war? The morality of winning a battle is tricky, I guess.

There's a difference between winning a battle and slaughtering a routed army. He could easily have won the battle with far fewer casualties, even with his additional goal of intimidation. He intentionally chose the slaughter.


It's been a while, so maybe I'm misremembering. I thought that was implied for at least some of the treasure seekers who "invaded" the tomb.

I do enjoy the show, but Momonga doesn't ever seem very evil to me. Which is fine, I just find it interesting how often I see others recommend the show as being about an evil overlord.

I thought this was the entire point of the show? Momonga is "evil" in the sense that he is responsible for some horrific outcomes, which he had the ability to both predict and avoid while still achieving his goals if he so desired. While the show portrays him sympathetically, it does not attempt to explicitly make him the "good guy", leaving it up to the audience to judge.

[Shield Hero season 2]

I thought season 1 was a bit too fast-paced, jumping from action sequence to action sequence without spending a lot of time building up the setting, so I found season 2's slower world-building more enjoyable. I'm also a bit biased in that one of my favorite characters got a lot more development in season 2, including a scene that resonated with me quite a bit (~13:20 in Episode 12).

The Bear. It's fantastic.

I forgot to mention that one, I really enjoyed it (though found myself perplexed at the ending)

So the bugfix I researched for the Sergei Kislev's 8088 Bios project finally got merged in. I'm pretty happy about that, and feel rather vindicated over the know-it-all elsewhere who kept insisting I was dead wrong and ignorant about how things "really" worked.

I've been watching Cabinet of Curiosities, and I'm really enjoying it. Minus the two episodes very loosely based on HP Lovecraft stories. The first few episodes felt almost like Tales from the Crypt style morality tales, where asshole main characters get what they deserve. Things get switched up pretty hard with The Outside where Kate Micucci falls victim to conspicuous consumption. After that come the HP Lovecraft episodes which by and large I felt didn't understand Lovecraft one iota. I watched The Viewing last night and was utterly blown away. Perhaps it was a case of style over substance, but holy shit was it's style ever amazing. Probably watch the last episode tonight.

I keep going back to the Lovecraft episodes though. They were just... they didn't understand what made Lovecraft scary at all. The first one, ostensibly based on "Pickman's Model" was more a pastiche of many disparate Lovecraft themes, that entirely failed to gel together and was mostly used for shock value. The other, "Dreams in the Witch House" I thought was better adapted by a Masters of Horror episode. The Netflix version added all these extra subplots for love and camaraderie. Everyone knows in Lovecraft's world, there are no allies. The dilemma characters find themselves in utterly alienates them from the rest of humanity. There are only people who don't believe you, and entities which make things worse. The only people who believe you were driven mad and are utterly ineffectual and of no help what so ever. The isolation and hopelessness is what gives his stories their bite. You can't give the characters a posse who rally around them.

It's Kisilev btw, you keep misspelling his surname.

You say that, but when I check his github it's Kiselev. But so noted.

Muphry's Law strikes again LOL.