Category Archives: Media

A Parent’s Perspective on Steven Universe

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When my wife and I work around the house on weekends, we usually turn on the Cartoon Network. Most of the shows are the kind of programs where I think, “you know, I don’t take recreational drugs, but if I did, I would be well served in terms of television.”

This one show called Steven Universe seemed like just another wacky and surreal short program that was silly for silliness’ sake. It was the story of boy named Steven who is being raised by 3 surrogate mothers (Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl) who happen to be the Crystal Gems, magical guardians of the planet Earth.

But then, I noticed something as I carried the loads of laundry in front of the TV. There was an ongoing story that sometimes left you on a cliffhanger. Some of the jokes were powered by a mythology that was deep and consistent. There were also copious amounts of anime references.

So Sara and I started to recording episodes on our DVR and marathoning them at night. It’s really one of the best shows on TV right now. Everything from the animation, to the music, to the voice work, is done with such care and attention. The songs are catchy and broadway quality, and the backgrounds are so beautiful that they should be illegal. I bow down to the staff’s knowledge of anime. Most studios would throw in a couple of Akira references and call it a day, but the people behind Steven Universe draw from the entire history of the genre, with series such as Ogon Bat and the original Astro Boy.

The crowning achievement of Steven Universe’s cultural impact is how they deal with relationships. It’s like they’ve taken the innocent emotional conflicts of shows like Daniel Tiger and brought them into realm of high fantasy and science fiction.

I especially love how they handle the relationship between parents and children. In most television shows, parents either know what do or think they know what to do. In Steven Universe, the main character is a product of a human father and a mother who is a 5,000 plus year old Rock alien who doesn’t exactly reproduce biologically. This means that Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl, are like most parents. They are unsure of what’s normal or healthy for a boy Steven’s age, and many times there are just no right answers. The gems are often left to bicker among themselves, and in episodes like The Test, Steven figures out the answer for himself.

I think the time the series really grabbed me by the guts was in an episode called Rose’s Scabbard. Pearl learned that her relationship with Rose, Steven’s mother, wasn’t what she thought it was. She ends up running away, and Steven almost falls to his death trying to find her on top of an island floating in the sky. This just puts her further into despair, and she asks herself, “What would Rose think of me now?”

Steven just gives her hug and says, “Well, I think you’re pretty great.”

I think every parent has felt that low. Parenting is such a great responsibility, that it seems like every child is the Child of Destiny.  And then, there are times when you fail. Sometimes you yell at them for no reason other than you’ve been stressed at work, or you let them get in trouble when you should’ve been watching. Sometimes it seems like the only thing separating you from your child is the height difference and the years of experience. Sometimes, even that doesn’t seem like enough. Setbacks happen, hearts get broken, and you are just…you. But the one thing about parenting you can never prepare for is how much your children love you back. Sometimes it seems like that love is conditional. You might think that they just love you because you feed them, but you find out that it just doesn’t work that way. You find that you love this child, they love you, and you are deserving of that love.

That’s what Pearl experienced. That’s what all parents experience. And that’s why Steven Universe if my new favourite show.

Allow me to be completely unfair to the Ghost in The Shell Movie

I’ve been bombarded by a few ads for the live action Ghost in the Shell movie, which I will never see in theaters. This gives me the right, nay the duty, to unfairly pan this movie that I have not seen a full minute of.

Nevermind the whitewashing, and there is a LOT of whitewashing in this movie. The trailer’s byline is “There was an accident. We saved you. Now you save others”

Whoah. No. What?

Why did they take this direction with main character? I know that in the manga and anime they never actually go into how Major Motoko Kusanagi (The protagonist) got her cyborg body, but I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t due to some drunk driving incident.

The Major we know drank sake in under Cherry Trees before leading a team of soldiers riding spider robots to go kick ass. The Major we know lectured the sweat shop kids she just rescued about the value of hard work and to make good use of their cybernetic implants. She has lovers of multiple genders, and her self-confidence calms even the most nervous people under her command.

This origin completely removes her of the agency that was central to her character. Without it, there’s no counterpoint to questions like “Is she really human?”, or “Is really in control of her destiny?”. There’s none of the ambiguity that separates the truly great art from the mediocre.

I can’t understand why the producers of these movies keep doing this. They option these media properties from all these different cultures and then pave over everything that makes them unique and saleable in the first place. They say that all these compromises come from a place of wanting to make more money, but this movie debuted at #3 at the box office. Who do they think they are fooling?

I Love the New Ghostbusters, and I Hate the Internet.

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So last weekend, I went to see the new Ghostbusters movie with my wife. If you know me, then you know that I love the original movies. I loved the cartoon. I bought the toys. I even dressed up as Ghostbuster for Halloween for 3 years in a row. And I also loved this reboot.

In fact, I think it’s the perfect reboot. It wasn’t just faithful to the idea of Ghostbusters, it explored aspects of the story that the original just didn’t have time for. What about those academic careers they left behind? How did the Ghostbusters meet each other in first place?How did they come up with that gear? While there are references and plenty of cameos by the original cast, the new Ghostbusters are absolutely their own characters with their own histories, conflicts, and comedy schticks.

I also love how the story was updated for the anxieties of our era. The original dealt with Reagan-era paranoia about government over-reach into small business, but this new movie dealt with our overall skepticism in the Internet age and the ongoing debate about what real science is. I loved, loved, loved the new characters, the new actors, the new gear and the new jokes. This also makes me mad as hell at the Internet.

The trailer for the 2016 film was the most disliked video on Youtube. Leslie Jones, one of the actresses, was basically chased off Twitter for a while after the premier by tornado of racist comments. I was also really disappointed in James Rolfe of Angry Video Game Nerd fame when he produced a video about how he was not going to see the new film. I don’t think he knew he was doing it at the time, but he normalized the behaviour of all those idiots. Soon my Youtube page was awash with videos with titles like “WHITE MAN REFUSES TO SEE MOVIE! WHAT NOW, SJWs?”. Gross. This campaign has gone on to the point that when I was leaving the theatre, I found that people were genuinely surprised that the movie was actually good.

Now that I’ve seen the movie and liked it, I have a problem. A screen accurate proton pack is on my cosplay bucket list, but now I can’t decide whether I want a 1984 model or a 2016 model. I’m leaning towards 2016, considering I look kind of like a dumpy Chris Hemsworth. Does this mean I’m going to get the stink-eye at conventions from people who consider themselves “true” Ghostbuster fans?

The new Ghostbusters movie showed me something that was missing from these mainstream blockbuster tentpole movies. It felt different to see 4 women in the title roles of an established special effects movie, and in a good way. The world felt a little larger somehow. See, representation is not about chasing lofty social Justice goals. it’s also about keeping our movies from all looking at the same. If every protagonist has to be a white guy, it’s not just racist or misogynist, it’s boring and unrealistic. It also allows us to get comfortable with people who are different from we are. I know I’m not going to convince anyone who is determined to hate this film, but if you are on the fence, take my word for it. More Ghostbusters is good and this movie is definitely more Ghostbusters

One Line

One line. 15 hours and all that stood between me and functionality was one line. I’d be mad if that didn’t happen so often. So what did happen? I had the code for ActiveRecord’s Multiparameter attributes on one screen, and I had mongoids old Multiparameter extension on the other. My original plan was to put a variation of ActiveRecord’s code into a monkey patch and then put it into mongoid if it work. But as I read the mongoid code more carefully, I found that while it was a little harder to read, it was a little more concise than the activerecord code.

In activerecord, you called the assign_attribute method, then if you had a multiparameter attribute you called the assign_multi_parameter_attributes method, then you executed the callstack which extracted the callstack, and then you determined the time zone, intstantiated the objects…

In Mongoid, you made sure the keys and values went into the right place, determined the class of the attributes you were working with, “mongoize” it, and relegate the rest of the logic to the superclass. Since that was slightly less incomprehensible, I decided to take another look at the module.

The tests were failing because Rails did not recognize the permit= method. I didn’t know yet just what this was for, so I commented the line out to see what would happen. I still got a forbidden attribute error from activemodel, so I figured that it had something to do with the strong parameters method in the controller. I tried permitting the split time attributes every which way I could with single quotes, double quotes, no quotes, but I was still getting this error. I took another look at the line with the permit = method that I had commented out. I looked up the method and found out that it had been deprecated in favor of the permit! method. Not only that, but it was being used on a new attributes object that had been instantiated within the module. I changed permit = true to permit! and it worked!

Even though I just made I tiny modification to one of Mongoid’s deprecated module’s, I’m still going to try and put it back in through a pull request. Why? Just because that issue took up so much of my time doesn’t mean it has to ruin anyone else’s day. The gem shoudl work as advertised, or at least as documented! Also, I still don’t really know why there were so many issues with the module in the first place. This might be the best way to find out! And finally, hopefully, we can do something about those failing friendship tests today.

 

6 Ways to Get 100+ Twitter Followers Overnight

No, this blog has not been taken over by spammers, but I have used some best practices that has so far doubled my number of twitter followers. I know most Social Media “Experts” wait until they’re making $100,000 a month or have a million followers to reveal their secrets, but I can’t be bothered wait that long. I want to make sure this works for other people first. So here’s my “social media strategy” in 6 easy steps:

1. Organize your current followers into lists using TwitListManager.com

If people aren’t reciprocating your fake social media points, it’s time to unfollow them. But what if you’re desperate to keep up with various celebrities you’ll never meet? Just put them into a handy twitter list. Twitlistmanager.com makes this really easy, and you can make sure that everyone’s in their proper lists. The lists will fall into 3 categories: People you actually want to talk to, people you admire, and Spammers/bots/ foreign language accounts you can use to boost your twitter score.

2. Unfollow the non-followers using JustUnfollow.com

Once every user is in his/her/its proper list, you can easily unfollow the non-followers with JustUnFollow.com. The Free version gives you a limited number of unfollows, but with just $10 a year, you can unfollow as many people as you want on your account.

3. Follow Back using JustUnfollow.com

It’s just common courtesy. Following people doesn’t cost anything, so quit acting like it does. Accept that many of your followers will either be spammers or Brazilian.

4, Find some real people using Twitter Local Search

It’s fun to see your follower count go up, but eventually you should use twitter the way it’s meant to be used: To talk to people. It’s best if you do this with people who share your interests. Twitter search can help you find key words, like “Canucks” or “Rihanna”, but to find really meaningful conversation, it’s best to talk to people in the same city as you. Hootsuite does this really well by providing a button in its search bar that allows you to search using your latitude/longitude coordinates.

5. No Lurking!

Nothing kills an online community like lurkers. You can only get as much out of a community as you put into it. If you have something to say about a tweet, say it. Twitter was meant for speed and brevity, not crafted retorts in iambic pentameter. If you’re wondering what to tweet about, sending link-free tweets is a good start. I find I get the most replies by making progress on a clearly stated goal. This can be anything from housework to Gundam models. Consider your account an on-line pokemon battle…against life!

6.  Rinse, and Repeat.

Give new follows a 72-hour window to follow you back. After that, fit them into the list, and let them run free in cyberspace. Your time and attention is limited, so don’t feel bad about unfollowing. If you meet them again in real life and you exchange twitter ids, then just follow them again.

So that’s how I play the Twitter game. Software is more of an art than a science, and Twitter, like Facebook, is just another way we try to make communication more efficient. If we lay out expectations instead expecting people to “just get it”, we put more people on the network and we make it more effective.