Thoughts on: NBA contracts and trades

There are many desirable aspects of being an NBA player: wealth, fame, getting paid to play a sport instead of endlessly clicking a mouse until you go insane or die. Imagine being financially set for life by your mid-20s, and the jet-setting lifestyle might suit the younger athlete. But the insecurity of the position is an odd thing, and I wonder what that does to a player’s mind.

Let’s say you’re an average desk-jockey for a company called…Kettles Inc. You’ve been a solid worker there for three years. One Tuesday, you arrive at work and, before you get to your desk, you’re told your boss wants a word. He tells you you’ve been traded to Sparrows Ltd, a rival company 2,000 miles away. And you need to go right now, because you need to be in their office by Thursday. You quickly call your wife to tell her the news, go home and pack a few things, and get the first flight out.

Luckily, Sparrows turns out to be a good company to work for. You like the owner and the city. You take your kids out of school and bring them there. You buy a nice new house. Despite your best attempts, human nature kicks in and the place starts to feel like home. Your Sparrows contract ends but you’re offered another, with the promise that you’re part of the company’s future. A month later a journalist phones–you’ve been traded again.

Getting unexpectedly let go and having to start again elsewhere is part of any modern working life. And, of course, pro athletes have the financial safety net many of us lack. But it must be odd to work somewhere and put so much time, effort, and emotion into doing your job while knowing that, tomorrow, you could be cut or traded. In most roles, it’s likely that your poor performance is one reason why you’re leaving. In basketball it can be the reverse–giving more than expected (in comparison to your salary) can make you attractive to other teams, and they offer a lot of value in exchange for you. Or your employer might suspect you’ll leave when your contract expires, despite what you tell them, so they trade you to get something in return instead of you just walking away.

Players say they understand that pro ball is a business. “All in the game”. But there still must be some psychological issue to such an unstable lifestyle.

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How Did the Arm Know?: On The Cloverfield Paradox

(Spoiler…field)

1.
I was intrigued by this film for two reasons:

a) Because it being announced and released in the same day is, quite simply, cool
b) Because a review (that I admittedly only scanned) said Paradox ties the first two films together, and I wondered how that was possible (spoilers: it isn’t)

2.
Paradox isn’t terrible. It’s fine. It’s just…fine. There’s a good performance from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, acceptable ones from most of the rest, and a poor one from Chris O’Dowd. It’s highly derivative, with elements of Event Horizon, Sunshine, and Poltergeist, among others, but it does nothing interesting with those inspirations. There’s a lack of taste, a misjudged sense of what’s scary, cool, interesting. Table football players spinning of their own accord? Not scary. A basketball-sized gyroscope hiding inside a person? Not sensible. Someone’s eye going squint one way then the other? Also not scary.

3.
The Poltergeist inspiration is obvious in two places:

a) The increasing tension as Volkov inspects his eyes recalls the face-peeling scene from Poltergeist.
b) The spinning of the table-football players was like the variety of household objects in Poltergeist which move to foreshadow the spirit’s arrival. I’m far from a horror buff, but I wonder if Poltergeist was the first film to so effectively use the movement of mundane and inanimate objects as a portent for terror

4.
Chris O’Dowd’s Mundy lacked the charisma and humour that would make his character engaging. Admittedly, Mundy was badly written; even a  superior actor would probably have struggled. “My arm helped find the Earth” is a horrible line, but O’Dowd’s delivery was worse

5.
The disembodied arm thing was misguided and stupid. The film wasn’t fully dedicated to making it disturbing or funny, so it was neither. And the few times we were supposed to be taking it seriously, I was thinking of the ‘farewell to arms’ scene from The Evil Dead 2, which isnt what you want in supposedly dark moments.

6.
Is ‘Parallel dimensions’ a term for ‘script any illogical madness you want’? Why did the arm know where the gyro was? How did Jensen know there was a gun? Why was Volkov able to 3d-print a gun? Because…’parallel dimensions’?

7.
This franchise has a branding problem. Conversations around Paradox were similar to those around 10 Cloverfield Lane, with film fans wondering how the film would link to the others, if it would at all. Here’s Lane director, Dan Trachtenberg in 2016:

“10 Clover Lane and Cloverfield are two different stories. They’re on different timelines.”

“The Cloverfield universe, or “Cloververse”, is really speaking to the name taking on this new meaning, this name being this platform to tell really unique, original stories that are truly bound by that same tone, that same sensibility”

Many, like me, took that to mean Cloverfield would be an umbrella term for a mostly unrelated series of movies, a Twilight Zone or Black Mirror for films. I still imagine a parallel dimension with a series of films under a ‘Cloverfield presents’ or ‘Name: A Cloverfield Movie’ banner, with every installment a weird, pulpy, B-movie sci-fi/horror/whatever stand-alone feature. Instead, I wonder which tenuous way the latest film will try to link to the others. If Bad Robot announced, “We’re going to release lots of  ‘Cloverfield’ films and none will feature the monster”, would enough fans watch to make it commercially viable? Lol, I dunno, but Netflix seems like the ideal platform for it.

8.
This seems kinda hypocritical, but despite just saying I’d prefer if future Cloverfield films didn’t tie into the original, I loved the final shot of the monster roaring above the clouds. Part of the monster’s outline was seen earlier in the film, but I thought I was seeing an alien ship (I rewatched the video and it’s clearly a Clover-esque beast) but then I forgot about it anyway. So, when Michael mentioned “those things”, I didn’t know what he meant. And then a beast came wonderfully into sight.

9.
That monster must’ve been much bigger than the one from the original film. Did Paradox choose to ignore that? Or are we seeing different, bigger beasts?

10.
It must’ve been great to watch the Superbowl live, get the unexpected Paradox ad at halftime, then realise you could watch it that same night. That’s an event movie right there.

11.
But why did the film not go the traditional cinema route? Did Paramount just think straight to Netflix the best channel for this type of movie? Or did they think Paradox was a stinker and this was the best way to avoid losing mad papes on it through standard distribution? Maybe there’s a scandal looming about one of the cast and they wanted to get the film out as quickly as possible? Or, simply, they just thought the buzz created by same-day-release was worth it, bringing attention to a film and franchise that might not have been available another way. As far as I’ve seen, no details have been forthcoming. Maybe we’ll have to wait until an exec gets canned before we got some insider knowledge

12.
An extra star for Paradox for using Don’t Sweat the Technique by Eric B and Rakim

Who Sleeps with the Chimp?: On ‘Noah’

1.
Noah is a slightly unusual film in that its hero plans to kill his grandchildren and becomes so despised by his family that two of his three sons want to murder him

2.
IMDB says Emma Watson’s character is called Ila, but I’m sure it was ‘Baron’. Weird

3.
Escaping in films is problematic without engines. Tubal-cain and his men rush Noah’s ark. The Watchers protecting it can only form a temporary defence. So once Noah gets his family aboard and finally makes it on himself, you’re like “Go, go!”. Then you realise they’re on a boat on dry land, and they have to wait for water to rise high enough that they can float away. Bit of a buzzkill

4.
If you’re Shem (Noah’s oldest son) you’d have to think probabilistically:

‘Noah will kill my kid if it’s a girl. So, let’s assign a 50% likelihood of murder there. But will he definitely go ahead with it? Okay, so let’s make that number 45%.

I’m willing to kill dad to save my child’s life. I could wait until it’s born so we know the gender. But then Noah is likely to act quickly, so I wouldn’t have many chances to murder him. I’ve got months on this boat with him. That’ll give me plenty of opportunities to knife him. But if I do and my kid is a boy, I’ve killed my dad for no good reason. Yet I have no way of knowing; I have to act on incomplete information. And what are the chances that, if I try to kill him and fail, he’ll then kill me?

Also, I could build a boat to escape. What are the odds he’ll let me leave?’

5.
The above is both a perfect summation of probability and exactly the way something would think. Because I am an Expert in Things

6.
I knew director Darren Aronofsky is an environmentalist. If I didn’t know that, would I have seen Noah as a comment on the power and beauty of nature and man’s urge to destroy it?

7.
I’d much prefer if the animals hadn’t hibernated aboard the ark. I’d have loved to hear Noah trying to tell a serious story about the creation of the universe while chimps screeched and bears roared the background, distracting Noah and causing him to shout at them to shut up, and the chimps in response throwing shit at him

8.
If god told me I had to build an ark, and I couldn’t buy one or hire someone to do it, then bye bye humanity

9.
I want Aronofsky to make a sequel that addresses the incest that has to happen after the credits roll. Noah 2: Incest Island

Thoughts on Things: Movies and microwaves

Sequelitis

(I’m too lazy to look for sources for this)

It’s easy for older film-fans to bemoan how derivative and creatively lazy Hollywood film studios are nowadays. It’s all about sequels now. They only care about the money. There probably is an element of truth there, but to use that as the only reason is to miss how home video affected the average cinemagoer. Now, sequels are seen as the most likely road to profit, a way to cash in on the audience’s fondness for the original. But, before home video, viewers had less attachment to franchises and so were less likely to watch a second installment.

Think how different your mindset would be if you went to see a film and knew that, even if you really liked it, there was a good chance you’d never see it again. Sequels back then were expected to make 50% of the profits that the original did. A studio would only make a sequel is that 50% was worth the time and effort.

Studios could have been just as focused on the money side in the 70s as they are now. It’s just that the formula for financial success was different.

Microwaves

Microwaves and toasters remain examples of poor design. Take the microwave in my office. It’s years old and many–including me–still don’t know how to set it to cook for a particular length of time. Seven minutes? I’ll just hit the ’30-seconds’ button 14 times. All this other tech exists that makes it seem like we’re living in the future, and some of us are still stumped by how to heat something in a microwave.

And when it’s finished, it beeps five times. Somewhere in my head there exists a rule: microwaves should only beep four times, and that extra, unnecessary beep is infuriating. Why do I have a Beep Rule, and why do I find violation of it so irritating? What’s wrong with me?

Toasters have terrible memories. I want slices three and four of my toast to resemble slices one and two. That’s why I left the setting the same. But the second lot of toast is incinerated in comparison to the first.

My toaster’s setting #4 must be something as simplistic as heat for 3 minutes and 15 seconds no matter what. It doesn’t remember that I used it five minutes ago, and so it’s already hot inside. It follows the same process that it always does, with that retained heat ensuring toast sequels get burnt.

Maybe they already exist, but surely there’s a place for a toaster with an internal thermometer so it recognises it’s already hot inside and adjusts cooking time or intensity accordingly?

I never do more than two lots of toasts. So I don’t know if lot #3 would be even worse than #2, or if max heat has already been reached. Maybe someday I should stack loafs and keep popping new bread in the moment some pops out, seeing if every new lot is increasingly more toasted, with my toaster eventually reaching a temperature never before seen outside of the guts of the sun and incinerating itself, then me and eventually the world. It’s worth it. For science.

 

Thoughts on Things: Ratings, the NBA, and TV

1.
Rating and comparisons are so often pointless. There are plenty of NBA fans with their own top-10 or top-20 lists of the greatest players of all time, despite having not seen many of them play (either live or on archived video). Imagine rating the abilities of someone in your office without first-hand experience of their work, or from a heavily-edited five-minute highlight reel.

I don’t know how many of a player’s games you would have to watch to properly assess their talents. But it’s more than zero.

2.
If you had to rate TV shows, how much of a factor is longevity, and in what ways is it important? How does a great show that lasted just a single-season (like Firefly or Rubicon) compare to a show that lasted a long time but diminished in quality (like The West Wing)? How does a show with 13 episodes and only 1 bad one compare to show with 80 good episodes and 50 bad?

3.
Think of your all-time best TV shows. How many actually ended well? The best outcome for your current favourite is that it isn’t terrible by the time its run finishes. Shows either get cancelled too early or too late. They either stop with plenty more creative fuel in the tank or they run for too long, drop in quality and viewer numbers, and get canned. Lost, The West Wing, The Sopranos, Alias, all were shadows of their former selves by the finale. The final seasons of The Wire and Boardwalk Empire weren’t their best by any means, but were good enough to roughly compare in quality to the rest of the run. And that’s a better outcome than most shows will have. TV is crazy

Thoughts on films

1.
Good…

until a woman and a Predator become Batman and Robin (Alien vs Predator)
except for its staggeringly daft ‘I will fight a blind man in a playground for a minor indiscretion’ (Daredevil (the movie))
until the soldiers show up (28 Days Later. 28 Weeks is much better)
except for everything set on a big spaceship (Star Wars Eps 7-9)
except for everything involving John (Terminator 2)
because it knows how daft its central premise is (Final Destination 5)

2.
Insomnia might be Chris Nolan’s weakest film. Pacino isn’t particularly good in it. There’s a difference between an actor being convincing and being convincingly tired

3.
Minas Tirith – a beautiful place to live, with a terrible view

4.
One argument I used to claim that the extended version of Daredevil is good was “Because it’s got this whole subplot with Coolio”, which is the most ridiculous statement ever

5.
I’ve never found a greater disparity between my opinion and that of the average film critic than with The Revenant (although Drive was a close second). Because DiCaprio suffered during filming doesn’t make it a good film

6.
In order:

Empire
Hope
Return
Last
Awakens
Rogue
Sith
Clones
Phantom

7.
Brian Cox should have played Churchill in Darkest Hour

8.
Brian Cox should get more work

9.
So should Jay Mohr

10.
Adaptation is Nic Cage’s best film (let’s ignore the dozens of straight-to-DVD films he’s made that no sane people would go looking for)

 

Money and Bitcoin

(I’ve been thinking about Bitcoin and money recently. Having a poor grasp of both, I decided to write about them to try and make sense of my thoughts. There is probably much idiocy below. Enjoy?)

Bitcoin’s fluctuating value is interesting. What isn’t interesting is the discussion that takes place around that value. Conversations about bitcoin vs the dollar have become stale.

What I currently find interesting about Bitcoin is how it makes me question what money actually is. Many dismiss it–“It’s just ones and zeroes on computers, you can’t hold it”–without considering that that is how money normally exists. Your wages go into your bank…your bills get paid. You don’t actually see that happen. You paid for the food in your cupboard because a computer somewhere said you did. Sure, you could convert that digital money to cash, but most of it comes and goes without taking physical form.


What I also find intriguing is, when does an object of barter become a piece of currency?

Let’s do an intentionally stupid thought-experiment. Let’s say that one day you head to CEX and buy all their copies of Fight Club on DVD. Your friend wants one and offers to give you, say, a shirt in return. You think that exchange seems fair–to you, that shirt seems like a reasonable substitute for one of these DVDs. You do the deal. That’s barter.

The following day, all your friends decide they really want one of your DVDs, and so shirts are being thrust in your face. Or let’s say that a fire wipes out all other copies of Fight Club and you’re now the sole supplier. Have those DVDs now become a form of currency?

So many people want Fight Club that their value skyrockets. But are people buying because they think Fight Club itself is valuable? Or are they speculating, buying because others find them valuable, in order to re-sell them at a profit? What happens to their value when Warren Buffett says how impressed he is by Fight Club? Or Carl Icahn goes on TV to discuss the ‘Fight Club Bubble’.

What can be money, and what can’t?