Ric on Twitter

  • 10 September, 2012 - 10:55
    Any watch freaks out there? Time for some early Xmas shopping! http://t.co/kM5C8cyx
  • 25 July, 2012 - 10:14
    Have you kicked the tires on the Joomla 3 Alpha? If so, I'd love to know what you think.
  • 17 July, 2012 - 17:25
  • 17 July, 2012 - 16:18
    The Alpha release of the new Joomla! 3.0 is out now. The release is primarily intended for extension developers... http://t.co/eX31fk0o
  • 9 July, 2012 - 23:45
    My latest book is out: Joomla! Search Engine Optimization http://t.co/3lToGUhh #joomla #seo

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Updated: 2 hours 37 min ago

Monday Music: 'Pianoscope,' Alexandra Streliski

15 April, 2014 - 02:00

PIANOSCOPE by Alexandra Streliski

Alexandra Streliski is a Montreal-based pianist and composer whose music is "distinguished by its sensitivity and softness, sometimes evoking Satie, Glass and Nyman."

Her piano works have been featured in movies including "Dallas Buyers Club" (2013) and "Pee-Wee 3D" (2012). Her album "Pianoscope" (2010), embedded below, "takes us into the world of dream and cinema."

The album is available as a digital LP, a CD, and a sheet music booklet.

(Thanks for finding this, Dean Putney!)

Categories: The Essentials

Excellent 50+ song collection of late '70s punk

15 April, 2014 - 01:58

[Video Link] The Saints, The Scientists, The Simpletones, and even some 60s garage punk bands are in this excellent YouTube lineup.

See also: The Zombies and the Outer Limits are a good combination

Categories: The Essentials

77 fun ways to play fast-moving Tenzi dice game

15 April, 2014 - 01:30

A couple of weeks ago my friend Kent Barnes recommended a simple, fast-moving dice game called Tenzi. I bought it and my wife, 11-year-old daughter, and I had fun playing it. The rules are simple - everyone starts out with 10 dice and the goal is to roll your dice as fast as you can until all of them show the same number. Every time you roll, you are allowed to set aside any dice that match your desired number. When all ten of the dice show the same number, you shout "Tenzi!," throw your hands in the air, and gloat while the other players gnash their teeth. The game rules included a couple of variations on the basic rule set, which we also played and liked.

A few days later Kent told me about a $10 deck of cards called 77 Ways to Play Tenzi. I ordered the deck and last night my wife, 11-year-old, 16-year-old daughter (who doesn't like games and joined us reluctantly), and I tested the deck out. Ninety minutes later we decided that this deck takes Tenzi to a new level. The deck adds variety, surprise, and humor to Tenzi. It makes Tenzi so much more fun that I think the company shouldn't sell the dice without the cards. My 16-year-old daughter was surprised that she had such a good time.

77 Ways to Play Tenzi | Buy Tenzi cards and dice as a set

Each Tenzi card has a variation of the basic rules. The rules for the variants are simple enough that they can be described in one or two sentences. Here are a few examples:

To win the above game, you start with nine dice and roll until you get nine threes. Then you have to arrange the dice as shown on the card, and then roll the tenth dice until you get a six.

Categories: The Essentials

How airlines treat the one-percenters

15 April, 2014 - 00:49
.picture { background-color: #FFFFFF; font: 12px/1.5em Arial; color:#888888; sans-serif; } .picture img { vertical-align:middle; margin-bottom: 3px; } .right { margin: 0.5em 0pt 0.5em 0.8em; float:right; } .left { margin: 0.5em 0.8em 0.5em 0; float:left; } Qantas A380's fully flat Skybed in business class

In the April 21 edition of The New Yorker, David Owen describes the luxuries of premium-class seating and visits the firms that design jet interiors.

Seven years ago, I flew business class on Qantas from Australia to California, a thirteen-hour trip. I hadn’t had much experience outside economy, but I didn’t want to look like a front-of-the-plane rookie, so I stowed my “amenity kit” without ripping it open, declined the first cocktail a flight attendant offered me, and tried to appear engrossed in a book while the passenger nearest me bounced around like a four-year-old at a birthday party. I didn’t begin to play with my own seat until after dinner, when I lowered it into its fully extended position, and stretched out -- not to sleep, which is something I hardly ever manage on airplanes, but to see how the thing worked. The concave back of the seat shell formed a domed enclosure over my head, like a demi-cocoon. Suddenly, I heard people speaking in loud voices and banging things around. I sat up, indignant -- and realized that the noise was the sound of breakfast being served. I’d slept for eight hours straight, something I never do even at home. In a little while, we began our descent into Los Angeles.

Game of Thrones: How airlines woo the one per cent

Categories: The Essentials

Don Draper and Jackie Brown at LAX

15 April, 2014 - 00:44

Illo: Matt Haughey

Two scenes shot on LAX's mosaic-backed moving walkway, years apart: Pam Grier in the intro credits of Jackie Brown, and Jon Hamm as Don Draper in last night's season opener of Mad Men. Compare The Graduate.

Matt Haughey carefully spliced stills from the two scenes together to create this exquisite composite. It's unsettling, yet intriguing, to see the two stars with their impassive public don't-bother-me faces appearing to stand before one another. The walkway hidden from view, it could be anywhere in abstract LAXspace.

But I prefer an alternate explanation, where the context of the automatic walkway is assumed: Don has turned around in order to travel backwards while chatting up Jackie, but Jackie is having none of his bullshit.

(For context, here's video of the mosaic and walkway.)

Categories: The Essentials

"Mystery Pooper", "Hash Bash" front page stories in Ann Arbor

15 April, 2014 - 00:34

And now, the news from Lake Erie.

Yes, both these stories appeared on the front page on the same day, Friday, April 11.

Categories: The Essentials

Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell (book review)

14 April, 2014 - 23:01

Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell centers on a beautiful, reprinted collection of diabolical 1860s French stereoscopic cards. On each card is an image of a detailed, intricate clay diorama depicting life in hell. Each card tells a story, but the story of the collection itself is far more interesting.

Brian May, Denis Pellerin and Paula Fleming worked for years to locate each card and tell its story. In the video above, Brian May does a wonderful job showing off both the book and his enthusiasm for it. He also demonstrates the included stereoscope for 3D viewing. May himself is also quite a fascinating guy with a PhD in Astrophysics, and a long career as the lead guitarist of rock band Queen. May, Pellerin, and Fleming also share a wonderful website that features many of the cards and allows you to view them both normally and backlit. The backlit images are haunting. However, this is all in 2D.

Half of Card A0, not backlit.

Half of Card A0, backlit

I am thrilled with the included OWL Stereoscope. This foldable viewer, which was easy to include with the book, really allows the magic to take place. The 2D images above are lovely, but seeing them in 3D is pretty amazing!

The cards and this edition are works of art. This is a special book and will be prized in my collection.

Diableries: Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell

Previously on Boing Boing:

Collector of 19th century 3D "devil tissues"

Categories: The Essentials

Build the dungeon, not the adventurer

14 April, 2014 - 21:34
In the Guild of Dungeoneering, instead of controlling the adventurer, you build the dungeon--and put in monsters--as they go. It's $10 to buy into the alpha, and you can play with a browser demo free of charge. I love the hand-drawn style, evocative of every schoolroom doodling ever put to paper by a bored geek! Mute the sound, though.

Categories: The Essentials

Windows Phone 8.1 surprisingly great

14 April, 2014 - 21:23
Windows Phone 7 was Microsoft's belated entry in the smartphone wars, ushering in cool new design trends without making a huge impact on the business. Windows Phone 8 was a disappointment. But the first major point version is a big surprise, packing all the new features expected in its predecessor: "a magnificent smartphone platform," writes Peter Bright.

Categories: The Essentials

Children confused by Walkmans

14 April, 2014 - 21:14
Oldness now officially begins with the dawn of the iPod. Today's youngsters no longer find portable cassette players amusingly old-fashioned; they now have no clue whatsoever about any music gadget old enough to contain moving parts. Just to rub it in, they nevertheless understand the historical context and say very funny, insightful things about consumer technology! [Video Link]

Categories: The Essentials

Rope removed from urethra

14 April, 2014 - 21:10
Shanghai Daily reports that one Dr. Dong successfully removed a knotted length of rope from an adventurous fellow's urethra.

Categories: The Essentials

Amy's Baking Company has its revenge

14 April, 2014 - 21:05

Amy's Baking Company (previously), the venue of note in the only episode of Gordon Ramsay's cooking show anyone ever needs to watch, is still going strong. And the proprietors are still completely bonkers, ranting about the yelpers, eunuchs, etc: "We are not psychotic lunatic people ... If you come to attack us, we will scream at you and throw you out." [via Gawker]

I'd still rather eat there than Nello's.

Categories: The Essentials

Letters of Note finally in print

14 April, 2014 - 20:54
Letters of Note, the most excellent blog collecting intriguing letters sent by noteworthy persons, is finally to be an excellent book.

"This spectacular collection of more than 125 letters offers a never-before-seen glimpse of the events and people of history—the brightest and best, the most notorious, and the endearingly everyday. Entries include a transcript of the letter; a short contextual introduction; and, in 100 cases, a captivating facsimile of the letter itself. The artfulness of Shaun Usher's eclectic arrangement creates a reading experience rich in discovery. Mordant, hilarious, poignant, enlightening—surprise rewards each turn of the page. Colorfully illustrated with photographs, portraits, and relevant artworks, this handsome hardcover is a visual treat too, making Letters of Note an utterly distinctive gift, and an instant classic."

Previously: Letters of Note -- blog of written correspondence from well-known people
Letters of Note, the book

Categories: The Essentials

Blackmagic adds more pro cameras at market-nuking prices

14 April, 2014 - 20:45

Blackmagic's trick is to make cameras with great cinematic image quality at a relatively inexpensive price. The tradeoff is gear that is Satan's gift to ergonomics, with low-end audio inputs, terrible battery life and a limited set of features. Enter the Blackmagic Studio Camera, which includes a big 10" monitor, 4 hours on a charge, XLR inputs, and broadcast-friendly features lacking in the earlier models. With the offered grip accessory, one may even hold it with a human hand! The game-changing prices remain: it's just under $2k, with a 4K version for $3k. You'll still need to bring your own lenses and SSDs.

Also announced is the Blackmagic URSA, a higher-end model with a super35-size 4k sensor aimed at professional feature use. At $6k, it isn't as affordable to students and consumers as the other models (especially the $990 pocket cinema camera), but it compares well on paper to the five-figure price tags hanging off similar gear from Canon, Sony and others.

Categories: The Essentials

Silicon Valley teaches Richard how to fire a friend [TV Recap: season 1, episode 2]

14 April, 2014 - 19:02

Silicon Valley’s pilot offered the allure of the billion-dollar tech startup, giving Richard Hendrix the opportunity of a lifetime thanks to his potentially game-changing algorithm. But “The Cap Table” is when reality sets it, tough choices need to be made, and the limitations of all involved come screeching into focus. Having decided to take Peter Gregory’s offer to start small, Richard Hendrix now has to figure out how to build the foundation of a company where before he just had something a lot of other people were telling him had a gargantuan valuation. It’s such a good idea that Jared Dunn (Zach Woods, Gabe from The Office) wants to leave Hooli in order to join up. But Erlich feels threatened by anyone intruding, and threatens the poor guy with the ghostly features on the eve of Pie Piper’s first appointment with Gregory.

The business meeting is a disaster, and represents in one fell swoop the biggest problem with Silicon Valley as a series while at the same time showcasing the best and worst aspects of some of the characters. That problem, which is going to continue to nag until it hypothetically gets rectified, is that Monica, Gregory’s assistant, does nothing more than offer semi-therapeutic input when her boss is strongly dissatisfied with Richard’s belief that he should be given guidance like a syllabus for a college course.

Erlich may be a lug when berating Richard after the meeting, but however inelegantly he makes his point, it still stands: Richard is CEO, so now he needs to take the reigns of his fledgling company and actually wield influence to create a viable structure. Gregory challenges him to build an identity for the company around the idea. That’s what he needs to see in order to succeed. Erlich offers no help, so Richard does the smart thing and calls in Jared to help come up with the formalized business plan necessary to impress Gregory. Sure, he’s a weird guy who asks permission to use the restroom and then stand around looking awfully proud of himself for lasting so long before needing to. But he’s an indispensible asset in light of Richard not having the faintest clue of how to create the necessary plans to get a company off the ground.

Where this hits a roadblock is in determining the titular Capitalization Table, or breakdown who will be given what percentage of equity in the new company. As per the startup incubator agreement, Erlich is unfortunately a lock at 10 percent. (Gregory’s point about getting only five percent in exchange for a lot off money while Erlich gets double for providing a futon and a moronic sense of entitlement is well taken.) Gilfoyle and Dinesh are both skilled programmers capable of unleashing highly entertaining pitches as to their worth to the fledgling company—and they’re mostly interested in one-upping each other in terms of equity percentages, which is the funniest back-to-back moment of the episode. Jared lends invaluable business preparation, since he’s the only one who seems to know how to prepare all the things.

That leaves Bighead, Richard’s best friend, as the odd man out. He’s not a jack-of-all-trades. He’s a master of none. And that means Richard has to fire his friend to present a lean, thought-out business plant to Gregory. Understandably, Bighead doesn’t take the news very well. Everyone knows he doesn’t bring anything to the table—Gilfoyle and Dinesh are particularly blunt and tactless in talking about it while Bighead’s around. Even Bighead comes to this realization, after running away to a stripper’s house and needing Richard to search and pick him up. Their conversation is a tough one, since Bighead has hit the point where he knows he doesn’t belong in Palo Alto plugging away at this life. This episode picks at the morality of making the tough but fair decision instead of the one that makes you feel better for a while. Richard wants the company to succeed, but he doesn’t want to lose his friend, but he knows his friend isn’t fulfilled when given a sympathy stake in the company and nothing important to do.

So it comes down to Richard’s decision, and in an impassioned moment undercut by situational irony, he makes his first bold asshole decision by rejecting majority opinion and keeping Bighead. Which would be great, except Bighead took a big promotion at Hooli because Gavin Belson thinks he’s stealing something away from Pied Piper. That solves Bighead’s existential crisis with a stroke of pure luck inspired by seething, irrational anger on the part of Belson. But in terms of leadership, this doesn’t bode well for Richard. He has the central idea that holds all of these people together, that makes them want to work to see Pied Piper fulfill its potential. But even at the point when he

It’s an important little lesson for a newly minted CEO: not everyone is going to think in the same moral logic as you. And that light bulb is a catalyst for Richard going into overdrive, commanding Jared and setting off for the Gregory meeting with renewed vigor (it happens off-screen but ends up a success). But the episode even goes out of its way to bend backwards on that revelation, because mixing business and friendship is complicated. Bighead phones Richard—as the latter struggles with not knowing how to deposit the check for $200,000 since he hasn’t set up an incorporation or bank account details—to tell him that the prototype he sent to those two jock douchebags from the pilot has given Hooli access to a version of Pied Piper’s algorithm. The big dog is going to reverse engineer a version and rush it to market thanks to superior manpower, and it’s up to Richard to fast-track his software in order to beat the biggest, most powerful, most innovative, most philanthropic tech company in the world.

This show is just starting to scratch the surface of the Gavin Belson/Peter Gregory feud, since they seem like the perfect history lesson in how personalities who join together for a business venture end up as mortal enemies. That doesn’t look like it’ll happen to Bighead, since he’s a go along to get along guy without big ideas. But while Richard has vastly more potential, that also means he has that much more potential for failure should he not take these small lessons to heart when learning how to build and run a company.


Extra Bytes

• Erlich’s solution to bridge the gap of trust with anyone, from Palo Alto pimps to Peter Gregory: “Wanna smoke weed?”

• This week in making fun of nerds: Nobody wants to be left alone with the stripper! Bighead is worried he’ll fall in love; Dinesh didn’t shake hands with a woman until he was 17 and doesn't like the idea of having an erection in the same room as his coworkers; Gilfoyle “entices the flesh,” he doesn’t pay for it.

Categories: The Essentials

TV recap: Game Of Thrones 'The Lion And The Rose' [season 4, episode 2]

14 April, 2014 - 13:06

Spoilers. Spoilers spoilers spoilers. Are we good now? All right, let’s dig into “The Lion And The Rose,” which isn’t a particularly thrilling episode of Game Of Thrones, but does feature one giant event that most fans of the show have been waiting for since the very beginning.

I’m convinced that most of the people who profess publicly that they haven’t read the Song Of Ice And Fire books actually know most of what’s going to happen on the show. (I haven’t read the books. I know what’s going to happen. I’m not scared of spoilers. It is what it is.) There’s not much else to explain this piece, which stakes an early claim on “predicting” Joffrey’s death this season. And in true Game Of Thrones fashion, there’s no delay getting to that event. It’s shockingly cathartic for the object of most fans’ ire to sputter and expire in the second installment of a 10-episode season. King Joffrey is dead. Long live the equally illegitimate King Tommen.

George R.R. Martin writes one episode of the series each year. He wrote “The Pointy End” back in season one, which covered the immediate aftermath of Ned’s imprisonment after attempting to reveal Joffrey’s true lineage. In season two he took the big battle episode “Blackwater,” still one of the high water marks for the series. And last year Martin wrote “The Bear And The Maiden Fair,” notable for its final scene where Jamie rescues Brienne from a fight with a bear. “The Lion And The Rose” is the first episode written by Martin that falls in the first half of a season—but it’s clear from the dialogue that he’s responsible, and by the end it’s obvious why he chose to craft this part of the story himself.

In comparison to someone like Robb Stark, who was built up as a boring but likeable guy, an underdog to root for because of what happened to his father Ned, Joffrey is nothing more than a pissant. He’s a contemptible little cockroach who does nothing but snipe at those around him out of sheer boredom and in the eyes of most viewers deserved a far more excruciating death. But there’s a sinister poetry to his death at a wedding, after all immediate threats have been removed. This is the chaos of Westeros, where siege threats can be thwarted by magical fire, White Walkers roam the frozen North, and the most dangerous place for a King seems to be a royal wedding. Yes, that means that characters who traditionally would end up the conquering heroes are cut down before following through on that classical arc. But it also means that the evildoers, sinister little cretins who do nothing but destroy all hope for happiness in the world, can die early and without warning as well.

Game Of Thrones doesn’t have the same gleeful attitude toward Joffrey’s death as I imagine many viewers will. (Truth be told, the group I people I watched with sat with clenched fists as the tension grew, then burst out with rapturous joy when the episode concluded.) It treats the occurrence like any other significant event, given a weighty boost from dramatic music. Joffrey begins to cough—anyone who knew what would happen watched on pins and needles every time he brought the cup to his lips—and then sputters uncontrollably, while Cersei and Jamie (his true parents) struggle hopelessly to save him. This is the fate that can befall those in power—especially those who make new enemies daily by inflicting cruelly unnecessary punishment on everyone around.

And there are plenty of people who would want to see him dead. Oberyn Martell is a leading candidate, though he seems intent on the rape and torture of his enemies, so that they suffer as much as his sister did during Robert’s Rebellion. As such, simply poisoning the king’s wine cup seems beneath his penchant for theatricality. His conversation with Cersei and Tywin during the feats is but one of a handful of tense and wonderful scenes between subtly warring parties. The Martells and Lanniesters are joined in a marriage alliance thanks to Cersei’s daughter, but it’s one of political convenience. These families don’t like each other, don’t subscribe to the same social values, and the peace between them is tenuous at best.

Sansa is far too emotionally traumatized to come up with anything like this, but in the cacophony of Joffrey’s death, the King’s fool—the man who gifted Sansa a necklace in the premiere—tells her to follow him in order to escape. Clearly some kind of plan was in place there, designed to give Sansa an avenue to depart, only with an unseen hand creating the opportunity.

Then there’s Tyrion, Cersei’s suspect of choice. He’s the one serving as cupbearer, sure, but it appears that sometime between Joffrey’s first sip and the pie being served that some poison got slipped into the drink. And there’s certainly the appearance of motive, since Joffrey relentlessly torments his uncle with drinks over the head, a troupe of performing dwarves, demands to bend a knee, and constant insults. Plus, Tyrion receives news earlier in the episode from Varys that both his sister and father know about Shae. So Tyrion redoubles his efforts to ensure her safety, rejecting her with insulting words he doesn’t mean, intended to inflict pain on Shae so that she’ll agree to get on a boat across the Narrow Sea. Bronn sees her off and confirms the departure.

But Tyrion has only attempted to keep the peace among his siblings this season. He shares a meal with Jamie where he counsels his brother and tells him to seek out Bronn as a trustworthy sparring partner to train with his left hand. (That’s really the only comedic scene of the episode.) And he gifts Joffrey a book about past kings, meant as a gentle urge toward wisdom instead of arrogant, violent excess—which Joffrey quickly rejects, slicing the book to pieces with his new Valyrian sword. Joffrey was rash and unable to heed warnings, and now he’s been poisoned dead by one of his countless enemies. Tyrion though, is one of the most calculating characters on the show, needing all of his cunning to stay alive when so many of his own family members want him dead—but even that might not be enough to save him. The good and the bad all have to die sometime. It’s the great equalizer, regardless of personality or reputation.

Cersei and Jamie both insert themselves into little political squabbles at various points during the wedding. Jamie confronts Loris over his impending marriage to Cersei, directly stating that his sister will have Loris (and any potential child) killed rather than let the wedding go through. Cersei intercepts Maester Pycelle creepily cornering a young girl, and tells him to leave and feed the feast scraps to the dogs, directly contradicting Margaery’s edict (credited to the King) that the leftovers will go to fee the city’s poor. Cersei has been slowly losing her grip on power throughout the past season, as her son grew older and more depraved, and she’s pushed out as Queen Regent now that there’s an actual Queen in Margaery Tyrell. But in light of the episode’s ending, all of this shuffling and squabbling seems rather moot. Jockeying for position under one monarch is meaningless once that person has shuffled off this mortal coil and yet another figurehead gets installed. There’s a lot that happens in this episode, depicting all the little conflicts that dot the political landscape of King’s Landing, and all of them will intensify now that Joffrey has gurgled blood.

Okay, so that’s the end of King Joffrey of Houses Baratheon and Lannister. But this episode also checks in on a few locations that didn't make the cut for the premiere. Those all basically serve as the final initial drop-ins on the goings on around Westeros. Roose Bolton returns from the Red Wedding to his house seat at the Dreadfort. His bastard son Ramsay Snow continues to act like a sadistic jackass, hunting down a random girl for sport and letting dogs tear her apart in the opening scene. Oh, and Theon is still his prisoner, only dehumanized beyond recognition. He answers to the name “Reek” now, and has been tortured into such docility he will shave Ramsay with a straight razor, listen to news that Robb Stark is dead, and keep performing the task. His fate continues to draw out tragically, but the little bit of plot here is that Bolton has been made Warden of the North, only without any help from Tywin Lannister to take or hold those lands.

Over in Dragonstone, Stannis obeys Melisandre and burns heretics still praying to the old Gods on giant pyres, including his wife’s brother. It’s clear that Stannis and his mad wife Sylese don’t get along much, though it’s curious that a big point of contention is how to treat their daughter, the disfigured Shireen. Stannis doesn’t see her much, but wants her cared for without corporal punishiment. Sylese, a devout believer in the Lord Of Light, believes her daughter is stubborn and sinful, and deserves the rod. As a compromise, Melisandre talks to the girl, and it’s here where Martin gets out the episode distilled down into a single, easily quotable line: “There is only one hell: the one we live in now.” An apt description of a world where being in power only increases the size of the target on your back and two consecutive weddings have ended with key political assassinations. It’s not just the night that is dark and full of terrors—all hours of the day must now fear the unexpected wrath of cruel fate.


Extra Thoughts

• Here’s one more round of applause for Jack Gleeson, who has been television’s most hated villain since 2011. He says he might retire from acting now that his stint on the show has ended, and in a way that makes me sad, but imbuing an iconic character with such malice is a tough thing to do on a consistent basis, and Gleeson did that masterfully.

• Up in the North, Bran, Jojen, Meera, and Hodor continue to seek out the three-eyed raven. Bran has been spending too much time in the mind of his direwolf, but later touches a tree, has a vision, and knows where they need to go. Mostly foreshadowing, but that vision sequence was quite engrossing in all that it encompassed.

• The Martells and Tyrells have names far too similar for me to accurately distinguish them at all times. Just wanted to make a note that I’m like everyone else in getting confused by the hundreds of characters swirling around in this story.

Categories: The Essentials

Tick, tick, tick

14 April, 2014 - 11:00

No idea who made this, but it's wonderful. If you know, post in the comments, please.

Categories: The Essentials

Tick, tick, tick

14 April, 2014 - 11:00

No idea who made this, but it's wonderful. If you know, post in the comments, please.

Update: It's from Bees and Bombs, to which I have just subscribed.

Categories: The Essentials

This Day in Blogging History: Google's adds dead-man's switch; Hyperbolic Bronnerianism; Amex can't take a joke

14 April, 2014 - 09:00

One year ago today
Google adds a "dead-man's switch" -- uses cases from torture-resistance to digital wills: If you set it, Google will watch your account for protracted inactivity. After a set period, you can tell it to either squawk ("Email Amnesty International and tell them I'm in jail," or "Email my kids and tell them I'm dead and give them instructions for probating my estate") and/or delete all your accounts.

Five years ago today
Hyperbolic Bronnerianism in Graphic Design: A fancy way of saying "crazy mushed up text with LOTS OF ALL CAPS! BOLD! I-T-A-L-I-C ! Nnnnnooooo negative space!" on product labels.

Ten years ago today
AmEx's dumb-ass trademark threats: Brad Templeton -- the long-time moderator of rec.humor.funny and host of the rhf archives -- has received a cease-and-desist notice from AmEx's lawyers over a 13 year old joke called "American Expressway."

Categories: The Essentials

Justified circles back to old friends and enemies to close out its fifth season [TV Recap: season 5, episode 13]

14 April, 2014 - 06:33

It was never really about the Crowes, or Ava going to prison, or the trip south of the border, or the gangsters in Detroit. This season of Justified, and by extension the entire series, has all been one long road to a final showdown between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder.

It was the central duality expressed by the pilot, and now that the creative forces behind the show have decided to call things off after one more season next year, that’s the major story resolution to build toward. Raylan has gone after many different villains through the Lexington Marshals office, many of them centered in Harlan County, but the one slippery beast who continues to elude permanent capture is Boyd Crowder. There’s a poetic justice to positioning the end of the show as a showdown between those two men.

What’s unfortunate is that a messy season like this one just feels like a big placeholder delaying the final 13-episode chess match between the two of them. “Restitution” is a fine finale to cap off a mostly good season, but Justified has touched greatness before when keeping Raylan and Boyd apart, sending them after the same objective, or throwing them together. This season barely had any blips of that greatness—mostly confined to one episode that had more to do with Chief Deputy Art Mullen, “Shot All To Hell”—which resulted in a quip-heavy, moderately satisfying few months of shuffling characters around before offing them and making way for the Raylan/Boyd conflict at the center.

Ava’s stint in prison now seems like the most disappointing development, a stall tactic that draws her away from Boyd to the point where they no longer car for each other in the same way—which makes it easier for her to turn against him. All the way back in the first season, it was Raylan who swung in to protect Ava, to be with her, and it was in part due to her jealousy that he went back to Winona that Ava even ended up with Boyd. Perhaps the stint in prison showed her that while she’s made of tougher stuff than she looks, she’s not cut out for a fight every day until her term is up, and that’s the life she was looking at while tied to Boyd’s increasingly dangerous criminal interests. But most of this plot line was executed clumsily, isolating a character the show only seems to care about in relation to the men in her life, and only tying her into the plot in this finale as a way to set up next season.

As for the Crowes, only Wendy and Kendal make it out, and neither of them are unscathed. Dilly took a bullet in the premiere, Danny accidentally fell on his own knife in a showdown with Raylan, and now Wendy shoots her brother in self-defense. Yes, that last one is far more complicated, but it’s the cruel price Raylan exacts in order to be rid of the Crowe infestation once and for all. It’s going to sound like a broken record, but the Crowes are not the Bennetts, which became frustratingly clear when Dickie showed up in a guest spot earlier this season. The only way the show knows how to deal with families like this is to send most of them to their graves, which makes it easy to predict that despite all the tension the episode squeezes out of Wendy, Kendal, and Darryl, it’s always going to end with Raylan standing over a dead body, threateningly victorious.

To get to that resolution, Raylan pulls out one of his patented stories about Arlo, commiserating with Kendal about the first time his dad forced him to kill an animal. For Raylan, it was a feral pig, for Kendal it was a gator, being a Florida Crowe and all. And in that tense, drawn out moment where Raylan puts the screws to Kendal without coming off like a jerk, the one shot that stands out is the one from behind the two-way mirror, showing a distraught Wendy. She sees the effect her absence has had on her son, and though she tries to take ownership of that failure and move on to something better, it costs her and her son any remaining family connection. She records Darryl after turning on the waterworks, and gets her hands dirty in a way she avoided previously in helping her family deal with legal troubles. Raylan’s final words to Darryl Crowe Jr. are as chilling as anything he’s ever said to a dying foe, but because the Crowe plot twisted in so many familiar ways, it just didn’t punch as hard as usual.

Boyd Crowder spends most of the episode in a situation he has grown familiar with: on the verge of losing his life. The heroin cartel guys catch up with him, and though they kill one of his most loyal associates, Boyd is sly enough to eventually turn things in his favor, changing the contact for Raylan in his phone to make it look like he’s contacting Darryl. The shootout at Ava’s house between the cartel men and Rachel and Tim rescues Boyd from certain doom. And his justification to Rachel—that he was merely keeping Darryl out of the situation so he could be alive when the Marshals proved Kendal didn’t attempt to murder Art—is exactly the kind of clever, wry retort that makes Boyd such a compelling character. (But it’s also a major reason why Rachel finally turns her attention to capturing Boyd for his litany of crimes.)

The same goes for his tentative reaction to Ava finally returning home, on the opposite end of the spectrum to present him at his most exposed and vulnerable. He was so hopelessly devoted to her, but unable to secure her release, that now he feels disconnected from what guided him through the past few season of the show. He’s thinking about a hypothetical future for their emotions, but all Ava can do is consider the here and now. A bath, pajamas, sleep, and her deal with the Marshals. They’re not on the same page, and even if Ava comes back to him when the show resumes next year, it’ll be a cover for her stay-out-of-jail motivations.

In the good news department, Art finally wakes up, and then Raylan gets what he says he wants but has been avoiding all season: a transfer to Florida. Winona looks positively thrilled—though Natalie Zea again only appears via Skype—but it just wouldn’t be Justified if the show didn’t dangle closing the loop before dashing the mother of Raylan’s child’s hopes once more. US Attorney David Vasquez and Rachel tell Givens that he can’t leave just yet, since they’re preparing to make the big move on Boyd Crowder, to use everything they have in that thick file on his criminal activity, and take him down now that he’s in cahoots with Wynn Duffy’s friend Catherine. It’s a classic “Just when I think I’m out…they pull me back in!” kind of ruse, but the lure of finally catching Boyd and putting him away for good is too appealing for Raylan to pass up. And now the rest of the Marshals are finally on board, so they’re prepared to go all-out by releasing Ava on the condition that she informs about everything.

This whole season had a feeling of biding time, waiting for the real story to come into focus. Last season, the next-best for the show after the Bennett clan in the second season, at least presented some resonant finality with Raylan’s father, racing against Boyd to find Drew Thompson, and themes of sons repeating the actions of their fathers. This season, there was just a hellfire of bullets, makeshift bombs, and drug deals obfuscating that there wasn’t any underlying thematic depth. It’s all been the run-up to the final lap, where everything once again hinges on how Raylan can get his Harlan County doppelganger. Justified is always entertaining—with Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins spouting drawled one-liners it couldn’t be anything else—but what kept it among the best shows on television was always the feeling that all the pulp crime lawman stuff was tied to something weightier in the end. Though this finale also ends with the same song as last year (though a different cover, to connote a different mood), it doesn’t feel like the end of a chapter. It’s the beginning of the final stage, which will pit two sons of Harlan against each other, fates tied together since childhood. There’s a classic kind of harmony to that bookend, but it rendered this season as more of an ellipsis along the path to the ultimate conclusion.


Extra Bullets

• Boyd wants credit from ex-Army sniper Tim for shooting a man with his hands cuffed behind his back. Tim’s excellent response: “Good guys don’t need to shoot people with their hands cuffed, Mr. Crowder.”

• That’s all for Justified this season, thanks for sticking around to read these reviews this season. It’s too bad things took a turn for the disappointing after starting out as electric as ever, but hopefully the final season will go out on a high note, since this has been a wonderfully satisfying show over the past five years.

More "Justified" in our review archives.

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