The surprise “best in show” winner at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is Flynn, a bichon frise. A surprise pick too as, according to The Associated Press, "Fans who had been loudly shouting for their favorites fell into stunned silence when judge Betty-Anne Stenmark announced her choice." Well played, little underdog Flynn!
There were almost 3000 competing dogs representing 200+ breeds but it was little fluffy Flynn that brought home the purple ribbon. The other winners, by breed:
A few fun facts about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show
According to Wikipedia:
“The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is an all-breed conformation show that has been held in New York City annually since 1877. Currently, the breed and Junior Showmanship competitions are held at Piers 92 and 94, while the group and Best in Show competitions are held at Madison Square Garden.”
Since 1877! That means the Westminster Dog Show is older than Shredded Wheat, automobiles, stop signs, bottle caps and zippers!
Also, according to Sports News, “The first show consisted of just gun dogs by a group of hunters who met regularly at Westminster Hotel. Original prizes for winning the show varied, with one such reward being pearl-handled pistols.”
And for some reason the Westminster Dog Show has traditionally, and heavily - favored terriers, who have won best in show 46 out of the 103 times the prize has been given since 1907 with male dogs winning 71 times.
Finally, dog shows are not without their controversy. Some animal activist groups don’t like dog shows and want them banned. The major concerns revolve around negative breeding practices, which certainly happen; and the fact that the dogs, when going through the grooming process can be jostled around too much in ways that might make them uncomfortable.
This seems to be a fair argument but I doubt dog shows will be “banned” anytime soon. Furthermore, I suspect the overwhelming majority of dogs within said shows are lovingly handled and cared for. Perhaps, additional common sense care requirements can be implemented to weed out some of the more ridiculous grooming practices (like - dog eyeliner).
Other than that, dog shows are extremely popular and are here to stay. So if you find yourself organizing or participating in a dog show - keep those canines healthy and happy.
And they’ll do the same for you.
Editor's note: In December 2018, Movie Pass offered new terms of service and this story may be out of date. To see their new TOS go to Movie Pass Update (and is it still too good to be true).
Movie Pass has been around for a few years but I’m just now catching on. It started out as a monthly subscription for $50 per month and with it you could use your Movie Pass card to see unlimited movies at your local theater. And by “unlimited” I mean one 2D (non-IMAX) movie per day. Most of your local theaters, including some of the big chains (AMC), accept Movie Pass.
It was an interesting idea, but it didn’t really catch on. So it took Movie Pass almost two years to get about 20,000 subscribers -- mainly, die-hard cinephiles.
Well, back in August that all changed when Movie Pass dropped the monthly subscription fee to $9.95 per month with the same deal: most of your local theaters accept Movie Pass, and you can now see one 2D (non-IMAX) movie per day.
Suddenly, Movie Pass is a lot more appealing, and since the August price drop, added 1.5 million subscribers, including me. I have only just signed up and have not even received my Movie Pass card yet. But when I do and begin to use it, I’ll write a follow up and let you know what’s what. But for now, after reading up on Movie Pass for a few days, here is the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Good: It will actually save you a lot of money … if you use it.
CNN reports that the average cost of a movie ticket across the country is roughly $9, according to the trade organization National Association of Theatre Owners, which means you need to use Movie Pass about twice per month in order to save money. Obviously, if you see more than two movies at the theater per month you will save even more money. I usually see a movie once per week at about $10-$12 per movie. Which means an annual Movie Pass subscription will save me approx. $300 per year.
I like this deal already.
Here’s exactly how it works.
Okay, I see a few minor hurdles. You need the App, you need the internet, and you have to be within approximately 100 yards of the movie theater you are attending. These hurdles seem minor to me. But how is this sustainable? Movie Pass CEO Mitch Lowe had an interview with CNNMoney and answered this is exact question.
"MoviePass is kind of a movie insurance program. Our service is really low because we are going to use our understanding of you as a customer to be able to give you relevant suggestions that you might find valuable in your life. We might say there's a great restaurant across the street from the movie. If you go over there and show them your card, you're going to get a free appetizer."
Ah hah! There’s the rub! They sell user data to third parties to make money. Some might be bothered by the privacy concern this raises. Me -- not so much. If Movie Pass notices I watch all the sci-fi movies I can shake a stick at and then offers me Blu-ray, sci-fi movies and/or sci-fi soundtracks, I might be interested.
But then again, I might not. I don’t really buy concessions at the movie theater, so Movie Pass might lose a lot of money -- on me. But Movie Pass is counting on the “gym membership model,” in that folks might binge at first but eventually keep paying the monthly subscription for something they hardly use.
Plus, Movie Pass is negotiating with theater chains for a sales percentage of concessions, since that’s where movie theaters make the majority of their money, and Movie Pass claims they are bringing people back to the theaters. (No, seriously, did you know that it costs a movie theater about four cents to make that large bag of popcorn that you just bought for $8?).
Movie Pass says that one in 35 movie theater customers are now using Movie Pass, and that number is rapidly increasing. It seems like fair leverage to get a tiny fraction of a percentage point for concessions. With the explosion in subscribers that Movie Pass has had in the last six months I expect (well, I hope) it doesn’t go anywhere soon.
The Bad: In order to get the best deal you have to pay for the full year membership - up front.
So, at $7.95 per month, plus a $19.95 one time processing fee you will be charged up front: $115.35.
Hrmmm. That’s a little obnoxious. But if you’re thinking, “Ah-hah! They’re going to grab your money and run!” Well, I too thought that for a moment. But then I saw their press release where they partnered with Fandor, which is a legit independent movie website (you should check it out) where they have some pretty great programing. I’ll reprint the full press release below.
The Ugly: Their customer service sucks. Like, seriously.
Via Movie Pass CEO’s very own mouth, he admits that the company didn’t expect to suddenly expand from 20,000 subscribers to 300,000 subscribers to one million and then, less than one month after reaching one million subscribers, exploding to up to two million subscribers. Their customer service department wasn’t able to keep up with their growth. Costumer service emails or calls went unanswered for months and months. He’s very aware of the problem and he speaks about it candidly in the CNNMoney interview linked above.
And, of course, they can print and mail cards to you only so fast. Customers are told to expect their Movie Pass card in five to seven business days, but it sounds as if the wait is more like two to four weeks. I find this annoying, but not so annoying that I will be passing up this deal.
The Final Skinny: Sign me up.
Movie Pass was a good deal at $10 a month. Movie Pass + Fandor is a really good deal at $7.95 per month (but remember, that’s $115 up front). I suspect Movie Pass is right - people aren’t going to use the Movie Pass card as much as they expect. But I bloody well will!
Keep in mind, the Movie Pass + Fandor for $115 up front is only a limited time offer. If you don’t want to pay the full up front fee - wait until the limited offer is up and Movie Pass will return to a $9.95 per month deal. There will still be a processing fee of $20 but then your first charge will only be $30 for month one, $10 for month two, etc, etc.
Either way, I signed up. I have to wait a few weeks for my Movie Pass card, but I’ve downloaded the App and plan to start watching Fandor films tonight.
As a final note, you may cancel your Movie Pass subscription at any time, but then will not be allowed to re-subscribe for nine months.
To learn more about Movie Pass and / or sign up visit their site here.
The Movie Pass / Fandor Partnership Press Release:
NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--MoviePass™, the nation's premier movie-theater subscription service and a majority-owned subsidiary of Helios and Matheson Analytics Inc. (NASDAQ: HMNY) (“HMNY”), and Fandor®, the streaming service with the largest collection of independent films, documentaries, international features and shorts, are introducing a new annual subscription plan. This new MoviePass subscription plan will allow movie-goers to visit the theater every day for a year, and have access to the full Fandor content library for a year, for just under $116.
This new annual offer lowers the MoviePass monthly price from $9.95 to $7.95 and is coupled with an annual Fandor subscription. This combined offer is back after testing a limited time run in November 2017; it is now being reintroduced as a limited time offer nationwide.
“MoviePass is not only a phenomenon in the entertainment industry, but it has sparked a movement, now two million people strong,” said Ted Farnsworth, Chairman and CEO of HMNY. “With this new offer, we can make the movement even more accessible to movie-goers. I believe our annual subscribers will become influential movie consumers and an amazing asset and bellwether for the film industry as a whole.”
"Fandor is excited to be part of the disruptive wave redefining how audiences consume entertainment, making a broad range of movies available to our movie-loving subscribers," said Larry Aidem, President and CEO of Fandor. "We look forward to continued collaborations with MoviePass in the coming year."
MoviePass presently drives more than 5% of the total nationwide box office and continues to grow contribution as new subscribers join.
“We’re thrilled to continue innovating and reinvigorating the film and movie theater industries with MoviePass and Fandor,” said Mitch Lowe, CEO of MoviePass. “With more than two million MoviePass subscribers, and new ones joining every day, it’s clear that this is a tool moviegoers need and want. This new offer allows us to continue to reach more subscribers.”
Subscribers who sign up for this new offer will be billed $115.35 ($7.95 a month + $19.95 processing fee), and will receive one full year of MoviePass and one full year of unlimited streaming from Fandor.
President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union speech tonight, Tuesday the 30th at 9:00pm (Eastern).
I will go out on a limb and proclaim the speech will be filled with lies, rhetoric, childish insults and insanely unrealistic predictions of what the President himself can accomplish.
He is, after all - by his own admission - the greatest. At pretty much everything.
His bombastic nature alone should turn the majority of reasonable folks off. But it doesn’t. There are plenty of poor, working class folks in small towns all round the country who actually believe that billionaire Donald Trump is going to somehow magically transform their lives for the better.
They are welcome to their dreams. They are welcome to continue to vote against their economic interests, too. And Donald Trump will continue to ignore them. Actually, “ignoring them” is probably giving the President too much credit. Ignoring them would mean he actively thinks about them and then makes a decision to not help them. Donald Trump does not give a rats ass about impoverished small towns. At all. He does not think about them. At all.
Though, to be honest - when was the last time you heard of the Democrats doing much to improve the lives of impoverished small towns?
The DFL is supposed to stand for Democratic Farmer Labor party. Well, the DFL, to my knowledge, certainly supports Labor rights. I doubt they’ve done much for small farms in the last fifty years. When asked about this very subject, DFL chairman Ken Martin says to MinnPost.com,
“The ‘F’ matters to us. The ‘F’ for us is fighting for the family farm; fighting for the little guy. ... But I’m not going to lie to you. It’s difficult right now. Young people can’t afford to get into farming anymore. It’s big agri-business now and that’s changed the face of the rural areas of the state.”
And if young folks can’t get into it - it’s a dying business.
All I’m really saying is the DFL used to take care of farmers but now it seems that rural areas have been overwhelmingly Red States for decades. During the campaign Donald Trump said to West Bend, a small town north of Milwaukee:
“I am fighting for you. When we talk about the insider, who are we talking about? It’s the comfortable politicians looking out for their own interests. It’s the lobbyists who know how to insert that perfect loophole into every bill. It’s the financial industry that knows how to regulate their competition out of existence. The insiders also include the media executives, anchors and journalists in Washington, Los Angeles, and New York City, who are part of the same failed status quo and want nothing to change.”
And they bought it. Trump literally does every single thing on that list - he's a rich insider, he looks out for his own interests, he uses lobbyists, he uses every perfect loophole to his own benefit, and he wants nothing to change. Well, he wants nothing to change for everyone else expect for him.
Poor small town folk all over the country bought into the new Red Scare. In that, the conservative Red media can scare impoverished small town folk into believing the Dems are everything evil and the Republicans are everything good.
And something about Hillary Clinton’s emails.
But I digress.
The State of the Union will be nothing new. President Trump will continue to say the things he always does, “I’m the best. I’m the smartest. I fight for the little folks. I’ve cleaned the swamp. I win. You win. We all win together. You will not find another person who respects women more than I but Rosie O'Donnell is a big fat lezbo pig. My vocabulary is the "bestest there is" and I didn’t have sex with that porn star and pay $140k to cover it up. I was married at the time. I would never cheat on my wife. The democrats are evil. Make America Great.”
There it is. His legit speech, tonight at the State of the Union. You read it here first.
As for the wide spread impoverished rural community that voted him into office, I honestly feel bad for you because you literally have no one looking in your direction and offering help. Not the Democrats. Not the Republicans. And certainly not President Donald Trump.
Bernie Sanders probably would have though.
Burger King hit viral gold with its recent ad riffing off the repeal of net neutrality rules. Let’s face it - a lot of people don’t know, or don’t care, what net neutrality is. But they should. And Burger King, apparently, is just the sort of giant company to tell you all about it.
Very basically, net neutrality forces all internet providers to treat all web traffic equally. Which is precisely how the internet has worked since Al Gore created it (That was a joke! But if you just felt your blood pressure rise upon hearing the oft repeated Fox Fake News Story that Al Gore “claimed” to create the internet - I will go on a limb and say you probably don’t know a thing about net neutrality, either).
Burger King claims the ad is filled with real people, not actors but my Spider Sense tingles at the idea. These people might not be trained, professional actors but I suspect some (if not all) of them were in on it from the get go.
But that doesn’t really change the point of the video. In it - when customers order a Whopper they are told there are different price depending on how fast you want the Whopper cooked - the MBPS (making burgers per second) speed. If you want to wait for twenty or thirty minutes - your Whopper will be $5. If you want your Whopper in 90 seconds - your Whopper will be $26.
Same Whopper. Different price. Net Neutrality at it’s finest. But Burger King employees make it clear - these are not our rules - we just have to enforce them. Watch the above linked video as customers get more exasperated and furious.
And why do we have this ridiculous ad? Because the FCC repealed Obama-era neutrality rules and now internet provider giants can throttle and / or block websites that don’t pay the fee for faster speeds.
Internet providers can even block or throttle websites that do pay the faster fee. I mean, I don’t know about you but I swear to God that my Netflix streaming has sucked since Jan 1. It was like over night too. And Netflix has paid the faster streaming fees to the internet provider giants.
I used to be able to watch HD streaming with - well, you know … perfect HD quality! Now, half the time, the picture is so pixelated, HD looks like a bad, out of focus print from the 1920’s. I kid you not.
But maybe that’s just me. I’m sure with net neutrality rules gone Netflix will clear right up ASAP.
A California couple has been busted for torture, abuse, child neglect and false imprisonment against their 12 children. On Sunday, one of the teenage daughter captives scrambled to freedom by crawling out of a home window and dialing 911.
It was an escape plan, two years in the making.
After receiving the distress call, two deputies and a supervisor arrived on the scene and found a filthy house in unlivable conditions, a bewildered mother who just couldn’t understand why the police where at her house, and twelve neglected and abused children - some of which were still chained to their beds.
Police wasted no time arresting the two soulless ghouls responsible - the parents - David Turpin, 56, and Louise Turpin, 49. Now both are facing charges of torture, abuse and false imprisonment. Two parents who were, by admission, homeschooling Christians.
On January 18th the married couple pled not guilty to:
And those are just the crimes they committed. And it doesn’t even mention that their “homeschooling” was ludicrously lacking as the children, when rescued and questioned, didn’t have a basic understanding of things. They didn’t know what a police officer was. They didn’t understand what medication was.
It just goes on and on.
Now, I didn’t bother added the word, “allegedly” even though the law presumes the Turpin’s are innocent until the state proves them to be guilty.
But I’m not part of their legal trial so I will go out on a limb and say these two fuckers are guilty, guilty, guilty as sin. And I want them to pay.
Lock them up. Throw away the key.
Or as Rust Cohle says to a child molester in season one of True Detective, “The newspapers are going to be tough on you. And prison is very, very hard on people who hurt kids. If you get the opportunity -- you should kill yourself.”
That being said, I hope those kids are now surrounded with care, love and support. They have their entire free lives ahead of them now and I hope they can recover from their trauma and go on to accomplish great things.
Late November I wrote my snotty predictions for the playoffs and, to be honest, I was pretty accurate. But so were most sports pundits. It wasn't too hard to predict by then.
Then: the four major players in the NFL were the Eagles, the Patriots, the Steelers and the Vikings with the Saints as the number one wild card team.
Now: The four major players have proven to be: the Patriots, the Saints, the Steelers and the Vikings.
Sorry, Philly fans, as soon as your QB1 went down in week 15 your fate as a one and done playoff team was sealed.
On the other hand I think every football fan was shocked to see the Tennessee Titans snatch a victory away from KC with their 18 unanswered points. KC fans were probably sick about that.
And speaking of the Chiefs - what idiot breaks news that you are open to trading your star quarterback hours before your playoff game? You know, your star QB that led the fucking NFL in passer rating, averaged almost 6 yards per rush and wins your division for you?
Yeah, let’s get rid of that guy. And let’s tell the world about it a few hours before he plays for us in the Wild Card playoff match.
But I digress. We have eight teams left in the playoffs:
NFC (National Football Conference)
Atlanta (11-6) vs. Philadelphia (13-3) and New Orleans (12-5) vs Minnesota (13-3)
AFC (American Football Conference)
Tennessee (10-7) vs. New England (13-3) and Jacksonville (11-6) vs. Pittsburg (13-3)
Tennessee Titans vs. the New England Patriots
Let’s get the easy one out of the way. The Tennessee Titans are worst team in the line up. Through sheer determination, luck and the “Chief’s can’t win a fucking playoff game to save their lives” curse - the Titans barely squeaked into the Divisional round but that’s where their season ends.
Prediction: New England will crush the overwhelmed Titans.
Atlanta Falcons vs. The Philadelphia Eagles
The second easy one. With Carson Wentz injured the Eagles are no longer a Super Bowl contender with QB2 Nick Foles leading the team. Foles has had a long decent, though inconsistent career. He’s a fine QB. He is not the man that will beat the Falcons.
Prediction: Atlanta Falcons -- but the game will be a closer than most suspect.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. The Pittsburgh Steelers
This is little more difficult to predict. “Big Ben” Roethlisberger is on fire and the Steelers put up the number three offense in the league behind only the Patriots and the Saints. But Jacksonville put together the most uncanny defense the league has seen in a while. Seriously. My roommate had Jacksonville for defense on his Fantasy Football team and he told me about it every week for the entire season:
“The Jaguars got me another fifty points on defense! Fifty points! That’s more than Tom Brady!”
By comparison the Steelers have the 5th ranked Defense and Jacksonville has the 6th ranked offense. Though, that #6 rank for Jacksonville has mainly been because of the Jag’s excellent running game. In fact, Jacksonville’s QB1 - Blake Bortles had a rather mediocre year being ranked 17th in passing offense - 3,687 yards, 7 yards per throw, 230 yards per game, 21 TD / 13 INT.
I just don’t see Bortles cutting up the Steelers defense and I expect Pittsburgh’s pass rush to keep Bortles on the ground. A lot.
BUT - if Jacksonville’s crazy, madman defense shows up healthy, I can see Jags eeking out a win over the Steelers.
I think this game could go either way but I’m giving the edge to the Steelers.
Prediction: The Steelers in a moderate to low scoring game.
New Orleans Saints vs. The Minnesota Vikings
Finally. The game of the week. Maybe the most evenly matched game the playoffs will see this year.
Hey, remember up above when I talk about that crazy awesome defense the Jag’s put up? Well, the Jag’s ended up with number two defense of the year. The best defense of the year belongs to the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings are first in per game points allowed (15.8), first in per game yards allowed (275.9), second in per game pass yards allowed (192.4) and second in per game rush yards allowed (83.6). The Vikings are crushing opponents on critical third down plays. Case Keenum is having the season of his career. Adam Thielen is a wide receiving super star. The front line is healthy and the running game is solid.
The Vikings are a solid football team.
Of course, the Saints have Drew Brees. They also have Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara - the duo backs who have crushed defenders this year and became the first ever combo to surpass 1,500 yards from scrimmage in the same season.
The Saints are also, a solid football team.
On the other hand, the MN Vikings have Harrison Smith. Now, even if you’re a casual fan of the NFL you’ve probably heard of him. And you’ve probably heard he’s good. Or maybe you even think he’s really good.
And so did I. But someone recently convinced me he might be the best current player in the NFL. And that’s not hyperbole either.
Well, I mean - I’ve always thought Smith was an elite player and believe he was a total snub for the Pro Bowl this year. But, I mean - best player in the NFL? Come on!
And then someone went and put together Smith’s numbers for the year and posted, “No matter how good you think Harrison Smith is, he’s better than you think he is.”
From the article:
“Harrison Smith had a passer rating allowed of just 22.0 this season … Just to be clear, that’s not normal. Earl Thomas, arguably the best coverage safety in the NFL, had a passer rating allowed of 80.9 this season. Smith was four-times better than that. Throwing the ball into the dirt on every snap would grant a quarterback a passer rating of 39.6. And yet that would still be nearly twice as good as throwing the ball at Harrison Smith.”
“Smith didn’t give up a touchdown in coverage all season, and he had five interceptions and 17 pass deflections. Smith was targeted 42 times on the season, giving up just 23 receptions for 140 yards. For comparison, Earl Thomas gave up more yards (160) on less than half the amount of targets. Smith’s 0.25 yards allowed per coverage snap is among the lowest of any player at any position in the NFL, and his passer rating allowed is absolutely unprecedented.”
Bloody hell! That can’t be right! Right? Let me Google some more Harrison Smith information and see if that above information is accurate.
Google. Google. Google.
Dear God! It is! A QB could throw the ball into the dirt and have a better passing rating than throwing the ball to a receiver covered by Harrison Smith! Holy, insane!
Here is what the Pro Football Focus (PFF) has to say about Harrison Smith:
“There has been no better player across all positions than Minnesota’s Harrison Smith, who has been the field general for the league’s best defense over the course of the year. Smith’s overall PFF grade of 98.8 was the best mark in the league not only among safeties, but at any position, and is the highest mark we have ever given a safety in over 10 years of grading. His ability to play all over the defense for the Vikings – lining up at both free and strong safety on more than a third of his defensive snaps and even covering the slot against both tight ends and receivers – allows that defense to scheme up virtually anything they want, knowing that they have the moveable chess piece to make it happen and get the right players in the right spots.”
Fair enough. I’m sold. (Read the above ”No matter…” link for even more unreal Harrison Smith statistics).
Which brings us to:
Drew Brees. I’ll go out on a limb and say the Vikings are the more rounded, better team but the Saints have Drew Brees. You know what I’m talking about.
It’s like being a fan of a team that has to go against Joe Montana, or Dan Marino, or Tom Brady, or Brett Favre, or Aaron Rodgers. And sometimes you have to go against those QB’s twice per year!
And that’s what brings us to the game of the playoffs. The Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints met in week one with the Vikings taking that game 29-19 but that was seventeen weeks ago. Both teams are radically changed and more mature.
If this were a pure numbers game I would say the Vikings have the edge. But there’s that ol’ “clutch” word that gets thrown around the NFL basically meaning, “when it really, really matters - you come through in the clutch.”
Drew Brees is serious clutch.
But then again, so is Harrison Smith.
Prediction: The Vikings in much too close game for my nerves to handle. But, I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Saints win. I’ll be disappointed, but not surprised because - Drew Brees.
Second prediction: Whoever wins the Viking / Saints matchup will win the Super Bowl.
Another year, another Midwest record breaking cold front. The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories, freeze warnings and an approaching “arctic cold front” to a large portion of the country ranging from mid Texas to Canada and from Montana through New England.
Of course, if you live in the Midwest, like I do, you’re already familiar with the cold as we’ve all been living with it for more than a week now. Just last week GCN’s guest medical columnist Dr. Daliah Wachs wrote “How to Prevent Hypothermia” anticipating the cold front.
Last week temperatures in MN plunged to -37C making my home state colder than Antarctica (-16C) and even colder than parts of Mars. Author Andy Weir knows what we are going through -- he writes in his novel, “The Martian:”
“And thanks to decades of reconnaissance by Curiosity, Opportunity, and the rest of NASA’s band of merry Rovers, we know most of what astronauts will need to survive on Mars once they get there: souped-up spacesuits to protect against massive dust storms and sub-freezing temperatures; tons of freeze-dried food; housing pods that can shield against radiation; and a big drill to unlock the frozen water beneath the Mars surface. It’s not easy living, but not too unlike, say, Minnesota.”
Thanks, Mr. Weir! We Minnesotans will keep that in mind. =)
Anyway. Stay warm. Keep your pets indoors or keep their outdoor activities to the bare minimum, and dream of warmer days.
They are not so far away.
If you like this you might like The Dr. Daliah Show.
Need a last second holiday gift? Looking for a way to spend that Christmas Google Play or itunes gift card? I have just what you need -- awesome, cheap games for your phone!
Everyone has played Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies and Limbo (but if you haven’t you should totally check them out) so I went a different route. Normally I play games on a console or PC, which tend to be more story based than traditional point and click phone games. But it occured to me that many of the story based games I love and play are probably available for your phone.
So I checked. And I found some!
Here are a few of my favorites presented alphabetically:
The Banner Saga 1 & 2: I really love this game. It’s a great mix of storytelling and turn based tactical combat. The art is gorgeous and the story choices are sophisticated enough to keep you guessing. From the website of game designer Stoic Games:
“Epic role-playing Viking saga where your strategic choices directly affect your personal journey. Make allies and enemies as you travel with your caravan across a stunningly beautiful, yet harsh, landscape. Carefully choose those who will help fight a new threat that jeopardizes an entire civilization. Every decision you make in travel, conversation and combat has a meaningful effect on the outcome as your story unfolds. Not everyone under your banner will survive, but they will be remembered.”
Playing time: Approx. 10ish hours to complete the main quest in Banner Saga 1 with perhaps 15ish hours to complete Saga 2. Additional hour can be spent in game play through Survival Mode - a series of increasingly difficult battles! (I just got killed in battle 32 of 40. Must start over. Arggh!)
Repeat playability: High. Adjust game play to a higher difficulty and try a second Saga or play Survival Mode after completing the main story.
Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.
Cost - depending on platform: $5 -$10
Beholder: A really fun game set in a grim dystopian future where an oppressive totalitarian State controls every aspect of private and public life. And it’s your job to root out anyone who speaks our or acts against the State! Of course you can rage against the State and hide the on going deeds of your tenants, if you wish -- just don’t get caught. Warning - this game is hard! From the Warm Lamp Games game designer site:
“You are the State-installed manager of an apartment building. Your daily routine involves making the building a sweet spot for tenants, who will come and go; however, that is simply a faced that hides your real mission … spying on your renters! Your primary task is to covertly watch your tenants and eavesdrop on their conversations. You must bug their apartments while they’re away, search their belongings, and profile them for your superiors. You must also report anyone capable of violating the laws or plotting subversive activities against the State to the authorities.”
Playing time: Several hours to finish the main story with an additional 20ish hours in order to unlock all possible endings.
Repeat playability: High.
Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.
Cost - depending on platform: Free -$5
Heart’s Medicine: Time to Heal: A super charming point and click time management game -- that happens to be a touching medical based drama. What sets it apart from many point and click games is the tender storyline woven between game goals.
Game designer Blue Giraffe says:
“Heart’s Medicine - Time to Heal is an intense medical drama tied into a casual game this is moving people to tears. The game has a gripping and unique storyline, original singer/songwriter music, highly detailed artwork and animation, cool addictive gameplay and an insane amount of heart … Become a doctor in a romantic medical drama and join the life of aspiring surgeon Allison Heart as she works her shifts at Little Creek Hospital. Experience love, intense action, realistic drama, crazy funny moments and the beauty of celebrating life!”
Playing time: Approx. 20 hours.
Repeat playability: Medium. Once the story is over you can repeat gameplay but without the darling story it becomes a standard diner dash game.
Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.
Cost - depending on platform: Free -$5
The Silent Age: A clever little point and click drama that bounces back and forth in time. This game is more story driven than game driven. Solving the puzzles won’t be much of a challenge for most savvy game players but the story writing is strong and the plot becomes more compelling as it moves forward. The game is downloaded as five separate chapter so make sure you get chapter one!
Game developer House on Fire says:
“Help Joe as he travels between the groovy present of 1972 and the apocalyptic future of 2012 to discover the truth behind humankind’s extinction - a quest entrusted to him by a dying man from the future. Use your portable time travel device to solve puzzles that bring you closer to answers and saving humanity. Winner of the 2013 Causal Connection Indie Prize.”
Playing time: Approx. 6 hours.
Repeat playability: Low. Once you know the story -- you know the story.
Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.
Cost - depending on platform: Free -$5
This War of Mine: This absolutely gorgeous black and white shaded game is a gut wrencher. A survivalist war game unlike anything I’ve played. After several times (about ten hours game time) I’ve yet to survive to see the end of the war. I’ll let the folks from 11 Bit Studio, the game designers, explain it for you:
“In This War of Mine you do not play as an elite soldier, rather a group of civilians trying to survive in a besieged city; struggling with lack of food, medicine and constant danger from snipers and hostile scavengers. The game provides an experience of war seen from an entirely new angle .... The pace of the game is imposed by the day and night cycle. During the day snipers outside stop you from leaving your refuge, so you need to focus on maintaining your hideout: crafting and trading and taking care of your survivors.At night, take one of your civilians on a mission to scavenge through a set of unique locations for items that will help you stay alive … Make life-and-death decisions driven by your conscience. Try to protect everybody from your shelter or sacrifice some of them for longer-term survival. During war, there are no good or bad decisions, there is only survival. The sooner you realize that, the better.”
Playing time: The game is won when the war ends which is randomly decided each time you load a new game. I would say approx. ten-ish hours to finish the story once.
Repeat playability: High. Each play through will bring completely different challenges.
Platform: Android, iPhone, most tablets, PC and Mac.
Cost - depending on platform: $4-$14.
As a long time Star Wars lover I honestly believe there are only two terrible Star Wars films. The first: The Star Wars Christmas Special, which remains the holocaust of television. It’s technically not part of canon but it’s so bad I have to mention it.
I’m ignoring the Ewok films because they are not canon. Besides, I've only seen them once and I was a kid so I remember nothing about them.
The Clone War animated series is technically canon Star Wars but it's five seasons long. Perhaps one day I will get around to watching them. Today is not that day.
So it really just comes down to the other Star Wars movie that I think is terrible. A film so awful I will go out on a limb and proclaim it to be one of the worst ever made, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Aside from that one film, most Star Wars movies are -- well, mediocre. Which means I am splitting hairs deciding that one mediocre film is better than another. You know what, I’ll assign letter grades to help with the process. I mean, we all understand that a C + is better than a C, which is better than a C -, despite the fact they are all average. This also means that my opinion of them is so close that I could easily shuffle a lot of those C movies around, but for today, here's where they stand.
But how can I claim to love Star Wars and then say the majority of the movies are -- "Meh, they're okay." It all about the execution, man! So, the SW universe continues to enchants me. When they're good, they're great. When they're mediocre, they're still - set in the SW universe (and they probably feature light sabers!) =)
To be fair there is plenty to like and dislike in most Star Wars films. And while going to the movie theater can be an experience it's sometimes hard to separate that experience, from the movie itself. I mean, seeing Star Wars in the theater when you are five years old is AN EVENT. And from there it's hard to create an objective analysis of what works and / or does not work in the movie itself.
But I’ll try. Though, Luke is probably right -- “This will not work out that way you think.”
As a final note, I am fascinated with the Star Wars Ring Theory and, if it’s one hundred percent accurate, it means that the directing sophistication of all six of Lucas’ SW films are staggering to comprehend. If the Ring Theory is not one hundred percent accurate then, well -- George Lucas still remains an incredible producer and a very skilled director. Regardless, neither one of those things make Lucas a better writer. And that's always been the pratfall of the execution of Star Wars films. I honestly believe that George Lucas creates great stories. But when it comes to transforming his broad story into a day to day detail of what characters say and do -- well ...
Take Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope (which I will henceforth refer to as, “Star Wars”). A lot of George’s dialogue is clunky and hamfisted and it’s a testament to the skill of the actors that they pull it off with any sort of believability. Harrison Ford is famously known for making fun of George Lucas’ dialogue, he shared this story in a GQ interview while promoting The Force Awakens:
“George usually sits near a monitor, far removed, so I had to convey my impression…or my feelings…about the dialogue across a great space," the actor recalled. "So I did shout it. ‘George! You can type this shit, but you sure can't say it! Move your mouth when you're typing!’”
Later, Ford was asked if he thought he offended George by making fun of the dialogue and Harrison replied, "He sold the company for, you know, $4 billion. He doesn't give a shit what I think."
Maybe. But it is true that Star Wars has always had ham fisted dialogue. And when you cast well, your actors can absorb it and make it believable as Ford, Fisher, Liam Neeson, Peter Cushing, and Alec Guiness did. If you do not cast well and / or end up with child actors, like Jake Lloyd and CW-esq. over emoter Hayden Christensen -- then dialogue issues become exacerbated.
And that’s it. Dialogue. Acting. Adventure. Entertainment. Tone. That’s Star Wars for me. That's what I watch for - though, not necessarily in that order. And finally, if you’re going to make a SW film -- it better have a lightsaber in it. Just sayin.
My Star Wars Feature Film List Ranked Worst to First:
WORST: Episode 2: Attack of the Clones. Director: George Lucas. Writers: George Lucas & Jonathan Hales (w/ rumored uncredited script “doctoring” by Carrie Fisher and Tom Stoppard). It’s very easy to trash bad movies, but Episode 2 is so staggeringly bad it defies -- well -- it kind of defies words. Attack of the Clones is, frankly - completely incompetent. The poor actors in Clones are saddled with a specifically brutal level of hamfisted sentences and each and every one of those inglorious lines are mangled beyond acting comprehension by Hayden “fucking” Christensen. Natalie Portman suffers with the same dialogue that Christensen does, but she is clearly the more talented actor of the two and is at least tolerable to watch on screen. Christiansen is so bad in every scene I can’t actually blame the actor. It’s the director's exact responsibility to notice when an actor needs help finding acting choices that work. Lucas clearly just couldn’t do it. Lucas uses the same two directing phrases over and over, “Say the lines faster (or slower)” and “Yes, but better next time.” If you’re Liam Neeson, you can work with that level of non-direction. Hayden Christensen is not Liam Neeson. Nothing about Clones works; from the ridiculous over the top droid factory scene, the soul crushing amount of actors trapped in CGI hell (as in, an actor “acting” to an empty green room which does nothing but create wooden performances) and / or Hayden Christensen just flat out ruining scene after scene with the mind numbing dialogue. Can you imagine all the other humiliated actors who read for teenage Anakin Skywalker and did not get the part? I wonder if each and every one of them saw Attack of the Clones and thought, “Wait, Lucasfilm casting department thought THIS GUY was better than me? I should probably go kill myself now!” I honestly believe if Attack of the Clones was not a Star Wars film it would be widely regarded as a Battlefield Earth-esq disaster of a movie. Sadly, the SW moniker creates too many apologists. Episode 2: Attack of the Clones: F
Epispode. 3: Revenge of the Sith. Writer / director: George Lucas. And here begins the run of mediocrity. There is not much to hate in Sith. Instead it's is more like a film of giant missed opportunities. Nothing in Episode 3 is as good as it should be, no moment as satisfying as it could be. Much like the action sequences in Clones, they are equally over produced. The drama plays exactly as you expect it to. Christiansen, a bit older, isn’t as awful as his blisteringly bad Ep. 2 performance. To be fair, Christiansen evilly hams it up to the degree Lucas probably directed him too. Ewan McGregor remains the minimal heart and soul of the film, in that - he’s fine. He’s no Luke Skywalker or Han Solo or Princess Leia but his Obi Wan is -- well, fine. He’s a little too bitchy and harsh in Ep. 2 and I never warmed up to him as a lead in Ep. 3 I think as written, Kenobi is flat and hollow and McGregor doesn’t do much to wake the character up. I certainly take issue with a few questionable script choices; the Darth Vader -- “Nooooooo!” probably could have been handled better. Or that fact that, once again, the Jedi totally forget they have powers that they have actively demonstrated to possess - over and over again. I’m specifically thinking of the opening space battle over Coruscant where Ani and Kenobi should both just use the bloody Force to knock the buzz droids off each other’s ships instead of the ridiculous and dangerous flight stunts they perform. It’s just one of those moments where “the screenplay says it happens this way” despite the fact it ignores all of the rules SW has created in the previous five films. Revenge of the Sith, much like Ep. 2 completely abandons the oft used “less is usually more” rule, Lucas directs scenes of lifeless, mediocre action & emotionless, predictable drama. Finally, I know this actor was in the previous two movies but Sam Jackson is totally miscast and should not be in the SW prequels. Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith: C -
A Star Wars Story: Rogue One. Director: Gareth Edwards. Writers: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. This film, I suspect, many of my SW loving friends and allies will put much higher on their list. Fair enough. I just don’t understand the love. Rogue One wants to be a war film first, a SW film second. You already lost my support. There are plenty of options for filmmakers to create dark and cynical movies with war themes that focus heavily on believable trauma and the horrific toll created by war. But SW has a well established tone and Rogue One wants it both ways. The film wants to be about war, and trauma, and sacrifice but it also wants dopey SW humor & push cuts which creates a massive tone clash. I mean, what’s next? A Superman film that turns Kal-el into a bitter, brooding, cynical jackass who murders people to solve his problems? Because no one would do that! (Suck it Man of Steel). I haven’t even mentioned the fact the Rogue One has like, thirty lead characters. Who are all these poorly drawn characters and why should I care about any of them? Well, I don’t. As a matter of fact most folks who love Rogue One can’t answer this basic question, “Name one of the characters in Rogue One?” I usually get sputtering, “Ummmm” response and of the one or two folk who can name the lead female protagonist, I have yet to meet someone who can name a second character from Rogue One. That is certainly suggestive of something. Even the drama of Rogue One is suspect - The protagonist party goes to a planet. The Empire, coincidentally, happens to be there. Huge fight -- this repeats for two hours. Not exactly the stuff of dramatic legend. For some reason Forest Whitaker and his bulbous mind reading alien have worthless cameos. Ben Mendelsohn who is so, so mesmerizing in Bloodline plays Adequate Evil Villain One and spends the entire movie desperately trying to suppress his southern drawl. Tarkin is CGI thrown in, because the producers want to show us what they can accomplish -- a five minute rewrite could (and should) have taken Tarken out of the film entirely. And Darth Vader should not be in the movie at all! I really like that the cast is super racially diverse but what a wasted opportunity to have thirty poorly realized lead diverse characters with -- um -- well, no chance of a sequel. Finally: no fucking light sabers! A Star Wars Story: Rogue One: C -
Episode 6: Return of the Jedi. Director: Richard Marquand. Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas. I did love this movie as a kid because, well, what else did I have to compare it too? Return of the Jedi has not aged well and I lay blame on the shoulders of its strange choice of a director - Richard Marquand. He had mainly done TV until Jedi. Sadly, it shows. Action sequences are blocked awkwardly - as if Marquand didn’t understand a widescreen format. He does not have an eye for the camera and shoots scenes with seemingly very little concept of how dramatic motion moves forward. Marquand certainly has no idea what to do with puppets, framing each of them perfectly on for the camera, as one would do for TV, which just highlights their fakeness. Compare the cantina scene in Star Wars to Jabba’s palace in Jedi. Jedi has several years of additional technology but looks amateurish compared to the original cantina scene. Marquand is just the wrong guy to be directing. Plus - Ewoks. Okay, I get it. SW is a family friendly adventure movie and kids love Ewoks (despite the fact that Ewoks were totally going to burn Han and Luke alive and then probably eat them!). I was eleven when Jedi came out and therefor too old to like Ewoks but still a bit too young to hate them. At the time I remember thinking they were kind of cute. Later in life I was able to see the obvious primitive technology vs. advanced technology story trope and that Ewoks were clearly designed to sell toys. Jedi is the first SW movie that made story choice less important than marketing, a sad trend that continues through the prequels. Jedi is universally considered the weakest of the original trilogy for good reason but still there things to like, but mostly a lot to - “meh.” None of the character work plays out as well as it should. Ford hams it up too much. But the final Jedi duel between Luke, Vader, the Emperor is very emotionally satisfying and intercut with, probably the best of all the SW space battles but then cut back to - stupid Ewoks fighting on the moon of Endor. Return of the Jedi should have been much better than it was. And to prove there was a calculated, giant marketing strategy to sell Ewok toys to kids, think of this -- in Return of the Jedi, how many times is the word,“Ewok” used? You probably just guessed it -- not one single time! And every kid and their best friend knew what an Ewok was a month before the movie came out because of - stupid marketing. Episode 6: Return of the Jedi: C
Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Writer / director: George Lucas. I know, I know. Midichlorians, trade agreements and something about space taxation, blockades and the fact that the drama plays out as a series of meetings (seriously, the Jedi have a meeting with one person, then the next, then the next, then the next…) and finally -- Jar Jar Binks. I hear you. I dislike large portions of Phantom Menace. I will offer only this in its defense -- Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn. I posit that Neeson’s Qui-Gon single handedly picks up The Phantom Menace and carries the entire film on his acting genius shoulders. I am not suggesting Qui-Gon is Neeson’s greatest acting achievement. Neeson, much like actors from the previous trilogy, takes the gobbledygook SW dialogue and makes it believable. In fact, he makes it look easy. Neeson creates the only consistently great and likable character in the prequels. Qui-Gon is the Jedi we’ve always wanted to see in SW. He’s a great combination of Solo and Luke - honorable, wise, heroic and roguish. Qui-Gon breaks the rules when the rules aren’t just. He disobeys orders and, despite having an apprentice -- he’s a solo rogue. But he’s also a good guy. He’s pretty much everything we love in SW characters. Also, he’s played by Liam Neeson! If I haven’t convinced you that Qui-Gon is the best character in the prequels and arguably the best character in the SW film universe, then I haven’t. But The Phantom Menace is eminently watchable because of Qui-Gon. Not only that, but PM gives us the most physically imposing, unexpectedly charismatic and acrobatically dangerous SW villain in Darth Maul. Maul only gets a handful of lines but immediately after his introduction his presence is felt for the rest of the movie - just like all great villains. Yes, there is much to dislike in Phantom Menace, and as it was the first SW movie in almost two decades, it's an easy target and is far from being a perfect movie. Poor Jake Lloyd needed a lot of actorly help and Lucas was not able to deliver. Lloyd is universally hated in the role of young Anakin, his performance mocked as “Mannequin Skywalker.” Fair enough. He’s a kid actor. Most of them suck. Lawrence Kasdan tried to get Lucas to cast older in order to avoid just this problem. Lucas ignored Kasdan. The rest is history. Other things about PM - Padme should have been a stronger character, Jar Jar is half awful - and I will only say he is half awful - because Jar Jar Binks is written to entertain children. And children LOVE Jar Jar Binks (adults -- not so much.) Another thing I dislike about Ep. 1 is that it’s the beginning of “Jedi forget they have Jedi powers” in order to create artificial drama. The main example -- at the beginning of PM the Jedi use the Force to run super fast to avoid battle droids. At the end of film when Qui-Gon is in danger, Obi Wan runs to the aid of his master and forgets to use his super fast Force running power -- because the screenplay didn’t want him to get there in time to save Jinn. Argh! That being said, of all the prequels, PM remains the only one that has exciting action sequences. The pod race is fantastic and has an exquisite sound design. The Duel of the Fates combat between Qui-Gon, Obi Wan and Darth Maul remains the most physically beautifully choreographed of all the SW lightsaber fights, though -- ultimately that final battle between the three doesn’t have much dramatic weight (but that’s another story). Which leads me to, what a shock -- the moment the prequel trilogy kills off its single great compelling character -- it’s all downhill from there. Episode 1: The Phantom Menace: C +
Episode 7: The Force Awakens. Director: JJ Abrams. Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, JJ Abrams, Michael Arndt. The Force Awakens feels like two separate movies. Movie one: the entertaining story of Rey and Finn. Movie two: all that poorly conceived Han Solo garbage. Now, before you say anything -- I adore the character of Han Solo but his return was a mixed bag for me. Who doesn't want to see Solo back to his old shenanigans? But most of the Solo portion of the film doesn’t feel quite right. Characters make choices because the screenplay demands them to make that exact choice in order for the story to continue. Nothing feels organic. The entire scene with Solo, Chewie, Rey and Finn encountering each other on the Falcon was undercut by the dopey gang that tries to kill them all. Then, someone thought it would a grand idea to thrown in silly, rolling tentacled aliens. Because -- funny. The reunion between Solo and Leia wasn’t given enough time to develop. In fact, the Force Awakens does a huge disservice to the character of Leia. Princess Leia, the woman who led the defense of Hoth, and oversaw the destruction of Death Star I, the women who, by herself, strangles Jabba the Hutt to death. In Force Awakens she’s nothing more than background fluff who, when she finds out Solo is killed -- runs to comfort Rey! Rey?!?!? A kid that Leia has known for like five minutes -- instead of going to comfort Chewbacca! (Abrams has gone on record to say this was a huge mistake on his part). And that’s the problem with Force Awakens. For each new scene involving the two young, very compelling characters of Finn and Rey we are subjected to really strange (and sometimes stupid) character choices by the old guns. I adore Rey and Finn and want to see more about them. Solo’s scenes deserve better than what FA offers. Leia is under utilized. And for a film about “the search for Skywalker” the characters don’t seem to make a lot of active choices to, you know -- look for Skywalker. And as for resident villains Snoke and Kylo Ren. Well, Snoke (a terrible name) has secrets to be revealed I’m sure, but as presented in Force Awakens he’s just an Emperor knock off. But Kylo Ren, well, I found him more compelling then I expected. A rich, white, privileged young man who has it all handed to him on a silver platter is then tempted with power and wants more and more and more. Seems legit (and kind of scary). Anyway. Of all the SW films this is the one I am most conflicted about. I adore and loathe portions of it in an equal 50/50 mix. Episode 7: The Force Awakens: C +
Episode 8. The Last Jedi. Writer / director: Rian Johnson. It’s certainly a far more complex movie than its predecessor, Force Awakens. Vast portions of Johnson’s SW deconstruction film are rich, beautiful and deeply satisfying - if not slightly heavy handed. Rian's use of color metaphor works well as he stages one grand action sequence (in the throne room) bathing it in front of blood red walls with the heroes fighting red armored warriors and a second decent sequence (the final fight) bathing it in red salt rock powder; mimicking extreme violence, loss of life and blood shed without resorting to showing a drop of gore. The heavy handed deconstruction continues with Skywalker’s off putting “get the fuck off my lawn” attitude. Rey and Ren come off the best as all their scenes are well written and play out far more sophisticated than the trailer suggests. Adam Driver is particularly good as Ren and the film wisely takes his helmet off as an actor's face is way more interesting than costuming or special effects. Carrie Fisher is, again, just like in Force Awakens, underused. And sadly, due to Fisher's untimely death she will continue to remain so in the trilogy end (which is too bad because there is a scene in the movie involving her that begs further exploration) Alas. Finally, all that being said, as much as there is to admire and as much as there is to love -- there are things that I can’t stand. I strongly rebelled against the shocking large amount of really, really awful, dopey “humor.” And I don’t mean, “Jar Jar Binks trying to make the kids laugh” humor. I mean the sheer unbelievable extended jokiness of characters in dramatic situations. The opening sequence with Poe facing off against the First Order is terrible. It is so bad it deserves to be in Ep. 2. As the first ten minutes of the movie played out I literally thought, “I am going to rage hate this entire movie.” I mention above that I can’t wait to see more about Rey and Finn. I will amend that. I can’t wait to see more about Rey. In Last Jedi we get multiple scenes of Finn bumbling around with his new partner Rose both continuously saved via coincidence in the film’s most grating story arc (designed to teach Finn his lesson - which is what this whole dam film is about - failure and then learning your lesson - you bloody child!). Yes, yes. We get it. But now I hope to see much less of Finn in the final film. And don't get me wrong - SW needs comedic relief. I mean, I thought the best part of Rogue One was the prickly comic relief droid. Maybe LJ just doesn’t have my kind of comic relief. I suppose Johnson’s writing / directing track record could have told me what I was going to like / dislike in LJ. His best film, Brick, is filled with fantastic characters and drips with beautiful noir drama. His worst film, The Brothers Bloom, desperately tries for chaotic, quirky charm and falls flat on its face more often than not. The Brothers Bloom reminds me a lot of the Finn sequences in Last Jedi. But, as for The Last Jedi - when it’s good, it’s really good - the throne sequence might be my favorite thing in all of SW. When it’s not so good … Finn is probably involved. Episode 8: The Last Jedi: C+
Episode 4: Star Wars (I still refuse to call it A New Hope). Writer / director: George Lucas. To be honest I go back and forth with my preference between Star Wars and Empire. But for now Star Wars is where it is. Also, I have been working on a very long piece about Marcia Lucas, one of the film’s main editors and how she, basically, saves Star Wars from being as dull as THX 1138 (but that’s a different story). Much has been written about this film, I won’t elaborate too much. Perfectly cast, well paced, well acted - well for the most part. Both Hamill and Fisher are very young and inexperienced. Fisher comes over better than Hamill but honestly, we can forgive one performance moment where a certain beloved character whines about power converters, right? Anyway, SW is revolutionary and mind blowing (for its time). Multiple Academy Award nominations. Multiple wins. Adored by hundreds of millions. The movie that introduces lightsabers to the world. The names! Oh the names - Millennium Falcon. Darth Vader. Han Solo. Chewbacca. Luke Skywalker. Princess Leia. Those are names! Hero names. Villain names! I can’t accurately describe to you what it was like being a five year old and being in a theater watching Star Wars for the first time. Perhaps modern day kids feel the same way being five and seeing Harry Potter. As for my five year old self, I remember the day. I sat in that theater and the opening music hit, the text crawls by and then a ship appears and it goes on and on and it keeps coming and coming and coming. You know what I’m talking about. And all I could think of was, “I’m in love.” Now and forever I am in love. Episode 4: Star Wars: A
FIRST: Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back. Director: Irvin Kershner. Writers: Leigh Bracket, Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas. I know Empire is universally viewed as the best of all the Star Wars films and I can’t find a single reason to disagree. First off, listing Leigh Bracket as a writer isn’t entirely fair. She did turn in the first draft of the screenplay but Lucas universally hated everything about it. And then Miss Bracket died. So Lucas decided that, even though he and Kasdan rewrote the entire script, he would forever keep her name on the film. But who’s to say her influence doesn’t remain somewhere in Empire - I don’t know the exact answer to that. The addition of Kasdan as writer seems to, for the most part, clear up a lot of the clunky dialogue bits that plague Star Wars. Any minor quibble I might have is drowned out by the flood of greatness. The directing, the strong character work and the incredible action sequences all flow together. Hamill is a much better actor than he was in SW. Also, the character of Yoda was never better. I watched Empire many times as a kid but then went about fifteen years without seeing it. As an adult I watched it and was not prepared for how delightful those early Dagobah / Yoda scenes are. It made me a bit sad to know he turns into CGI boring old wise wizard Yoda (although Johnson’s LJ remembers what I am talking about). Yoda is a perfect character in Empire. Beyond Empire he becomes more of a storytelling device used mainly to dish out cryptic sounding wisdom. Empire has, arguably the two greatest action sequences in all of Star Wars canon - the Hoth invasion and the Cloud City lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader. The stakes are never higher than that Luke / Vader battle leading up to the great story reveal. And finally, Empire introduces the first non white character in the SW universe -- I love Lando! Plus, ugnaughts are way better than ewoks and Lobot is super cool. And, finally -- what a hell of a cliff hanger! Even the silly space asteroid monster that almost eats the Falcon doesn't dethrone the SW big boy on the block. The Empire Strikes Back remains the greatest of the SW films and one of, if not the best space opera movies in cinema history. Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back: A
So, what’s going on with Bitcoin?
First of all, for those that do not know -- Bitcoin is what is known as a “cryptocurrency”, a virtual "coin" that is "mined" by and stored on computers. Wikipedia lists 1324 types of cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin is, by far the most popular.
Lovers of cryptocurrencies are huge fans of the anonymity of using them. Bitcoin is not one hundred percent untraceable as there is a log of all transactions and information does leak but coin owners are not identified by any immediately identifiable ID. Which makes it easy to use Bitcoins (and other cryptocurrencies) to buy -- well, you know -- illegal shit (and legal shit). Basically it’s virtual money used to purchase goods. Virtual money that is really hard to trace back to the buyer.
I first heard the term “Bitcoin” about four years ago at a job interview. The interviewer proudly told me that his website accepts Bitcoin and is the first MPLS based retail store of its kind to do so. Despite my zero understanding of what a Bitcoin was I nodded sagely and pretended to know what he was talking about, hoping that he would like me more and give me the job.I did, after all, need the job.
I did not get the job. But whatever. That was then and now my job is writing to tell you about the wild ride that is Bitcoin.
Where does Bitcoin come from?
Well, like a good spy novel the origins of Bitcoin are shrouded in a bit of mystery. In that, no one really knows who invented Bitcoin. I mean, we have a name -- Satoshi Nakamoto and either no one actually knows who he is or no one is talking about his identity.
In 2008 the domain name “bitcoin.org” was registered and late that year a link to a paper called, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” penned by Mr. Nakamoto himself was posted to a cryptography mailing list.
In 2009 the bitcoin software was released as open source code. Open source code, as you may or may not know, is software (usually) published and made available to the public, enabling anyone to use or alter the code without paying fees. But the identity of Mr. Nakamoto (Miss Nakamoto?) remains unclear.
In 2010 Mr. Nakamoto handed control of the Bitcoin core code to Gavin Andersen, and then subsequently disappeared from all involvement in bitcoin. If Mr. Andersen knows who Mr. Nakamoto is, he certainly never told anyone.
Andersen took over and immediately decentralized control of the Bitcoin core code so that, in his own words, if he ever got, “...hit by a bus … the project would go on.”
The value of the first bitcoin transactions was negotiated between parties. And so folks decided themselves how much an individual bitcoin was worth including a famous early Bitcoin transaction for a Papa John’s pizza delivery.
Which brings me to this -- on Thursday December 7th the market decided that the value of Bitcoin was -- sixteen thousand dollars. Each.
I remember hearing about this crazy little thing called Bitcoin and thinking that only a sucker would buy virtual money for three hundred and eighty five dollars per coin (at the time). That was a few years ago.
Today they’re worth sixteen thousand. I guess the joke is on me.
There are huge retail chains that accept Bitcoin. Some folks think Bitcoin is in a bubble and will pop -- to disastrous results. Some folks think regulation is a coming. Luke Kawa at MSN Money writes (Editor's note: The story is no longer archived on the MSN site but we swear to you that it one time existed, and here was a quote from it):
“Given bitcoin’s checkered history as the means to purchase illicit materials, a vehicle for capital flight, and a victim of theft, it’s no surprise that regulators around the world have cast a watchful eye over the asset class. As such, the specter of a complete crackdown on cryptocurrencies remains an ever-present tail risk. The SEC has been keeping an eye on crypto and has given guidance saying some tokens may be securities, making them subject to their oversight.”
And later, Kawa writes, “Federal Reserve Chair nominee Jerome Powell said bitcoin isn’t big enough to matter right now, but alluded to the possibility that it could impede the central bank’s transmission mechanism "in the long, long run."
Maybe. Nothing is, after all, perfect. Maybe some regulation will be in order. After all, in 2010 someone spotted a vulnerability in the Bitcoin protocol and exploited it, creating 184 billion Bitcoins; but within hours the transaction was spotted and erased by the Bitcoin gods. The vulnerability was repaired and now Bitcoin remains pretty safe.
But still hackers and theft remains a huge issue, obviously. Regulation might lead to more protection. Or not. I think it’s too early to tell. The Bitcoin ride has been wild. Perhaps the Bitcoin bubble will burst. It took years for many folks, including me, to take it seriously. But there are many that love, love, love Bitcoin and anonymity of cryptocurrencies so I don’t see it going anywhere any time soon.
Anyway. Sixteen thousand dollars per Bitcoin. That’s a lot of Papa John’s pizza.
If you like this story you might like GCN's show, Free Talk Live.