# Thursday Aug 6, 2015
Have you ever owned anything? This is why you cannot forgive any of your former lovers. Things like “having chairs” is preventing you from living your best life, and also you should throw away any item of clothing you’re not currently wearing. If it’s not on your skin, you don’t really love it, do you?
If you’ve reached this page, it’s probably because you’re wondering who’s writing this blog. My name is John Kelly (that’s me in that picture up there) and I’m not very good at writing my own biography, mainly because I never know where to start. In the last five years, I’ve been a systems administrator, a student, a web developer, a designer, an actor, and a journalist. Where do you start with that? Right now, I make my living as a swashbuckling operations engineer at a scrappy startup in Dublin, Ireland. I blog very infrequently, but you can also find me on Twitter at @johnke, where I tweet even more infrequently.
I collect nice, uplifting emails, so if you have any lying around, please send them on. I also collect pictures of monkeys, so you should send those too.
As you may have already noticed, I don’t have comments enabled on my blog. If you’re interested, you can read why here. If you would like to comment or tell me I’m wrong about anything, you can do it the old-fashioned way, by sending me a goddamned email.2 minute read # Monday Aug 3, 2015
Pixar are pretty great at pulling at my heartstrings, but this is the first time they've made me cry during the trailer.
This looks amazing.1 minute read # Thursday Jul 23, 2015
Casey Neistat just launched his new social network, Beme. It's probably easiest if I just link to Casey's video so he can describe it himself.
I really love the idea of Beme. I mean, is there anyone genuinely advocating for these awful, fake, rigidly curated lives on Facebook and Instagram? When these perfectly-composed, perfectly-filtered shot appears in my timeline, I get the worst fomo. The consolation, the thing that prevents me spiraling into a full-on, god-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life depression is realising that for someone to take the time to line up the shot, crop it, choose the right filter, and upload it - this all means that they weren't actually engaged in the moment they're depicting 1. So I understand the problem Beme is trying to solve.
So here's another one of his videos, where he climbs a theater in Belgium.
This is the moment when I realised that even Casey Neistat is guilty of not being engaged in the moment. At 4'00 in that video, you can see him scrambling up a near-vertical wall. God, I haven't ever climbed up a Belgian theater - the fomo is starting to set in! But hang on a second. To get that shot, he had to climb up the wall, set up the shot, climb down again and then climb up again. And then later on, he had to edit out the first two parts of that2.
Casey Neistat made a name for himself through his youtube videos. And his youtube videos are so watchable partly because of his enormous, planet-sized personality. But they're also watchable because they're really well made. They're tightly edited, and they're shot with a filmmaker's eye. None of which are available with Beme - you get a potentially wonky shot (apparently worse if you have boobs), with no way to correct it. And since you don't know what you uploaded, there's no way for you to improve your skills. Chances are you'll always be shooting wonky junk.
I really would like Beme to succeed, but I worry that heavy users of social media (i.e. not me) aren't going to like the limitations, so we'll just be left with videos like this one. Authentic as fuck, but that's pretty much all you can say about it.
One of my biggest personal achievements of the last year is when I climbed Croagh Patrick. But would you know I'd done it by looking at my Instagram or my Facebook timeline? Would you fuck. 2: He addresses this in his vlog, where he often posts videos of him running in New York and he says his runs end up taking three times as long because he has to set up the shot, go back, run past the camera, then go back for the camera.
Remember when video games were fun? Remember when they were about colour and happiness? Watching E3 2015 a few months ago, you'd be forgiven for thinking that these were things that video games had grown out of. It was dour, brown, post-apocalyptic shooters as far as the eye could see. Bombast and spectacle were the order of the day. The thing that drew one of the biggest cheers from the Microsoft crowd was when they lowered a fucking Ferrari from the roof. A fucking Ferrari.
Here's what Nintendo did for their E3.
They teamed up with the Jim Henson Company to make puppets of their corporate team and made the most adorable, dorky video imaginable. And it was lovely.
It was a uniquely Nintendo way of approaching the industry. It was showing that video games could still be about colour and happiness and fun. And it's largely because of this man, Satoru Iwata.
When someone asks me to picture the president of one of the three largest video game companies in the world, this is exactly what I want to imagine. Not someone in a blazer and jeans with a focus-tested number of shirt buttons opened. I want a person who understands why we play games. I want a person who knows that games are about bringing people together, not just about shooting people in the face. I want someone who gets it.
Iwata got it. And the world feels a little less joyful now that he's left it.
Thank you, Mr Iwata.2 minute read # Friday Jul 17, 2015
# Saturday Jul 11, 2015
“I see life as like being attacked by a bear,” she says. “You can run, you can pretend to be dead or you can make yourself bigger. So, if you’re my stature, you stand on a chair and bang a pan and scream and shout as if you’re going to attack the bear. This is my go-to strategy. I really liked being pregnant, for example, because I got to take up more space.”
I smelled a rat with the Holus early on - in the original pitch, they showed a video conference using a side angle, which would require a super-fancy camera on the other end. Joanie Mercier really dug into the project and showed what a goddamn mess this is. Strangest discovery: the "staff pick" badge means absolutely nothing on Kickstarter.# Thursday Jul 9, 2015
I hated Ernest Cline's previous book, Ready Player One. I genuinely hated it with a burning passion. It was one of the worst books I read last year. And the fact that everyone else (even the New York Times!) loved it made me wonder if it was just something broken in me. Which is why Laura Hudson's review of his new book, Armada (and by extension, her critique of RPO), has cheered me up no end.
# Tuesday Jul 7, 2015
Armada often feels like it's being narrated by that one guy in your group of friends who never stops quoting the Simpsons, a tic that feels increasingly tiresome and off-putting in the face of the novel’s supposedly apocalyptic stakes. On more than one occasion, soldiers salute each other en route to world-ending battles by solemnly swearing that “the Force” will be with them, and one character flies to his supposedly tragic and moving death while screaming quotes from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This is a book that ends with someone unironically quoting Yoda.
I've said before that Paul Ford is one of my internet heroes. If you didn't understand or remained unconvinced as to why I said this, you need to read his latest piece for Bloomberg Businessweek - a spectacular 38.000-word article about programming and computers. Which in the hands of most technology writers would be dry and boring, but this is why I love Paul Ford so much. He's incredibly smart and intelligent, but he approaches everything from an extremely human point of view, so it's a wonderful read.# Monday May 11, 2015
Shut Up & Sit Down has reviewed Cards Against Humanity. Spoiler: they don't like it.
Which is great because I'm not a fan of it either. It almost always comes out at parties and my heart absolutely sinks. Maybe I'm just going to the wrong parties.
The main reason I don't like it is because playing it reminds me of this scene from Nathan Barley:
"I've seen idiots playing this, yeah? They don't realise it's not good cos it's rude, yeah?"
"Yeah, it's good cos it looks like it's good because it's rude?"
It's not transgressive. It's not shocking. It's boring. But it gets trotted out at parties because pretty much everyone already knows the rules (it's Apples to Apples, except where half the answers are 'big black dick') and for people who don't know the rules, it's easy for them to pick it up. But guys, it doesn't have to be this way! There are lots of party games that are more hilarious and more chaotic and more creative and more fun.
So here are some party games I'd recommend instead:
If you're looking for an immediate replacement for CAH, Say Anything is top of the list. It's basically the same thing: one person reads the question, other players have to fill in the blanks. Except with Say Anything, you write down your answer. Whatever you like. Rather than allowing the game to be funny/shocking for you, you get to be as funny and as shocking as you can be. And it all comes from you, which makes it all the more rewarding and enjoyable. Trust me, ditch CAH and get this instead.
In Snake Oil, one player draws a customer card with a particular role on it and the other players have to combine two cards in their hands to create an object to 'sell' to the customer's role. So, for example, if the customer is a caveman, you might combine your 'fur' card with your 'whip' card to create a "fur whip", which will whip the fur straight off an animal, meaning your cave will be nice and toasty and clean as a whistle. OH LOOK, I DON'T KNOW. The point of this game is that there is no 'right' answer here and the whole fun of the game is in the ridiculous stories people will come up with to sell things. I played this with my mother (who is in her seventies now) and she had a blast.
The Resistance is sort of like Werewolf, where some people in a group are spies and they have to make it through five rounds without getting caught. What's so great about this game is that it will have you and your friends talking analysing everything and talking and re-analysing everything and then talking and over-analysing everything. This is probably my absolute favourite game of all time just because it always leads to chats and shouts and laughter.
At the risk of coming across like a SU&SD fanboy, just go check out their review. If this doesn't immediately make you want to go out and play this game, maybe 'fun' isn't really your thing and yeah, maybe you should just stick with CAH.
Skull and Roses
You know in poker, they say you don't play the cards, you play the player? Skull and Roses is an even more concentrated example of this. It's serious bluffing where you have look all the other players in the eyes before you make your decision. The only problem I have with this game is that it's about elimating other people, which means if you're eliminated early, there's a lot of sitting around watching other people play. Which is still fun! Just not as much fun as, you know, actually playing.
Casey Johnston goes deep to find the best Kanye song, pitting them against each other. Even if you don't like Kanye or you think brackets are a bad methodology to finding the best anything, the writing here is just great.# Saturday May 2, 2015
A few days ago, there was a bit of a kerfuffle between Vox and 538 (Nate Silver's blog) over Vox posting some of 538's content without 'proper attribution'. Vox put up a poor mouth semi-apology in the way of a statement on vox.com called 'How Vox Aggregates'. Here's a bit of that:
I started as a blogger in the pre-social web, when the only way to build an audience was to have other sites quote or link to your work. Those links didn't drive a ton of traffic back to the original site, but they drove some, and sometimes you would get a new regular reader out of the deal. And that was basically how my career began. Everything I wrote, I wrote in the hopes that someone else would take it and try to use it on their site, with a link back to my site.
The lesson of that, to me, was that writing on the internet is a positive-sum endeavor: I was creating content that helped other people make their sites better, and in using that content, they were helping me grow my site.
Vox's approach to aggregation — which Nate Silver criticized today on Twitter— is informed by that.
There have been lots of Hot Takes on this. Here's mine.
I firmly believe that in a post-social web, aggregation is completely broken. People aren't looking to diversify their reading. If they see an image on Tumblr that's been shared across dozens, even hundreds of sites, are they going to untangle that rat's nest of attribution and find the original creator of that image? Are they fuck. At best, they'll follow the last person to share it - they'll follow the aggregator. Balls to the creator.
Gamification of the internet is only making it worse. And by this, I mean sites that award points to people based on the content they post. See something interesting or funny on the internet? Post it to Reddit under your name and you get all the glory! Win-win.
Back in February, I posted something on Twitter that accidentally went semi-viral, with a few thousand retweets and favourites.
Born before 1990? Whatever. We don’t care. Tell us about the war or something, grandpa. pic.twitter.com/FiWXo36JBl— John Kelly (@johnke) February 14, 2015
I was bored the other day, so for shits and giggles, I googled the text of this tweet and found that I'd made it to Buzzfeed. I had no idea about this because I received no noticable bump in followers from them, even with their attribution. But I also found that someone on Reddit had lifted the text and image from my tweet and used it to score 47 points on /r/funny (I have a Reddit link score of 1. Yes, one).
Now I'm just a minor player in this whole thing. What about the people producing genuinely great and funny content? Last week, Mallory Ortberg (one of my favourite people on the internet) discovered that some of her work had been lifted by thepoke.co.uk.
To be fair, The Poke had attributed it to where they found it - an imgur gallery (later itself updated with proper attribution after its creator received a twitter backlash), which in turn came from a thread on /r/funny (4618 points, btw). This thread also included one hilarious comment that serves to emphasise my point: "atleast give credit to the person who made them, stolen from front page funnyjunk".
Seriously, aggregation on the internet is a fucking joke.4 minute read # Monday Apr 20, 2015
Alan Jacobs wrote seventy-nine theses on technology and how it affects and informs our world.
- Everything begins with attention.
- It is vital to ask, “What must I pay attention to?”
- It is vital to ask, “What may I pay attention to?”
- It is vital to ask, “What must I refuse attention to?”
- To “pay” attention is not a metaphor: Attending to something is an economic exercise, an exchange with uncertain returns.
The whole thing is wonderful. But just as wonderful are some of the responses they have invited. And the responses to the responses. Oh listen, just go read the whole thing, will you?# Friday Mar 27, 2015
(I try to post reviews of all the films I watch over on letterboxd. Here are some of my most recent reviews)
Black Sea ★½
When you're making a submarine film, I'm sure it's really tempting to default to autopilot and cross off the tickboxes of all the scenes you expect to see in these films. The near-miss collision, the accident that sends the sub to below crush-depth where they just barely survive. Etc. etc.
So it's not enough for Black Sea to lazily trot out the same hackneyed bullshit we've seen countless times in films like this while claiming to be different because this time it's all in service of a story that's really just a commentary on the exploitation of the working class.
Plus, it has Jude Law (with the worst Scottish accent since Christopher Lambert) saying "the shit is fighting back". Honestly, that's an actual line from this film.
Predators isn't a bad film. In fact, it's got some really great bits in it: the smash opening; the reveal they're on an alien planet; any time Walton Goggins is on the screen. In fact, it's a good enough film that you'll actually overlook the fact that they cast (lol) Adrien Brody (lol) as a badass soldier (lol).
But if there's a complaint to be made about the film, it's that it's just too goddamn bleak. For the entire 107 minute run-time, there's not a single moment of hope to be found in this film.
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith ★
Honestly, the next time some dickbag comes along and tries to tell me that Episode III is the best of the prequels, I'm going to smack that person in the goddamn nose.
White God ★★
I know White God is supposed to be a parable, but I’ll be damned if I know exactly what it’s supposed to be. Current list of theories:
- Social Exclusion
- Teenage Angst
- The prison system
- The oppression of the Jews before and during WWII (what dog pounds have such prominent chimneys?!)
It could be any one of these things. It could be all of them. I don’t know. And I’m not sure the film itself actually warrants the kind of time it would take to develop these theories. It’s 100 minutes of a dull, emotionless domestic drama with 20 minutes of interesting images tacked onto the end. Seeing 200 dogs running through Budapest dishing out vigilante justice like some canine Mr Majestyks was at least something I hadn’t seen before. The rest of the film was just filler.
Groundhog Day ★★★★
For most of this film, it's all very clever and enjoyable and even if it doesn't sweep you off your feet, you think "I'm so clever, I can see all the mechanics of this plot at work and I can appreciate on an intellectual level what the film is trying to do. Yes, very clever."
And then the last scene rolls up and hits you like an ton of bricks. Even if you've seen the film before, it's still a gut-punch of emotion.
That's the real genius of this film.
Force Majeure ★★★½
Force Majeure is an interesting reflection on the ways that relationships can be affected and tested. There are the large, obvious events, like a father leaving his family to save his own life under the threat of an avalanche. But these are just the sparks that ignite the fuel that’s already there: the years of insecurity and resentment. And those are the things that really test relationships.
I guess it says something about my own marriage that we chose to watch this on Valentine’s Day.
Wild Card ★★★
Jason Statham IS Nick Wild in WILD CARD.
If this sentence doesn't make you want to immediately run out and watch this film, forget it, this is not the film for you.4 minute read # Thursday Mar 19, 2015
It may not be a great film, but these photos at least give you some idea of why it's such an amazing achievement. The amount of care and craft that went into something that would appear on screen for a second or two. So impressive.# Sunday Mar 15, 2015
I am a nerd.
I spent an entire weekend migrating my blog from Wordpress to Jekyll and I fucking loved it. I have a board game collection that's out of control. And just this week, I've had not one, but two arguments about the ending of Battlestar Galactica (one of these turned into a standing-up, shouting kind of argument)1.
In fact, I'm going to revise up and describe myself as a huge nerd.
Despite this, I have not enjoyed a single Terry Pratchett book that I've read.
It's not like I haven't tried. I've asked my nerd friends where I should start and I've gotten different suggestions from each of them. And I've tried each one that's been suggested. Even Metafilter, the closest we'll get to an internet version of a Borg hive-mind can't settle on any one starting point. The closest I've come has been Good Omens, but I'm dismissing this because of Neil Gaiman. Oh, and I played a lot of The Colour of Magic on the Commodore 64. But again, I'm not counting this because it's, you know, not a book.
All the same, I'm going to pour one out for Terry Pratchett for two reasons.
First, even though I can only handle him in small doses, even I can recognise he was capable of some beautiful writing. Like this passage from Wings
'Come to think of it,' he said. 'it wasn't frogs exactly. It was the idea of frogs. She said there's these hills where it's hot and rains all the time, and in the rain forests there are these very tall trees and right in the top branches of the trees there are these like great big flowers called ... bromeliads, I think, and water gets into the flowers and makes little pools and there's a type of frog that lays eggs in the pools and tadpoles hatch and grow into new frogs and these little frogs live their whole lives in the flowers right at the top of the trees and don't even know about the ground and once you know the world is full of things like that your life is never the same.'
He took a deep breath.
'Something like that, anyway,' he said.
I mean, wow. This is just marvellous. (For the record, I gave up on Wings after 50-odd pages.)
But I'll mostly be pouring one out because even though he's not my cup of tea, his writing touched -- deeply touched -- a lot of my friends. His writing, his irreverence, his entire outlook on life - these had a profound influence on an entire subculture. A subculture I count myself part of.
Godspeed, Sir Terry.
“DON'T THINK OF IT AS DYING," said Death. "JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.”
For the record, I think the ending to Battlestar Galactica is totally fine. I have no problem at all mixing spiritualism with sci-fi.
This is so good. I could use any one of his answers as a pull-quote here, but this answer hit one of my weak spots:
# Wednesday Mar 4, 2015
Why do you EDC?
I like the idea of finding the very best version of some otherwise mundane object, settling on it, having that problem solved well, and then using that object for the rest of my life. This is my watch. This is my pen. This is my wallet.
Have you read that interview Rock Paper Shotgun did with Peter Molyneux? If not, you should go read it now. And not just because it's relevant to what I'm about to talk about, but because it's an absolutely fascinating interview. It's an interview that starts off with John Walker asking Peter Molyneux "Do you think that you’re a pathological liar?"
I mean, holy shit, that's something, right?
It's a tough interview. It was sharp around the edges. But that's a good thing. Most developer interviews are polite affairs. Even developers that really deserve to have the boot laid in get the soft treatment. Microsoft released the Halo: Master Chief Collection, whose multiplayer (arguably the main draw of the collection) was unplayably broken and the hardest question most games press ask is "when will it be fixed?" It's press-as-PR bullshit.
Remember back when Dan Hsu laid into Peter Moore about all the issues that plagued the Xbox 360 at launch? Remember how that was greeted? Everyone cheered and welcomed this as a new frontier: the moment when the games press seemed like they could actually be (whisper it) games journalists.
Which brings us to the Molyneux interview. Rather than being heralded as another great moment in games journalism -- when a developer who has lied to consumers for years was finally held accountable -- the reaction from most of the games industry has been pretty disappointing. The latest episodes of DLC, Idle Thumbs, Gamers With Jobs and Isometric all include some variation on the theme of "poor Peter Molyneux, he didn't deserve that"1 (Isometric_ even went so far as to say that the whole thing just demonstrated gamers' 'sense of entitlement'). A common thread across all four podcasts is that they described the interview as "unprofessional" for starting by asking Molyneux if he's a pathological liar.
This has driven me absolutely fucking potty over the last couple of days. I feel like I'm living in bizzaro-world, where up is down and down is up. Peter Molyneux is such a notorious liar that he's spawned a goddamn internet meme:
(that image was stolen from the Idle Thumbs forum, by the way)
... yet actually saying this to his face, actually confronting him about it is "unprofessional"? I just don't get it.
Personally, I think that, if anything, the interview didn't go far enough. I want to know if Molyneux feels any guilt about taking people's money for Curiosity over the promise over a 'life-changing prize' (for the record, Eurogamer ran an article about how much the winner's life has changed. Short answer: not at all). I want to know if he feels any remorse over putting out Curiosity in the first place, since it was nothing more than a shameless cash-grab helping in the race to the bottom of free-to-play games. I want to know if he feels bad about potentially having taken money and press from other potential God games that were on Kickstarter. Games that could potentially have been driven with more passion than he's shown Godus. And while we're at it, I want to know if he ever gives a second's thought to the people for whom Godus was the first game they've backed on Kickstarter and they're now so wary of the process that they'll probably never back another project on there.
These are just some of the questions I wished John Walker had asked Molyneux.
The only thing I can think of is that the four podcasts I listed above all feature game developers as either main hosts or as special guests. I guess game developers would have a different reaction to the interview? Idk.
Based on his terrific books his occasional appearances on Radiolab, Oliver Sacks seems like a really great guy: smart, funny, and curious. So it's pretty sad to hear that he's been dealt one last shitty hand. But at the same time, it sounds like he's totally at peace with it:
It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.
He'll be missed.# Thursday Feb 19, 2015