Leave the Blade, Keep Running

***Blade Runner 2049 spoilers ahead***

I don’t know if it was ever Philip K. Dick’s intention to explore the ethical quandary of self-replicating AI –he had his hands full just guilt-tripping the shit out of us for how we treat (and try to control) the “help”. In that respect, the first Blade Runner (and the book it was based on) was an exquisite commentary on hubris, and we didn’t need to have two dozen sad-sack replicants paraded in front of us to get the message. It was sufficient to watch Leon, Roy, Zhora, and Pris clamor for answers and compassion from a society hell bent on depriving them of any, and to stew in the gut-wrenching futility of their gambit.  The only real satisfaction one can take away from Roy’s plight was watching him blind his arrogant maker and crush his skull before his “batteries” ran out. A god complex comes with consequences, Elden.

Now we’re supposed to believe that the same guy who extolled the virtues of ruthless “commerce” and obsessed about his stock portfolio in his bedclothes was giving the next generation of Nexus models fully functional reproductive systems and lifting the four-year cap because… why?? He was actually a nice guy after all?? Apparently, those Nexus 6s weren’t made “as well as we could make them.” There’s nothing in the first film to suggest that Tyrell was just about to unveil this monumental (world-breaking, to quote Robyn Wright) upgrade in the middle of a crackdown on the renegades he had been inadvertently churning out up till then. No. The dude was a control freak and a psychopath who was perfectly happy with the status quo. I always took Rachel to be one of his own little indulgences -a contraband toy that he created just to prove he could, and then coldly cast aside when she learned her true provenance.

Speaking of the oppressed masses of replicants, can we address the elephant in the room? It seems the surest way to undercut all the gravitas of your post-apocalyptic screenplay is to introduce audiences to your dystopian world’s ragtag band of “resistance fighters”. Mutant Mars colonists in Total Recall, Dennis Leary’s ridiculous (literal) underground gangs in Demolition Man, The entire population of Zion in the Matrix trilogy, Morgan and crew in Oblvion, the ISOs of Tron Legacy, and now Freysa and her band of fugitive Nexus 8sall standing forlornly about in moping solidarity -they’ve become almost a Sci-Fi trope in their own right: poorly actualized, patronizingly expository, and difficult to empathize with. And they completely fuck up the visual feast of Ray Bradbury-esque vistas, cryogenics, immersive neuro-enslavement, relentless robo-sentinels, bitchin’ electrified spandex clothing, and dreary industrialization.

No, I’m not buying the idea that Rachel was capable of procreating, or that she and Deckard ran off to the wasteland of Las Vegas to bump uglies, only to have their offspring end up in an orphanage/child labor camp –even IF we accept that Deckard was indeed a replicant, and an unwitting pawn in Tyrell’s “master plan.”  We already accepted that he was a cog in the machine, and to snatch away Rachel’s implied abbreviated mortality robs the audience of a conclusion we had already come to terms with: their time together was precious and fleeting, and no, you don’t get to see how it turns out. Closure and happy endings are for dullards. Roll credits.

As I fully expected it to be, Blade Runner 2049 was a completely unnecessary attempt to extend The Mona Lisa by stitching on a few more centimeters of canvas –perhaps not an embellishment, but a “continuation” that was neither warranted, nor asked for by anyone not cashing a paycheck off it.

Yes, Gosling was decent. Yes, Robyn Wright is awesome. Yes, I’ll even buy Jared Leto as a much more enigmatic and sinister follow-up to Tyrell, even if his idea of elevating the humanity of his “product” is (by his own admission in the film) fundamentally self-defeating. Gaping plot hole notwithstanding, Wallace was at least better realized than Prometheus’s Peter Weyland. And yes, I can accept a couple hours of muscular subwoofer abuse and atmospheric pad synths in lieu of anything attempting to tread on Vangelis’ sacred ground. Those were impossible shoes to fill, admittedly.

But was it at least respectful of the original film’s feel and aesthetic? Just barely. The ship-breaking ruins in the San Diego waste processing district were a nice hellish touch –I’m betting Villeneuve saw the same documentary I did. Possibly the only thing that has left as strong a visual impression on me as Ridley’s original fantasy, and it has the added horror of being real. If anyone wants to make a live-action version of WALL-E, there should be little doubt now as to who should helm it. But, I’m sorry Dennis… too much light, too many austere set pieces, not enough drizzle, not enough decay, and not nearly claustrophobic enough. And while Deakins absolutely deserved that cinematography Oscar, if we’re being honest, it belongs on a shelf below Jordan Cronenweth’s BAFTA and LA Film Critics Assoc hardware from 1982.

Though it didn’t destroy my faith in cinema, and was visually enjoyable on its own, Blade Runner 2049 is nevertheless a viz-fx penthouse that is by now too familiar, and only made me pine for the the moldy, waterlogged halls and crumbling edifices of the Bradbury building.

Please don’t make any more of these.

Garmin Fēnix 5X vs Strava (Smartphone)

I’ve seen a handful of discussions on popular cycling forums weighing the pros and cons of using a smartphone and apps like Strava, Map My Ride, or Runtastic vs. a dedicated Bike Computer or activity tracking wearable. I think, as far as the data accuracy are concerned, the jury is still out. At least, that’s the impression I got from my latest ride, as I will argue below.

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Adventures in Dash-Cam’ery

Well, it didn’t take long at all for dashboard cameras to shrivel up into all-in-one appliances, small enough to fit behind your rear-view mirror (or integrate into it). And in predictable fashion, the market is already saturated with more options than you can shake a stick at. I’m not going to even attempt to provide a comparison here, because any array of options I choose will invariably be obsolete by the time I click “publish”. Rather, I’ll just tell you about the option I selected, and what I learned during the install, and from that, offer some suggestions for what you might want to look for in a dashboard camera.

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Here We Go Again

Moblogging from my Samsung Galaxy S7. There are many ways to publish something to my website, the easiest being to load the WP-Admin dashboard in a web browser. But this is 2017, and information seldom waits for a comfy desk chair and a judicious collection of browser tabs. These days, what is needed most often, is the ability to publish from a smartphone, or a tablet.

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Bowmore 12-YO

It’s been a while since I reviewed a Single Malt Whisky… Mostly because I’ve been drinking the same five or six over and over again, and (at least where I live) there aren’t many available in stores that I haven’t had at least once.  Well, it seems that without even really wanting to, I’ve become something of a peat purist, and locked myself into a pattern of Talisker, LaPhroaig, Lagavulin, LaPhroaig, Ardbeg, Talsiker, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, etc.  I think you get the picture.

So go ahead and slap me for skipping Bowmore until now, because I clearly deserve it.

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How DARE You Have Fun!

Here’s something new: An innocuous game app goes viral and takes the mobile world by storm, and overnight, scores of embittered Andy Rooney impersonators scramble to their keyboards to decry it as a frivolous and irritating distraction.

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GuiTARDIS Custom Strat Build (Part 1)

Earlier this summer, I had the exquisite pleasure of meeting the Twelfth Doctor himself, Peter Capaldi, and his costar, Jenna Coleman, at D.C.’s AwesomCon.

I spent the entire third day of the convention waiting in various lines for autographs and photo-ops, and it was totally worth it. Not only did I have a chance to rub elbows with two of my favorite TV personalities, I also got to hang out with hundreds upon hundreds of fellow Whovians and pop culture nerds. It was my first time attending a Con, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

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Headphones – Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro+

Do you believe that headphones should sound amazing no matter what genre you’re playing in them? Do you think an inline remote and a microphone are convenient? Would you like to be able to get killer sound even though you don’t feel like buying or lugging around a headphone amp? Do you like to modify and personalize your gear? Do you like the sound profile of the Audio Technica ATH-M50, but wish the ear cups were deeper? Do you want superb passive noise isolation with either pleather or velour earpads? Do you think it’s a good idea to let users modulate the amount of bass a headphone produces? Would you believe me if I said you could have all of this from one of the most respected names in personal audio for less than $200?

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Pro-Ject Phono Box MM

Leave it to Audio Technica to try and improve on the simple function of a turntable preamp. In the case of their pro series AT-LP120 direct drive turntable, they thought it would be cute to include a gating circuit that mutes the line output completely at a volume they presume to be satisfactory for everyone. This results in the signal cutting out in between tracks, often before the end of a fade-out. Hey, AT, no one was asking for this “improvement”. I know you claim it was a motor noise countermeasure, but there is no appreciable motor noise in the AT-LP120.

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