Antisocial Network Company
“Facebook has filed thousands of patent applications since it went public in 2012. One of them describes using forward-facing cameras to analyze your expressions and detect whether you‘re bored or surprised by what you see on your feed. Another contemplates using your phone’s microphone to determine which TV show you‘re watching. Others imagine systems to guess whether you’re getting married soon, predict your socioeconomic status and track how much you‘re sleeping.
”A review of hundreds of Facebook’s patent applications reveals that the company has considered tracking almost every aspect of its users' lives: where you are, who you spend time with, whether you‘re in a romantic relationship, which brands and politicians you’re talking about. The company has even attempted to patent a method for predicting when your friends will die.“
the lede to Sahil Chinoy's piece, “What 7 Creepy Patents Reveal About Facebook,” in today‘s New York Times.
What are the 7 Creepy Patents? They involve:
- Predicting whether you’re in a romantic relationship (Don't we already tell them this?)
- Using your posts and messages to infer personality traits—and thus ads
- Using posts, IMs, and credit card transactions to predict major life events
- Gving your camera a unique signature to further figure out your relationships (who else uploads your photos, etc.)
- Using phone mic to guess TV-watching habits. And more?
- Using phone to track weekly routine
- Using phone to track relationships
Yeah, they're not making me feel safer. Then again, who is?
Box Office: ‘Jurassic’'s Roar Ain't What It Used to Be
One more time with feeling.
“Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom” grossed $150 million at the U.S. box office this weekend, which is the 20th biggest domestic opener ever, but it's kind of ho-hum. It's down nearly 30% from the previous movie, which opened to $209 in 2015.
These are the tentpole films that opened bigger than expectations or previous iterations in 2018:
- “Avengers: Infinity War”
- “Black Panther”
- “Incredibles 2”
And there are the movies that opened down from expectations or previous iterations:
- “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”
- “Solo: A Star Wars Story”
Apparently superheroes are still ascendant. Domestically. Internationally, “Jurassic” has already grossed $561 million. Somehwere, somehow, people will see their dinos.
I admit, I had zero interest in seeing this thing and the 50% Rotten Tomatoes rating didn't help. This morning, though, I realizes its new director, J.A. Bayona, was the dude who made “El Orfanato” in 2007, which is one of my favorite horror movies. Now I'm a little intrigued. Will have to see what the wife says. If she's up, maybe.
But yeah, I know: Directors of tentpole films can only do so much. Can't even imagine what it's like to deal with all of those corporate hands.
Elsewhere, “Incredibles 2” fell 55%, which is a lot of an animated kids movie, but then it opened bigger than any animated kids movie ever did. After 10 days, it's at $350, which is already the fourth-best box office for a Pixar flick. No. 1 is “Finding Dory” at $486. It‘ll pass that soon.
“Ocean’s 8” grossed another $11.6 mil to eke over the $100 million mark in its third weekend. Bullock's reign continues. Has anyone seen it?
Brad Brevert at BOM brings up an interesting stat: This is only the second time that two different movies opened north of $100 million in consecutive weekends. Of course, the first time it happened, it wasn't exactly anything to crow about: “Shrek the Third” followed by “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End” in 2007. Blah.
Movie Review: Ip Man 2 (2010)
“Ip Man 2” has the same basic structure as “Ip Man.” Why not, right? Why mess with success?
For the first hour, the battles for the titular hero (Donnie Yen) are internecine—i.e., among other Chinese. Loudmouths challenge him. Other kung fu schools challenge his. There are hints of corruption among the powerful.
In the second half, the real enemy emerges: a foreigner. In the first movie it was an occupying Japanese general intent on proving the superiority of karate over Chinese kung fu. Here, it’s a huge, brash Brit intent on proving the superiority of western boxing over Chinese kung fu.
The movie also tosses in a bit of “Rocky IV.” You see it coming a mile off. You know exactly how it’s all going to end but it’s still a pleasure getting there.
To be honest, I’ve never really understood the respect Hong Kong movies have given western boxing—as if it were on par with martial arts. Is it grass-is-greener stuff? Is it a century of defeat at the hands of western powers? The size of the combatants? Politeness? I always thought Asian martial arts kicked western boxing’s ass. Maybe that’s my own skewed grass-is-greener perspective. Maybe it’s my wish, as a short man, that something besides brute force wins. Not to mention this: You have a handful of boxing movies in Hollywood but it’s hardly a prospering genre. And in those few boxing movies, you don’t have the hero saving the day outside the ring with their skills. There’s just no comparison.
“2” opens with Ip Man, his young son, and his forever disapproving wife, Wing Sing (Lynn Hung, doomed to be the Adrian in the series), moving from his hometown of Fushun to Hong Kong in 1950. Kan (Ngo Ka-nin), an old Fushun friend, shows him an apartment with a rooftop where he can set up his Martial Arts school. But does anyone want to study? That’s the first dilemma. He draws flyers, puts them up, 没有了. He looks worried. They’re broke. His son asks for student fees but he can’t pay them; when the landlord knocks they pretend not to be home.
Then Wong Leung (Huang Xiaoming, Marco from “Women Who Flirt”), a brash kid, arrives and says he’ll study if Ip Man can beat him. Defeated, Leung flees, then returns with three friends, whom Ip Man takes down without breaking a sweat. He beats them while protecting them. And suddenly he has students. Four becomes 12 becomes 20. First dilemma resolved.
But it leads to the second: Rival schools tear down the Wing Chun posters and insult Ip Man. Students fighting amongst themselves lead to Ip Man taking on 30 of the students, which leads to the reveal of the rival school’s master, Master Hung, played by Hong Kong legend, and this movie’s action choreographer, Sammo Hung. Now Ip Man has to meet the other Hong Kong masters. He has to pass a test: Around a sea of upturned chairs—which used to be knives, we’re told—he has to stand on a wide, round table and take on all comers until an incense stick burns itself out. If he’s so much as knocked off the table, he’s out. Master 1 tries, Master 2 tries. Then it’s Master Hung. They battle to a standstill, but when Ip Man is still too honorable to pay into the club, which he sees as a form of brivergy, e remains unprotected. We get more squabbles. Along the way, Hung develops a quiet respect for Ip Man.
Then the real enemy emerges: Twister (Darren Shahlavi), a western boxing champion, who, at an event to honor him, mocks the display of Chinese martial arts as “dance,” and then beats up all rivals. He stands in the ring, roars like an animal, and insults the Chinese, as Ip Man, stunned, watches from the crowd. You can see where this is going.
Except first we get the “Rocky IV” component: Twister takes on Master Hong and kills him in the ring—the way Ivan Drago killed Apollo Creed. That’s telegraphed a mile away, too.
I was surprised at how worried Ip Man looked before his match—and how beat up he gets. Another “Rocky” element, I suppose. Halfway through the match, he’s suddenly not allowed to use his legs, which seems a cheat; but then, channeling the spirit of Master Hing, he perseveres, saves the honor of China and Chinese martial arts, and gives a ringside speech about the dignity of all peoples. But first he punches Twister’s stupid face in. Because, c’mon, that’s why we came.
It works. It’s a good sequel to a good movie. Director Wilson Yip gives us sweeping shots of old Hong Kong and the production values are high. Plus we get a tease for the arrival of Ip Man’s greatest student: Bruce Lee.
Plus: What a calm, pleasant hero. He massages his pregnant wife’s legs and helps his neighbor hang her laundry. When Leung asks him if he can defeat 10 men (which he did in the first film), he simply smiles and says, “It’s better not to fight.” When Leung asks, “What if they have weapons?” Ip Man responds: “Run.”
Again, this may be grass-is-greener, but I could use some Hollywood heroes similarly inclined.
George Will: ‘Vote against the GOP this November’
Probably no column headline will be more important this year than George Will's today:
That's right: George Will, the face of the old-school media GOP since at least 1980—that's about when I became aware of him—has finally turned. Which makes sense. He's a fiscal conservative and Trump is not. He's a free market guy and Trump is all about those tariffs. He's well-educated, well-read, bow-tie-wearing; Trump isn‘t, isn’t, and favors fat, sloppy ones. If Will could have an embarrassing hillbilly cousin by way of midtown Manhattan, Trump would be it.
In a way, it's a shame it's still about Trump since the GOP and its state-sponsored propaganda machine (Fox, Rush, Alex, Breitbart, Sinclair) created him. A lot of owning up still needs to be done.
I‘ll take it. Will tears into Paul Ryan and the congressional GOP for being too weak to provide an actual check on Trump’s tyranny. This would be my pullquote if I were editor:
Ryan and many other Republicans have become the president's poodles, not because James Madison's system has failed but because today's abject careerists have failed to be worthy of it.
A Response to a Request
Here's another tale of modern living.
Last month I received several copies of the same letter from our mortgage company. It began:
Thank you for responding to our request for proof of a current hazard insurance policy on your property. Please note that your acccount has not been charged for any lender-placed hazard insurance.
Well, thank god for that. But wait: Who responded to whose request for what? I didn't respond to any request. I didn't even get a request.
There was a phone number to call. Do I call it? Was it a scam to get me to buy insurance? I wound up tossing it in that pile of stuff I should do something about one day but never do. But yesterday I received another such letter—my fourth—and said fuck it and called.
This was not our original mortgage company, by the way. When we refinanced in 2016, we shopped around and went with a local bank. They had an office nearby in case we had questions. We could walk in. We could see people. But last year, less than a year after the refinance, the local bank sold our mortgage to an outfit in Irvine, Ca.: a loan management service. Sometimes they call themselves “debt collectors.” They often feel slightly off or cut-rate to me. I get the feeling there's just executives and drones and that's it—no middle people doing real work.
I also wonder what other services get to do this besides mortgage banks. Can a gym sell your membership to another gym? “No, sorry, you work out across town now. You work out in Irvine, Ca.” Can your bank sell your savings account to another bank? Why is it allowed with the most important thing you own?
Anyway, the phone call. That letter thanking me for responding to their request for proof of insurance? That was the request. They were asking for proof of insurance. Read it again. It's the worst ask I‘ve ever read.
Oh, and guess why they wanted to know? Because, they said, our previous insurance policy had expired. Except it hadn’t. What they thought was our insurance company wasn‘t, and hadn’t been for years.
Meanwhile, the correct insurance company didn't respond to their subsequent request for information since they had a different mortgage lender on our policy. And not the local one either. The one before that. So I spent a long afternoon sorting shit out.
- There's a lot of bad data floating around, like garbage orbiting the earth, that may one day cause havoc with everything.
- Write clearer sentences.
Movie Review: The Guilty (2018)
In “The Guilty,” a woman is kidnapped by her ex, alerts the police by pretending to call her daughter, and the cops spend the rest of the movie frantically searching for her before it’s too late.
And it all takes place in an emergency police dispatch room.
Most of the movie is 112 operator Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren in a standout performance) working the phones, doing what he can, and often more, to bring her back safely. We see him, but only hear the other end of the line. We have to imagine that part. It’s almost like radio.
And it’s riveting.
The evening for Asger begins in almost comic fashion as he receives 112 (i.e., 911) calls that really aren’t. A man is mugged ... by the hooker he was soliciting. There’s a fight at a bar ... and the drunk caller expects Asger to know where it is and curses him when he doesn’t. A woman phones from a car ... and talks nonsense and calls him “Sweetie.” Asger is about to hang up on her, too, when something she says triggers the cop in him and he realizes she’s being kidnapped. By the time they’re disconnected, he knows she’s in a white van heading north from Copenhagen. He relays this info forward. Normally that would be the end of it for him. Others are now on the case.
Asger, though, stays involved. He’s a cop, doing dispach work temporarily, and his computer lets him know the name and number of who called—Iben (voice of Jessica Dinage)—so he phones Iben’s home phone. Her daughter Mathilde ( Katinka Evers-Jahnsen), 6 years old, answers. She’s alone but for her brother, Oliver, who’s just a baby. After she gives Asger the information he needs—her father is named Michael (Johan Olsen), this is his phone number, he was mad, he had a knife—he can’t get her off the phone. She’s scared and alone and he makes promises he knows he shouldn’t make: mostly that her mother will be alright.
Asger, we soon realize, has issues of his own. He’s a foot patrolman who’s being disciplined and has a hearing the next day. Later we find out he shot and killed a man in self-defense. Except after he convinces his partner, Rashid (Omar Shargawi), to break into Michael’s home for clues, we infer from their conversation that it wasn’t in self-defense. One wonders: Is his desperate attempt to save Iben a way to assuage his guilt? Or is it more of what got him into trouble in the first place? Or both?
The horror intensifies when two patrolman are sent to Iben’s house and find Mathilde with blood on her. Not her blood. Oliver’s. He’s dead in his crib. Cut to pieces.
First-time director Gustav Möller, whose work here won him best director at the Seattle International Film Festival, makes it all come to life within that small, confined space. But here’s the best part: the movie we think we’re watching isn’t the movie we’re watching.
M. Night, eat your heart out
We think we’re watching a movie about a cop who maybe redeems himself by maybe saving a woman from her crazy, murderous ex-husband. Indeed, when Iben calls again, he tells her to put on her seatbelt and then pull up the emergency brake. She does. The phone goes dead. Is she dead? No. When she calls back, she’s been bundled into the back of the van and is hysterical. He calms her down. He gets her to talk about things she likes. She says she takes her kids to The Blue Planet, an aquarium in Copenhagen. Mathilde goes for the turtles. Iben says she likes it all. She likes the calm and the quiet of life underwater. And it’s working. She’s calming down. They’re bonding. Now he’s telling her to find a weapon to use against Michael when he opens the van doors. And just before he does, she mentions the snakes. “Snakes?” Asger says. Yes, she says. The snakes in Oliver’s belly. She got them out for him.
It was her. She killed her son. Her ex isn’t kidnapping her, he’s taking her back to a psychiatric facility in Elsinore—home of Hamlet—so she won’t do more harm. But because of Asger’s dogged determination to help, she’s able to escape—for a time. It’s one of the greater plot twists I’ve seen in recent movies. M. Night Shyamalan, eat your heart out. And please don’t try to remake it.
That said, does it hold up when you examine it from all sides? Why, for example, wouldn’t Michael simply have called the cops when he came across the crime scene? Why take his ex to Elsinore himself? And leave his 6-year-old alone with a baby corpse?
I still highly recommend it. As you watch this movie about a hero cop and a damsel in distress, you wonder who “The Guilty” of the title refers to. It winds up referring to the hero cop and the damsel in distress.
Present at the Destruction
From George Packer's brief, “Donald Trump Goes Rogue”:
Dean Acheson, President Truman's Secretary of State, called his autobiography “Present at the Creation.” The title referred to the task that confronted American leaders at the end of the Second World War and the start of the Cold War, which was “just a bit less formidable than that described in the first chapter of Genesis,” Acheson wrote. “That was to create a world out of chaos; ours, to create half a world, a free half, out of the same material without blowing the whole to pieces in the process.” A network of institutions and alliances—the United Nations, nato, the international monetary system, and others—became the foundation for “the rules-based international order” that the leaders in Charlevoix saluted. It imposed restraints on the power politics that had nearly destroyed the world. It was a liberal order, based on coöperation among countries and respect for individual rights, and it was created and upheld by the world's leading liberal democracy. America's goals weren't selfless, and we often failed to live up to our stated principles. Power politics didn't disappear from the planet, but the system endured, flawed and adaptable, for seventy years.
In four days, between Quebec and Singapore, Trump showed that the liberal order is hateful to him, and that he wants out. Its rules are too confining, its web of connections—from trade treaties to security alliances—unfair. And he seems to find his democratic counterparts distasteful, even pathetic. They speak in high-minded rhetoric rather than in Twitter insults, they‘re emasculated by parliaments and by the press, and maybe they’re not very funny. Trump prefers the company of dictators who can flatter and be flattered. Part of his unhappiness in Quebec was due to the absence of President Vladimir Putin; before leaving for the summit, Trump had demanded that Russia be unconditionally restored to the G-7, from which it was suspended over the dismemberment of Ukraine. He finds nothing special about democratic values, and nothing objectionable about murderous rulers. “What, you think our country is so innocent?” he once asked.
Kim Jong Un is Trump's kind of world leader.
It's a short read, worth it.
Quote of the Day
“On the Texas side of the Mexican border today, thousands of children, by order of the Trump Administration, are learning what it is to be objects of deliberate state-sponsored cruelty. In a heartless act designed to arouse the furies of his electoral base, the President has ordered children to be separated from their parents and stowed in tent cities and cages and a hollowed-out former Walmart. The Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, justifies this act of ”zero tolerance“ by quoting from Scripture: 'I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.' This is the political leadership of the United States—at once cruel and sanctimonious. And it is on this platform of division, fear, and cruelty that the President has chosen to lead his party into the 2018 midterm elections.
”Some pundits have suggested that what is happening now in Texas will be ‘Trump’s Katrina.' But, without excusing the racism and the indifference shown by the authorities in that horrific episode, it ought to be pointed out that at least the federal government did not order the flooding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. What is happening now is purely gratuitous, a deliberate act of cruelty intended as leverage to build a ‘beautiful wall.’ And it is a wall intended not only to block Mexicans and Central Americans from making their way into the United States but to divide the United States itself, in order to retain power.“
David Remnick, ”Trump's Cruelty and the Crying Children at the Border,“ The New Yorker. Today, Trump signed an executive order to finally rescind that ”zero tolerance" policy of breaking up families at the border as a way to warn others from ever arriving. But it did more than that. It tarnished for a long time the image of America as a shining city on a hill. I‘ve said it before: We’ll be apologizing to the rest of the world for Donald J. Trump for decades.