The Future of Office Space?

Ben Brooks goes to work on the future of office space:

Maybe corporations don’t have offices anymore, but maybe individuals do have offices. Sometimes that is a desk in the corner of a room full of desks, sometimes that’s an office in a building full of offices.

Brooks’ ideas are very good. The entire post is worth reading for anyone with an office job. More and more companies seem to be getting creative with workspaces, and the “open office” concept seems to server two purposes. First it’s cheaper because people have less space, and second it discourages individual lack of productivity because everyone can see you all the time1. But as more and more people work remotely, either part time or full-time depending on geography, something like rented office space could make tons of sense.

Brooks’ suggestion that companies pay rent for this seems a little farfetched. What seems far more likely is some sort of stipend for office space/supplies be issued that the employee could put towards whatever kind of space they wanted. Since space would vary in quality and size depending on location it would be up to the employee to decide how much over the stipend is worth spending.

The problem here is that this probably only works for a certain size company. A very large company likely owns a large campus or two already, and selling off parts of that probably isn’t simple depending on how it is laid out. Also company culture will come into play. If a company doesn’t have many remote workers already it would be a big adjustment.

But this seems like an interesting concept that could be attractive to some employees. The problem is that it is somewhat a “chicken or the egg” sort of problem. Employees can’t rent individual offices from people until such a system exists, but people won’t provide these offices until there is a demand.

Co-working spaces have become more popular, but tend to be more for freelancers or people who work remotely all the time. These don’t tend to be offices per se, but more like small work areas in a more “open” space. Maybe someone will be able to take it a step further.

Either way, it seems like a clever idea.

  1. A someone who has worked in an open space before, this formerly individual “screw off” time is now replaced by more frequent social conversations that seem even more anti-productive []

Pygmy Reviews #43 – iOS Apps

Instashare (Free)

One Line Description: Share files between iOS devices or between iOS and OS X devices via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Unlike the similar, and great, Command C, this app was not completely sherlocked by Apple last week at the WWDC 2014 Keynote. Like Command C, Instashare can be used to move files between iOS and OS X devices. How it differs though, is that it allows for files to be transferred between iOS devices over Bluetooth, where Apple’s Airdrop and Command C both require the devices to be on the same Wi-Fi networks. This is a really nice touch for those occasions there is not a Wi-Fi network available and files need to be transferred from iPad to iPhone. This is probably a pretty rare occurrence for most, but it’s a nice feature in a pinch, and with the ads the app is free.

You Need A Budget (Free)

One Line Description: The companion app to the Mac app of the same name.

This app won’t work without buying the (rather expensive) Mac app of the same name. Even with the Mac version, the iOS version is pretty limited. It seems mostly suited for adding items on the go or getting a quick update of how much is remaining in each category. That being said, adding items is very easy and fast and could really allow a diligent person to keep up on their budget management pretty easily. This is free, because again it doesn’t work without the Mac version, so it’s a no brainer for any existing YNAB users.

2048 (Free)

One Line Description: A tile matching game where the goal is to create the tile with 2048 on it.

Similar to the insanely popular Threes, but a free clone, 2048 plays just slightly different than Threes. For those unfamiliar with Threes, the basic premise is that you combine two matching tiles to create a single tile in it’s place with the value representing the sum of the combined tiles1. This is done until there are no moves left or the 2048 tile is created. Once the 2048 tile is created, it is considered a “win”, but a player may continue to try and get higher value tiles and scores. There are a few differences compared to Threes. The tiles do not just move one space but instead all the way as far as they can go in that row/column. Also each new tile can only be a 2 or a 4, where in Threes a new tile can be a 1, 2 or any higher number. Another difference is that there is no “half-slide” preview of what is going to happen next, meaning a player has to be confident in the move they want. It’s addictive and fun. This particular app is not actually the “official” one, but it plays better and looks just slightly nicer.

Friend Check (Free)

One Line Description: Keep track of follows and unfollows on popular social networks.

There are lots of services out there like this already, but this app has support for the four major social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram) all in one place. It has always seemed weird that these networks don’t give people an easy way to see who unfollows them, but there are plenty of services who have picked up the slack. This app seems pretty good (full disclosure: I have only tried it with Twitter) and when refreshed quickly shows a number of new follow/unfollows. Each number can be clicked on for more details. It also comes with lots of in-app purchases to provide more data. Overall it’s a solid experience that provides some value for people who care about being unfollowed on social networks.

Mirror (Free)

One Line Description: A slightly better option for a mirror vs. the camera app.

This app does one thing, and literally has no settings or anything. Basically it just attempts to turn your front facing camera into a mirror. It differs from the camera app since it doesn’t have any camera controls on it and basically fills the whole screen minus the iAd at the top. The picture doesn’t look any different than the camera, so this is probably only useful to someone who uses their phone as a mirror a LOT. Still, it’s fast and good at what it does for a free app.

  1. In other words, combine two tiles with a ‘2’ on them and you are left with one tile with a ‘4’ on it []

Is a Triple Crown Winner Bad for Horse Racing?

California Chrome goes into Saturday’s Belmont Stakes hoping to be the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win horse racing’s triple crown (winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes). Dozens of horses have come up short after winning the first two races since Affirmed. It seems like it happens far more frequently than it does though.

After Sunday Silence finished 2nd in 1989, no horse got the first two legs until 1997. This started a run of three straight two and out horses. After a two year gap, there was another three year run, including Smarty Jones and Funny Cide, who both seemed like good bets to win it all. In the 9 years since only twice has a horse had a chance at history. Big Brown got hurt in the Belmont in 2008 and didn’t even finish, and I’ll Have Another was scratched leading up to the Belmont in 2012. In other words, it’s been 6 years since a horse has come out of the starting gate at Belmont Park with a chance, and 10 years since a horse (potentially) will cross the finish line still in the hunt.

In a couple of days, none of that will matter because in about 2 minutes time history will either be made, or it won’t. But the better question is, what’s better for the sport?

Horse racing has a very long history, and was dubbed the “Sport of Kings” long ago. There was a time when it was something that catered more to high society. But expect for three Saturdays in the Spring it has become more of a seedier landscape mostly traveled by heavy gamblers. Those three Saturdays draw everyone in though.

The Kentucky Derby is probably the most famous race in the world. It draws a massive crowd and massive attention. The Preakness stakes, run two weeks later, doesn’t draw the same excitement, but any attention it gets is focused on whether or not the horse than won in Kentucky can pull off another win. When that happens, the run up to the Belmont means something to even the casual racing fan (and perhaps casual sports fan in general). Part of that hook though, is that this hasn’t happened in 36 years. That means there are a good chunk of sports fans who have never seen a Triple Crown winner. Everyone holds their breath for two minutes on two Saturdays hoping for it to happen.

But when it does, then what? No longer will people utter the words “not since Affirmed in 1978”, or “12/13/14/15 horses have won the first two legs but failed in the Belmont since the last Triple Crown winner.” And then, will anyone care? The 86 years the Red Sox had to wait for a World Series was a massive deal in 2004. When they won, it was the end of the “Curse of the Bambino.” But then they won in 2007. And again in 2013. And non-Boston fans didn’t care. The streak had long been broken. The allure was gone. The same thing will happen to the Cubs, who are going on 106 years since they won one. Once it happens, most people won’t care about their next one.

For at least two Saturdays every fall, horse racing is relevant again. It’s mainstream sports news, and gets to be mainstream news if a horse wins the first two. When the novelty goes away though, it’s hard to see most people having any interest. That’s why the best thing that can happen to horse racing is for California Chrome to come up short on Saturday, so the streak lives on. Otherwise, people won’t care.

WWDC Keynote Highlights

Apple help it’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote on Monday, announcing both OS X Yosemite and iOS 8. Although neither was a surprise, both contained some interesting new features. What follows is not a comprehensive list, but more a focus on some of the key ones.

OS X Yosemite

OS X got a much-needed, and after iOS 7, expected, facelift. It features new icons, a new system font, more translucency and some beefed up features. For those people who have Macs and iPhones but still communicate with some people on non-iPhones, the addition of SMS is a godsend. No longer will Android users SMS messages go unnoticed because the iPhone is on the other side of the room on silent. This seems like such an obvious feature that it seemed inevitable at some point. It appears that SMS is basically integrated into the Messages app on OS X and can be used from the Mac through the phone as long as they are on the same WiFI network. This is a gigantic convenience. Of course Apple didn’t stop there. They also added a way for phone calls to be routed to the Mac from an iPhone as well. Instead of just notifications that a call is coming in, the call can actually be answered from the Mac. It’s unclear if headsets will work or if it’s only the internal mic and speaker, but this is still a nice touch that will save some missed phone calls.

One the other annoyances between OS X and iOS was the lack of Airdrop support. Airdrop currently can be used between iOS devices on the same WiFi network, or between Macs on the same WiFi network, but not between Macs and iOS devices. This meant that if someone was not using Photostream, and wanted to get a photo from their iPhone to their Mac they either had to plug it in and use iPhoto, or email/iMessage it. Finally photos can be shared much more easily. It’s yet to be determined whether this will be a good batch file transmitter or if it will just be useful for one file at a time. But either way, it’s a nice addition.

Some other more minor changes:

  • Messages has gotten a re-design of sorts and looks like it will be more of a clone of Messages on iOS. This app badly needed a new look.
  • Notification Center got a couple of changes. First it got the “Today” view that iOS Notification Center has. It also got widgets (iOS did too) that allow for some dashboard like apps to be inserted. The usefulness of this depend exclusively on what kind of widgets are available.

iOS 8

iOS got a massive redesign last year so as expected the changes here were more incremental. Since Apple is releasing a new version every year it makes sense to see more incremental updates each year.

Potentially the biggest addition is what Apple is called Extensibility. The idea being that apps will be able to better communicate with each other. Currently apps like Drafts and Launch Center Pro use the x-callback-url to communicate with other applications. Apple baking in more hooks means that these things might feel less “hacky”. The problem for now seems to be that no one knows what the limitations will be, and how much an app will have to do to make it work. Will it be as simple as an app like Due creating a way for other apps to add reminders, or will every app have to work behind the scenes with Due to arrange that? More information should come out in the next week as to whether or not this is truly a game changer.

Lots of other features seemed to center around convenience. The empty space at the top of the screen in the task switcher can now be used to access recent and favorite contacts. This accomplishes something that many people who use Launch Center Pro for currently, which is quickly calling/texting someone without needing 10 taps. Most novice users will love this feature. Similarly, push notification banners can now be responded to directly. In other words, a text message can be replied to from the notification banner at the top of the screen instead of having to load the Messages app first. It looks like this will work with all kind of functions. It’s unclear at the moment whether third-party apps can take advantage of this though. This is probably really great for people who spend a lot of time working on their iPads and don’t always want to bounce between apps.

Another convenience feature that Apple copied from Android is a modified way of predicting text. Apple’s Quicktype shows several suggestions above the keyboard rather than just one in a hard to tap bubble. The unique part of Apple’s implementation seems to be the “smart” aspect of it. The image below shows an example when a simple “or” question is asked. This has a lot of potential.

More keyboard news comes with the news that Apple will finally allow third party software keyboards. Things like Swype will now be available system wide, which according to some Android users, is life changing.

And last but not least, iCloud doesn’t suck anymore! Apple finally bit the bullet and turned iCloud into a more Dropbox like storage area instead of an app-specific sandbox. This means that iCloud can be used to access the same files from multiple applications. This could mean that Dropbox is in trouble if most developers focus on this solution which now appeals to a much larger audience. But suddenly apps that only used iCloud before just became much more useful.

Some minor things:

  • Battery usage by app, much like the addition of data usage by app last year, is huge for finding out what is causing the most problems. Battery life is a major issue for some people and this could possibly be the key to helping that.

What Was Missing?

Siri got but a brief change, the addition of Hey, Siri which allows Siri to be activated without touching the phone. This is huge for all the hands free states out there since activating Siri while driving is not always the easiest thing. But that was all. For a feature that was heralded as a flagship feature the last two years it was interesting not to see it get more love. It certainly seems like this is falling into niche feature territory.

The much rumored “side-by-side” app view on the iPad didn’t happen. Not shocking.

Also not shocking was the lack of hardware announcements. No new iPhone or iPad was least shocking. No new/upgraded Macs was at least a little bit of a surprise.

Wrap-Up

Overall it was a very good day for users and developers. Apple continues to make improvements to their software, and seems to be listening to a lot of complaints people have. Android users can say what they want about “all of these features being on Android already”, but the truth is that so many Android phones don’t even have the latest OS it’s hard to claim they all have these features. As as Apple closes the gap on these smaller things, it just pushes them farther ahead in the big picture.

What is Wrong With Ballmer’s $2 billion?

There has been a great deal of criticism towards Steve Ballmer for “overspending” on the Los Angeles Clippers. The theory is that recouping $2B from this purchase is nearly impossible. But this is confusing.

Starting with some comparisons to recent tech company purchases, here are some examples of recent companies that were bought:

That last one is a great benchmark here: $16B for a chat app/service which is currently free for the first year. $16B is an insane amount of money for a company that does something somewhat ubiquitous, and with a mild revenue stream. When and how will $16B profit be made to recoup this? It doesn’t seem remotely possible. And yet this amount is 8x what Steve Ballmer paid for the Clippers.

There are only 30 professional basketball teams in the NBA. No other professional basketball league is about to crop up and steal customers the way that a photo or chat app could theoretically steal customers from Instagram and WhatsApp. So owning a professional sports team is essentially not a free market.

Speaking of markets, Los Angeles is the 2nd biggest “market” for sports in the country. They have no professional football team, and even though they have another more well-known basketball team, it’s still a huge city. Big city teams can still thrive (at least for a while) even without much success if they are run properly. And the upcoming possibility of a massive TV deal cannot be overlooked.

Thirdly, the Clippers just made the 2nd round of the playoffs. They have two of the 20 best players in the league. They have a top five coach. These situations rarely come up when teams are sold. The Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings have both recently been sold. Both are bottom feeding teams in need of new arenas. A team comes up for sale on average probably every 2–4 years. A team with a situation like this probably comes up once a decade, if that.

Sports teams don’t really lose money anymore. There are probably some instances where this is not, but generally they make loads of cash, despite what they try to make people believe. Good teams in big cities alway make lots, and that is the Clippers right now. Plus with a new owner and the current Lakers slump there will certainly be a rejuvenated interest in the Clippers in the next couple of years. It will probably take Ballmer a while to get back his $2B just on profits, but it’s unlikely he won’t chip away at it significantly in the next 10 years.

That doesn’t even factor in the possibility of selling the team again someday. Donald Sterling paid $12 million for the Clippers in 1981, which seems to be about $32M in today’s dollars. In other words, it’s unlikely the Clippers are going down in value any time soon. If Ballmer wanted to flip this team in five years, he almost surely would come out ahead.

The criticism just doesn’t make sense when there are all these other bizarre purchases out there being made that are far less safe than a sports team in Los Angeles. Rich guys don’t like to lose money, and one thing almost all sports owners have in common is that they are rich guys. So this is totally working out.

Paranoia vs. Convenience

How does someone balance paranoia and convenience in the technological world of today? Macstories recently reviewed Notifyr, an app that forwards push notifications from iOS to OS X. This is a genius application that solves a lot of issues for people who spend a lot of time on a Mac and put their phone somewhere else either on purpose or accident. But this means that this application somehow has access to every push notification that comes through1. There is no reason to automatically suspect something nefarious is going on here. But the developer is a 17-year-old from the Netherlands as opposed to a company that has been creating reputable software for years.

TUAW also recently reviewed an app, Marco Polo, which is used to help find a misplaced iPhone. Essentially a person yells “Marco”, and the phone responds “Polo” allowing the person to locate it. Another genius idea, but this means that when this app is running in the background that it is listening to the microphone all the time. So again, assuming the worst this means that this app could essentially hear everything a person says within earshot of their phone.

The Xbox One contains technology to be controlled by a person’s voice. This includes the ability to turn it on and off. But in order to turn it on with voice, it must always be listening for the command. Which means that even when it is off it would still be listening to everything that is said.

Of course none of these scenarios mean that anything bad is going on, just that there is potential for such. Most people get up in arms when Facebook changes a privacy setting, but these same people post their location all over the place, and use features similar to the ones discussed above.

How does a person find balance?

It’s difficult to completely avoid any sort of risk when using the internet. All information being sent can be intercepted one way or the other. Even encrypted data is eventually unencrypted somewhere. So where does the line get drawn?

Just like the real-life version of trust, much of it has to do with reputation. Has a company proven to have a solid track record of not abusing customer data/information and doing what it can to protect it? Target proved they don’t fit that criteria. Buying software is no different. A company like Panic has an established reputation and could be trusted if they created apps like Notifyr and Marco Polo. But when it’s indie developers, there should at least be some pause. And ultimately it comes down to risk vs. reward. If a person is constantly misplacing their iPhone then perhaps Marco Polo is a worthwhile risk, especially if that person doesn’t often have conversations they don’t care if other people hear2.

Nowadays it seems that most people prefer convenience and price above all else. The millions of people who use Gmail have proven that time and time again. If you throw caution to the wind, these two apps seem pretty awesome.

  1. Assuming they aren’t using some non-public API, I wonder how they are doing this. Does this mean that ALL iOS apps have access to push notifications from other apps? []
  2. If it isn’t clear by now, I by know means think that app developers are doing something they shouldn’t all the time, or with these specific apps, but there is always the possiblity []

Pygmy Reviews #42 – Movies

21 Jump Street (2013)

One Line Description: Two cops are asked to go undercover at a high school to catch a drug ring.

(Loosely?) based on the late ’80s TV show of the same name1. This one combines current star of the moment Channing Tatum with Jonah Hill as the duo. In classic fashion, Tatum is the good-looking cool guy in high school, while Hill is the nerd. When they go back they find the roles reversed and have to adjust. This movie was really funny, and it’s unsurprising a sequel is forthcoming. Hill and Tatum have great chemistry and Tatum continues to show some depth in some of his roles. There are more than enough laugh out loud moments to make this worth at least one viewing.

Last Picture Show (1971)

One Line Description: A crumbling 1950’s Texas town is home to some “coming of age” boys.

There is so much to say about this movie. It won two Oscars and was nominated for a bunch more. It was the screen debut of both Cybill Shepherd and Randy Quaid. It also featured Jeff Bridges, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn and Eileen Brennan. It’s weird to see a movie from 1971 in black and white, but it’s clear that the purpose behind this was to give the movie a more authentic 1950s feel, which this film has in spades. Timothy Bottoms plays the main character and this story illustrates what appears to be his last year of high school, which includes work and relationships. The movie covers well what a small town in the 1950s must have been like, and the story is entertaining and engaging. It’s hard to draw comparisons, but something like Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Dead Poets Society might touch a similar nerve. Very excellent movie.

Identity Thief (2013)

One Line Description: A married man tracks down the woman who stole his identity in an attempt to clear his name.

Melissa McCarthy sure is getting a lot of movies made lately. She capitalized on her role in Bridesmaids and has pretty much played the same character since. This is an utterly terrible movie. Despite enjoying the occasional Jason Bateman performance he is just brutal in this one. It does have a healthy dose of laugh out loud moments, but that is enough for most people to find this enjoyable.

White House Down (2013)

One Line Description: Terrorists infiltrate the White House with revenge in mind.

The writers of this movie must have read Action Movies for Dummies and just went to town. Jamie Foxx appears to be doing a rough take on Barrack Obama. Channing Tatum is Bruce Willis from every movie he has ever done. Both Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) and James Woods provide solid supporting roles. This movie is actually a solid action movie for a while. Exciting scenes, nice twists, Jamie Foxx being the coolest guy in the room a lot. But it really, really falls apart near the end. The movie really seems to just outstupid itself over and over, and the last parts of the story just makes you wonder why someone would do this? Skip the last 30 minutes and this is a fun action flick. But the ending takes away anything it had going for it.

We’re The Millers (2013)

One Line Description: A drug dealer must pose as family man to smuggle drugs into the US from Mexico in order to pay off a debt.

I wanted to like this movie. If nothing else, Jennifer Aniston out to prove she still has a smoking body at age 44 is worth the watch2. I try to like Jason Sudeikis though, and I can’t. I haven’t seen a lot of his other movies yet but this just does’t bode well. The story here was a little better than Identify Thief, but the laughs were a lot worse. The funniest moments were by far the outtakes after the movie, including a great one for all the Friends fans. Aniston has a couple of scenes that will make anyone (like me) who grew up with a huge crush on her watch the whole movie for. But outside of that, this one misses pretty hard. \

  1. I have never seen the show so all thoughts are based just on the movie []
  2. Spoiler alert….she does []

Pitch Count Nonsense

When watching baseball nowadays, someone, either a random person nearby, or announcers on TV, tend to start gabbing about taking out a starting pitcher “because he has 100 pitches”. Somewhere along the way things have gotten so strange that this random, “one size fits all” standard has been adopted by the masses. Forget the fact that pitchers used to throw more than 100 pitches regularly. Forget that 100 is a seemingly arbitrary number1. More importantly, why on Earth do people think that all pitcher’s are created equal?

Major League Baseball (MLB) doesn’t have something (or at least not something as public) as the NFL Draft Combine, where players of the same position take part in identical drills to gauge athletic ability. Things like vertical leap, bench press, 40-yard dash, etc. No two players have ever2 produced literally the exact same results from every single test. This seems to indicate that players have different athletic traits at varying levels of ability.

Two basketball players who are both starting point guards don’t necessarily play the exact same number of minutes as each other every game, nor do coaches have some set limit that all guys can’t cross. It’s different for every guy for a large variety of reasons.

Why have pitch counts deviated from this so much?

Not every pitcher is the same. In fact the difference amongst starting pitchers across the league is probably much greater than the difference between starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Velocity varies. Movement varies. Type of pitch varies. Weather varies. Defenses vary. Situations dictate how a pitcher throws as well. All of these things vary. So even if every pitcher was a physical carbon copy of one another, it still would not make sense to have one pitch count to rule them all.

But every pitcher isn’t a carbon copy. Height, weight, physical strength, endurance, muscle density and a million other physiological thing come into play. The toll on the body, and particularly the arm/shoulder, that throwing a 98 MPH fastball inflicts is not the same from one human to the next. And the effect of doing that over and over again is yet another variable.

Baseball has embraced analytics and numbers more than any other sport, and it’s not even close. The first thing the Moneyball guys took advantage of was a lack of value on walks. Then there was a rush for defense. Now drastic shifting has come in to play. And yet no one has been able to crack the great question of pitch counts. The number of Tommy John surgeries this year is eye-popping. The reasons behind that are being debated every week. Maybe 100 is too many pitches? Maybe it’s not enough to build up endurance?

Whatever the case is though, it’s crazy to think that every pitcher is the same. There doesn’t seem to be any other number in any other sport that is as cut and dry as people make this arbitrary number of 100 pitches out to be. It’s a great debate to have though, and one that will someday be resolved.

  1. Everyone, especially in sports, loves round numbers. As if a guy who hit 499 home runs is automatically appreciably less talented than a guy who hit 500 []
  2. I assume []

2001 In Film

Check out the other year’s in film I have covered.

Best of the Best

If these are on, life stops

  1. Super Troopers – One of my all-time favorite movies. Right there with The Hangover as my favorite comedies. Still makes me laugh 13 years later after dozens of viewings.
  2. Training Day – Denzel at his absolute best. This movie is insanely good. I have never been an Ethan Hawke fan but he is pretty perfect in this role. Such a great movie. Top 20 all-time for me.
  3. American Pie 2 – Potentially better than the first. Definitely lacked the novelty but seems more re-watchable than the original.
  4. Ocean’s 11 – The best of the modern trilogy. Such an amazing collection of talent. Love movies like this.
  5. Black Hawk Down – An underrated war movie that suffers a bit from Josh Harnett, but still has a great supporting cast. Solid “based on a true story” film, would have made a great Call of Duty game.

Favorites

These are movies that I like and still watch if the opportunity arises.

  • 15 Minutes – Robert DeNiro and Ed Burns investigate a series of arsons. Not a great movie to most people, but I always enjoyed it. A young Vera Farmiga is there too looking great.
  • Along Came a Spider – Based on a James Patterson book. Morgan Freeman is solid. Patterson books are always entertaining and have lots of twists and turns.
  • America’s Sweethearts – John Cusack and Julia Roberts in a weird love triangle movie. This might fit better in a guilty pleasure, but I have seen this movie too many times, and enjoyed it too much not to put it here.
  • Antitrust – The first attempt to make a modern movie about computer programmers/hackers. This movie feels so dated these days. But at the time it was just awesome. Especially as a person who badly wanted to work at a place like that.
  • Enemy at the Gates – A different kind of war movie about a nobody who becomes a famous sniper in Eastern Europe during World War II. Not infinitely re-watchable but one of the better war movies of the last 20 years.
  • Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back – One of the last movies in the Clerks universe for Kevin Smith. The only one that focuses on Jay and Silent Bob. The story is a little crappy, but there are tons of great cameos and one-liners.
  • Rock Star – Mark Wahlberg has always been one of my favorites. This is a cool movie about a die hard fan who becomes the lead singer of his favorite band. Jennifer Aniston is smoking in this one. They play the beginning of “Stand Up and Shout” at sporting events still.
  • Serendipity – More Cusack. This time with Kate Beckinsale (<3). This is one of those movies where the plot could not be less believable, but that doesn’t make it less fun. Jeremy Piven is involved as well, which is also a plus.

Guilty Pleasures

  • Behind Enemy Lines – Guilty because I really don’t like Owen Wilson and this isn’t a good movie. But I have seen it a few times and thus it qualifies. It has a few moments.
  • The Fast and the Furious – The one that got it all started. Definitely the one that I have seen the most. Some really bad acting in this one. Really bad.
  • Heartbreakers – Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt play a mother and daughter conwoman team. JLH is just gorgeous in this one. Jason Lee pops up too. But seriously, how have I seen this movie multiple times?
  • Save the Last Dance – Most people wouldn’t call this a guilty pleasure, but it’s not a very good movie. But Julia Stiles was one of my teenage crushes so I definitely saw this one a bunch.
  • Summer Catch – Back when Freddie Prinze Jr. just made movies. The baseball angle was cool. Everyone my age at the time was in love with Jessica Biel. This is a really horrible movie though.
  • Swordfish – I don’t like John Travolta. But Hugh Jackman is good in this before he was really a massive star. And, ahem, Halle Berry. Interesting attempt at a hacker movie, but just not good.
  • The Wedding Planner – Can’t explain why I have seen this movie so many times. It seems crazy to see Matthew McConaughey in this one when you see what he did in 2013–2014. Jennifer Lopez seems so long ago.

List of Shame

Movies that I have not seen

  • A Beautiful Mind – I love Russell Crowe, and math, yet have never seen this movie before. It won a bunch of Oscars so there really is no excuse. I am sure I would like it.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – I have famously never seen any of these movies. I just don’t like elves and wizards. I really need to see them at some point though.
  • Monster’s Ball – Another Oscar winning movie, considered to be Halle Berry’s best performance. It doesn’t seem to show up on TV much so I will have to seek it out.
  • Moulin Rouge – Nominated for Best Picture, but not a cast that ropes me in. I just never saw it. Not even sure if I would like it, but seems like I should at least give it a try.
  • Out Cold – I know people who love this movie, but I have never seen it. Zach Galifianakis is so funny though that this has to be worth considering.
  • Planet of the Apes – This probably isn’t really shameful since it’s Rotten Tomatoes score is so awful. But it’s Wahlberg again.
  • Shrek – I missed a lot of these animated movies the last 15 years or so, but it seems like this one was pretty funny in general. Maybe Mike Myers last great role.

Other Films of Note

Films that jumped out at me or have significance that I haven’t seen or don’t have particularly strong feelings for

  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence – I still don’t know what this movie is about. It was Spielberg’s first movie since Saving Private Ryan, but I don’t think it was very good.
  • Ali – Will Smith’s first attempt at really showing off some acting depth. He was really good as the title character. This movie is just OK though.
  • Blow – Enjoyable movie, with peak Penelope Cruz. Not a huge Johnny Depp fan, but this is a pretty good movie.
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary – Renee Zellweger seemed on track for a bigger career than she had, but this movie really gave her a second life. Not really a guy movie.
  • Don’t Say a Word – The late Brittany Murphy was pretty good in this one, but overall it’s just an OK movie. Remember when Michael Douglas was a star?
  • Driven – Sylvester Stallone just kept plugging along making flops like this one. These big stars have it great.
  • Glitter – Mariah Carey made a movie. That’s all.
  • Hannibal – This movie did exceptionally well at the box office, and Anthony Hopkins is just wonderful. But Julianne Moore is not so much. And this movie has some weak spots. Red Dragon was much better later.
  • Hardball – Does anything scream 2001 more than Keanu Reeves and Diane Lane?
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – Only saw the first one, and I have never heard anyone mention this one. Maybe this is one of the weaker ones?
  • Joe Dirt – David Spade. Not a great movie career but some good moments. It is surprising that Brittany Daniel didn’t have a better career.
  • Josie and the Pussycats – I never saw this one, but nothing fits the time period better than Tara Reid (now a trainwreck) and Rachel Leigh Cook (Where is she now?). I don’t think this was good.
  • Joyride – Saw this in the theater for some reason. Scared me.
  • Jurassic Park 3 – Much better than Lost World. It is almost really good, but Tea Leoni just isn’t cast all that well.
  • K-PAX – It certianly feels like this was the beginning of the end of Spacey’s movie career.
  • Kate and Leopold – Hugh Jackman travels through time from 1876 to present and falls in love with Meg Ryan. Wow. I wonder if this is any good.
  • A Knight’s Tale – The late Heath Ledger before he broke out as a masterful actor. This movie had some weird modern references including music. Not a great one.
  • Laura Croft: Tomb Raider – Not a well received movie but Angelina Jolie is credited with a good performance.
  • Legally Blond – At this point it was probably pretty clear that Reese Witherspoon’s career wasn’t going to be bigger than it seemed. This was an extremely successful movie that spawned a sequel, but I find it be horrible.
  • Memento – Guy Pearce at his short-lived apex. This movie is significant because it takes place in reverse.
  • Monsters, Inc. – Again, haven’t seen tons of animated movies, but did see this one. It’s fun.
  • The Mummy Returns – These Mummy movies were very popular. This one made insane amounts of money. And The Rock was in it.
  • The Mexican – No clue what this movie is about, but Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts are pretty big names.
  • Not Another Teen Movie – Along the lines of the Scary Movie franchise, this one mocked all the movies about teens from the previous few years. It was funny at the time, can’t imagine it holds up.
  • O – A modern retelling of Othello with some “it” actors of the moment, Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett and Julia Stiles.
  • Pearl Harbor – More Josh Harnett (this guy was busy). What seemed on paper like it could be the next Saving Private Ryan ended up being a horrible love story.
  • The Princess Diaries – The debut of Anne Hathaway. She has done pretty well for her self.
  • Rat Race – A modern twist on It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with a huge cast. Never saw it. It’s probably not good.
  • The Royal Tenebaums – Wes Anderson movies are just OK to me. This is no exception. It has it’s moments but overall doesn’t do it for me.
  • Rush Hour 2 – Never saw any of these movies, but man they made a lot of money.
  • Saving Silverman – Jason Biggs trying to capitalize on his American Pie fame. This movie, like most of his, was generic and stupid.
  • The Score – I get some of these heist movies confused, this one with Robert De Niro, Ed Norton and Marlon Brando in his last movie. I remember this one being pretty good though.
  • Shallow Hal – Typical Farrelly Brothers, which doesn’t do much for me. Jack Black doesn’t have a lot of depth.
  • Spy Game – Redford and Pitt. Tony Scott. This was one was pretty successful. Might belong in List of Shame because it seems pretty good.
  • Spy Kids – It was always weird to me that Robert Rodriguez wrote and directed this movie. Seems so out of place. The cast looks pretty good so maybe I should check it out some time.
  • Vanilla Sky – I like Cameron Crowe but this movie was way too out there for me. Tom Cruise made some weird movies along the way.
  • Zoolander – Can’t believe how popular this movie was. Hated it. HATED. Of course I really don’t like Owen Wilson so that was always a problem.

Stop Comparing Mad Men to Game of Thrones

Two of the most critically (and popularly) acclaimed shows on TV run back-to-back on different networks on Sunday nights right now. The first half of the 7th (and final) season of Mad Men airs are 10 ET right after the 4th season of HBO’s Game of Thrones airs at 9 ET. For whatever reason Mad Men has been taking some heat this season for being “boring”, but this is almost exclusively by people who have just come from watching Game of Thrones. This is wrong on so many levels.

First and foremost, a Hollywood Tell All show hosted by totally naked celebrities would seem boring after Game of Thrones. It is impossible to stack up against in the same way the latter seasons of Breaking Bad were hard to follow. Game of Thrones will always seem less boring because action is a central part of the story.

The age of these shows also plays a crucial role in this discussion. Most TV shows peak around seasons 3–5. After that point the show has either painted itself into a corner, or must make their characters either extremes of themselves or someone totally new to keep flowing, and this is not always fun. This is a far larger problem in sitcoms but longer running dramas tend to suffer a similar problem. Mad Men is in the home stretch and is trying to build to an endpoint. Game of Thrones is really just hitting it’s stride and is probably at it’s peak for most people.

Then there are the structural differences. Mad Men focuses mostly on one character, Don Draper, while Game of Thrones doesn’t truly have a “main character” and instead bounces betweens many story lines each week (some not even every week). What made shows like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos a degree of difficulty harder than a show like The Wire was that they focused so closely on a essentially one character. The large world of Game of Thrones keeps the audience from getting too bored with one character1.

Then of course, is the source material. Although some would make an argument that going off existing material like Game of Thrones does makes it harder, in the long run it’s an easier proposition. In the beginning there are challenges, like casting the right people. Replacing Roger on Mad Men early on with a totally different character is potentially doable. Replacing someone like Tyrion Lannister would have required a straight actor change2, which is far trickier. But in the long run the major arcs of Game of Thrones are written. Notes and feedback from studios and audiences can only impact smaller things as opposed to larger story lines. Mad Men is adjusting as they go and likely only had a few stakes in the ground for the future when it was first getting going.

As far as writing goes, Mad Men will be a much greater accomplishment when it’s all said and done. While the scripts of Game of Thrones still have to be written, and the right information scraped from the source material, there are critical TV-making decisions that don’t come up.

None of this is meant to take away from Game of Thrones, which is simply an amazing show, with tremendous production quality and superb directing. But Mad Men was put together somewhat from scratch in a simple amazing way. As good as Breaking Bad was, it had a natural hook. Mad Men is an astonishingly period-accurate piece of work that has done things that almost no show before it has pulled off. As “boring” as these first 6 episodes have felt, it’s ridiculous to do anything but praise this masterpiece.

  1. Although it does still happen. See Greyjoy, Theon a.k.a. Reek []
  2. Which Game of Thrones has done a couple of times []