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John Blossom
127,052 followers -
United Methodist Church ministries, facilitating vision & execution, with deep experience in media and technology
United Methodist Church ministries, facilitating vision & execution, with deep experience in media and technology

127,052 followers
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How Star Wars: The Last Jedi was Lost in the Edit [MAJOR SPOILERS!]

It's not like I don't have a lot of better things to do, but, having seen the following video on how the original "Star Wars" was transformed from a pretty boring and silly film into the action masterpiece that has endured for decades, I just have to say that the new film is kind of the OPPOSITE of what saved the original "Star Wars."

What the video points out is that the first cut of the original "Star Wars" suffered from meaningless dialogue, lots of characters and extra scenes that didn't advance the plot one bit, and action sequences that were loose, long and kind of boring. So it seems with "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." The film could be (and should be) at least fifteen minutes shorter, there are plot lines that are completely silly or boring (A First Order dreadnought and two cruisers cannot overtake a tiny Resistance ship for hours?), and endless dialog scenes that are loose, sloppily edited, and failing to advance the plot.

This is in marked contrast to the most recent new-franchise "Star Wars" film "The Force Awakens." In many ways "Force" is a tour de force of editing, acting, and action, in many ways surpassing the original as a movie that is both fun to watch and that gets us into the guts of the characters quickly. By contrast, do we really need to see Yoda again (unless it's a precursor to other cameos)? With a multi-million dollar budget, couldn't you shoot the island scenes with similar weather to where the previous movie left us there?

And why do we even need Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), a bureaucrat who slows down all of the action just to decide at the last moment to do a "Thelma and Louise" and shove the Resistance ship at light speed into the dreadnought? The scene itself makes sense, but it is so out of character for Holdo to start with, and is just one additional detail that drags out Carrie Fisher's screen time in scenes where she really doesn't get to provide effective performances.

Another concern is that the movie does a 180 on the theology/cosmology of "Star Wars," and decides that "The Force" has to go atheistic to be valid. This may please younger generations, perhaps, but it's disturbing that "The Force" seems now more focused on a power struggle between good and evil than something that is inevitably stronger.

Are we left after this film with any sense why we should care about the next one? Not really. It's a multicultural cast of characters who seem to exist for the sake of existing, not to advance a story. And dragging out Carrie Fisher's role, when there was a clear opportunity to give her story a heroic ending (Han Solo got his hero ending, after all) seems like a silly way to move things forward - and now, sadly, she cannot move things forward.

That's it. Sorry for all the spoilers, but I did warn loudly up front. I hope and pray that the next movie in this series takes its craft a bit more seriously, so that we can have a bit more fun watching it.
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+General Motors is making great headway on its self-driving auto taxi service, in test drives with journalists were pretty smooth in complex SanFran traffic, with traffic cones and taco trucks still needing manual mode. 2019 launch seems doable, two years ahead of Ford and Lyft...
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Brilliant discussion of the emptiness of Enlightenment and Modern moral systems. I actually found something to appreciate in Aristotle through this book, which is an achievement in itself :-)

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One of the best reads I've had this semester - well worth a look, especially if issues of morality and environmental justice are your thing.

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Google Home Mini: Great, But Why So Late?

I had a little extra cash after an extra assignment recently, so I didn't feel bad taking delivery of the $50 Google Home Mini. Sets up in seconds, fun to use, works pretty much as advertised, though you have to be careful about what you name things - "Chromecast" is not a good name for your Chromecast, apparently, and neither is "TV" ("Family TV" works well). So now when I activate my TV's CEC controls for my TV Chromecast, "Turn on the family TV" works nicely. Other things work pretty much as advertised, though getting some things like a shuffle of a playlist or a playlist radio, is a two-step process.

The main question: What took you so long, Google? I have worked for several large companies, so I know that the "ship of state" can turn slowly on consumer trends. From its inception, Google has been, like Microsoft originally, and, actually, Apple also, a company that built on existing trends and borrowed from others to capitalize on them.

Their product focus groups (now called "Early Access" groups) allow Google to get a sense of the tastes of the most geekish of consumers, but, often, they have ti react to trends, measure, them, and then respond - often, as with the late emergence of Google Home after Amazon Echo's successful launch, well after first movers have gained substantial, and often dominant, market share.

Being a first mover is no guarantee of long-term success. Anyone remember Altair or Osborne as personal computers? Only for historical purposes, if that. This may yet prove to be the fate of Tesla, as GM, Ford, and many other automotive giants begin to tool up on electric and autonomous vehicles.

And Google itself has shown consistently that it fails as a first mover. Sergey Brin had all sorts of awesome ideas for innovative products, few of which actually made their way into the marketplace with any success. There is the plodding, grind-it-out-with-elegance side of Google, and there is the mad-scientist side of Google, determined to do something transformative, but locked on to a horizon so distant, that they never quite figure out how to pivot into real marketable products and services quickly enough.

Google Home is only the most recent example of this trend. It's a brilliant product, even if a bit rough around the edges, but Google had the know-how to do it well before Amazon ever did. Amazon stroked a bajillion developers to develop "skills" (apps) for Echo, just as Apple did with the iPhone, and is locking in a generation of users to its ecosystem. Google is not as far behind with Google Home apps as it is with apps and partnerships as when it launched Android phones against iPhones, but it's catch-up nevertheless.

It seems that +Sundar Pichai is quite aware of these trends - I am sure this is nothing new to him. He, too, worries that Google was in danger of becoming like Xerox' PARC research center, or AT&T's Bell Laboratories, where I cut my teeth on Unix and mainframe systems years ago - places where much of today's tech infrastructure was invented, but from which came very few usable consumer products. Under his leadership, Google is learning how to compete in the marketplace far more effectively. But they're not there yet.

My guess is that in the next year or so, Google will be a lot more "there" than it's ever been before. But it's a competitive world out there. I hope that they surprise us with some big things as only Google can - and also surprise us with the elegance of what it continues to improve, day in, day out.
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Pretty impressive approach to affordable carbon capture and recycling.
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YouTube Demonitises Transport Evolved...?

+Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield​ is without a doubt one of the finest tech bloggers on +YouTube​, working on a shoestring budget to deliver some of the best insights into the electric vehicle industry out there. She is precise, objective, thorough, witty, and, in her own (by her own admission, I would wager) charmingly goofy manner, she is one of the easiest people to listen to talking about tech. Her +Transport Evolved​ YouTube channel following has grown substantially in the past few months, and she works tirelessly to make her content better and better. Hats off, Nikki, you really rock!

Now, with that said, why is YouTube pulling ads from her channel? As you know, what YouTube giveth, YouTube taketh away for often mysterious reasons, but for the life of me I cannot fathom why they would pull the plug on Nikki's ads. YouTube, if this is just your algorithms burping, please tweak them to let hard-working people like Nikki follow their passions that benefit us so greatly. If there is a legitimate reason why you're pulling the plug on her income, please let her know. Everyone else, if you dig her content, please support her via Patreon, or share with her your ideas for better sources of income that give her a sense of fulfilling her dreams. In the meantime, please keep her in your prayers.
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