Soviet Valley

This is amusing:

Things that happen in Silicon Valley and also the Soviet Union:

– waiting years to receive a car you ordered, to find that it’s of poor workmanship and quality

– promises of colonizing the solar system while you toil in drudgery day in, day out

– living five adults to a two room apartment

– being told you are constructing utopia while the system crumbles around you

– ‘totally not illegal taxi’ taxis by private citizens moonlighting to make ends meet

– everything slaved to the needs of the military-industrial complex

– mandatory workplace political education

– productivity largely falsified to satisfy appearance of sponsoring elites

– deviation from mainstream narrative carries heavy social and political consequences

– networked computers exist but they’re really bad

– Henry Kissinger visits sometimes for some reason

– elite power struggles result in massive collateral damage, sometimes purges

– failures are bizarrely upheld as triumphs

– otherwise extremely intelligent people just turning the crank because it’s the only way to get ahead

– the plight of the working class is discussed mainly by people who do no work

– the United States as a whole is depicted as evil by default

– the currency most people are talking about is fake and worthless

– the economy is centrally planned, using opaque algorithms not fully understood by their users

Mr Zuckerberg, tear down this wall!

How will disaster movies ever recover?

THE SATELLITE DID IT

I thought The Day After Tomorrow marked the pinnacle of disaster-movie absurdity, with its infamous scene of a wave of killer frost literally chasing Jake Gyllenhaal across the New York Public Library.

But Roland Emmerich, the man behind that spectacle, surpassed himself several years later with 2012, in which a burst of neutrinos somehow disrupts the earth’s core, unleashing a Ragnarok of natural disasters that wipes out virtually all of humanity, including Danny Glover.

Nothing quite prepares you for Geostorm, though. This massive box-office flop, described as “the worst film of the year,” introduces a bizarre twist on the genre, in which a network of climate-controlling satellites is the only thing standing between humanity and the general concept of bad weather. So that when a computer virus makes these satellites go haywire, there is nothing to stop a gigantic tsunami from nearly eradicating Dubai. To quote Dave Barry, I am not making this up.

This is a movie in which a wonky satellite causes: a hideous electrical storm in Miami, a Biblical hailstorm in Tokyo, an array of tornadoes pummeling Mumbai, and a brutal heat wave descending on Moscow. Among other, equally ridiculous things.

Now, The Day After Tomorrow was just silly, but fun, while 2012 was awesome and scary despite being scientifically preposterous. And that’s all good. Geostorm, though, is aggressively stupid, without a single redeeming quality. Even by the generous standards of disaster flicks, the storyline and dialogue are trash-tier, the characters behave in nonsensical ways, and worst of all, in the one area this type of movie absolutely must perform – namely, captivating visual spectacle – Geostorm does a sickening bellyflop into the pool of failure. Only the Dubai-tidal-wave scene sort of makes the cut.

For a couple hours of escapist entertainment that will do real and lasting damage to your frontopolar cortex, I give Geostorm a reluctant one thumb up.

The instant China expert

Destined to become a classic:

I’m in the business lounge of Shanghai airport, one of 400 world-class international aviation hubs that China is building every week, sipping a macchiato prepared by David, a 23-year-old IT graduate and barista, who speaks four languages and plays the violin like a concert-hall maestro.

I’ve spent nearly a week in Shanghai, running from business meetings to cocktail parties to speaking engagements. It’s hard to believe what’s going on.

Heading to meet the founder of Joystream, an exciting new startup, I ride in a “Didi,” a ride-sharing app quite similar to Uber. It’s ordered by my new Chinese friend Hamburger, a 24-year-old stockbroker and father of one, who moonlights on Didi so he can meet “interesting men.”

I ask Hamburger how he finds time to bond with his child, and he explains that Chinese people consider education sacred. While our kids are lounging around summer camp, toasting marshmallows, Hamburger’s toddler is doing long division and performing minor surgery on woodland animals. Hamburger gives me his number and urges me to call him later; the friendliness here is remarkable.

If you’re at all familiar with this genre of breathless reporting by visiting Westerners, you’ll nod at every single sentence. It’s painfully on target. I especially like the uncritical spouting of ludicrously inflated statistics – a specialty of the “China experts.”

This is also pretty funny – a riff on the “Why I’m leaving China” genre. If you’re not entertained by this, well… maybe you had to be there.

This cuts deep