MCU Movies – The Definitive Ranking

03/19/2019

There are many lists of Marvel movies, but this one is mine. There’s no particular criteria for my rankings, though “rewatch-ability” is very important. Here is the Definitive Ranking of Marvel Cinematic Universe Films (in order starting from least favorite):

  • Thor: The Dark World — This movie just kind of a mess. It’s like a less-good remake of Thor (which itself wasn’t great.)
  • The Incredible Hulk — The forgotten MCU movie. This is the most-optional of the films, so feel free to skip.
  • Thor — I think of it almost like two movies. The first movie is all of the “sword and board” action and royal politics. Most of these scenes are a snooze fest. The other movie takes place on Earth, and it is really fun. Sadly, there is too much of the former to overcome the latter.
  • Iron Man 2 — It’s Iron Man and it’s fun, but it’s the weakest of the trio.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron — This movie felt overly long and I never quite understood the motivations of the antagonist (voiced by the always great James Spader.)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — A visual spectacle, but this movie has always seemed like one of the least necessary entries in the MCU. Other than advancing Quill’s daddy issues, I’m not sure what this film did other than set up Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp — Low-stakes, lighthearted, and enjoyable.
  • Doctor Strange — Our introduction to the mystical side of Marvel, this was a fun film. Stephen Strange is an arrogant asshole, but his origin story was great.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger — It took me a couple of viewings to really appreciate this film. I think this is one film where having an understanding of the origin of Captain America really helps you understand why this movie was actually pretty good. Though if you don’t like it, you don’t like it.
  • Ant-Man — I did not expect to like this one as much as I did. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly were great.
  • Avengers: Infinity War — Part 1 of the big payoff for all of these films. It’s still hard to believe that they managed to center this film around an entirely CGI character and make it work so well.
  • Captain America: Civil War — Almost an Avengers movie, there was conflict, politics, and solid action. This also introduced Tom Holland’s Spider-Man into the MCU.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy — This was the point where Marvel really started flexing. Up to this point, their films had been headlined by relatively established characters. Guardians was something else. With it, they absolutely nailed the introduction of a new universe of characters who were virtually unknown to non-comics readers. The script was hilarious and the casting spot-on.
  • Iron Man 3 — A slight shift in tone and stakes from the other two entries, but a solid film. Ben Kingsley steals the show.
  • Thor: Ragnarok — Maybe the funniest MCU movie? This one made me want more Thor films.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming — I love this iteration of Spider-Man (long my favorite comic character) and what Tom Holland brings. So great.
  • Marvel’s The Avengers — The gang finally comes together. Fun action, though I still think helicarriers are dumb.
  • Captain Marvel — The first solo MCU movie with a female protagonist. Loved every minute of it.
  • Iron Man — The first film. This one set the stage and the tone for the MCU. Somehow they lucked into casting Robert Downey Jr. and the rest is cinema history.
  • Black Panther — This was the first MCU film that actually felt important. Black Panther had things to say about race, isolationism, oppression, and family. An incredible film that could stand on its own outside of the MCU.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier — I loved everything about this film. I think it had the best action scenes of any MCU movie to date, and echoed some of my favorite thrillers like Three Days of the Condor and [Marathon Man](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marathon_Man_(film)). To me, this is the most re-watchable entry in the MCU, and that’s why it is at the top.

End of Watch

02/14/2019

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity Concludes a 15-Year Mission – The New York Times:

Opportunity, the longest-lived roving robot ever sent to another planet, explored the red plains of Mars for more than 14 years, snapping photos and revealing astonishing glimpses into its distant past. But on Wednesday, NASA announced that the rover is dead.

“It is therefore that I am standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude that I declare the Opportunity mission as complete,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said at a news conference.

I wasn’t around for the moon landings, but space exploration has captivated me my entire life. I follow every mission, every discovery, every grainy photo from distant probes. The Mars rover missions have easily been my favorites. Not just flybys of distant objects, these were actual up-close exploration. Crisp, beautiful shots of an alien landscape. The rovers represent some of the best of what NASA can do. 

Professional Sports and Social Media

01/16/2019

As an avid fan of both the NFL and NBA I was noticing today the differences between their social media strategies. Both leagues are very active on Twitter — posting several times per hour with news and information about their respective leagues. This is not a complete survey and measurement of all of their content to date, so keep in mind the small sample size and my own biases. I was most struck by the differences in who and what they choose to highlight for their followers.

Here are the last four hours of Tweets from the NBA, starting with the most recent:

The content is very focused on the players, but not just their individual game highlights. We have:  

  • A human interest story about Anthony Davis
  • Pascal Siakam talking about his favorite restaurant in Toronto
  • The NBA clinic in London
  • A promo for the Knicks/Wizards game which highlights the shoes the players will be wearing

Now, contrast this content with the NFL: 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

So the NFL highlights a lot of personnel announcements (it’s the offseason for most of the teams in the league, so I guess this is understandable.) But they also do very little to highlight the players as individuals. No human interest-type content. If a player is mentioned, it is about stats or game highlights. It reads like a Twitter version of ESPN’s NFL coverage, with aggressive commentators yelling very important takes at me about sportsball. 

They also posted this: 

But it’s just a photo of the Q&A, no actual video of the discussion. 

This video from two days ago about the Bears addressing gun violence in Chicago was interesting, though definitely not originally produced with social media sharing in mind: 

It’s pretty clear that we are not supposed to care about most individual NFL players. The on-field product is the product. We should be rooting for the laundry. Quarterbacks or start performers get named, but again it’s only about the on field play or matchup. 

Other things I noticed: 

  • NFL video content is very heavily produced, or ripped straight from a television broadcast (either the NFL Network or one of their broadcast partners). NBA content contains more video captured from mobile devices, because it was spontaneous or because it was being created specifically for sharing social media. 
  • The social media for each NFL team does do a bit more in highlighting individual players, and their fans and communities. My Seahawks do like to have a bit of fun: 

 

What are the takeaways? Given how little time and thought I put into this, I’m not sure. It’s does seem clear that the two leagues have very different ideas of how to promote their products. At the league level, the NBA is perfectly comfortable highlighting their players as individuals, and having us get invested in the various league storylines. Not just showing us packaged segments of highlights, but what players eat, how they dress, and what they care about outside of basketball.

The NFL is decidedly less interested in their individual players, at least from the league office (the teams generally manage their own social media, employing a mixed bag of strategies.) The NFL is about game highlights, strategy, and stats — with mic’d up players yelling while they deal out some pain to an opponent. 

RIP Paul Allen

10/16/2018

We lost Paul Allen yesterday. Growing up in the northwest, his influence loomed over the region, but in a good way, not in the possibly bad way of some contemporaries.

Paul Allen existed at the intersection of all of my interests. This probably isn’t much of a feat, because his interests were so many — overlap is unavoidable. It’s impossible for me to visit any of my bookmarked sites today without seeing a tribute to Allen.

As an example of his influence, I just think back to our last family trip to Seattle:

  • We attended a Seahawks game. Recall that in 1996, moving vans were quite literally packing up the team to move them to Los Angeles before Allen swooped in to keep them in Seattle.
  • We walked through the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington
  • We visited MoPOP, the Museum of Pop Culture, that Allen founded in 2000. Most of the exhibits are out of his own personal collection of pop culture artifacts. It’s a spectacular museum.

He was a presence in music and art, exploration, sports, technology, aerospace, science and science fiction. The list is endless.

What a tremendous life.

Gone but Not Deleted

06/17/2018

This piece really hit home with me on this Father’s Day.

via Boston Magazine:

I don’t remember the final conversation I had with my father. Toward the end of his life, he was hard to understand on the phone, as years of substance abuse and failing health had garbled his voice. He’d call at inopportune times—from a rehab center or hospital on the Cape, or the home of a friend in Florida he had somehow charmed his way into—and I’d hurry to get off the phone. Sometimes I’d find myself annoyed by his attempts to reconnect and let the call go to voicemail. It had been more than 15 years since we’d had anything resembling a normal relationship, and more than 30 since he and my mother had. Even in my frustration, though, it was hard not to think of his looming existential deadline. I may never get the chance to talk to him again, I’d say to myself. I always did. Until, of course, I didn’t.

[…]

I do, however, remember the exact day and time of our final few text exchanges, because they’re still on my phone, where, for at least as long as the cloud exists and I stay current on my bill, they’ll live forever.

We lost my dad in 2011, but I probably have every text message and email we ever exchanged. It’s still hard to look back at them, even the conversations from the better times, before he got sick. Our typical messages about sports or farming became mostly one-sided in the latter part of the year as I encouraged him to keep seeking treatment and continue fighting. He lacked the strength to respond.

I have a text history with my wife, one that extends back to 2008 (the first year of our marriage, and when I got my first iPhone; not that the two are equal in any way, but staying in the iOS ecosystem has allowed me to maintain message continuity through the years.) Our thread contains everything from the past decade — kids, family, photos, reminders, jokes.

Look, they aren’t the romantic letters full of carefully drafted prose that previous generations might have exchanged, but it is an intimate record of our shared experience. They might not be on paper, but they’re still precious.

Sometimes I Read Things, May 21, 2018 Edition

05/21/2018

Your Saddest Desperation Cocktails, Ranked: As usual, Matt Ufford made me laugh.

I Went to a Flat Earth Convention to Meet Flat Earthers Like My Mom

RIP Margo Kidder: She will always be associated with that one big role and truthfully, that’s the only one I really know her from. She deserves as much credit for the success of Superman as Christopher Reeve. Kidder will always be the definitive Lois Lane.

In Siberia in 1908, a huge explosion came out of nowhere: The Tunguska incident has always fascinated me. It leveled everything for miles, but we know almost nothing definitive about how it happened.

The Hutch closes in on a cancer cure: Some groundbreaking work being done at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

How Dangerous Are The Northwest’s Volcanoes?

What is the most sophisticated piece of software/code ever written? I was familiar with the Stuxnet worm, but this piece did a good job of explaining just how sophisticated it really was. A lot here I didn’t know.

Washington’s New Apple Could Be an Industry Game-Changer

Sometimes I Read Things, May 13, 2018 Edition

05/13/2018

The Long Way Round: The Plan That Accidentally Circumnavigated The World: This was an incredibly gripping read.

Gammons: Ichiro was never unprepared, and that won’t change now

Study: Seaweed in Cow Feed Reduces Methane Emissions Almost Entirely

The Billion Dollar Bank Job

Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer long wondered if he’s related to JFK. At 72, he learned the truth.

Paul Simon vs. The World: This was a well-written examination of Paul Simon and his legacy. I love Graceland (and Simon) as much as anyone, but you can’t ignore the way the album was made.

Essential Apps

05/10/2018

This is an ordered list, but it really has no particular order. I use all of these apps every single day and are essential to my productivity.

  1. 1Password: I addressed this app earlier in the week.

  2. Bear: A note-taking and writing tool. I’m using it to compose this post. I use it to take meeting notes, write memos, and blog.

  3. BBEdit: I’ve been using this app since at least 1996, making it the oldest program I use (yes, this dates back to classic Mac OS.) This is just a text editor, but what a text editor it is. I use it for composing HTML, CSS, and editing Python and JavaScript. It handles very large text files with speed that few other editors can match. It has powerful find and replace functions (want to do a find and replace with regular expressions? Want to do it across dozens of text files simultaneously? With BBEdit, you can.)

  4. Soulver: This is the best calculator I have ever used. It allows you to work through math functions just like you would do on paper — building out your functions and calculations, and even giving them text annotations and headers. It fills a niche for me that would be cumbersome with a spreadsheet. I use Soulver dozens of times per day to calculate advertising spends for my clients. I use it on my Mac and on my iPhone.

  5. Things: My second brain. All of my tasks, to-dos, shopping lists, and projects go in here. An email comes in that I need to act upon? It gets forwarded into Things. We need more dish soap? Into the shopping list in Things. I receive a Slack message that requires a follow-up? Thanks to Zapier I can star the message and it will be automatically dumped into Things.

Subscription hell

05/07/2018

via TechCrunch:

I’m frustrated that the web’s promise of instant and free access to the world’s information appears to be dying. I’m frustrated that subscription usually means just putting formerly free content behind a paywall. I’m frustrated that the price for subscriptions seems wildly high compared to the ad dollars that the fees substitute for. And I’m frustrated that subscription pricing rarely seems to account for other subscriptions I have, even when content libraries are similar.

This piece is a mess, though I agree with a few of Danny’s points. While he does mention it, I think he loses sight of the fact that these services cost money to operate. This cannot be emphasized enough. There are only two ways to make money in content: ads and/or subscriptions. If you feel that ads are too gross, then you are left with the subscription model. Content costs money. In some cases, very serious money. Netflix could never (at least not in a timeframe that would satisfy investors) recoup their content costs using ads alone.

How do you run world-class newsrooms which are doing real investigative journalism, paid for by advertising alone? Prior to the rise of the web, publishers were able to use revenue from classified ads to fund those operations — subscriptions and commercial advertising were secondary revenue streams in many cases. Classified ads were small and highly profitable. Craigslist took that revenue away from the publishers, leaving them high and dry.

The rise of dedicated streaming services for video are forcing traditional broadcasters to launch their own streaming services compete for viewer eyeballs. Having solid back catalogs of content gives each of them a compelling reason to exist.

The biggest mistake made by publishers on the early web was giving their content away for free, setting the expectation that this would always be the case. Now that they desperately need that subscription revenue, consumers are starting to feel pinched.

This is all a matter of perception though. Subscriptions aren’t new, and people had plenty of them prior to the web. My parents had two daily newspaper subscriptions, 5-6 monthly magazines, and satellite TV service. In our home today, I pay for three news subscriptions, one music, and seven video services. I value the content and I am willing to pay for it, just like my parents did in the 1980s and 90s. If a service is not providing me enough value out of the $5-12 per month, then I will cancel it (and it’s a lot easier to cancel a streaming service than it is to cancel Comcast…)

This is the future, and it’s really not that different from our past.

Passwords

05/05/2018

Via: The Verge

Like sunscreen, it can be a hassle to apply, but it’s an easy way to stop yourself from getting burned.

The reasons are simple: you need strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts, otherwise the chances they’ll get hacked by some unscrupulous character are much higher. If your passwords aren’t strong (e.g., if they’re one of these , or if they use information like your spouse’s name and birth year) then hackers can guess them. And if you use the same ones for different sites, when some big company gets hacked ( like they do all the time ) your digital keys are basically available online for anyone to grab.

The Verge needs to pin this article to the top of their site every month as a reminder for everyone: do not use the same password for everything.

I’ve been a user of 1Password for 5 or 6 years. All of my passwords are stored there. If you held a gun to my head, I could not tell you the passwords for any of my email accounts, my Amazon account, or the dozens of others that I might have to use in a week. They are all unique and very secure.

I have a single password that unlocks my 1Password information and then the software does the rest whenever I need to log into something. I can rest easy knowing that if any of those services are compromised that it won’t mean the rest of my accounts are also in peril.

If you are using the same 1 or 2 passwords for everything that you do online, then your information has probably already been compromised. That is no exaggeration. Do yourself a favor and get a password manager, and start living a more secure life.