Sometimes I watch stuff

I think more than anything else this year, I’ve needed escapist entertainment. I avoid cable news at all costs, and I give a thumbs-down review to any shows which let the real world creep too much into storylines. This isn’t everything I have watched this year, but these are the (first run, not rewatches) shows that stood out. In no particular order:

  • The Boys: This Amazon show has been a revelation to me. Imagine if Fargo and Justice League had a baby, and then that baby’s first word was the c-word. Incredibly violent and gruesome, and with pitch-black humor. And, admittedly, it’s a little bit of a meta-commentary on current affairs (in violation of the rule I outlined in the introduction.) But still! It’s a damn near perfect antidote to the news. A
  • Fargo: As of this writing, we’re four episodes into the new season, but it’s great. Fargo is one of my favorite shows of all time, and I have every confidence that they will stick the landing. B+/Incomplete
  • Archer: Archer has emerged from his coma (which generated the storylines for the prior three seasons) and is back in the spy game. It’s a return to where the show started, and it’s been great. B+/Incomplete
  • Ted Lasso: An Apple TV+ comedy, and maybe my favorite show on the list. The initial trailer for this show did not do it any favors, so it’s best to jump right in without any preconceived notions about what this show is. It’s funny, and cheesy, and uplifting in ways that you didn’t know you needed. It’s a sports comedy with almost no sports in it. Ted Lasso is everything that I needed this year. A+
  • Away: Science fiction/family drama, this has been a pretty good show. B
  • Brockmire: This was the final season for one of my favorite comedies, and it did not disappoint. It was a weird departure from prior seasons (with a big time jump), but it was still very funny. B
  • Better Call Saul: BCS has been a nearly flawless show since the pilot episode, but this fifth season was incredible. Amazing storytelling. A+
  • Westworld: Since the first season, I’ve found it best to enjoy Westworld as a binge after all of the episodes are available. Even then, it can be a hard show to follow, with so many characters, plot-lines, and craziness to follow. I loved season 2, but my reaction at the end was “what the hell did I just watch?” Season 3 dialed back some of the crazy, and was a fun ride. B-
  • Hanna: I didn’t love the first season, but the sophomore effort was an improvement. B
  • Star Trek Picard: The episodes were up and down, but this was a welcome return to Star Trek, and to one of Trek’s best characters. B+
  • Altered Carbon: The first season of this show was violent spectacle, with a great cast and weird storytelling. Season 2 dialed down the spectacle (probably to save on production costs) but the story was better. Sadly Netflix decided there would be no third season, but the final episode doesn’t leave you hanging. B-
  • Mythic Quest: A new comedy from the creatives behind one of my other favorite comedies (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.) Similar to Ted Lasso, you should ignore the trailers and just watch this show. It’s very funny. B+
  • The Magicians: The final season of this series which has been described as “Harry Potter for grownups.” I rarely watch much fantasy, but this series has always been a favorite. Very funny, and a great cast. This final season was a little bit of a mess, but still enjoyable. B-
  • The Last Dance: This show debuted in the second month of the pandemic, and it was the first cultural event we’d had since February. Everyone was watching this. I’d been eagerly awaiting this since they announced it two years ago, and it did not disappoint. Without any actual live sports to watch, was the sports escapism that America desperately needed, and it helped us get through some dark days. A+

Etc: A few rewatches:

  • It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
  • Justified (FX is heavily represented in my viewing, as usual…)
  • The Expanse (I rewatched the series twice this year, because it’s incredible. I will almost certainly watch it a third time before the 5th season debuts in December.)
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force

3 Disciplines for Marketing

Via Evergreen Media:

Supply chains have been disrupted, and brick-and-mortar shopping has taken a hit. Your customers are consuming more and more hours of content on streaming services and only want to shop via a mobile app.

These are permanent changes to how marketers plan their campaigns, but they don’t have to be permanent obstacles. To help adjust, here are three interconnected disciplines that every marketer needs to adopt.

Another thing I originally wrote for The Green Note, my marketing newsletter. I hope it helps my fellow marketers.

2020 Manifesto

This November, I’m going to vote for Joe Biden. He won’t be the first Democrat I’ve ever voted for, but he’ll be the first I’ve voted for president. And I will vote for him proudly. Here is why.

Inclusive Marketing

via Evergreen Media:

As brand marketers, we have a responsibility to our customers to portray humanity fairly (if you are more interested in an unfair portrayal, you should go into political marketing.) We are chronicling the human experience by shining light on our beauty, our flaws, and our needs. The stories we tell should be truthful, and the truth is that humanity everywhere is diverse in ways beyond just skin tone.

Check out the rest of the thing I wrote over at my agency. It’s an important topic.

Zip It

From How-To Geek:

The year is 1995. You’re stuck with slow floppy disks that only hold 1.44 MB of data. But there’s an exciting new technology: Zip drives, which can hold 100 MB and free you from floppy disks!

Now, 25 years later, we look back at Iomega’s Zip technology and its history. Did you know some industries still use Zip drives?

Zip disks were fairly ubiquitous by the time I left high school and entered college. Anyone who needed to move (relatively) large amounts of data around had a drive (or had one built into their computer.) Reliability issues and the rise of fast networking killed off the Zip almost as quickly as it emerged though.

I never owned a Zip drive personally. I instead had placed my bet on the SyQuest EZ 135 drive. It was slightly more expensive than the Zip, but considerably faster and more reliable — it used hard platters (like a hard disk) rather than the “floppy disk” medium that Zip disks utilized. I bet on the wrong technology though, as SyQuest filed for bankruptcy pretty shortly after I bought into their tech. Sigh.

Bookmark it for life

My oldest daughter, a student at a prestigious northwestern institution of higher learning, is contemplating a trip across the Cascades this weekend. Seeking my advice as a sage veteran of mountain pass travel in Washington State, I sent her a link from my browser bookmarks: the Washington State Mountain Pass Road Report. She then asked for a phonetic spelling of “Snoqualmie” (she’s not a local, so don’t laugh) but I digress.

A few things then dawned on me. I’ve always kept meticulous backups of my data, so I’ve been using the same bookmarks across computers and browsers since at least 1998. I had sent her a bookmark that I had created in 1998 or 1999, back when I frequently traversed Snoqualmie Pass between my school in Tacoma and my home in central Washington.

Maybe it’s nothing, but it really seemed amazing that I was able to send a URL that I had bookmarked while in college to my daughter while she’s in college 20+ years later. It’s also pretty wild that WSDOT has faithfully maintained the same URL structure on their site such that this URL string is still perfectly valid, with no redirects (other than to HTTPS), today. Kudos to their IT team.

Email: Embrace The Chaos

Really enjoyed this piece by Rachel Kramer Bussel:

 Not for the first time, I considered declaring email bankruptcy: mass-deleting all the newsletters, marketing promos, Google news alerts, and notes from friends, family, and work contacts that accumulated over the years. I’d give myself a blank slate, one that allowed me to actually notice the professional opportunities that came my way. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to nuke my inbox entirely. What if I wanted to reread a note my late grandmother had written to me? Or look up which Black Friday promos a company offered in 2016 to better inform my shopping this year?

I long ago learned to stop worrying about my email. We all get a ton of email, and if you’re a grownup, you probably have 3-4 different email accounts that you are responsible for patrolling. My work account has 48,322 unreads; my primary personal account has 2,805; secondary personal (the one where the volume of junk is so high that it exists only for shopping receipts; everybody has that one account) is at 95,776. Collectively, it’s a lot but it’s not impossible.

Here are my tips for managing the chaos:

Turn off unread flags.

If you are determined to leave behind that “inbox zero” silliness, then this should be your first step. Go into your email app or notification settings, and turn off the unread counts/flags. I’m referring to the “14,778” number that appears on the icon of your email app, which signifies the number of unread emails therein. Turn that shit off. That number is meaningless, and it just causes anxiety.

Search is your friend.

Don’t bother filing emails into a labyrinth of folders and sub-folders. It takes too much effort and it won’t really help you find anything any faster. Use the Archive function if you must, but the Search feature is your best friend in taming the chaos. The search function in most modern email apps is fast and accurate. Need to find that one email from HR that they sent six months ago? Type in a few keywords and scroll the results to the correct time frame…there’s the email you wanted.

Flag the vital stuff

If it’s an email that you will absolutely need to reference or respond to later, go ahead and flag or star that bad boy. This is particularly important if the sender or content isn’t memorable or unique enough to easily surface in a search.

Never Delete

Most email takes up very little actual storage space, so there is rarely any benefit to deleting something — especially if there’s any chance of you needing it later. Again, search is your friend.

Just wait.

If you receive an email that gets lost in your chaos and it needed a response, just wait. If it’s truly important they’ll email you again.

“…no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys”

Apple responds to AG Barr on phone unlocking: read the full statement here:

Earlier today Attorney General William Barr called on Apple to unlock the alleged phone of the Pensacola shooter — a man who murdered three people and injured eight others on a Naval base in Florida in December. Apple has responded by essentially saying: “no.”

“We reject the characterization that Apple has not provided substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation,” the company said. “It was not until January 8th that we received a subpoena for information related to the second iPhone, which we responded to within hours,” Apple added countering Barr’s characterization of Apple being slow on its approach to the FBI’s needs. However, it ends the statement in no uncertain terms: “We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys.”

Apple’s position is the correct one. If you create a software backdoor or a weakness in encryption, it will inevitably be exploited by bad actors. How do we know this? Because even the NSA can’t keep its top secret tools and methods out of enemy hands.

Microsoft’s Satya Nadella also got in on the debate:

“I do think backdoors are a terrible idea, that is not the way to go about this,” Nadella said. “We’ve always said we care about these two things: privacy and public safety. We need some legal and technical solution in our democracy to have both of those be priorities.”

Challenges and Opportunities

Sometimes I write for other sites:

> All of this is to say that the privacy landscape is changing. For consumers, these are changes for the better. Proper regulation of the collection and protection of private information is probably long overdue. For marketers, we have a new challenge — how do we comply with these regulations and remain effective, without risking legal repercussions?

I tackle privacy and more in a post for my day job.

MCU Movies – The Definitive Ranking

(Revised 2019-07-06)

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.
  • 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.
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp — Low-stakes, lighthearted, and enjoyable. This was the first Marvel film with a female hero to receive top-billing. 
  • 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.
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home — So much fun. They masterfully balanced the humor with the post-Endgame sadness. 
  • 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.
  • Avengers: Endgame — What a ride. This movie pays off ten years with fan service delivered in a way that I wouldn’t have predicted that Marvel could pull off, but they did! 
  • 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 To me, this is the most re-watchable entry in the MCU, and that’s why it is at the top.