Jay Hoffmann

Books, movies, and code

#25: Superhero movies were a blip

Dune’s been on my mind. Not simply for the technical mastery on display, or for its commitment to theatrical spectacle, or even for its place in the larger cultural landscape of 2024.

I’m just kind of impressed that its a bonafide modern franchise not tied to some sort of superhero source material. It’s not even all that original. Obviously, it’s adapted from a very popular sci-fi series, and it’s been tried before. But the (in some ways far too incessant) comparisons to Star Wars go beyond its thematic and stylistic similarities. It’s a generational blockbuster film franchise that’s self-contained, in its own world, sweeping through audiences. It’s big and epic and interesting and exciting in a way that we haven’t seen in a while.

It does feel like this year we are starting to see some return to movies as they existed before the days of Marvel. There are summer blockbusters, and mega franchises. There are shots in the dark like Everything, Everywhere all at once. Kevin Costner is even making Westerns again.

When I first met my now wife, we used to go to an indie theater every week and see whatever was out. There was always some indie rom-com (this was the era of 500 days of summer) or drama that was fun and stylistically original and had a nice self-contained story to it. Then movies got split into either mega blockbusters or super low budget, barely watched indies. All those middle of the road films disappeared.

So it’s fun to see a movie like this about a woman who tries to reconnect with her boyfriend, who passed away, through connections through music. It’s exactly the kind of thing we would’ve went to the movie to see. Maybe those kinds of movies are coming back.

And it’s possible that after all of this, superhero movies and never-ending, interconnected IP will be more of a blip of film history rather than a seismic and enduring paradigm shift.

Maybe multiverses will be all too much.

Maybe we’ll be able to just make movies again.

Bookmarks & Notes

When ChatGPT and it’s many, many competitors began flooding the market, I started to use it a bit in my writing. Mostly I would set it up with something I had written and ask for a revision, then pull some things here and there I liked. But over time, it’s for sure slipping out of use for me. I like this guide from the iA team, Writing with AI . It’s more pragmatic than a lot of other things that I’ve seen. It’s advice essentially boils down to turning to something like ChatGPT at times when you are stuck. Like a rubber duck, but for ideas. But this caution is so important for me:

AI can and will ruin your voice and credibility if you lazily let it write in your place. As writers we can not allow AI to replace our own thinking. We should use it to simulate the thinking of a missing dialogue partner. To write better, we need to think more, not less.

I was also feeling that AI was beginning to rob me of my voice. And without that, what else do I even have?

We Need to Talk About the Front Web. As a generalist, that works with a lot of full stack developers, I have mixed feelings about the division between the front-end and it’s tradeoffs with back-end expertise. But I do understand the way that the intention and semantics of HTML is under attack, and in slow decay. And so I really do appreciate Angela Ricci’s point of view here. The whole thing is absolutely worth a read, I enjoyed every bit of it.

That’s the web today: abstractions, intertwined dependencies, heavy tools, thirty-party libraries, client-side JavaScript frameworks… SPAs! — we simply broke the web with these.

And man does the web feel broken sometimes.

I don’t know if I see No Labels as a “dangerous” experiment, but after reading the profile on them in The Atlantic I’m left wondering, what is even the point of this (other than to placate the egos of it’s founders)?

Kierkegaard on the root of despair

The relation to himself is something a human being cannot be rid of, just as little as he can be rid of himself, which for that matter is one and the same thing, since the self is indeed the relation to oneself… With despair a fire takes hold in something that cannot burn, or cannot be burned up — the self… To despair over oneself, in despair to want to be rid of oneself, is the formula for all despair.