Tim Hunkin is Back on March 4th with The Secret Life of Components

The Secret Life of Machines‘ Tim Hunkin announced a new series consisting of eight episodes about components for making things. In the announcement video above Hunkin lets us know that he has been inspired by online crafters showing how they do things, and offers to show us his processes for working with glue, switches, connectors, springs, bearings, hinges, LEDs, and chain and belt mechanisms when the show premiers on March 4th.

Tim Hunkin and Rex Garrod’s The Secret Life of Machines it is very important for so many other people who have left comments on Tim’s videos about how it inspired them to become engineers or just make things for fun. The show crossed borders to demystify and let people know how the machines in our lives work. Washing machines, cars, fax machines, there was no topic too simple for Tim & Rex and at some point during every episode they would risk Rex’s life by doing something extremely silly with the parts from inside the machines like flipping Rex over in a moving vehicle using parts from a washing machine for some reason. That was in 1988 through 1993 and since then Hunkin has been creating ridiculous arcade machines that make a hilarious mockery of real life like this machine that teaches you how to work at an Amazon warehouse:

The entire Secret Life of Machines is available online via Tim Hunkin and oddly enough San Francisco’s Exploratorium here if you’d like something to watch while you’re waiting for the The Secret Life of Components to premier on March 4th at Tim Hunkin’s website. If you’re in the United Kingdom and somehow there isn’t a pandemic anymore, I wish I could be there and visit Tim Hunkin’s arcades in London and Suffolk.

Radio Garden

UntitledImage A lot of things about the internet are sad these days. With the internet people can find their kind of people and that is how you end up with good things like people who like mechanical keyboards developing their own keyboard projects but you also get groups of white supremacists organizing to storm the U.S. Capitol or people spreading lies about elections to lead up to that kind of action. One good thing on the internet is Radio Garden, a website that aggregates internet-accessible real-world radio stations from around the globe onto a virtual globe directory that you can click through to listen to any of them by clicking on the station’s general physical location.

Maybe the only downside is that the Radio Garden has dynamic ads inserted before the remote radio station starts playing. It was jarring when I tuned into this station depicted above in Germany only to hear a Verizon ad in English clearly targeted at U.S. customers.

The mobile version of Radio Garden has one In-App Purchase to remove ads, but it’s only for removing interstitial ad graphics and not the audio ads. Unfortunately the app says the Radio Garden developers have no control over the audio ads. So, unfortunately the internet also let ad publishers and agencies get together for enhanced advertising. Which is why Facebook is now advertising to me and interrupting this German radio station to tell me how their ad programs are safe and definitely not completely evil.

Good Time (2017)

Good Time movie poster

Watching their movies out of order, Good Time was the previous Safdie Brothers film, another criminal thrill feature released years before Uncut Gems.

Good Time features two brothers, Connie (Robert Pattinson) and Nick (Benny Safdie). Nick’s brain is non-typical and his brother Connie manipulates him into a bank heist that leaves Nick locked up for the crime while Connie spends the rest of the film trying to free his brother.

Unlike Uncut Gems‘ Howard (Adam Sandler), Connie seems to actually care about someone besides himself, and there are few enough side characters that everyone gets to have a moment. Connie’s girlfriend Loren, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, does a terrific job depicting someone who is trapped in a bad relationship with both Connie and her familial relationship with her mother.

Ultimately, this film is better for the space it gives those side characters, their realistic portrayal helps the world of Good Time feels more real than Uncut Gems. The spaces the characters visit and inhabit are also true to real city spaces. A Dominos to hide inside with a pissed off manager, a shitty local bank to rob, the home of some nice people Connie takes advantage of will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever struggled to pay for food and find the energy to clean, even the amusement park doesn’t feel fake.

Good Time also comments on stereotypes. Dash (Barkhad Abdi) is a Black security guard that Connie beats into unconsciousness, and doses with enough acid to make The Undertaker hallucinate for a year. Connie races to Dash’s home to conduct business in order to get money for bailing out Nick, but audibly remarks that the apartment is actually well furnished, and it is. This is an apartment that Dash cared about, and he is added to the list of people that Connie undeservedly steps on in order to help Nick.

There is no existence under capitalism that doesn’t involve stepping on other people, and that is true in the fiction of Good Time as well. In the opening, the brother’s bank heist was going well, but the bank teller hides an explosive dye pack in the money bag. Both risking her life, if the brothers-as-robbers were armed during the heist and they realized what was in the money bag, and when the dye pack goes off it caused an unintended car crash that could have been fatal for any pedestrians caught in the way. Just to protect the bottom-line of a bank whose money is insured to begin with.

The characters of Good Time are interesting, the world feels more realistic than other thrillers including the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems, and the movie has an important message behind the thrills about capitalism even if most people will miss it. I like a lot about this movie, but I will note there is a particularly disturbing scene where Connie attempts to sleep with a sixteen-year-old girl in order to distract her before the local TV news program gives a report on the bank robbery. Fortunately, no clothes come off before they are interrupted, but it is another incident where Connie feels he has to do something in order to not create another witness to his flight from “justice.”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Uncut Gems (2019)

Uncut Gems’ Poster

Uncut Gems is a very wild thriller. If it were a book, it’d be a “page turner” that has the slightest of statements on how awful it is to step on people who have been stepped on for generations and how bad gambling addiction is.

As with all things that depict some terrible fiction I wonder how many people will watch this and think “gambling is fun” despite the punishment that Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) goes through, and more importantly what his loved ones go through. Sandler’s performance is kind of amazing from someone who is best known for his comedic roles, and those comedy films have been critical failures for years. As Howard Ratner, Sandler is a character that seems to feel no difficulty in putting his family through hell and destroying their lives even if Howard ostensibly loves them and tells them so, it’s clear that this isn’t enough, he isn’t really there for them. The words Howard says when he tells his kids how proud he is are hollow because the film is telling us Howard cares more about gambling than them.

Deriving entertainment from “what will happen next” in Uncut Gems is disturbing. What happens next is always someone getting hurt, terrified, or ruined because of Howard’s gambling addiction and we don’t find out what the consequences are for them, because the film is almost entirely focused on Howard’s perspective.

One of the saddest things about exciting movies like Uncut Gems is the fiction that the protagonist’s behavior is exciting and successful and romanticized. Howard would be very successful at gambling, he doesn’t lose as often as he should even when taking bets that others think are losing bets, if it weren’t for the meddling of another character in the film Howard would succeed, he would be rich. Ultimately, his gambling is a problem only in that the gambling introduces bad people into Howard’s life, but the film says it is those people who cause the worst of the problems, not Howard. I think that is sad, and much like other films about crime it still, pathetically, has a positive outlook on the activities it depicts… if only it weren’t for the violent criminals that get in the way. Much like The Irishman, another recent film that depicts bad people ruining the lives of their families, Uncut Gems makes its protagonist’s life a thrill. The people that suffer along the way? Uncut Gems doesn’t give a shit about them.

As a fiction, Uncut Gems is fine, it is exciting, it is ultimately as meaningless as the latest Marvel film in messaging and challenges practically nothing the viewer already thinks. In the universe of Uncut Gems, women are almost entirely brainless sex objects who only exist in their relation to men, white men are the functional actors but are failures at parenting. Racial minorities in Uncut Gems can only fulfill roles as athletes, sales people, and musicians obsessed with jewelry, money, sex, and success. Few characters besides Howard are anything but obstacles to his obtaining success, or money, or sex, and that’s the only bad thing that we are allowed to see in him.

I like Uncut Gems, but of course I like Uncut Gems. It is a movie built for me, a white male adult.

Rating: 3 out of 5.