Tomorrowland fails to redeem Disney, Central Florida

wpid-wp-1433187834435.png

image

I saw Tomorrowland. I didn’t like it. It was full of fascism, creepy man-girl love, and conspiracy theories mixed in with pop science. But that wasn’t why I didn’t like it. It conflated intelligence with totalitarianism and inflated its business model of purveying sentiment and thrills for your money to something bigger, ending up preachy and self congratulatory like a religion. But that wasn’t why I didn’t like it. It had a spunky, adorkable teenage girl paired with a spunky, robotic, tweener girl-Terminator (Terminatrix) rocking a squeaky posh Brit accent like she was the Poopourri girl’s sister. But that’s not why I hated it. It had Clooney trying to hold together this turducken of a film with his pleasant face, but alas! The final moment of one worldness had an inspiring message but was botched by the mashup of the end of Mad Men Coca Cola commercial with a United Colors of Bennetton riff but that’s not the reason why. I hated the movie because it sold a false promise, a lie.

I grew up in Florida in the late seventies and early eighties, which meant frequent trips to Disney during its late heyday. To visit Disney at that time was analogous to going to Vegas during the Rat Pack era, or a jaunt to the Forum during Aurelian Rome. Disney was the economic heart of Florida and at that time had the power to move heaven and earth to reshape swampland and orange fields into a year long festival of America’s middle class and everyone else in the world who aspired to be like a white middle class American. The rides and flow of the park was focused on not just selling Disney but a world view that was at the heart of Walt Disney’s dream of one day creating an ideal society of Alphas, to borrow from A Brave New World, to recast the world in order, cleanliness, and happiness. The parking was like a North Korean mass game, and the monorail, which was the only commuter rail in Florida, was a testimony to a triumph of mouse-based will. There was a religion-like orthodoxy to this vision of Disney’s, and the first generation of Disney leadership immediately started to veer into something that all religions understand –you need money to generate power to generate money to generate power and so on.

Tomorrowland, which was one of the original sections of the park, was anchored by Space Mountain which promised a ride to space, was suppose to be a year round world’s fair of science and technology. I think the real heart of Tomorrowland was the Carousel of Progress which presented progress, particularly American progress. You road a circular trolley that brought you to American living rooms through time, narrated by audioanimatronics, ending up in an anodyne future of silvery clothing. EPCOT, brought together by the second generation of Disneymen, was originally suppose to be a utopian planned community of the best and brightest of the world living in self contained harmony, to save the world or perhaps survive it. Like most religions, the subsequent generations of followers lose the message and EPCOT became a glorified World’s Fair, with some pavilions being epic like China’s, or utterly kitsch like Canada’s which I suspect was just their way of going through the motion. Given equal status to nations were corporations which had the bigger and better rides and spectacles. Entertainment yes, future earth colony, no.

All of these spectacles started to fade and rot in the heat and humidity of central Florida. It is a fact that in that part of the world, if you don’t rebuild every decade or so, you end up with a mold filled cardboard box. The rest of Orlando, the cheaper hotels and strip malls, lie emptied like the set of a zombie apocalypse show, but Disney rebuilds, because it has to. Unfortunately, the target audience, the cheerful Eisenhower to Reagan to Clinton era American middle class, is gone. They hint at this in the movie with the scenes of the demolition of the space shuttle launch pad, which is fought by the erstwhile teenaged heroine of the movie committing domestic terrorism on a federal facility – Because that’s what smart teenagers do in the US. Take the situation into their own hands. It gets worse.

Turns out, there is a secret EPCOT that was almost built but stopped when they realized that humanity was headed for a terminal spiral, a doomsday. This secret society of supergeniuses turn not to preserving the world, but to preserving their secret safehouse for armageddon, presumably in an alternate universe. They used robot recruiters, in the case of Clooney’s character, the coquettish Athena, to find genius children to join their cause, leaving their families for this interdimensional Sea Org. Breaking with the faith results in death, and they have audioanimatronic robot enforcers that kill witnesses and abduct children. Human trafficking?  Scientology meme? Justice League/Avengers/X-Men with Hannah Montana?

Clooney’s character is overcome by the failings of his time machine built when he was one of these runaway child geniuses, which shows the end of the world in HD. He also is brokenhearted because his love interest, the child robot Athena, was a robot. Clooney works very hard to convey the right tone at being helplessly in love with a girl-robot –something the French would shrug at because it was shown to be pure innocent love, something the Japanese would manufacture sex robots around, and something America would hyperventilate about if they saw the movie. I personally understand the portrayal of pure innocent love lost, but in our conflicted, puritanical, hypocritical American society, this is problematic and you wonder who greenlit this.

The final message of the movie, that hope will save the world, along with science and smart people, is nice, but mixed in with it is the same awful premise of the start of the movie. That is the promise of a beautiful future shown in holographic reality, but really a lie. The movie asks people to have faith and start clapping to save the world, but it’s really asking you to save Disney World.

But in the end, I hated the movie because it was boring,  and it scared thinking children of all ages.

Big Tablets Are the Next Big Thing

image

Pictured above is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 in the 32gB flavor. It is swagged out with a Zagg keyboard case and a Samsung bluetooth mouse. The new Pro series of Galaxy tablets come with Retina level displays and this one just pops colors and details. What really wins me over is the speed which when you run single windowed apps, runs very well on the quad core chip this comes with. Several on line reviews snipe about lag when you run four windows simultaneously -this is a Samsung TapWhiz junky trick that is best avoided. With a keyboard and mouse, it turns the 12 inch tablet into a laptop replacement. Easily going over ten hours of battery time, you don’t have to worry about extra power when you travel internationally or go to work with no cable in your bag. It is pricey and won’t win over bargain hunters -the Google Nexus 7 fills this category, and I think that Google hasn’t released a Nexus 10 II or a Nexus 12, because it wants its clients to have a chance in this world. It kills iPad Air in the screen category -the 10 inch screen on the iPad seems listless and dull in comparison, and I am a certified Apple fan having read the Steve Jobs tome and bought every generation of iPad, including two when the first one came out. I fight daily with my 5 year old who is transfixed by the huge TV like screen. Plus, when I try to work on an iPad, I dream of having a mouse. In Android, when you pair a bluetooth mouse, you get a screen cursor. iOS 8 really really needs to support this. Where Android wins for me right now is it has an edge of future now that Apple is losing as it caters to the extremely young and extremely old and the bulge in the middle. Android, because of its near app parity, means for the most part I don’t have to be tethered to the Apple ecosystem. Even iTunes music can be worked around as your library will be sucked up by Google’s music player on your desktop and made available on Android devices and the Chrome browser. Sure, you can’t play your iTunes movie library, but Google is making that less important by offering the same movies, often for cheaper. Also, the Play app is nimble where the Video app on iPad is ponderous and constantly buffering -maybe Google’s pipes are fatter through some payola -who knows. It’s all good.

image

Not like -Best Buy features a Samsung Experience store, where the even cooler penbased Galaxy Pro is displayed but available only by ordering and picking up a few days later. Also, the 64gB version of this tablet was unavailable for immediate pickup and walkout. I get that the iPad’s aren’t available in every flavor, but I don’t understand why every iteration of offered Samsung Tablet isn’t available for immediate pickup and walkout at these store within a stores. Being impatient, I went ahead and purchased with the plan to return if I was disappointed (I am not) and ordering the right tablet from Amazon. Worried -Samsung notoriously ditches its hardware after a year or two, offering maybe one long delayed upgrade in OS or a patch to its Samsung apps here or there (which I just don’t use). I have a bricked Samsung Tablet 2 7.0 in a drawer that won’t power up but I’m afraid of throwing out because of the data in its chips -it died after about three years of steady use. Not Like -while premium pricing implies premium materials, I just see a lot of shiny plastic. Aluminum may bring charges of Apple copying, but they could have gone for a real leather option instead of the plastic leather grain molded back with fake stitching.

The large tablet is a real thing and brings work productivity together with media and fun consumption in a way that Microsoft could only dream of. They so badly want this, but can’t seem to get their act together. My Windows 8.1 tablet from Dell lies unused and powered off because it has a crappy screen and has lost its ability to reset to factory condition which I had to do twice after it got junked up with usual Windows crap -detritus of hacky updater files, streamed media and who knows what rapidly filled up the 32gB SSD and made it unstable and unusable. Despite attractive offerings from ASUS and HP and Dell with super sized tablets -basically detachable 18-21 inch all in ones with 4 hour batteries, I ran away. Microsoft has been revealed for what it has long been apparent to me -an enabler of the “Help Desk” in corporate IT who must have problems arise in computers to exist, and a non-thinking agglomeration of hackers who jumble together whatever works -who uses all the features in Word? While I might use Office for Android when it inevitably limps in in 2015, I will still curse it for stupid things like selecting the whole word instead of part of a word without changing an setting.

Actually ASUS did get there: ASUS VIVO TAb Review

20131011-153655.jpg

I wrote during the summer that Microsoft didn’t have a tablet that met the criteria of high definition screen, all day battery life, and functional design. I was writing about their Surface line of tablets that I tried out in a forlorn Microsoft Store. I totally missed ASUS’ VIVO Tab which is roughly the size of a letterbox shaped iPad. By itself it has about 8-9 hrs of battery life but the secret sauce is its keyboard base which was an optional accessory. Unlike keyboard options for iPad, you click this into the charging port and you now have a mini laptop with a touchscreen. The connection is strong and trumps most keyboards for iPad and Surface in that the clamshell configuration lets you put it on your lap. Even better, there is a battery in the base giving the keyboard ballast and the whole device an extra 6 hours of usage. When used with the keyboard base, the VIVO Tab is suppose to get up to 16 hours of battery life which is great for a light laptop/tablet hybrid that is airplane tray table friendly.

Some people won’t like the small keys which are Brobdingnagian compared to my Vaio P Series laptop. The screen is bright and nearly Retina -about the same as the current iPad Mini. I really like the price I paid for it -285 for both the tablet at its battery-keyboard base. This was through Woot and almost half off last year’s price.

The thing runs Office and will link to my hospital system via Citrix. The only snag is there really are no apps for Windows RT which drives this Tegra processor. Yes there is Kindle, Evernote, Dropbox, Netflix, and Hulu and a web browser. The XBox game thing appeals less to me than the radio which is okay but I’m invested in iTunes so it’s irrelevant. There are a ton of programming apps and I think that Windows RT will be a curiosity for nerds like Segways, AMC Pacers, and OG Dr. Who. Even so, having a blank Word screen feels so full of possibilities, I can now spend 16 cordless hours at the Starbucks writing the great American novel. If I had the time.

Addendum: The battery life is for real having used intensively at work yesterday between cases and watching Netflix and Hulu last night. There is enough juice today 47% to go another day of light work. The only hassle is that like all regular Windows devices including Windows 7, Wifi is dicey. I am now at my sons’ Korean class at the Korean Cultural Center and the VIVO Tab refuses to search and find the new network. I rebooted but it started a looooong Windows update which occurs weekly. Now I don’t have a computer to use and am quickly reminded why I generally hate Microsoft products.

The other comment is that the keyboard doesn’t always turn off the screens keyboard which should be a norm. Apple would not have let this out the door in this condition (hence the uproar over its pathetic Maps).

Addendum: The intermittent problems that I have had with the keyboard are actually a problem with the touchpad. Like any non-Apple touchpad, the touchpad on the Vivo Tab, is overly sensitive and will interpret a light touch or hover as a tap to redirect the cursor where the mouse is pointing. This is a problem I have had in most Windows laptops and can be somewhat ameliorated by decreasing the sensitivity of the touchpad, but on Windows RT -access to this is impenetrably difficult. There are two ways to get to the controls of the computer -one via a right swipe which gives you a very limited number of functions to tweak. The other is to get to the desktop mode -the one missing the Start button. From there, getting to the control panels is basically impossible and I managed only by bringing up the Windows Defender control panel during an obligatory scan, noticing the folders setting on top and digging to find the Synaptics driver -but no dice. There is no way to set the touchpad as far as I can tell.

The solution? A USB mouse from an old PC which now takes up the only USB port available.

Microsoft OEM’s don’t understand touchpads -plain and simple.

Addendum: October 15, 2013 -Add to the issue that when the tablet goes to sleep, it won’t wake up. I have updated all drivers and returned the sleep settings to factory original conditions. This is obviously a problem with this tablet because I see it on the internet, but every Windows device going back to Vaio’s I owned in the mid 2000’s had a problem with sleep. It’s probably not a Microsoft problem, but a manufacturer problem, but again, my MacBook Pro sleeps and wakes without problem. With a tablet, not turning on when you want it on is criminal.