Matt Hackmann


The thoughts and goings-on of some programmer dude.

March Madness

I missed a few days, sue me.

The reason for that, actually, is because I was up in the mountains of Tahoe on a trip bonding with my new team. This was a great success as I got to meet many people and, more importantly, connect with them. Alcohol does that so, so very well. This trip ticks off yet another thing that has been planned for this month.

Next weekend, I go to Tahoe again, but this time with old friends. One of those is one of the usual ski crew, who is also bringing his kid this time. Joining us is one who's done fewer things since having a kid of his own, so it'll be nice to hang out with him outside the confines of work. Another is visiting in from Las Vegas and will be experiencing true snow for potentially the first time in his life. He's from Hawaii and then lived in Arizona, so the opportunities to experience the wonders of semi-frozen water have been few for him. These are some of the chillest people on the planet and I think a good time shall be had by all.

The week after that, I'm once again spending part of a weekend outside my home base of San Mateo. I'll be joining aforementioned ski fellow on his dream trip to golf at Pebble Beach down in Monterey. Over the last few months, I've come to enjoy golf as both a great opportunity to down some beers and drive buzzed, but also escape the nonsense that is my overactive brain. The sport itself is fine, but I enjoy the things around it vastly more. I'll be spending enough time down there to also do some sight seeing and probably visit the aquarium, which is a thing I've been wanting to do for nigh five years now.

Jumping back to this weekend, it'll be a bit more chill. I'm planning on getting the CNC machine back up and running and (with a bit of luck), getting that first episode of Hakk's Lab in the can. Even if I just get the CNC machine back into a usable state, I'll be happy.

So, yeah... March is shaping up to be kind of busy. I think I'll probably be a bit more chill come April.

In the Vein of

I should stop remembering about this blog thing fifteen minutes before midnight.

As I continue to toil away at the first episode of Hakk's Lab, let's take a moment to look back at the thing that kind of started me down this path. What later unofficially became "Matt Pokes and Prods" started off with this video of me repairing a VRAM address line on an old NES. It's a one shot, so not perfect, but if you're into such things, it has some fun bits of nuggets.

youtube video

Just a Litte Tickle

I missed a couple of days, so sue me. I'll just run a couple days longer to make up the slack. At least I'm not doing some revisionist history nonsense like my mother...

Yeah, I've been busy, both in the realms of socializing and in reality. Been pulling together the bare minimum number of puzzle pieces I'm comfortable with for getting Hakk's Lab off the ground. The garage is in a good state and this morning I began filming. Not happy with any of the takes I did, so I'm probably going to write out a small script.

In the mean time, that project has actual work that needs to be thrown at it. I will tease below.

This shit is going to happen for real, yo.

In a Galaxy Far Far Away

I've been binging lots of various video essays about the travesty that was The Last Jedi recently and it it got me thinking: what exactly does Star Wars mean to me? Now, I'm not talking about what it means to me in terms of how it has affected my life, but more what do I consider to be Star Wars.

After exiting the theater and for a bit after, I really liked The Force Awakens a lot. It was actiony, it had things that vaguely reminded me of the previous movies, and some of the characters as well. However, as time's gone on, my favor of that movie has decreased. Nothing to be said about the fact that it's nearly beat for beat A New Hope, but it was lacking... something. Maybe it was the characters, maybe it was the story, surely there were a lot of plot items that were simply not explained, which is frustrating when we're coming back to this galaxy that has, canonically, six movies that chronologically fall before this. It looked like Star Wars, but it didn't feel like Star Wars. (As an aside, the constant merchandising and hype machines eventually just wore me down.)

Interestingly enough, this is not a problem I had with the prequels. Granted, I was twenty years younger at the time, but this felt like it belonged in the same universe as the other three movies. It began filling in gaps that had only been eluded to before; the Jedi, the Republic, the Clone Wars. All of these were things mentioned in A New Hope and we were finally seeing those events unfold before us. Now, I'm not going to defend the actual writing of the prequels (the dialogue is god awful), but they had something that these new movies don't.

And I think the answer is George Lucas.

Say what you will about the man in terms of screenplay writing and actor directing, but when it comes to building a world and visually telling a story about that world, there's a lot of good. The first six movies, even for having a twenty-something year gap between filming them, generally feel like they belong together as a series. When taken as a whole, the prequel trilogy sets up a rich world for the original trilogy. Informing us of what the pre-Empire world was, how Palpatine rose to power, what happened with the Jedi. It's not perfect and arguably the weakest point is Anakin's arc which could be considered a failure since he's supposed to be the focal point. But still, this leads into the sequel trilogy where we get to see just how much everything has gone to hell. The scale of the story goes from a grand focus on everything to the only two things left that actually matter: the Rebellion and the Empire. Knowing what was to be lost enriches the story of trying to gain it back. Granted, while the OT can stand alone all by itself (and did for a couple decades), the prequels would've been absolutely nothing without it. They're flawed, but they get the job done.

On a more technical level, both trilogies manage to feel mostly cohesive in the visual and pacing departments. Both (largely) use classic style camera shots (static, dolly, tracking, etc), those classic wipes betwen scenes, and have that John Williams score accenting the mood. Pacing-wise, all six movies are pretty damn similar and are arguably far slower than any of the recent films. They actually stop and give you a moment to breathe every now and then, just stopping with little to no dialog and letting those sweet, sweet John Williams notes basically have a guitar solo.

Compare that to the new movies which are basically just modern films with a Star Wars veneer. Sure, those nice wipes are still there, but there's something about the quality of the image that's... too rich? Has too much movement? It feels fake wheras the OT felt very real and, to a much lesser extent (especially of Ep 2/3), the prequels. In terms of pacing, once Force Awakens gets started, it never really stops, not even to let us feel sadness at a major character's death. It drops a whole bunch of terms and things but never really expands on them. Granted, A New Hope did much the same, but none of that was immediately relevant to the story and other films in both trilogies filled out what was important to those stories. Last Jedi... ugh. It's like that film just said "nah, fuck this. Let's go do a bunch of needless shit for a while with a bunch of people you've never met nor care about and... THROW THAT AWAY TOO!". Rogue One is a little unique in that it starts off as a modern, gritty movie and then progressively becomes A New Hope universe.

Finally, there's the cast of characters between the two movies. All the characters in the OT are great. Luke is naive but steadfast and hopeful, Leia is diplomatic and iron willed, Han is the rogue with a heart of gold, Vader is evil, the emperor is even more evil. This is, of course, the prequel trilogy's biggest failing. Only Obi-wan and Palpatine are really done well over there. In these new movies, there's Rey who had a shit life, but apparently could've become a Jedi whenever she wanted. Finn was a stormtrooper and defected... and that's only really relevant when it the plot demands instead of being part of what drives him, otherwise he's mainly comic relief. Poe had less screen time than Darth Maul in the first film and was just angry at everybody in Last Jedi (I'd argue rightfully so). Kylo Ren has the possibility of being interesting, but he's just angsty most of the time... until he's not and wants to be best friends with Rey... until he doesn't again. And Snoke... is a throw away. Captain Phasma? She's basically Darth Maul 2.0 (but way less cool). And I refuse to acknowledge that Rose exists. Oh, and nobody in Rogue One matters or has character.

In your standard essay format, you have an opening thesis, a bunch of arguments to support it, and then re-iterate that thesis statement in the closing. Well... at some point, this just became a "Why I hate new Star Wars and the old stuff (even the prequels) is best". My original plan was to even dip into the Expanded Universe and explain that, even without pictures, those stories also felt like Star Wars. Probably because they had to more closely follow how characters act and incorporate the bits and pieces known of the story's world just so that you feel like you're still in there. It also helps that I grew up with those stories and let them shape my view of what Star Wars is.

There we go. Brought it back home.

Poking and Prodding at a Famicom

While I was in Japan (a thing that I should probably write about), I finally snagged myself both a Famicon and a Famicom Disk System. Upon returning to the states, I wanted to verify that the machines I'd flown several thousand miles back actually worked... as you do. I won't go into all the details of me figuring out if the thing worked or not (that'll be saved for the upcoming first episode of Hakk's Lab), but I did run into a rather interesting phenomenon during that time. Enjoy the provided content below.

youtube video