The Cat in the Rap

Today I found myself reciting rhymes from The Cat in the Hat. It just came to me out of nowhere, and I must say it was lots of fun to find that I remember those words and rhymes from childhood.

But then I started making associations, and one thing led to another. Surely I am not the only one who has fond memories of Dr. Seuss. And I can’t help but notice the similarity in form between his work and modern rap songs.

I wonder whether the rap stars of today were influenced, as small children, by the work of Theodore Geisel. I am guessing that it would not be considered cool for anyone to admit the connection.

But nonetheless, we were all exposed to his brilliant rhyming when we were little children. Maybe, in a way that people don’t care to admit, the man had a lot to do with the birth of hip hop.


Just saw Disenchanted, the sequel to Enchanted. I was looking forward to it because the latter is one of my favorite films of all time.

Enchanted was a pitch perfect take-down of Disney by Disney itself. Even just that one scene of Amy Adams magically calling on all the vermin in New York City to help her clean house is priceless.

But Disenchanted throws all of that away. The problem lies entirely with the screenplay.

The script of Disenchanted completely betrays its characters. It does this by structuring the story in a way that removes any possibility of any real character arcs.

Unfortunately, the engine of the story is to “magically” turn the main characters into cookie cutter live-action cartoon characters. When this happens, the wonderful premise of “realistic people dealing with the weirdness of a fairytale world” is simply discarded.

We don’t care about this version of these characters because they have been reduced to empty stereotypes. They no longer have any connection to the truly interesting characters and relationships that we had come to know.

In the first film, Alan Mencken’s songs were very effective, because they were used as clever ironic character commentary that matched the character arcs. In this film, his songs just seem pointless.

This it not the fault of the songs themselves. There is simply no dramatic tension, no emotional risk for the characters, nothing for the songs to play against.

It all reminds me of something Alfred Hitchcock once said: “To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.”

Design spec

I gave a talk today about the future. It is not the first time I gave this talk. But it is the first time I gave this version of this talk.

The future that I was talking about hadn’t changed. But my audience had changed.

I wasn’t talking to a group of artists, or computer graphics researchers, or to a lay public. Today I was talking to a room full of engineers.

So I needed to think about what would matter to an engineer. And I concluded that one question really matters to an engineer: “How do we make this?”

I didn’t answer that question in my talk. That’s a question they would want to answer for themselves.

But it did help me in figuring out how to organize the talk. I basically structured it as a design spec.

A design spec for the future. I like the sound of that. 🙂


One of the challenges in research is trying to predict the future. Of course you can’t really predict the future — but you can make some educated guesses.

A trick for doing this effectively is to look at analogies from the past. For example, when a disruptive communication technology becomes widely adopted, something not obviously related is often also affected.

One of my favorite examples of that is the relationship between the iPhone and hotels. In July 2008 the iPhone came out. About a year later, Uber was founded.

Eventually people figured out that when they went to out of town conferences or business meetings, they didn’t necessarily need to stay at a hotel. If the professional event happened to be in a place where they had family or close friends, they could visit those people instead.

This is because an app-based ride service, unlike a taxi, can quickly pick you up from wherever you are. And that includes a residential neighborhood far from the nearest hotel.

It’s not clear to me that we all could have predicted that the iPhone would lead to people spending more time with family and friends. Yet that is exactly what ended up happening.

Similarly, you can be sure that whenever those future smart glasses come out, something new and unexpected is bound to happen. But it can be a challenge to predict just what that will be.

A flower

A flower is not trying to be beautiful. Yet we find it to be beautiful.

A cloud at sunset is not trying to be beautiful. Yet we find it to be beautiful.

A blanket of snowfall in a secluded forest is not trying to be beautiful. Yet we find it to be beautiful.

This list could clearly continue for quite a while. But I think you get the idea.

So what is going on here? Why are such things so beautiful? This is a serious question.


The human body exists at only one scale. We are not six inches tall, and we are not seventy feet tall.

Certain operations are easy for us, because they match the natural scale of our bodies. We evolved as a species developing skills that work well at that scale.

We have evolved advanced tools that allow us to manipulate the world around us at very small scale as well as at very large scales. But those tools are not generally part of our everyday life.

But what will happen in the future, as mixed reality evolves? Perhaps we will start to see the rise of consumer level tools for manipulating the world at those other scale.

After all, if everyone is able to perceive that tiny thing sitting on their circuit board, or that giant tree in their lawn, as though it is human-sized, it changes the equation. In the long run, we all might just end up getting access to tools that will let us pick up those things and move them.


Like many people, I was alarmed when the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade. It seemed like an act of extreme overreach by a highly activist court.

The decision radically changed the legal landscape. Long-standing civil protections for millions of Americans simply evaporated overnight.

I suspect that the radical nature of the Court’s decision had a lot to do with the fact that the Democrats won the Senate this past week. Americans are an ornery bunch, and when you mess with us, we vote.

We may disagree about many things, but there is one thing we agree upon: We hate to have the rug pulled out from under us.

Whenever there is judicial, legislative or executive overreach, whether on the Left or the Right, Americans will turn out on election day. And they will say enough is enough.


I love watching romantic comedies. They are highly formulaic, but the best ones do wonders with the formula.

One of my favorite kinds of RomCom is the redemption story. This is where one of the two lovers — generally the main character — has a serious character flaw.

This character is, at the start of the film, fundamentally unlikeable. But we know that he or she can be saved! All that is required is the love of the right person.

And sure enough, that person shows up. And eventually the inevitable happens. Love conquers all, our hero / heroine becomes a better person, and we all go home feeling better about ourselves and the world.

What I particularly like about a good RedCom is that it has all of the shamelessly pleasurable traits of a good RomCom, but in heightened form. It’s a fairy tale set in modern times.

And like all RomComs it is based loosely on reality. But in particular, it is based on the version of reality that our innermost selves are secretly wishing for.


Sometimes I think of life as a series of doors. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Wherever you are in life, there are various doors you can choose to try going through. That is, whenever you feel ready.

Some doors will turn out to be locked. Others won’t be doors at all — just parts of the wall cleverly painted to look like a door.

But others will open just fine. You can turn the knob, open the door a bit, and peek through to see what’s on the other side. And when you are ready, you go for it.

Sometimes you end up choosing the right door, and sometimes you don’t. But in any case, you now find yourself in a different room.

And not surprisingly, you find a whole new set of doors to try.

A bottle of wine

There is a certain ritual to sharing a bottle of wine. The opening of the bottle, the pouring of the wine, the clinking together of glasses.

And then there is the aroma, and the flavor itself. Every bottle of wine is slightly different, and to share a bottle is to exist uniquely in the world at a certain moment in time.

All of which,bin a way, makes it a prime candidate for a remote social experience. When, if ever, will we be able to replicate that feeling while being in two separate geographic locations?

I know that it is a difficult question, but the process of asking it already tells us a lot about the nature of human connection.