Re: Guest Post: Expect a seriously scary car crash

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Too vague to google usefully, but I do think there was a reporter not too long ago, on the verge of releasing a big story, died in a car crash, and there was truther mumbles about remote control of his car.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:15 AM
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Was there supposed to be a link, or is this Sifu talking about a "friend?"


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:16 AM
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Check your eyes, gramps.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:21 AM
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So police are not only going to be able to stop self-driving cars, but pop the trunks for some 'plain view.' Consent will be in the fine print.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:22 AM
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Ah, I'd already seen the story so it wasn't blue for me. Who designed this color scheme anyway?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:23 AM
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Presumably the article addresses why Chrysler needs a fix for something that afflicts GM cars.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:26 AM
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5: Now I feel mildly bad. I omitted the link, and then was just being cheeky.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:28 AM
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There's an impressive list of car makers who will be running their vehicles on Android. On the one hand, I'm looking forward to eventually buying a car with a decent navigation system, but on the other there's my fear that Android is a much bigger hacking target than a custom car-only operating system.

On the bright side, we have yet to see the release of Windows Auto. The blue screen of death would be quite literal.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:28 AM
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Nothing to do with the operating system - there just needs to be an air gap between car controls and the wireless connection. Telematics can have access to the car's sensors (and to instruments) but there's no reason at all for it to have access to the controls. Implement that and the car might still be trackable, but it's not hackable.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:33 AM
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I'm not sure if I should be happy that my automaker is kind of behind the curve in electronics integration or not. There's less of this kind of thing - and no actual remote access or Internet connectivity, just the ability for a computer control to slam on the brakes - but I worry that if there is any in future models, it won't be very good.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:37 AM
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9: But the air gap isn't there now, which means it has a great deal to do with the hackability of the OS. I suspect that eventually there will be some sort of isolation of the controls from the navigation/entertainment/etc function, but the data from the use of the car is too valuable for manufacturers to pass up. It'd be relatively straightforward to make it so you can only talk to the computer running the controls with a special gizmo that only legitimate mechanics have, but data from the controls can flow freely to the manufacturer.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:47 AM
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There's also a feature mentioned in the story, where on at least some models of car they can brick your car remotely for not paying your loans. That seems like the sort of thing that manufacturers would want to keep in, but would be incompatible with an air gap.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:54 AM
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I suppose a fix is possible that would only allow remote bricking starting when the car is turned off, but that seems incompatible with an air gap.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:57 AM
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(ISTR articles where the car loan sharks insist they can only brick from off, contradicted by individual accounts.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:59 AM
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Although I'm frightened by the possible harm this could cause, I also feel a small, guilty thrill at how much we are living in the future.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:01 AM
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Won't it be scary once cars' previously perfect safety record is broken!


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:05 AM
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Telematics can have access to the car's sensors (and to instruments) but there's no reason at all for it to have access to the controls.

Seems at odds with all this buzz about these self-driving cars we're promised will be ubiquitous in 10-20 years.
Me? I want my (air gapped) jet pack!


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:08 AM
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The Internet of Things That Can Kill You.

This definitely seems like something that will just get worse and worse.


Posted by: X.Trapnel | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:10 AM
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9, 10: air gap between the drive-by-wire and the entertainment systems? Pssh c'mon, man, they don't even do that on commercial airliners.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:28 AM
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Anyhow, as more-or-less mentioned above, one of the big features enabled by having cellular internet in a car is remote diagnostics when you have car trouble and/or crash or whatever. You need everything connected to do that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:30 AM
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Anyhow the application for this that catches my imagination is building the maximally big botnet and then disabling all the cars all at once, or maybe disable them in stages at 5PM ET, 5PM CT, 5PM MT, 5PM PT; you could DDoS the whole interstate highway system!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:35 AM
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it requires a trip to the dealer or mild technical chops

[joke about closing car windows and restarting the vehicle]


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:37 AM
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The Internet of Things That Can Kill You.

Nothing to worry about as long as you haven't engaged in any unethical gaming journalism.


Posted by: widget | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:39 AM
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20: should still be possible to give access to all the sensors without giving access to the controls, though.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:40 AM
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re: 20

Surely you only need the sensors connected? You don't need to have the ability to actually do something with the car controls.

Having hackable cars seems catastrophically stupid on every level.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:43 AM
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22: Didn't security researchers also find that many traffic lights can be hacked too? Maybe attackers would combine the two vulnerabilities.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:45 AM
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The Internet of Things That Can Kill You.

I desperately want this phrase to take off!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:45 AM
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21: The day an obnoxious part of the Earth stood still.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:47 AM
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Having hackable cars seems catastrophically stupid on every level.

I am not, just to be 100% clear, in any way in disagreement with this.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:51 AM
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26: oh sure. That's been true for a long time. I mean, lots of stuff that really shouldn't be hackable -- power plants, satellites, nuclear enrichment facilities, the office of personnel management -- is hackable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:53 AM
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The link in 19 is disturbing.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:55 AM
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It presumably wasn't a function that they specifically decided to include. I am guessing here that it's just because they ran everything - telematics, Wi-fi, entertainment, controls - through the same computer, because it would be simpler to design or something, and didn't think about security.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:56 AM
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Yeah I mean I think mostly this is a product of having everything on one network. But it is also the case that something like OnStar is going to want to be connected to very sensitive parts of the car. Overwriting the firmware remotely is... surely not the result of a design decision.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:02 AM
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re: 32

An awful lot of stuff must be completely fly-by-wire, though, for that to even be possible. The article talks about the internal bus inside the car, but hacking that only has an effect if the controls themselves are driven via commands carried over that network.

A traditional ECU could, I suppose, if it was cellularly connected, be used to disable the engine, or do some other stuff, but there'd be no possibility of affecting steering, or brakes, or pedals, as those just aren't connected in that kind of way.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:02 AM
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I can imagine The Day Everything Broke as some sort of spiritual cleansing. All the cars pull over and stop. Planes refuse to take off. Credit cards stop working. Humans, suddenly free of the trappings of modern society are finally able to connect to each other on a real level...

Nah.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:03 AM
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Brakes, steering, and acceleration have been fly-by-wire for a long time; for one thing, you can't really get to modern MPG numbers if you can't program throttle response and so on. And adaptive power steering is going to be much easier to implement digitally.

Our old MINI had a button to put it in "sport" mode that changed the steering and throttle response.

This is why ECU hacking for performance has started paying such dividends. You can tune the actual performance characteristics of the car in terms of handling and pedal feel and whatever, not just tune the engine.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:05 AM
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22: Didn't security researchers also find that many traffic lights can be hacked too? Maybe attackers would combine the two vulnerabilities.

Security researchers such as Benny Hill.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:08 AM
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Also any hybrid with regenerative braking has to have fly (why are we saying "fly"?) drive-by-wire brake pedals.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:08 AM
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It's actually quite easy to hack traffic lights in the US; they're designed to flip to green if they get the right IR strobe pattern from an appraching vehicle. You can buy one relatively cheaply. It's just super, super, super illegal. There was a period, though, where those were installed but the law hadn't quite caught up where people would, like, build them and use them to flip all the lights as they were driving through a city.

Hacking the whole traffic light system is a different story, but is also (or at least has been) doable.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:11 AM
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re: 36

That makes sense, I suppose. I'm used to cars with an earlier generation of electronics, so the engine management is all driven by the ECU, but the throttle, brakes, and so on are all hydraulic.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:13 AM
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40: I remember when the switchover happened in VWs (between Mark III and Mark IV Golfs); it was super annoying, because the early electronic brakes had this terrible, mushy feel. They really hadn't nailed it yet.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:14 AM
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The wiki article on drive-by-wire in passenger cars is out-of-date, then.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:20 AM
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9, 10: air gap between the drive-by-wire and the entertainment systems? Pssh c'mon, man, they don't even do that on commercial airliners.

The link in 19 is disturbing.

My recollection from the discussion at Bruce Schneier's blog was less scary (the following are all taken from the comments).

From Wired: "Roberts had previously told WIRED that he caused a plane to climb during a simulated test on a virtual environment he and a colleague created, but he insisted then that he had not interfered with the operation of a plane while in flight."
It's probably a bad sign for the public credibility of the FBI that my first thought when I read that story was, "Oh, the FBI either accidentally or deliberately misunderstood what he said about hacking a simulation." Of course, it's possible that he did the same thing to a real flight that he did to a simulated flight, but it seems odd that he would deny it to someone who couldn't put him in jail and assert it to someone who could.
Note that a fairly large segment of the Aerospace engineering community is calling bullshit on that story.

On the other hand

Vincent, both Boeing and Airbus have filed what are called "Special Conditions" as part of the certification process for their large passenger jets. These filings disclose that the avionics and IFE networks do share physical media and network infrastructure like bridges and routers. The filings also disclose that the only thing segregating passenger traffic from control traffic are software firewalls, integrated into the routers joining the avionics and passenger segments. Here's a filing from Boeing for the 787: https://t.co/RLbCGYXGPn

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:20 AM
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42: yup.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:27 AM
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I for one look forward to a future full of non-consentual ghostriding the whip.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:47 AM
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19 is way more credulous than I expect from you, Tweety.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:50 AM
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Timely Cegłowski:

If you think your job is to FIX THE WORLD WITH SOFTWARE, then the web is just the very beginning. There's a lot of work left to do. Really you're going to need sensors in every house, and it will help if everyone looks through special goggles, and if every refrigerator can talk to the Internet and confess its contents.

You promise to hook up all this stuff up for us, and in return, we give you the full details of our private lives. And we don't need to worry about people doing bad things with it, because your policy is for that not to happen.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:50 AM
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46: wait, believing that important computer security measures were not taken by large, cost-sensitive corporations who have never previously had to deal with adversarial probing is more credulous than believing that they definitely got it right the first time because the engineers who work in that field say so?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:58 AM
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I also feel a small, guilty thrill at how much we are living in the future.
Sadly, the distopian, cyberpunk future.
I guess I should drop my knee-jerk, "that's ridiculous; that wouldn't be connected to the internet" reaction when I watch shitty hacker movies.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:01 AM
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48 cont'd: hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:06 AM
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When did all the nontechnical people around here learn the term "air gap"?


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:08 AM
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Stuxnet, presumably.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:09 AM
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"air gap" is when there's air between your upper thighs when you stand up with your knees together, right?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:12 AM
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48, 50: I don't doubt that the Boeing engineers fucked up all sorts of things. I also a) don't see any reason to believe Chris Roberts (particularly when his story keeps changing) and b) have no faith that any journalist working for a non-specialist publication has the knowledge to understand the issues.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:13 AM
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53: I thought it referred to the space between my ears.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:15 AM
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51: I think I might have heard it before, but I'm using it in this thread based on figuring it out from context -- I don't know it in the sense that it's something I might have said spontaneously rather than "really not connected electronically in any physical way".


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:18 AM
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54: in what sense did his story keep changing? That he told one thing to a Wired reporter and (according to the FBI) told a different, more incriminating thing to an FBI agent? I found the skeptical comments in that Schneier thread profoundly unconvincing.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:20 AM
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In any case, my point in 19 -- that avionics systems and cabin entertainment share a network on (at least some) commercial airliners -- doesn't seem to be disputed by anybody.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:23 AM
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Air Giaps dominate the basketball courts of Hanoi.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:25 AM
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I am kind of sceptical that someone would deliberately start mucking around with the FADEC on an airliner that he was flying in at the time, I have to say.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:25 AM
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57: the order of events matters, right? He told the more incriminating story to the FBI first, probably thinking it was the more self-promoting story. Once he got some legal advice and contemplated the possibility of not being allowed to fly commercially ever again, he changed his story to something less incriminating and less self-promoting.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:28 AM
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I mean, I do not, fundamentally, care about that part of the story. It should not be possible! If it possible and he did it, that is bad. If it is possible and he did not do it, that is to a first approximation just as bad.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:30 AM
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We're currently housesitting for someone with a Tesla S, and it's a little disturbing that he can log in remotely from another continent and see whether and how much we've been driving it, where we've been driving it, and how charged the battery is. And also can check on the house alarm and security cameras, etc.

I have no idea about the truth of the airplane thing, but about 8 years ago I was in a deposition in an unrelated case with a senior Boeing engineer in a position to know, and someone asked him exactly whether or not such a hack was possible, and he said no for some reason that I now forget, basically that it was physically impossible and that the FAA had been worried about this.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:43 AM
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To be clear, the question was asked in idle chat during a break, it wasn't like actual testimony on the topic or anything.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:44 AM
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Missing my 1990 navy blue Volvo right now.


Posted by: JD Marron | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:48 AM
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65: That was my main thought. My 1990 gray 240 is still going strong at 265k miles and I'll probably add another six hundred this weekend. It does have a diagnostic computer, but should otherwise be unhackable.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 11:05 AM
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Really, the vast majority of cars on the road are not going to be meaningfully (i.e. remotely) hackable. It's only if you have a fancy-ish (in terms of electronics, not necessarily trim level -- so Prius counts) late model car with some kind of built-in bidirectional communications; OnStar, satellite radio, navigation with built-in updating, voice control all seem like clues that you might be vulnerable to something like this. A key fob with remote start might be a bad sign, but that would still be a relatively close-quarters attack.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 11:23 AM
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67: So when will all cars be hackable?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 11:27 AM
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68: A long time before they're all self-driving.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 11:28 AM
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A key fob with remote start might be a bad sign, but that would still be a relatively close-quarters attack.

Or keyless entry in general (and, judging from that article, it's impressive how non-technical the NYT thinks its audience is).

I finally found what seems like the most plausible answer when I spoke to Boris Danev, a founder of 3db Technologies, a security company based in Switzerland. Mr. Danev specializes in wireless devices, including key fobs, and has written several research papers on the security flaws of keyless car systems.

When I told him my story, he knew immediately what had happened. The teenagers, he said, likely got into the car using a relatively simple and inexpensive device called a "power amplifier."

He explained it like this: In a normal scenario, when you walk up to a car with a keyless entry and try the door handle, the car wirelessly calls out for your key so you don't have to press any buttons to get inside. If the key calls back, the door unlocks. But the keyless system is capable of searching for a key only within a couple of feet.

Mr. Danev said that when the teenage girl turned on her device, it amplified the distance that the car can search, which then allowed my car to talk to my key, which happened to be sitting about 50 feet away, on the kitchen counter. And just like that, open sesame.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 11:41 AM
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67: In other words, the most hackable cars tend to also be rich people cars. How will the rest of us be able to tell the difference? I, for one, have never seen a Range Rover obeying the speed limit. Can we get a hack to make them do that?


Posted by: Todd | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 12:28 PM
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67 may be rather optimistic. My understanding is that ~all GM cars come with OnStar capability, it's just that most people don't pay to be able to use it. Not sure if not paying prevents someone from hacking into it or not...


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 12:57 PM
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Sure do hope only well-intentioned hackers know about this. What's a nice, obscure model of a minivan?

My first thought is to say "don't get one" in a smug car-free tone. My second thought is that despite not owning a car I still drive one roughly once a week, and the cars I drive are all designed to be reserved and unlocked by some Web site and phone app, and more than half the time I'm driving the same make and model of car, which is a Smart car, which judging by its size would be a tin can death trap in an accident...

Sooo maybe smugness isn't justified here.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 1:10 PM
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This thread reminds me how disappointed I was that the Revolution tv show didn't do a better job with its post-apocalyptic no electronics premise.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 1:30 PM
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You'd think they'd know better than to try to make a Revolution tv show.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 1:36 PM
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72: most cars aren't late-model. That's pretty much my whole thought process in saying "the vast majority". Many if not most current-year or recent-year not-base-trim-level cars probably have attack surfaces.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 1:48 PM
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74 - 75: I feel that this cries out for a Gil Scott Heron joke, but I can't think of how to frame it that isn't grindingly obvious.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 1:50 PM
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I felt that 75 was a Gil Scott Heron joke.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 1:53 PM
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I think they deliberately left off the definite article.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 2:35 PM
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72, 76: I believe average car age is still near all-time highs (10+ years last I looked), so I believe the assumption/approximation in 67/76 is justified. If hackers somehow bricked* every possible car tomorrow, I'd be shocked if it rendered even 1/4 vehicles undrivable; I wouldn't be surprised if the number were under 10%. But that number will grow pretty rapidly, unless the industry intervenes aggressively.

Oh, and obviously bricking 1/4 cars would be catastrophic, but it's not as if the ultimate hack is plausible, even if it's technically possible.

*for a pretty strong definition of "bricked". Screwy navi ≠ bricked


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 3:08 PM
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74: I'd forgotten about that show; it seemed promising. Is it just me, or have giant world-building shows like that (I'm also thinking of that time travel/dinosaur one) had a pretty low success rate? Or maybe they always get big press, and so every failure is noted, where the failures of countless bland sitcoms are relatively unremarked?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 3:10 PM
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What time traveling dinosaur one? Do you mean "Primeval"? Promising beginning, I guess, but got pretty bad fairly quickly.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 3:18 PM
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Station Eleven is a surprisingly good book. And a key part of the premise is that the mechanized world has stopped working. (Which is why this comment is on topic.)


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 3:21 PM
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80: Heck, imagine if 1 in every 200 cars on the interstate were remotely disabled. That would be enough for catastrophes nationwide.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 3:27 PM
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Hey, I just read Station Eleven this weekend. Liked it! But for centralized control over cars, the science fiction that seems most relevant was that Daniel Keys Moran book, hold on...


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 3:38 PM
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I forget which one, Emerald Eyes or Long Run involved the bad guys being able to lock down the rebels' cars, except for California, which got a cultural exception because they'd always loved cars so much. So the rebellion lasted a bit longer in California.

Spoilers, I guess, but honestly, I don't care about spoilers as a giver or receiver.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 3:42 PM
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82: No, there was another one, with families running into a Stargate-like device to go into the distant past to escape the near-future dystopia.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 3:44 PM
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Heck, imagine if 1 in every 200 cars on the interstate were remotely disabled.

Actually, this isn't entirely clear to me: in these vehicles, if they're moving at 65 mph when the bricking is inflicted, what happens? No engine, no brakes, no steering, possibly no lights? So, basically, certain death? That would take incredibly low incidence rate to break the system. But if 1/200 cars became the rolling equivalent of gliders, [massive] traffic problems but not a complete social breakdown.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 3:47 PM
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Spoilers, I guess, but honestly, I don't care about spoilers as a giver or receiver.

I know we've discussed this many times before, but the thing about spoilers (and obvs semi-obscure genre fiction isn't a major concern AFAIC) is that a reader only gets one shot at reading (or viewing, in the case of visual media) a thing without foreknowledge. If I like the story/characters/prose enough to reread, I can choose to do so, but once something is spoiled, I can never have that first time, unaware experience. Which seems like a loss.

I should add that, long before "Spoiler Alert" became a thing, I wished to read "Romeo & Juliet"*, among other works, innocently. Aeschylus & Euripides wrote knowing their audience already knew the story, but modern authors don't, and part of the intended effect is (usually) discovery. It seems weird to me that so many are willing to dismiss that intention entirely. Who would argue that a paraphrase of a work of literature is basically equivalent? But prose style is only one of a writer's tools.

I have no idea why I feel the need to write about this now. Possibly I've been hacked.

*not a great work, but one so ubiquitous that IMO we can't imagine its impact without foreknowledge. It may even be that its low status is in part due to the fact that, for all practical purposes, no English speaker has read it spoiler-free in 250 years. I've felt the same way about the Mona Lisa.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 3:57 PM
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Cleverly, somebody has called the cops on the researchers.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 4:49 PM
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My assumption is that at least half of spoilers are bullshit. Did you know Dumbledore is Snape's grandmother? Or that Anakin Skywalker is an anagram of cabbage hat? It's all true, and readily verifiable on the internet.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 5:12 PM
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Romeo and Juliet is people.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 5:28 PM
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The best part of Soylent Green is long long before the big reveal, where everyone is sweltering on account of global warming and air conditioning is only for the rich. Really, watch it now, and the whole thing rings in a completely different way than it did 40 years ago.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 6:34 PM
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94

Presumably the article addresses why Chrysler needs a fix for something that afflicts GM cars.

Nope!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 6:48 PM
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Context for 89 should probably be that I'm not a consumer who's looking to figure out where the story's going in advance. Not that I'm looking for Shylaman(?)esque "twists", but if I'm 2/3 of the way through the story* and feel as if the ending has been telegraphed, then I'm likely to feel a bit let down. If the author truly doesn't care about shielding the climax, then write it out in the first ten pages, a la Barnaby Jones.

*depending a bit on the story, but it applies to most, at least in the details - we should probably know that the Pequod isn't returning to Nantucket with Moby Dick's skull suspended from the mast, but that doesn't mean we should know 100 pages in advance how the finale will play out


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:33 PM
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96

95.last: THAT'S WHERE YOU'RE WRONG


Posted by: OPINIONATED JOHN MILIUS PRESENTS MOBY DICK | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 7:46 PM
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97

87- Terra Nova! I forgot about that show.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:13 PM
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98

Recent things I might take into account whether something is a spoiler that many people might not have heard of, but if you don't know everyone dies in Hamlet, Shakespeare's play about the small town that's the setting of On the Beach, I'm going to risk revealing the ending rather than cut the conversation short to ask everyone if they'd seen/read it.

At a place where I was working years ago, some people were talking about Fight Club and stopped when they realized I hadn't seen it because they didn't want to spoil it. I told them to go ahead because I didn't really care. Years later, I finally watched the movie and guess what? I didn't remember the ending had been "spoiled" for me until after the reveal.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:48 PM
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I would have thought that Shakespeare assumed a large part, if not all, of his audience would know the basic structure and story of all of his plays purely from the title and genre.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:49 PM
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99: Yeah, Shakespeare strikes me as a weird example to use for JRoth's argument. I think he patterns more with Euripides and Aeschylus than with "modern" writers for whom innovative or unpredictable plotting is important.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:52 PM
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101

I've felt the same way about the Mona Lisa

*SPOILER ALERT*

The painting was stolen from the Louvre and then brought back a couple years later. Now it hangs in the
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Louvre!


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:55 PM
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102

Melville is also a weird example. These are not writers known for their emphasis on plot.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 8:57 PM
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103

Despite these quibbles, I do basically agree with JRoth's argument. No spoilers!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:00 PM
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If I'm currently watching something then I don't want to have the ending spoiled, and maybe if I know I'm going to watch something soon, but otherwise it doesn't matter to me too much either way.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:27 PM
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I don't actually watch many movies or read much fiction, so the spoiler issue doesn't come up much in my everyday life. I'm against spoilers in principle, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:39 PM
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Back when I talked to more people in humanities arts fields, it was not uncommon for someone to stop short using a literary or film example to illustrate something, no matter how good the example, because of spoilers. This is informal conversation, mind you, not formal criticism. I thought that was pretty silly.

Deliberately spoiling something, sure that's not good. "Here's a great example of what you were talking about, but unfortunately it's the end of the movie, so let's change the subject": that's when I generally say it's fine if you "spoil" it for me so we don't have to change the subject.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:50 PM
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107

I would have thought that Shakespeare assumed a large part, if not all, of his audience would know the basic structure and story of all of his plays purely from the title and genre.

At the root...


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 9:57 PM
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108

Dude, now I now how that comic ends!


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:22 PM
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109

101. It ain't that pretty at all.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:28 PM
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110

IT WAS ALL A DREAM


Posted by: OPINIONATED UNIVERSAL SPOILER | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 10:58 PM
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111

OR WAS IT????????!!


Posted by: EVERY TRICK ENDING EVER | Link to this comment | 07-21-15 11:02 PM
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107: this is something I have wondered about; did Shakespeare intend his audience to feel real tension and suspense about whether, say, Romeo and Juliet would escape Verona and live happily ever after, or Hamlet avenge his father's death? Or did people pretty much know how that sort of story went?

On second thoughts, the Prologue tells you what's going to happen in R&J:

Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;

... spoilers, dude...

But Hamlet?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 1:47 AM
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What time traveling dinosaur one? Do you mean "Primeval"? Promising beginning, I guess, but got pretty bad fairly quickly.

Terra Nova. The problem with that show was that it wasn't a giant world-building show when it should have been. They took this cool/silly premise and decided to make a boring, schmaltzy family drama out of it. It might as well have been set on some jungle island for all the use they got out of the premise. And they only showed the dinosaurs for about two shots an episode for obvious budget reasons.

cf Continuum, which has its problems but has actually done interesting things with its time travel premise.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 1:48 AM
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A developing medical emergency continues two hours' traffic delay in
Verona tower blocks...


Posted by: southwatk traffic copter | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 2:44 AM
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112, 107 I await the paper by some Shakespeare scholar announcing the discovery that the plays were performed much like screenings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show with the audience shouting catchphrase insults at every mention of the name "Romeo," or that Capulet has no neck and throwing rice and merkins on to the stage.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 2:51 AM
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I'll go on record as hating spoilers too. Sometimes this means staying away from some media for things I know I'll care about but people can be jerks about this as well though I do understand there being a statute of limitations for this kind of thing. I've also found that like fa in 98 by the time I get around to reading/watching the thing I've forgotten what the spoiler was.

If I'm binge watching something I tend to get interested in the actors and start looking them up on IMDB and Wikipedia. This proved to be a mistake when I was watching the Shield and went to Wikipedia to read about Kenny Johnson and Walton Goggins one of which used to have a major spoiler in their bio. I mean, wtf?

Ah, Terra Nova. Not surprised that got axed. So is Continuum worth watching? I just figured out my streaming problem here and spent last night catching up on Orphan Black.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 3:03 AM
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So is Continuum worth watching?

I reckon so, though it never really rises above quality trash. Season 2 in particular is pretty good. But it's no Sarah Connor Chronicles.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 3:06 AM
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but it's not as if the ultimate hack is plausible

Because it's not like there are any state sponsored terrorists out there.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 3:43 AM
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But Hamlet?

Not quite as crudely as R&J, but the Ghost turns up in Act 1 and basically says, "OK, this is a revenge tragedy." And the audience knew how revenge tragedies went: everybody dies.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 3:48 AM
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116.2 "...one of which..." surely "...one of whom..."

I should just give up at this point and become the anti-nosflow.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 3:56 AM
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It's pretty clear that the real reason for the Iran nuclear deal is to ship a bunch of late model white Mercedes (is that the right car?) to high level nuclear scientists and then make them crash like the FBI did with Michael Hastings. 11 dimensional chess, sheeple!


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 4:13 AM
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119: good point.
I suppose the history plays might have had more suspense - not over the outcome of Agincourt, but over the fates of the minor characters. There's no reason that Fluellen has to survive to the end, after all.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 4:16 AM
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I await the "Persians invented 11 dimensional chess" news articles.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 4:18 AM
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I reckon so, though it never really rises above quality trash.

I would agree with this, having just started the third season. Annoyingly from an SF perspective, as they start to answer questions they flirt with Many-Worlds but contradict it at the same time.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 5:35 AM
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On the OP, this is a business opportunity for the creation of un-networked Battlecar Galacticas.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 5:36 AM
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I would agree with this, having just started the third season. Annoyingly from an SF perspective, as they start to answer questions they flirt with Many-Worlds but contradict it at the same time.

I'm not particularly keen on the direction they take in the third season, though it could still end up in an interesting place. They don't have long to do it, though, so I suspect it'll be more like how Dollhouse ended up - flashes of something greater but bookended by not so good stuff.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 5:41 AM
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Nia was asking the other day how the people making movie trailers draw the line between letting people know what a movie is about and sharing spoilers, which apparently is totally taboo among second graders.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 6:05 AM
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The answer being: "They don't". I trust you told her trailer makers are evil personified.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 6:15 AM
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127. In some cases they simply use a cut up technique which makes no narrative or contextual sense but promises people who like that sort of thing that the movie will be loud and violent.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 6:19 AM
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128: She was torn. She thought maybe they could just explain what the movie was about without showing anything because spoilers are wrong. But then seeing something (allegedly) funny in a trailer is what makes you want to see the movie, so.... It's a conundrum! And, at least in her mind, one of the major moral issues of our day!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 6:35 AM
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130: After one of those trailers that reveals the whole story of a movie, I say, "Well, that was a pretty good movie. Kind of dragged in the middle though." This never fails to amuse me.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 6:46 AM
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129: In some cases they simply use a cut up technique which makes no narrative or contextual sense

Oulipo Trailers would be rather good. Or Dada Trailers.

"In a world... where hedgehog funicular bicentenary as much as horsewhip Kissinger, three men two men a woman an old child green in the sunlight the terror of birth! A hat lobster! From director Bestiality Fortescue! Coming to another cinema never."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 6:59 AM
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Of course, Jaws is the ultimate Dada movie.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 7:00 AM
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81: I'm also thinking of that time travel/dinosaur one)

From the 60s? It's About Time.

I had forgotten that it had the "cavemen" + dinosaurs thing going.

I like this vis Wikipedia:

Ratings were impressive for the first few weeks on the air, but they soon plunged. Show creator Sherwood Schwartz [Gilligan's Island producer] came to the conclusion that three factors were the cause of the decline in audience interest:

Repetition of the astronauts being in danger from dinosaurs, clubs, spears, volcanoes, and cavemen.
An unattractive look to the show (e.g., caves, dirt streets, etc.)
The cave dwellers speaking a primitive form of English that was difficult to listen to

So for the second half of the initial season they brought them all back to modern New York for Encino Man-type yucks. n But alas, cancelled anyway.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 7:34 AM
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I think a lot of the stuff about spoilers is overblown. Of course there are stories (Shyamalan!*) where spoilers are trouble and a general social norm, while inconvenient, is useful with those at least, and it has to be a slightly more general norm than just with them otherwise people are just saying "oh there's a secret twist ending" which is the same.

In general I think a lot of twist endings are either (1) a stupid gimmick that adds nothing, or (2) something that can only be spoiled if the story itself is badly written/made/etc. A good movie with a twisty ending isn't spoiled if you know what the ending is because you're already immersed in the story in which it is a twist, just like a good scary movie isn't ruined by the fact that you know that you (and even the actors involved) are not actually in any genuine danger.

*The surprise ending is that you actually watched it all the way to the end of the movie.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 8:14 AM
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I mean, there are genuine effects that you can only get when you have no idea what's about to happen next, like when I convinced my friend to watch Audition by describing it to her as a quirky romantic comedy, but as much fun as that was I think you have to be treating the story about like that for those to really show up.


Posted by: MHPH | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 8:15 AM
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I mean, there are genuine effects that you can only get when you have no idea what's about to happen next, like when I convinced my friend to watch Audition by describing it to her as a quirky romantic comedy,

That is extremely cruel. Not least because it is pretending to be a quirky romantic comedy for about half the running time.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 9:18 AM
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134.last: Spoiler alert... sorry.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 10:11 AM
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Don't worry; we've all already seen Encino Man.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 10:15 AM
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Or, at least, all of us who ever will see it have done so.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 10:16 AM
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107: this is something I have wondered about; did Shakespeare intend his audience to feel real tension and suspense about whether, say, Romeo and Juliet would escape Verona and live happily ever after, or Hamlet avenge his father's death? Or did people pretty much know how that sort of story went?

My gf has a much stronger anti-spoiler stance than I do (I pretty much don't care and she cares a lot), and that didn't stop her from making fun of me for protesting when she revealed, during an intermission, that the Duchess of Malfi wasn't going to make it out of her own play alive.

(Yes, I know that Shakespeare didn't write that play.)


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 5:11 PM
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Francis Bacon?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 5:15 PM
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I am mostly with MHPH but I think this is kind of bats:

"Plots are just excuses for great writing. What the plot is is (almost) irrelevant. The pleasure is in the writing," said Christenfeld, a UC San Diego professor of social psychology.

That's true for some things, I guess, though I think it's mostly actually incoherent. (The writing's greatness can depend on the way it reveals the … plot. There are few books that would remain as pleasurable to read if the paragraphs were randomly rearranged; why is this?) And the reason I say "mostly" is that I was kind of ticked at the introduction to my edition of Independent People for revealing an important change in two characters' relationships that I would rather have found out about in the course of reading.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 5:16 PM
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Even in extremely non-psychological, formal writings like Roussel or some of Harry Mathews' novels where plot really is a device to enable the writing, the writing still does actually convey a plot.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 07-22-15 5:19 PM
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136: similarly, "Psycho", "The Usual Suspects" and so on. But while these films stand up to repeated watching, I think there's also value to having the experience of watching them without knowing what's coming (which I had for the latter though not the former).


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-23-15 2:58 AM
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