- The Fightin' Phils Polka (mp3): This is rather awesome. Let's go Phillies!
- How habitable is the Earth?: Charlie Stross attempts to argue that a planet like the Earth would not be considered habitable from the perspective of prospective interstellar colonists. The point of the post is a good one (Earth would only be habitable to humans for a fraction of its existance), but the specifics of his thought experiment are rather dumb.
I want you to imagine that, instead of being a perplexed mostly-hairless primate reading a blog, you're the guiding intelligence of an interstellar robot probe. You've been entrusted with the vital mission of determining whether a target planet is inhabitable by members of your creator species, who bear an eerie resemblance to H. Sapiens Sapiens. To gauge the suitability of the target world you've been given an incubator that can generate decorticated human clones — breathing meat-machines with nobody home up top. When you get to the destination you're going to transfer them to the surface and see how long they survive. If it can make it through 24 hours (or one diurnal period), congratulations! — you've found a potential colony world; one so hospitable that a naked and clueless human doesn't die on their first day out.His first strike against Earth is that 78% of the planet is covered in water, and that randomly dropping "meat-machines" on the planet will cause most of them to drown. Is it just me? Am I the only one who thinks that's dumb? Prospective interstellar colonists would be looking for a planet that looks like the one they came from. Human beings have well established conditions for comfortable living, that's obviously what we'd look for. The planet we're on now seems to work reasonably well, so if we found a planet where a small percentage of the surface is really habitable, that's still pretty good. Also, he finishes off his post with a note that there's only a 1% chance that a prospective interstellar colonist would consider Earth a good planet. Well, isn't 1% ok? Sure, it's astronomically small... but we're talking about astronomy here! Ultimately, he's making a good point, but the rhetorical strategy here... I just didn't care for it...
- Wallowing in Misery for Art’s Sake: A.O. Scott takes the New York Film Festival to task for its schedule, and in so doing, he coins a new term that I rather like:
The cumulative picture of the human condition that has emerged since opening night is dominated by sadism, guilt, violence and despair, a panorama of pessimism notable for its exhausting rigor and relentless consistency. ..."Festivalism." I like that. Rather, I like the word. I don't really enjoy what it represents. The only thing it doesn't really capture is how "Independent" films also seem to traffic in the same sort of thing. I really miss the middle ground films that had mainstream appeal, but were independently produced by genuinely talented artists. We catch glimpses of this sort of thing from time to time (Paranormal Activity is a recent example), but they seem to be much less frequent.
This year’s New York Film Festival can be understood as an unusually powerful and disciplined presentation of an aesthetic ideology we might call festivalism. There is some irony in the name, since a central tenet of festivalism is an abiding skepticism about the nature and value of fun. That’s not what movies are for!
But the festivalist mentality does not simply rest on a taste for depicting or witnessing human misery — social, sexual, economic and psychic. Rather, the embrace of such harsh thematic content reflects a commitment to a dogma of artistic obduracy. T. S. Eliot said of modern poetry that “it must be difficult,” an imperative defiantly reflected in a program, harvested mostly from other festivals, that pushes the boundary between the challenging and the punitive.
- A Conversation on Blogging Ethics and Online Film Journalism with C. Robert Cargill, Devin Faraci, and Peter Sciretta: Great audio conversation that was originally planned to be a 20 minute thing but which ballooned into a 2 hour epic. I think the one thing missing from the conversation is, well, not to belittle the industry, but there isn't really that much to report in the movie business. People read these sites more for commentary than just news. Finding out who is cast in the next Twilight picture might be news and it might bring in hits for your site, but ultimately, that's not a big story and it doesn't take as much effort to uncover than, say, an intrepid reporter who breaks a story on the Police pushing drugs at a local beach. That reporter has to go undercover, investigating the beach, taking trips to Utah to follow leads, impersonate doctors and maintenance workers, and so on, to get the story. I love Devin Faraci, and he does set visits and travels to film festivals and whatnot, but the types of stories he makes out of that sort of thing are entertaining more because of his perspective than the actual facts of what he reports. There's a big difference between that and the beach drug story... In any case, it's a fascinating discussion, and well worth a listen (they get into a lot more than I'm talking about here).
- Video Games Video: Interesting little video covering, well, kinda sorta the early history of video games, with original animations and set to technoey music. A fun watch.
Update: Well, shit.