The usual spin through interesting links from the depths of ye olde internets:
- The Myth of the Myth of the Lone Genius – It’s become fashionable to decry the lone genius changing the world with their ideas, but maybe the pendulum has swung too far?
… uncritical acceptance of the lone genius myth is one more cultural force among many that is making it more and more difficult for individuals to do innovative work (and last time I checked, humanity is made up of individuals). In a fast-paced world full of intense economic/scientific/intellectual competition and decreasing opportunities for solitude, it is harder than ever before to justify spending significant time on intangible work that may or may not pay off. You can’t put on your resume – “I spend a lot of time thinking about ideas and scribbling notes that I don’t share with anyone.”
I guess what I want to counteract is the same thing that Stephen Malina, Alexey Guzey, Leopold Aschenbrenner argue against in “Ideas not mattering is a Psyop”. I don’t know how we could ever forget that ideas matter – of course they matter – but somewhere along the way I think we got a little confused. How this happened, I don’t know – you can probably broadly gesture at computers, the internet, big data, etc. and talk about how these have led to a greater societal emphasis on predictability, quantifiability, and efficiency. Ideas (and the creative process that produces them) are inherently none of these things; as Malina et al. remind us – Ideas are often built on top of each other, meaning that credit assignment is genuinely hard” and “Ideas have long feedback loops so it’s hard to validate who is good at having ideas that turn out to be good”. I would also mention increased levels of competition (as a result of globalism, increased population sizes, and the multitude of technologies that enable these things) as a major culprit. For any position at a college/graduate school/job you are likely competing with many people who have done all kinds of impressive sounding things (although it is probably 90% bullshit) so you better stop thinking about crazy ideas (remember, there are no such things as lone geniuses) and starting doing things, even if the things you are doing are boring and trivial. As long as they look good on the resume…
- Free The Heartbreak Kid: Why One of the Best American Comedies Has Disappeared – As a movie dork, I often hear about movies that, for some reason, aren’t available in any format. This article looks at Elaine May’s The Heartbreak Kid, but the same reason applies to other difficult to find movies (man, I could really go for a restored version of Sleuth).
The confounding nature of the film’s inaccessibility has to do with who currently owns its rights. Though the film was distributed by 20th Century Fox, the distribution rights fell into the ownership of pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb. At one point, the company had their hand in buying entertainment properties, acquiring Palomar Pictures International. The production company was originally a subsidiary of ABC but it severed ties in 1969, which allowed Bristol-Myers Squibb to swoop in and take up a majority stake in 1972. Along with May’s The Heartbreak Kid, some of the films produced while owned by the pharmaceutical company included Sleuth, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and The Stepford Wives. But only two years after creating this entertainment arm, Bristol Myers-Squibb dissolved it.
- Ricky Jay Does a Card Trick – Always worthwhile.
- Scottish distillery tour guide – I’ve never been to Scotland, but this feels pitch perfect to me and if I ever do go, I’ll be supremely disappointed if my tour guide isn’t equally disaffected.
- Greatest Ping Pong Volley – It’s amazing and unfortunately not from the Olympics, but then someone in the comments unearthed this absolute gem about an, er, adjacent sport? (Make sure you turn on the sound on that second one, the announcer is doing some heavy lifting here.)
- In Praise of the Info Dump: A Literary Case for Hard Science Fiction – I don’t think there’s a real rule here – like a lot of things, info-dumps are really difficult to do well, so the general rule seems to be against them. But then, folks like Greg Egan are masters at this sort of thing and his novels wouldn’t work at all if it weren’t for the info-dumps. SF readers are probably much more tolerant of this sort of thing, and there’s almost a different way of reading that encourages it.
What distinguishes this genre isn’t so much plotting, characters, or concepts, but its special relationship to information. In a certain sense, an effective piece of hard science fiction comprises one world-sized info dump. Expert discourse is simply the most efficient delivery mechanism for this volume of information.
Maligned almost universally in fiction workshops, the info dump is a device that supplies a sizable amount of background information or other narrative material in order to make a story intelligible to the reader. Egan is a master of the trick. Yatima’s birth, an enormously complicated process that takes place in the first three pages of Diaspora, may be the most magnificent info dump I’ve ever read.
- The Coen Brother – Ethan Coen recently announced that he’s done making movies. His brother Joel will probably continue, but what does this mean for the output of some of the most original and interesting filmmakers of the last few decades? Well, I guess we’re about to find out.
That’s all for now…