Link Dump

Link Dump

The usual spin through interesting links from the depths of ye olde internets:

… 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…

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 SleuthThe 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…

Link Dump

The usual collection of links I found perusing the depths of ye olde internets:

Q: Jazz critic Ted Gioia recently lodged a complaint that “music criticism has degenerated into lifestyle reporting” because most most critics lack a musical background and theoretical tools. Do movie critics need filmmaking experience or an understanding of film theory to do their jobs?

Gioia’s piece, which was published at The Daily Beast, was the op-ed equivalent of a nun rapping inattentive students’ knuckles with a ruler. It’s mostly an argument in favor of music critics knowing a little bit about the actual process of writing and performing music, and finding a way to work that knowledge into their reviews. “Imagine, for a moment, football commentators who refuse to explain formations and plays. Or a TV cooking show that never mentions the ingredients,” he writes, “or an expert on cars who refuses to look under the hood of an automobile. These examples may sound implausible, perhaps ridiculous. But something comparable is happening in the field of music journalism. One can read through a stack of music magazines and never find any in-depth discussion of music.  Technical knowledge of the art form has disappeared from its discourse. In short, music criticism has turned into lifestyle reporting.”

It’s a good piece worth revisiting because the last four years have probably only exacerbated the issue. It’s funny, because I feel like one of the trends we saw in these last few years is a bunch of critics wanting to write about nothing but politics, while political reporters wanted to escape the partisan tribalism by writing about art, movies, tv, whatever. In any case, it’s definitely worth keeping in mind.

And that’s all for now. I was going to kick off the 1978 Project Kaedrin Movie Awards, but got bogged down with other stuff this week… but it’s coming soon!

Link Dump

Just the usual spin through interesting links from the depths of ye olde internets:

  • How I Beat Boris Becker – Andre Agassi talks about how he spotted Boris Becker’s tell. It’s got a nice Detachment 2702 twist to it as well…
  • Carbon monoxide theory – Your house isn’t haunted, it’s just carbon monoxide poisoning:

Many haunted houses have been investigated and found to contain high levels of carbon monoxide or other poisons, which can cause hallucinations. The carbon monoxide theory explains why haunted houses are mostly older houses, which are more likely to contain aging and defective appliances, and why more hauntings are reported in the colder months. Carbon monoxide poisoning explains many of the occurrences in haunted houses, such as feelings of being watched, hearing footsteps or voices, seeing “ghosts”, headaches, dizziness, and sudden death or illness of people or pets, and also strange behavior in pets such as excessive barking or meowing. The carbon monoxide theory also explains why some ghosts don’t show up on photographs or videos (photographs that do show “ghosts” are usually caused by dust, insects, fingers or camera strap in front of the lens, and multiple exposures).

  • I’m Built Different – So there’s this tiktok where a ridiculously ripped guy says “I’m not going to say this again, I’m built different” and then he puts an egg in his elbow and cracks it by flexing his bicep (then, despite explicitly claiming he wouldn’t, he says he’s built different again). Anyway, it’s ridiculous, and there’ve been tons of parodies (I especially like the first one in the link above, where the girl does this whole Johnny Carson-esque gesture). That link is good, but there’s a couple of other great ones out there too.
  • A Brief History of ‘Looks Like Meat’s Back on the Menu, Boys!’ From ‘The Two Towers’ – It’s a line that has inspired an awful lot of discussion…

That line has confounded and delighted fans ever since the movie’s release, with a good number of tweets and Reddit comments centering on its seeming anachronisms. “Not only is it out of place, it doesn’t even make sense!” complained one confused commenter. “How do orcs even know what a menu is? Do they have fancy restaurants in Mordor? I guess they must.”

That’s all for now…

Link Dump

The usual roundup of interesting links from the depths of ye olde internets:

The “sweater curse” or “curse of the love sweater” is a term used by knitters to describe the belief that if a knitter gives a hand-knit sweater to a significant other, it will lead to the recipient breaking up with the knitter. In an alternative formulation, the relationship will end before the sweater is even completed. The belief is widely discussed in knitting publications, and some knitters claim to have experienced it. In a 2005 poll, 15% of active knitters said that they had experienced the sweater curse firsthand, and 41% considered it a possibility that should be taken seriously.

One of the themes I’ve come back to many times in my writing is the idea that people mistake empirical claims (this is true about the world) with normative claims (this should be true about the world). Nowhere is this more clear than with “hate speech” and censorship. I think hate speech laws are politically and morally wrong, a normative claim, but more importantly they don’t work, an empirical claim – one which if true renders normative claims that hate speech laws are good irrelevant.

The debate about whether we should censor unpopular views such as hate speech is an important one, but also a strange one. In my experience, it operates wholly independent from any consideration of the restraints of reality.

  • SETI Optimism is Human Future Pessimism – Another meditation on the Fermi Paradox, but with more math and some new terminology. Not sure I love the “grabby civilization” phrase, but it captures a useful idea in the discussion.

That’s all for now…

Link Dump

The usual link dump of interesting oddities from the depths of ye olde internets:

What are one-way and two-way door decisions? One-way door decisions are decisions that you can’t easily reverse. These decisions need to be done carefully. Two-way door decisions can be reversed. You can walk through the door, see if you like it, and if not go back. These decisions can be made fast or even automated.

So there you have it, another link dump on the books. Stay tuned for the triumphant return of the 1978 Project, amongst other things.

Link Dump

Ringing in the holiday season with a few interesting links from the depths of ye olde internets:

  • Death of the Author (& Beyond) – The notion that an author’s intent is unimportant to your interpretation of their work can make for an interesting discussion, but people generally take the concept much further. This guy just put a name on half of the poor takes we see on social media (I particularly like “Weekend at Bernie’s of the Author”)
  • Alien Hunters Discover Mysterious Signal from Proxima Centauri – I don’t know why, but I almost always click into these articles that are really trying to ride the “It’s probably not aliens, but it’s not not aliens yet either” line. As usual, when it comes to the existence of aliens, no news is actually good news because the Fermi Paradox has some terrifying implications.
  • Verifying that you’re not a robot – Well observed…
  • Pretending to Press Buttons on a Space Ship – People are really handling lockdown well (this is low-key impressive though).
  • Nickelback – Trying Not To Love You – Wait, so, Jason Alexander was in a Nickleback video where he plays a barista who gets into a competition with a fedora and ascot wearing version of himself? How was I not aware of this? Oh wow, it wasn’t that long ago? This is weird. Like, good weird? I don’t know? I’m so confused by this video. How did this happen?
  • Alienware – Three armed humans? (Honestly though, what were they thinking with that design?)

That’s all for now. Look, not every post can be as great as last week’s Christmas movie roundup…. so enjoy these links… Happy holidays folks!

Link Dump

The usual link dump of interesting stuff, plumbed from the depths of ye olde internets:

Stomp on the Mystery Box – An exploration of the merits (and lack therein) of J.J. Abrams’ concept of the Mystery Box.

A mystery box is an effective way to get the audience into the characters’ head space. We want to know what the answer is. They want to know what the answer is. We are instantly on the same team.

The fact that the mystery box is empty is extremely handy because it ensures that nobody can guess the ending ahead of time. Just keep tabs on the fan theories and you can stay way out in front of them. If you do have any particular plans in mind, and somebody gets close, throw out your plan and throw a new element into the story which voids that possibility. If asked directly whether a theory is correct, say no. By definition, it can’t be correct — because it was asked. And because there is no solution. Relatedly, a mystery box makes it very difficult for anybody involved in the production to leak the ending.

And finally, obviously, a mystery box saves you some (but not all) of the work of constructing the story in the first place. You have a solid beginning, you have some sketch ideas for the middle, and… you’re done. This is an especially efficient use of your time if your project is, for example, a television show with a strong possibility of being cancelled before it goes anywhere, or the first film in an ongoing franchise.

The Answer to Why Humans Are So Central in Star Trek – I don’t remember what made me look this up again, but this is some classic Star Trek nerd humor (that is genuinely funny, not, like, sad or something). I’m glad someone collected all the ancillary thoughts too. For the record, the actual original post is here.

That Federation vessels in Star Trek seem to experience bizarre malfunctions with such overwhelming frequency isn’t just an artefact of the television serial format. Rather, it’s because the Federation as a culture are a bunch of deranged hyper-neophiles, tooling around in ships packed full of beyond-cutting-edge tech they don’t really understand. Endlessly frustrating if you have to fight them, because they can pull an effectively unlimited number of bullshit space-magic countermeasures out of their arses – but they’re as likely as not to give themselves a lethal five-dimensional wedgie in the process. 

the girl from the movie who doesn’t believe in love – Pitch perfect parody of romantic comedies…

The Decay is Real: Streaming Films on Netflix (and others) Lose Viewership Very Quickly. Interesting data here. Kinda resembles movie theater blockbuster performance, only dropoff from week to week seems even steeper. I have to wonder how much of this is driven by Netflix’s advertising and curation strategy (i.e. when a movie is first released, Netflix pushes it hard by making it the first thing you see when you fire up the app… but then it disappears and gets harder and harder to find as time moves on…) While interesting, this is still based on a very small dataset, but it appears to be better than the “anecdata” that Netflix releases themselves…

John Waters bequeaths his art collection to Baltimore Museum of Art, whose bathrooms will be named in his honor – If you find this “honor” to be odd, you need to watch some John Waters movies. It’s perfect.

Fellow Travelers in the Halloween Ways

It seems I’m not the only lunatic that is practicing in the Halloween ways, so let’s take a look at our fellow travelers. You will recognize a few of these as mainstays of the Halloween game, but I’m trying to branch out to some newer folks this year too. Let’s take a spin through ye olde internets and see what people are doing to celebrate the Halloween season.

Old Hands

Film Thoughts – Zack has been a long time practitioner of the Six Weeks of Halloween, and as per usual, he’s watching at an even higher pace than I am and doing writeups nearly every day. This year, he’s been tackling a crapton of the Amityville Horror movies, some Coffin Joe, and much, much moar.

Final Girl – The quasi-annual Shocktober is another countdown of user-submitted votes resulting in… 951 different films. Just blowing previous polls out of the water. Anywho, lots of good stuff going on over there, including some deep dives into particular lists, which is a nice touch.

Horror Movie a Day – Brian Collins doesn’t post a review every day of the year anymore, but he appears to be doing so during the Halloween season. He’s always got an interesting take. HMaD is always a good reference as well, and I do still refer to his book when seeking out themes or more obscure movies to watch. If you find yourself looking for movies beyond the recognized classics, the book is worth checking out!

New Hands

The Dwrayger Dungeon – Seems more focused on spooky television, like this excellent episode of The Twilight Zone called The Howling Man. But will also tackle horror movies like The Beyond. All good stuff, and it appears to strike a good balance between familiar and obscure stuff.

Cinema Crazed – Another blog doing a Halloween Horror series of posts including reviews, like Scare Package, and various roundups, like this roundup of Horror Shorts (which may come in handy while I’m trying to schedule the shorts between movies, as I like to do).

Severed Hands

Joe Nazare – It’s not all movies for the Halloween season. Joe Nazare covers lots of things, including podcasts, book reviews, and even original content, like a two sentence horror story.

LimerWrecks – A series of horror movie themed poetry, complete with screenshots. The movies covered seem to be classics, including a recent bevvy of RKO/Val Lewton favorites.

Countdown to Halloween – If you’re still craving that Halloween punch, this blog has a long list of blogs participating in some form of Halloween marathon. (The new and severed hands in this post mostly came from here.)

Phew, hard to believe we’re already in the homestretch of the Six Weeks of Halloween. This weekend, we plan to watch a few movies starring the Trinity of 80s Scream Queens. However, depending on how Joe Bob’s Halloween Hideway goes, I might call an audible and cover that. I’ll be watching both, so don’t worry. Whichever one I don’t cover on Sunday, I will cover in the traditional Speed Round (just in less detail)).

Link Dump

Another link dump of culled from the depths of ye olde internets.

Sharpest egg kitchen knife in the world – Riveting video that feels a bit like the kinder, gentler, more productive version of HowToBasic. Stick with it to the end. It’s going somewhere you probably don’t expect. If was still a thing, this would get filed under #idontknowwhatthefuckisgoingoninthisvideo.

An Oral History of ‘Steamed Hams,’ the Funniest ‘Simpsons’ Scene Ever Recorded – Sure, they start with the actual writers from the show, but it quickly evolves into interviews with memesters, isometric exercise trainers, food truck owners, chefs, and Aurora Borealis experts.

Stream Resolutions Are Quality Maximums, Not Minimums – A good point about streaming claims, particularly around HD and 4K.

Stream resolution puts a maximum quality on a stream. For a given codec setting, the more bits you allocate to a stream, the better it will look, until eventually it gets to the point where there’s no more quality to be had. A 720P stream will reach this point sooner than a 1080P stream, which will in turn reach it much sooner than a 4K stream.

However, prior to that point, what really matters more is the bandwidth of a stream. A “720P stream” pushing a megabyte/second will be higher in quality than a “4K stream” pushing 800kilobytes/second. It’s completely possible to have a higher quality “lower resolution” stream.

Motion Smoothing Is an Abomination – A solid overview of the problem that gets into some very detailed specifics as to why motion smoothing systems on televisions are so bad. It’s still amazing to me that these are the default settings TV manufacturers use.

EXCLUSIVE: Meghan and Harry’s new home sits behind a spooky estate once owned by the schizophrenic son of the inventor of the mechanical reaper who developed a foot fetish, carrying his slippers in his arms as if they were live pets – Ok, fine, I’ll read your stupid article.

2020: an isolation odyssey – Some people are using their lockdown to do… things like this. Could be a whole lot worse, I guess. Um, spoilers for 2001: A Space Odyssey? I think? Kinda?

That’s all for now. We may have another link dump coming soon, but then smooth sailing. Did you know that the Six Weeks of Halloween are only a few short weeks away? Most exciting!

Link Dump

It’s been a while since our last twirl through the depths of ye olde internets, so let’s get movin with some interesting links:

The Serendipity Engine – Dude quits his job to go on a “serendipity break”:

The concept of taking a serendipity break is based on my belief that luck doesn’t exist and that new, unexpected opportunities can be the result of feeding the Serendipity Engine. …

The Serendipity Engine works just like an internal combustion engine and, like with a high performance muscle car, you need to feed it with the right kind of propellant. In this analogy, the fuel is made of different activities, skills, and conversations. In my case I select them so that they are deliberately out of or tangential to my current professional domain. The engine also requires maintenance and fine tuning via iterations and changes to the activities or skills I become involved with.

I’ve been thinking about serendipity lately because social media used to be a good way to traverse obscure depths of the internet, but has lately become moribund medium. I will grant that maybe I’m no longer following the right people, but that’s also become more difficult. Speaking of this subject:

A Q&A with Rob Walker, Author of The Art of Noticing – This guy has written a book about observation skills and includes lots of exercises. This interview features a couple of good ones:

KPG: If you were going to a new city or destination, which exercises would you recommend trying as a way to better explore a new place?

RW: One would be Get There The Hard way. At least once during your trip, go to some destination without taking directions from your phone. Plan out a route in advance—you can consult a paper map if you want, or written directions, just don’t rely on your phone—and if you get confused, ask someone for help. Be engaged with the space you’re in and the people you’re around, find your way, and be open to discovery as you go.

The other is Eat Somewhere Dubious. Have one meal at a restaurant that you didn’t find on Yelp or through any sort of recommendation and that doesn’t even look trendy or hip. First you’ll have fun keeping an eye out for it: “Is THAT our dubious restaurant?” Second, even if you have a mediocre meal, you’ll have an unpredictable experience! And this, by the way, is how the best food writers make discoveries and find the places that later get hot on Yelp. So maybe you’ll get lucky.

I did a hike recently where the trail wasn’t especially well marked and my phone wasn’t much help. This just underscores how dependent we’ve become on our phones for stuff like directions. The “Eat Somewhere Dubious” idea actually sounds like a lot of fun, and I will have to try it out. I’ve definitely done something like “Drink Dubious Beer” before (i.e. Vermont Beer Roulette or Belgian Beer Roulette), and it’s always been fun, even if I didn’t much care for the beer.

The ’70s Independents Who Took on the Mafia – Overview of 70s gangster/cop flicks from Mike Malloy, who clearly knows his stuff. Naturally, this vid lead me down a rabbit whole of other Malloy videos, notably this one:

I Don’t Need to Ever Read Another F*cking Word About Sergio Leone – Malloy takes on the glut of books about Sergio Leone (and Sam Peckinpah). Unlike a lot of people complaining about this sort of thing, he puts forth examples of other “tough guy” directors who could use some scholarly treatment…

A Theory of Hot Sauces, with Recommendations – I enjoy hot sauces just fine, but I’m always fascinated by posts like this where someone just talks about their favorites. This guy has been using his pandemic lockdown to explore hot sauce:

OK, so one thing I’ve been doing during pandemic era is trying out hot sauces. Like a lot of hot sauces. Like a really unbearably large number of hot sauces. Like setting up hot sauce tastings where lunch is me making sad fish tacos out of my toddler’s abandoned day-old fish sticks but there are 15 different hot sauces to try with it. Like, when I got the new dream job, I was like, “I need to celebrate!” and… immediately went to an online hot sauce store and bought ten new hot sauces. This is apparently how I pandemic when I’m cut off from exploring restaurants and stuff.

As usual when it comes to hot sauces, the grand majority he lists are things I’ve never heard of (again, not an expert here, but still). Incidentally, I’ve been enjoying Hank Sauce; recommended if you’re in the market for reasonable hot sauces (i.e. tasty but not going to burn your face off).

And that’s all for now. Despite the serendipity explorations above, finding links for posts like this is harder than it used to be… We’ll have to work on improving that.