Sunday, October 30, 2016

Mr. Right, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, and Now You See Me 2

Long flights are an opportunity to watch forgotten movies, ranging from the "truly terrible" to the "so bad it's good" to the "weird, lost gems." Being adventurous here can let you see some Films That Time Forgot or at least soon everyone will.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to see a triple feature of modern comedy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Saturday Night Live: Tom Hanks is on Fire, Apparently

Two highly praised skits came out of October 22nd's episode of Saturday Night Live, both featuring veteran actor Tom Hanks. The source of their appeal lends us something to talk about.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Challenge: Question 2

Thing of Things is hosting an Intellectual Turing Test where people mimic a competing ideology. The best thing about it is the way people answer question 2 “ What is the true reason, deep down, that you believe what you believe? What piece of evidence, test, or line of reasoning would convince you that you’re wrong about your ideology?”

Every single respondent has thought deeply about what they believe. They’ve seen studies that back them up, thought about ethical principles, and seen the effects of oppression first hand. But when asked “why do you really believe this? what swayed you so much that it would change your mind if it was contradicted”… they often dissolve into vagueness and “everything shows I’m right!” Everything, of course, can never be disproven.

It’s a fascinating insight into how ideology works. Ideology isn’t formed by realizing our terminal values, or reading a study, it’s a much more osmotic experience than that. It involves quasi-believing things because so many other people we know believe them, and not questioning them *too* much because doing so is uncomfortable (both socially, and to our own identity as a good person.) Like Ra, ideology hates it when you try to pin down terms and reasons too precisely.

I challenge readers to cut through this cloud of vagueness, and write down somewhere, anywhere, What is the true reason deep down that you believe what you believe? What evidence could convince you that you were wrong?

I'll go second.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Book Review: Self Made Man

So I read the book “Self Made Man” by Norah Vincent. And I’m of many minds about it, but anything this interesting deserves to be talked about. ( A free sample you can download, which gives the tone well.)

Update to Previous Post: Leveling

Since people will inevitably ask "what is leveling representative of if not the power fantasy of becoming the ubermensch?" here is an actually considered breakdown of that mechanic in videogames.

Warcraft: Mechanics Criticism

The key to writing good videogame reviews is to not focus too much on the plot as revealed through some cut scenes, but to fold in discussion of mechanics and the interactive experience themselves. But it's completely uninteresting to say "this mechanic was/was not fun" or "this vintage platformer builds on the challenge modes from [other game]" in terms of the mechanics alone. The point is to describe how the mechanics relate to the other themes of the game, and represent a work of art in themselves, complete with ideological explanations.

For instance, this piece about the matchmaking system in World of Warcraft and modernity.

This doesn't mean that any political analysis of mechanics is correct, like the cliche that "leveling up" is just a desire to become the ubermensch or something like that. You still have to do good and correct analysis.

(In the above piece, the author could have taken the time to draw a connection between the Rise of the Bourgeoisie narrative so common in fantasy epics, where various classes are liberated and meritocratic capitalism succeeds overcoming tribal prejudices, and how that relates to the LFG tool deconstructing informal social networks.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016

Been a busy weekend, but I should have a post on the Terminator series up soon. Tuesday or later this week.

Friday, October 14, 2016


This joke of a presidential election has inspired a lot of discussion about empathy. One side emphasizes that empathy is an important trait for people to have, and that people on the other side don't have it. And since the people on the other side lack empathy, we should be free to dehumanize them. Link. Link. Link.

Whatever. People gonna vote the way they gonna vote and it's an irrelevant exercise of powerless protest anyway. What interests us is this discussion of empathy.

Let's take this logic about "empathy makes you good" to it's conclusions. Shouldn't we be able to make, like, a test that can tell how much someone empathizes? And, those who can't empathize, should be neutralized from causing more harm - and if they respond to the threat of neutralization violently, then they will need to be dispatched violently too, right? They're a threat to us, as their violent rebellion shows!

What if we made a movie about that?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I Am Legend (I Am Lonely)

I've talked a lot about Will Smith lately, and also about zombies, so I might as well lay out my thoughts about "the Will Smith zombie movie" which is also an excellent exploration of the nature of isolation that anyone reading this blog can relate to.

We are talking about the Alternate Version that did not see theatrical release (though the meaning of different cuts of movies is worth a post all on its own.) Spoilers for why immediately under the cut.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Office Space: Left

Some of these posts are "in depth analyses of specific scenes and talk about the philosophical concepts they relate to." Other posts are just "everyone knows what is going on here, right?"

Today will be one of the latter, and it's about Office Space.

Quick Review: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

Walter Chaw is correct here in his one-star review, that points out the small Burton-esque side-details are much more intriguing than the centerpieces of the movie.

I'd add that the first half of the movie is generally weird and interesting in a way you usually don't get from YA novels. Florida is shot in a banal, over-saturated way that gives it a whole hyperreal aesthetic reminiscent of the Prequel Trilogy, but also mumblecore classics like American Beauty and Garden State. The main parent is fundamentally broken in a way that isn't cliche or dismissive. And the first few appearances of Eva Green's Miss Peregrine are very disturbing in an overly-possessive mother type way: she will plan every minute of your life every day, to keep you young and innocent forever, and is dismissive of any part of her personality that does not relate to raising children. It's creepy and the whole thing comes together make it seriously questionable whether the protagonist Jake should or would want to stay in this fantasyland.

But then the bad guys show up and everything is off to YA cliche-dom. Of especially disappointing note is that there is a scene (in a Tim Burton movie) where: a skeleton army fights eldritch monsters in an amusement park, and it is drab and unexciting, completely lacking in the phantasmic horror you would expect.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Warcraft: Legion of the Underclass

Okay, a break from TV week to discuss the latest World of Warcraft expansion. Specifically, the top level zone Suramar. Suramar is fucking fantastic.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Seinfeld and God

Seinfeld was the most successful sitcom of the 90's, and has since been denounced as one of the most morally bankrupt pieces of art of the generation. The "show about nothing" to many critics became "nothing matters."

This is completely wrong, and instead Seinfeld provided a valuable contrast between morality and ethics, two words often used interchangeably but importantly different.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ferrante and Reading

Wow, this entire saga about Elena Ferrante insisting on being anonymous so people read her work rather than the ineffable person behind her work says some pretty brilliant things about Ferrante.

It has become natural to think of the author as a particular individual who exists, inevitably, outside the text—so that if we want to know more about what we’re reading we should address that individual, or find out everything about his more or less banal life. Remove that individual from the public eye and, as O’Rourke says, we discover that the text contains more than we imagine. 

Aaaaaaand the literature review industry has just turned Ferrante's anonymity into an object of fetishization itself, to have an idol to discuss (and reel in horror at the violation of) rather than discussing the text of her books.


Marvel's Luke Cage came out this week. I don't want to review it without a chance to think about it for a while, so instead let's talk about the first of these Marvel-Netflix shows (where they released an entire season at once, and based in the Marvel cinematic universe (MCU)) : Daredevil.  It is much moodier, darker, and more visually interesting than an MCU movie (or Agent Carter or Agents of SHIELD), and so in that way it is more like the DC movies we see coming out (Dark Knight, Batman vs Superman). (In contrast, the Flash show might as well be part of the MCU.) 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Love, Actually

Christmas is almost here, and you know what that means. It's the season of thinkpieces about the controversial British romcom "Love, Actually". No, really, the movie is a perennial battleground, whether you love it or hate it. Let's talk about LA - and why it evokes such strong, opposing reactions - now so you have something to link to when arguments about it come up on your dashboard.

Image result for love actually

Crystal Society Heads Up

For those of you who like rationalist serial fiction, you may want to read Crystal Society. The author just announced the release date for Book 2 (January), so this came to mind. For when you've finished (go ahead, we'll wait), or those who have already read it, here's a quick thematic head-check below the fold: