September 2012 Media Thread

by RobertLumley1 min read4th Sep 201284 comments


Personal Blog

This is the monthly thread for posting media of various types that you've found that you enjoy. I find that exposure to LW ideas makes me less likely to enjoy some entertainment media that is otherwise quite popular, and finding media recommended by LWers is a good way to mitigate this. Post what you're reading, listening to, watching, and your opinion of it. Post recommendations to blogs. Post whatever media you feel like discussing! To see previous recommendations, check out the older threads.


  • Please avoid downvoting recommendations just because you don't personally like the recommended material; remember that liking is a two-place word. If you can point out a specific flaw in a person's recommendation, consider posting a comment to that effect.
  • If you want to post something that (you know) has been recommended before, but have another recommendation to add, please link to the original, so that the reader has both recommendations.
  • Please use the comment trees for genres. There is a meta thread for comments about future threads.
  • If you have a thread to add, such as a video game thread or an Anime thread, please post it to the Other Media thread for now, and add a poll to the Meta thread asking if it should be a thread every month.


84 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 12:04 AM
New Comment
Some comments are truncated due to high volume. (⌘F to expand all)Change truncation settings

Non Fiction Books Thread

5djcb9yQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking [] - Susan Cain A book on introverts in a world where extroversion is the norm, how introverts can better deal with that world, and how extroverts should make better use of the special qualities that introverts possess. Sadly, the book is typical example of the Malcolm Gladwell school of writing, with a mix of some research, wide extrapolations and the author's ideas all mixed up. And descriptions of how the researchers look -- really?! I actually think the book /has/ a point, and I think some of the 'findings' make sense; but perhaps a magazine article would be enough for this?
6RichardKennaway9yTo me, that amounts to "not worth reading". Every book of this sort has a point, and some of its findings will always "make sense". That's just part of the same marketing template, as is the "Catchy Title: Subtitle From Which You Can Extrapolate The Entire Contents Before Opening The Book" title. It's the title that's the giveaway. It will put off people who don't like the message from picking the book up at all, thus planting a positive bias into the reviews and word of mouth. It also primes every favourably disposed reader with the message, making its arguments to that end "make sense".
0djcb9yIndeed these books seem to be engineered for effect (Gladwell is an absolute master at that). Slightly 'unexpected' conclusions that go well with the readers' cherished beliefs, and optimized for short attention spans.
0Emile9yI agree that's an unfortunate tendancy; I'm currently reading Nassim Taleb's "Fooled by Randomness" and it has a bit of the same problem.
1djcb9yI wouldn't say Taleb is part of the MGSoW though. Taleb has some good points, the biggest obstacle I have with enjoying his books is the author's pretentiousness.
4palladias9yI enjoyed Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages [] . I liked it best for being a tour through the way linguists and cogsci people refined their methodologies (or how much data it took to force them to), more than as a study of cutting edge conclusions.
3Vaniver9ySocial Perception and Social Reality [] : Why Accuracy Dominates Bias and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy looks like it might be interesting, but I haven't read it yet. (The basic premise is that an unbiased look at the psychological literature confirms that stereotypes are generally accurate and biases generally weak and fleeting.)
0lukeprog9yVia Davis Kingsley I was introduced to An Elementary Approach to Thinking Under Uncertainty [] , a little textbook that does a pretty good job of helping students apply the cogsci of rationality to their everyday lives, stuffed full with examples and exercises (which could be a gold mine for CFAR, honestly).

Recently had someone ask for a good SF novel that features/heavily uses quantum mechanics. I couldn't think of any that doesn't rely on a Copenhagen Interpretation mechanic (even Greg Egan's Quarantine is based off Copenhagen). Any suggestions?

Fiction Books Thread

7pragmatist9yThis is probably old hat to a lot of people here, but I recently discovered Ted Chiang and he is fantastic. Genuinely mind-expanding fiction, in the vein of Borges. A couple of specific recommendations, with links to electronic versions, although you should really just buy this book [] : The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate [,22867,22867] - The best time travel story ever! Exhalation []
6shminux9yJust finished The Name of the Wind []. Lots of great passages, but not enough sweetness and too much bitterness for my taste in fantasy. The retelling of the story by a dispirited hero is an unfortunate format, as we already know that he does not really win in the end. Hopefully the sequel [] is better, if I am to believe an Amazon reviewer that "most of the book is about Kvothe having sex and learning how to fight and having sex with people who train him to fight or fight with him."
6JoshuaZ9yYeah, the second book has some pretty downer aspects. There's one bit which may particularly interest LW people in that it can be considered n zrgncube sbe jung n ernyyl znyvpvbhf benpyr NV zvtug qb.
3NexH9yV nyfb sbhaq n irel fgebat fvzvynevgl jvgu n znyvpvbhf naq gehgushy Obkrq NV jura ernqvat gur rkcynangvba bs Onfg. Gur nanybtl vf abg cresrpg, ohg vg jnf irel vagrerfgvat naq cnffviryl nevfvat.
0tgb9yI find that gur Pgurnu vf fb nofheqyl cbjreshy gung V pna'g uryc ohg srry gung gur fgbel vf nyernql bire. Gurl'er cynlvat jvgu n tbq urer, naq guvf vfa'g fbzr Terrx tbq shyy bs uhzna sbyyvrf; vg'f n gehyl nyvra, znyribyrag, naq bzavfpvrag orvat. Nsgre gung, jung pna cbffvoyl unccra? Gur Cngevpx Ebgushff jvyy unir gb onpxgenpx gb znxr gur fgbel zrnavatshy; vagebqhpr fbzr bgure cbjre gung gur Pgurnu pnaabg cerqvpg, be tvir vg uvqqra zbgvirf bgure guna cher znyribyrapr.
1JoshuaZ9yJr qba'g xabj npghnyyl xabj ubj cbjreshy Pgurnu vf. Jr whfg xabj jung pregnva tebhcf guvax bs vg. Vg znl ghea bhg gung vgf novyvgl gb znavchyngr vf zber yvzvgrq guna crbcyr guvax. Tvira gung gur erfcbafr bsgra hfrq vf gb xvyy nalbar jub unf nal pbagnpg jvgu vg ng nyy, gur ahzore bs npghny grfgrq riragf sbe vgf orunivbe znl or fznyy.
1iDante9yI liked both. We don't know that he doesn't win in the end, we just know that he's at a low point in his life in the present (waiting to die). Hopefully the third book will involve this present story more. Rothfuss could end it on a really strong note if Kvothe gains back some of his former awesome.
7gwern9yI would be pretty shocked if he didn't; there's no way The Ending will be Kvothe saying "and then I fled the city with my savings, came here, and opened an inn" as he turns away to wash some mugs.
6shminux9yWe have a prediction!
8gwern9yOh good grief. Fine: []
5shminux9yStarted 50 Shades of Grey []. So far it reads like Twilight, only Bella is 21 and Edward is a tycoon.
4MugaSofer9yIIRC, 50 shades started life as Twilight fanfic.
3shminux9yAh, thanks, should have checked Wikipedia first. It explains a lot.
6MugaSofer9ySays a lot about your literary criticism skills, though.
-2shminux9yNot sure what this cheap shot was for.
9pragmatist9yI read it as a compliment. MugaSofer is impressed by the fact that you made an assessment of the similarity between the two novels that is borne out by facts of which you were unaware. It would be like someone listening to a piece of music they haven't heard before and saying "Sounds like Debussy", and it turns out it was Debussy.
2MugaSofer9yI meant it as a compliment, yes. Sorry if I was unclear :-(
0[anonymous]9yFinished... A rather unexpected ending for me, even in retrospect. Hope they make a movie out of it.
2MixedNuts9yI don't think Meyer is portraying abstinence wrong in Twilight.
0shminux9yWhat do you mean?
2MixedNuts9yTwilight and Fifty Shades of Grey have many similarities. However, they differ in their treatment of sexuality. The sexual attitude Meyer wants her characters to follow - that is, the attitude the male lead promotes and the female lead complies to - is one whose principles Meyer knows, that is widespread, discussed, and endorsed in a culture Meyer is part of, and that she wishes to portray realistically yet positively. This is because she hopes Twilight will make this sexual behavior - abstinence - more appealing, rather than the reverse. James has no such goal in Fifty Shades, and thus no such need to portray her characters' sexual behavior, morality, or culture in any way but the one she believes will attract readers.
-2shminux9yThat was not at all my reading of it. An ordinary 17-year old girl manages to stand up to her 90-year old (though looking 17) first boyfriend who is much stronger, smarter, richer and more attractive, effectively bending him to her will. Quite unbelievable, actually. As I mentioned before, Bella is the only real magical character in the whole story.
4gwern9yI forgot to post in the August thread, so I'll do it here. I read Fallout: Equestria over a few days, and it was actually really good. (Way better than the current rationalist MLP fic.)
2Vaniver9yMy opinion, as posted earlier []:
0Alicorn9yI'm not enjoying it as much as I thought I might. It seems basically competent, but the writing doesn't propel me along. (The rationalist MLP fic does so propel.)
3gwern9yMm, I would've said the exact opposite. Admittedly the first 100 pages or so are slow. (IIRC, quanticle said something similar after reading it per my recommendation. He liked it a lot.)
0quanticle9yAs gwern states in a sibling post, once Littlepip starts assembling her party, the story starts proceeding along nicely. If you've gotten past the introduction of the first two party members, and you still think it's slow, then I'd suggest skipping it.
2Anatoly_Vorobey9yI continue re-reading Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series of nautical historical novels set during the Napoleonic wars in early 19th century. These are probably the best historical novels ever written, and I see them as one of the great achievements of 20th century literature. I read three of these last month, finishing with The Far Side of the World. Every page brings delight, and instills a fuller, richer sense of life than almost any other book I've read in years.
0mantis9yI have not yet read any of the novels in that series, but I did see Peter Weir's film of The Far Side of the World during its theatrical run. If you've seen it, would you say it was a good adaptation of the novel?
0Anatoly_Vorobey9yIt was a good movie, but it wasn't really an adaptation of the novel. It combined several scenes from two different novels in the series, and out of necessity imposed by the format, it wove them into a very straightforward plot with far less complex characters than in the books. I enjoyed the movie, but I enjoyed the books far far more.
0mantis9yThanks! I'll have to get hold of the first book and see how I like it -- unless there's a better place to begin reading the series? Does the publication order match the internal chronology?
0Anatoly_Vorobey9yYeah, the order is the same. The novels typically include enough background, so you can start at something other than the first one if you particularly want to, but there's no good reason to do that.
1DataPacRat9yRecommendation: the novel 'Spur', by Phil Geusz Our protagonist has accepted being cursed into the shape of a horse, taking the place of a wealthy man in exchange for luxuries and lots of monthly cash. The wealthy man dies - and to his horror, our hero finds he is still a horse. Events escalate, secrets are revealed, personal growth happens. While not exactly dedicated to Bayesianism or even just rationality, the climax involves the expression of a sentiment familiar to any reader of HPMoR [] who's gotten to the bits about dementors, and seems to express it quite well in terms readers more familiar with fantasy than science-fiction can appreciate, which could form a stepping-stone to dealing with the idea of existential risks in the real world. Discovered through this review []. Available through Lulu [] or Amazon [] for $15, or as a PDF [] or HTML [] ebook for $6.
1dbaupp9y(I think you missed copying the title of the story!)
0Kawoomba9yVilcabamba, by Harry Turtledove [], link goes to the free to read short story. Similar scenario to The War of the Worlds, excluding the deus ex machina ending.
1NancyLebovitz9yIf you want something more sophisticated on the subject, try William Tenn's "The Liberation of Earth".
0MixedNuts9yReview: Ugh, heaps of exposition in a vague point of view ladled at the beginning and throughout. This is far below Turtledove's usual style. It's also pretty heavy-handed. (Why do two characters stop pondering a diplomacy problem to say "My, the main themes of this story are colonization and doomed resistance!"?) Stories of occupation, colonization, and life after defeat are always interesting and we need more of those. This story shows cultural assimilation really well. (The star above the left shoulder!) On the one hand, I really like that the empire plot is done with aliens, who usually prefer mass murder to conquest. On the other hand, I can't see what this adds; the Krolps are just humans in funny suits. Possibly it's to make invasion of the US plausible. Anyway, there's nothing wrong with soft SF. The end keeps within the theme, but I find it unsatisfying, as if he tried to write a tragedy arc in a style that calls for suspense or something along those lines. Overall, nice plot, not too well handled.
0NancyLebovitz9yI'm not sure how they'd count on a rationalism-o-meter, but I've enjoyed Kadrey's Sandman Slim novels tremendously. Premise: a man is taken alive into Hell, and put to fighting in the arena. Every injury makes an invulnerable scar. He escapes to LA to get revenge on his fellow magicians who sent him to Hell and killed his girlfriend. As might be predicted, he has a wiseass sense of humor. Violence, confrontations, metaphysics, and snark-- if that's what you want, there are four medium-large novels worth of it. The first three are one story arc, and the fourth is a complete story.

Movies and Television Thread

I really liked the premise of Awake (starring Jason Isaacs, who you may know better as Lucius Malfoy). A detective is in a car accident that kills either his wife or his son. After he wakes up after the accident, he doesn't have a subjective experience of sleeping. His world has bifurcated into two parallel worlds: one in which his wife is alive and one in which his son is. The two different psychologists he's been assigned to in the different worlds have different strategies for convincing him the other world is a delusion.

1gwern9yThat sounds like a cool premise, but how is the actual movie?
1palladias9yIt's a cancelled tv series, and it's variable. The crimes he solves as a detective are boring, but his interaction with the two shrinks was interesting the whole way through and I found some of their proposed experiments very inventive. The solution isn't great, but the approach to problem solving was. And Isaacs is great.

Why can't people make TV shows about cool characters and premises without attaching them to annoying procedurals?

4Alejandro19yExcellent question; I have dropped both "Alcatraz" and "Person of Interest" after a couple of episodes because of this problem. Three hypothesis: a) The procedural formula is easier to pull off successfully with limited writing talent. b) Having a handful of permanent characters and the rest be one-offs is cheaper in terms of casting than a complex plot with many, layered recurring characters. c) We are atypical, and most people prefer the comforting, predictable procedural formula. (In particular, it allows for tuning in and out of a show missing episodes here and there with no great loss.)
3drethelin9yTo be fair, using information from alternate worlds is an interesting spin on procedural, if you do it right.
1FiftyTwo9yIndependent of Alejandro1's good suggestions I have a thought about the pacing and lastability of premises for TV shows. I suspect it would be very difficult for an exploration of just that premise to be stretched out into a full length tv series and would likely be more suited to a standalone novel or movie. Similar for a lot of other tv show premises that are attached to more generic shows.* If the main characters devoted their sole attention to resolving the premise it would be implausible for them not to resolve it within a few episodes, meaning they can't play with it anymore or have to resolve some of the interesting ambiguity of it. Other examples of the top of my head would be Life on Mars, Tru Calling, contrast to say Primer where the premise is the entirety of the plot, but its over much quicker. Why they want shows that last a long time rather than one shots probably comes down to the economics of the television industry, which I don't know much about.
0Alicorn9yThere should be more miniserieses anyway. (Tru Calling's on my to-watch list; would you recommend it?)
1FiftyTwo9yI watched a few episodes and found it enjoyable but not enthralling. Each episode was good in a self contained way but didn't get far enough in to see if they resolved the longer term threads well. Tempted to rewatch it myself now.
0Kindly9yThat's pretty much what I would say. The second season had more of an arc, but it doesn't get resolved.
3shminux9yA Clockwork Orange []: are an accidental error during therapy (the choice of music) and a poor post-release follow-up supposed to be taken as some kind of a morality message?
7MixedNuts9yOur very own Yvain, Against dystopias, pt 1 []
0badger9yThe Imposter [\(2012_film\]) is a recent documentary about a French man who convinces a Texas family he is their missing teen. Great case study in rationalization, hypothesis-privileging, and psychopathy. The question of what actually happened to Nicholas, the missing teen, looks like a good place to practice the use of Bayes.
4oliverbeatson9yRegina Spektor, I've been discovering her stuff over the last few months and I've reached the point where I know roughly all of it. As I think is expected in this thread, all I can really offer here is possibility that blog-reading choices vaguely correlate with musical preferences. Her lyrics are pretty non-inane, especially upon repeated listening. Her variance of musical style is pleasing to me, makes it fun to play and listen to. Nothing especially Less Wrong-y, but I might be forgetting something. Though I don't think I know any composer at all who's (consistently) Less Wrong-y. She has a wild imagination and has written songs about being robots []. She's one of those artists whose discography is a tapestry of varied and wonderful worlds that I can never really appreciate unless I'm in the process of listening to it, always a process of both rediscovery and familiarity. (She often writes in the first-person as non-Regina people, from fiction, the bible, or anonymous people; more than half of her songs are probably from the perspective of a different person). There are also lots of moments in her various songs that strike me in the right way, that capture some complex emotion I had never put into words, which gives her songs a sense of salience and intelligence. Some especially enjoyable songs: Us [] very uplifting, makes you think; Call Them Brothers [] the man singing is her husband, I like the eeriness; The Party [], uplifting, pretty; All the Rowboats [], she makes cute noises, quite fast. Back of a Truck [], from her unusually jazzy first album. Disclosure: I play and especially like piano so appear to be skewed towards liking such artists.
1Bill_McGrath9yI quite like Regina Spektor! I was first introduced to her as being "like the Dresden Dolls without the vitriol" - not a totally accurate description but not far off. The Dresden Dolls are good fun, and some of Amanda Palmer's solo work has some great moments.
-1occlude9yYou're not alone. I also find her music strangely compelling.
1Multiheaded9yI have never been into classical music (my impression having been that it all sounds same-y, with the exception of Wagner, who is totally BOSS). But today I stumbled upon Shostakovich's 8th Symphony [] (1943) and a commentary [] to it by a French scholar of music. So sublime and stirring! Look at some videos or pictures of the Battle of Stalingrad while listening. Recommended related reading: Stalingrad [] by Anthony Beevor, and A Writer at War [] by Vasily Grossman, with Beevor's excellent translation. I've read both - damn good, with an uncommon understanding of Russia and what the War meant and still means for us. As a Russian patriot (well... of a sort), I must say that Beevor deserves a medal from our government, not its slander [].
0djcb9yAh, thanks to your recommendation I picked up Beevor's Stalingrad, and I really liked the book. The writer tries hard to be balanced and correct (with a lot of sources from different sides); yet the story never ceases to captivate the reader, and never loses the overall view of the horrors of the battle.
-1APMason9yBob Dylan's new album ("Tempest") is perfect. At the time of posting, you can listen to it free on the itunes store. I suggest you do so. On another note, I'm currently listening to all the Miles Davis studio recordings and assembling my own best-of list. It'll probably be complete by next month, and I'll be happy to share the playlist with anyone who's interested.
-1a_sandwich9yI’m excited about two things in September. 1. Animal Collective’s “Centipede Hz.” Years of sampling all kinds of indie rock have left me with only a handful of bands I still check on, and this act is one of them. I haven’t heard the record yet (waiting for my vinyl copy) but have passed the time lolling at this: The new album may not cohere like MPP, but we need to accept the possibility of a record so excellent we don’t understand it yet [] 2. T-ara’s Sexy Love []. My favorite Kpop band. This guy [] talks about them better than I can. I don’t like it as much as their last two singles, Day by Day [] and Lovey Dovey [] but I hope it does well in the charts. They have been having a rough [] time [] lately [] .
0a_sandwich9yThis is clearly the first time I've tried to use HTML. Sorry.
4gwern9yIt's not HTML, it's Markdown. See the 'Show help' button on every comment form.

Other Media Thread

2cousin_it9yThe webcomic Prequel [], which started as a fan mspaintadventure, is becoming better. The last few updates are great.
2lukeprog9yI've found that I like platformers with very hard but short levels (so you don't lose a ton of progress when you die, and can thus die hundreds of times trying to beat a single level without getting too frustrated). Recently: League of Evil [] (the sequel isn't as good, unfortunately) and Super Meat Boy [].
7curiousepic9yDon't go anywhere near Spelunky [].
2[anonymous]9yThis is probably significantly simpler than any of the other suggestions or even the games you were playing, but instantly thought of Hello Worlds! [], which I personally enjoyed playing through.
0[anonymous]9ySuper Hexagon [] warps my perspective, though it's not a traditional platformer. In my first 30 minutes of playing, I managed 26 seconds.
-1tgb9yVVVVVV [] might be your cup of tea; it certainly was mine. Fantastic music too.
0Rain9ySuper Hexagon [] (iOS) warps my perspective. In my first 30 minutes of playing, I managed 26 seconds.
0ShardPhoenix9yIf you liked any of the previous Counter-Strike games, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a good (albeit conservative) update, and also quite cheap on Steam.
-1Risto_Saarelma9yI've been playing The Binding of Isaac [] by Edmund McMillen of Super Meat Boy fame a lot lately. The gameplay is a mix of Smash TV style twin stick arena shooter and the multi-room dungeons from the original Legend of Zelda. The content is randomized, games are quick and you will die a lot. There is also a surprising amount of depth from the various random item drops that change your character. The story is a cheerful mix of deranged biblical occultism and (often literal) dead baby humor.