December 2012 Media Thread

by RobertLumley1 min read1st Dec 201246 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 think there should be a thread for a particular genre of media, 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.


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Working out SF consequences:

I have a pet sci-fi setting I use as a handy platform to play with various ideas, such as figuring out what some of the likely consequences would be of relatively easy access to orbit, or applying 'Avatar' remote-control techniques to live people. One question that recently occurred to me is, "Can you have a crossover with another fictional setting, without breaking any known laws of physics?"

The setting includes super-Siris, conversational engines good enough to fool an average, anthropomorphising person (but not true GAIs, since the consequences of /those/ would derail every other hypothetical in the setting). Throw in some full-sensory VR, and it seems plausible for someone to not only exchange email with a conversation-bot Captain Kirk, but get shown to the captain's quarters... And, depending on what the setting is, there are various rationales to explain how the VR-naut happens to be visiting that 'universe'. With realistic robots, even 'visits' the other way could be arranged: "Have a real Spider-Man at your birthday party!"

The Rule 34 potential is obvious; but I'm trying to come up with what /other/ consequences would result from such tech. How would marriages change? The labor force? Military simulations and operations?

How would /you/ go about thinking up interesting and/or useful extrapolations, for this idea in particular or for such ideas in general?

A lot of jobs that largely involve smiling at customers while performing routine functions would be obsolete: greeters, cashiers, receptionists. Having live receptionists could be retained as a status signal.

Rapid post-scarcity (of most stuff) would happen, with AI good enough to make most goods and VR good enough to simulate others. Examples of that in fiction would be The Diamond Age (great book), Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (not great). Or for a more dystopian take, see Manna.

If you have good conversational engines then asking some sort of siri-oracle questions and having an ongoing conversation with ti would eb a much more effective way of accessing information than reading articles. Plug one into wikipedia and you have a theoretically perfect teacher. [Though how easily these engines programmes can take in new information is something you'd have to decide.]

No January 2013 thread?

Sorry, I'll make one. I've been busy and haven't been particularly motivated outside of work recently.

Suggestion: Categories for fanfiction, webcomics, short online texts, and online videos.

Edit: poll added as per request:

Would you like a category for fanfiction? [pollid:261]

Would you like a category for online video? [pollid:262]

Would you like a category for short online texts? [pollid:263]

I strongly recommend The Sun Shone on Venus, a fanfic sequel to Bradbury's All Summer in a Day. Both of them are short stories. While I think the sequel would appeal to just about anyone, it fits in nicely with some LessWrongian themes.

Separate categories?

Like the current categories of "Fiction books", "Nonfiction books", and "Movies/Television". Recommendations is a much more valuable service in regards to free but obscure online content than well known content that needs to be bought.

I'm willing to do this, but it is more work for me to create more threads every month. Could you please add a poll (as a response to the original Meta thread comment) with yes/no on each of these categories?

A new poll might have garnered more attention via recent comments. But hopefully this will get some. If it doesn't get much response, I'll post one at the start of next month's thread.

Other Media Thread

For cookbooks, I've been using a lot of Cooks Illustrated. While most cookbooks reprint recipes that someone developed and which work pretty well, Cooks Illustrated does something like 30 different test runs of a recipe with small variations to recommend which version works best.

The recipes are behind a paywall on the CI site, but you can usually find them reposted on other sites if you search for "Cooks Illustrated popovers" or whatever.

Seconded. Several cookbooks are also published by CI under the 'America's Test Kitchen' name; I can recommend in particular the America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, which I've been using with great success for several years.

I just got done reading Uzumaki, or as I like to call it, the lulziest horror manga ever. It was deliciously twisted (pun very much intended). Note however that I'm somewhat of a nightmare fetishist, so your mileage might vary.

I have been listening to Sagisu's Evangelion 3.0 OST (in lieu of camsubs of the actual movie); it's pretty good and has some nice pieces, although it's not as excellent as his 2.0 OST was.

Television and Movies Thread

A buddy got himself a full set of James Bond films(except Skyfall). First one was made in 1962, last one in 2008.

Watching them one after another feels a little like time travel. The technology! The cars! The fashion! The furnishings! The hair! Even the behaviour, you can see them all changing at 10000x the actual speed. Try it yourself, tell me what you think.

Um, no, actually. The sexism hardly changed at all from '62 to '08. Or in Skyfall, for that. That's why there's the generic term "a Bond girl"; it's a remarkably frozen stereotype.

Well... Yeah. You do have a point there.

I'm giving you a night call to tell you how I feel
I want to drive you through the night, down the hills
I'm gonna tell you something you don't want to hear
I'm gonna show you where it's dark, but have no fear...

Drive is a masterpiece. It's not really a crime thriller or an ultraviolence/exploitation movie. Part noir fairytale, part postmodern myth (playing with archetypes and cliches), part character drama, it has brilliance and precision in every shot.

(Recently there's been an indie arcade game inspired by it, Hotline Miami, but it focuses heavily on the ultraviolence part and the tone is really different, more delirous and schizophrenic. I also recommend it, both for the aesthetics and the gameplay. People have been whining about how difficult it is, but for me the gameplay is really delightful in that it's about combining action reflexes with split-second tactical puzzles, and mere pattern memorization won't help you stop dying.

There's also the soundtrack. It makes both the movie and the game what they are, it's just too mesmerizing for words.)

P.S. Damn, if only I could've watched it two months ago! Could've had that jacket for my birthday :( I know it might be shallow and consumerist of me to, but damn, I want it. I do have the looks to pull it off.

Watched Boogiepop Phantom. Much more comprehensible the second time around. Joshiraku was a disappointment.

お誕生日おめでとう、アスカ! Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!

Damn, I'd enter an acausal deal with an UFAI if it promised to support interdimensional marriage...

[-][anonymous]9y 3

In honor of this comment (well, and because my boyfriend bought them for Christmas) I watched Evangelion 1.11: You are (not) alone and Evangelion 2.22: You can (not) advance.

Without spoiling too much, let me just say that they are everything I ever wanted from the Evangelion franchise. They are visually stunning, and the CGI is spectacularly well-blended with the hand-drawn bits. It may very well be the most well-drawn anime to date.

The first two movies cover most of the plot from the original series up to episode 24, but practically every filler episode has been omitted. Sadly, this means most of Ritsuko's character has to be cut, but -- just like Gendo -- I'm willing to sacrifice her to attain this result. All of the old mysteries have been more or less clarified to my satisfaction, though a few new ones are now being introduced.

Many of the English voice actors have returned -- most importantly, Tiffany Grant and Spike Spencer. Ritsuko's new VA has a much deeper voice than the old one, which was somewhat disorienting but still okay. The only criticism I have regarding the English cast is that Gendo's VA tried too hard to match the old catchphrases, but then reinterpreted the character everywhere else.

In terms of lore, we now have much more canonical translations for various sticking points in the original series. For example: what does it mean when an Eva "neutralizes the phase space" with its AT field? Now, we can more-or-less confidently say -- it "breaks through" the enemy's AT field, instead of the more vague "eroding it."

Most of the main cast has taken at least one (and in Misato's case, several) levels of rationalist. As shocked as I was by various other sources claiming Shinji had become a badass, I have to agree with them.

I'd be interested to know if anyone had watched Rebuild before seeing the original series.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

She's thirteen in most timelines!

Legality is just a time-skip away. If it works for Gurren Lagann...

EDIT: dammit Rebuild 3.0! That was a joke!

Fiction Books Thread

David Zindell's sci-fi trilogy A Requiem for Homo Sapiens contains many themes relevant to LessWrong: gur znc vf abg gur greevgbel, fhcrevagryyvtrag NVf, vagryyvtrapr nzcyvsvpngvba, rgp. The trilogy is set in the same world as Neverness, after the events of that book, but they can be read independently, and I like the trilogy better, personally.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Finally got around to reading Iain Banks' Player of Games.

I don't have much to say about it. Superficially similar to Das Glasperlenspiel, but with an altogether different message. The climax is sadly underwritten.

Nonfiction Books Thread

I read The Beginnings of Western Science for a class. It's excellent and I recommend it to anyone interested in the history of science.

What other history of science books does it compare favorably to?

It covers very similar material as the first two parts of Russell's A History of Western Philosophy, since for a long time there was little distinction between philosophy and natural philosophy. I've only read parts of Russell's book but Lindberg does a better job.

We also read Mott Greene's Natural Knowledge in Preclassical Antiquity, which was also excellent but much more specialized. I found its discussion of Hesiod's volcanos fascinating.

The rest of the books focused on later stuffsies.

"The Emperor of Scent" was a very entertaining and well written book about Alan Turin and his vibrational theory of scent. It really highlighted some of the problems with the scientific community's model for publishing and how theories are accepted, and it's a great read as well.

In descending order of quality:

  • The Signal and the Noise
  • The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament
  • Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World
  • Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy

Would you care to give some indication of their quality in terms other than comparison to one another?

Well, if you want more I suppose you could look at my Goodreads account. For Silver, I excerpted each chapter.

Aha. So, for the benefit of others who are curious, Gwern gave Cowen and Ehrman 4 stars (out of 5), Cowen 2 stars, and Hayes 3 stars. That's somewhat informative. The excerpts are interesting too. Thanks!

This would be more helpful if I knew which of those authors wrote which of the books in the great-grandparent.

  • Silver: The Signal and the Noise
  • Ehrman: The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament
  • Cowen: Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World
  • Hayes: Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy