July 2012 Media Thread

by RobertLumley1 min read1st Jul 201240 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, which I was apparently too dumb to do.
  • 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.


40 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 12:23 AM
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Rather than come into a post and downvote every comment, it is better to avoid posts you don't much care for. (mentioned after seeing every comment here going down by one point)

That happens every month. It's usually only once, so I'm guessing it's just one guy who does it consistently, so I wouldn't expect it to change. (I notice because mine goes down by 7 every time)

During my mass book cataloguing on Goodreads, I was reminded how much I liked Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. So I re-read it and for good measure, I watched the movie too. (The movie, IMO, was pretty good if often blunt and the ending especially so.)

What struck me this time through was the ending of the novel: the butler has come to realize that his life has been suboptimal and less joyful than it could have been because he shunned Miss Kenton and denied his emotions out of a misguided sense of professionalism. But instead of the typical Hollywood ending where he woos Miss Kenton or quits his job etc., he realizes that it really is too late: his and Miss Kenton's day is almost over, and the important thing to do is make the most of 'the remains of the day', which for him is returning to his butlering job but being less rigid and more human.

It is, in other words, a beautiful tale of not honoring sunk costs or pursuing lost opportunities.

Since I can't remember if I've watched this, I'll check it out.

Never Let Me Go was not a great movie, but was still fun. The book was better (even though the story/concept is flawed).

I didn't watch the Never Let Me Go movie, but my impression was similar: stylistically it's excellent as expected of Ishiguro, but the actual SF is pretty inept, though a cute twist on the old Niven organ donation theme.

Never saw the movie but loved the book.

I read this book a few years ago, I really loved it. It's the most English book I've ever read, he portrays the stereotype of proper behaviour and professionalism so convincingly.

Other Media Thread

I purchased the Humble Indie Bundle in its latest incarnation, and was most impressed with the action RPG "Bastion." The game-play is very satisfying on a visceral level, they did an excellent job making the control scheme intuitive. This game excels in creating atmosphere, it uses a narrator for significant portions of the in-game experience who responds to all of your actions, and it works very well. The superb soundtrack and art only add to the joy of just playing. One thing I really liked was how the game gives you plenty of tools to accomplish your tasks and optimize your character, this is a game you can genuinely play differently depending on your own style. The way they handle difficulty levels reflects the ability to personalize as well, instead of having set levels, you activate Gods at a shrine to increase certain game play-relevant difficulties (monster speed, no free potions, etc.). The only real annoyances were that a couple of the weapons were clearly inferior to other options, or at least I haven't found a use for them yet (the flamethrower is somewhat underwhelming), and that the secret skills didn't have a whole lot of relevance to character success.

I got the bundle too, mostly to get Bastion. I'm a bit conflicted about it though. It's got a really unique, consistent and beautiful visual style, the dynamic narrator is great use of multimedia, and the soundtrack is moody and good. There's interesting worldbuilding and the writing works.

Then there's the game itself about a guy running around in a maze smashing and blasting shit to pieces and collecting loot. None of the neat stuff really ties into this in any significant way. It's just smash, shoot, kill boss, beat level, with the occasional fancy setpiece like a barge ride. Beyond one or two hints about how to beat specific enemies, even the dynamic narration seemed to have minimal impact for what you try to accomplish during gameplay. It's fun, but the exact same gameplay would fit right in in some utterly tired and horribly written space-marine-must-kill-all-aliens story. So many games succeeding by having a top-notch quality in the non-interactive window dressing feels a bit like if the board game enthusiasts would keep going crazy over things that slightly rehash Monopoly, but come packaged with a really compelling thematic graphic novel.

Maybe I've just been reading too much Keith Burgun, or am cranky because I can code minimal games but can't do music or digital painting.

They Might Be Giants are fun and there's a decent chance you've heard them with out realizing (Several theme songs including Malcolm in the Middle some of the music from Coraline, several of the songs used in Tiny Toon Adventures, and the version of Istanbul not Constantinople that people actually know about). They've put several of their official videos on youtube, particle man is a good example of classic TMBG, can't keep Johny Down is one of there better new adult songs. They've also recently created an education children's album called Here Comes Science which might be good for young rationalists.

Upvoted - musically and lyrically a great band. Great for adults, great for kids - they cover all bases.

Your formatting on this is messed up. I think you need to escape some characters in the URL maybe?

Thanks it looks like I mixed up the square brackets and parens.

No particular thread to the last month's music. Rising From The Red Sand has been suitable headphone listening - a series of five early industrial compilation cassettes. At the time I'm sure they were ridiculously obnoxious noise that thoroughly distressed people at the time, and they now sound like relaxation music. I'll shortly be starting on the complete run of Fast Forward, an early '80s cassette magazine, from back when having the means of production even to that degree was that ridiculously radical.

For optimal music appreciation, I recommend the website RadioTuna. It features a list of free online streaming radio stations, arranged by genre. You can also search by station, or by currently playing artists.

They file under genre according to their own analysis of what the station plays, not according to how the station markets itself. Though there are other online services to stream music online, the benefits of RadioTuna are that it is

  • available worldwide (as far as I can tell) and features radio stations from all over; unlike Pandora which is unavailable in many countries (including where I live)
  • the way it's organised into genres and sub-genres mean you can start listening to a style of music you want to know more about without knowing any of the artists or terminology.

For example, a little over a year ago I decided I wanted to know more about Jamaican Ska - I found an appropriate station on RadioTuna, specifically playing first-wave jamaican ska, not the other derived genres, and left it on in the background while doing other stuff on my computer. Any time I heard a song I liked, I could just click into my DJ and see who it was by (without having to wait around for announcers to name the song and artist, or risk missing the announcement or mishearing it) - I now have a modest but working knowledge of Jamaican Ska music.

available worldwide (as far as I can tell) and features radio stations from all over; unlike Pandora which is unavailable in many countries (including where I live)

FWIW, I use Pandora and it is very similar. This is an obvious advantage, but if you have access to Pandora, I'm not sure which is better.

Back when Pandora first launched and was available in Ireland, I remember that it required you to put in an artist/song you liked and it would seek out similar music based on that artist/song's features - this approach seems to be slightly different in that you don't need to know any artists to start off with.

Though, now that I think about it, I'm probably more concerned with musical genre than a lot of casual listeners, and perhaps everyone is not aware of what the genre they are seeking is called. So this may only be of benefit to a minority of people.

I believe Pandora will let you go by genre.

Fair enough, in that case the only real advantage I can see (without first-hand knowledge of Pandora) is availability outside of the US.

Recently, I have been digging Andy Williams far more than anyone my age and sharing my other musical tastes ought to.

Nonfiction Books Thread

I read Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect, which discusses his Stanford prison experiment, such a strong meme... It was interesting to read some of the details about the experiment, but it becomes very clear that the whole experiment never really shows anything beyond 'hmm, that's interesting'. There's no control-group, the researcher actively plays a role in the experiment, and the whole thing ended after only a few days.... From that, Zimbardo has made his career...

After that, the book goes to some real-life cases such as the Abu-Graib prison abuse, where Zimbardo wields his universal hammer once more.. Overall, a lot of interesting things in this book, but still I found it a bit lacking...

I read Cialdini's Influence after liking a passage quoted here a little bit ago.

My view is that almost all of it is quite good and definitely worth reading. There are two reasons I hesitate to give it my fullest recommendation. First, many of you here will already be familiar with a reasonable portion of its content - largely because of its influence on the sequences and LessWrong posts. As such, some parts may be not too exciting. Still, it will give a chance to further internalize the material and pick up on a number of points that aren't often said here.

The second down point is that Cialdini seems to only really enjoy writing the book when he is talking of case studies and making his main points. In between these are drab, repetitive filler material meant to segue from interesting point to interesting point. These portions read like a high school essay following the teacher's suggestions of cliche ways to make their paper good - ask leading questions, summarize what you just said, summarize what you are about to say, etc. I got the distinct impression that had he had no editors or publishers, the Cialdini would have jumped form point to point without the least regard for such details and would have been better for it. However, these parts are short and don't hurt the main point. The only part where this really is problematic is at the end of each chapter where he tries to give advice on what to do to overcome that influence technique. While these ought to be the most useful parts of the book, they struck me as trite (most of them boiled down to "pay attention and then when you notice it, stop doing it" without any details) and drawn out. Cutting these from the books might have removed a bullet point for the marketing campaign, but really would only have made the book better.

Mad science! Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John D. Clark, a book on working with some of the most ridiculously dangerous chemicals in industrial and military use. Long out of print, but a PDF is in the Science Madness library. From that site I also recommend Excuse Me Sir, Would You Like to Buy a Kilo of Isopropyl Bromide? [PDF] by Max Gergel.

Fiction Books Thread

For anyone who enjoys literature, The Plague (by Camus) is probably my all time favorite novel. It follows a doctor in a city quarantined because of plague, who works to combat the infection. It pretty thoroughly explores his philosophy of absurdism, which is very close to many LW ideas. I expect most LWers are probably familiar with him, and possibly The Plague, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

Since deconstructions of Harry Potter are occasionally popular here, people might be interested in Alan Moore's take in the latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen book, Century: 2009. The Mindless Ones blog has very thorough and spoilerrific review posts up.

Movies and Television Thread

[-][anonymous]9y 3

I've started watching the first season of Fate/Zero; about six episodes in. It is fantastically better than Fate/stay night, if only because we can finally see the full power of Saber supplied with a sufficient quantity of prana. Also Rider is the currently the best gay bara character in anime, if you're into that sort of thing.

However you'd probably want to watch Fate/stay night (or read a recap) beforehand anyway to learn how the Holy Grail Wars are supposed to work, because the first episode of Fate/Zero is a really bad at explaining anything.

EDIT: All of Serial Experiments Lain is on Hulu now, but I only made it a couple episodes before giving up. It's hard to watch something that was obviously revolutionary fifteen years ago.

I agree with you about Fate/Zero, quite good (I've watched all but the last episode, saving it for a rainy day), but there is something I just have to say. The Fate/Stay Night ANIME is a horrendous piece of steaming dung, but the Visual Novel is a masterpiece. The anime is one of the worst adaptions that has ever been done, it takes a wonderfully written and executed story and ruins it. If you like the Fate series at all, read the VN. (I don't think that Rider is gay. I think that you could interpret it that way, but the entire relationship dynamic with Waver seems more like manly platonic camaraderie.

[-][anonymous]9y 2

The Fate/Stay Night ANIME is a horrendous piece of steaming dung, but the Visual Novel is a masterpiece. The anime is one of the worst adaptions that has ever been done, it takes a wonderfully written and executed story and ruins it.

Complete agreement; the decision to combine different paths of the VN was awful.

(I don't think that Rider is gay. I think that you could interpret it that way, but the entire relationship dynamic with Waver seems more like manly platonic camaraderie.)

This is Alexander the Great we're talking about; history is unclear about his sexuality. But even if Rider and Waver have a platonic relationship (and I agree that they do), there's no question that the writers are drawing tropes from bara) in his character design.

I watched the Stay Night anime and although it got bad at the end, on the whole I was happy to have watched it. I was puzzled that it was so highly recommended, but it was still among the better anime I've watched. I will check out the comic now, if I can find it.

I really really liked this anime..... up until the end. The last few episodes were just absolute trash, my friend group was super disappointed. =(

[-][anonymous]9y 0

I enjoyed Fate/Zero fine without knowing anything much about F/SN (the anime of which I'd dropped after one episode).

I liked the movie Lola rennt / Run Lola Run. There is no rationality there, the film is only emotional, but very good. (And the movie can make you think about Many World hypothesis.)

The Creation of the Humanoids is a scifi film from 1962 regarding AI and uploads, primarily dialog rather than action. It's excellently done.

"Ted" was surprisingly good. (If you detest Seth McFarlane in general you probably won't like this either, though.)