October 2015 Media Thread

by ArisKatsaris1 min read1st Oct 201547 comments


Personal Blog

This is the monthly thread for posting media of various types that you've found that you enjoy. 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 post only under one of the already created subthreads, and never directly under the parent media thread.
  • Use the "Other Media" thread if you believe the piece of media you want to discuss doesn't fit under any of the established categories.
  • Use the "Meta" thread if you want to discuss about the monthly media thread itself (e.g. to propose adding/removing/splitting/merging subthreads, or to discuss the type of content properly belonging to each subthread) or for any other question or issue you may have about the thread or the rules.
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Short Online Texts Thread

Everything is heritable:







"74 SNP hits on cognitive ability from 300k individuals"

It would be interesting to ask for them in a LW census.

Maybe next year; they haven't been published yet. Asking for 74 would also be a heck of a hassle for survey takers... But Yvain could also just ask for the current known SNPs, which aren't so numerous as to be unreasonable to look up.

What do you find baffling about the Vallejo kidnapping?

The absurd overelaborateness and complexity of the whole thing. It reads like a movie plot in the vein of Hackers or something, and if there was one thing I've learned documenting the hundreds of arrests connected to the DNMs, it's that movie plots are fiction.

The arrested man reportedly has bipolar disorder. Mania is a hell of a drug.

"Cavemen Were Better at Depicting Quadruped Walking than Modern Artists: Erroneous Walking Illustrations in the Fine Arts from Prehistory to Today"

Similarly I would expect a modern artist in an industrialized society to draw a wheeled vehicle or a kitchen implement better, and a person from the pleistocene to draw plants from their environment or tools they use more accurately.

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The Wikipedia article on Dukka

Online Videos Thread

Fanfiction Thread

Fiction Books Thread

Half-way through Dangerous Women), edited by one G.R.R. Martin. The stories are hit and miss for me, and some actually end up with the supposedly dangerous woman being defeated by fate or stronger men. Some of my favorite so far include the Dresden Files spin-off and a short story by Lawrence Block. Typically strong entries from Joe Abercrombie and Brandon Sanderson.

Dangerous != invincible. Real characters rather than Mary Sues is a good thing, so a few characters losing can be a good thing literary-wise.

[-][anonymous]5y 1

The history of England by Jane Austen. To a non-English person, at least, curious and sometimes morbidly light-hearted.

TV and Movies (Animation) Thread

Rick and Morty season 2 is absolutely brilliant and hilarious. If you guys haven't watched it - you should, it's amazing.

Maybe be more specific/detailed?

It's hard to be more specific. I just love comedy very much and it is the best I've ever seen(besides Community). It's on the level of Louis CK, and, in my personal opinion, RaM compared to other comedies is what Breaking Bad is compared to other drama.

There's no point in explaining it too deeply. Most of the episodes are officially available for free here. Watch the first 3, and then you'll either like it or not.

I was fairly unimpressed by the first few episodes of season 1, is season 2 significantly better?

Specifically, I found the sociopathic humor in the first few episodes of season 1 entirely offputting, and from talking about it with a friend who enjoys that sort of thing, I got the sense that if you don't like the tone set in the first few episodes, you won't like the show.

TV and Movies (Live Action) Thread

  • The Theory of Everything):

    biopic of Stephen Hawking, focusing on his first marriage to Jane Wilde as a student until the divorce. Flaws include the standard Hollywood portrayal of geeks and some lamentably missed opportunities for explaining the ideas involved in Hawking's life-work - for example, in explaining Hawking radiation, which is probably one of the easiest and most interesting possible ideas in 20th century cosmology to explain in a few seconds for laymen, the director instead decides to cut back and forth between Hawking's lecture and an incoherent pub discussion of same. I also have to wonder if debates about God were really as central to their lives as the movie made them, as they felt shoe-horned in; physicists tend to only bring up God in a Noble Lie way, for funding. What is good - perhaps even great - about the movie, is (a) the remarkable job Eddie Redmayne does in acting out the physical deterioration of Hawking, so uncannily well that my suspension of disbelief became absolute and I totally forgot that he was not really Hawking himself, and (b) the decay of the Hawkings' marriage and eventual divorce, which is an unexpected topic to focus on but made sense once I learned it was based on Jane Wilde's memoirs. I was not sure it was worth watching in the early part showing the romance, but once Hawking's ALS enters the plot, then it became gripping for me.

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Why we fight - A speech by late AIDS activist Vito Russo. Text transcript available here. It reminds me of the character, but not the content of Reagan's A time for choosing speech [link to text transcript].



  • "youthful" (スズム; 青春の味と空論の君 {C84}) [instrumental]
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White noise, but not quite. I looked up white noise cause some school girls were talking loudly in the library. But this is...well it's music.

Podcasts Thread

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It looks like Flyvbjerg's article focusses on characterising risky elements of megaprojects, rather than their failure modes. The two could be conflated, but the framing is perhaps more suited to action in the podcast. Honestly though, I found the article entirely uncompelling on a mere skim, despite, great interest in the topic, and have yet to listen to the podcast, so I could be way off.

[-][anonymous]5y 1

Wow! This will arm me with lots to disarm my political opponents confidence in mega projects!

An excerpt from the text RaelwayScot's link:

Megaprojects can be identified by their size — in the Billions — and also by the fact that most of them are considered a failure in terms of cost overrun, delay or the benefit delivered. Why do over 90% of such projects fail? Professor Bent Flyvbjerg of the Said Business School at Oxford University has spent his career finding out. Together with his teams he has collected lots of data about successful and unsuccessful megaprojects, and has also developed tools to help such projects increase the likelihood of success. In this episode, Bent gives us an insight into his important research.

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Tim Ferris on Soundcloud, including an interview with Thiel. I find lots of Ferris's content to be low information/time, but the Thiel interview was great. Perhaps he's very adaptive and I can learn something from that.

Other Media Thread

Undertale is a deconstruction of RPGs, and video games in general. While, as in most, you are given the option to fight enemies, random encounters turn out to be NPCs in the overworld. If you avoid harming anyone, instead using the MERCY option, the game becomes a heartwarming and heartbreaking experience.

If, instead, you grind out the encounters, you will be treated as the genocidal scum you are.

I've done my best avoid spoilers here, as to be quite honest, this is an incredible experience to play through yourself. As far as the gameplay goes, it makes overtures at being an RPG -- ATK, DEF, LV, EXP -- but combat plays out like a bullet hell on the defense. Its music is amazing, too; the creator of the game was originally a composer before he branched out into programming, and it shows.

I truly can't recommend this game enough. It was an incredibly inspiring experience to play, and I am far from the only one to feel that way. Without spoiling too much, the gameplay and story intertwine -- and while it comes across hammy sometimes, that's usually intentional -- and moreover, it works.

It's ten dollars on steam or the humble store, and even though a playthrough (of which, as I alluded to, there are multiple styles) will only last 6-12 hours, I'd pay ten times that.

For those not sure if they're interested, there is a demo available at the Undertale website.

The soundtrack, too, is available (for the most part; a few spoilery end songs are omitted), at the bandcamp here.

Nice game. Its main contribution is the moral choice mechanic. I ended up using "mercy" all the time and got the best possible ending. The game's creator Toby Fox is also a composer for Homestuck and the soundtrack has a very Homestucky feel. Also, some of the creature designs are pretty cute.

The bad: the story is paint by numbers, the writing is hammy, the characters are cardboard, and the art is average pixel art fare. The gameplay challenges are either boring puzzles or bullet hell, neither of which are very relevant to the story. There's some humor but it didn't make me laugh out loud. Everything works together just enough to make the moral choice seem important, but not more.

However, from a certain point of view these drawbacks don't matter. My theory about art says that successful art needs to be new and enriching to viewers in at least some aspect, and repeating an existing idea doesn't count as art anymore because you can't enrich people in the same way twice. By that yardstick, Undertale succeeds as art where most other video games fail, even though they might be better in execution.

I came to the Media Thread specifically to recommend Undertale.

I worry some that casting it as "a game where you can be pacifist" spoils some of the experience. The game tree is apparently very dense, with many gradations of behavior, but the poles (of genocide and full pacifism) are obvious attractors. And I still enjoyed it immensely, only playing full pacifism, so maybe I shouldn't worry that someone else is jumping straight to the good stuff instead of discovering that the good stuff exists after toying around with it.

  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: 2012 turn-based tactical strategy (isometric 3D) game; on Steam for Linux. You kill aliens. Very heavy on the atmosphere and moody graphics, with many special effects and little cut-scenes. As a tactical strategy, it has weaknesses; units must be trained & upgraded over many missions so they are worth their weight in gold, one-shot kills are always possible, getting in the first shot is critical, and the level layout has the standard mechanism where clusters of aliens are triggered when one moves, all of which combine to force on you an extremely conservative gameplay style where you move as slowly as possible through the level with all your soldiers always in cover, lest you trigger 3 or 4 groups of aliens simultaneously and lose one or more near-irreplaceable units. As such, the snipers level up with the greatest of ease as they do most of the killing, and they only get more overpowered when Archangel armor is developed and they can now shoot across almost entire levels without having to move! The levels themselves are not very imaginative either, with all of them boiling down to search-and-destroy in levels which are copies of each other, even the hostage-rescue and bomb-defusing missions (where the best strategy seems to be to, yes, just killing the aliens as fast as possible). Tech upgrades are doled out sparingly, so that one only gets the funnest weapons like the Ghost armor (temporary invisibility) or Blaster Launcher (rockets that go around corners) as the game is ending. I have to contrast the tactical strategy aspect of XCOM unfavorably to the last game I was playing, Advance Wars: Dual Strike: units can be risked in gambits and attacks because losing them is not so devastating, the first-attacker still has a huge advantage but this makes for interesting ambushes and tactics rather than forcing passivity, and since the enemy is always in motion, you are constantly under pressure to act too. Overall, I enjoyed it, but don't feel any need to play it again.

When it comes to turn-based tactical strategy, Massive Chalice is my favorite recent game specifically because the units age and die.

In XCOM, you choose one squad and ideally no one ever gets hurt, so you use them in every battle. But this means that you don't get to see most of the options available to players; a team with two snipers and two assaults plays very differently from a balanced squad, for example, and if you go down one upgrade tree you don't see the others.

In Massive Chalice, your team might be different every single battle (since a unit will typically see ~5 battles), and the classes available to you are determined by the marriages you make (three base classes with six hybrid classes from the combinations). If there isn't a good hunter match for your hunter regent, then you might find yourself forced to try out the Trickshot. And since units will die eventually anyway, you find yourself actually willing to sacrifice units, instead of trying to go for the perfectionist route.

That sounds interesting, and I'm glad to see it supports Linux, but reading through the Metacritic reviews, I'm a little troubled that they tend to describe the tactical combat as being simpler than XCOM... which I already found pretty simplistic & unchallenging. Have you played both?

Yes--both original XCOM and new XCOM. Overall, I thought that Massive Chalice was very similar to new XCOM tactically, with a bit more focus on melee and less on ranged combat. It also has a bit worse graphics / aesthetics but a superior narrative. There was more variation and 'freshness' to the MC battles than to XCOM battles, but it's rarely challenging in the same way that puzzle games can be challenging. The strategic map on Massive Chalice has more interesting choices, I think, and competes with tactical play in a more interesting way. I'll try to elaborate on the salient bits of tactics.

All three games have the central narrative of "do things by the book or people die." This is perhaps the most valuable life lesson one can get from these sorts of games, but it 'forces passivity' in a way that more forgiving tactics games don't. (As mentioned earlier, in Massive Chalice people die even when you do things by the book, which allows for somewhat different choices and narratives.)

Both new XCOM and Massive Chalice have the "two actions per turn" system, with attacks ending the turn in the absence of a special ability. I believe Massive Chalice has more and more interesting 'keep acting' abilities, that allow you to do things like step out of cover, launch a shot, and then dash back into cover.

Massive Chalice has the same length of upgrade tree, with roughly the same number of choices, but more total upgrade trees because of having more classes.

Monsters in Massive Chalice seem more brutal (wait... that shot just ate XP? D:) but sometimes seem "easier to trick"--for example, one region is crossed by rivers, and it's possible to murder any melee units trapped on the other side of the river from you. In XCOM only a handful of enemy units are melee, so that rarely comes up. Because there is overall less ranged combat and much less in the way of destructible terrain, the character of skirmishes are somewhat different; firefights are infrequent.

SOMA is a new horror videogame by the makers of Amnesia The Dark Descent.

The developers list Phillip K Dick, China Mieville, Permutation City, and the works of Peter Watts as primary influences.

Main character lives in Canada in 2015, goes in for a new experimental high-resolution brain-scan to aid treatment of his recent brain injury - and then all of a sudden he is sitting on a chair in some kind of post-apocalyptic undersea base full of malfunctioning robots (many of which seem to think they are human and many of which are insane) and biological humans heavily infected by technology that seems much more organic than the base itself but seem to not have much like their original minds left. I leave it to the reader to infer what happened to cause this sudden perspective shift.

Game plot comes down to a conflict between a powerful yet stupid AI trying to keep alive the last of humanity after a catastrophe beyond its control (but with a rather different definition of 'humanity' and 'alive') and robots running human brain emulations trying to carry out the last wishes of the last biological humans.

How severe would you rate the horror aspect as? This seems interesting, but I absolutely couldn't handle Amnesia.

I actually havent played Amnesia myself, but I can say this combines elements from it and a more existential horror of what the copied humans have become and what can be done to them and what the... I'm gonna say humans 'corrupted' by the AI have become. There is definitely overlap in horror mechanics and tone with Amnesia at times with the corrupted humans but that is just one type of horror in the game.

Nonfiction Books Thread