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:









And frightening.

Visual Information Theory. I was already comfortable with information theory and this was still informative. This blogger's other posts are similarly high-quality.

Online Videos Thread

Fanfiction Thread

Nonfiction Books Thread

TV and Movies (Animation) Thread

  • _How The Grinch Stole Christmas_ (one of the great classics which remains a joy to watch. The narrative by Boris Karloff is always amusing, and both Dr Seuss's story and language and animation/images are endlessly inventive and playful (consider "roast beast" or the visual gag of the Grinch's heart swelling to burst the metaphorical magnifying glass), demonstrating, despite the apparent simplicity, the versatility of the animated medium. The Grinch himself is a clever, skillful, and inventive villain who can lie at the drop of a hat, yet his conversion to goodness comes off as genuine and comprehensible rather than cheap or forced.)
  • Big Hero 6
  • Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (well, it's a FSN anime, you know what you're getting: a great action anime with a lunatic setting, cast, and plot. The Nasuverse and plot haven't changed. What stood out for me about watching UBW was: 1. continued awe at how high-budget animated series these days can show almost anything in extraordinary fluidness or detail, to the point where any episode of UBW - a TV series - exceeds probably any animated movie produced before 1995 or so, including blockbuster pinnacles of the medium such as Akira or Wings of Honneamise; 2. continued influence from Fate/Zero, including not just callbacks or allusions, but a noticeably colder and less moe-infused directorial approach, of which the most striking example is probably the brutal & clinical sequence in which Ilyasviel is killed; 3. its considerable length allowing for, finally, a decent explanation of the Archer/Shirou/heroism dynamic explaining what their relationship is supposed to be, a theme which got such short shrift in earlier anime adaptations that it was incomprehensible and extremely frustrating to me; I am still not that impressed by the ideas or resolution, but at least I understand it now rather than all the dialogue coming off as Markov chain output with random insertions of phrases about "being a hero of justice" or "people die if you kill them"; 4. more of an emphasis on Rin Tohsaka, and less forcing her into a tsundere mold by focusing solely on Shirou as protagonist. Much better than the previous movie adaptation.)
  • Brave (A Pixar failure. I've always had difficulty explaining why I didn't think it was that great, but a rewatch helps me clarify the issues with the movie. The animation is fantastic, and the hair leaves me stunned; the soundtrack is as good as any Pixar's film; the Scottish-kitsch setting is fun and colorful, and the slapstick good; and the premise is the instantly-recognizable and classic explore/exploit conflict of a non-adult trying to follow their own dreams to the neglect of their responsibilities/societal role which causes conflict with their parents, which thesis-antithesis one expects to ultimately resolve in a synthesis in which the child learns important lessons while succeeding in striking out on their own.

    It's great, bordering on flawless, right up until the queen turns into a bear. The whole thing falls apart after that. Leaving aside the idiot-ball part where the witch makes an incomprehensible mistake and the protagonist abets it by not explaining anything or asking any questions, the problem is that the mom is 100% right and the daughter 100% wrong. Typically, with this kind of bildungsroman/children's-movie, the junior protagonist has some sort of genuine talent or dream they want to follow, and the senior antagonists are not wrong about it being a risk compared to conventional paths but are wrong about the opportunity cost or probability of success; both have valid points. But the protagonist has no particular dream or talent and as the father so cruelly but accurately parodies her, wants nothing more than to be a wastrel who spends her time running around with her hair down and "firing arrows into the sunset". It's hard to see what she could possibly mean by "changing her fate" when apparently this means nothing more than "ensure my life of hedonism continues unchanged by any kind of work or responsibility", and when her mother talks about her responsibilities and the need to be a princess and the importance of the princess/queen's role as a peace-weaver (to borrow the excellent Anglo-Saxon term), the mother is talking sense. This failure to establish any kind of validity to the protagonist's views or desires undercuts all the events; how are we supposed to sympathize with her or see any merit to her thesis when the plot and world-building so one-sidedly establishes her as a thoughtless little chit whose selfishness directly leads to civil war? The only time the movie really gestures towards trying to create any case for her is when she exhibits her mad warrior-princess skills by... shooting some salmon. Which can be caught bare-handed because they're jumping out of the water. Wow, so impressive. Much thesis, such conflict. So, having entirely failed at constructing a meaningful narrative and undercutting any thoughtful viewer's suspension of disbelief & absorption, Brave continues to the synthesis where the protagonist learns her lesson from observing the imminent civil war and the parallel legend of the ancient kingdom falling to internal strife & selfishness and in the film's climax, femininely weaves peace by not shooting people with her bow but by successfully delivering a speech of unity as her mother watches. Some aspects are unsatisfying (the declarations of free love come out of nowhere, but I suppose we couldn't actually expect any endorsement of arranged marriages in a Hollywood movie, no matter how historically justifiable or necessary or demanded by the plot) but nevertheless, the climax is fairly satisfying in delivering synthesis. The End?

    Psyche! Did you think the movie ended there simply because that is the only sane place to end the movie? No, the movie actually goes on another half hour. So once the civil war has ended, we are treated to a truly bizarre continuation of the movie where the mother (still a bear despite the breach having been mended!) is chased around the castle and hunted down to the ancient mystical ruins and a throwaway symbol from earlier, a torn tapestry, suddenly assumes central position because of a lame pun, and the movie drags it out with some more action scenes until mother and daughter are tearfully reunited (although it's unclear what exactly they still have to bond over, since the daughter has realized her mistake & made amends already, and the mother was never estranged in the first place). Then thankfully, the movie finally ends. This extension of the story is thoroughly baffling; it is as if Return of the Jedi didn't end with the Darth Vader's death but instead Luke escapes the Death Star and spends the next 20 minutes engaging in speeder bike chases on the moon of Endor again. If it was done deliberately as a subversion or parody, like the genre of joke where the joke is the comedian deliberately stretching out a joke far too long and making everyone uncomfortable, then it would make sense albeit is hard to pull off well. But here it seems like the director just didn't get it, just didn't understand the basic narrative arc or rhythm of the movie. The movie would be so much better if it effectively ended after the hall speech and they had left the rest on the cutting-room floor - but they kept it all.

    If Brave's flaw had just been the first one, one could try to gloss over or ignore it, similar to Frozen's problems; perhaps it was just too hard to write a good set of grievances for the protagonist or fit it in the running time they had. But the second problem is entirely unforced and has no such excuse as it represents a not inconsiderable chunk of the movie & resources. It reminded me not a little of (the much better) Spirited Away, where there is such a large shift towards the end that it leaves viewers a little confused, and which is likely due to major cuts being made during development; unsurprisingly, it turns out that the original director, Brenda Chapman, was replaced, which may explain the half-baked nature of the characters and the dramatic directorial failure of the end.)

And last & least:

  • Charlie Brown Christmas special I had never sat down and watched the famous Peanuts Christmas special in its entirety, and I was surprised to discover how wretched it is, especially watching it back to back with How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The animation is kindergarten-level, which unmistakably loops, and the special is watchable only because the Peanuts style is so minimal (verging on ugly) that it can pretend its extraordinarily low quality is just the Peanuts style at work; the musical theme would be excellent, were it not repeated ad nauseam despite the shortness of the special; characters do not speak in anything but a monotone, and are so poorly characterized it's hard to imagine non-Peanuts fans understanding much of anything about it. And finally, the beloved story itself...

    It struck me, while watching it, that I am not sure I have ever seen a simpler or clearer demonstration of why Nietzsche calls Christianity a slave morality and a transvaluation of earlier master moralities: the message of the special is that Christianity everything which is good, is bad, and all that is bad is good. Charlie Brown is a loser who fails at everything he does in the special: he is unable to enjoy the season, he passive-aggressively is hostile towards Violet (a tactic that in its ill grace & resentment only emphasizes the depth of his loserdom), he fails to either recognize the opportunity of the contest or decorate his house better than his dog can, he is a failure at directing the play and kicked out (rather than made an actor or musician, since of course he would fail at that too), only to fail further at finding a tree. Charlie Brown is a natural-born slave and his inadequacy is manifest to everyone who knows him even slightly; he is not fast, he is not strong, he is not good, he is not smart, he has no special talents - indeed, he cannot even be nice. He is the sort of nebbish who, when he goes bankrupt and shoots some people at his office, his few friends and acquaintances tell the reporters that they're not surprised so much that he did something bad but that he had the guts to do anything at all. This part of the story is where the slave morality enters in: a reading from the Christian gospel inspires him - he may be a failure at everything, he may be a loser, but he has faith in Jesus and his understanding of the true spirit of Christmas as a celebration of Jesus's birth will doubtless be rewarded in the next world, and this faith shores up his psyche and fortifies his denial, to the point where the rest of the children, impressed by his obstinacy and of course their dormant Christian faith, cluster around him to engage in a choral singing of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" with Charlie Brown as their leader. "Hark!" is an appropriate choice of Christmas carol, as unlike many of the popular Christmas songs these days like "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" or "The 12 Days of Christmas", "Hark!" is focused single-mindedly on the birth of Jesus: it's "peace on earth and mercy mild" because Jesus (the Christ/"new-born king"/"everlasting lord"/"the Godhead"/"incarnate deity"/"Prince of Peace" etc) is born and now ruling the world, and little to do with that being intrinsically good. With individual identity submerged in a group identity subservient to their god, the revaluation of moral values from a modern secular ethos to the Christian slave morality is complete: the last is now first, the low is now high. The End.

This was harsh but interesting. I watched bits of the special for the first time to try to come up with something more charitable. Charlie Brown is depressed and consequentially fails to find anything enjoyable, meaningful and easy. Social interaction obviously suffers too with everyone else being equally clueless about his state of mind and attributing his actions to the wrong causes. But he does realize something's wrong and he voices his desire to find a way to enjoy life. And since he tries different things instead of dismissing them, eventually something clicks with him. The Jesus story makes him feel good the same way the other things make the others feel good. He doesn't analyse the intrinsic value of Christian morality, he jumps on the chance to start having fun. I'd like to see you steelman the story, though.

By mentioning Frozen you have unwittingly invited a link to this essay about it that I posted last week.

Your rant about Charlie Brown made my day.

I just watched the 2015 Peanuts movie, and Charlie's characterization appears a bit more nuanced this time. Deep inside, he is a nice and decent person, but he lives in a slapstick universe that makes all his efforts moot.

When I first watched Brave, I hated the story (full details posted to the xkcd forums). In brief, the protagonist is a terrible person whose selfishness precipitates a war and who kidnaps someone in order to brainwash them. But it's okay, because free love!

(Contrast to, say, Fiddler on the Roof, which is a reasonable free love story.)

Interesting. So you think Brave is about duty (and failing at it)?

Yes, if one takes the setting seriously. I think one of the reasons why I'm so disappointed with it is that it gets the causality wrong on an important story--the move from collectivist duty to individual autonomy did not happen because people asked for it, but because people became wealthy enough to afford it.

I must have lower expectations than you -- it's a Hollywood cartoon movie aimed at small kids, probably not even preteens. "Getting causality right on an important story" is nowhere near its goals.

I didn't like it much, but that's just because it wasn't particularly emotionally engaging or funny (e.g. in the way Shrek has a lot of for-adults jokes liberally sprinkled through the whole thing).

I must have lower expectations than you -- it's a Hollywood cartoon movie aimed at small kids, probably not even preteens. "Getting causality right on an important story" is nowhere near its goals.

I'm a Copybook Headings kind of guy when it comes to stories for children.

How NRx of you :-)

The problem with Shrek is that its jokes are too pop-culture-conscious, and will soon become dated. Your grandkids will miss most of the jokes in it.

It had never occurred to me to see Brave as a collectivism vs. individualism story; to me it was obviously a woman-as-object vs. woman-as-subject story.

It had never occurred to me to see Brave as a collectivism vs. individualism story; to me it was obviously a woman-as-object vs. woman-as-subject story.

Collectivism vs. individualism seems very similar to person-as-object vs. person-as-subject. It's magnified here because it's specifically queen/princess instead of simply mother/daughter. The analogous story that drops the princess/queen dynamic is making the family the exact same people, except they're all peasants. Merida's betrothal has been bought by a neighboring peasant man through gifts to her family, but she doesn't want to marry him. She runs away to Paisley, earns enough money working in a textile mill to pay the man back (obviating her social obligation to marry him), and then she's free to live her life as an Independent Career Woman.

The problem with Shrek is that its jokes are too pop-culture-conscious, and will soon become dated

That's OK, I'm not putting it up as a classic that will survive the ages. I'm sure my grandkids will have better things to watch.

it was obviously a woman-as-object vs. woman-as-subject story.

Wasn't it obviously a woman-as-bear story? :-P

Kids still watch Disney movies from 1940s and Disney still profits from them. Making a timeless story can be done in animation, Dreamworks simply chooses not to for the sake of short term profitability.

One Punch Man is a super-hero satire staring Saitama, who is dissatisfied with his heroing because he beats all villains with one punch, thus not having any challenging battles. Features great action, animation and direction, and decent humour. No great depth besides some light satire of Japanese society, but a lot of fun.

Planetes: Hard SF told from the perspective of orbital debris cleaners. Political intrigue, the psychology of space travel, and the ever-pressing urge to reach the stars (nicely depicted in the evolving opening credits).

Everything becomes F A rather well presented ybpxrq ebbz zheqre mystery puzzle. In retrospect, I'm pretty sure that all the information needed to understand what is happening is available ol gur svsgu rcvfbqr or so, though I did not piece it together until much later. On rewatching, you realise there is a lot of attention to detail.

Also, the ending features Life in Life and much Lisp; gotta be a good thing, right? ;)

Shirobako: The most realistic portrayal of ordinary working life (at least, like mine) I've seen, in any fictional medium. Warm-hearted (perhaps to a fault), straightforward, very much writing what they know and love. I recommend it to anyone interested in animation, but especially to students or similar interested in seeing a day in the working life.

Hibike Euphonium. Teenage drama (not actually a romance show, but it felt like one) that again felt very true, and with KyoAni's usual high production values.

A Farewell to Arms (one of the Short Peace shorts). High production values applied to a setting that's pretty novel in animé - an Americanized military unit in a ruined city in the desert with a (less extreme) Three Kings-style overexposed look. A very fun battle sequence that deserves points for putting thought into what near-future combat might look like - I don't think it necessarily got it right, but it goes much further than most.

Psycho-Pass Movie. A return to form after the trashy second season. Continues to ask the awkward question: given a paternalistic dictatorship that manages to act in the best interests of most people most of the time, what do you actually do? (I'm told there's also a colonialism side but that largely passed me by).


Gakkou Gurashi. Ok premise but not enough content to fill the time.

Expelled from Paradise. Actually quite fun: visually very pretty (very Male Gaze), and some good CG robot fights, including a very cool one on the way down from orbit. But the themes felt done-to-death; it's not really adding anything new to the conversation, and I never found myself caring about any of the characters.

TV and Movies (Live Action) Thread

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (enjoyable while you're watching it, but dissatisfaction starts as the credits end. I largely agree with Harrison Searles's review. Problems: remake of A New Hope which refuses to admit it's a remake but pretends to be a sequel undercuts previous trilogy, is nonsensical, and lacks any suspense - who didn't see Han Solo being killed off like 20 minutes before he died, because his parallel with Obi-wan Kenobi was so unsubtle?; Abrams's style of movie-making is unbearably light and facile, to the point where blowing up multiple planets doesn't even register emotionally - and how did that particular scene even make sense? does this whole movie take place in a single solar system or something? - on top of the absurdly fast cutting which means you've forgotten half the movie before you've finished walking out of the theater; protagonist is a Mary Sue; the antagonist is risible - apparently the true power of the Dark Side is not anger & aggression but pomade & petulance, and I certainly cannot imagine being intimidated by Adam Driver intoning "if only you knew the pouter of the Dark Side" since he looks like he should be more concerned about acne & dates than agents & droids (remarkably, Driver is actually 32 years old); special effects are overly dominant except where they exhibit a bizarre lack of imagination/ambition, as no space battle in it is remotely as awe-inspiring as Return's Endor fleet battle or Revenge's opening Coruscant fleet battle, and even the lightsaber battles are a major letdown; no dialogue is particularly memorable, and the mish-mash of scenes borrowed from the earlier films winds up destroying any kind of mythic effect or drama. Was BB-8 the only original and genuinely good part of the movie? Entirely possible. In the end, it is just another Abrams movie: slick, SFX-heavy, and as substantial & satisfying as movie theater popcorn. In a way, it makes me long for the prequel trilogy; as barmy as opening a movie with tax disputes was or including Jar Jar Binks, Lucas at least tried for more than mediocrity & repetition. Let us hope that this is analogous to Rebuild of Evangelion 1.0: a movie made dull & unoriginal because the new financial backer is worried about losing the investment, but as it made so much money, they could afford to be more interesting in 2.0.)

In the end, it is just another Abrams movie: slick, SFX-heavy, and as substantial & satisfying as movie theater popcorn.


You might want to add a spoiler note at the top, though.

and how did that particular scene even make sense? does this whole movie take place in a single solar system or something?

Star Wars, as a fantasy film, makes the most sense when planets are viewed as metaphors for cities.

the antagonist is risible

I actually liked Kylo Ren, as what a Dark Force User would look like if one takes the Light / Dark sides as presented. It also neatly matches the story of a child gone wrong instead of a parent gone wrong.

as barmy as opening a movie with tax disputes

One of the things I found interesting about TFA on a meta-level was how little they tried to set the stage with exposition. Why are the First Order the bad guys? Because they wear black and have Nazi-esque outfits. Why are The Resistance the good guys? Because it's right there in the name, they're resisting (evil, one hopes). And... it works. Yes, it's deeply unsatisfying to me to not be able to tell whether or not I would prefer The First Order or The Republic or The Resistance as my government, but that's mostly secondary to the story, which presumes you're on the side of The Resistance.

Was BB-8 the only original and genuinely good part of the movie? Entirely possible.

This seems right to me if you don't like Kylo Ren.

Abrams's style of movie-making is unbearably light and facile, to the point where blowing up multiple planets doesn't even register emotionally - and how did that particular scene even make sense? does this whole movie take place in a single solar system or something?

The Starkiller Base is described as a hyperspace weapon, while the target locations were (supposedly) all in one location, and Expanded Universe physics allow bleedoff of energy or physical interaction between objects moving within hyperspace and normal space (though never for anything interesting to my knowledge). This is kinda goofy, but you're in a Star Wars setting so it's not unreasonably so.

On the other hand, the use of planets to pull the projectiles out of hyperspace doesn't really make sense with how the Falcon breaks through the base's shields, so they don't do a terribly good job of staying with or explaining those rules in the film, and it's horrible at actually passing the impact of what is supposed to be billions of people dying.

I wasn't too put off by the protagonist's Mary Suedom, since she's Corran-Horn level at worst, but agreed with most of the other complaints and frustrations. It's also worth pointing out how extremely unsurprising the film is; even with the vast lows of the Expanded Universe, it picked not from its best moments and ideas but from many of its most unremarkable and boring.

[-][anonymous]7y 1

'Don't be scared cause I'm your body type' Cool for the Summer

Ghost - Meliora

Clean production, catchy melodies, interesting lyrics, and so on. It doesn't get old either. My favorite songs are Cirice and He Is. I would have confused the latter for a catchy Christian metal song if not for the lyrics. I mean, I guess it still is Christian metal, just not the usual way around.

Other Media Thread

[-][anonymous]7y 2

Big shout out to vanilla perfumes and Udacity's new nanodegree guarantees

Fiction Books Thread

I highly recommend the Three-Body Problem and its sequel The Dark Forest. Both are rational science fiction in the sense that the plots and character motivations seem internally consistent and follow the book's premises. Much of the book is about the characters (and reader) logically reasoning through what is going on, so I can't describe the plot without giving away spoilers. Although there is no magic in the book, if you enjoyed HPMOR, I would bet that you will like these two books.

Much agree with that! Both The Three Body Problem and The Dark Forest (links to my GoodReads reviews) are some of my favorite reads in 2015, can't wait for part 3, Death’s End, which should be available (in English) some time this year.

I'm actually not a big HPMOR fan, and I found these books quite different from that.

I hated Three-Body Problem. I found it incredibly slow and unrewarding (and I never got how ~200 intelligent people in a game called three-body problem somehow don't figure out that the game's about the three-body problem). Partly the dangers of hype, but I really don't think it's very good.

A review of Ernst Jünger's The Glass Bees.