October 2013 Media Thread

by ArisKatsaris1 min read1st Oct 201345 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 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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Online Videos Thread

My reaction to video art is usually 'meh', but this one is absolutely fantastic. This is easily the best piece of video art I've seen in years. I re-watched it a dozen times already. Over 1,800,000 views on Youtube.


From the Youtube video description:

Box explores the synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping on moving surfaces. The short film documents a live performance, captured entirely in camera.

Bot & Dolly produced this work to serve as both an artistic statement and technical demonstration. It is the culmination of multiple technologies, including large scale robotics, projection mapping, and software engineering. We believe this methodology has tremendous potential to radically transform theatrical presentations, and define new genres of expression.

Wow. That's super impressive. The camera itself must be mounted on one of those robots to get precision tracking, but they added jitter to make it look more like a human camera that we are used to. The alternative would be real-time rendering of the scenes with motion tracking of the camera's position which strikes me as much less likely.

Anyway, it immediately reminded me of this video which shows a much simpler example of parallax like this. The camera in this case is tracked using a WiiMote sensor. The good part starts around 2:20.

Yes, camera is mounted on a smaller robot, and you can even see it in the video. The motion feels natural because it's motion-captured.

As for the real-time rendering of scenes with motion tracking, here's an interesting Star Wars demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdsFEMDceNg

The top comment on that link:

Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to render in real time is insignificant next to the power of storytelling.

Seconded. It's not clear what's happening at first, so let me reiterate - it's all shot with one camera, without added CGI work or anything. If you were in the room, you'd see the same things.

Btw, I had no idea Video Art was a term. Anything else you'd recommend from this genre?

It would appear to me that the effect would be completely ruined if you were anywhere but the programmed location of the recording camera.

Which is why we get to see that camera's (pretty great) view.

This Land is Mine

"A brief history of the land called Israel/Palestine/Canaan/the Levant."

In the form of a cartoon music video. Watch it.

Nonfiction Books Thread

Has anyone read The Reason I Jump? Was it good?

"The 48 Laws of Power" has been mentioned on LW before, could be subtitled "The slytherin handbook."

Yep. I remembered having bookmarked a summary of it, with the added commentary of "Slytherin seal of approval".

"The 48 Anecdotes of Power"? It's a fun read, but sometimes taken a bit too serious (like having 48-laws-themed tattoos...)

I think theres a significant gap between "this is an interesting read" and "tattoo this on yourself." I Lean heavily towards the former.

I just finished Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer, and found it very interesting (though it's long at 900 pages). It's a work of cultural history which identifies four dominant British cultures in America, and links them to the regions of Britain they came from.

I found it interesting for reasons that are hard to describe without going into excruciating detail, and recommend it to anyone who is interested in creating deliberate culture, or thinks that 900 pages of culture and history sounds like a good time. "Folkways" is the term Fischer used to describe a collection of "ways"- like time ways, death ways, power ways, wealth ways, and so on. Some of the ways strongly resonated with me (like the Puritan time way of "improving the time") but other ways were simply repulsive, which made the conflicts between groups more interesting- while I could share the Puritans' and Quakers' disdain of the Cavaliers, it took a bit of mental growth to fully understand the Puritans' and Quakers' disdain for each other. (I found myself roughly midway between them.)

And everyone disdained my ancestors, the North Britons. I changed my surname from Potts during my Extropian phase years ago. Recently I learned that the Pottses lived as Border Reivers, part of the ancestral group of the Scots-Irish and other marginal Brits from the Border region who migrated to the Colonies and became the ancestors of the hillbillies, white trash and crackers in the U.S.


And everyone disdained my ancestors, the North Britons.

Yeah, present company included. But it was interesting to see bits of border culture that I strongly identified with, possibly as a result of growing up in Texas (which got some of its culture from the borderers; the rest is Cavalier, German, Mexican, and various other sources), which was one of the things that got me thinking about deliberate cultures and cultural mixing. The borderer conception of liberty, for example, is in some ways the 'purest' of them, and the one most similar to modern libertarian thought.

(Side note: I had always had trouble with libertarians whose favorite founding father was Jefferson, and this book helped me realize why- I get the sense that moderns who like Jefferson are primarily of cavalier cultural ancestry, and he was the most likeable and intelligent person from that culture. I had always much preferred Hamilton, his bitter political rival, who was a West Indian technologist (well, what passed for one in the late eighteenth century) who was a cultural outsider from all of the major American groups. But the Cavalier sense of liberty, which remains part of the culture of the south, is the freedom of an aristocracy to rule- the borderers are the ones whose idea of liberty was every man a sovereign, which matches up with the anarchocapitalists of today. But the borderers got that culture from living in actual anarchy, with all the violence and nastiness that that implies.)

Television and Movies Thread

The new US remake of House of Cards (by netflix) is absolutely excellent. Modern world politics and ruthlessness.

Borgia (also known as Borgia: Faith and Fear) is also very good. Political drama, and an excellent reminder of the massive values dissonance in the renaissance. Good, but slightly spoilery article on that aspect

The new US remake of House of Cards (by netflix) is absolutely excellent. Modern world politics and ruthlessness.

It starts really well, but after 6 or so episodes it becomes progressively less believable (as in, it gets really hard to maintain the standard suspension of disbelief), given many of the key events and actions. I predict the second season will be downhill from there.

it becomes progressively less believable (as in, it gets really hard to maintain the standard suspension of disbelief)

One of the primary issues with it is that it's based off a plot that fits the British political system- and so things just seem weird. Urquhart, the British version, eventually becomes cevzr zvavfgre, juvpu vf n uhtr cebzbgvba. Underwood eventually becomes ivpr cerfvqrag, juvpu npghnyyl frrzf yvxr n qrzbgvba ng uvf ntr.

A few threads ago I posted some mini-reviews of some in-progress anime series I was watching: http://lesswrong.com/lw/hlm/june_2013_media_thread/9350 For the sake of completeness here's my ratings of those series now that they've all finished:

Flowers of Evil: 9.0 (was my most anticipated show of the season by the end)

Attack on Titan: 8.5 (slow in the middle, but good at the beginning and end)

Valverave the Liberator: 8.0 (still amusing nonsense, weak ending)

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet: 7.0 (went off the rails in 3 different directions)

Note that this is on something of a "school grade" scale (ie 7.0 is more "acceptable" than "good"). Also I seem to be pretty generous overall.

During this time I also watched A Certain Scientific Railgun and sequel A Certain Scientific Railgun S (basically Buffy meets X-Men meets cute Japanese high school girls), giving 9.0 and 8.5 respectively. (The latter would have been an 8 but the last episode was amazing).

Podcasts Thread

Fanfiction Thread

Not fan-fiction, really, as It's an original story, but it's more like one than not. A web serial, currently incomplete and described by the Author as a "rough draft" for an eventual book, but It' a self consistent and expansive Super-hero universe, and with a ton of unique and powerful abilities, I've really been enjoying it. The story is Worm, and It's easily one of my favorite web stories in awhile, and very dark (especially as the story progresses further).

Here is a direct copy of the author's about page as It sums up the premise well:

An introverted teenage girl with an unconventional superpower, Taylor goes out in costume to find escape from a deeply unhappy and frustrated civilian life. Her first attempt at taking down a supervillain sees her mistaken for one, thrusting her into the midst of the local ‘cape’ scene’s politics, unwritten rules, and ambiguous morals. As she risks life and limb, Taylor faces the dilemma of having to do the wrong things for the right reasons.

The story, titled Worm, takes the form of a web serial, posted in bite-sized reads in much the same way that authors such as Mark Twain would release their works one chapter at a time in the days before full-fledged novels. Worm started in June 2011, updating twice a week. It has (as of September 2013) reached an excess of 1,500,000 words; roughly 9-23 typical novels in length. The story updates on Tuesdays and Saturdays, with bonus chapters appearing on the occasional Thursday, as explained below.

The actual work is divided into a number of story arcs, each containing five to sixteen individual chapters. Interludes (side stories) are inserted between each story arc to showcase events from different perspectives or provide some background information that the reader wouldn’t get from Taylor’s point of view. Still more interludes continue to be released as bonus content when the audience reaches specific donation goals (though I’ve taken to frequently releasing regular chapters instead, so as not to disrupt the core story).

Readers should be cautioned that Worm is fairly dark as fiction goes, and it gets far darker as the story progresses. Morality isn’t black and white, Taylor and her acquaintances aren’t invincible, the heroes aren’t winning the war between right and wrong, and superpowers haven’t necessarily affected society for the better. Just the opposite on every count, really. Even on a more fundamental level, Taylor’s day to day life is unhappy, with her clinging to the end of her rope from the story’s outset. The denizens of the Wormverse (as readers have termed it) don’t pull punches, and I try to avoid doing so myself, as a writer. There’s graphic language, descriptions of violence and sex does happen (albeit offscreen). It would be easier to note the trigger warnings that don’t apply than all the ones that do.

All in all, this probably isn’t a story for the sensitive or the young. I’d peg it with a PG-18 rating, but I think we all know that there’s kids who can handle that sort of thing and there’s adults who can’t. Use your best judgement and ask in the comments below if you’re still unsure.

Thanks for the recommendation. I wound up powering through Worm over the course of about a week, and really enjoyed it.

Short Online Texts Thread

Article in The Guardian by comedian Stewart Lee, about the end of the world (a serious story). Great ending.

Said the Tailor to the Bishop:
Believe me, I can fly.
Watch me while I try.
And he stood with things
That looked like wings
On the great church roof-

That is quite absurd
A wicked, foolish lie,
For man will never fly,
A man is not a bird,
Said the Bishop to the Tailor.

Said the People to the Bishop:
The Tailor is quite dead,
He was a stupid head.
His wings are rumpled
And he lies all crumpled
On the hard church square.

The bells ring out in praise
That man is not a bird
It was a wicked, foolish lie,
Mankind will never fly,
Said the Bishop to the People.

--Bertold Brecht (via Benjamin Noys)

Fiction Books Thread

Ted Chiang has a new story, as amazing as the previous ones.

I read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley the other day. It was pretty good, better than most 'classics' I've read. I probably liked it better than Nineteen Eighty-four as well, which it's often compared to.

I found out later that Nick Bostrom explicitly used it as an example in some of his Existential Risk related writings, like this one, specifically, to illustrate what the 'singleton' or stable oppressive world government kind of existential risk may look like. If you aren't too worried that you might generalize from fictional evidence, I'd say it's worth a read if you somehow haven't already.

I've previously pointed out that the BNW scenario is similar to many "eutopia" descriptions I've seen proposed by LWers.

[-][anonymous]7y 0

Writing quality aside, I wouldn't say Brave New World is more or less accurate than 1984. The former is an accurate first-world dystopia, the latter is an accurate second-world dystopia. (While Huxley was living in Hollywood, Orwell was fighting in the Spanish civil war for the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification.) It's a nice coincidence that both are set in London.

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I recently read Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince. These are set in a post-singularity solar system; I thought they were good fiction, but was in the odd position of not being able to say if they are good science fiction, because I'm not well-enough versed in quantum physics. Still, they were interesting. I think many Lesswrongers would find the quantum prison the story starts off in to be a fascinating concept.

Seconding this recommendation. They're definitely fun stories that actually have significantly novel post-singularity societies instead of the generic future scifi cultures.

If it matters that it's quantum, it's probably not right. I know of zero cases of fiction where the physics A) was presented as being quantum, B) it actually mattered that it was quantum for something other than being a black box technology (e.g. using a computer, which relies on quantum mechanics, doesn't count), and C) was right. I suppose someone could have decided there was branching and then we never see the other branches, but I can't think of any such cases.

Like, Schild's Ladder has tons of quantum mechanics that might as well have been classical, and is not objectionable. One detail requires that it actually be quantum, and it's screwed up.

Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross is an excellent hard scifi story, with an android accountant as the lead character.

Longer in Stories than Stone by Sassafrass. Five minutes of gorgeousness. Contemporary classical/neo-Renaissance polyphony.

If you'd like a rationalist question as well as some good music, the song promotes the idea that stories are the longest immortality. There's been some talk here about longevity as an approximate version of oneself. Does long fame count at all?

Finale of their "Whispers of Ragnarok", and available as streaming just till the end of October. It will be on their CD (and I hope, DVD) of the whole performance available June 2014.

Here's the first track from the new release Psychic by Darkside: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8NaWT0WvEE

The entire album feels like lost memories, highly recommended.

Other Media Thread