February 2013 Media Thread

post by RobertLumley · 2013-02-02T01:36:04.449Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 100 comments

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.




Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by RobertLumley · 2013-02-02T01:34:32.781Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Online Videos Thread

Replies from: syllogism, NancyLebovitz, None
comment by syllogism · 2013-02-05T07:43:13.343Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A one hour informal lecture by Alexander Shulgin, the chemist who invented most of the modern "psychedelic" and "entheogen" drugs

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z14oZqon5NM (others linked from youtube)

He talks about how remarkable it is that a fairly simple molecule such as mescaline can be so transformative to our subjective experience. So what happens when you tweak the molecule in various ways? What do the variations do, in turn? Can we find any rules that govern this relationship?

More generally, his idea is that if we want to study this thing we call "consciousness" --- our subjective experience --- then it's useful to be able to twiddle the knobs a little, and these drugs potentially give us a way to do that. He sees himself as a tool-maker, developing experimental apparatus that other researchers ought to be able to use productively.

Replies from: achiral
comment by achiral · 2013-02-05T16:54:56.293Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A very good suggestion!

For those who don't know, Alexander Shulgin is one of the foremost figures in psychedelic drugs in the last century.

He discovered over 200 new psychedelic compounds himself and tested them on himself, his wife and a group of friends.

He worked at Dow and invented a "green" pesticide that allowed him to retire comfortably to work on his personal interests.

While he did not actually discover MDMA, it was due to his efforts that the drug was introduced to psychotherapists in the 70s and 80s.

Some of his books are banned in Australia.

He's a true hacker - although the HN crowd might not agree.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-02-14T20:20:04.132Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Mystery of the Black Death-- evidence that the Black Death wasn't spread by rats (which weren't common in northern Europe at that time) and wasn't bubonic plague. It may have been some sort of hemorraghic fever.

This is of interest to ratioinalists because it's about taking a second look at whether what everyone believes is actually plausible.

Is there a closure bias which favors just choosing a theory so as not to leave open questions?

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-02T05:49:23.784Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A previous post on LessWrong mentioned an online course on Google power searching. There is a recent Advanced course on offer as well.

comment by RobertLumley · 2013-02-02T01:35:53.129Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Meta Thread

Replies from: Larks
comment by Larks · 2013-02-02T17:57:38.588Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

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.

Should we also have a rule saying,

"Please avoid upvoting recommendations just because you personally like the recommended material; remember that liking is a two-place word. If you can point out a specific virtue in a person's recommendation, consider posting a comment to that effect."


Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-02-02T19:19:46.730Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think people should be punished for posting unpopular or bad material, but why not let people be upvoted for either popular or obscure but good material? Then the karma points remain useful (and you can infer from your own recognition or failure of recognition whether they are indicating popularity or quality-despite-obscurity) but people don't feel afraid or threatened to post other stuff.

Replies from: Pfft, Larks
comment by Pfft · 2013-02-03T17:27:33.241Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If the goal is that people should not be punished, how about the rule "do not downvote into negative score". That way it can never cost karma to post here, but people can still adjust the score of a recommendation downwards. If only positive votes are allowed, the scores will over-value controversial recommendations.

Replies from: DaFranker
comment by DaFranker · 2013-02-04T17:22:09.649Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think this almost cancels out.

If a high-scoring, highly controversial recommendation gets in such a situation, it means it got enough attention to be controversial and reached quite a few people, and is giving us some nice data on who likes what and how the LW population stands on this, assuming there's some kind of written feedback. I think that data is probably worth the karmic difference.

comment by Larks · 2013-02-02T19:55:45.506Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So to maximise karma I should just post links to every piece of media ever produced? People should be disincentivised from posting stuff that will harm the signal-noise ratio, here as in other threads.

Replies from: ArisKatsaris, ahartell, DaFranker, gwern
comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-02-03T12:33:08.712Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Let's use common sense. If I feel you deliberately post crap suggestions I'll downvote you, not because they're crap but because you deliberately harmed the signal-noise ratio.

comment by ahartell · 2013-02-02T20:10:41.085Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think that would work if you tried (posting links to everything). It may naively seem like that is being incentivized but from my own intuitions about what I would do if someone did that and that fact that that hasn't actually happened, I don't think you need to be concerned.

comment by DaFranker · 2013-02-04T17:21:07.194Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree with both your points. I disagree with the premise that people should be encouraged to maximize karma, or that this will be a significant problem, or that karma votes will be given primarily on the basis of how much users enjoyed the recommended content.

comment by gwern · 2013-02-02T20:43:45.495Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I didn't realize that I was suggesting 'posting links to every piece of media ever produced'. Maybe we should be discussing an addition to the rules about that since apparently it's a problem.

Replies from: ShardPhoenix
comment by ShardPhoenix · 2013-02-04T09:40:51.044Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think he was talking about you, just speaking hypothetically.

comment by RobertLumley · 2013-02-02T01:35:31.955Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Other Media Thread

Replies from: tgb, CronoDAS
comment by tgb · 2013-02-03T14:00:31.980Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gunnerkrig Court: an entertaining, story-based webcomic. Not complete, but has a significant amount already and updates MWF. Wavers between the silly, the absurd, and the genuinely great.

comment by CronoDAS · 2013-02-26T09:40:18.858Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been playing Persona 4 Golden recently. It's essentially a murder mystery, and it's sort of interesting that, at one point, the game gives you a list of literally every named character in the game and challenges you to identify the killer. If you fail, you get a bad ending. Most mysteries are content to let the detective give the reader the answer; this game makes the player do the hard work, and it's not at all obvious what the answer is. I accidentally spoiled myself on the solution, though.

I've been enjoying the game very much, and I'm pretty close to the "true" ending...

comment by RobertLumley · 2013-02-02T01:35:21.988Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Music Thread

Replies from: curiousepic, gwern, Bill_McGrath, negamuhia
comment by gwern · 2013-02-02T03:25:13.989Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Doujin (chronological):


  • "Thought" [vocal] (by 38BEETS; from 'Cause and Effect' {C82})


comment by Bill_McGrath · 2013-02-04T12:22:59.106Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • Shakey Graves (two songs) - Texan folk/country singer.

  • Red Fang (three more songs) - I guess you could call them stoner metal. They're like a less thinky Mastodon, but some of their more recent stuff (not linked) seems to be going down a more progressive route.

  • I found a neat little live studio album of Tower of Power recently. I can't find a good version of this album online, but here's two songs for anyone who doesn't know them, and the album is called Tower of Power Direct.

  • It's really clichéd for musicians to list her as an influence, but I'm currently deep in a Kate Bush phase. I must have listened to Never for Ever about five times in the last few days.

comment by negamuhia · 2013-02-02T12:18:58.318Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Chillstep : I've found this online collection to be quite relaxing, as the genre name suggests.

The Art Of Noise - The Seduction of Claude Debussy : I hadn't listened to any music by this super-group before this year, and now they're one of my favourite groups...I'm either fickle or these guys are awesome, and I'm not fickle. There's one song I liked in particular, Metaforce, and its remixes. It'll show you just how versatile this group is, with the rest of the album as a backdrop.

comment by RobertLumley · 2013-02-02T01:35:08.087Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Television and Movies Thread

Replies from: ShardPhoenix, None, gwern, philh
comment by ShardPhoenix · 2013-02-02T10:50:36.601Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If you're like me, most media you consume is some combination of dark, violent, and/or ironic. Chihayafuru, on the other hand, is sincere, heartwarming, and beautiful. It's also about an obscure Japanese card game about memorizing poetry, but don't let that put you off. It's exciting. Really.

Click the link above to watch for free - an Adblock browser plugin will skip the video ads for you.

Replies from: bbleeker, gwern, Vaniver
comment by bbleeker · 2013-02-04T08:19:55.974Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Sorry, this video is not available in your region due to licensing restrictions." :(

Replies from: ShardPhoenix
comment by ShardPhoenix · 2013-02-04T09:39:09.784Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Darn, I didn't know Crunchyroll suffered from such restrictions. Well, there's always piracy :P.

comment by gwern · 2013-02-02T19:21:38.723Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're far from the first person I've seen recommend Chihayafuru, and I even downloaded the OST (liked several tracks a lot) - but I still can't get over the premise. Playing karuta? Really? I read up on it long ago while researching Fujiwara no Teika (who happens to be the compiler of the anthology used), and it sounds dull as heck.

Replies from: Vaniver, None, ShardPhoenix
comment by Vaniver · 2013-02-03T15:11:55.463Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Playing karuta? Really?

My experience with creative works about sports is that they don't need to depend on the excitement generated by the sport so much as the excitement that the players have.

One of the things that's fascinating about Chihayafuru is that it's totally self-conscious that karuta is totally uninteresting to the general public. I would describe the show's content as being roughly one third the excitement of karuta matches, one third the interpersonal drama of the three protagonists, and one third the protagonist's interactions with society at large, which thinks her interest in karuta is silly.

The last two often combine, and I can't decide if the show is saying "Chihaya's situation is sad because society doesn't understand her" or "Chihaya's situation is sad because she doesn't understand society," or both. (Also, maybe her situation gets less sad, I don't know yet.)

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-02-09T20:32:14.454Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The last two often combine, and I can't decide if the show is saying "Chihaya's situation is sad because society doesn't understand her" or "Chihaya's situation is sad because she doesn't understand society," or both. (Also, maybe her situation gets less sad, I don't know yet.)

Sounds like a lot of otaku-centric anime, actually - Oreimo, Genshiken, Welcome to the NHK!, Otaku no Video, etc. Sometimes they swing from one extreme to another over an episode (although I think ONV is probably the most extreme due to its negative live-action segments interspersed in the positive anime).

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-03T00:33:02.487Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Get over the premise. I'm sure karuta is a pretty terrible game, but Chihayafuru makes it really easy to suspend disbelief there.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-02-03T01:05:39.147Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fine, I'll try it.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2013-02-03T00:39:35.261Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The biggest appeal of the show is the charming and well-developed characters, but a very common reaction among those who watch it is "wow, I can't believe that they made something so seemingly lame so exciting". Chihayafuru is proof that execution is everything. Also, it helps that the game is a bit more vigorous/physical than it might sound from reading the rules (eg: http://mizunoyukino.tumblr.com/post/42129944787), and that the show isn't afraid to have the protagonists actually lose important matches sometimes.

There's also a character who uses detailed statistics on the team and their opponents' play to improve their strategy, which may be up your alley :).

comment by Vaniver · 2013-02-02T18:34:54.817Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Four episodes in: Exciting is definitely the word I would use- the competitive aspect of the game comes in early, and the third episode had delightful moments, but each episode is tinged with loss and sadness in a way that makes the show hard to call heartwarming (so far).

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-05T15:31:58.179Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

House of Cards, the American made-for/by-Netflix remake, is actually quite good. The original British version with Ian Richardson is probably better, if a bit dated by its post-Thatcherist setting.

In a nutshell, Kevin Spacey plays Francis Underwood, the majority Democratic whip in an alternate reality where the Democrats won 2008 with someone other than Obama. After re-election, Frank is passed over for Secretary of State, and then starts using his connections to bring down the administration. There's a lot of sex, drugs, violence, backstabbing, and political intrigue.

Some of the critics I've read are annoyed with the bluntness of the action and the occasional weakness of the writing. On the other hand, because it was written for the Netflix format, all of the first season is available at once, and each episode can be as long as it needs to be. There aren't any commercials, so what you get is a smooth, continuous plot from start to stop. The series' running gag is that Francis breaks the fourth wall on a rather frequent basis, so you'd have to like Deadpool-esque main characters, too.

My main concern (I'm only two episodes in) is how the politics of England (which were kind of necessary to fill out the plot of the UK series) are going to translate to politics in the US version.

Replies from: Kawoomba
comment by Kawoomba · 2013-02-05T16:48:12.804Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

House of Cards, the American made-for/by-Netflix remake, is actually quite good.

I second that. I'm 10 episodes in, the quality seems to be sliding down. Either that or my attention span.

Francis breaks the fourth wall on a rather frequent basis

Hmm, while he does look at the camera, to me it was more of a "enable / distinguish inner monologue" kind of trick.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-05T17:04:45.351Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm 10 episodes in, the quality seems to be sliding down.

The original also had this defect, IIRC. There were too many irons in the fire, as it were, to give any of them justice.

comment by gwern · 2013-02-02T03:21:25.827Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I watched Life of Pi in 3D. I thought the visuals were very beautiful, but the message sillier than ever and the ending seemed to pull its punch compared to the novel. I made some cynical jokes about it on Google+.

Anime (descending):

  • Monster
  • Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita
  • Thermae Romae
  • Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo
  • Upotte!!
Replies from: cousin_it, Jayson_Virissimo, ArisKatsaris, ShardPhoenix, RomeoStevens
comment by cousin_it · 2013-02-02T20:54:40.056Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I watched "Life of Pi" in 3D too. The message didn't seem silly to me, I thought it was a really strong anti-religion piece and might even deconvert some people. Maybe we interpret the message differently?

Replies from: TobyBartels, taelor, gwern
comment by TobyBartels · 2013-02-25T22:18:48.753Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I haven't seen the movie, but Life of Pi is easily one of my favourite books. Of course it could never make anybody believe in God, but its brilliance is that theists (at least of a certain sort) can easily be led into thinking that it would. As a metaphor for religion, it is beautiful and accurate. It is perfectly clear what (in the framing fictional world) actually happened, and yet you know what most people (in that world or in this) are going to believe.

I only disliked the bit with the island. It was just too much, I thought; it gives the game away. But I was wrong. People choose to believe anyway! Preposterous but clung to: as I said, a perfect metaphor for theistic religion.

The book also makes it clear what it means to choose to believe in a false story, and I only hope that the movie does as well. That is how people are responding to it. Beautifully accurate. This is the best writing on religion that I have ever encountered.

Replies from: TobyBartels
comment by TobyBartels · 2013-05-31T05:12:25.509Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Following up: I've seen the movie now, and while of course it's not as good as the book, it's pretty good.

comment by taelor · 2013-02-14T23:30:10.983Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have niether read the novel nor watched the movie, but the tagline on the copy of the book that I briefly considered buying promised that it would "make you believe in God"; Whether this representative of the author's actual intent, or just the marketing is unknown to me.

comment by gwern · 2013-02-02T21:11:13.524Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think you came away with an entirely unintended view (by the filmmakers, and probably, although I'm not 100% sure, the novelist); if you look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_of_Pi it doesn't seem like anyone quoted in it has any anti-religious point of view at all.

Which is not to say that you can't extract a strong anti-religion message from the actual story! Doing so was in fact my first cynical joke (and a game we here have often played):

  1. Life of Pi is a extended demonstration of the wondrous value of lying to yourself about the awful things you do to survive and how other people will abet even murder if they're told a good story, and how this is all a metaphor for religion. Or something.
Replies from: cousin_it
comment by cousin_it · 2013-02-02T21:59:26.055Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wow, that's pretty surprising. Thanks.

But... the protagonist pretty much says "V'ir frra naq qbar fbzr ubeevsvp guvatf, gura vairagrq n cerggl fgbel gb oybpx gurz bhg. Naq fb vg tbrf jvgu tbq: jura crbcyr oryvrir va tbq, gurl'er qbvat gur fnzr." How can anyone consider this a pro-religion message? I guess I saw a really good anti-religion message while everyone else, including Obama, saw a pro-religion one.

Replies from: gwern, None
comment by gwern · 2013-02-02T23:05:38.553Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How can anyone consider this a pro-religion message?

The pretty story could just be the narration itself, truthful or not; the true horror and suffering is not going to come through his narration, even if he tries to describe his thirst or boredom or fear of the tiger. As a counter-point, consider what we're told repeatedly by the narrator of the frame story and IIRC Pi as well: that it's a story which will make one believe in God. A story about cannibalism & murder with a cover-up lie to preserve one's sanity isn't really that sort of story.

Replies from: cousin_it
comment by cousin_it · 2013-02-03T01:07:40.160Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was under the impression that the frame story was supposed to convince you to believe in God, by presenting an argument that believing in God might be a lie but it's useful to keep your sanity and the facts don't matter anyway. The key phrase of the film, "and so it goes with God", uttered in a depressing tone, refers to that. That's the brilliance I saw in the film: in the space of one minute, it presents this rational case for the usefulness of belief, then turns around and shows you how hollow it is. No?

(Sorry if I'm kind of over-explaining the point here, I'm a bit sleepy)

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-02-03T01:27:15.222Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, that's what I thought you meant. And as I said, I like this interpretation better since I think the case for believing in God because of the story is so weak that it forms a sort of reductio so that you believe the opposite ('this is his best argument for believing in God - it's only a slightly useful Noble Lie?') But I don't think this is how the author takes the ending, or what he believes. If you look at one of Wikipedia's refs, this interview http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/july-dec02/martel_11-11.html - it comes off as your standard mushy-headed NOMA ecumenicalism. He talks about his own directionless life, admiring all religions, getting the idea in India, that sort of thing, and caps it off:

And it's funny, I realize people who reject religion or are very cynical about it usually know just enough about a religion to be able to dismiss it. So they only know the exaggerations, the excesses of that religion. In a sense, what a lot of us do with Islam, we only notice the bad things about it. We don't realize the good things that are happening with it. So now that I've suspended my cynicism, now that I've put aside my criticism let's say of organized religion and gone to the texts, yes, I do see more of where they're coming from.

To me, this makes the author sound like he's... what's that sarcastic phrase, 'spiritual but not theistic'? If I had to guess, I think he put in the twist as a trap for the cynical and atheistic which lets them (us) think they've solved the story and reduced it down to dreary rationality (unweaved the rainbow) but which serves as an opportunity for the spiritual to affirm that they believe the tiger story and that believing is important even if not all the facts seem to fit (belief in belief).

comment by [deleted] · 2013-02-03T00:15:22.004Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I haven't seen the movie but what you wrote sounds like a big spoiler. If so please use rot13.

comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2013-02-04T03:25:58.864Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I actually really liked Monster, but stopped watching because it was making my wife depressed. Oh well. In any case, if you are predisposed towards melancholy, you should avoid this one.

Replies from: Zaine
comment by Zaine · 2013-02-08T07:36:23.145Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

She should finish it, I think. The series negatively affected my mood at times. I could only bring myself to watch one to a few episodes per week ~ month, even. Stopping frequently, analysing assertions, and thinking about hard-to-process bits for long stretches at a time kept me occupied for the better part of more than a year. In the end it strengthened my ability to safely process uncomfortable ideas. Shortly after viewing the denouement ever-pervading thoughts about the series were silenced.

In brief, mental security may be better served by watching the series in its entirety; I think stopping mid-way a potentially worrying decision.

Only potentially, of course. She probably forgot about it already.

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2013-02-15T00:09:09.762Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's a certain style of story in which things are relentlessly hopeless and depressing... until they aren't. Once you start, not getting to the ending may not be a good idea. I haven't seen Monster, though, so I don't know if it's one of these.

Replies from: Zaine
comment by Zaine · 2013-02-15T03:27:37.203Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Assuming you're empathic, MONSTER will harden you through trying vicarious experiences.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-02-03T12:45:04.463Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I believe Upotte!! to be the crappiest series I've ever watched to its full length(10 episodes), though from the 5th episode onwards I think I was only watching for the purpose of completion. Given it only a 4 in my anime list, and thought to give it a 3. And I speak as someone who doesn't really mind the excessive fanservice-ness, which you named as your primary objection to it...

My own objections to it is that it doesn't bother with world building, I couldn't care about any of the characters, and it has no real story. One of the ultra-fanservicey scenes (gur sberfg cfrhqb-encr ol gung cflpubgvp tha/tvey) was actually one of the only memorable things, and thus one of the few things that is placed in my "pluses" column regarding the show.

On the other hand, I heartily recommend the first three suggestions.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-02-09T20:46:15.123Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I enjoyed the gun battles, and I too enjoyed that 'ultra-fanservicey scene' once I got past my sheer incredulity; but yeah, the world-building in Upotte! is a repeated series of WTFs.

That said, I did consider ranking it above Evangelion 3.0 because that was such a disappointment.

comment by ShardPhoenix · 2013-02-02T10:54:30.227Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Does something being at the bottom of the list mean you don't recommend it at all, or that you cautiously recommend it?

edit: the ratings on your anime list suggest the latter.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-02-02T16:50:35.149Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't really do recommendations at all. For most people, I'm not sure I'd recommend any of those - Monster is too huge a time investment for most people, Jinrui is just too odd, Thermae Romae too Japanese and eccentric, 3.0 is probably the worst Eva movie so far on top of making hardly any sense even to people who have watched the preceding movies, and Upotte!! is so fanservicey & otaku-oriented that I felt uncomfortable watching much of it.

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2013-02-15T00:10:11.578Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Why would you expect Evangelion to make sense?

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-02-15T03:02:51.261Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm hardly a neophyte; 1.0 and 2.0 made plenty of sense to me on the first viewing and I correctly inferred many of the goals that motivated apparent flaws in them, for example. So I was not expecting 3.0 to be what it was.

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2013-02-15T03:37:01.934Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Did you watch the series? Because the series starts out making sense and doesn't go into full-blown insanity mode until near the end.

::reads plot summary of Eva 3.0 on Wikipedia::

Yeah, that's definitely based on the insanity mode stuff...

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-02-15T04:38:18.522Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Of course I watched the series; and I didn't start enjoying it until it went into insanity mode, so I don't think that's it.

Replies from: CronoDAS
comment by CronoDAS · 2013-02-15T04:49:22.876Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ah. Well I haven't watched any of the Rebuild, so I don't know much about that version of the story.

comment by RomeoStevens · 2013-02-02T07:03:29.847Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

2nd Monster but be prepared for depressing.

It's funny, I managed to read Life of Pi and enjoy it purely as an adventure tale and ignore the stupid metaphor, but could not do the same for Dune.

comment by philh · 2013-02-02T16:00:19.324Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I thought The Imposter) was a great illustration of various human thought patterns, such as the desire for narrative.

E.g. ng bar cbvag gur qrgrpgvir qrpvqrf Obheqva vf cebonoyl n fcl, orpnhfr jul ryfr jbhyq fbzrbar sbervta cergraq gb or n zvffvat puvyq? Yngre ur qrpvqrf gur snzvyl xvyyrq Avpubynf, orpnhfr jul ryfr jbhyq gurl unir npprcgrq Obheqva?

Replies from: AngryParsley
comment by AngryParsley · 2013-02-04T02:34:56.666Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I liked the movie, but I was annoyed by the misleading editing near the end.

Gur vagreivrjf gnyxvat nobhg gur snzvyl xvyyvat Avpubynf vagrefcrefrq jvgu gur cevingr vairfgvtngbe qvttvat va gur onpx lneq ernyyl fhttrfgrq gung gurl jbhyq svaq n obql. V xrcg guvaxvat, "Gurer'f ab jnl ur'f tbvat gb svaq n obql... ohg ubj ryfr jvyy guvf raq? Gurl jbhyq bayl neenatr gurfr fprarf gbtrgure vs vg jnf tbvat gb cnl bss." Gura bs pbhefr, vg qvqa'g cnl bss.

I'd say it's worth a watch, although I'd never heard of the disappearance of Nicholas Barclay. I'm not sure it'd be as interesting for someone who already knew the story.

comment by RobertLumley · 2013-02-02T01:34:59.668Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fiction Books Thread

Replies from: gwern, NancyLebovitz
comment by gwern · 2013-02-02T03:19:29.245Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


  • Danielewski, House of Leaves (review)
  • Jordan/Sanderson, A Memory of Light (review)
  • Shaw, Back to Methuselah (review)
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-02-27T17:34:35.967Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Less Stewart-- it's been mentioned here once, but I'm amazed it isn't extremely popular here for rationalism and famous in general as a delightful book.

It's about four orphans who are recruited for a mission against a terrifying organization full of well-dressed people who talk in bafflegab and is led by a vain man who has mind control technology. Not only does the book have appreciation for high intelligence, it has appreciation for different kinds of intelligence.

It's in the romantic tradition (Victor Hugo, not modern romance) of disguises, secret tunnels, and sudden turns of fortune. It has a lot of respect for updating and for checking on whether things make sense.

comment by RobertLumley · 2013-02-02T01:34:50.193Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nonfiction Books Thread

Replies from: negamuhia, lucidian, djcb, syllogism, David_Gerard, CellBioGuy, lukeprog, Larks, gwern
comment by negamuhia · 2013-02-02T12:48:05.559Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Language in Thought and Action, by S. I. Hayakawa. It goes without saying that this book is highly recommended. To those who've read the sequences, and have therefore had just a bite of the hearty meal, you should really get it. An anecdote about how I came to find this gem: My grandfather is a retired linguist, and in his library, in a house I grew up in, he keeps, and still has, a gigantic collection of books. A member of that distinguished class of "books older than me", this book is a part of his linguistics collection, and I didn't even know he had it until a few weeks ago when I was having a conversation with my uncle in said library. The title jumped out at me, and I haven't been this happy about finding a book in that room since I found my mother reading Kahneman.

Replies from: BerryPick6, djcb
comment by BerryPick6 · 2013-02-02T12:53:50.972Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your family is awesome.

comment by djcb · 2013-02-03T17:59:10.645Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Linguistics are interesting, and this book is a classic of the field, but could you explain why you think it is so great? Haven't read the book yet, but I'm interested to know if I should give it some extra priority in my reading queue.

comment by lucidian · 2013-02-02T02:23:11.656Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Louder than Words by Benjamin K. Bergen is a new (published October 2012) book on embodied cognition that summarizes research supporting the idea that we understand language by mentally simulating the events described, using the same parts of the brain that perceive such events.

I'm in the middle of the book right now; it's a quick read. I haven't read any of the original research, so it's difficult for me to comment on the book's quality. I don't necessarily recommend the book, but it seemed like the sort of thing LW should know about if no one's mentioned it already.

comment by djcb · 2013-02-03T18:22:31.596Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
  • I finished Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise; I liked it. Very accessible view into the world of predicitions in very different field (earthquakes, poker, elections, stock market, ...). Nice book to introduce people into quite a few of the LW-themes. One weakness I found that while Silver got to interview Donald Rumsfeld, he succeeds in not getting anything interesting out of him.
  • Also, I finally finished Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow, a great book that discusses many of our cognivitive biases. A whole subgenre of irrationality-pop-psy has arisen in the last few years, but this is really the book that makes much of those superfluous. Book gets a bit tedious in the end, but I'd still consider it near-mandatory reading for people interested in LW-themes.
comment by syllogism · 2013-02-05T07:35:43.600Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Strongly recommend:

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined Steven Pinker

You've likely heard of this; if you haven't you absolutely must at least watch bis TED talk or find an article summary. I'll add my high recommendation.

Weakly recommend:

The ancestor's tale Richard Dawkins

I got what I wanted from this, which was better knowledge of the phylogenetic tree. Still, it wanders around quite a lot, and it makes it seem like he doesn't really understand the probability models being used for the sequence-based evidence that's challenging a lot of the old assumptions.

Micro-motives and macro-behaviour Thomas Schelling

I really only bought this because The Art of Strategy wasn't in the Kindle store. It's an okay set of game theory/group dynamics teasers to sharpen your intuition, but far from essential.

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-02-03T00:04:25.099Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Worlds Of Their Own: A Brief History of Misguided Ideas: Creationism, Flat-Earthism, Energy Scams and the Velikovsky Affair - a collection of skeptical works from the '70s-'90s. Old-style skepticism, but he's quite kind to his subjects - interviews with Velikovsky, flat earthers, free-energy cranks. Not so kind to creationists, particularly Duane Gish. Has an excellent chapter describing the pseudoscientific method in detail, which I need to summarise.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2013-02-26T04:15:52.214Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Debunking Economics, by Steve Keen.

comment by lukeprog · 2013-02-13T16:47:33.212Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been reading parts of Pseudo-Problems: How Analytic Philosophy Gets Done.

It introduced me to this nice Boltzman quote:

If therefore philosophy were to succeed in creating a system such that... it stood out clearly when a question is not justified, so that the drive towards asking it would gradually die away, [then] philosophy would become worthy of the name of queen of the sciences.

comment by Larks · 2013-02-02T18:01:51.459Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Problem of Political Authority, by Michael Huemer. review amazong. Best book on political philosophy I've read. Clear writting style, doesn't appeal to massive conjunctive reasoning - unlike much philosophy. Even mentions GiveWell.

comment by gwern · 2013-02-02T03:18:10.858Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Descending order:

Replies from: Jayson_Virissimo, taelor
comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2013-02-14T23:54:54.554Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The only one I'm interested in is the one without a review. What didn't you like about Legal Systems Very Different From Ours (or were the others exceptionally good?)?

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-02-15T03:03:43.185Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Legal Systems was extremely derivative (I knew pretty much everything Friedman was writing about) and failed, I thought, to derive the insightful comparisons and contrasts I expected of Friedman.

Replies from: Jayson_Virissimo
comment by Jayson_Virissimo · 2013-02-15T03:52:34.556Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Very disappointing. I have been looking forward to this book since he mentioned he might write it (years ago). Thanks.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-02-15T04:37:18.571Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well, you can always read it yourself, it's online. Unless you know as much as I do about Saga Iceland law and American Amish/Mennonite communities etc, you probably would get more out of it.

comment by taelor · 2013-02-14T23:42:12.528Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I can recommend The True Believer.

comment by RobertLumley · 2013-02-02T01:34:42.431Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fanfiction Thread

Replies from: BlackNoise
comment by BlackNoise · 2013-02-04T08:42:46.199Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been reading a lot of fanfiction recently, starting with HPMoR then going recursively through Eliezer's 'favorites' list, eventually branching to various TVTropes recommended lists. It's in the latter that I found Destiny is a Hazy thing, a Naruto AU fanfic with major Lovecraftian themes and (currently, at least) minor crossover/shout out elements to Evangelion. The author page has a rather good description. Personally I like this story because it combines a lot of elements I seem to enjoy in fiction, mainly a 'large world' feel and Anehgb univat Lbt Fbgubgu nf n sngure svther (minor spoiler).

I'm currently reading another story by Calanor, Harry Potter and the Puppet of Time

Draco receives the memories of his future self and undertakes an effort to free Harry from Dumbledore's plan without turning him into another Dark Lord and make a better life for himself in the process. Naturally, things stray from their planned path very fast.

Seems to be worth reading as well.

If someone is interested, I can probably spare the time to go over the fics I've read and recommend what I liked, but right now I'll limit myself to Calanor due to his works being sufficiently obscure as to not be easily noticeable otherwise (and maybe other obscure but good authors I find).

comment by RobertLumley · 2013-02-02T01:34:25.374Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Short Online Texts Thread

Replies from: lukeprog, lukeprog, lukeprog, lukeprog, lukeprog, ChristianKl, lukeprog, lukeprog, lukeprog, lukeprog, lukeprog, lukeprog
comment by lukeprog · 2013-02-11T09:41:26.252Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

When Books Could Change Your Life.

Here's a snippet:

When we’re children, all the books we read are handed down to us, like the Ten Commandments, by grownups, who seem like, and sort of are, a different order of being from ourselves. They’re the gods of childhood, bigger and older and more experienced; they know more than we do, imparting what wisdom to us they think we can bear, empowered to tell us what to do. I’m over 40 now, no longer by even the most charitable definition a young adult, and I’m starting to realize, in something like panic, that I don’t understand anything, and that nobody else seems to know any more about it than I do. There aren’t any grownups.

I would amend this to say there are a few grownups, and that the next step after noticing one's ignorance should be to extinguish it if possible.

Another snippet:

Books that unabashedly purport to supply all the answers sell like Hula-Hoops or Viagra. This genre is called “wisdom literature” if it’s old enough to be respectable or “self-help” if it’s by someone who’s still alive and making money off it, and ranges in credibility and earnestness of intention from the Tao te Ching and Aurelius’ Meditations to shameless dogshit like The Secret.

comment by lukeprog · 2013-02-11T09:45:14.305Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Weatherman is Not a Moron.

Snippet 1:

Our views about predictability are inherently flawed. Take something that is often seen as the epitome of randomness, like a coin toss. While it may at first appear that there’s no way to tell whether a coin is going to come up heads or tails, a group of mathematicians at Stanford is able to predict the outcome virtually 100 percent of the time, provided that they use a special machine to flip it. The machine does not cheat — it flips the coin the exact same way (the same height, with the same strength and torque) over and over again — and the coin is fair. Under those conditions, there is no randomness at all.

Snippet 2:

For centuries, meteorologists relied on statistical tables based on historical averages — it rains about 45 percent of the time in London in March, for instance — to predict the weather. But these statistics are useless on a day-to-day level. Jan. 12, 1888, was a relatively warm day on the Great Plains until the temperature dropped almost 30 degrees in a matter of hours and a blinding snowstorm hit. More than a hundred children died of hypothermia on their way home from school that day. Knowing the average temperature for a January day in Topeka wouldn’t have helped much in a case like that.

comment by ChristianKl · 2013-02-26T17:34:22.541Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What will the billion dollar brain projects do?


The Human Brain Project sells itself as aiming to “simulate a complete human brain in a supercomputer” but this is clearly bollocks. [,..]

It’s interesting that this claim makes the press kit and the flashy video but the actual report (pdf) has much more sober claims about ‘simulating brain dynamics’ and the like.

But it’s important to realise that while their big sell is nonsense, the project is likely to genuinely revolutionise neuroscience in a way that could push the field light years ahead.

What Markram has realised is that the single biggest barrier to progress in neuroscience is the co-ordination, sharing and integration of data.

Essentially, it’s a problem of information architecture but quite frankly, you can’t sell that to politicians and they can’t sell it to the public. Hence the ‘simulating a complete human brain’ fluff.

comment by lukeprog · 2013-02-23T09:41:37.929Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Dave Hitt, Name Three (h/t Qiaochu).