May 2013 Media Thread

post by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:09:50.456Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 56 comments

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.



Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:17:36.295Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Short Online Texts Thread

Replies from: lukeprog
comment by lukeprog · 2013-05-17T22:19:38.346Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Gueron & Seifert - On the Impossibility of Detecting Virtual Machine Monitors.

Can a program determine whether it is running in a virtualized environment, or in a native machine environment? We prove here that, under a classical VM model, this problem is not decidable.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:11:09.413Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Online Videos Thread

Replies from: syllogism
comment by syllogism · 2013-05-03T05:35:29.906Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ze Frank is amazing. Mostly they're funny and interesting, slightly poetic, takes on life and normality.

"Make Believe"


"Hack to power, Brian"

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:11:05.067Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fanfiction Thread

Replies from: beoShaffer
comment by beoShaffer · 2013-05-05T04:23:51.042Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To the Stars - I found this through HP:MoR's author notes so you may have heard of it already, but its awesomeness makes it worth mentioning anyway. It is an enthralling transhumanist, quasi-rationalist, far future sequel to PMMM. It also bears a strong resemblance to the Old Man's War series in the same way that HP:MoR is clearly inspired by Ender's Game. It (generally) stands on its own, but has major spoilers for PMMM and to a lesser extent the cannon spin-off PMOM.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:10:59.329Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nonfiction Books Thread

Replies from: gwern, djcb
comment by gwern · 2013-05-01T16:23:10.068Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


  • In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives, Levy (review)
  • Singularity Rising: Surviving and Thriving in a Smarter, Richer, and More Dangerous World, James Miller (review)
  • Heisenberg and the Nazi Atomic Bomb Project, 1939-1945: A Study in German Culture
  • Man's Search for Meaning, Frankl
  • Dreamland: Travels Inside the Secret World of Roswell and Area 51, Patton
  • Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, Keown
Replies from: lukeprog
comment by lukeprog · 2013-05-02T04:49:15.836Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just chiming in to say I appreciate you posting these lists, and links to reviews.

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-05-03T01:24:51.994Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're welcome. I don't put a whole lot of effort into the reviews (much more into the excerpting), so I'm glad they're still helpful.

comment by djcb · 2013-05-01T20:01:38.312Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Guns Of August - Barbara Tuchman. Tuchman's classic book about the first month of World War I. It's written in a somewhat informal way, and Tuchman seems to be especially interested by the various character's mustaches, for some reason.It's a good introduction into that first month, when the German's got so close to winning, and then... didn't.

Moonwalking with Einstein - Joshua Foer. In short: a book a journalist how writes a story about the US memory competition, then decides to try himself, and wins the next year. While doing so, he discusses the various tricks that 'mental athletes' use (many of which are known since ancient times), the differences with the inborn talents of idiots savants and the little subculture of people taking part in these competitions. I liked the book -- it constantly tries to understand why things work the way they seem to work, leaves room for alternative explanations etc., while keeping the book fascinating.

Feeling Good - David Burns. This book is (mostly) about Behavioral Therapy (BT), a therapy for treating depressions. I happily do not suffer from those, but I was interested in what the field has come up with, a field which still has bit of a proto-scientific smell.

BT is based on the thought that depressions are often based on errors of thinking (such as being too negative, having unrealistic expectations, all-or-nothing thinking and so on), and that patients can be help by systematically exposing these thinking errors, and making them think in more realistic terms. One of the ways to do this is to keep lists of expectations what will be happen in many daily things ('it's going to be a disaster'), and then later adding what actually happened ('it wasn't too bad'). Sounds almost /too/ rational, but apparently it worked. The end of the book also discusses chemical treatments at length, and sees them as something that is sometimes necessary, but always in combination with other therapy. This part interested me less. Overall, I liked Dr. Burn's writing style -- concise, precise and self-critical, and he seems to anticipate this reader's "but what if" responses quite well.

Antifragile - Things That Gain from Disorder - Nassim Taleb. In this book, Taleb discusses antifragility, i.e., the property of flourishing in the face of randomness, rare events, and so one, and he contrasts this with many of the world's systems, which are fragile -- strongly depend on their environment being predictable.

Prime examples of this would be the world economy (fragile) and the human body (gets better at fighting pathogens the more it is exposed to them).

Taleb fills the book with this -- and even more with gratuitously throwing around references to ancient philosophers etc., and shamelessly adding anecdotes with himself being the hero (not just the smartest, but also an impressive weight-lifter 'looks like a body-guard'). If you can overlook that, it's an interesting book.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-30T14:29:50.833Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Taleb's boasting and self-congratulation are tiresome, but he's got an interesting tidbit even in the part about weight-lifting-- he recommends looking at what people who have achieved something do, not what they say works for other people to achieve it.

On the other hand, he took up weight-lifting/body-building because he was getting threatened, which wouldn't do much good if someone shoots him.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:10:51.063Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Fiction Books Thread

Replies from: elharo, CellBioGuy, gwern, David_Gerard, FiftyTwo, RichardKennaway
comment by elharo · 2013-05-18T17:45:31.561Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling.

Yes, I picked it up because it's by the Harry Potter lady; but it's hard to imagine how a book could be further away from Harry Potter. This is an ultra-realist novel for adults. By ultra-realist, I mean that not only are there no magical or science fictional elements. There aren't even any implausible elements or plot devices. (OK, maybe one involving some SQL injection, but it at least falls into the realm of the possible.) That is, this is a book about people who behave pretty much exactly like real people do; no heroes or villains here, though there are more and less likeable characters.

If Rowling's name were not on the cover, I doubt anyone would ever have suspected this book was by her. It really is that different. The language is different. The point of view is different (third person omniscient instead of Harry Potter's less common third person limited omniscient view). The novel is far more character driven than the plot-centric Harry Potter novels. There are no big reversals where you discover the good guy is the bad guy and the bad guy is the good guy. (This would be quite hard to pull off in third person omniscient, in any case.)

However, there is one thing that really stands out; and both connects this novel to Rowling, and distinguishes it from most other fiction including the Harry Potter novels. The children are equally well-drawn as characters, and equally important to the story as the adults. Although this is an adult novel, it is not one that makes the mistake of treating children as set dressing. The children here are real and significant. In LessWrong speak, everyone's a PC. There are no NPCs. Most adult novels ignore children. Most children's novels ignore adults. It is rare to find a novel that treats both children and adults as characters in their own right.

Replies from: NancyLebovitz
comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-18T18:17:19.498Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's some overlap with Harry Potter, but it's not obvious. One thing is that the last HP novel was naturalistic in the sense of having a lot of wandering around in the woods and (if I recall correctly) bickering.

Another is that HP shows a lot of mistrust of institutions. Personal loyalty in small groups takes up the slack. In A Casual Vacancy, the one person who's maintaining loyalty in a small town dies, and we see the consequences of a moral keystone being taken away.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2013-05-03T06:26:16.172Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Star Maker, by Olaf Stapledon

Last and First Men, by Olaf Stapledon

Replies from: David_Gerard
comment by David_Gerard · 2013-05-13T08:11:39.754Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Olaf Stapledon is little-known these days, but is a fine example of just how well-written British science fiction could be at the same time as Gernsback was just starting American science fiction. (Hence Aldiss in Billion Year Spree having a bit of a rant about how Gernsback ruined SF for decades, and it took until the New Wave for American SF to rediscover any sense of literary value.) Have you got to Odd John and Last Men In London yet?

Replies from: CellBioGuy
comment by CellBioGuy · 2013-05-13T13:28:13.062Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Stapledon's philosophy background probably helped, among other things. Word is that Arthur C. Clarke was directly influenced by reading his stuff too.

I honestly found Odd John rather tiresome at times (too pseudo-Nietzche plus tired early-twentieth-century myth of progress, the combination seems to rub me the wrong way), though it's got some great... Stapledonisms (?) sprinkled around. I also liked Sirius. The books Last Men in London and Death into Life are on my reading list with a pile of other things.

comment by gwern · 2013-05-01T16:22:39.509Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


  • Daemon, Suarez (review)
  • Shades of Grey, Fforde (review)
  • Young Philby, Littell
  • Freedom (TM), Suarez (anti-recommendation)
comment by David_Gerard · 2013-05-13T08:04:09.544Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The entire Flashman series. I was pointed at it by a Hitchens piece. It's historical adventure fiction potboilers about the British Army in the Victorian age; pretty lightweight, but the author has gone to some pains to make it as historically accurate as possible, with footnotes. I'm moving house at present and it's a nice diversion between packing boxes, and an easy way to learn a bit of history.

comment by FiftyTwo · 2013-05-21T16:34:45.377Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Elantris and The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson are both very entertaining. Moderately but not explicitly rationalist as the magic is systematic and the main plot revolves around investigation.

comment by RichardKennaway · 2013-05-07T11:30:07.377Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not a recommendation or a discommendation, just a drawing to attention of a novel on LessWrong-relevant themes:

Susan Greenfield, the neuroscientist turned science writer, has written an SF novel, out in July, 2121: A Tale From the Next Century.

I haven't read it, obviously, so I'll just paste the blurb here from Amazon.

In the near future, humanity has experienced a great schism. The larger part is ruled by instinct and pleasure: they are ageless, beautiful yet wholly dependent on technology designed by previous generations to sustain them. Having no social structure or self-consciousness to speak of, to the minority they are simply known as the Others.

But into this unmarked, timeless community walks Fred, the first visitor from a far-off land. His people are the N-Ps, governed by logic, revolted by the mindless, unfettered sollipsism of the Others. In all respects a model N-P, as Fred conducts his studies, he finds himself caught in an awkward relationship with his test subjects.

Fred begins to feel for the childlike members of the Dwelling he observes. Embracing their gaudy, hyperreal life of screens and implants, Fred begins to be changed himself, even as he begins to affect the minds of these Others in ways that may not be to their benefit.

Sounds like Eloi, Morlocks, and Fun Theory.

I also randomly found this interview with her from 2011 that touches on the themes of the book.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:10:46.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Television and Movies Thread

Replies from: gwern
comment by gwern · 2013-05-01T16:27:00.414Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Anime; descending:

  • Another (review)
  • Wasurenagumo
  • She and Her Cat
  • AMV Hell 6.66


  • Die Hard
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
  • Obayashi's House
  • A Good Day to Die Hard (anti-recommendation)
comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:10:41.176Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Music Thread

Replies from: gwern, iDante, NancyLebovitz, David_Gerard
comment by gwern · 2013-05-01T16:41:54.406Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

General doujin; reverse chronological (what can I say? I finally got through listening to most of my Comiket 83 downloads):



comment by iDante · 2013-05-01T17:07:23.719Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've been on a post-rock binge. My favorite bands along this line are Godspeed You! Black Emperor, World's End Girlfriend, and, of course, Explosions in the Sky. I don't expect this music appeals to everyone though.

Replies from: tgb
comment by tgb · 2013-05-05T03:04:18.807Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good suggestions - I hadn't heard of World's End Girlfriend before and quite enjoy it.

For other post-rock suggestions: literally every song by the Evpatoria Report is worth listening to, IMO. The standouts being Eighteen Robins Road, Naptalan and it's immediate sequel Vokshod Project, and Taijin Kyofoshu.

Replies from: iDante
comment by iDante · 2013-05-06T03:03:37.036Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're the second person to recommend me them so I finally listened to their music and yep. It's good.


comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-30T14:32:04.705Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Going Down by Jake Chudnow-- medium high energy electronic music in 7/8, very pleasant and has space exploration video track.

comment by David_Gerard · 2013-05-01T18:37:13.610Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Enormous quantities of obscure old disco from Burning The Ground, most of it terrible but some of it really amazingly good.

"Hallelujah 2000", however, is still holding the prize for worst record I've heard this year. I lasted until the banjo solo.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:10:33.109Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Podcasts Thread

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-03T05:05:40.965Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm a few episodes into Welcome to Night Vale,

a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.

Turn on your radio and hide.

On Twitter: "Do you ever stare at the sky? Have you tried to imagine the vastness of space? You may be entitled to compensation."

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:10:29.335Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Other Media Thread

Replies from: TrE, Nic_Smith, NancyLebovitz, FiftyTwo
comment by TrE · 2013-05-02T18:36:13.684Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No-one has to die is a short online game with an emphasis on its story. I don't want to spoiler you, so just play if you want to (takes about 30 minutes), and you may find a few interesting topics in there.

Replies from: gothgirl420666
comment by gothgirl420666 · 2013-05-05T15:24:05.193Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, that was cool.

comment by Nic_Smith · 2013-05-02T01:51:20.269Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Magical Diary -- it has puzzles, although they're only a small part of the game. Ellen reminded me of Less Wrong fairly quickly; I later found out that TV Tropes lists her subplot as a shout-out to Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.

Replies from: Dorikka, ourimaler
comment by Dorikka · 2013-05-02T16:18:24.400Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Seconded. Also, the game has a certain amount of replay value due to the different subplots, and being able to rewind is awesome.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-02T16:25:59.795Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What, is the main character named Homura?

Replies from: Dorikka
comment by Dorikka · 2013-05-02T20:12:09.292Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Not quite. :P You can use your mouse wheel to scroll backwards a few frames, allowing you to "rewind" the game to a certain extent. This was nifty when I wanted to try something that I knew would prevent me from playing the subplot that I wanted to.

comment by ourimaler · 2015-02-19T22:54:18.989Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I played it a few months ago. It was quite fun... and, yes, there's one big shout-out to HPMoR (more specifically, to the Bayesian Conspiracy) in interactions with Ellen.

comment by NancyLebovitz · 2013-05-01T19:14:35.536Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Journey Walkthrough-- this is a walkthrough of a remarkably pretty and peaceful game. Cloaked non-human needs to collect glowy coupons to add to his scarf so that he can leap on to the the higher places and eventually get to a mountain on the horizon.

The landscapes are open, and the running through sand is delightful, if implausible. So is the no-equipment skiing down sand dunes.

The narrator has a tone of peaceful, interested delight at the various events.

The walkthrough is more calming than any amount of New Age music with landscapes that I've seen. I've only watched three out of seven(?) episodes, but I'm expecting to like the rest.

Replies from: None
comment by [deleted] · 2013-05-03T01:08:55.717Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've listened to the game soundtrack and I liked it; thanks for this!

comment by FiftyTwo · 2013-05-21T16:08:59.563Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ingress is a fun alternate reality game played on android devices. Basically two teams battle for control of various real world landmarks as part of an ongoing plot-line. Good for encouraging exercise and exploration. Very clever use of the device's capabilities, I think we'll see more like it in the future.

Its technically in a closed beta, but its pretty easy to get invites online. PM me your email address if you're having trouble.

comment by syllogism · 2013-05-02T17:04:55.769Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Ze Frank is amazing. Mostly they're funny and interesting, slightly poetic, takes on life and normality.

"Make Believe"


"Hack to power, Brian"

Replies from: Dorikka
comment by Dorikka · 2013-05-02T20:16:24.910Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for posting recommendations. It would be great if you used the category threads, though -- they help people find the stuff that they're interested in more easily.

comment by elharo · 2013-05-01T22:10:54.997Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm greatly enjoying Call The Midwife (available on Netflix streaming). As I cross middle age, I find I have less and less patience for hearing the same stories over and over again, and the first thing I look for is originality. Most movies, TV shows, comic books, and genre fiction have become so repetitive and predictable. (They probably always were, but it took 40 years of consumption to really notice.) For instance, is Downton Abbey really all that different from Upstairs Downstairs? But Call the Midwife is a story I have simply never heard before set in place and time (1950s London's East End) I've never seen a story done before.

On top of that, this series manages to be dramatic without setting up cartoon bad guys. All the characters are complex and real and imperfect, but there aren't any villains here. I suppose the pimps in Episode 2 count as villains, but they're barely on the screen at all. Ultimately it's an interesting story about life and people.

Replies from: Dorikka, gwern
comment by Dorikka · 2013-05-02T20:16:39.668Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for posting recommendations. It would be great if you used the category threads, though -- they help people find the stuff that they're interested in more easily.

comment by gwern · 2013-05-01T22:55:00.146Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've seen a few episodes; 'sentimental' is a word that was meant for Call The Midwife.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:10:24.595Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Other Media Thread

Replies from: ArisKatsaris
comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:15:20.903Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Podcasts got their own thread barely (10 votes in favor, 8 votes against) in last month's poll. I think however than 10 subthreads are enough, so if we create new ones for other types of media from now on, I suggest we should also be examining which existing categories can be dropped or merged.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:10:18.256Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Meta Thread

Replies from: TrE, sixes_and_sevens, ArisKatsaris
comment by TrE · 2013-05-02T18:37:42.664Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How about a category for video games (there are already two in this month's thread)?

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-05-01T13:49:54.033Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't have any recommendations on the subject just yet, but I would like to start talking about textbooks at some point in the near future. I don't know if the monthly media thread is the best place for this, so I thought I'd throw the subject out in meta and see what came back.

Replies from: bogus
comment by bogus · 2013-05-01T14:13:08.981Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Are you aware of this thread? It seems more effective to consolidate advice about textbooks to a single thread, since textbooks are less time-dependent and less subject to short-term fads that even other kinds of informational, non-fiction media.

Replies from: sixes_and_sevens
comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2013-05-01T18:27:03.939Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm aware of it, but it's buried. There seem to be enough people on Less Wrong who consume textbooks in an extracurricular fashion that it could be worth having semi-frequent discussions on the subject. Perhaps not every month (hence why I wasn't sure the media thread was the best place for it), but also perhaps more than once every two or three years.

comment by ArisKatsaris · 2013-05-01T11:18:04.826Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Podcasts got their own thread barely (10 votes in favor, 8 votes against) in last month's poll. I think however that 10 subthreads are enough, so if we create new ones for other types of media from now on, I suggest we should also be examining which existing categories can be dropped or merged.