sub_divided: cos it gets me through, hope you never stop (Default)
Japan's Railway Bazaar:

"And it is this very framework of male fraternization that pushes sex towards being a voyeuristic activity. Heterosexual sex for male bonding must be rebuilt and reconfigured — from its original conception as a private act between individuals — for the purposes of group male entertainment. Hence violence and sadism are likely to become core thematic principles, as alternatives like romance, love, and tenderness directly project man’s private bonds to women — thus creating a conflict with its new context."

Reasons to Teach What We Teach:

"Where a topic appears on this list affects the way it should be taught and tested. Memorizing algorithms is an entirely appropriate approach to problems that fall primarily under number one... If, however, a problem falls primarily under four, this same approach is disastrous."

Why Conservatives Can't Get People to Work Hard:

"So there are tons of reasons why simply smashing the welfare state doesn't instill poor people (or anyone at all) with good values. The beatings may continue, but morale will not improve. To conservatives, I say: If you really want people to value hard work and discipline, you've got to come up with a real, workable plan for achieving that goal."
sub_divided: cos it gets me through, hope you never stop (Default)
This is an awesome academic paper. It's like reading Japanese science fiction.

To wit!

"If the relational databases are the brains of the system, RFID tags are the legs. As RFID moves into the environment and become pervasive, it will in my view pose unprecedented challenges and opportunities to humans because they will be moving within an intelligent and context-aware environment, especially when RFID technology is linked with embedded sensors and actuators as the Japanese government is already doing."

...reminds me of Loups Garous, where the characters all carry around portable "monitors" that collect data on everything they do (and later in the paper the author talks about how the "brain" databases could be linked together into one, all-seeing Big Brother-ish database, which is the plot of Loups Garous);

"as Neil Gershenfeld says we are in the midst of creating an Internet of things. Most of the communication will be automated between intelligent devices. Humans will intervene only in a tiny fraction of that flow of communication. Most of it will go on unsensed and really unknown by humans."

...reminds me of Yukikaze which is about a war between alien AI and human AI, with humans themselves increasingly relegated to the background;

"Most RFIDs are encoded with a 10-digit number hardcoded onto the chip; if you do the maths with the permutations, a 96-bit chip has enough permutations uniquely to identify every manufactured object on the planet, about 80,000 trillion (or 2 to the exponent 96). So that means that we can now give an individual identity to everything in the world that is built as opposed to being natural."

...reminds me of how every physical object has a unique code in Homestuck;


"What has happened is that the RFID tags themselves are very simple. They are much simpler than any AI system that I know about. That’s their beauty. They can now be manufactured as cheaply as 2 cents per tag. Many passive tags are about the size of a grain of rice. Hitachi is working on tags that are much smaller. And because the brains are separate from the legs, these tags are cheap and pervasive, and can be embedded in everything...

"Absolutely, because these tags can be embedded in shoes, and readers can be in the environment. So you put your shoes on and enter a store and now a reader knows who you are and what your purchasing record is – it knows if you are a cheapskate or a big spender." cheaper than the biometric eye scanners in Minority Report.

I know we're not really there yet, but I enjoy this kind of SF stuff XD.
sub_divided: cos it gets me through, hope you never stop (Default)
Or, books I have been reading for class, Part 1.

Ethics: I think I should probably have read this after Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism by Fredric Jameson, because it is a stab at a solution to a problem I hadn't known existed. XD Namely, the problem of the paralysis felt by philosophers in a world in which philosophy can only be used to critique, all attempts to claim universal relevance by philosophers are savagely torn apart, and no one can think of a way to put philosophy to use for the purpose of imagining and then creating a better world for us all.

Lurking behind this is the idea that the best time to be alive was during the modernist era, particularly the 60s, when there was a sense of wide-open-possibility, that the world could be a better place, that collectively we could accomplish something. To not have this sense of possibility is "nihilist".

Badiou's solution to these problems, at least in Ethics, is to invent a philosophy that is actionable for individuals, that is "universal" because it will lead to the creation of new truths with universal relevance, but that avoids (he hopes) the pitfalls of 20th century totalizing philosophies that had huge human costs, like Nazism, Stalinism, and Maoism.

I returned the book to the library -- also it was tricky reading for me because it referenced a lot of philosophers I wasn't familiar with and used mathematical terms I didn't know (as a physics major!) -- so I might be misrepresenting some of the author's arguments. But I think the basic idea was:

--Truth is found in lack (see: Lacan), meaning at times when you recognize that your existing philosophy is inadequate.
--These times are "truth-events".
--ethics (small "e") consists of devotion to a truth-event. And by devotion, Badiou means lifelong devotion.
--Through devotion to a truth-event, you instigate a "truth-process" whose goal is the creation of new "truths".
--A bunch of qualifications to keep this philosophy from having unforeseen bad consequences.
--Something about 'subtraction', which is a concept I found very hazy. I think it means that instead of trying to demolish the current order so that you can build a new one in the flaming wreckage, you find the smallest change that can be made which will still completely change the whole.

Generally I found this book to be really invigorating reading, which I am sure is the entire point of the philosophy in the first place! My specific reservations with it were:

Numbered for your convenience )

The section of this book I enjoyed the most, and thought was the most illuminating, was Badiou's discussion of the difference between opinion and truth. Briefly:

There is something called disinterested-interest -- the pursuit of truth for its own sake -- and something called brute interest -- the harnessing of invention toward concrete aims. All disinterested-interest eventually turns toward brute interest, at which point, new "knowledges" will come into being on the backs of a few truths. "At the end of which the human animal has become the absolute master of his environment – which is, after all, nothing but a fairly mediocre planet", sez Badiou.

Knowledge, therefore, is a byproduct of the pursuit of truth. Opinion, on the other hand, "is the necessary language of the everyday. Truths should not attempt to do away with the space for opinion" lest evil 4c, the unnameable, result -- the example here is the May 1968 riots in central Europe, which were riots not against Communism, but for a public space free of the meddlesome interference of the Party. "Truths have the power to change the language of opinion, and this is the power that, when abused, results in an evil."

Well, anyway, that's a short and probably very inscrutable summary, but if anyone is interested I will try to excerpt the whole thing in a comment later. Good stuff. The basic point is that we shouldn't always try to make every conversation about Big Ideas, chit chat is very important as well, but Big Ideas are still important because they define the scope of what the chit chat can be about. The more stuff like this I read, the more I kind of want to meet Alain Badiou, he seems like a passionate guy. One more thing I will point out about Ethics is that it was written in two weeks - two weeks! - over the summer. You learn stuff like this and you wonder.


Still to come: Badiou's The Century (which I enjoyed more than this), Zizek (briefly, because he's still very difficult for me to read), Jameson's Postmodernism (the source of many opinions I have seen floating around the net! :D), Foucault, and Zygmunt Bauman.
sub_divided: cos it gets me through, hope you never stop (Default)
I had laryngitis for just over a week, and in my society-deprived state did all kinds of useless but productive-feeling things, like change the layout of my Wordpress blog and make a profile on OKCupid. Where, as it turns out, one of my classmates also has a profile, although she claims never to have heard of the site. (Maybe I shouldn't have sprung it on her while we were waiting on line at the canteen, without messaging/warning her on OKC first? What's the protocol for this, anyway.)

I also signed on to G+ for the first time in months, specifically to complain about the changes to Google Reader. I see what you did there, Google! You won't get me so easily. I'm using custom CSS to change the GReader look until an alternate feed aggregation site with social sharing features is created. Right now I have my eye on and GReader friends, anyone want to switch with me?

Here are some articles spelling out why the changes to GReader are awful: one, two.


Nov. 9th, 2011 12:51 am
sub_divided: cos it gets me through, hope you never stop (Default)
This is a webcomic I started reading thanks to persistent fanart bombing by vikki. It's 4,107 pages and 326,796 words long (so far). That's half as long as Atlas Shrugged, only counting page titles and captions.

So yeah, don't start this one unless you want to read the War and Peace of webcomics.

Granted, the majority of those words show up in chat logs, which are how the characters talk to each other because duh. How else would they communicate while playing a computer game with their geographically dispersed friends, each of whom will eventually (spoiler)preside over a separate, custom-built planet?

Though there is some gimmickry involved, let me just say that the fact that every player has a unique and distinguishable chat-writing style is really pretty impressive. Also, it makes sense to me that (spoiler)the trolls speak the way they type, because trolls - at least the high-caste ones - are raised with a lot of physical space separating them due to their passionately destructive natures, and so the primary way they communicate with each other is through text over the internet. (Well, and also the trolls in the story are the equivalent of troll nerds.)

If I had to sum up the comic, I'd say it is about creation and destruction. The reality-altering computer game the characters are playing revolves around building - building up another player's physical space and building up your own stats - but with greater power comes greater ability to break stuff, and that's without counting all the meteors and falling rocks and ticking time bombs and insane homicidal maniacs who now and again will randomly - except that nothing is random in a comic which revolves around prophecies (of doom), time travel (proving you are already doomed), alternate universes (which are doomed), and (spoiler)malevolent omniscient aliens who reside outside the flow of time - destroy all the stuff you just built with your awesome godlike powers. At which point, the cycle repeats...

BTW if you are reading this comic, the end of Act 4 is a good resting point as Act 5 is twice again as long as all of the proceeding acts put together. It's also the point where the comic becomes much darker, following the pacing of the Harry Potter books (or, if you like, ICP's Dark Carnival).

Speaking of dark themes, it was always clear that this comic was gonna deal in some way with depression, but I really wasn't expecting (spoiler) to read in-comic chat logs about it! Pretty brave of the author, I think.
sub_divided: cos it gets me through, hope you never stop (Default)
(I decided to move this post here from tumblr after discussing (okay okay, "explaining without having been asked") what I use the two blog platforms for. It is probably a ridiculous distinction only I care about, but anyway...)

This follows:

Notes about - what else! - the weather )

Shoutout to berthardy, up in Glasgow! Did you know that it is actually *less dark* in Glasgow in the winter than it is in York? I think it’s because the big cities in Scotland are on high plateaus, whereas most of the Northern English cities are in valleys.
sub_divided: cos it gets me through, hope you never stop (Default)
I left a couple of long comments to this post by [personal profile] rachelmanija, about children's novel protagonists I could identify with growing up. Most of the commenters said they couldn't find themselves in YA novels, but I think I was pretty well represented in the fiction I read, actually.

Here's the text of my comments, edited a little bit:

And they even made a few of these into movies, and cast girls who looked like me in the title roles! )

And here's a comment about my highschool I left over at Okay, that's enough about me, now let's talk about something else XD.

Wait, one more thing about me: my flight to England leaves the 30th of September! I'll have just about two weeks free before classes start. European peeps, any of you guys want to meet up?
sub_divided: cos it gets me through, hope you never stop (Default)

This description of the fourth book in John Burdett's Royal Thai Police series is for Kara. Sorry for the wait, [personal profile] ayalesca!

So, let's recap: in the first book in this series, Sonchai, an addict turned Buddhist arhat (saint) turned non-corrupt - because he has renounced all material things, not because he is against bribery per se - Thai cop is on a mission to revenge his partner and soul-brother, Pichai. Sonchai doesn't care whether he lives or dies, but despite this the novel is very lively. It's got a kind of idiosyncratic philosophical defense against the horrors of the world vibe. I recommended this novel to several friends who are depressed, because it seems to achieve a sort of balance between knowledge of evil and will to keep going (with humor!).

Then I read the third book in the series (Bookoff didn't have the second), wherein Sonchai has achieved some modest material success - and it only brings him down, so that Bangkok Haunts is about ten times more depressing that Bangkok 8. And I mean VERY depressing, in pretty much every way possible - writing style, plot, etc. I thought about giving up on the series after this book, not because it was bad, but because I thought it might be part of a downward trend.

Two points do not constitute a line, though, and so I took The Godfather of Kathmandu out of the library to see whether the series really was going to be depressing from now on. In a word: no. We've cycled back around to exhiliaration in this book - only instead of the precariously balanced philosophical tightrope act of Bangkok 8, now we've got a protagonist who is insane. ^^; The way the book is going to go is pretty much laid out at the end of the first chapter when Lek, Songchai's subordinate, gazes lovingly into his eyes and tells him that he has to stop listening to that evil charlatan Tibetan witch doctor who has him staying up all night to meditate and the dual nature of the mind, and go see a real doctor about his bipolar disorder.

...In retrospect, it makes perfect sense, and I'm kinda disappoint in myself for missing the signs earlier in the series. ^^; This is what I get for skipping books, I guess.

It's again a really good book... I am kind of worried for the author after reading this, though, as condescending as that sounds (sorry John Burdett). Part of it is that these books have been becoming progressively more idiosyncratic, so that while the first book had a lot of information about Thai society, even bits where a Thai sociologist would quote figures on the radio, and the second book had an explanation of the Third Gender in Thailand, by the third book, the plot was mainly about... the porn industry, and a suicidal Japanese art movie director.

But even that book had an A plot about the suffering endured by Thai girls from abusive homes in the countryside, who are sold into prostitution by their parents. In Godfather of Kathmandu, the A plot is about Tibetan Buddhism/the drug trade and the B plot is about film criticism. Which is mostly the kind of book you'd write if you were writing your passions without spending too much time on research, yanno? That and the very convincing depiction of psychosis have me thinking that it's probably not a put-on this book - the author probably really is a little bit crazy.

So I guess whether you should pick up this series comes down to whether you like reading books by crazy people, and also whether you like being kept in suspense about whether things will go well or horribly. ^^; It is a really smart series, with tons of brilliant observations, both introspective and perceptive. I think I'd still recommend the first book to anyone, at least.
sub_divided: cos it gets me through, hope you never stop (Default)
Basically nattering, I feel as if I should write something about this book while I have it in front of me, before I return it to the library )

And now the library is closing, so I'll finish up by saying there are eight more stories in this collection, including one about Vondramach and Gilda (published 10 years before Stars in My Pocket).

Generally, value is created by bringing disparate things together and comparing them. Or using contrast: between a not-too-bright older white ex-con worker and a brilliant suicidal six year old black telepath, for instance. Or between homogenizing engineers and resistant flying motorcycle enthusiasts. Or structurally, like when a concrete story about a guy looking for sex in NYC restrooms is intercut with an abstract story about space blobs.

And then there's the work on race, gender, and sexuality, which is pretty much in line with a lot of online activism. Sabina said it was like Samuel Delaney was on livejournal (well, he was pretty active in sci fi fandom).

And... post! More to come tomorrow maybe. I have a new temporary job where I move heavy textbooks from boxes to bookshelves all day, so if it seems like I've been scarce lately, that's why.
sub_divided: cos it gets me through, hope you never stop (Default)
These are the movies I saw at Fantasia with [personal profile] petronia, with links to her (less reductive) reviews:

Ip Man (The Prequel) : Ip Man is Bruce Lee's martial arts teacher, and this is the story of how he first joins his master's school, the successes and failures he experiences as he learns his craft, the successes and failures he experiences in love, and how he (spoiler) foils a Salt-esque Japanese plot in the decade before WWII. Speaking of the Second World War, I found the "evil villain" music that played every time the Japanese delegation came on screen hilarious (because it was exactly like the "evil Russian" music in American movies).

There's a tragic plot twist, but the movie is not exactly a tearjerker. Actually you can tell where Ip-Man-the-Prequel's interests lie by the fact that the sum-up moral at the end is not "Ip Man was forced to make a difficult moral choice, and as a result he saved my life" but "Ip Man saved my life by mixing other martial arts styles with our style, which convinced me that there is no one 'true' style".

Or in other words: Ip Man is a movie by martial arts nerds, for martial arts nerds, and starring a martial arts nerd. XD.


The Trollhunter: Totally hilarious movie that should be ported over to mainstream American theaters, stat. Movie producers completely troll the audience (sorry bad pun) by claiming the movie is "The Blair Witch Project with Trolls". It's got kids running around in the woods with cameras, looking for things that go bump in the night, but it's not the Blair Witch Project. It's a comedy about bureaucratic incompetence, with fairytale injokes. My favorite part was when the three journalism students all swore to the trollhunter that they were atheists (trolls can smell the blood of a Christian man), and my second favorite part was how they managed to score a much more professional camerawoman just in time for the epic finale.

The preview for this movie is also a troll, in that it makes Trollhunter look like a big-budgeted action movie. While it's nice to see the filmmakers sticking to a theme (ie, trolling), it's generally not a good idea to misrepresent your movie in the trailer.


Another Earth: This movie is really, really sad. It's got a Pi vibe, in that it features an intelligent and sensitive protagonist, brilliant moody visuals, and this kind of thrumming, vaguely Buddhist music. Then that vibe is combined with an Atonement like plot about doing an unforgiveable thing, so that (spoilers) the mutely sad protagonist first tries to kill herself, and then dedicates herself to the only other survivor of the accident, on the principle that a life can only be repaid with another life (but she killed two people and ruined the life of a third, so she's screwed).* And then THAT plot is combined with an elegy for our lost space program, which also works as a not-subtle SF metaphor for "what if things had gone differently?". The result is a perfect storm of sadness. I cried the whole way through. (To the lady sitting next to me who offered me a tissue: thank you.)

*Not actually an articulated philosophy in the movie, but something that is discussed in Debt: The First 5,000 Years, which is the book I'm reading right now.


You Are Here: A movie made up of a bunch of thematically-linked short pieces, which were then further linked via re-occurring visual motifs and inter-cuttting. In the Q&A session afterward, the director explained that "the archivist", a character who tries to solve the mystery of how bits of film and audio (taken from other parts of the movie) fit together, and who breaks down when she fails, is really the heart of the movie, but that this might not be obvious at first. Me, I thought it was SUPER obvious from the very first time the character came onscreen, just because I always expect the librarian to be the "adult Mary Sue" of literate audiences. But the director is a dude, so maybe this perspective didn't occur to him.

Anyway, the movie was good. Sabina had a metaphysical take on it - she thought it was about cognition. I thought it was mostly about "Marx’s theory of work alienation" (Sabina's phrase), by which I mean the optimizing process that removes thinking from most people's daily work. Here's what I mean (spoilers):

Pretty much the entire movie is laid out under the cut, though it's the kind of movie that's worth watching whether or not you know what quote-unquote happens )

In conclusion, Sabina is probably right when she says it's about a bunch of pieces struggling to think about how they relate to the whole, but I think it's a funny coincidence that so much of this "struggle" takes place in corporate environments where each piece performs a limited function, determined in advance by someone else.

January 2013



RSS Atom

Style Credit

  • Style: (No Theme) for Transmogrified by Yvonne

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags