Miscellanea: January 2019

Links

The Carbon Footprint of Superheroes and The Geology of Game of Thrones – Miles Traer

How to Lose Tens of Thousands of Dollars on Amazon – Alana Semuels at The Atlantic. Also see Inside the Strange Yet Profitable World of Retail Arbitrage.

How to Eat an Elephant – Tamara Winter on Medium. Helpful tips include “Before dinner, write down tomorrow’s priority list” and “Try not to use your cellphone in bed.” The stuff all (most?) of us know we should do, but don’t.

What a Newfound Kingdom Means for the Tree of Life – Jonathan Lambert at Quanta Magazine

The war over supercooled water – Ashley G. Smart at Physics Today

Defenders of Human Rights Are Making a Comeback – Kenneth Roth at Foreign Policy

‘I’m Petitioning … for the Return of My Life’ – John Leland at The New York Times. “I feel as if I have absolutely no rights at all in the country in which I was born, and therefore in the rest of the world,” Ms. Funke said. She compared her situation to being in prison, then thought better of it. “It’s worse than incarceration,” she said. “At least in prison you have rights.”

In the Fake News Era, Native Ads Are Muddying the Waters – Kat J. McAlipine at Boston University. “Even though her online survey divulged to participants that they were viewing advertisements, many people—more than 9 out of 10 participants—thought they’d been looking at an article.” Study here.

Econ Envy – Julia Rohrer at The 100% CI.

Why the Left is So Afraid of Jordan Peterson – Caitlin Flanagan at The Atlantic. “There are plenty of reasons for individual readers to dislike Jordan Peterson. He’s a Jungian and that isn’t your cup of tea; he is, by his own admission, a very serious person and you think he should lighten up now and then; you find him boring; you’re not interested in either identity politics or in the arguments against it. There are many legitimate reasons to disagree with him on a number of subjects, and many people of good will do. But there is no coherent reason for the left’s obliterating and irrational hatred of Jordan Peterson. What, then, accounts for it?”

Brexit: A Test for Humanity – Tyler Cowen at Bloomberg

A philosophy professor argues kids should use more technology, not less – Jenny Anderson at Quartz

The Covington Scissor – Ross Douthat at The New York Times, referencing Scott Alexander. See also I Failed the Covington Catholic Test by Julie Irwin Zimmerman.

Why Ex-Churchgoers Flocked to Trump – Timothy P. Carney at The American Conservative

Go to More Parties? Social Occasions as Home to Unexpected Turning Points in Life Trajectories – Alice Goffman at Social Psychology Quarterly

Videos

Why Are There So Few Smartphones In Popular Movies? – Nerdwriter at YouTube

Non-Invasive Brain Surgery – Veritasium at YouTube

How Much of the Earth Can You See at Once? – Vsauce at YouTube

Why Our Villains Are Different Now – Wisecrack at YouTube

Books

Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari (4/5). Sapiens is one of those books that, even if you don’t come away with anything specifically new or exciting or impressive, you just have to respect anyway for its sheer ambition. Covering five figures’ worth of human history in a few hundred pages, Sapiens didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know so much as place a bunch of things I already knew right next to each other and provoke question after question about why those things lined up the way they did.

 

Music

Ben Howard – Promise

Chris Stapleton – Parachute

Fink – Looking Too Closely

Philip Glass – Six Etudes for Piano – q = 108

 

Movies

Annihilation (4.5/5): I’m still not sure what to think about Annihilation. But I think I think I really like it. Its only real shortcomings were excesses of jump scares and squishy science, but I think the latter still fell within the constraints of the plot and the former is a trivial reason to dislike an otherwise excellent movie. The very fact that I’m still processing this film is testament to how multifaceted the story was and how truly alien its portrayal of an otherworldly visitor was.

Aquaman (3/5): It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s enjoyable to watch and continues the trend of steadily improving post-Wonder Woman DC movies.

I Love You, Man (3.5/5): A sweet and mild bro-comedy. This movie had been recommended to me many times and I’m glad I finally broke down and watched it.

A Knight’s Tale (4/5): You can trash old-fashioned good-vs-evil stories all you want, but it’s hard to dislike them when they’re done as well as A Knight’s Tale. Paul Bettany and Alan Tudyk very nearly steal the spotlight from Heath Ledger.

 

TV

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (3/5): So far, I’ve gotten five different endings (SPOILERS AHEAD). While I enjoyed the experience and admire the creators’ willingness to push the envelope, I did come away feeling cheated by the way the different endings effectively retcon their own stories—depending on the choices you make, Stefan may be starring in a movie, he may actually be in the middle of a giant conspiracy, or he may just be bonkers all along. This changing meta-narrative relieves the storytellers from the burden of having to maintain any in-narrative consistency, drastically reducing the payoff as the viewer-storyteller on the other side of the screen.

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