19 January 2020
This is the first post in the Week That Was link series. Here I’ll highlight a few links which I thought were interesting, noteworthy and probably worth your time.
Won’t be more than 3-5 links which will span an article, tweet, video and/or other media. I’ll also provide the briefest of summaries or callouts for context.
This stuff might be from 2020 or 1420…
Article Of The Week: Internet of Beefs (IoB)
Venkatesh Rao’s “Internet of Beefs” article is an insightful take on the forces which appear to be shaping much of the present discourse and interactions in our Very Online world. Ground Zero in this case being Twitter.
The Culture Wars are dominated by running pitched battles between combatants Rao calls “mooks” - led (ideologically and sometimes practically) by knights that represent the various factions.
The Internet of Beefs, or IoB, is everywhere, on all platforms, all the time. Meatspace is just a source of matériel to be deployed online, possibly after some tasteful editing, decontextualization, and now AI-assisted manipulation.
He coins some great terms to facilitate the somewhat tongue-in-cheek but useful analysis
- Beef Only Thinking
- Mook Manoralism
Also had a great name entry for the new decade: Searing Twenties
Video Of The Week: Feynman ~ Rules of Chess
One never gets tired of listening to the inimitable Dick Feynman on any number of topics, in this case the incremental approach to better understanding modern knowledge creation.
The idea here is about how we get to know the world and it’s workings. It functions as a beautifully simple elucidation of the scientific method.
Tweet Of The Week: GPT-2 Learns to play chess
Charting the ongoing development and various deployments of OpenAI’s GPT-2 text AI is proving fascinating. In the latest intriguing result, the equally fascinating Gwern, having been coaxed by Scott Alexander of SlateStarCodex prominence - managed to feed the AI a corpus of chess notation and get a semi-decent game out of it
this is absolutely nuts. The AI GPT-2 has learned to play chess moderately well (able to give bad human amateurs a game) – despite only being a text AI, learning from a corpus of chess notation text, and not having any concept of what a chessboard is https://t.co/S83Zttc9pt— Tom Chivers (@TomChivers) January 7, 2020
Movie(s) Of The Week: 1917 & Montage of Heck
I saw a few interesting silver-screen entries this week. Two I’d like to call out
I have mixed feelings about 1917 - 6 gong nods seems excessive, although the film is definitely good. Undoubtedly Roger Deakins (a favourite of mine - particularly when working with Villeneuve) provided several great sequences, a number of shots being positively breathtaking. The decision to frame the movie as a single shot was interesting but doesn’t have the impact I’d hoped for. It seemed much more ambitious, natural and impactful in Birdman. Over and above being unsure why the narrative needed this filming choice I was also a little distracted by what were ultimately sometimes fairly obvious “cuts” (camera moves being someone’s back, points at the floor, goes behind a pillar etc).
Admittedly the subject matter may also not be entirely to my taste as I struggled to engage emotionally with the events - like with the Warhorse stageplay. I admit to just lacking the emotional resonance with WW1 which no doubt robs some of the empathy here (somewhat similar to my experience of Nolan’s Dunkirk actually - although I’m seemingly much more affected by WW2).
This may also be due to how close the movie’s beats are to Saving Private Ryan which really did affect me back in the day - a film I still consider a masterpiece everytime I see it. Here it was more me marveling at some of the technical achievements (“Oooh that’s gorgeous”, “Damn, this is great gimbal work!” etc). I guess Spielberg was happy to sanction the UK version of his film given Dreamworks helped produce. Yet it’s hard not to notice a few scenes directly inspired by his opus.
Anyway sounds like I’m trashing it but I don’t mean to and I appreciate Mendes’ family’s connection with these events given his grandfather being in the war. It’s actually a descent romp, not hard to look at with tense scenes and meaningful dialogue. It just didn’t rise to the level the trailers had me thinking it would (“My god, Saving Private Ryan meets Birdman - how will they film this!? Oh…I see” sorta thing).
(7⁄10) Mainly for filmmaking achievements in my books
Montage of Heck (2015)
A (somewhat predictably) dark, brooding and engaging deep-dive into the life and psyche of the departed Kurt Cobain. Much has been said, written and committed to celluloid about this man.
Yet this piece surfaces numerous unseen materials by way of interviews, music demos and extensive notes betraying the psyche of an enigmatic, talented yet disturbed individual.
(8⁄10) Couldn’t take my eyes off it
Oh…and one more thing
A worldmap of South Americas because…XKCD
Thanks for reading. Tune in next week