Review: Evangelion

[tl:dr – Recommendation: Watch Code Geass instead. No comparison. CG is amazing. Evangelion is okay.]

Watched this over the last month or so. It is a sort of famous classic anime series set a bit in the future after a fairly massive catastrophe called the Second Impact, which may or may not have been caused by an angel landing on earth.

There are 26 episodes, and it takes 10 sort of quirky episodes to introduce characters and warm up the plot. Then it is giant robots and teenagers fare, with a fairly straightforward structure of Angel (being giant quite random monsters) attacks, except they have biblical angelic names, gets repelled by kids in giant robots. Very cartoony.

Except that it spends at least half its time focusing on how fucked up and miserable the characters are, and the details of their estrangement. To be fair, the characters are mostly pretty fun. The last half dozen episodes get a lot stranger.

Ultimately the main plotline, about Angels and veiled mutterings about the end of the world, and prophecies in the Dead Sea Scrolls, sort of goes nowhere. Just peters out. And this other really unspecified thing that has been mentioned in the background happens instead. (Maybe the fan sub stuff on streaming anime is a bit dodgy; or perhaps the story itself is just a bit oddly put together. Certainly subtlety is lost in translation.)

Enjoyable, but definitely felt like a bit of a slog after a while; the ending saves a lot.

The ending. Whoa. The last two episodes, particularly the last one, wherein the Other Thing happens, more or less without warning.

So out of nowhere the finale is all about humanity merging into a group mind, and realising that we are all contingent on each other to know ourselves, and that we just need to get over ourselves, and accept and love ourselves – and this happens in the course of this thing happening to everyone alive for some reason, as demonstrated by the main character going through a pretty intense psychedelic deconstruction, resulting in him realising that he has worth after all, and everyone else thinks so too. So basically an eschatological apocalyptic merging into a new uber consciousness mindfuck. And this is the solution to the estrangement isolation and misery of humanity as experienced by everyone.



So yeah. That was that.
Was alright. But if you’re gonna watch some anime, watch Code Geass instead. Evangelion is genre-defining – Code Geass is genre-transcending.

Don’t see much anime in my near future.

Sunday Mutants 26-9-10

Not quite adjusted to daylight saving edition.

Cognitive Slaves – John Robb on social media and job/wealth creation now and in the future. (Or: why you are suckers working for free.)

A two minute whoa, wtf think piece: On networked buildings and architectural neurology.

In other words, why have a building somehow controlled by a human brain, when a human brain could instead be controlled by a building?

Three in a row, from @klintron, one of my favourite mutants.

Angelgate: price fixing and collusion among angel investors in silicon valley.

How Right-Wing Billionaires and Business Propaganda Got Us into the Economic Mess of the Century. Fairly peppy but interesting take on the issues; asks some interesting questions about mass psychology, of America in particular.

Fascinating if somewhat dated interview with Manuel Delanda about markets, anti-markets, self-organization, the internet age and information warfare, the importance of remembering the material basis of life in an information age, and the chauvinism of an organism based point of view.

On the other hand, another problem with original Adam Smith idea was not so much that it was too simple, but that it applied the term „markets, to things that were not self-organized. All the way back to Venice in the fourteenth century, Florence in the fifteenth, Amsterdam in the eighteenth, London in the nineteenth, in other words, throughout European history, beside these spontaneously coordinated markets, there have been large wholesalers, large banks or foreign trade companies or stock markets that are not self-regulated, these are organizations in which instead of prices self-regulating it, they had commands. Everything is planned from the top and more or less executed according to planned, everything is more or less intended. There is very little self-organization going on at all. And indeed, these large wholesalers, these large merchants, large bankers and so on, made the gigantic profits they made and they became capitalist thanks to the fact that they were not obeying obeying demand and supply, they were manipulating demand and supply. For example, instead of the peasant that shows up to the market to sell a certain amount of corn, here you have a wholesaler with a huge warehouse where he stores all the corn he can. If the prices are too low, he can always with drawn certain amounts from the market, put them in the warehouse, and artificially make the prices go up. When the prices go up, he then sells the rest of the corn at these high prices and he makes a lot of money. But, of course, he is manipulating demand and supply. He is not being governed by these anonymous forces. He is not being subject to self-organization; he is organizing everything in a planned cunning way. And so, because economists use the word „market” to describe both, that is one of the main confusions I see in contemporary thought.

We need another word to describe these organizations that are large enough to manipulate markets. A word has been suggested by historian Fernand Braudel and it is a very simple one: „anti-market.” Why? Because they manipulate markets. And so today, in the United States, there is a very strong political movement, mostly by the right wing, and Newt Gingrich is perhaps the most well known politician in this regards, who are trying, as they say, shrink the size of the government, let market forces have more room to operate. But, of course, translated into the terms we’ve just introduced, what they really want to do is let anti-market forces run wild. They don’t really want small producers and small manufacturers and bakers and printers and mom-and-pop shops to have more room to manoeuver and make money. They want national and international corporations to have more room to manoeuver. They want to shrink government so that there are less regulations to keep international and national corporations from doing what they want. But if you go and study one of these corporations, rather than looking like a market, they are like mini-Soviet Unions. I mean, everything is planned in these corporations. The managerial hierarchies are exactly like the hierarchies in the Soviet Union: they planned everything, prices play a very small role and most of the organization is done via command.

“I find Twitter to be the most powerful aggregator of shared novelty that humanity has yet possessed.” – William Gibson (Which is more or less what I said in the first of the Sunday Mutants posts.)

Could be more to come but home interweb is so slow right now it makes my eyes bleed.

Stalker screening Monday

The Film Society are screening Tarkovsky‘s Stalker on Monday 6:15 at the Paramount.

Stalker is I think my favourite Tarkovsky film, that I have seen so far anyway. Which is saying a lot given how much I loved his Solaris.

And really, the chance to see any Tarkovsky on the big screen should be grabbed gleefully. It is like a definition of cinema as art.

So you should come.

It will also be interesting to rewatch it having now read the novel it was based on, Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. Roadside Picnic is amazing, and unfilmable in any conventional sense. They then wrote a screenplay loosely based on it, though it would be interesting to know how collaborative the process was – it feels like Tarkovsky takes elements of the setting and concept and totally does his own thing with them, to a far greater extent than he did with Lem’s Solaris.

Here is the trailer.

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random film reviews

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Not the sort of thing I usually watch, but sort of slumming mass culture at the moment to catch up. Good, I guess, in terms of craft and delivery, but in general the content was… uninteresting, and a bit nasty, and there was nothing that would inspire me to seek out the sequels. Though something far more interesting must happen in the later books to explain their success.

Eclipse (2010)

Yeah. I went there. Observations:

It is sort of like bad TV. The familiarity grows on you. It is oddly comforting. The actors are growing into the roles. The dude playing Charley, the father, has resigned himself to being the best 2D light comic relief father he can be. Kristen Stewart is actually doing a fairly heroic job carrying things with consistently godawful dialogue and material to work with. Robert Pattinson doesn’t spend the entire movie being emotionally catatonic this time.

For the first time I get why the genre is paranormal romance. It really is all about the romance. Which, when you take away the vampires and werewolves and excessive stupidity, is why the narrative is barren and insipid. Unless you want a romance.

(If you don’t want a romance, you are once again left wondering why they don’t just ditch everything and make a movie about Alice, the cute kooky vampire with the heart of gold who sees the future.)

Oh, but this film had one actually good scene in it, the one in the tent where the two dudes talk over the sleeping object of their affections.

Perfect Blue (1998)

Anime maverick Satoshi Kon died recently, so I rewatched this, his first film, the first thing I saw by him. Still cool, still fairly incomprehensible in a linear narrative way. Paprika is probably a much better entry point to his work. Paranoia Agent is possibly the peak, that I’ve seen. Though it is all a bit intangible. Dude definitely had vision.

Intacto (2001)

Spanish film based on the premise that luck is sort of quantifiable and transferable, following a subculture that gambles luck and lives. Quite strange, almost interesting.

Prince of Thorn (2010)

Anime. Very pretty, quite weird. To avoid a plague that turns people to stone, people are selected to be cryogenically frozen in a castle; they wake to discover the castle covered in gigantic thorn vines and full of monsters, and try to figure out what is going on. There was a problem with the screening, which jammed, and they ended up skipping to the next chapter of the DVD, which didn’t help the comprehensibility, and probably jarred me out of any involvement with the narrative. Possibly the thing I noticed most was, afterwards, how deeply real the world was – rain on the street, a calm night – the film was at a pretty high level of realism, but operating at that level was still a massive drop in awareness, which the world rushed to fill in on leaving.

The Fall (2006)

*Really* enjoyed this, and strongly recommend it. Something that captured the “wonder” feel of fantasy really well. Knew nothing about it in advance other than noting its existence and enthusiastic recommendation by shocker a year or so back – I stopped reading after the first line of her review, since I generally prefer knowing as little as possible beyond it being worthy. And I am going to say nothing more, since being surprised by a film is a great charm, and the less you know, the more you will be surprised. Like, don’t even read the back of the DVD. Just track it down. You would have to be fundamentally broken not to like this movie.

Woodenhead (2004)

Narrative feature from NZ documentary maker Florian Habicht.


How weird?

Like Bela Tarr on speed directing a remake of Jodorowsky’s Fando y Lis. A third of the (admittedly, tiny) audience walked out.

Black and white, nominally a period film, it is more of an unhinged fairy tale without a moral than anything, with a storyteller voice over narrator, and almost all the character dialogue dubbed in over mute performances. By the time you get to the priest torturing the hero with a goat, it has pretty much lost it completely.

Parts drag, but on the whole, it is awesome that something so singular, demented and uncompromisingly visionary can get made locally.


Interesting mutant recently come across: Vinay Gupta. Basically seems to be doing really onto it risk assessment based analysis of the collapse of things as we know them, with a really interesting practical bent.

This is a PDF of a slideshow for a talk he gave recently, and is the must read of the week. (Lots of slides, not so many words.) About a third of the way in it gets really interesting, and stays that way.

In particular, his concepts of Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps (Slide 82 onward; examples from 134 onwards), and agro-industrial auto-catalysis (slide 113 onward), are really excellent.

Sunday Mutants 19/9/10

Grow your own algae – food source of the future? “Imagine that – you can have a personal algae tank that provides fresh, ultra-nutritious food on a year-round basis.” Link is to an interview with a guy at NASA who does this.

“It is my firm belief that the last seven decades of the twentieth will be characterized in history as the dark ages of theoretical physics.” Way to start a book, dude. One of the world’s ‘most successful practical scientists’, Carver Mead, seems bent on overturning quantum physics: interesting interview with him. Helps if you are a bit of a physics geek.

Global Consciousness Project. It seems like I should have already known about this.

The Global Consciousness Project, also called the EGG Project, is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration of scientists, engineers, artists and others. We collect data continuously from a global network of physical random number generators located in 65 host sites around the world. The archive contains more than 10 years of random data in parallel sequences of synchronized 200-bit trials every second.

Our purpose is to examine subtle correlations that may reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world. We predict structure in what should be random data, associated with major global events. When millions of us share intentions and emotions the GCP/EGG network data show meaningful departures from expectation. This is a powerful finding based in solid science.

Rethinking learning and study habits
. Article about learning styles, teaching styles, and factors that influence learning. This bit struck me, as I have long abhorred the right/left brain distinction as anything other than a clumsy oversimplification.

Take the notion that children have specific learning styles, that some are “visual learners” and others are auditory; some are “left-brain” students, others “right-brain.” In a recent review of the relevant research, published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a team of psychologists found almost zero support for such ideas.

how odd

Current listing on trademe jobs: executive director of the world bank. Conceivably legit, but not less amusing.

Meanwhile, Parliament, under the guise of earthquake recovery, just voted Gerry Brownlee
actual powers of dictatorship until April 2012. The technical details (see link) are fairly alarming. So we are left hoping the Dark Side of the force doesn’t speak too sweetly in his ear between now and then.

Sunday Mutants 12/9/10

General meta-question: does a link-dump work for people, or would you prefer the high-content-value pieces to get their own posts and more discussion/commentary from me?

The first couple are stuff I came across in the past day rather than culled from the mutants.

* Brief must read:
Juan Cole on the ways in which the 9-11 terror attacks were in violation of Islamic law, emphasising that they were the work of extremist nutjobs that don’t represent the majority of Muslims, the mainstream of whom widely slagged off the attacks.

* Somehow I missed a Kakapo being named an official spokesperson for the NZ government after shagging a BBC cameraman’s head.

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* Must read – Kevin Kelly essay on humans as cyborgs, adaptation, biology, and accelerating evolution. No teaser quotes as this is basically all content. Looking forward to his new book.

* Editor of the New York Times acknowledging that they will someday stop printing the newspaper of record, but have no real idea how to switch to making money online,

* Shoulda posted this days back: brilliant analysis of what the world economy needs, and why, to get us out of recession. The key? More widely shared prosperity. As the gap between the ultra rich and everyone else grows, this needs to be known, understood, and acted on.

* Good summary of the paleo diet and philosophy. Worth knowing about, maybe experimenting with.

* And this is just cool: short video explaining how the opening shots of Blade Runner were done.

Suicide “main cause of death” in Chinese under 35

Suicide is the main cause of death among young adults in China, the state media said yesterday in a report that highlights the growing pressures to succeed in love, work and education in one of the world’s fastest changing societies.

Increasing stress, loneliness and a lack of medical support for depression are thought to have contributed to an annual suicide toll that is estimated at 250,000 people a year.

According to the China Daily, an additional 2.5 million to 3.5 million make unsuccessful attempts to kill themselves each year.

The article is worth reading.

the rap guide to human nature

Introducing Baba Brinkman: stupidly good scientific hip hop; educational and hilarious, delivered with far more flow than you would expect. Download is free, or you can pay.

My favourite track so far: she’s ovulating. But really, there are gems throughout. And each track comes with additional reading listed 🙂

(via Hamo)

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