june mutants

Israel Defence Force “live tweeting” the 1967 6 day war as it happened. Which just seems weird.

Interview with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden

Hey, wouldn’t it be neat if you could look at 30 years of satellite images of earth in time lapse? Yup.

Why I am no longer a skeptic. Long but fascinating and balanced account of why a dude is fed up with the skeptic movement. This was just the first interesting/quotable thing in it.

That’s right: the nerds won, decades ago, and they’re now as thoroughly established as any other part of the establishment. And while nerds a relatively new elite, they’re overwhelmingly the same as the old: rich, white, male, and desperate to hang onto what they’ve got. And I have come to realise that skepticism, in their hands, is just another tool to secure and advance their privileged position, and beat down their inferiors. As a skeptic, I was not shoring up the revolutionary barricades: instead, I was cheering on the Tsar’s cavalry.

History and maps:

During the age of exploration there were two kinds of maps: Some were intended for general consumption, others were tightly held state secrets. The maps Magellan used to circumnavigate the globe, for example, were of the latter sort. Although Magellan’s maps were rife with blank spots showing the limits of Spanish exploration, they contained more detail than the public maps. The Portuguese and Spanish empires’ secret maps revealed landforms and trade routes the rival empires sought to hide from one another. Other, deliberately inaccurate, maps were produced and “leaked” from one empire to another in elaborate disinformation and deception campaigns.

You can download Psychedelic Information Theory by James Kent for free. Based on that title, you know if you want to or not.

Cosmologist Lee Smolin’s piece on Edge is mindfuckingly interesting, if the interrelation between science and metaphysics interest you: Think About Nature.


 So that’s the first conclusion—that the methodology that works for physics and has worked for hundreds of years—there’s nothing wrong with it in the context in which its been applied to successfully—but it breaks down when you push to the limits of explanation, reductionism breaks down. It also breaks down when you push on the other end to larger and larger systems to the universe as a whole. I mentioned several reasons why it breaks down, but there are others. Let me mention one. When we experiment with small parts of the universe, we do experiments over and over again. That’s part of the scientific method. You have to reproduce the results of an experiment so you have to do it over and over again. And by doing that, you separate the effect of general laws from the effect of changing the initial conditions. You can start the experiment off different ways and look for phenomena which are still general. These have to do with general laws. And so you can cleanly separate the role of initial condition from the role of the general law.

When it comes to the universe as a whole, we can’t do that. There’s one universe and it runs one time. We can’t set it up, we didn’t start it and indeed, in working cosmology in inflationary theory, there’s a big issue because you can’t separately testing hypotheses about the laws from testing hypotheses about the initial conditions, because there was just one initial condition and we’re living in its wake. This is another way in which this general method breaks down. So we need a new methodology.

I don’t even know where to start with this piece, it deserves its own post and ruminations.


And this just to remind me to watch it at some point: the complete McBain movie hidden throughout clips in the Simpsons


Review: The Room [2003]


The Room has gained fame over the past few years as perhaps the worst movie of all time. People get off on quoting choice bits of bad dialogue. They mock its appalling moments. They really can’t quite get over how awful this movie is.

It is now impossible to approach the movie without this context. (And to be fair, without the legend, if I was somehow watching this movie alone by chance, I would have turned it off after ten minutes. If I got that far.) But I wonder if the context has been unfair to the movie itself.

Having achieved cult or midnight movie status, at screenings a strange breed of person will go along regularly, throw plastic spoons and scream responses at the screen. This was how I saw it, and would kind of recommend doing it that way, just as an experience. It is not like the movie is going to be detracted from, or that it would compel being taken seriously on its own terms, and a lot of the fun in my experience was in the stuff being yelled at the film rather than the film.

The Room is written, directed by, and stars Tommy Wiseau. While it is thus a deeply personal work, throughout The Room is comically inept, bizarrely naïve and completely un-self-aware. It is consistently dreadful, lacking in any rudiments of good acting or dialogue, any sense of how a narrative or scene might work, and, often, any sense of how reality might work. It is genuinely baffling that anyone could make something this goofy without the awareness of how completely it was failing, yet there is no question that it is a genuine effort, and therein lies its charm.

(From here we enter SPOILER terrain.)

The essence of the story is Johnny, played by Wiseau, is a genuinely good and lovely guy. He is great to his girlfriend, his friends, and has even adopted a weird kid whose way he is paying through school and life. He is an innocent without sin. In the lead up to what would be their wedding, his somewhat erratic girlfriend begins an affair with his best friend, and chooses to leave him for the best friend. Their intimate betrayal drives Johnny to kill himself – a weirdly shocking moment in the hilarity of the meta-viewing. I really didn’t expect it, especially not after laughing so much.

What gets me is this: Wiseau, however ineptly, is expressing a genuine pain. An authentic anguished cry of a good guy being tormented by the world and driven to death. It is not a good piece of art in the sense of craft, but it does communicate this in its own way. And it feels deeply incongruous to celebrate a story such as this in this fashion, in much the same way it is considered rude to laugh at a mentally handicapped person.

I find I am left disliking the way people seem to get into shitting on it. Partly this mocking and dissecting is just what is done nowadays. We must have an opinion on media. This is almost the main pastime of the privileged first world. (I realise that is what I am doing now.) And boy can one unleash an opinion on this turkey – perhaps no movie, scene by scene, provides as many opportunities for comment. What I question is the motive.

My sense is the audience is mocking it, kind of affectionately, but without respect. Sure, everyone who has grown up watching movies could probably make a technically better movie, but could we make one as genuine, as naked, as unselfconscious? In the era of a Hollywood without a soul but for the dollar, blandly agreeing everything is “awesome”, that genuine artistic expression – however failed – is increasingly rare.

While he failed in almost every way (though hey, he did make the movie, and it is now certainly a financial success), Wiseau made a movie that meant something to him, that (presumably) corresponds to his vision, and communicates something heartfelt.

Film is a very compromised media, and within it I am attracted to uncompromised works. (I also seem to be moved to write deep reviews of bad movies (Sucker Punch, Transformers 2), maybe because interesting failures teach us more.)

That said, I currently do not feel any urge to watch The Room ever again. It is so bad it hurts.

Part of my reading of The Room is informed by watching Eraserhead on the big screen soon afterwards, quite a stunning experience. Eraserhead is deeply extraordinary, a highly effective psychological horror movie of often unbearable intensities. This is the very other end of the spectrum from The Room – Eraserhead is David Lynch’s expression of emotional anguish, armed with all the technical mastery and artistic vision Wiseau lacks.


excellent Buckminster Fuller quote

encountered during today’s reading:

“Quite clearly, our task is predominantly metaphysical, for it is how to get all of humanity to educate itself swiftly enough to generate spontaneous behaviours that will avoid extinction.”

– Buckminster Fuller,  Synergetics, page xxvii