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Media oh Media

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I slogged the rest of the way through Iron Fist earlier this month just in case I needed it for the Defenders. (Iron Fist was really bad, mainly the writing. I actually liked the supporting cast, mostly).

Defenders had its moments (a few) and was better served as an 8 episode arc instead of 13, but still wasn’t great. So, while I’ve watched all of the Netflix series, I can’t say I can recommend them. I may give Punisher a pass (I wasn’t too keen on Daredevil S2).

Rick & Morty S3 is out, so that’s being watched of course. I’ll probably try The Good Place when it drops later this month. Other than that I’m not really into anything. I watched half of ep 1 of Ozarks, and I may continue. Watched the first two episodes of Dear White People, & etc etc. Lots of other things make the queue but don’t get watched. I am enjoying (slowly) the new season of Grace and Frankie. Lily Tomlin is a national treasure.

Howzabout you?

Written by taogaming

August 20, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Posted in TV & Media

Minor-Miner Update

Now that the boy is in camp, I have some access to the computer again, which means more Factorio. I get 50 hours into a base earlier this summer, but then six weeks away meant I had lost the thread. My power situation was OK but weird (some issue with heat pipes maybe being too far) and my trains were a mess, so I decided to start again. (I still have the save if I figure out the things I could go back to it). I’ve had a few false starts, so I keep resetting after a few hours.  I think I’m going to play the new one … build a small starter base and then build a main bus, and then perhaps a mega base. We’ll see.

I also did go-kart racing (work team builder) which lead to an injury. I knocked a shoe off while getting into the cart (It caught on the edge of the pedal) while switching off in a team-style Le Mans (“Which team can complete the most laps” during the event).  When reaching around/over the steering wheel to replace it I managed to strain every muscle in my core and left arm due to a spasm in that awkward position, which was not an injury I’d ever considered worrying about at a go-kart track. I consistently came close to the tree at the edge of the tight corner, but that just means I wasn’t dawdling….

It turns out that I am pretty good at the (~40MPH) beasts. Surprised me. (A bunch of racing games have given me a decent eye for the best line). Still, 30 minutes in 99° heat (with one break) and muscle spasms meant I was a wreck afterwards.

Thankfully I have tomorrow off to relax my muscles and work on my factory.

In other gaming news, Mrs. Tao did some old school D&D with her coworkers, while my (no-longer-minor) eldest mocked her during her absence.

Strange days, my friends, strange days.

Written by taogaming

July 20, 2017 at 10:51 pm

Posted in Artificial Opponents, Non-Gaming

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Two reviews of ‘Seeing Like a State’

I haven’t read the book (by James C. Scott). But I am a fan of Scott Alexander, so I naturally saw his review a few months ago. Nice, but no real reason for me to mention it. (The fact that the book nicely confirms what I already believed means that I should be somewhat cautious.)

(Seeing like a State points out how well-meaning scientific technocrats — of all economic beliefs — often do horrible damage to systems they are trying to improve, and provides examples of how governments do things to increase their visibility into systems — usually for purposes of taxation. Like I said, “nicely confirms what I already believed”. I believe Nassim Talib’s Antifragile covers the same ground.)

Anyway, I come back to the country I see that Scott has pointed to a review by Samzdat and that is quite useful for people on both sides of the political discussion, as it tries to explain the phenomenom of increased political divisiveness even in an improving society. (It does this by introducing the concept of legibility to the conversation, and goes in a surprising direction that seems correct, at least on first glance).

Anyway, this may be of interest. I’m definitely going to be reading through Samzdat. The article on Polyani’s Great Transformation extends this further (and contains some very interesting thoughts on economics that, strangely enough, I just encountered in Paradise Lost). And the next book to be discussed is Hoffer’s The True Believer, which I did read (30 years ago, vhoj’ha moi!).


Written by taogaming

June 20, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Mid-year Media

The Good

Just finished Better Call Saul Season 2 (on Netflix). Still amazing.

Waiting for Rick and Morty S3.

Currently reading The Complete David Bowie (Revised edition).  Not a bio, but a series of encyclopedic entries about each song, album, movie, tours, etc. The entry on Blackstar (the song) justifies the cost, and the rest of the book is interesting, too. (Unlike the expectations I had when I wrote my obituary for Bowie, Blackstar (the album) is damn good, although I suspect it wouldn’t have won so many awards if Bowie was still alive). Also, I finally got around to watching the Prestige, which was good (Bowie has a minor role).

Also reading some short stories and novellas by Gene Wolf. Just started.

Currently Watching Grace and Frankie S3 and its somewhere between great and cringeworthy. But mostly great.

The OK

I’m watching the current season of Doctor Who and it is a step up (I disliked Clara). It’s mostly fine, with a few good episodes and one great one. (Actually, that’s kind of par for Doctor Who, but I really disliked Clara and then she stuck around past the resolution of her story, IMO). Nardole is a great addition. Bill is fine (praise the maker for a companion who is just a companion). Capaldi is reliably excellent. I used to love Moffat, but I’m ready for him to go now.

Still watching Supernatural, the definition of comfort-inertia TV. The TaoLing is still very into this. I assume it will keep going until the leads cannot physically do this.

F is for Family is not great, but a small commitment and amusing enough.

I was not impressed with the current season of Archer. It may not be a purchase anymore. It wasn’t bad, and had funny moments, but there weren’t many quotable lines or even a standout episode.

The “Uh, maybe not” files

Haven’t gotten around to watching Rectify S3, but that just dropped fairly recently and I may watch it.

Gave up on Iron Fist halfway through the season. Never bothered to continue Penny Dreadful or Doctor Norrell & Mr. Strange.

I’ve given up on the Arrowverse. And that was before hitting the terrible S4 stuff (the Arrow reddit decided to just ignore the show and talk about Daredevil. Man.) Just boring. And S2 of Flash lost of a lot of the fun of S1. Agents of Shield is also off the rotation.

I watched the first episode of Riverdale and wow, its trashy. But trashy fun, or trashy-bleh? Not sure yet. May watch more.

As always — open for suggestions.

Also — if I die in the next few days, please avenge my death by killing a few trillion cold viruses in my name. Thank you.

Written by taogaming

June 4, 2017 at 12:03 am

Posted in TV & Media

Keldon, Google, Evolution and Language

I have — with no malice aforethought — been near some great inventions. While I’m not an expert I think this year has been a simply stunning technically and after reading the NYT profile on Google Translate I can’t wonder if it is the inflection point. (Not in a “SF Singularity” way, but something softer).

Ever since Keldon I’ve appreciated that neural nets can handle more than you expect — after all, we are neural nets and sometimes clever. But seeing some of these translations and the quality involved is still stunning.

Anyway — its worth a read.


Written by taogaming

December 20, 2016 at 9:26 pm

Posted in Artificial Opponents, Non-Gaming

Tagged with

Ignore the wisdom of Parker and Stone at your peril

So I stumbled onto yet another thread about the dude who is rating every single game a ‘1’ on BGG, and I’m watching people yell back and forth … and all I can think of is this season’s South Park. Which just ended. They had consistent insight into trolling, psychology, online behavior.

Here’s a (from memory) scene from the finale

Pentagon Flunky — “Person A trolls Person B. But the goal isn’t to anger person B, it’s to enrage C and D so much that they over-react and go way overboard in B’s defense. This angers E through I so much that they back the troll even though they used to not give a shit. That group’s anger fuels the next wave and so on. It’s like a fission reaction turning into a fusion reaction.”

(At which point Mr. Garrettson comments — “Gee, that sounds like how I got elected President.”)

As in last season South Park didn’t really bother to tie up their loose threads — they even called the finale ‘The End of Serialization as We Know It,’ and they didn’t do anything with the most quotable grapes cartoonists have ever created (the Member Berries), but it was still a pretty good season;

In other media I’m slowly savoring Season 3 of Hannibal. Haven’t decided what I’ll binge over Christmas.

Written by taogaming

December 10, 2016 at 9:16 am

Posted in TV & Media

Arrival, Black Mirror, Columbo, and the Blizzard of Information

I just watched Arrival and — without going into spoilers — I felt pleasantly surprised at how little Hollywood changed  Ted Chiang’s original (and brilliant) short story. I was suckered by the trailer, which makes the movie look more action-y. I’m pleased, but we’ll see (next weekend) how audiences react to being Snow Dog-ged, even with the best intentions.

After watching the movie I was mentally comparing it to two shows I’ve been streaming: Black Mirror and Columbo.

I enjoyed the first two seasons of Black Mirror — although the show can be quite difficult (intentionally, I think) to watch. I’ve barely started with the 3rd season, because the first episode (‘Nosedive’) is so off-putting, despite being so superficially charming, that after a few minutes I turn it off in disgust.

I’ve watched probably one-third to one-half of the episode, in a half dozen chunks.

You can see what’s going to happen — it’s relentless. (Although I’ve been told I will not see what’s going to happen correctly).  I haven’t given up, but it’s a chore. I should probably punt and try the second episode.

Meanwhile I watched the first three Columbo‘s over the weekend. It’s the opposite of a chore which is not quite the same as a pleasure.

It’s TV where you know what’s going to happen. You know where you are going and it’s just a question of how you get there. In some ways, that’s how I was witnessed Arrival — I’d already read the story it was based on.

I was more struck by another similarity — a car ride.

During my childhood (and before), TV was a small medium. No extraneous characters. Plenty of wasted time. Not that movies were better but, for example, Television didn’t used to have the A and B story. There’d just be one story per hour (or half -hour). If that didn’t work, well. Tough. You’d also have plenty of time just watching people go from place to place. (Older movies also only had A-stories, but sometimes they’d have vignettes, even with the same characters).

Even before Sorkin popularized the “Walk and Talk” you could see MTV’s (and Philip Glass’s) influence on modern editing and story-telling. I remember watching Koyaanisqatsi in High School (although it came out a few years earlier) and being awestruck by how it was busy and also solemn at the same time. I speed up the playback, but it kept it’s gaze focused much longer than we’d be comfortable with.

Not many people saw it at the time, but it might be the starter’s pistol that announced that advertising (and eventually all of television) now raced towards the temporal singularity of ever-increasing speeds.

Even a puff-piece cotton candy show (like iZombie) throws dozens of characters into the mix, cuts from scene to scene with a relentless eternal rush forward. There’s rarely more than a few seconds without dialogue (or music that may as well be exposition).

If you watch older television — like Columbo — you’ll see people getting into a car and driving away. Not because there’s a chase scene, but because driving occurs in the story. Yes, they are probably showing that to avoid a page of script, but still.

People pause between talking. Sometimes it’s nice to see a story pause.

Despite having a dozen hours each season, it seems like many modern shows are afraid of pausing to take a breath, and only cinematographers feel like its worth while. I still mostly prefer shows that have no padding, but there’s a difference between putting a scene because you have nothing else to say, and putting in a scene because saying nothing is better, or more beautiful. TV has learned that the audience might miss it if you tell them something once, so they tell you twice or three times. Instead of telling you then giving you a moment to reflect.


Breath deeply.

Words can come afterwards.

Written by taogaming

November 13, 2016 at 6:31 pm

Posted in TV & Media

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