June 2015 news

N/A (newsletter)
created: 27 May 2015; modified: 09 Oct 2017; status: finished; confidence: log; importance: 0

This is the June 2015 edition of the gwern.net newsletter; previous, May 2015. This is a summary of the revision-history RSS feed, overlapping with Changelog & Google+ & LW media threads; brought to you by my donors

Writings

  • rewrote gwern.net CSS to be mobile-friendly; should now be readable in an iPhone 6 browser
  • wrote two summer poems, on earthworms and the rain

Media

Books

Fiction:

Film/TV

Live-action:

  • Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion

    A movie whose plot begs to be described in Red Pill terms: a shy over-educated young heiress finds her jimmies rustled by a bad boy alpha male Johnny (played by the still-famous Cary Grant) and, ignoring her parents, all common sense, and the beta floaters around her, elopes with him, only to discover to her dismay that she’s married a man who could have come straight out of the pages of Cleckley’s 1941 Mask of Sanity (the resemblance is so exact that I was surprised to see that the original novel was written in 1932 and the Suspicion screenplay ~1939) - a glib bankrupt unemployed macho gambler who steals, embezzles, and lies extravagantly without the slightest shred of remorse or shame or any care about how it might hurt others or any plan beyond the instant. The suspicion is raised by a succession of circumstances indicative of killing the protagonist by poison for her life insurance.

    The ending (to give away a bit of a spoiler) is that she misinterpreted them and really he did love her and he had been contemplating suicide, but now chooses to take responsibility for his actions and go to jail honorably. This ending is so laughably inconsistent with his character, and such a misstep for Hitchcock, I thought that there must be more to this ending and that I should not have been surprised that Hollywood would refuse to show Cary Grant playing a serial murderer; sure enough when I checked WP, the original novel had the right ending and Hitchcock is on record complaining about being forced to change the end. The bogus ending aside, it is well-done and a bit suspenseful (at least once they get married and the real plot; the prologue scenario being so predictable that I was bored) with some noteworthy bits like the final gorgeous sequence of Johnny ascending the stairs with the poisoned milk.
  • The Bridge over the River Kwai

    One of the great war movies; the theme of the futility & destructiveness of war can never be emphasized enough. The colonel’s descent into collaborationism is all too easily understood, as is, to a lesser extent, the murderous & death-seeking behavior of the commando officer. The major flaws I would consider to be the Japanese depicted entirely too positively (the first plot arc of the colonel’s resistance, while uplifting, broke a bit of suspension of disbelief because in reality he would probably have simply been executed within the day), the ending is a bit too heavy-handed (did any viewer actually need the doctor to repeat madness! 4 or 5 times to get the message?), and too much of the 161 minutes running time is occupied with the resistance arc and then later with the commando squad cutting its way through the jungle.

Anime:

  • Mushishi Zoku Shou: One of the best anime (2005) received its long-deserved second season in 2014. Rather than declining, the second season is better than the first.

    The basics remain the same: in a quasi-medieval Japan, biology meets dreamy folklore in the form of mushi, not quite bacteria or animals but not quite spirits either, and a wandering man solves problems relating to them. But where the first season focused more on individuals and their relationships to the mushi (and modifications by, sufferings due to, etc), season two examines a variety of relationships between humans, particularly families. Despite the episodic structure, the drama is still intelligent and moving - a son seeks to surpass his father; a man punishes himself and his daughter, a brother cannot forgive himself for a past omission; a mother sacrifices and slowly becomes the milk her baby needs; a family passes on a grim obsession through the generation at the expense of outsiders; a woman with the disastrous power to bring rain travels to villages in need, postponing getting married until the rain ceases, while another boy endures lightning strikes for the mother who does not love him; a neglected and despised son nearly kills his pseudo-family, but ultimately lets his anger disperse and can move on; a clan devotes itself to fighting an existential risk, even at the cost of its childrens’ souls; a man and his wife, to live together and save each other, become time-travellers who choose to become trapped in loops; an ancient tree sacrifices all for the villagers it nurtured.

    The endings are not always happy nor predictable; some are deeply tragic (Mud Grass and Tree of Eternity) or just creepy (The Hand That Caresses the Night, Floral Delusion, Path of Thorns). Very few episodes are failures (Out of the 21 episodes, I could indict only Mirror Lake and Hidden Cove as being boringly bland, and Thread of Light as being mediocre.) The world expands as Ginko travels to locales beyond the stereotypical thick forest of season 1, and we gain glimpses of the network of mushishi Ginko is one of (and his own notoriety in that small circle) and of the mountain lords. The plots as well enlarge and additional elements of fantasy and SF are mixed in (particularly in Path of Thorns again, Fragrant Darkness, and Lingering Crimson), particularly Japanese folklore (Azure Waters implies the kappa are an exaggeration of a particular mushi infection, and Lightning’s End refers to the raijū).

    The backgrounds are no longer quite so impressive as they were back during the original Mushishi and the animation has some visible flaws (you’ll notice a lot of blank undrawn faces), but the mushi seem to benefit from CGI upgrades since 2005. The music is appropriate, and Ally Kerr supplies a very appropriate OP song.

    Easily the best new anime I’ve watched in 2015.
  • Barakamon: slice-of-life bildungsroman about a young-adult calligrapher rusticated for hot-headedness to a southern Japanese island (not Okinawa, feels more like one of the smaller Ryukyu Islands) where he learns Life Lessons taught to him by the locals and particularly an elementary-age girl a la Yotsuba&!. Animated in the current clean standard style, with some effort on the backgrounds. Calligraphy as the topic is a definite change of pace and earns Barakamon pluses in my book, though most of the calligraphy merely looks messy to my untutored eyes and is hard to appreciate (the exception being the hoshi/star calligraphy of episode 9, a black-white figure-ground inversion writing which would be gimmicky if it didn’t so perfectly make the pictorial & semantic aspects mirror each other). A good watch but I find it hard to love because it’s heavy-handed in showing the protagonist learning his Life Lessons and relies too heavily on the cheerful child trope.

Music

Touhou:

Kantai Collection: