December 2017 news

December 2017 newsletter with links on genetics/AI/politics/psychology/biology/economics, 2 movie reviews and 1 anime review (newsletter)
created: 30 Nov 2017; modified: 08 Jan 2018; status: finished; confidence: log; importance: 0

This is the December 2017 edition of the newsletter; previous, November 2017 (archives). This is a summary of the revision-history RSS feed, overlapping with my Changelog & Google+; brought to you by my donors on Patreon.


  • Nothing completed






  • Icarus (documentary about the Russian doping program’s (temporary) downfall; the filmmaker Bryan Fogel benefits from the incredible luck of having decided to dabble in doping (EPO+testosterone) for bicycle racing to demonstrate how the anti-doping test programs can be defeated, with some assistance from the director of the Russian anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov. They hit it off and he has interviews/conversation from before and during the exposure, assists Grigory in escaping from Russia and avoiding an unexpected heart attack like his colleague, and whistleblowing to the FBI & NYT. The first ~15 minutes includes somewhat graphic needle use. The fly-on-the-wall aspect is compelling the same way The King of Kong is, but downplays the big picture in favor of a close focus on Grigory as a character study of an aging athletics nerd: what are his real motives? Did he really want to expose the truth and reveal the Russian cheating, or is he more of a Samson, pulling down the temple walls on himself & his enemies and destroying his own lifework by exposing the total bankruptcy of the anti-doping program as ordered by the Russian government from the top down? For all the film of his daily routine and playing with the filmmaker’s dog and Skype interviews with his family - incidentally, hacked snippets of which were apparently used on Russian TV to try to discredit him, which says interesting things about Microsoft’s stewardship of Skype - and rather heavy-handed invocations of Orwell’s 1984, he ultimately remains something of a cipher.)
  • Rollerball (1975 a humorous-sounding cult film, Rollerball is deadly serious about its dystopian setting. Following a quasi-Brave New World tact of a protagonist waking up to a post-freedom corporate-government dictatorship with a population distracted by drugs and circuses, with an Ender’s Game/Hunger Games/Battle Royale twist of the protagonist being an athlete whose success at the game causes others to try to use the game to destroy him. The rollerball sport itself is done with impressive dedication, and one can see why the Wikipedia entry mentions people being interested in life imitating art - certainly rollerball makes more sense than Quidditch, and as much sense as football, to me, although admittedly the equipment/rink requirements are challenging. The film breaks off before depicting the expected culmination in a revolution. Despite the length, not much actually happens due to a remarkably leisurely pacing: we see the protagonist’s home quite often, and not much of the world or his supposed effects on the masses. This puts Rollerball in an awkward place: it’s not camp or funny, but it also spends too much time on largely wasted moody scene-setting in between rollerball games so the world-building is unconvincing despite a few pointed scenes that work well such as the senile world computer which is unable to answer any questions or an elite party devolving into hysterical violence in blowing up trees.)


  • Prison School (inside all the juvenile raunch, the BDSM and nipple-hair jokes, in the broad manzai-style comedy familiar from anime comedies like Cromartie High, beats a full-metal shonen heart of gold as the protagonists become nakama and learn the value of manly friendship. Combined with the fairly intricate plotting, I enjoyed PS more than I expected.)