June 2017 news

June 2017 gwern.net newsletter with links on dysgenics, genetics, AI, PC history, and 5 movie reviews
3 June 201701 Jul 2020 finished certainty: log importance: 0

This is the June 2017 edition of the gwern.net newsletter; previous, (). This is a summary of the revision-history RSS feed, overlapping with my & ; brought to you by my donors on Patreon.





  • (one of the best noir films; Exley is particularly interesting as neither hero nor anti-hero)
  • (excellent character-study/drama about the price of fame, the sincerest forms of flattery, and a little meta-fictionally, the psychology of the theatre and Broadway being usurped by Hollywood; like , the driving force is detecting deception or the lack thereof. Features an unexpected appearance by Marilyn Monroe.)
  • (a lame waste of time; not remotely funny nor insightful nor rendered sufficiently interesting by the now-exotic setting of 1960s Catholic Italy, as the making of 8 1/2 is Fellini’s excuse for making 8 1/2 in a third-rate breaking-the-fourth-wall exercise)
  • (a few one-liners aside, Woody Allen’s neurotic humor is unbearable to watch. It would seem that Allen movies are not for me.)


: Amy is a documentary/biopic on singer ; while I was almost totally ignorant of Winehouse beside knowing she was some sort of singer who died of a drug overdose a few years ago, this was highly rated as a documentary, with the major attraction of Winehouse having been filmed in long home videos for years long before she ever became famous. Since for famous people, the most interesting part of their life is often their obscure beginnings, which for exactly that reason is also the most poorly documented part of their lives, this makes the documentary much more interesting than usual.

So, Winehouse. I assumed from the bizarre makeup and tattoos I’d seen in occasional photos that she was some sort of southern American redneck; turns out she was actually British and more or less a chav (despite being Jewish?), inheriting all the pathologies of the lower classes. A proper review of this could only be written by Theodore Dalrymple but the summary is short: fame often makes people more than themselves, and Winehouse was broken from early on & lived with broken people, from her dubiously supportive friends to her useless parasite boyfriends/husbands to her negligent, selfish, exploitative father to the record industry to the fans who bought her & funded the paparazzi. Perhaps she might have grown out of it into a better self, but the accelerants of fame & money spread the fire too fast.

The documentary tries to suggest that Winehouse’s problems were all Freudian and based on her parent’s divorce around while she was starting puberty, but this is unlikely as it is a bit of a post hoc (impulsivity and behavioral problems would tend to surface around that time regardless), most people survive a divorce without becoming drug addicts, and problems of various sorts appear to run in the family (“everything is heritable”/“everything is correlated”). The genesis of “Rehab” really says it all—a quip boasting about not getting treatment for the poly drug abuse (including but not limited to tobacco, marijuana, heroin, & alcohol) which was quite visibly killing her—watching the videos progress over the film, she already looks half-dead by 2006 as she destroyed herself with drugs, tattoos, and ever more bizarre makeup—is greeted by her collaborator not as a crisis but a hook for a new song, and by the rest of the world as a revelation. (To quote ’s description of : “The action is laid in Hell,—only it seems places and people have English names there.” Presumably, the second/third circle, the realm of hungry ghosts.) The surprising thing is not that Winehouse died young but that she survived so long. So it is a horror movie. As far as that goes, it is quite good and greatly benefits from the home videos.

The major flaw of Amy is that it does a terrible job of showing why Winehouse & her music were so popular. The music is presented mostly as snippets, and I am left not understanding what was good about it. This leads to some eyebrow-raising scenes like early on where a music executive praises the young teen Winehouse as “a force of nature” in her first label audition as she plays on a guitar straining to sing some lyrics which sound like, well, a young teenage girl had written them in a diary decorated with drawings of little hearts. ‘One does not care to recollect the mistakes of youth’, but the director is hardly doing a good job of showing what musical talent she had to deserve such world fame and Grammies. I should not have to go outside the text to understand something as fundamental to a musician’s life as their music.

Overall, required viewing for any Winehouse fan and of general psychiatric interest; possibly too painful to watch for others.