September 2017 news

September 2017 newsletter with links on genetics (GWAS, engineering, evolution), intelligence, AI, metformin, lithium; 2 book and 6 movie reviews
16 August 201701 Jul 2020 finished certainty: log importance: 0

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


  • updates: Google AdSense banner ads removed (due to initial analysis of ); URL scheme changed to replace spaces by hyphens & delete commas/apostrophes (due to persistent user error); footer moved to sidebar; re-tagging pages; font/CSS tweaked for faster loads & wider margins; hosted documents reorganized & expanded with personal archives; began buying & scanning all cited books to provide fulltexts; added sitemap generation to expose fulltexts to search engines







  • (Girardian mimesis and the sociopath spectrum: while useful in war, Luke is a fish out of water in peacetime, and becomes a scapegoat for the others, acting out the desires they are too cowardly to express, and ultimately paying the price. The major flaw I would note is that the Man With Glasses speaks once; he should never speak.)

  • , Charlie Chaplin (much longer than The Gold Rush; like The Gold Rush, it suffers from the transition to comedy & satire to serious drama, in this case, about the Great Depression. The opening factory sequence is great, as is the Little Tramp’s singing performance in the cafe, but everything in between is a slog.)

  • Documentary of audio tape recordings of confessional, oft Shakespearean, monologues by spliced together with reams of archival snippets from TV, movies, and photographs; like , this documentary promises an intimate look into a famous performer’s psyche using a unique trove of documents. The documentary is as slick as could be, and skillfully structured like a guided self-hypnosis meditation which mirrors the arc of Brando’s life. It is striking to yet again see how Brando inhabited so many distinct characters: who would think the Godfather was the young Stanley Kowalski or Colonel Kurtz?

    But… the longer one listens, the less one believes any of it. It’s not the ridiculous things that Brando sometimes says, like his fetishizing of Tahitians & the dark side of sexual abuse there or his Freudian blaming of his psychological problems on his alcoholic mother/skirt-chasing traveling salesman father and his father’s problems on his grandmother leaving (flagrantly ignoring genetics and the perfect adoption study of his own daughter, , who grew up on Tahiti with minimal contact with him or the West he hated so much but developed schizophrenia & committed suicide anyway). One expects a Hollywood star to earnestly gush forth balderdash like that, and is grateful if it is at least not outright harmful like anti-vaxxer propaganda. (It also furnishes another example of the apparent connection between great accomplishment and childhood emotional—but not extreme physical—abuse which I’ve noticed in many biographies, although whether this is causal or just a proxy for inherited psychopathology driving high variance outcomes & novelty remains a mystery.)

    Rather, it’s the suspicion that the intimacy is fake. Unlike Amy, where most of the footage was shot before anyone knew Amy Winehouse would be a star, the recordings all come from long after Brando became famous, and he expected them to be heard. They are not confessions but a final posthumous performance, a last striking of a pose—no more truly felt, one suspects, than his stunts like sending an American Indian to reject an Oscar or posing with Black Panthers. No wonder he preferred places like Tahiti, less cursed with self-consciousness and freedom. There is a striking early scene where he discusses his habit of staring at strangers, trying to understand how they could stand to be themselves, and putting on roles to try to be someone, anyone, else other than Marlon Brando. (It reminded me of David Foster Wallace—who similarly suffered from an overly sensitive self-consciousness—in “E unibus pluram: television and U.S. fiction”.) But the movie ends and then he has to go back to being just Brando, jetting from place to place, filling the minutes with the simple pleasures of eating or sex, regardless of the damage to himself. Did Brando utter a single honest sentence in his life which did not serve to hide himself? Perhaps that’s what made him such a consummate actor: Brando was hollow inside.

  • , Charlie Chaplin (holds up better than I expected but still probably not recommended. Comedic timing has changed as a number of scenes I thought should have gone on longer and elaborated more on their theme were too curtailed, and the attempt at introducing halfway in a dramatic arc/love story falls flat as overly sentimental & pompous—the movie should stick to its knitting, the comedy. The best scene by far is the “dance of the bread rolls”.)


  • (Excellently executed, but the worldbuilding is more baffling the longer you think on it so probably better not to—the only things that would make it make sense would also turn it into a 1984-esque dystopia where the ending and The Moral of the Story is akin Winston Smith realizing “I love Big Brother”.)
  • K-On! Movie 2011 (beautifully animated but hopelessly bland despite a sweet ending; I suppose that’s an apt description of the entire K-On! franchise but I was hoping that the movie could do more.)