January 2019 news

January 2019 gwern.net newsletter with Danbooru2018 release announcement, links on genetic engineering, reinforcement learning, compression, and 3 book/movie reviews
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created: 18 Dec 2018; modified: 27 Mar 2019; status: finished; confidence: log; importance: 0

This is the January 2019 edition of the gwern.net newsletter; previous, December 2018 (archives). This is a summary of the revision-history RSS feed, overlapping with my Changelog & /r/gwern; brought to you by my donors on Patreon.







  • The Dark Knight Rises (2012; bombastic & unconvincing sequel. The only thing more boring than the poorly-reheated French Revolution shtick are the fights between Bane & Batman and the unconvincing twist at the end.)


  • The Thief and the Cobbler (One of the most gorgeous hand-animated films of all time, featuring striking sequences playing with geometry & color , or what would have been, had it not been undermined by development hell & perfectionism. I used the ‘recobbled’ edit version 4 which I got somewhere years ago (perhaps the Internet Archive?). The quality is not good—the image resolution is barely DVD-grade, there is noise, the recobbled edits splice in animatics where the film was not finished, or even just storyboard sketches, and there are nasty yellow hardcoded Spanish subtitles for some reason. I probably could’ve done better. The experience of watching is intended to be comedic but is inevitably also a melancholy one. Unlike Redline, where the development hell finally yielded a finished polished product, every few minutes of The Thief and the Cobbler bears ‘the indelible stamp of its lowly origins’ as a rushed hackjob of in-progress materials and not a completed vision. The story jumps abruptly, luxuriating in gorgeous but inconsequentially long sequences—like a lengthy polo match in which the Thief is ever more improbably abused by the heedless players & steeds—while key scenes like the cobbler & princess falling in love are sometimes not even animated. The Thief influenced animators who worked on or saw it in samizdat (just consider the existence of Aladdin), but it was ultimately released decades after its moment had passed, and in sorry shape; animation had moved on, and what would have been stunning sequences in the 1970s or 1980s with backbreaking hand-drawn 3D movements now look almost ordinary in the CGI era. Considering the length of the film and how much was apparently cut & unable to be added back into the Recobbled edits, it seems likely to me that the core problem with The Thief and the Cobbler is not a lack of budget for animation, but a lack of the right animation—that is, in an example of “real artists ship”, much of the effort was misguided, priorities were not set, resources were squandered chasing peoples’ beautiful fancies instead of working on what the film actually needed (despite funding thanks to success of Who Framed Roger Rabbit), and like Evangelion, scheduling was not done right. Blame for this must ultimately be laid at Williams’s door. As the Thackeray line goes, “to think on him is to think on the ruin of a great empire.”)