Posts concerning criticism


17:39 27 Oct 2013

I’ve been blogging regularly since 01 August 2006: every day for that first year, five times per week for four years after that, and at least once per week since 01 August 2011. Now it’s time for a break.

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“The System”: Tropa de Elite

23:27 01 Sep 2013

Tropa de Elite and Tropa de Elite 2 – O Inimigo Agora é Outro[1] are two Brazilian crime/action movies about the drug trade and corruption in Rio de Janeiro. While fictional[2], they clearly draw upon contemporary Brazilian politics. They both follow Roberto Nascimento, who at the start of the first film is a captain in BOPE, an elite unit roughly analogous to the American SWAT squads[3].

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Androids in Alien and Prometheus

23:55 24 Jun 2012. Updated: 01:25 25 Jun 2012

(Spoilers for Alien and Prometheus, clearly.)

What is an android? The first Wiktionary definition is “a robot that is designed to look and act like a human (usually male)”. Looking like a human is the easier of the two components, particularly when not in motion, despite the potential difficulties in artificially replicating skin in a convincing manner. The real difficulty is acting like a human. Our stories are full of creatures (döppelgangers, aliens, golems[1]) that look like use but are not us, and this familiarity with the concept may mask how difficult accomplishing such a thing would be—an oversight that forms a core weakness in Prometheus.

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Technical Difficulties and Linkspam, 2012-06-17

22:56 17 Jun 2012

The death of my old MacBook Pro this evening has caused the loss (hopefully only temporary) of the blog post I was working on today (on androids in Alien and Prometheus), which I will try to recover and finish next week.

In the meantime, here are some interesting things I encountered on the internet this week.

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Kirby on Remixes, Part 3

23:55 24 Jun 2011

Everything is a Remix Part 3. Definitely worth watching, particularly because the ideas discussed are presented effectively, and because the concepts of “originality” that govern our ethics and laws are definitely in need of major revision (a subject that will apparently be tackled in Part 3…)

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4 Philosophical Questions Examined in Light of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

23:45 23 May 2011. Updated: 15:05 12 Mar 2012

Unsurprisingly, yesterday’s explorations of scale led me to ponder questions of meaning and meaninglessness, and reminded me of this excellent article by Julia Galef over at 3 Quarks Daily. The answer, of course, must be 42; the questions Galef addresses are:

  1. What’s the point of anything if we’re all going to be dead someday?
  2. What’s the purpose of our existence?
  3. How can any of our lives matter in the grand scheme of things?
  4. Things seem to happen without rhyme or reason.

(Presumably the last one should have been “why do things seem to happen without rhyme or reason?”)

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China Miéville and “Uncoding the City”

23:07 03 Mar 2011

There’s a fantastic interview with China Miéville over at BLDGBLOG, quite long and ranging over a lot of interesting topics. Perhaps my favorite piece:

I know there’s a very strong tradition—a tradition in which I write, myself—about the decoding of the city. Thomas de Quincey, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Iain Sinclair—that type-thing. The idea that, if you draw the right lines across the city, you’ll find its Kabbalistic heart and so on.

The thing about that is that it’s intoxicating—but it’s also bullshit.

—Geoff Manaugh & China Miéville. “Unsolving the City: An Interview with China Miéville”. BLDGBLOG, Tuesday 01 March 2011.
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Remixes All the Way Down

23:50 17 Feb 2011

I thought this was interesting (I preferred it to part one, perhaps because of my greater interest in film):

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

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Tron: Legacy Hateration

16:19 03 Jan 2011

I could have titled this “Tron: Legacy Review”, but decided on the more honest naming.

I should note that I don’t remember the original Tron very well, and wasn’t coming to this film hoping that it would be “true” to the original. I didn’t really have expectations; I dread to think what my reaction would have been if I had had any.

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Overthinking Star Wars

21:27 14 Dec 2010

In the spirit of the famous Clerks discussion, here’s “Think Tank: What do the Stormtroopers Think of Vader?”. Best excerpts:

Imagine you worked at the Pentagon as a personal attache to Colin Powell or McChrystal, and you hear over the PA “Alert! Alert! There is a Nazi Ninja Master loose in the Pentagon! Your orders are ‘Shoot to kill!’” You get up and walk around the corner, and there’s this 80 year old man with a Hitler moustache in a black outfit, and he and Donald Rumsfeld are circling each other ominously. Both of them have katanas drawn.

Do you shoot?



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Zombie Science, Ethics, and Miscellany

21:25 31 Oct 2010

I’m not a huge zombie fan, but it is Halloween, so covering the undead seems appropriate. Discover’s Science Not Fiction blog has a pretty good series on a fairly realistic approach to them, including some discussion of ethical concerns: Intro, Biology, Zombie “Death”, and Questions.

Bonus #1: “ 7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail (Quickly)”, which I happen to think is accurate in its overall message.

Bonus #2: “The Running of the Dead“, a long but worthwhile political and cultural examination of the difference between “slow zombie” and “fast zombie” movies.

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Caprica Cancelled… And Few Notice

23:58 28 Oct 2010. Updated: 01:20 29 Oct 2010

Battlestar Galactica seemed to me to be a rather successful series. This is probably because know a lot of people who watched it, but it did survive through four seasons and has been hailed as the most successful science fiction series in years. It also generated a fair amount of discussion, and I had conversations about it with a lot of friends. But no-one I know said anything to me about Caprica, and I think this is because no-one I know was watching it. And now it’s dead.

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Andre Agassi’s Open

08:58 17 Aug 2010. Updated: 15:46 17 Aug 2010

I read Agassi’s autobiography during a five-hour layover in Philadelphia airport this weekend, and have to say I was impressed—with the book, not the layover. I had expected it to be of interest mainly for its hardcore tennis content, with some celebrity stuff thrown in, but I found it gripping throughout and was very impressed with Agassi’s voice.

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Doom and Modern First-Person Shooters

18:43 05 Mar 2010

Continuing with the vintage video games theme, here’s “Coelacanth: Lessons from Doom”, an analysis of Doom by J.P. Lebreton, one of the designers of BioShock. Great piece, and especially interesting to me was his focus on how much easier it was for people to create their own maps for Doom than it is for modern FPSes. He wrote the commentary partly to accompany his recreation of one of his BioShock levels as a Doom II level, Arcadia Demade.

Incidentally, he’s also put work into an “abstract FPS” called purity, which makes me wonder what his take on CPMA would be.

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The Architecture of Die Hard

12:04 14 Jan 2010

I found this architectural/sociological (sociospatial? psychospatial?) analysis of modern urban warfare, Die Hard, and cinematic portrayals of urban movement to be entirely fascinating. Tactics, psychology, Jason Bourne, parkour, and late-capitalist nonplaces—how can you go wrong with that?

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Don’t Watch Taken

18:12 10 Aug 2009

I was tired and stuck in my seat and made the poor choice of watching this awful Liam Neeson action movie. I say “awful” but I don’t just mean bad, I mean its themes and messages were highly questionable and disturbing. Spoilers will follow, but a) it’s not worth seeing and b) I’m not sure they’re “spoilers” with a movie as predictable as this.

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Katie Faulkner, “Loom” and “Until We Know For Sure”

23:50 13 Jul 2009

I went to the West Wave Dance Festival last night with my friends Brian and Anne. I had never heard of Katie Faulkner before, but when I left, I was a fan. I’m pretty sure she’s the first choreographer I’ve even considered being a fan of. That’s not to say I’ve never seen “better” choreographers, but in the past I never really felt I should make an effort to follow their work.

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Deception and the Rapture

23:51 05 May 2009. Updated: 01:51 06 May 2009

The Rapture might turn out to be a fake; also, certain books about the Rapture might be fake but contain real Rapture-related messages.

The second link is a lot more fun to read than the first link, but that’s just my opinion.

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Violence in the Watchmen Movie

20:21 10 Mar 2009

I don’t have much of a problem with film violence generally, and appreciate good fight scenes, but found myself disturbed by the Watchmen movie’s treatment of them.

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Watchmen Isn’t Out Yet But…

23:54 19 Feb 2009

I am going to go see it. I’m kind of annoyed by this, right now. Because I feel like I have to go see it. They’ve made the trailers look appealing enough that I have to go see it just in case it’s actually good, even though I’m still extremely skeptical.

Wil Wheaton likes it. I don’t know if that means anything to you. I don’t know if that means anything to me, actually. But he does swear by the beard of Zeus that the movie feels like the book. On the other hand, he does wonder why ultra-purists (hi!) would bother to see it at all.

I don’t know. There are already some things I don’t like from the trailers (like Rorschach’s voice and some of the costume changes), but in order to find out whether or not they’re minor details or signs that Snyder’s vision of it is too alien to me, I have to go see it.

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Alternate History Versus Science Fiction

06:36 30 May 2008

I finished Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union today. I liked it, although I think it overdid it perhaps a little with its sheer Jewishness—it takes place in an entirely Jewish state, one whose inhabitants are all highly aware of their Jewishness in ways I’ve never encountered in real life. It’s not quite caricature, and it’s definitely a loving portrait in many ways, but it felt like Chabon figured out how to convey “a Jewish atmosphere”, and conveys it, and then hires a trucking company to keep on conveying it from his mind to yours, while you’re trying to follow the plot. I suddenly wonder if At Swim-Two-Birds strikes the non-Irish in a similar way, given that it’s steeped (very steeped) in Irishness. In any case, Chabon’s novel is a good one, and a good read, but my question is: is it science fiction?

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Fictional Agency

23:37 28 Mar 2008. Updated: 01:39 29 Mar 2008

I came across a distinction in fiction recently that I don’t think I’ve paid much attention to before, and that I don’t know the word(s) (if extant) for: works in which the characters play a part in the major events that occur in their milieu during the narrative, and works in which they play no such part, but are caught up in those larger events.

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HBO’s Rome

23:44 13 Jun 2007

I recently watched the first season of HBO’s Rome. Like most of the series that HBO produces, the quality of the production is extremely high, including the acting, directing, and writing.

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