Category Archives: Various and Sundry

Video

John Hodgman, John Cleese, and Some Great Conversation

Thanks to Workflowy, I have notes jotted down going back over a decade. When people mention a book, a film, a game, et cetera, I add it to a section called “Stuff to Check Out.” That section includes an almost inexhaustible supply of articles and random videos (different from films) I make note of to check out sometime in the future.

Well, clearly I need check out stuff a bit more frequently because this comes from 2014(!) and a lot has gone on in the world since then. Still, between the interviewer John Hodgman and the interviewee John Cleese, it’s a great conversation (just shy of 90 minutes). Enjoy!

Video

“It’s Trek Jim, but not as we know it.”

I’m well overdue to add to my Star Trek rankings even though there’s no end in sight for new series and new seasons coming out of the franchise making updated rankings something of a Sisyphean task.

Not only that, I fully plan to continue adding “viewing guides” like I did for Enterprise, for people who want to boldly explore a Star Trek series or introduce someone to it: all without being bogged down in a Briar Patch of less-than-stellar episodes.

In fact, Deep Space Nine may be the next viewing guide, as it remains my favorite Star Trek series, and more people ought to be introduced to it. Here’s a fun video list of some of the reasons why.

Now, having mentioned my love for the series, I don’t think it’s necessarily the first Star Trek to introduce to people. That’s because I find some of best parts of DS9 are where it comments –often in subtle fashion– on Star Trek’s enduring hopeful themes as well as the shades of grey necessary to uphold Federation ideals. One of the best examples of this came in the season 4 opener where they got to have a scene which had great character interplay, was very pertinent to the plot of the episode, but also gave us this:

Satisfaction & Stepping Off the World’s Treadmill

Monday posts have been about motivations and resolutions and worldviews so far this year, so why stop now?

After this long, has Sir Mick accrued measurable satisfaction?

From that standpoint, Arthur Brooks’ piece for The Atlantic was a welcome read (or, if you so desire, a 41-minute listen).

What I appreciated was the time Brooks took in defining why we human animals are on this neverending treadmill for satisfaction. The societal pressures are, I would hope to most people, rather self-evident. The evolutionary arguments are ones that make me want to revisit some of my anthro coursework of ages ago and see what’s happened since then. I suspect there’s some nuance on the evolutionary angle. Nonetheless, from societal pressures alone, it makes sense why it’s so hard for one to get off the treadmill.

By the time we get to Brooks’ thoughts on three ways to aim for more satisfaction in life (decidedly not Conan’s way), the approach resonate more because of the definition of the problem.

So, as many of start another workweek, may you take some steps off the treadmill.

Video

Say, Why Did Norway and Sweden Break Up?

I’m still looking for a longer video that answers my questions about 1905 attitudes regarding lutefisk vs. surstr√∂mming and how that factored into Norwegian independence, but this works for now.

Shipping Ships and How Long Said Ships Ship

From the same folks who had the piece on the airline industry I posted back in January comes another illuminating piece about the container ships that dominate shipping via the oceans these days.

One notion I found especially interesting was the one that posited that “perfect” systems –by which I read systems that are optimized as perfectly as factors allow– can be more susceptible to issues than imperfect –or non-optimized systems. That’s not necessarily an argument for imperfect systems, though with the delays faced by ocean shipping, this may be a case where the system needs some variability, potentially in terms of redundancy.

Spaceguard is On the Case

When I watched the recent film Don’t Look Up — as a great deal of other Netflix subscribers appeared to– they mentioned the very real Planetary Defense Coordination Office which made me think instantly of Spaceguard, which isn’t an official overall terms, but dangit, I’m not alone in thinking of it. In fact, overall efforts appear to be inspired by that vision of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, visions that have born fruit over the past few decades.

Knowing that, it is perhaps not surprising –but still reassuring– to know that NASA and others take their planetary defense duties seriously as Brian Resnick details in this recent article in Vox.

“What If?” by Tobias Roetsch/Future Publishing

And speaking of Clarke, if you’d like to read a hard SF novel of his that deals directly with an asteroid headed towards Earth, The Hammer of God is a fun read, and one I don’t hear mentioned as much as the novel where he first mentions Spaceguard, Rendevous with Rama.

Film Genre Popularity Over the Decades

Bo McCready has done every cinephile a solid by taking film genre data (as tagged on IMDb) and creating this visualization via Tableau.

Now, considering that this is over 100 years’ worth of films… and thousands and thousands of films, this is quite interesting. However, if you look at the visualization above, you’ll see a given genre waxing and waning in relation to its maximum percentage of the overall number of films released that year — and for several genres, that percentage never cracks 10%. So to get an idea of how genres rise and fall in comparison to their fellow genres, take a look at this chart:

If you’re like me, you’re kinda bummed sci-fi and fantasy remain so low for the duration. However, it does go to show how the growth of documentaries is quite impressive.

Additionally, I kind of knew about the cycles of musicals and westerns, but it was interesting to see that both crime and romance have been pretty steady for a pretty long time. And, of course, comedy is gold that stays.

It also struck me that “Popularity” in this context is something of a lagging indicator, because the film studios are going to chase trends and push some of the movement in genres going up and down. It usually takes a couple years for a feature film to go from idea to script to production to finished product, though studios do their best to react as quickly as possible and indie filmmakers –the start-up entrepreneurs in this model– are ever ready to try and risk something faster, cheaper, and –quite often– out of control.

Alas, a good way to get some of that “chasing trends” energy would be to track subgenres and certain elements in movies. So, for instance, examples of “Found Footage” horror films can be cited back over 50 years, but one could venture that that subgenre took off more so after The Blair Witch Project in 1999. Similarly, there have presumably been female cellist characters in films throughout cinema history, but there was a preponderance of female cellists in films across genres in the 1980s. Since such information is coded in the IMDb records, we’re not able to visualize the data.

In any case, enjoy, and perhaps check out a few films this weekend.

What’s the Deal with the Groundhog?

All of a sudden, it’s Groundhog Dayagain. And in case you’re wondering why this is the case, Danny Lewis in the Smithsonian Magazine goes deep into the historical record.

And in case you don’t want the Smithsonian, but still want something plausible, perhaps with a theater reference, well here ya go.

And if you were reading Danny Lewis’ article above and were thinking “hmm, what about a horror film where the groundhogs in Groundhog Day are portents of Lovecraftian elder gods and their imminent return?” Well, I’m listening…

For When You Want Wonky with your New Year’s Resolutions

So, for the past few Mondays (see 1/3, 1/10, and 1/24), I’ve done posts about New Year’s Resolutions and similar life goals on both the micro and macro goal. But what if you want something a bit more wonky? What if you want to track your progress in such a way that friends and family may recoil in horror as if you asked them to watch a paint-drying marathon on HGTV?

Meredith Dietz over at Lifehacker has the article for you.

If this image quickens your pulse, goal-tracking by spreadsheet may be for you.

Now, even while I personally wouldn’t think of such goal tracking as “journaling” per se, I have to admit that keeping on ongoing record of this or that stat can really be handy — especially when you go back and look at it after a year. I’ve done that before to get myself on track with writing a certain number of minutes per day and I’m looking to track some other stats this year.

So as we get into month two of 2022, consider if you want to track something by spreadsheet.

Historical Gold from the Silver Screen

As I’ve mentioned various times, my dad made sure we saw many of the classic and not so classic films from bygone ages. I mean, I’ve seen pre-Russian Revolution films using stop-action animation of insects for crying out loud!

To date, it is my favorite World War I allegory using stop-action animation and insects.

Now, besides such curiosities and rattling good stories, these films provided de facto period pieces: they were recording the here and now of an era long past –in human terms– with details quite unknown to me.

So this article, by Fritzi Kramer, for Smithsonian magazine, was a good reminder that nowadays, early cinema represents some useful historical documents. Something to consider the next time you find yourself in an ancient attic. Just be careful with nitrate film.