Dan Brown is Renowned

These articles are from a while ago. I love them a lot. By Michael Deacon.

That’s true, mused the accomplished composer of thrillers that combined religion, high culture and conspiracy theories. His books were read by everyone from renowned politician President Obama to renowned musician Britney Spears. It was said that a copy of The Da Vinci Code had even found its way into the hands of renowned monarch the Queen. He was grateful for his good fortune, and gave thanks every night in his prayers to renowned deity God.

Michael Deacon, “Don’t make fun of renowned Dan Brown”, The Telegraph

And the renowned encore:

His imagination was racing like a racecar made of brains. Picking up his personal copy of acclaimed tome The Da Vinci Code, he reread its exquisite opening paragraph.

“Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece towards himself until it tore from the wall and Saunière collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.”

Hmm, meditated the 5’9” caucasian male. There is no doubting the magnificence of the prose, from the effortless elegance of its syntax to the way it brings characters vividly to life through evocative details like “the seventy-six-year-old man”. But the young people of today wouldn’t know about museums or Caravaggio. I must start again from scratch – and bring the story right up to date.

Michael Deacon, “Look Out, Kids! It’s The Return Of Renowned Dan Brown”, The Telegraph

I read The Da Vinci Code when it was all the rage a long while ago1, and so much of what’s being ridiculed here reminds me of submissions to the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest2.

Update

Here’s John Oliver on the phenonemon that was The Da Vinci Code. 19-year old Nikhil was absolutely mesmerized. His reaction at 5:45 is chef’s kiss

  1. My roommate at the time bought me the illustrated version! ↩︎

  2. On my bucket list: Have a submission mentioned honorably 🙏 ↩︎

Steller’s Sea Eagle

The Steller’s sea eagle is one of the world’s rarest eagles. There are only around 4,000 left. It’s native to Russia and Japan. One was spotted in Maine and got bird watchers very excited.

“It would be like an elephant walking up out of Africa into Scandinavia,” Mr. Lund said. “Like getting a call that the Rolling Stones are playing in a field behind a warehouse in the next town over.”

Marion Renault, “This Eagle Is Very, Very Lost”, The New York Times

It also just happens to be an absolute unit of a bird at 20lbs with an 8ft wingspan 🔥🦅😍

Steller's Sea Eagle - 1
by Andres Vasquez Noboa

Steller's Sea Eagle - 2
Photographer unknown (source)

Steller's Sea Eagle - 3
by John Charles Putrino

Steller's Sea Eagle - 4
by Andres Vasquez Noboa

Dr. Lees said vagrancy, as a biological mechanism, could help migratory birds expand their ranges, a potential advantage as global warming redraws the contours of suitable habitat. Dr. Farnsworth said, conversely, extreme weather — which is anticipated to grow in frequency and intensity as climate change progresses — can also play a role in displacing birds by hundreds or even thousands of miles.

What’s next for the lone, pioneering Steller’s sea eagle? It could migrate along with native bald eagles down the coastline. It could find its way back to northeastern Asia. It could stick around Nova Scotia, as it is well adapted to the cold and seems able to survive there. It could die, out of range of its original flock.

“It’s like an avian soap opera,” Dr. Lees said. “We’re all rooting for it. Will it make it home? Or is it doomed to never see another species of its own in its lifetime?”

Nailbiter.

The Salesman (2016) IMDb A+

Saw with LD. This was our first Asghar Farhadi movie and it won’t be our last. Everything was magnificent: story, acting, screenplay, all of it. I remarked to LD that he managed to punch us in at least ten emotional centers in our hearts. So masterfully paced we didn’t feel two hours flow by.

Here’s a short clip where he describes his filmmaking process:

The hardest part is when the movie is done. When the movie starts to have its distance from me. When the movie is over I don’t show it to actors. Because they just look at themselves, and their opinion wouldn’t help me. I show it to some people who don’t have anything to do with cinema. Same with the script. I have the past script to the French teacher of my daughter.

When normal people see the film they can’t tell you what they feel right away. But while they’re watching the film you can sit with them and feel which part they are getting bored and which part gets them excited. The most important thing for me to understand after I am done with a film is that if my film is boring or not. I don’t like anyone to go out when viewing my film even if they have to go and pee. My film has to do something that they have to finish it and then leave.

I’ll watch the A Separation next1.

  1. Not that they matter too much but both these movies won Academy Awards for Farhadi. He refused to accept the second Oscar in person “out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US.” If you didn’t notice when the movie was released: One guess as to which administration that happened under. ↩︎

On Fear (and Lethargy)

The question is, what does it mean to be living a fear-based agenda? Then your life is always constricted. Then it’s sabotaging the expression of your possibilities in life. Jung said once, in a book published in 1912, “The spirit of evil is negation of the life force by fear.” That’s strong language. Only boldness can deliver us from fear, and if the risk is not taken, the meaning of life is violated. Now, I think of that as a kind of daily reminder to me. The way I put it in one of the books The Middle Passage, “Every morning, two gremlins at the foot of the bed, challenging us and threatening us, fear and lethargy. Fear says, it’s too much, it’s too big for you. You can’t handle this life. And lethargy says, chill out. Tomorrow’s another day, turn on the television, try to be distracted if you can.”

And both of them are the enemies of life, and they’ll be there again tomorrow, no matter what you do today. So we have to realize they are inside of us. The biggest enemies to life are inside of us: fear and lethargy. If we can address that life opens up and begins to be what it’s supposed to be, in my view, the unfolding of the gem that each of us embodies in this world.

James Hollis on an episode of the Insights at the Edge podcast with Tami Simon

Here’s a transcript. Via LD 🙏

Oracle

Here’s Bryan Cantrill’s classic assessment of Oracle Corporation (taken from this talk.)

On Twitter, a year after that video:

If you were an enterprise database customer who hadn’t heard of the Nazis, might it be easiest to explain them with Oracle allegory?

@bcantrill

I know people who’ve worked there (none of whom are with the company, mercifully) and have heard nothing but fascinating tales of dysfunction, fiefdoms, sinecures, overwork, and bureaucracy. One engineer told me that, of all the bad places he’d worked at, he felt his “soul dying slowly” at Oracle. It’s a generic and very real Evil Corporation™, and probably the company the protagonists in Office Space work at.

And this wouldn’t be too far-fetched a thought. Consider that the producers of Terminator: Genisys, who are an Oracle Co-Founders’s own children, based “Cyberdyne Systems, the fictional defense company responsible for the creation of the evil AI Skynet” on their dad’s company. Amazing.

On Drawing Logical Conclusions

I can’t see a thing on the surface of Venus. Why not? Because it’s covered with a dense layer of clouds. Well, what are clouds made of? Water, of course. Therefore, Venus must have an awful lot of water on it. Therefore, the surface must be wet. Well, if the surface is wet, it’s probably a swamp. If there’s a swamp, there’s ferns. If there’s ferns, maybe there’s even dinosaurs.

Carl Sagan, Cosmos

It was only in 1922 that:

[…] fantasies of a wet, swampy Venus started to fade. Astronomers analyzing the visible light reflected from the planet’s atmosphere found no signs of the wavelengths which would have been given off by oxygen or water. Venus, they proposed, may instead be barren and dusty, a desert-like place.

The Venutian Dinosaur Fallacy, BigThink

which, as that article notes, still did not prevent us from imagining a Wet-Ass Venus well into the 1950s. Here are some pictures of its surface.

Car Silhouettes

Henry Lin has a degree in Architectural Design is a “a lover of all things transportative”. He draws really lovely Car Silhouettes 😍 Here are a few.

Silhouette of Chevrolet-Corvette-C3-08 by Henry Lin
Chevy Corvette C3 (1968-1972)

Silhouette of Jaguar-E-Type-02 by Henry Lin
Jaguar E-Type (1961-1968)

Silhouette of Lagonda-Rapide-01 by Henry Lin
Lagonda Rapide (1961 - 1964)

Silhouette of Mercedes-w221 by Henry Lin
Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W221)

Silhouette of Mercedes-C218 by Henry Lin
Mercedes-Benz CLS400 (C218)

Silhouette of Bugatti-Centodieci-01 by Henry Lin
Bugatti Centodieci

The Eye: Calanthek

This is a short film done entirely with the Early Access version of Unreal Engine 5. It’s only around eight minutes long and took six weeks to make but its plot is more exciting and coherent than whatever the heck was happening in Prometheus1.

  1. Some examples: Let’s take our helmets off on an alien planet teeming with life forms we are yet to study. Let’s then just go ahead and touch and electrocute said life forms. And what exactly are David’s motivations? From Wikipedia: “Writer Damon Lindelof stated that the character provides a non-human perspective on the film’s events, and said, ‘What does the movie look like from the robot’s point of view? If you were to ask him, ‘What do you think about all of this? What’s going on? What do you think about these humans who are around you?’ Wouldn’t it be cool if we found a way for that robot to answer those questions?’” Let’s ask these questions, never answer them, and waste Michael Fassbender on this embarrassing shit instead. Oh and if you didn’t know that the ‘Engineers’ in the movie are mad at us and want to destroy us because we killed Jesus, you do now. ↩︎

On Living Together

You’ve said that, despite being married three times, you’ve been in love only once. Do you think you might have a particularly higher bar than other people?
No, I think I’m not that interested. I’m much happier on my own. I can spend as much time with somebody as I want to spend, but I’m not looking to be with somebody forever or live with someone. I don’t want somebody in my house.

Have you always felt like this?
Yes. I’m the round peg, and marriage is the square hole. You can’t have a square hole, can you?

Whoopi Goldberg, in an old interview with Ana Marie Cox, The New York Times

I am 20

In 1967, the Films Division of India1 asked all kinds of 20-year olds about their dreams and how they felt about the future of a nation that was, itself, 20 years old. Here’s the original video. A lot of the kids who speak English in the video (starting at 5:00) attend the august Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

A colorized and edited version of that video went viral. Here’s a most fascinating “Where are They Now?” follow-up by the author where he tracks down seven people in the video. It’s a mix of Hindi and English. Lessons learned: Life is way too short, way too fickle, and almost never pans out the way you think it will. Privilege helps a lot.

  1. Which I just realized is a thing. ↩︎

Akhanda (2021) IMDb D

REALLY 📢 LOUD 📢 NOISES 📢 with a good dose of Hindutva1. It’s really, really loud.

This is Boyapati Srinu’s third movie with Balakrishna after Simha (loud) and Legend (louder.) Akhanda is the loudest and shittiest collaboration yet. The story is a complete afterthought and, very loosely, holds together punch dialogues, fight scenes, and forgettable shit songs featuring Balakrishna’s embarrassing and dismaying calisthenic attempts at joint health and mobility2. Meat for the most hardcore of Balayya fans. At this rate, he could just put out a two-hour plot-free smorgasbord of Balayya belting us with nothing but punch dialogues and still have a hit on his hands.

Please make sure you protect your hearing if you decide to watch this disaster. Here’s a review via NN. 0:09 to 0:24 is accurate.

Update: The music director thinks it’s wrong to call his shit loud. “You don’t ask the priests at the temple to turn down the volume of the bells ringing do you?” He submits that the ear-splitting volume induces a “trance” state. Otolaryngologists might call it “trauma” but OK.

  1. It’s just what the market wants you know? ↩︎

  2. Tho truth be told, I’d be very happy if I could move like that at sixty-one 🤷‍♂️ ↩︎

Worlds Beyond the Stars

Dil Se, written and directed by Mani Ratnam, is one of my all-time favorite movies. I still consider its soundtrack to be A R Rahman’s greatest work. It’s just magnificent stuff.

When I was 15, I remember seeing the movie’s trailer1 and being awestruck by this haunting background song2 that didn’t make it into the official tracklist. The song is a rendition of a well-known poem, Sitaron Se Aage Jahan Aur Bhi Hai, by another genius Allama Iqbal.

I’ve been looking for this song for a long while, settling for shitty movie extractions (which are exactly that.) I went to the extent of trying to contact Madras Talkies, the director’s production company, several times to no response or avail.

Twenty four years later, and thanks to the internet, I’ve finally found good versions of this elusive song 🥰

All of these appear to be from a 20-year anniversary release I couldn’t find anywhere but here. The whole thing is just absolutely lovely. Oh and here’s another version at appears to be mostly the same as the one linked to, and a solo version by a guy named Sujay.

  1. Which was badass and which I also cannot find. We went to see Bade Miyan Chote Miyan↩︎

  2. Sung by Sukhwinder Singh and, I’m guessing, a fucking banshee. ↩︎

The Matrix Resurrections (2021) IMDb B+

Saw with LD on Christmas Eve. I thought it was well-done millennial nostalgia porn. Nothing wrong with that. I loved the humor and digs at techbro culture and co-option of “red-pill” by the far-right (which led to my favorite set of Tweets.) Thought it could be a deconstruction of the original Matrix (for what isn’t these days?) and was very swayed by this lovely analysis by /u/Dangerous_Budget8897.

Breaking free from the Matrix is about breaking free from preconceptions. This is emphasised by the fate of the real Morpheus, who was so convinced by the mythology of the One that he couldn’t accept the new peace could be undone. I think Lana regards certain fans of the original film in the same way, with their steadfast commitment to the original film’s aesthetics. This revival executes the highly-anticipated action scenes with total indifference, all while cheerfully embracing goofy comedy along with the defiantly uncool visual palette continued from the final shot of Revolutions.

Is this a middle finger to the audience? To some extent, but I think Lana would argue that they need their expectations recalibrated. For her, the Matrix is about love. She is aware that, as the analyst says, “people will find it sentimental”, but the positioning of sentimentality in favour of macho posturing is one of the film’s core tenets. Co-writer David Mitchell has said that Neo never shooting a gun was a purposeful choice, and it makes sense in light of the trilogy’s sacrificial ending. Neo is no longer the One, flying off alone at the end of the film, but someone who is incomplete without Trinity. Smith is once again used as an individualist counterpoint to the protagonist, but is here rendered almost irrelevant. Freedom is impossible or meaningless without connections between people, and an act of faith (in this case jumping off a building) can be more about trusting in other people than yourself.

There is also the element of further rejecting binaries. Another aspect of the Trinity arc is to do with accepting or integrating other aspects of yourself, in a way which perhaps reflects Lana’s transition. The female led cover of Wake Up1 can be seen as a kind of corrective to the aforementioned macho elements, and the conservative adoption of the term “red pill”. People in this story are kept in place by ‘Fear and Desire”, the sense that possibilities are just out of reach, and the film proposes that the only way to set them free is by example, to “paint the sky with rainbows”.

💗

  1. Not from the movie but this is fucking great. ↩︎

On Stupid Questions

Journalist David Walsh recounting a story about his late son John in the context of his work uncovering Lance Armstrong and the USPS Pro Cycling Team’s “most sophisticated, professionalised and successful”1 doping program.

One story stood out. One of John’s teachers at [inaudible] National School in the Midlands of Ireland said to me that she remembered John for something that happened when John was six or seven, and she was reading this story of the Nativity.

You know, Mary and Joseph had come to Bethlehem and sought a place in the inn but all the inns were full and they ended up in a stable. And it was there that Baby Jesus was born. And the shepherds came and then the Three Wise Men came and they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And then Mary and Joseph came back to where they came from and they lived a very modest life because Joseph was just a humble carpenter and they didn’t have very much.

And John’s hand went up. And Mrs. Toomey, his teacher, said “Yes John.” And he said “Miss, you said Mary and Joseph didn’t have very much. What did they do with the gold that the Three Wise Men brought?”

And she said “John, I’ve been reading this story for thirty-three years and nobody has ever asked me that question. And the honest answer is: I don’t know.”

And I said Mrs. Toomey that’s the most beautiful story. Because it is the most pertinent question, in that, journalism, which is my profession, that’s it! In a nutshell! “What did Mary and Joseph do with the gold?” You ask the obvious question. People may laugh at you. People may think you’re an idiot. But that doesn’t deter you. If you’re unsure, you ask.

David Walsh, “Extraordinary Proof”, The Moth (cached)
  1. Lance Armstrong: Usada report labels him ‘a serial cheat’, BBC Sport ↩︎

When Does It End?

COVID Theater has become a sad thing to behold these days. Do we still wear masks? If transmission is mostly airborne, why do we get to take them off at restaurants to eat our food when droplets from a sneeze can travel in excess of 25 feet? What’s all this talk about a second booster? Is Omicron something to worry about? How bad is it really?

“We should all be concerned about omicron, but not panicked,” Biden said, emphasizing that vaccinated individuals, especially those with a booster shot, are “highly protected” against the virus.

Biden preaches concern, not panic on omicron”, The Hill

I see. Well this is very practical and actionable advice, for I was planning on being distressed myself before I read that.

Mike Dawson expresses the mood I’ve picked up from most of my friends and family (all of whom, I’m happy to say, are vaccinated because they are responsible adults and not selfish, stupid, and insolent bloody children who are determined to make this nightmare last as long as possible because of their expertise in infectious diseases.)

COVID comic by Mike Dawson

Adventures of the Magic Monkey Along the Silk Roads by Evelyn Nagai-Berthrong and Anker Odum A+

'Adventures of the Magic Monkey Along the Silk Roads' by Evelyn Nagai-Berthrong and Anker Odum

A friend used to loan me this lovely book when I was 12 or 13. I loved reading and re-reading it to the point where I remember asking him if he could just gift it to me for my birthday (he declined). And then Life happened and I grew up and I forgot all about it until around 3 years ago, when I suddenly went “wait a second” as I was casually reading some translation of Journey to the West. This book is a childrens’ adaptation of that classic Chinese tale! I then started looking for it, off-and-on, with very little luck.

Last year, LD told me about this absolutely lovely website called “Stump the Bookseller” run by LoganBerry Books in Cleveland. For a nominal fee, I submitted everything I could remember about the book hoping that someone would know it… only to find it myself that evening. My Google-fu had somehow improved after submitting that request. I bought it from AbeBooks posthaste.

It’s just a fantastic adventure to get lost in. To understand the Myth of the Monkey a little deeper, I turned to this paper by Professor Whalen Lai1. There’s just too much to quote but here’s a highly condensed TL;DR of both the book and the story:

Our search for the original face of Monkey should not distract us from his final destiny. Genealogy is only half the story. In his second westward trip Monkey rises above his animal past, above even humanity, to become a Buddha. In his first trip he acquired only Taoist immortality, and discovered only his premoral, childlike, monkey nature. Still capable of grudges against Heaven, Monkey loses his good temper and is damned for his Titanic pride. Only on his second trip West does Monkey, guided by the compassionate Guanyin, find his true self, his Buddha-nature. Guanyin teaches Monkey an invaluable lesson: that it is more important to tame the demon – the “monkey mind” – within than subdue the demons without.

In that second journey to the West, Monkey learns the art of Buddhist self-discipline. Guanyin initially puts a headband, a “crown of thorns” as it were, on Monkey’s forehead. The headband gives Monkey insufferable headaches every time he harbors evil thoughts. Mindfulness of good and evil eventually allows Monkey to “Do good, avoid evil, and cleanse the mind.” By journey’s end, Monkey is his own master, a victor over the demons within. When he finally asks Guanyin to kindly remove the headband, Monkey is told that it is not necessary. The crown of thorns had long since magically disappeared. At last this protean Ape had grown, in his progress as a pilgrim, into a Buddhist saint.

Whalen Lai, "From Protean Ape to Handsome Saint: The Monkey King, Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 53, No. 1 (1994), pp. 29-65
  1. An Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at UC Davis. ↩︎

On Old Gods

In the succession of religions, there are only so many ways the old gods can end up. They can fade away, in which case they are lost to us for good; they can be held up to scorn as pagan demons who persisted in their old, evil ways; or they can be recruited into the new faith as its servants and defenders.

[…] This pattern of subjugation and conversion had already occurred during the rise of Buddhism in India with the Vedic gods and demons (the deva and the asura). Indra, the storm god of the warriors, became Sakra, who piously requested teachings from the Buddha. Brahman, the creator god, turned into a defender of the Law. Lesser deities too resurfaced in new roles. The nymph-like yaksi came to decorate the gates of the stupas at Sanchi, and heavenly nymphs became angelic musicians, scattering flowers in the air (they remained scantily dressed, as fertility deities should). Satyr-like yaksas ran errands for Yama, the old moon god who now supervised the Buddhist hells, and so on. Their fate is not unlike that of the gods of Old Europe. Those who did not fade away ended up either as denizens of hell or as saints in the Christian calendar.

[…] This is not an uncommon fate for the old chthonic gods. In India an equally insatiable “Face of Glory” is stationed outside temples, supposedly to scare away the evil spirits. In Rome, the griffin was the guardian of the sarcophagus (which means “meat-eater”). In medieval Europe, gargoyles likewise crouched watchful on eaves. In Egypt, Anubis the Jackal – Dog-Man by another name – witnessed the weighing of souls. In Buddhism, Mara the Devil holds samsara in his jaws. In Tang China, a pair of life-size hounds with human heads (and sometimes single horns) stood guard near the dead.

Whalen Lai, "From Protean Ape to Handsome Saint: The Monkey King, Asian Folklore Studies, Vol. 53, No. 1 (1994), pp. 29-65

Aranyak (2021–) IMDb B

Watched with LD. Decent attempt at Desi Noir in picturesque Himachal Pradesh1. Raveena Tandon is intense, vulnerable, and puts in good work as Kasturi Dogra. Great stuff by Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Zakir Hussain, and Meghna Malik. If Jeff Goldblum had a younger brother from an Indian mother, he would look like Indraneil Sengupta. The denouement was a bit rushed and left the door wide open for a second season presumably based on how well this one did. Watchable, predictable, enjoyable.

The wedding song was the laziest composition I’ve heard in a while (spoilers… maybe.)

  1. Really didn’t see the Mare of Easttown comparison and am irritated that, henceforth, any tough female cop character with domestic issues will almost always draw a comparison to Kate Winslet’s Mare. Lovely 🙄 ↩︎

On Unorthodox Marx

He leads the existence of a real bohemian intellectual. Washing, grooming and changing his linen are things he does rarely, and he likes to get drunk. Though he is often idle for days on end, he will work day and night with tireless endurance when he has a great deal of work to do. He has no fixed times for going to sleep or waking up. He often stays up all night, and then lies down fully clothed on the sofa at midday and sleeps till evening, untroubled by the comings and goings of the whole world.

Purported account Karl Marx’s work habits from a Prussian spy

Sounds lovely, really.

Iowa’s Blackout License Plates

I just ordered a set of “blackout” plates from the DMV here. They’re rather cool and look like this:

Iowa blackout plates

I didn’t know that they were actually a solution to a problem. People would take existing, specialized plates for Dordt University and cover them up to look like the blackout plates.

Iowa Dordt University plates

Clever! But led to some unnecessary altercations with law enforcement since doing this was a legal gray area. State Senator Charles Schneider was able to get the mandate for blackout plates included in 2019. Just in that year, the state raised $850,000 through the sale of these plates for the Road Use Tax Fund (simple arithmetic suggests that ~14,000 people ordered them.)

I got all that from Aaron Calvin’s article in The Des Moines Register. Summarized it here since the Register’s website, like most websites these days, is an unreadable and unusable crock of shit.

The State of American Healthcare by ThatsWhatXiSaid

With some minor formatting. They add:

The average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance in 2020 are $7,470 for single coverage and $21,342 for family coverage. Most covered workers make a contribution toward the cost of the premium for their coverage. On average, covered workers contribute 17% of the premium for single coverage ($1,270) and 27% of the premium for family coverage ($5,762).

It’s worth noting every penny of premiums is part of your total compensation, just as much as your salary. If you’re curious you can find out your specific amount on your W2 in box 12 with code DD.

Together by Luke Adam Hawker A

'Together' by Luke Adam Hawker

“Fear can be a funny thing; it doesn’t always shine a flattering light. It can make us forget that others are scared too.”

The author tells a short and lovely story about the pandemic, isolation, hope, the value of community, nature, and so many other things for such a short book. It is told through the experience of his grandpa (and his grandpa’s doggy). It made me think of my own grandmother and how (a) we are not meant to be alone and (b) how loneliness is especially devastating for older people.

Really loved his drawing/art style as well. Lovely stuff 💗

“A plus-sized Jewish lady redneck died in El Paso on Saturday.”

Renay Mandel Corren passed away at 84 a week ago (RIP 🙏). Her son wrote what is one of the best obituaries I’ve read in a while. A small excerpt:

Here’s what Renay was great at: dyeing her red roots, weekly manicures, dirty jokes, pier fishing, rolling joints and buying dirty magazines. She said she read them for the articles, but filthy free speech was really Renay’s thing. Hers was a bawdy, rowdy life lived large, broke and loud. We thought Renay could not be killed. God knows, people tried.

Please enjoy the whole thing. I cached it here because it is too important to lose. Via PLG.

Fundamentals of Lambda Calculus for People Who Love Birds

This (beautifully formatted and well-paced-and-delivered and surprisingly sparsely attended) talk by Gabriel Lebec on the fundamentals of Lambda Calculus is one of my favorite talks ever.

As Lebec explains, the lovely bird names come from this book called “To Mock a Mockingbird” by mathematician and logician Raymond Smullyan. The naming is simply delightful. As Matthew Gilliard explains:

The premise is that there are enchanted forests which contain many (or sometimes very few) talking birds. Smullyan dedicated the book to Haskell Curry - an early pioneer in combinatory logic and an avid bird-watcher. The birds, which I suppose represent the combinators, have an interesting characteristic:
Given any two birds A and B, if you call out the name of B to A it will respond by calling out the name of some bird to you.

This bird whose name A calls when you call B is denoted as AB. Once you have several birds in place, a single call can cascade around the forest with each call following rules depending on who produces it.

The very first bird we are introduced to is the Mockingbird whose characteristic behaviour is that whatever name you call to the Mockingbird, it will reply as if it is the bird whose name you called. This is denoted:

Mx = xx

For any bird x we can say that Mx (the result of calling x to a Mockingbird) is the same as xx (the result of calling x to a bird of type x). It really does mock other birds! And what’s more, the existence of the Mockingbird, in combination with various others, unlocks some really fascinating group behaviour from these birds.

And!

Soon we discover that birds have certain properties: The can be fond of other birds, they can be egocentric if they are fond of themselves. The can be hopelessly egocentric if they only ever talk about themselves. There are happy birds, normal birds, agreeable birds and many others. We also meet other types of birds with specific properties - the Lark, the Kestrel, Sage birds, Bluebirds, aristocratic birds, Eagles, the list goes on and on. Luckily there is a Who’s Who list of birds in the back to keep track.

Some “Dune” Posters

For “the greatest movie never made”, although there appear to be a few contenders1 for that title, like Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon.

My absolute favorite is the last one by Hugo Emmanuel Figueroa 🙌

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 1

Pe-release flyer (Source)

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 2

by Matt Chinn.

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 3

Variation 1 by Stan and Vince.

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 4

Variation 2 by Stan and Vince.

Dune poster for Jodorowsky's Dune 5

by Hugo Emmanuel Figueroa

  1. In case that link goes down here’s a cached version. Others include The Man Who Killed Don Quixote by Terry Gilliam, Revenge of the Jedi by David Cronenberg/David Lynch, Heart of Darkness by Orson Welles, and Gladiator 2 by Ridley Scott/Nick Cave. ↩︎

On Law and Character

Good government never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that machinery. The most important element of government, therefore, is the method of choosing leaders.

— Law And Governance, The Spacing Guild Manual, Dune

I think we’re doing pretty well here. Things will be fine in 2024. Peaceful, lawful, and full of dignity and decorum 🙏

On Nicholas Cage

Yeah, Nic Cage brings the same intensity to almost every role he does. If it’s not a very good role, it’s gonna stand out as being bad.

To put it another way, imagine a boxer that is very good at knocking people out. That’s impressive. Now imagine he accepts fights against children as well, and he is still good at knocking those people out. Now it’s less impressive and more horrifying. He could be an amazing boxer, but he keeps accepting fights against children and knocking them out.

That’s Nic Cage’s acting.

Aarekk on /r/NoStupidQuestions

You either get Nic Cage or you don’t. Via CM.

On Gun Law Reform

The National Rifle Association says that, “Guns don’t kill people, uh, people do.” But I think, I think the gun helps. You know? I think it helps. I just think just standing there going, “Bang!” That’s not going to kill too many people, is it? You’d have to be really dodgy on the heart to have that.

Eddie Izzard, “Dress to Kill

The Pithy Wisdom of Stephen Crowley

Stephen Crowley is a product designer who maintains @ShitUserStory, my favorite new Twitter account1 (via Deepu). He also maintains a Medium blog with gems like these:

Lovely stuff.

  1. Given the amount of rage I’ve had with awful product design and really, really shitty websites of late. The madness doesn’t stop with the web. On $250 Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, which are comfortable and have lovely sound and the best active noise-canceling I’ve ever experienced, opting to “Disable Voice Guidance” still means that the nice lady inside your headphones will tell you when you dis/connect your Bluetooth device. You gotta toggle a feature in the app to prevent iTunes from launching every time it pairs with your Mac (the Sony folk think this “feature” is “unfortunate” so there’s that at least.) Your headphones can just choose to turn off the moment you turn them on unless you update the firmware. Would you like to share your location? Do you want the Sony app to send you notifications? We’ll need the last four digits of your SSN so we can create a tailor-made listening profile for you. Is that OK? ↩︎