Thursday, 17 May 2018

A new Leviticus?

"Tusked animals will be banned from flying, but miniature horses will not.

The ... banned creatures list [is] to include amphibians, spiders, goats, snakes, "non-household birds", or any smelly or unclean animal.


Reptiles, hedgehogs, insects, and rodents are also banned ..."

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Four film reviews

I've taken a couple of plane flights recently so I've watched some films (adapted for the airline) on a little screen, occasionally interrupted by seatbelt-related announcements. Here are the benefits of my thoughts on four of them that you might have seen advertised.

1. The Last Jedi. Tedious and poor. I’m not saying that the Star Wars Universe is particularly worthy of respect, but if you are making a Star Wars film then I think you ought to respect what has gone before. Even leaving aside the new apps that have been installed on the Force (inter-planetary 3D film projection and weird telephone functionality, I kid you not), did I really see Princess Leia swimming through space? I am certain that I saw one spaceship fly very slowly over another one so that it could "drop" its bombs (drop! in space!) in the right place. And it turns out that you can destroy big spaceships just by ramming them at lightspeed: why did no-ever do that with any of the various Death Stars that have had to be destroyed in the other films? Why was Supreme Leader Snoke sometimes very clever and sometimes just a moron? Indeed, why did any of the people do any of the things that they did? Why did no one have a consistent character? Why why why why why? I overcame difficulty sleeping the other night by reminding myself of what happened in this film. Now, I am afraid, is the time to withdraw any benefit of the doubt from the Star Wars films. Stop watching them and let the series die.

2. Molly’s Game. Not a bad film, but an entirely unnecessary one. Woman runs illegal gambling game; woman pleads guilty to charge of running illegal gambling den; woman receives non-custodial sentence for charge to which she has pleaded guilty. That's it. All of that is padded out with Aaron Sorkin dialogue, which I could parody but won't bother. Reminds me of black and white films I used to watch for no reason when bored: perfectly well made film, but utterly trivial.

3. Darkest Hour. At best, Churchill’s Greatest Hits set to soaring music. Mostly it is just Gary Oldman doing an impression of Churchill, in between pouting from Lily James and flouncing from Kristin Scott Thomas. It also has a cringingly awful bit in the middle when Churchill boards a tube (that takes forever to go the one stop from Embankment to Westminster) and exchanges Macaulay quotations with the multi-ethnic Cockneys of 1940s London. There are also lots of posh people who can't say their Rs. Also a completely unnecessary film, and a far less imaginative idea for a Churchill film than, say, Churchill (the one about his doubts over D-Day and increasing irrelevance compared to Eisenhower). Again, there is nothing actually wrong with the film (except for the bit on the tube).

4. Downsizing. Pick of the bunch by a long way. This is a surprisingly ambitious film and well worth a watch. The trailer suggests that it is a satirical comedy about social class in America starring Matt Damon. That's certainly part of it. But it's a lot more than that. It's not laugh-out loud funny, on the whole, and it's a bit like two films squashed into one (in the same way that Brideshead is a bit like more than at least two books squashed together), but it's got a lot going for it. See it if you think you might be interested in any of these: thoughts on Tesla-style saving the world by having cool stuff; an unambiguously positive representation of an evangelical Christian; no representation without taxation; how to tell if you are Noah, or just a regular guy; very small people talking through megaphones to normal size people.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The end of good free journalism?

The web has been the most amazing thing to happen to people who like reading journalism.

Only a few years ago, it would have been unthinkable to imagine that, without leaving your desk and without paying a penny, you could read vast swathes of the newspapers and magazines of the world. Now, it seems only natural that all the news, opinion, jokes, investigations, cartoons, columns, photographs, videos and other paraphernalia of the modern media are immediately accessible to me, give or take a paywall or two here and there. Even foreign language publications can be given the auto-translate treatment by my browser. The world is my legible oyster.

Be grateful for this wonderful opportunity and enjoy it while you may: it can't go on forever and Megan McArdle explains why.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Do you need a body architect, food artist, cultural hacker or fashion futurist?

You know how it is. You want to get your hands on a maverick "working on the bleeding edge of the arts, science and technology". Someone with a "healthy disregard for the impossible". You know, a "Sustainability Provocateur" or a "Paper Hacker". Someone like Amish Futurist, the Digital Prophet & Techno Skeptic, or Marshmallow Laser Feast, the Mixed Reality Mavericks, Digital Storytellers & Tech Artists. The Grand Dame of Eating Experience herself, Marije Vogelzang, might spring to mind, or LJ Rich, the Tech Evangelist, Sound Hacker, Synaesthete and NASA Datanaut.

But how do you find these people? Worry no more. Just click here and you can get in touch with all these people, and more besides. 

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Human brain-parts transplanted into mice

"Last week, Rusty Gage and colleagues at the Salk Institute announced that they had successfully transplanted lab-grown blobs of human brain tissue into mice. Gage’s team grew the blobs, known as brain organoids, from human stem cells. Once surgically implanted into rodent brains, the organoids continued growing, and their neurons formed connections with those of the surrounding brains. It was the first time such transplants had worked: Until now, organoids had only ever been grown in dishes."

Read all about it here.

Friday, 27 April 2018

I Told You So

"The leaders of North and South Korea have agreed to work to rid the peninsula of nuclear weapons after holding an historic summit.

The announcement was made in a joint statement by Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in following talks at the border.

The two also agreed to push towards turning the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953 into a peace treaty this year." So says the BBC.

Well, I did predict this, didn't I? 

If all this were happening on Obama's watch then we'd be talking about a second Nobel Peace Prize. But because it's Trump doing ...