March 20, 2006

Long Form [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at March 20, 2006 3:24 PM

My trip back from Baltimore took about 12 hours longer than it should have, but I eventually made it back. Despite attempts to catch up on sleep I still feel like I'm recovering—it was a busy week.

V for Vendetta: This is a powerful movie that mostly does a good job blending action/suspense with a political message. The setting is a near-future Britain which has slid into fascism after the deterioration of Iraq and some high-casualty terrorist attacks. (Meanwhile the United States has fallen into anarchy and civil war.) The plot centers around the masked-and-caped V, who pursues a personal vendetta against certain government officials, while working on a larger plot to overthrow the entire government in the spirit of Guy Fawkes. It wouldn't be correct to say that V is the hero of the movie—he's morally ambiguous at best and commits at least one act I found horrifying. However, the government he's fighting against is so much worse that he sometimes seems good by comparison.

The movie can be didactic at times, and the message is delivered in a heavy-handed way. However, I think the time for subtlety is past: the government we have right now is detaining citizens without trial, torturing innocent people, and asserting unlimited executive power. It's refreshing to see a movie that stands up and says straight out that we, as a citizenry, should not tolerate these things. I certainly don't think we need to blow up any buildings, and Guy Fawkes is the wrong model for this sort of thing, but the basic notion that the people have a right to replace an unacceptable government translates well to the ballot box.

As for the film qua action movie, it's generally well done. There is a thread of paranoid tension running throughout that works well to keep up the suspense—this is one of the ways that the politics reinforce the action. A sequence early-on in which V takes over the state-run television studio is especially good, and the climactic fight scene at the end is the sort of thing the Wachowskis excel at. There are a couple of points where the exposition/recapping becomes excessive and the suspense wanes, but it picks up again afterwards.

Anyway, I liked it. (Remember when I wrote short capsule reviews in the open threads?)

David Goodstein: Out of Gas: This book is Goodstein's effort to explain the interrelated problems of peak oil and climate change to a non-technical audience, and in doing so he explains the physics of energy and the historical development thereof. He sets forth a mostly pessimistic picture, anticipating oil supply problems in the very near future and associated social turmoil. Unfortunately I think he too quickly brushes off the economic arguments about alternative energies becoming more cost-effective as the costs of fossil fuels increase. I don't think this solves the problem but it should make the situation better than he expects. (One of the frustrating things about reading peak oil commentary is that physicists are frequently naive about economics, and economists naive about physics.) His treatment of the basic physics issues surrounding energy production is very good, however, and I would recommend it to a non-technical audience for that reason.

In the end, I am still not sure just how worried I should be about peak oil, but the answer is clearly non-zero.

Arctic Monkeys: Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not: This is the hot band over in Britain right now, and musical Anglophiles will find their sound pleasing. Imagine the drunken swagger of the Libertines with the guitar sound of Franz Ferdinand, and you have a good approximation. This CD hasn't quite achieved the heavy rotation of certain other recent British additions to my collection, but it's still pretty good. The major single seems to be "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" but several others are equally good, like "Fake Tales of San Francisco".

Tags: Books, Caltech, Energy, Movies, Music, Open Thread, Physics, Science
Comments

To reiterate: V for Vendetta is awesome! (Not flawless, but still awesome.)

Posted by: Mason | March 20, 2006 10:31 PM

Since this seems the thread for it, i've got a book recommendation for those who read this blog. The book is _Spin_ by Robert Charles Wilson. The genre is science fiction. I recently picked it up on recommendation from Making Light - see this post for a lot more info: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007262.html#007262

The story was excellent and kept me reading intently the whole way through, while raising many interesting questions about a planet's ability to sustain civilization, and many other issues.

I picked up the book in paperback pretty easily, and it's well worth the purchase. If you're in the pasadena area, i'd be happy to loan it out, though the list right now is several people long. :)

Posted by: Zifnab | March 21, 2006 3:25 PM

Zifnab: Excellent, I'll have to pick that up. I'm currently working through Iron Sunrise by Charlie Stross (which I also heard about from blogs, not sure if it was Making Light, Boing Boing, or DeLong) and I have a feeling I'll be in the mood for more sci-fi when I'm finish it.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | March 21, 2006 3:50 PM
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