Mary Rose Cook's notebook

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Alan Kay - Is it really complex, or did we just make it complicated?

Alan Kay - Is it really complex, or did we just make it complicated?

Is it really "Complex"? Or did we just make it "Complicated"? - YouTube


He had a cool thought about how breakthroughs in power come both from the top and the bottom. The top is a person producing a new method of expression of an idea that has more powerful primitives. For example, algebra vs prose for mathematics. The bottom is like an organism comprising many cells that work together without central coordination.


He talked about technological progress. “The present is so vivid, that is makes it difficult for people to see anything else. As McLuhan pointed out, most people can only experience the present in terms of the past. So when we’re in the present the past we can see is the past that contributed to now. But the past is a lot larger than that. So if we are hooked on the present, then most of our images of the future are incremental to the present. So you want to find a way of suppressing the present. This allows you to suppress the past that led to the present which allows you to see other things that were in the past that were masked and allows you to come up with a different way of looking at the future.” Unfortunately, he goes on to say that he doesn’t have time to talk about how to do that.


He talked about how the Nile graphics language is 400 lines of code that can produce all the common graphics needed for a modern 2D computer interface. This was interesting. The idea that the right representation makes difficult problems easier is interesting in itself. But then he talked in frustratingly vague terms about the clever representations that Nile must use to enable such concision. He was a bit more specific when he talked about someone who had produced a TCP parser in 150 lines, rather than the expected 2000-20,000. The crucial representation was using a grammar, rather than a state machine.


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Playing the Left Behind addon for The Last of Us with Lauren

Playing the Left Behind addon for The Last of Us with Lauren


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Cinematographer Style

Cinematographer Style

I watched this on my way back to the US after Christmas. It was a documentary with interviews with many cinematographers. There were some good bits when the subjects talked about the specifics of lens and lighting techniques and equipment. Why an un-zoomed lens feels more intimate. How a scene is lit, and the different types of lights that are used. The rest was boring, general statements on questions like, “Is cinematography art or science?”


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Jamie xx - Sleep Sound

Jamie xx - Sleep Sound

Sleep%20Sound.mp3



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Cosmos

Cosmos



My heart sank when the ship of the imagination was introduced. But, it’s actually brilliant. Making it a craft to take the audience to specific times and places works really well. Which is strange, because when the camera flies through space or flies through the artery of a bear, it really doesn’t matter that there is a spaceship on screen. But, for some reason, the ship is an anchor point that makes the narrator’s mention of a time or place really stick. Perhaps it is because, like the turtles in Logo, the spacecraft gives us an object to embody, and an eye to see from.


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Under the Skin

Under the Skin

This was my favourite film of the year. I can’t say why. Readings of the film - it’s about rape culture, it’s about the importance that people ascribe to appearances, it’s about famousness - miss why I found it moving.


There are the scenes where a naked man follows the alien, unperturbed, into a pool of black goop, and floats away into the darkness. There are the rainy-lensed shots of hills with lights flaring that make the landscape look both grisly and luminous. There is this magical thread of the alien and their work running through a very ordinary world. There is the way scenes of the everyday are made beautiful and meaningful, not because they are made unreal but because the filmmaker has shown things in a new way. There is the little scene, shot from far away on a cliff-top, of a dog going into the sea and being swept away, a woman going in after the dog and being swept away, a man going in after the woman and being swept away, and another man going in and being dragged back to shore and carried off by the alien.


I tried to find stills that conveyed how the film felt, but it was impossible.


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The Humane Representation of Thought

The Humane Representation of Thought

The Humane Representation of Thought on Vimeo


“The wrong way to understand a system is to talk about it. The write way is to model and explore it.”


“People are using these very old tools, explaining and convincing through reasoning and rhetoric, instead of the newer tools, evidence and explorable models.”


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Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

My Dad and I looked at this brilliant diagram that divided fish up by their distinguishing mechanical features:



We looked at an inexplicably moving video of some neon deep sea fish. This picture does them no justice at all. You can’t see the LED sign-like procession of colours. You can’t see their amber internal organs. You can’t see the prawn-like animal’s legs scissoring furiously as it tries to escape the bell-like fish’s insides. You can’t see the great difference between the beautiful, vulnerable translucent fish and the monstrous, bulbous-eyed, angry-looking fish.



We talked about the texture of an asteroid that is older that the earth.



We stood next to a woman who is three million years old.



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Present from my step-dad

Present from my step-dad


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Smiling tyrannosaurus

Smiling tyrannosaurus


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Every Frame a Painting: David Fincher

Every Frame a Painting: David Fincher

David Fincher - And the Other Way is Wrong on Vimeo


“People will say, ‘There are a million ways to shoot a scene’, but I don’t think so. I think there’re two, maybe. And the other one is wrong.”


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Edward Tufte, Envisioning Information

Edward Tufte, Envisioning Information


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Dinner and a movie

Dinner and a movie

Tonight, Lauren and I had planned eat out and see a film. But, wasn’t much on that was appealing and that we hadn’t already seen. So, we decided to go to Barboncino for supper and then watch a film on our projector. Tonight, our sitting room will be known as Franklin Ave Cinema.


We have picked five classic films that seem interesting, but that neither of us has seen before. Tonight, after going to Barboncino, we will watch the trailers for these films and pick one as our main feature. As a warm up to the screening, we will also watch five more trailers for upcoming films that we are excited about.


We will watch one of these five films:


Un Coeur en Hiver


That Man From Rio


Recommended by Alan.


The Maltese Falcon


Misery


Seven Samurai


It wouldn’t be a real cinema screening without some previews. Before the main feature, we will watch the trailers for these five upcoming films:


National Gallery


Laggies


The new Lynn Shelton film!


Fifty Shades of Grey


Blackhat


The new Michael Mann film!


Two Days, One Night


Recommended by my dad.


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How you know

How you know

How You Know


“I’ve read Villehardouin’s chronicle of the Fourth Crusade at least two times, maybe three. And yet if I had to write down everything I remember from it, I doubt it would amount to much more than a page. Multiply this times several hundred, and I get an uneasy feeling when I look at my bookshelves. What use is it to read all these books if I remember so little from them?”


“The place to look for what I learned from Villehardouin’s chronicle is not what I remember from it, but my mental models of the crusades, Venice, medieval culture, siege warfare.”


“The same book would get compiled differently at different points in your life.”


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Lauren playing SpyParty

Lauren playing SpyParty


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Gameplay trailer for Uncharted 4

Gameplay trailer for Uncharted 4

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Gameplay Video - 2014 PlayStation Experience | PS4 - YouTube


The Uncharted games are like well-made Hollywood action films. Slight, throwaway, but a lot of fun.


In each generation of consoles, there has been a graphical effect that really stood out and reminded me “this looks way better than before”. In the last generation, it was the river water in Grand Theft Auto 4. In this generation, it is the way the foliage reacts to Nathan Drake passing through.


All the one-off animations really make a difference to the realism. The passing of the gun from right hand to left. Drake twisting the baddie’s gun away from his own head.


But the shooting, with its reticule and pulled in camera, is incongruous with the increased realism of the animation. As soon as Drake fires, it’s a game again.


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Blacksmith making a knife

Blacksmith making a knife

The Birth Of A Tool. Part III. Damascus steel knife making (by John Neeman Tools) on Vimeo


I wish it hadn’t been so pretentiously shot. I wish it didn’t have music.


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Incidental Complexity

Incidental Complexity

Eve Blog


Killer, fascinating description of the development of the Eve programming environment. I love how they are talking to non-programmers. I love how they are acknowledging that models like functional programming that simplify things for experienced programmers are not necessarily easier for new programmers.


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I, Claudius

I, Claudius


A twelve-part BBC series from the seventies about the reigns of Emperor Augustus and his successors. Which is to say, a great lot of people being horrid to each other.


There are just few enough characters to make it possible to intuitively understand the relationships and, thus, to understand the loyalties and secrets and obstacles and plots. And there is some really marvellous, shifting camerawork that mirrors the changes in power and understanding.


The whole series feels like a drama played out in heaven, the gods mostly insulated from the every day. Rome as a state seemed mostly irrelevant.


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Michelangelo

Michelangelo


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Magic moving in present from my darling Lauren

Magic moving in present from my darling Lauren


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Victor Chocquet, Cezanne

Victor Chocquet, Cezanne


I like how Cézanne gets the vainness of the swooshy hair. I like how a very corporeal cheek is made up of very unreal splodges of colour.


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Learning online

Learning online

http://christinacacioppo.com/blog/learning-online


A fantastic blog post about a woman spent a summer teaching kids to program. She used what she learnt about where the kids got confused by programming to build an IDE that was actually helpful to them.


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Green Arabia

Green Arabia

Green Arabia (Idle Words)


Maciej Ceglowski’s latest great travel memoir.


“My side of the table looks like someone has been repeatedly smashing my head into the food to try to get me to talk.”


and


“As the pile grows slimmer, its power wanes, until even fifteen-year-old Houthi rebel kids start fussing over its fine print.”


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The corridor and the corner

The corridor and the corner

http://killscreendaily.com/articles/pt-turns-corner-horror/


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Paul Rand, Thoughts on Design

Paul Rand, Thoughts on Design


A book about graphic design and the design of advertisements.


Some of the things Rand says are uninteresting because they are now so embedded in our culture that they seem obvious.


He describes the abstract shapes in his work as a way to suggest plastic (suggestive, interpretative, symbolic) ideas. But the form of his “abstract” shapes look dated. What he thought of as pure form was, in fact, a fashion.


Most of the ads that feature in the book appear without comment. This is a shame, because having him talk us through them would have been concrete and probably interesting.


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Rome Open City

Rome Open City

Not very good. The parts about domestic life were two-dimensional. The parts about the war were sensationalised.


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Lauren responds dubiously to my hip pop (not pictured)

Lauren responds dubiously to my hip pop (not pictured)


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Le Passe

Le Passe


I liked [this](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Past_(film)) an awful lot.


It worked very well as a simple, quiet drama about relationships.


It felt realistic, despite the fact that, unrealistically, something was always happening.


The ex-husband seemed like a ghost, floating through the lives of his ex-wife and her new boyfriend, impervious, serenely shaking things up.


I liked the multiple representations of the past: exes, comas, letters, children.


I liked the way the poster shows the woman mired in her past: her boyfriend behind her, her ex husband before her.


I liked the way the final scene revealed the private, entirely unspoken hope the boyfriend had been holding out for his ex.


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Roller derby

Roller derby


On Saturday, my friend Ruth (aka Barbarolla in the London Rollergirls) took me to see my first ever roller derby. We saw a bout between Manhattan Mayhem and the Queens of Pain. We were supporting QoP because Ruth idolises Suzy Hotrod, one of their jammers.


The basic structure of the game is as follows. About five people from each team skate around an oval track. Each team has one jammer. This person must try and pass members of the opposing team. For each pass, the team scores a point.


The game itself is fascinating. Much like rugby or football, it is dominated by manoeuvring a thing from one place to another. The fact that the thing is a person doesn’t seem particularly important. What is important, and what makes it completely different from those other sports, is that the whole field is important all the time. In football, generally speaking, different players get involved as the ball moves to different parts of the pitch. Which is to say: control is handed over. In roller derby, because everyone is going round all the time, and because everyone can move so fast, all the players are involved all the time. This means that the game is a quick succession of setups around choke points. A group of players get into a blocking formation, the opposing jammer comes in and tries to get past them, aided by blocks and shunts from her own team mates. It’s all delightfully tactical. And there is a wonderful contrast between the vicious barges and elegant weaving.


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Frozen vs Al Pacino

Frozen vs Al Pacino

Instead of going to see a broadcast of the stage version of Oscar Wilde’s Salome, directed by and starring Al Pacino, my dad, in his infinite kindness, took my niece to a singalong showing of Frozen ♥


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Tangled

Tangled

'Tangled' Trailer HD - YouTube


I remember enjoying this a lot.


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Profile photo

Profile photo


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Bastogne

Bastogne


I’m rewatching [Band of Brothers](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Band_of_Brothers_(miniseries)). I’ve just seen episode six. It’s the one where Easy are besieged in the forest. It’s winter and there is snow everywhere. The soldiers have no proper winter clothing and spend most of their time dodging airstrikes or shivering in their fox holes or getting lost in the fog as they move from one part of the line to another.


The sense of place is really excellent. The programme is fuzzy about the geography of the staging area. I often find myself wondering, Where are those men in relation to those other men? What path did they take to get from that piece of cover to that emplacement? The Bastogne episode is similarly fuzzy on spatial relationships, but it is anchored by a back and forth between the nearest captured town and the line. The medic, the focal character for the episode, spends time shivering with his comrades. After a while, someone gets shot or blown up. The medic takes the casualty to the church that the French are using as a makeshift sick bay. The medic has a cosy exchange with the nurse working there, then goes back to the line.


This back and forth is strengthened by the sense of place. The snowy forest is hushed and anything farther than twenty yards is fogged away. It is weirdly tranquil. The viciousness of the conditions and the fighting accentuates the few flickers of closeness between the soldiers, and makes a sanctuary of the medic’s visits back to the nurse.


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PixelJunk Shooter 2

PixelJunk Shooter 2


This is a very elegant game design. Many things do double duty. The shoot key produces bullets on semi-automatic and homing missiles on automatic. Your health is modelled by the heat of your ship. This increases when you fire missiles, fly near lava or get hit by enemy bullets or bodies. You rotate with the left stick and thrust with the right and you move very fast if you press both in the same direction. Water solidifies lava, and cools your ship down.


And it’s just tremendous fun to manipulate the fluids and watch them cascade: shooting rock to release water, sending water flowing to neutralise lava, draining lava to make passages passable.


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Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy


I’ve been playing this on the PS4 for a week or so. I’m starting to see the shape of the game. You go into the castle. You go from room to room and use a mixture of timing and agility and lore to kill baddies. You die. You find treasure and spend it on either new abilities or new gear. Your heir inherits your abilities and gear. They also have some random characteristics: maybe they are tall, or strong, or fast, or sickly.


As you hone your motor skills, and as you improve the attributes of your lineage, you get better at surviving and gathering treasure. Thus, you can improve your skills and lineage further. All this is heading towards some goals that I haven’t glimpsed, yet: defeating bosses, areas, the castle.


It is fun, for sure. But there is a problem.


You input time and you improve your ability: better motor skills, a better understanding of how the objects in the world work. This is satisfying because you are learning. But, the increase in avatar skill is much greater: more hit points, more spells, a sharper sword. This is unsatisfying because you are not learning.


In contrast, the ratio in Spelunky is the other way around. Though some small avatar improvements persist, the great weight of improvement occurs in the player’s ability to predict what will happen when they do something.


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Playing Carcassonne at the Recurse Center

Playing Carcassonne at the Recurse Center


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Starred Up

Starred Up

A drama about a volatile young offender who gets sent to a prison for adults. The documentary-like scenes about the mechanics of the prison - the hierarchies, the rituals, the mediums of exchange - were very good. The second half of the film felt far too plotty and causal, as the characters conducted neat, explosive relationships and said the words of the director and screenwriter.


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Ed Catmull talking about how Pixar makes films

Ed Catmull talking about how Pixar makes films

Ed Catmull: Creativity, Inc. Entire Talk - YouTube


Could I have said anything to myself at twenty years old that would have made a difference? And honest to God, I don’t know. I go through some examples in the book of things which I think are important. But that thing which I thought is powerful I later learnt meant nothing. One of them is that ‘story is king’. And we believed that. But then I realised that every studio said that, whether or not they were producing works of art or complete utter pieces of dreck. The phrase didn’t have any meaning. So my logic is then go to the next stage of that. Sometimes those things that are 'true’ don’t actually alter our behaviour.


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Abus de Faiblesse

Abus de Faiblesse


Isabelle Huppert plays a woman who has a stroke and slowly learns to walk again. She is marvellous: plucky, outraged, childish, bad-tempered, funny and appealing. The rest of the film is uninteresting.


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Central Park

Central Park


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Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity

I saw this at the Film Forum with Lauren on Saturday. It is a noir directed by Billy Wilder. It is simultaneously very funny and very unsettling. It is run through with Raymond Chandler (“Up in Medford, we take our time making up our minds.” “Well, we’re not in Medford now, we’re in a hurry.”) The leads are odious. The supporting characters are decent.



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Lauren and Mary make bread

Lauren and Mary make bread


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Blurred Lines

Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines (ft. T.I. & Pharrell) HD with Lyrics on screen - YouTube


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I said to my niece, just before I left England and came back to the US, “I’m going back to America soon. I’m so sorry.” She said, “It’s alright, Mary”, and gave me a bigger squeeze than ever before

I said to my niece, just before I left England and came back to the US, “I’m going back to America soon. I’m so sorry.” She said, “It’s alright, Mary”, and gave me a bigger squeeze than ever before

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Functional JavaScript

Functional JavaScript

I have just finished reading this book by Fogus.


I enjoyed the section about implementing a generic tree traversal so it takes the function that should operate on the nodes. I enjoyed the exploration of chaining that made constructors and methods as first class as functions. I enjoyed it as another pass through functional concepts that have been crystallising in my mind for the last few years.


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Watching Winnie the Pooh with Lauren and Leon

Watching Winnie the Pooh with Lauren and Leon


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The Raid 2

The Raid 2

I enjoyed the first Raid film: elegantly staged martial arts where the violence has a satisfying crunch to it. But The Raid 2 is far superior because it is better at controlling the gaze of the audience.


To say the fight scenes are dances is sort of true, but sort of trite. Dances in films are often shot wide, and they are ensemble pieces which means there is only ever one thing going on. They’re like stage plays. In film, the eye can be directed and montage can be used to show that more than one thing is happening at once. Many people who make dance movies seem not to understand this. They seem blinded by the fact that the material originated as a play.


The film shows us real places with many things going on at once. This makes the film very immersive and, thus, visceral.


Part of the director’s skill is in choreographing elaborate set pieces with many concurrent sub-fights, and presenting them in a small number of extended shots. For example, there is a big punch up in the muddy exercise yard of a prison. The camera pans and dollies from fight to fight in a way that must have required a great deal of organisation. But the director is better than that. We are not seeing the proceedings through our naked eye. We see them through a camera that can do film things: zoom, frame, focus. At the end of one long shot, the camera finds two men trying to escape over a fence. It rises into the air as one of them climbs, shows him being shot, tilts up and zooms to see the prison sniper who fired the shot, and tilts back down to see the second prisoner get shot.


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Shallow

Shallow

This is probably a shallow observation. It is probably also mostly incorrect. Pure symbols in art are worthless. Their value increases as they become less symbolic and more representational. The pebble in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit represents only what the author imbues it with. Its properties are divorced from its meaning. It is divorced from real life. Which means it is impossible to relate to viscerally. The Broken Circle Breakdown has a pervasive theme of cover-ups: tattoo cover-ups, painting over the dead daughter’s wallpaper, putting bird silhouettes on windows so real birds don’t mistake them for air. Though the cover-up is also a symbol, it is founded on real acts that are driven by the desires of the characters. It is representational, and, thus, meaningful.


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The poster for The Witness

The poster for The Witness


The Witness


Firstly, the outline of the edge of the clouds mirrors the outline of the edge of the cliffs.


Secondly, the outline of the surf does not.


Thirdly, the land is in the sky and the sky is on the ground. But only because, fourthly, the sky is in the water.


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