Cruel Story of Youth (1960)

So our cinephile friend dropped off a whole load of films recently and we basically decided to watch whatever he gave us though it’ll take us a long while to get through all of them. This was one pick that we would never have watched ordinarily, a film about youth rebellion from 1960s Japan. Apart from the fact that it’s Japanese however, I didn’t find it that remarkable.

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Galactic Civilizations 3

I was interested in this series long, long ago, beginning with the second one if I recall correctly because of what I heard about the quality of the AI players. For various reasons I never got around to playing it and recently Stardock’s position on the Gamergate affair soured me on all of their products. I didn’t buy this copy of the game either. It was a gift from a Broken Forum member so I felt that I had to at least give it a decent shake.

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Fire (1996)

I wanted to watch this as I believe it’s a very important film in the history of Indian cinema though it seems to have been overlooked internationally. It was far ahead of its time when it was released and generated a huge amount of controversy, being not only about a homosexual relationship but attacking as it does fundamental aspects of Indian society. It’s also notable that its writer and director Deepa Mehta is a woman.

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In the Loop (2009)

This one was a recommendation from Broken Forum and its director¬†Armando Iannucci has been in the news lately due to his newest film The Death of Stalin. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a copy of it so it’s still sitting on my watch list. I’ve never watched anything else by him but it looks to me that he has made a career out of satirizing politics and this film was a spin-off from a successful British television series.

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Recent Interesting Science Articles (December 2017)

It’s time to do the last of these entries for the year.

  • The first of these highlight how evolution can work faster than you might expect. This article talks about a couple of cases but I’ll only summarize one of them here. It talks about snail kites a bird living in Florida that eats snails. Since a new type of snail arrived from South America, the birds seem to be evolving larger beaks to make it easier for them to feed on these larger snails. The rate of change is astonishing given that the snails only appeared in 2004.
  • The next article is a follow-up on an earlier announcement of how a team has created a bacterium using a six-letter genetic alphabet instead of the four usual bases. Now they’ve announced that the bacterium can make proteins containing amino acids that are not found in nature, which means that synthetic, tailor-made proteins will soon be available for use for a variety of purposes.
  • Continuing on with my series of pro-dog propaganda, a recent paper claims that while dogs don’t have the largest brains, they have an unusually high number of cortical neurons. Cats seem to have only about half the neurons of dogs and while bears have large brains, they only have around the same number of neurons as cats. The researchers were further surprised to note that domesticated species don’t have fewer neurons than their wild cousins, which was the prevailing assumption before this.
  • Next is a paper that attempts to quantify search costs by calculating how much shoppers lose out on if they accept the first price they see when buying common household goods instead of spending effort to shop around. The paper makes the rather surprising claim that the shopper who shops around gains a price advantage of only around 1% on average. This sounds too low to me but if it’s wrong I’m sure plenty of economists will want to challenge this paper.
  • Finally a paper that seems deliberately timed for the holiday season talks about the size of wine glasses in England over time. Between 1700 to 2017, the average capacity of wine glasses increased seven-fold. Perhaps of greater concern is that the increase was gradual up to the 1990s and then shot up markedly.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Given how lukewarm my own reception was towards The Force Awakens, I decided to base my decision about whether to watch the sequel on its reviews and word-of-mouth. Its high Rotten Tomatoes was a point in its favor but the rabid backlash from the fanbase only made it even more intriguing to me. The audience reaction was so harsh that it made me really curious to see it what’s up with it for myself.

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Soul Mate (2016)

This is another pick from my cinephile friend who definitely has a better eye than me on what is happening in Asian cinema. This one seems to have been a big success in the Chinese market and won some local awards but is probably not notable enough internationally to come to my attention. It feels very hip and contemporary to me being adapted from a written work that was originally published in Chinese magazines.

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The unexamined life is a life not worth living