Friday, August 18, 2017

The Little Hours (2017) ***

Hilarious take on a Bocaccio tale with an expert cast of comic actors. The idea of merging authentic production design with a modern improvised script is done very well.

They All Laughed (1981) ***

When the gruff taxi driver is Patti Hansen, you know you're in fairy tale of New York territory. If you go with it, this is a highly enjoyable meander through the highs and lows of romance.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Why selection bias is the most powerful force in education – the ANOVA

Or consider exclusive public high schools like New York’s Stuyvesant, a remarkably competitive institution where the city’s best and brightest students compete to enroll, thanks to the great educational benefits of attending. After all, the alumni of high schools such as Stuyvesant are a veritable Who’s Who of high achievers and success stories; those schools must be of unusually high quality. Except that attending those high schools simply doesn’t matter in terms of conventional educational outcomes. When you look at the edge cases – when you restrict your analysis to those students who are among the last let into such schools and those who are among the last left out – you find no statistically meaningful differences between them. Of course, when you have a mechanism in place to screen out all of the students with the biggest disadvantages, you end up with an impressive-looking set of alumni. The admissions procedures at these schools don’t determine which students get the benefit of a better education; the perception of a better education is itself an artifact of the admissions procedure. The screening mechanism is the educational mechanism.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Below Her Mouth (2016) **

Escapist romantic fantasy, easy on the eyes.

A Ghost Story (2017) ****

Ambitious and highly successful cinematic vision. Original, daring, audacious yet approachable and relate-able. Might be a classic.

One Day (2011) **

Since it's a romantic drama, the annoying and unappealing male lead hurts. A lot.

Dementia 13 (1963) *

Decidedly inauspicious debut for the Coppola patriarch. Thankfully he was able to get better.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

She (1935) *

Suffers from the horrific leads, yet still holds some interest thanks to the sets, effects and crazy Busby Berkeley style dance routines for the "native" rituals.

Palo Alto (2013) **

Promising debut for yet another Coppola is also a reprise in a darker vein. Adept cast, restrained, assured direction.

Friday, August 04, 2017

John Lanchester reviews ‘The Attention Merchants’ by Tim Wu, ‘Chaos Monkeys’ by Antonio Garcia Martinez and ‘Move Fast and Break Things’ by Jonathan Taplin - LRB 17 August 2017

What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality. Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

What the ctenophore says about the evolution of intelligence | Aeon Essays

It meant that the nervous system of the ctenophore had evolved from the ground up, using a different set of molecules and genes than any other animal known on Earth. It was a classic case of convergence: the lineage of ctenophores had evolved a nervous system using whatever genetic starting materials were available. In a sense, it was an alien nervous system – evolved separately from the rest of the animal kingdom.

But the surprises didn’t stop there. The ctenophore was turning out to be unique from other animals in far more than just its nervous system. The genes involved in development and function of its muscles were also entirely different. And the ctenophore lacked several classes of general body-patterning genes that were thought to be universal to all animals. These included so-called micro-RNA genes, which help to form specialised cell types in organs, and HOX genes, which divide bodies into separate parts, be it the segmented body of a worm or lobster, or the segmented spine and finger bones of a human. These gene classes were present in simpleton sponges and placozoa – yet absent in ctenophores.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Atomic Blonde (2017) **

Stylish, brutal take on the 007 genre boasts a couple of superb fight sequences, a killer 80's hits soundtrack and a spectacular lead who carries the picture all by herself.