Archive | July, 2020

Kite Boy, Hell Yeah

The 1957 movie The Invisible Boy – a sort-of sequel to 1956’s better-known Forbidden Planet – is available in its entirety on the Internet Archive (حفظه الله) to view for free. (Wait, how can it be a sequel when it obviously takes place centuries earlier? Well, the explanation is gestured at quickly, in passing; let your attention wander for a minute and you’ll miss it.)

This film can’t seem to decide whether it’s a drama or a comedy. Most of the time it’s a drama, indeed sometimes quite a dark one with, e.g., threats of death by slow torture for the child protagonist. But the unfazed attitude of the adults to Timmie’s accomplishments is bizarre and hilarious. This ten-year-old boy has just assembled, in a few minutes, a mysterious disassembled robot whose assembly has baffled multiple scientists? Ho-hum, go away, kid. And now he’s managed to make himself invisible? What an annoying prank; he’d better be visible by morning if he wants any breakfast! (No curiosity as to how he’s done either of these things.) And now the robot is violently interfering with the father’s attempts to discipline Timmie? Ha ha, oh well, here Timmie, have an apple. And one for you too, robot guy. (Because everyone knows robots love apples.)

Anyway, it’s not the classic that Forbidden Planet is, but it’s quite enjoyable. And some of the actors have fascinating faces.

Plato, Space Ranger

A new episode of my YouTube channel is up! This one focuses on the connection between philosophical thought experiments (from Plato’s Ring of Gyges to Judith Jarvis Thomson’s defense of abortion) and science-fiction (and fantasy) literature.

In related news, a combination of unexpected expenses (e.g., high medical co-pays for kidney stone surgeries, plus my car’s imminent need to have its electrical system serviced) and my reduced summer salary means that any support via my PayPal or Patreon would be especially timely and welcome.

Be Still My Beating Suit

One thing that every adaptation of Dune seems to get wrong: throughout the book series, the Fremen are always described as wearing robes covering their stillsuits. And a passage in God Emperor of Dune makes clear that “covering” means completely covering:

The grey slick of a stillsuit could be seen underneath, exposed to sunlight which no real Fremen would ever have let touch his stillsuit that way.

In the 1984 adaptation, the Fremen wore no robes at all. In the 2000 adaptation, they usually wore robes, but seldom entirely covering their stillsuits. The upcoming 2020 adaptation looks like we’re getting exposed stillsuits once again.

Anarchy in the Tube

My second YouTube video (and first substantive one) is up on Agoric Café! In this one I discuss Steven J. Shone’s book on 19th-century American anarchism:

Experimenting with the Timeline

Below is a presentation I created today using a software tool called Timeline, as part of a teaching workshop I’m participating in this week:

That embedded version is a bit cramped; for a less cramped view, click here.

I wanted to break long paragraphs into shorter ones, preferably on more than one page, but couldn’t figure out (in the allotted time) how to do it.

I also wanted to date the slides by centuries, not individual dates. I couldn’t figure out how to do that either. So then I wanted the first dated slide to be labeled “c. 340 BCE.” (“c.” for “circa.”). But it wouldn’t let me include “circa,” either; no non-numeric content was allowed in the dates. And it said I had to use negative numbers for BCE. So I ended up dating that slide “-340.” But I’m not happy about that, because they’re not equivalent; positive and negative integers belong to a cardinal sequence separated by a zero; but the BCE/CE (or BC/AD) system of dating is an ordinal system with no Year Zero. So, strictly speaking, 340 BCE would correspond to -339, not -340.

Otherwise, though, I’m fairly pleased at how it looks; and I could probably get something closer to what I want if I tinkered with it a bit. (The content I wrote is oversimplified, but this is just a trial.)

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