peteg's blog

Asimov: Foundation and so forth.

/noise/books | Link

A new Kindle from Amazon AU turned up back on 2018-09-18 and I cleared most of the dead tree backlog about ten days later. This time it's a Paperwhite, $AU179 minus a $AU30 credit for having a dead, now discontinued Voyage, and a too-cheap but well-designed origami case for another $AU14. So far the touchscreen is far better than its predecessor's ever was.

It's been an age since I read Asimov. Last time I chugged through these seven books (this time in publication order!) I was underage, and now I can detect his influences more transparently: there's a lot of stock (Roman) history in there, some stock 1984 or Brave New World dystopianism, a naive fascination with the "too cheap to meter" nuclear technology of the day, an empty-headed teleology that is trumped by statism. The 1980s fat books are tediously repetitive. I'll resist too much critique as none of that is the point.

Asimov reckons that something like psychohistory is only going to work if those the subject of its predictions are oblivious to those predictions. At the time he was formulating this position, others were making self-reference mathematically respectable, leading to the solution concepts of game theory and similar that account for the effects of reasoning about other's strategies and knowledge. Asimov's position might be rescued by considering it more like biology: the existence of a reflexive entity stymies many desirable properties (e.g. locality, robustness, sustainability). I wonder if his take on zombie ideas (that they get tried repeatedly because they're not fatal) really holds.

Since I first read this series Asimov has passed and others have added their bits. I'm sure the canon is now as confused as every other.

Casino

/noise/movies | Link

Apparently the third time around, and so much less impressive than I remembered — perhaps I was thinking of a different movie, or have seen too many Sharon Stones recently. She only has one mode, and Pesci struggles at time to hold up his end of their dialogues, especially in that first confidence-spilling scene. Scorcese, of course. I wasn't that persuaded by De Niro, even less than usual. James Woods has so little to work with. I couldn't connect Kevin Pollak here with him in The Usual Suspects. Still #143 in the IMDB top-250.

Brilliant Lies

/noise/movies | Link

Second time around maybe. I think I fished this one out of Dr What! in Bondi back in the days of DVDs. Gia and Zoe Carides play sisters in this David Williamson take on the sexual politics of the day: it's a mid-90s he-said she-said and then she-really-said #metoo sorta thing with a side of unconvincing lesbian taxi driving and all-too-authentic inhalation of those fatal Winfield blues. Punching bag Anthony LaPaglia scored a wife (Gia, now separated) out of it, which is more than we do. Perhaps this was where the wave broke for Williamson, when Australia could finally tell the difference between the cask and the bottle.