Month: October 2021
Good to see Paul Krugman weigh in with his thoughts on the TV adaptation of Asimov’s Foundation series:
“Foundation” might seem unfilmable. It mostly involves people talking, and its narrative inverts the hero-saves-the-universe theme that burns many acres of CGI every year. The story spans centuries; in each episode everything appears to be on the brink, and it seems as if only desperate efforts by the protagonists can save the day. […]
So how does the Apple TV+ series turn this into a visually compelling tale? It doesn’t. What it does instead is remake “Star Wars” under another name. There are indispensable heroes, mystical powers, even a Death Star. These aren’t necessarily bad things to include in a TV series, but they’re completely antithetical to the spirit of Asimov’s writing. Pretending that this series has anything to do with the “Foundation” novels is fraudulent marketing, and I’ve stopped watching.
It strikes me that if showrunner David Goyer gets the full eight seasons he’s hoping for,1 Foundation is destined, at best, to be regarded as similar to the various films inspired by the works of Philip K Dick.2 Granted the show that’s rolled out so far has deviated wildly from a straight adaptation of Asimov’s story, but there’s still plenty of time for the story to cover a few hundred years of galactic history and end up in the vicinity of where Asimov’s story ended up.
It’s way too early to paint the story as aping Star Wars. If we get to season 5 and we’re still being shown a current storyline that features Gall Dornick and Hari Seldon and Lewis Pirenne as current protagonists (rather than featuring in flashbacks or as hologram recordings being consulted by the present day characters) then I’d be worried, but for all we know the plan is to give the current cast a couple of seasons and then move on to a new generation running the Foundation and facing a new set of challenges as the empire collapses.
Admittedly, David Goyer running things is by no means a guarantee that we’ll get a satisfactory adaptation, but none of us can really know how this project will go this early.
I bookmarked this piece by Clive Thompson but didn’t get round to reading it until now, but it’s still worth reading for the sense of perspective he brings to the topic:
[Whenever…] I’m tempted to be a little too pessimistic about modern digital media, I spend some time leafing through the big media panics of the 18th and 19th centuries. Back then, there was a new form of entertainment that was relentlessly blamed for driving society into the ditch. It was lurid, addictive, and mind-distorting. It turned young people into preening narcissists possessed of a delusional sense of grandiosity. It even made some kids into killers. Not least, it was a howling waste of time.
It was, of course, the novel. […]
The thing is (as Thompson concedes after having some fun ridiculing some of the wilder warnings about how the youth of the day were doomed to fall short of accepted standards of behaviour if they focussed on fiction delivered by the new medium) novels do change their readers:
Novels really do change you. They focus your attention on the deep interiority of the characters, letting you both empathize with human lives while also standing askance from them, studying them from a slightly alien perspective. They might make us more empathetic. They almost certainly attune us to the psychologies that propel everyday behavior.
Empathy. Dangerous stuff. Might give the proles all sorts of unrealistic ideas…
Continuing my obsession with Microsoft’s Surface Duo, interesting to read the thoughts of someone who took the plunge after a sharp price reduction:
When turned on, the Duo greets you with two separate displays, and that is exactly what you are meant to see. Unlike Samsung’s Fold series that gives you an iPad-ish display when opened, the Duo is never mistaken for anything other than two screens. In fact, it is built into how the device functions. Open an app and it will only appear on one screen, inviting you to do something else with the other.
Trying it out led to this conclusion:
Frankly, I think the problem isn’t the Duo itself, but it is how I interact with my technology these days. You see, I’ve always loved writing in Moleskine notebooks, but I haven’t done that in a good long while because my notes are more convenient when stored in the cloud. And because of that, I’ve been accustomed to writing my notes on my phone or my tablet. I’ve been accustomed to using one screen. The Surface Duo, for as excellent a device that it is, flies in the face of years of muscle memory. Sure, given time, I might be able to break that and really make the Surface Duo a useful gadget- and a strong part of me wants to give it that chance- but even at $400, and especially with an older version of Android and slow updates and lingering bugs and newer versions on the horizon, I just don’t think I can give it that chance right now.
A shame that Microsoft didn’t put their new form factor out there at a price that would encourage users to give it a try. Perhaps the Surface Duo experiment was the right idea (for users who were prepared to revise their working habits, at least) but at the wrong price point.
I should have linked to this when it was originally posted, but never mind: I like it when Randy Milholland shares some parenting wisdom with his audience.
If you’re a frequent visitor to the Apple ecosystem, the first minute or so of the introductory video for this week’s Apple’s "Unleashed" event is comfy and familiar, a tribute to the way the sound of Apple’s devices have shaped our experience of modern technology.
I wasn’t watching the event, because I’m unlikely to buy an Apple device pricier than my current iPad Mini 4 any time soon, but as someone who Switched to Apple rather than follow Microsoft further down the path through Windows 98/Windows ME1 it definitely worked on me.2
I’m glad M.G. Siegler’s passing mention of the intro’s music led me to seek it out.
- Of course Microsoft would – quite legitimately – point out that they abandoned that path themselves in favour of Dave Cutler’s Windows NT/Windows 2000, so I’m blaming them for a mistake they corrected 20 or so years ago. Then I contemplate the frustrating experience of using Microsoft Teams on my work PC under Windows 10 and I realise how little they changed. ↩
- If I were a journalist writing a story I’d probably feel obliged to hunt down the views of folks from the Windows/Android/Linux side of the divide, which I’m guessing might differ quite a bit in these days when everything is so tribal. But I’m not a journalist, so I’m content to reflect how it worked on me and leave it at that. ↩
Watching videos of moths taking flight at 6,000 frames per second turned out to be exactly what I needed on a lazy Sunday morning. I never thought of moths as cuddly, but how else can you describe these?
Seeing how ungainly some of those take-offs looked, I couldn’t help but think of Douglas Adams on the subject of flying (from Life, the Universe and Everything): "The Guide says there is an art to flying", said Ford, "or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss."