Alas Brian Aldiss

It is with sadness that we announce the death of Brian Wilson Aldiss O.B.E. author, artist and poet, at his home in Oxford in the early hours of Saturday 19th August 2017, aged 92.

Some of the most influential books on me were Brian Aldiss’:

A common theme of much of his work is of adaptation, that life evolves and struggles even at the end of the Earth or civilization.

Waiting for Rick Godot

Sunday evening. No Rick & Morty yet. So what’s on?

  • The Bitch in Apartment 23: Krysten Ritter (alias Jessica Jones) is adorable as a mean slutty girl, but the show doesn’t work for me. I lack the ability to empathize with perky people, and screaming blondes exist only to be chased by guys/mothers in hockey masks.
  • What Happened to Monday: Grim, serious, pretentious stylistic imitation of Children of Men, Demolition Man, and Blade Runner; total nonsense unleavened by humor or science or characters. A “European Federation” facing overpopulation and starvation from climate change puts ID tags in everyone and cryofreezes multiple siblings like Simon Phoenix. People are buying dead rats from street vendors. Reality: The birthrates in Europe are far below replacement rate, and would have zero impact on climate change. China showed that one child policies don’t work. Rats don’t look like chicken inside, and are an inefficient food source; you cannot feed seven people on one Rattus norvegicus. Also cryofreeze doesn’t work except on dead bodies, and you can’t possibly get people to put their six-year-old child in a death freezer as shown. Rick & Morty is hard science & social theory compared to this.
  • Witnesses: French crime drama? Seems dry and dull, gloomy cinematography (they found a part of France as grim as Seattle or Scandanavia?), but opening with a weird graverobbing crime is interesting. I kind of like the characters, which is better than most shows. Despite my toddler-level French, I distrust the subtitles because they translate “le flic” (rather rude) more politely as “the force” instead of “cops” or “pigs”, and a few other tone shifts. Gonna keep watching this.

The Defenders

  • Why are they fighting in a sewer with glowing blue walls?
  • Fight choreography brought to you by people not even in the same shot.
  • Oh good we’re starting with racist rich white trash cultural appropriator Danny Rand, this can only go up, right?
  • “New York City”? Who says that, unless it’s followed by “Git a rope.”?
  • Alias is still a mopey drunk, so characterization is established.
  • Cage is boring, so there’s nothing new there.
  • Murdock takes all the best cases of chemicals (they’re in everything!) either crippling or superpowering people, gets $11 million in settlement = $1.1M + court costs for him, but he still wants to go beat up bad guys instead of blowing coke off a stripper’s ass.
  • Sigourney Weaver! In a terribly staged scene with awkward dialogue. I wish this shitshow would kill me, but sooner than weeks or months.
  • Long dramatic scenes going nowhere. I need to drink more than Alias to blackout thru this.
  • Cage: “Hero’s your word, not mine.” No, in the comics he & the less shitty Danny Rand ran a biz called “Heroes For Hire”.
  • Oh no it’s a natural(?) disaster which occurs about once a month in some places, so New Yorkers panic and light up Murdock’s windows with gel lights, not that he can see.

Well, that was Ep 1. I can’t even rate this, it’s just random scenes leading to nothing. Maybe I’ll watch E2 and see if it coalesces. Maybe I’ll just self-flagellate some other way.

Thursday Music Thinks It’s the Future

Perl 6

This is kind of fascinating in the train-wreck sense, but even aside from weirder-than-Perl5 syntax, taking a speed penalty like that in modern times is not acceptable; computers are fast enough to solve all problems in a few seconds, but the slower your program is, the more power it consumes, and that costs you real money in a data center.

I don’t see any support in Perl6 for a web server, GUI, low-level graphics, sound, or even low-level UNIX libraries, you have to use NativeCall with a lot of wrapper code for every struct. Perl5 made Gtk pretty easy to use, hideous as it may be, and mod_perl made it a powerful choice on Apache servers.

What we expect from a systems programming language has changed since the ’70s-’90s when Perl and its immediate ancestors were invented, and even the most rough, low-level programmers don’t want to reinvent everything from assembly up anymore.

Python has multiple ways now to get faster, I’m currently trying out Cython and getting faster, compiled Python binaries, which can directly call C code (because by that point it is C code). Python’s standard Tkinter GUI is primitive, but SDL works well if you can distribute it. Python’s system libraries and web frameworks are top-notch.

JavaScript isn’t fast, but modern runtimes are surprisingly good; I’d have to write some tests to see how Node or Electron compares to Perl 6, but I’d bet on the massive VM investments in JS. JS does everything now, it’s certainly the most familiar user interface these days.

If you just want a multi-paradigm language for hacking, Scheme and Racket are ideal, supported by tons of papers and books like SICP, and they compile to fast native code.

And then there’s the real outliers, like Lazarus, which is a Delphi-like Pascal IDE, or the usual “I want a hobby language” choices of Haskell, OCaml, Clojure, etc.

Even if Perl6 had come out in the first decade of its development, it would’ve been a little backwards, but compared to modern choices it’s archaic.

I’ve avoided the Whatever Star because, in addition to making Perl 6 look like a lineal descendant of brainfuck, it is governed by rules that are too subtle for my understanding.
—Evan Miller