Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Mother! is either the best or worst movie of the year, according to critics

Nat says: It’s the movie that has completely polarized audiences – you either hate Mother! so much so that you leave the cinema halfway through and demand a refund on your exit, or you fall completely in love with the film’s message and allegorical undertone, leaving the cinema hailing the film a masterpiece. I fall into the latter category. What I have found interesting since seeing the film is how divided and visceral audiences have been in response to the film. Mother! has done a strange thing in which it has ignited normally silent movie goers, such as myself, to publicly provide their opinion about the film online. Just a quick look at the Rotten Tomatoes audience review section demonstrates not only the divide in opinion, but in people claiming they ‘never post reviews’ but felt the urge to do so for this movie. Many reviewers, myself included, have not reviewed any other movie in years. In fact, my opinion about the film on Twitter has earned me (unimpressively) my most likes and retweets. So what is it about the film that has people saying it is either the best or worst movie of 2017?

Well, if you have not yet seen the film, it’s hard to explain or discuss the impact it has made on people. All I knew going into the cinema was that it was “a film about God” and that “a lot of people hate it”. However, from start to finish, I was on the edge of my seat. One of the most impressive things about the film, other than its plot, is the fact that no music is used – something most movies rely on in order to influence audience emotion. This says a lot, especially given I didn’t notice there was no music as I was watching the film, I only found this out afterwards when researching more about it. 

A literal interpretation of the film is that of religion and the saying “Everyone is welcomed in the house of God”, with the movie exploring the repercussions of such an invitation. Yet a deeper look at the film reveals a man-woman dichotomy in direct relation to, and interaction with, nature. This relationship is nothing more than the manifestation of technology, which represents the result of the conflict we feel as humans in being pitted, falsely, against nature.

I won’t say anything more about the film – my full review is embedded somewhere within the Rotten Tomatoes website – but I will encourage you to go watch the film and make up your own mind. The movie has the undertone of exploring the problems we face as humans when we believe in duality, and yet the film itself has symbolically, and ironically, produced a dualistic divide in its audience reaction. 


The Social Network Doling Out Millions in Ephemeral Money

User-generated content… had created billions of dollars of value for the shareholders of social media companies.

Emilio says: There’s no denying the most dominant social media platforms we use daily such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat have vested interests in keeping all of us glued. Every post, comment, like and share is valuable, as it represents data that fuel these platforms’ phenomenal capabilities for creating algorithms and targeting us as never before seen.

Steemit, a new social platform gaining traction since it was founded 18 months ago, aims to change all that. It wants to put power in the hands of users and incentivise them every time they post content through a digital currency called ‘Steem’ which can be accumulated and cashed into normal currency.

The way Steemit works is simple: create an account, then post content, vote for other users’ posts that you like (think Reddit), or curate content from other users’ posts – all of which allow you to earn Steem.

One of Steemit’s user case studies demonstrates how using the platform can deliver direct rewards: Travel blogger and photographer @heiditravels, who has nearly 6,000 followers, has funded her trips around the world with Steem.

Steem’s market capitalization is said to be in the vicinity of $294 million and is now placed alongside highly valued crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. According to company reports, more than $30 million worth of Steem has been distributed to over 50,000 users since launch.

For all its promise as ‘the more equitable social network’, no one can predict for sure how Steemit can accelerate into formidable growth, or decline into oblivion as other promising fledgling social platforms have before it. More importantly, what happens to the data provided by users on Steemit, and what is the certainty that this data won’t be monetised by the platform’s owners, like all the social media networks we have embraced do?


Facebook Quietly Enters StarCraft War for AI Bots, and Loses

Joel says: Last weekend, the annual competition StarCraft for AI was held. Many tech companies and StarCraft fans alike create bots that are able to understand and play StarCraft, a real time strategy game developed by Blizzard entertainment.

Facebook quietly entered a bot called CherryPi, designed by eight people employed by or affiliated with its AI research lab. The social network’s stealthy space war suggests Facebook is serious about competing with Google and others to set showy new milestones in AI smarts. Facebook’s AI research group, which lists 80 researchers on its website and is led by NYU professor Yann LeCun, has produced many research papers but not notched up an achievement as striking as Google’s with Go. Facebook has released three research papers on StarCraft, but not announced a special effort to conquer the game.

Final results released Sunday indicate Facebook still has a way to go: CherryPi finished sixth in a field of 28; the top three bots were all made by lone, hobbyist coders. I’m wondering if those ‘hobbyist coders’ are now employed by Facebook.


Books to throw out your window

Jakkii saysA few weeks ago I shared a piece that explored how reading can improve our empathy. Still considering what to add to my reading list, this week we have something a little more lighthearted: books to throw out your window. (wink)

This piece lists the below novels (and a few more), claiming them to be reader-voted as most likely to be thrown out the window. You can check out the piece for the brief reasons why each made the list (and to see numbers 9-14).

(Tied for first)

1. The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer
1. 50 Shades of Grey by EL James
2. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
3. I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson
4. The Goldfinch; and The Little Friend, both by Donna Tartt
5. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
6. Angels & Demons; and The DaVinci Code, both by Dan Brown
7. Feersum Endjin by Iain Banks
8. Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr

Have you read any of these books? Would you agree they should be ‘thrown out the window’, or have they been judged too harshly?

I confess I haven’t read any of them – not Henry James’ effort, not even JK Rowling’s entrant. When it comes to fiction, I must admit to being a sucker for airport novels, especially of the crime variety. I grew up reading Patricia Cornwell and pretty much wanted to be Dr Scarpetta (without the being stalked, stabbed and shot parts). As an airport fiction aficionado, I don’t have a terribly high standard for fiction, yet there are novels I’d happily pitch out the window were it not wholly inappropriate to actually do so. For instance, many of the novels purporting to be written by James Patterson, actually written by someone else (you need only look more closely at the covers to discern this), are rather terrible pieces of writing. As I think through some of the books of the non-fiction variety I’d throw out the window, I could take this week’s Friday Faves entry to a more serious place, discussing the role of art in society and the perils of censorship. However as the intent this week is to keep it lighthearted as we guide you into the weekend, I’ll leave those hints there for you to ponder yourself.

What I really want to know is: what’s the number one book you’d chuck out the window given the chance?