Notes from the Kraken: March 13th 2016

In All, Notes by Kyu

Welcome again to We Have Always Lived in the Kraken, a pop culture blog transmitted directly to you from the belly of the beast. Here in the Notes we’ll show you this week’s posting schedule, but first, a little Seafood for Thought.

I will eventually love the smell of napalm in the morning.

One of the basic concepts in economics is that of opportunity costs. The idea is that everything you choose to do is also a choice not to do something else. If you spend money on X, you’re not spending money on Y. Working a job to gain money means giving up the time you could have used to do something else. The opportunity cost of taking an action is, in the Frostian sense, all the roads not taken. This is an important consideration that should help us optimize our lives by enabling us to more knowingly make decisions by not only being cognizant of the choice we’re making but also of all the options we are forgoing in making that choice.

As with all things, I enjoy applying this serious and important theory to the completely frivolous realm of pop culture. Because I think we all tend to enjoy entertainment in an unoptimized fashion. Take movies. On a given day, what are you most likely to watch? For some of you, it’s whatever is new this week on Netflix; for others, it’s whatever’s on cable TV; for many, it’s whatever big new movie is out in theaters. We choose what we want to watch based largely on convenience, and as a result we forget to consider the opportunity cost. If I’m going to spend the next two hours of my life watching a movie, why am I watching the new Marvel film, or The Shawshank Redemption for the 14th time on TNT, when the opportunity cost of doing so is not watching a film that is potentially much better. There’s more than a hundred years of movies out there, and if we’re being frank, about 90 years of good movies that are modern enough to be easily watchable by most people. Odds are that no matter what you’re watching now, it’s not nearly as good, entertaining, or rewarding as the Best Unwatched Alternative, or BUA. Your BUA might be one of the best movies ever made–how many people have never seen, say, Casablanca?–or it may be a little lower on the list of all-time greats–but it is statistically likely to be better than whatever it is you’ve chosen on the basis of convenience (or the ephemeral drive of marketing hype, which dissipates a week after theatrical release like a fart in a stairwell).

My BAU? Probably Apocalypse Now, which is the most critically acclaimed movie I have yet to see in the first 50 of IMDB’s Top 250 list. There are reasons I haven’t gotten around to it–I don’t tend to find Vietnam movies particularly exciting, it’s long, it’s intimidatingly arty–but they’re not very good reasons. The real reason is laziness. And it’s not to my benefit. Because I know in the past year I’ve seen a lot of movies that don’t beat out Apocalypse Now for BAU. The same goes for dozens of other movies I have yet to watch. Kubrick’s Barry LyndonGrave of the Fireflies. A wide swath of the best foreign films in decades past. If as human beings we are the sum of our experiences, then we should be wary when our first instinct–toward the easy, the novel, the cinematic equivalent of junk food–overrides our better options not just once in a while, or even often, but always. We should think more often about what we’re missing out on, and make choices that will enrich our lives a little more. So I’m pledging now that once a month, I will watch my BAU instead of whatever convenient junk I find myself reaching for. I hope you do the same.

Kyu Saiewitz

From the depths of the Kraken, here is what we are bringing you this week.

Monday: Nothing new today, but consider: if no one reads our archives, do they make a sound? Answer: yes. The sound is a gentle weeping.

Tuesday: Kyu’s biweekly board game column, The Loaded Die, is back, and it’s brought with it three new games to consider. What do BanduForbidden Island, and Dungoneer have in common? DOOOOOOOOOM!

Wednesday: Pokémon? Poké Poké. Mon Pokémon mon Poké. Pokémon! 20th anniversary Pokémon David mon Poké Pokémon mon.

Thursday: Nothing But Trash returns with “Lesbian Moe Blobs Play Brass Instruments Part One” because apparently that’s an entire genre now, because anime is the worst. (UPDATE: Sam has been absorbed by a lesbian blob monster and this article will be postponed as a result until his body can be removed from this LGBT-friendly horror and searched. – Ed)

Friday: Nothing new today, except this fun fact: as prisoners confined in an inescapable prison of eldritch flesh, we envy the dead.

Saturday: Baturdays continues as Batman #1 keeps pulling out all the stops. First it was the Joker, and now a mysterious woman known only as “The Cat.” Who could she be?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! …oh, right. Never mind.

Also! Be sure to check out Kyu’s continuing project to live tweet his slow journey through Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films. Check out the pain (and the puns–but we repeat ourselves) @insidethekraken.

Catch of the Week:

Each and every week the residents here in the Kraken will offer one recommendation for the week that we think you all would enjoy. It might be a movie. It might be a book. Who knows? This is your… Catch of the Week.

Keskel: This week I recommend Hellsing Ultimate, the ten-part direct to video (bypassing television restrictions) epic about vampires, vampire hunters, the Catholic Church and occult Nazis. Operatic and strange, it’s an anime of excess that has aged surprisingly well, and is worth watching to appreciate the sheer aesthetic beauty of many scenes and sequences.

David: Phone games can get a lot of bad press for being money grabs, and quite a few are terrible money grabs that take advantage of psychological principles to get people to spend money, but that is not always the case. In places like Japan, the culture has embraced cell phone gaming in ways that the US hasn’t quite yet, and because of that, the games they make actually have to have some teeth to them, even if they are still using the free-to-play in-app purchases model to actually make a profit. This sentiment has started to spread across the world, as with today’s recommendation, Heavenstrike Rivals. London-based developer Mediatonic (working with publisher Square Enix) has created a fun, addicting game that is both a lot of fun and surprisingly complex. The PvP mode is actually really entertaining, and the game is pretty generous in how often it allows you to summon. If you need something to play around with for a month or two, this game is just the ticket, whether you wish to give any money to it or not.

KyuMy month of blog recommendations continues with Slate Star Codex, a wide-ranging Rationalist blog by interesting thinker Scott Alexander (not his real name). I’m still working my way through his archives, as I only discovered the blog recently through this amazing post on the 2016 Republican Presidential primary, but so far Alexander is a fascinating writer. I don’t endorse all his politics, but I completely respect his efforts to embrace the virtue of charity, a word which here means “respecting the arguments of others and engaging with the ideas on their own terms.” That sort of thing is what lets him seriously (and effectively) argue against concepts like neoreactionism that others might dismiss out of hand; that ethos is also what helps him find new perspectives on questions whose answers are (perhaps wrongly) assumed. It’s fun stuff, including his occasional use of short fiction to explore esoteric philosophical viewpoints. Definitely worth checking out.

That’s it for this week. We hope you continue to find the Kraken to your liking. Tired visitors may rest and recover on the beast’s soft palette, but do try not to move. You’ll only make him salivate.