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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 02:53:34 PM EST) Watching, Theatre, MLP (all tags)
Watching: "Daybreakers", "Ran". Theatre: "Generous". Web.


What I'm Watching
Saw Daybreakers at the cinema. Good vampire film with a novel twist: ten years after the outbreak society is thoroughly vampirized, and the remaining humans are hunted by the army. But with blood stocks low, a vampire researcher seeks an alternative to blood before the famine begins.

It's tautly done on a fairly low budget, with some stylish designs. It's more like a skiffy movie than horror though: not very scary at all.

I liked it a lot: good to see something taking the genre forward a bit. I think like "Outlander" it's been underrated by the critics, who tend to just lump smarter-than-average original action movies with dire sequels. Well worth seeing, though not earth-shattering.

Guardian review, RT.

What I'm Watching 2
Saw Ran on DVD. Akira Kurosawa movie, based on King Lear but with many changes, one of which is that the daughters become sons, but equally tragic.

Good film, with a great central performance from Tatsuya Nakadai as the decaying king. Has a very striking battle scene with no sound, just music, as the king's bodyguards fail against overwhelming numbers.

Theatre
Saw Generous at the Finborough Theatre. That's another tiny pub theatre, maybe even smaller than the Bush theatre.

Has a cast of 8, in a highly-rated play by Canadian playwright Michael Healey. Tells several stories, with some interlinked characters, themed around altruism or its lack.

Some good performances and clever writing. Jane Perry did a great phone conversation, switching call-waiting between her husband and lover. The opening scene, with six characters rushing in and talking loudly at cross-purposes, is brilliantly done.

However, while that scene works well in the small space, the other scenes didn't seem so effective in it. The dialogue has lots of long complex speeches, which seem a bit unrealistic in those close quarters. Also some of the characters didn't really come together. the industrialist and others seem too willing to self-flagellate rather than self-justify.

Overall, pretty good but not unmissable.

Review, review, review, review.

Politics
Seem to be some true colours coming through with some of the parties at the moment.

"Libertarian" UKIP have nicked the BNP policy of banning the burkha. Very libertarian, passing laws about what clothes citizens are allowed to wear.

David Cameron has finally given some specifics on how he's going to decentralize and empower low-level local groups. By, um, passing a top-down edict insisting teachers must have at least a 2:2 degree. Good thing that kind of micromanagment couldn't have any bad consequences. Like, say, hiring a 2:2 Media Studies graduate when an Astrophyics grad with a 3rd might be better, or incentivizing students to do easy degrees rather than risk a low pass with a tough degree, or causing teacher shortages because you're banning worse-qualified applicants without raising salaries to hire the better-qualified.

I already mentioned the third time a BNP member has been convicted on explosives charges. But for a bonus, Neuroskeptic debunks a Nick Griffin claim, since no-one else in politics or the media wants to.

We're so fucked.

Economics
One throwaway item in this Why Such a Deep Recession? article (via) caught my eye. May as well just repost my comment:

I find the "innovation slump disguised by housing boom" idea very interesting. But what might have caused it?

I'm wondering if patent and copyright thickets might be responsible. For instance, software became much more patentable in 1996. Since then, things like the Amazon One-Click patent have made innovation much more difficult.

Also consider the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act. That's dammed the stream of intellectual property coming into the public domain. If anyone could make Mickey Mouse cartoons, more would be made.

Bottom-line oriented managers seem to have been very hostile to R&D in recent years, seen for instance in the closing of Bell labs. This might be an additional cause. Or it might just be a sensible response: you can't innovate since someone else always holds critical payments, so may as well close down your R&D department.

Web
Haiti. Articles here, here and here point out the gleeful exaggeration by the media of violence in Haiti, to the point where it may be hampering relief efforts as aid workers stay in their bases. It reminds me a lot of the exaggerated reports of carnage in the Superdome in Hurricane Katrina. People really want to see the instant barbarism that happens in the movies.

Pics. Fire and ice. Everyday Sixties London. Editorial headings by Winsor McCay.

Video. Werner Herzog Reads Curious George. Japanese robot dances to Polka.

Random. Ballardian model artwork inspired by Chiswick Park estate. Man arrested, interrogated, suspended from work for making a terrorism joke on Twitter while at home.

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Goneril with the wind | 26 comments (26 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Various by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #1 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 03:19:30 PM EST
I saw Ran very recently (maybe two weeks ago) as part of my "expose my ears to lots of Japanese" project.  I'd seen it when it came out, and was depressed about how badly the DVD transfer came out.

From what I understand, the "based on King Lear" bit is exaggerated.  Apparently Kurosawa came up with the story first and was later told about the simulators, at which point he played a couple up.

In regards to the Haiti thing, I think there's some more sinister stuff going on as there appear to be certain political groups who like to play up the barbarism of certain racial.  (And the idea that distributing groceries from a wrecked market to a starving population is "looting" is pretty offensive, particularly in the case where the "looters" were being aided by the store owner!.)

The Werner Herzog thing is a parody, and not the actual Herzog.

In regards to the twitter "joke", I find it extremely irritating that no one links to the actual twitter feed...I suspect that there's little to tell an impartial observer that it actually was a joke.  I'd love to see the context because that comment alone, if not following something obvious, has nothing to label it "joke".
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

Did you learn nothing from Katrina? by Herring (2.00 / 0) #2 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 03:27:58 PM EST
When black people liberate and distribute supplies, that's looting. When white people loot, that's liberating and distributing supplies.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
Racism disgusts me. by chuckles (2.50 / 2) #9 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 06:51:46 PM EST
I hate how people tried to make a distinction between black people liberating flatscreen TVs from electronics stores and white people looting food from supermarkets. They're morally equivalent. Perhaps the black people are even more justified because of their longer history of oppression.

"The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin [...] would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities"
[ Parent ]
Twitter by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #3 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 03:30:26 PM EST
I haven't found his account, but apparently his updates are protected anyway. Not sure if they were all along, or he protected them after this happened.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
He protected them after the event by hulver (2.00 / 0) #6 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 03:40:09 PM EST
He was also made to delete the tweet. 
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Cheese is not a hat. - clock
[ Parent ]
Also, Kurosawa by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 03:35:14 PM EST
Seems a bit of a coincidence that he came up with a story about a ruler who tries to divide his land up among three children, but angrily disinherits the youngest when the child says it's a daft idea, then moves between the older two with a large bodyguard which the children refuse to house, then goes mad and wanders off in the wilderness accompanied by his jester, then takes shelter in a shack in the middle of a storm; all independently.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Maybe by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #7 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 04:27:05 PM EST
Though I am in the middle of a history of that period in Japanese history, and that sort of family infighting seems endemic to the time.

My understanding is that the bit with the jester came after the similarity was pointed out.  It was the overarching tale, of the three sons where it was the non-toadying son as the good son, that he came up with independently.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Maybe by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #11 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 07:39:34 PM EST
But Kurosawa did know Shakespeare fairly well - he had adapted Macbeth in Throne of Blood quite a few years earlier. But yes, kudos to him for noticing the similarities between feudal Japan and feudal Europe.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Dunno by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #14 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 08:24:37 PM EST
I'm just going by this, which makes sense given the two works.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Actual tweet by hulver (2.00 / 0) #5 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 03:39:23 PM EST
@pauljchambers Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky-high!!

He was made to delete the tweet by the police.

Source


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Cheese is not a hat. - clock
[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by xth (2.00 / 0) #8 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 04:38:38 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth



[ Parent ]
Probably more like by ad hoc (2.00 / 0) #10 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 06:58:00 PM EST
"delete the tweet or it's the tower for you"
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[ Parent ]
BNP and the press by clover kicker (2.00 / 0) #12 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 07:49:29 PM EST
If the BNP were a party in Canada the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation would be all over them like (ahem) white on rice. I'd have thought the Beeb would have lean a little left, or do they feel constrained to report as neutrally as possible?

In the US I could see The Daily Show or Colbert running that Neuroskeptic post verbatim. Does the UK have a high-profile court jester these days, I guess Spitting Image is long dead.

(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 1) #16 Tue Jan 19, 2010 at 05:08:08 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth



[ Parent ]
They've been wobbling recently. by yicky yacky (4.00 / 3) #19 Tue Jan 19, 2010 at 11:30:02 AM EST

They're under increasing attack from Murdoch-type free-marketism (especially in the wake of the ITV collapse, which left them as being, very obviously, the only successful free-to-air station still thriving). In that environment, defending their tax-subsidized 'monopoly' became harder than ever.

They also took a massive hit from the Kelly-Gilligan-Hutton affair. For the first time in a generation, people were seriously discussing whether it should be shut down.

On top of this is the perennial debate about the legitimacy and sustainability of the licence fee, which has gotten worse in recent years with the profusion of (shit) channels offered by digital television.

All of the above has created a climate in the last five years in which they're very cautious about operating in criticism-inducing peripheries rather than the mainstream. The left see them as a bastion of establishment propaganda. The right see them as an inherently socialist institution. This may actually be a sign that they've got the balance about right.

To be fair, they're not shy of wading-in when they can cite good journalism and have the facts on their side, but the effect has been more subtle in that they've become reluctant to stir up stories which have the potential to get them criticized on political grounds in the first place.


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Vacuity abhors a vacuum.
[ Parent ]
Disaster societies by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #13 Mon Jan 18, 2010 at 08:04:00 PM EST
There is a recent book with the unintuitive thesis that societies just post-disaster are unusually collaborative places where people help each other out more. Paradise made in Hell is the book and I saw it reviewed here.

Solnit ... describes the informal urbanism and flexible infrastructures of street hospitals and soup kitchens, strangers helping strangers through the half-ruined streets of cities darkened by blackouts. There are "disaster utopias," she writes, and "Citizens themselves in these moments constitute the government—the active decision-making body—as democracy has always promised and rarely delivered."

Haven't read it myself yet, and the review says its pretty uneven, but I thought it was an interesting idea, at least in circumstances where no actual starving or military conflict is going on right then.

I liked Ran, particularly the bait-retreat-return battle in the forest near the end. The screenwriter is a bit of a downer though.

Iambic Web Certified

I've dealt with violence in Haiti. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #15 Tue Jan 19, 2010 at 05:05:06 AM EST
Think what you like, but I'm here to tell you that it can be an incredibly violent place.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Same goes for New Orleans /nt by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #18 Tue Jan 19, 2010 at 07:23:25 AM EST

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Not the best response, by yicky yacky (2.00 / 0) #20 Tue Jan 19, 2010 at 11:33:54 AM EST

considering the indifferent way they dealt with that, too.


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Vacuity abhors a vacuum.
[ Parent ]
Did the NOPD do this? by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #21 Tue Jan 19, 2010 at 09:58:48 PM EST
In the sprawling Cite Soleil slum, gangsters are reassuming control after escaping from the city's notorious main penitentiary and police urge citizens to take justice into their own hands.
"If you don't kill the criminals, they will all come back," a Haitian police officer shouted over a loudspeaker.

http://www.military.com/news/article/troops-land-at-haiti-presidential-palace.html?col=1186032320397

Really, it's that fucking bad there. Always.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
That's hearsay by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #22 Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 04:38:53 AM EST
We heard similar stuff from New Orleans. It turned out to be untrue. All Theophile Escargot is saying is that we should treat these stories with caution.

All we've actually seen on TV so far have been desperate "looters" being beaten up by the police. In a situation where there's no food and water there is going to be looting, but that doesn't make the city a lawless no-go area. Unfortunately, the rumours now mean you have aid agencies saying they're not going in unless their safety can be guaranteed.

Of course, it may turn out that you're right, but there's no evidence at the moment.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Do you generally believe, or by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #23 Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 06:17:59 AM EST
disbelieve reporters?

My default is to believe them, until they show they (individually) cannot be trusted.
This method is sometimes called "catching the reporter in a lie."

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
I'm not sure by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #24 Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 07:16:30 AM EST
You have to read between the lines a bit. Use of cliches, the telling of terrible things without citing sources, or exaggerated language can all point to mistruth.

In New Orleans the reporting of babies being raped in the Superdome was the dead giveaway.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Well, yeah . . . by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #25 Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 01:02:54 PM EST
doesn't that bit sound just a *little* over-the-top?

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Well by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 2) #26 Wed Jan 20, 2010 at 02:39:49 PM EST
I see what you're saying about Haiti being a violent place already, but that's part of the problem. On Marginal Revolution they pointed out that in Haiti if someone's caught stealing, they tend to beat the crap out of him on the street rather than call the police. But when that happens after the earthquake, it's taken as a sign of the breakdown after the earthquake.

When it comes to evaluating journalism, generally the thing to do is to look at their sources, and think about whether it's plausible. For instance, some claim to have seen groups of men walking round with machetes in the area of the prison, and decided that machete-wielding gangs of prisoners are terrorizing the neighbourhood. But there don't seem to be reports of what they're actually doing, and you have to wonder about things. Like, where did all the prisoners get these machetes? Why are the prisoners hanging around where they can be recaptured rather than follow the traditional prison break strategy of leaving it? Is is possible that the group with machetes had nothing to do with it and the media just jumped to conclusions?

The media like to stick to familiar stories or narratives. The familiar narrative from movies is that as soon as the cops disappear in a disaster, vast numbers of people instantly turn into violent looters, murderers and rapists. So, that's what they're reporting, even if it means relying on hearsay and playing up minor incidents into major ones.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Chiswick Park by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #17 Tue Jan 19, 2010 at 07:21:27 AM EST
Is that where you work?

Will read the piece later, looks interesting.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

Goneril with the wind | 26 comments (26 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback