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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 01:37:18 PM EST) Reading, Theatre, MLP (all tags)
Theatre: "Women Beware Women". Reading: "Flat Earth News". Movies. Web.


Theatre
Saw Women Beware Women at the National Theatre. Jacobean play by Thomas Middleton, written a little after Shakespeare. It's technically a tragedy, but has a lot of black comic touches: had the audience in stitches at times.

The verse is less convoluted and a lot easier to follow than Shakespeare's. Felt like less than its three hours to me, though some of the critics disagree. There are two plotlines which feel a bit cobbled together: they don't interact much. One concerns a young, eloped couple, when the corrupt Duke of Florence takes a fancy to the teenage wife. The other concerns a dutiful daughter whose father wants to marry her to a grotesque idiot of good family. It's not really a spoiler to say that the Jacobean tragedy ends in a bloodbath of grotesque revenge.

The sexual politics seem a little peculiar to modern audiences. There's a harrowing pre-rape scene, but she gets resigned to her new status very quickly.

The production is very elaborate, with a 1950s theme. There's a rotating stage with an elaborate set, a clever semi-transparent projection, showers of gold, a live band providing songs, incidental music and live numbers for the dance scene. It seemed a bit over-the-top at times, maybe because the last play I saw was at the bare stage of the Globe. But the £10 sponsored seats are amazingly good value as usual. Good, convincing performances all round.

The ending didn't quite work for me: there's an elaborately choreographed near-dance masque on the spinning stage, with most of the dialogue removed. It's an impressive spectacle, but I quite lost track of who was killing who and why.

Overall though, worth seeing: flashy but good value.

Review, review, review, review, review, review, review, review. Half-review, WP, Middleton.

What I'm Reading
Flat Earth News is journalists Nick Davies book about the decline of journalism, mostly in Britain. Wasn't expecting to be shocked by it as I thought I knew how bad things were, but it's worse than I thought.

Cost-cutting has led to collapse of most local and investigative journalism. Instead there's "churnalism": journalists sit in offices frantically rewriting press releases. Fact-checking is non-existent, some journalists blatantly make stuff up, others bribe their way into government databases ("the dark arts").

Davies mentions some instances of owners interference, but mostly he attributes the decline to simple cost-cutting: there simply isn't time for journalists to do more than serve up the PR they're given on a plate.

He talks about "electric fences" that discourage journalists and subeditors from reporting touchy subjects or powerful people. These can be either litigation or powerful lobby groups who can be mobililized into letter campaigns.

A couple of things that stuck out.

In politics, the number of government PRs didn't really go up under Labour: the system was pretty much in place. Alastair Campbell has become a hate figure, but nobody was actually forced to listen to him: mostly the journalists depend on him because they can't be bothered or don't have the time to cultivate alternative sources.

The Daily Mail often makes things up, or aggressively distorts its stories. There is a strong racial bias to its coverage: he quotes a journalist who got a phone call to turn back as he was halfway down the motorway as they'd found out the crime victim was black. But as Britain's most consistently profitable newspaper it actually has more investigative journalists left than anyone else, which allows it to shape Britain's news coverage: they generate the stories which are churned by the rest of the media.

Davies also makes an interesting point that news is increasingly dependent on press agencies, but they see it as their job simply to report on statements verbatim, without judging their accuracy. So even when they do their job, a critical step of fact-checking is missed when their accounts are sent straight out.

I expected the book to end on some kind of semi-optimistic citizen journalist note, but he doesn't seem to think there's very much hope. He likes the Centre for Public Integrity, but thinks blogs provide mostly an echo-chamber for wild rumours. He quotes a study of Google News that on one day it showed 14,000 stories on its front page, but these were actually accounts of the same 24 news events. He has a vague hope that digital newspapers may lower the cost of production so that more journalists can be afforded, but it seems pretty implausible to me.

Overall though, a fascinating and hugely important book. If you need any two books to inform you about modern British politics and media, this is one: Peter Oborne's The Triumph of the Political Class is the other.

Movies
Belately saw Let The Right One In. Swedish movie where a bullied pre-teen falls in love with a vampire. Deserves its reputation: brilliant movie combining a gritty feel with a touching romance and some brilliantly bizarre scenes. Has to be seen.

Web
Politics. Cameron tries the old it's-worse-than-we-thought ruse. Balls on immigration. Cameron must face down security lobby.

Video. Distributed, dancing flying robots. Baby sea lion's swimming lessons. Biggie Smalls vs. Thomas the Tank Engine. Lucky escapes. Alka-seltzer in water droplet in microgravity.

Science. No evidence behind TSA terrorist-body-language scheme (/.) McDonalds fries at home. Thorough debunking video of Viscount Monckton on climate change. Brain not fully developed until 20s or 30s.

Pics. Aaargh. Future fossils. When Dropbears attack. More 1900s colour photos.

Culture. Old London Lickpenny poem. Diana Wynne Jones is ill.

Economics. Study of benefits of competition in public services (PDF).

Articles. Reactance: people do what they're forbidden. Was Heinlein a Libertarian? Retroblogging: Orwell Diaries are now into WW2. Detroit's media frenzy:

The Michigan Central Depot is a hulking, bombed-out turn-of-the-century train station that’s constantly used by papers and magazines as a symbol of the city’s rot. The only problem is, aside from looking the part, it doesn’t have too much to do with any of the issues it usually gets plastered above. It’s owned by a billionaire trucking tycoon, not the bankrupt city; it was shut down back in the 80s, not because of any of the recent crap...

In addition to being a faulty visual metaphor, the train station has also been completely shot to death. For a derelict structure, it’s kind of a happening spot. Each time I passed by I saw another group of kids with camera bags scoping out the gate. When I finally ducked in to check it out for myself, I had to wait for a lady artist from Buffalo, New York, whose shtick is taking nude portraits of herself in abandoned buildings, to put her clothes back on. Afterward I was interrupted by a musician named Deity who was making a video on the roof.

< Things I learned from music lyrics. | All aboard the opera train >
Sin tastes, at the first draught, like wormwood water. But drunk again, 'tis nectar ever after. | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
The 1900s still look boring by duxup (4.00 / 1) #1 Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 01:49:34 PM EST
n/t

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I was fully prepared by ni (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:31:53 PM EST
to post complaining that the double-fry method has been well known for several decades, but upon reading the article, that's really a very significant advance in the art of french fry preparation.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
Yep by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #4 Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 03:28:20 PM EST
So two fryings, one blanching and freezing are necessary. Cunning.

Mind you, I was pretty impressed at In-N-Out burger to see them actually shoving whole, peeled potatoes into the chipping machine in the actual restaurant.
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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 ]
An acid blanching at that by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #6 Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 03:58:20 PM EST


[ Parent ]
Do you plan to attempt by ni (2.00 / 0) #8 Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:12:15 PM EST
this technique? I expect I will in the next week, although it might be worth purchasing a specific variety of potato for.


"These days it seems like sometimes dreams of Italian hyper-gonadism are all a man's got to keep him going." -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
No by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #10 Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 01:25:23 AM EST
I don't cook much myself. And there's a McDonalds just down the street.
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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 ]
Comment on DM journalism by Merekat (4.00 / 1) #3 Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 02:53:12 PM EST
 I just read their article on an escaped elephant in Zürich in which they get the following wrong:
1. Where it escaped from
2. What sex it is
3. What lake is at the end of Bahnhofstrasse (clue, probably not the one at the opposite end of the country).
4. The spelling of Zürich (ok, probably a typo)

It appears that they not only cannot research, but they cannot copy/paste or use a map.

For entertaining comparison, the Bloomberg Business News version of the story tells which banking headquarters the elephant passed.


Yeah by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #5 Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 03:29:00 PM EST
But only forrins would ever notice that kind of thing...
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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 ]
"pre-rape" by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #7 Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 07:14:04 PM EST
That sounds much like the modern tragedy of "Almost Rape," like when that creepy-looking guy got on the elevator with you, or when the ugly guy at Jessica's party asked for your phone number.

It's a fucking epidemic here in the states, I tell you.

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

Well by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #9 Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 01:24:02 AM EST
You don't see the rape itself occur. She's tricked into being left alone with the Duke, and attempts to talk her way out of being raped, then beg her way out, then struggle her way out, with increasing desperation, but the scenes ends then. So, they don't do an actual rape scene on stage.
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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 ]
Flat Earth News by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #11 Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 05:43:35 AM EST
A friend bought me it for my birthday but it looks so depressing I haven't picked it up yet. Think I should though really.

He's right about blogs, they're good for some things but not journalism. I've said before how much I dislike the "work insider" blogs (policemen, social workers, ambulencemen) - as they're anonymous it's very easy to lie or exaggerate and they always seem to have some sort of agenda, yet because they're by normal working people readers seem to have more faith in them than proper, rigorous journalism with sources.

Glad you liked Let The Right One In, it's fantastic. I love the bleak suburban cinematography, I try to do the same with my own photos.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

Death of Journalism by jimgon (2.00 / 0) #12 Tue Jun 22, 2010 at 05:46:35 PM EST
The death of journalism and almost every other evil currently hitting the post-industrial nations I blame firmly on Wall Street.   In particular the big financial houses who's sole existence is to generate profit.  In most enterprises profit is a by-product of production.  You provide an excellent good or service and you earn profit as a reward.  Wall Street exists solely for profit.  There is no product or service it provides to generate profit.  It buys stakes in companies and then forces the profit angle down their throats.  If Wall Street isn't happy with the return you provide them on their investment, then you will be punished.  The quickest way to big profits is not growth, it's cost cutting when dealing with an existing business.  Wall Street needs to be destroyed.




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Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
Sin tastes, at the first draught, like wormwood water. But drunk again, 'tis nectar ever after. | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback