Print Story Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Sat Jan 01, 2011 at 07:09:54 AM EST) Reading, Watching, Me, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "The Master and Margarita", "Shooting History", "Everybody Dead by Teatime". Watching: "Tron Legacy", "Surrogates", "Megamind", "Scott Pilgrim". Me. Web.


What I'm Reading
Finished The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Highly regarded satire set in Stalin-era Moscow: the devil comes to town and causes much slapstick havoc in a place where no-one believes in him. One of the characters is a novelist who has written a book about Pontius Pilate: chapters from that give an alternate account of the execution of Jesus. Pilate is treated quite sympathetically: his position as a man trapped by a vast system into acting inhumanely seems to be a metaphor for life under Communism.

However, while it's moderately entertaining and the Pilate passages interesting, I didn't enjoy the book that much. There's a lot of discussion over which translation is best: I might have found one of the other versions better. Physical comedy needs a pretty light and deft touch to work in print, and the fairly plodding and literal translation here doesn't really appeal.

Overall, hard to recommend this translation, but others might be better: there are certainly a lot of creative touches.

What I'm Reading 2
Shooting History is the autobiography of TV journalist Jon Snow. Pretty interesting as an account of the early days of TV journalism as the author jetted around covering various conflicts. Has some rudimentary geopolitical analysis, but the anecdotes are more of a highlight.

What I'm Reading 3
Read Everyone Dead by Teatime, book, spin-off of the Daily Mash satire website. Bit disappointed. Usually the deal with web tie-ins is that you get a few pages of bonus content at least, but this was pretty much a straightforward printout of the web content. Still, fairly funny even when not topical, worth keeping around to flick through.

What I'm Watching
Saw Tron Legacy at the cinema. About what I expected: fairly nice visuals, somewhat leaden and portentous plot. Wasn't actually that blown away by the effects though: certainly not as astonishing as the original Tron or the dense, layered, textured 3D of Avatar. Young Jeff Bridges was OK, but not that different to Avatar or even Beowulf.

What I'm Watching 2
Saw Surrogates on DVD. Adequate SF thriller with a daft but interesting premise, set in a future where everyone stays at home and sends out good-looking and athletic telepresence robots out to interact instead. Not sure why they don't just use virtual reality, but could see some kind of path-dependence behind it: early adopters would have a whole world of people to meet and things to do, and others could follow.

The big problems are first that the plot is utterly predictable, and the trailer gave even that away, assuring you that everything would follow that predictable path. Bruce Willis' wig is pretty amusing though.

What I'm Watching 3
Saw Megamind 3D at the cinema with my nephews. Decent cartoon about a supervillain with a heart of gold who gets bored and restless after defeating the local superhero. Seemed to keep them entertained and works OK for adults too.

What I'm Watching 4
Saw Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on TV. Should have been entertaining with the usual on-screen graphics and some creative effects in the fight scenes. However, couldn't get over two major irritant values: Michael Cera as the obnoxiously limp main character, and the general whining of people with no real problems. Would have switched off if I'd been alone but relatives had paid 3.99 for it on Sky Box Office so had to suffer through the whole thing.

Me: Xmas
After Venice had a couple of days in London, then went back to spend Xmas with the parents. My sister brought her kids (5 and 7-year-old boys) and husband along. Pretty tiring to deal with them, but Christmas is for kids of course and they seemed to enjoy it. They got absolutely vast mountains of presents and there are even more waiting for them at home apparently. Days later the clear winners seemed to be: two free robots-inside-other-robots from a trip to Burger King, and my disabled father's Grabber for picking things up off the floor if you can't bend down.

Pretty pleased with my own present haul: for once I mostly got either stuff off my wishlist or things to be eaten or drunk as requested: didn't get lumbered with much space-hogging junk. My gifts seemed to go down OK, though the kids' toys were pretty much buried in the vastness.

Web
Socioeconomics. Pollution haven effect small. Americans less religious than they claim. The Smiley Curve: Asia doing less well than we think?

Articles. Review considers Bush 43 memoir postmodernist, (previous). London's 18th, 19th century girl gangs.

Pics. Smiling Victorians.

Video. Plinkett reviews Revenge of the Sith, very long, (via). Blackberry not working.

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Washed his hands and sealed his fate | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Master and Margarita... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Jan 01, 2011 at 01:02:35 PM EST
in my experience, best appreciated by extended discussion with a young pretty Russian girl who is enthusiastic about it... 

Smiley curve is interesting, certainly assembly vs origin takes a lot of shine off UK export figures, I seem to recall. China certainly gains less than Japan out of Apple manufacturing - and probably the whole high tech sector. Low tech is where China does better, but there's not as much money there.

Long term the question of course is will the ends of the smile move geographically? Certainly some parts manufacturing is moving from Japan and Germany to China - all the more so outside of electronics into more physical goods.

Finally of course, the iPhone is the canonical "value add in the design/marketing" object. I wonder what the smile looks like for Lenovo laptops? Intel obviously gets a good portion of the money, but still, maybe a Mona Lisa smile rather than smiley at work.


Really liked the smiley curve article by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #3 Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 05:57:11 AM EST
Never realised trade deficit figures were quite so removed from reality. I wonder if it is one of those metrics that is too institutionally useful to reform, despite their known massive inaccuracies, like Neilsen ratings. The other thing would be whether trade figures are utterly meaningless or you can get useful information out of trends over time, ie the rates of change.

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[ Parent ]
AFAIK... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 12:55:32 PM EST
the big advantage of the current trade figures is that they are really easier to collate, the figures come straight from "Customs and Excise." It's even worse than it appears, though, as beyond this article there's a whole question of transfer pricing inside corporations (trade inside large corporations is a pretty substantial, I forget the figure, but IIRC the estimate is that 25% of world trade actually occurs inside multinational corporations) - problem with transfer pricing of course is that the prices are set for corporate reasons (tax advantages or internal market) and they distort the trade deficit figures that way... 

[ Parent ]
Red Letter Media by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Jan 01, 2011 at 01:55:08 PM EST
I wonder why he hasn't posted the new review to YouTube yet. Can't watch it until he does.

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

Tron Legacy by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #5 Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 06:00:23 PM EST
The design was ugly and uninspired, and all else followed. A shame really, but I don't know why I expected better.

I managed to avoid tat this Christmas, though the really difficult thing was avoiding my default present of books. I'm moving soon and getting rid of all my books as they take up a ridiculous amount of space. Got just three books - and a Kindle, which I'll review at some point.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

Washed his hands and sealed his fate | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback