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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 10:26:54 AM EST) Reading, Me, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "Infinite Jest". Xmas. Web.


What I'm Reading
Finally finished Infinite Jest, thousand-page cult novel from David Foster Wallace, published 1997. Loosely themed around the subject of addiction, it has multiple points of view, partly set in a dingy Boston halfway house for addicts, partly set in an elite tennis academy at the top of the hill. There are links between them, but not much overarching plot, and the loose ends remain resolutely untied by the end. Large parts of it are written in a stream of consciousness style: found that a bit tiresome at first, but got more into it after the first three hundred pages.

The weakest element is some vaguely science-fictional satire: in the near future the years are commercially sponsored, so it's mostly set in the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment and the Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar. Like most late Nineties satire it's weakened by the fact that in retrospect those jammy bastards didn't have much to whine about. It's hard to sympathize with the whole Adbusters/Commercialization thing these days: "Oh dearie me, did your thriving, peaceful global economy deluge you with too much non-tracking non-spying advertising for all the products you could afford to buy? What a fucking pity."

The stronger elements are the grippingly detailed depictions of character and place: reminded me of John Updike in the depth of knowledge and research.

Overall, fairly rewarding book despite the length. Don't start it unless you have time to spare though.

Christmas
Went home for the holidays as usual. Girl B is also visiting her mother in Germany, won't be back for a while. My Dad's health problems seem fairly stable at the moment, though the biggest problem is a progressive one which will only get worse in the long term, he seems to be recovering OK from the knee replacement.

Got an embarrassingly large set of presents this year, mostly books and DVDs from my Amazon wishlist. In retrospect, don't think I gave away enough to match. The problem is my wishlist gives me a tactical disadvantage against the people who won't say what kind of thing they want: it's not the money, it's the time and effort trying to think of something.

Web
Articles. Future for Classics? Russia. Pedestrian traffic flow. Sunday Times buries wind farm survey after getting unwanted results.

Pics. Johannes Voss concept art. Empty London.

News. Another part-privatization NHS change sneaked in during holiday news lull. Followup: Life sentence for murderer of transsexual lawyer.

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Let her paint an inch thick | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
I plowed through IJ when it was first printed by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #1 Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 10:58:40 AM EST
and thought it was pretty good, but whenever I think about rereading it, I figure there are far better books to spend my time on.


Nice to see the Economist... by Metatone (2.00 / 0) #2 Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 11:10:01 AM EST
catching up with the state of the art of 2005 in pedestrian modelling...

The NHS stuff is the most depressing feature of our democracy... here is an action utterly out of line with the manifesto promises and there's no real notice, let alone holding them to account.

I guess we shouldn't expect any honour from the Sunday Times... <shrug>





I have a mea culpa. by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #3 Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 11:56:57 AM EST
I was pretty sanguine on the overall effects of the NHS changes. I was wrong.

There's certainly an awful lot of activity in NHS trusts that just isn't being properly accounted for and monitored, as well as services that aren't as responsive to clinical needs (or patient wants), and a faster and more varied commissioning cycle would almost certainly help with that, both of which would be helped by an expansion of patient choice.

But on reflection, the framework of recommissioning services by PCTs was all put in place by the Labour government, and was improving service delivery (both in terms of what I've seen as a patient, where I've worked) where it happened. Left to itself, it would have made the health service as responsive as these changes promise, and with a fair amount of the work going to private organisations, which, I guess was something that was desired.

As it is, I do feel the proposed changes will do the job of removing the power of the NHS as an organisation.

Politicians by Herring (2.00 / 0) #8 Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 10:49:01 AM EST
Given the situation with PCT commissioning, then a low cost, sensible option would be to look at specific problems and fix those.

But no, every fucking time with every fucking thing the politicians have to completely rip it apart and put something new in which will then take years to settle in and cost a fortune.

I think it's another example of "managementism" or whatever you call it. For managers in a private company a total re-org is far easier than understanding the specific problems and fixing them.

And don't start me on "patient choice"...

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
NHS Changes by jump the ladder (2.00 / 0) #4 Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 12:20:37 PM EST
Reading the beeb article, it still has to get passed by parliament. I bet it's one of those political games where they announce something totally horrendous then "compromise" on say 25% which was the original aim.

(Comment Deleted) by nathan (2.00 / 0) #5 Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 06:21:19 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by nathan



I don't think that Sponsored Time is satire by nathan (4.00 / 1) #6 Tue Dec 27, 2011 at 06:23:11 PM EST
I think it's a device to make the reader feel unmoored and baffled and to improve the reading experience. For instance, it would be super lame if the reader could immediately tell that first scene was obviously the chronologically last scene, because that would make it too clear what exactly had happened to Hal and when. spoiler Since you don't immediately grasp the temporal relationships of the events, you kind of float through the first few hundred pages until the world's conceits and devices (ONAN, Sponsored Time, spontaneous-dissem cartridges, annular fusion) become real to you, rather than remaining at a gimmicky, science-fictiony remove.

TBH, I don't think DFW was all that concerned about commercialism as such. He was more concerned with the alienating effects of being bathed in media. [44-page PDF.] The commercial aspects of the media environment were a secondary concern - an efficient cause of anomie, not its final cause. There isn't a whole lot of anti-commercialism in IJ. ONAN looms much larger than any corporation, and poverty comes more from political dysfunction and exploitation than TEH EVIL CORPRORATIONZORS.

[ Parent ]
Mary Beard by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #7 Wed Dec 28, 2011 at 07:10:42 PM EST
... spends a lot of time in that article saying she won't define the classics, but then has a rather good one

"To put this as crisply as I can, the study of the classics is the study of what happens in the gap between antiquity and ourselves. "

There is an extra layer of friction for English speakers. It's surprising in a way that "mass" classical education lasted as long as it did. I know roots are valuable, but it's got to be easier for eg a Hindi speaker to learn Sanskrit. And modern Indian, Chinese and Greek primary schooling still includes antique elements (if not always classical).

Iambic Web Certified

Don't start it unless you have time to spare thoug by dev trash (2.00 / 0) #9 Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 06:48:46 PM EST
Ha!  I;m a Stephen King fan.  1100 pages?  I laugh!

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I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR BALLS! ->clock
Let her paint an inch thick | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback