Print Story Would you Adam and Eve it?
By TheophileEscargot (Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 01:44:10 PM EST) Watching, Museums, MLP (all tags)
Watching: "Another Year", "Civilization: Is the West History", "Did King David's Empire Exist"? Museums: Jan Gossaert, E.O. Hoppé, Ida Kar. Links.

What I'm Watching
Saw Mike Leigh movie Another Year on DVD. It's his usual semi-improvised kitchen-sink drama, more like people-watching than movie-watching.

This one is a bit like "Happy-go-lucky" in that the main characters are happy: this time it's a couple in late middle age called Tom and Gerri. However they are surrounded by people with various problems, in particular the twice-divorced, unhappily single Mary.

I found it pretty compelling, though the slow pace seems to have driven some people crazy. It has some cringingly funny moments and is convincingly acted. The final scene is exquisitely painful with Mary surrounded by headless forms but but isolated as the soundtrack fades to silence and she gulps down more wine. Also there's quite a lot of ambiguity there: are Tom and Gerri altruists or smug enablers?

Overall, I liked it, but it won't be everyone's cup of tea.

One thing that struck me as a bit unrealistically archaic is that Mary doesn't seem to be on I know she's supposed to be self-sabotaging, but I would have expected her to be frenetically busy updating profiles, Nudging and Winking and going on an endless series of dates; rather than to be sitting isolated at home or trying to catch the eye of strange men in pubs.

Review, review, discussion, discussion.

What I'm Watching
Saw Part 2 of the Niall Ferguson series Civilization: Is the West History? This one was a bit more convincing since the "killer app" (sigh) was Science. Was interesting to see that the Ottoman Empire initially banned printing and had to scramble to keep up. The general point that the rest of the world missed out on the scientific and technical benefits of the enlightenment seemed pretty reasonable.

However the specific example of the use of Newtonian mechanics to build accurate artillery could have done with more support: what wars or battles did these make a difference in? How does that tie in with the initial statement that the the Siege of Vienna in 1529 (much earlier) was the critical turning point? I get the feeling that he's trying to cram various "clash of civilizations" theories together that are not necessarily consistent.

Also it seems like the comparison between two dubious-selected "examples" is going to be a running feature. This time it's Frederick the Great of Prussia and the Ottoman sultan Osman III.

Now Osman might work as an example, but it's hard to see Frederick as being typical of anything. An aloof, ultra-rational devotee of the Enlightenment, he devoted himself utterly to reason and to increasing the power of Prussia.

One problem is that he was an utterly autocratic, centralizing figure who ran the whole state practically single-handed, which doesn't really fit in with Ferguson's ideas about competition and democracy being the big advantages.

Also Ferguson sneeringly compares Osman's indulgence in the harem to Frederick's apparent dedication, but mysteriously never mentions the complex issue of Frederick's sexuality. Whether he was homosexual, celibate or surgically castrated, it seems likely that his lack of time wasted with the ladies was more likely a personal issue than an expression of Western culture.

(As a teenager, Frederick fled from his literally tyrannical father with a male companion. They were caught, the father had his companion decapitated in front of young Frederick. As far as we know, Frederick never had a loving or intimate relationship ever again.)

What I'm Watching 2
It's a while since my last biblical history kick, but I did watch the BBC documentary The Bible's Buried Secrets: Did King David's Empire Exist?

This actually seemed pretty good. I thought the well-rounded scholar Francesca Stavrakopoulou went a bit far in suggesting that perhaps David never even existed, but she makes a very good case that his achievements were greatly exaggerated by bible authors with a Southern/Judean bias, while the northern king Omri was unfairly ignored.

However it was actually a rare thing in TV biblical history in that it's actually sane. Half of the shows actually take the bible far too literally, and the other half often drift off into daft fringe theories: but this one actually critically examined historical evidence.

Saw the Jan Gossaert's Renaissance exhibition at the National Gallery. Very good exhibition focusing on an allegedly-overlooked Flemish painter.

He's from an interesting period: he died in 1532, about thirty years before the Reformation clobbered most religious art and anything with a hint of eroticism, leaving us with some plump and juicy still lives, but less human interest. Jan Gossaert has a strong Italian influence: complex compositions, bright colours, good draughtsmanship.

Even with a single artist, there's a great diversity of art on display here: haunting portraits, religious works, and some nice naked ladies from Eve to Venus, who would soon disappear from art for a while.

Worth a look. £10 to get in though.

Museums 2
Also strolled up the road to the National Portrait Gallery and saw the E.O. Hoppé and Ida Kar exhibitions. Combined entry is £12 which seems a bit steep compared to Gossaert.

Ida Kar is a small exhibition of portraits of mid twentieth century artists, sculptors and writers: moderately interesting but not spectacular.

The Hoppé exhibition is great though. Has a great variety of work from portraits to nudes to British photojournalism. So they're not just good portraits but have historical interest: from Sandhurst graduates to rough sleepers and Borstal girls. Worth a look if you've got the money.

Socioeconomics. Does Anne Hathaway news drive Berkshire Hathaway stock? Does self-constraint lead to aggression? Latest DSM classes grief as depression. UK median incomes fall.

Tech. Computer Science course stops teaching object-oriented programming to freshmen since "unsuitable for a modern CS curriculum". Mobile mistakes.

Science. How the ancient natural bacterial nuclear reactors worked, via. It rains on Titan.

Politics. Scooby-Doo in The Case of the Phantom Bond Vigilante. 100 years of air strikes. Saturday's TUC cuts demo could be interesting with UK uncut aiming at surprise target and police short of volunteers after pay cuts. Security guards get police powers. Hyperinjunctions.

Video. Sheffield cycling carnage. New kutiman YouTube sound mashup My Favorite Color. Paris stills time-lapse. Eighties sax man terrorizes world. Wile E. Coyote's 127 Hours . CIA's 'Facebook' Program Dramatically Cut Agency's Costs.

Random. Banksy vs King Robbo. Monkey chain myth.

< 2011-03-20 | Just wasting my time >
Would you Adam and Eve it? | 32 comments (32 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Sax Man by duxup (4.00 / 1) #1 Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 03:21:49 PM EST
Kudos for his variety of locations.

CS & OO by brokkr (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 03:23:19 PM EST
When I took the introductory course to programming at university in 1998, we started with ... functional programming in Standard ML. I fail to be properly outraged :)
Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjalfr it sama,
ek veit einn, at aldrei deyr: dómr um dau∂an hvern.

Yep, me too. by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #3 Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 03:29:16 PM EST
Then C in the second semester. OO never got compulsory.

[ Parent ]
Yeah by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #9 Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 09:04:27 PM EST
I have to admit I was trolled by this for a second, but on reading the article I noticed it was for freshmen - ie first-years. And it is a bit much to lay on people in their first year of programming. Data structures, functions and loops ... sounds like they have priorities straight. So long as computing majors get OO in some form later they will still be useful.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
I am confused. by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #16 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 09:21:28 AM EST
I was "taught" modular programming in an EE class in one lecture. The point was pretty much "here's how you write an assembler program that you can eventually debug". I had to teach myself OO by eventually deciding that my "write fortran in a python program" wasn't working. Finally understanding OO and rewriting it suddenly cut debugging time by a couple orders of magnitude (although I have to suspect debugging time of the original code might have been infinity).

What confuses me is that what I understand OO to be good at is maintaining data structures. My failed program tried to do everything at once and maintain multiple data structures in an asynchronous environment. Using OO allowed me to create objects that simply maintained their own data structures.

Why do I get the feeling that this entire thing was a political battle between "teaching math based CS" and "teaching java codemonkeys". It seems likely that any course touching OO would be forced by present politics to turn into "fighting java" (or Claude Shannon help you, C++). I have trouble believing that teaching code structures in LISP or something is really the way to go. Maybe teaching OO is assumed to take up too much of the course (this seems laughable considering how critical things like my modular programming get touched in passing, if it isn't on the exam they need not tell you three times), but I doubt that teaching python, OO, and data structures in OO python would be any harder (assuming they could already program in one language) than data structures in LISP or ML.

Best guess is that the industry has driven down programmer wages enough and wants to be able to hire geeks based on a BSCS degree.


[ Parent ]
Learning by bobdole (4.00 / 1) #24 Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 02:46:56 AM EST
good programming skills (algorithms, problem solving and data structures) does not necessitate having to understand an object oriented paradigm.
As such I find that introducing OO too early just confuses the message.

If you want to make programming your trade, you'll need to understand OO, but to understand a modesty of programming it is better to have a grasp of the algorithmic thought process and a modest grasp of the generic data structures and algorithms out there rather than to be able to cite the current SunOracle Java API by heart.

If you know your single/double-linked lists, hash maps and enough to recognize the contours of a NP problem - then OO should be a matter of a little reading and away you go.

-- The revolution will not be televised.

[ Parent ]
my point was by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #27 Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 10:48:07 AM EST
putting the "little reading and away you go" first makes it a lot easier to implement single/double linked lists, etc. It seems that whoever decided on this was intentionally throwing the baby out along with the full JAVATM API.


[ Parent ]
My disagreement is mostly superficial by bobdole (4.00 / 2) #28 Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 10:56:41 AM EST
but related to the point that it's hard to teach sorting-algorithms when all the students have figured out that they can solve the homework quickly by mylist.sort() rather than implementing what they are supposed to.

Even if they have a modesty of self-discipline and force themselves through implementation of the prescribed sort - seeing your performance against the library performance doesn't really do wonders for motivation.

However, learning how to implement a sort (or how not to) is still important - even though there is always someone better/faster/more efficient out there.
-- The revolution will not be televised.

[ Parent ]
What bob said by Scrymarch (4.00 / 2) #25 Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 02:55:56 AM EST
The thing is, OO is mainly useful for programming in the large. Dealing with a large corpus of existing libraries, extending an existing program to deal with new circumstances or new implementations. It's not so compelling for teaching loops or sorting, though there are some nice abstractions possible there too.

So if you focus on the small scale design in first year, you then can build on that in later years, and the students can find the limitations of writing everything in one giant function, much like you did.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
It was a starter class for me by MartiniPhilosopher (4.00 / 1) #18 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 01:38:18 PM EST
And I'm a bit frustrated by the idea that kids who are truly interested in programming need to have their hands held through that sort of thing. Granted, this was one of many wash-out classes that schools throw at kids, but if you don't start with good design/design ideas from the start it makes it harder to think and work in such circles later.

Whenever I hear one of those aforementioned douche bags pontificate about how dangerous [...] videogames are I get a little stabby. --Wil Wheaton.

[ Parent ]
Er, and? by brokkr (4.00 / 1) #22 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 03:53:52 PM EST
Learning functional programming doesn't prevent you from making solid designs afterwards.

We score knowledge of functional programming highly when we interview developers. I wish I had more colleagues who knew how to use a folding function.
Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjalfr it sama,
ek veit einn, at aldrei deyr: dómr um dau∂an hvern.

[ Parent ]
Tricky... by ana (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 03:46:31 PM EST
Grief and depression feel very much alike.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

Short, manageable bouts of both are normal. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #10 Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 11:34:20 PM EST
I didn't read TFA, so that my blood pressure would remain in bounds.

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

[ Parent ]
The bike video is great by kwsNI (4.00 / 1) #5 Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 04:24:15 PM EST
I love the people standing at the bottom of the curve that get hit offer and over. 

Depression by nebbish (4.00 / 3) #6 Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 05:27:11 PM EST
I frequently go through unhappy phases, however I don't class them as depression because they always have an identifiable, external cause. Either I deal with the external cause or live with it, depending on the circumstances; but I wouldn't look into myself or try medication, because it would be a back to front way of dealing with it that ignores the cause.

Grief isn't quite like that because it's not something you can remove fromn your life, however it does strike me as normal and not something you can necessarily escape - or maybe even want to escape. Having said that, I've never experienced serious grief - though it is something I dread.

It's political correctness gone mad!

Seems to me by ucblockhead (4.00 / 5) #8 Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 08:49:50 PM EST
That not feeling depressed when a loved one dies should be considered a mental problem.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
There is probably a desire by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #11 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 04:41:11 AM EST
To medicate yourself out of the anguish though

It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Biblical History by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #7 Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 07:26:16 PM EST
I rather like The Naked Archaeologist for Biblical history.   It does have the drawback of trying to prove Biblical accuracy, but otherwise is fine.

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
(Comment Deleted) by mellow teletubby (4.00 / 1) #12 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 06:37:37 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by mellow teletubby

Nelson by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #13 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:30:17 AM EST
Hardly limited himself to men. Not sure how into art he was either.

I'm not surprised Fritz was a bit nuts with all that rococco on the ceiling of his palace though. About as relaxing as being repeatedly kicked in the head.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by mellow teletubby (4.00 / 1) #14 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:43:37 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by mellow teletubby

[ Parent ]
Smug enablers by tuscoops (4.00 / 1) #15 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 07:48:58 AM EST
I watched "Another Year" last night after reading your diary. I'd have to say they were smug enablers, if only because the first scene itself bears no meaning otherwise, but reinforces this when the lady leaves the room and Gerri lets out an exasperated sigh ("Caring" about people is tough work, just ask the occupational therapist later on). And the fact that a therapist who is friends with someone for 20 years who so openly displays mental issues and never suggests therapy until after they have gotten a new "diversion" (Tom's brother Ronnie). Also, because an altruist wouldn't be rolling their eyes behind a person's back, such as when Joe and Katie arrived the last time for dinner and they were "warned" about Mary's presence.

That's what I thought by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #19 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 02:03:51 PM EST
Though only to a degree. Some people seem to have complained that they were too nice or too perfect though.
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 ]
Too nice by tuscoops (4.00 / 1) #20 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 02:23:53 PM EST
I don't think I can recall a single scene in which Tom and Gerri were alone. Even when they were in bed, they were talking about other people. I suppose as being involved and engaging with other people, they could be judged as being too nice or too perfect, but what was behind their inability to reflect upon themselves or each other? Something seemed off. Also, it just didn't ring authentically "kind" to me to allow a friend to destroy their life over the course of 20 years and never once offer more than an excessive amount of alcohol, dinner, and a place to sleep. And to say they were non-judgmental was ruled out the moment they spoke bad about Mary behind her back, so they were fully aware of her issues all along. Or to enable their friend Ken to do similarly. But perhaps I'm being too harsh, since given Gerri's profession as a therapist I am apt to consider the fact that she had to have known better. At best, I'd consider them to be noble, ineffective busybodies, because I think Mary, at least, would've been better off if she didn't have their relationship to fall back on. One can only wonder what happened to Ronnie after awhile longer in their company.

[ Parent ]
Also was interesting by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #21 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 03:51:51 PM EST
That the son went for months without mentioning his girlfriend, like he's trying to keep them from meddling in his life.

Been thinking about the first scene as well. It was a nice bit of misdirection since that actress was the protagonist in Vera Drake. But one of the review pointed out that it means the movie both starts and ends with the shot of the face of a profoundly unhappy woman.
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 ]
Yeah by tuscoops (4.00 / 1) #23 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 04:46:06 PM EST
I agree with those sentiments, but one thing worth noting is that, despite the fact that I wouldn't call Tom and Gerri nice, I would call them happy. I think that's somewhat the message, that other people's happiness can make other people unhappy and vice versa, at least when you're inclined to compare yourself to others (which seemed to be the running theme of the film in that Mary compared herself to Ken, etc.).

[ Parent ]
wow, that DSM thing really pisses me off. by tierrasimbolica (4.00 / 2) #17 Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 01:35:39 PM EST

grief is not an illness.

Denying that emotions are illnesses by Herring (4.00 / 2) #26 Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 06:28:15 AM EST
is an illness. It's called Pharmashrinkoscepticism and is affecting an increasingly large proportion of the population. Fortunately there's a treatment, but it's very expensive.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
Another Year by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 1) #29 Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 08:19:12 PM EST
I watched Another Year in November and failed to post a diary about it because I was puzzled by it. It was good to be reminded of it. Were there supposed to be two discussions? Both links go to the same place. I found another review.

I gave up drinking alcohol in 1988 when I got involved with a Buddhist group, the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order. I've been T-total ever since. Consequently the high level of alcohol consumption in Another Year really leapt out at me. It was also quite distancing; these people were living lives very different from my own. On the other hand, visiting my brother in London and observing his friends, the film did seem realistic. I've grasped that I'm the odd one out.

This did set me pondering on how the film might be viewed by some-one from a different culture that was not as hard drinking. Such a viewer might think it was intended as an anti-alcohol film, with its depiction of lives blighted by booze. My guess is that this was not Mike Leigh's intention. Rather I guess that the level of drinking in the film is quite normal in the circles in which Mr. Leigh moves and he would be surprised by a temperance-propaganda reading of his film.

If alcohol was a striking presence, ideas of personal growth and self-awareness were a striking absence. The real world seems awash with New Age psycho-babble, yet Mike Leigh's characters have somehow managed to completely avoid it. It I were to attempt a 5 min reduction of the film I would make the characters vampires so that they could stand in front of mirrors without reflecting. This could briefly symbolise the lack of psychological self-reflection by Mary and Ken.

There is something wrong about the previous paragraph. Gerri is a counselor, working on the NHS within a general practice. So psychotherapy is present in the movie. Perhaps I can explain myself by using an analogy with skiing and broken legs. If you don't want to break your leg, you get skiing lessons and adjust your bindings. If you do break your leg, you get an X-ray and a plaster cast. Gerri was at the X-ray and plaster cast end of the psychotherapy business. The skiing lessons and adjusting your bindings end of the psychotherapy business was absent from the film.

Perhaps I'm once again the odd one out. Perhaps it is just the circles that I move in that lead me to expect people to make a deliberate effort at personal growth.

One final example of me being the odd one out. In the film Tom is a civil engineer. The other characters mock his profession saying that he merely digs holes in the ground. He is actually working on a major tunneling project. The flood relief tunnel is big enough to drive a double decker bus through it. How deep will the tunnel be? How will it be lined? Will the tunnel be driven by one of those huge tunneling machines? They are spectacular pieces of machinery. I would have loved the film to have included a 15 minute tour of a tunneling machine. In the film Tom accepts the verdict of his friends that he has a boring job making holes in the ground.

I could not work out Mike Leigh's attitude to Tom's tunnel. Why is the lunch at which he his mocked in the film? What I took away was the idea that the characters are bored and unhappy because they are resistant to wonder. Here is a marvelous engineering project, which would have had the Victorians in rapture about the progress of civilization. The characters don't want to know.

Another Year by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #30 Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 02:06:09 AM EST
First link should have gone here.

I think the tunnel is the London Super-Sewer, but they still haven't started building it. I thought that Tom was enthusiastic about his job but accepted he was going to get gently mocked about it.
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 ]
Yes, Tom is privately enthuiastic by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 1) #31 Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 07:02:57 AM EST
> I thought that Tom was enthusiastic about his job but accepted he was going to get gently mocked about it.

Yes, that's it. I was getting tired and over-simplified. Tom attempts to explain his project. When the others shut him down with gently mockery, he smiles wryly and shuts up.

So there are two kinds of acceptance at issue. First is whether he accepts that they are not interested. He does. Second kind of acceptance is conformity. Does he take the group consensus to heart and accept that his work is unworthy of his enthusiasm? He does not. He remains privately enthusiastic and keeps his own counsel.

But I think I see a third kind of acceptance.

Ken and Mary are unhappy because they are unfortunate. But they also lead narrow lives with all their eggs in one basket. When the main area of their lives (intimate relationships) works out badly, it turns out to be all the life they have and there is nothing left for them to do but drink to kill the pain.

I see the gentle mockery of Tom's holes in the ground as an instance of Crab Mentality. I try to push back against my own tendency to Crab Mentality with Mudita Bhavana. The third kind of acceptance is accepting Crab Mentality in place of Mudita.

Could the film have been different. How much of the acceptance of Crab Mentality in place of Mudita is forced by the setup? Perhaps, in a more dramatic drama, Tom could have resented the other characters' negativity leading to a row, a drunken row.

Perhaps Tom could have tried to explain to the other characters that their emotional negativity is self-limiting. That kind of thing never works. It fails especially hard when people use alcohol to bog down emotionally. The self-justifications comes glib and fast and unreflective. For the film to go down this path would have required a jarring abandonment of naturalism.

[ Parent ]
Tom's tunnel by tuscoops (4.00 / 2) #32 Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 09:06:49 AM EST
I believe this was an analogous metaphor with Gerri's work and the state of those who were unhappy. Basically, Gerri digs holes into people's psyches in order to examine what may be causing them issues. Mary and Ken had holes dug into them through loss, but they never examined what was in those holes and they never tried to dig deeper to find any lingering problems. Instead, they filled those holes with booze, which when drunk enough, made those problems in the holes float to the surface. But instead of fixing those problems, they'd sleep it off and the problems would fall back to the bottom of the holes. And since they held onto these holes without fixing them, Mary and Ken lost their structural integrity.

[ Parent ]
Would you Adam and Eve it? | 32 comments (32 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback