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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 07:36:47 AM EST) Reading, Theatre, Shaving, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "Kraken". Shaving. Theatre: "Terminus". Links.


What I'm Reading
Finished Kraken by China Mieville. The theft of a giant squid specimen from a museum leads a young researcher into the murky magical underworld of London.

Liked it a lot: it's hugely imaginative with a plethora of grotesque characters. Maybe gets a tiny bit overpowering as the characters constantly rush around without achieving much.

Lots of great creative touches like the Knuckleheads with literal fists where their heads should be, an iPod with a friendly familiar spirit which has to be fed with the right music, a gang boss trapped in a tattoo.

Reminded me a bit of Tim Power's classic "The Anubis Gates". Well worth reading.

Shaving
Have tried a few more experiments with shaving since my last diary, without particularly great results.

Tried a genuine badger-hair brush, which costs £16.80. It did say "small" but was tinier than I expected:

On the left-side/right-side test though, it neither lathers any quicker, nor shaves any closer than my much cheaper synthetic brush. The size might be hampering it a bit, but I don't really think so: my face isn't particularly huge. Feels slightly different, but not noticeably softer: more bristly if anything. So on this basis, I'd say it's probably not worth killing a badger for, unless you're really keen on carbon-neutrality.

Also bought the popular Merkur 34C Heavy Duty Double Edge Safety Razor for £31.90. Was a bit disappointed at first: on testing, it's not the slightest bit closer than a cheap £4 Boots Own Brand, though it's no worse.

After a couple of weeks of use, it does seem slightly less likely to inflict shaving cuts though. Possibly the huge comb guides it better, possibly the increased mass makes it less likely to skitter over the face. The handle's a bit smaller than most, though that doesn't bother me.

Overall, any superiority over much cheaper razors seems to be pretty marginal. I have started using this for both the with-grain and against-grain parts of my daily shaving routine though.

Theatre
Went to see Terminus at the Young Vic. Concept is a bit unusual: in partly-rhyming verse, three performers tell interlocking stories through soliloquies, starting realistically but venturing into fantastical territory later, featuring serial killings, deals with the Devil, souls escaped from Hell with improvised bodies made from assemblies of worms.

I really liked it. It's fantastically intense, with no interval and little cliffhangers as the stories break off from each other. The words are great, mixing great drama and earthy humour with occasional Ogden Nash-ish rhymes. Great performances too from all three in the cast. Olwen Fouér's description of a fight where she gouges out her opponents eyes is brilliantly harrowing.

Overall: funny, intense, original. Fantastic play. Well worth seeing if you like theatre.

Might be a bit too heavy for some though. Evening Standard, Londonist ("Like a Mack truck commandeered by Germaine Greer"), Art's Desk, Guardian reviews. Interview.

Web
Socioeconomics. Model suggests when financial sector gets big enough to harm growth. Harvard Business Review: "Big Content" Is Strangling American Innovation

Politics. Poll of how we'd vote under AV: Labour down, Lib Dems up, Tories same. (Wouldn't take too literally, I think AV will mainly hurt the leading party which happens to be Labour right now.) Does Obama owe Bush an apology for all the nasty things he said about Guantanamo? Powerpoint doc of Campaign to make abortion illegal in UK. Monbiot on anti-nuclear lobby again.

Random. Indian Dalits hail Goddess of English, video. Why our tax year starts April 6th. Ship's Captain's Medical Guide, via. Ancient stone Tsunami warnings helped Japanese. Ends of the world by year, via.

Science. Huge gamma ray burst, possibly star falling into galactic-centre black hole. Falcon heavy rocket to carry biggest payload since Saturn V. Odd results could suggest new particle, via.

Video. Behind the Byes: Tails, Sonic's Shadow. A sock and a sock and a shoe and a shoe (apparently a cliché to Americans, new to me). Bach ball ad.

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By men and angels to be seen | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Guantanamo Bay by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 07:55:03 AM EST
Wasn't its closure blocked by Congress? Aside from declaring a dictatorship, I don't really see what Obama could have done.

Glad to hear the Kraken is good. I read Perdido Street Station a couple of years ago and was completely blown away by it. However, a friend reckons that's his only good book and has really put me off trying any others. She didn't like the Krakan much. I trust your taste though :)

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It's political correctness gone mad!

The Op/Ed even mentions that by lm (4.00 / 2) #2 Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 08:16:15 AM EST
I'm not certain if the author is trying to suggest that being blocked in an action by Congress means that Obama is morally wrong and should apologize, but if not, I'm not quite certain what the actual argument being presented is. Perhaps a form of consequentialism is the underlying assumption. Obamas attempts to close GitMo have failed, therefore, he ought not to have tried to close GitMo and should apologize to the people he condemned for having opened GitMo.

If so, criticisms of consequentialism aside, that argument would conflate creating the situation in the first place with an inability to close it down. It's one thing to use military tribunals to try the remaining captives because there are no other options left on the table and another thing entirely to have created the whole system in an effort to sidestep conventional modes of dealing with prisoners of war.

Not that I give Obama high marks for handling this, mind you.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
On civil liberties he's almost as bad as Bush by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #3 Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 08:34:31 AM EST
Then there's Libya. If the Republicans had any chance of putting forward a sane candidate... But they don't. So I'll probably vote for Obama as the lesser of two evils.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
Do what I did by kwsNI (4.00 / 1) #5 Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 08:55:05 AM EST
Don't vote for president.  Just as ineffective though.  Really couldn't bring myself to vote for either candidate. 

I like some of the ideas that Ron Paul's putting out, but that family is completely insane at best.  They don't stand a snowball's chance of being elected and even if they did I think it'd be a very contentious 4-years of executive/legislative bickering (with both parties) that wouldn't accomplish much. 

[ Parent ]
I don't know that he's 'almost as bad' by lm (4.00 / 1) #6 Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 09:31:39 AM EST
As philosophical pragmatist, his administration's actions often end up being indistinguishable from those the Bush administration would have chosen to take. The key word there is 'often.' I think to get to 'almost as bad', you have to be able to replace that with 'almost aways' or, at the very least, 'more often than not.' While I recognize that an argument can be made to make those replacements, I don't find such arguments particularly convincing.

And, to be fair, I don't of many candidates in 2008 from any party that would have been significantly different on the question once in office. Kucinich and Paul come to mind. But they're rather exceptional in that.

Ken Burns was Morning Joe this week. He pointed out that the difference between "extreme" left and "extreme" right in the US is actually very narrow relative to most of the world. (I think he actually said between Barney Frank and Paul Ryan, but I may be misremembering the names he through out.) Most discourse in the US uses a tremendous amount of rhetoric in attempt to vividly highlight distinctions that are actually quite subtle.

In the end, I think the question of the presidency boils down to a question of competence in managing large bureaucracies. Bush proved himself quite bad at this. Obama has yet to prove anything beyond being marginally adequate at best. But, on that level, we're just getting to the point where the policies of the Obama administration are starting to show their consequences. A nation as large as the US doesn't turn on a dime.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Mieville by Merekat (4.00 / 1) #7 Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 09:48:34 AM EST
Didn't like the Scar or the Iron Council as much but enjoyed the short story collection, the earlier King Rat and I adore The City & The City.

[ Parent ]
The City and the City by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #9 Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 11:32:11 AM EST
That's another one I've wanted to try. So it's between that and the Kraken then.

King Rat sounds interesting, but it also sounds like it's dated quite badly. But from what a friend has said (and this might appeal to Theo Esc!) the evil Cockney warlock chracter in The Mighty Boosh may well be based on one of the characters in the book. That alone makes it worth reading!

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Haven't read King Rat by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #14 Sat Apr 09, 2011 at 05:11:46 AM EST
"Kraken" seemed quite similar to "Perdido Street Station", more like it than "The City and the City" anyway.
--
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 ]
Scar by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #18 Sat Apr 09, 2011 at 08:50:13 PM EST
I loved Scar.  I liked The City and the City.  I did not care for The Iron Council.  (Though it had its moments.)
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
oh sure. by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #12 Sat Apr 09, 2011 at 12:12:54 AM EST
He can pick and chose what he'd gonna protect from the Constitution.  Like say invading another country without getting Congressional approval?


--
I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR BALLS! ->clock
[ Parent ]
I don't try to understand US politics anymore by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 3) #15 Sat Apr 09, 2011 at 06:19:13 AM EST
It is all tainted by pure tribalism.

The Republicans will invariably say nonsense about Obama, all what varies is the level of vitriol, often things that are demonstrable lies (as they did with John Kerry), or using such a poor level of argumentation (the discussions about the reform of health care for example) that would make any sensible person hang his head in embarrasment, as for the nastier elements, well, it is not worth mentioning what they say about the first Black President of the US.

I can't say much about the Democrats because I am sure I am trapped in their group think, most of what they say makes sense to me, but I can substract myself enough from the situation to see that Obama is completely owned by big corps up down and centre (all his economic, fiscal and financial team his comprised by Wall Street heavies for example), reason for which most of his program of government goes nowhere fast when it comes to help the regular Joe and Jane on the street (but at the very least he has some residual intent on this regards, Bush didn't even try).

Maybe that is the most important lesson to us, looking in terrified amuzement from abroad: democracy is a pipe dream that will devolve into unquestioning alignment with popular groupings, which nowadays don't even have a base cemented in specific political or social aims (the last UK Labour government being a shinny nauseating example of this) and that are led by the shameless and the greedy.

Most likely Churchill was right, and that is the best we can do to organize ourselves without aiming weapons at each other, the thought is mildly depressive, because it seems like in the last 20 years the whole thing has being hijacked by priviledged people (and how could it be otherwise? Who can make a living of politics only?).

In the US you can't be a poltician at national level if you are not personally wealthy. No person receiving an ordinary salary could possibly hope to cover the necessary expenses of rasing to a position of political influence, and in any case, rich people have always first access to the people already there, so they influence the process and their children do the internships in the corridors of power that will inititate long political careers.

The whole concept of democracy is evolving in a nauseating party of the rich leading and serving the Kool-Aid of "panem et circenses" to an increasingly disengaged public that does not mind to be constantly shafted as long as the panis is enough and the circenses is in 3D...

[ Parent ]
Wealth by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #19 Sat Apr 09, 2011 at 08:54:23 PM EST
Not really true.  Very few US elections include significant self-funding from the candidate.  Politicians in the US succeed by getting other people to donate the money to pay for their campaigns.

For instance, Obama didn't spend a cent of his own money, as far as I know.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
i think being wealthy by garlic (2.00 / 0) #23 Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 02:21:04 PM EST
gets you the contacts so that you can get the big donations. It is true that very few national politicians are not wealthy.


[ Parent ]
Depends by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #24 Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 04:18:52 PM EST
It depends if you are a career politician, like Clinton or Obama, or someone who entered politics late in life, like Bush.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
He's commander in chief by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #17 Sat Apr 09, 2011 at 08:48:47 PM EST
He can, in theory, give direct orders down the chain of command.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Not that simple. See: BRAC by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #22 Mon Apr 11, 2011 at 10:13:57 AM EST

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

[ Parent ]
Monbiot. by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #4 Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 08:37:48 AM EST
It's been interesting to watch others on the left come around on nuclear power. In the US the former head of Greenpeace has written op-eds supporting nuclear power.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Razor fight by Herring (4.00 / 2) #8 Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 10:27:40 AM EST
I was thinking of a traditional type razor as doing my legs with the 19 blade Gillette Fuckstorm could prove expensive. I still manage to cut my legs with that though.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
IIRC Stacky managed to do legs by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #13 Sat Apr 09, 2011 at 05:09:45 AM EST
With a double-edged razor. But my experience is that while they shave closer, you're more likely to cut yourself than with a multi-blade cartridge razor.
--
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 ]
meh by MillMan (4.00 / 2) #10 Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 01:06:06 PM EST
I haven't seen much science from either "side" of the nuclear debate. Whether or not nuclear power is something humans should be playing with is not a science question anyway - it's a political question. Science can help provide the pros and cons, but it can't answer the question.

"Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no libertarians in financial crises." -Krugman

and it's a tough comparison by garlic (4.00 / 1) #11 Fri Apr 08, 2011 at 04:23:04 PM EST
between the risks and costs of one energy source vs the next, even discounting the problem that people are terrible at assessing long term risks against short term risks.


[ Parent ]
What I have seen by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #20 Sat Apr 09, 2011 at 08:55:49 PM EST
Clear presentations of the scientific facts being treated as a "side".
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
This is true under any media "debate" by wumpus (2.00 / 0) #21 Sun Apr 10, 2011 at 01:59:04 PM EST
I think it falls under the definition of "ethics" used by media.

Wumpus

[ Parent ]
We should put up stone tablets like that by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #16 Sat Apr 09, 2011 at 09:54:50 AM EST
... in Brisbane.

Iambic Web Certified

By men and angels to be seen | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback