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By TheophileEscargot (Tue Jun 14, 2011 at 01:36:17 PM EST) Reading, Listening, Theatre, MLP (all tags)
Theatre: "Butley" Listening: "The Fall and Rise of China". Links.

Saw Butley at the Duchess Theatre. Revival of a 1971 black comedy Was interested because it's written by Simon Grey: I read his "The Smoking Diaries" and liked them. Stars Dominic "McNulty from The Wire" West.

Excellent play: funny but also dramatic. Butley is a lecturer in English literature at a London university (as was Grey) and the play follows a day in his life as his self-destructive behaviour alienates everyone around him.

Great performance from West too, as he bullies and cajoles those around him: some with success, some with less so.

Overall, fantastic production, well worth seeing.

Review, review, review, review, review.

Latest Teaching Company course was Fall and Rise of China by Richard Baum, about the modern history of China. Starts off pretty much in the Nineteenth century but concentrates most on more recent times. Surprisingly, the later stuff is amongst the most interesting, even the Machiavellian struggles within the Communist Party between reformers and conservatives.

The same lecturer also did a good course on the whole history of China, which I already listened to.

One interesting detail, after the death of Mao, the ultra-communist extremism was conveniently blamed on the Gang of Four to preserve Mao's personality cult. But when talking of the Gang of Four, people would hold up their hand with five fingers to show who they really meant.

In general, one impression I got from the course is that for ordinary people, life in China has been worse and more unstable than for their equivalents in the Soviet Union. China's economy stagnated during the "overtake and bury the West" period while the Soviet Union was growing. The peasant suffering during the Great Leap Forward wasn't necessarily worse than Stalin's Terror Famines, but is more recent. The chaos of the Cultural Revolution doesn't seem to have any Soviet equivalent, when youthful mobs fought each other and could attack or kill even apparently high level individuals.

Moreover, there was more chaos before the Mao era, with the civil war between Nationalists and Communists, the struggles between rival warlords, the Japanese invasion, and before that the declining empire and foreign assertions of power.

So, while Baum doesn't say so, I suspect the persistence of power of the Communist Party might have something to do with a greater desire of Chinese people for stability given the chaos of the past.

Overall, a very good course, informative and interesting, with some good personal anecdotes .

Pics. Jake Parker concept art.

Random. "John Doe": generic names worldwide, via.

Video. Hula hoop POV. Cyclist rides in NYC bike lane.

Sci/Tech. New Rainbow Warrior.

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