Print Story I'm on the run but I ain't got no gun
By TheophileEscargot (Tue Jul 12, 2011 at 04:53:46 PM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "Why Socrates Died", "Pride of Baghdad", "Bubbles all the Way". Watching: "Drive Angry". Links.

What I'm Reading
Finished Why Socrates Died by Robin Waterfield. (Not just because he was a man and men are mortal.) Short book going through the Athenian politics of the period and discussing why the historical Socrates was executed. It's presented in a crisp, informative and interesting way; though spends a lot of time on basics that will already be familiar if you know a bit about ancient Greek history.

Plato's Socrates of course is as much a fictional, symbolic figure as a an actual person. The real Socrates dabbled in politics, and was on the side of the Oligarchs against the Democrats in the bloody machinations and internal struggle after the Athenians lost the Peloponnesian War to Sparta. When the Democrat faction overthrew the Oligarchs, Socrates was one of many pursued through the courts for revenge.

Did have some interesting stuff that was new to me. After the overthrow of the Oligarchs, the Athenians created a strikingly modern-looking version of their democracy. The older version had verged on mob rule: the new one had a set of written laws, literally set in stone, that could only be amended with difficulty, at certain times and with certain requirements. There was a balance of powers between the popular Assembly and the nomothetae (legislative board) who had to approve laws passed by the Assembly. While it's not much heralded, already after the heady days of Pericles and empire, it seems to me this version was more influential on modern versions of democracy.

Waterfield reckons that the contest between oligarchs and democrats was in part a generational struggle, with the oligarchs the "youth" that Socrates was accused of corrupting. Socrates personally taught people like Critias and Alcibiades. Waterfield points out that during the rule of the oligarchic Thirty, even moderate democrats had to flee the city of Athens itself, yet Socrates remains. He speculates that Socrates was partly taken in by the oligarchs' claim that they would create a city of greater virtue.

The book also has a speculative but fascinating 3-page prosecution speech, based on various sources, that Waterfield thinks may have been the prosecution case against Socrates. Waterfield thinks that there was actually some small basis to the charges at least in the mind of the public.

One interesting speculation is that Socrates last words about sacrificing a cock to god-of-healing Asclepius is that Socrates may have hoped that his execution would heal the rifts between the Athenian faction.

Overall, interesting and informative book: liked it a lot.

What I'm Reading
Pride of Baghdad by Brian Vaughan, Niko Henrichon. Comic book telling the story of the group of lions who escaped Baghdad zoo during the bombings. They're pretty anthropomorphised, holding conversations with other animals.

Interesting concept with some touching moments, though suspending disbelief is a bit tricky at times. Artwork's pretty decent, with nice bleached colours for the setting.

What I'm Watching
Saw Drive Angry on DVD. Missed the 3D version in the cinema. Has an awful lot of hurling objects at the audience which I thought 3D movies had grown out of by now: even Michael Bay's a bit more subtle than that now.

Ostentatiously lowbrow movie with Nicholas Cage pursuing a kidnapped relative: plenty of guns, muscle cars and gratuitous nudity. Action scenes are pretty average though. Seemed to be an odd mix of real-looking but unspectacular stunts, and some hideously shonky CGI. Sadly nothing as good as the genuine car stunts from the underrated 2008 Death Race.

Overall, fairly entertaining, but misses the mark too often to be a cult or camp classic.

What I'm Reading
Bubbles All the Way by Sarah Strohmeyer. One of a series of light mysteries starring Bubbles Yablonksky, hairdresser and reporter in an rust belt town. She's a good character, set up to be a bubbly and immaculate contrast to the typical angst-ridden and down-at-heel detective.

The book's pretty pacey and very funny at times: struggled not to laugh out loud reading it in the Quiet Carriage on the train. However, the ending's a bit of a let-down: from the Amazon reviews even the fans aren't happy about the way it breaks the tone of the series.

Even so, pretty good on the whole, but I think the novelty of the character would wear off if I read my way through the whole series

Socioeconomics. Selection effects could create illusion of increasing polarization. Stanford Prison Experiment participants revisited, via. Companies hostile to small-town Britain. Another quarter of slow growth? The Individualization of The Unemployed. Why is it that some technologies cause moral panic and others don't? via. US jobs growth slow from before recession, via. "Chavs" and family fetishism.

Sci/Tech. Some snails can survive being eaten. Depression: from treatment to diagnosis? 3D chocolate printer. Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal? Set point theory, but weight graphs don't seem to show it.

Google Plus. The post-Google+ world: A Facebook Developer’s Perspective. API. Thoughts from a former Google+ developer. Guide for punctuation pedants

Video. How to deactivate a cat. Some Grey Bloke: the Manosphere. 15 minute lecture on stoicism in US military. Orion space vehicle. Daily Show on News of the World scandal. Disappearing car prank. Distorted face illusion via Wide Angle Camera Mounted on Firework.

Pics. Tower Bridge under construction. Darth Hairdryer. Old pics of modern buildings.

Random. Digital product placement.

Politics. Richard Seymour on Blue Labour. Phone hacking.

< God damnit | Just in Case >
I'm on the run but I ain't got no gun | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Socrates smartassed himself to death. by atreides (4.00 / 1) #1 Tue Jul 12, 2011 at 06:29:51 PM EST
He was already a bit dickish in his debate style. Judges and politicians don't like that stuff. They gave him a chance to get a lighter sentence. He gave a smartass reply. They decided to throw the book at him. Simple as that.

He sails from world to world in a flying tomb, serving gods who eat hope.

Could be by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #4 Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 02:02:22 PM EST
It wasn't so much down to judges and politicans though, more a mob-like jury of 500 or more. He might have thought he could get on their good side by being cheeky, and misjudged.
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 ]
If he had wanted to by lm (4.00 / 1) #8 Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 06:54:36 PM EST
One of the articles I found when researching my term paper on the Phaedo last fall was one that argued that observed that the only real moral dillemma facing any Platonic philosopher is why he (or she) shouldn't immediately commit suicide.

On the surface at least, it isn't apparent why if death is a better state than life why death ought not to be actively sought.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
And perhaps on purpose ... by lm (4.00 / 1) #6 Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 06:36:37 PM EST
Xenophon's apology begins with the observation that Socrates was getting old and decrepit and unless you understand that he wanted to die, his defense seems silly.

For a very readable (and heretical to most classicists) take on this, look at IF Stone's The Trial of Socrates.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Individualization of unemployment by MartiniPhilosopher (4.00 / 1) #2 Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 11:25:34 AM EST
I can't say that I've not been caught with the same thoughts before. I was afraid of loosing the house. I was afraid of not being able to pay the bills. Ceding to the helplessness of not being able to be hired you look for someone, anyone that could be blamed. The first one that appears is yourself. It's not hard to get there.

That there is a concerted political and media push and no counter by pro-labor is the interesting question.

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

Some snails can survive being eaten by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #3 Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 12:58:01 PM EST
I liked Dave Barry's take on that: "Not unlike commercial air travel."

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

unemployement by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #5 Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 04:17:13 PM EST
Unlike in the Great Depression, there's a class-based aspect to current unemployment.  Last I heard, the unemployment for white middle-managers or technical people was on the order of 3%.  For lots of people, the job market is booming.  It makes it easy for these lucky folks to blame failures to find jobs on the job seeker as they don't have the misfortunate of trying to find jobs in an industry that is not in good shape..
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
Absolutely. by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #9 Thu Jul 14, 2011 at 12:15:21 PM EST
I had two periods of work in the same place with an intervening  period of 2 years in between.

While I could not find most of my former colleagues anymore since most jobs had been outsourced (right-sourced was the Orwellian term used by management, if you can believe it) I was puzzled by finding most of the middle and upper managers.

The way they had survived that far was by getting rid of the foot soldiers in a perpetual chase for the cheapest place to try to get the work done (London-Belfast-Poland-Romania-India-Singapore and now Malaysia or even the Philippines).

They lead their remote troops from the "expensive" places like London, Frankfurt or NY.

To make sure all ties nicely, they continued to add layers of bureaucracy, where you need more management, so many of them now lead those new bureaucratic tasks, which is how they have managed to keep the same number of jobs while doing substantially less and less productive work.

I kid you not, on my first stint there I could get a task done in one day, when I left the 2nd time I needed 2 or 3 weeks to achieve the same task because I had to  chase approvals, fill forms and in general pander to the bureaucracy.

Just when I left they announced that they were saving millions, by the cunning technique of delaying projects (delay it one year, you don't get work that needs to be done, but you saved the money this year, next year god will provide).

Maybe I should start a comic strip mocking all this, now that is a new idea ....

[ Parent ]
Offering a cock to Asclepius by lm (4.00 / 1) #7 Wed Jul 13, 2011 at 06:52:22 PM EST
Reading the last words of Socrates' in Plato's Phaedo as a hope to healing the political rifts in Athenian society seems more than a bit of a stretch to me.

But it is interesting that the words are usually translated first person singular when they should be translated first person plural. Rather than "I owe a cock to Asclepius", it ought to be "we owe a cock to Asclepius." There are a number of interesting disucussions in the literature just what difference this makes. If there is anything resembling a consensus, however, it is that the importance of the Phaedo is about overcoming fear of bodily death and by convincing his interlocutors that the soul survives bodily death, he has cured them of their disease of thinking that they are mortal. So it is all of Socrates' disciples that owe the cock, not just Socrates.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
I'm on the run but I ain't got no gun | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback