Latest Teaching Company course was Rise of Humans: Great Scientific Debates. While I've read a fair amount about human evolution already, this course takes an interesting angle by looking at various debates in the field, some settled and some not, to give a view of the scientific process as it actually works.
It's a new course for 2011 and pretty up-to-date. Includes a lecture on the Hobbits of Flores, the Denisova / X-woman specimen, and has a discussion of Neanderthal DNA in modern humans (something the author has worked on).
Found it pretty fascinating stuff. I actually learned quite a few new things, and it's very good at putting things in context: you get to see how much or little uncertainty there is around various conclusions.
Only slight downside, the Teaching Company seems to be putting more and more emphasis on their video versions: a couple of times when he was talking about skull shapes the video would have been useful. Also it would have been good to see more relevant illustrations in the course guide.
Overall though, good course, worth doing.
Saw A Woman Killed With Kindness at the National. Play written in 1603 by Thomas Heywood. Has two storylines that come together in the end, one about a brother and sister ruined by debt, the other about a married woman who has an affair with her husband's male friend.
Has a nice set, and the actors work hard to inject some plausibility and emotion, but basically the play is a bit shit. The characters aren't really convincing, their motivations aren't plausible, the blank verse is stolid and workmanlike, and the characters often blandly tell the audience what they're feeling rather than show it through their imagery and actions.
Good reminder though that not every Elizabethan playwright was a genius like Shakespeare or Marlowe. You can definitely see why despite the complex ideas an average playgoer might have rather have gone up the road to see Shakespeare breathe life into the words instead.
Saw The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World at Tate Britain.
The great highlight is that it actually shows both versions of Jacob Epstein's famous sculpture "The Rock Drill", the earlier one a reconstruction. Originally in 1913 this art was a techno-fetishistic full-body armoured sculpture mounted on a real rock drill, in a kind of terrified celebration of the machine age. In the middle of World War One though, Epstein grew horrified of this. He took the torso of the figure and literally mutilated it, removing the arms and tilting it forward, so that it now appears more a figure of pathos.
The rest of the exhibition is a bit anticlimactic after that. However, there are some good chunky stone sculptures, a plentiful supply of the dynamic, angular vorticist paintings, and some interesting photos using multiple mirrors to achieve the same effect.
The problem with the British Vorticists is that apart from Epstein, their relationship to the Italian Futurists is a bit like that of like Cliff Richard to Elvis Presley. If you're British, you have a bit of an affectionate regard for them, though you're a bit disturbed by some of their beliefs, but you can't quite plausibly maintain they're in the same league.
Overall though, there's some interesting stuff here, with a powerful aesthetic impact. Worth seeing.
Socioeconomics. Does Last-place Aversion explain why the poor sometimes oppose anti-poverty measures? Does studying certain subjects boost cognitive skills? Starcraft's first female pro. Where are the missing jobs? Erotic capital.
Riots. Riot sentencing data, sentences about 25% longer on average. (That seems reasonable as an aggravating factor to me, but some individual sentences seem disproportionate). Shorts-receiving woman freed. Letter from a copper. A London tradition for centuries.
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