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By TheophileEscargot (Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 07:17:19 AM EST) Reading, MLP, Theatre (all tags)
Reading: "Into Thin Air". Theatre: "Our New Girl". Links.

What I'm Reading
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. Account of a disastrous expedition to Everest in 1996 by a former climber turned journalist.

Though he was on the expedition, Krakauer tries hard to be objective, so the book keeps a fairly cool tone despite the events it describes. Everest's status attracts amateur climbers who pay to be guided to the summit, who usually have some climbing experience, but are not elite mountaineers and who probably couldn't make it alone, leading to traffic jams on good days.

In this case, the weather turned bad, and one party continued past the turnaround time when they should have headed back. Eight people died, and the public was shocked at accounts of how other climbers refused to help those in trouble. Krakauer points out rescue would have been difficult, and that the lack of oxygen makes it hard for everyone to think: people seem to climb in a kind of semi-drunken mental fug.

Overall, an interesting book. But I wouldn't say it's quite a classic like "The Worst Journey in the World".

Saw Our New Girl at the new Bush Theatre.

They've moved from their tiny space over the O'Neills pub to an old library building round the corner. The legendary old one was really good for creating an intense atmosphere. The new one is slightly larger though still small by normal standards. I'm not sure if they'll move the set around as creatively as in the last one: it's a bit of an awkward setup like the Greenwich Playhouse, with the stage on the longer wall of a rectangular space, so the large audiences at the wings must struggle to get a good angle.

The play is about an apparently successful couple: the pregnant mother finds her often-absent husband has hired a nanny without consulting her.

It's actually a good play, well acted by everyone. Kate Fleetwood does a great job as the brittle mother. The plot's pretty good as things are set up and revealed, with some tense moments. There's also one really good subtle effect.

A couple of weaknesses: some of the dialogue gets a bit ostentatiously speechy, and the plot goes over some pretty well-mined territory for middle-class drama, without really subverting it.

Overall though, a good solid play, worth seeing.

Review, review, review, review, review, review, review.

Socioeconomics. Shame influences teen sexual behaviour. Britain is not following the Japanese script. Why can't Apple make stuff in the US? Markets move from under- to over-estimating sovereign risk.

Reviews. Niall Ferguson's "The West and the Rest". Madonna's W.E.

Articles. Everyone Is an Immigrant: Poetry and reportage in Lampedusa. Interview with stoicism expert A. A. Long. Problems with Alain de Botton's religion for atheists:

De Botton's School of Life, by contrast, does not offer people a particular ethics for them to commit to. That's why it is so far from a church, despite its 'Sunday sermons'. It is a philosophy shop - people pay to listen to various ideas, without having to commit to any of them.

A genuine 'religion for atheists' would have to decide: what does it demand from its members? It would have to go beyond the rather easy market liberalism of the School of Life, and actually ask its members to make ethical sacrifices and commitments. Without that shared ethics and commitment, the community you end up with is inevitably going to be shallow, with much weaker ties than a genuine religion or philosophical movement. Not really a community at all, more a loose collection of strangers.

Politics. Credit Ratings agencies are pretty great, let's put them in control of hospital finances. NHS reorg is killing efficiency.

Video. Boardwalk Empire effects shots. Animation of Fallingwater house. Channel 4 announcers pronounce "Simpsons". Russian press conference invaded by flying dildo . Star Wars uncut: full length movie compiled from fan clips.

Random. Rannygazoo. Cracked: The 5 Stupidest Habits You Develop Growing Up Poor.

Pics. 1890s exotic dancers.

Sci/Tech. Don't be evil bookmarklet shows pre-Social Google. Silicon valley cartel tried to keep tech pay lower?

< not dead yet | Getting older. >
All that is solid | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Re: Evans on De Botton by lm (4.00 / 2) #1 Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 08:01:53 AM EST
``Emptying religion of ethical commitment and turning it into a set of techniques is like saying 'I want sex without commitment'''

I think Evans has an overly narrow view of religion. It is true that most of the major religions of the world have an ethical aspect to them. But not all religions are like that.  Ancient Rome and Greece had plenty of religions where the only important bits were the rituals.

An argument could be made that religions without ethical requirements are primitive. But I don't think that would necessarily prevent a bona fide community from springing up around it. So long as there is way to clearly distinguish between insiders and outsiders, a community can easily form.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
Modern shinto by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #5 Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 09:09:33 AM EST
Modern shinto is similar.

(One reason it can coexist with Buddhism.)
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
A friend of my gf... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #6 Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 09:28:49 AM EST
invited her to a particular Sunday Sermon.

I think there is an emergent community forming there.
They don't have the "old time religion" certainty about what they believe yet, but there is the bonding of people through ritual.
And there is some core of a belief set forming.

I don't know if it is de Botton's intention, but if it is, I applaud him for trying to help a group find their set of beliefs, rather than just being another "prophet" who tells them what to believe.

[ Parent ]
Religion for atheists? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 3) #2 Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 08:52:15 AM EST
Atheism is already a religion for atheists.

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

Stop being so silly by lm (4.00 / 1) #4 Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 08:59:01 AM EST
Everyone knows that atheism isn't a religion. It's a way of life.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Yes, like Catholicism or LDS. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 3) #8 Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 09:56:34 AM EST

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

[ Parent ]
Into Thin Air is one of my summer reading books by georgeha (4.00 / 1) #3 Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 08:56:22 AM EST
when it gets hot out, I like to read of freezing weather.

David Smith... by Metatone (4.00 / 2) #7 Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 09:31:10 AM EST
seems to be engaging in circular reasoning on "financial credibility" - "it exists therefore it must be the deficit, not the relative weakness of other economies..."

Also, history rhymes more often than repeats, we may not have deflation, but that may be because of QE and world energy prices... not because of economic growth. 

Even if that's true by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #9 Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 10:31:55 AM EST
Wouldn't it mean the policy worked better than at a similar post-crisis time in Japan, ie three years out? Inflation retained so debt being slowly reduced in value; it's a more constructive holding pattern. Ok, it didn't work great, but better than Japan.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
If it is true... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #10 Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 11:11:28 AM EST
it means that as energy prices go down and the QE runs out of steam (there's some reason to believe that it won't hold the property market up beyond the next six months) then we'll be facing deflation...

So better than Japan, but not qualitatively a different problem, the way Smith implies.

[ Parent ]
Energy prices by Herring (4.00 / 1) #11 Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 12:00:14 PM EST
Could it be that there's an unpleasant equilibrium: high energy prices reduce economic activity reducing consumption reducing energy prices. Or something about rabbits and foxes.

And a chicken and a boat.

No, it's gone again.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
How in the world by wumpus (2.00 / 0) #14 Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 04:00:38 PM EST
do you have anything other than circular reasoning on the credibility of fiat money? Goldbugs can show historical evidence that people will still want gold, but fiat money?

I'm guessing that proper reasoning needs for this kind of thing needs to show that it already exists (the system is in a certain state), and that state is somewhat stable (or at least self-reinforcing).


[ Parent ]
History? by OAB (4.00 / 1) #15 Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 05:53:25 PM EST
Anybody who has had a job in the last 40 years (US) wanted fiat money. Hell, I'm a Brit, exactly one member of my family is old enough to even remember the gold standard, and even she never got paid in money based on it.

[ Parent ]
I am not doubting that. by wumpus (2.00 / 0) #20 Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 01:52:14 AM EST
I just saw that statement about "circular reasoning" and "monetary trust" and couldn't help but point out that it only stays together via circular reasoning.

Circular reasoning is fine in self reinforcing systems.


[ Parent ]
Stability by lm (2.00 / 0) #16 Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 08:35:12 PM EST
The observation that the stable price of gold was due to legislation of the price of gold goes a long way. Once gold became a true commodity, the price began to fluctuate far more than most fiat currencies.

Therefore, if one is looking for stability, no circular reasoning is necessary. One can appeal to a posteriori reasoning given the experience of the relative stability of fiat currency vs. the price of gold.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Well... by Metatone (2.00 / 0) #17 Thu Jan 26, 2012 at 10:13:56 AM EST
I think others have given as much of an answer as I could.

But it's crucial to note that David Smith isn't talking (or reasoning) in circles about the credibility of money, but the credibility of the government as a debtor... which is not independent of fiat money (ability to print money means you have more credibility with the markets it seems) but is about much more than money, it's about the economy and growth as well as income and expenditure levels. 

[ Parent ]
Interesting comment by Portes... by Metatone (2.00 / 0) #18 Thu Jan 26, 2012 at 11:11:40 AM EST 

[ Parent ]
Religion for atheists by Captain Tenille (4.00 / 3) #12 Tue Jan 24, 2012 at 01:25:48 PM EST
Not seeing the appeal. I consider not having to go to church to be one of the perks of being an atheist; if I wanted to go church with a bunch of atheists I'd go to the UU church with the rest of my family. I have better things to do, though, so I don't.


/* You are not expected to understand this. */

I really liked Into Thin Air by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #13 Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 01:11:12 PM EST
The commercialisation of Everest was pretty surreal, JG Ballard stuff. And the change in norms from comradarie to every man for himself was shocking.

You posted a thing about dubstep a couple of diaries back: a case of joining dots that aren't really there. Music always moves towards the lowest common denominator as it gets more popular, and that includes radio friendly midrange frequencies. It isn't a new thing that's happened with the event of cheap laptop speakers. People are always reading too much into dubstep...

It's political correctness gone mad!

Do atheists have a religion? by nathan (4.00 / 2) #19 Thu Jan 26, 2012 at 02:44:11 PM EST
The infamous blogger "Mencius Moldbug" (lol?) points out the following passage from The God Delusion, in which Dawkins declares himself to be "a deeply religious non-believer:"

Let me sum up Einsteinian religion in one more quotation from Einstein himself: "To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious."

"Moldbug" goes on to claim that Dawkins and his fellow travelers are specifically (post)-Christian atheists rather than simply non-believers in Christianity, Buddhist atheists, impartial observers convinced by anti-theistic arguments, etc., because they demonstrably hold a set of values aligning with mainline Protestantism on virtually every point other than the question of the existence of God. After all, it's not obvious that their liberal values flow from their atheism, since many atheists are non-liberal; one thinks immediately of Nazi atheists, Communist atheists, eugenicist atheists like some early-20th-century large-P Progressives, etc. One can agree with Dawkins, as "Moldbug" does, that God doesn't exist, without adopting a single element of Dawkins's moral code, epistemology, or system of values.

Moreover, by "Moldbug's" account, the system of values in question is spread in basically the same way that religious systems spread their values. Considering that it requires political polarization, self-sacrifice, and ideological buy-in, it is best analyzed as a religious memeplex that has discarded the now-maladaptive meme of theism.

If the views discussed at the School of Life appear to be "rather easy" and "undemanding," consider the context. Yes, they probably reflect the views of the attendees, but those views are very radical by historical standards. Market liberalism, free sexuality governed only by contract principles, radical individualism, convinced anti-supernaturalism - these shock most people now alive and would have shocked past civilizations far more. The School of Life is thus a reinforcer and internal repeater for the dominant beliefs of the educated classes in the First World at this moment in time, immediately following vast ideological-cum-military struggles with the world as the prize. Whether we choose call these beliefs a "religion" is a semantic question, but at the minimum, they arose from a religious context and they propagate in quasi-religious fashion.

All that is solid | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback