Latest Teaching Company course was Espionage and Covert Operations: A Global History by Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius. Pretty decent course, well-presented, interesting and informative. Covers the popular mythology of the spy as well as the truth.
What I'm Watching
Saw Never Let Me Go on DVD: adaptation of a Kazuo Ishiguro novel that I liked a lot. Don't think the movie is as good, though it's quite touching at the end. The child actors are inevitably slightly wooden The mystery seems to be revealed much earlier than in the book, though that might just be my crapness at resolving clues.
Also it seemed a bit harder to suspend disbelief in the movie. I think in the book it seemed clearer that there was supposed to be a mystery about why the organ donors don't fight back and refuse, maybe they've been programmed or selected for docility, maybe it's just the same social pressure that made young men charge into machine-gun fire in WW1. In the movie you just want to scream 'RUN AWAY YOU FUCKING IDIOTS'.
Overall, decent tear-jerker.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw the BBC series Illuminations: The Private Lives of Medieval Kings on Iplayer. Three-part documentary about the British Museum's collection of Royal Manuscripts: lavishly bound and illustrated books used as status symbols by the monarchs in the Middle Ages.
Visually very interesting: makes a good point that book illustrations had as much effort and art put in them as paintings of the period, but get overlooked as they're locked away. However, at three hour-long programmes it did feel a bit dragged-out as a history: two or even one might have done.
Feeling a bit oppressed by decisions at the moment.
It's not official yet, but I'm going to lose my job at some point as they're closing down the whole department by September. My job could go at any point from now till the end. Unofficially, we've been told we'll still get the pretty good redundancy package. For me, four months pay tax free; plus either three months' notice or pay in lieu of notice. I've started sending out applications since I need interview practice. If I get a job offer though I have to make one decision. Take the job, lose the redundancy money, have no gap in employment; or wait for redundancy and hope I can find a job sooner.
This is complicated by another decision. I've been officially going out with Girl B since November. We live about an hour and a quarter's travel apart, and it's not a nice journey. So, we were loosely planning to move in together around April.
Originally I was hoping to rent together, but because of our deals it looks like that would be incredibly expensive. So another plan was to buy a place that's affordable by each one of us individually, so if the relationship doesn't work out we could remortgage and whoever moves out could give the other the deposit back.
That's still roughly the plan, though it's going to wait until I find another job. But while we can see places in that price range, they're not that great. Applying that price range to my area on Rightmove reduces the number of available properties from 308 to 22. That obviously isn't the nicest 7%, it's the worst 7%. I was thinking of a cheaper area (Hounslow/Isleworth), but Girl B doesn't think a nicer home in a worse area is any better.
So I worry that I'm condemning her to live somewhere horrible. If we bought somewhere that's affordable by both of us in employment, we could afford a pretty nice place. But if our relationship breaks up we'd be a in a bit of a mess: it could take ages to sell, there could be bitterness over losing the home, there could be financial losses.
In a way with the job, I'd be happier if they just called me into the office and said "You're out, here's a cheque, clear your desk". Then at least I'd have a clear plan of action, and I'd know I couldn't get a mortgage till I get a new job. As it is, I've got all these decisions, all with various risks, and uncertainty over timing. Try to get a mortgage right now while I have a steady employment history? Wait till my next job where I might get a pay rise and a payout to boost the deposit? Buy a one-income place or a two-income place?
At the moment, the plan is to try to get interviews, take a job only if it seems worth losing the package, buy a one-income place after I get a new job. But I keep wondering if it's the right thing to do. I wanted to be a breadwinner who helps Girl B live a better life, not a parasite who makes her live somewhere horrible.
The normalization of prison rape—like eighteenth-century japery about watching men struggle as they die on the gallows—will surely strike our descendants as chillingly sadistic, incomprehensible on the part of people who thought themselves civilized...Canadian Lego man in space. Boots and cats. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
The trouble with the Bill of Rights, he argues, is that it emphasizes process and procedure rather than principles. The Declaration of the Rights of Man says, Be just! The Bill of Rights says, Be fair! Instead of announcing general principles—no one should be accused of something that wasn’t a crime when he did it; cruel punishments are always wrong; the goal of justice is, above all, that justice be done—it talks procedurally. You can’t search someone without a reason; you can’t accuse him without allowing him to see the evidence; and so on. This emphasis, Stuntz thinks, has led to the current mess, where accused criminals get laboriously articulated protection against procedural errors and no protection at all against outrageous and obvious violations of simple justice. You can get off if the cops looked in the wrong car with the wrong warrant when they found your joint, but you have no recourse if owning the joint gets you locked up for life. You may be spared the death penalty if you can show a problem with your appointed defender, but it is much harder if there is merely enormous accumulated evidence that you weren’t guilty in the first place and the jury got it wrong. Even clauses that Americans are taught to revere are, Stuntz maintains, unworthy of reverence: the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” was designed to protect cruel punishments—flogging and branding—that were not at that time unusual.
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