Habibi by Craig Thompson Comic book, apparently based on an Arabic legend, following the life of a girl who after an arranged child marriage becomes a refugee in the desert, then a harem concubine; and her relationship with an adopted boy. It intersperses scenes from her life with the stories she tells others around her.
It's gorgeously drawn in black and white, with intricate patterns incorporating decoration, script and diagrams; with scenes ranging from the sensual to the disgusting. The story is compelling, with some unflinching tragic moments.
Some downsides: the world doesn't feel quite believable with its mixtures of isolated deserts and dense cities, camel caravans and trucks. Also the orientalizing and harem eroticism is strong enough I'm surprised it hasn't motivated a zombie Edward Said to lurch from the grave to rip the author's head from his shoulders.
Overall though, a powerful and well-drawn comic, well worth reading.
What I'm Reading 2
Finished The Rapture of the Nerds. Science fiction collaboration between Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow, released under a Creative Commons licence, about a post-singularity society.
The collaboration doesn't seem to be very deep. The first half, set on Earth, feels very much like Cory Doctorow; and the second half feels very much like Charles Stross. I read the download which has regular commercial interludes pleading with you to buy it. Annoyingly only the expensive hardcover and DRM'd Amazon version seems to be available in the UK: in other markets you can buy a cheap-ish DRM-free ebook from Kobo.
The book requires a fairly deep knowledge of science fiction and geek culture, scattered with references to Ayn Rand, "NPCs" and other jargon that would baffle most civilians.
I wasn't that keen on the first half: the satire seemed pretty weak, the jokes pretty juvenile, and we've seen plenty of Singularity-as-magic stuff already. The second half seemed a lot better, with the much rarer feature of looking at how the Singularity might actually function for uploaded personalities: with competition for large-but-limited computing resources and a complex legal-financial system for administering them.
Overall, flawed but interesting. I'm glad I made it through to the end since I thought the ideas compensated for the clumsy humour, but not everyone would.
What I'm Watching
Saw Summer with Monika on disc, 1951 Ingmar Bergman movie about a teenage couple's love affair.
Feels a bit clunky in places, especially the crude overdubbing of outdoor sound. Was notorious for its nudity at the time, though it's not particularly racy today (Monika is seen from the back in one shot, and there are some distant boobs on the horizon in another).
Overall, a good movie, some interesting characters and photography.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw the much-hyped time travel movie Looper at the cinema.
I thought it lived up to the hype. It's a good, well-balanced movie with a decent and well thought out plot, interesting characters, a few OK action scenes, and some interesting ideas.
I liked the way it brings to the screen some science fiction elements that are useful in novels, but are rarely seen in the cinema. The movie's present, which is probably in our future, has a semi-broken-down society with poverty, a distant or dysfunctional government, rather than an outright apocalypse. The "Loopers" are not elite assassins, but grunts at the lowest end of the criminal hierarchy.
The plot isn't that plausible, and the time travel rules take some swallowing, but it's not as daft as the trailer makes it seem.
Presumably there is some kind of causal link between the two timestreams, so that a change to the past-stream takes effect at an equivalent moment to the future person. But it's hard to see how it's supposed to work. For instance, after they amputate the future guy's legs, how did he get to the mob's location when that version of him had no legs to work the pedals of the car?
Overall though, an excellent movie.
Saw an early preview of Scenes from an Execution at the National. Revival of a Howard Barker play about a female artist in Sixteenth Century Venice called Galactia, who is commissioned to paint a huge picture of the victory at the Battle of Lepanto. Instead of a grandiose celebration, she paints a horrific scene of carnage.
Good play, with some funny moments and pointed satire. It's not quite as didactic as the summary suggests: the Doge is a somewhat sympathetic antagonist, and other characters point out that he's a lot more friendly to artists than his political rivals.
Has a charismatic performance from Fiona Shaw as the earthy and passionate Galactia, but good supporting roles as well.
The play does start to drag a little towards the end as it gets a little self-indulgent. But overall a good play, worth seeing.
Socioeconomics. Have we reached the end of economic growth? Couples who share housework equally more likely to divorce. Is inequality hurting growth.
Politics. >Neoliberal thinktanks and the media have colluded to capture our political system. Golden Dawn gains influence as state wanes. Railways: "One of the absurdities of privatisation the report highlights is the fact that franchises are increasingly run by subsidiaries of the German, Dutch and French state railways", more. Virtual ID card scheme to launc Civil servants used as scapegoats for rail fiasco?
Video. The Fall of the Dinosaurs.
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