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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 09:49:22 AM EST) Reading, Museums, Watching, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "When London was Capital of America". Watching: "Muppets". Museums. Links.


What I'm Reading
When London Was Capital of America by Julie Flavell is an account of the relationship between London and the Americas around the time of the American Revolution: it's a popular book but written by a historian. Combines the big picture with the stories of figures both well-known and obscure.

At that time North America had no really large cities: even New York and Boston were pretty small. London functioned as a social and cultural capital as well as a political one. Well-off Americans would send their children and young people to be educated in London, making useful contacts and acquiring the good Manners that were all-important in the Eighteenth Century.

The British stereotype of Americans at the time was of a rich, decadent, slave-owning plantation-owner. The alternative stereotype of the hard-working down-to-earth Yankee, though it may have originated with Benjamin Franklin, didn't really take hold till much later. Despite the stereotype, white Americans were seen essentially as a kind of rural Britons, with only moderately different accents.

Also interesting was that even during and after the American Revolution, it wasn't taken particularly seriously in Britain. Few Americans were imprisoned, the painter Benjamin West even continued to be the court painter to the king despite blatant rebel sympathies. Many Britons seem to have assumed that there would be some kind of settlement in which the rebel colonies would return to British rule.

The individual stories include the Stephen Sayre who acted as a kind of social-climbing gigolo, ascending from a poor New York background through affairs with aristocratic women. Also interesting is the slave Robert Laurens (formerly Scipio) who seems to have shrewdly persuaded his master to bring him to London and gradually worked out his escape into freedom.

(The position of slaves was very ambiguous up till the Somersett court case of 1772. Before then, slave-owning was not covered by any British law, but personal slaves brought from the Americas were nevertheless held by force on British soil. The judge in this case reluctantly ruled that imprisoning slaves on British soil was not legally enforceable, effectively freeing slaves in Britain.)

Overall, an interesting history book, worth a read.

What I'm Watching
Saw the Muppets movie at the cinema. The muppets, mostly living in obscurity, have to put on a telethon to rescue their theatre and studios from a property developer.

Quite fun and entertaining. Has very large doses of nostalgia. Not sure if the muppets are really as obscure to kids as is depicted here: Sesame Street's been running continually, and there's been a steady stream of movies. I liked Eighties Robot a lot though.

Overall, good retro fun.

Was glad to find Girl B and I actually have something in common from our childhoods as they showed the Muppet Show in Germany too.

Museums
Saw Picasso and Modern British Art at Tate Britain. Was a bit skeptical of this in advance, since Picasso didn't actually have much connection with Britain, but it was actually pretty good. They have some British artists worth looking at, Henry Moore and Francis Bacon for instance, and show alongside the relevant Picassos. There's some of content from when Picasso worked with the Ballet Russes which visited London: costume designs and some costumes.

The Picassos are the highlight of course: they have some pretty major works there. Worth seeing again though I've seen a few on various holidays.

Overall, good exhibition, well worth seeing. The Migrations exhibition, also at Tate Britain, was also unexpectedly good. Basically uses the theme of foreign artists settling in Britain to round up some very good works, for instance Van Dyck and Whistler. However quite a few of these are normally on display for free, so if you don't have a Tate card you might feel a bit ripped off for the ticket.

Links
Socioeconomics. What EU can learn from Sweden about budgets. Hedge fund boss Ray Dalio's ideas. Britain's jobs machine is working. School for quants. Walking slowly when primed with old age words study criticized, response.

Sci/Tech. Windows 8 conflicts, via. Ozone layer scientist dies.

Video. Complete HappyToast animation reel. The Countdown Thing. Guacamole. I'm on a motherfucking bike. James Bond theme in major key. Trike drifting, via.

Local. Polish food in London.

Articles. More older viewers in cinemas. Copyright battle turns into an all-out war against your right to create and share your own home-made content , Lack of transparency in advice. Government shared services cost-saving scuppered by localism, volunteerism.

Pics. Batman running away from shit. OMFGdogs (warning: sound). Envelope art, via.

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No refuge could save the hireling and slave | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Metro by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #1 Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 10:11:36 AM EST
It looks like a good set-top box UI.  I spend much of my day job working with set-top box UIs, talking to designers and looking at how other people create set-top box UIs.  It's a challenge, creating a user interface that has elements that are easily visible from 10 feet away and can be quickly manipulated by a remote or a game controller. 

Metro looks very good at this.  No surprise, given their XBox experience.  (The guy who runs my department came from XBox Dashboard work.)

Thing is...a PC is not a damn set-top box!

As such, this is one of the more idiotic design directions I've ever seen.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

School for Quants by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 11:17:26 AM EST
Fascinating article, thanks.

I think in time, the non-financial-market uses of the technology will turn out to be more beneficial.
Having said that, there's the problem that in the real world there are diminishing returns. How much use is a daily rating of Obama's popularity? What will make or break him will likely be the long-term rolling average of disposable income of the electorate in key states - which isn't that computationally complex.

The financial market uses will make various funds a lot of money, but they are basically tail-chasing, using volatility to skim a percentage off. Partly because the markets are semi-efficient, they will arbitrage out if anyone discovers some really big correlation, but also because skimming off volatility is just more reliable...




Polish... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #3 Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 11:25:49 AM EST
If you're more Central, then the soup and the pierogi at the Polish + Mexican near Green Park are both decent standard.

Baltic near Southwark station is good, although I realise that including vodka it's no cheaper than Gessler, which is a bit annoying. Gessler's food is probably a bit better overall, but the menus have some differences that make Baltic worth the trip.


on London by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 11:29:20 AM EST
From what I understand, the English were used to a steady stream of Irish rebellion, and assumed that the Americas were in yet another rebellion that would certainly be crushed. The idea that they would win was inconceivable (see "the world turned upside down" at Yorktown). Also "Benjamin Franklin secretly loved London more than Philadelphia: it was simply the most exciting place to be in the British Empire", while this may be true, I suspect he enjoyed Paris even more. It was probably more exciting and the Parisian ladies found him a celebrity of sorts.

On copyright: When have the rights-holders ever been interested in allowing competition? It seems like they have been at it since DAT (I don't remember the MPAA insisting that camcorders would be used in theaters, I suspect that was shot down by focus groups). You see a similar attempt in the US by established publishers vs. internet-based news. The claim is that fleshling citizens don't have the first amendment right to the press, only incorporated citizens have such rights. Unsurprisingly, that effort has at least some traction and isn't laughed out of court after one motion to dismiss. About DAT, I think back in the 90s there was at least on ad with "an established rock star" trying to tell the audience that this fancy new DAT was "too powerful for non-rock stars" (note - it was an ad for the device, the RIAA didn't have the PR machine to even try to claim that with a straight face yet).

Wumpus

Folly by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #6 Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 01:31:45 PM EST
I was just reading about this in Barbara Tuchman's "March of Folly".  Her not particularly controversial thesis is that the British lost America due to pure incompetence and bone-headedness.  With a less dictatorial attitude and a few seats in parliament, the revolution would likely never have happened.

There was none of the cultural divide that normally marks rebellion and civil war.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Windows8 by priestess (4.00 / 1) #5 Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 11:33:14 AM EST
Windows will succeed, in that it'll sell squillions of copies. I suspect most of 'em will switch into proper windows mode rather than using Metro though.

It won't succeed in the sense that it'll make me go back to using Microsoft products, or convert many people who aren't already using Windows.

But as soon as they stop giving Windows 7 to OEMs and give 'em Windows 8 instead, Microsoft's (presumably now misnamed and windowless) Windows will be on the majority of new desktop machines made.

Which is a shame, but there you have it.

Pre............
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Chat to the virtual me...

Had a brief look at Picasso yesterday by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #7 Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 06:21:49 AM EST
I'm not a big fan of Picasso really, and found the choices of other artists' work a bit predictable, I'd seen a lot of them in other exhibitions. The Henry Moore choices I'd seen in the Henry Moore exhibition in the same gallery.

Will take a look at Migrations. The film Handsworth Songs is being shown which is a favourite of mine.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

Yeah by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #8 Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 02:46:23 PM EST
Between the recent Henry Moore and Vorticism exhibitions at Tate Britain, the Ballet Russes exhibition at the V & A, the Francis Bacons carted downstairs, and the Picasso museum in Barcelona, it did feel like I'd seen a lot of it before. But I thought it was still interesting to bring all this stuff together to show the links between them.

For new art, have you seen Gesamtkunstwerk at the Saatchi Gallery? It's not bad, and free.
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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 ]
That looks good by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #9 Fri Mar 16, 2012 at 06:58:44 AM EST
Might even check it out this weekend!

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
No refuge could save the hireling and slave | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback