Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser. Book about the advantages of, and problems facing cites.
Seems pretty sensible: Glaeser has broadly free-market sympathies but also regards civic and national governments as essential for solving the problems of crime and sanitation. He doesn't seem to harbour libertarian fantasies of private companies mysteriously wafting away externalities and collective action problems. He also accepts that government subsidies and tax breaks are partly responsible for suburban sprawl, something the libertarian right tend to overlook.
Glaeser is very good at pointing out the apparent problems of the city are sometimes not so, as when the incredibly poor of the rural third world come to the city to improve their status to very poor. He points out that an absence of poor people from a city is often just a sign that the city has become too expensive .
He also points out that concentrated city living has much less environmental impact than suburbs or exurbs, which shouldn't be surprising by now but apparently still is to some. Overall, people in cities seem to become happier, wealthier and more productive than in the countryside
Glaeser looks at plenty of real-world examples of how certain cities have succeeded and failed in various ways. He doesn't offer any grand solutions though: every city needs to find a balance between preserving enough features to keep it attractive to people, but also building enough tall, cheap housing to keep it affordable.
Overall, a pretty good book. Worth reading if you're interested in a broad overview of the subject, but won't give you that much new information if you follow the economics blogs.
Saw Timon of Athens at the National Theatre, starring the omnipresent Simon Russell Beale as Timon.
I hadn't seen this one before. Reminded me a bit of Troilus and Cressida, another Shakespeare play that's not often performed nowadays, though it's from his prime, and has a viciously cynical atmosphere. I think that it's this particular kind of cynicism that's a problem for modern audiences. We're OK with a bleak cynicism towards politics or business, but Troilus and Cressida targets love, while Timon of Athens targets friendship. We're proud of our cynicism, but we like to keep it within limits.
The plot is about a naive big spender in Athens, who's deserted by his friends when his money runs out. It's a very contemporary production: Timon is shown endowing "The Timon Room" displayed in a Tate-ish font, the Senators are shown as city bankers, while the rebels occupy Occupy-style tents. Sometimes they try a bit too hard to shoehorn in contemporary references, but this time I thought I fitted well enough to work.
As usual, a great central performance from Beale, who almost manages to make Timon's initial naivete seem plausible, and becomes brilliantly disillusioned at the end.
Overall, definitely worth seeing. Some nice dancing too.
Saw the Edvard Munch: the Modern Eye exhibition at Tate Modern. Has paintings from throughout his career (no Scream though) and plenty of his uncannily modern-looking photographs, usually hand-held cameraphone-style. Also has a similarly jerky handheld cinefilm.
As you'd expect, he doesn't seem to have been the happiest of chaps, though there are a couple of nice photos of his dog. It's very compelling though, especially the tall figures lurching towards the viewer in "Workers on their Way Home". There are repeated versions of some paintings: the faceless girls huddled together on the bridge, the sick child.
Good exhibition, worth seeing.
Another Metafilter v. Reddit Pub quiz. Smaller this time. One Reddit team, two Metafilter teams. One Metafilter team did better than Reddit. Our team tied with Reddit but we won the tie-break. That makes it 3-0 to MeFi.
America, one might fairly say, had two foundings: the first under the Enlightenment guidance of its rich intellectual founders, and a second with the popular, evangelical Second Great Awakening, which flamed a quarter century afterward. Ever since, the two have, like the Lamanites and the Nephites, been at war for the soul of the country, with the politics not always easily predictable; it was really the Awakening side that led to abolitionism. (Smith ran for President on an advanced abolitionist platform, in 1844.) Over time, the spiritual descendants of the Awakening have sought to annex Enlightenment doctrines, chiefly through the claim that the Founders were not skeptical Enlightenment deists but passionate Evangelical fundamentalists, while the Enlightenment-minded have tried to annex the Awakening’s passionate energy to their causes, as in the civil-rights movement, where black churches became the emotional engine of what was, on its face, a legal argument about public facilities.
Pics. if London were like New York (1902).
Politics. What the boundary pause means.
Sci/Tech. France's anti-piracy body Hadopi struggles:
Hadopi... has sent a million warning e-mails and 99,000 registered letters. This seemingly-impressive pursuit of Internet evildoers has, however, resulted in a scant 134 cases being examined for prosecution – and so far, zero cases have been escalated to the point where an Internet user has been disconnected.Video. Bear ladder.
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