Finally managed to finish The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I've tried reading it a couple of times before, but found the pampered gilded age characters and the self-conscious prose a bit too annoying.
It is actually worth pursuing though. The tension builds very well towards a satisfying conclusion. The famous last line actually works really well in that context, though it seems squirmingly overwrought when you see it in isolation.
Well worth reading.
What I'm Reading 2
Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays by Joel Waldfogel. Very short, pocket-sized book about the disastrous economics of Christmas giving, where presents that people don't really want mean a vastly wasteful allocation of resources.
It's subtly educational, bringing in topics like behavioural economics, questions about rational consumers really are, what constitutes a luxury product, and how free we are to choose our decisions. Nobody physically coerces us to buy Christmas presents, but Waldfogel pours scorn on market fundamentalists who think that means it's a free choice and therefore valid.
Also quite informative about the numbers. It seems that Christmas spending isn't actually on the increase but has held roughly steady since the Thirties in the US. Americans aren't actually particularly big holiday spenders, hovering around the middle of the developed world table. Depressingly, Britons turn out to spend significantly more: $215 per capita as opposed to Americans' $140.
The solutions he proposes are gift certificates and on-behalf charity donations: reasonable ideas but a bit obvious.
Overall, quite informative, worth a read if you're interested in the topic.
What I'm Watching
Saw the 1953 Charlie Chaplin talkie Limelight on DVD. An aging clown forms a relationship with a suicidal young ballerina. Bit too sentimental for my taste, and I was never that keen on Charlie Chaplin. Girl B likes it a lot though.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw the first episode of the first Doctor Who of the new series, "Asylum of the Daleks", thought it was pretty good. Watched it with Girl B: it was the first ever Doctor Who episode she's seen. As expected, she wasn't very keen on it. Interestingly she thought the Daleks were quite scary: when I told her it was a kids' programme she was a bit horrified that we expose children to it.
Saw the much-talked-about Mark Rylance Richard III at the Globe. Rylance takes an interesting angle on the role. He plays up the comic aspects of Richard's wit, so that it almost seems a comedy, certainly getting a lot more laughs than some Shakespeare comedy's I've been too. He also emphasizes the vulnerability of Richard, who seems like a hauntingly plaintive figure at times, especially in the "There is no creature loves me" speech near the end. In the final battle scenes the ghosts reemerge and literally get in his way, so that his final death is almost a suicide as he loses his sword.
The cost of this is that there's a loss of some menace: he's not exactly the scariest Richard though there's some effective creepiness as he physically manipulates Ann. This performance feels like the exact opposite of Ian McKellan's movie Richard where he's a stern solider genuinely unhappy with peace.
This is an all-male production. The female roles in this play aren't that significant, but I don't think it quite worked. The somewhat burly adult male actors aren't really convincingly female, and it all seems a bit Widow-Twankeyish, though that helps at a couple of comic moments.
The rest of the cast do a good job too, especially Roger Lloyd Pack as Buckingham. I was impressed at Rylance's focus when someone collapsed in the standing area, and he just held his hand up to freeze things for about five minutes while they were taken away, then resumed without anyone leaving character.
Definitely a standout production, well worth seeing. They're moving it to the Apollo theatre so there's plenty of time even with the Globe closing for winter.
In Walthamstow on Saturday there was an EDL demonstration, and an anti-fascist counter-demonstration, so I went along as usual for London. I think this one might mark a bit of a turning point.
The assembly point was just outside Walthamstow Central station: got there soon before the march started: usual sort of speeches and music. Then we marched but stopped and blocked a road the EDL were planning to march down. And waited.
There was lots of confusing information: some announcements said the EDL march had been cancelled, the rumours said they were just marching to their Town Hall assembly point by a side streets. The announcers sounded pretty triumphant though. Eventually there was a surge of movement and lots of people went off up the hill towards the town hall, while others called for us to stay where we were. I decided to stay since that was the last instruction from the stewards. A bit later it turned out we had been kettled and for a couple of hours we stayed put in the small space. Police were apparently letting a few people out at their discretion, but I talked to people who weren't allowed out.
It turned out that those that had left had had a confrontation with the EDL near their assembly point, heavily disrupting it. Some EDL speakers made it to the assembly point, but the bulk of the EDL supporters were kettled for far longer than us. There are some reports of things being thrown at the EDL by local youths, and a few photographs of objects lying in the gutter that had apparently been thrown, which is a shame if true.
Eventually our town hall protesters marched back as a group to us, and there was a huge cheer as the groups were reunited. Then we held a "victory march" back to the station. There was actually cheering and "God bless you's" shouted from the shops and pubs along the way, I think led by a few demonstrators who had been let out. It did feel like a victory parade.
The EDL don't seem to be very happy about the way things went at all. They seem to have been massively outnumbered. They used to be able to get out about 5,000 but only a couple of hundred turned up this time.
At past demos I found it pretty worrying the way we were outnumbered by the EDL sometimes,
as at their welcome for Geert Wilders outside Parliament.
At their big Tower Hamlets
march walk to a static demonstration
they got a biggish turnout, but were still outnumbered, and that seems to have
discouraged them this time. I think in London at least, the EDL are in retreat.
Feels a bit of a relief, especially with the far right on the rise in Europe,
as with the Golden Dawn in Greece.
In the Treasury’s view, if there absolutely must be planning regulations, then they should be managed from the centre. That’s why it liked Labour’s Whitehall-driven Regional Spatial Strategies, which sought to force more houses on local communities. To its credit, the Coalition tore them up.US. Koch brother willing to consider higher taxes, gay marriage. Atheism+ kerfuffle: would-be founder quits blogging after harassment.
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