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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 03:10:40 PM EST) Reading, Watching, Museums, Links (all tags)
Reading: "Sun of Suns". Museums: "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting", "Australia". Watching: "Oblivion", "Thor: The Dark World", "Kiki's Delivery Service". Links.


What I'm Reading
Finished Sun of Suns. Science fiction by Karl Schroeder. It's set in a vast artificial bubble of air, lit by artificial suns which interfere with radio and electronics. So, you have wooden towns and wooden spaceships, which fight battles as in Napoleonic War sea fiction.

It's very well done. It's fast-paced with plenty of good action scenes, battles with space pirates and so on. But the world-building is also excellent. Everything is carefully thought through, reminiscent of the better Larry Niven books.

Wikipedia claims that Shroeder was born into a Mennonite community: the culture clashes between the primitive inhabitants and the high-tech outsiders, surrounded by glowing rectangles of light, are very well portrayed.

Very good reading. This is the first in the Virga series, will definitely be looking up the later volumes.

Museums
Saw the Masterpieces of Chinese Painting exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum. Was surprised to be able to get in without booking on a weekend.

It's a fantastic exhibition, covering a huge diversity of work. It starts with Buddhist devotional images from around 700AD: faded but still in remarkable condition for that age. Lots of boddhisatvas, designed for procession banners and funeral images.

cIt goes on through the familiar vertical landscapes, both from the original Literati school and the later revival of the movement. There are portraits of officials. There's a fantastic image of a goddess and a phoenix. There are long scrolls showing landscapes and journeys, the silkmaking process, the lives of courtesans.

One of the most remarkable pieces is Prosperous Suzhou from the nineteenth century, , a huge scroll showing off all aspects of life in the city commissioned by a proud ruler: picnics in the countryside, a wedding ceremony, scholars sitting for exams, the dockyards: it's almost like a Chinese Imperial Richard Scarry.

Fantastic exhibition, well worth seeing.

Museums
A little while ago saw the Australia exhibition at the Royal Academy. Theoretically themed around landscape, which is a bit of a no-brainer for Australia: they seem to have a bit of an advantage at that.

Has some aboriginal art, both traditional and modern, which looks good though I don't know much about it: elegant patterns apparently representing and sometimes mapping the landscape. There are some works by modern and contemporary artists which seemed less interesting to me: it's not necessarily worse, but doesn't look much different to conceptual art from anywhere else.

The highlight for me was the realistic landscape painting of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. That's a familiar style, but it really highlighted the fantastical Australian landscapes of mountain and forest.

Good exhibition, worth a look.

What I'm Watching
Thor: The Dark World in 3D at the cinema a while ago. Liked it a lot: while DC seem stuck in a grimdark loop harking back to the Miller/Moore Eighties, Marvel are a lot more willing to have fun. Manages to be cheesy enough to be fun, without undermining the tension. Not an absolute classic, but a solidly entertaining movie, good way to spend a couple of hours.

What I'm Watching
Saw Kiki's Delivery Service at home. Another Studio Ghibli kids' movie. Pretty charming, but didn't seem quite up to My Neighbour Totoro in creativity.

What I'm Watching
Oblivion Decent SF movie with Tom Cruise as a drone repairman in a post-apocalyptic future Earth. Little bit cliched but won me over with some random references to Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome and some nice imagery of a cool apartment over a devastated future landscape.

Would have liked to know a bit more about what was going on with Titan: they say 'there is no Titan' but what happened to all the water?

Links
Video. The howling fat men of the Coen brothers. A380 plane evacuation.

Politics. How the Tories reverted to class type. How much media coverage does UKIP get? Senate goes first: "they've turned control of a legislative body...into little more than a veto point".

Articles. Last years of WW2. Ex-CIA officer on NSA blowback: problems with the "everybody does it" excuse

No one, friend or foe, can any longer believe that there is some rational process that guides United States national security initiatives. It is like an unthinking predatory beast that has been unchained, and now lashing out in all directions with little discrimination or sense of proportion.
Sci/Tech. The handwavers guide to the brain.

Pics. The Top 6 Reasons this infographic is just wrong enough to be convincing. Mothers and day-old babies.

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Virga by Vulch (4.00 / 1) #1 Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 04:48:36 PM EST
I think I was pointed at Sun of Suns by someone saying it would probably work for Iain Banks fans. There's a definite flavour of it being an Airsphere without the giga-fauna being investigated by Contact or Special Circumstances. Also a definite hint of Larry Nivens Integral Trees. Physical copies of the series seem to be hard to come by for sensible prices in the UK though.


Chinese Imperial Richard Scarry. by hulver (4.00 / 1) #2 Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 04:51:57 PM EST
They should put that on advertising posters. I'd go see that.
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Cheese is not a hat. - clock
Giant JPEG by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #3 Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 04:59:20 PM EST
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/70/Prosperous_Suzhou.jpg
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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?
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For the ashes of his fathers | 3 comments (3 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback