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By TheophileEscargot (Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 02:59:29 PM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP, Museums, Theatre (all tags)
Reading: "The Dictator's Learning Curve", "Cock and Bull". Watching: "The Impossible". Theatre: "Bullet Catch". Museums. Links.

What I'm Reading
The Dictator's Learning Curve. Book covering the way dictators have responded to the increasing number of democracies with new tactics.

The number of democracies in the world grew rapidly between mid-nineties but since has remained more constant as dictators learned to adapt. A few dictatorships like North Korea have remained in power using traditional totalitarian means. But other rulers, ranging from Russia and China to Chavez in Venezuela, have remained in place by allowing a moderate amount of economic freedom while carefully managing the opposition.

Dictator's tactics include things like rigged elections, creating their own tame opposition movements, rigged but more plausible elections, keeping a tight control on the media, and relying on populist conservative people's movements as in Russia. The book describes a kind of cat and mouse game between dictators and resistance movements like the colour revolutions and the Serbian Optor groups.

The content is quite interesting, but the book is written in a hither-thither style that I found a bit irritating: the narrative flies backwards and forwards between the various different countries, introducing new characters with physical descriptions then abandoning them. The author seems to like stressing his own personal contact with them to.

The book "From Dictatorship to Democracy" (I read it here) is references quite a lot.

It definitely seems to be true that Russian-style semi-authoritarian states seem to be more popular than outright dictatorships right now. It will be interesting to see if this trend lasts. I'm not sure how stable these arrangements are, I suspect they when they come under pressure they'll be prone to either fall into full totalitarian repression, or be gradually reformed into true democracies.

It was interesting to read in the light of A Radical History of Britain. which points out that Britain basically evolved into democracy through gradual reform of undemocratic institutions. The House of Commons essentially started off as a mere pressure valve and talking shop, but gradually accreted more power and a wider franchise until it became a fairly democratic assembly.

Overall, fairly interesting if you can put up with the style, but other people have noticed the same trends.

Saw Bullet Catch at the National Theatre's "Shed". That's another temporary venue with a more modern relaxed atmosphere, a bit like their Paintframe equivalent last year.

It's a one-man show that's half magic show, half theatre. Rob Drummond’ is a playwright and amateur magician, who takes us through the history of the Bullet Catch, concentrating on the incident where Henderson was killed attempting to perform it. He and an audience member read out extracts from the journal of the man who fired the fatal bullet.

Along the way he performs various magic tricks, culminating in an impressive performance of the bullet catch itself.

Liked this show a lot, thought it made the best of both worlds. The tricks are a bit uneven, but the storytelling element makes up for the odd awkwardness. He seems to be channelling Derren Brown a bit too hard at times and at times it's a bit too obvious that the apparent cold reading is more likely traditional conjuring, as when he 'reads voices' to determine whether people have been given a black or white ball.>{? The bullet catch is very tense after all the build up, with an apparently genuine shot fired first. Overall, good show: it's finished here but well worth seeing if it moves on.

The Shed seems OK as a venue, though not as interesting as the Paintframe was: like it says, it's basically just a shed. Had a pretty good view from seats listed as "restricted view". You do get a bit of distracting background noise from the South Bank stuff going on outside.

What I'm Watching
Saw The Impossible on disk. Tear-jerking true-story disaster pic with a separated family trying to find each other in the aftermath of the Boxing Day Tsunami.

Seemed reasonably done but I couldn't really get into it. It was all a bit obvious that it was going to have a happy ending. Might have been better to not have it so clear that both sides of the family had survived, as it is, it's just a question of when they bump into each other. Seemed to be a bit too sentimental which left me cold.

Not really recommended.

Saw Saloua Raouda Choucair again at Tate Modern. Was sober this time and found it much more impressive. She's a Lebanese artist who did abstracts a couple of decades too late for fashion. They're great to look at though: she has a good sense for colour and form. The paintings aren't bad, but the highlight are the intricate sculptures. Some are stone, some are concrete, some are wood, but they often combine a beautiful surface with a fascinatingly complex semi-fractal structure.

Small exhibition, but well worth a look. if you have a card. Bit pricey for non-members at £10 for three small rooms.

The "Ellen Gallagher: AxME" exhibition seemed much the same as last time.

What I'm Reading
Finally read Cock and Bull by Will Self. Two early nineties novellas, one of which features a housewife who finds herself growing a penis, the other with a rugby player who grows a vagina.

Has the clever wordplay you'd expect. I thought these didn't have so much of the disturbing misanthropy that I think puts me off Will Self a bit: the characters are a little grotesque but still somewhat sympathetic.

Overall, pretty good.

Articles. Living in the Tokyo capsule tower. Society doesn't break down after disasters (orig)

Pics. Stuck cats. Saturday demo pics, by a good photographer not me.

Video. Thirties New York in colour.

Random. Max Headroom and the Strange World of Pseudo-CGI. "After Earth" is not Scientology propaganda.

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Ugh. Matt Frewer is ruining Eureka for me. by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #1 Tue Jun 04, 2013 at 10:23:24 AM EST
I wish I were younger so I wouldn't be taunted by his awful voice.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

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