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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 01:03:12 AM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "Among the Hoods", "To the Heart of the Storm". Watching: "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex But Were Too Afraid to Ask". Links.


What I'm Reading
Among the Hoods by Harriet Sergeant. Curious non-fiction book by a Daily Mail columnist and right-wing thinktanker who befriended a group of London semi-criminal youths from a deprived background, and over several years tried to assist them.

Sergeant regards herself as having gone through a tremendous change of heart as she came to sympathize with their plight and problems. She is horrified by the complex insanity of the benefits system, and the indifference and casual cruelty of some who administer it. At one point one of the youths is attempting to go straight and get a job: when trying to get into work he discovers he is liable for a bill of thousands of pounds for housing benefits.

However, on another level, Harriet Sergeant never breaks away from her fundamental worldview that everything is about individuals, rather than society and social structures. As she comes to sympathize emotionally with the guys, she is willing to take at face value their complaints that their problems are due to other individuals. These targets for blame include indifferent teachers who allow them to skip school, and the women who become single parents: often rejecting the fathers while the children are babies, only to miss a paternal presence when the children get bigger and start getting into trouble.

It doesn't occur to Sergeant that one reason for the complexity and "benefit traps" of the benefits system is that it's designed to punish the "lazy" in an attempt to keep the tabloids and their readers happy. The system provides incentives to get pregnant because public opinion won't allow babies to starve because of their parents, but wants to make life as unpleasant as possible for unemployed non-parents. One practical solution would be to increase benefits for non-parents: but that's not politically acceptable.

Teachers, carers and social workers are uniformly portrayed here as lazy, uncaring individuals. It doesn't occur to Sergeant that this could be anything to do with the organization or funding of these institutions. I get the feeling that ideologically to her, everything has to be the fault of immoral individuals. Having found that the "hoodies" aren't the immoral monsters she expected, she's transferred the blame to immoral individuals working on the front lines of schools and the state.

Overall, moderately interesting for its perspective. But unless you've been living in a bubble, the revelations here will be pretty familiar.

Review, review, review, review.

What I'm Reading 2
To the Heart of the Storm. Semi-autobiographical comic by industry titan Will Eisner. As the younger Eisner travels to basic training after being drafted in WW2, he looks out of the window and reflects on his childhood in New York and the background of his Jewish family.

An excellent comic, with some poignant and funny stories. Superbly drawn in black and white as you'd expect, with Eisner's characteristic strength in drawing emotional postures. There's some great set-pieces here, I particularly loved the Vienna cafe as WWI is declared with angry and excited figures all over.

It's in a fairly familiar vein if you've read much of his work, but I think the art carries it through. Worth reading.

What I'm Watching
Saw the old Woody Allen film "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex But Were Too Afraid to Ask" on disk. I like some of his other old films, but this one has dated very badly. Most of it seems kind of sniggering-schoolboyish now.

The Gene Wilder segment where he falls in love with a sheep is the only one that seems to hold up. I think that's partly because he plays it absolutely straight, and partly because sheep-shagging is one of the few sexual mores that is exactly as forbidden now as it was then. The comedy attempted-rape scenes are less funny because that seems more serious by modern standards, while the basic sex and fetish stuff seems pretty tame by modern standards.

Overall, if you liked this movie in the past, don't ruin your nostalgia by watching it again.

Links
Socioeconomics. Sears business structure is a problem. Bank bailouts compared. Political Economy of Central Bank Activism: "In their own minds they probably see neoliberal reforms as self-evidently beneficial".

Sci/Tech. Sikorsky Prize for human-powered helicopter claimed. A new kind of peer review? Solar system tail. Neanderthals and humans had common ancestor with language?

Politics. America against democracy. Bosnia's baby revolution. Nail bomb near mosque. Woman harassed by police MPs salary rise would be much lower if linked to median, not mean earnings.

Random. Famous books with little-known sequels. WW2 doctor faked typhus epidemic to save villages. 5 slave escapes. Knitted wigs (slightly NSFW) Middle aged man things. 1970s McDonalds three-piece suit.

Pics. 99 Problems Illustrated. Soviet Tech Magazine.

Articles. Who edited Shakespeare? Some thoughts on mercy.

< Will the World | Something on short-range sensors >
Like a dog without a bone | 3 comments (3 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Semi-criminal youths are an annoyance to society. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #1 Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 10:08:31 AM EST
We may, or may not, toss the magazine at them (half-heartedly) and move them to a half-way house for an indeterminate period of time. That should, or should not, show them the statistically-insignificant error of their ways.

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

MPs pay by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 2) #2 Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 02:35:56 PM EST
Once upon a time MPs were paid their salaries by their constituencies, individually. I heard it on the BBC so it must be true.

We could go back to that. Think an MP is overpaid? Move house. Once you live in that man's constituency, it is coming out of your pocket and you get a say.

Single mothers by Herring (4.00 / 1) #3 Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 04:53:16 PM EST
one thing I've mentioned several times is how illogical I find it that governments of all shades (of blue) a) say they are in favour of couple staying together and b) financially penalise couples who stay together through the benefits system.

Your point about benefits for single people is a good one too.

The more I think about it, although there are issues, the more I think that the CBI idea is a far better solution than what we have now.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

Like a dog without a bone | 3 comments (3 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback