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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Sat Aug 03, 2013 at 02:55:57 AM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "The People of Forever are Not Afraid", "Safe Area Gorazde", "It's a PC World". Watching: "The Master". Links.


What I'm Reading
The People of Forever are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu Novel telling the linked stories of three former schoolfriends doing their national service in the Israeli army. Interesting and poignant, with tragic and dramatic events mixed in with the mundane.

Has a couple of first-novel flaws: at times it's a bit difficult to remember who's who. But overall a good novel.

What I'm Watching
Saw The Master on disc. Drama about the relationship between Freddie Quell, a disturbed alcoholic war veteran and a cult leader "Lancaster Dodd" who's very much like L. Ron Hubbard. Superbly acted and a great depiction of the relationship. A bit slow-moving though: could have done with a few cuts to the repetitive cult scenes. Worth a look. Review, review WP

What I'm Reading
Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco. Powerful documentary comic about the enclave in the Bosnian war. Mixes up accounts of Sacco's time there, with broader history of the war, and illustrated accounts of people's stories.

It's a good showcase for the value of "sequential art" non-fiction. Most video and photo journalism is skewed by the availability of images: if there are no pictures, it might as well not have happened. With this form, anything that happened can be visualized.

Not an easy read: some of the stories are quite harrowing. But well worth reading.

What I'm Reading
It's a PC World by Edward Stourton. BBC journalist ponders political correctness but doesn't really get very far. Seems typically BBC in that he scrupulously considers both sides but within a very narrow mainstream "consensus".

He realizes out that "political correctness" is an incredibly ambiguous term, used generally by right wing opponents, and that most of the outrageous examples of it (e.g. "Winterval") are essentially fictitious. Stourton doesn't try to define the term, but instead explores various permutations of it: language policing in real life, postmodernism in academia and so on.

Makes a couple of useful points. On is that most of the politically correct consider themselves to be part of a specific movement, e.g. feminism or gay rights, and that there isn't really an overall "political correctness" movement as such, even under a different name. Another is that since the original PC bugbear was in the campuses of the early Eighties, if it really was an effective brainwashing tool graduates up to their mid-forties should be affected by now, but they still seem capable of independent thought. He eventually plods to the unsurprising conclusion that it has some advantages in making minorities feel accepted, but it is stifling free speech to a small extent, with examples mostly of broadcasters feeling reluctant to step on certain toes.

Was a bit disappointed by the lack of scope and depth here. There seem to be genuinely serious problems with political correctness: it would be really good to see a proper critique from a neutral, left or liberal point of view, rather than a Daily Mail / Fox News knockdown of straw men. This book isn't it, and I don't know of one that exists.

Overall, not terrible but a bit shallow. Not a book that's really worth seeking out.

Links
Video. Life on Moss Giant XKCD animation Time ends, via. Dog knows tricks. App That Identifies Objects For Blind People. "Homicidal" Fright Break.

Politics. "What we're seeing is a move towards the global imposition of a police state in the developed world". Home Office tactics in illegal immigration crackdown prompt Twitter storm. (Not sure if Lynton Crosby's dog whistle tactics will work better for David Cameron than they did for Michael Howard: they failed hopelessly back then but that was in an economic boom. OTOH raising salience of immigration/xenophobia might drive votes to UKIP). Council cuts not as evident as expected. Use of Calculators: Iain Banks' politics. Against a Twitter “report abuse” button. Royal veto gives more influence than thought. Chaos over Universal Credit.

Pics. Ink dropped into water.

Sci/Tech. Is the age of mindless brain research already over? Facebook API sucks. Employee with surname "Null". Microsoft's Surface RT debacle. Prehistoric body parts you don't see anymore.

Articles. Films written by famous novelists, Why are novelists so seldom good playwrights? Movie gimmicks Be kind. What is the "One Weird Trick"? Gender variant kids: what if they change their mind? Television's golden age: men behaving badly? "Pink panthers" jewel thief gang. Decline of juries in US.

Random. Etymology of Bumbershoot. "Don't shoot your friends" Twitter game. Dumb-bell workout

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