Just skimmed A Fundamental Mistake by Graham Cliff after picking it up in the library. Curious book saying that as a society we should work more by rewards for good behaviour rather than punishment. Sounds interesting in principle, but the specific details are a bit underwhelming. He proposes ideas like a kind of Nectar points being handed out by local government rewarding good social behaviour, and an expansion of the honours system so that quite ordinary people can have titles after their names.
Might be useful if it works, but it seems liable to corruption and bureaucracy: are these benefits going to go to the deserving or people in the right clique? Or if points are handed out by peers, what's to stop local thugs demanding them with various kinds of intimidation. It's also hard to see it replacing that much of the negative coercion of justice system that he criticizes.
Still, at least it's an idea. I do like the idea of local groups or authorities formally honouring nice people.
What I'm Reading 2
People Power by Dan Jellinek is a "user's guide to democracy". It explains in brief national, European, regional and local government, the legal system, and how to be involved in the political protest. Quite interesting, with a bit of history: I'm fairly politically aware but learned a few things. The book seems optimistically aimed at helping ordinary people get more involved and aware in politics.
Informative and well-written. Could be useful. Has a broad range so it can't go into huge detail on specific areas.
What I'm Reading 3
The History of Mary Prince is a slavery narrative by a female slave who escaped in England. A little harrowing, especially the descriptions of savage beatings. Interesting example of how even after the abolition of slavery in the UK, planters felt fairly confident about bringing their house slaves to Britain. The owners calculated that fear of an alien environment, the difficulty of survival, and social ties would keep them from leaving, even though a slave was legally free to just walk away. The boundary between legal slavery and economic slavery isn't necessarily as firm as we'd like.
What I'm Watching
Saw Russian Ark. on disk. Movie famously shot in a single take, by Steadicam through the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, encompassing some of the current museum, recreations of historical events, and grand ceremonies, concerts and events.
The gimmick was partly dictated by filming requirements (they only had a short time of access) but it actually works well, giving a sense of tension and spontaneity as they roam restlessly through the eras. There is a kind of plot, but it's mostly something to feast your eyes upon.
Well worth seeing if you have even a bit of tolerance for art movies.
Took a few dull pics at the latest UAF demo. Pretty big with thousands attending. This time the English Defence League were kept a very long way off though: couldn't hear them at all and saw only a few flags in the distance. Started off in the park with speeches, moved onto the road to be visible, then had a brief march to the East London Mosque.
Good atmosphere, but a bit frustrating not to be able to confront the EDL a bit more closely.
Articles Don't canonize G.K. Chesterton. Skeptical ecstasy. Pics. Baltimore stevedores on payday, 1905. Huge Semi-Submersible Ships. Cartographic sea monsters. Victorian couple fails at Serious Victorian Portrait. Space suits. Anatomical sculptures.
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