Finished Bloodlands. Grim non-fiction book about the parts of Eastern Europe occupied by both Hitler and Stalin where most of the deaths took place. Starts with Stalin's Terror Famine in the Ukraine, documenting how the death toll was deliberately increased enormously beyond that of a "normal" famine. Then moves on to more familiar territory of the Holocaust, and ends with the forced population movements of the end of World War Two. It also contains accounts of various purges in both domains.
The book is very thorough: combines rigorous though conservative statistics with haunting individual accounts. Seems to achieve its goal of giving an accurate overview of the suffering not skewed by the experiences or national myths of countries. For instance, Holocaust survivors were mostly from the labour camps not the extermination camps, and their experiences don't necessarily reflect typical deaths. One thing that becomes clear is how many deaths were face to face, not just the impersonal mass facilities.
It's also thoroughly depressing. Definitely a useful book on the subjects, but didn't contain any particular revelations.
Saw the fascinating Artist and Empire exhibition at Tate Britain. Eclectic collection of objects including huge maps of British North America, homemade flags of the allied Asafo groups, Nigerian sculptures of Queen Victoria and other imperial figures. Also has a fair amount of celebration of empire art, including paintings and classroom maps.
Some highlights were the polar map of the telegraph company showing the cables emanating from a London at the centre of the world; an ironic alternate-world sculpture of redcoats in women's boots dangling with teabags, as if someone else had made an imperial-style exhibit of the defeated British; and a "proclamation board" attempting to illustrate equal justice to Australians (panels show a black man and a white man both executed after a murder.
Also saw the Alexander Calder exhibition at Tate Britain: twentieth century artist who pioneered moving artworks: dangling mobiles, motor-powered sculptures, a pendulum bouncing against different items. Some of it was really impressive: I liked the sculptural mobiles and the wire sculptures of circus performers. Sadly there are an awful lot of signs saying "This work is now too fragile to be moved" which seems to defeat the original purpose. I feel pretty sure it would be more in tune with Calder's intentions to have copies that actually move rather than stare at the static originals.
Another quiet Christmas with the wife and toddler. Not too bad though I got badly sick on Boxing Day: either overindulgence or some dodgy chicken. Toddler loved unwrapping his presents: at 2 years old he doesn't really have any expectations to be disappointed. He liked the tree as well: he paid no attention to my parents artificial one, but was fascinated by ours. Hasn't managed to pull it over yet though we've moved most of the baubles to the higher branches.
Socioeconomics. Benefit Sanctions Can’t Possibly "Incentivise" People To Work. The road to the workhouse. None of the 5 Muslim Nations Where Gay is Legal were part of the British Empire. Suicide rates no higher in the holidays.
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