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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Sun Jan 03, 2016 at 01:01:44 AM EST) Reading, MLP, Watching (all tags)
Reading: "This Book is Full of Spiders", "Ruling the Void". Watching: "Spectre", "Hercules". Links.


What I'm Reading
This Book Is Full Of Spiders by David Wong. Horror comedy sequel to "John Dies at the End" involving extradimensional spider creatures.

Really liked it. The first book was a bit disjointed from being written in episodes: this one has a much more coherent plot. It cuts between different characters with chapters entitled things like "X hours before terrible event Y", giving it a very fast pace and loads of suspense. While there's a fair whack of gross-out horror-comedy, there are also some clever ideas about the zombie craze in society, and some nice technical geekery.

Very much recommended if you like any kind of horror or zombie fiction.

What I'm Reading 2
Ruling The Void by Peter Mair. Short book by a political scientist about the declining participation in party politics across Europe and in the wider world. You can see this in the slow but jagged decline in turnouts, but more importantly in the massive fall in party membership. This is accompanied by parties that are much less responsive to public will, and are increasingly disengaged from the voters. While political campaigns are highly competitive, the policy differences between the parties grow smaller, and so electoral outcomes have less significance. What political control there is is often farmed out to supposedly impartial bodies of experts.

I think there are two significant aspects to the book. First, there's a lot of evidence of these trends and how they are consistent across the whole Western world, not part of one particular nation.

Second, Mair regards this as a mutual set of processes that occur on both "public" and "politician" sides, and reinforce each other. As the public withdraw from politicians, it becomes harder for the politicians to build public support and broad coalitions. But as politicians withdraw, making their differences less weighty, handing off responsibilities to the experts and the EU, the public correctly deduce that politics is less important. There's a kind of reinforcing feedback cycle between them.

There are also some other details: Mair points out that as this process is happening, political scientists are reworking and redefining their definitions of "democracy" to reflect the systems that exist.

The book was completed by others after Mair's death. Possibly because of that, there's not even a cursory "what is to be done" section. There are no hints at a solution. In British politics it will be interesting to see what happens to Jeremy Corbyn's attempt to revive party democracy and significant policy differences in the teeth of near-hysterical opposition from all sides.

Overall, a pretty interesting book for political junkies. Would probably be too dry for general readers. Review, review.

What I'm Watching
Saw the most recent Bond movie Spectre. Some decent action scenes. Tries a bit too hard to get serious and integrate the plots of the other Daniel Craig movies: the silliness and the angst don't really combine too well and making Blofeld his stepbrother seemed a bit daft. Not bad on the whole. Liked the double barrelled pistol the baddie uses.

What I'm Watching 2
Saw the Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Hercules movie. Solidly entertaining swords and sandals movie, thankfully eschewing CGI magic and monsters, with decent action and some gleefully scenery-chewing performances. Not a classic but undemanding fun.

Links
Socioeconomics. Do Juvenile Curfews Increase Crime?

Articles. Lemmy before Motorhead. Girls Explain Star Wars To You (TFA spoilers).

Sci/Tech. Maternal kisses are not effective in alleviating minor childhood injuries, via. Still no evidence e-cigarettes are as harmful as smoking. Software bug releases 3,200 prisoners early.

Pics. Showgirls play chess between shows.

Politics. In Defence of Polling. Rapper Tyler, The Creator banned from UK. Shannon Liss-Riordan, the lawyer fighting Uber.

< 2015, now with 20% fewer pages | Ohhh boy >
We're all zombies when it comes to love | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
(Without having read the book) by Herring (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Jan 03, 2016 at 06:22:30 PM EST
sometimes I do wonder if it would be better if policy was handed off to experts. Cameron's statements/policy on the internets clearly show that he doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about and isn't interested in the opinions of people who do. See also Prof David Nutt. Blair seemed the same - govern by trying to sound convincing rather than actual evidence.

I also see the point about handing off governing to the EU, but I think that TTIP and generally the power of large corporations is at least as worrying. http://arstechnica.co.uk/tech-policy/2015/12/how-eu-nations-are-being-sued-for-billions-by-foreign-companies-in-secret-tribunals/

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

Drug laws are stupid by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Mon Jan 04, 2016 at 08:49:10 AM EST
But I think that's partly because of the problems mentioned in the book: all parties are offering only policies from a tiny Overton window of "acceptability", even when that window is insane.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
TTIP and the EU go together quite happily by Scrymarch (4.00 / 2) #3 Mon Jan 04, 2016 at 08:51:29 AM EST
It's all about opaque bureaucracy and abstract ideals. They probably go to the same schools already.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Yeah, I try to keep informed* by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Jan 04, 2016 at 10:43:35 AM EST
But that TTIP arbitration thing really surprised me.

As for the EU, I actually see at least as much transparency and consultation in Commission standards as I do in UK ones, if not more.

*I mean, I've got a day off (because I've just come back from holiday), and I'm researching drainage information on meadowland pasture because I believe that the campaign against a local Park and Ride is wrong.

[ Parent ]
That maternal kisses study is a hoax by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #5 Mon Jan 04, 2016 at 06:06:03 PM EST
The Federalist wants you to know it's a hoax.

The commenters there make the very important point that if it's that easy to write a study that they'll fall for then perhaps science is unable to tell them anything.

They're right of course. But for those of us who aren't narcissistic enough to believe that science is a pure hoax designed solely to humiliate us in our ignorance make our lives a misery, it's a humorous study by some humorous people who happen to be good scientists. And comfortable enough with the tools of their trade to actually use them amusingly.

We're all zombies when it comes to love | 5 comments (5 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback