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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Sat Jul 15, 2017 at 02:25:14 AM EST) Reading, Me, MLP, Watching, OBLF (all tags)
Reading: "The Pigeon Tunnel". Watching. Me. Links.


What I'm Reading
The Pigeon Tunnel. Collection of autobiographical essays by author John le Carré.

Has some interesting anecdotes. He relates Alec Guiness' meeting with ex-Secret Service boss Sir Maurice Oldfield and how he took some elements for his portrayal of George Smiley. There's not that much material on le Carré#'s time as a junior analyist with MI5 and MI6, but what there is is fascinating

As to his Service being unable to answer back, well I would guess there is not a spy agency anywhere in the Western world that has enjoyed more mollycoddling from its domestic media than ours. Embedded scarcely covers it. Our systems of censorship, whether voluntary or imposed by vague and draconian legislation, our skills in artful befriending, and the British public's collective submission to wholesale surveillance of dubious legality are the envy of every spook in the free and unfree world.
...
But let me in parting acknowledge one debt of gratitude to MI5 that I can never sufficiently repay. The most rigorous instruction in prose writing that I ever received came, not from any schoolteacher or university tutor, least of all from a writing school. It came from the classically educated senior officers on the top floor of MI5’s headquarters in Curzon Street, Mayfair, who seized on my reports with gleeful pedantry, heaping contempt on my dangling clauses and gratuitous adverbs, scoring the margins of my deathless prose with such comments as redundant – omit – justify – sloppy – do you really mean this? No editor I have since encountered was so exacting, or so right.
...
You would not, I imagine, if you were on the lookout of the inside story of Grand Prix racing, choose for your source a junior mechanic with a hyperactive imagination and zero experience of the race track. Yet that is a fair analogy of what it felt like to be appointed, overnight and solely on the strength of my fictions, to the status of guru on all matters of secret intelligence.
The book also has a bit on his relationship with his con-man father, which provides some good anecdotes, but isn't covered in much depth: perhaps too painful. There's quite a bit on the authors research trips for his later novels: I haven't read them so found those bits a little dull.

Overall, a fairly interesting collection of sketches.

What I'm Watching
Saw the intelligent science fiction Arrival about a linguist making first contact with aliens who land twelve ships on earth. Very well-made film, shies away from action movie clichés but still manages a great sense of claustrophobic tension. There's also some effective tear-jerking stuff.

If you've read a lot of written science fiction, the ideas and plot are a bit more familiar and less mindblowing than some of the regular reviewers found them. I found the ending a bit too 'Bill and Ted'ish in the way they basically just use time travel to go ahead to when they've already won, thought that was a bit unsatisifying.

Overall though, well worth seeing. Good to see that like "Moon", "Gravity" and "Interstellar" it's still possible to make science fiction movies that aren't just dumb action.

What I'm Watching 2
Saw Baby Driver. A young getaway driver listens obsessively to music as he works: almost the whole film has music and the action scenes are choreographed to it.

Really enjoyed watching this movie. Although the plot is a cliché it's a near-perfect balance of action, comedy and romance.

Also strange how the musical taste of the young protagonist is so much like that of a middle-aged man, but I'll definitely allow it.

Great entertainment, well worth seeing.

Behind the music.

Me
Weight loss is going OK. About 6 pounds down, about 6 more to go. Didn't realise I'd put on so much though: where I am now is when I'd previously thought I had to take action. Have two weeks then another short holiday so it's going to drag on for a while, will probably have to keep going after the holiday.

Links
Socioeconomics. Why Is Charles Murray Odious? Cost of basic income is the Net Transfer Amount, Not the Gross Price Tag. Top 1% of Uk households fully recovered from financial crisis.

Random. Etymology of "naff". Tube map showing tunnels.

Sci/Tech. Lumosity “brain training” games have no beneficial effects on cognition. Hobby lobby's parallel universe of antiquity studies.

Politics. Conservatives need a grassroots army to match Labour's. The myth of Britain's decline? The latest revelation won't end Trump's presidency. The coronation of Macron.

The end of the state-shrinking dream:

The aftermath of the Brexit vote hasn’t turned out the way that those on the libertarian right hoped...

Firstly, the right-wing populism they fuelled to win the vote has turned out to be more like that of their old Monday Club rivals; nationalist and statist... The result was the most interventionist Tory manifesto for a generation, aimed at winning and keeping those voters who care more about security and immigration than tax cuts and deregulation.

Secondly, the idea of turning out to vote in large numbers to upset the political establishment has caught on among the young...

And, of course, were there to be a socialist government after the UK leaves the EU, it could tax, spend, nationalise and intervene in whatever it liked.

Articles. We interviewed some people about The Simpsons’ Classic Planet of the Apes Musical. Powerpoint is good. Richard Seymour: On the Twelfth. The Uffington chalk horse.

Video. Division by zero on a mechanical calculator.

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Meeting at midnight while avoiding all the neighbours | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
FWIW by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Jul 15, 2017 at 12:12:10 PM EST
My 14-year-old listens to Muse and Foo Fighters.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
Ted Chiang by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Jul 15, 2017 at 09:06:25 PM EST
Stories of Your Life and Others is well worth the read if you haven't already. The title story is the source for Arrival. I liked the movie, but the story has some other elements too, particularly on time. A lot of the action is internal, it's interesting what they made of it. A number of other good stories in the collection too.

I'm surprised there aren't more books and movies about heroic linguists. Goodness knows there's enough about writers.

https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2007/10/24

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Meeting at midnight while avoiding all the neighbours | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback