Finished Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, after reading her "Night Watch" recently. Can see why her fans were so pissed off by "Night Watch": that was a pretty realistic and depressing novel, whereas this is a melodramatic Victorian romp.
Works very well: keeps the suspense going by switching narrators, cleverly plotted though falling apart a bit at the end, manages to go beyond the usual recycled Mayhewisms to produce an entertainingly gothic underworlds.
As with Night Watch, there's a scene where a character complains about the modest cost of something very important: not sure if she's aiming a little dig at an ex or something.
Overall, worth reading if you can stomach a bit of sentimentality.
Saw "Spamalot" at the Palace Theatre. Fairly enjoyable. Seems a bit clunky in the way it tried to please the two different audiences of musical fans and Monty Python fans. The musical stuff is surprisingly big-budget: twenty people on stage plus an orchestra, slick production values with skilful singing and dancing, lots of costume changes, vastly elaborate moving set. Just seemed to be a strange contrast with the low-fi recycled "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" sketches, which made a virtue out of their lack of budget with things like the coconut gag.
Once again, not really enough into musicals to really appreciate the singing, dancing and the satire of it. Things like "This is the song that goes like this" presumably work a lot better if you've sat through a few of the songs that go like that.
Overall though, pretty funny in places and with plenty of eye-candy. If you find yourself being dragged to a musical, you could do worse than make it this one.
No more girlie stuff in the pipeline. Next up is the new Alastair Reynolds skiffy: "Prefect", set in the "Revelation Space" universe, then it's probably "Globalization and its Discontents" by Joseph Stiglitz.
More economics and politics stuff. This Bryan Caplan essay The myth of the rational voter goes through some of the problems of democracy. There's a book version out soon.
It's interesting in the specifics, though overall it's just covering the experts-versus-collective-wisdom debate that goes right back to Plato's critique of democracy.
I think the main problem with it is that he takes a very naive view of democracy as simply a means of expressing the policy wishes of the populace. As I see it, the whole reason that we have a representative democracy rather than a direct/plebiscite democracy is that that didn't work, for the reasons that Plato described.
With a representative democracy, you don't have to vote for the policies you think will give you the desired outcome. You can look at the records of individual politicians and parties, and vote for the ones who have been successful in giving you the outcomes you want. In the example he gives of immigration, most people may falsely believe that immigration is bad for the economy; but they can end up gritting their teeth and grudgingly voting for a party/individual that's relatively pro-immigration, because he/it has the better economic record.
What the disconnects he gives might do is explain the paradox that while the Great Moderation has given us an unprecedented period of economic growth and stability, people seem more than ever convinced that their governments are incompetent. The parties are more centrist and have more similar economic policies that before, because they're all choosing policies that work. Hence, we have economic stability. However, most people are convinced that these policies are economically disastrous: hence we have a lower opinion of the politicians.
The problem with this voting-for-outcomes is that it may not be possible to identify the effects of good or bad government. The effects of a policy can lag greatly behind it, or economies may prosper or fail due to effects that have nothing to do with it: business cycles or the global economy.
So, maybe the much-maligned habit of people to stick with a party loyalty isn't so irrational after all. People don't have the specialist knowledge to evaluate every policy and weigh them all up. Maybe by studying the parties' actual performance over decades, and switching maybe once or twice a lifetime, they're actually shrewdly calculating their votes in the best way they can.
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