Finished Scoop, Evelyn Waugh's 1938 journalism satire, following hapless novice William Boot as he's accidentally sent to cover an African war.
Pretty amusing overall, though some of the racial and class-based stereotyping is pretty painful. Well written though, in a crisp style, with what seems to be acute observation of the journalist in his natural habitat.
Quite liked this anecdote by hardened journalist Corker:
"Why, once Jakes went out to cover a revolution in one of the Balkan capitals. He overslept in his carriage, woke up at the wrong station, didn't know any different, got out, went straight to an hotel, and cabled off a thousand-word story about barricades in the streets, flaming churches, machine guns answering the rattle of his typewriter as he wrote, a dead child, like a broken doll, spreadeagled in the deserted roadway below his window- you know."Principles of Folk Economics
"Well they were pretty surprised at his office, getting a story like that from the wrong country, but they trusted Jakes and splashed it in six national newspapers. That day every special in Europe got orders to rush to the new revolution. They arrived in shoals. Everything seemed quiet enough, but it was as much as their jobs were worth to say so, with Jakes filing a thousand words of blood and thunder a day. So they chimed in too. Government stocks dropped, financial pains, state of emergency declared, army mobilized, famine, mutiny- and in less than a week there was an honest to God revolution underway, just as Jakes had said. There's the power of the press for you."
I've been trying to codify the way normal people think about economics a bit. Any thoughts? Additions/removals?
- Objects have an intrinsic Price, which is an absolute measure of their value.
- Trade is a zero-sum game. Each trade has a winner and loser depending on whether the actual sale price exceeds the absolute Price.
- There is a fixed amount of wealth in the world. Economics can only allocate this fairly or unfairly.
- Formal economics is a sham, since specific recessions can neither be predicted nor avoided.
- The reason for formal economics existence is part cult, part conspiracy. The cult is concerned with studying abstract models with no relation to reality. The conspiracy is to use confusing jargon to justify the rich taking a greater share of the constant global wealth.
Had a look at the Serpentine pavilion. Completed late this year, but one of the better ones. Has a nice spiral ramp around the outside, so you can stroll up and have a look at the view around the park. Inside looks a bit uncomfortable, but didn't try it out.
Also had a look at the small, free Work, Rest & Play exhibition in the National Gallery's Sunley room. Actually thought that was a good exhibition though there's nothing much new there: interesting selection. Particularly liked the roll of elaborately decorative 18th century wallpaper, which on closer inspection turns out to show brutal scenes from the slave trade. Also interesting: Moroni's tailor, and Maggie Hambling's portrait of scientist Dorothy Hodgkin with four darting hands. Slideshow.
So, amidst the crop of dismally terrible British gangster films that sprouted like toadstools around the turn of the century, I heard a rumour that one wasn't that bad: Sexy Beast.
The rumours are true! It's actually a good film: short, tense, and crisply done. It's very like a stage play: most of the length is devoted to the confrontation as Ben Kingsley tries to bring Ray Winstone out of his cosy Costa retirement for one last job. Brilliant performance from Kingsley. He actually manages a surprisingly authentic cockney accent, and puts on a brilliant show as a twitchy, psychopathic bully. For once the character actually resembles the real-life nutters you meet rather than a movie tough-guy: awkward, disturbed and socially oblivious. He also does a superb death scene, spitting insults to the last.
Well worth seeing.
Nobel prize-winnder Gerard 't Hooft: how to become a good theoretical physicist using the internet.
The former crispyduck on touring on a recumbent and an upright bicycle.
Fisher observed that the Democratic Party outsourced its campaigning to hired canvassers in many different states. This contrasted sharply with the approach taken by the Republicans, who ‘mobilised what they purported to be an army of local volunteers to raise funds, run phone banks, and canvass for President George W Bush’. Democratic Party activists on the ground interviewed by Fisher frequently complained that, compared with the Republicans, they had ‘no lasting political infrastructure’; in particular they talked about the absence of ‘lasting roots that extend down to the level of the local voter’. In fact, the Democrats seemed scarcely enthused by those grassroots supporters who were available to help out. By contrast, the Republicans seemed to be far more in tune with local members and activists, mobilising and engaging them all year round. As such, ‘the Republican Party had an infrastructure that connected the state party organisations to the national campaign... [T]he Republicans were able to focus exclusively on developing local connections with party supporters who were firmly within its grassroots base.’
Compared to this quite patient form of party-building, the Democrats simply parachuted hired canvassers into local regions in an artificial and mechanistic fashion. The consequence was that ‘mobilising progressive volunteers who are not grounded in the localities and places where they work ignored existing personal bonds among like-minded Democrats. It was, in essence, throwing bodies at a problem that required friends and neighbours.’
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