Finished Darwinia. Parallel universe novel with an interesting premise: in 1912 the continent of Europe disappears, replaced by a wild continent full of alien life-forms.
Has some pretty good pastiche of the period, with lots of Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft references. Fair amount of action, nice easy reading, a few interesting ideas.
Thought it was a bit lacking in terms of an overall plot though: more like several novellas loosely stitched together. It's not really clear what the individual actions are attempting to achieve, and the climax seems a bit perfunctory.
Also I had some problems with the gimmick behind it, which left the rules a bit unclear. It's never spelled out what impossible things are possible. And I found it harder to care what happened knowing that they were all in a simulation, and the real history of the Earth was unchanged.
Overall, pretty decent retro entertainment.
Dropped in at Tate Modern and had a look at the Cy Twombly exhibition. Last of the abstract impressionists. Thought it was absolute bollocks: semi-random daubs with no interesting form, no particular aesthetic impact.
However, he has a high reputation, so my opinion is probably wrong.
Also went back to the Street and Studio photography exhibition that I zoomed through. That seemed a lot better with more time to spare: has some interesting modern portaits as well as more modern stuff. One Dave Gorman-ish gimmick I thought was interesting was a guy who went round the world getting cheesy studio photos from various countries, so you could compare their styles.
From the vaults
With Gordon Brown in office for over a year, dug through the vaults a bit.
Still not convinced Brown has the charisma or political ability to be effective though: he doesn't speak or interview well, and would rapidly accumulate damage if in the Prime Ministerial firing line.17 Jan 2005:
Can't see Brown getting more than one term thoughI still find it pretty baffling as to who exactly thought having Gordon Brown as leader was a good idea.
He has very little charisma. His years in the Downing Street bubble have eroded what little of the common touch he had. Which was never very much: remember "neo-endogenous growth theory?" Notice that Brown tends to shy away from tough interviews even more than Blair: he's intelligent but not fast on his feet.
It's always the PM who takes most of the flak: faced with defensive press conference after defensive press conference Brown will look a little worse each time, unlike Teflon Tony.
My hunch: if Brown takes over late in the next term he'll get re-elected once. If he takes over early he'll be defeated in the subsequent election.
Socioeconomics from Stumbling and Mumbling: Equality of opportunity without greater equality of resources is just impossible.
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