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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 08:38:48 AM EST) Reading, Watching, Theatre, Museums, MLP (all tags)
Rereading: "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". Reading: "Cursor's Fury" Watching: "Exit Through the Gift Shop", "Syriana". Museums. Theatre: "Krapp's Last Tape". Links.


What I'm Rereading
Reread Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance on a whim. Cult pop-philosophy book of the early Seventies. Intertwines three strands: a father-and-son motorcycle trip, flashbacks to an increasingly insane English professor trying to create a philosophical breakthrough by uniting Reason and Romanticism, and descriptions of the philosophy itself.

The book stands up a lot better than I expected. In particular the motorcycle trip is eloquently described, and the family interactions pretty touching, though the symbolism gets a bit heavy at times. While the book has a whoa-man hippie reputation, a lot of the philosophy is surprisingly rigorous, at least by the standards of modern equivalents.

Reading it now I think I was pretty heavily influenced by it, not so much in overall terms but in the little details, like breaking out the Scientific Method by consciously writing things down step by step when I hit a significant problem.

Not sure whether to recommend it or not though: might seem a bit dated to someone trying to read it for the first time now.

What I'm Watching
Saw The Banksy Movie Exit Through the Gift Shop. Not sure how much of it is real, there are lots of rumours of hoaxhood floating around, but nothing there struck me as obviously false.

The movie is basically about Thierry Guetta, an LA-based shopowner with a habit of videoing everything around him. A relative of his was a graffiti Street Artist, and he started following various members of the movement (Invader, Shepherd Fairey) around, recording them while they did their thing, with a mind to making a future documentary. Eventually he encountered British graffiti artist Banksy and filmed him at work too.

However it seems Guetta wasn't so much a filmmaker as "a guy with mental problems and a video camera", and couldn't make a coherent documentary.

The film glosses over this part, but I suspect the deal was that Guetta would turn over his archive of tapes to Banksy, in return for becoming a Street Artist. Returning to LA, with the aid of his artist friends' contacts. Guetta set up a huge exhibition under the name Mr Brainwash. Practical artists built huge props, PR people created an immense hype, his friend furnished him with publicity quotes, and he instantly became a financially successful artist without any apparent talent whatsoever.

It's actually a good film: drily funny and well worth watching, with a few bits of fascinating footage of the graffitists at work. Well worth watching.

What I'm Watching 2
Saw Syriana on DVD. Rather preachy film about Middle East Issues. Various characters who don't have much to do with each other get involved in a complex and corrupt oil deal, and deliver lots of little speeches as they do so.

Has quite a good RottenTomatoes rating of 72% Fresh, but I couldn't get into it at all. The characters seemed pretty dull and stereotypical: a Grizzled Maverick Intelligence Veteran, an Idealistic Youngster in the Corporate World, a Terrorist Driven By Economic Oppression. The terrorist seemed especially flat after seeing Four Lions. It's hard to care about them, none of their stories are particularly compelling on its own, and there isn't much of an overall storyline either.

So, seemed a bit pointless. Might have worked better in the cinema where it's harder for attention to wander.

What I'm Reading
Finished First Lord's Fury, the last book in the Codex Alera fantasy series. Very well done, enjoyed it a lot after the weaker penultimate volume. The series comes to a grand conclusion with a well-orchestrated series of battles and fights. Definitely a great modern heroic fantasy series.

Theatre
Saw Michael Gambon in Krapp's Last Tape at the Duchess theatre. One-act, one-man Beckett play about an aging novelist whose habit is every year on his birthday to record a tape about the year, and listen to past years.

It's as grim as you'd expect, with a portrait of a lonely man whose life seems to have been one steady decline. He rages at the smug satisfaction of the earlier tape, finally bellowing out a disjointed cry of despair. Brilliantly acted: Gambon is compelling even when silent. Well worth seeing.

Review, review, review, review.

Museums
Saw Canaletto and his Rivals at the National Gallery. Pretty good exhibition, each room showing a Canaletto landscape of Venice alongside similar views by other artists.

Definitely some great artwork on display. Does get a bit samey though, especially since there are a lot of Canalettos around. £12 seemed a bit much.

Web
Video. Cat and printer. Dropped camera compilation. Silent movie Star Wars. Slightly offensive pie ad.

Articles. The Fighting Negro editor. Waiting for Superman: Charter Schools overrated? Where ideas come from: Eureka moments are rare. Cracked: we're already in a post-scarcity world ruled by bullshit.

Politics. Councils plan for exodus of poor families from London. Control Orders likely to stay. Labour loses the East End. Probation officer on drug rehabilitation. Sheffield Forgemasters contract goes to Germany after loan withdrawn.

Sci/Tech. Chupacabra explained? Download your own sundial.

< How the great have fallen | Books I've Read This Year 2010 >
Memorable Equinox | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)
(Comment Deleted) by aggressive cyclist (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 12:27:26 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by aggressive cyclist



You just don't recognize Quality [nt] by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 2) #2 Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 01:57:03 PM EST

--
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 ]
I had an intro piano class in college by R343L (4.00 / 1) #3 Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 02:46:22 PM EST
I thought it was supposed to be practical. Somehow it was also classified as a "writing emphasis course". Now, I'd taken others and every department had to have at least one -- for instance, my math department's intro proofs class was one. However, one doesn't expect a piano class where you're just barely able to play anything at the end of the class to be one.

So how did my instructor decide to "emphasize writing"? He had us read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance throughout the semester and write essays about it.

I read the first chapter and, as I was still in a very rationalistic, anti-hippy mood, refused to waste my time on it any further. I had too much actually interesting work to do.

I sadly got a B.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by aggressive cyclist (4.00 / 1) #5 Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 03:37:49 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by aggressive cyclist



[ Parent ]
Well ... by R343L (4.00 / 1) #6 Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 03:43:54 PM EST
It was a little surprising I could just skip out on a major portion of the class and not fail.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot
[ Parent ]
Zen and the art of teaching histology by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #4 Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 03:25:28 PM EST
My histology professor tried the experiment of not telling us any of our exam grades until after the end of the semester. In our small class, it had the effect of making all of us study harder and spend more time in the lab. I can probably still identify Aurbach's Plexus, and differentiate secretory structures from different parts of the digestive system, and it's been 25 years.
"I honestly pity the stupid motherfucker who tries to talk down to iGrrrl" - mrgoat
Exit through the Giftshop by ana (4.00 / 1) #7 Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 04:02:20 PM EST
We saw it, uh, early in the summer, I think it was, and I'm still thinking about it. I think it's safe to say that nothing in that film is quite what it seems to be. I'm not sure I want to do the actual research to find out from independent sources whether anything documented there actually happened or not; it's more fun in some ways to leave it slightly ambiguous.

I did like the scene near the end where Banksy says he used to tell everybody they should be an artist. After Thierry, he doesn't do that any more.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

(Comment Deleted) by aggressive cyclist (4.00 / 3) #8 Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 04:31:22 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by aggressive cyclist



The loons on the left by jump the ladder (4.00 / 2) #9 Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 05:21:09 PM EST
Think anyone that opposes centrist Labour Party politicians is worthy of their support. It's more like victory for Bangladeshi identity politics and East London Mosque.

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by aggressive cyclist (4.00 / 3) #10 Sun Oct 24, 2010 at 05:53:47 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by aggressive cyclist



[ Parent ]
Sheffield Forgemasters by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #11 Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 05:09:49 AM EST
According to a friend who works there, the German press isn't really equivelent as the Forgemasters one would have been much bigger, 15kT, 500T ingots. But still...

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It's political correctness gone mad!

Syriana by duxup (4.00 / 1) #12 Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 09:37:01 AM EST
Yeah it was pretty underwhelming.  It felt like one of those films trying to say something a lot of folks were feeling but had too much to deal with to make it interesting.

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Memorable Equinox | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)