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By TheophileEscargot (Tue May 04, 2010 at 01:25:05 PM EST) Reading, Watching, Theatre, MLP (all tags)
Theatre: "The Habit of Art" Reading: "What I Saw". Watching: "Agora.


Theatre
Saw the new Alan Bennett play The Habit of Art at the National Theatre.

Amusing play within a play: a group of actors, with the director absent and the writer irritatingly present, rehearse a play ("Caliban's Day") about the aging poet W.H. Auden and composer Benjamin Britten meeting again in Oxford.

Very funny at times, with the actors wincing their way through some deliberately terrible scenes and ideas. In other places though, the internal play is very good with some great comic moments.

The ending, or endings (they rehearse two for the internal play) seems a little bit flat though. Was hoping that the director would turn up or there'd be more of a conclusion.

Worth seeing though, especially for the great central performance by Richard Griffiths

Guardian, Observer Independent Telegraph reviews.

What I'm Reading
Finished What I Saw by Joseph Roth: collection of articles about life in Berlin in the Weimar Republic. Mostly fairly whimsical and light: wittily done though I suspect a lot is lost in translation.

The last essay however is a powerful lament after the German-Jewish author fled Germany due to the Nazis. No happy ending: he died penniless in Paris.

Quite interesting slices of life.

What I'm Watching
Saw Agora at the cinema. Interesting movie set around the burning of a library of Alexandria around 400AD, starring Rachel Weisz as the philosopher Hypatia in conflict with the Christians as they gradually take control of the city.

Has some thoughtful ideas, and great depictions of the ancient equivalent of science. The Christians are generally the baddies, but the pagans are shown to have flaws as well. Thought it was quite brave for a change to have even the protagonist shown to have an occasionally unpleasant attitudes towards slavery.

The movie doesn't hang together perfectly: there's an awkward time-gap at what could have been an ending, and there are rather too many aftershave-ad shots of male characters pouting broodily at the camera. But there are some terrific scenes and some powerful drama as well some depth. Worth seeing. Times, Guardian Observer review. WP, RT, critical articles on the history.

Web
Articles. Shutdown of Middlesex University Philosophy Department. LRB review of Red Tory by Cameron's guru Phillip Blond. Long old article on long old wires. Alastair Reynolds, Terry Pratchett on Doctor Who.

Social mobility and political attitudes. "Upwards social mobility relative to parents makes individuals more left-wing... people who are downwardly socially mobile tend to be more right wing".

Video. Penguin blimpbots

Random. XKCD male/female colour survey results.

< A short digression on domestic matters. | Well, you asked for it... >
Burn, baby, burn | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)
long article by sasquatchan (4.00 / 1) #1 Tue May 04, 2010 at 01:55:40 PM EST
crikes, it's Stephenson, goes with out saying. He's no Dickens, but at least Dickens wrote interesting stories..

Does Ms. Weisz get her TOFTL? by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #2 Tue May 04, 2010 at 02:05:41 PM EST
The XKCD survey was amusing. Baige. lol.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

She has a couple of nude scenes by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #3 Tue May 04, 2010 at 02:15:36 PM EST
But mostly filmed from the back and she's being brutally assaulted and murdered in one of them.
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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 ]
No point to blacken the comment. by Tonatiuh (2.00 / 0) #12 Fri May 14, 2010 at 10:08:46 AM EST
If you are moderatly informed you know what was her fate.

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What I want to know by Merekat (4.00 / 2) #4 Tue May 04, 2010 at 02:26:30 PM EST
Was what colour was identified as 'penis'.


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Magenta I expect by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #5 Tue May 04, 2010 at 02:29:39 PM EST
Assuming any B3tans read XKCD.
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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 ]
Another good piece on Blond... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #6 Tue May 04, 2010 at 02:50:36 PM EST
Bamfordshire...

http://fistfulofeuros.net/afem/culture-3/bamfordshire/ 

What struck me by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #7 Tue May 04, 2010 at 03:08:35 PM EST
Was that it might be an example of the way Conservatism still hasn't really assimilated free market economics (formerly the province of classical Liberalism.

Adam Smith showed that the increasing Wealth of Nations is due to specialization. If everybody specializes in a different task in making a pin, together they can make more pins, and trade with other people for non-pin-related aspects of life.

So, if the man who cuts the pin-wire wants to educate his children, the most economically efficent way for him to do it is keep on cutting the wire and pay someone else to do it.

So this idea of groups of citizens taking over schools doesn't make any economic sense. They're not specialists in administrating schools. You can argue for fully privatized schools (or school vouchers) but not amateur faux-medieval-village stuff.

It's irrational, almost magical thinking. "The State can't afford to do these activities, so Big Society community groups must do it instead." But the time they spend doing this has value. It's not just free. And since they're doing it in a non-specialized, economically inefficient way; it's more expensive to do it that way once you include that value.

So what it amounts to is "We can't afford to do it this way, so we must do it a more expensive way." If the State can't afford to do something, then the Big Society can't afford it either.
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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 ]
Is it always a financial decision? by Merekat (4.00 / 1) #8 Tue May 04, 2010 at 03:13:09 PM EST
I know some people in Ireland who were forced to start schools so there'd be some alternative to having to get their kids baptised. Yeah, legally there's not supposed to be discrimination, but...


[ Parent ]
David Cameron by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #9 Tue May 04, 2010 at 03:25:22 PM EST
Seems to claim the Big Society will save money:
...They are all part of our big society agenda.

So too are our plans to deal with our debts.

As you heard from George Osborne and Philip Hammond earlier, building the big society does not become redundant in age where we have the biggest budget deficit in our history.

In the long-run, cutting the bills of social failure is the best way we'll get the deficit down.

And in the medium-term, reforming the way we provide public services will be crucial if we are going to deliver more for less.


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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 ]
Absolutely agree... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #10 Tue May 04, 2010 at 03:59:34 PM EST
that's the bit that has always mystified me most about the "Big Society" rhetoric as "moneysaver" - haven't they noticed that people are pretty busy?

Incidentally, it occurred to me that while Tim Worstall is always posting about how working hours have gone down (since the days when we all worked in the mill for 18 hours and only had Sundays off) I'd be curious what has happened to the average commute... 

[ Parent ]
Disintermediation by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #11 Wed May 05, 2010 at 12:19:33 AM EST
From my understanding of it, the argument is more about disintermediation than specialization.

Adam Smith wasn't the first to point out the benefits of labour specialization - it goes back to at least Mencius. Plus you have all the 19th century points about comparative advantage from Ricardo. All good stuff. If the proposal was to replace, say, the school's teachers, with amateurs from the nearby village, then fine, shoot it down on specialist grounds.

The proposals are however to replace the management of these organisations with something sourced from the local community. Now management is an inherently political role, so the justification for this is not simply economic. It's an attempt at devolving power, rather than just a budget measure.

The current large scale process for directing their local school is transmission mainly through their MP, to the ministry, thereby to the civil service, through a number of layers in the education department, down to the headmasters of schools. The alternative is for members from the local community who care about that school to manage the headmaster directly, and work with her to manage the Education department. If you don't at the same time reduce the size, reporting requirements, degree of control of the department then it's not a lot of help.

Certainly this takes time from people. There is a kind of Boy Scout government aspect to it as people have noted. And what is to stop such groups from hiring specialists where required? I don't see any suggestion the headmaster will be a non-specialist, for example.

Now I won't go so far as claiming bureaucrats don't have specialist skills and are purely overhead. Bureaucracies grow to manage large organisations, but in the private sector and the public sector their natural tendency is to expand. Beyond a certain point this does become inefficient. Technologies now make it simpler to automate functions manual bureaucracies previously performed. Large bureaucracies also result, at times, in the central organisation very efficiently delivering something somewhat divorced from the needs of the specific school students in question. Which is not a good use of money. Noting this is hardly magical thinking.

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Burn, baby, burn | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)