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
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.
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
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