Print Story The compass wouldn't help at all
By TheophileEscargot (Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 03:39:15 PM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP, Museums (all tags)
Reading: "Rule 34". Watching: "Life of Pi". Museums. Links.

What I'm Reading
Finished Rule 34 by Charles Stross. Near future SF with a police officer investigating a spate of suspicious deaths.

Fortunately the title doesn't have much to do with the book itself. Theoretically the police officer is in charge of a "Rule 34 squad" investigating Internet memes which might have an impact on crime in her Edinburgh location, which doesn't make much sense, but she's immediately seconded to a murder investigation so it's not really relevant.

Good points: the book is packed full of clever, up to date ideas that could be grabbed from Wired or BoingBoing. 3D printers, a permanent deflationary recession, corporate psychopathy, augmented reality, CDOs, a black market in illegal biochemistry. Has a reasonably fast plot though the ending is heavily telegraphed.

Bad points: I really miss the days when SF writers couldn't write relationships, knew they couldn't write relationships, and so didn't write relationships. If you can't write even basic relationships from your own experience, cramming in angst-ridden polyamorous lesbians and guilt-ridden closeted gay/bi men isn't that great an idea. It's not convincing, it's not involving; and it was, it would just wreck the novel in a different way: you wouldn't care about augmented reality specs if you really empathized with a fellow human being's marriage breaking up.

Also multiple points of view doesn't work too well when the author isn't too good at creating an individual voice for each character: they all sound much the same.

Overall though: fairly entertaining and worthwhile if you're an SF fan and can cope with large quantities of Internet jargon.

What I'm Watching
Saw Life of Pi in 3D at the cinema. Adaptation of the allegorical/magical realist short novel about a boy who trapped in a lifeboat with a tiger after a shipwreck.

Liked this movie a lot. The animation and the 3D are glorious: the opening scene panning through the zoo practically justified the ticket price itself. The movie has a kind of quirky Wes Anderson feel, though it's directed by Ang Lee: scenes in India and France are idealized rather than realistic. The story keeps your attention too: it helps that the lifeboat bit doesn't start till about half-way through.

However, the allegorical stuff is hammered home rather more heavy-handedly than the book, which makes it a bit cloying at times. The god stuff might annoy both militant atheists and literal-minded religious people with the insinuation that God is a beautiful myth.

Overall though, very good movie, well worth seeing in 3D at the cinema.

Saw the grandly titled Constable, Gainsborough, Turner and the Making of Landscape at the Royal Academy. Got a ticket on the door with no queue on a Sunday afternoon though. The emphasis of the exhibition is on etchings, which apparently helped popularize landscape painting, bringing it forward from its status beneath history painting.

Quite a few of the works have some kind of classical theme, including Cicero in the garden. There are quite a few paintings, but it's actually the etchings that seem most impressive, especially in how they achieve the effects of bright light with just white space to work with.

£8 to get in, very decent exhibition, worth seeing.

Video. M2F transition. Solar ballet.

Random. Journalism meme: the occult hand. Texts from superheroes.

Pics. Aurora from ISS, Queen and Churchill.

Politics. Eweida ruling and religious rights. 'Insulting' to be dropped from section 5 of Public Order Act. Royal approval on bills. David Cameron should take tips from John Major about Europe. US: Hastert rule broken again, Koch brothers against breaking debt ceiling.

Sci/Tech. DSM-5 performs worse than DSM-3.

Articles. Misunderstanding Australia. Lessons From India: How to Promote the Polio Vaccine in Pakistan. Was Second Amendment to preserve slavery?

< C: no longer just your grade in the course | How's this work again? >
The compass wouldn't help at all | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)
Second amendment for slavery? by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 10:20:39 AM EST
While the article makes the case that slavery couldn't exist without statewide military force (which was economically required to be a militia in 18-19th century America), it doesn't explain how non-slave states could handle Indian issues, nor the general hostility to standing federal troops. A single voice (perferably non-Federalist) yankee or otherwise hostile to slavery isn't even included to claim this single purpose of the law.

The real problem is the timing. The bill of rights existed as a supplement to the original constitution to limit its power. If there was a constitutional need to keep "other persons" in chains the original document would never have passed without it.


In the future, everyone will be bi. by Dr Thrustgood (4.00 / 1) #2 Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 11:04:31 AM EST
I find Stross' writing really frustrating. I like the ideas behind a lot of his books, but his characters drive me mad. I read one of the Laundry series whose character's matey way of speaking was infuriating - and his girlfriend might as well have been his pet dog for all the depth she had.

But... the ideas in them are quite good. Annoying.

Slavery and the Second Amendment by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #3 Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 01:37:14 PM EST
Not the only reason, but  a reason.  There was a lot of dancing in the Constitution around slavery.   The Constitution really needs to be read with historical context.  That whole second amendment with the part on militias doesn't make much sense without historical context.  And the ideas that get passed around these days around the second amendment are right out there.  Americans are by and far a people that don't understand their own history. 

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
i think the idea of the second amendment... by gzt (4.00 / 1) #4 Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 02:57:19 PM EST
...was more along the lines of what the Swiss historically had and still have now. and also still made sense even as our militias died out in the context of expanding west despite hostile (and quite rightly so) natives.

[ Parent ]
It made sense at the time by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #5 Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 03:01:29 PM EST
At the time of writing, we'd just won a war using militias.  The people who wrote it also had a bad experience with the standing armies and mercenaries of their home country.  Militias were a way of having defense without standing armies.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Standing Army by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #6 Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 04:32:57 PM EST
The Federal Government was expressly given authority to raise a standing Army and Navy.  The militia thing really just comes down to local defense against non-white people and Canadians.

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
[ Parent ]
The constitution does allow for a standing army by lm (4.00 / 1) #7 Fri Jan 18, 2013 at 07:45:05 PM EST
But also gives to the federal government to power to ``provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.''

At best a standing army was seen as a necessary evil by the framers of the Constitution. That the drafts allowed for a standing army was probably the most persuasive anti-Federalist argument of the time.

The founders had hoped that most defense matters could be done by militias.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
Most Defense by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #8 Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 09:29:38 AM EST
Most defense was expected to be against Indians, slaves and possibly Canada.  There was no real threat of an external invasion of any size.  It's been a hallmark of US defense policy from the start.  Any inititial invasion from an outside party should be able to be held or even thrown off by a quickly organized defense and militias were part of that.  Also communication was poor so local response was needed.  The US never needed a large standing Army.   But I think we're really arguing the same point.  And it's a point that most Americans, and especially not the NRA, have argued.  The second amendment was to support local defense against outsiders.  So where does that leave us in the 21st Century with sattelites, radar, radio and air support? 

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
[ Parent ]
No threat of external invasion by lm (4.00 / 1) #9 Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 10:46:33 AM EST
Kind of like the war of 1812. Re-invasion from Britain was very much on the minds of the new country.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
In 1789 there wasn't any by jimgon (4.00 / 1) #11 Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 06:39:30 PM EST
And the War of 1812 was not a massive invasion that couldn't be imediately responded to with local forces to be followed up by a central response.  The thing about the US, even then, is that it was so geographically disperse that no threat of invasion existed which could impact the whole nation.  Any invasion, then and now, is local or regional. 

Technician - "We can't even get decent physical health care. Mental health is like witchcraft here."
[ Parent ]
But the fear of invasion was still there by lm (4.00 / 1) #12 Sun Jan 20, 2013 at 08:16:11 AM EST
And just two years later in 1791, the same year that the Bill of Rights was ratified, the the Legion of the United States was created as a standing army.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
Washington thought otherwise of militias by wumpus (4.00 / 1) #10 Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 05:14:57 PM EST
and preferred his more committed forces. Militias have been pretty spotty. IRC, the forces defending DC during 1812 were militias, but DC was saved by veterans who showed up during the civil war (Monocacy, an obscure battle that just happens to be nearby me and the related park is good for short hikes with little planning).


[ Parent ]
The compass wouldn't help at all | 12 comments (12 topical, 0 hidden)