Print Story 43 species of parrot! Nipples for men! Slugs! Are we not in the hands of a lunatic?
By TheophileEscargot (Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 06:16:33 AM EST) Reading, Watching, Theatre, Museums, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "Faking It", "Equoid", "The Emperor". Museums. Watching: "Time Bandits". Theatre: "Edward II". Links.

What I'm Reading
Faking it: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music by Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor. Interesting book examining the notion of authenticity in popular music. It basically attacks the concept, which from the reviews seems to have satisfactorily annoyed various groups of music critic.

The book is at its best discussing blues, jazz and old-time music in the US in the early Twentieth century. Contrary to stereotype, the New York music scene was racially segregated, but the American South was much more integrated. There were mixed-race bands, black bands who played a mixture of black and white events, and a thriving industry of black professional musicians, mostly playing live commercially. Into this world in the late Twenties, the record industry sent scouts who rigidly divided up the music into "hillbilly" or "old-time" white music, and "blues" black music, although the actual music was sometimes barely distinguishable.

Enthusiasts and promoters then tried hard to seek out the most "authentic" examples of this black and white music. Names were changed: "Dr Bate and his Augmented Orchestra" were renamed "The Possum Hunters" for that hillbilly feel. White promoters coaxed black musicians out of the sharp suits and sophisticated melodies they used for black audiences, in favour of overalls and "authentic" old blues. Eventually the familiar stereotypes of country and blues music emerged.

The book moves on through rock, folk,punk, grunge and world music. It talks about various kinds of authenticity. "Personal authenticity" where a someone sings bout his life and experiences. "Representational authenticity", where crude, lo-fi techniques and arrangments are assumed to be more honest. "Cultural authenticity" where music is seen as a representative of a particular authentic culture.

The book makes a good overall case that "authenticity" is often a product of critics, scouts and enthusiasts seeking out and creating what they'd like to see. Generally musicians themselves prefer to make money and play for large audiences rather than mumble to themselves on a porch. They tend to seek out and integrate new influences, rather than sticking rigidly within their tradition.

Overall, interesting book, worth reading if you're interested in musical history or want to annoy self-righteous blues or punk fans.

Review review review, defunct author blog.

What I'm Reading 2
Equoid by Charles Stross. Novella set in his "Laundry" series about a secret British government department dealing with Lovecraftian magic. In this one the hero Bob Howard is sent to investigate a suspected unicorn infestation: of course the unicorns are rather more horrible than their usual depiction.

This is one of a wave of novella-length works released online for much less than the cost of a full novel. One of the advantages of digital publishing is that they can be more flexible about length and price than paper publishers.

Liked it a lot. The novella format works well for this sort of thing: gives enough time to show off and develop a new monster without you getting bored with the gimmick. It plays to Stross' strengths: great world-building and decently paced plotting, not his weaknesses (believable human relationships).

Feel he missed a trick by not having the toy-sized horses play a bigger role though. Hopefully there'll be a spin-off explaining what happened at the boarding school.

Well worth reading if you like the Laundry series or would just like to give it a try.

What I'm Reading 3
The Emperor by Ryszard Kapuscinski. Classic short non-fiction book by a Polish journalist, about the later years and fall of Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie The book is based on interviews from anonymous servants and insiders within the enclosed world of court politics. Written in a conversational style, it draws a vivid picture of a Byzantine world of preferences and position. It's all the more devastating because of the sympathy the courtiers have for their former ruler.

Reminded me a bit of Wolf Hall, not sure if she was inspired by this book or if its just a general resemblance of the court favouritism around an absolute ruler.

Great book, well worth reading.

Dropped in at the Hayward Gallery while passing a while back, where they had a couple of artists. Ana Mendieta is a Cuban-born artist, working in the Seventies onwards. Lots of conceptual-ish work, often based around her own body. There are photos of her covered in stones as a tomb, covered in feathers and having them washed off, etc. Not terrible but didn't seem particularly striking.

Dayanita Singh is an Indian photographer, with a mixture of portraits and street scenes. Some quite interesting photos, but again nothing really stood out. Overall, seemed decently done but not particularly worth seeking out. Seemed a bit pricey at £11 for mostly photos and not particularly big names.

What I'm Watching
Watched Time Bandits for the first time since I was a kid. A boy joins a group of dwarfs as they travel through time and space on a mission to get stinking rich by robbing historical figures.

Had some trepidation about whether it would hold up, but after Metafilter revisited it lately I thought I'd give it a go. I loved the movie when I saw it at the cinema on its original release (1981), and became mildly obsessed with the tie-in novel (This was long before we had a Video Recorder).

This one actually stands up to time and adulthood pretty well though. Has a good mix of action, comedy and invention. Even Girl B said she liked it.

Saw Edward II at the National Theatre, Christopher Marlowe's play about the king, his relationship with courtier Gaveston, and deposition.

This production has garnered terrible reviews, but their complaints were that it was ridiculously over-the-top and incoherent, so I gave it a go. Generally that means it can be entertaining to watch, it's when even the critics think it's dull that you know there's a real problem.

Definitely a bit of a curate's egg. Good parts: some great performances. Kyle Soller was a convincing homme fatale as Gaveston: he appears nimbly parkouring down the walls and handrails of the audience section: a great contrast to the base, leaden earls. John Hefferman does well as the obsessed Edward II, and Vanessa Kirby plays his wife Isabella as a kind of Essex-girl, doing her best to compete for Edward but clearly and hopelessly outclassed by Gaveston.

Bad parts. The use of video is as bad as they say. Might have worked for just the conspiracy parts as a kind of surveillance thing, but they also have a costumed cameraman on stage pointing glaring lights in the faces of the wincing actors. Seemed like a pointless distraction, you actually see a lot less of the acting, and its embarrassing to watch Edward shuffling implausibly slowly around.

The costumes are an apparently random mix of modern, ancient and fantasy. For the set they've boldly removed all the backdrops so you see the whole space, which is interesting in the short term. You see the backs of scenery, it's presumably supposed to indicate that the court is a kind of backstage-of-the-nation, but it's not really carried through. When rebel earl Mortimer takes over and holds court on a shipping container loaded with junk, is he supposed to be in the storage room of the nation? It's not really clear.

Good and bad points. Bettrys Jones plays the child prince Edward III. When she finally starts speaking she does a wonderful job, projecting fragility and fear turning to determination. But for the first half she stomps around in a ludicrous schoolboy costume which for anyone of my generation screams Little Jimmy Crankie.

Overall, interesting to see it, entertaining but not a great success.

Telegraph, Telegraph, Independent, Mail, Standard, FT Time out Clowns reviews.

Socioeconomics. "Leftist critics of neoclassical economics are under-estimating the extent to which economic science can support their case". Evidence against millionaire tax migration. Wealth (note: not income) more equal in UK than France or Germany. Was human capital reason industrial revolution started in England? via.

Because English human capability is initially slightly higher than French, England can start to apply technological knowledge to production earlier, giving rise to a cumulative process of rising living standards, rising human capital, and improving production technology. A gradual rise in knowledge above a critical level causes England to experience an industrial revolution, while France for a while appears mired in age-old backwardness...

Britons were better fed than Frenchmen... the median French worker consumed about 2200 kcal per day, considerably less than a median English diet of about 2600 kcal.

Politics. Why the return of growth doesn't prove that Balls was wrong . Benefit cap. Poll questions that should be ignored. The Myth of the Better War: America's Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency. Federalist and antifederalist representation. Facts and fairness over immigration. White supremacist Pavlo Lapshyn jailed for 40 years for Birmingham murder and mosque bombs. Austerity and how to fight it. Feudal security: The Battle for Power on the Internet:
The truth is that technology magnifies power in general, but rates of adoption are different. The unorganized, the distributed, the marginal, the dissidents, the powerless, the criminal: They can make use of new technologies very quickly. And when those groups discovered the Internet, suddenly they had power. But later, when the already-powerful big institutions finally figured out how to harness the Internet, they had more power to magnify.
Sci/Tech. Google's grip on Android. Fukushima exaggerations. A Brief History Of The Sports Bra.

Articles. Remembering the Nord-Ost Siege. Eric Schlosser's "Command and Control" about cold war nukes. Mao and traditional Chinese medicine. Mike Tyson on his childhood. Subcultures. Remember Stanford Ovshinsky, inventor. Dale Carnegie biography. Gary Lineker on kids' football. Burke in debt. Turning first-rate universities into third-rate companies. Uncircling the Circle Line, via

Pics. Vintage animations. Gilliam-style animations of early modern art figures.

Stoicism. The Stoics on the Community of Humankind.

Random. Onion's manly yoghurt spoof becomes reality.

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43 species of parrot! Nipples for men! Slugs! Are we not in the hands of a lunatic? | 13 comments (13 topical, 0 hidden)
Don't touch that! It's pure evil! by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #1 Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 05:29:04 AM EST
I saw Time Bandits in the theater on first run too. Loved it at 16. Saw it on cable a couple of times in the 90's and it had aged well, then it seemed to disappear. Never really seemed to catch on.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

All right, they convinced me by priestess (4.00 / 1) #2 Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 05:30:37 AM EST
At first you think, well, of course the circle line should be a circle. It would have a stupid name otherwise.

But those articles convinced me, and staying on a train going all the way around is pointless and stupid anyway.

So yeah, if it'll improve service then break the circle, by all means. Turn it into a lasso shape or T-Cup shape or whatever. Sounds like those solutions would be more or less transparent to anyone who didn't intend to go all the way around the loop anyway.

Chat to the virtual me...

Dayanita Singh by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #3 Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 07:03:42 AM EST
It's one of those oddities of the art world. Her claim to fame was to step away from single images and museums into mass-produced books.

I haven't been to see the exhibition, but instinctively it didn't seem like they would be able to make her work meaningful in the Hayward setting and tradition of display.

As for her photos, I've never found them to be that special, but that's the curse of "art photography" most of the time in at least the last 20 years. (20 years ago is when I really became a photographer and so started to really pay attention to the art photo scene.) There's just way too much tolerance of banal, run-of-the mill and derivative work...

Equoid by Vulch (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 07:18:20 AM EST
There are some entries over on Charlie's Diary on the subject of Equoid that make interesting reading.

Rentoul and UK wealth by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #5 Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 07:20:04 AM EST
Offhand (since his actual data sources are obscured) the big driver of this is greater home ownership.

However, how that plays out in practical terms, I don't know - but I think there are complications (as usual) in talking about wealth below a certain threshold, due to illiquidity.

Another indirect source here by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #6 Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 09:27:29 AM EST

I'm sure Australia is only at the top of that list due to the property boom. Its don pretty well at redistribution, but still. Young / old demographics  will make a mess of it in twenty years.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Young/old by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #11 Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 04:53:57 AM EST
I think that's at the heart of the conundrum in Britain too.
It sounds great - wealth is spread around - but the suspicion is that there's a bunch of people in the bottom 50% who are either pensioners or will be soon. They have a house, so they score on wealth, but we don't know about their income and we don't know about their ability to turn their wealth into income and finally we have no good statistics on where their wealth will go when they die.

In the meantime, most of the young are looking at a life where they don't get on the property ladder, so if property is the main driver of the lower wealth inequality it looks to be in the process of reversing itself.

(The thought occurs that the positive situation is partly a result of Thatcher's "right to buy" - but the downside is that it's not proving to be a sustainable solution, it was a one off redistribution that denuded the state of leverage in the housing market and created an even worse situation down the road...)

[ Parent ]
Might have worked ok by Scrymarch (4.00 / 2) #12 Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 10:21:21 AM EST
If it was "right to 99 year leasehold" instead and they kept building council houses.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Culinary Authenticity by riceowlguy (4.00 / 1) #7 Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 02:07:43 PM EST
The book makes a good overall case that "authenticity" is often a product of critics, scouts and enthusiasts seeking out and creating what they'd like to see.

I feel the same way whenever people start talking about "authentic" [INSERT ETHNICITY/NATIONALITY/REGION HERE] food.  Of course, I could just be a stereotypically ugly American but I get annoyed with typically highly privileged/educated Stuff White People Like white people say "well you know, what you call Mexican (or Chinese, or Japanese) food isn't really authentic".  Do I give a crap?  I just want a tasty meal, not an ethnology lecture.  I know that these tacos would be made corn tortillas instead of flour and with beans and cactus instead of steak and cheese in Mexico, but I like flour tortillas and steak and cheese (too damn much, unfortunately).  I do understand that when people who are genuinely fans of a given cuisine that is native to a particular region have their preferences for having it made a certain way, it's less wordy to say "authentic" than "made in the style I happen to enjoy", but it gets preachy at times.

Or maybe I just like to bitch, I don't know.

Elitist anti snob:) by Merekat (4.00 / 3) #8 Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 03:08:43 PM EST
Me, I dislike gristle too much to hunt down authenticity.

[ Parent ]
agree by gzt (4.00 / 2) #9 Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 07:45:39 PM EST
for much of the world, authentic cuisine, no matter where you are, is essentially rice and beans. what variety of rice, what type of beans, what few additional flavorings, those change. unless you're rich. in which case, if what they had around was beef and pork, you'd eat beef and pork instead of goat and horse.

but, yeah, I mean, carne al pastor isn't "authentic", it's a "fusion" cuisine inspired by Lebanese immigrants to Mexico (so is this authentic Lebanese?!). to me, that means two things:

  1. that's way cool
  2. i don't care about authentic, i care about delicious

[ Parent ]
Bad Reason link: by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #10 Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 09:38:01 PM EST

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

Thanks, fixed! [nt] by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #13 Wed Oct 30, 2013 at 12:50:41 AM 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 ]
43 species of parrot! Nipples for men! Slugs! Are we not in the hands of a lunatic? | 13 comments (13 topical, 0 hidden)