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By TheophileEscargot (Sun Jul 24, 2016 at 02:00:46 AM EST) Reading, MLP, Watching, OBLF (all tags)
Reading: "Up in Smoke". Watching: "High-Rise". OBLF. Links.

What I'm Reading
Up in Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station by Peter Watts. Fascinating book on what should be a dull subject: why the iconic Battersea Power Station has spent decades rotting away despite being theoretically under development. He starts with a few chapters on the power station in operation. It was built as two independent facilities which started running separately. The famous four towers was a relatively late change: Sixteen were originally planned but they moved to fewer and higher to incorporate air scrubbing and reduce pollution.

But the main point is the building's afterlife. He goes through the various development consortia that have owned the site, going through the diverse and grandiose plans for amusement parks, museums, cinemas. The council originally didn't want it to be residential property since it was supposed to provide jobs, but eventually acquiesced after all the other plans failed.

The reasons are largely what you would expect. The plant was difficult to convert, required an enormous asbestos disposal operation, and lacks transport options. (Surprised nobody seems to have considered a dedicated ferry from somewhere since the coal was brought in by the river.) In addition, as property prices rose it was always profitable to just sit on the site and make empty promises, knowing that you could sell the land later.

The site now seems to be under development again, unless something else happens. But the current plan is the least imaginative. The power station is to be surrounded by bland high density upmarket apartment blocks which will cut off most views of the station itself, which will become incredibly expense apartments.

As such, the power station depressingly mirrors the state of the rest of London: neglect, property developers sitting on appreciating land banks, followed by boring development aimed at the rich.

Overall, an interesting book but a fairly grim read.

What I'm Watching
Saw High-Rise, the adaptation of a J.G. Ballard novel set in the Seventies of the book, about society collapsing in a new upmarket tower block. Loved it: it's definitely the most Ballardian of his books that's made it to screen, although some of the dialogue sounds wincingly forced when actually spoken. The movie looks good, the class warfare is viciously accurate, and the collapse is brilliant. Well worth watching.

Let's just hope it happens in Battersea...

Found I'd put on six pounds, lost it again in three weeks. Again wondering if I should go lower: still feel a bit wobbly, but on previous experience it's probably best to leave it as not much more happens visibly.


Socioeconomics. COBOL and Legacy Code as a Systemic Risk. Enslaved by the wrong theory:

His presidential address was titled "The Missing Motivation in Macroeconomics". The missing motivation was norms. When I first encountered this paper, I rubbed my eyes in disbelief. Norms? Economists have been primary advisors on public policy and they’re only newly discovering a little thing called norms?

Random. Etymology of On the Lam.

Articles. Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve racked up prizes — and completely misled you about the Middle Ages. What it was like to own a car in the USSR.

Politics. Turkey’s Baffling Coup UK government to introduce 'mandatory deradicalisation' scheme. The centralizing-decentralizing axis. My Corbyn Dilemma. Labour’s rebels, unable to get their act together, are part of the problem.

Local. Hampstead Heath's snake population soars. Brexit could cut London house prices by more than 30%, says bank .

Pics. Fake Chalets: Unmasking the Bunkers disguised as Quaint Swiss Villas, the Toblerone Line. Slave children. Universe.

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I work for the building | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)
Thanks for the link to the article on Greenblatt by lm (4.00 / 1) #2 Sun Jul 24, 2016 at 08:22:10 AM EST
I'm not sure how I missed it. I hit Vox's front page several times a day.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
I just nearly impulse-bought Lin Ostrom's book by Scrymarch (4.00 / 2) #3 Mon Jul 25, 2016 at 08:22:35 AM EST
But then realized how much other reading I had to do, so started making up clickbait headlines for it with B instead.

Click Now For The Top Eight Ways To Ensure Co-operative Governance of a Commons
This Midwestern Housewife Won A Nobel Prize: Find Out How!

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I work for the building | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)