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By TheophileEscargot (Mon Dec 24, 2018 at 02:02:07 AM EST) Reading, Museums, Me, Links (all tags)
Reading: "What the Hell Did I Just Read", "Adults in the Room", "Marx and Marxism", "The Circle". Museums. Me. Links.

What I'm Reading
What the Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong. Third book in the "John Dies at the End" horror comedy series. This one has the slacker heroes investigating missing children and dealing with memory-altering entities. Good fun, an entertaining read with some disturbingly chilling imagery.

What I'm Reading 2
Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis. The former Greek finance minister goes deep into the failed negotiations with the EU where Syriza fought unsuccessfully to oppose yet more damaging austerity for Greece.

Basically there were three options for Greece. The best was restructing debt and remaining in the Euro: this was what Varoufakis aimed for. The next best would have been defaulting on the debt and exiting the Euro: this is what German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble wanted. The worst was more extend-and-pretend: implementing further austerity and pretending the unsustainable debt would eventually be paid back.

The first option would have been best not just for Greece but to allow the creditors to get more of their money back, but essentially the troika was terrified that if Greece got debt relief, the larger economies in trouble would also demand it: therefore Greece had to be punished. So despite an impressive amount of support for Varoufakis' plan from independent bodies and other economists, the troika refused to accept it.

Varoufakis believed then that he had sufficient support from Syriza to go for the second option, but the cabinet had turned against the idea despite grassroots support in the party. They called a referendum hoping to lose, but even after winning the referendum surrendered to the third option: extend-and-pretend with more austerity.

The book has a fascinating details on how the negotiations work, in particular inside the Eurogroup of finance ministers which quietly wields immense power. Even I was a bit shocked by the level of cynicism exposed.

The book is as you would expect heavily slanted towards Varoufakis as the good guy, but nothing in there seems to be factually incorrect.

Definitely worth reading, though I found it quite grim to get through as you know it's heading for an unhappy ending which he doesn't try to dress up optimistically. Curiously though, Varoufakis does think that the EU is reformable and is trying to do so with his Diem25 movement.

What I'm Reading 3
Marx and Marxism by Gregory Claeys. Very broad overview in two parts, the first covering Marx's life and work, the second covering the various Marxisms after his death.

Despite having read a certain amount of Marx I thought it was pretty informative, it covers the unpublished documents the Paris Manuscripts and the Grundrisse which I can't see myself ever going through since Capital was such a grind. They are apparenly more illuminating than the Silmarillion, giving insights into the metaphysical ideas Marx had before going fully materialist. It was also good on his practical political activity.

The Marxism section is a bit shorter and is such a high level overview it only gives brief insights, e.g. there are only a few pages on Gramsci.

In general the author is sympathetic to Marx but quite critical of the problems in his work, e.g. "the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' was perhaps the worst thought-out major concept in the history of political thought".

Overall, fairly interesting and informative, but would annoy some Marxists and anti-Marxists.

What I'm Reading 4
The Circle by Dave Eggers. Science fiction satire of social media with a giant tech firm The Circle moving to eliminate all privacy. Quite good in some ways: captures the addictive nature of some social media quite well and the feeling of being part of grand project. The protagonist is quite convincing in her gradual shift from blandness to monstrosity.

Downsides: some of the metaphors are a bit clunky like the transparent shark. It's slightly dated in the political content: if anything the Circle seems less scary than Facebook in that it's only latently menacing.

Overall, a pretty good read.

Finally got to a museum and saw the Edward Burne-Jones exhibition at Tate Modern. Burne-Jones is almost the exact opposite of everything contemporary art stands for. He was the last major figure in the pre-Raphaelite movement: resolutely looking backwards instead of trying to innovate, determined to produce great beauty, fascinated by decorative technique and producing tapestries and stained glass as well as paintings.

Although the exhibition has got terrible review, I loved it. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous, found it wonderful to look at: lavish and as erotic as a Victorian could get away with. It also has unexpected items like the jovial skethces that accompanied his private letters, and some fascinating preparatory work like the figures around the river Styx.

Overall, well worth seeing.

Running going OK but still can't quite break my pre-injury personal bests. Just have to keep trying.

Spending Christmas at home with just us, going away to visit wife's mother in Germany immediately afterwards. I find it pretty grim to be trapped in the middle of nowhere but wife and kid seem to like it. Wish I could have spent time with my mother as she's pretty down after finally taking retirement and having only second Christmas after my father died, but the kid only finished school on the last Friday before Christmas and didn't really have a chance.

Socioeconomics. Employee-owned trusts are taking off.

Random. 2018 Name of the Year awards.

Articles. The secretive glitter industry. Instagrammers pretend to be sponsored.

Sci/Tech. iPhone selfies have software adjustments on by default. Google's filter bubble: "Private browsing mode and being logged out of Google offered very little filter bubble protection". Corn is not a _food_. Corn is a _platform_.

Politics. Video clips of "Tommy Robinson" being racist.

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