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By TheophileEscargot (Sat Mar 09, 2019 at 01:56:06 AM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief", "Fat Chance", "The Darkening Age". Watching. Links.

What I'm Reading
The Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief by Lisa Tuttle. Another Victorian mystery about a male detective and his female assistant who are based in Gower Street. However this is an entirely different series to "The Mangle Street Murders" by M.R.C. Kasabian which I read recently. The tone is very different, without the misanthropic characters and sardonic humour. Pretty decent entertainment, though the gimmick felt like a bit of a jolt. It turns out that psychic powers are actually real, but assuming it was a straight mystery I spent the first half of the bookracking my brains to think how the plot elements could be explained without the supernatural. It felt like a disappointment when it turned out it was all done by magic. Even so I think I'll keep an eye out for the sequels in the library: decent entertainment.

What I'm Reading
Fat Chance. Cosy comic novel about a husband and wife losing weight as part of a public competition. Quite cute and entertaining. Would seriously annoy fat activists as it has a pretty mainstream attitude to weight loss being achievable, maintainable, desirable and a matter of individual effort.

What I'm Reading
The Darkening Age by Catherine Nixey. History book about how Christianity supplanted pagan and classical culture with an emmphasis on the destruction of art and the suppression of sexuality. Though it sounds a bit new-atheisty it's a serious and informative book that explains the strange culture of monks and the zealous "parabalani" (reckless ones) in the early centuries of Christianity, how the process of destroying arts worked. and how Christians used intimidation and violence to suppress pagan religion.

Why would the Romans not have been happy to convert? They were, runs this argument. sensible people and had never really believed their own religion anyway, with its undignified priapic Jupiters and lustful Venuses. No, runs this argument, the Romans had been Christians-in-waiting, ready and willing to give up their absurd and confusing polytheistic rituals as soon as a sensible... religion appeared on the scene. As Samuel Johnson would put it, pithy as ever: "The heathens were easily converted, because they had nothing to give up".

He was wrong. Many converted happily to Christianity, it is true. But many did not. Many Romans and Greeks did not smile as they saw their religious liberties removed, their books burned, their temples destroyed and their ancient statues shattered by thugs with hammers. This book tells their story; it is a book that unashamedly mourns the largest destruction of art that human history had ever seen. It is a book about the tragedies behind the "triumph" of Christianity.

On the parabalani:
By the beginning of the fifth century there were an estimated 800 members of the parabalani in Alexandria alone: an army -- and the word is used advisedly -- of young men, devoted to the service of God.

Or more precisely, to the service of his representatives on earth: the bishops...

In the fourth and fifth centuries, bishops controlled de facto militaries of the faithful -- and they were not afraid to use them... Cross the bishop of Alexandria, and as locals knew to their cost, he might send some of the 800 parabalani to visit you.

The book also suggests that the persecution of Christians by Romans may be somewhat exaggerated.
There were simply not that many years of imperially ordered persecution in the Roman Empire. Fewer than thirteen - in three whole centuries of Roman rule...

For all the hyperbole, as Edward Gibbon crushingly put it, the average "annual consumption" of martyrs in Rome during the persecutions was no more than one hundred and fifty per year during years of persecution.

And there were few of those years... The Romans did not seek to wipe Christianity out. If they had, they would almost certainly have succeeded

While it's intentionally one-sided, this is a good book,well worth reading if you're interested in the history of the period.

What I'm Watching
Saw Coco at home. Decent pixar movie about a boy entering the Mexican land of the dead. Pretty good.

Cycles of abuse? What did Google find out about how it pays women? Knife crime mythbuster.

Video. War of the Worlds (2005) and Independence Day compared (37 min).

Pics. Australia's top glass art.

Random. Keith Flint obits. German politicians have one day a year when they're rude to each other.

Politics. Populist leaders linked to reduced inequality

Articles. How Aldi changed British shopping:

When entering a new market, Aldi seeks to magnify this labour-cost advantage in a counterintuitive way: by publicising that it will pay its store staff better than other supermarkets. Today, new Aldi store assistants receive industry-leading pay of £9.10 an hour, and £10.55 an hour in London – the London living wage – while a graduate accepted on to the area manager programme starts on £44,000 and gets an Audi A4 company car. Paying well obviously helps attract and retain staff, who might otherwise go to chains where the pace of work is slower. But it also serves to drive up wages across the industry, which, because of Aldi’s lower overall employee costs, hurts its competitors more.
Sci/Tech. Scientists give mice infra-red vision. What's wrong with chlorinated chicken?
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