Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Assorted links

All worthy of commentary, glosses, pinches of salt, etc etc, but I'm afraid they will get none from me at this juncture.

1. Israel's best diplomat.

2. Music (and dance) in human evolution. "Seemingly preposterous, but worth taking very seriously."

3. No new runway at Heathrow!

4. Cameron says ministers no longer have to follow international law.

5. Lots of interesting stuff about taste, from Oxford via the New Yorker.

6. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, ain't got no sympathy. (Note that sympathy and empathy are not the same thing. I think this just shows that they are not necessarily correlated either.)

7. The case against Luxembourg.

8. Why you might want to buy lots of sprouts.

9. The American Dream (at least, as revealed by popular culture) and the world. "After 9/11, for example, many studies were done of America’s tarnished image, and one, headed by former U.S. Ambassador Edward Djerejian, quoted an English teacher in Syria asking, “Does Friends show a typical American family?” The question was odd, given that Friends, which ran on NBC from 1994 to 2004, was notable for not showing a family." Hmm. Isn't one way of looking at Friends as being the story of the Gellers, their friends, their relationships? A bit tenuous. But then compare Friends with New Girl: there has been a huge revolution in sexual mores. And then compare New Girl with Modern Family, the source of the most heteronormative homosexual family out there. America is a big place.

"A normal British family has four meals a day, including breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Another meal is added after nine for some districts in the UK."

That, so an impeccable source tells me, is part of the Chinese media's coverage of their President's state visit to the UK. Also: "It has been proven that British loves their tea. Traditionally, each person have their own porcelain tea cup, saucepan and a teaspoon when they drink tea."

Monday, 19 October 2015

Don't believe your eyes

Don't believe them ever again.

Here is a film showing quite how good CGI can be nowadays, and here is a very spooky thing showing how one person's facial expressions can be mapped onto another person's face.

When I think how much of our understanding of reality is mediated by screens nowadays, I am pleased that the focus of all this technology is on mere entertainment. Or is it?

Friday, 16 October 2015

Simon Jenkins favours Brexit

As you will see here. He is, I think, the most prominent metropolitan, moderate/centre/centre-left Establishment person to come out of the Brexit closet.

The Economist, which perhaps occupies an equivalent place to Jenkins but on the right of the centre, does not favour Brexit, as you will see here.

The difference between the Economist and Jenkins appears to be largely based on their assessment of how attractive the outcome of a post-Leave vote negotiation would be. But that is all a matter of crystal ball gazing. I'd be more interested in what the superforecasters have to say about that than in their opinions.

More significantly, it is surely a sign of the utter lack of any appeal in Britain of the European dream - qua dream, ideal or aspiration - that there is a possible outcome to these negotiations that would persuade elite, educated, optimistic, progressive, metropolitan opinion of the Jenkins/Economist kind that Brexit would be a Good Thing. Britain's relationship with the EU has become purely transactional. That is just one would expect from a nation of shopkeepers, as an earlier unsuccessful proponent of European integration described us, and not at all a bad thing for our political masters, both here and abroad, to bear in mind.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Some links

1. Film scripts. Free legal and accurate, so far as I can see. Including The Social Network, American Hustle, Anna Karenina. All sorts.

2. This is a great little presentation (with words) about data. "The terminology around Big Data is surprisingly bucolic. Data flows through streams into the data lake, or else it's captured in logs. A data silo stands down by the old data warehouse, where granddaddy used to sling bits. And high above it all floats the Cloud. Then this stuff presumably flows into the digital ocean. ... I would like to challenge this picture, and ask you to imagine data not as a pristine resource, but as a waste product, a bunch of radioactive, toxic sludge that we don’t know how to handle."

3. How to get to Germany, complete with prices and diagram. From the LRB.

4. An amusing old attack on literary fiction. The link came from someone in prison.

Monday, 12 October 2015

School shooters

This is a good, solid Malcolm Gladwell piece. You have an inherently interesting story (someone planning a school shooting who confesses in a rather full and polite manner) that develops in interesting ways, with a crunchy layer of theory scattered in the mix and baked on top. You should read it. But if you're not going to then here are the two main ideas and my thoughts about their implications.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Monday, 5 October 2015

Some interesting links

1. Shakespeare in modern English.

2. Organised crime is a lot more organised in Japan: "A bronze nameplate on the door helpfully identifies the Sumiyoshi-kai, another large criminal organisation. Full gang members carry business cards and register with the police. Some have pension plans."

3. Interesting piece about the politics of Star Trek.

4. Status.

5. Predictions about UKIP: "People lament these new parties without appreciating that they are as much a feature of multiculturalism as chicken tikka masala, while old-fashioned concepts like ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are really products of previously homogenous societies. Such clear ideological divisions do not arise in multicultural societies, where political identity is too often decided by whether a man worships on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. To paraphrase a man who understood the politics of identity, Ukip haven’t gone away you know."

6. Is it worth doing? Poetry, that is - and philosophy.

Disneyland - magical for 28 year olds

This is quite big, but worth looking at.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Great photographs - UPDATED

Something for everyone?

1. Soviet bus shelters (with Jonathan Meades).

2. London (with some BBC-ish words that you can safely ignore too).

[UPDATE - when I wrote about the words to the London piece being safely ignorable, I had failed to spot that they were the product of Jon Kelly - yes, that's right THE Jon Kelly, previously mentioned on (and famous reader of) this blog. The Browser has also picked up this piece as worthy of mention, but I'm sorry to say that it describes Kelly's contribution to it as "Weak, hand-wavy argument". Oh well. They're still great photos.]

3. Syria, with a slidable line showing the contrasting nighttime illumination in 2011 and 2015. Pretty sobering.

4. As a bit of a bonus, here's a lizard person of New York.