the day of the triffids and a visit to bamford quaker community

the day of the triffids

far better than i expected (i’d grabbed it from a friend’s shelves in a oh-i-haven’t-read-that-and-really-should-have mood) (though i had enjoyed the midwich cuckoos) – a dark, sober, and believable evocation of london as it might be if 98% of people awoke one morning blind; it’s a mix of on the one hand despairing, isolated, suicides and, on the other, more positive people forming groups to work out their survival – some of which are hidebound, by their social conditioning, to fail

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silence and the shape of water

SPOILERS

silence

shusaku endo’s novel (and scorsese’s film) is set during the persecution of portuguese jesuit missionaries in 16th-century japan, but its impact is more 20th-century existential: the story of rodriguez’s slow progress to apostasy is closer to winston smith’s growing to love big brother in orwell’s 1984: the two protagonists’ end-states are similar – defeated by torture, and acquiescent (at least) in the locally dominant ideology

for orwell it’s pretty clear that winston’s end is a bad one – he has been defeated, and defeated into thinking that his defeat is good; and for endo too, yes, rodriguez has been defeated, and similarly defeated into thinking his defeat is good – but the difference is that orwell & winston disagree, but endo & rodriguez (i think) agree

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the scythians at the british museum

interesting to think about the contrast between the rich, immersive environment created by the exhibition’s curators and the paucity of hard evidence of how the scythians actually lived their lives – so many conclusions are based on guesswork from knowledge of the geographical and climatic constraints on their lives, and from ethnographic analogues

visitors were made, as far as possible in a modern museum suite, to imagine that they were there in the steppe – projected vistas of grassy plains (sometimes with animated mounted warriors), audio loops of human shouts and equine snortings, the whole set of rooms in dark browns, olives and greens

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The Moral Maze on veganism and animal rights (Radio 4)

Panel:
chair: Michael Buerk
human exceptionalist: Clare Fox
three worried carnivores: Ann McElvoy, Matthew Taylor (whose book The Philosopher and the Wolf I later read), Giles Fraser

interviews
Anthony Warner (The Angry Chef)
Claim: ‘no guilt or shame about what you eat’
He was naïve and unthinking, and treated thus in the subsequent discussion. He hadn’t really thought about it and didn’t seem to understand the point of the question ‘What about eating dogs then?’.

Samantha Calvert (the Vegan Society)
GF: Is it the same, eating a chimpanzee or a fly?

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Boxes

Space Oddity
Boxes pimped in transformative ending
Grease, Withnail on betrayal of youth in achieving worldly success
About getting jobs, crappy jobs, selling out
Technical skill in devising and moving the boxes, symbols at first of constraint and social straitjacketing (interviewees’ being asked to climb into small boxes) but in the climax of liberating play.
Redemptive but with a question mark, as the very end is a triumphant spacewalk, but a bit like a march, and at the very moment in Space Oddity where contact is lost with Major Tom. Difficult and thoughtful.
Boxes as costumes (hidden underneath at start, stellar at end; are costumes those of a false but necessary adult life, or childish fantasy?); Meg’s parts (Sarah, Tara, Amélie) – nods to acting

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endings

a meeting by the river (christopher isherwood)

tales of the city by armistead maupin

the restaurant at the end of the universe by douglas adams

plato’s phaedo

neil gaiman’s stardust

book 1 of thucydides’ history of the peloponnesian war

dan leno and the limehouse golem by peter ackroyd

book 2 of thucydides

just read these on a family holiday, thanks to c. s. lewis’ suggestion to always reread something before reading something new. great idea, but I forget: I picked up the first three as rereads, but I think they were first-timers.

now making any notes in evernote, so farewell houyhnhnm for a while.

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Protagoras

In Plato Protagoras seems to be a pompous but likeable old chap who’s dined out on his cleverness for many years. In both Protagoras and Theaetetus he seems to focus on advising young men, both those in power and those seeking it, how to develop ευβουλια to make good decisions regarding their own lives, their households, and their cities. A consultant for ambitious yuppy/wonk types. Paul Allen, One-Minute Manager, etc., with a bit of L. Ron Hubbard thrown in. As Parmenides {controversial} and {uncontroversial surely?} Gorgias, he seems to have pulled this off by cleverly arguing positions which are at once difficult and almost unsustainable, but also attractive to up-and-coming we-know-it-all kids:
– the gods don’t matter
– personal beliefs and values don’t matter, it’s all about process (managerialism)
In other words a pure sophist, as in fact was Socrates (certainly by what conservative Athens thought of him); it’s just that Socrates didn’t make a Blairite mint out of it.

So, in other words, as with much ancient literature, we don’t know how serious their views are, how much they’re winking at their chums when they read their pieces. Is it largely an elite αγων?

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