Sunday, 29 July 2012

Olympic Opening Ceremony London 2012

I am not a Daily Mail style hate everything in sight kind of person, but I was a bit anxious about how well the Olympic opening ceremony was going to go.  The preview had looked dreadful. Sheep and cows in a field?  What was that all about.  And we had the security fiasco as well.   Note to future governments, especially Labour ones, some things shouldn't be contracted to the private sector.  One of those things is security at major national and international events.  And they definitely shouldn't be contracted out to a bunch of incompetents.  Frankly, we'd have been better off giving an agency that hires bouncers a ring.  At least they would have turned up.

And the Beijing opening had been so superb, there was a high standard to live up to. So I was ready to spend a few hours cringing.

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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A Socialist Reads the Hobbit Part 8 - Eagles

The dwarfs, Gandalf and Bilbo have now reunited but are still far from out of trouble.  Gandalf points out that the Goblins are quite likely to be chasing them soon and on top of that they are in wolf country.  As it turns out the wolves and the goblins have a working agreement, if not a complete alliance.  The situation is therefore precarious.  So it is no surprise that as night falls the party find themselves surrounded by wolves.  This is a bit of bad luck because as it happens they are on the very spot that the wolves have arranged to meet with their partners in crime for a spot of village raiding.

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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Millenium by Tom Holland

The perfect popular history book should be like a cute little puppy, easy to pick up and hard to put down (literally or metaphorically).  And this is just such a book, complete with big eager eyes and a shiny nose.  But like a puppy, it isn't quite fully formed.   It sets out with the noble objective of creating a coherent narrative of the era around the turn of the first millennium. The framing mechanism is the idea that lots of people were reacting to the imminent return of  Christ.  It doesn't really succeed.  In fact it sort of shows the opposite.  But that doesn't stop it from being a cracking read.

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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A Socialist Reads the Hobbit Part 7: Riddles in the Dark

The Hobbit has grown in popularity in many ways, but one of the most surprising started in the Seventies.  That was when the game Dungeons and Dragons emerged.  This was very much a cult thing, I can remember that there was a small group of us at school who knew about and enjoyed D and D.  There was another small group who knew about and loathed D and D.  But most were totally unaware of it, which gave it a delicious exclusive feel.

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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Why I don't love my Kindle any more

I have previously written about how much I love my Kindle.  Sadly, like many love affairs, the relationship has come to a sudden and bitter ending when one of the parties let the other one down out of the blue.

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Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Huns - Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Chapter 26 Part 1

Gibbon was not alone in his fascination for the Roman Empire, and in the following generation Napoleon Bonaparte expressed his interest rather more practically by attempting to effectively refound it with himself as the new emperor.  So it is quite fitting that in one his first battles as emperor, at Eylau, he should find himself up against Cossack horsemen armed with bows and arrows.  They probably looked much like the Huns, also steppe nomads, who had played such a big role in the destruction of the empire that he was trying to revive.

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Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes by Steve Pinker

Things are bad.  And they are getting worse.  Inevitable disaster looms in the not too distant future.  The only good news is that life is getting so hazardous that in all likelihood we personally won't survive long enough to see the worst.

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