Worth Reading 22: One more, then skiddoo

For those of you bored on a Saturday night:

Prisoners’ voting rights: Britain’s mounting fury over sovereignty – “The ECHR is very far from perfect. But a country lucky enough to enjoy the rule of law, like Britain, should think long and hard before flouting international treaties which offer perhaps the only hope of legal recourse to people in much less lucky climes.”
A Night At The Political Theatre – Excellent post from Flying Rodent on what the whole issue of prisoners voting reveals about the nature of British politics. “What I do know is that a society that makes a virtue of illiberal behaviour will treat its citizens illiberally; a culture that demands injustice in the name of common sense will perpetrate injustices. I know that a citizenry that puts all of its faith in infantile concepts like force and “common sense” will receive plenty of the former and little of the latter.”
Tory Dirty Tricks Department Versus The Kemp Operation – Richard Kemp on what it’s like to suddenly find the media muckraking through your past, which is obviously more important than investigating any of the claims you’ve made in the present.
Monty’s Revenge – Interesting article from Jerry Hayes on how the Tory Right is getting increasingly ideologically puritanical about those it disagrees with within the party.
Whining In Evolutionary Psychology – I missed the original storm that prompted this post, but yet again it seems that evolutionary psychology is yet again proving that there are few depths certain academics won’t go to in an effort to prove it valid. (via)

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Worth Reading 21: Five Link Trick

Here we go again…

Future U.S. History Students: ‘It’s Pretty Embarrassing How Long You Guys Took To Legalize Gay Marriage’ – I’m surprised I took this long to link to something from The Onion, but maybe that’s because it’s not as funny as it used to be. Which, of course, they’ll also be stating as true in the 2080s.
What the EU Did Next – Interesting blog collecting a number of essays on the EU
The literature of ideas; or, please stop laughing at me – Very interesting post from Pornokitsch on the description of SF as the literature of ideas – “The phrase is made more pathetically self-congratulatory by its grandiosity”
Del Boy And The Shale Sale – Zelo Street puts the boot into the increasingly ridiculous James Delingpole
Android marriage, gay pirates, and other ways to poke fun at anti-gay activists – Towleroad on some of the more bizarre theories being proposed, such as how gay marriage will lead to people marrying androids, and how men dressed as pirates are abducting strangers. Sometimes, bigotry just satirises itself(via)

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The Man Who Was Thursday, by GK Chesterton (2011 book #8)

The Man Who Was Thursday has had a few mentions in the press recently, what with all the stories of the undercover police officers operating within the Green and anarchist movements. And while many of their stories are bizarre, it’s unlikely that any of them would have had an experience quite as bizarre and surreal as that undergone by Syme/Thursday in this book.

It’s an interesting read and – like After London – fascinating as an early example of an idea that would gain great traction throughout the twentieth century. In the way it blends the surface nature of a thriller with deeper surrealism and Christian-tinged philosophy, it’s interesting to ponder how much it may have influenced O’Brien in writing The Third Policeman or Dick in writing A Scanner Darkly, for instance. Like those, it’s the sort of book that leaves the reader with many questions afterwards, and perhaps it depends on how satisfying you find the answers to those as to whether you’ll enjoy reading it or not.

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Worth Reading 20: Plenty O’Toole

The whole wide world in just five links

Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere – Newsnight’s Paul Mason looks at some of the reasons for the sudden wave of protests around the world
Novels I will not write: Jesus wants his kidney back – Charles Stross comes up with some wonderful ideas for books that won’t happen: “wouldn’t it be fun to have a vampire yarn revolving around a hapless journalist who is in demand because he pisses holy water?”
We Have Always Been At War With Sir Winston Churchill – Stable and Principled on the latest banging of the drums against the Human Rights Act
It’s my dream job! – Anton Vowl applies for a job at the Daily Mail…but I think my application has a better chance of success
Peter Pomerantsev’s Diary – An inside look at how TV is produced in Russia, and why Western models of reality TV don’t work well there (via)

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Earlier today, Anton Vowl linked to this advert for trainee reporters at the Daily Mail. I’m not looking for a job at the moment, but something about the phrase “200 words on why you think you could be a Mail journalist” got my attention. And so, this:

Waking up this morning, I discovered I’d slept 16% less than the previous night. Extensive research of my prejudices revealed that this was due to a new European directive on sleeping, and I immediately called several self-appointed experts who slammed this decision to wake up early. I skipped breakfast, having discovered scientific studies that proved corn flakes, milk and being in a kitchen before 10am all cause cancer. Turning on the radio, I listened for thirty seconds before turning off in disgust. Didn’t they realise that on this day at some point in the past, some British people had died somewhere? A letter to the BBC followed, complaining how their political correctness gone mad meant these important anniversaries weren’t being noted. I then went out and noticed that so-called scientists hadn’t predicted the rain that was falling, which clearly shows how global warming is a myth. I kept my distance from the wheelie bins that littered the street, knowing each one contained a spy camera operated by a feral hoodie, reporting all my movements to his masters in Brussels, ready to give my house away to a gay asylum seeker. My life is hell, but at least I’m not a celebrity.

Do I get the job, Mr Dacre?


After The Ice by Steven Mithen (2011 book #7)

I originally discovered After The Ice thanks to a comments thread at Jennie’s blog about the top 100 non-fiction books. As I’m trying to broaden my knowledge of history, it seemed like a good book to get hold of, as my knowledge of prehistory is pretty poor.

Luckily for me, this is a very good book for filling that gap in knowledge – Mithen takes the reader all around the globe, looking at every continent except Antarctica from 20,000 to 5,000 BCE, exploring how human societies changed and developed throughout a period of dramatic climate change, and how the building blocks of human civilization came together. There’s lots of fascinating stuff here, from seeing how lives and survival methods in one location changed as the glaciers retreated, advanced, then retreated again to seeing the sheer variety of methods humans found to live in different environments.

Inspired by a Victorian archaeologist of the same name, Mithen uses a character called John Lubbock to explore this history, giving us a view of these societies as living things, not merely lists of archaeological evidence and speculation. Of course, there are moments when some dramatic licence is taken to make this work and gaps have to be filled that aren’t supported by evidence, but it generally works and helps the reader understand just what was involved in human life back then.

It’s a good read, and definitely recommended, and with that covering 15,000 years of humanity’s existence, I expect there’ll a sequel that covers the remaining 7,000 years in half the space, right?


As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, I spent half an hour of Friday afternoon being interviewed by Jason Cobb of Colchester 101 magazine (and the onionbagblog, of course) about my role at the Council, and various related subjects. It’s now up on Audioboo for you all to listen to – I’ve listened to a bit, but I always find it weird listening to my own voice – and if I’ve got it right, it should be embedded below for your listening pleasure as well:

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