I believe in the independence of nations – Scotland included. But I believe just as strongly in the interdependence of nations – the need for countries to work together to tackle challenges and seize opportunities that few can do alone. That is why an independent Scotland would always seek to work closely with others, across the British Isles and beyond. So it is the fact that 29 March marks the point at which the UK starts to turn its back on almost half a century of close cooperation with its partners on the European mainland that makes it so dispiriting.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in adolescents 15 to 19, second only to accidents, but that rate, as opposed to the incidence of depression, has actually been decreasing since the 1990s. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last November that the suicide rate for younger children from 10 to 14 had increased to the point where the risk of dying by suicide was as high as the risk of dying in a traffic accident; they were looking at 2014 data, the most recent available.
When society decided citizens should be able to read, we didn’t provide tax credits for books, we created public libraries. When we decided peoples’ houses shouldn’t burn down, we didn’t provide savings accounts for private fire insurance, we hired firefighters and built fire stations. If the broad left takes power again, enough with too-clever-by-half social engineering. Help people and take credit.
In “From Here To There” Ian Wright nimbly tackles the question, “We know we live in a capitalist system. But do we understand what this really means?”. It would be very easy to just quote the whole article, but I’ll just go with this slice:
Contrary to conventional wisdom the defining characteristic of socialism is not the abolition of market relations and its replacement by centrally planned, top-down production. Economic planning has no bearing whatsoever on whether a set of social relations are exploitative or not.
The essence of socialism is a hoped-for system of property relations, which we’ll call the “communal system”. In this system, the renting of people has been abolished (just as liberal democracy abolished the selling of people, i.e. slavery). People no longer are workers available to rent by the owners of firms. Instead, people are workers available to join as equal members of a democratic firm, who together lay claim on the residual income.
A socialist firm is owned by its working members who hire-in capital at pre-agreed rental prices (compared to capitalism, the contracts are reversed). Capital, not labour, is now the ex ante cost of production. In consequence, the working members democratically distribute the firm’s residual income to themselves.
I’m helping Alex with his maths homework. He has just reached calculus and differentiation. I have fallen into an internet rabbit hole of maths sites full of theorems and proofs that once were familiar to me, but now need refreshing. I’m not sure if I ever really grasped Fourier series at an intuitive level until I saw this gif on Wikipedia:
Conversely, despite Eevee’s article “Music theory for nerds” being right up my alley, I’m still no further in my grasp of how music works. Rhythm, fine. Notes, bwuh?
Recently, I had a specific hankering. A hankering for piling delicious meaty cheese dip onto tortilla chips and ramming them into my face. This is the kind of hankering a fundamentally depraved sort of person has when left alone in a home for more than a couple hours: a dark degradation into self-destruction, taking the form of an unquenchable, soul-deep yearning for gooey meaty cheese.
From the responses to the first entry, it appears that a lot of people didn’t know heart attacks could be a lingering, growing issue and not just a bolt of lightning that strikes in the middle of a show or while walking down the street.
Musically, I’ve been mostly obsessed with Thundercat’s new album Drunk. It’s full of short, punchy, strange tracks. One of which features Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, and is probably the smoothest thing you’ll hear all year.
Dutch Uncles have a new album out, Big Balloon. Listening to it now.
Luther season 4: I find it a bit rich to call a two episode special a season, but at least they were good episodes.
Marcella season 1: intense police detective drama. Perpetuates the stereotype that most police detectives are deeply fucked up.
Hip-Hop Evolution: great netflix documentary about the history of hip-hop from the seventies to the early nineties. This view of the roots of hip-hop makes me understand lot more about why hip-hop concerts are the way they are. I think I’m making my peace with that. Although I love listening to Mos Def’s recordings, I chose not to get a ticket to see him on his farewell tour.
Sneakerheads: entertaining documentary about sneaker collectors and sneaker culture.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine season 3: still enjoying this show a lot, but it has lost a bit of its sharpness and speed as it has got more polished. (I like Andy Samberg, but he’s not everyone’s cup of tea.)
Chef’s Table season 3: the show looks at some very different types of chef this season. Jeong Kwan and Ivan Orkin are not trying to break into the list of the world’s top 50 restaurants, but they do have fascinating stories to tell about their lives and their craft.
The Mechanic: I wanted a Jason Statham action movie, and I got a Jason Statham action movie.
The LEGO Batman Movie: Good. I thought they tried to cram too much into it. I found some scenes (especially at the beginning) hard to follow because there were too many moving parts, and it was hard to know what to pay attention to.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping As I mentioned, I like Andy Samberg, and I liked this film. Some of the songs, which are obviously meant to be terrible, but terrible in a particular way, missed their mark. The final number with Michael Bolton deserved to be better and more memorable.
Logan: Wow. Intense. Left the audience kinda stunned and silent when the credits rolled.
Books & comics:
Ms Marvel vol6: Civil War II: Marvel’s massive crossover events leave me a bit cold, but Kamala’s story here was relatively self-contained, and focused very much on her personal story rather than the bigger picture.
The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod. I made a strategic mistake here, because I thought that the third volume in the trilogy was out sooner than it actually is. (It hits the streets in September.) It’s good. Around a distant star, a bunch of exploratory robots accidentally become self-aware, and re-invent warfare from first principles. It’s a fine blend of the themes of clashing economic systems and nature of consciousness that MacLeod deals with so well. However, once I started picturing the small frames that the human fighters inhabit as Sackboys from LittleBigPlanet (with big silly grins on their faces and a lolloping gait), I couldn’t take them quite so seriously any more.
Update 13 March: I completely forgot about Destiny. I picked it up in February (with all the current expansions), loved it, and played it a ton during the school break. But then I hit level 40, and stopped kinda dead. Even without a social group to play with, the single-player experience up to level 40 is fantastic, and I have regrets about the time I did put into it. Great environments, and a fluid first-person combat experience. However, although there are still missions left for me to play, progress from this point onwards feels hollow: what am I doing it for? I enjoy the story missions, I like playing PvE, and I like playing co-op, but I don’t feel like putting in dozens of hours to get good enough not to be an embarrassment to a group of strangers on a raid. If I had a group of friends that also played, it would be a different matter.
Alex and Fiona have both been to Texel for school trips, and Alex at least was completely enchanted with the place, and has been trying to get us to take a visit ever since. When mum & dad were staying with us last week, we took a trip there.
The ferry across to the island is impressive, modern, and comfortable. Also very short — just long enough to get a coffee at the cafe. We drove to the Hoge Berg (an impressive vista), and stopped in Oudeschild to have a wander round the harbour. (This is where Alex and his classmates took a trip on a shrimp boat, and Alex tried fresh shrimp for the first time.) Then we crossed west to De Koog, and had lunch at Strandhotel Noordzee. On crossing back to the mainland, we passed a submarine on maneuvers from the naval base at Den Helder — the first time any of us had seen an active submarine in its native habitat.
In terms of landscape, Texel is very much like Noord-Holland. Judging by the places we visited, it’s very much geared towards tourism. The population is just under 14,000, which surprised me — I had thought it would be more. (That’s only 50% more than our village, Oostzaan.)
They’re not a particularly dynamic or interactive band on stage, but it was nice to hear them play their songs. I particularly liked them playing “The Source” and “The Sun”, because I hadn’t expected them to break out downbeat tracks like that in a concert. Their rendition of “No Way” was a surprise. On the recording the slow and quiet verses are punctuated by interludes of heavy drums and guitars. On stage, they held the drums and guitars at bay for the first of those waves, leaving only a modest piano dropping individual notes. When the drums and guitars did come in on the next pass, they crashed down like waves in a storm.
Another thing I hadn’t expected was the extent to which Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith share centre stage. Whenever I think of The Naked And Famous, it’s Alisa’s voice I hear. But Thom sings on a lot more of their songs than I had given him credit for.