Links! 18/01/2014


Hey, it’s four in the morning and I can’t sleep, so here are some links!

  • I’m currently reading “Debt: The First 5000 Years” by David Graeber, and it’s gone from highly interesting to immensely frustrating. This review over at The Charnel-House is the best I’ve found so far, though I could probably add a lot more to what is said there. (I may do so at some point.) For the moment I’d just like to say that this book is the perfect illustration of why ideology, no matter how liberal and well-intentioned, is not a solid base upon which to build one’s analyses.
  • Nine Problems with Identitarianism. “Demanding respect for people as blacks and gays can go along with notably rigid strictures as to how one is to be an African American or a person with same-sex desires.” —Kwame Anthony Appiah
  • Ever wonder what kind of people the EU is so desperate to keep in power in Greece? It’s the folks responsible for this kind of thing: “A man who created a Facebook page poking fun at a revered Greek Orthodox monk has been sentenced to 10 months in prison in Greece after being found guilty of blasphemy.” Also a very useful illustration of why it’s a terrible idea to support laws that make it illegal to offend people’s beliefs.
  • You know all those stories about out-of-control public spending? Here’s a real case, but one no politician wants to do anything about. “Vast amounts of public money, running into billions, are spent every year on policies that make devastating floods inevitable.”
  • Adaptive infant aerodynamics: a beautiful marriage of physics and biology.
  • Steven Brust writes about History and Objectivity. I find the idea that “there can be no such thing as objectivity in history” as annoying as he does.
  • I was recently reminded of Second-Hand Elf, an article I wrote for the Escapist. Still rather fond of that one, and of the others I wrote for that site as well. One thing a lot of people don’t seem to get, though: shitty modern fantasists aren’t stealing from Tolkien. They’re stealing from people who stole from people who stole from people who misunderstood Tolkien. Today’s clichéd “elves and dwarves” resemble Tolkien’s magnificent creations only in the vaguest of ways. The same is true of Peter Jackson’s “adaptations” of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit: they have more in common with Dungeons & Dragons than with Tolkien’s actual words.
  • I’m enjoying Saints Row: The Third just as much as I enjoyed its predecessor. Now here’s an argument for games as art! They’re not unlike the Lands of Dream games, really: the insane attention to detail, the belief that silliness and seriousness aren’t mutually exclusive, the giddy sense of freedom behind many of the storytelling choices… it’s one of the few games to make me laugh out loud on a regular basis. And I want to quote every single line of the dialogue.
  • If you made a TV series out of the Lands of Dream, it would be a lot like The Mighty Boosh (and especially like the episode linked to here, The Priest and the Beast). Except more melancholic, and, you know, communistic. You have no idea how much I would like to do that. Maybe someday…
  • Today’s music is Mark Knopfler, We Can Get Wild. I find this song inexplicably moving and sad.