Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What I’m reading #75

That Neil Heywood murder in China: there will be books on this and its ramifications. Talk about secrets and lies. Here is the Economist on it, and here the Daily Telegraph. Shockingly, it is not until the sixth paragraph that the Telegraph tells us which school Heywood attended (Harrow, since you ask); the Guardian is even sloppier, waiting until the 10th par. And here is Hong Kong resident (and Quote Unquote reader) Ulaca on the subject:
When senior PRC mandarins murmur about the need to retain the Chinese politico-judicial “system” (such as it is) and eschew the Western tripartite approach involving separation of powers among an executive, a legislature and a judiciary, who but the most naïve among us does not understand that what they are advocating is merely the continuation of a rotten status quo in which positions of power, wealth and importance are guaranteed for them and their offspring?
Is philosophy literature? Jim Holt says yes. He would, wouldn’t he, because he has a new book out, Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story:
 The result is an eclectic mix of theology, cutting-edge science (of the cosmological and particle-physics variety) and extremely abstract philosophising, rendered (mostly) accessible by Mr Holt’s facility with analogies and clear, witty language. Some of the arguments he traces are familiar, from various attempts to prove the logical necessity of the existence of god to speculations among more adventurous physicists that the universe got its start as a kind of lucky quantum burp. But there are some odd and less familiar shores, too, such as an attempt to tie existence to an alleged necessity for goodness. There is also the argument that the universe exists because there are many more ways to exist than there are not to exist—and so existence is more probable.
More on Fifty Shades of Grey – it is a weird phenomenon but as Grumpy Old Bookman reminds us, there was a precedent set not so long ago. In France, naturellement.

When intellectuals come out fighting: James Zuccollo, an economist at NZIER, blogs at TVHE on a spat between Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, authors of Why Nations Fail, and Jared Diamond who reviewed it for the New York Review of Books. Their letter in reply is, ah, robust – as is Diamond’s response. JZ provides all the links you need.

The full report from the judges of the 2012 NZ Post book awards is available as a PDF from Booksellers NZ.

Philip Matthews reviews Beasts of the Southern Wild. Capsule:
You could call this magical realism in the wreckage of civilisation or something, but you could also call it a missed opportunity – minus any post-Katrina politics, you sense that the film is closer to a form of exotic tourism in poverty fetishism or even that most odious of movie clichés, the magical negro for white festival audiences.
Personally I can’t wait for the new Bourne and Bond.

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