Posts from 23rd February 2004

23
Feb 04

Juicy quotes:

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Juicy quotes:

The reviewer died of boredom while attempting to find interesting lines from this book.

MACROECONOMICS Olivier Blanchard.

Okay, so the link between ‘economics’ and ‘science’ is pretty thin. But here we have it: the cover appears to depict the planet Earth as a gear with several other, presumably economics-related gears turning it, which conjures up some rather disturbing economics-God-complex implications. The book passes the glossy paper and color standards, but fails miserably on the level of the text, which is dry, boring, and deep-sleep-approaching-death inducing. Large portions of this book could probably be read with near-lethal doses of legal and illegal stimulants. It will also probably depress the gentle reader to know that the word ‘people’ is used perhaps twice in the entire 600-page or so wasteland of bad derivations.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars.

Here’s what I noticed

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Here’s what I noticed at the wedding disco I was at this Saturday: nobody knows how to dance to The Darkness but everybody wants to. Obviously the standard of dancing at wedding discos is not too high anyway, and there’s a lot of coming and going, but the floor was packed for The Darkness with people just, well, shuffling basically. Some people essayed an air guitar solo and were applauded.

Recent weddings I’d been to had made me wonder if the hegemony of THE SEVENTIES as dancefloor unifier was on the wane, thanks to Skool Disco etc., and now the Eighties (or that subset of them that gets played at wedding discos) would rule. I was wrong though. There’s something about classic disco music that seems to bring out the dancer in anyone – we all know that it’s difficult to do well but everyone thinks they can do it to a rudimentary standard. I don’t much like dancing to disco – I become very aware of my lack of rhythm, much more so than with more complicated musics where nobody else is doing it properly either – and singing along or striking poses is less fun too. Is it the ‘easiest’ music to dance to, though? And if not what is?

(It’s also interesting that at weddings older people love disco music too, the concept of disco has transmitted successfully up the agegroups as well as down, in a way that more recent dance musics just haven’t (yet). At my own wedding my Mum’s family decided to have a go at dancing to Missy Elliot. They didn’t precisely know what to do so settled – marvellously – on an eightsome reel!)

It’s very annoying to go away for a couple of days

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It’s very annoying to go away for a couple of days and discover that the only book you’ve brought with you is a resounding DUD. This is what happened to me with What Does A Martian Look Like?, filed under ‘popular science’ and written by a pair of jovial geezers who the jacket tells me also knocked out The Science Of Discworld. Alarm bells should perhaps have gone off then and there but the bookshop was closing and I was in a hurry.

The book’s cover blurbs are all from science-fiction authors, not scientists (although many sci-fi authors surely know a lot more about science than, say, me). A few chapters in it was obvious why. The book is very complimentary towards science fiction, which can be a fantastic vector for the imagining of truly alien ecologies. I’ve no problems with this approach at all – in fact as a jumping-off point for discussion of alien science it works very well. The thing is that while the authors flatter science fiction, they also lay into ‘proper science’ with a very big stick. The book becomes repetitive, cranky and boring as they re-iterate time and time again how very, very stupid everyone else involved in ‘astrobiology’ or ‘xenoscience’ tends to be. Well, maybe they are, but after a hundred or so pages of snarky common-room abuse and airy dismissals the reader really doesn’t care any more. It’s a shame because the basic notion – that theories and concepts of life shouldn’t be bounded by what is observable on Earth – seems a good one. But the constant bashing made me tired of the writing, and then – worse – mistrustful.