abendgules: (maciejowski)
Recently I really enjoyed a repeat episode of Horizon called 'Are you good or evil?'.

Recommended if you have access, or perhaps on world service.

The title is a bit click-bait-ish, but the science seemed sound, rounding up different types of experiments trying to determine when 'morality' starts in infants, and examining differences between murderers' brains and other peoples' in their activity areas, enquiring about any brain injuries they had (like shaken babies) that might change their brains.

Interesting stuff about the competition between oxytocin (which encourages humans to bond) and testoterone (which makes people more aggressive).

A nice demonstration with a rugby team, with men playing together in warmup and practice: levels of both hormones rise as they practice, encouraging them (theoretically) to both work together effectively, and be more 'pumped' for physical action.

The bit that really interested me was training US marine recruits in hand to hand combat.

The trainer they interviewed said that when you train men by de-humanising the enemy, by calling them names (gooks, hajjis) and making them out to be sub-human, you start to break down the sense of moral right and wrong in the person. They carry that home and start beating up on their families and being generally aggressive to everyone.

The trainer said the more effective way to train to prepare to kill hand to hand is to appeal to the marines' sense of right and wrong, where they are presented as the defender and protector (IIUC, the hero of the narrative, not the bad guy).

In this way, you can train them to kill other people without breaking down their sense of who they are, and making them generally outwardly violent all the time.

This fits well with the idea that there are 'good' wars, where it's the right thing to do to sign up to defend your country, and there are 'dirty' wars, where it is not - or where those who fight are doing it for the 'wrong' reasons.

It also fits with the 'justifiable' war idea from the middle ages, and from the church: that it's ok to kill people for the sake of reclaiming Jerusalem for the Church, or to protect pilgrims, or to ensure access to holy shrines.

Those would be the right reasons for a Christian to fight, without having to appeal to the 'they're unbelievers so killing them doesn't matter' theory, which leads to dehumanising the enemey.

This whole idea really struck me; I'd always wondered how 'warrior monks' of any creed could reconcile their conflicting beliefs without their heads exploding. Yet it's clearly possible because lots of devout people fight, in history and today, in all faiths.

Now, it seems, there's a rational (as in, one that works w/ human brains in a predictable fashion) explanation.
abendgules: (fierce)
just how crap Star Wars II is.

Very, very glad that I saw the original canon in the theatres.
abendgules: (self-portrait)
I've had this week off work, partly to spend time with [livejournal.com profile] badgersandjam, partly to hunt for our next place to live.

I didn't set out to take time off during the Olympics, that's just a surprise bonus, or something.
non-expert rambling about hockey )

Watching the skating makes me feel nostalgic for home - watching skating on TV feels like a part of a Canadian winter (as does turning on the TV, finding it's curling, and trying to find something else to watch).

It's charming to see that Canadians are still contenders on ice, and and that Brian Orser is coaching two of the top men. I always thought he was robbed of gold, and I'm not certain that their new scoring system is any better than the old score out of 6.0. Any 'sport' that needs a judge to tell you how you did, to me, isn't sport - it's athletic art.

It doesn't take away from the athleticism or the accomplishment, and I still like watching it - it just doesn't fit the 'higher, faster, stronger' qualification.

I tried to look up the names of the coaches for Canadian athletes, but it's as if they don't exist - they're not listed on the official Sochi 2014 site (which has all the athletes for all countries), and they're not on Skate Canada site and the Canadian Olympic site is a joke of a blog site. Hope they didn't pay a lot of money for the design, because it's appalling.

The British seem a bit embarrassed by the winter Olympics - as if it's not very British to be good at throwing yourself down a snowy hill at top speed, though it's ok to be expert at horse dancing in the summer events. Many people refer to the 'tea tray' event (skeleton and luge); I don't know who coined this term, but it's widespread in England, where I'd never heard it in Canada.

Blessedly, the BBC are doing an awesome job of coverage - they now have the capacity to cover all the events at once online, so if you don't want to watch the stick-fighting on ice, you can watch the flinging-down-the-hill events instead.

The BBC's crew is using a shopping trolley to carry their kit on the main campus, carrying light stands and other bits and pieces...and the trolley now has a following on twitter. It's extremely silly.
abendgules: (well dang)
I'd wanted to write a post called 'Sherlock and Saga, my two favourite sociopaths', but apparently Sherlock doesn't qualify:

Stop calling Sherlock a sociopath

I wanted to write it because two detective series I'm enjoying enormously right now are Sherlock (a la Cumberpatch and Freeman) and The Bridge, the latter being a Swedish/Danish detective procedural on BBC4.

(I don't think the current incarnation of Holmes is particularly faithful to the stories, but I'm enjoying the wit, the interactions, and the interpretations of the stories in a modern setting. Jeremy Brett will forever be my 19th c Sherlock - accept no substitutes.)

In both shows, one of the leads is brilliant but socially impaired. According to the article examining Sherlock's character, he's not psychopathic in that he does feel emotion, but has chosen to be ruthlessly logical - more like Spock, who in theory has emotions but doesn't let them rule.

Saga Noren, though, clearly has trouble even parsing emotions, never mind grasping that they might influence people and their choices. She's nearly pathologically honest: where others make comforting noises to a distressed teen, she is bluntly honest, and is taken aback when he hugs her to say thank you.

She does read a lot, learning from psychology books some patterns of behaviour, but she does make the most peculiar choices when interacting with others, and doesn't 'get' sarcasm at all. It's the play between her and her foil partner, Martin, who seems overwhelmed with emotion, that makes the whodunnit so watchable for me.

So my clever title doesn't work. But I'm finding them both delightful
abendgules: (tea in winter)
I enjoyed it enormously, this Sunday morning, on iPlayer.

Spent Saturday afternoon and evening at the local revel learning two 'new' Italian dances, taught by Lady Anne.

At the end, before we dressed for dinner, I presented the Bigger on the Inside shawl to her, which I finished last week. It was well received.

The revel was lovely: good turnout, good food, and a nice selection of dances to round out the day.

Weekend TV

Sep. 29th, 2013 08:41 pm
abendgules: (catching snowflakes)
Noone else will ever be Christopher Reeve being Superman, with Margot Kidder as a non-glamourous and yet splendid Lois Lane. The special effects are nothing to write home about, but this still feels like the definitive version to me. Anything else is overkill.
abendgules: (downhill)
This week's discovery is the Springwatch livecams: a selection of cameras poised to watch assorted wildlife in real time. This is both online, and on the digital TV, on the 'red button'.

What could be cooler than watching a couple of parent birds feeding their brood a dozen times or more an hour? I could watch this all day.

I came home on Tues evening and, as is my habit, turned on the evening news...near-war with Syria, journalists going into no man's land in previously prosperous cities...or watch nuthatches feeding their young? Hmmmmm.

Working out at lunchtime - do I want to hear yet more about the Euro crisis, something I can't fix, can do nothing about, and that seems predicated on talks between people I cannot influence? or watch wee fledglings struggle around a nest? Tough call.

It's not perfect - it's unlikely all the little birdies will survive because the biggest and fastest and most demanding ones get fed first, so the slower runty ones are neglected, but the earnest, heartwarming pleasant-ness of hearing birdsong in the evening is winning me over.
abendgules: (fierce)
Vinnie Jones, former footballer turned hard-man actor, plays up his typical roles in this advert for Heart Foundation's handsfree CPR. 
For those outside UK: 'here's one I prepared earlier' is a catchphrase in English TV - usually in crafty or cooking shows, to speed up sequences. Great use of it here!
This is the longer version - the other one is less than a minute.
abendgules: (Oooops)
...hate it when that happens.

Yet another costume book en route; Medieval Tailor's assistant, for less than the cover price even after shipping.  (Not a huge gem, just rounding out the bookshelves.) Just as well I'm not going to any of the reenactor markets this year, but maybe I can get Sarah Thursfeld to sign my copy at the next MEDATS session...

Still waiting for an Elizabeth Zimmermann (EZ) knitting book, long promised to myself, to show up, ordered last week; looking forward to trying the famous Baby Surprise Jacket, which has its own fan club on Ravelry. Oddly, EZ is practically unknown in the UK, though every American and Canadian knitter I've met is a fan of hers.

A propos of not much:

We had a quiet weekend, with both Robert and me taking turns sniffling and making tea. We showed up willing at the local revel, which was well attended, and contributed to the hats, helms and hair discussion, but we opted not to share a buffet with our friends at the risk of spreading our contagion. 

Both of us found it hard to leave at dinner time though - it felt terribly wrong to be walking out the door just as the lights were going down and the buffet was laden with food, with our friends all dressed and ready to sit. 


It was a weekend of movies:
  • No Country for Old Men (just about the strangest mainstream movie I can remember);
  • Live and Let Die (had forgotten just how silly, sexist and unbelieveable Bond movies were at this point - not bothering with it again);
  • XMen-Wolverine (don't remember even ordering this one);
  • The Queen (much better than I expected, with the actors capturing uncanny likenesses of the main participants - voices were particularly good, I thought). 
Caught up with the premier of Downton Abbey last night, which we'd missed. I'm liking it better and better, and am bummed there's only 7 episodes. All the characters, except one,  seems to have more than one facet to their character, which is remarkable.
abendgules: (callig_cats)
Things I've enjoyed recently, in TV and radio:

Little Dorrit - a super 'bustles and bonnets' series of Dickens' story. No, I haven't yet read the book, so I don't know if it's true to the book. But the story I watched was terrific. Like 'Cranford' a lot of the joy is in the subtle expressions and the long lingering looks between characters, and the excellent casting.

One of the digital stations is promising wall to wall historical dramas over the holidays - my idea of TV heaven!

The Devil's Whore - a 17th c English Civl War story, with an innocent young woman as the protagonist, thrown through several of the different camps of the conflict. Pretty odd seeing McNulty, the lead guy from The Wire, as Oliver Cromwell...

The Perfect House - a documentary about Andrea Palladio, the Italian Renaissance architect - he's the reason that post-medieval 'civic architecture' tends to have columns and porticos - I didn't realise it all came back to him. I was charmed by the Palladian villa with the trompe d'oeuil paintings of people throughout.

I've been following the Start the Week podcasts w/ Andrew Marr - he's one of my favourite radio/TV hosts: smart, clear, dry-humoured. His shows have helped me understand English culture better.

I also found the Guardian Science Weekly podcasts are the perfect length to fill the walk to the Tube station in the mornings.

If I ever leave the UK, I'm going to miss this aspect of English culture.
abendgules: (archery)
I'm doing something I always swore I'd never do.

I'm watching tennis on TV.

I generally avoid pro sports. But actually being in London makes watching London events (marathon, Wimbledon, boat race) more interesting. It's sort of charming to find that the same rain shower outside is slowing play in South London (though not as of next year, apparently, when the domed roof is finished).

However - these sports weren't always televised.

We have David Attenborough to thank for wall-to-wall coverage of both Wimbledon and, of all things, championship snooker.

When he was controller of BBC2 in the late 60s, colour TV was just coming in. The cameras were huge, clumsy, and expensive, and BBC could afford just two of them.

Sir David hit on setting them both up at Wimbledon to offer coverage of what was otherwise a small-scale but high-prestige tournament. So the BBC broadcast Wimbledon, in all its colourful glory - green grass, white clothes, and yellow balls.  It was the first colour broadcast on BBC.

He did the same thing for snooker - here again was a venue where colour coverage would make a difference to the viewers. He developed a show called Pot Black which ran for over 15 years(1). Better yet, you didn't have to move the cameras.

And the content was free.

So what, for Mr. Attenborough, were excellent schedule-filling sources of cheap content have developed into major events with life of their own. 

I find it amazing that even when doing a job he didn't enjoy (Attenborough couldn't get out of the controller job fast enough, to get back to tramping the world and peering at critters) the ideas he introduced are still going strong.

Edit - added ref for snooker story.
Edit2 - added ref to colour broadcast.

1. Scroll down the ref on the Guardian to see Mark Lawson's remark about his commissioning the show.
abendgules: (Default)
Namedropping as I go...

BBC iPlayer has 'In search of Medieval Britain', a couple of documentaries about, well, Medieval Britain.

I'm excited about them because the narrator is Alixe Bovey - she led an art history course I attended at Courtauld a few years ago, and she's published a couple of monographs through the British Library (one is about the monsters in marginalia in illum MSS).

I have no idea how good the shows will be, but I'm willing to risk the time and bandwidth to find out!

Doesn't hurt that she's originally Canadian. :-)
abendgules: (Confesse)
This morning and early afternoon I watched all four parts of The Passion, downloaded from BBC at Easter.

I thought the first episode was excellent - recounting the events of Jesus' last few days, and making a lot of the text very plausible - changing stilted 'holy' words into conversations, dialogues, believeable discussions. That was very effective. Great production values too.

It also fleshed out the political situation between the Jewish temple and the Romans very well - everyone has plausible motivations, and reasonable responses to their situation - doing what they feel is best, just with tragic results (vs. simply being evil).

It presented a 'social gospel' aspect to Jesus' ministry - he was feared/hated/suspected by Jewish priests because what he suggested was threatening to their role in society, and social standing (ie. why do we pay temple taxes? why is it keeping pure is more important than caring for the poor/sick? etc.).

This interpretation makes the most sense to me: we still find it hard to treat everyone equally - we still have a monarchy and class system, after all, no matter how watered-down its power. And those who suggest change to status quo are always threatening, and draw venom and criticism out of even mostly-reasonable people.

I also liked that Mary Magdelene was not a whore - she's simply shown as another follower, and generally as one of the gang, which is a nice touch. A different woman, who remains mostly nameless, is the whore who bathes his feet with oil.

I thought it broke down a bit, though, in part 2, where he explicitly states that he's God's only son.

While traditional, this ventures into statements in the bible that modern scholars find the shakiest, and least well attributed by the sources we know about.

Aside from a couple of those lines, though, the production continued very well. The death scene wasn't overdone, but was explicit enough, and the bickering and arguing between the followers was very believeable and sort of satisfying - not terribly saintly at this point!

I thought the choice of actor for Jesus was clever - he was not traditionally handsome, but fitted the beard-and-long-hair look - but he had beautiful almond shaped eyes, that suggested Byzantine icons to me. A nice touch.

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