The Blood is the Life for 21-10-2017

Oct. 21st, 2017 11:00 am
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[personal profile] miss_s_b

India Construction Kit coming soon!

Oct. 21st, 2017 07:15 am
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Posted by zompist

The most important thing is done, I think: the cover!


Who are these people?  Once you read the book, you will know!  Also the answer is on the back cover, but you won’t even need that clue.

The text is about done— I have at least one more book I want to read, but it’s about time to order the proof copy. I’m hoping to make the book available by the end of November. Make your family buy you a copy!

I could probably use another couple of readers for this draft. E-mail me if  you’re interested and you are pretty sure you can read it and make comments within the next 3-4 weeks. (Sorry for the rush… some other stuff has needed dealing with.)

By the way, does anyone know what that big tree in the center is?  The fruits look like mangos, but the leaves are nothing like mango leaves. Perhaps an Indian tulip tree?

[MA, gastronomy] Moar Ghoti?

Oct. 20th, 2017 08:51 pm
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[personal profile] siderea

I have a friend coming from out-of-town – from one of those more landlocked places – who would like to go out for seafood. I'm abashed to admit, my answer to the question of where I go for seafood around here is "New Hampshire", which is not compatable with our plans. I am nursing a grudge against Legal, and just about all the places I used to go are out of business.

They're a foodie, will be staying in Somerville, and will be getting around on the T.

Where should we go?
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Adrian S. Thieret found this sign inside his brand new apartment complex in Shanghai a few days ago:

It reads:

xǐyī fáng zhèngzài zhuāngshì zhōng -ing…… 洗衣房正在装饰中ing……
("the laundry room is being decorated")
jìngqǐng qídài 敬请期待
("coming soon", lit., "respectfully please wait expectantly")

The excess of markers of the present progressive / continuous aspect in the first line is almost mind-boggling.

In Mandarin, you can indicate the present continuous with zài 在, zhèng 正, or zhèngzài 正在 before the verb.  The zhōng 中 ("in [process / midst of]") after the verb is optional.  The final particle ne 呢 can also be used to show that the action of the verb is ongoing.  In certain situations (e.g., doing one thing while something else is being done), you can also tack on the suffix -zhe 着.

The sentence in the first line of the sign already has three indications of the present continuous, and other resources for emphasizing progressive action in Chinese are available, yet the person(s) who wrote this sign chose to add the English verbal ending "-ing" as well.

Melvin Lee comments on the fondness for the English verb ending -ing in current Chinese:

This usage is actually not uncommon among the young generation in China/Taiwan now. My friends and I tend to use qídàiing 期待ing when we want to say "looking forward to it," particularly in emails or text messages. In this picture, it is interesting because 正在…中 has already served the function of Verb-ing. Therefore, the "ing" here looks a little bit redundant. Still, this kind of mixture of Chinese and English has become so common now, which is surely very interesting.

A few relevant posts:

[Thanks to Maiheng Dietrich and Yixue Yang]

The Leopard from Lime Street

Oct. 19th, 2017 01:59 pm
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Posted by Andrew Rilstone

I am writing this essay because my Patreon Supporters are now donating $70 for each essay I publish. Why not join them? 

You can sort-of picture the scene when, sometime in 1937, two kids from Ohio burst into the offices of DC Comics with their pitch for a new character. Alien news reporter. Secret identity. Red cape. Champion of the common man. You can't really imagine anything similar ever happening at DC Thompson.

“I’ve hud thes idea fur a freish comic strip. It’s abit a skale bairn aboot ages wi’ oor readers! N’ gie thes — he’s naughty! An’ gei thes — some weeks he gits aw’ wi’ it, and some weeks he gits intae trooble!”

“Brilliant jimmy, stoatin! It will rin fur sixty seven years!”

American comics were exciting, colorful, thrilling. British comics just existed: ephemeral, forgettable, disposable. And mostly black and white. If some American comics thought they were literature (pulp literature), British comics were more like daily newspapers. Part of the background of life. If some Americans dreamed of someday writing the great American novel, most Brits were craftsmen, artisans, dutifully bashing out the same tales of naughty kids, silly teachers and nasty Germans that they’d been telling for the past half a century. 

And yet kids read them; or, at any rate, parents bought them. Not just the Beano and the Dandy, but a seemingly endless parade of weekly anthology comics with names like Cheeky, Topper, Whizzer, Krazy and Buster.

There were exceptions. The Eagle had been started by a vicar, for goodness sake. In my day, swotty kids had a thing called Look and Learn, although we suspected that they were more interested in the Trigon Empire than the photo features about daily life in a Dutch fish refinery. But comics like that were supposed to be good for you. The whole point of the Dandy and Cheeky and Buster was that they were just a little bit naughty. 

Mike Taylor recently wrote a piece about an early 2000AD strip called Harlem Heroes and said that he was still struck by the visceral power of the story and art. 2000AD was, by the standards of 1970s comics, very naughty indeed: the violence of it can still take your breath away. But how did an English comic strip by a white artist for mainly white kids come to be called Harlem Heroes? Basketball wasn’t very widely played in England although Globetrotters exhibition games had been shown in late not slots on BBC2  2000AD's target demographic would be more likely to have remembered a cut-and-paste Hannah-Barbara cartoon series which had been on children's TV a couple of years before. Harlem Heroes is simply the Harlem Globetrotters playing futuristic death basketball. It’s hard to say if Pat Mills was being shamelessly derivative, or producing a shockingly poor taste parody.

It wasn’t so much a question of cultural appropriation as of grabbing everything within arms reach. If there had been a summer blockbuster about a shark them the English comic book artisans would scribble out a violent strip called Hookjaw and a silly strip called Gums in time for the Autumn specials. If that years hit movie involved a marooned alien making friends with some American schoolkids, then some hack would rush out a comic about some English kids and a crashed flying saucer occupant. I don’t know if the kids noticed, or were supposed to notice. I don’t think we engaged with the material to that extent. Comics had always been, and cold only ever be, mildly diverting knock-offs of better books, or anachronistic little squibs about pea-shooters and canes and German spies. That was why the launch of American style superhero comics made such a massive impact on us. 

Buster was typical of the era. When it launched in 1960 the title character had been the son of Andy Capp, the outrageous un-PC Geordie who appeared (and still appears) every day in the Daily Mirror. But by 1976, he was just a generic Dennis the Menace character who played pranks and clashed with authority figures. A list of the other features in the comic is enough to generate feelings of suicidal ennui: Ivor Lott and Tony Broke (with Milly O’Naire and Penny Less); Kid Kong; Lucy Lastic; X-Ray Specs; James Pond... Adam Adman was “A young man obsessed by advertising”; Jack Pot was “a boy with exceptional luck” and Joker was “a boy obsessed with jokes”. This is apparently how young people amused themselves before Minecraft was invented. 

The Leopard from Lime Street appeared in Buster from 1976 to 85. (The first year's worth have just been reprinted by Rebellion.) He is often said to be “England’s first superhero” or “Britain’s answer to Spider-Man”. But reading these episodes 40 years later, it feels less like a British attempt to do Marvel Comics and more like a gag strip that accidentally got drawn in a serious style. Yes, the Leopard wears a costume and, on occasion, catches robbers. But he’s also a schoolboy who deals with bullies and outwits nasty grown ups and earns himself treats by means of a special gimmick. 

It all starts when Billy Farmer is, and I promise I’m not making this up, scratched by a radioactive leopard. (Not a lion or a tiger or even a wolf. A flippin’ leopard.) He decides to make himself a leopard costume, as you would, and uses his strength to thwart a crime wave that is going on in his town. He starts selling photos of himself in action to the local newspaper, the Selbridge Sun. But the editor — one Thaddeus (yes, Thaddeus) Clegg (yes, Clegg) takes against him, and twists all the news stories to make it seem as if the Leopard is a baddie. 

If British comics are a celebration of naughtiness, there is a joyful shamelessness in the way writer Tom Tully scrumps the good bits from his more famous American template. Peter Parker has the proportional strength of a spider; Billy Farmer is as strong as a fully grown jungle cat. Peter Parker has his spider-sense: Billy gets danger signals from his Leopard’s sixth sense. Spider-Man has his webbing; Billy has a grappling rope. In the early installments, artist Mike Western even makes use of a Janus motif, showing Billy’s face as half human and half leopard. It’s all so outrageous that it sometimes feels less like swiping and more like dead-pan parody. Viz is still three years in the future. 

On the first page of the very first episode, one Ginger Moggs dangles Billy from the roof of the school cycle sheds on the the end of a rope. (Cycle sheds are an important part of British scholastic iconography: most early experiments with tobacco and heterosexuality take place behind them.) A friendly teacher extracts Billy from his predicament, but he, nobly refuses to “split” on the bullies. But a few episodes later, he gets his own back. “Mogsy” tries to climb the clock tower as a dare, and has to be rescued by Billy in his leopard persona. Mogsy ends up blindfolded, believing that he’s dangling off a high tower by his own belt — even though the Leopard has in fact left him only a few inches off the ground! This is very much the kind of thing that might have happened to Dennis the Menace: a massively exaggerated prank followed by equally far-fetched consequences. Mogsy is cured of being a bully, but there is a steady stream of louts with names like Stacey and Nogsy to torment Billy in subsequent installments.

When Billy starts selling photos to the Daily Bugle — I’m sorry, to the Selbridge Sun — he uses the money to purchase a colour television, still very much an aspirational item in 1976. When he rescues a kidnapped TV actress, he is rewarded with a ride back to school in a Rolls Royce; and when he wins £250 for surviving three rounds in the ring with the Masked Hangman, he uses the money to replace the vandalized basketball court at his youth club. This is a long way from Peter Parker pawning his microscope to pay for Aunt May’s heart surgery: it’s a lot more like that great big plate of sausages and mashed potato that has signified “reward” in English comics since the days of food rationing. He intends to use his very first pay check to buy a bag of groceries for his poor family, but when he steps into “Mason’s Magnificent Mart” he finds that he is the one millionth customer and can take home “all the goods that he can collect in exactly one minute”. Naturally, due to his superpowers, he manages to walk away with more or less the whole shop. The “one millionth customer” thing is a pretty standard cartoon trope.

It is the artwork which does the most to transpose the strip into a serious register. It’s consistently and impressively naturalistic. We have more of a sense of what Billy Farmer’s habitat looks like than we do of Peter Parker’s. There are PE lessons and supermarkets and TV showrooms. The Daily Bugle is based in a shiny Madison Avenue skyscraper; the Selbridge Sun seems to be published out of a dingy converted-shop front with offices to rent on the second floor. But inside there are filing cabinets and pots of ink and in-trays and actual members of staff. But Selbridge is also a kind of dream-world. Billy's school is dreary collection of 1950s concrete boxes: it’s clearly a Secondary Modern rather than a Comprehensive. But when there needs to be, there is an old fashioned castellated building with a flagpole and a clock tower for Mogsy to climb. The town is mostly a grim collection of terraced houses, labour exchanges and youth clubs — but there can be a ruined abbey and a stately home within striking distance when the plot calls for it.

There is also a surprisingly consistent — logical, if not actually realistic — treatment of Billy’s life as
a super-hero. Billy makes his leopard suit by finding the costume he wore when he played the cat in a school production of Dick Whittington and painting spots on it. When he decides he needs a grappling rope, he conveniently find a “claw like ornament” on a set of old fire tongs and fixes it on the end of a rope. Peter Parker gets his powers due to, er, “fate”; but Billy is deliberately sent to Prof. Jarman’s experimental zoo to interview him for the school magazine. Jarman has deliberately injected the leopard which scratches Billy with a “radioactive serum”. The origin is followed up in several subsequent strips: Jarman wants to give Billy medical check ups to see if he is suffering any ill-effects from the scratch, and Billy and the leopard become good friends. The latter ends up living fairly happily ever after in the safari park. 

Billy lives with a predictably kindly Aunt and an unexpectedly horrible Uncle — a bald, unemployed man with a mustache, rolled up sleeves, open topped shirt and braces. In the next decade unemployment would come to be indelibly associated with Mrs Thatcher: young people resigned to years on the dole, politicians urging them to get on bikes, Youth training schemes and Enterprise Allowance culture. But in 1976, the stereotype of an unemployed person was still a lazy middle-aged man who wastes his dole money at the betting shop. That's why Billy uses his photo money to buy TVs and groceries: if he handed the cash over, his Uncle would put it on a horse. Eventually, as the Leopard, Billy scares Uncle Charlie into going to the labour exchange and looking for work. He seems to find a job quite easily once he starts looking.

We can see just how nasty Uncle Charlie is supposed to be from the tag line of the third episode: “Billy uses his new powers to avoid a beating from his guardian!” The gag strips notoriously represented corporal punishment as a rather funny occupational hazard of being a kid; but the straight ones equally consistently use it to indicate that an adult is bad parent, an impostor, and incidentally, lower class. While the various Menaces are amusingly spanked across their parents' knees Uncle Charlie strikes the side of Billy’s head with the back of his hand, so hard that he is said to go to bed with ringing ears and a headache; and threatens to flog him with a belt. But we are assured that Billy’s leopard strength means that Uncle Charlie can’t really hurt him any more (even though he muses about paying him back for all the “hidings” he’s had in past). So maybe we aren’t so far from Roger the Dodger slipping a book down the back of his trousers after all?

This is perhaps the biggest difference of outlook between Spider-Man and his British parody. Billy actually gets to do stuff: to make small, but positive and permanent improvements to his own life. The readership’s need to say “If I had amazing powers, I know what I would do…” is consistently indulged. Let me assure you: if, at the age of 13, I had gained the powers and abilities of a fully grown leopard “dangling the bully from the tree” and “getting a colour TV” would have been first and second on my to do list. Groceries, not so much. Billy not only gets his own back on the bullies: they actually lay off bullying him. He not only avoid being hit by his nasty uncle: he forces him to go and get a job. He goes from being the classroom pariah who doesn’t have a telly to being the lucky kid with a spiffy colour one. 

Strips like this have to sustain themselves on simple ideas — hence the plethora of “young lad with a toy soliders than comes to life” and “young girl whose best friend is a ghost” strips elsewhere. Two pages is not very long to develop a story: no-one is characterised beyond their basic function of cruel uncle, kind aunt, understanding teacher, bully, crook, copper. Even Billy himself is is more internal monologue than human being. The only thing that will make the reader come back is a wish to find out what happens next; so every two pages, something has to happen. If the school is going on a coach trip to a safari park then of course one of the Dads is going to use the excursion as a pretext to steal silver from the stately home, and of course his bully of a son is going to push Billy into an empty lion cage and of course the cage is going to turn out to have a leopard in it and of course that leopard is going to be the very one loaned to the zoo by a certain scientist. The whole thing will dried and dusted in 16 pages, but eked out over two months.

Spider-Man is a timeless classic. The Leopard of Lime Street seems like a dispatch from a different world. But as a piece of archive material, it’s worth acquainting oneself with.

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Posted by Bruce Schneier

Interesting essay by Danna Staaf, the author of Squid Empire. (I mentioned the book two weeks ago.)

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Also, every time you eat a slice of cake or smoke a cigarette, Death takes a big jump forward!

New comic!
Today's News:

Hey geeks! Me and Kelly are going to be in NYC soon at The Strand, then later at Caveat. These are ticketed events, so you need to buy soon if you want to lock in a spot. We'll be signing books and telling nerd jokes!

strange_complex: (Dracula Risen hearse smile)
[personal profile] strange_complex
I am very happy indeed a) that this book exists and b) that I managed to bag one of the original print run of a mere 600 copies for only £35 last year. It now goes for upward of £150 on eBay... The publishers' page is still up, though, and includes several page images which indicate what the book is like: basically a pictorial record of the seven Hammer Dracula films which have Christopher Lee in them (so not Brides or Legend), covering cast pictures, production documentation, behind-the-scenes pictures and publicity material. As such it is of course an absolute treasure-trove.

I'm fairly familiar with the publicity photos and posters, but even they are wonderful to have in high-quality printed form. Meanwhile, the really exciting content was the production documentation, including letters, set designs, pages from shooting scripts etc. From these I learnt several things which I had not known before, such as how the various sets for Dracula fitted together. I had long realised that Harker's bedroom and Dracula's crypt in this film must be essentially the same set re-dressed, because they share the same curved, pointed arches along one wall. However, I never realised before I saw the set drawings in this book that this is actally because they both make use of the area glimpsed between the very same curved, pointed arches in the dining room after they had been blocked off by book-cases to create the library set. (I.e. they are slotted into the shadowy space from which Valerie Gaunt's vampire woman first appears when Harker is in the dining room.) Nor did I know, as correspondence with the censor for Risen reveals, that the name of the Monsignor's niece in this film was originally to have been Gisela. The switch to Maria in the final film was of course a sound move, since it is more familiar to Anglophone audiences, as well as accentuating her virginal purity and connection with a Catholic clergyman. Meanwhile, Gisela did not go to waste: the name was repurposed for the unfortunate girl found in the bell at the beginning of the film, whose coffin Dracula goes on to steal once he has been reawakened from the icy stream.


Also very illuminating were Terence Fisher's hand-written notes on Jimmy Sangster's original script for Dracula 1958. They're written on plain pages, rather than on the script itself, so you can't see what Sangster actually wrote - only Fisher's reactions. But that is enough to make it very clear that Sangster's first draft must have included far more scenes from the original novel than ever made it into even the shooting script, never mind the film. Scenes or characters which Fisher is reacting to include for example Harker in an inn before he ever reaches the castle, the three vampire brides, the 'child in a sack' scene, Harker gashing Dracula in the head, the Demeter, Renfield and Quincy Morris. And what Fisher is saying about them includes things like "cut", "keep till later?", "new character unexplained and uninteresting", "make it a pre-title sequence?" etc. This is absolutely revelatory, because the standard line until now has always been about how the efficiency of the script reflects Sangster's instinct for what could be achieved on a small budget. But I now see that his original draft must actually have followed Stoker's novel fairly closely, while most of the credit for that ruthless efficiency really belongs to Fisher.

In between the images runs a concise and generally useful supporting text from Kinsey, but I was struck by the fact that he doesn't always seem to recognise the full value of the material he himself is presenting. So, in spite of having treated us to Fisher's observations on Sangster's first draft, he still reports the usual story about how Sangster "was given Bram Stoker's novel to adapt, which he achieved again within Hammer's modest budget" only a few pages later. I spotted a couple of mistakes, too. The double-page spread on Francis Matthews in Prince calls his character Alan (rather than Charles), while a similar spread about Patrick Troughton as Klove in Scars claims that he passed on the mantle of Doctor Who to Tom Baker (not directly!).

That is to quibble, though. On the whole this is an absolutely superb collection which huge amounts of work must have gone into, and which I am certain I will keep returning to over the years. Three thousand cheers that my favourite films in all the world have received this splendid tribute.

7 things make a post

Oct. 20th, 2017 09:26 pm
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
1. We spent a pleasant low-key weekend in Todmorden with my mother and stepfather for Charles's birthday / their wedding anniversary. The only niggle was the mild cough I had before going turned into a horrible cough and I got very little sleep on the Saturday night, so my patience etc on the journey home was ... limited. We got home with no-one murdered though.

2. I love my Yuletide assignment and have a plot bunny gently growing. It's going to be pretty niche and I don't care, so long as it works for the recipient.

3. Thanks to the aforementioned cough, I missed morris practice last week - so frustrating given my fears about falling out of it - but I managed it again this week, and it is still very happy making. (I am so, so unfit compared to all these older women, but they are all so pleasant and welcoming.)

4. Charles was away this week with the school residential outdoor activity week with PGL. It was a bit of a challenge for him being away from home and his usual routine, but he seems to have mostly enjoyed it, and enthused at me about climbing and rifleshooting and archery and a few other things too ... It is good to have him back; and now it is half-term.

5. I had my flu jab this week, and the children had their flu sprays last week (I am a bit envious of them, but the nurse at my GP surgery is really very good about doing jabs quickly and with minimal pain). Flusurvey has started up again and are keen for more participants if any of my UK subscribers aren't already doing it and would like to.

6. It seems like half my reading list already posted about the #PullTheFootball campaign to require a congressional declaration of war before the US President can launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike.  But in case you didn't see it, that link has actions, phone numbers and a script for US citizens (the rest of us can just help by sharing it with US citizens ...)

7. Clipping wrote the soundtrack for a new TV show, The Mayor, and tracks from it are being released weekly onto Spotify and iTunes.  I couldn't find an official Spotify playlist so I made my own and am adding the new tracks each week as they get released - TWO this week for a Halloween-themed episode.  The show's premise is that an up-and-coming rapper stands for mayoral election as a publicity stunt for his music career and accidentally wins. I love this idea, but can't find a way to legally watch the show from here; anyway I am really enjoying the musical output.

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Posted by Bruce Schneier

Denuvo is probably the best digital-rights management system, used to protect computer games. It's regularly cracked within a day.

If Denuvo can no longer provide even a single full day of protection from cracks, though, that protection is going to look a lot less valuable to publishers. But that doesn't mean Denuvo will stay effectively useless forever. The company has updated its DRM protection methods with a number of "variants" since its rollout in 2014, and chatter in the cracking community indicates a revamped "version 5" will launch any day now. That might give publishers a little more breathing room where their games can exist uncracked and force the crackers back to the drawing board for another round of the never-ending DRM battle.

BoingBoing post. Slashdot thread.

Related: Vice has a good history of DRM.

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Posted by Tim Harford

Undercover Economist

He did it again: Boris Johnson, UK foreign secretary, exhumed the old referendum-campaign lie that leaving the EU would free up £350m a week for the National Health Service. I think we can skip the well-worn details, because while the claim is misleading, its main purpose is not to mislead but to distract. The growing popularity of this tactic should alarm anyone who thinks that the truth still matters.

You don’t need to take my word for it that distraction is the goal. A few years ago, a cynical commentator described the “dead cat” strategy, to be deployed when losing an argument at a dinner party: throw a dead cat on the table. The awkward argument will instantly cease, and everyone will start losing their minds about the cat. The cynic’s name was Boris Johnson.

The tactic worked perfectly in the Brexit referendum campaign. Instead of a discussion of the merits and disadvantages of EU membership, we had a frenzied dead-cat debate over the true scale of EU membership fees. Without the steady repetition of a demonstrably false claim, the debate would have run out of oxygen and we might have enjoyed a discussion of the issues instead.

My point is not to refight the referendum campaign. (Mr Johnson would like to, which itself is telling.) There’s more at stake here than Brexit: bold lies have become the dead cat of modern politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Too many politicians have discovered the attractions of the flamboyant falsehood — and why not? The most prominent of them sits in the White House. Dramatic lies do not always persuade, but they do tend to change the subject — and that is often enough.

It is hard to overstate how corrosive this development is. Reasoned conversation becomes impossible; the debaters hardly have time to clear their throats before a fly-blown moggie hits the table with a rancid thud.

Nor is it easy to neutralise a big, politicised lie. Trustworthy nerds can refute it, of course: the fact-checkers, the independent think-tanks, or statutory bodies such as the UK Statistics Authority. But a politician who is unafraid to lie is also unafraid to smear these organisations with claims of bias or corruption — and then one problem has become two. The Statistics Authority and other watchdogs need to guard jealously their reputation for truthfulness; the politicians they contradict often have no such reputation to worry about.

Researchers have been studying the problem for years, after noting how easily charlatans could debase the discussion of smoking, vaccination and climate change. A good starting point is The Debunking Handbook by John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky, which summarises a dispiriting set of discoveries.

One problem that fact-checkers face is the “familiarity effect”: the endless arguments over the £350m-a-week lie (or Barack Obama’s birthplace, or the number of New Jersey residents who celebrated the destruction of the World Trade Center) is that the very process of rebutting the falsehood ensures that it is repeated over and over again. Even someone who accepts that the lie is a lie would find it much easier to remember than the truth.

A second obstacle is the “backfire effect”. My son is due to get a flu vaccine this week, and some parents at his school are concerned that the flu vaccine may cause flu. It doesn’t. But in explaining that I risk triggering other concerns: who can trust Big Pharma these days? Shouldn’t kids be a bit older before being exposed to these strange chemicals? Some (not all) studies suggest that the process of refuting the narrow concern can actually harden the broader worldview behind it.

Dan Kahan, professor of law and psychology at Yale, points out that issues such as vaccination or climate change — or for that matter, the independence of the UK Statistics Authority — do not become politicised by accident. They are dragged into the realm of polarised politics because it suits some political entrepreneur to do so. For a fleeting partisan advantage, Donald Trump has falsely claimed that vaccines cause autism. Children will die as a result. And once the intellectual environment has become polluted and polarised in this way, it’s extraordinarily difficult to draw the poison out again.

This is a damaging game indeed. All of us tend to think tribally about politics: we absorb the opinions of those around us. But tribal thinking pushes us to be not only a Republican but also a Republican and a vaccine sceptic. One cannot be just for Brexit; one must be for Brexit and against the UK Statistics Authority. Of course it is possible to resist such all-encompassing polarisation, and many people do. But the pull of tribal thinking on all of us is strong.

There are defences against the dead cat strategy. With skill, a fact-check may debunk a false claim without accidentally reinforcing it. But the strongest defence is an electorate that cares, that has more curiosity about the way the world really works than about cartoonish populists. If we let politicians drag facts into their swamp, we are letting them tug at democracy’s foundations.
Written for and first published in the Financial Times on 23 September 2017.

My new book is “Fifty Inventions That Shaped The Modern Economy”. Grab yourself a copy in the US or in the UK (slightly different title) or through your local bookshop.

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the Last Good Idea

Oct. 20th, 2017 12:00 am
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October 20th, 2017next

October 20th, 2017: TODAY'S MY BIRTHDAY! Looks like *I* completed an orbit around the sun and now deserve a moderate slice of cake!!

– Ryan

The Blood is the Life for 20-10-2017

Oct. 20th, 2017 12:00 pm
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[personal profile] miss_s_b


Oct. 20th, 2017 10:49 am
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[personal profile] hollymath
I have a lot of reading to do, having somehow kept busy but gotten nowhere so far this week. And I'm away this weekend (with good intentions of reading on the train, but also...I've met me). So I'm trying to catch up now.

Some of it's hard going, but luckily some of it's also written by Geoff Pullum (a name anyone who reads Language Log might recognize and someone I learned I liked from there).
"A silly, infuriatingly unscholarly piece, designed to mislead" is what one irate but anonymous senior scholar called this chapter when it was first published in NLLT. But this is not correct; rather, what I have written here is a silly, misleadingly unscholarly piece, designed to infuriate. There is a huge difference.
May more of my reading be silly and misleadingly unscholarly!


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