Monthly Archives: March 2015

Good articles from Vox

I browsed through Vox.com’s archive after not having visited the site for a while, and they do have some good material (in addition to a fair amount that I do not find that attractive). Here is some of the recent stuff I liked best:

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Film censorship in the US

Reading The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires, a book about  the telecommunication industry in the US from the telephone onwards, I learnt something about censorship in Hollywood. Between 1930 and 1968, the film industry imposed a set of moral guidelines known as the Motion Picture Production Code on itself, out of fear of regulation. Among the forbidden things were swearing, “Any licentious or suggestive nudity – in fact or in silhouette,” White slavery, and Miscegenation.

There was also a list of topics that were to be treated very carefully, such as “Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc. (having in mind the effect which a too-detailed description of these may have upon the moron),” Sympathy for criminals, Attitude toward public characters and institutions, and The institution of marriage. The industry also enforced the code itself.

It is fascinating that this was official policy. Of course it should come as no surprise that some things were not exactly right in the US of that time. As regards film censorship, Norway has also set itself up for some serious ridicule (in 1980!).

Monthly book roundup – 2015 February

Books finished in February:
(Warning: reviews are unpolished and quickly written.)

The Rider (1978) by Tim Krabbé. Wonderful book. Dutch amateur road cyclist Tim Krabbé recounts how he raced the Tour de Mont Aigoual, known from Tour de France, interspersed with stories from his cycling career, Tour de France, and the nature of road racing. Recommended.

On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft (2001) by Stephen King. Very nice little book from Stephen King, where he tells about his becoming and experience of a writer. Part autobiographical, with King telling about his childhood experiences of pain, childhood and adolescence writing effort and other things, part practical advice, like read and write a lot, be disciplined, have someone in mind to write for. I do not know if I learned too much about actual writing, but I liked the anecdotes and the stories anyway. Recommended.

Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction (2001) by Ian J. Deary. Got its own review.

The Unknown Terrorist: A Novel (2008) by Richard Flanagan. A young woman suddenly finds herself a suspect in a terrorism case in an Australia that has instituted draconian terrorism laws. She is presumed guilty be the media, and consequently by the rest of the society. It is important to consider where we are heading regarding terrorism, etc., but the moral lessons are here way too spelled out – long passages describing how the protagonist now that she is treated unfairly comes to realize that was how she used to treat others, etc. And there is a caricature villain from the media. Not recommended.

The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter (2014) by Susan Pinker. Though quite concerned about causal identification I am not part of the Endogeneity Taliban, and I find descriptive stuff interesting valuable, but I am frustrated by presentation of statistical associations followed by suggestive or explicit causal language, even if occasionally accompanied by acknowledging other possibilities and selection issues. Susan Pinker is not the worst offender in this regard that I have come across, but a pretty serious offender she is. In particular with all the talk about “the female effect” and the effects of marriage , but often also casually, as with “the effect of eating dinner together”. I accept much of her message that face-to-face social interactions are important and perhaps undervalued in today’s society, the problem is that this is almost lost in hyperbole and one-sided interpretation. Not recommended.

Ratings and old books are in the library.