history

RIP, Milton Friedman

2006-11-16
A truly great man. The world is poorer (in every sense) with his passing. Russ Roberts was fortunate enough to interview him only a few months ago - his brilliance shone through even at the age of 94. From another interview in 2004: There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money.

Barbarous Dentistry

2006-10-21
Getting your hair cut is normally dead time, unless you find the conversation particularly stimulating. So as I was having mine trimmed this morning, I got to wondering: Why going to the barber’s is like going to the dentist You have to sit very still or bad things happen. This is tricky and you tend to squirm. From time to time they re-orient your head. They have a special chair that goes up and down.

Grave of the Fireflies

2006-10-19
Folks, this is the power of well-constructed fiction. Grave of the Fireflies is an astonishingly powerful animated film about a Japanese brother and sister orphaned during a firebombing in WWII. It’s a film to move you to tears, and feel that frustratingly ironic anger at evil folks who drop bombs on innocents. The characters are so well focused they just draw you into the story, and I found it easy to ride the emotional rollercoaster the entire way.

Ray

2006-10-02
Ray is a biopic-by-the-numbers. Depicting the life of Ray Charles, Jamie Foxx does a competent job of portraying someone blind (it’s of course hard to tell how close he is to Charles). The film lurches from one scene to the next, and portrays Charles as a fun-loving but flawed man (cynics might point out that this is what most biographical films of entertainers do). There’s nothing that particularly stands out, but no part of the film that’s truly awful either.

Leadership for the Future - Bill Clinton

2006-10-01
Last Tuesday, I attended Bill Clinton’s ‘Leadership for the Future’ seminar at the Royal Albert Hall. Although I don’t necessarily agree with his politics (he obviously sits somewhere around the centre-left and I’m some undecided variety of libertarian), I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see a former world leader speaking. The tickets (£60 - £300) weren’t cheap for the hour and a half’s presentation, and the occupancy of the hall seemed to suffer accordingly, but it was worth it.

Friedman and Roads

2006-09-20
I’m currently podcast-less, due to the continued incompetence of PlusNet, and so am reading Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom (at Richard’s suggestion). So far it’s an excellent book, and everything I expected. It’s interesting how the power of the market might surprise even Friedman himself, however - given that the book was originally written in 1962. On page 30 Friedman discusses the use of tolls on roads, and how they are ineffective in the general case, because of the high costs of administering them on most roads.

Amadeus

2006-08-28
Amadeus, which could have been more lengthily titled ‘The Rise and Fall of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’, is an outstanding film from the Academy Awards' back-catalogue. Winners of eight Oscars, it deserved them all, despite its many historical inaccuracies and liberties. An extremely watchable film, it never drags despite its length, and each scene tells. Amadeus is a film of contrasts. It depicts Mozart as a fun-loving wally, reminiscent of Yahoo Serious in Young Einstein (or at least his hair).

Triumph of the Will

2006-06-25
I’ve just watched Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. I wasn’t as moved as I expected to be; perhaps precisely because the film shows only ‘positive’ messages, which I’m not greatly influenced by because of the benefit of hindsight. All the negative connotations of Hitler, WWII, and the Holocaust are absent. In fact, after some time, the film becomes rather repetitive and I skipped several sections. Nevertheless, Hitler’s closing speech to the Party Congress at the end of the film is well worth watching, as a striking example of just how good oratory can get (ironic from a man that’s so hard to admire in most other respects).