peteg's blog

Land and Freedom

/noise/movies | Link

Another Ken Loach effort, quite similar to the later The Wind that Shakes the Barley, about a revolution gone sour. The inspiration is clearly George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia.

By the way, it seems that the complete works of George Orwell are available at that website. Never be bored again.

David Chandler: Brother Number One

/noise/books | Link

This is a somewhat enlightening biography of Pol Pot, and therefore a selective account of the political situation in Cambodia during the 20th century.

One has to take a shine to a book that asks the question you're interested in on the third page; in this instance, just what the hell did the Khmer Rouge have in mind? How could the leaders of a country decide to decimate it so thoroughly?

Ultimately the book fails to provide a satisfying answer, but does justify this failure by showing how thin the record is. I came away with the impression that the party was a dictatorship of one man who managed to play his underlings off against one another with sufficient skill to remain in the role of chairman almost to his death. It is perhaps most difficult to comprehend why the fellow travellers went so far with him in the face of such thorough-going and brutal purges.

Politically Brother Number One seemed to think that the individual's only worth was in the labour he or she could provide to the state. With most of the expertise of returning Cambodian ex-pats squandered (they got executed), the regime was always heavily dependent on foreigners for anything more sophisticated than the most primitive agricultural techniques. Apparently there was no contradiction here with the idea that Cambodia is (in Western speak) God's own country, and neither is there one with the party leadership coterie living in relative comfort while their countrymen endure enforced poverty.

Most shocking is the incompetency of the Democratic Kampuchea regime, and the realpolitik machinations of a United States that had just begun to come to terms with their conflict with Vietnam. Pot entertained some pretty weird ideas of being rescued by the U.S. military, though he was right to bank on some support against the newly re-unified and communist Vietnam. In the end it was Vietnam, through occupying Cambodia in 1979, that sorted this particular mess out for the people of Cambodia. The occupation lasted about ten years, and so it is for only a relatively short time (almost twenty years now) that this country has been at peace.

I have no idea what the current regime is or how they reconciled the border tensions with Thailand. (Clearly the new government is friendly enough with Vietnam.)

There are some thoughtful reviews at Amazon. I expect one of the more recent biographies would be even more insightful.

Good Night, and Good Luck

/noise/movies | Link

Story of Stuff

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Iain steered me towards this insta-short-attention-span-classic. Some of the rhetoric is a bit wantonly overblown, suffering from what one might loosely term Chomsky syndrome, the over-egging of the already-risen souffle. I deeply appreciated that she wired the people story in there, the mass wastage of human potential being one of the macro crimes I equivocate least over. Her concluding happy-happy-green-cycles was too limp to satisfy, and she has nothing constructive to say about the paradox of development in countries that lag the west.

You can download it from their website. Incongruously they will apparently exchange a DVD for money.

Thank You for Smoking

/noise/movies | Link

Project blah blah.

/AYAD/Project | Link

I've been reading a lot of accessibility articles. Most are (at best) unscientific. If you can cope with the outmoded HTML advice, the best is Joe Clark's Building Accessible Websites. I feel his treatment of colour blindness is ... excessive, in a good way.

Finally someone has cooked up a good explanation of how to stuff Flash into a webpage, and why <embed> lurches forever onward. It has convinced me that if one decides to be evil and use Flash, one must necessarily also use JavaScript.

My goal of actually putting the XML part of XHTML to work by validating the comments and general content coming into HOPE with HaXml is mostly working, modulo some bugs here and there. Break it here: (soon to become the main DRD site, I hope.)

Carlito's Way.

/noise/movies | Link

It's a Free World

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Clearly Ken Loach saw Dirty Pretty Things and thought he could improve it. I don't think this movie needed to be made.

Pete R. hits the big time.

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Pete R. is now so famous that Paul Krugman is quoting him on the New York Times website, albeit without proper attribution.

Riff Raff

/noise/movies | Link

A quite funny early-90s Ken Loach effort. Some of the actors reprise similar roles in Trainspotting (Swanny and Begbie in particular). Structurally it is similar to My Name is Joe by the same director.

The Hard Word

/noise/movies | Link

Pete gets his name up in lights.

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Pete R. tells me he is close to finishing his PhD in urban planning. It seems that's good enough for the Smage to quote him at length on the problems of car dependency in western Sydney, though they left out all the pretty maps he spends so long cranking out. Someone also wrote him up at the Oil Drum.

Happy Endings

/noise/movies | Link

Amazing stuff, the Dirty Three's Indian Love Song accompanies one of the early scenes, and — I think — Rude (And Then Some Slight Return) a bit later. Somewhat less agreeable on the second viewing.

Twelve Angry Men

/noise/movies | Link

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Garden of Buffaloes (aka Buffalo Boy)

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Another Vietnamese classic on Darren's recommendation.

The Cowles Foundation Monographs in Economics

/choice/social-choice | Link

Amazing stuff, one can now get a whole pile of old economics monographs for free off the internet. The drawcard is Kenneth Arrow's Social Choice and Individual Values. Pulls the spare life out of the back pocket and is not seen for the next twenty years.


/noise/movies | Link

On Darren's recommendation. Umm, yeah.

A Quiet American (2002)

/noise/movies | Link

Yep, this was as bad as I remember. The book is much simplified upon and the plot twisted to suit this shallower medium; indeed, by making Phương fluent in English the French colonial overtones are largely relegated to the heavy-handed police inspector. This is one clunky adaptation. Shot by Christopher Doyle.