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Monday, February 26, 2007


A few recommendations...

Forest Whitaker totally deserved his Oscar for The Last King of Scotland, and if you haven't seen it, you should. I've been meaning to recommend it for ages, but I keep getting distracted. Go see it, it's great.

Here's a most interesting psychology-politics book being published chapter by chapter online, called The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer. As the title suggests, it's a study of authoritarian personalities, both people who determinedly obey any order, such as 'persecute those people over there' (one study turned up the result that some people are prepared, if you word the question correctly, to persecute themselves), and authoritarian leaders. Psychological research, lively writing, good stuff.

A marvellous website called smashingtelly.com. It's an ever-growing archive of, well, just good stuff, films, documentaries, dramas, all sorts of things that you can watch on that very site. I'd particularly recommend The Century of the Self, a four-part documentary about how psychoanalysis was developed in the public relations industry, leading to a sea-change not just in consumerism but in politics as well. Definitely worth watching, as it's nice to see how the trick works and be a bit more manipulation-resistant, plus it's really, really interesting. (Sometimes the pages don't load on that one, but if you click 'refresh', that usually does the trick.)

And if you haven't seen My Neighbour Totoro, you're missing the loveliest movie ever made. It's available on DVD, it's directed by Hayao Miyazaki (he of Spirited Away) , and it's just wonderful. Beautiful animation, the cutest creation in film history, and a genuinely touching story, done with wonderful naturalism and humanity. It makes me happy just to think about it. (But listen to the Japanese, not the cheesy American dub. The totoro's voice in the Japanese version is unsurpassable.) I went to see it at the Barbican last week (again; I have seen it numerous times), and I'm still happy about it. And interestingly, the talk given by Helen McCarthy at the beginning made a comparison between that film and Lilo and Stitch, which delighted me because it's my favourite Disney film. If you've seen both movies, you'll spot some things right off - the scene where Stitch lands on a road and tries to mug a frog drew chuckles of recognition from all over the cinema, leading me to conclude that I was probably not the only person there who'd seen My Neighbour Totoro already - but there's also, she pointed out, a general moral kindness to it that you don't always get from Hollywood. Nobody is really bad; everyone has their own ideas about the right thing to do, and some of them threaten the people we care about, but everyone is fallible rather than monstrous. Well, that's the same kind of ethics you get in Miyazaki (try Princess Mononoke if you want a more dramatic and violent take on the same principle), and it's far more satisfying than myths of redemptive violence.

Well, that's probably enough recommendations for one day. Anyone got anything they'd like to add to the recommendations list?

I've just started reading "The Authoritarians" and it is really very good! Fascinating and absorbing, it's putting into words things I suspected but could never quite articulate (on his first test I manged to score only 37!)...

In addition, in my second novel my protagonist is in a life or death situation - I've made it impossible for him to be able to escape, and it's a problem because this is only chapter 2 - and I need him for longer!!!

This way I can forget about cliches to save my character, read something much more interesting, and tell myself it'll be useful in the future! Great! :-)
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