June 15th, 2011

Rhymes with 'mine', not with 'sane'

I watched the first episode of Adam Curtis's 'All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace' (also most of the 3rd though I gave up before the end and fell asleep in the middle). Whilst it clearly has to be viewed as some sort of multi-media tone poem rather than any sort of coherent argument I thought it was pretty poor even on its own terms, viz:
1. [I am indebted to Mr J F Cat of this parish for this insight] Whilst it is an interesting tit-bit in terms of weird connections with people (like Bob Holness playing the saxophone on Baker Street (*) or Hedy Lamarr being the co-inventor of spread spectrum radio communication) that Alan Greenspan was one of Rand's inner circle, it is a bit [citation needed] that he running of the Fed was particularly Randian / Objectivtist, rather than just normal neo-liberalism
2. It went on about Rand's relationship with Nathaniel Branden, I suspect this was mainly because Barbara Branden was happy to witter on on camera about it, but whilst Rand was clearly bat-shit insane this isn't a particularly interesting story to occupy a large chunk of a film about someone most of the audience probably won't particularly know about. 'Hey, there's this person you haven't heard of, and she shagged a colleague with the agreement of her husband and his wife, but then went off in a huff when it turned out he was shagging someone else'. There are much better Rand stories.
3. Describing cybernetics without calling it as cybernetics is not unreasonable, but then using the term 'cybernetics' as a throw-away later seemed bizarre to me.

(*) A little known fact is that the recording was made at Oxford Zoo

It's fun to stay at the D. S. I. R.

Ha ha. There is a documentary about apples on BBC4, talking about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Malling_Research_Station which no doubt was an industry research association under the aegis of the DSIR. The scientist the presenter is talking to is clearly sitting in an office in the attic of a 19th century manor house with a sloping roof identical to the office I sat in for about 10 years in what had once been a directly funded DSIR institute, same 'mind your heads' notice, same sort of desk, same paint (in general industries that were state / municipally owned e.g. sewerage and roads had directly funded institutes).