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Category archive: Quote unquote

Tuesday August 26 2014

I’ve started reading Virginia Postrel’s The Future and Its Enemies, years after everyone else who has read it.  I haven’t got very far yet, but I am delighted to discover that one of the Enemies that Postrel takes several cracks at is John Gray, that being a link to a crack that I took at Gray at Samizdata a while back.

And I see that Postrel, like me, does not confine herself to analysing and criticising Gray’s arguments, but notes also the cheapness of the tricks that Gray often uses to present his arguments.

What disguises the trickery, at least in the eyes of Gray and his followers, is the air of profundity that is regarded as being attached to the process of foreseeing doom and disaster.  In truth, incoherent pessimism is no more profound than incoherent optimism, which is to say, not profound at all.

Says Postrel (p. 9):

Although they represent a minority position, reactionary ideas have tremendous cultural vitality.  Reactionaries speak directly to the most salient aspects of contemporary life: technological change, commercial fluidity, biological transformation, changing social roles, cultural mixing, international trade, and instant communication.  They see these changes as critically important, and, as the old Natinoal Review motto had it, they are determined to “stand athwart history, yelling, ‘Stop!’” Merely by acknowledging the dynamism of contemporary life, reactionaries win points for insight.  And in the eyes of more conventional thinkers, denouncing change makes them seem wise.

Seem.  Amen.  I’m still proud of this in my piece about Gray, which makes that same point about the seeming wisdom of being a grump rather than a booster:

He trades relentlessly on that shallowest of aesthetic clichés, that misery is more artistic than happiness, that any old rubbish with a sad ending is artistically superior to anything with a happy ending no matter how brilliantly done, that music in a minor key is automatically more significant than anything in C major.

There are plenty more Gray references in Postrel’s book, if the Index is anything to go by and it surely is.  My immediate future is bright.

Saturday August 23 2014

Perry de Havilland:

Is not socialism truly stranger than a chorus of singing penguins?

LOL.  I really did.

Just to add, as a memo to self, I have another musical-stroke-Venezuela blog posting to do at Samizdata, concerning something said by a BBC4 TV presenter at a Prom, following a performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony by Gustavo Dudamel and his Venezuelan orchestra, about what a wonderful vision it was of the world for one bloke to be telling everyone else what to do.  I have the exact words (in addition to Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony) recorded, and I must dig them out.  They were truly spectacular, as in: spectacularly stupid.

The BBC worships all things Venezuelan, but has gone rather quieter about that now.

Monday August 18 2014

Richard Morrison’s article about the impact of WW1 on music, for the Times, is very interesting, but it suffers from an outbreak of PID (Permanent Italics Disease).  This is when you switch on the italics, but then forget or fail to switch them off again.  Here is a screen capture of the offending moment and its surroundings:

image

This was posted on August 16th, in connection with a Prom that happened last night, but it has yet to be corrected, as I write this.

PID is particularly pernicious when it afflicts not only the rest of the text of the piece itself, but then continues throughout the entire page as you see it, as it does here.  That is a site software blunder, as well as a posting blunder.

I got to this piece via Arts and Letters Daily, which perhaps explains how I got to it at all, what with the Times paywall and all.  Does anyone know how that system is working out for the Times?

It seems a bit shoddy that you have to pay for such typographical ineptitude.  It’s not so much the original error that I am unimpressed by.  It’s the fact that nobody quickly corrected it.  And the fact that the site software doesn’t confine the problem to the one posting.

To be a bit more serious, about the content of the article, I have long regretted Schoenberg’s depressing impact upon music, but I had no idea that the man himself was such a German chauvinist.  “Now we will throw these mediocre kitschmongers into slavery, and teach them to venerate the German spirit and to worship the German God …” Good grief.

Friday August 15 2014

Yes, I’ve been in France, and now I’m back.  Have been for several days actually, but I spent my recent blogging time doing this, which is a photo-decorated ramble on various things I saw in France, or thought I did, for Samizdata.

I really want to get back into the swim of things over there, after a recent dry spell, and was accordingly determined to finish that ramble before I resumed rambling here.

Since this is Friday, here are some French cats.

Cat number one stands outside Vannes town hall:

image

Cat number two is impressively perched on an impressively high ledge, somewhere or other.  Cat number three, the cat of the friends I was staying with, is shown here, not being very impressed with cat number two:

image

This photo was taken by Tony, to whom thanks, and to whom thanks also for emailing it to me.

Here, on the other hand are two further photos that I did take of cat number three:

image image

No, I don’t know why his right ear is green on the inside.  I only noticed this when I got home.

His name is Caesar (sp?), and he actually does answer to that name.  It’s not tone of voice, it’s the name, because when I said this to him for the first time, he immediately looked up to see what I had in mind.

There is another cat, Basil, who drops by at the home of Tony et famille from time to time, but he is more shy.  He was otherwise engaged, on my last day there which was when I finally decided I wanted to photo the two cats.  Caesar showed up, but not Basil.  Another time, maybe.

Caesar is now very old, and I may never meet with him again.  We got on well.

Saturday August 02 2014

Overheard in a TV advert for sweeties:

You can’t trust atoms.  They make up everything.

Talking of which, I am now reading Lee Smolin’s book about String Theory.  Basic message: It’s a cult.  I haven’t yet read him using that actual word, but that’s what he is saying.

I am, of course, not qualified to judge if Smolin is right, but you don’t have to be qualified to express a judgement, and I judge that Smolin is right.  And the way I like to learn about new stuff is by reading arguments about it, starting with the argument that says I am right about it.  Smolin is basically telling me that my ignorant prejudice that String Theory is one of the current world’s epicentres of the Higher Bollocks is right, although he is careful not to express himself as crudely as I just did, for fear of upsetting his physicist friends, and because, unlike me, he sees some merit in String Theory.

I have known that String Theory was in trouble for some time, because Big Bang Theory’s resident String Theorist, Dr Sheldon Cooper, has been having doubts about it.  He wanted to switch to something else, but they said: We hired you as a String Theorist and a String Theorist you will remain.

The above link is to a blog I had not heard of before, entitled Not Even Wrong.  Not Even Wrong is the title of another book I have recently obtained with has a go at String Theory.  I have not yet started reading this.

It’s true.  You can’t trust atoms.  And grabbing both ends of one and stretching it out into a string doesn’t change that.  It makes it worse.

Tuesday July 08 2014

Here.  (Via here.)

PLUS, from the comments on the piece (first link above), from the writer of the piece himself:

Invoking Godwin’s Law is the type of thing Hitler would do.

Very true.

Monday June 23 2014

Here:

Know what’s the perfect crime? Murdering a jury. You can’t get a fair trial because any jury will be biased against you.

It’s Frank J.  The J stands for Jenius.

Monday June 09 2014

This morning, did an SQotD about Uber.

Other Perry (Metzger) added this:

Uber does not always offer cheaper service. They operate on a market pricing mechanism to assure availability.

This means that, for example, on New Year’s Eve in NYC, you are assured you can get an Uber car even though normal taxis are essentially unavailable because of excess demand, but you will also discover the Uber car will be quite expensive. This is, of course, as it should be — the spike in price encourages as many Uber drivers as possible to work during a rush period. However, it is also decried by those who do not understand economics.

You could turn this around and say that Uber will be a sort of ongoing economics lesson for the citizenry.

Libertarians like me are always going on about how prices are a signalling mechanism.  Uber makes this extremely clear, I think.

Saturday May 10 2014

L. Neil Smith:

When you get to be my age, time flies whether you’re having fun or not.

I found it here.

Tuesday April 01 2014

Two photos of signs, taken on the south side of the river between Lambeth Bridge and Westminster Bridge, about a fortnight ago.

On the left, some of the verbiage on this statue.  My reason for showing it here is simply that I think this writing photographs so very well:

image image

And on the right, snapped moments later, another sign, on the side of a coffee stall.  It must be a very old joke indeed, but I was encountering it for the first time.

In general, signs make very good photos, I think.

Tuesday March 25 2014

Because he is definitely some personal kind (is there any other kind?) of libertarian (he and this guy are mates from Eton), I have instructed Google to send me emails about popular entertainer Frank Turner whenever anything is said about or by him, which is quite often because he really is very popular.

Here’s an interview Turner recently did.  They asked him how it feels to play in an “arena”, i.e. a very, very big place.

Turner:

It’s a funny thing because I think whenever anyone starts out playing music you have a bucket list, or a ceiling of achievement that you might think of … and I’m really not trying to sound like Mr CoolHipsterPunkRock here, but the biggest bands I went to see when I was a kid played The Astoria, maybe Brixton Academy.

But then, straight after that, comes this:

I’d never been to an arena show before I played one.

How cool is that?

Which just goes to show that a precondition for being cool is not trying to be.

Shame about that Libertarian Party (see the “this guy” link above).  That didn’t turn out quite so cool.

Friday March 14 2014

From Tim Berners-Lee, no less, on the occasion of the twenty fifth anniversary of his glorious invention, the www:

I never expected all these cats.

Berners-Lee also mentioned something about a Magna Carta for the web, but I am afraid the cat remark has overwhelmed all that stuff.

Or, maybe the cat angle has drawn attention to the Magna Carta stuff, which would otherwise have been ignored even more.  (I am starting to notice many rather irrelevant cats in adverts nowadays.)

Wednesday March 12 2014

From The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling (already mentioned here on Monday), p. 172:

They were both as pristine and polished as life-size dolls recently removed from their cellophane boxes; rich-girl thin, almost hipless in their tight jeans, with tanned faces that had a waxy sheen especially noticeable on their foreheads, their long, gleaming dark manes with centre partings, the ends trimmed with spirit level exactitude.

I claim no expertise in the matter of the differences between male and female writers, but might not paragraphs like that have caused suspicions that “Robert Galbraith” was really a woman, even if the information had not been revealed on the front cover?  It’s the detail.  The waxy foreheads, the centre partings, trimmed like that.  I don’t think a man would have gone into quite such detail, nor - in this age of male timidity about being anti-female – been as wonderfully rude about it.

I could be imagining all that.  I don’t read much fiction by men either, and maybe the best men writers are just as exact about the women they describe and can be just as rude when doing it.  And maybe most women writers would not refer to a spirit level in such a context.  Really, I just liked it.

Monday March 10 2014

Quoted by “Robert Galbraith” (aka JK Rowling) at the beginning of The Cuckoo’s Calling:

Unhappy is he whose fame makes his misfortunes famous.

Lucius Accius.

Celebrity and its discontents are nothing new.

Sunday March 09 2014

Christopher Seaman, in his book Inside Conducting (pp. 89-90):

If you truly love a work, you’re bound to feel emotionally involved while you’re conducting it, and if this doesn’t get across to the musicians you’ll get a cold performance.  Some conductors need to use bigger gestures than others to communicate with an orchestra.  It takes great aptitude and long experience to pour your heart out yet still maintain the necessary composure.  Professional musicians don’t need a good conductor to be over-demonstrative in order to pick up his musical ideas and feelings.  I sometimes tell students who thrash around ineffectively with paroxysms of emotion that they’re meant to be cooking the music, not eating it.  (The French term for conductor is chef d’orchestre, but that’s a coincidence.) James Levine is reputed to have said, “My tears only hurt my ability to make the audience cry.” And Richard Strauss said to Rudolf Schwarz, “Don’t sweat – let the orchestra sweat.  Don’t weep – let the public weep!”

I came across an approving reference to the bit about “cooking the music, not eating it” in a review of this book in the BBC Music Magazine, November 2013 issue.

I do like how you can chase these things up properly nowadays.