Friday 12 May, 2023

Still Life: tulips with pics

The photographs in the background are (left to right):

  • Henri Cartier-Bresson: Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1954
  • Brett Weston: Canal, Netherlands, 1971.
  • Ansel Adams: Dogwood Blossoms, Yosemite, 1938.

I like them all, but the HCB is special because the cheeky young boy in it was the same age as me that year. I’ve often wondered if he’s still around.

Quote of the Day

”Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children. Life is the other way round.”

  • David Lodge, in The British Museum is Falling Down.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

The Spinners – In My Liverpool Home


Long Read of the Day

The Cult of the Founders

Fabulous essay by Henry Farrell on Crooked Timber:

Since I’m on the topic of Max Weber, religion and technology already, here’s a half-developed theory of Elon Musk that I’ve been nurturing for a while. I’ve trotted it out informally at a couple of meetings, and I’m not completely convinced it is right, but it’s prima facie plausible, and I’ve gotten some entertainment from it. My argument is that Musk is doing such a terrible job as Twitter CEO because he is a cult leader trying to manage a church hierarchy. Relatedly – one of SV’s culture problems right now is that it has a lot of cult leaders who hate the dull routinization of everyday life, and desperately want to return to the age of charisma.

The underlying idea is straightforward, and is stolen directly from Max Weber – see this handy Weber on religion listicle for the background. Weber thinks that many of the stresses and strains of religion come from the vexed relationship between the prophet and the priest.

Prophets look to found religions, or radically reform them, root and branch. They rely on charismatic authority. They inspire the belief that they have a divine mandate. Prophets are something more than human, so that some spiritual quality infuses every word and every action. To judge them as you judge ordinary human beings is to commit a category error. Prophets inspire cults – groups of zealous followers who commit themselves, body and soul to the cause. Prophets who are good, lucky, or both can reshape the world.

The problem with prophecy is that ecstatic cults don’t scale…

Most perceptive piece on Musk I’ve ever seen. Do read it.

My commonplace booklet

Another Internet anniversary

Doc Searls (Whom God Protect) wrote to remind me that,

April 30 is also important for another reason: it was the day in 1995 that NSFNET, the only backbone within the Internet that forbade commercial traffic (effectively making the whole Internet noncommercial up to that point), was decommissioned, opening the floodgates to Amazon, eBay and the rest.

There are many sources on this. Here’s one.

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