Friday 14 February, 2024


Rory Cellan-Jones has been one of my favourite journalists ever since I was the Observer’s TV critic in the 1980s and 1990s. On Wednesday afternoon he was in Cambridge at his alma mater Jesus College, and when we were going in to the event I suddenly noticed him making a last-minute phone call before going in to the auditorium for a marvellous conversation with a couple of students before an invited audience.

As we passed the window I snatched this picture which I think captures the essence of a lovely, generous man.

Quote of the Day

”Living is a compromise, between doing what you want and doing what other people want.”

  • John Updike

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Liam O’Flynn and Mark Knopfler | An Droichead


Two of my favourite musicians. An Droichead is Irish for ‘the bridge’.

Long Read of the Day

A Tech Overlord’s Horrifying, Silly Vision for Who Should Rule the World

Terrific blast by Elizabeth Spiers on Marc Andreessen’s “manifesto”, which has, she says, “the pathos of the Unabomber manifesto but lacks the ideological coherency”.

It takes a certain kind of person to write grandiose manifestoes for public consumption, unafflicted by self-doubt or denuded of self-interest. The latest example is Marc Andreessen, a co-founder of the top-tier venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and best known, to those of us who came of age before TikTok, as a co-founder of the pioneering internet browser Netscape. In “The Techno-Optimist Manifesto”, a recent 5,000-plus-word post on the Andreessen Horowitz website, Mr. Andreessen outlines a vision of technologists as the authors of a future in which the “techno-capital machine” produces everything that is good in the world.

In this vision, wealthy technologists are not just leaders of their business but keepers of the social order, unencumbered by what Mr. Andreessen labels “enemies”: social responsibility, trust and safety, tech ethics, to name a few. As for the rest of us — the unwashed masses, people who have either “unskilled” jobs or useless liberal arts degrees or both — we exist mostly as automatons whose entire value is measured in productivity…

When I first read the ‘manifesto’, my first thought was that it must be a spoof; my second thought was that Andreessen was losing what might loosely be called his mind. And then it dawned on me that “the guy really believes this horseshit.”

Spiers nails the essence of this accelerating madness. Which is why it’s worth a read.

Books, etc.

“We were talking about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was something which resembled an iPad, long before it appeared. And I said when something like that happens, it’s going to be the death of the book. Douglas said no. Books are sharks,” Gaiman told a packed audience at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

“I must have looked baffled because he he looked very pleased with himself. And he carried on with his metaphor. Books are sharks … because sharks have been around for a very long time. There were sharks before there were dinosaurs, and the reason sharks are still in the ocean is that nothing is better at being a shark than a shark.”

Thanks to Simon for remembering it.

Robert Reich’s big picture

Robert Reich is an acute commentator on what’s been happening to the US over the last half-century, which is why his Substack blog is a must-read. He was Bill Clinton’s Labor Secretary, and then a professor at Berkeley (from which he recently retired). He’s also a talented cartoonist. Recently, he had a great idea: Put a huge piece of paper on a wall, and then draw on it a graphic account of what has happened to the US (and many Western democracies) over the last half-century or so.

With a team of collaborators, he made a stop-frame video of the picture’s construction which is informed, striking and insightful. (I can say that because he covers much of the stuff I’ve been thinking about for something I’m writing. Working title is How We Got Here.)

The video is here. It’s well worth your time if you think about this stuff. And it is a really Big Picture.

Politics, USA-style

From the current issue of Private Eye.


Joan Pla wrote to point out “a lapsus in [Wednesday’s] post: the name of the photographer is Sebastião Salgado. Juliano (Ribeiro) Salgado is co-directing with Wim Wenders”.`

Large portion of humble pie duly ordered.

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