Friday 2 December, 2022

The Hall, in technicolour

Like me, William Davies (Whom God Preserve) loves Dartington Hall. And when I opened my laptop yesterday evening, this is what I found in an email from him. With this note attached:

So we are here again and after entering the arch we’re greeted by the quad in Christmas multicolour! The South Devon railway, with audio enhancement, sounding like the Polar Express in the background, and Jupiter above.

Good way to start December, eh?

Quote of the Day

”He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”

  • Jonathan Swift, 1738

Agreed. Can’t stand the things.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Keith Jarrett Solo


One of my great regrets is that I could have gone to his Köln concert in 1975 and didn’t. (I was in Germany at the time within driving distance.) Sigh.

Long Read of the Day

What happened?

By Kieran Healy. A sociologist’s view of what happened in the January 2021 ‘insurrection’ in the run-up to Biden’s Inauguration. Written two day’s afterwards.

I don’t know what happened. But here’s my current theory of what the White House thought was going to happen. I don’t have any more information than you do, and here I’m not concerned with the broader question of how the country came to this end. I am just trying to make sense of what happened on Wednesday.

From the moment he knew he’d lost the presidential election, Trump absolutely wanted to get the result overturned. Some large proportion of his own staff and Congressional Republicans thought there was no harm in humoring him. Many surely knew him well enough to realize he was quite serious about it. But most, falling into a way of thinking that Trump has repeatedly benefited from over his entire career, and especially during his Presidency, figured that he could not possibly overcome the weight of institutional and conventional pressure behind the transition of power. Still, by the first week of January he had not relented in his efforts to find some way to do it, whether through bullying local election officials, chasing wild geese through the courts, or directly intimidating state officials. That all failed, or looked like failing. The next thing on the horizon was Electoral College certification.

So, Team Trump organized a big day of protest to coincide with the certification…

Read on. It’s perceptive, given that it was written just after the events in question.

Books, etc.

As you may remember, I was very impressed by Brad DeLong’s book, Slouching Towards Utopia and have been tracking the reviews via his blog. When I enthuse about the book to people they often ask for a thumbnail description (something like an elevator pitch, I suppose) and I struggle to come up with something compact and succinct. So I was pleased to discover yesterday that Brad now has one, courtesy of Robert Reich (who, if memory serves me right, was Secretary for Labor in Bill Clinton’s administration.

Anyway, here it is:

My thumbnail description—which Bob Reich suggested to me—is that, while we have made extraordinary progress at figuring out how to bake a sufficiently large economic pie so that, potentially, everyone can have enough, the problems of slicing and tasting that economic pie have completely flummoxed us. Thus while we are rich and powerful beyond the wildest dreams of avarice of previous centuries, that is all. We can neither equitably distribute our wealth nor properly utilize it to live wisely and well, so that people feel safe and secure, and live lives in which they are healthy and happy. To say “have not been distributed particularly evenly” and “our desires have grown” catches only half of it. Distribution has not been inept, but has been positively poisonous. And utilization has fallen vastly short not just because of our rising expectations: people 200 years ago would also have hoped along with us for a world in which they were not stalked by flying killer robots, and in which sinister people in steel and glass towers did not attempt to hypnotize them via dopamine loops to glue their eyes to screens in terror so they could be sold fake diabetes cures and crypto grifts.

That’ll do nicely.

My commonplace booklet

UNESCO lists the French baguette as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

From Euronews

Imagine the cliché of a French person, and you’ll probably picture someone carrying a baguette.

And rightly so – it’s a national treasure and nothing beats it, or that warm nostril-tingling waft of freshly baked bread as you enter a boulangerie.

Make no mistake: it’s less a baked good and more a way of life, a symbol of the French art of living.

Well, now the baguette has (finally) been inducted into the UNESCO World Heritage List. To be precise, the “Artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread” has officially inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

I’m delighted by this elevation of the baguette. But it’s in no way “intangible”. That’ indeed’, is the whole point of it.

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