Friday 31 December, 2021

Rose-coloured spectacles

A Blogger’s apologia pro vita sua


Quote of the Day

”The road to ignorance is paved with good editions.”

  • George Bernard Shaw

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Giuseppe Verdi | Nabucco | Hebrew Slaves Chorus


I wondered about the wisdom of having a ’slaves chorus’ at the very end of the year. But Wikipedia is very interesting about this particular piece:

Music historians have long perpetuated a powerful myth about the famous “Va, pensiero” chorus sung in the third act by the Hebrew slaves. Scholars have long believed the audience, responding with nationalistic fervor to the slaves’ powerful hymn of longing for their homeland, demanded an encore of the piece. As encores were expressly forbidden by the Austrian authorities ruling northern Italy at the time to prevent public protests, such a gesture would have been extremely significant. However, recent scholarship puts this and the corresponding myth of “Va, pensiero” as the national anthem of the Risorgimento to rest. Although the audience did indeed demand an encore, it was not for “Va, pensiero” but rather for the hymn “Immenso Jehova,” sung by the Hebrew slaves to thank God for saving His people. In light of these new revelations, Verdi’s position as the musical figurehead of the Risorgimento has been correspondingly revised. At Verdi’s funeral however, the crowds in the streets spontaneously broke into “Va, pensiero”.

Long Read of the Day

 The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill

A truly remarkable Wired story by Megan Molteni chronicling how the WHO and the science-policy community ignored the possibility of aerosol transmission of infectious diseases like Covid and persisted in the venerable ‘droplet’ theory of contagion long after it was irrelevant. Nobody knows how many people died needlessly because of this misconception.

It’s a long read, and intricate, but a great example of how to tell a complicated story well.

(Many thanks to Horacio Queiro for spotting it.)

Niall Ferguson on changing his mind

At the beginning of this year, on January 10, just days after the then president had incited a mob of his supporters to march on the Capitol, I hypothesized that we might achieve herd immunity to Trumpism in 2021. “My earnest hope,” I wrote, “was that, having once been infected by the virus of antidemocratic politics, Americans have now acquired some resistance to it.” I thought that the coronavirus pandemic would be behind us by the end of the year, too.

I was wrong on both counts.

Not only has the shape-shifting virus found a way around our vaccines—I write six days after testing positive for Covid, despite three jabs of Pfizer—but a second wave of Trumpism also seems perfectly capable of reinfecting the body politic.

Trump remains amazingly popular among Republicans. Over 72% approve of his handling of the presidency. Asked about his personal attributes, 82% think him authentic and 73% honest and trustworthy. I kid you not. While only 53% are sure they want Trump to run for president again in 2024 (20% are against and the rest are not sure) Trump is miles ahead of the other potential nominees.


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