Friday 4 August, 2023

The Beady Eye

We’re looking after a neighbour’s chickens at the moment. This one is not impressed by her new custodian. Personally, I don’t blame her. I’m not impressed by me either.

Quote of the Day

A good writer doesn’t just think, and then write down what he thought, as a sort of transcript. A good writer will almost always discover new things in the process of writing. And there is, as far as I know, no substitute for this kind of discovery. Talking about your ideas with other people is a good way to develop them. But even after doing this, you’ll find you still discover new things when you sit down to write. There is a kind of thinking that can only be done by writing.”

That’s my experience too. E.M. Forster once said that there are two kinds of writer: those who know what they think and write it down; and those who find out what they think by trying to write it. The former are rare (though I’ve known two of them in my time, and I’ve always envied them). I’m definitely the second kind.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan | Chimes of Freedom


I’ve loved this song for longer than I care to admit.

Long Read of the Day

 What Oppenheimer the film gets wrong about Oppenheimer the man

Very good, sharp essay by Haydn Belfield of CSER. Particularly interesting if you’ve seen the film. Although the movie is based on (or at least informed by) American Prometheus, Kai Bird’s and Martin Sherwin’s exhaustive biography of Oppenheimer, there’s lots that the movie left out, which is why Anthony Lane, in his New Yorker review observed: “I hate to say it, but, if you zip through all six hundred pages of the book before seeing the film, you’ll enjoy the ride more. Much is omitted in the adaptation; there is no whisper, for example, of the fact that Oppenheimer was born into serious wealth.”

Here’s Belfield on the same subject:

One would be tempted to describe J. Robert Oppenheimer as a tragic figure — that’s certainly how Christopher Nolan portrays him in the biopic Oppenheimer. The father of the atomic bomb who spent the rest of his life agonizing over what he had helped birth; the ultimate insider who was humbled and brought low; the hopeful scientist who started the nuclear arms race. But then, tragic figures don’t generally spend their retirement yachting around the Caribbean. Or maybe he was a tragic figure in the mold of Lord Byron — interestingly dark and mystical, remarkably pretty, and rich as Midas.

Oppenheimer grew up in privilege, and remained swaddled in it for his whole life. His father immigrated to New York with nothing, and rose up to become a wealthy textile company executive. His parents spoiled their little genius. When he started a childhood rock collection, it grew to cover every surface in their apartment, which itself covered an entire floor overlooking the Hudson River. The Oppenheimers had a chauffeur, a French governess, three live-in maids and three van Gogh paintings. He corresponded with the New York Mineralogical Club, but when they invited him to speak they were surprised and delighted when he turned out to be only 12. His 16th birthday present was a 28-foot yacht (to go with the family’s 40-foot Lorelei) which he called Trimethy, after a chemical compound. As Oppenheimer remarked when he bought his first holiday home in New Mexico, the state where he would later spearhead the development of the atomic bomb: “hot dog!”

Interesting throughout. Worth your time. Also, makes me wonder about getting the book. Hmmm…

You-couldn’t-make-it-up dept.

When The New York Times reported in April that a contractor had purchased and deployed a spying tool made by NSO, the contentious Israeli hacking firm, for use by the U.S. government, White House officials said they were unaware of the contract and put the F.B.I. in charge of figuring out who might have been using the technology.

After an investigation, the F.B.I. uncovered at least part of the answer: It was the F.B.I.

The deal for the surveillance tool between the contractor, Riva Networks, and NSO was completed in November 2021. Only days before, the Biden administration had put NSO on a Commerce Department blacklist, which effectively banned U.S. firms from doing business with the company. For years, NSO’s spyware had been abused by governments around the world.


Dress Codes

From the FT’s daily newsletter:

”Lately, one of [Derek] Guy’s regular targets is our prime minister, Rishi Sunak, who he insists dresses badly. He’s right. Sunak’s suits reflect the current fashion for slim-fitting attire with short trouser legs. These make two of Sunak’s assets — that he is slim and looks young for his age — into liabilities, because the combined effect is to make him look like a sixth-former who has outgrown his uniform.”

Translating Musk-speak into plain English

Recently, Linda Yaccarino, the new CEO of X (neé Twitter) wrote a company-wide memo to the remaining staff of that wretched company. The memo is a masterpiece of corporate cant, so Jon Gruber did us all an heroic favour by providing a running translation on his Daring Fireball blog.

Here’s a sample:


At our core, we have an inventor mindset — constantly learning, testing out new approaches, changing to get it right and ultimately succeeding.

Translation: We are hemorrhaging cash and our advertisers are still fleeing.


With X, we serve our entire community of users and customers by working tirelessly to preserve free expression and choice, create limitless interactivity, and create a marketplace that enables the economic success of all its participants.

I used to run all advertising for NBCUniversal. Now I’m running an $8/month multi-level marketing scheme where the only users who’ve signed up are men who own a collection of MAGA hats.


The best news is we’re well underway.

There is no hope.


Everyone should be proud of the pace of innovation over the last nine months — from long form content, to creator monetization, and tremendous advancements in brand safety protections.

Have you seen the ads we’re running these days? Last week we were filling everyone’s timeline with ads for discount chewable boner pills, the punchline of which ads is that you’ll bang your lady so hard she’ll need the aid of a walker afterward. That’s a video we promoted to everyone. This week it’s anime for foot fetishists. That’s what we put in everyone’s feed, every three tweets. Or X’s, or whatever we’re now calling them. I used to book hundred-million-dollar Olympic sponsorship deals with companies like Coca-Cola and Proctor & Gamble. (Thank god for Apple.)


Our usage is at an all time high

Our owner is high as a kite.

There’s lots more in this vein. Do check it out.


Something I noticed, while trying to drink from the Internet firehose.

  • How to test different A.I. chatbots: try asking them a question to which you know the answer — like Doc Searls (Whom God Preserve) did.

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