Friday 7 January, 2021

King’s Chapel

An unusual view of an iconic building.

Quote of the Day

”So, we are watching people in Kazakhstan try to recover the right to have a say in their own government on the anniversary of the day that Americans came perilously close to losing that right. “

  • Heather Cox Richardson on yesterday’s edition of her terrific blog.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

“God Bless America” | Flash Mob with Denver Brass


I was going to put up a recording of the Soviet Army choir singing (ponderously) The Battle Hymn of the Republic but, in the light of the near-death experience of said Republic a year ago, I thought our American friends could do with a boost instead.

Long Read of the Day

My plan for today’s reading was creatively disrupted by an email from Dave Birch (Whom God Preserve) about the background story to yesterday’s Musical Alternative (the Rolling Stones ‘Start Me Up’ track.) Dave pointed me to Brad Chase’s memoir, “The Windows 95 ‘Start Me Up’ Story”, which is utterly fascinating, not least because Brad was the senior Microsoft executive who negotiated the deal with Jagger & Co over use of the song.

It’s a great read. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The story of the infamous Downing Street Christmas party

Beautifully told by Ros Atkins. I missed it first time round.


Such a Positive Dream

Deborah Friedell, writing on the LRB blog about the trial and conviction of Elizabeth Holmes.

On Monday, twelve jurors in San Jose agreed, unanimously, that Elizabeth Holmes was guilty on four counts, including ‘conspiracy to commit wire fraud’ against investors in her company, Theranos. On the charges that she defrauded patients, she was found not guilty. On other charges, regarding particular investors, jurors were unable to reach a verdict. It was a win for the prosecution – Holmes will go to prison – though the mixed bill suggested it had been a near thing. One of the jurors (an actor with a Daytime Emmy for writing the Tiny Toon Adventures theme song) gave an interview to ABC News, reported more fully on The Dropout podcast. When it began deliberating, the jury was divided on ‘most everything’, he said. ‘It’s tough to convict somebody, especially somebody so likeable, with such a positive dream.’

Holmes’s invention was science fiction: her ‘Edison device’ was never capable of running hundreds of medical tests, concurrently, from a single drop of blood. Her defence was that she was very young (nineteen when she dropped out of Stanford to start Theranos), and her older, more experienced subordinates hadn’t told her – in non-technical language that she could understand – that she was deluded. If she hadn’t intended to deceive anyone then she was guilty of incompetence but not fraud. Her lawyers also suggested that her investors should have been more discerning: it wasn’t Holmes’s fault if they weren’t good at their jobs.

Nobody who read John Carreyou’s  Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup would have been in any doubt about the outcome. Presumably Holmes’s defence team tried to ensure that none of the jurors were familiar with it.

My commonplace booklet

  • What news and events did people search most for on Google in 2021? Link
  • John McPhee has a nice story about a young Vassar graduate named Eleanor Gould, “who, in 1925, bought a copy of the brand-new New Yorker, read it, and then reread it with a blue pencil in her hand. When she finished, the magazine was a mottled blue on every page—a circled embarrassment of dangling modifiers, conflicting pronouns, absent commas, and over-all grammatical hash. She mailed the marked-up copy to Harold Ross, the founding editor, and Ross was said to have bellowed. What he bellowed was ‘Find this bitch and hire her!’”

Sadly, (as McPhee admits) it’s not true. But, as the Italians say, “if it isn’t it ought to be.”

This Blog is also available as a daily email. If you think that might suit you better, why not subscribe? One email a day, Monday through Friday, delivered to your inbox. It’s free, and you can always unsubscribe if you conclude your inbox is full enough already!