Friday 8 April, 2022

To the Lighthouse

With apologies to Virginia Woolf.

Quote of the Day

”In answer to: Inside every fat woman is a thin woman trying to get out. I always think it’s: Outside every thin woman there’s a fat man trying to get in.”

  • Katharine Whitehorn (of blessed memory)

… and whose Memorial Service I am looking forward to attending soon. She was a colleague of mine on the Observer.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Bach | Cello Suite No.1 in G | Mischa Maisky


I love these Suites. I have the Casals performance on vinyl somewhere. Now where in the attic is my turntable?

Long Read of the Day

 The Unlikely Persistence of Antonio Gramsci

I never read Gramsci until I started to read Francis Fukuyama and then started to think about the ‘hegemonic anxiety’ one can now see in the US as China becomes ever more powerful. This essay by Thomas Meaney in The New Republic is interesting because it helpfully puts Gramsci into a contemporary context.

If Gramsci has aged better than many of his peers, it is in part because he became a thinker for a defeated, rather than a triumphalist, left. With his own cause in ruins, Gramsci became ever more interested in the ways of the enemy. One of his abiding inquiries was how capitalist elites and their publicists laundered their perversions of the social order into “common sense,” how they spun morality tales around their economic interests, and how they were able to preserve their leadership of society after each crisis delivered by the capitalist system. The ground of this inquiry may have shifted in the decades since his death, but the main battle lines remain the same, and this still makes Gram­sci a thinker worth turning to in our moment.

Looks matter, ask Dorian

Jonty Bloom is not impressed by Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (aka Finance Minister).

They say that politics is show business for ugly people, but the Chancellor is a well turned out, good looking, young chap and it has done him no harm.

But actions matter as well, they have to look and smell good and here the Chancellor is beginning to suffer.

Nothing says we are all in this together like swanning off to your holiday home in California, having totally failed to deal with a cost of living crisis.

And nothing says we are all in this together like discovering that the man responsible for gathering every single penny of taxation in this country is married to a woman who has non-dom tax status.

A wife who is therefore pretty much immune to all the tax rises that her husband is imposing on the rest of the country.

At any other time this would have cost the Chancellor his job and career.

But this is a Dorian Gray government. What matters is whether the public sees the real picture.

My commonplace booklet

Sheila Hayman (Whom God Preserve) was musing on the story of the return of Darwin’s two missing notebooks, and wrote:

It occurred to me to mention, amidst all the rejoicing over the return of Darwin’s notebooks, that in our glorious collective digital future, there will be no notebooks, manuscripts, annotated copies, autographs, sketches or any other evidence of the individual human behind the text on the (flat, textureless, colourless, odourless, undifferentiated) screen. #Senseless.

She’s right. When future historians try to exhume the records of our era, they will find a huge black hole. That’s why I say to people that if they want their great-grandchildren to know what they looked like, they should print off all their digital images on 6 x 4 photographic paper and put them in shoeboxes in the attic. Because, one day, nobody will be able to access those digital images.

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