Monday 20 May, 2024

On Heaney’s ‘flaggy shore’

We were in Galway on Friday for lunch, and afterwards decided to drive south along the glorious coast road from Ballyvaughan to the cliffs of Moher. We stopped at this point, where the limestone pavement of the Burren enters the Atlantic before resurfacing a few miles out to sea as the three Aran Islands — rendered invisible by the sea-haze in the distance.

Not surprisingly, what came to mind was Seamus Heaney’s poem, Postscript:

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

Quote of the Day

“No coffee is ever quite as good as it smells”

  • Ngaio Marsh

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

John Dowland | Come Again | Morgan Manifacier, tenor & Daniel Keene, lute


Who said Dowland was stuffy? Lovely performance. And h/t to The Browser for spotting it.

Long Read of the Day

HenryFarrellBot: LLMs as Cultural Technologies

The other day, Henry Farrell gave a terrific talk to the Harvard Kennedy School about (among other things) Alison Gopnik’s idea that we should regard LLMs as ‘cultural technologies” — like libraries, books and maybe even language itself.

This gave Brad DeLong the wicked idea of asking an LLM — OpenAI’s ChatGPT4o — about Henry’s talk. He fed the machine the transcript with the prompt “Please summarize and rewrite the transcript text below into five coherent three-paragraph chunks”.

The result is interesting — and rather good. Definitely worth a read.

And — in a nice academic twist, the machine reformatted Henry’s references into Chicago bibliography format!

What would Steve Jobs think of Apple’s culture-crushing advert?

Yesterday’s Observer column:

I’s a tale of two advertisements. And about the company that made them – Apple Inc.

Read on to see what the ads signified.

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