Monday 7 August, 2023

After Duchamp…

Walking through Arles one evening in June I spotted this in a builder’s disposal dump and was immediately reminded of Duchamp’s ’fountain’ — a ‘readymade sculpture’ consisting of a urinal signed “R. Mutt” that the artist submitted for the inaugural exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists staged at the Grand Central Palace in New York. Although the work was accepted by the organising committee it was (surprise, surprise!) not placed in the exhibition area. But the great Arthur Stieglitz photographed it, which is how it lives on in collective memory.

Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 sculpture Fountain.

Quote of the Day

”That Trump will be tried for his coup attempt is not a violation of his rights. It is a fulfillment of his rights. It is the grace of the American republic. In other systems, when your coup attempt fails, what follows is not a trial.”

  • Historian Timothy Snyder

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Richard Wagner | Lohengrin | Prelude


Hypnotic. And at the same time magnificent.

Long Read of the Day

An Internet Veteran’s Guide to Not Being Scared of Technology

This is an interesting profile of Mike Masnick by Kashmir Hill. Worth reading for two reasons: Masnick is a shrewd, insightful and sharp critic of the tech industry. And Hill is one of the best tech journalists around. I’ve been reading both of them for yonks.

By sheer longevity and a deep knowledge of tech history, Mr. Masnick has become something of a Silicon Valley oracle. His message is to embrace change even when painful and to beware of knee-jerk legal protections with unintended consequences.

It hasn’t paid very well, but what Mr. Masnick doesn’t have in wealth he makes up for in influence. Lawmakers, activists and executives consider him an essential guide for what’s happening in the technology world and what to do next.

“Whenever tech policy news breaks I always want to see what Mike’s take is going to be,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, in a statement. Mark Zuckerberg, the head of Meta, has called him “insightful and reasonable.” The tech entrepreneur Anil Dash said he “shows up and ships every day” and has been “filing constantly for decades on a beat that is thankless.”

Interesting throughout.

What Apple did to Nokia, Tesla is now doing to the motor industry

Or, is Toyota the new Nokia?

My column in yesterday’s Observer

An intriguing news item dropped into my inbox this week. It said that in the first quarter of this year, an electric vehicle (EV) had become the biggest-selling car in the world, outselling the Toyota Corolla. I know, I know, dear reader: you think this is non-news of the “Small earthquake in Chile, not many dead” variety. But to those of us condemned to follow the tech industry, three things are significant about it: the vanquished car was a Corolla, the EV was a Tesla (the Model Y hatchback), and the runner-up is made by Toyota.

The poor Corolla gets a lot of disdainful looks from petrolheads, who tell rude jokes about it and view the vehicle as bland, unimaginative and boring. Normal people, however, have consistently regarded it as one of the best compact cars available, with good fuel economy, impressive reliability and excellent luggage capacity. And they have backed that judgment with their wallets for many years. So on the sales front, the Corolla was no pushover.

Despite that, it was overtaken by, of all things, a Tesla…

Do read the entire piece.

My commonplace booklet

China considers limiting kids’ smartphone time to two hours a day

From Engadget

China might put further limits on kids’ smartphone use. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has proposed draft rules that would cap the phone time of children under 18 to a maximum of two hours per day. That’s only for 16- and 17-year-olds, too. Youth between eight and 15 would be limited to one hour per day, while those under eight would have 40 minutes.

The draft would also bar any use between 10PM and 6AM. Phones would need to have an easy-to-access mode that lets parents restrict what kids see and permit internet providers to show age-appropriate content. Children under three would be limited to songs and other forms of audio, while those 12 and up can see educational and news material. There would be exceptions for regulated educational content and emergency services.

As with previous measures, the proposal is meant to curb addictive behaviour in children…

Interesting example of the differences between an authoritarian state and a liberal democratic one. Imagine the hoo-hah if governments in the West tried this — even though it’s a sensible strategy. If you want an example of state incapacity, just think about out inability to control junk foods, sweet drinks and other causes of obesity in kids.


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

How pencils are made. Link

Wonderful 10 minutes. And the strange thing is that it’s also how pencils were made a century ago.

This Blog is also available as an email three days a week. If you think that might suit you better, why not subscribe? One email on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays delivered to your inbox at 6am UK time. It’s free, and you can always unsubscribe if you conclude your inbox is full enough already!