Thursday 12 May, 2022

Work in progress

In 2010, a we had a guest speaker for a project I was running in the Cambridge university library. He had done his PhD on Isaac Newton and before his talk the University Librarian arranged for its copy of Newton’s own annotated copy of his Principia to be brought out. Watching our guest’s delighted astonishment on being confronted by the object itself reminded me of Walter Benjamin’s celebrated essay on the ‘aura’ possessed by the original work.

As he was pondering it I snatched a photograph of the page.

Quote of the Day

”History teaches us nothing except that something will happen.”

  • Hugh Trevor-Roper

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Joe Williams | Blues For Gamblers


I once saw Sonny and Brownie in concert at the Corn Exchange many moons ago. Unforgettable.

Long Read of the Day

 Victory Day

James Meek in the LRB:

The strangest thing about the Victory Day parade in Moscow this year was the absence of victory. Normally it’s there, the victory over Nazi Germany, a safely won triumph, unchangeably in the past, veterans and the glorious dead honoured, the country rebuilt, and in his speech today Vladimir Putin went through the motions of commemorating it. But this year, for the first time since the original Victory, Russian troops are openly fighting a war against the descendants of their Ukrainian former comrades-in-arms, on land whose evocative toponymy casts doubt on Russia’s traditional representation of May 1945.

After the speech, after the military parade, Putin, as usual, went to lay a flower on each of a row of granite blocks outside the Kremlin walls commemorating the ‘hero cities’ judged to have shown special valour in the struggle against the Nazis. He laid the first flower on the monument to heroic Leningrad, his home town. He laid the second flower, without any noticeable hesitation, on the monument to heroic Kiev.

For the three decades after 1991, it didn’t make much difference to the original Victory that Russia accepted, however grudgingly, Kyiv’s being the capital of another country. But now that Putin has invaded the other country, now Putin seeks to beat Kyiv, to capture Kyiv – in Russian nationalists’ fantastical construction, to liberate Kyiv – Putin isn’t just setting himself the task of achieving victory. He makes the original Victory contingent on victory over Kyiv, and if he doesn’t achieve it, that foundational moment, in the top-heavy ideological framework of Putin’s Russia, is no longer Victory with a capital V. It’s just one victory in a mundane cycle of historical wins and losses.

Good, thoughtful, realistic piece.

Chart of the Day

Seems that now trust in, or distrust of, science depends on your politics — at least in the US.


My commonplace booklet

Apple calls time on the AirPod

On Tuesday, Apple announced it had phased out production of its iPod Touch, bringing an end to a two-decade run of a product line that inspired the creation of the iPhone and helped turn Silicon Valley into the epicentre of global capitalism. Link

My grandson and I have a plan to resuscitate my old iPod Classic, and I’ve got the spare parts for the job. Now all I have to do is wait to him to come from Italy so we can do it together.

Cult of Mac has a nice illustrated history of the iPod over its lifetime. It really was a breakthrough product — the spiritual heir heir of the Sony Walkman. (I still have one of those too. Maybe I should open a museum.)

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