Thursday 22 December, 2022

Dickensian Xmas

A doorway in Doughty Street, London, the street where Charles Dickens once lived, photographed one December when I was on my way to an Observer lunch. Further down the street I passed the house which was the office of the Spectator magazine, then edited by one Boris Johnson. I stopped, thinking that I would photograph that door also, when it opened and out stepped a posh floozie of the kind favoured by Johnson. The conversation went like this:

Floozie: “What do you think you’re doing?”

Me: “I’m thinking of taking a photograph.”

Floozie: “Why?”

Me: “Because I’ve always wondered what a den of iniquity looked like?”

As I raised the Leica to my eye she turned on her heel and went back into the building, slamming the door behind her.

After which I went to lunch in high good humour, though without the pic I was after.

Quote of the Day

”There is no human bliss equal to twelve hours of work with only six hours in which to do it.”

  • Anthony Trollope

(Who used to write a thousand words an hour before breakfast.)

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Patti Smith performs Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” | Nobel Prize Award Ceremony 2016


It’s not often you see a veteran performer overcome by the lyrics she’s singing. Wonderful.

Long Read of the Day

Becoming a chatbot: my life as a real estate AI’s human backup

Fabulous essay by Laura Preston

For one weird year, I was the human who stepped in to make sure a property chatbot didn’t blow its cover – I was a person pretending to be a computer pretending to be a person.

Gripping, illuminating, nicely written and a good antidote to the kind of gig-work she was doing.

Books, etc.

A classic laid bare

Lovely review by Alex Clark of Matthew Hollis’s  The Waste Land: A Biography of a Poem.


One of the numerous illuminating anecdotes of their entwined lives sees TS Eliot deliver a parcel to James Joyce in Paris at their first ever meeting. Entrusted with the gift by Pound but forbidden from knowing its contents, Eliot, alongside his fellow traveller Wyndham Lewis, ceremoniously presented the package as the trio assembled at a Left Bank hotel and waited as Joyce struggled with its strings until, for want of a knife, a pair of nail scissors was found. Within, a clearly second-hand pair of brown shoes, prompted by Pound’s anxiety that Joyce, whom he liked and admired, was short of funds and in need of sturdy footwear. “‘Oh!’ said Joyce faintly, and sat down.” That night the Château Latour flowed, and subsequently a humiliated Joyce settled every bill…

My commonplace booklet

Dave Winer’s not going to allow Musk get between him and his car

Lovely rant by Dave (Whom God Preserve):

As a Tesla owner I find all the press about people dumping their Teslas because Musk is a brat pretty fucked up. Like going to a diner in Ohio to find out what Trumpsters are up to as if that were measuring anything credible.

I am an extreme liberal, esp when it comes to the web. My creds are excellent. And I love my Model Y. I feel like its a privilege to drive it every time I get in the car. And I’ve owned some terrific cars in my life. There are some cars that are just great to drive. So great that their flaws are not relevant. That Elon Musk is tied to the product is unfortunate. But until I drive a car that’s equal to the car I have, I’m not going to bend to the bullshit the press is putting out there.

I also still use Twitter. I’m not going to let Musk chase me off. He’ll have to suspend me if he wants me off. I would regret that. I’ve been on Twitter since 2006. Musk can do whatever he wants, Twitter is big enough for both of us.

I voted for Obama twice, Hillary and Biden. So fuck you if you think driving a Tesla is like being a MAGA.

Yep. As a fellow Tesla owner I agree with every word of this. One of the strangest things about getting the car was the way people started to hold me personally responsible for Musk.

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