Tuesday 14 December, 2021

Sydney opera house as you’ve (probably) never seen it before

Quote of the Day

”The outlaw glamour that comes from being on the wrong side of the Zeitgeist is one of the quiet pleasures of ageing.”

  • Janan Ganesh (writing about W.G. Seabald) in the FT, 11/12 December, 2021.


Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

George Lewis | Burgundy Street Blues


Long Read of the Day

David Foster Wallace’s Commencement Address

I’ve read this a few times before (and you can too — here).

But I’d never heard a recording of it, until now. Here’s the Link.

It’s 22 minutes long, but when you’ve heard it you might see why many of those graduating students in 2005 have never forgotten it.

Richard J. Evans on Tory ‘cancel culture’

Absolutely splendid dissection in the LRB by a distinguished historian of the current obsession of the Tory party to airbrush slavery out of the the Great British historical narrative.

Discovering and presenting to the public new knowledge about the English country house is an admirable way for the National Trust to deepen and broaden appreciation of the complex histories of the buildings in its care. But the project has attracted fierce criticism from Conservative politicians and journalists who clearly think it a subject best left in decent obscurity. In February, Marco Longhi, Tory MP for Dudley North, called for government funding to be withheld from such initiatives, run by people who ‘hate our history and seek to rewrite it’. The National Trust’s plans (as well as the National Maritime Museum’s scrutiny of Nelson’s involvement with slavery) were, Longhi alleged, ‘a form of Marxism applied to our cultural and heritage sector’ by people ‘who want to apply today’s standards to events and people of decades and hundreds of years ago’. It was entirely wrong, he said, to use taxpayers’ money ‘to effectively besmirch our heroes to suit their left-wing woke narrative’. In the Telegraph, Charles Moore complained that the National Trust had been ‘rolled over by extremists’, and Andrew Brigden, another Tory MP, that it had been ‘overtaken by divisive Black Lives Matter supporters’. The Telegraph, the Express and the Daily Mail all reported that displays at Jane Austen’s house in Chawton would carry out ‘historical interrogation’ of ‘Austen’s tea drinking’ and its links to slavery. This, the papers solemnly declared, was ‘woke madness’. In fact, Austen’s father was a trustee of an Antigua sugar plantation, worked by enslaved people. The museum responded: ‘We are increasingly asked questions about this by our visitors and it is therefore appropriate that we share the information and research that exists on Austen’s connections to slavery and its mention in her novels.’

One of those involved in Colonial Countryside is Corinne Fowler, a professor of postcolonial literature at Leicester University and co-author of a list of 93 National Trust properties built on money earned from plantations run by enslaved workers, or from slave ownership, or furnished with the lavish compensation paid to former slave owners after abolition. She feels that academics pursuing work like hers are being misrepresented, maligned and intimidated. ‘I think we should all be worried when academics are targeted in this way, when the evidence can’t be disputed.’

Evans points out that the National Trust’s director-general, Hilary McGrady, reported that complaints had only been received from 0.05 per cent of its 5.6 million members, and that a great many members had voiced their support of the Colonial Countryside project.

There was no ‘revolt’ of the membership, as had been claimed in parts of the right-wing media. A 2020 survey found that more than three-quarters of the trust’s members thought it should do more to educate visitors on its properties’ colonial connections. The resignation in October of the trust’s chairman, Tim Parker, widely hyped in the same places as a victory against ‘wokeness’, was coincidental (his two-term tenure had come to an end, having been extended for a year because of the pandemic).

It’s a great piece, worth reading in full.

Did Apple Really Embrace Right-to-Repair?

As the ‘Right-to-Repair’ movement gathers momentum, Apple — a long-term believer in not allowing owners of Apple kit to tinker with it — has started engaging in what one might call repair-washing. Last month, for example, it announced that it would make Apple parts, tools, and manuals — starting with iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 — available to individual consumers so that they can do their own repairs. This, it says,

will allow customers who are comfortable with completing their own repairs access to Apple genuine parts and tools. Available first for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups, and soon to be followed by Mac computers featuring M1 chips, Self Service Repair will be available early next year in the US and expand to additional countries throughout 2022. Customers join more than 5,000 Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs) and 2,800 Independent Repair Providers who have access to these parts, tools, and manuals.

IEEE Spectrum, a publication of the leading engineering institution, had the good idea of interviewing Kyle Wiens, co-founder of iFixit (Which God Preserve, because I use it regularly) and a champion of the right to repair.

Why now? Is it because of the kind of lobbying you’ve been doing?

It’s clear that this is in response to pressure from lawmakers and the Federal Trade Commission, which has been investigating this. So there was pressure coming from all sides. They are trying to kind of get ahead of it.

Is it your sense that they’re genuinely trying to get repair parts into people’s hands at fair prices—that this represents a change in their philosophy. Or do you think they intend just to make repair parts available in theory so that they satisfy any future regulations?

I think it’s going be a little bit of both. But we’ll have to wait and see. After two decades of seeing them stymie repair options at every turn, I’ve got some skepticism. But they’re going to make the service manual available publicly. That’s a huge step. That’s exactly the right thing to do.

There is, however, a catch with the software that they’re saying they’re going to provide: They’re saying that you’re going to have to buy the part from Apple in order to use the software to “pair” the part.

Tell me about this pairing of parts that gets done in the Apple devices.

This is the totally new concept that Apple’s kind of inventing. It’s another way for them to keep control of things and it’s kind of novel. Imagine you had two coffee makers and you wanted to take the jar from one coffee maker and use it the other one, but you couldn’t, unless you have the manufacturer’s permission. Apple has been doing it with the major parts that you need to repair a phone. So that’s the battery, the screen, and the camera.

So I couldn’t take a battery out of a phone that I sat on and put it into a working phone of the identical model that has a weak battery?

That’s the idea. I can’t say that 100% the case. You still can do that right now, but you get warnings—basically the equivalent of a check-engine light. You have to have Apple’s blessing and permission to turn that off.

So this is a little bit like printer ink cartridges, where companies put a chip in the cartridge so that you couldn’t buy an aftermarket replacement cartridge.

It’s worse: It’s like saying if I have two identical printers, I can’t swap the cartridges between them, even if they’re both genuine cartridges. You can’t salvage parts in this regime. And this is what all of the recyclers do. They may use 10 broken phones to make three of them work.

Two steps forward, one step back. But these control-freak corporations (John Deere, we’re looking at you) are going to find this Right-to-Repair movement a bigger challenge than they anticipated.

My commonplace booklet

Elon Musk named Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ Link.

That’s interesting. Wonder if they read my Observer column about him.

Even more interesting: Time magazine is still going? Who knew?

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