Tuesday 20 December, 2022

Shadows of Christmas

The sun came out when I was opening the blinds yesterday morning, yielding this image.

Here’s the decoration that gave rise to it:

Quote of the Day

”If God had intended us to have group sex, I guess he’d have given us all more organs.”

  • Malcolm Bradbury

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Chuck Berry | Johnny B. Goode


The FT had a fascinating piece about the song’s history in its weekend edition (behind a paywall), which said, in part, that

Johnny B. Goode is thought to be the first song in popular musical history in which the singer celebrates their own success. This surely accounts for why rock’s most legendary artists have regularly performed it: Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Cliff Richard, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys, Sex Pistols, Grateful Dead, the Carpenters and dozens of others have sung Berry’s celebration of himself as a kind of mantra — they may not be able to read or write but, hey, they can play a guitar like ringing a bell!

John Lennon once introduced Berry by saying “If you had tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry'”.

Long Read of the Day

Elon’s stale playbook

Sorry to keep going on about Musk and Twitter, but this essay by Linette Lopez was too insightful to pass up. Her argument is that Musk was always a “visionary jerk” and a bad boss at Tesla and SpaceX, but got away with it in those cases because the companies were making tangible things. But it won’t work at Twitter.

Lopez opens her case thus:

Here’s the Musk playbook: Enter a field with very little competition. Claim that your new company will solve a massive, global problem or achieve a seemingly impossible goal. Raise money from a fervent group of true believers and keep them on the hook with flashy, half-baked product ideas. Suck up billions from the government. Underpay, undervalue, and overwork your employees. Repeat.

Twitter is the antithesis of an “Elon Musk company.” It’s an influential but small player in a field that is dominated by giant, well-funded competitors. The government is more likely to put the clamps on Twitter than give it some windfall contract. And Twitter’s employees have options: They can leave and work for companies that treat them much better than Musk ever would.

But perhaps most importantly, a lot of people think Twitter — and Musk’s ownership of the company — is part of a global media problem, rather than some grand solution. And without a big, world-changing promise to paper over his sophomoric product ideas and erratic management, Musk’s Twitter takeover is doomed…

Read on. It’s good.

Why were the media hypnotised by Sam Bankman-Fried?

My Observer column on Sunday.

The big puzzle, though, was why couldn’t FTX have just given its investors their money back? The answer appears to be that it wasn’t there; in some way, SBF’s hedge fund had been treating FTX as its piggy bank, possibly even playing the hedge fund market with investors’ money.

Once it was clear that this particular game was up, SBF then embarked on an astonishing apology tour on every media outlet he could find. In almost every interview he was touchingly apologetic while at the same time maintaining that he had no knowledge of potentially fraudulent activities at his own company, including using billions of dollars of customers’ deposits as collateral for loans for other purposes. He had, he explained ruefully, been out of his depth. On some occasions, he also seemed to be trying to deflect blame on to Caroline Ellison, the former CEO of his other company, Alameda Research.

The biggest question prompted by this apology tour is: why did so many apparently serious media outfits let him get away with it? The interview questions were often softball ones, occasionally toe-curlingly so…

Do read the whole thing.

My commonplace booklet

December 20 was my Dad’s birthday. He was born in 1914 and so would have been 108 today. A perfectly banal thought, I know, but it always hits me on the day. He came into the world four months into the the war that was going to be “over by Christmas”.

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