Tuesday 26 October, 2021

Quote of the Day

”I cannot bring myself to vote for a woman who has been voice-trained to speak to me as though my dog has just died.”

  • Keith Waterhouse, legendary Daily Mirror columnist, on Margaret Thatcher.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood | How Long, How Long Blues | Königsplatz, Munich | June 5, 2010


Terrible audio quality. But wonderfully atmospheric.

Long Read of the Day

One of the Most Egregious Ripoffs in the History of Science

An interesting essay by Kevin Berger on a new history of the race to decipher DNA which reveals the scheming that served to downplay the role of Rosalind Franklin in the discovery.

James Watson once said his road to the 1962 Nobel Prize began in Naples, Italy. At a conference in 1951, he met Maurice Wilkins, the biophysicist with whom he and Francis Crick shared the Nobel for discovering the double-helix structure of DNA. Meeting Wilkins was when he “first realized that DNA might be soluble,” Watson said. “So my life was changed.”

That’s a nice anecdote for the science textbooks. But there’s “a tawdry first act to this operetta,” writes Howard Markel in his new book…

Read on.

Jack Shafer on Trump’s new media ‘business’

Trump’s new media start-up will soon teach him the public views him more as a Glenn Beck than it does an Oprah Winfrey. Beck, who proved he could hold millions of viewers captive with just palaver and a chalkboard on both CNN and Fox News a decade ago, started his own media company in 2011. He hasn’t exactly failed. He still broadcasts. But his ambitions outran his appeal, requiring steady layoffs and entrenchment. America still liked Beck some, but not enough to build a whole network around. Even for people who liked him, Beck was like Tabasco. Stimulating, perhaps in small doses, but gag-producing by the swig. Sort of like Trump. Winfrey, on the other hand, never played to a single political niche. She appealed to the widest segments of the population with her kindness and her chameleon-esque quality of reflecting back at her audience their best qualities. When it came time for her to establish her eponymous network, she had no trouble sustaining it because she’s a safe and reassuring performer and not the scare-merchant Beck plays on TV. People can and have built whole worlds around Winfrey, and she’s a billionaire now thanks to those talents.

Americans still like Trump some. After all, he got 74 million votes. But does America like Trump enough to embrace a whole new media universe based on him, or is he more like Beck — best when taken in smaller portions as part of a larger meal? Will enough people go through the motions of signing up for a new social media app just to taste Trump’s insights? His blog’s failure to capture scant attention tells you two things: The Trump audience gets its minimum daily requirements of Trump coverage from the regular media, and nothing he created on his blog started a queue for more of the same, let alone a stampede. Trump succeeded on Twitter in part because he was unique, but mostly because Twitter already had convened an audience for him to entertain. There’s no evidence he can convene such an audience all by himself.


It’s those 74 million votes that worry me.

The search for ‘third places’

Interesting blog post by Rob Miller on how the post-pandemic (assuming we ever get there) debate about the relative merits of WFH and going to the office might be resolved.

And so the terms of the debate have largely been set: remote work is good for some things, the office is good for others, and the task that we have is to figure out just how much time we want to spend in each situation and how flexible we want to be about the split. But in concentrating just on our homes and our offices, and the balance between the two, are we neglecting another sort of space?

The sociologist Ray Oldenburg has long written of “third places”: physical spaces that are neither home nor work, but that nevertheless fulfil vital social roles. Writing in the 1980s, Oldenburg identified places like pubs, coffee shops, civic centres, and churches as important third places. If offices – our “second places” – are eroding in importance, might third places increase in importance in their stead? And if so, what might the modern third places be?

I know two people who are very successful in their fields who apparently cannot work at home. One is a (justly) celebrated writer, who can only write in cafes; the other is a distinguished scholar who writes best in pubs!

As for me, I’ve always preferred writing at home while enjoying meeting with colleagues in person (especially over lunch or even breakfast). I’ve never been able to write in an office, even a comfortable, book-lined one.

My commonplace booklet

Eh? (See here)

A question on Quentin’s blog yesterday morning

If a fairy appeared and offered to grant you a wish which, for the relief of humankind’s frustration, would eliminate just one of the following from the human experience, which would you choose?

Sticky labels that don’t peel off cleanly, leaving adhesive behind.

Packaging that requires a knife or scissors to open.

Zips that get caught on things or jam at inconvenient times.

Pens that run out halfway through the sentence.

Remember, you can only choose one. Answers in the comments, please, or on a postcard addressed to Santa Claus.

I’m a sticky label guy.

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