Tuesday 3 May, 2022

Ship ahoy!

This photograph seems to me as close to perfect as one could hope for. It shows my friends Quentin and Rose in their new sailboat on Grafham Water early on Sunday morning. It was taken by Douglas Smart with a Google Pixel phone, and is reproduced with his kind permission. It’s also a reminder that the best phone is always the one you happen to have with you at ‘the decisive moment’.

Quote of the Day

“Put the thingamajig in the whatyoumaycallit”.

  • An exchange between an elderly aunt and my wife when she was a child

My father often used whatyoumaycallit when he was too busy to search for the precise word. The strange thing is that one invariably knew what he meant. It was all about context. Which is one reason why machine translation is difficult.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Antonín Dvořák | Rusalka | Song To The Moon


Ravishingly beautiful IMHO.

Long Read of the Day

Twitter is not the public square — it’s just a private shop

My take on the Musk-Twitter saga, from Sunday’s Observer..

On Friday 8 January 2021, Twitter kicked Donald Trump off its platform and an eerie calm enveloped parts of our global public sphere. Depriving him of his online megaphone was a compelling demonstration of how a tech platform had acquired an awesome power – the ability effectively to silence an elected president.

But what kind of power is it really? Many years ago, in a landmark book, Power: A Radical View, the sociologist Steven Lukes wrote that power comes in three varieties: the ability to stop people doing what they want to do; the ability to compel them to do what they don’t want to do; and the ability to shape the way they think.

This third capability is clearly the kind of power that a society’s communications media wield…

Read on

My commonplace booklet

From yesterday’s Politico London Playbook…

The scoop everyone wanted: Just what was Parish googling? The Sun’s Harry Cole is among several who quote pals of the MP suggesting he searched for “Dominator combine harvester” before taking part in some career sadomasochism. For research purposes, Playbook googled that phrase last night and found … lots of pictures of tractors.

Note for non-UK readers: Neil Parish is a Tory MP who resigned after he had been seen watching porn on his phone in the Chamber of the House of Commons.

To my (suspicious) mind the Sun story looks like another of those specialities of British tabloid newspapers: making up a funny story to kick a public figure when s/he’s down, knowing that the victim is unlikely to sue for defamation. It reminds me of what they did to Tory Cabinet minister David Mellor in 1992, when his affair with actress Antonia de Sanchez was ‘exposed’. The story was spiced up with an allegation that Mellor, who was apparently a supporter of Chelsea FC, wore the club shirt while cavorting in bed with the lady. It was, of course, baloney. Then, as now, the price of a ‘free press’ is torrents of BS.

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