Wednesday 17 August, 2022

Fishing, not phishing

Quote of the Day

“Conscience: the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking.”

  • H.L. Mencken

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Ry Cooder and The Village | She Runs Hot


There’s a lovely version of this that Cooder did just with David Lindley, but I can’t find it. Growl.

Long Read of the Day

The efficiency movement

Marvellous essay by Rob Miller on the way all modern societies have been shaped by their worship of efficiency. It’s basically an engineering mindset (I’m an engineer, so I can say that, though I long ago gave up believing that efficiency was the only thing that mattered.) And, we discovered during the pandemic, it’s our obsession with efficiency (e.g. in global supply chains) that has made our so-called ’civilisation’ so fragile.

Well worth your attention.

Reading it, two thoughts came to mind.

  • Efficiency is obviously important in many contexts. But there are some where it’s vital to sideline it. For example, our criminal justice system, with (a) its assumption of innocence until proved guilty, and (b) its insistence on due process, is woefully inefficient. It’d be much more efficient just to lock up suspects on the say-so of the Chief of Police. But democracies don’t do that because they have values that trump mere efficiency. In that case, inefficiency is a feature, not a bug.

  • The most persuasive account I’ve found of how engineers’ obsession with efficiency (and its fellow-conspirator, optimisation) came to dominate the world is System Error: Where Big Tech Went Wrong and How We Can Reboot by Rob Reich, Meehan Sahami and Jeremy Weinstein. Alas, they’re better at diagnosing the illness than finding a cure. C’est La vie.

My commonplace booklet

 Why I Am Not a Painter

by John Mancini on McSweeney’s

Toulouse-Lautrec died at thirty-seven. Van Gogh died at thirty-seven. Goya did not become famous until he was in his forties, at which time he also went deaf. Beyond the evidence of his paintings, little is known of the peasant Bruegel’s life. Duchamp gave up art for chess. In Tangier, Matisse contemplated suicide. Gaugin attempted suicide. Caravaggio threw stones at police officers. Derain was killed by a car. “There is something shameful,” said Degas, “about being known.”

“Impossible to get rid of him,” Picasso said of Degas. Giorgione died in his thirties. El Greco died broke. Vermeer died in debt to the baker. De Kooning ate a cigarette. “Everything he knew about art he got from me,” Michelangelo said of Raphael. “Ignorant,” he called Leonardo. “The only person who has the right to criticize me,” Matisse said of Picasso. “I have reached the happy age of impotence,” said Delacroix…

Right, that’s it! I’m selling my watercolour set on eBay. It’s tough enough trying to be a photographer.

This Blog is also available as a daily email. If you think that might suit you better, why not subscribe? One email a day, Monday through Friday, delivered to your inbox. It’s free, and you can always unsubscribe if you conclude your inbox is full enough already!