Wednesday 24 November, 2021

Quote of the Day

“There is no villainy to which education cannot reconcile us.”

  • Anthony Trollope.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Eels | Can’t Help Falling in Love | Albert Hall (Live)


Nice take on a very old song.

Long Read of the Day

Merve Emre on annotating Virginia Woolf

Lovely long interview by Leah Price of Merve Emre, the Oxford academic who’s done an annotated edition of one of my favourite books — Mrs Dalloway. In a way, it’s the best kind of interview, i.e. a conversation between two equals who are interested in the same thing. Here’s for instance, is one of Leah’s interventions:

I especially love the parallel that seems to be implicit in what you’re saying, between your decision to transcribe the text with your own hands—your own fingers—rather than outsourcing that work. And in the first line of the novel, Mrs. Dalloway says she’ll buy the flowers herself: the novel opens with the mistress of the house deciding not to delegate to servants a kind of work that is both aesthetic and manual. So, one direction in which we might take that is your argument about the value of different kinds—or, rather, different combinations—of scholarly labor.

Do read the whole thing. And while you’re at it, re-read Mrs Dalloway and then watch The Hours with that wonderful soundtrack by Philip Glass.

Nobel laureates aren’t interested in coming to Johnson’s world-beating Britain.

Now, why could that be?

From New Scientist

Not a single scientist has applied to a UK government visa scheme for Nobel prize laureates and other award winners since its launch six months ago, _New Scientist _can reveal. The scheme has come under criticism from scientists and has been described as “a joke”.

In May, the government launched a fast-track visa route for award-winners in the fields of science, engineering, the humanities and medicine who want to work in the UK. This prestigious prize route makes it easier for some academics to apply for a Global Talent visa – it requires only one application, with no need to meet conditions such as a grant from the UK Research and Innovation funding body or a job offer at a UK organisation.

I particularly enjoyed this quote from Andre Geim of the University of Manchester:

“Chances that a single Nobel or Turing laureate would move to the UK to work are zero for the next decade or so. The scheme itself is a joke – it cannot be discussed seriously. The government thinks if you pump up UK science with a verbal diarrhea of optimism – it can somehow become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Footnote: Geim won a Nobel prize in 2010 for his work on graphene.

Link (via Charles Arthur)

COP26 and the neoliberal cop-out

Ideology is what determines how you think when you don’t know you’re thinking. For over half a century, the ideology that has infected the minds of democratic ruling elites everywhere is a kind of economic solutionism which sees the answer to almost every problem as more competition and the imposition of marketised logic (backed up by state aid when the ideas don’t work).

Watching the farce of COP26 I became increasingly irritated by the emphasis given to Mark Kearney and his $100 trillion wheeze to solve the problem.

Turns out, I was not the only one. Here’s the philosopher of technology, Fabio Tollon, writing on this latest outbreak of magical thinking:

So what, in concrete terms, was the suggested route out of the crisis proposed at COP26? Perfectly in line with the pervasive neoliberal logic rotting the brains of most policy makers, the private sector was touted as a band aid for the burning building that is our planet.

We still seem to (somehow) be stuck at the point of acknowledging (scientifically) that we are in the grips of a crisis but lacking the (political) coordination required to enact the radical action that the situation demands. The purported private sector “solution” would be one in which massive investment firms, such as BlackRock, direct trillions of dollars into low-income economies to accelerate their transitions away from fossil fuels. This will only happen, however, if the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund come in to “derisk” these “investments”. How the same neoliberal solution can be proffered at every crisis since the 1990s is beyond comprehension.

Nor the reference to “derisking”, which is code for getting taxpayers to pick up the downsides while corporations pocket the profits.

Reminds one of Einstein’s definition of insanity: repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome each time.

My Commonplace booklet

Helpful advice from Quartz for anyone joining the post-Zoom ‘Great Resignation’ movement:

How to write a resignation letter:

  1. Start by succinctly stating that you have accepted another position, and are resigning.
  2. In a sentence or two, express your gratitude for the opportunities and experience the organization has provided you.
  3. Close by stating the final date you’ll be on the job, and offer to help transition your duties and responsibilities to your replacement.

Just happened on a masterful piece by Robert Darnton about commonplace books in a 2000 issue of the New York Review of Books, sadly behind the paywall, but here is the link anyway.