Monday, December 29, 2014

What I’m reading #122

Emile Yusupoff asks, in Scotland’s student newspaper The Journal, “Could Russell Brand’s ‘Revolution’ be satirical?” Quote unquote:
Perhaps Brand honestly believes that his ‘revolution’ is a legitimate and sane political program. Perhaps he also genuinely sees a link between New Age pseudo-spiritual babble and leftist politics (beyond the crank magnet effect). Maybe he thinks there are alternative mechanisms for the allocation of scarce resources to the price system and ‘bloody graph[s]’.
He may genuinely think that central planning and decentralised power are compatible. Maybe he simply does not understand what abolishing all debt would entail. Perhaps he really does have ‘doubts’ about 9/11 based on fanatical anti-Americanism and media paranoia. He may even genuinely think that Cuba is a paragon for human rights. And perhaps he really is so self-deluded that he cannot see his foray into politics for what it really is.

Read on. The links are good, particularly the crank-magnet one.

Worcester is embroiled in its biggest fight since Cromwell and Prince Rupert squared off in 1642 and, after winning, the Roundheads dealt to the still-lovely cathedral. Quote unquote:
A farcical row over a cardboard cut-out of Ed Miliband is going on behind the scenes at County Hall – amid claims it’s been “taken hostage”.
Your Worcester News can reveal how Worcestershire County Council is embroiled in a stand-off over a life-sized cut-out of the Labour Party leader which has mysteriously vanished.
 One year ago the Labour group bought it off the internet and located it inside the party’s secure room inside County Hall.
Two weeks ago it disappeared, despite only a handful of staff and Labour councillors having access to the room. […] It is now being hidden at a mystery location and Cllr McDonald told him he was "not prepared to negotiate with hostage takers’ over getting the cut-out back.
“I told him I've got British blood in my veins and I'm not prepared to negotiate with hostage takers. Nobody has a right to tell us what we can and can’t have in our own room, we aren’t breaking any laws by having a life-sized Ed Miliband in there.”

Makes me proud to be not British. Read on.

Adam Ragusea on why Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” sounds like a classic. Chords, basically. Well, yeah. Quote unquote:
The song also includes what I consider the most Christmassy chord of all—a minor subdominant, or “iv,” chord with an added 6, under the words “underneath the Christmas tree,” among other places. (You might also analyse it as a half-diminished “ii” 7th chord, but either interpretation seems accurate.)
The same chord is found, in a different key and inversion, in Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”—on the line “children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow,” specifically under the word listen, among other spots. In both songs the chord comes immediately after a major subdominant chord, giving the effect of a “bright” major subdominant that you might say “sighs” or “melts” into a “dark” minor subdominant spiked with a “spicy” extra tone (the added 6), before the songs settle back into their tonic, or “home,” chords.
David Hepworth on legendary pop groups expressed as pie charts: Beatles, Bee Gees and the Smiths. Thought experiment: try this with Blur, Oasis, Radiohead…

This graphic at Lapham’s Quarterly shows the first known usage of the filthiest words in English. “Fart”, 1250. “”Swiving”, c1300 (a great favourite of John Barth, that). “Frigging”, 1708. “Nookie”, 1930. And many more much ruder ones than are printable here.

Hardly anybody in New Zealand is interested in Australia’s Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, which are similar to but different from our own PM’s Awards for Literature: theirs are for specific books whereas ours are for lifetime achievement – and theirs are even more political. This year the Oz Prime Minister took an interest and altered the result to make Richard Flanagan’s novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North a co-winner with the judges’ sole choice, Steven Carroll’s A World of Other People. Les Murray, one of the judges (and greatest living English-language poet, if you ask me: here is a long piece by Michael Hofmann in support) isn’t happy and says, “I feel like I have been treated like a fool.” Stephen Romei reports in the Australian:
Murray emphasised that a majority of the five judges not only decided against recommending Flanagan’s novel, but also “rejected” it. “We dismissed the Tasmanian fellow,’’ he said. “It is a pretentious, stupid book.’’
Murray said a clear majority thought Carroll’s book was the best of the five contenders, but the chairwoman of the panel, publisher Louise Adler, pushed strongly for Flanagan. The other three judges were poets Jamie Grant and Robert Gray and film-maker Margie Bryant.
He said the decision was not put to a formal vote because it was obvious that Ms Adler was outnumbered, and so Carroll became the unanimous recommendation.
 Murray, widely considered Australian’s best chance for a second Nobel Prize in Literature, said if he had been at the awards dinner in Melbourne on Monday night, he would have publicly denounced the decision. “The literary scene is such a nest of vipers,’’ he said.

Martin Shaw weighs in at the Guardian; here is Susan Wyndham at the Sydney Morning Herald; more background from Romei here.

I was on the panel for the NZ Prime Minister’s Awards a couple of times. One year I was really shocked when it became clear that the numero uno of Creative NZ was not only present at the judgement meeting but was free to express his views and that we three appointed judges were expected to take his views seriously and count them as an extra vote. I liked him: smart guy, good reader but frankly, if you are not on the panel, shut up. Creative NZ is much better managed now.

I had heard from economist friends about Deirdre McCloskey’s essay on Thomas Picketty’s Capital, the economics equivalent of Stephen Hawkings’ A Brief History of Time: massively bought, massively unread. Here is James Zuccollo at TVHE with a good skinny and link to McCloskey. If interested in Picketty, it is a stellar critique.      

And now for something completely different: rock guitarists with giant slugs. For example, Bruce Springsteen:


Denis said...

Happy Noo Year

In the words of the old Irish'ism
- May you get to heaven half an hour before the Devil hears you are dead -

Stephen Stratford said...

HNY likewise. With as Oirish an accent as Oi can manage.