Sunday, March 11, 2012

What I’m reading

Most of us will have seen or at least received a link to that half-hour “Get Kony” viral video from Invisible Children via email or Facebook. Kony is (possibly was – one hopes that he is past tense) a horrible, horrible man but there are big questions about the video’s accuracy, whether it is helpful and also about the money involved. Mick Hartley takes an austere view: to see why, just follow his link to the photo of the Invisible Children chaps posing with guns: wankers, frankly. Grant Oyston of Acadia University has a massively detailed post with many links about what is wrong with Invisible Children (sample: “people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away”). Even the Sydney Morning Herald has weighed in. Sample quote:
Others take issue with the amount of money Invisible Children dedicates to officer salaries, filmmaking costs and travel, as opposed to on-the-ground programs to help rebuild the lives of people traumatised by decades of conflict. Some have called the video a pitch-perfect appeal to so-called slacktivism, a pejorative term for armchair activism by a younger generation, often online.
Chad Taylor on copyright in France. Good links.

Tyler Cowen, an economist, asks, “Did Oprah steal book sales with her reading club?” As always, at his blog Marginal Revolution a non-economist can learn as much from the comments as from the original post.

The UK cabinet minister and arts grandee Norman St John-Stevas has died. The English do good obituaries and the Daily Telegraph does not disappoint:
Irrepressible, witty and disarmingly immodest, Lord St John was an expert on much else besides aesthetics. In the 1990s, during the break-up of the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales, he became known for his frequent television appearances in which he would give the nation the benefit of his expertise on the attendant constitutional implications, a role in which he claimed extensive knowledge of the inner workings and private thoughts of the Royal family.
It was never entirely clear how much direct access he had, though he was certainly a great friend of Princess Margaret, whose framed likeness, prominently displayed behind him, graced many an official photograph.
He was also a great friend of Dorothy:
He liked to tell the story of how he asked to be excused from a meeting because he had a reception to go to. “But I’m going to the same function,” protested Mrs Thatcher. “Yes, but it takes me so much longer to change,” replied St John-Stevas. Yet it seemed that Mrs Thatcher did not see the need for a licensed jester — particularly one so well-known for his indiscretions with the press over lunch.
For St John-Stevas did not so much leak as gush, providing an entertaining running commentary on the foibles of his colleagues (on whom he bestowed nicknames), spiced up with fruity society tittle-tattle. “The trouble with you, Norman,” one listener complained, “is that you’re such a compulsive name dropper.” “The Queen said exactly the same to me yesterday,” came the rejoinder.
At the other end of the political spectrum, David Thompson quotes Guardian columnist Laurie Pennie’s Twitter feed:
In a café. Being chatted up by aggressive lesbian waitress. My analysis of gender, privilege and travel has not prepared me for this.
Next tweet hastens to add:
Hasten to add: not all lesbian waitresses are aggressive. This one is. She’s making lewd comments about me to her colleagues in Spanish.
Fair enough. Spanish is the loving tongue.

Peter Phillips, founder and conductor of the Tallis Scholars, writes in the Daily Telegraph on William Byrd and the power of song. Money quote:
But it wasn’t just the practicalities of performance which led to Byrd’s manner of composition, it was also his way of thinking. He described how in his favoured texts there is such a deep and hidden force that the right notes would occur to him spontaneously. The same could be said about Purcell’s and Britten’s response to texts, but whereas with them the result was solo singers standing on a stage projecting outwards, Byrd thought of small groups – vocal ensembles or voices with viol accompaniment – turning inwards. He liked to strip meaning to its essence, and then express it through the interraction of several melodic lines in a polyphonic web – a method which compares sharply with the solo, hummable, melodic lines of opera and oratorio so beloved of Purcell and Britten.
Astonishing, if you can bear to watch (not recommended), how quickly even at the Daily Telegraph comments on a blog descend into abuse. Let us avert our eyes and instead watch and listen to the Tallis Scholars sing the heavenly Kyrie from Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices:

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