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Liking Taylor Swift

Sunday, 8 April, 2018 0 Comments

Charlie Laurence, the writer of I Like Taylor Swift, sums up so much of today’s Warholian-Instagram fame thus: “In the song I admit I haven’t really listened to much of her music, but I’m inundated with images and stories about her.” Charlie Laurence’s band, Coach Hop, will celebrate the launch of I Like Taylor Swift with a London show at the Hope and Anchor pub in Islington on Friday, 20 April.

“She’s just a girl with a guitar,
and she’s very far away
she dated a Kennedy
and I see her every day, in magazines and websites.
People say it’s kinda fey to like her, but if you say that I’ll fight ya
I don’t care what people say.”

Note: The Kennedy referred to in this verse is Connor, son of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the late Mary Kennedy. Connor Kennedy’s relationship with Taylor Swift began in June 2012 and ended in October that year.


Nasim Aghdam and the YouTube convergence

Saturday, 7 April, 2018 0 Comments

Recap: In Iran, she was known as “Green Nasim”, commanding a certain degree of social media clout. On Tuesday, in California, Nasim Aghdam proceeded to the headquarters of YouTube in San Bruno and went on a shooting spree. Three were wounded, with the sole death being Aghdam, who took her life after the bloody splurge.

Mark Steyn peels back the layers in a piece titled The Grand Convergence. Snippet:

“What happened is a remarkable convergence of the spirits of the age: mass shootings, immigration, the Big Tech thought-police, the long reach of the Iranian Revolution, the refugee racket, animal rights, vegan music videos… It was the latest mismatched meeting between east and west in the age of the Great Migrations: Nasim Aghdam died two days before her 39th birthday, still living (according to news reports) with either her parents or her grandmother. She came to America at the age of seventeen, and spent two decades in what appears to be a sad and confused search to find something to give her life meaning. But in a cruder sense the horror in San Bruno was also a sudden meeting of two worlds hitherto assumed to be hermetically sealed from each other: the cool, dispassionate, dehumanized, algorithmic hum of High Tech — and the raw, primal, murderous rage breaking through from those on the receiving end.”

For all those who have fallen out of love with the Silicon Valley dataopolies, Blockchain is the most promising technology as it has the potential to disrupt the centralized social media companies.


Twitter thread on AI and FB

Friday, 6 April, 2018 0 Comments

Note: A thread on Twitter is a series of connected Tweets from one person. With a thread, you can add updates, context and background by connecting multiple Tweets together.

François Chollet constructs exemplary Twitter threads. A software engineer and artificial intelligence researcher at Google, he’s the creator of Keras, a leading deep learning framework for the Python programming language, and he has a new book out, Deep Learning with Python. In other words, he knows his AI, and he knows how Facebook uses AI to achieve its ends. Chollet’s Twitter thread from 21 March is informative and disturbing. Highlights:

The problem with Facebook is not *just* the loss of your privacy and the fact that it can be used as a totalitarian panopticon. The more worrying issue, in my opinion, is its use of digital information consumption as a psychological control vector.

We’re looking at a powerful entity that builds fine-grained psychological profiles of over two billion humans, that runs large-scale behavior manipulation experiments, and that aims at developing the best AI technology the world has ever seen. Personally, it really scares me

Twitter thread

And this is a powerful call to arms by Chollet: “If you work in AI, please don’t help them. Don’t play their game. Don’t participate in their research ecosystem. Please show some conscience”


Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology

Thursday, 5 April, 2018 0 Comments

The full title of Adam Alter’s book is even longer: Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Money quote:

“Facebook has an endless feed; Netflix automatically moves on to the next episode in a series; Tinder encourages users to keep swiping in search of a better option. Users benefit from these apps and websites, but also struggle to use them in moderation. According to Tristan Harris, a ‘design ethicist,’ the problem isn’t that people lack willpower; it’s that ‘there are a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job it is to break down the self-regulation you have.'”

Our age of behavioural addiction is still in its infancy, but we can no longer ignore the writing on the screen. Everything from family and friendship to rest and play is being crowded out by smartphones, e-mails, social networking and on-demand viewing. Understanding the nature of addiction is a necessary first step in defending our well-being, but it will be hard to beat our new habits when thousand of dopamine pushers “on the other side of the screen” are being paid huge sums to hook us.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked


NYSE: SPOT

Wednesday, 4 April, 2018 0 Comments

Shares in Spotify (NYSE: SPOT) opened at $165 yesterday, more than a quarter higher than the $132 guide price set by the New York Stock Exchange. By the end of the day, some 30 million shares had traded hands. After going as high as $169, they lost momentum to close at $149, making the Swedish company worth about $26 billion, well above the value of other tech firms such as Twitter. Spotify used an unconventional process to go public: instead of issuing new shares, early investors sold their holdings, which gave the firm’s early backers a chance to cash in on its growth.

Can Spotify make money by streaming music? Or will it have to expand its offers to include services such as travel? After all, it knows where you’re going and what you like to listen to on the way. While we wait to see how this one unfolds, Samuel Huxley Cohen has curated a 55-hour Spotify playlist of Bob Dylan songs in chronological order.

Spotify


Side effects of the global drug

Tuesday, 3 April, 2018 0 Comments

“Social media is tailor-made to soothe the anxieties of a population in turmoil, unite a society fractured by change,” says the British creative Chris Cousins. But he’s come to regard “ubiquitous” social media as a “global drug” and, he notes, “As with any new drug, there can be side effects.” Hence, his video clip titled “Side Effects.”

By the way, the drum machine track for this clip was made “using DM1 on an iPad,” says Cousins. What’s DM1? It’s “an advanced vintage Drum Machine. It turns your iPad into a fun and creative beat making machine. Easy and fast to use, loaded with 99 superb electronic drum kits and beautiful hyper-realistic graphics, DM1 has been designed for a lot of instant fun.” Addictive. Almost.


It matters who I remember he was

Monday, 2 April, 2018 0 Comments

Actually, what the poet Anne Sexton said is this: “It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.”

Michael Fitzgerald (17 September 1917 – 2 April 2011) was a farmer and a thinker. He loved the land, its substance, its history, its moods and its meaning. He knew why people had fought and died for it and he understood the passions it generated. His hands were shaped by decades of making a living from his fields. He was one of the last representatives of a culture that had its roots in an ancient, a simpler, a more traditional world. His decency .

Father

“Of life’s two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a labourer’s hand.” — Khalil Gibran


Buona Pasqua!

Sunday, 1 April, 2018 0 Comments

Easter Sunday dawns to the choir of Clare College Cambridge celebrating the Resurrection. Aurora lucis rutilat is a unique example of Venetian polychoral technique in motet form by the Franco-Flemish composer Orlande de Lassus. Happy Easter!


Sabato Santo

Saturday, 31 March, 2018 0 Comments

Questo è il giorno che arriva prima o poi nella nostra vita
quando la tenebra sembra vincere sulla luce,
ogni porta è chiusa e sbarrata,
il silenzio inghiotte ogni voce
e la morte sembra aver l’ultima parola.
Ma noi speriamo la luce al di là della porta chiusa!

Enzo Bianchi

Ma noi speriamo la luce al di là della porta chiusa!

For our friend Jim Martin, because we all hope for the light beyond the closed door.


The Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John

Friday, 30 March, 2018 0 Comments

This powerful image of by Hendrick Jansz ter Brugghen was painted around 1624 for a Catholic “hidden church” in the city of Utrecht, where Catholicism was tolerated but not encouraged. The colour combinations and the light evoke Ter Brugghen’s experience of Caravaggio in Rome, but the angular figure of Christ and the reverential figures of Mary and John are very much his own. The Crucifixion with the Virgin and Saint John expresses the devotional intensity that Good Friday has evoked down the centuries.

Good Friday


Last Suppers

Thursday, 29 March, 2018 0 Comments

Today, Holy Thursday, commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. That simple meal of bread and wine was to be the last time he dined with his disciples.

The English journalist A. A. Gill set out to write about “Last Suppers” in September 2009, but he abandoned the project on the grounds that it was one of those things like “Make a list of the 10 sexiest women ever.” He said: “You have all the anxiety of choice but none of the pleasure of execution.” So, in the middle of the project he switched from last suppers to the challenge of picking the food he would choose for the rest of his life, if he had to live with other people’s national cuisine. Gill couldn’t settle on one, so he picked four regional cuisines:

South-west France: “Foie gras and cassoulet, all sorts of duck, figs and Roquefort… This is the food of old Gascony, of Cyrano de Bergerac: a cuisine for the last leg of life, of post-prandial naps, of meals that soak into each other, of a languid, replete and easy life. I could live with that.”

Northern Italy: “Piedmont and the Po Valley, where they grow rice, make risottos, collect truffles, cook with butters, lard and the light olive oil of Genoa and have the youngest veal. I’d have to stretch it a bit to Parma, to take in hams, cheese and ice-cream, but that would do me.”

The North-West Frontier: “The mountainous, tribal lands of Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan: the very best lamb curries, biryanis, pilaus, apricots and quail, Peshawari naan, yoghurt and pomegranate juice eaten with gusto and arguments.”

Vietnam: “I love the food of Vietnam. It is an ideal combination of delicacy and panache. It has enormous variety of flavours and textures without being irredeemably twee. It’s refined but it’s also assertive. It has tiny little finger food and dog.”

In the end, Gill came to the following conclusion: “If you’re going to have a perfect food retirement, it would be Vietnam for breakfast, northern Italy for lunch and then alternately south-west France and the North-West Frontier for dinner.”

Background: A. A. Gill died of cancer in London in December 2016, at the age of 62. Adrian Anthony Gill was also an alcoholic who stopped drinking at 29 and he followed the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) “12-step plan” to recovery. In tribute to the fellowship, he began using the name ‘A. A.’ Gill professionally. His finest writing is collected in The Best of A. A. Gill and it covers his observations on food, television, life and travel.

The Last Supper