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The Genus Rosa

Friday, 29 March, 2019

An anecdote from the introduction to The Genus Rosa by the British horticulturalist Ellen Willmott, which was published in two volumes between 1910 and 1914:

“The Persian poet Omar Khayyam, who flourished in the eleventh century, has much to say about Roses. A hip from a Rose planted on his grave at Nashipur was bought home by Mr. Simpson, the artist of the London Illustrated News. It was given to me by the late Mrs. Bernard Quaritch, and reared at Kew. It proved to be Rosa damascena, and a shoot from the Kew plant has now been planted on the grave of his first English translator, Edward FitzGerald.”

Roses at home


Annie Leibovitz fawns over a famous person

Thursday, 28 March, 2019

Yes, the obsequiousness is breathtaking, but Annie Leibovitz is not shy when it comes to putting her cards on the table, especially when she’s dealing with the man who has parlayed his fame into “cable-news ubiquity and a potential 2020 presidential run,” according to Vogue.

“I met him at the rally the next day, and was pretty much with their group through all of that. And we met again the next morning and did the cover. He was by himself. He didn’t have anyone there. I always admire that too. I was in a quandary about whether he should wear a blue shirt or something more relaxed. So when we went out there, I said, ‘Listen, if you’re going to run, wear the blue shirt. If you’re not going to run, let’s wear something else.’ And he said, ‘Let’s put on the blue shirt.'”

Michael Avenatti


Keen on Democracy

Wednesday, 27 March, 2019

“Hi. I’m Andrew, and this is Keen on Democracy. A chill is enveloping the world. Everywhere I go these days, the conversation is the same. Everyone is fearful about the fate of democracy in our digital age. The same worried question is on all of our lips: What or who is killing democracy, everybody wants to know. There’s certainly no lack of suspects: Trump, Putin’s trolls, Mark Zuckerberg, authoritarian populism, the Wall, Viktor Orban, #FakeNews, Brexit, Bolsonaro, surveillance capitalism, Erdogan, Twitter or, last but certainly not least, the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping.”

Thus begins Andrew Keen’s intro to each episode of the podcast he calls Keen on Democracy. Keen is a professional internet scold like Jaron Lanier, Nicholas Carr and Evgeny Morozov, to name but three pundits who are doing very nicely by deploring the very thing that enables them to earn a comfortable living as they whizz around the world from talkfest to talkfest. Each of them has a different shtick. Keen, for example, began his by accusing the internet of degrading culture and society. He’s updated his critique and now he’s saying it’s putting the very notion of democracy in peril.

Keen on Democracy

Intelligent and eloquent, Andrew Keen is the author of Cult of the Amateur, Digital Vertigo, The Internet Is Not The Answer and How To Fix The Future. History might look back and see him as a brave canary in the data mine, or it may treat Keen, Lanier, Carr and Morozov as more modern, cleverer versions of Ned Ludd. Unlike Ned, they’re not interested in destroying the machines because those very machines enable them to podcast, publish and trouser tidy sums of money.


And Brexit killed the suit, too

Tuesday, 26 March, 2019

One of the worst articles ever published by GQ appeared under the title, “The death of the suit? Thanks Brexit.” Who was responsible for this mess? Lou Stoppard. More precisely, readers were informed that “GQ’s Contributing Editor Lou Stoppard talks you through the jacket that is slowly replacing the suit”. Still, Stoppard got one thing right in the article and it was this: “You can link most current British phenomena on Brexit, or the lack of Brexit, depending on how you look at it.” Exactly.

The other interesting thing about the article is the publication date: Tuesday, 7 November 2017. The demise of the suit has been signalled for some time now and the Wall Street Journal, a former bastion of suit wearers, is finally on it. According to Suzanne Kapner today, “Men Ditch Suits, and Retailers Struggle to Adapt.” The reality of what’s going on here has got nothing to do with Brexit and everything to do with the state of the labour market. In the USA, where it’s very tight, business casual is on the rise and getting even more casual because management wants to keep workers and wants to keep them happy. If that means throwing the suit out the window, so be it.


IPA: the alphabet, not the ale

Monday, 25 March, 2019
  • For hipsters, the abbreviation IPA means India Pale Ale, a trendy beer flavour that oozes hops.
  • For linguists, the abbreviation IPA means International Phonetic Alphabet, a system of phonetic notation based on the Latin alphabet.

Back in June 2015, Halle Neyens explained how it works in a Language Base Camp post titled “Linguistics for Language Learners: What is the IPA?“, and the post was accompanied by an excellent infographic showing where the sounds English speakers use are produced in the mouth and throat.

IPA

Note: Language Base Camp is a community-based hub where language learners and language lovers “connect and help each other along the path of self-directed language learning.”


Russiagate is this generation’s WMD

Sunday, 24 March, 2019

In light of Mueller, Matt Taibbi says that while the Iraq war faceplant damaged the reputation of the press, Russiagate has just destroyed it. He goes so far as to declare: Russiagate is this generation’s WMD. Snippet:

“Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included. Honest reporters like ABC’s Terry Moran understand: Mueller coming back empty-handed on collusion means a ‘reckoning for the media.’

Of course, there won’t be such a reckoning. (There never is). But there should be. We broke every written and unwritten rule in pursuit of this story, starting with the prohibition on reporting things we can’t confirm.”

What a shabby, amoral, vile, dishonest trade the news industry has become.

Mueller


Down with Article 13, which is now Article 17!

Saturday, 23 March, 2019

The EU, despite its enormous bureaucracy and budgets, has singularly failed to produce an Apple, a Google, an Amazon, a Facebook, a Twitter, an Instagram, a Microsoft, an Adobe, a Whatsapp, a Reddit, a Procore, a Wikipedia…. The list goes on and on and on and on and on.

Despite its enormous budgets and bureaucracy, though, the EU is very good at one thing when it comes to technology: the shakedown. If it’s not European tech and it’s really popular, fine it. That’s the thinking in Brussels, and this has turned out to be a rather nice little earner over the past decade.

The latest scam is a proposed reform of EU of copyright law (PDF). Brussels claims this would force internet platforms to share revenues with artists by forcing the likes of Google and Facebook to pay publishers for displaying news snippets and removing copyright-protected content from YouTube or Instagram. The platforms would have to sign licensing agreements with rights holders such as musicians, performers, authors, publishers and journalists to use their work online. To do this, the platforms would have to install filters to prevent users uploading copyrighted material, but these algorithms might not see the joke in Hitler’s comments about Boris Johnson. And the filters are seen by many as the thin end of an EU wedge to throttle free speech and impose Brussels-like dreariness upon a creative continent.

The European Parliament is set to have its final vote on the proposals next Tuesday and protests against the legislation are scheduled across Europe today. The demonstrations are being organized by the Save Your Internet campaign, which has labelled the legislation “a massive threat to the free exchange of opinions and culture online.” So, sign up, hit the streets and sing along.


No feelings of overworth

Friday, 22 March, 2019

Almost two decades ago, the American-British journalist and bestselling travel-writer Bill Bryson had the notion of writing a a clear, concise and entertaining guide to the problems of English usage and spelling, so he proposed the idea to “a kindly editor at Penguin Books” by the name of Donald McFarlan and the response was positive. Or as Bryson puts it in the introduction to Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, “To my astonishment and gratification, Mr. McFarlan sent me a contract and, by way of advance, a sum of money carefully gauged not to cause embarrassment or feelings of overworth.” That’s finely put, the “feelings of overworth” bit.

On page 218, Bryson arrives at the letter “Y” and “year’ time” is the second entry.

“In 1865 an influential book by Stanley Jevons argued… that Britain would run out of coal in a few years’ time” (Economist). The author is to be commended for putting an apostrophe on years, but the effort was unnecessary, as pairing time with years is inescapably repetitious. “In a few years” says as much and gets there quicker.

Finely put, that.


Waiting for Mueller

Thursday, 21 March, 2019

If the rumours are to be believed, the anticipated report of the Mueller Investigation will “drop”, as they say in the jargon of the #MSM, sometime tomorrow. If Mueller finds that Donald Trump, or any members of his family or any of his advisors had colluded with alleged efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, the White House will be gravely damaged and the remaining days of the Trump presidency will involve trying to get through a humiliating and damaging obstacle course designed by the Democrats and the media to reduce the incumbent to zero.

If, on the other hand, Mueller does not finds that Donald Trump, or any members of his family or any of his advisors colluded with alleged efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, the Democrats and the media will be exposed as frauds of the highest order and their credibility well be reduced to zero.

This is a high-stakes game. All in!


On the road to Mandalay?

Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

What are the ethical issues involved in visiting a country whose government has been accused of committing atrocities against its own people? We’re not talking China here, although its persecution of the Uighurs is outrageous. Then, there’s Myanmar.

In 2016, ten international travel companies offered sailings on the Irrawaddy, which flows north to south through the heart of Myanmar, from its source in the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean. The cruises were running at close to full capacity but the boom didn’t last long. Unrest involving a Muslim-minority group, the Rohingya, erupted in a region called Rakhine and more than 500,000 Rohingya have since fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. Terms such as “ethnic cleansing” were used to describe the alleged atrocities committed by Myanmar’s military and the country became a political pariah. As for the Burmese people, they’re said to among the most welcoming in Asia and street crime is almost non-existent in Myanmar. Each traveller must make in informed decision before visiting Myanmar, or China, for that matter.


Seen on the street in NYC

Tuesday, 19 March, 2019

By the Rainy Day sister. A sign of our insomniac times, definitely.

New York City