Tag of the Week on my big blog: Tolkien.
J R R Tolkien died fifty years ago today. A while back I wrote an imaginary conversation between him and W H Auden, who died later the same month.
It’s true, we are living in the 21st century — at least according to the calendar. But in terms of our creative culture, we’re still in the 1900s. Like heirs to a dwindling fortune, we’re living off the legacy of dead people — true visionaries who flourished between the years 1901 (when Arthur Conan Doyle published his most fully realized Sherlock Holmes book, The Hound of the Baskervilles) and 1999 (when The Sopranos made its debut on HBO).
The whole post is excellent, full of evidence and appropriate detail – it’s not just a rant.
Joseph Epstein: “With Meatless Tuesday in mind, I wonder if the country wouldn’t do well to declare Trumpless Thursday. This would entail an agreement on the part of all media — television, radio and print — not to run any items about Donald Trump, show his face on screen or in photographs on Thursday of every week. The country would be given a weekly 24-hour rest from Trump talk.”
Some of you may think I post too many photos of Angus, but believe me, if I go a couple of days without posting one, I hear from people who miss him.
An old man’s simple prayer, from Bruce Cockburn.
This piece on blurbs reminds me of the greatest blurb ever written – almost surely the greatest blurb that ever will be written. Pablo Neruda wrote it for a collection of stories by Julio Cortázar:
Anyone who doesn’t read Cortázar is doomed. Not to read him is a serious invisible disease which in time can have terrible consequences. Something similar to a man who has never tasted peaches. He would quietly become sadder, noticeably paler and, probably, little by little, he would lose his hair. I don’t want those things to happen to me, and so I greedily devour all the fabrications, myths, contradictions, and mortal games of the great Julio Cortázar.
Movies as old books, by Matt Stevens.
Kieran McCarthy: “Some of the biggest companies on earth — including Meta and Microsoft — take aggressive, litigious approaches to prohibiting web scraping on their own properties, while taking liberal approaches to scraping data on other companies’ properties.” You astonish me.
The Economist’s interactive page on the effects of the London Blitz is a fabulous piece of information design and visual storytelling – but I don’t think it’s visible to non-subscribers, alas.
Cameras are cool, and make better photos than phones, but Om Malik is right: their software is really bad, and that may well kill them off.
This morning I read yet another denunciation of today’s college students, complete with assertions about how much better students were in Ye Olde Days. As I wrote last year, that has not been my experience — not at all.
A word to the wise from Matt Birchler: “Things on the internet can be forever, but you can’t assume someone else will keep them going, especially when it’s stuff like video, which costs real money to host. If you love something, try to get a local copy and store it on a hard drive you control.”
Berenice Abbott, New York City, 1935
I wrote about the sad story of The Band.
“The Internet has become the ultimate narrowcasting vehicle: everyone from UFO buffs to New York Yankee fans has a Website (or dozen) to call his own,” the journalist Richard Zoglin wrote in 1996. “A dot-com in every pot.”
Major conversation platforms like Twitter and Threads, by contrast, emphasize a different goal for realizing the Internet’s potential: aggregating as many of its potential connections as possible into a single service. Whereas the potential-connection mind-set fosters small groups that gather in their own bespoke corners of cyberspace, the supporters of aggregation aim to link as many people as possible into the same widespread digital conversations. We’ve gone from Zoglin’s dot-com in every pot to the social-media age’s vision of every pot being filled with slop from the same platforms.
Adolphe Appian, from a wonderful exhibition of drawings at the Met.
One paragraph from me, at the Hog Blog: This is the way your mind ends.
I love this: Fred Sanders finds an often-cited obviously-bogus quotation by St. Augustine and shows that … um … it’s actually not bogus at all. Totally authentic.
I had been drafting a piece on the old prison work song “Ain’t No More Cane on the Brazos” — and then I discovered that someone already wrote it. The author, a guy named Dave Byrne who died in 2015, seems to have published just a handful of essays — really fine ones.
Fleet Street, December 2019
I love the genre of “alternative movie posters,” and Michael Krasnopolski’s are great.
Ted Gioia: “The only areas where AI is flourishing are shamming, spamming & scamming.”