2014 — 16 July: Wednesday

I wonder1 if Mother Hubbard's self-emptying cupboard needs any attention yet. It all-too-often does, of course.


... I've switched my listening from BBC Radio 3 to NPR. They are surreally different. Radio 3 tends not to run national news stories on the upcoming death of a comics character called Archie. Right. Radio 4? Trouble is, it's the ghastly pious platitudes of "Thought for the Day". Silence? Yep, that works.


One brief topic...

... over a pint at the end of our sticky walk yesterday was IMDB's curious voting assessments for certain titles. It loftily claims to use Bayesian reasoning. I've never used this (consciously) but note there's been a whole book by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne for us ponderers to ponder. ("When?" is a good question.) Source and snippet:

In the face of uncertainty, a Bayesian asks three questions: How confident am I in the truth of my initial belief? On the assumption that my original belief is true, how confident am I that the new evidence is accurate? And whether or not my original belief is true, how confident am I that the new evidence is accurate? One proto-Bayesian, David Hume, underlined the importance of considering evidentiary probability properly when he questioned the authority of religious hearsay: one shouldn't trust the supposed evidence for a miracle, he argued, unless it would be even more miraculous if the report were untrue.

John Allen Paulos in NYT

Sounds a bit like a slice from Occam's Razor to me. I note, by the way, that Paulos lifts some of his own text from his book review here for cheeky re-use in his more recent piece on the advanced metrics of attraction. Which was where I came in. (Another topic was the "COME FROM" versus the "GOTO" as we touched on 'stealth by obscurity' techniques.)

I remember...

... dull conferences!

Why is conference-talk so strange and unsettling? Because literature conferences are where we literary professionals go to dramatize the state of our profession, one caught between institutional acumen and anarchy. It's not that all scholars are agitators or would-be agitators, producing willfully obscure texts. But the more one listens in on conference-speak, the more it becomes clear that the virtues of professionalism — clarity, accountability, a "takeaway" message — are in standing conflict with the desire to sound like something other than an employee with a product.

Raphael Allison in Guernica

As a technical writer I believed "An ounce of simplification is worth a ton of explication". "End users" (other than Bob Yelavich) often seemed to appreciate the "end result".

I'd just...

... settled down, comfortably on a cushion — my bum's padding is not what it was — on the floor of the books warehouse, leafing through an unsuspected cache of clippings from old copies of "The Listener", fresh cuppa at hand, when... suddenly there came a tapping, as of some one gently rapping.2 Good morning, Mr Postie. It's going to take me a few minutes to scan the incoming goodies in my ongoing attempts to repel boredom.

Dispensing with the intellectual contender first...

Another book featuring Isaac Newton

... we next find a trio of French-language films...

Ozon et al DVDs

... the lovely middle item being the initial version (by the same director) of the even lovelier middle item here...

BD and DVDs

I've already made good use of get_iplayer to download and watch (thoroughly enjoying) the nine episodes of "Episodes, series 3" but this DVD set won't wear out my NAS so quickly :-)

[Pause] Time for lunch, methinks.


... do you suppose is being described here?

It's easier, Duntemann alleges, than learning how to play the piano. Mistakes won't make the dog howl, and "what takes years of agony in front of a piano can be done in a couple of months in front of your average PC." In fact, "compared to raising an average American child from birth to five years, it's a cakewalk."

Date: July 1990

Clue: my first two took five weeks and enabled me to write two, substantial, audio-visual self-instructional training packages.

[Pause] Utility companies sending fake dunning letters? Disgraceful! And a weekend heatwave. Deep unjoy.

[Pause] I've just heard the ridiculous phrase "the right type of inflation" in an NPR news report. Deeper unjoy. Meanwhile, how could anyone possibly doubt the boy Dave when he asserts that his spooks' ability to carry on spooking is vital to save the UK from all manner of threats. After all, they say it's so, so it must be so. Who are we to judge?

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

HL Mencken



1  Idly, and theoretically, at this early stage of the day.
2  In the introduction, by Montgomery Belgion, to my 1948 edition of "A Selection of Poems" (by Poe, of course) one can learn that Aldous Huxley dismissed "The Raven" as a showpiece of "vulgarity in literature". I profoundly disagree.