Monday, February 27, 2017

Robots: Vaclav Havel on Parallel Polis

“And so I keep going;

death remains close;

I carry my life

in a blue envelope.

“The letter’s been ready

ever since autumn:

just one little word –

it couldn’t be shorter.

“But I still don’t know

where I should send it;

if I had the address,

my life might have ended.

Shalamov often writes about the impulse to write and its futility, like the futility of blogging as words turn to dust and dust spirals on that windy summer day into words ...

“I went out into the clear air

and raised my eyes to the heavens
to understand our stars
and their January brilliance.

“I found the key to the riddle;
I grasped the hieroglyphs’ secret;
I carried into our own tongue
the work of the star-poet.

“I recorded all this on a stump,
on frozen bark,
since I had no paper with me
in that January dark.”
Internet-connected toys are an insane privacy risk. That's why watchdogs in Germany suggested that parents smash My Friend Cayla to pieces

Robots Will Soon Do Your Taxes. Bye-Bye, Accounting Jobs Wired

Robert D. Flach, NO SURPRISE TO ME. “No software package, or online filing service, is a substitute for knowledge of the Tax Code, and no tax software package, or online filing service, is a substitute for a competent, experienced tax professional!”

Technology is often blamed for destroying traditional working-class jobs in sectors like manufacturing and retail.

In the queue for the Soviet utopia

Most influential libertarians

TaxGrrrl,IRS ‘Dirty Dozen’ Tax Scams For 2017 Include ID Theft & Bogus Refunds.

I was authorized to trash my employer's network, sysadmin tells court


The Cold War–era writings of the Czech writer Václav Havel offer ideas on how dissidents can resist “the irrational momentum of anonymous, impersonal, and inhuman power.”

Václav Havel’s Lessons on How to Create a “Parallel Polis”


Lessons from the Czech writer Václav Havel on how to resist “the irrational momentum of anonymous, impersonal, and inhuman power.”
The recent political earthquakes have found us intellectually and emotionally underprepared, even helpless. None of our usual categories (left, right, liberal, conservative, progressive, reactionary) and perspectives (class, race, gender) seem able to explain how a compulsive liar and serial groper became the world’s most powerful man. Turning away from this unintelligible disaster, many seek enlightenment in literary and philosophical texts from the past, such as Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” George Orwell’s “1984,” and Sinclair Lewis’s “It Can’t Happen Here.” It may be more rewarding, however, to turn to Václav Havel: a writer and thinker who intimately experienced totalitarianism of the Orwellian kind, who believed that it had already happened in America, and who also offered a way to resist it.

Leslie Book, Preparer “Doctors” the Return Adding Phantom Income: Court Sustains Preparer Penalties (Procedurally Taxing). “As the Foxx case illustrates, the EITC creates the odd incentive for the creation of phantom income that could fuel a tax refund.”

Robert Wood, Dear IRS: Sorry, A Typo On My Taxes Dropped Some Zeros. It could happen to anyone…

Why Nothing Works Anymore Atlantic

How a bad board of directors could kill HPE

Columnist Rob Enderle writes that the trouble with HPE stems from its board of directors. Just replacing a CEO, if the board lacks core skills, just changes the problem.

New Cold War


Cloudflare memory leak exposes its bad practices and a lot of users

INTERNET FACILITATOR Cloudflare has been shown up by Google's Tavis Ormandy, who has revealed that the firm has suffered a memory leak, has a problem with user data diarrhoea, and a joke of a bug bounty program.
       Книжная Капелла, newly opened in St. Petersburg, is certainly an ...impressive-looking private library, a cathedral (of some sorts) of books. 
       It's also one that charges an entrance fee: 'Стоимость разового посещения — 7 000 рублей'. Yes, 7,000 rubles for a single (four-hour) visit -- that's almost US$120. Sure, cheaper than a visit to the local bordello, but right up there with a first-rate meal. (By comparison, an annual Апостола Книги-card is a bargain 230,000 rubles -- not even US$4,000.)
       There are corporate packages available too ! 
       Yes, it's run by a publishing house (Альфарет), for whom it's apparently also a showroom (they specialize in: "reprints and facsimiles of Russian and international masterpieces"), but still, you have to wonder about the business model here. 
       (While it's kind of fun to imagine they mean and do all this for the love of books -- and believe that there are actually readers out there willing (and able ...) to pay for the privilege --, I'm afraid there's a distinct whiff of something rather different to this set-up.) 
       See also Alexandra Guzeva's report at RBTH, 5 million for a book: Russia's most expensive library opens in Petersburg. 

       (Updated - 15 February): The Guardian now has a look, too, as Paula Erizanu reports The most expensive library in the world ? Book Capella opens for Russian elite (though I don't know why they don't translate 'Капелла' as 'chapel'). 

Via GOOD – “Last May, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss a problem tragically common in the 21st century: dead journalists. In the new millennium, 876 journalists have been killed—with almost 40 percent of those deaths occurring in the last five years. Meanwhile, global press freedom is at its lowest point since 2003, according to Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization.”  See this Infographic – the 10 Most Dangerous Countries for Journalism.

Why Aphorisms Seem So Powerful To Us

The voices of Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker and Benjamin Franklin still feel electrically alive to us because they managed to bake their personas into their brief observations. While proverbs and adages (cousins of the aphorism, to be sure) often lose their authorship and become orphaned—think about how many times someone has mentioned “an old Irish saying” without knowing anything about its actual provenance—aphorisms stay tethered to their creators, dragging their voices along through history.”

As we immerse ourselves in this year’s commemoration of 1917, we should not forget the recently passed centenary of the man who was more responsible than any other for bringing down the Romanovs. Such a grand claim for Grigory Rasputin’s significance may invite scepticism, but Douglas Smith’s engrossing and deeply researched biography shows that it is sustainable, as long as “Rasputin” is securely encased within inverted commas. This Siberian holy man was important less for what he was and did than for what he was taken to do and be.  Rasputin ecstasy fire

Sunday, February 26, 2017

`The Great Dream of History'

`The Great Dream of History'

Some writers turn their work into a long meditation on the past, the vagaries of history and the nature of man. A few of them are formal historians, like Gibbon, who characterized all of history as “little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” Others are poets or playwrights, like Homer or Shakespeare, and some are novelists, like Solzhenitsyn. Janet Lewis identifies this quality in the French novelist Marguerite Yourcenar:

“She is as much a historian as a novelist. Elsewhere (in Les Yeux Ouverts) she speaks of the great dream of history, that is to say, the world of all the living people of the past, so that when one loves life one loves the past. She even uses the word vivants, which includes more than people -- animals, plants, the moving air.”

Blue Mountains and Oravske Memories: Casting Stones

INK BOTTLE“We can all take the book and go ‘Do-re-mi,’ but you got to find the other notes for yourself, and that takes time. You got to live. It takes years.”
~ Louis Armstrong (quoted by Hal Boyle, Allentown Evening Chronicle, Sept. 15, 1952, courtesy of Ricky Riccardi)

Not From Venus, Not From Mars: What We Believe About Gender and Why It’s Often Wrong NYT
THE LIVERY STABLE BLUES - 100 Years ago: February 26, 1917. It’s still a controversial recording. But then, man, like, “what qualifies as jazz?”

Strange contemporary resonance:

The New York Times published editorial after editorial throughout the late 1910s and 1920s touting the dangers of jazz, which had historically been associated with the brothels where it was initially played…

Brave Wylies Baths Swimmer

TripAdvisor reveals Australia's best beaches

IT MIGHT seem a great time for indie cinema. The Academy Awards on February 26th will be something of a showcase for films not financed by a major studio. “Manchester by the Sea”, a contender for six Oscars, including best picture, was a darling of the Sundance Film Festival last year. Kenneth Lonergan’s masterpiece (one scene is pictured) about family and loss has earned $46m in cinemas in America and Canada, a spectacular return on its production costs of $8.5m. Amazon, which bought distribution rights, will benefit. Movie buffs can find all manner of films online that are made more cheaply still. “The Break-In”, a horror film shot by Justin Doescher on his girlfriend’s iPhone for less than $20, has earned him more than $20,000, with more than half a million people having watched at least part of it on Amazon’s streaming-video platform.
For every success story there are thousands of indie films that go unwatched. The digital age has made it easier than ever to make a film, but also harder than ever to break through the clutter of entertainment options to an audience It is easier than ever to fund Cold River and other indie films, but harder than ever to get people to see it...


 Bezos: Amazon plans to sell beer and wine at its new high-tech convenience store

  Why 1977 Might Be the Greatest Year in Music History

The leaves of memory seemed to make 
      A mournful rustling in the dark
… Forgotten Poems #19: more Henry Wadsworth Longfellow!

Andy Warhol: Art, Fame & Social Media

Poetry Is In Desperate Need Of A Revolution

Or really, more than one revolution – and constant revolutions: “Art isn’t easy. It’s not just that we need a revolution in style but also a revolution in audience, distribution, circulation, performance, perception and, indeed, motivation. These revolutions are never a question of being marked as ahead of the times. … Rather, the issue is staying in and with the times and not letting the times drown you.”

How We Discovered Vampire Bats That Have Learned to Drink Human Blood The Wire 

Google can bring you 100,000 answers but a MEdia Dragon librarian can bring you the right one, By Mahesh Rao
NEWS YOU CAN USE: Vitamin D ‘proved to cut risk of colds and flu’ Guardian

  Will I Go Bald? “It turns out that hair loss is very complicated genetically.”
Plus: “Male pattern baldness affects around 80 percent of men by the age of 80 years.”

Maxine Waters Thinks Trump Is a Secret Member of the ‘Kremlin Clan’ and Needs to Be Impeached

Juan Luis Vives in Paris, Erasmus in Venice. Does the mobility of 16th-century intellectuals explain Europe’s rise in fortunes?... Imrich  

5 Reasons ‘Seinfeld’ Would Get Crushed by SJWs    

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jela Krečič's None Like Her. 

       This is one of the first in the first trio of books in Peter Owen's World Series-series, devoted to Slovenia (and published in association with Istros Books); the second trio is from Spain. 
       And not that it should matter in the least -- but, hey, anything to get more attention for a book, right ? --: Krečič's husband is one of the few Slovenians you may actually have heard of -- Slavoj Žižek. 

Winner of Planeta’s Azorín Prize, Valdés’s novel follows the relationship of Picasso and his lover-muse Dora Mara, the subject of many of the Spanish artist’s paintings, including, you guessed it, one titled “The Weeping Woman.”

At first blush, the novels of Elena Poniatowska come to mind, especially Querido Diego and Dos veces única, both of which rescue the memory of two women who were married to and served as muses for Diego Rivera, but with hints to Jackie Collins. Unlike Poniatowska’s novels, The Weeping Woman seems less inclined to rescue Dara Mara than to novelize her. The prose, at times, reads like the light literature of nineteenth-century French feuilletons of writers like Ponson du Terrail:

Yes, it was a young woman, not exactly pretty, but by her shape she was the type of woman the artist might find attractive. Blond, sublime green eyes, shock of straight and slightly flaxen hair, a soft complexion. She wasn’t vulgar, and she knew how to walk—that is, she walked with a sway in her hips, as if she were dancing, undulating with the rhythmic disdain of a mermaid. 

The Loneliness of Longing for Other People’s Apartments

Like books or movies, peeks into other people's homes offer us a moment to imagine ourselves transposed

AND HERE YOU PROBABLY THOUGHT THE SCIENCE WAS SETTLED: Earth Has a New Continent Called ‘Zealandia’, Study Reveals

Erotic knowledge

How to make the color red: Scholars and artists long sought the tools. Arsenic, Asian flora, sulfur, mercury, and ox blood have been involved...  Knowledge of Reds Under the Beds  

Alan Light's new book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah" traces the bizarre cultural history of that very unicorn: "Hallelujah," a song that lay dormant in Cohen's vast repertoire for more than a decade before its popularity surged up again with a posthumous Jeff Buckley single. "Hallelujah" has metamorphosed over the years from a cheesy, reverb-heavy B-side oddity on an album Cohen's label rejected to a mystical, soul-stirring pop canticle that's played today at just as many weddings as funerals. Light reverentially details every stage in the evolution—and along the way, he reveals the compelling stories behind some of its most iconic interpretations. How Leonard Cohens Hhallelujah became Everybodys CHallelujah

 No One Can Figure Out What’s Behind a Mysterious Radiation Spike Across Europe. “But what’s most disconcerting about the event isn’t the level of radiation that spread through Europe – it’s the fact that no one can say what actually happened.”

Pope Francis suggests it's better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic; Francis had harsh words for people who observe Catholic rituals but don't treat other people well 

Pope Francis suggests it’s better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic via WP original