Friday, January 01, 2016

A case for adopting a tougher set of moral and spiritual values

Bra Beach is peppered today with lots of Sydneysiders who are burning as the sun is merciless... PicniC by the sea is great for the soul even if the skin is burning like hell ;-)\   


Piketty vs. Piketty Brad DeLong, Project Syndicate 

The keyboard and the spade New Statesman Subhead: “In the overdeveloped West, technology is making us forget what it truly means to be human.”
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The true warrior thinks only of honor and his code of valour but the Self protects ones soul, writes Michael Dirda. [Review of Vaclav Havel Note ...]

The only thing in Mark Edmundson’s new book that isn’t provocative is its title. “Self and Soul: A Defense of Ideals” sounds earnest, high-minded and dull, probably a worthy academic study revisiting territory mapped out long ago by Matthew Arnold and Lionel Trilling.
Wrong. What you will find instead is an impassioned critique of Western society, a relentless assault on contemporary complacency, shallowness, competitiveness and self-regard.
Americans have become, Edmundson says, wholly pragmatic and small-minded, always on the lookout for the main chance and conditioned to be greedy for the gaudy trash supplied by our consumerist overlords. We move restlessly from want to want, never discovering any lasting satisfaction. As for living heroic or noble lives, our video games and movies do that for us. Meanwhile, Edmundson adds, “the profound stories about heroes and saints are passing from our minds.” Our days have no purpose. Instead of aspiring to grandeur, we surrender to pettiness and accommodation...

Throughout “Self and Soul,” Edmundson writes with a Thoreau-like incisiveness and fervor. “Perhaps no life that one cannot wish for as a child offers a genuine sense of joy. Virtually no child dreams of being an accountant, an insurance salesman, or even a CEO. Children dream of courage and goodness — and so, in some regions of their spirits, do many adults.” In fact, “by committing to ideals, men and women can escape the alternating peaks and low points that the life of desire creates and live in a more continuously engaged and satisfying way.”

After Achilles and Jesus, can Socrates be far behind? Edmundson stresses that a thinking life should be focused on seeking the truth, sometimes on being a disturber of the peace. One must resist the blandishments of conformity, as well as the threats of those in power. Otherwise, the mind could end up a slave to the trivial, set to sweating over account books or to outwitting our business competitors. Every day, though, the truly philosophical human being “adds something to her store of perceptions about what the true and good and beautiful are, and how men and women might live rightly in the world.” ‘Self and Soul’: Mark Edmundson’s biting critique of modern complacency

‘Shakespeare’s Beehive’ review: Are these notes and scribbles the Bard’s?
‘The House of Twenty Thousand Books’ re-creates an intellectual milieu

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James Smart, from Balwyn, Australia, beat more than 13,000 entries to take out the prestigious competition with his photo of a tornado in Colorado.

James' winning photo of the rare cyclone in Colorado earlier this year. James' winning photo of the rare cyclone in Colorado earlier this year. Photo: James Smart

Daniel Craig is stellar in the latest installment in the more-then-half-century old series of James Bond films. Craig has made Bond his own.  MEdia Dragons could not agree more

The Most Awful and Absurd Foreign Policy Quotes from 2015 American Conservative (resilc)

In Retrospect: A Year of Sharpening Contradictions Juan Cole 

It is part of every MEdia Dragon Christmas quiz: the “Who said it?” round, which challenges contestants to put a speaker’s name to a famous quotation. But who didn’t say it? “Play it again, Sam” is known as the line that Humphrey Bogart made famous, but his character in Casablanca did not actually say those words at all. It is the film’s most memorable moment, but it is nowhere in the script.
Many apocryphal quotes like that one represent posterity’s polish on what was actually said. If Warner Brothers’ scriptwriters could have rewound the clock, they surely would have had Bogart actually say the phantom line that generations of movie-goers imagine themselves to have heard on his lips.
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L’esprit d’escalier is the sparkling or cutting remark we would have made if we had thought of it at the time and it is easy, and perhaps harmless, to convince oneself that the words were actually uttered.
Issac Newton did not say, after suffering severe financial losses in the South Sea bubble: “I can predict the movement of heavenly bodies but not the madness of crowds.” But he did muse in that vein on the differences between physics and psychology.
Sometimes, however, posterity changes the meaning. Hartley Shawcross, law officer in the Labour government that unexpectedly secured a great victory in 1945, famously proclaimed in the House of Commons: “We are the masters now!” Except he did not. What he actually said was: “We are the masters at the moment.” It is a linguistic nuance which conveys an entirely different impression.
It is usually impossible to be certain that someone never said what is posthumously attributed. Rick, the character played by Bogart, is a rare exception: his fictional life lasted only 90 minutes, and we know every word he uttered in the course of it.
No one has yet tracked down a source for the reported words of Aneurin Bevan, Shawcross’s colleague and founder of Britain’s National Health Service: “The sound of a dropped bedpan in Tredegar Hospital will reverberate round the Palace of Westminster.”
But the remark encapsulates the problem of reconciling central control with individual accountability — an issue that has bedevilled the health service ever since. The words authentically capture the tone of Bevan’s Welsh rhetoric. Perhaps he did say them. Or are they the fabrication of some malicious critic?
Sometimes posterity forgets the context. Adam Smith did describe how a merchant might be “led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention”. But the remark was not the eulogy to untrammelled free markets attributed to him by modern libertarians.
In fact, Smith was explaining that protectionism was often unnecessary because consumers and traders so often preferred to buy goods made in their home country rather than importing them.
It does not really matter whether the historic figures concerned said these things or not
John Maynard Keynes had such facility with words, and such exuberant knowledge and intellect, that he is a prolific source of apocryphal quotations. His famous “when the facts change I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” wins ever wider circulation, although it is not a particularly profound sentiment. “Markets can stay wrong for longer than you can stay solvent” is more shrewd. But no one has identified an occasion on which Keynes said either of these things.
And there is no evidence that Albert Einstein described compound interest as “the most powerful force in the universe”. Indeed, it seems unlikely that he ever did. Like Newton, his skills with money fell some way short of his abilities as a physicist, and, due in part to his complex personal life, his finances never had much opportunity to benefit from compound interest. Goethe, however, really did write (a century or so before Einstein wrote down the mathematical equations that explain much of what happens in the universe) that “double entry bookkeeping is among the finest inventions of the human mind”.
And yet it does not really matter whether the historic figures concerned said these things or not, although the wonderful Quote Investigator website seeks the original version of many widely used aphorisms. Were the dying words of King George V, “How is the Empire?” as his private secretary reported, or “Bugger Bognor,” as popular culture prefers?
Even if Keynes’s last words were not regret “at not having drunk enough champagne”, the story tells us something true about the man ...Well chosen phrases gain currency not by virtue of their provenance, but because they meet the (accurately quoted) requirements of Alexander Pope: “What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d”.An apt misquotation can reveal the greater truth..
An apt misquotation can reveal the greater truth Financial Times