Sunday, 30 November 2014

Soldati. Amici. Vite.

Si sta come
sugli alberi
le foglie

DEATH is a dialogue between   
The spirit and the dust.   
“Dissolve,” says Death. The Spirit, “Sir,   
I have another trust.”   
Death doubts it, argues from the ground.           
The Spirit turns away,   
Just laying off, for evidence,   
An overcoat of clay.

Thursday, 27 November 2014


It started as an inside joke. Now I have more than these than is socially acceptable. But anyway, a few looks from the past year.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Elitism: opera vs sports

Current price for Atlanta Falcons tickets: $60-$340
Current prices for Atlanta Opera tickets: $24-$125

American Football: understand the rules or else you are destined to several hours or slow and repetitive start and stop.
Opera: it's music.

I don't understand the charges about opera music being elitist, although I will accept that some of the greatest opera houses in the world like to give off an appearance of "high society" (I'm looking at you, Met and La Scala). However even within that context, wearing a bow ties does not make you more of a snob than wearing baseball cap. Being a snob does that.

And anyway: if you can listen to the Tosca and not be filled with compassion to the point of tears then you are simply a robot.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Looking Back

I think I just identified the first big mistake I made in life.

When I was in 4th grade I organised a sort of garage sale amongst my school class. This is not a "thing" in Switzerland, so it took quite a bit of convincing, but I got a permit from the municipality and permission from my school to rent a table (I think) and hold the sale on school grounds, and then talked my classsmates in to bringing their old toys, clothes and books and hanging out for a few hours to sell our things and raise money for a children in need charity (Kinder SOS, perhaps?)

It was, from our point of view, a great success, we raised somewhere over 250 francs. For a 9 year old, a lot of money.

After all was said and done, and I confirmed our totals and told our classmates I would be sending the money off to the charity, one classmate asked if we could donate part of what we raised to WWF. Of course, I said, let's give 200 to Kinder SOS and the rest to WWF.  Let's help animals too, right?


Too late.

She should have raised that before the event, when we were discussing the details of what we were doing and why. The decision had been made and while her idea as certainly a good one, I had promised Kinder SOS all of our proceeds and now had to change those terms.

I should have trained to say no. And she would have trained to organise better, or to present a stronger case (instead of just "let's do this because I like animals", something like "I know we decided X, but looking at what we raised, we can donate Y over here and that will cover this and this...). It would have been a win-win.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Band Aid 30

My skepticism with Geldof's scheme here really started with Live 8 back in 2005 (20 years too late?) when Geldof said: "we did this 20 years ago and nothing has changed so we must do it again". Apparently he has heard it said that doing the same thing over with failing results is a good use of everybody's time.

Well Geldof is back, now to fight ebola, which apparently everybody had been ignoring until now. Also, apparently, the problem here is money rather than local skepticism of medical solutions and lack of resources and infrastructure.

First, interview bits from an Al Jazeera piece:
I would ask does Geldof know when it's Christmas time in Ethiopia? As perhaps the fact that we celebrate Christmas a few weeks later on the 7th of January could have misled him into thinking we don't know when it is. Reassure him from us that, after his last three reminders, we are well aware and don't need any more prompting.
The oft-quoted observation by Marx that "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce" applies here for both its acuteness and how it has become a cliche. The Band Aid songs reflect this pattern. They begin as an attempt to respond to catastrophe and then excise all historical context and specificity.  
and also
The political problem with these celebrity bashes, including the most recent legacy of Live 8 and its Make Poverty History allies just over nine years ago, is that dazzling, back-slapping performances resulted in lost focus when it came to structural power. 

Bringing it back "home", a different view. Bryony Gordon writes about the comment Geldof and co. appear to be making about their public, those they expect to "donate" cash to their cause.  Some excerpts (emphasis mine. And yikes, I'm on page with a Gallagher brother):
Later, we learnt that Adele had quietly made a private donation to Oxfam. But in the shallow, self-promoting world of celebrity, the simple and silent act of handing over money to charity is not the done thing – that’s what we impoverished plebs do.
Instead, the rich and famous donate their precious time, and for this they expect to be celebrated and congratulated, as if before they flashed their expensively whitened teeth in the video for a song, we had no idea that Ebola was a problem
It’s not the troops deployed to Sierra Leone who are going to make a real difference – that honour will go to Geldof and his merry army of pop stars...
Which all reminds me of something Noel Gallagher said during Live 8 nine years ago: “Correct me if I’m wrong, but are they hoping that one of these guys from the G8 is on a quick fifteen-minute break at Gleneagles and sees Annie Lennox seeing 'Sweet Dreams’ and thinks 'f**k me, she might have a point there, … we should really drop the debt, you know’. It’s not going to happen, is it?

Friday, 14 November 2014

Piketty on US Inequality (BSBTE)

As explained in

Piketty is being celebrated for supposedly demonstrating that the deep structures of capitalism tend toward ever-greater inequality. But in the United States—the most unequal of all the advanced economies—the main explanation offered for the growing gap between rich and poor is that 100,000 or so corporate managers are being overpaid. What’s getting all the attention is Piketty’s depiction of rising inequality as the tragic flaw at the heart of the entire capitalist economic system. But what’s really going on, at least according to Piketty, is a comparatively narrow and shallow problem of corporate governance.

from Bringing Sexy Back to Economics


Tuesday, 11 November 2014

So THAT'S what I want

I just saw the article with this headline and sub-:

Jennifer Lawrence knows what she wants in a guy
Actress Jennifer Lawrence says she wants a man who allows her to be herself in all situations.

Which is so strange and unusual and worthy of a news headline. Because I, as I am sure all of you, want a man who does not. Do any of that. Ever.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Small perfections

A productive day at work, an evening game of tennis, a simple dinner with good wine, and Act 2 of Madame Butterfly. All with Giuseppe.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

ScienceBabe makes me happy

As far as those evil chemicals and big companies… Whole Foods brought in $12.9 billion last year. Monsanto brought in $14.9 billion last year. Don’t tell me that one of these companies is the big bad guy when one of them caters to people who can afford to spend $4 on a bottle of water and the other is building the technology that feeds starving people.

ScienceBabe vs FoodBabe here 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014