03 September 2013
Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity – a ‘fall’ blockbuster as they say – is a post-human film. Its two stars – George Clooney and Sandra Bullock – could have been played by robots. Clooney plays a standard non-threatening alpha male with a gruff manner and one minor character quirk – an urge to tell stories. Bullock plays her usual sweaty, scared but, when the chips are down, brave and competent woman in a life-threatening crisis. Algorithms for either performance would taken an … More
31 August 2013
Staying at Mountain Village in the Colorado Rockies, I need to catch what the locals call the gondola but we would call a cable car to get down to Telluride. I start at about 9000 feet above sea level. The car first rises up to 10,500 feet and then falls 2000 feet to drop me downtown where the Film Festival is in progress.
For 13 minutes I skim through the ghostly aspens. I have not yet been alone. People jump into … More
27 August 2013
In the early years of Thatcher I remember a conversation with a triumphant right-winger (a self-described bastard) in which he snorted with disdain about ‘people who care.’ I knew what he meant and I still do. On the one hand there is the whole caring industry, always seeking out new ways in which we must care; on the other hand there is the bloated welfare state with all its injustices and ineffectiveness.
Personally, being hyper-empathetic (or so I am told (critically)), … More
22 August 2013
Arianna Huffington has decided to end commenter anonymity at the Huffington Post. Our conversation, she tells me, was ‘very important in my decision’. In my article wrote, ‘Somebody has to teach the internet companies some basic logic – anonymity and free speech are incompatible – and Arianna is in a position to do it.’ As many people don’t seem to understand this point, I had better explain.
Anonymity has been claimed by internet utopians as an aspect of free … More
21 August 2013
I can’t stop thinking about the hair of Michaella McCollum, one of the British drug ‘mules’ arrested in Peru. It is extravagant, absurd, a swollen cushion drawing unflattering attention to her long face and neck. As is that weren’t enough, she is wearing a tee shirt bearing the legend ‘La Vie est Belle’. She is doing everything she can to appear to be ‘living the dream’of youth. Fame is one necessary component of that dream, of course, and … More
20 August 2013
It is immensely satisfying to see Thomas Nagel writing in the New York Times today simply to restate the arguments of his book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. (There’s something roguishly clumsy about that sub-title.) It is satisfying because the book was widely (and predictably) trashed by materialist neo-Darwinians, some even suggesting that Nagel, a great philosopher, had cracked or gone completely insane. And yet here he is, not … More
19 August 2013
‘It’s like a kind of close-up magic,’ he writes, ‘where you can see exactly what’s going on – nothing special, no tricks, see – and then suddenly… Hey presto!’
I know exactly what he means, having embarrassed my wife by bursting into uncontrollable sobs after seeing Satyajit Ray’s film The Big City.
As with Nige’s experience of Cather, you can’t see what Ray’s is doing until suddenly you realise he … More
09 August 2013
I have now read this by Steven Pinker several times and I have managed to work out what I think about it. My thoughts come under three headings:
1)My agreement with one of its most important points – that some of the enemies of ‘scientism’ make serious mistakes, mistakes I have made in the past.
2)My suspicion about some of the claims Pinker makes. This is a relatively trivial point.
3)My conclusion that the article is, as a whole, trivial, subject … More
24 July 2013
About a week ago I bought a device called a Securifi Almond from Amazon. I can highly recommend it but for one thing. A couple of days later I was phoned from America by Zafar Sayeed from Securifi Technical Support. Zafar was informative, charming and interesting; we must have talked for ten minutes. It was only when I got off the phone that I asked myself, ‘How the hell did he get my number?’ So I emailed Zafar and received … More
23 July 2013
The royal baby warrants a blog, so here it is.
The persistence of reductionism as any kind of guide to human affairs is remarkable. I am not talking about reductionism as a scientific tool; in that form, it is plainly useful, though its scope and effectiveness are increasingly arguable. Rather, I am talking about the use of reductionism as a concealed ideology. I say ‘concealed’ because nobody, as far as I know, has ever said, ‘Here I am taking a reductionist … More