Performative incompetence (August 7)
'"When David Cameron was mocked for admitting that he didn’t know the price of a loaf of bread, a reporter confronted Johnson with the same question. He got it right, but then added: “I can tell you the price of a bottle of champagne—how about that?”
If you want to know why despite endless attacks on him for being an arrogant Etonian he remains stubbornly popular with voters, including working class voters, the answer is there. Asked (in a previous interview, cited by McTague) about his performative incompetence, Johnson called it “a very cunning device. Self-deprecation is all about understanding that basically people regard politicians as a bunch of shysters.” This an acute insight into the minds of voters and it’s delivered in a way that basically obliterates our normal distinctions between candour and deceit. He lets us in on the “cunning” tricks of politicians, even as he uses them himself."
Ian Leslie on 'authenticity'.
Related: Ian Leslie on the blandness of politicians.
Not in the book: pauses (August 6)
This would have been an excellent thing to quote when talking about the rhythm of presentations:
"‘In the pause,’ the columnist Ezequiel Fernández Moores wrote in La Nacion, quoting a phrase common in the blues tradition of Argentina, ‘there is no music, but the pause helps to make the music.’"
Inverting the Pyramid - Jonathan Wilson
500 words (August 5)
Whenever I start thinking that writing is too hard, or that I can't do it without the right pen or the right technology I think about Graham Greene:
"Graham Greene was an almost eerily disciplined writer. He could write in the middle of wars, the Mau Mau uprising, you name it. And he wrote, quite strictly, five hundred words per day, in a little notebook he kept in his chest pocket. He counted the words, and at five hundred he stopped, even, his biographer says, in the middle of a sentence. Then he started again the next morning."
New Yorker - 8 March 2021
There are a lot of things which didn't fit in my book. (And which might have made it better). Some of them because I couldn't quite work out how to make them fit or make them settle. This thought about the difference between short stories and novels is one of them. By Louis Menand from the New Yorker of 5 July 2021:
"Short stories are more like poems than like novels. Novelists put stuff in, because they are trying to represent a world. Story writers, as Poe implied, leave stuff out. They are not trying to represent a world. They are trying to express a single, intangible thing. The story writer begins with an idea about what readers will feel when they finish reading, just as a lyric poet starts with a nonverbal state of mind and then constructs a verbal artifact that evokes it. The endings of modern short stories tend to be oblique, but they, too, are structured for an effect, frequently of pathos."
I think a good presentation is a bit like that, except it's trying to express a single idea. And possibly lead to a change or an action.
"Grubs and worms, awakened by the tremors, begin to settle again within the tunnels they have mined. They have followed the quaking rocks and dug deeper than ever before. Now the clamour from below has quietened, they are left with the familiar shuffle of the city above: the pulsing of human footsteps, rubber wheels scuffing tarmac, pencils being dropped, hammers striking nails, knives and cleavers landing on chopping boards, mugs of hot coffee clunking on tables, bums on seats, bodies on beds."
(I love that way of recording the life of a city: the things that worms sense)
"Precious is called in to see the nurse. Her name sounds rusty through the tannoy. The P pops and the ‘shus’ rustles. Her surname is swallowed."
"Roster changes the subject, though only in the way a hawk shifts direction after a missed catch to loop back and try again."
"Robert is afraid of silence like other people are afraid of the dark, and has spent his life avoiding it, moving in large crowds, living in the busiest parts of busy cities."
A computer cradled in his arms (August 2)
I can't remember how I came across the music of Beverly Glenn-Copeland. It was at some point last year, probably via Wire. I've loved it (not all of it but lots of it) but didn't know much of his story. Catching up on an old New Yorker I came across a brilliant review that has really made me want to dive in again. It starts like this:
"In the early nineteen-eighties, Beverly Glenn-Copeland was living in a quiet part of Ontario famous for its scenic hills and lakes. He heard about the advent of the personal computer and, owing to a fascination with “Star Trek” and science-fiction futurism, became instantly intrigued. He bought one, even though he had no idea how to use it. Initially, he just walked around with his computer cradled in his arms, hoping that its secrets would reveal themselves.
For the next few years, Glenn-Copeland’s free time was spent shovelling snow, feeding his family, and teaching himself how to use his computer to make music. He later recalled that his creative community consisted of trees, bears, and rabbits—“the natural world, that was my companion.” He slept only a few hours a night, kept awake by the conviction that his computer could help him produce sounds that had never been heard before."
It ends like this...
"He spent decades working in obscurity without realizing that that’s what it was. Obscurity suggests an awareness of the outside world and its desires. Only now does Glenn-Copeland understand that he was making music for a generation of listeners who had yet to be born. In the documentary, he is excited to eat takeout on the sidewalk and to listen to his band tell stories about night clubs and new music. He is thrilled to be interviewed on someone’s Internet radio show. Everything is delightful and unprecedented. He wasn’t waiting for all this to happen—the recognition, the new records, the tours. But he was waiting for us."
Take me on (August 1)
Readers may wish to know about a small update over at eggbaconchipsandbeans.