In a recent interview satirist Barry Humphries spoke to the Financial Times about his alter ego Dame Edna Everage and his ‘nice’ childhood in Melbourne that he soon fled because it was too much so. He then created Dame Edna to be the opposite of that middle-class Melbourne with its thinly veiled racism, snobbery and one-upmanship.
But he also tells how he once knew a man who had worked for the Nazi foreign minister Von Ribbentrop in the 1930s.
“He died last year. I called his widow to express my sympathy and she said [adopts a German accent]: “It’s funny you should have called, Barry, because Reinhardt and I vere talking about you just before he died.” And I said: “Oh, what did he say?’ And she said: ‘“It’s extraordinary,” he said, “you know that Barry Humphries, ze Fuehrer would have adored him.”’ He laughs delightedly. ‘The Fuehrer would have adored him!’ I thought, well that’s something to put in a little strap along my next book, isn’t it?”
— From London, via The Week and The FT.
The School of Life takes a little bit of the guilt away from not wholeheartedly joining the “cheer” of this new holiday season.
Be critical, frustrated, annoyed, at others and yourself. Tease everyone, including yourself, mercilessly. This isn’t new, we are smarter when we are grumpy. In healthy doses, it does us all a world of good.
So don’t let the holidays distract you. As the French say, “happy people have no stories to tell.”
— From SF
David Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale and a man who, 20 years ago, described with disturbing accuracy the internet as it is today, thinks computers are still too complicated.
“The industry doesn’t grasp the fundamental lack of sympathy between, conservatively, at least half the population and the software they’re using,” he says.
In other words, we aren’t frustrated enough, impatient enough, skeptical enough, with the technologies we use every day. Machines are still made by and for specialists. And even if Apple has come closer to an ideal of simplicity, we are simply not being demanding enough.
Good technology is like good writing. If your grandmother doesn’t know what it’s about, you have failed.
— From SF.
Contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton explains why love and philosphy are more like an awkward blind date than the perfect match:
“Philosophers have not traditionally been impressed: the tribulations of love have appeared too childish to warrant investigation, the subject better left to poets and hysterics. It is not for philosophers to speculate on hand-holding and scented letters. (Arthur) Schopenhauer was puzzled by the indifference.
”We should be surprised that a matter that generally plays so important a part in the life of man has hitherto been almost entirely disregarded by philosophers, and lies before us as a raw and untreated material.”
The neglect seemed the result of a pompous denial of a side of life that violated man’s rational self-image. Schopenhauer insisted on the awkward reality. Love ”interrupts every hour the most serious occupations, and sometimes perplexes for a while even the greatest minds. It does not hesitate … to interfere with the negotiations of statesmen and the investigations of the learned… . It demands the sacrifice sometimes of … health, sometimes of wealth, position and happiness.” “
(The New York Times, Feb. 2000, adapted from his book ‘The Consolations of Philosophy’)
— From London.