Books 2010

Books 2009

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Monday, 23 February 2009


It is not two cultures it is THREE. The Sci/tech people, the arts/humanities people and the MASSES or Great Unwashed or whatever you want to call them.

But there are lots of pseudo-intellectual phonies in both of the first two groups pretending what they know is more difficult than it really is. Just because someone has a science degree does not mean they can have an original thought. But they aren't about to admit they are second or third rate.

Now computers and the internet make it possible to short circuit the educational system. What are we going to do with that ability?

Scientists can indeed be over optimistic (but clearly not half as much as economists and bankers). I have however never felt "that the individual condition of each of us is tragic". Science, Music, Art, Literature are all hallmarks of civilisation and no educated person should regard any one of them as dispensible. I have sadly met more "artists" who claim no interest in science than vice versa and I do keep wondering why this is. It cannot be more difficult for the average person to understand the basic arguments and well-explained principles of science than it is for me to read important works of literature or listen to great music (of whatever genres and culture). The arts person may not be able to follow the mathematics (I probably can't these days either) any more than I can review the poetry of Donne, but both of us can surely be fascinated and moved by the ideas behind them.

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  • Nothing is of greater consolation to the author of a novel than the disovery of readings he had not conceived but which are then prompted by his readers. (Umberto Eco, Reflections on The Name of the Rose)
  • ... relatively few persons in London ... can afford the luxury of one or more servants. No fewer than 3,700,000 have no servants at all, and of the half million that have servants 227,000 have only one. (The Times, 6 June 1895)
  • Standing among savage scenery, the hotel offers stupendous revelations. There is a French widow in every bedroom, affording delightful prospects. (Tyrolean inn brochure, according to Gerard Hoffnung)
  • (A doctor is at an elderly relative's deathbed) "The old sawbones, eh?" he bellowed ... "Just in the nick, perhaps. Haul the old girl back by the short hairs, if you ask me. Devilish smart at his work ... Always take a fence with more confidence when I know he's out with us."
  • Too often, when a man of Monty Godkin's mental powers is plunged in thought, nothing happens at all. The machinery just whirs for a while, and that is the end of it. (P G Wodehouse, Heavy Weather)
  • ...the breed that take their pleasures as Saint Laurence took his grid (Kipling, The Five nations)

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