Category Archives: Catch-all

‘Kutiman’ composes salvaged music

I am such a sucker for music like this.

For the best experience, you might want to listen to a couple of minutes of one of the better amateur videos first, the vocalist:
Da Princess

and then maybe 30 seconds of this child piano prodigy:
Alma Deutscher

Can you imagine synching them? Neither could I. Imagine looking at a dozen more similar videos….

Kutiman: Give It Up

Hat tip to the great website Colossus which led me to Kutiman.

Introverts and Extroverts

Ever since the publication of Susan Cain’s book Quiet, subtitled The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, introverts have been getting more and more stroppy. Most recently, I’ve read an article by Maryann Reid that made me cringe, but smile at the same time. It is correctly titled “Fifteen Things that Introverts Would Never Tell You” — correct because, no, we would never say most of these things — some of them are way over the top as far as I’m concerned.

But a couple of things are very close to things I really wish all extroverts understood:

1. We hate small talk and networking for networking’s sake. We often don’t mind talking but we want to be talking about something that kind of matters, or that we know a lot about or that you know a lot about. A conversation about the weather is going to go nowhere fast with us, unless you’re deeply into meteorology and have a theory.

2. We can successfully do the extrovert thing for a while. We can host an event, introducing ourselves, shaking everyone’s hands and introducing Mrs Z to Mr Y. We can even tell jokes and be the life of the party. But whereas an extrovert thinks we should find it exhilerating and liberating when that happens: “See!? You can be great!”, we just feel exhausting and find it slightly depressing that such a performance is what some people value.

Camels: A Bible Anachronism?

camel-travelThere is an old argument that camels were not domesticated until long after guys like Abraham were dead and that therefore the Bible (which features all those guys using camels) must be inaccurate. The reasoning was always dubious: we have found no archaeological evidence from before a certain date that show them as domesticated, therefore no evidence exists and they were not.

Well, first of all, this is an argument from silence. We can say we have not found earlier evidence, but we cannot say earlier evidence does not exist. And even if the archaeological evidence no longer exists, that is not proof that it didn’t happen. It’s not the kind of thing that you can prove from evidence any more than when you find a very large pot in a store you can say confidently that this is the largest pot that ever existed.

And in this case it would be a extra weak version of the argument from silence because we’d be looking for, say, harness pieces together bone pieces and we have none. This is not actually evidence about the domestication of the animal, but about the use of harnesses — so if a people didn’t use harnesses on their domesticated camels or used harnesses made out of degradable materials or valued them highly enough that they didn’t leave them on the animal unattended, then you would not find them.

Nevertheless, archaeologists have found excellent evidence for early camel domestication, disproving this skeptical argument. Evidence from long before the time of Abraham has now been found: ropes of camel hair, bronze figures, paintings on vases, cylinder seals, and even a shopping list written in Old Babylonian featuring an entry for camel fodder. (See “Were Camels Domesticated..?” at BereaPortal, or “Was the Bible Wrong about … camels?” at ChristianThinkTank for details).

This year, however, to much public fanfare, a new version of the argument has been announced. A pair of archaeologists from the University of Tel Aviv found large quantities of camel bones connected to the growth of copper mining in Israel in the 10th century BC. These is the earliest evidence for camel use in Palestine and it is much later than the Patriarchs.

This led to some sensationalist reporting from sources as diverse as Bible History Daily and National Geographic to popular tech-culture blog

But, of course, the argument is still absurdly weak. These guys found new evidence. People are finding new, older evidence all the time. That’s the nature of archaeology. All you can claim for sure is that camel use in Israel goes back at least that far. It is stupid to argue categorically that the written evidence in the Bible must be wrong because we have no archaeological evidence yet in Israel for a development we DO have evidence for that early in Egypt (a touchstone throughout the Old Testament) and elsewhere in ancient near east!

In an article from 2000, in Bible and Spade, MCA MacDonald of Oxford University came up with a theory that dovetails nicely with the more recent findings (though not with the skeptical interpretation). His theory: that the Bible portrays the wealthier patriarchs using camels and that this was both a token of their wealth and to some extent the source of their wealth.

So, by the 10th century, perhaps because of the copper mining, domesticated camels in large numbers became popular and commonplace in Israel. Before that, they were foreign, exotic, expensive, and somewhat rare.

That makes better use of the evidence that we actually have.

Men of the Year

snowdenTime magazine in the States chose the Pope as their Man of the Year 2013. Good choice. He seems to be the real thing.

Another strong contender, though, has to be Edward Snowden. I agree with David Sirota’s article yesterday for Salon: he’s no traitor, he’s a whistle-blower and a hero.

The Pope is in a position to change the course of the institution; Snowden was not, best he could do was blow the whistle and then duck. Hopefully, in both cases, the tubes have been squeezed hard enough that ain’t nobody gonna put all that toothpaste back in.

Kowloon — Walled City

KowloonJust amazing. —via Aidan Moher.

Elmore Leonard † 2013

eleonardYou know, I just can’t say nothing. A great writer, Elmore Leonard, passed away on Tuesday. His advice, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite” inspires me and makes me laugh at the same time. I love his timing, I love his dialogue. I’ll miss him.

Every major newspaper and website is running tributes and obituaries. Gotta say that one of my favourites is the spoof obituary by the Onion. They’ve given it this wonderful title:

“Elmore Leonard, Modern Prose Master, Noted For His Terse Prose Style And For Writing About Things Perfectly And Succinctly With A Remarkable Economy Of Words, Unfortunately And Sadly Expired This Gloomy Tuesday At The Age Of 87 Years Old” (Onion satire article)

Learn about Typography for Next-To-Nothing

practypI’m enjoying reading Matthew Butterick’s beautiful Practical Typography web-publication. It has put me in my place more than once already (notably, I’m guilty of having preferred to hit the <return> key twice rather than use a command to <add space between paragraphs>). It’s very up-to-date and full of advice for print and for css & html publications. He’s not infallible, and when he gets down to giving you his opinion on different typefaces… well… that is a matter of taste, and he clearly (and not without reason) likes his own typefaces and wants you to buy them. But there’s lots of good things to think about here, especially in the early sections.

The ‘book’ is lovely to look at, put together in quickly-digested snippets and curiousity-satisfying “By the way”s. And every once in a while, he flashes a sharp sense of humour. Even if typography isn’t one of your interests, you can amuse yourself by looking through the Table of Contents and dipping in here and there.

Braxton Font — Donation-ware


Evgeny Tkhorzhevsky has made a beautiful new script typeface available for free or donation.

Download from FontFabric.

Translating Mark’s “Immediately”

euthusI wonder what Mark thought he was doing by using the word euthus so very frequently. Was it deliberate, or am I overthinking it? It’s the word we usually translate “immediately,” as in:

Mk 1:17 Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you into fishers for men.”   18   Immediately they left their nets, and followed him.  19 Going on a little further from there, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John, his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets.  20 Immediately he called them, and they left their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired servants, and went after him.  21 They went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath day he entered into the synagogue and taught.  22 They were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as having authority, and not as the scribes.  23 Immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out,  24 saying, “Ha! What do we have to do with you, Jesus, you Nazarene? Have you come to destroy us? I know you who you are: the Holy One of God!” (RSV)

The NIV finds the usage so weird that they actually translate it by different words when it appears close together to avoid the feeling of repetition.

1:18 At once they left their nets and followed him.  19  When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  20  Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.  21  They went to Capernaum, and (euthus not translated) when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue …”

The translators here are obviously taking the decision that the author doesn’t mean all that much by it (a reasonable decision since it’s used so frequently and can’t really bear the freight of the literal meaning of immediately: “without any intervening time”.

I can’t help wondering if Mark really means to be in your face with it though, really is attempting to rush his narrative and make it feel breathless and like it all took place at break-neck pace. I want phrases that are more metaphorical than “immediately” but also even more noticeable, I think. I’m experimenting with something like this:

1:18 Next thing you know, they were leaving their nets to follow him.  19  And when he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.  20  And before you know it, he’s calling them, and they’re leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men to follow him.  21  They went to Capernaum, and next thing you know, it’s Sabbath-time, and Jesus goes into the synagogue …”

Richie Havens † 1941–2013


Richie Havens was one of my heroes. He took what other musicians gave, infused his own distinctive style and voice, and offered it back. His versions of “Here Comes the Sun” and “All Along the Watchtower” are unforgettable, and even his anti-Vietnam protests like “Handsome Johnny” remain timeless.

He died this week of a heart attack. The New York Times obituary is best for text, full of details, the BBC’s has a nicely compiled video clip, and USAToday is best for listening, with a Spotify playlist (click on the little album cover).

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