What I’ve been reading

1. Alex Wiltshire and John Short, Home Computers: 100 Icons that Defined a Digital Generation.  Thrilling photos, I suspect the text is very good too but I don’t need to read it to recommend this one.

2. Jonathan Bate, Radical Wordsworth: the poet who changed the world.  A magisterial biography by Bates, who has been working on this one for many years.  The best Wordsworth (ah, but you must be selective!) is at the very heights of poetry, and Bate exhibits a great sympathy for his subject.  if you wish to understand how the still semi-pastoral England of the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution transformed into…something else, Wordsworth is a key figure.

3. Maria Pia Paganelli, The Routledge Guidebook to Smith’s Wealth of Nations.  It goes through WoN book by book, this is the best reading guide to Smith that I know of.

4. Daniel Todman, Britain’s War 1942-1947.  An excellent book, one of the best of the year, full of politics and economics too.  You might think you have read enough very good WWII books, but in fact there is always another one you should pick up.  Right now this is it.

5. Carl Jung, UFOs: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies.  A short book of high variance, occasionally fascinating, half of the time interesting, often incoherent.  The most interesting parts are the “cultural contradictions of capitalism” discussions, basically suggesting that decentralized mechanisms do not give people a sufficient sense of “wholeness.”  He is trying to find a classical liberal answer to the fascist temptation, and worried that perhaps he cannot do it.

I have only skimmed Bruce A. Kimball and Daniel R. Coquilette, The Intellectual Sword: Harvard Law School, The Second Century, but it appears to be an impressive achievement at 858 pp.


Alex & Tyler.

Why switch from economics to law?

I guess - poverty lies elsewhere!

Which version of The Prelude do you select?

Bate not bates?

And Jackson Bate, W Jackson Bate, on the Samuel John biography?

That’s the rec I’m looking for, please clarify!

Walter Jackson Bate of Harvard is the author of the Johnson biography.

Wordsworth is much more important as one of the key figures creating the modern world, being the first Western author in more than a thousand years to publish an autobiographical work. It is difficult to imagine that before Wordsworth, autobiography did not exist, most particularly regarding how an individual's past creates what they become.

One could condemn him for the vast number of execrable and self-aggrandizing autobiographies since then, but he is no more responsible for that than Wagner is to blame for the events that his bombastic music was a sound track too.

(Both Wordsworth and Wagner are considered Romantics. The same term is used for distinct artistic traditions as shorthand to cover artistic movements in several countries reacting to the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution.)

Didn't Rousseau's Confessions come earlier?

Yes, and leaving out the qualifying word English was a regrettable omission.

Harvard Sword Swallower: Constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School decides U.S. should reject its foundational document and replace it with an authoritarian, Catholic theocracy: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/common-good-constitutionalism/609037/

Chicago Sword Swallower: Economics professor at Univ. of Chicago and editor of the Journal of Political Economy takes to Twitter to express repugnant views: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/10/business/economy/white-economists-black-lives-matter.html

By "repugnant views." you mean the same stuff Tabarrok has been posting here and that you yourself have praised. Here's what Uhlig actually said:

"Time for sensible adults to enter back into the room and have serious, earnest, respectful conversations about it all: e.g. policy reform proposals by @TheDemocrat and national healing. We need more police, we need to pay them more, we need to train."
Yes, he was dismissive of BLM because he doesn't consider them to be what Tyler would call "serious people." He's German, so that may be why his tone is off.
By the way, I haven't read a line with less self-awareness than Paulie The K describing Uhlig as "yet another privileged white man,." This from the tenured professor with the New York Times column.

Hardly repugnant, Rayward. He expressed what he said in a snarky shorthand - as people often do on Twitter - but what he said about Black Lives Matter is absolutely fair.

Look at the BLM website. It starts with a reasonable premise but also includes the overheated, ill-supported BS that people too often go along with academia because it's just not worth the hassle - and possible reputational damage - to argue with the ideologues in the hyphenated-studies and sociology departments who will still keep churning out radical ideas no matter what the facts say.

The BLM website includes something about "disrupt[ing] the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure". (Not sure why that's needed in any case. It's been going on quite well among lower-income African Americans since the Great Society, and it's a huge underlying issue for breaking the cycle of poverty and violence that's too prevalent in those communities.)

The BLM website still says that Michael Brown was "murdered" by Officer Darren Wilson, which is at odds with what an investigation best established as the facts of that shooting.

They talk about "white supremacy" killing blacks every single day.

And they do in fact call for a "national defunding of police".

"Not everyone agrees with me" is hardly earth-shattering news.

Nor sadly is the demand that "everyone must agree with me to be 'reasonable.'"


I'm not sure I should even move on to the advanced topic, that anyone supporting a platform does not necessarily endorse every plank.

A movement without credible leadership can only go so far before it dissolves into squabbling. Hopefully there is an MLK-like figure that we haven't heard of yet.

You haven't noticed any changes in national sentiment this month?

I saw a pollster saying that he was seeing the biggest swings of his lifetime

And apparently that did happen without strong central leadership nor a coherent plan.

(On either side!)

we bet polls are more unreliable than usual when one considers all the
peeps who have been fired, doxed, canceled, assaulted, murdered and arsonized out of business for not goose-skipping along with the leftist
version of "national sentiment"

>the fascist temptation

Oh, is that what we're calling the left's constant yearning for centralized dictatorship these days? Got a nice ring to it. Thanks!

Is everything connected to Harvard pretentious?

1. When I see pictures now of early computers that I actually used, I feel it almost physical pain at how slow they were.

I used to keep a weight bench opposite the computer. I would do bench presses while waiting for them to complete a task. I suppose that was a way to be productive, but it was hardly interactive computing.

Floppy disk based computing .. my skin crawls.

Floppy disks? Looxury!

Favorite Wordsworth poems?

We killed the caste system en Inde. Mais pas encore en France - all the same aubergine. You know the Hindi expression - Goenka? Vive Marine le Pen. Your grave will be decorated by her flowers. Launching the fencing attack chez nous, madarchod! Parlez francais? Rafale doesn't care about ONE etre humain. Individualisme a ton cul!

Kretinsky - I'm so white - a pole in the French empire!

Levi Strauss with what - a month or more of fieldwork. Emploi fictif existed even fifty years back. Le Pen & Fillon are so passé!

Like followers of Tagore en Inde. Parlez francais - manu le petit! Gustave Roissy awaits you after EPHAD. Good luck!

Here's a typically excellent essay on Wordsworth by Lionel Trilling. I'm more of a fan of Trilling than Wordsworth. " Another blind spot on my part perhaps.


We have all of Jonathan Rosenbaum on-line, too bad not the case for Trilling or Pauline Kael. Or Dave Marsh's 1001 best songs. His list can be found but not with his comments, which was the point of his book.

Chris Rock's Top 25 Hip Hop albums list is on line. His remarks are brief but spot on. Unfortunately since it was written for Rolling Stone in 2004 the list only has the older stuff.


#1: I haven't seen the book but the customer reviews on Amazon make what seem to be good points about several important ways that the book falls short: dark photos, tiny text, inefficient use of white space, and neglect of processor chips and operating systems though I suppose the author could claim that they're concentrating on computers and not subsystems.

I could easily imagine that it's still an interesting book to look at. But not as good as it should've been.

One of the commenters complained that the book ended in 1998. That seems to be to be about the perfect time to end, it was shortly before that that I lost interest in tinkering with PCs. Prior to that I'd subscribed to the magazines and installed memory chip upgrades and utility programs and memory managers (DesqView is still my all-time favorite software), etc.

But by the late 1990s buying a PC became analogous to buying an oven: I choose gas or electric (Apple or Windows) and the features I want. And then I use the oven but I don't upgrade its memory or replace its hard drive or whatever. I just use it.

I do of course tinker with the software that I've installed on my computer. But by the same token I tinker with different recipes and roasting pans and rack placement in my oven, software so to speak. But I don't tinker with my oven's hardware.

I eagerly bought the Paganelli book upon reading this—i'm part of a group that's plowing through 'Wealth of Nations', and some clarification would help a great deal.

But I was disappointed. The chief problem is that the book is loaded with errors: mostly typos, but some worse. Nor, by 'errors', do I mean 'interpretations different from mine'. To quote a couple of sentences from Paginelli's section covering taxes on house rental: "Other taxes, all odious, include a heart tax, a dwelling tax, and a window tax. A heart tax is a tax on each heart beating in a house." The problem is that Smith was talking about a hearth tax—as in fireplaces, not as in atria and ventricles. The repetition of the word 'heart' and the bit about 'beating' suggest that this is worse than a mere typo or an auto-correct gone bad (as if auto-correct has any other mode!): Paganelli apparently made a quick set of notes on the section, found the word 'heart' in those notes, and confabulated from there.

I don't know how many more errors of this sort are to be found in the book. I spotted the heart/hearth business because I'd very recently read that passage of Smith. I've seen lots more typos throughout Paganelli's book, and I wonder how many more misreadings I'd find if I knew Smith better.

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