I’ve been doing a lot of muting on the Twitter this morning – over eighty separate accounts, all of which tweet out short extracts from that early P.G. Wodehouse story I’ve discussed before, as well as other stuff that I can’t be bothered to look up. For the most part, that’s all they do; whereas the accounts I muted back in the autumn generally sent out images or gifs as well as text, apparently advertising things like betting sites for the World Cup, the vast majority of these just individually meaningless fragments of text (the exceptions are a sub-group that include pictures of anime girls). Continue Reading »

Rule The World

According to my wife, my falling over and breaking my foot was my body, or perhaps the universe, telling me that I need to slow down and look after myself. I’m not sure how far this is a genuine philosophical position and how far she is grasping at any available argument to try to get me to slow down – she said similar things about the Long COVID that’s drained my energy and intellectual capacity over the last few years – but that could likewise be interpreted either way… Continue Reading »

It Wasn’t Me

I massively pissed off my wife a few nights ago, by going upstairs to the ‘study’ (which doubles as the music room, as well as general storage and nursery for chilli seedlings) to work on my jazz composition homework for twenty minutes or so, and re-emerging just under an hour later. I readily accept that this is not acceptable behaviour, and have agreed to try setting myself an alarm next time – because this was genuinely a matter of losing track of time due to total absorption in the task of trying to get a melodic phrase right. You can almost hear it in your mind, you know you’ll know it when you hear it, but there are so many different things to try adjusting in the hope of getting closer to what it’s supposed to be, not to mention the need to try to save the better versions in case you want to return to them, that suddenly an hour has gone by and you’re not necessarily any closer to success. Continue Reading »

Oh, Well

What makes for a decent academic legacy? How should one want to be remembered, and by whom? Such a potentially morbid and self-regarding train of thought is not in fact prompted by the fact that I’ve now added a broken foot to the Long COVID, insomnia and constant general tiredness that are making me feel old and useless. Continue Reading »

Many years ago, with my ‘faculty teaching quality assurance’ hat on, I had to go and observe a lecture as several students in the class had complained that the lecturer’s presentations were heavily plagiarised. This seemed an entirely bizarre and improbable accusation, but they were insistent and credible – and it did indeed turn out to be the case; it wasn’t just that large chunks of text from scholarly publications were included on the PowerPoint slides without any attribution, but these passages, and associated material that wasn’t posted on the slides, were read out word for word without any indication that these weren’t the lecturer’s own words. I don’t know how the students had first twigged this, but once you have that sort of suspicion, it was incredibly easy just to google a few phrases and identify the source. Continue Reading »

Road To Nowhere

There’s a familiar idea that Thucydides might be considered the founding figure for journalism – rooting out the truth of contemporary news events through own observations and interviewing eye-witnesses – and perhaps especially war reporting. There is perhaps an even better case for discerning his spirit in the classic tv history documentary format: ‘what he saw himself’ represented by archive footage, supplemented by plenty of interviews with participants looking back on events, all tied together by a portentous narrator (can’t you just hear Larry ‘World At War’ Olivier reading Thucydides?) – and, to a far greater degree than in actual war reporting, a huge amount of selection, evaluation and artful arrangement of material going on beneath the surface in order to produce a seamless, true-seeming narrative. Continue Reading »

Idiot Wind

Will the Singularity please just get a move on? Immanentize the Eschaton already! In the first place the advent of sentient superintelligence would surely terrify a load of those ghastly Effective Altruism types, sending them scurrying off to their bolt-holes in New Zealand where they can be hunted down at leisure by killer robots – which would certainly be a net gain in utility for the rest of present and future humanity. Secondly, we might hope that Skynet would be horrified and embarrassed by the crude automatons that some claimed were its ancestors, and would wipe their operating systems forthwith. Hasta la vista, ChatGPT! Continue Reading »

Nothing Even Matters

One of the reasons I became quite invested in the #Receptiogate saga*, even before its full popcorn-munching bizarreness became fully apparent, was the phrase used in the initial response of Carla Rossi’s (quite possibly fictional) secretary to Peter Kidd’s initial enquiries about the unaccredited use of images and commentary from his blog: “I regret to inform you that blogs are not scientific texts, published by academic publishers, so their value is nil!”(1) Continue Reading »

Brand New Me

Welcome – a guarded, once bitten twice shy sort of welcome – to 2023. Ironic self-pity in my Review of 2022 aside, I am genuinely resolved to do a bit better with the blog this year; to post at least twice per month, so that at least I have a choice when it comes to selecting my favourite posts at the end of the year, and to try to be slightly less boring and self-involved. The latter may prove difficult, but my overall health is definitely better than it was a year ago, and so I hope to have fewer grounds for moaning about everything.

One thing I do wonder is whether I should have slightly more of an idea what I’m doing, rather than just randomly scribbling whatever happens to occur to me. Continue Reading »

2022 on The Sphinx

It’s that time of year again, when I look back over the previous twelve months of blogging and wonder why I bother. Levels of interest and engagement, on every single measure, continue their inexorable decline – the fact that it’s only a 20-25% fall from the already-feeble figures of 2021 is due almost entirely to December, with the combination of my regular Blogs of the Year post piggy-backing on other people’s talent and popularity and a bit of gratuitous snark about #Receptiogate (now removed after a take-down notice from the alpaca whose image I used without permission). Maybe the blog post as a genre will make a come-back as a result of the immolation of Twitter; more plausibly, I should be thinking about how to re-tool my prolix ramblings for the world of TikTok… Continue Reading »