Time to read

Nicholas Bate offers essential advice on finding time to read:

1.Always read for 30 minutes before any Netflix viewing.

3.Read for 20 minutes before settling to sleep.

5.Take a couple of real books on the business trip. Read in line, on the transfer bus, in Starbucks, while waiting for buddies in the lobby to get the uber to the conference.

Read the full list in Basics 7: Finding More Time for Reading, here.

I’m interested that so many of the blogs I follow have also re-blogged this. Either  we have a common love of reading, or face a common challenge of insufficient time.

Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

Death of Venice

The Times has a couple of sad pieces on Venice.

Kneeling, he touches the foundation of one of the marble columns holding up St Mark’s Basilica, which symbolised Venetian power for a millennium. Fragments come away in his fingers.

“Water now enters the church 200 times a year,” said Mr Tesserin, administrator of the 11th century Italo-Byzantine masterpiece overlooking St Mark’s Square. “The marble is literally crumbling thanks to the corrosive salt.”

Venice is one of the most magical places on earth. I love the light, the architecture, the ambience of inevitable entropy: the faded and peeling, green shutters; the flaking stonework, the timeless, silent side-alleys and back-canals. You can find moments of peace even in the summer when obscene, towering cruise ships vomit their contents over St Marks’ Square and suck them back laden with Made in China masks and glassware.

Sadly though, even the most sincere and diligent traveller can’t avoid the feeling he or she is contributing to the death of a noble city.

This caught my eye:

“Venice needs jobs for the middle classes, and if nothing happens, there will be no one left in 2050,” Mr Gasparinetti said.

It seems a tragedy that a city that has drawn artists from Titian to Hemingway can’t attract creative middle-class jobs.

Read Tom Kington’s article, Crumbling Venice plumbs new depths, here.

 

Image: Andrew Munro

 

Echoes through time: no more actions or adventures in the world

you say, science itself will teach man (though to my mind it’s a superfluous luxury) that he never has really had any caprice or will of his own, and that he himself is something of the nature of a piano-key or the stop of an organ, and that there are, besides, things called the laws of nature; so that everything he does is not done by his willing it, but is done of itself, by the laws of nature. Consequently we have only to discover these laws of nature, and man will no longer have to answer for his actions and life will become exceedingly easy for him. All human actions will then, of course, be tabulated according to these laws, mathematically, like tables of logarithms up to 108,000, and entered in an index; or, better still, there would be published certain edifying works of the nature of encyclopaedic lexicons, in which everything will be so clearly calculated and explained that there will be no more actions or adventures in the world.

Fyodor Dostoevsky (Niccolo Machiavelli (1821 – 1881) , Notes from the Underworld, Part 1, chap. 6

3 good reasons to curl up with a classic

I confess, I’m a latecomer to the classics of Ancient Greece and Rome. I loved the Greek (and Norse) myths as a kid, but I’d not really read any original work until maybe 10 or 15 years ago.

By pure chance, I started with Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. There was no better place to start; relevant, accessible and blessedly short. I’m still pitifully under-read, but I’ve since enjoyed Aristotle, Homer, Seneca and Epictetus.

Suitably “born-again”, I now think everyone should read some ancient classics. But, why bother? The Art of Manliness blog has a persuasive essay, here.

To that, I would just add my own three reasons.

1. Relevance

Those books written 1,800 to 2,500 years ago can often feel strangely contemporary. The world the ancients describe, the human condition, the challenges, even the values feel familiar. Why? Because we evolve slowly. Strip away our BMWs and iPhones and not much has changed. When Aristotle tells you that the essence of storytelling is “pity, fear, catharsis”, he is still correct. As Marcus Aurelius observes,

To see the things of the present moment is to see all that is now, all that has been since time began, and all that shall be unto the world’s end; for all things are of one kind and one form. [Meditations, 6.37]

2. Perspective

Because those millenia-old texts are still relevant, they help put things in perspective. Brexit, Trump or the idiot on the end of the phone are probably not going to bring the end of days.

Equally, some things are old, and go deeper, than we think. For example, many (though not all) of the values we believe to be Christian you’ll find in Homer, eight centuries earlier.

The classics put things in perspective.

3. Distillation

Why are the classics classic? It’s not because they were ordained as such centuries ago. Each generation visits them anew and deems them worthy of passing on to the next generation. As with Aristotle or Aurelius, so with Sun Tsu, Machiavelli or Shakespeare – you have the distilled wisdom of the ages.

From all of human history, the classics bring you the best bits. It’s like a greatest hits of history.

There is, after all, a good reason why we don’t still celebrate the sitcoms of Shakespeare’s neighbour, Bert.

Where to start?

I find Meditations pithy and accessible. Another great place to start is T.E. Lawrence’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey. Lawrence (that is Lawrence of Arabia) rendered his translation in prose form, like a novel, rather than in verse which makes for an easier read. Along the way, you’ll meet the cyclops, the sirens and the witch Circe.

The Art of Manliness article has a great reading list to get started with and, as it points out, many of these are now available free online.

So, cheaper than Netflix, curl up with a classic for January.

 

A Merry Post-Christmas to me!

Bob Dylan, The Complete Album Collection Vol. One. Happy 2019!

This all started with a trip to the Mondo Scripto exhibition at the Halcyon Gallery, back in November.

I’m not a big fan of Dylan’s drawings, but the event took me back to the lyrics and the songs which, of course, are sublime. Then, I was blessed with some new stuff for Christmas (Trouble No More, from the Bootleg Series) .

And then the itch started. I remember this collection being released in 2013. In its original form, it came with a Harmonica-shaped USB stick containing all the the music for easy download. I really wanted it back then, but I resisted. It contains every studio and live album by Bob Dylan, from 1962’s eponymous debut to 2012’s Tempest (his last album, so far, of original material). That’s 41 albums in all.

It doesn’t include the Bootleg Series, of which there are now 14 albums, and the various Greatest Hits collections have been replaced with a two-disc collection, Side Tracks, that sweeps up all the otherwise unreleased tracks.

Some of these albums I’ve only had on vinyl. Others I’ve never heard (Together Through Life, Christmas In The Heart, anyone?).

At first inspection, it looks fantastic. Each disk is in a miniature card reproduction of its original sleeve. Obviously, the sleeve notes become too small to read, but they are included in a nice little hard-back book, along with the original artwork.

Perhaps, I should just start at You’re No Good and work my way through, track by track.

I may be some time.

Predictions for the freelance economy – @Forbes

Over on Forbes.com, Jeff Wald has some interesting predictions for  2019 freelance economy (in the US).

The rise of mechanisms to access and filter the freelance market is inevitable. I can definitely see large businesses deploying both Freelance Market Systems and “Alumni Labour Clouds” to manage a bench of available talent (predictions 1 and 2).

Already in the UK, we are seeing the impact of legislation and legal cases seeking to clarify the distinction between employee and freelancer (prediction 3). On this, the recent Sunday Times expose of Deliveroo and Uber Eats drivers sub-contracting their jobs to illegal immigrants is bound to bring a call for yet more regulation.

 

Photo by Shridhar Gupta on Unsplash