Day 70.1 (What’s happening?)

December 2nd, 2013 § 0 comments

It’s been a poor week for small children, with the U. S. ‘mistakenly’ killing a 2-year old in Helmand province (they have apologized), and the IDF breaking into a house in East Jerusalem to arrest Zine el-Majid’s 4-year old son Mohamed. You are, it would seem, never too young to be a target – as Herod (if you believe that old Christmas canard) understood.

Indeed, the arrival of Advent brings in penitential thoughts of my own. Being reminded of the imminence of Judgment, judgment

The Last Judgment

both by the season of the year and by my advancing age, I have been urged by my friends to repentance. Soon, arriving at the great age of 75 with no major good works to justify my existence, I shall have as usual to stand around for four hours at a party supposedly in my honour lamenting my misdeeds, getting sleepy on spiced ginger beer and surrounded by guests who are becoming ever more animated on mulled Shiraz.

In the meantime, I’m being blamed for my unseasonal lack of generosity towards neoliberalism . Why, people gently urge, keep banging on about it week after week? Surely, by the laws of dialectics, the IMF must have done Africa some good (for example); and how on earth would a Filipino immigrant scrape a living if some multinational didn’t take her on as a cleaner? And even supposing the worst of neoliberalism, isn’t it time to adopt a more cheerful forgiving seasonal tone and switch from, say, the sewage crisis in Gaza to recipes for chocolate mince pies, roasted parsnips and sprouts

sproutsor prune and Armagnac stuffing balls? (No, I’m not going to give you them, you’ll have to pick up Sainsbury’s food magazine yourselves.) Why not provide a programme of healthy exercise which will assist those who have mistakenly run out of electricity, having decided to eat rather than heat? They could, for example, jig around to some politically correct Ramallah rap, or go on a march or day of rage.

Standing in something of a daze outside Archway Station, as I sometimes do, I was shocked to read on a hoarding the news that ‘Predictive Policing Policies all over the borough has resulted in 193 fewer burglaries’. Not only – as you might expect – was I appalled by the use of a singular verb following a plural subject, a clear sign of the decline of literacy under the Condems. Like going to a posh school doesn’t mean u r going to learn proper grammer and spelling as i think u will prob agree. But more sinister is the term ‘predictive policing’.

Predictive+PolicingPredictive Policing

I imagine – I hope mistakenly – 193 innocent citizens who some algorithm in the Islington police mathlab had predicted would commit a burglary at an undetermined time in the future, and whom the borough decided accordingly (how?) to put out of action. It’s obvious that, on the basis of past arrests, the poor, the precarious and the marginal are most likely to burgle – they need the money, and the rich don’t. And it seems quite probable that a little profiling will add to the weighting of certain ethnic groups – the ones the police usually arrest – in the predictive net. As for how to deal with the predicted villains, a Tazer seems like the current weapon of choice, but its effects are limited in time and annoy the civil liberties lobby. On the general principle, I might quote ‘privacysosorg’:

‘If police arrested lots of bankers and lawyers for cocaine use and for hiring expensive sex workers, we might see predictive policing algorithms sending cops to patrol rich suburbs or fancy hotels in downtown areas. Instead, the algorithms simply reproduce the unjust policing system we’ve got, and dangerously, add a veneer of ‘objectivity’ to that problem. The information came out of a computer, after all, so it must be accurate!’

Back to geometry: I’m sure that the Divine Comedy is shot through with references to it – given the amount of philosophy and physics which keeps cropping up. But no one had ever told me of the appearance of the circle-squaring problem seven lines from the end – yes, I have to admit, I hadn’t ever read that far. Here it is:

Qual è ‘l geomètra che tutto s’affige
per misurar lo cerchio, e non ritrova,
pensando, quel principio ond’ elli indige,

tal era io a quella vista nova:
veder voleva come si convenne
l’imago al cerchio e come vi s’indova;

ma non eran da ciò le proprie penne:
se non che la mia mente fu percossa
da un fulgore in che sua voglia venne.

A l’alta fantasia qui mancò possa;
ma già volgeva il mio disio e ‘l velle,
sì come rota ch’igualmente è mossa,

l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

(I don’t want to give a translation, there are plenty of ones online to choose from, bt it’s invidious to choose between them. And I’d have to format it.)

With December now arrived, it seems reasonable to give you a rendering of the Thomas Arne version of  ’Blow, blow, thou winter wind’, which still seems pretty good to me. And sung at a spanking pace in this performance.

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