A TCS Blog
Thursday, July 31, 2003
My Favourite daughter...

Someone wrote to the TCS list:
> Is it wrong to feel closer to one of your kids than the others?

Here's another way to think about it: who is your very best friend? (Anyone who said "you are", in a squeaky Orville voice can LEAVE NOW)

Well, that depends, doesn't it? If I want to play chess, I'll go see one person I know; if I want to play piano duets, there's another person I call on; if I want to go on a camping trip in the middle of nowhere and climb mountains, I'll call my brother. (aha! *goes off to call brother*)

To say "I prefer my middle child" (see post below) really means "I really like doing x, and my middle child likes doing that too".

Don't judge the whole package, just identify how your interests intersect with someone else's. And enjoy the intersection, large or small.

Sunday, July 27, 2003
Sibling stereotyping

Middle children seek attention and approval.
Eldest children are bossy and try to control the actions of others.
Youngest children are easily led.
Only children find it hard to get on with other children.

Stereotypes like these are a bit like star signs. It’s always possible to read the Capricorn entry and find parallels with ones own life, because horoscopes are couched in sufficiently vague terms. [1]

But are such stereotypes as harmless as newspaper horoscopes, or do they become self-fulfilling prophecies? Do parents, with such characterisations in the backs of their minds, unconsciously encourage the development of their different children in different directions? This would be as pernicious as dressing daughters only in pink and giving sons only toy cars to play with.

Do these sorts of patterns play themselves out in TCS families, or is it possible to treat TCS children as autonomous human beings, entirely without reference to their chronological position in the family unit?

[1] Richard Dawkins, ‘Unweaving the Rainbow’ is great on this stuff.

Friday, July 25, 2003
"You're so childish"

What they mean when they say it:

You are doing something I disapprove of
You are not acting in a manner I consider commensurate with your years
You look like you are having too much fun

What being childish really means:

Being curious; trying to make sense of the world around you
Obviously enjoying yourself

Why is "being childish" normally uttered as a deadly insult to which there is no easy response, and which generally makes further unselfconscious enjoyment and learning impossible?

Thursday, July 24, 2003
Going to the Proms

On Monday, I went to a Prom at the Royal Albert Hall. The Proms is a series of concerts during the summer where the cheapest tickets allow you to stand right next to the orchestra. If you start queueing by around 2pm (for a 7pm concert), then you'll probably get into the front row, with only a rail to lean on between you and the first violins. This is an Englishman's dream - you know how we love to queue, and these queues have layers of tradition. Queuing for five hours for a concert may sound monstrous, but by the time we'd read our books for a bit, played chess, and popped into Imperial College to find a loo, the hours just slipped by.

Charming evolved traditions

When a piano concerto is going to be played, some backstage person has to come on and lift the lid, at which point the several hundred people promming in the arena (right next to the orchestra) shout "Heave!" and the people promming up in the gallery, way up next to the roof, shout "Ho!". And in between, the concert hall full of people in seats looks surprised.

Before the concerto, the orchestra needs to tune to the piano. It is quite usual for the leader of the first violins to play an a on the piano for the orchestra to tune to before the soloist arrives. It is less usual (though standard at the proms) for this a to be heralded by frantic "sssshhh"ing and greeted with gales of applause. Well, this violinist chappy probably doesn't play the piano in public very often - he's got to be encouraged.

Calls for encores are accompanied by coordinated stamping, conducted by a prommer.

There's no booking places. One person in the queue gets one ticket. You don't save places for friends. There's no saving places once everyone is let into the hall, rushing towards the front to get the best spot (but still in strict English queue formation).

These reasons, among others, are why orchestras love playing at the Proms.

Keepers of the Keys

These are, of course, the season-ticket holders, who come to a sizeable proportion of the 70-odd proms during the summer season. They have their own queue, round the other side of the Royal Albert Hall, and are let in to the arena at precisely the same moment as the day-ticket holders (co-ordinated by walkie-talkie by the Hall staff) - it's all desperately fair.

We, however, were unfortunate enough to end up standing next to the uber-season-ticket-prommer bore.

When some of the audience let their appreciation of the performance slip through by clapping a little at the end of the first movement rather than the end of the piece, he gave a theatrical start and clapped his hands... over his ears. I really wanted to give him a neatly typed essay title (including Christopher Small's book "Musicking" on the bibliography) on changing conventions of concert etiquette since 1700. Even Beethoven wasn't used to his early symphonies being heard right through in reverent silence without applause, arias, solo piano pieces etc. being heard between the movements.

- The uber-season-ticket holder set himself up as the guardian of correct concert etiquette, a putative authority figure with his arbitrary rituals and codes

- He imposed his company on us, giving unasked-for information about the conventions of promming (which we already knew)

- He policed the behaviour of others in a busy-body manner (two girls, stretching their legs during the interval were told "you can't push in up here, you know, people have queued for hours to be near the front". Their places were about 4 feet away...)

The punch line

"I'm a school teacher. I don't mean to be patronising; I just like telling people things they might want to know".

The moral

People get this sort of nonsense in classrooms ALL THE TIME, from this man and people like him. If they excuse themselves to go to the loo an implausible number of times, pretend they've gone deaf, avoid eye contact with the officious busy body, or any of the other tactics my companion and I employed in order to ignore him and get on with enjoying the concert, they get PUNISHED.

The postscript: The Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Ivan Fischer was truly brilliant. I've never heard a tighter string section; the sound was gorgeous, the musical shaping was mesmerising, there was lots of character. All of this outweighed meeting Mr Ghastly. Just.

The second postscript: running these concerts, and broadcasting them all live on Radio 3 is one of the few good things the BBC does. Although I don't think the Proms would go bust without using my taxes to subsidise themselves.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Children and violence

PUBLIC HEALTH WARNING: This post is only half-baked, and may give you a stomach ache.

I was just rereading this interview with David Deutsch about video games.

And I wondered about children and violence - not whether playing computer games makes people violent, but about how some children turn out to be murdering psychopaths.

I think it unlikely that someone having a TCS childhood is going to go out and murder random strangers, because the chances are that the TCS child is used to thinking of other people as autonomous human beings, and probably likes running their plans past other people to help hone the finer details (at which point said other people can start sharing their moral theories about random murder).

One might expect TCS children to have pretty developed moral knowledge, and not to act evilly. But is that a given?

Ok, ok, I'll put it back in the oven at 180C for half an hour or so.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

We hear a lot of generalizations about teenagers and how silly and impulsive and unreasonable they are. So I was heartened to see a post by Andrew Sullivan with this excerpt from a letter from a soldier in Iraq:
The civilians who have figured it out faster than anyone are the local teenagers.
They watch the GIs and try to talk to them and ask questions about America and Now wear wrap-around sunglasses, GAP T- shirts, Dockers (or even better Levis with the red tags) and Nikes (or Egyptian knock-offs, but with the "swoosh") and love to listen to AFN when the GIs play it on their radios.

They participate less and less in the demonstrations and help keep us informed when a wannabe bad-ass shows up in the neighborhood.
It seems that these teenagers are more interested in seeking the truth and improving their futures than their elders are.

Sunday, July 20, 2003
Who we are

I am alarmed to find out from the poll that our title is a non-TCS compromise! Obviously, my first thought was that we ought morally, and in the name of truth-seeking and the growth of universal knowledge, to hold another poll, entitled "How efficient are polls as truth-seeking experiments?" However, bearing in mind that the next poll after that would have to be called something like, "Is it a moral use of resources to disappear up one's own arse?"** I put that thought aside, and decided to focus on something else more sensible.

I think this blog isn't going to be confused with Taking Children Seriously anyway, because I think Taking Children Seriously will be referred to as Taking Children Seriously. So, that's good. Also, I think the two blogs have very different identities. We are TCS people talking to each other, and Taking Children seriously is TCS people telling the world about TCS ideas. So, that's good too.

**note for American readers: the expression "to disappear up one's own arse" roughly translates as "becoming so unfruitfully absorbed with one's own immediate objectively miniscule problem-situations that one ignores all sense of proportion and the rest of the world, and ceases to think creatively". Which may or may not be a sound concept.

Thursday, July 17, 2003
read this


If a person is having a conflict with herself, her child, the traffic, or whatever, becoming cranky and irritable seems pointless. S/he already has a problem, but then worsens the situation by overlaying it with negative theories/feeling. The negative thinking/feeling can wash over like a wave, or slowly seep in, or it can feel like hir head is about to pop off. Why do people do this to themselves and to any unfortunate bystanders?

Crankiness happens when I feel overwhelmed. What I believe should be does not match what is actually happening. Fatigue, hunger, boredom, inexplicitly coercive situations where I cannot exactly say why it feels bad, all may add to the mix. I am guessing that there are people who can be quite tired and hungry and seldom if ever get cranky when encountering stress or problems.

All babies fuss and cry when things aren't going well in some way. But it seems to me that in TCS families crankiness should become nearly obselete due to good problem solving. People can catch themselves before the wave hits them. Or if it does, they can shift their thinking, i.e., becoming silly, exagerating irritation in a comical way or observing their thinking impartially or some other strategies. An ability to let go seems imperative.


Tuesday, July 15, 2003

I am having desensitization treatment, um, for anxiety about talking to other tcsers. If anyone has had a similar affliction and has recovered from it, it would be great to talk to you. This all I can do about now. (hyperventilating and leaving the room).


Thinking about Politeness

This is just off the top of my head, m'kay?

If someone wants an encounter with someone else's brain to be fruitful, then it is in both people's interests to present their ideas and to approach each other's in ways that give the best chance of theory comparison, exchange, and development.

Blasting someone else's theories isn't a great way to help them examine them rationally.
Blasting someone else as an entity is a fantastic way of ensuring that they ringfence all of their ideas against your current and potential attacks.

If we temper the words we use and the tone we use and remember that we are fallible (entrenchments may be clouding our judgement on the issue at hand - it is worth considering criticisms of our theories...), there's more chance that the two people will combine to make some knowledge grow instead of getting cross with each other.

So yes, being polite is a Good Thing, if this is how we are defining politeness, because it makes it more likely that a) we'll get what we want and b) knowledge will get created in the process.

PS Totally OT: does anyone know how to get my name included on the list of contributors over there on the RHS of the blog?

Monday, July 14, 2003
Harry Potter – is the new book any good?

I was inspired to write about this by encountering this

Stephen Pollard thinks that adults liking the new Harry Potter book is a sign of infantilisation.

“Regression into childhood is the defining characteristic of modern culture. Computer games, pop music, loutishness and fast food are all part of the same phenomenon - behaving as a child but in the body of an adult.” He also mentions “those of us who consider one of the characteristics of adulthood as being some kind of mental development from childhood”.

Computer games, pop music, loutishness and fast food???? Behaving as a child but in the body of an adult??? There are 45 more things to say on the falseness of this opposition between ‘childish’ and ‘adult’ activities, interests and abilities. Another post, another day.

Andy Duncan thought Harry Potter 5 was boring, too long, and that the language is irritating.

YOU’RE READING IT TOO SLOWLY. This is not the sort of fiction in which the reader should be savouring the delicious nuances of each sentence. Instead, this is a ripping good yarn, in the tradition of Dornford Yates (and yes, his stories are all based on the same plot and no, it doesn’t matter in the slightest) or John Buchan, where the language isn’t the important thing, the timing of the plot twists is.

It is a self-contained and pretty much self-consistent world, with plenty of connections backwards and forward through the books, and plenty of things left hanging or hinted at so that there are moments of “oh, I see” on every reading.

These books are about a group of friends solving problems. Although in some non-plot-vital respects the characters are growing up through the books, their ages are really irrelevant to the challenges they face (evidenced by the fact that they do all sorts of things that are ‘too advanced’ for wizards their age). I suppose this annoys people who think they know what a 15-year old is like.

And of course, these books are about evil, about the ways people fight it or embrace it, or are complicit with it. There’s some serious commentary on how humans interact in here, in among the Confundus charms.

One more of Andy Duncan’s criticisms: ‘He's just too stupid. He keeps being told to do various things, to protect himself, and he keeps ignoring this good advice, out of idiocy, anger, and all-round block-headedness.’

Just one cotton-pickin’ minute. Harry Potter is indeed given good advice, which he ignores. But is it because he is stupid? No. It’s because no-one – not Dumbledore, not Sirius Black, not Remus Lupin, not Mrs Weasley, not Professor Snape – will explain to him why this advice is being given. Too many people tell children things “for their own good” and then say that the children were willful, stupid and – what was it? Oh yes – loutish if the children do not follow the apparently arbitrary and illogical instructions they are given. It’s a fable for our own times, people.

PS Natalie Solent identifies a libertarian subtext in the series, while we’re at it.


I got kicked without notice from the tcshangover list while camping this weekend, and I got criticised for my shit parenting in real life last week.

There's a meme that says "politeness is just social pretentiousness". I think this meme is wrong. I think politeness is (or should be- and yes, it's been much-corrupted) detailed, often inexplicit, knowledge about how to behave morally with people in close proximity.

For instance, in normal social discourse (ie. not war-zones) it's polite (good) to talk to people in a relaxed, friendly way. It's not polite or good to shout at them, try to make them feel small and stupid, order them around, do things to them they might not like without their consent or even informing them, or generally decide "I feel annoyed! So, it's alright to hurt someone!"

Some people are very rude. I think this is wrong. People: don't be rude, solve your problems with others nicely.

Sunday, July 13, 2003
A theory about why most people don't enjoy classical music

Music demands your time and attention

Classical music is not just a pretty noise. It is shaped by internal musical demands (according to the conventions of the time and place it was written) which are often at odds with pleasurable immediacy. Instead, the whole thing has to be listened to from beginning to end in order to make sense.

In order to appreciate classical music, you have to make an effort over a period of time, getting accustomed to conventions that are being shaped in particular instances to give the music meaning. In other words, to get the full intellectual (including emotional) rewards, you have to work at this stuff.

Most people don't enjoy thinking

Learning is linked in most people's minds with school - the place where people are usually bored out of their minds when they aren't terrified out of their wits. Learning is not associated by most people with stimulation and knowledge creation, but with buckets (i.e. someone pouring stuff into your passive brain being regarded as learning)

This attitude inevitably spills over into the rest of people's lives. When they aren't busy doing things they hate for some kind of delayed reward (earning money/retirement/ getting drunk on Friday nights/"keeping their options open") they want to enjoy themselves. And they know perfectly well that learning things is not fun.

So people don't like classical music

Music that requires preparation, learning and thinking? What kind of leisure activity do you call that? Don't we do enough hard work during the week? Pass me that Boyzone CD.

This is just one particularly clear example of the way most people are intellectually handicapped by their education - not the specific ways they are "taught" in specific areas, but the general damage caused by the whole coercive learning bit. For music, substitute maths, physics, philosophy, whatever you think is important.

Solution? Don't throw my tax money at The Arts. Stop interfering in where small people's brains are going. Let them discover without coercion how the patterns of sound in art music work. They can decide for themselves whether or not this is something worth spending their money on.

Here ends the political broadcast.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

I just added this post to my blog.

I have to admit that I was inspired by Elliot's consistent objection to negative generalizations about children.

Why not to smack your child

Apart from the moral arguments, here's a pragmatic one.

There's a study just out (in Science, I think, but I heard about it on the radio and didn't write it down) suggesting that people are not very good at measuring accurately how firmly they connect with other people - they think it's a lot less firm than it is.

e.g. with a friend, push gently on their LH index finger with your RH one, and ask them to push your LH index finger with their RH one as hard as they think you pushed them. Repeat. Within three or four cycles, it's getting pretty hard.

Now translate to two children doing a little jostle, and then an 'equal' jostle back - instant escalation of conflict...

We can't tell accurately from our own actions how hard we are hitting someone else - if this study is correct.

If anyone wasn't convinced of the evil of smacking, this should help!!

Asynchronous living

Alice just blogged about the possible creative advantage of introducing routine on

(I did a link!!! I did a link!!!)

Is routine a route to creativity? I'm not sure.

The first chunk (half hour?) of trying to do anything creative is often really painful - especially if it's going back to a task you last thought about in April. And so maybe setting aside two hours gives you a good chance of getting past what is fondly known around here as "research panic".

But having to stop being creative before your brain is full is awful [theory conflict alert].

I find putting big red crosses across several days or even a week in my diary helps. Nothing planned; let my brain go where it wants; go onto 25-hour day if I like.

Living asynchronously makes it easier to be creative, once you've got going, but it's not very easy when you live with other people/ have financially significant appointments with other people/want to go to a concert. Any TCS-y genius solutions to the challenge?

TCS Changes Lives

There's a few grateful testimonials in this place, and no doubt more to come. And I was going to collect a few more for here but, er, ran out of time (effort/ cough)- anyway, I think you'll catch my drift:

TCS changes people's lives. In inestimably good ways. It sets you free from the hell of fighting with your own children, day in, day out. Yes, some people who think they are trying to be, and who are genuinely trying to be, decent and not coercive, do fail and fuck up. Just like some people who go to medical school fail and fuck up. But that doesn't mean medical school is basically shit. It's just a sad thing that people who fail medical school find it necessary to devote the rest of their lives to campaigns for the trashing of medical school. But hey, life contains sad things. Not our problem here.

So, rather than give you more testimonials, I'm going to address the subject of how, exactly, TCS changes lives. What is it about this weird cult that people actually like? Do they all worship at the shrine of quantum physics and force themselves to eat three bags of sweets a day (in my case, not much force involved)?

I think there are two possibilities.

Possibility 1

The body of knowledge loosely referred to as "TCS", happens to contain a whole bunch of brilliant ideas for how to get on with your kids properly, morally and without fighting. Like, for instance, that force is a second-rate method of communicating knowledge we can improve upon.

Possibility 2

Parents who say "TCS changed our lives for the better!" actually already had all of their good ideas before finding TCS (aka "strong and humane intuitions about how to treat their children"), and TCS somehow unconsciously allowed them to release and act on those intutitions because, despite being a crock of cow dung, it "strengthen[s] their resolve to carry on bucking conventional wisdom about children".

Now, I have to say, to my amateur eyes, the first Possibility looks like normal reality, and the second Possibility looks like some kind of mysterious magical nonsense rubbish.

Another quick look at those ideas rephrased:

Possibility 1:

People getting good ideas.

Possibility 2:

"parents who don't take the theory seriously -- but find inspiration in the genuinely valuable TCS ethos of treating children a full-blown people -- such parents generally benefit from TCS."

So TCS has an "ethos" about how to be a good parent, but fucks up on the hard details. Like, it says, "We think kids should be treated decently, like thinking humans, by being whacked over the head with rolling-pins!" which, good TCS parents go with the "decent" part, but make up their own ideas on rolling-pins, maybe replacing them with fluffy pillows or whatever.

Possibility 2 is impossible to prove right or wrong. It's just an assertion based on the idea that people act like brainless idiots. There's a name for that, but I can't remember what it is. Ah, well.

Anyway, I thoroughly and personally recommend TCS for parenting ideas, but for entertainment purposes, you could do worse than read its critics. Can't find the We Hate TCS page now (link, anyone?) but I expect it'll be funny.

Have a nice TCS day!

Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Isn't it part and parcel of our present society that many people are put off by the precise argumentation and frequent lack of overt human sympathy on the [TCS] list. It's because ordinary people are put off by ideas, theories and arguments. The effect of schools is to regard theoretical knowledge as a sort of game you have to do to pass exams, and debate as a matter of finding the magic phrases that will make your opponents do what you want.

- Lance-corporal Snoddy (in comments)

Do TCS children grow up brittle?

Someone on one of the TCS email lists (reference please, anyone?) recently worried that TCS children grow up to be "brittle".

I'll take "brittle" to mean inflexible in their ideas, or irritable, perhaps, rather than to do with caramelised sugar.

On the face of it, it's counterintuitive - after all, TCSers are presumably more used to consciously examining and revising their theories than most people.

But here's how it might work: In order to be thinking about bringing up their children in a radical way, TCSers are, by definition, people who are not just automatically adopting the standard model for living: mortgage, work, childcare, 2 week's holiday in Majorca, and a pension to look forward to.

How much do these thinkers have in common with the majority of people? [Apart from possibly thinking Big Brother is great] Not a lot. They might well come across as bored, fidgety, irritated when engaging in the mundanities of 'normal' conversation - brittle even. It's hard to find CPs with most people, because they just aren't used to trying.

So why would we expect their children to be any more comfortable in the inane social glue that so often passes for human discourse? I think when someone is thinking "this is _utterly_ pointless" they may well come across as "brittle" [for which, read "irritated beyond measure", here].

Could "brittle" perhaps be taken as a backhanded compliment?

Tuesday, July 08, 2003
The Great TCS Debate: Update

With the departure of Kolya Wolf from the tcshangover list building, it looks like the pro/anti-TCS discussion is pretty much over, for the time being at least. The important parts of it are too rarified for me to try and summarise here, but I think it was basically a worthwhile event that garnered some new ideas, even if they don't all prove to be the ones their propagators were hoping for. Such is the growth of knowledge...

Personally, I'm a lot less interested in whether TCS, "TCS", "Taking Children Seriously" or taking children seriously are right, partly right or on their way to being right, than in pursuing the truth about how to get on with people, learn, be a good parent, and so on. The same kind of label-allergy that leads a lot of people to pursue radical ideas/ ways of life in the first place, sometimes ends up with them not wanting to wear the t-shirt when they find those ways of life. But I have to say, there is no better theory (or, bunch of theories) out there so far, in my view. Why do you think we've got TCS in our title, eh?! There's gold in them there hills, you know, for those with picks tough enough to... pick (?) it with...

Lastly, I'd like to trash the typical anti-TCS argument that there is some kind of TCS hardcore and/or elite/inner circle. Actually, most high-profile virtual TCSers hate each other and never speak at all. So there, you bastards! Ha!

TCS isn't just good for your own family

Alice is probably going to post something about why TCS is cool. This goes with it, I hope.

TCS doesn't just change the way people interact with their own children. It also changes the way they interact with pretty much everyone else in the world, since the possibility of taking them seriously is *out there*.

TCS is a way into autonomy respecting interactions. You don't have to have children to be thoroughly immersed in TCS.

Not everyone deserves to be taken seriously, BTW. [spot provocative statement inviting comments]

Imagine a world where most professional child carers are trying to TOPCS (Take Other People's Children Seriously).
Or where university lecturers try to TSS (Take Students Seriously)
etc etc

Monday, July 07, 2003
Why we had to change our name.

Fairy Tale: Part I

Once upon a time, there was a country where everyone thought children should be beaten with sticks to grow up moral. (They also thought slaves should be beaten with stones, but that's another story).

One day, a bright spark noticed that beating his children with sticks was not a very nice thing he do. He looked around at all the families producing young adults who took up various bad things, such as vandalising their parents' homes, blowing up phone boxes and pushing over old ladies in the street, and he thought: maybe beating children with sticks is the problem not the answer!

Anyway, he thought, that's my best theory, so I'm going to try and live by it.

From then on, when other parents hit their children with sticks, Our Hero didn't. Were his children ever bad in any way at all? Perhaps. Did he ever use sticks to get the point across? Who knows? Maybe once things went so terribly wrong- and remember, this was a very violent country, where the children were surrounded by evil most days- that his children got it into their heads to push over an old lady, and maybe she had a heart-attack and died. And maybe Our Hero was so frightened and at a loss that he spoke to his daughters about the custom of hitting children with sticks and said: I would rather hit you with a stick than watch you kill any more old ladies.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that that did happen.

Did it make Our Hero return to bashing his children every day, as was the custom?

Next day, and the day after, as he walked down the street and observed the vandalism and the old-lady-pushing-over and the general hostility of everyone else's children he very firmly saw that he was right. His children had done it once, and maybe accidentally. The other kids were engaged in the ongoing pursuit of violence. not only that, but his children were friendly and kind fo adults. The other children generally regarded adults as something worse than mud, looked at them with disdain and rarely bothered giving them the time of day.

Bashing children was the cause of the violence, not the solution, as far as he could tell. Until those toddlers got their first bashes, they would never think of trying to put another human being in pain deliberately**. Evil has to be learned somewhere, he decided. I wonder if that's true?

** This theory is true about all kinds of hurting people, not just bashing. So Our Hero was somewhat wrong in this case- but still the rightest in his country.

To be continued...

Friday, July 04, 2003
Life After Death?

Lots of people who aren't explicitly religious want to believe that there is "something after death".

WHY is the idea of life-after-death so attractive to otherwise secular humans?

I guess there's some evolutionary reason behind it, although I don't know what that would be. But since as far as we know, only humans have this idea of after-life (apart from the rabbits in Watership Down), perhaps it is connected to the self-awareness that goes with consciousness.

Thursday, July 03, 2003
Ice Cream

I've said it before, but:

1. Go out and buy an ice-cream maker
2. Learn to make custard (cream, egg yolks, sugar, slowly heated and stirred till it gets thick and creamy)
3. Add stuff to it (fruit puree, melted chocolate, vanilla, marshmallows, meringues, anything)
4. Put it in the ice-cream maker.

That is my cooking tip of the century.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003
The Great TCS Debate!

There's a great debate about "what's wrong with TCS" going on at the moment on these lists:


Lots of fun for those interested in the philosophy. Join now, or you might miss it: things have a habit of happening very quickly in cyberspace!

Here's a question:

Is artistic relativism as evil as moral relativism?

What I mean is: does high art or maybe great art have a claim on us morally that entertainment doesn't?

(BTW, high art can be entertaining, but it doesn't have to be)

One might argue (I'm not sure whether I'm ready to yet) that the knowledge one creates when one encounters a piece of high art in a literate fashion (I don't mean reading and writing; I mean understanding the conventions of the genre and how they are being followed or broken) is a Good Thing, or a moral good. And that therefore both the artefacts and the means of appreciating them are worth preserving.

This idea was stimulated by reading Julian Johnson's book "Who needs classical music?" (OUP, 2003) There are some really interesting ideas in there about aesthetics, although I totally disagree with his statist solutions to the challenge of persuading people that high art might have cultural value. I've got more to say about it in a more directed TCS direction, but not today.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003
I just heard Anita Roddick of The Body Shop on "On the Ropes" on Radio 4 (there's no way I can cope with putting in a link, but you can always go to the BBC Radio 4 listen again page if you want to hear her).

Near the end, there was a stunning example of conflicting theories in action. Having deftly fielded questions about the way she was edged aside from running The Body Shop, about how much money she has now compared to how rich she was (on paper) in The Body Shop's heyday etc etc, John Humphreys bowled her a googly:

"Are you a capitalist?"

[awkward pause]

"well, I'm not a communist... I make money and I spend it..." [this is gist not verbatim]

In the end she said something about how she was going to give all her wealth away, but for now she needs to travel around to decide who to give it to (or something).

In Anita's NGO-partnership, non-animal-testing, 'political-activist' world view, 'capitalism' is a deadly insult. And yet it is through being a successful capitalist that she can do all of the 'good works' that give her pleasure. Spot the mental torture.

That article on the TCS site about charity being morally bad [uh, no link again] resonates strongly here. 'I want to make lots of money so I can help people' just isn't compatible with 'loving money is the root of all evil'. (The question of whether or not anyone is actually helped long-term morally or practically by Anita's generous injections of free lolly remains moot).

UPDATE: Thanks Elliot for showing me how to change posts

UPDATE #2: I'm shocked at you all for not pointing out that the important article on charity IS NOT on the TCS site but on Sarah F-C's site. Shame on you. (there's a good plan - put a 'deliberate' mistake into every entry to elicit feedback)

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