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nietzsche, blogger

The best way to think of Nietzsche is as a blogger.










Most of his books are made up of bite-sized sections which are not obviously tied to each other, and which offer no general argument. Sometimes he’s talking about something he saw the other day, sometimes he’s giving his opinion on the world in general, sometimes he’s just ranting. (Like I say, a blogger.) Topics range from the nature of truth to the unattractiveness of small women, and the style is free and personal, full of rhetorical questions and idiosyncratic punctuation. Of all great philosophers, he is surely the king of exclamation marks.

While I write my first novel I often find myself thinking about my second one, a mad habit but one I can’t break (it makes me feel there’s life after number one). I was reading The Gay Spirit and saw this “blogpost”:

I believe that artists often do not know what they can do best because they are too vain and have set their minds on something prouder. Here is a musician who is master at the very small. But he doesn’t want to be! His character likes great walls and bold frescoes! It escapes him that his spirit has a different taste and disposition and likes best of all to sit quietly in the corners of collapsed houses – there, hidden, hidden from himself, he paints his real masterpieces, which are all very short, often only a bar long – only there does he become wholly good, great, and perfect, perhaps only there – But he doesn’t know it! He is too vain to know it.

For me, this describes Ian McEwan perfectly.

The Artist is a film on this topic.

But how do you know what you do best? How can you see yourself except through you character?

ps. While we’re on the subject, here’s a good Nietzsche blog.

you can iran…












That way!

The situation in Iran is one of a number of issues that I’m vaguely ignoring in the hope it will go away. A new article in Prospect suggests that this might actually be the best strategy for the West as a whole.

According to Ali Ansari, one of the world’s leading experts on Iran, the Ahmadinejad regime’s entire foreign policy is based on a single question: will this annoy the Americans? If it will, they reason, it must be right. That’s why they do things like threaten to ban oil exports to the European Union (as they did today), even though experts agree it will probably make no difference to Europe and will almost certainly be counter-productive.

If Iran keeps on this way, Ansari says, they may end up bankrupting themselves, and all they’ll have to show for it is a lot of rocks that glow in the dark.

The best thing for us to do is to sit back and watch it happen:

The regime is doing an excellent job of isolating itself. The best thing the west can do at the moment is to recognise this, monitor it, contain it, and let it run its course.

Read the whole thing. As comment pieces go, it’s actually quite uplifting.

what warren did

In an increasingly distracting world, it’s plausibly argued that the ability to concentrate is the factor that makes the difference between success and failure. The career of Warren Buffett, whose standing as the sanest man in finance received another boost in Tuesday’s State of the Union, shows that this has always been the case.

In her biography of Buffett Alice Schroeder quotes him describing his first meeting with that other hugely-respected billionaire, Bill Gates:

Then, at dinner, Bill Gates Sr. posed the question to the table: What factor did people feel was the most important in getting to where they’d gotten in life? And I said, “Focus”. And Bill said the same thing.

Schroder had incredible access, and her book is the best biography of a living figure I’ve ever read. Read more about it here.

match of the day meets piers morgan’s life stories

When one of their number peeps above the parapet to talk about their emotions and vulnerabilities, sporting folk like to call it “brave”. There was plenty of bravery on show in Freddie Flintoff’s documentary on depression in sport, The Hidden Side of Sport, last night on BBC1. It takes extreme courage for anyone to expose themselves to Flintoff’s interview technique:

Graeme Dott: I think I’ll be on them [anti-depression] pills forever. I’ve tried to come off them, and I’ll gradually fall into a horrible …
Flintoff: Are you enjoying your snooker now more than ever?

Man on an Arsenal scheme to tackle depression: I was diagnosed properly when I was ten or eleven, with depression. I’ve always been pressed with suicidal thoughts.
Flintoff: How did it feel?

The rest of the programme was similarly frustrating. Flintoff spoke to various sports names – Ricky Hatton, Vinnie Jones, Barry McGuigan, Shane Warne – who all agreed that feeling bad was bad. Some, like Jones, had personal experience of depression, but their views were never placed in a wider context, and the whole thing quickly devolved into Comic Relief-ish meaninglessness. I found myself more interested in Ricky Hatton’s loft conversion than in his lows after defeats.  Maybe Flintoff was too, as he troubled Hatton with the tester:

When you got your gloves in your first professional fight, did you think you’d have all this?

When things did get edgy, the programme was anything but brave. Flintoff claimed throughout that he was “doing it for Steve”, his friend Steve Harmison, who spoke very movingly about his own depression at the start of the programme. But when he was asked (by Piers Morgan – yes, it was that sort of programme) about his own culpability in Harmison’s difficulties – he was England captain when Harmison was struggling with depression; why did he pick him to play? – Flintoff was shocked. Nothing wrong with that – a bit more shock, a bit less cosy banter, and we would have had a better programme. But why was there no follow-up? Did Flintoff regret his actions? What would he have done differently? What did Harmison think about it? We never got to find out. It was anecdotes only, Match of the Day meets Piers Morgan’s Life Stories.

The express point of these programmes is to promote understanding. What they actually promote is toleration, superficial acceptance. I suspect that in five years time, Steve Harmison will be thinking: “I told the nation about my depression, because I thought it would make a difference. And everyone was very nice and told me how brave I was. Then they went back to ignoring me, or treating me like I was a bit strange.”

Link to programme on iPlayer (available until 18 Jan)



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