At the far end of the room, the two cups of water
On the floor, the master explained, were for them
To purify their mouths with before the tea was served.
They were next told to lie on their bellies and inch
Towards the cups, ensuring a proper humiliation.
The monks protested—they had come to see their friend
Through to the end, to see his soul released,
Poured like water into water—and where, after all,
Was the unmatched view he had promised them?
(Quoting my favorite lines would have given it all away, so I encourage you to read the whole thing.)
Classical music has never lived in a bubble, and there’s always been a free flow of ideas intersecting so-called art music and folk music. In this concert from Boston, they all come together: The acclaimed Takacs String Quartet joins the Hungarian folk ensemble Muzsikas (with singer Marta Sebestyen) to celebrate one of Hungary’s finest, composer Bela Bartok, who was brilliant at mixing the highbrow and lowbrow in his own music.
I’ve been following Tom Steinberg’s great work at establishing better communications channels and feedback loops between citizens and the UK government for a while now. You can find out more about these projects at the mySociety website.
In his latest newsletter, he featured a project that applies the HotOrNot meme (which is often judgmental, demeaning, humiliating and masochistic when rating people) to places in the UK:
“ScenicOrNot helps you to explore every corner of England, Scotland and Wales, all the while comparing your aesthetic judgements with fellow players.”
The site presents a photo, and prompts viewers to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, from not scenic to scenic.
One-dimensional assessments of anything are always dicey, but I can see many merits in this particular project:
It’s interesting to learn how others perceive a place. Is there anything close to general agreement about what it means to be scenic? I rated a field of ripening barely a 7, 2.5 points above the average.
Many of the photos used are not of touristy locations, so it may be the first time that a particular cattle-gate has been rated or thought about in these terms.
Aggregating such opinions could have all sorts of uses, from finding attractive places you didn’t know about, to directing beautification efforts at blighted areas.
According to the same newsletter, mySociety is working on:
“A Really Great Secret Project that uses that scenicness data we’ve been gathering and which we think you’re going to Quite Like”
“I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we’ve strip-mined the earth, for a particular commodity, and for the future, it won’t serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we are educating our children.”