Writer, opinionista, essayist for The Independent, perfumista, picker-up of unconsidered trifles, contributor to all sorts and conditions of publication from the Daily Mail to New Humanist, devoté of Pliny Maior, author of The Chronicles of Bargepole, Big Babies and Lost Worlds, currently working on a musical about Oscar Wilde. Teach the occasional spot of Tragedy to keep my eye in. Pilot, harpsichordist, cook, photographer, red-hot lover  and self-deluding old goat.

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    Why we don't need professional critics in the Information Age

    From the Glyndebourne website:

    My wife and I saw La Boheme on Sunday 17th June.

    We were very disappointed by the modern interpretation and the set. We were unable to decide whether the action was supposed to be staged in Paris or London. 

    The sight of two police officers in modern apparel was very off putting. As a matter of comment, legally it is an offence to impersonate a policeman.



    Please, please read the Public Orator's speech at the Oxford Encaenia presenting Aung San Suu Kyi for an honorary doctorate.

    It's in Latin, with an English translation, here. The power of Latin as the language of public rhetoric is undimmed; it can still move, as no other language can.  Perhaps because it's been doing it for so long.

    Read it.



    How chastening that a Saudi prince should lecture us – even Rebekah Brooks – on ethics.

     "For sure she has to go, you bet she has to go," declared Saudi Prince Al Waleed bin Talal Alsaud.

    "Ethics to me are very important. I will not deal with a lady or a man that has any sliver of doubt on her or his integrity."

    I for one will change my ways and try to behave as much like a Saudi Prince as possible.


    Strauss-Kahn guilty, says Mayor of New York

    I've already had my say on how 19th-century novels and the Code Napoléon are to blame for the Strauss-Kahn case, in The First Post.

    Dodo Strauss-Kahn is of course presumed innocent.

    So what about the "perp walk" -- the deliberate process of publicly humiliating those charged with crimes by parading them in front of the media?  How about the special dispensation to allow press photographers into the courtroom?

    It's not about vanity. It's about justice. About prejudicing a jury and tainting the right to a fair trial. You see the pics, you think "Jesus, that guy looks bad. Jesus, he looks shifty. Jesus, his lawyer's short. He must be guilty."  But stick me in the dock, send me on the perp walk, I'll look shifty, I'll look bad, I'll have a short lawyer.

    And so will you.

    But here's where it gets interesting. Reporters asked the Mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, about the perp walk. Yes, it was humiliating, he said, but "if you don't want to do the perp walk, don't do the crime. I don't have a lot of sympathy for that."

    You don't need a degree in Aristotelian Logic (and by sheer chance, I don't have one, so trust me on this) to work out the syllogism.

    1: Dodo was made to do the perp walk
    2: If  you don't want to do the perp walk, don't do the crime
    3: Dodo did the crime.

     There is only one possible exception: the case of a man who wants do the perp walk. But wanting to do the perp walk is a psychological problem, not a crime. So a man who just wants to do the perp walk can't do the perp walk.

    Let's simplify. The Mayor of New York has publicly declared Dominique Strauss-Kahn guilty. At best, if Dodo is judged innocent, Mike Bloomberg is open to an absolute motherfucker of a libel suit, which I'd suggest he brings in England. The libel has after all been published here, in, for example, The Guardian.

    At worst, the Mayor of New York has perverted the course of justice. It may even be -- Gitmo notwithstanding -- that perverting the course of justice is illegal in the United States, which may mean Riker's Island for Bloomberg, too.

    Either way, it stinks.  Dodo is quite possibly a queutard, a French word meaning, roughly "knobhound" or "pricksmith". But for an old dude to still believe his porker is something appealing to women is not yet a crime.

    His accuser has quite properly been (a) listened to and (b) kept anonymous. We can argue about the natural justice of (b) till the cows come home, but (a) is beyond debate in a civilised society.

    The police have, quite properly, arrested the accused and brought him into the criminal justice system for the case to be tried.

    The judge, possibly improperly, has filled her courtroom with cameras and banged up Dodo in Riker's Island, and, equally possibly, doesn't give a damn what we think about that as long as Dodo gets due process.

    And the Mayor's remark may not be surprising, coming from such a glad-handing grandstanding self-regarding wee fellow. But it's a pretty moronic thing to come out with all the same.


    Apple to Stopify Spotify?

    Apple makes me increasingly nervous with its desire to control everything we do on our computers.

    Latest thing: if you get an app for your iPhone or iPod Touch from the App Store  then the manufacturers will have to provide subscription from within the app.  And Apple will take 30%.

    Boring business stuff? Yes and no.

    Take Spotify.  It's been the most transformative thing on my MacBook (and my iPhone) since the web itself. For a tenner a month I get unlimited streamed music.  Right now it's the Poulenc Concerto for Two Pianos.  This morning it was Jordi Savall's indescribably strange and wonderful El Cant de la Sibil-La.  I have John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Pilgrimage -- all the cantatas -- in a playlist and I'm working through them.  At current prices, that tenner a month would get me two or possibly three CDs of the set in a year. I'd be dead by the time I'd paid for the whole lot -- if I could find them for sale.

    Not with Spotify.

    I signed up at their website, and only later downloaded the iPhone app. But if Apple has its way, that will no longer work, as is my understanding. I'll have to download the Spotify app and subscribe via Apple. The 30% cut that Apple demands will quite likely be the difference between Spotify thriving and going under. Margins are tight.

    I never thought I'd see Apple become one of the bad guys. I never thought when -- must have been 1984 -- I had lunch with Steve Jobs in the Red Fort in Soho that his company would start to Just Not Get It.

    Lord, was I naïve.

    Two things.

    First, if you want to subscribe to Spotify (and, believe me, you do, whatever the music you like) do it before June 30th via Spotify's website. Think of it as a line in the sand.

    Second, if Apple goes ahead with this greedy and shortsighted plan, my iPhone is going in the bin. I'll buy an Android or something. And if their greed shuts down Spotify then I'll never go near another Apple product or service again.

    Big deal. Bet they're quaking in their boots. But... well, "I'm Spartacus", y'know. We all say "enough" then enough it is. But we won't, of course.