As you may have seen the last couple of weeks, I've been slowly plodding through Catherine Nixey's The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World. It turned out to be a deeply frustrating read — the topic is one that is fascinating; namely the destruction of the classical world by the rise of Christianity within the Roman Empire. The frustration begins and ends with the writing, Nixey is quick to turn the subject into an emotional argument, which given the sheer breadth of the art and knowledge we lost at the hands of the early Christians is understandable but frustrating when you're trying to separate fact from fiction.
What's clear is that modern society has suffered hugely at the hands of Christianity, with the loss of uncounted books, the maiming of priceless statuary, the wholesale destruction of ancient Roman and Greek temples and the murder of philosophers, scientists and mathematicians (and more, of course) at the hands of roving illiterate and uneducated Christians. This religious madness continues unabated, of course, with ancient sites across Syria, Iraq and Libya suffering at the hands of ISIL. Plus ça change...
I also read Plato's Symposium, which, while short, provided a bit of a palate cleanser after the last book. I'm not entirely sure what to think about it, in all honesty — I'm not well enough read to provide any real fundamental criticism other than I enjoyed it. I find it fascinating how far society regressed in ~600 years from this to the depths of Christian destruction of everything Plato and his peers built.
I picked up a couple of the books in Penguin's Great Ideas series, the first of which was Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching. Much like The Symposium, I'm not well read enough to really break this down, however it's certainly a starting point and I'll be looking for some broader books on Taoism that can break down the subject for me.
I particularly enjoyed Chapter 44:
Your name or your person,
Which is dearer?
Your person or your goods,
Which is worth more?
Gain or loss,
Which is a greater bane?
That is why excessive meanness
Is sure to lead to great expense;
Too much store
Is sure to end in immense loss.
And you will suffer no disgrace;
Know when to stop
And you will meet with no danger.
You can then endure.
Finally, in the same series as the last book I'm reading Orwell's Why I Write. More to come on that subject next week, I'm sure.
This week I've been reading a lot of the content the folks at Basecamp have published - an article titled Let's Bury the Hustle struck a particular chord with me. I've always found keeping a healthy work-life balance to be challenging, so it's a breath of fresh air to see a company championing the idea that work is just work, maybe it's time to experience life itself.
It seemed only natural that I'd be interested in an article on ancient Roman sculptures after finishing Nixey's book. The title of "7 Ancient Roman Sculptures You Need to Know" is laughable, but apparently that's the only way to get people interested in this stuff.
Excel announced a new XLOOKUP function. It seems like a pretty solid replacement for the endless INDEX MATCH formulas I'd normally use across my spreadsheets.
The capitalist surveillance state continues unabated, Brave - a privacy focused web browser discovered some decidedly not GDPR compliant behaviour from the hands of Google, clubs in London are being forced to adopt facial recognition technology in their venues by local councils and the IAB published a laughable attempt at whitewashing their criminal behaviour by begging for the government to allow them to track individuals, all in the name of pushing unwanted ads into the face of uncaring consumers.
The French LINC (Laboratoire d’Innovation Numérique de la CNIL - the CNIL being the French regulatory body for data protection) wrote about a framework through which to regulate dark patterns on the web. The article is in French but well worth a read via your translation service of choice.
Ever wonder what happened to Bebo? The folks at Gizmodo wrote a great obituary for all those social networks of old. The web sure seemed like a more innocent and exciting place back in those Myspace days.
Is science sexist? It appears that the answer is yes.
I make no secret of how frustrating I find bottomless optimism and cheerfulness. Maybe instead of running away from "toxic" thought, we should embrace it to make something better of ourselves.
And finally, I'm going to leave you with an article about Alexey Brodovitch and how you can mirror his iconic work through modern web techniques.
Yes, the email designer in me is crying at the lost opportunity too.