29 JAN 02: MOMUS

“It seems clear to me that this song ‘came’
to me complete and finished. I didn’t need to work on it. I didn’t compose
it, it just arrived ‘from another realm’. Musicians often say this. In
an interview in today’s Japan Times entitled ‘Melody of the Inexpressible’,
Kazu of Blonde Redhead says: ‘It’s not so much in your control. You never
feel like it’s your creation. You happened to walk by and pick it up.’…”


"post-autistic economics"

27 JAN 02: “post-autistic

from the New Statesman: Monday 21st January

The storming of the accountants

David Boyle

It began as a small revolt at the Sorbonne
in Paris, but may yet develop into a

worldwide movement against the tyranny
of numbers. David Boyle reports


“It may work fine in practice,” goes a
joke that the French make at their own

expense. “The trouble is, it just doesn’t
work in theory.” So it is strange that

Paris has become the birthplace of a revolt
against the pre-eminence of theory

over practice, of economic abstraction
over reality, and statistics over real

life. Called “post-autistic economics”
– “autistic” is intended to imply an

obsessive preoccupation with numbers –
the revolt began with a website petition

in June 2000 from students at the Sorbonne
(see []). They

were protesting against the dogmatic teaching
of neoclassical economics and the

“uncontrolled use” of mathematics as “an
end in itself”.

    Within weeks, the call
was taken up by students across France. Le Monde launched

a public debate, and Jack Lang, the education
minister, appointed the respected

economist Jean-Paul Fitoussi to head an
inquiry. Fitoussi reported last

September, backing many of the rebels’
points and recommending sweeping changes

in the way economics is taught in French
universities. The movement has had a

worldwide impact, with Cambridge students
drawing up their own petition –

although most were too scared for their
future careers to put their names to it.

    Could this episode
prove the beginning of the end for the whole cult of

measurement, statistics, targets and indicators
that has become such a feature

of modern life, not just in the Blair
government, but around the world?

    The phrase “post-autistic”
has a touch of Gallic cruelty about it, but there is

a sense in which we have been cut off
from reality by the plethora of targets

and indicators. It’s like the 18th-century
mathematical prodigy Jedediah Buxton,

who, asked if he had enjoyed a performance
of Richard III, could say only that

the actors had spoken 12,445 words.

    Over the past decade
or so – boosted by added enthusiasm from new Labour – we

have been plunged into what Professor
Michael Power of the London School of

Economics calls “the audit culture . .
. a gigantic experiment in public

management”. We can see the results everywhere.
The government introduced about

8,000 targets or numerical indicators
of success during its first term of

office. We have NHS targets, school league
tables, environmental indicators –

150 of them at last count – and measurements
covering almost every area of

professional life or government, all in
the name of openness, accountability and


    Nor is this just happening
in the public services. The Japanese multinational

Matsushita has developed a “smart” toilet
that measures your weight, fat ratio,

temperature, protein and glucose every
time you give it something to work on.

Then it sends these figures automatically
to your doctor.

    Accountancy firms cream
off 10 per cent of British graduates to do all this

counting. Whole armies of number-crunchers
are out there, adding to the budgets

of public transport, the NHS and social

    We have been here before
– especially in periods of great social hope such as

the 1830s, when the followers of Jeremy
Bentham rushed across the country in

stagecoaches, armed with great bundles
of tabular data and measuring everything

they thought important: the number of
cesspits (which they saw as an indicator

of ill health), or pubs (an indicator
of immorality), or the number of hymns

that children could recite from memory.

    Then as now, the problem
is that what really needs measuring is not countable.

“So-called efficiency,” says Richard Scase,
professor of organisational

behaviour at the University of Kent at
Canterbury, “takes the place of

effectiveness, quantity of quality. The
means become an end in themselves.” As

anyone in local government will tell you,
these numerical indicators are about

management at a distance, and they will
always miss the point: school league

tables make teachers concentrate on borderline
pupils at the expense of their

weaker classmates; waiting-list targets
persuade NHS managers to treat those

with the quick, simple problems at the
expense of everyone else.

    It is a dream from
the world of management consultancy, encapsulated in the

McKinsey slogan that “everything can be
measured and what gets measured gets

managed”. It is no accident that Nick
Lovegrove, a partner at McKinsey & Co, is

advising Gordon Brown on productivity
and Tessa Jowell on IT strategy. Another

McKinsey recruit has been appointed to
advise No 10 on transport policy.

    The problem is that
people are now expected to do what the targets tell them,

rather than what is actually necessary.
Hospitals are ordering more expensive

trolleys and reclassifying them as “mobile
beds”, to sidestep the target that no

patient should stay on a hospital trolley
for more than four hours. I also know

of at least one local authority that achieves
government targets for separating

waste – at great expense – but then simply
mixes it all up again in landfill.

Scotland Yard figures that showed it had
recruited 218 people from ethnic

minorities between April and September
2000 turned out to include Irish, New

Zealanders and Australians. The useful
figure was four.

    The consequences of
pinning down the wrong thing are severe. All your resources

will be focused on achieving something
you did not intend, as the Pentagon

discovered in the Vietnam war, when it
audited the success of military units by

their body counts. Result: terrible loss
of life among the Vietnamese, but no US


    The Blair government’s
dilemma is that if ministers measure the things over

which they have direct control, they simply
measure the activity of bureaucrats.

If they measure real effects – for instance,
the looming and probably

unreachable targets for school attainment
in English, maths and truancy – they

risk detonating a political time bomb
when they fail to meet them.

    The first signs of
disenchantment are appearing. The Health Secretary, Alan

Milburn, apologised to anyone who had
suffered because of the government’s

waiting-list targets, and promised to
give priority to patients with the most

serious conditions. The school league
tables have been scrapped in Northern

Ireland after three-quarters of the responses
to a consultation urged that they


    Meanwhile, in the United
States – where the National Commission on Testing and

Public Policy estimates that compulsory
school tests take up 20 million school

days and cost anything up to $900m – pupils
in Massachusetts and Denver refused

to take their tests. Louisiana parents
went to court to prevent them taking

place at all.

    Even conventional accountancy
has problems. “I believe there is a crisis of

confidence in our profession,” Joseph
Berardino, the chief executive of Arthur

Andersen, told the US Congress last month,
after the unexpected bankruptcy of

one of Andersen’s clients, Enron, whose
accounts it had signed and to which it

had also been giving consultancy advice.

    It is well known that
staff in the UK public services are impatient with the

measuring culture because it ignores their
professional knowledge and judgement

– those aspects of their job that can’t
be reduced to figures. But there is also

a suggestion that it was borrowing this
measurement culture – of very narrow

bottom lines, financial and otherwise
– that is behind the failure of so many

privatised businesses to show the imagination
and verve that had been expected

of them.

    Charles Saumarez Smith,
the director of the National Portrait Gallery, argues

that measuring fever actually causes inefficiency
– by “aping the form rather

than the content” of the private sector,
and “assuming that measurement is what

is important, and not intelligence and
achievement”. He characterises the modern

public sector as embodying “a belief that
the system is more important than the

individual, that accountability is more
important than intelligence or

creativity, with the result that the public
sector is likely to continue to limp

along impotently and inefficiently as
long as it holds a low sense of its own

political valuation and public esteem”.

    Accountability is important,
and the auditing culture was in part a response to

the crudity of measuring success by the
financial bottom line. But measurement

of this kind may be more about empire.
It is about the idea that everything can

be controlled from the centre, every job
broken down into measurable parts – a

Taylorist fantasy of time and motion –
with every decision taken in full view of

the auditors and the public.

    It is hard to imagine
a revolt spreading beyond French economics students unless

the movement comes up with a coherent
alternative, but also possible to glimpse

what that might look like. It would be
about decentralising power, giving more

hands-on experience to teachers, managers
and civil servants, and creating

smaller, human-scale institutions. It
would mean more face-to-face management,

nurturing responsibility and creativity
– in short, all the things that new

Labour finds hardest.

    A friend of mine with
a hefty government grant, negotiating with civil servants

over his annual targets, tells me he quoted
the old Scottish proverb: “You don’t

make sheep any fatter by weighing them.”
They looked at him with complete

incomprehension. There is clearly a long
way to go.

David Boyle’s The Tyranny of Numbers
is published in paperback this month by

Flamingo (£8.99)


26 JAN 02


The Influence of Coffee on Kabbalistic
All-Night and Midnight Vigils

One of the innovations of Lurianic Kabbalah
was the creation of a variety of

rituals which took place late at night.
Joseph Karo is credited with the

creation of the all-night study session
on the eve of Shavuot, called Tikkun

Leil Shavuot.

    The Ari himself emphasized
the importance of prayer and meditation late at night

(called Tikkun Chatzot or Tikkun Rachel)
and early in the morning (called Tikkun

Leah). These times connected the individual
with the daily creations of light

and darkness. It also was an ideal time
(according to the Zohar) to mourn the

banishment of the Shechinah from Jerusalem.
It also connected the individual

with King David, who was said to have
created the Psalms at midnight. The

powerful image that the gates of Heaven
are most available for prayer late at

night was thus concretized in Tzfat in
the late 16th century. Ironically, it

didn’t catch on in Jerusalem at the same
time even though Jerusalem mystics were

certainly aware of the Zohar’s emphasis
on midnight and all-night vigils.

Jerusalem’s mystics focused on pre-dawn
rituals instead.

    Elliott Horowitz provides
us with a fascinating thesis about the creation and

development of late-night and all-night
rituals as opposed to early morning

rituals in 17th-18th century Jewish mystical
circles. He notes that coffee

arrived in Tzfat in 1528, and the first
coffee house appeared in Tzfat in 1580.

None came to Jerusalem. The use of coffee
as a stimulant might have encouraged

the mystics of Tzfat to focus more on
all-night and late-night rituals because

they couldn’t sleep anyway. Karo’s Tikkun
Leil Shavuot appeared two or three

years after the introduction of coffee
to Tzfat. Horowitz quotes the following

description of Tzfat in 1587: (Abraham
haLevi Beruchim) would rise at midnight

and walk through all the streets, raising
his voice and shouting bitterly,

“Arise in honor of the Lord…for the
Shechinah is in exile and our Temple has

been burnt.”

    And he would call each
scholar by his name, not departing until he saw that he

had left his bed. Within an hour the city
was full of the sounds of study:

Mishnah and Zohar and midrashim of the
rabbis and Psalms and Prophets, as well

as hymns, dirges, and supplicatory prayers.”

    By 1673, Tikkun Chatzot
had become the known ritual for the vast majority of

Palestinian Jewry, and Italian Jewry knew
that most Palestinian Jews drank

coffee before prayers. Coffee had not
yet arrived in Italy.

    In the late 1570’s,
Italian mystics created their own pre-dawn rituals. They

called themselves Shomrim LaBoker, the
Guardians of the Morning. These rituals

were apparently initiated by kabbalists
who were familiar with the midnight and

all-night devotions of the Jews of Tzfat.
They acknowledged that midnight was

the best time for prayer “when God amused
Himself with the righteous in the

Garden of Eden,” but they were not willing
to maintain the midnight tradition.

Instead, they slept through the night
and woke before dawn for their early

prayers. At least seven editions of predawn
liturgies were published indicating

their popularity.

    Coffee arrived in Venice
in 1615. The first coffee house (making coffee

available to the masses) opened in 1640.
In 1655, a liturgy for Tikkun Chatzot

was published in Italy and a Chatzot group
was formed. In that same year (for

the first time), Italian Jews accepted
Joseph Karo’s ritual of Tikkun Leil

Shavuot. However, coffee was not as popular
in Venice as it was in Tzfat. By

1683, there was still only one coffee
house in Venice, and there were few Jews

drinking the exotic drink.

    By 1759, coffee-drinking
had soared in Italy. There were more than 200 coffee

houses in Venice, including two in the
ghetto. Jews in Mantua were making a

fortune in the coffee industry. A scandal
resulted in a ruling that “women could

not enter coffee houses whether by day
or night.”

    The popularity of Tikkun
Chatzot also rose impressively. By 1755, most pre-dawn

prayer groups in Verona had become midnight
and all-night prayer groups. The

same thing happened in Mantua. The same
thing happened in Modena and Venice.

    Coffee arrived in Worms
Germany in 1728. By 1763 mystic circles were regularly

celebrating midnight and all-night vigils
for the first time.

    In short, although
the Zohar and kabbalistic works had always emphasized the

special significance of midnight, ongoing
prayers and all-night vigils did not

become an important part of Kabbalistic
life until the introduction of coffee

into each Kabbalistic community. Today,
midnight and all-night prayers remain an

important part of Kabbalistic ritual,
and many Jews continue to stay up all

night on Shavuot and meet for supplication
prayers at midnight on Selichot. Our

level of caffeine stimulation makes our
participation in such all-night rituals

much easier.


25 JAN 02

Filmmaker James

“I become very obsessive over things and
my imagination has tendency to go into

overdrive, so I’m always trying to take
all of this chaos and control it with

tools of cinema. Like putting all this
confusion in a tunnel and contain it into

something positive. Because what you don’t
want to happen is allow your

imagination to fall into depravity or
laziness, becasue that is easy to do. So

your job becomes willing your spirit and
imagination into this communication

with other people through film. People
allowing their imagination to dwell in

pornography, sexual activity and drugs
are all trying to do the same thing I am

with film: evolve to make sense of life
and understand our relationship to God.

But their way is a dead end. Because it
is easy and feels good immediately and

like anything, the obsession is intense,
but it cuts them off from other people,

from communication with the collective,
because the moral structure of the world

hasn’t changed and isn’t going to anytime
soon, as long as we remain human

beings, so they remain on the outside.”


24 JAN 02: GOOD

Paul Harvey reached audiences way beyond
the windy city in 1951, when he began his coast-to-coast “News and Comment”
on the ABC Radio Networks. On May 10, 1976, Mr. Harvey began another series
of programs on the ABC Radio Networks entitled “The Rest of the Story”,
which delve into the forgotten or little known facts behind stories of
famous people and events.

    Today, Paul Harvey
“News and Comment” and “The Rest of the Story” can be heard every Monday
through Saturday. Paul Harvey News is the largest one-man network in the
world, consisting of over 1200 radio stations, 400 Armed Forces Network
stations that broadcast around the world, and 300 newspapers.

    Paul Harvey’s reach
continues to broaden in the 21st Century, as “News and Comment” is streamed
on the world wide web twice a day.



“A thousand years ago, a civilization more
sophisticated and more powerful than any other in the Western Hemisphere
north of Mexico grew up and florished in the rich Mississippi River bottom
land of southwestern Illinois.

    “These native American
people – who are called Mississippians by archaeologists – supported a
population as large as 20,000 at their zenith with a wid-scale agricultal
economy based primarily on the cultivation of corn. The crops they grew
combined with the region’s bountiful wildlife and indigenous plants to
form a stable, year-round food supply. Such stability and ties to the land
gave rise to the formation of permanent settlements that grew into an extensive
network of communities with a regional center of metropolitan proportions.

    “The sedentary lifestyle
of the Mississippians made possible other hallmarks of advanced civilization:
widespread commerce; stratifed social, political, and religious organization;
specialized and refined crafts; and monumental architecture, here in
the form of earthen mounds covering up to 14 acres and rising as high as
100 feet.

    “Their extraordinary
success continued for five centuries until, for reasons still unknown,
the sun set on the Mississippians as it had on the great Mayan, Egyptian
and Mesopotamian people before them. Finally, when agencies of the state
of Illinois carried out the first scientific investigations of the area
in the 1920s, the true extent of this vibrant culture began to emerge.

    “The remnants of the
Mississippian’s central city – now known as Cahokia for the Indians who
lived nearby in the late 1600s – are preserved within the 2200-acre tract
that is the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Located just eight miles
east of downtown St. Louis, Missouri, near Collinsville, Illinois, Cahokia
was designated a World Heritage Site in 1982 by the United Nations Educational,
Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its vital contribution
the understanding of North American prehistory.”