Writing a song “is an act of self-murder”: Nick Cave on ChatGPT

The best part of Nick Cave’s critique of ChatGPT is, IMHO, the following:

“Songs arise out of suffering, by which I mean they are predicated upon the complex, internal human struggle of creation and, well, as far as I know, algorithms don’t feel.”

A close second:

“Writing a good song is not mimicry, or replication, or pastiche, it is the opposite. It is an act of self-murder that destroys all one has strived to produce in the past.”

A story about Philip Larkin

A story about Philip Larkin, as told by Kingsley Amis (quoted in Andrew Motion’s 1993 biography of Larkin, p. 115):

“In those days, before he started making real money, Bruce had been a beer drinker, a fanatical one by Philip’s account, setting a cruel pace and insisting on being closely followed. After a prolonged session, the pair had the hardihood to attend a meeting of the school literary society [in Shrewsbury School]. Philip found himself in the chair furthest from the door with hundreds of boys, many sitting on the floor, between him and any exit. Quite soon after everybody was settled a tremendous desire to urinate came upon him. Finding he could not face causing the upheaval that must have attended his leaving the room, and reasoning, if that is the word, that he was wearing a lot of clothes, including, in those days of fuel rationing, a heavy overcoat, he decided to rely on their absorbent qualities and intentionally pissed himself. It turned out that he had miscalculated.”

R. D. Laing – as remembered by his son Adrian

“Ronnie rapped the door loudly, until it was eventually answered by people roused from their beds, wondering what the racket was all about. As we fell inside, Ronnie noticed a life-size sculpture of Jesus on the Cross at the end of the hall. ‘Just the man I want to talk to,’ he exclaimed, staggering over to the silent, dignified icon. He began embracing the sculpture in what can only be described as a familiar manner. By now, quite a crowd had assembled from out of the numerous guest rooms. There was absolutely no doubt what was going on. R.D. Laing had arrived and he was steaming drunk. As if making the ultimate ‘fuck-you’ gesture to the world in general, and the good Christian residents of Fatima House in particular, Ronnie began slobbering over the statue’s arse. Paul and I could no longer restrain ourselves, and convulsed in hysterical laughter on the floor.”

– Adrian Laing (1997), R D Laing: A Biography.

“Silence was imperative…”

Peter Wright (1987, pp. 70-71) recounts the tale of a delicate MI5 operation to bug an embassy in London:

The house next door was temporarily empty, and A2 obtained access to install a series of microphones. Hugh Winterborn and I led a team of twelve officers from A Branch. Silence was imperative because we knew that the target premises were permanently manned near the party wall. I made a tremendous fuss insisting that everyone remove his shoes to avoid making noise on the bare floorboards. We worked nonstop for four hours in the freezing cold. All the floorboards on the first floor had been raised and I was patiently threading the cables along the void between the joists. After a time one of the leads became tangled on a split joist. Unable to clear the obstruction by hand, I began to ease myself down until one foot was resting on a masonry nail sticking out from one side of a joist. Just as I was inching toward the tangled cable, the nail gave way, and I plunged through the ceiling below. A large section of ceiling crashed fourteen feet to the floor below, reverberating around Portland Place like a wartime bomb. The noise and dust subsided, leaving me wedged tightly up to my waist in the hole in the ceiling. For a moment there was total silence.

“Good thing we removed our shoes,” quipped Winterborn dryly as laughter began to echo around the empty building.

– Peter Wright (1987, pp. 70-71), Spycatcher. Viking Penguin, Inc.

The object-subject relation in science

“One can only help oneself through something like the following emergency decree: Quantum mechanics forbids statements about what really exists—statements about the object. Its statements deal only with the object-subject relation. Although this holds, after all, for any description of nature, it evidently holds in a much more radical and far reaching sense in quantum mechanics.”

– Erwin Schrödinger (1931) letter to Arnold Sommerfeld, spotted in
Fuchs, C. A., Mermin, N. D., & Schack, R. (2014). An introduction to QBism with an application to the locality of quantum mechanics. American Journal of Physics, 82(8), 749–754.


(Un)doing gender (and citation)

Judith Butler stans might appreciate this, by Candice West and Don Zimmerman (2009, pp. 112-113):

‘The initial ideas for “Doing Gender” came in 1975 and 1976 […]. We presented “Doing Gender” at a meeting of the American Sociological Association in 1977; we spent the next ten years trying to get it into print.

‘Between 1977 and 1987, this work was rejected by some of the most respected journals in our field (including Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society and Social Problems). In fact, Erving Goffman, one reader of an early draft, passed away in the time it took to get the paper published. During those ten years, we continued to circulate prepublication versions to friends and colleagues, and we continued to refine and polish the paper in response to their remarks. We were more than gratified to see “Doing Gender” finally published in 1987 […].

‘Today, “doing gender” often appears in print without acknowledgment of its source, and some scholars (such as Judith Butler) play on our wording (Undoing Gender, Butler 2004) without ever citing our work.’


West, C., & Zimmerman, D. H. (2009). Accounting for doing gender. Gender and Society, 23, 112–122.

Theory-based vs. theory-driven evaluation

“Donaldson and Lipsey (2006), Leeuw and Donaldson (2015), and Weiss (1997) noted that there is a great deal of confusion today about what is meant by theory-based or theory-driven evaluation, and the differences between using program theory and social science theory to guide evaluation efforts. For example, the newcomer to evaluation typically has a very difficult time sorting through a number of closely related or sometimes interchangeable terms such as theory-oriented evaluation, theory-based evaluation, theory-driven evaluation, program theory evaluation, intervening mechanism evaluation, theoretically relevant evaluation research, program theory, program logic, logic modeling, logframes, systems maps, and the like. Rather than trying to sort out this confusion, or attempt to define all of these terms and develop a new nomenclature, a rather broad definition is offered in this book in an attempt to be inclusive.

“Program Theory–Driven Evaluation Science is the systematic use of substantive knowledge about the phenomena under investigation and scientific methods to improve, to produce knowledge and feedback about, and to determine the merit, worth, and significance of evaluands such as social, educational, health, community, and organizational programs.”

– Donaldson, S. I. (2022, p. 9). Introduction to Theory-Driven Program Evaluation (2nd ed.). Routledge.

“This is exactly what gentleness is”

“Another day, in the rain, we’re waiting for the boat at the lake; from happiness, this time, the same outburst of annihilation sweeps through me. This is how it happens sometimes, misery or joy engulfs me, without any particular tumult ensuing: nor any pathos: I am dissolved, not dismembered; I fall, I flow, I melt. Such thoughts—grazed, touched, tested (the way you test the water with your foot)—can recur. Nothing solemn about them. This is exactly what gentleness is.”

– Roland Barthes (1977), A lover’s discourse: fragments


“Gorbachev’s desperate attempts to preserve socialism and the Soviet Union eventually failed utterly, turning him into an accidental hero in the West. I won’t even give him the minimal credit some offer for not sending in the proverbial tanks to crush the anti-Communist uprisings that were taking place all across the Soviet Bloc, especially since Gorbachev did send in military to Latvia and Lithuania, where he believed he could get away with it. He was hardly a risk taker where his own neck was concerned and didn’t want to end up like Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, whose rapid overthrow and execution in December 1989 was still fresh in everyone’s mind.”

– Garry Kasparov (2015), Winter Is Coming

“What is the actual difference between Russia and Ukraine?”

‘As the Director of the Ukrainian Institute London and a historian, I received numerous requests for commentary in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Most began with a question asking me to elaborate on the actual difference between Russia and Ukraine. The question was well meant; it was intended to debunk Putin’s weaponised mythology. But the interviewers were oblivious to their own entrapment in the imperialist framework even as they attempted to give Ukraine a voice. […] Weary of giving a “proper” answer (starting with Volodymyr the Great and ending with Volodymyr Zelenskiy) for the umpteenth time, I asked one journalist a question in return: “What, exactly, is the difference between Ireland and England?” Instead of an answer, I heard a nervous giggle.’

– Olesya Khromeychuk (2022), Where is Ukraine?