Yesterday was the 12th day of Christmas so it seems time to ask some hard questions, like have you taken down your decorations, what’s the point in such festivities anyway and are there any reasons to be cheerful in 2023?
Here’s someone who was feeling optimistic back in the sweltering heat (I’m imagining) of US Independence Day in 2020:
But if you click on the date (or time) you’ll see something strange. Conversation interruptus one might call it. This may give a clue to the alert Cliscep reader that this post can be seen as a sequel to Bit Rot. It is. But when I penned those initial thoughts in February last year I had no idea that Elon Musk was going to take over Twitter. And for me that makes the question about plausible cheerfulness this year a highly interesting one. Listen for example to these four opinions:
How about the Covid vaccine debate in the legacy media today?
Would this breakthrough in the Daily Telegraph have happened without Dr Malhotra’s sterling work on Twitter recently under the liberal, free speech-loving regime of the Tesla owner? I wouldn’t be doing this post if I didn’t think there was a connection. (And if I didn’t think this issue, and others like it, were extremely important.)
But I’m interested in anyone’s view. Musk-haters. Pessimists. Covid vaccine trusters. I’m sure you get the idea.
That’s it for now. I will add to this post in the coming days. When I make an addition to the main body I’ll add a comment to that effect.
Perplexing Mr Musk
Thanks to Mark Hodgson for this:
As for Musk, the man just perplexes me. On balance, I think I’m pleased about what he seems to be trying to achieve at Twitter, and since at the Guardian he seems to have gone from hero (due to his early pushing of EVs) to zero (apparently because he says he believes in freedom of speech) then in my eyes he must be doing something right. That said, I haven’t forgotten the Thai cave incident and what he said at the time.
I wanted to talk more about Elon Musk so thanks! He freely admits of course to having Aspergers (here hosting Saturday Night Live in May 2021):
As he says there his monotone style of speech actually lends itself rather well to standup. His mother Maye Musk isn’t quite as good on that but their closeness comes through in a rather sweet way. On Musk’s diffidence generally, and competence as a ‘conductor’ for engineers, we have the first-hand testimony of Michael Kelly on Cliscep in October 2020:
Last night, my wife and I watched “Steve Jobs,” and it was like reliving my past (without the billions in wealth) – especially the scenes where Jobs and Wozniak were talking about who did what, and Jobs took Wozniak into the orchestra pit. He described himself as the conductor. It was exactly on point.
I know Elon, and like him a lot. In all of my dealings with him, he’s been straightforward, polite, and almost shy. My last hurrah in commercial space was as Chief Engineer of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation in the Federal Aviation Agency. I dealt with SpaceX a lot in that capacity, and tried to ensure that the federal “oversight” was not onerous. I have the utmost respect for SpaceX on a technical level, and for Elon as an orchestra leader – and more. I see what he is doing in these videos, and know why he is doing them. Been there, done that, though not on the same scale.
Cut him some slack. The life of a visionary is not easy, and the life of a successful visionary (as Elon absolutely is in the world of space transportation) is demanding as hell. He may bet on some wrong horses. I thought Tesla was one, until I took a trip in a relative’s Model X SUV a couple of months ago….l have never, ever been “wowed” by an automobile, but that one left me agape.
Judge the claims against engineering and physics, and adjust expectations accordingly. But don’t dismiss him. He has too many successes for that.
That doesn’t mean of course that he’s getting everything right on and concerning Twitter. Two months ago he talked at length to Ron Baron, a long-term investor in Tesla. This goes straight to the segment about his plans and vision for the social media outfit, though I found the rest, about Tesla and SpaceX, informative and indeed (at least in part) inspiring:
Then there’s the incident in July 2018, that Mark alludes to, where Musk called Vernon Unsworth ‘pedo guy’ on Twitter. Unsworth was one of those trying to save the lives of the kids trapped in the Thai cave system. As an aside, Thirteen Lives is a great film about the rescue, that only came out in the last six months. And the article Ron Howard’s ‘Thirteen Lives’ Is Incredibly Accurate Except for One Element in September is fascinating if one is really interested in ‘truth’ in all kinds of media and what that means.
Anyway, I googled musk pedo guy on reading Mark’s comment and was, once more, surprised by the Web. For Google happily served up this paragraph up front, from a CNN report:
Calling someone a ‘pedo guy’ means creepy. If you did a search or asked someone what it means it would be a creepy.” Musk’s lawyer Alex Spiro, in his opening statement, referred to Musk’s tweet as a “JDART.” Spiro said, “It was a joking, deleted, apologized for, responsive tweet. A JDART.” (3 Dec 2019)
Does it make the reader suspicious that near the end of this section I say I believe a lawyer? Anyway, Musk won the case. The court decided he hadn’t defamed Unsworth. Or as the Guardian put it in their headline “Elon Musk: pedo guy insult was ‘not classy’ but not meant literally”.
It’s not the only thing perplexing about Musk. There’s also stuff like this
Wow. Not forgetting a proud Mum.
My subtitle for this post was Enigmatic New Year. That’s not unconnected for me with the perplexing enigma of Elon Musk himself. Further feedback welcome.