Imogen West-Knights’ beautiful article about tragedy in polar exploration (26 March) recalled two very different pieces of art. One, Héroes de la Antártida, is a song by the 1980s Spanish group Mecano. A perky disco synth beat surreally accompanies the grim tale of death/cold picking off Robert Falcon Scott’s team one by one. The other, To Build a Fire, a short story by Jack London, traces the fate of a lone and overconfident explorer in the Yukon. There is a universality to the fascination expressed in the article.
• Your editorial on artificial intelligence (31 March) was both interesting and provocative. But it still left me wondering whether “artificial intelligence” is up there with “small crowd” and “old news” as a fundamental oxymoron. As with most things it comes down to definitions, semantics and understanding. I tried running this past my computer, Hal, but he tells me he is not at liberty to discuss it.
• Monica Ali refers to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and “doublespeak” (The books of my life, 25 March). To be clear: Orwell invented two separate terms, doublethink and Newspeak, which somehow became conflated.
• Never mind what mothers are called (Letters, 30 March). The important names are the ones your grandchildren give you.
Manny and Bamps Kirkwood
• Sometimes children use more than one name. One of my friends says that if a text from her daughter starts “Hi Mumma!”, she knows it’s going to be expensive.
• First stop San Serriffe (Tory MPs lobby No 10 to let royal family use seized Russian superyacht, 1 April)?
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