(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘achievement

“I was obliged to be industrious”*…

There’s an old joke that goes something like this: Mozart, on dying too young, finds himself in Heaven. He’s approached by God, who suggests that Mozart might become the conductor of Heaven’s orchestra. Mozart, taken aback, exclaims, “I’m flattered Lord, but surely Kapellmeister Bach is here and would be a more appropriate choice.” to which God responds, “I am Bach.”

Tyler Cowan with an argument that the joke isn’t so far off…

I’ve been reading and rereading biographies of Bach lately (for some podcast prep), and it strikes me he might count as the greatest achiever of all time.  That is distinct from say regarding him as your favorite composer or artist of all time.  I would include the following metrics as relevant for that designation:

1. Quality of work.

2. How much better he was than his contemporaries.

3. How much he stayed the very best in subsequent centuries.

4. Quantity of work.

5. Peaks.

6. Consistency of work and achievement.

I see Bach as ranking very, very high in all these categories.  Who else might even be a contender for greatest achiever of all time?  Shakespeare?  Maybe, but Bach seems to beat him for relentlessness and quantity (at a very high quality level).  Beethoven would be high on the list, but he doesn’t seem to quite match up to Bach in all of these categories.  Homer seems relevant, but we are not even sure who or what he was.  Archimedes?  Plato or Aristotle?  Who else?…

In any case, a reminder that we should all be listening to more Bach: “Is Bach the greatest achiever of all time?“, from @tylercowen.

* Johann Sebastian Bach


As we muse on magnificence, we might send melodic birthday greetings to Girolamo Frescobaldi; he was born on this date in 1583. A composer and keyboard virtuoso, he created some of the most influential music of the 17th century. His work influenced Bach, Johann PachelbelHenry Purcell, and other major composers.

Indeed, Bach is known to have owned a number of Frescobaldi’s works, including a manuscript copy of Frescobaldi’s Fiori musicali (Venice, 1635), which Bach signed and dated 1714 and performed in Weimar the same year.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 13, 2023 at 1:00 am

When I’m good…


Your correspondent imagines that readers have envied, as he has, the rakish sashes worn by Boy and Girl Scouts the world over– and more, the little round “emblems of competence,” the Merit Badges, with which they are bedecked.  How satisfying it would be be to advertise one’s accomplishments as one walked about!  And how gratifying to do it so much specifically than can a fancy watch or a ridiculously-expensive handbag!

Well, Dear Readers, our time has come.  Thanks to the good folks at Merit Badger, one can advertise skills and achievements in such arenas as:

Learning From Mistakes


Having No Outstanding Library Fines

Readers can visit Merit Badger to outfit themselves.

As we try to remember over which shoulder we wear the thing, we might recall that it was on this date in 1982 that arbitrageur Ivan Boesky offered Martin Siegel, a mergers-and-acquisitions executive at Kidder, Peabody & Co., a job.   Siegel declined, and Boesky then suggested that if Siegel would supply him with early inside information on upcoming mergers there would be something in it for him.

Boesky turned Siegel’s tips into profits (one example: he made over $28 million trading Carnation stock on insider info) until 1986, when the Feds arrested dozens on Wall Street for insider and related trading violations.  Boesky was convicted and sentenced to 3 years– a lighter punishment than Michael Milken’s 10 years, but still much more than Siegel’s:  as one of the few cooperating witnesses, and the only one who showed any remorse, Siegel was allowed simply to repay the $9 million he’d received from Boesky.

The 1986 case(s) were the largest stock manipulation scheme prosecuted at the time…  and may still be, though the full dimensions of the pending Galleon case are not yet known.



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