November 18, 2015
October 29, 2015
[movies] In Cold Blood: why isn’t the movie of Capote’s bestseller a masterpiece? … looking back at the film version of In Cold Blood … ‘All of In Cold Blood’s virtues are encapsulated in that opening: the black-and-white camerawork of cinematographer Conrad Hall; the music of Jones; and the performance of Robert Blake. Hall’s work draws on news-footage aesthetics, achieving a true-crime tabloid griminess that evokes photographers such as Walker Evans and Robert Frank. Jones sonically anchors his two killers (Smith and Richard “Dick” Hickock, played by Scott Wilson) with unnerving twinned acoustic basses and found sounds. And Robert Blake is Robert Blake, in the keynote performance of his career.’
October 13, 2015
[london] Did the tube strike improve London’s economy? … ‘Do tube strikes cost the economy millions of pounds in lost productivity, or do they shake up people and change behaviour in a way that offsets the loss? That’s indirectly, a question that has been asked by a group of researchers who took advantage of the tube strike to test a difficult to test idea, known as the Porter-hypothesis Porter argued that – when information is imperfect – externally imposed forced experimentation can help people discover unexpected improvements in efficiency.’
October 12, 2015
[terrorism] Did Ken Dornstein Solve the Lockerbie Bombing? … The engrossing story of one man’s attempt to resolve who murdered his brother on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie …
Dornstein ushered me up to the third floor, where two cramped rooms were devoted to Lockerbie. In one room, shelves were lined with books about espionage, aviation, terrorism, and the Middle East. Jumbo binders housed decades of research. In the other room, Dornstein had papered the walls with mug shots of Libyan suspects. Between the two rooms was a large map of Lockerbie, with hundreds of colored pushpins indicating where the bodies had fallen. He showed me a cluster where first-class passengers landed, and another where most economy passengers were found. Like the coroner in a police procedural, Dornstein derives such clinical satisfaction from his work that he can narrate the grisliest findings with cheerful detachment. Motioning at a scattering of pushpins some distance from the rest, he said, “They were the youngest, smallest children. If you look at the physics of it, they were carried by the wind.”
September 9, 2015
[crime] The selling of the Krays: how two mediocre criminals created their own legend … Duncan Campbell on the Krays …
In May 1968, Ronnie and Reggie Kray were arrested. Their Old Bailey trial the following year was, at 39 days, the longest murder trial in English legal history at that time; the press and public galleries were both packed. The twins denied everything, but the Blind Beggar barmaid, thereafter known as “Mrs X”, gave damning evidence and the renegade members of The Firm did the rest. Ronnie gave a spectacular but crazed performance in the witness box, name-dropping the boxing champions they knew and portraying himself as an innocent East End philanthropist. They were jailed for life and a minimum of 30 years by Mr Justice Melford Stevenson, who told them that “society has earned a rest from your activities”.
There was to be little rest from the twins, who continued to promote their image as England’s No 1 gangsters so diligently. And that remains the great enigma about the Krays: the fame they craved ensured that they would be a target for the police, and yet they staged their crimes where they would be guaranteed an audience; the men they believed were totally loyal were the ones who ensured their downfall. Once jailed, they devoted their considerable energies to their image as gangland stars, always open to visitors from outside.
September 8, 2015
[head] I Hung Out With Jeremy Bentham’s Severed Head And This Is What I Learned … Hayley Campbell meets a dead philopsopher’s head … ‘Bentham’s head has been dead for 183 years and he smells like vinegar and feet and bad jerky and damp dust. “Oh, they all smell like that. Y’know, like mummies,” said Kingham, as if the smell of Egyptian mummies is wildly more relatable to me than the smell of a dead philosopher’s head.’
July 31, 2015
[stories] Neil Gaiman on How Stories Last … edited transcripts of a Neil Gaiman talk on stories. The full version can be found here … ‘We will do an awful lot for stories — we will endure an awful lot for stories. And stories, in their turn — like some kind of symbiote — help us endure and make sense of our lives. A lot of stories do appear to begin as intrinsic to religions and belief systems — a lot of the ones we have have gods or goddesses in them; they teach us how the world exists; they teach us the rules of living in the world. But they also have to come in an attractive enough package that we take pleasure from them and we want to help them propagate.’
July 17, 2015
[space] Well-Aimed and Powerful … more thoughts on the meaning of the Apollo space programme …
Buzz Aldrin once told me that he envies writers their ability to put things into words. Yet one of his first utterances after stepping out of the lunar module, in an attempt to describe the landscape to Mission Control, was the phrase “magnificent desolation.” This is surprisingly poetic for an astronaut, and it has stayed with me ever since I noticed it in a NASA transcript years ago. Every minute of the astronauts’ time on the moon was planned, and they wore printed copies of their schedules on their wrists to keep them on track. But I have to imagine that, once in a while, Neil and Buzz looked up at the far-off mountains at the edge of the Sea of Tranquility and thought to themselves, I am on the moon. This is all happening, right now, on the surface of the moon. Buzz Aldrin said many years later, “Every step on the moon was a virginal experience. Exploring this place that had never before been seen by human eyes, upon which no foot had stepped, or hand touched—was awe-inspiring.”
Neil, Buzz, and Mike traveled farther than anyone ever had and were gone only eight days. The images they brought back are among the most beautiful ever produced—all the more so, perhaps, because none of it was particularly intended to be beautiful. The jettisoned interstage adapter of the Saturn V tumbling, on fire, in a slow-motion ballet toward the gorgeous blue of faraway Earth. Buzz Aldrin smirking in a shaft of pure sunlight streaking through the command module window. Neil Armstrong overbundled in his space suit like a child dressed for cold, standing on the ladder and cautiously dangling one boot above the dusty surface of the Sea of Tranquility. The three astronauts confined to an Airstream trailer for quarantine after their return, smiling out at the president through a picture window. The perfect blue earth, thumb-sized, hanging in a deep black sky.
July 1, 2015
[wisdom] Alain de Bottom … Alain, Rik and Ade – Together at Last!…
June 27, 2015
[obit] Patrick Macnee, Avengers star and symbol of ‘Swinging Sixties’ dies … RIP Patrick Macnee. His obituary is well worth reading…
He was born Daniel Patrick Macnee in London in 1922 and raised at first in Berkshire, where his father Daniel, known as Shrimp, was renowned in racing circles, but also in pubs and bookies – “a genius with a horse but not so good with human beings”, in his son’s words. Macnee would go on to base much of the Steed persona on his father, who at dinner parties disconcerted fellow guests whom he suspected of being a pacifist by pulling an unloaded gun on them, and was deported from India – where he later settled – for urinating from a balcony on to the heads of high-ranking Raj officials.
His mother, Dorothea, who had aristocratic connections, was 22 years younger than her husband and left him when Patrick was eight for her lesbian lover, Evelyn Spottswood, an heir to the Dewar’s whisky family. Men were banned from the house and Patrick’s mother and her partner did their best to expunge any whiff of masculinity by trying to coax him into wearing dresses. The horrified young boy mollified them by wearing only kilts until the age of 11. Uncle Evelyn, as he was instructed to call her, helped pay his fees for Eton. He expended most of his energy setting himself up as a pornography salesman and bookmaker, using tips from his father. “I had pounds 200 in the kitty when they caught me.” He was expelled.
June 26, 2015
[war] The man who sleeps in Hitler’s bed … a visit to the world’s biggest collection of Nazi memorabilia and a profile of the man who built it … ‘Later, among engine parts and ironwork, I came across a massive bust of Hitler, sitting on the floor next to a condom vending machine (“I collect pub memorabilia, too,” Wheatcroft explained). “I have the largest collection of Hitler heads in the world,” he said, a refrain that returned again and again. “This one came from a ruined castle in Austria. I bought it from the town council.” “Things have the longest memories of all,” says the introduction to a recent essay by Teju Cole, “beneath their stillness, they are alive with the terrors they have witnessed.” This is what you feel in the presence of the Wheatcroft Collection – a sense of great proximity to history, to horror, an uncanny feeling that the objects know more than they are letting on.’
June 22, 2015
[cats] A Letter from Ayn Rand to the editor of Cat Fancy magazine in 1966 … ‘You ask whether I own cats or simply enjoy them, or both. The answer is: both. I love cats in general and own two in particular. You ask: “We are assuming that you have an interest in cats, or was your subscription strictly objective?” My subscription was strictly objective because I have an interest in cats. I can demonstrate objectively that cats are of a great value, and the charter issue of Cat Fancy magazine can serve as part of the evidence. ‘
June 20, 2015
[tv] Nic Pizzolatto, the Man Behind True Detective … amusingly over-cooked profile of the True Detective creator … ‘Dennis Potter was the true progenitor, Nic told me. “He did The Singing Detective and Pennies from Heaven and Lipstick on Your Collar and Karaoke and Cold Lazarus and Blackeyes, all this great stuff. That was your TV auteur right there, and there’s still never been any TV like it. The Singing Detective is not for everybody, but it’s still the best thing ever done on television. Before we had a notion of a show-runner, that’s the guy who wrote a different mini-series every couple years. That was somebody making art as ambitious as any art being done but using this popular fallen medium of TV.”’
June 10, 2015
[dick] All Richard Nixon, all the time … a tumblr about Richard Nixon … ‘I LIKE DICK’
June 9, 2015
[fifa] How a curmudgeonly old reporter exposed the FIFA scandal that toppled Sepp Blatter … some fascinating background on the FIFA scandal … ‘The best way for Americans to imagine Andrew Jennings is to roll Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein together, then add a touch of a Scottish burr and plenty of flannel. Jennings was born in Scotland but moved to London as a child. His grandfather played for a prominent London soccer team, Clapton Orient (now called Leyton Orient), but Jennings had little interest in the sport. He did, however, have a nose for journalism.’
June 8, 2015
[politics] The undoing of Ed Miliband – and how Labour lost the election … More on the downfall of Ed Miliband … ‘In a car park in Hastings, Miliband unveiled an 8ft 6in slab of limestone, into which had been carved Labour’s six election pledges. The mockery was so intense that the location of the “Ed Stone” became the subject of frenzied media speculation after the election. “The only reason it got through 10 planning meetings was because we were all distracted, looking for a way to punch through on the SNP,” one adviser said.The stone’s demolition, in the event of a Labour loss, had been agreed at the time it was commissioned. After the election, the party drew up two plans for its disposal: one was simply to smash the stone up and throw the rubble onto a scrap heap. The second was to break it up and sell chunks, like the Berlin Wall, to party members as a fundraising effort. The first attempts to destroy the stone had to be postponed when the media tracked its location to a south London warehouse. There are claims it has been destroyed, but even Miliband’s close advisers cannot confirm its fate’
May 30, 2015
[movies] Most of Alfred Hitchcock’s cameo appearances …
May 19, 2015
[people] Kay Burley becomes self-aware … surprising news about the Sky News journalist and news anchor … ‘Burley, who on 9/11 reported that the entire eastern seaboard of the USA had been decimated by a terrorist attack, apparently recognised herself as a human being, separate from the environment and other individuals, and capable of introspection, after five hours of belligerently trying to interview “that sour-faced woman in the mirror”. Self-awareness usually begins in humans at the age of 18 months when toddlers recognise their own reflections.’
May 15, 2015
[politics] Inside the Milibunker: the last days of Ed … the inside story on Milliband’s downfall … ‘Another Labour insider told of the scene in the press office when Miliband posed with the notorious Ed stone, the 8ft 6in slab of limestone upon which his six key election pledges were inscribed. When it appeared on TV, a press officer ‘started screaming. He stood in the office, just screaming over and over again at the screen. It was so bad they thought he was having a breakdown.’’
May 13, 2015
[herzog] Werner Herzog’s memoir Of Walking in Ice, reviewed … a book about that time Werner Herzog walked from Munich to Paris to visit a friend’s deathbed …
The voice too is the one we know so well from the films and summons the familiar face: lugubrious, disheveled, and beetle-browed, perennially squinting as though against the blinding light of the universe’s final catastrophe. No detail is too small to depress him: “The teenagers on their mopeds are moving toward death in synchronized motion,” he glumly writes. “I think of unharvested turnips but, by God, there are no unharvested turnips around.”
May 5, 2015
[life] Quite possibly the greatest Internet comment ever… posted by VoteUKIPforTheKids on a Guardian article on Steve Strange.
These guys were Bohemians? Don’t make me laugh. Do you know where the most bohemian place in this country is – The Church of England!
Women bishops, over friendly vicars, vegetarians, and socialists have done more damage to the once wonderful institution of the Anglican church than Hitler’s bombs. It wouldn’t surprise me if I woke up next week and found that Westminster Abbey was now a disco nightclub.
My brother in law, Nigel got caught up in the bohemian lifestyle when he met a Dutch sailor called Jurgen at a ‘get to know your neighbour’ session at his local church. I suppose we should noticed something suspicious when the vicar (who was wearing a rainbow coloured jumper) exhorted everyone present to shake their neighbour’s hand. Little did we realise at the time that this was his introduction to moral depravity. Mind you, Nigel was always an odd one. He preferred musical theatre to sport etc, but despite that found what we thought was a nice girl and got married. Sadly she turned out to be a harridan who was more interested in the Labour Party and ‘women’s issues’ than bearing his children. Ultimately she threw him out and moved her fancyman in. It nearly destroyed poor old Nigel. He lost a lovely home (four beds, large garden, double garage) on a nice estate and ended up living on a barge on a canal. Still he found love of some kind with Jurgen and together they making a living refurbishing soiled cinema seats in Amsterdam. Obviously I don’t talk to him anymore, neither does anyone else in the family. I can only hope he is happy.
April 20, 2015
[web] HTTP Error 447: Gone until I get the attention I deserve … a new type of HTTP error … ‘The 447 response is primarily intended to assist the task of ego maintenance by notifying the recipient that the resource is intentionally but temporarily unavailable and that the server owners desire that people pay more attention to them. Such an event is common for resources belonging to emotionally unstable individuals when they feel the world is no longer going their way. ‘
March 26, 2015
[tv] Clarkson Agonistes … great analysis of the Jeremy Clarkson sacking by Tom Ewing … ‘So for Jeremy Clarkson, the man who plays this superhero, to be laid low by the dull grind of consequence, of taking responsibility for his actions, is a great betrayal. The carefree promise of no consequences – the heart of the Top Gear magic – has been broken. It’s not surprising – though still pathetic – that denial would be an easy reaction to this, a stamped-foot, fingers-in-ears assertion that the facts don’t matter, that breaktime hasn’t ended, that every logic and common sense fact of workplace relationships be suspended so that our hero can – yet again – jump free and rollick on to his next adventure.’
March 25, 2015
[life] 12 Devastating Middle Class Problems … ‘A huge amount of my time is spent picking coriander out of things.’
March 21, 2015
[philosophy] ‘Kant is a moron’: vandals critique the philosopher’s home … 210 years after his death an unknown critic vandalizes Immanuel Kant’s home … ‘The Russian word used is a relatively mild term of abuse for a slow-witted or foolish person, and could also be translated as “loser,” “dumb-ass,” or “chump”. The vandals did not, however, leave any accompanying critique of Kant’s thinking to justify the smear on his intellectual powers. Kant (1724-1804) is generally considered one of the most formidable philosophers to have lived, and is credited with breakthroughs in epistemology and moral philosophy that continue to define the fields to this day.’
March 13, 2015
[movies] The Grantland Q&A: Errol Morris … big interview with Errol Morris … On Donald Rumsfeld: ‘But I think — and I could be just making excuses for myself — that there’s a portrait that emerges [in The Unknown Known] that’s very different and far more interesting than the portrait you would’ve gotten by having him walk off the set or repeatedly refuse to answer questions, which is what would’ve happened. There’s something about his manner that reveals to me much about the man. A refusal to engage stuff with any meaning is really frightening, and I think that’s part of who he is. There’s a whole class of people who love to push people around but don’t love to think about stuff carefully.’
March 5, 2015
[politics] Bill Clinton portrait artist hints at Monica Lewinsky scandal … how an artist incorporated Monica Lewinsky’s Blue Dress into a portrait of Bill Clinton … ‘“If you look at the left-hand side of it there’s a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things,” Shanks said. “It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there.”Lewinsky’s stained blue dress itself became a symbol of the scandal during the 1990s. The shadow “is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him,” Shanks said.’
March 3, 2015
[life] What is blue and how do we see color? … a look at why the Ancient Greeks could not see the colour blue … ‘Davidoff says that without a word for a color, without a way of identifying it as different, it is much harder for us to notice what is unique about it — even though our eyes are physically seeing the blocks it in the same way. So before blue became a common concept, maybe humans saw it. But it seems they did not know they were seeing it. If you see something yet can’t see it, does it exist? Did colors come into existence over time? Not technically, but our ability to notice them may have…’
February 28, 2015
[politics] Ukip delegates find a great deal to be unhappy about … a political sketch from the Ukip Conference In Margate …
“The polls are also looking good,” Nuttall continued. This provoked several sharp intakes of breath, before everyone realised he hadn’t been talking about the Poles. To make up for this momentary lapse, they gave Ukip supporter Harjit Singh a standing ovation for being a Sikh.
Elsewhere there was nothing but trouble. Our fish were being stolen, our nuns were being sneered at, our vacuum cleaners were being abused and our foreign aid budget was being spent on teaching Africans to dance. MEP Nathan Gill proudly introduced his new publication, 8 Reasons for Cutting Foreign Aid that featured a photo of a starving African child on the front. “Charity begins at home,” he said. Even our dogs were going to the dogs. All those fancy new cockapoos and labradooodle what nots.
Into this hellish pit of despair, stepped a heavily made-up Nigel Farage…
February 27, 2015
[life] The truth about evil … a long-read from John Gray on the nature of evil and how politicians deal with it … ‘Here Blair is at one with most western leaders. It’s not that they are obsessed with evil. Rather, they don’t really believe in evil as an enduring reality in human life. If their feverish rhetoric means anything, it is that evil can be vanquished. In believing this, those who govern us at the present time reject a central insight of western religion, which is found also in Greek tragic drama and the work of the Roman historians: destructive human conflict is rooted in flaws within human beings themselves. In this old-fashioned understanding, evil is a propensity to destructive and self-destructive behaviour that is humanly universal. The restraints of morality exist to curb this innate human frailty; but morality is a fragile artifice that regularly breaks down. Dealing with evil requires an acceptance that it never goes away.’
January 31, 2015
[books] Charts and Diagrams Drawn by Famous Authors … fascinating collection of diagrams authors have used to plan their work … ‘Writers often use plot charts to organize the threads of complicated stories, but they’ve also been known to crank out diagrams of the travels of other people’s characters, chart-style teaching tools, and even hand-drawn maps.’
December 28, 2014
[zen] Wisdom from the 15th Century Zen Monk Ikkyū … ‘If you someday come looking for me, I will be in a shop that sells fine seafood, a good drinking place, or a brothel.’
December 26, 2014
[crime] Death Row Guard Has Always Had Soft Spot For The Innocent Ones … ‘McFadden acknowledged he has felt a personal and enduring emotional connection to virtually every one of the not-guilty death row inmates he has known, from those assigned shoddy public defenders who failed to secure a plea deal, to those sentenced on the basis of clearly fabricated police evidence and later-recanted testimony, to those who were mentally unfit to stand trial in the first place.’
December 23, 2014
[movies] How the Death of Mid-Budget Cinema Left a Generation of Iconic Filmmakers MIA … ‘Francis Ford Coppola made four of the finest films in motion picture history, but he can’t get a movie produced anymore; after a ten-year exile, he made three films between 2007 and 2011 that were basically self-financed (via his lucrative wine-making business). “You try to go to a producer today and say you want to make a film that hasn’t been made before; they will throw you out because they want the same film that works, that makes money,” he said at the Marrakech International Film Festival.’
December 13, 2014
[politics] Revealed: how Nigel Farage and Ukip begged for Enoch Powell’s support … What a suprise – it turns out Enoch Powell is one of Nigel Farage’s heroes … ‘Mr Farage, the Ukip leader, was branded “a pound shop Enoch Powell” by Russell Brand, a comedian, during a debate on the BBC’s Questiontime programme on Thursday night. The links between Mr Farage, Ukip and Mr Powell have been unearthed by The Daily Telegraph in letters to Mr Powell held in a university archive.’
December 7, 2014
[books] Chris Morris interviews Bret Easton Ellis … ‘Who says Americans can’t write books? Well, my school teacher for one did but she was wrong and she’s dead now, and as if to dance on her grave this American is all book. His name is Brett Easton-Ellis, he’s from New York. Now I want you to imagine a book over 6 feet tall, it looks like a man, then imagine that book takes you aside throws open its arms and sprays words all over your face. It makes you laugh, it makes you cringe with raw satire like guts.’
November 30, 2014
November 18, 2014
[people] An Investigation into the Weirdest Ronald Reagan Photo You’ve Probably Never Seen … ‘I like trifling historical mysteries, and this obscure, bizarre photo of a famous man—this image utterly devoid of context—fits the bill. Who shot it? Where? What were the circumstances of the occasion? And who is the boy? I talked to Krassner first. I’d been looking for an excuse to interview him; how many people do you know that rode the bus with the Merry Pranksters, edited Lenny Bruce, and claims to have coined the term soft-core pornography?’
November 14, 2014
[london] 27 Of The Most Ridiculous Things Posh London Mums Have Said … ‘It annoys me that my own child wears cotton without any sense of its history or the historic struggles in its manufacture.’
November 13, 2014
[herzog] Werner Herzog Discusses His Unique Career … ‘Actually, I was completely stoned once with the composer Florian Fricke in Popol Vuh. I was at his home and he had pancakes and marmalade. And I smeared the marmalade and he started chuckling and chuckling. And I ate it and it tasted very well and I wanted another one and took another good amount of the marmalade and the marmalade had weed in it. He didn’t even tell me. I was so stoned that it took me an hour to find my home in Munich. I circled the block for a full hour until finding my place. So I have had the experience.’
November 11, 2014
[books] Stephen King: The Rolling Stone Interview …
Q: Do you think much about what your legacy will be?
King: No, not very much. For one, it’s out of my control. Only two things happen to writers when they die: Either their work survives, or it becomes forgotten. Someone will turn up an old box and say, “Who’s this guy Irving Wallace?” There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Ask kids in high school, “Who is Somerset Maugham?” They’re not going to know. He wrote books that were bestsellers in their time. But he’s well-forgotten now, whereas Agatha Christie has never been more popular. She just goes from one generation to another. She’s not as good a writer as Maugham, and she certainly didn’t try to do anything other than entertain people. So I don’t know what will happen.
November 9, 2014
[space] Buzz Aldrin’s Reddit AMA Was Pretty Badass … ‘When one user mentioned that there was no Plan B to get him off the moon and asked what his plan if he’d been simply left to die, Aldrin cooly responded: “To continue trying to fix the problem until the lack of oxygen caused us go to sleep.”’
November 8, 2014
[net] What happens when you accidentally become internet famous? … ‘Fist clenched, a look of pure determination on his face, Success Kid is the boy who can do it all. You may have seen his face posted when someone’s particularly proud of an achievement. Success Kid’s real name is Sam Griner and the photo is one of many his mother Laney, a photographer, took of her son and posted on her Flickr page. She still remembers the day and the moment she snapped this picture…’
November 5, 2014
[crime] My Grandma the Poisoner … must-read, car crash story – what if Grandma was slowly poisoning your family? …
I can’t pin down exactly what she did with what ingredients. I can’t even be sure that she really did the things I think she did. All I have, really, are pieces of circumstantial evidence and hunches that have coalesced over the years. In my narrative of suspicions, she preferred to use vitamin A (which can cause sleepiness, blurred vision, and nausea, among other things), then she used laxatives, and then, as she got older and lazier, she moved on to prescription drugs.
Grandma never cooked the same thing twice, and her creations were greasy beyond belief and usually really weird. For example: chicken baked with apricots and canned tomatoes, or mixed-up ground meats with prunes, or pickled things. She was infamous at the local grocery store. They saved the shark livers for her.
October 28, 2014
[funny] Sacha Baron Cohen tipped for Emmys for tragi-comedy character ‘Russell Brand’ … ‘One independently minded Guardian book reviewer aside, the entire staff of both The Guardian and the BBC were taken in by the Russell Brand character. He was granted audiences with news editors, publishers and TV producers. His opinion was sought out by Parliamentary Select Committees and quangos set up to combat drug addiction and over crowding in prisons. He regularly held court on issues of politics, economics and global warming, with people far more knowledgable and experienced than himself. And yet, incredibly, everyone was taken in.’
October 22, 2014
[books] Malcolm Gladwells David and Goliath Fairy Tales … a strong, convincing critique of Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book … ‘The inveterate simplicity of Gladwell’s stories comes not only from a resistance to complexity, but also from a denial of tragedy. This neglect of tragic choices is not just a defect in presentation, though it helps to confer upon his books their peculiar inimitable blandness. Suppressing tragedy is also a refusal to think honestly about power. Václav Havel, who became president of his country after the collapse of the communist tyranny against which he had fought, spoke of “the power of the powerless,” but unlike Gladwell—who nowhere mentions the Czech dissident, perhaps because he was not a social scientist—Havel never underplayed the power of the powerful. He knew that Goliath was genuine and dangerous, not a timorous midget in disguise. In contrast, Gladwell would have us believe that power is a kind of illusion or confidence trick, a misinterpretation. This is a desperately dangerous view to apply in practice. For Tibetans facing becoming a minority in their own country, for Christians in Egypt and Syria, for Bahá′í in Iran, and for other imperiled groups, the power of the powerful could be potentially fatal.’
October 5, 2014
[life] 26 Times Waitrose Outright Ruined The Lives Of Decent People … ‘It would be much easier if Waitrose kept the carrot batons next to the houmous.’
September 24, 2014
[books] Ten things you should know about HP Lovecraft … ‘Lovecraft died of cancer of the small intestine in 1937. In keeping with his lifelong fascination with science, he kept a detailed diary of his eventually mortal illness. When he died, Lovecraft was buried in Swan Point Cemetery and listed on his mother’s family’s monument. This wasn’t enough for Lovecraft’s fans: in 1977, a group funded and installed a separate headstone. In 1997, a particularly avid fan attempted to dig up Lovecraft’s corpse under the headstone, but gave up after finding nothing from digging three feet.’
September 17, 2014
[funny] Werner Herzog’s Note To His Cleaning Lady … ‘I have conquered volcanoes and visited the bitter depths of the earth’s oceans. Nothing I have witnessed, from lava to crustacean, assailed me liked the caked debris haunting that small plastic soap hammock in the smaller of the bathrooms. Nausea is not a sufficient word.’
September 15, 2014
[books] Don Estelle: Sing Lofty (Thoughts of a Gemini) – An important and definitive guide … Scary Duck reads Don Estelle’s autobiography so we don’t have to … ‘If there’s one thing that stands out from Sing Lofty it’s this: Despite his prodigious singing voice, he was certainly no writer. And this comes out in his haphazard style, swinging from one subject to the next, recalling his exact mortgage payment at the time of the Suez Crisis and the name, address and post code of every booking he ever had, to his (probably righteous) rage at his lack of TV work after It Ain’t Half Hot Mum finished. If there’s an alternative title for this book, it’ll be Modern Life Is Shit… ‘