Ballet, Britain, Olympics, Scotland, Qalandia, War


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Even The Chickens Dance

Jeff Seroy | Paris Review | 28th June 2016

Mark Morris’s revival of Frederick Ashton’s La fille mal gardée is “perfection”, “music of the spheres”, “a kind of cosmic bliss”. The stage seethes with butter-churns, wine-bottles, carts and ponies, batons and scythes, clog-dancing, a maypole, and yards of pink ribbon. The ballet tells of a peasant girl’s struggle to outwit her mother and marry a shepherd. “There can’t be another work in the repertory of such joy, innocence and charm. If paradise exists, this ballet is playing there in an endless loop” (990 words)

No Peace After Progress

Jeremy Seabrook | New Statesman | 28th June 2016

As the Manufacturing Age moves towards its end in Britain, we can see it as a “fleeting visitation” in the life of a nation. “The most dramatic experience of the 20th century was the suddenness with which profligate plenty replaced a skinflint subsistence. Was it the speed of this that distracted us from wondering why, instead of the secure sustenance that generations of needy people had asked of an unyielding economic system, we were offered a promiscuous spillage of goods?” (1,650 words)

Making The Olympics Pay

Tim Harford | 28th June 2016

It costs about $10 billion to stage an Olympic games if you don’t go overboard, and you get about $4 billion back in direct revenues. But as a host government you want to claim that the Games are a good investment. So what do you do? You fudge. You exaggerate the “spillover benefits” alleged to come from the spending of foreign visitors during the games and the boost to tourism for years afterwards. “The rule of thumb among serious economists is to divide all such benefits by 10” (900 words)

Scottish Independence

John Kay | 29th June 2016

If Scotland had voted for independence two years ago it would have faced an uphill struggle to join the EU. Now the EU would welcome Scotland with open arms. Is it time for Scotland to vote again? “After the 2014 referendum failed I judged that independence was the likely outcome, but probably not in my lifetime. It now seems likely that I will see it. Whether it is desirable is another matter. As with Brexit, the economic impact is exaggerated on both sides and the costs of transition large” (636 words)

The Humiliation Machine

Ben Ehrenreich | Literary Hub | 29th June 2016

Thoughts while queuing to pass through the Qalandia checkpoint between the West Bank and Jerusalem. “I understood for the first time that, in its daily functioning, the 
prime purpose of the occupation was not to take land or push people from 
their homes. It did that too of course, and effectively. But overall, with its 
checkpoints and walls and prisons and permits, it functioned as a 
giant humiliation machine, a mechanism for the 
production of human despair” (1,850 words)

The After-Effects Of War

Jeff Guo | Washington Post | 28th June 2016

Suffering in war “changes people for the better, making them more cooperative and more trusting”, according to a counter-intuitive paper from three highly-regarded social scientists, drawing on 19 earlier studies. “The positive effect of war didn’t seem to fade. Some of the studies had been conducted over a decade after conflict had ended, yet they still found that the scars of war had made people more generous, more politically active and more likely to be leaders in their communities” (1,600 words)

Video of the day: Bob Dylan At 20

What to expect:

The young Bob Dylan, yet to release his first album, appears on the radio show “Folksingers’ Choice” (5’32”)

Thought for the day

Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it
H.L. Mencken

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