North Korea, Joan Robinson, Execution, Princess Margaret, Chess

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A Gift To North Korea

Ezra Klein | Vox | 21st December 2017

Conversation with Barbara Demick about ideology and everyday life in North Korea. Interesting throughout. “People are divided up by their loyalty to the regime. You have a core class and a wavering class and a hostile class. If you had an ancestor who was a landlord or a Japanese collaborator you have tainted blood. If you have any relative who’s defected or become some sort of dissident, the entire family is punished down to the third degree of cousins. That is one way they keep control” (2,700 words)

A Fellow Traveller’s Tale

Julian Gewirtz | LARB China Channel | 13th December 2017

Joan Robinson’s career exemplified the difference between intelligence and judgement. The first she had in abundance; she was a Cambridge economist of world renown. Yet judgement deserted her when it came to China. She revered Mao, supported the Great Leap Forward, and praised the Cultural Revolution as “picturesque and startling”. When other fellow-travellers recanted, Robinson held firm. After visiting China in 1978 she wrote: “It was deflating to be told that the Cultural Revolution is over” (1,500 words)

Watching A Fall

Christine Spillson | Longreads | 20th December 2017

Mesmerising account of America’s last public execution, a 1936 hanging before 10,000 spectators. “It was a story of a woman sheriff and a humane hangman. It was the story of a county that had elected to charge a man with rape rather than with murder, though the prosecutor believed him guilty of both, because in Kentucky one could punish rape by a public hanging in the town where the crime occurred; a murderer would be executed privately by the state with an electric chair” (5,070 words)

Always The Same Dream

Ferdinand Mount | LRB | 21st December 2017

Glittering review of Craig Brown’s biography of Princess Margaret. “The effect is like a sweeping Klimt portrait in which the comet trail of colourful fragments leaves a wistful impression of an era on the skids. You feel the sadness all the more not because the princess is such an endearing character but because most of the time she is so ghastly and ghastly in a way that brings out the worst in other people. She specialises in insulting her hosts’ every effort to entertain her” (4,019 words)

The Complete Guide To Understanding Chess

Ben Tippett | Deadspin | 5th December 2017

Very much as the title suggests, a complete explainer, from the shape of the board to the etiquette of grandmasters. “Elite players invariably resign when a clearly losing position is reached, and over-the-board mates in competition are very rare. It is seen as disrespectful to play on in a clearly lost position. Most commonly, games end in a draw by agreement, where players simply shake hands and agree to split the points based on their evaluation of the position on the board” (7,830 words)

Video of the day Creativity Art Submission

What to expect:

Hallucinogenic mash-up of impressionist paintings created using Google’s DeepDream (3’56”)

Thought for the day

Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life
Simone Weil

Podcast of the day The Nose Job | Unorthodoxy

Alana Newhouse and Wayne Hoffman of Tablet discuss rhinoplasty with surgeon Jonathan Kaplan

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