Space, China, Byzantium, Buddha, UFOs

First Men and Original Sins

Adam Roberts | Image | 10th May 2019

Americans lost interest in the Apollo space programme at roughly the time they became passionate about Star Wars, in the late 1970s. They wanted space to be moving, mystifying uplifting; whereas the Apollo missions, save for the first moon landing, were all about engineering. “Star Wars killed the space race by feeding a more palatable, empty-calorie version of exploration and adventure to an audience eager for those things and content with the pleasing copy rather than the tedious reality” (3,790 words)


How The State Runs Business In China

Richard McGregor | Guardian | 25th July 2019

Every large company in China has a Communist Party committee within it, sending reports to the centre and relaying Party instructions. Under Xi Jinping, the over-riding purpose of the committee system is to ensure that no business group or person gains enough leverage to challenge the Party’s monopoly on politics. When Jack Ma announced last year that he would step down as Alibaba’s CEO, he may well have done so because his power and popularity were making him more and more of a target (3,700 words)


Byzantium

Rafil Kroll-Zaidi | Harper’s | 1st May 2012

Delirious collage of history and legend. ”Constantinople had a thousand churches and insuperable walls landward and seaward. On the main approach to the palace, only the perfume merchants were permitted their trade. In the imperial throne room was a golden tree in whose branches mechanical birds sang. Next to the levitating Throne of Solomon sat a goose who screamed if the emperor’s meals were poisoned. The emperor alone could pass through the membrane separating his court from God’s” (4,300 words)


Marxism And Buddhism

Adrian Kreutz | Aeon | 17th July 2019

Marxists and Buddhists agree that life is suffering and that most people are “tricked into believing that pointless goods and services are necessary for a happy and fulfilled existence”. Marxists blame this state of affairs on capitalism. Buddhists blame it on the fleeting nature of life. So why not a synthesis of Buddhism and Marxism? Buddhism would provide the much-needed spiritual basis — the negation of self, the rejection of materialist illusions — on which a Marxist society could flourish (3,200 words)


UFOs, Religion & Technology

Samuel Loncar | LARB | 27th July 2019

Riveting review of D.W. Pasulka’s American Cosmic, a “profound and original exploration of how UFO culture can usefully be thought of as religion”. UFO sightings show “patterns similar to miracle reports throughout history”. The UFO becomes, for believers, a sort of Holy Grail — a physical object which, when found, will confirm their hope and faith. It may yet happen. “At the risk of spoiling some of the story, you should know that Pasulka witnesses the discovery of an apparently extraterrestrial artifact” (2,279 words)


Video: Poems Of Pablo Neruda. Delightful short animated introduction to the work, and the life, of the Chilean poet and politician (4m 49s)

Audio: Rutger Bregman’s Utopias | Ezra Klein. Dutch historian Rutger Bregman argues for the importance of taking a more hopeful vision of human nature, as the precondition of building a more benign society (1h 33m 40s)

Afterthought:
”Everything is relative; and only that is absolute”
— Auguste Comte