Patrick Leigh Fermor, Putin, Sherry, Alan Dershowitz, Character, Progress


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Traveller’s Tales

James Campbell | Times Literary Supplement | 21st December 2016

Review of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Letters. “He was drawn to distinctiveness in all spheres: remote communities, disappearing languages, secret castes, national characteristics, blue blood, any hinterland where ‘the wireless is out of earshot. His latter-day journeys were less Chatwin than Chatsworth, but the twinkling labyrinth of Fermor’s erudition has kept its fascination, as has the character behind it. Not just a traveller, but a man on equal terms with mountain warriors” (2,950 words)

Russia Enters A Time Of Transition, By Stealth

Gleb Pavlovsky | Carnegie Moscow Centre | 22nd December 2016

Plausible argument that Putin’s majority is real but fissile. “When you break it down, this ‘Putin majority’ consists of many different unrepresented minorities. If one or two of them are activated, then the anonymous majority will evaporate, and a much more diverse Russia will emerge in its place … Poor Putin, what a joke history is playing on him! He is a dreamy conservative who is getting old, and now he is heading for a fateful encounter with a Russia that is still of working age” (1,660 words)

Sherry Christmas

John Kay | 22nd December 2016

On the collapse of the sherry market in Britain as a model of the real business cycle. “The genius of Harvey and Showering was to sell alcoholic drinks whose sweetness was palatable to people unfamiliar with alcoholic drinks, and who would gain confidence in their choice from the scale of the promotional activity. These products were of their time: the market for sherry in Britain declined because its consumers passed away, the market for Babycham declined because its consumers grew up” (670 words)

The World v. Alan Dershowitz

Simon van Zuylen-Wood | Boston | 11th December 2016

Entertaining and provocative profile of the veteran Harvard trial lawyer, lately tarred by his assocation with a debauched hedge-fund tycoon. Dershowitz’s free-speech absolutism has carried him in the course of his 50-year career from one end of the political spectrum to the other. He insists, not without reason, that the spectrum has moved, while he has stayed put. Free speech used to be a liberal cause; now its most vocal defenders are right-wing opponents of “political correctness” (6,040 words)

The Phineas Gage Effect

Kevin Tobia | Aeon | 21st December 2016

A brain injury changes a man’s character. He used to be gentle and kind; now he is violent and cruel. Is he the still same person? Our instinctive answer is No. Try again. A brain injury changes a man’s character. He used to be violent and cruel; now he is gentle and kind. Is he still the same person? Our instinctive answer is Yes. “You can undergo a fundamental transformation of character and still be judged to be the same person, provided that the transformation is in the right direction” (2,100 words)

A History Of Global Living Conditions

Max Roser | Our World In Data | 20th December 2016

Newspaper headlines and public opinion notwithstanding, the quality of life is better by far than it has ever been — at least for the average human being. The proportion of the World’s population living in extreme poverty has fallen from 75% to 10% since 1950. The literacy rate has risen from 30% to 85% since 1930. Child mortality has fallen ten-fold since 1800. Colonialism has all but disappeared. Half the world’s population lives in a democracy, and most of the other half lives in China (3,650 words)

Video of the day: Casse-Croute

What to expect:

A forest full of creatures, all looking for a snack. Animation by Burcu and Geoffrey (0’58”)

Thought for the day

Everything has already been said, but since nobody was listening, we have to start again
André Gide

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