Roads, Coase, Primo Levi, Baghdad, Bill Ayers

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On The Road

Alice Spawls | LRB | 31st January 2018

A cyclist’s guide to the language of road markings, road surfaces, and road signs. “London’s streets are much more written on than those in other European cities, and more vivid, with different coloured stripes and lettering; swathes of colour to demark green cycle zones, blue for cycle highways, red for bus lanes. Tarmac itself comes in endless shades, great seams are sketched out on the fabric in shiny black latex piping, and the patchwork is studded with manhole covers” (1,830 words)

The Coasian Inferno

Alex Harrowell | Yorkshire Ranter | 31st January 2018

“What have US healthcare, British railways, the shipwreck of Carillion plc, and the F-35 got in common? Well — none of them works terribly well, they all cost vastly more than expected, and nobody can put their finger on why. Cash seems to leak out of them by a thousand cuts, without necessarily ending up with a well-defined villain. Productivity is stubbornly terrible and improvement forever delayed. We’ve lived through a giant experiment in proving Ronald Coase wrong, which has now failed” (1,600 words)

Survival In Auschwitz

Primo Levi | New Republic | 17th February 1986

Unflinching interview with Primo Levi. Read and weep. “You may wonder why the prisoners who had just gotten off the trains did not revolt, waiting as they did for hours (sometimes days) to enter the gas chambers. The Germans had perfected a diabolically clever and versatile system of collective death. New arrivals did not know what awaited them. They were received with cold efficiency but without brutality. They were handed soap and towels, and promised hot coffee after their showers” (3,900 words)

Saddam And Me

Ali Shakir | Arabic Literature In English | 25th January 2018

Memoir of life in Baghdad during the 1990-91 Gulf War, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. “The daylight hours passed very quickly. Before we knew it, night had fallen, signaling another period of air raids and missile attacks. Our evening meal consisted of bread and whatever dairy products — mainly canned cheese — remained in our pantry. After a week or so of power outages, the freezers were hardly cold and their stock of meat started changing taste” (1,700 words)

The Long, Strange Trip Of Bill Ayers

Ben Joravsky | Chicago Reader | 8th November 1990

Gripping period profile of the leftist near-revolutionary whose life became a strange slice of American history. His father ran Commonwealth Edison; he ran the Weathermen, the 1960s terrorist group that bombed the Pentagon and sprung LSD guru Timothy Leary from jail. “The issues that we raised — race, poverty, class disparity, pollution, education — haven’t been resolved. And you know something? I’ll be there. I’ll be an old graybeard, but I’ll be on the front lines, right there with you” (11,200 words)

Video of the day How To Keep Cool

What to expect:

Whether you agree with Jordan Peterson or Cathy Newman, this is a useful commentary on their conversation (11’39”)

Thought for the day

The best way out is always through
Robert Frost

Podcast of the day David Brooks | The Jamie Weinstein Show

David Brooks talks about American governance, the Trump administration, and the legacy of William Buckley

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