Russia, Dr Strangelove, Germany, Bruce Chatwin, Homer, Diogenes


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The Putin Problem

Rajan Menon & Thomas Graham | Boston Review | 12th September 2017

The West treats Vladimir Putin as an aberration among recent Russian rulers, a reactionary undoing the liberalisation achieved under Gorbachev and Yeltsin. But in the main he continues the policies of his predecessors, which were “grounded in a similar understanding of Russia’s destiny”. Russia “regards itself as a great power, defends its interests as defined by its leadership, and, even in times of weakness, acts on the premise that recovery and resurgence are inevitable” (5,050 words)

The President And Nuclear Weapons

Brendan Rittenhouse Green | War On The Rocks | 25th September 2017

America has a Doctor Strangelove problem in reverse. Should trusted generals have the power to restrain an untrusted president from using nuclear weapons? Here is the argument against: Nobody wants a nuclear war, but the deterrent power of nuclear weapons rests on the fact that they might be used. “Creating new veto players would signal to adversaries that Washington is less able and willing, at a moment of supreme crisis, to use nuclear weapons” (1,100 words)

Eight Lessons From Germany’s Elections

Sebastian Fischer | Spiegel | 24th September 2017

A German view of Germany. “The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany is the third-strongest political party in the country and will be taking seats in the German parliament. The ghosts of Germany’s past are returning. The AfD will do all it can to ensure that it returns to parliament four years from now — for that to happen, German society must remain divided. Germany’s fundamental values, including freedom and democracy, are at stake. To be sure, it won’t be boring” (875 words)

Bruce Chatwin: Dazzling And Worrying

Susannah Clapp | Guardian | 24th September 2017

An editor remembers. “Chatwin was a traveller, an art expert, a connoisseur of the extraordinary. His great gift was visual generosity. He made you see different things and look at things differently. It was not works of art in galleries that interested him so much as objects, particularly those from which a story could be extracted. On the wall of his attic room in Albany was the king of Hawaii’s bedsheet, apricot-coloured, patterned with a shoal of jumping fish, looking like a Matisse” (2,100 words)

The Art Of Wrath

Hayden Pelliccia | New York Review Of Books | 25th September 2017

Expert and accessible discussions of recent translations of Homer by Peter Green and Gary Powell, measuring them against the work of Richard Lattimore. “The very first line of the Iliad forces any English-language translator to decide immediately and to declare conspicuously whether he would rather be caught betraying his poet or his own language. The opening word, mēnin, ‘wrath’, is the subject of the long poem that follows, but not of the long sentence it begins” (3,900 words)

Why We Fail and How

Costica Bradatan | LARB | 24th September 2017

In praise of Diogenes, who lived as a philosopher should — never moderating his arguments or his conduct in the interests of an easier everyday life. It may be that Diogenes settled on this approach as means of building what we would now call his personal brand; but he was, after all, a cynic; and his success should encourage other philosophers to follow, if they are serious about their work. “Many thinkers have died a death like Socrates, but none has lived a life like Diogenes” (4,148 words)

Video of the day: The Internationally Standard Cup Of Tea

What to expect:

Explaining the work of the International Organisation For Standardisation, using the example of a cup of tea (5’17”)

Thought for the day

Life is only lived full-time by women with children
Marguerite Duras

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