Weekly newsletter 106
Best of the Week
Edwardian Requiem: A Life Of Sir Edward Grey
Andrew Adonis | New Statesman | 2nd May 2013
Book review. As the foreign secretary who took Britain into the First World War, Grey may qualify as the worst public servant anywhere, ever, in tandem with his prime minister, Herbert Asquith. They could have kept Britain out of the war; they might have prevented it entirely, by persuading Germany not to ally with Austria. Instead they delivered Europe to decades of "communism, fascism, genocide, the Holocaust, slavery and partition"
Decoding The Range: The Secret Language Of Cattle Branding
Jimmy Stamp | Smithsonian | 30th April 2013
One of those "I never knew that!" pieces, full of quotable facts. Branding dates back to ancient Egyptian times. In the American West, letters with added wings are called "flying"; those lying sideways are "lazy". Same brand can be registered by different owners of the country so long as it is on different parts of the cow. Brand protection lapses if you don't pay your taxes. One Texas rancher refused to brand: his name was Maverick
Mohamedou Ould Slahi | Slate | 30th April 2013
Prison diary. Last of three extracts from journals of man arrested in Mauritania in November 2001, shipped via Bagram to Guantanamo, and subjected to "one of the most stubborn, deliberate, and cruel Guantánamo interrogations on record." More than a decade later he is still is jail, though in somewhat better conditions. A US District Court judge ordered his release in 2010; the Obama administration is now appealing that order
60 Thoughts About Turning 60
Ian Martin | Guardian | 29th April 2013
A joy throughout. Number 9: "Compatibility is hugely overrated. I have little in common with most of my friends and with just about the entirety of my wife." Number 35: "There is not a single bad mood that cannot be lifted, however grudgingly, by reading a Larkin poem". Number 60: "When people finish a sentence by saying 'the list is endless', it always means they have run out of things to list"
Who Can Stop These Adorable Pigs?
Jesse Hirsch | Modern Farmer | 25th April 2013
Feral pigs are over-running America. Radioactive feral pigs are threatening Europe. Destroying crops, spreading diseases. "Once a wild pig is full-grown, it is invulnerable to almost all forms of predators — angry alligators being one possible exception". Boars are smart, fast, hard to hunt. “We’re not going to shoot or trap our way out of this. Lethal removal just doesn’t take the numbers that you need to control the population”
Bill Hayes | Virginia Quarterly Review | 26th April 2013
Fourteen reasons, if reasons were needed, for spending more time in this small, clean, modest, beautiful, progressive, peaceful country. "Finally, this is a little hard to describe, but that there is a soft, wordless gasp built into their language — haaa! — which often comes in response to something another person says. It is as if the sound of wonder is central to being Icelandic. The sound of breath being taken away"
How Not To Die
Jonathan Rauch | The Atlantic | 24th April 2013
Humbling, enlightening essay on end-of-life care. "Unwanted treatment is American medicine’s dark continent. No one knows its extent, and few people want to talk about it. The US medical system was built to treat anything that might be treatable, at any stage of life — even near the end, when there is no hope of a cure, and when the patient, if fully informed, might prefer quality time and relative normalcy to all-out intervention"
Out In The Great Alone
Brian Phillips | Grantland | 24th April 2013
Huge read, practically a book, about the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska. Big, lyrical writing style. A hymn to the mushers and the terrain. "We were stranded out there for three hours. It was the first time I ever understood why freezing to death is sometimes described as peaceful or soothing or just like falling asleep. It was like certain parts of your body just accrued this strange hush. Like you were disappearing piece by piece"
Video of the week: Carla Bruni: Mon Raymond
Thought for the week:
"Every journey of a thousand miles begins with some fat cabbie moaning about the economy" — Ian Martin