Yangtze, Ian Nairn, Emerging Markets, Anaesthesia, Manifestos

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Water Margin

Philip Ball | Lapham's Quarterly | 10th May 2017

“The mental compass of the Chinese points not north–south, but east–west. The Chinese articulate and imagine space differently from Westerners — and no wonder. All of China’s great rivers respect this axis. Two in particular are symbols of the nation and the keys to its fate: the Yangtze and the Yellow River. The rivers are where Confucius and Lao Tzu went to think, where China’s pivotal battles were fought. There is really nothing much to be said about China that does not start with a river” (1,900 words)

A Better London

Benjamin Riley | New Criterion | 28th May 2017

In praise of British architecture critic Ian Nairn, the plain man’s John Betjeman. Nairn was “disgusted by the pretension of most modern architecture”; he “merely wanted to see the decent, old buildings of England left alone”. He described Westminster Abbey as “the perfect governmental report on the French Gothic; prepared, as it were, to see if the European style was suited to the English practice. Level-headed, solving all of its problems, translating them correctly into meticulous English” (2,100 words)

The Hunger Bonds

Ricardo Hausmann | Project Syndicate | 26th May 2017

Moral dilemma. Should decent people put their money in emerging-market bond funds heavily weighted towards Venezuela? To avoid default, Venezuela has to feed the debt repayments and starve the populace. The Index promises higher returns, and a chance to make your savings available to a larger segment of humanity. But if you invest, you will be rooting for repayment, which means wishing for really bad things to happen to Venezuela’s people” (880 words)

Anaesthesia: The Gift Of Oblivion

Kate Cole-Adams | The Age | 27th May 2017

“Every time you have a general anaesthetic, you take a trip towards death and back. The more hypnotic your doctor puts in, the longer you take to recover and the more likely it is that something will go wrong. The less your doctor puts in, the more likely that you will wake. It is a balancing act, and anaesthetists are very good at it. But it doesn’t alter the fact that people have been waking during surgery for as long as other people have been putting them to sleep” (3,900 words)

A Lit Crit Of The Party Manifestos

Terry Eagleton | Guardian | 26th May 2017

“The Tory manifesto errs on the sermonising side, full of pious sentiment and high-minded rhetoric. Most of the sentiments are drearily predictable (‘Britain has always been a great trading nation’) while one or two are not, such as: ‘We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality’. The phrase ‘except in practice’ seems to have been accidentally omitted” (980 words)

Video of the day: The Cod Are Coming

What to expect:

Bank Of Norway introduces new banknote designs with help from singing fishermen (2’54”)

Thought for the day

The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first
Blaise Pascal

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