Fear and loathing of the European elites

Thursday, 25 June, 2015 0 Comments

In 1904, the great German sociologist Max Weber toured the United States, doing research that would be critical for his later work, especially The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Reflecting on his conversations with American blue-collar workers, Weber pondered why they put up with corrupt political appointees rather than accepting the technocratic professionalism advocated by reformers, including Weber himself:

Whenever I sat in company with such workers and said to them: “How can you let yourselves be governed by these people who are put in office without your consent and who naturally make as much money out of their office as possible… how can you let yourselves be governed by this corrupt association that is notorious for robbing you of hundreds of millions?”, I would occasionally receive the characteristic reply which I hope I may repeat, word for word and without adornment: “That doesn’t matter, there’s enough money there to be stolen and still enough left over for others to earn something — for us too. We spit on these ‘professionals,’ these officials. We despise them. But if the offices are filled by a trained, qualified class, such as you have in your country, it will be the officials who spit on us.” That was the decisive point for these people. They feared the emergence of the type of officialdom which already exists in Europe, an exclusive status group of university-educated officials with professional training.”

Looking at the euro farce that is being acted out in Brussels these days, one would have to say that their judgement was sound.

The blue sky’s engine-drone is deafening

Sunday, 29 March, 2015 0 Comments

The Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2011, died in Stockholm on Thursday at the age of 83. He had lost the power of speech after a stroke in 1990, but continued to write poetry, and to play the piano with his left hand. In light of this week’s aviation tragedy, Tranströmer’s Under Pressure has a certain topical relevance: “Alps tragedy exposes relentless pressures faced by commercial pilots“, declares The Observer today.

Under Pressure

The blue sky’s engine-drone is deafening.
We’re living here on a shuddering work-site
where the ocean depths can suddenly open up
shells and telephones hiss
You can see beauty only from the side, hastily
The dense grain on the field, many colours in a yellow stream.
The restless shadows in my head are drawn there.
They want to creep into the grain and turn to gold.
Darkness falls. At midnight I go to bed.
The smaller boat puts out from the larger boat.
You are alone on the water.
Society’s dark hull drifts further and further away.

Tomas Tranströmer (1931 – 2015)

Blue sky

Peace be upon them

Friday, 10 October, 2014 0 Comments

Galeano imagines Messi

Sunday, 13 July, 2014 0 Comments

Eduardo Galeano: “The ball laughs, radiant, in the air. He brings her down, puts her to sleep, showers her with compliments, dances with her, and seeing such things never before seen his admirers pity their unborn grandchildren who will never see them.”

The Uruguayan journalist and novelist Eduardo Galeano fled his homeland in 1973 after the military took power. He settled in Argentina where he founded the cultural magazine, Crisis, but in 1976 the Videla regime seized power in a bloody coup and his name was added to the lists of those sought by the death squads. He fled again, this time to Spain, where he wrote his famous trilogy: Memoria del fuego.

In childhood, Galeano dreamed of becoming a football player and this dream is the subject of Soccer in Sun and Shadow (1995), a history of the game. Galeano compares football with theatre and war and while he criticizes its alliance with global corporations, he condemns leftist intellectuals who reject the game and its attraction to the masses.

“Any open net was an unforgivable crime meriting immediate punishment, and Di Stefano carried out the sentence by stabbing at it like a mischievous elf.” Eduardo Galeano

Winston Churchill: The Ten Commandments of Life

Friday, 11 July, 2014 0 Comments

Winston Churchill’s top ten sayings about failure, courage, setbacks and success are rendered here, memorably, by Simon Appel. Churchill is never very far from the present as this week’s decision by the Bank of England to switch its £5 and £10 notes to polymer shows. They’ll be more durable and harder to forge and the “fiver” will get the first facelift in 2016 when Churchill will become the face.

Julia Ioffe hates Argentina

Thursday, 10 July, 2014 0 Comments

Well, she wrote the New Republic piece before the Dutch went out on penalties, but her loathing dates not from this year in Brazil but from 1996 in France. Money quote: “And then came the quarterfinals and the Argentines, led by the dastardly dwarf Ariel Ortega. Ortega could not enter the box that game without leaping into the air, gripping a leg or a side, and rolling around, whining for a penalty kick. It was despicable. It was the kind of tactic that even I, a mediocre player who often made up with my elbows for what my feet couldn’t do, couldn’t abide. It was a disgusting sight, and I prayed for Kluivert and Bergkamp to bump a few in the net, and send the Argentines packing.” And then, this:

Brazil damaged

Wednesday, 9 July, 2014 0 Comments

In the light of that 7-1 hammering at the hands of Germany, the title of Christopher Gaffney’s piece for Fusion, could not be more telling: “How the World Cup Is Damaging Brazil“. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail is running riot with the Schadenfreude virals.

Happy Birthday WSJ!

Tuesday, 8 July, 2014 0 Comments

The Wall Street Journal is 125 today. Congratulations! And to coincide with this happy day, Taylor Swift has just written an op-ed about the music industry for the venerable paper (amassing a stunning 25,950 social media shares).

What is money?

Monday, 7 July, 2014 0 Comments

David Galbraith, an architect who once built buildings and is now building web apps, poses the question. His answer? It’s complicated: “You can use physics metaphors quite a bit when talking about money. It’s like the uncollapsed quantum state of all possible transactions, where the ability of money to buy anything is as different from one-to-one barter as classical physics of concrete interaction between two particles is from Feynman’s idea of infinite paths.”

Comfortingly, Galbraith confesses upfront that nobody knows what money is.

On the rough edge of Europe

Sunday, 6 July, 2014 1 Comment

“He lived on the very edge of County Sligo, the edge of Ireland — the edge of Europe, you might say,” said fellow poet Peter Fallon of Dermot Healy, who died this week. “In some ways he lived on the edge of the literary community, but in certain ways he was central to the community he shaped around himself, especially in the north-west of Ireland. And it was the rough edge of his work, which in some ways was so distinctive, which attracted his readers.”

The Prayer

When Peggy was dying
Her son leaned over to whisper
The Our Father into her ear.
She opened her eyes,
“Things must be bad,” she said,
“that you’ve started praying.”

Dermot Healy (1947 — 2014)

Shades of Cool

Saturday, 5 July, 2014 0 Comments

An unhappy diva falls in love with an older man, who has a drug problem. Not exactly a happy-ever-after story, but it is cinematic and elegant and tragically romantic in the way that Lana Del Rey meets her end.