The Bluestocking, vol 250
The Repenters and the Repressers
I was due to be on Have I Got News For You this week, but we got word about half an hour before the recording that it wouldn’t be going ahead. A very surreal way to discover the news. RIP to the Queen (of banter).
A few weeks ago, I went to the London Library and dug out the 1953 Coronation literature. It’s a glimpse of a world which no longer exists. I wrote about what I found for the Atlantic as part of my obituary for the Queen: “Even as the world changed around her, she remained in place. Like the North Star in the night sky, she was a fixed point, something by which to orient yourself. […] She was six weeks older than Marilyn Monroe, three years older than Anne Frank, nine years older than Elvis Presley—all figures of the unreachable past. She was older than nylon, Scotch tape, and The Hobbit.”
Boris Johnson’s Terrible Parting Gift (The Atlantic)
In his last days as prime minister of Britain, Boris Johnson conducted a farewell tour of the country. Possibly he expected something like the accolades his beloved Roman generals were given—a small arch in his honor, say—or at least a few angry Gauls walking miserably behind his chariot. Instead he went to a field in southwest England and stared at a hole in the ground.
The hole will one day be filled by superfast internet cables, but it could equally serve as the grave of Johnson’s hopes to be remembered as something other than the prime minister who “got Brexit done.” […] His foreign secretary, Liz Truss, replaces him today, and has inherited not so much an in tray as a portal to a nightmare dimension.
This is my initial take on the arrival of Liz Truss into Number 10, and the economic hurricane she faces. FWIW, she had a solid first PMQs, and I think Starmer will find it harder to go up against her than on Johnson. What was striking was that she wasn’t abashed about the energy companies making big profits out of the gas crisis, or about cutting corporation taxes even though there’s such a big deficit and the government badly needs revenue. I’m also fascinated to know whether her Adam Smith Institute-esque advisors are actually going to be OK with massive, massive government borrowing to fund intervention for the next two years. Her “price cap”—which sets average energy prices at £2,500, a mere twice what they were last winter—is incredibly pricy, and she says it will be funded by borrowing rather than, as Labour want, a tax on “excess profits” by the energy companies.
Chart of the Week:
“This, for instance, was the chart I created—with the help of my brilliant research assistant for that book, Ivan Askwith—showing the number of distinct storylines woven through an episode of Starsky and Hutch versus Hill Street Blues versus The Sopranos.”
Steven Johnson on how television got more complicated as audience got more used to its tropes.
How do you acknowledge that you want to diet in the midst of body-positivity culture, asks Farrah Storr (Substack).
A positive view of Liz Truss, by a man who worked for her (The Critic).
I also wrote last week about the politics of making Joan of Arc non-binary (The Atlantic).
“Just as the Netherlands was the first to take advantage of the Baltic grain trade to feed its Golden Age, and Britain was the first to take advantage of coal to achieve global hegemony, the region to move first and fastest on renewable energy will be the one to reap the eventual reward.” Anton Howes on why globalisation skipped renewables, and the great incentive to catch up (Substack).
The Fence magazine has a theory to explain the New York Times’s quixotic coverage of Britain.
“Two dueling factions of white people, the Repenters and the Repressers.” Matt Yglesias on why anti-racism efforts sometimes backfire, eg “telling people about racial disparities in the criminal justice system made people less supportive of reform” (Slow Boring).
Some of these people appear to have been quite dehydrated. I hope they are OK (Vice).
David Epstein talks to Daniel Coyle about effective group dynamics, and whether “jerk leaders” are always bad (Bulletin).
“Just for comparison’s sake, here’s an extremely (extremely x 10,000) partial list of male director/leading lady relationships, many of which began when the director was married: James Cameron and Linda Hamilton, Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, Peter Bogdanovich and Cybill Shepherd, Darren Aronofsky and Rachel Weisz, Joel Coen and Frances McDormand, David Lynch and Isabella Rossellini, Taylor Hackford and Helen Mirren, Martin Scorsese and Illeana Douglas, Danny Boyle and Rosaria Dawson, Sam Mendes and Kate Winslet.” A convincing argument that Olivia Wilde has been treated badly over the drama surrounding her new film, Don’t Worry Darling (The Ankler, Substack).
“Twitter is for winding people up . . . it’s just a highly opinionated cesspit half the time. The trick is to use it to help yourself, right? I describe my overall thing as being in the opinion business. So Twitter is very good for that. Because you can fire up debates, you can see what pops or doesn’t pop, what might make a column because you get a sudden huge reaction. It’s all quite scientific.” Piers Morgan uses Twitter like Trump uses his speeches: as a test-kitchen for material (Financial Times).
PS. Here is TWO HOURS of me talking to the guys from Decoding the Gurus about religion, Jordan Peterson and the guru economy online. Matt and Chris were lovely, but I don’t think I went down too well with the intellectual bro-ish part of their audience, who seemed to be very disappointed that I don’t understand feminism as well as they do.
Please ration the overflowing cornucopia of Helen Content included above responsibly, because the Bluestocking will now be taking a break for the rest of the month, while I concentrate on my book.