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The Bluestocking vol 283
He is no Ken-in
How are you? I’ll be honest, I saw this picture this week and my brain melted:
For a brief, glorious moment, I thought Nicholas Lyndhurst might be playing Rodney in the Frasier reboot, which would be like the MCU for 90s sitcom dweebs. Sadly, he is not.
PS. Today’s Great Wives is on Wu Zetian, Empress Livia and my problematic fave Catherine de Medici.
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Modernity Has Made Us Allergic (Noema Magazine)
Many of the researchers I spoke to longed to return to a simple, less technologically driven way of life mostly centered on the foods we consume and how we produce them. One top allergist dreamt of performing the ultimate control study to prove that our modern lifestyle and habits negatively affect our immune systems.
“Imagine,” he said, “if we could get a group of people to revert back to a much older way of life. Eat foods grown without pesticides. Eat whole foods and a wide variety. Don’t use dishwashers or detergents. Do you know what would happen? No more allergies. I just wish I could prove it.”
Lots of people I know are suddenly developing allergies as adults: milk, nuts, hay fever. The big question is why. This piece, extracted from a book on the subject, addresses some of the main theories.
Plus, if you’re raising kids, here is some news you can use: “If infants spent a lot of time in stables and drank cow’s milk in the first year of their lives, then their rates of allergic diseases dramatically lowered even if their IgE results showed sensitization.”
My Kendom For A Horse? (Comment is Freed, Substack)
There is another oddity in the revolution of the Kens in that they seek constitutional legitimacy through a vote on the new political order. As this has not yet taken place by the time that [Stereotypical Barbie] returns it provides an opportunity for resistance and a counter-revolution. If [Beach Ken] had been sufficiently ruthless he would have eschewed any attempt at a constitutional transfer of power and imposed the new order by fiat. Equally he has failed to secure the patriarchy by rooting out potential dissident elements among the Barbies. He lacks secret police or even a network of informers among the indoctrinated Barbies. These methods are hardly Bolshevik. He is no Ken-in.
War Studies professor Lawrence Freedman offers a strategic analysis of the Barbie movie.
“The nonfiction hitmaker Michael Lewis has made a career of minting ordinary heroes, a practice that exploded into public acrimony last week when the football player depicted in The Blind Side sued the family who took him in. But film rights aren’t the central revenue stream in Lewis’s unique run of creating public figures. The author has also adopted the unusual practice of shepherding his subjects into lucrative careers as public speakers, managed by his speaking agent and appearing beside him at public events.” An intriguing ethical dilemma. Is it bad if your potential interview subjects think you will make them rich? (Semafor)
“Da Vinci wasted years of his life chasing the favor of Cesare Borgia. Aristotle followed Alexander around. Nero sucked in and ultimately killed Seneca. I get how it happens, I mean, in my own life I worked too long for people I should have walked away from.” Fun digression on bad bosses, taken from a David Epstein conversation on the necessity of discipline to creating art (Range Widely).
“Modeling your life after academic years allows you to adequately mark your process. It’s difficult to determine improvement with daily or even weekly goals, Fishbach says. But with a quarterly or biannual milestone, you’re more easily able to track your progress.” I’m into this. My two current projects are learning basic Japanese (ヘレンです) and progressing towards being able to do a pull-up. On a weekly basis, I just don’t see much difference, but I like the idea of a quarterly review (Vox).
“Surprisingly, the result is never alienating; we do not experience in these pages the novelistic equivalent of Bertolt Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt (distancing effect).” Slightly surprised to find Andrew “Titania McGrath” Doyle is an expert on lost suffragist novels, but I like the sound of Stella Benson, described by Rebecca West having written “the only novel of genius about the Suffrage Movement” (Unherd).
“By now there will be a generalised harrumphing in those bridge clubs about how tough pensioners have it, how they’ve paid in all their lives and so on. But analysis by the Resolution Foundation think tank has shown that the elderly, as a cohort, are set to get back far more from the welfare state than they contributed in tax, and far more than the generations after them.” Robert Colvile is trolling the boomers again (Sunday Times, £).
“What fascinates Smith, though, is the way the Tichborne case became a political cause, energizing a movement that took justice for ‘Sir Roger’ to be in some way related to justice for the common man. . . What Smith is dramatizing, of course, is the experience of so many liberal intellectuals over the past decade who had believed themselves to be on the side of ‘the people’ only to find that, whether the issue was Brexit or Trump or COVID-19 protocols, the people were unwilling to heed their guidance, and in fact loathed them for it.” Adam Kirsch on Zadie Smith and the Gen X novel, which he thinks is a distinct phenomenon practised by writers who came of age at the End of History (Harpers).
“This idea they are articulating — that there is a set of identity-linked issues that are beyond the scope of normal political give and take — strikes me as truly the most fundamental divide in progressive politics today.” Matt Yglesias thinks there are two types of progressivs (Slow Boring, Substack).
“‘Once Upon a One More Time’ provided the clearest distillation of the trend. Cinderella’s ‘feminist awakening’ is spurred by her fairy godmother giving her The Feminine Mystique. Seriously. The book is treated like a magical talisman throughout the rest of the show, but its actual content is never engaged with. That seems beyond the show’s grasp. Though the book is on sale for $20 in the lobby gift shop.” The NYT critics on a recent spate of “feminist” musicals (New York Times, £)
“The consensus from the field we have is that Trump had a phenomenally successful presidency, right on almost every policy, undone only by his own personality and poor decisions.’ David Weigel on the 2024 Republican presidential candidates (Semafor Americana).
The Effect at the National Theatre is good—brilliant writing from Lucy Prebble— and Michele Austin in particular was excellent. Not in London anytime soon? The BBC turned it into an audio drama with Jessie Buckley.
See you next time!