Quote of the day

"Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed"
Bertrand Russell

High Gear

Review of Mad Max: Fury Road, a “wild and unrelenting” film which “lies way, way beyond Thunderdome, and marks one of the few occasions on which a late sequel outdoes what came before.” Tom Hardy, who takes over Mel Gibson’s title role, “is more earthed than Gibson, and less wired — indeed, less mad. Max’s deeds rarely strike us as gratuitous. Instead, they seem resignedly brutal, as if there were no other way to live” (1,740 words)

The Insider’s Guide To Westminster

How Parliament operates. “Accountability and transparency are not dead. They just take a little finding.” Most serious argument takes place in committees, not in the chamber. Prime Minister’s question time is “the theatrical centrepiece”, but usually disappoints. “Traditionally, Cameron answers a different question to the one he has been asked, or asks why he hasn’t been asked a question about something he has done well” (5,000 words)

Happiness Blues

B.B. King freed the blues from tragedy. The songs might still be sad, but the singer was “hosting a party”. King “created celebratory art … separating himself from the hoodoo baggage that attended Robert Johnson and the more contemporary gruffness of Muddy Waters.” He “made the blues a vehicle for joy”, found a popular audience, and edged towards rock “as much as any blues guitarist this side of Buddy Guy” (795 words)

Brexit: The UK And Europe

Britain’s new Conservative government prepares for a promised referendum on UK membership of the European Union, probably next year. David Cameron may well secure most of the concessions that he wants from the EU as the price of supporting continued membership. But even then, the vote could go either way; and a British success could incite more EU countries to demand special treatment (1,560 words)

The Shazam Effect

A smartphone app called Shazam sets off “a revolution in the recording industry”. Play Shazam a fragment of music and it will identify the title and performer. Twenty million searches every day provide a goldmine of real-time data to music industry agents and scouts, who can see which songs are catching on and where. “We can see when a song is going to break out months before most people have even heard of it” (2,500 words)

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