Quote of the day

"A market is a place set apart for men to deceive each other"
— Anacharsis

Waterloo: A Near-Run Thing

Discussion of books about the Battle of Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell, Tim Clayton and Patrick O’Keefe, published as the bicentenary approaches. The stakes were immense at Waterloo and so was the slaughter. Out of 200,000 combatants, 50,000 died. Napoleon at his best might have won; but he was tired and his staff-work was poor. Even so, as Wellington said, it was “the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life” (1,470 words)

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)

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