Acknowledged to be one of the few British politicians who became more left-wing after having actually served in government, former veteran left-wing campaigner Tony Benn has died at home aged 88. Tony was a British Labour Party politician and Member of Parliament (MP) for 50 years, and a Cabinet Minister under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan. His legacy can be seen in postage, in the powerful five questions, the speeches he gave, and his diaries.
Triumph of the Strange
Is curiosity, however, even a coherent concept? What, if anything, unites the walrus and the Rolodex? According to Dillon and Warner, curiosity is lustful and avaricious, yet as playful as Alice in Wonderland. It distracts itself by flirting with astonishment yet is driven to exacting inspection. It loves secrecy and enigma yet is insatiably questioning and bent on decipherment. It adores intricacy and ingenuity, only to find how evanescent, incommunicable, and random they can be. It's harmless fun and has "an innocent eye"—a central theme, suggested by the Hayward Gallery curator Roger Malbert—yet leads to dangerous revelations. Or maybe it makes dangerous revelations because of this innocence: It follows its own hunches because it doesn't see where they lead. Think of the character Jeffrey Beaumont in Blue Velvet: "I'm seeing something that was always hidden."[more inside]
The Canadian Press has released minutes from the Cabinet's discussions of abortion. The conversations began after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unconstitutional the restrictions on abortion (wiki). [more inside]
Sizing Up Sally Jewell " The new Interior Secretary has an impressive résumé. Oil geologist, banker, president of REI. But today's Washington is a landscape without maps, and in this age of climate change and keystone, the major battles are taking place over at the EPA and State. Is greatness still possible at Interior?" [more inside]
But like many an inarticulate young lover, I thought for a time that seduction was a matter of giving the right book to the right woman. In my case it was Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: a meditation on Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther that catalogues the melancholic lover’s prized ‘image repertoire’ – the scene of waiting, the feeling of being dissolved in the presence of the loved being, the attraction of suicide – and thinly veils the author’s own life as a middle-aged gay man in Paris in the 1970s. This gift was always a prelude to disaster.– RB and Me: An Education is an essay by Brian G. Dillon about his relationship with the books of French philosopher Roland Barthes. It's also a lovely autobiography of an awkward boy finding his place in life. Dillon's website collects his essays, and is trove of interesting insight. Besides writing essays and fiction, Dillon is also the UK editor of Cabinet Magazine, and you can read a fair number of his articles online, including ones on Beau Brummel and the cravat, hypochondria and hydrotherapy.
Alexis Soyer lived quite an an amazing life. According to his wiki, he "was a French chef who became the most celebrated cook in Victorian England" who also "during the Great Irish Famine in April 1847, ... invented the soup kitchen and was asked by the Government to go to Ireland to implement his idea. This was opened in Dublin and his "famine soup" was served to thousands of the poor for free. Whilst in Ireland he wrote Soyer's Charitable Cookery. He gave the proceeds of the book to various charities. He also opened an art gallery in London, and donated the entrance fees to charity to feed the poor." And then there is also the remarkable story of Soyer's Magic Stove.
Madman or genius? Well... madman. But being confined to an asylum (with one of his symptoms described as "manic invention") didn't keep Karl Hans Janke from developing elaborate theories of atomic energy, flight, space travel and the history of humanity, creating over 4,000 complex drawings and even models over 40 years of incarceration for paranoid schizophrenia. [more inside]
The Queer, the Quaint, the Quizzical (1882). A Cabinet for the Curious.
Newsfilter: Canada's New Cabinet. Featuring thrills (former Liberal David Emerson crosses the floor to serve as International Trade Minister, and affect the balance of power), spills (Michael Fortier, who is not an MP, will be appointed to the Senate to serve as Public Works and Government Services Minister on the condition that he resign to run for Parliament in the next general election, upsetting some) and chills (everybody's favourite whipping boy, Stockwell Day as Minister of Public Safety). (as a bonus - and for those ignoramuses that care not for the intricacies of Canadian politics - pay some mind to the newly redesigned globeandmail.com, especially the prominence of public commentary on every article - it's the embodiment of newsfilter!)
The Cabinet National Library. A charming piece of dry, conceptual humor. A little banal, perhaps. There is also a hidden agenda.
"We're in an age where we don't want to deal with serious issues, we want to deal with little boys pitching baseballs who might be 14 instead of 12."
"We're in an age where we don't want to deal with serious issues, we want to deal with little boys pitching baseballs who might be 14 instead of 12." Hart says he just shook his head when he saw a former Clinton administration Cabinet official on TV Tuesday calling for the formation of a commission to study the best way to combat terrorism. "If a former Cabinet officer didn't know, how could the average man on the street? I do hope the American people understand that somebody was paying attention."
Revealing look at Bush's policy and cabinet. Scary.
The Age of Embarrassment "Bush’s cabinet choices are an assortment of right-wing ideologues, fat cats, has-beens, wannabees, and plain ol’ opportunists. There’s not a visionary in the bunch." Truth? Or liberal hysteria?
Colin Powell to become the secretary of state, which seems ok on the surface, but after looking at the functions of the position, wouldn't he make a better secretary of defense instead? I can't say I'm comfortable with the thought of the leading US diplomat and negotiator being someone so closely tied with military force (side question: would a war man negotiate peace treaties or get us into more bombing missions?). I also find it odd that in the acceptance speech, he can speak of the horrors of Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" and in the same breath talk about how the US should build up a missile defense system (our missiles aren't capable of mass destruction?). What do you think about the appointment?