The Great Degeneration

(How Institutions Decay and Economies Die) (Niall Ferguson, 2014) This compendium of Reith Lectures by historian Niall Ferguson given in 2012 is no less topical a decade later. In fact it is a fortiori, given that the subsequent years have borne out many of the predictions made. For example, the author quotes ‘cliometrician’ Peter Turchin predicting “the next instability peak [of violence] should occur in the United States around 2020.” Orwell’s pigs have taken over Manor Farm: “What Charles Murray has called the ‘cognitive elite’, educated at exclusive private universities, intermarried and congregated in a few ‘super zip codes’, looks…

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Straight Line Crazy

September 18, 2022 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | THEATRE, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS |

Written by David Hare / Directed by Nicholas Hytner – Bridge Theatre, London, 17 September, 2022 Breaking news: Fat Book inspires Thin Play. Robert Caro’s monumental work about Robert Moses, reviewed by us in March, gave us a character of Shakespearian complexity. Alas, David Hare is not Shakespeare. Not even close. In his play he cherry-picks two episodes in the powerful public servant’s hectic agenda: an expressway cutting a line through estates of the leisured and treasured on Long Island (Moses is depicted having a slanging match with Henry Vanderbilt). The First Act, declamatory, expository, and facile, shows Ralph Fiennes,…

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Ode for Elizabeth

September 10, 2022 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | HISTORY, LIFE, Poetry |

Queen Elizabeth II (21 April 1926 – 8 September 2022) The argument from merit Casts us all in a harsh light, Elevation arbitrary Tends to set things right. A young girl, out of Africa Came home to wear a crown, She asked for peoples’ prayers So she would never let them down. And while her Empire crumbled She refused to do the same, Lack of power her super-power, ‘De-Colonize’ her name. Her race is run and she will lie The wrong side of the turf; As certain as the sunrise –  Timeless as the Earth.

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La Voix

(with apologies to Arthur Rimbaud and T.E. Eliot) The pale Man trudges along by the flowery paths Dressed in mourning, a cigar between his teeth: The pale Man recalls the corridors of Canberra – and sometimes his lustreless eye becomes keen… For the bullhorn user is drunk with his 250 year orgy! He said to himself: “I shall blow Liberty out  Very neatly, as if it were a candle!” Liberty lives again! His back is broken! He has been forsaken Ah! What word trembles on His silent lips? What regret does he feel? We shall never know. The pale Man’s…

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The Contrarian

(Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power) (by Max Chafkin, 2021) After reading this entertaining, rather facile book, Peter Thiel remains, at least to us, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”  For a contrarian, he often went with the flow. He had at times a gift for successfully betting the other way, such as his heroic support of Mr. Trump in 2016. For someone who has acquired substantial wealth and significant power, he seems to unsure what to do with them. An introvert who craves attention, a control freak who at times throws caution to the…

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