Wednesday 13 July, 2021

Manuel Castells

The great scholar of Cyberspace, photographed during one of his visits to Cambridge.

Quote of the Day

”T.S. Eliot is quite at a loss
When clubwomen bustle across
At literary teas
Crying – ‘What if you please,
Do you mean by the Mill on the Floss?’”

  • W.H. Auden

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Matt Molloy & Laoise Kelly | The Mayo Fling


New to me. Lovely combination of flute and harp.

Long Read of the Day

Illusions of empire: Amartya Sen on what British rule really did for India

An interesting essay adapted from Sen’s new book. Surprise, surprise! Many of the arguments defending the Raj are based on serious misconceptions about India’s past, imperialism and history itself.

As a long-time critic of the Imperial afterglow that still grips British governments I particularly liked this quote:

Those who wish to be inspired by the glory of the British empire would do well to avoid reading Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, including his discussion of the abuse of state power by a “mercantile company which oppresses and domineers in the East Indies”. As the historian William Dalrymple has observed: “The economic figures speak for themselves. In 1600, when the East India Company was founded, Britain was generating 1.8% of the world’s GDP, while India was producing 22.5%. By the peak of the Raj, those figures had more or less been reversed: India was reduced from the world’s leading manufacturing nation to a symbol of famine and deprivation.”

This was Boris Johnson’’s Global Britain’ at its best.

Olympics News

Coronavirus Variant Excited To Compete With World’s Top Mutations In Tokyo This Summer

Exciting news from The Onion about the forthcoming ‘superspreader’ event in Tokyo:

LONDON—Having prepared for months to make its mark at this year’s Olympics, coronavirus variant B.1.525—a U.K. native best known for its skillful weakening of antibody responses—confirmed Thursday that it was excited to compete in Tokyo against top mutations from across the globe. “I can’t wait to travel to Japan this July and show the whole world what I’m capable of,” said the highly transmissible permutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, recounting how it had honed its spike proteins and vaccine resistance in anticipation of the international gathering of deadly pathogens. “I know South Africa, Brazil, and India will be bringing the heat, but I’m planning to have a big breakout moment myself. And if I’m not a household name by the closing ceremonies, well, there’s always the 2021 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally later in the summer.” Olympic bookmakers, observing that the United States is overdue to produce a highly lethal mutation, are reported to have the young California variants B.1.427 and B.1.429 favored in the spread.

How to write about cars

Stephen Bayley is, like I once was, a petrolhead. He’s always been fascinated by automobiles, and he writes about them with a dreamlike fluency.

I bought this — his latest book — a few weeks ago and have been dipping into it with delight ever since. Here’s a sample:


As a Tesla owner, I have a dog in this fight. I love the fact that there’s no engine noise. I have a friend who is an ardent petrolhead, and he has the most beautiful Aston-Martin convertible you ever saw. It’s a gorgeous car, but despite its ultra-powerful engine, not actually as quick as our EV. One day I found him gazing admiringly at the Tesla and asked him if he’d buy one. He shook his head. Why not? I asked. “Because it doesn’t make any noise,” he replied.

Stephen Bayley is onto something.