Hijacking Scotland for Identity Politics

There is little more that should be said about Scotland. With the vote so close, we could hope for some serene media silence that will give people an opportunity to consider their futures free of the whims of rhetoric, but we know that arguments will get louder and arguers more stubborn; we’ll have to play deaf when David Cameron makes more childish gibes about there being no backsies on this forever-and-ever-and-ever decision; and everything will culminate in a BBC all-nighter where David Dimbleby will host a bickering panel interspersed by tense shots of a vote-counter called Mavis who will be repeatedly put off and made to start again because of Jeremy Vine shouting Important Numbers at her while prancing in front of imaginary statistics.

Maybe there’s something ‘meta’ to be said about the things that are being said about Scotland though. The obvious thing is the media bias in favour of a ‘No’ vote, but I’ll leave that to Bonnie Greer who spoke on this with astounding patience in the face of James Max’s insincere disbelief. Max, like Cameron, took the referendum as an opportunity for playground petulance – he comes close to behaving like the never-stopping “Why? Why? Why?” child, only his infinite regress ad absurdum is to obfuscate rather than clarify.

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Life as a To-Do List

Rebecca Mead has written in the New Yorker about the social implications of bucket lists:

As popularly conceived … the bucket list is far from being a reckoning with the weight of love in extremis, or an ethical or moral accounting. More often, it partakes of a commodification of cultural experience, in which every expedition made, and every artwork encountered, is reduced to an item on a checklist to be got through, rather than being worthy of repeated or extended engagement. Dropping by Stonehenge for ten minutes and then announcing you’ve crossed it off your bucket list suggests that seeing Stonehenge—or beholding the Taj Mahal, or visiting the Louvre, or observing a pride of lions slumbering under a tree in the Maasai Mara—is something that, having been done, can be considered done with.

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London Diary: the Olympic Legacy

In July this year, I spent some time in London. Of that time, there are a few snapshots I thought worth sharing. This one on the Olympic Park is meant only as a recollection of the area as I saw it on that day. I make no pretence of a balanced or considered appraisal of the Park’s management or its future possibilities.

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Listening, Digital and Physical

On an Overgrown Path (OOP) writes about the potential of digital (classical) music streaming to limit the viability of live performances as well as the more usually worried-about CD industry – partly in the wake of Alex Ross’s recent piece for the New Yorker.

There are two things that come to my mind on this issue which may make me sound as though I am playing devil’s advocate to myself – a sign that there is no reasonable answer that declares digital listening emphatically ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

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‘English’ Literature

Recent critics are right to say that restricting school-studied literature to English texts is small-minded, but meagre demands for US inclusion are no better – what we need is to recapture the idea of literature as an international art-form rather than teaching it as decorative Anglophone politics.

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Travelling in Space and Mind

The world has been growing. It has always been bigger for peripatetic kings and nomads than it has been for farmers and townsfolk, who neither travel by money nor necessity, but it has been growing for us all. Laying down roads stretched it out at first, then horses and carriages and other carts on wheels, then warships and ferries, then oil and coal machines, then underground trains and overhead planes and rockets sending robots out so far they can’t come back. The world is as big as we can map it and our maps are getting bigger.

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