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12-13 August


America and Israel are more alike than they know

Any Americans watching the ongoing turmoil in Israel may want to reflect on just how similar the two countries are, says Simon Kuper in the FT. Both were founded by a “persecuted minority fleeing Europe”, and began as “ethnostates which privileged the dominant ethnicity”: white men in the US; Jews in Israel. Both have always had a sense – “real in Israel, but usually manufactured in the US” – of living under external threats. They identify more with each other than with “western European softies”. And, crucially, they both “hit identity crises when the ethnic majority realised it risked becoming a minority”. America is expected to become “minority white” by 2045; Jews have effectively become a minority in Israeli-controlled land now that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has abandoned any notion of a Palestinian state.


I haven’t been able to bear British crime drama for ages, says James Delingpole in The Spectator. It’s too predictable: the goodies are always “female and/or ethnic”; the murderer “white, middle class and male”. Which is why Kohrra, the hit Indian Netflix series, is such a breath of fresh air. Set in the Punjab, it’s an “old-school” cop drama in which the police “trundle around in manly khaki-coloured jeeps” and interrogate witnesses “by squeezing them hard on the testicles”. What I particularly enjoy, as so often with foreign TV, is “trying to make sense of the alien cultural parameters”. The detective’s sidekick, for example, is “clearly a wrong’un” by British standards, with his “uncouthness, rule-bending and thuggery”. But you come to realise that in Punjabi terms, he’s “just a bit of a lad who knows how to get things done”. It’s terrific fun, and well worth a watch.


quote 12.8.23 Crisp

“Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level. It’s cheaper.”

English raconteur Quentin Crisp

Quirk of history

In 1975, a Californian advertising executive called Gary Dahl was listening to his friends complaining about their pets when he had a brainwave, says Historic Vids on X (formerly Twitter). The perfect non-human companion, he declared, was a rock. It would be cheap as hell, and wouldn’t require “feeding, grooming or attention”. His buddies laughed, but Dahl took his “Pet Rock” idea seriously. He ordered a shipment of large stones from Mexico, packaged them in a cardboard box – complete with straw bedding and “air holes” – and wrote a mock 32-page training manual entitled The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock. They were a hit. Over the next six months, more than 1.5 million Pet Rocks were sold, making Dahl a millionaire and spawning countless imitators including Pet Logs, Pet Stones and Pet Bricks. “People are so damn bored,” he told People magazine. “This takes them on a fantasy trip – you might say we’ve packaged a sense of humour.”

Inside politics

Hobbyists are “the most powerful yet overlooked force in British politics”, says Bagehot in The Economist. Outdoor swimmers have managed to generate nationwide anger over sewage being pumped into our waterways, despite the fact that they are cleaner today than they were in the 1990s. Classic cars are one of the few categories of polluting vehicles exempt from London’s Ulez. During Covid, garden centres were allowed to remain open. “Even the Treasury whimpers in the face of Big Hobby” – the tax code is littered with exemptions for craft brewers, “to encourage people to turn a brewing hobby into a job”. The truth is that for politicians, “a fight with hobbyists is not worth having”. As Tony Blair said of his ban on fox hunting, he would have encountered less opposition if he had “proposed solving the pension problem by compulsory euthanasia for every fifth pensioner”.


William Friedkin, who died this week aged 87, directed the bone-chilling 1973 film The Exorcist. But the “terrifying happenings which occurred on set are arguably more frightening than fiction”, says the Daily Mail. Early on, an unexplained fire burned down most of the set – “curiously” sparing only the bedroom of the possessed character. A carpenter cut off his thumb; a lighting technician lost a toe. Actors Vasiliki Maliaros and Jack MacGowran, whose characters perished in the film, both died before the movie’s release. When Friedkin looked back at rolls of uncut footage, it looked as though they had been tampered with, because of spooky “double exposure” shots. Still, everything worked out all right in the end: the movie made more than $440m at the box office – $1bn in today’s money – and became the first horror film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.


The pied-a-terre

This one-bedroom apartment in a Grade-II listed building in Camberwell, southeast London, has original oak flooring, panelled shutters and an exposed-brick fireplace. Outside, the central courtyard has a communal garden with palm trees and rhododendrons, perfect for a morning coffee. Denmark Hill station, with trains to Victoria and St Pancras, is a 15-minute walk. £300,000.

The country house

Cressy Hall is set in nine acres of grounds in rural Lincolnshire. The Grade II listed Georgian manor retains many of its original 18th-century features, including a sculptural wooden staircase and a three-arch stone fireplace with meathooks above. There are seven bedrooms, a wine cellar, a game larder, a studio and a billiards room, as well as old stables outside. Spalding station is a 15-minute drive, which is a 20-minute train ride from Peterborough. £1.6m.



quoted musk 12.08.23

“I would like to die on Mars. Just not on impact.”

Elon Musk