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14-15 January


America’s topsy-turvy politics

America is experiencing a political age we might call “the Great Inversion”, says Gerard Baker in The Wall Street Journal. Virtually everything, from voting trends to the parties’ main values, has flipped. The “most consequential” switch is in each party’s approach to governing. For decades, the left was more concerned with “ideological purism” than the “compromise-tainted business of actually governing”. As the satirist Will Rogers put it: “I’m not a member of any organised political party. I’m a Democrat.” The Republicans, meanwhile, favoured “pragmatism over purity”, ruling by the dictum: “Damn your principles. Stick to your party!” It’s no coincidence that Republican presidents held power for 28 of the 40 years between 1953 and 1993.


In the dead of winter 1978, says Thrillist, “two drunk guys” at the Southfork Saloon in Martin City, Montana had an idea. One challenged the other to make it down the main drag “on a barstool on skis”. The only rule was that he had to cross the finish line “in the drinking position”. So one of the guys “screwed some skis to a barstool” and set off down the steep 750ft hill. Today their legend is honoured in the annual Barstool Ski Race, which last year attracted 8,000 entrants. Most competitors stick to the barstool-on-skis rubric, but there’s also an “open” category which allows “anything on skis”. It’s “usually something in a reclined position”, says event organiser Ben Shafer. “A 10-foot-long steel Budweiser bottle won a couple times.”


quoted 14.01.23 Catherine

“I shall be an autocrat: that’s my trade. And the good Lord will forgive me: that’s his.”

Catherine the Great

On the way back

Decades-old digital cameras are Gen Z’s new favourite gadget, says The New York Times. Teenagers love their slightly blurry, over-lit photos, and are following A-listers like Kylie Jenner and Bella Hadid in posting their poor-quality pictures on Instagram. On eBay, demand for “point-and-shoot” models jumped 10% last year, with searches for uber-aesthetic Nikon COOLPIX cameras (above) soaring by 90%. It’s not just the grainy, over-exposed snaps: for many, digital cameras are a way to capture memories without being shackled to their smartphones. “I feel like we’re becoming a bit too techy,” says one nostalgic snapper. “To go back in time is just a great idea.”

On the money

Everyone knows microchip-making is one of the world’s most important industries. Less well known, says The Irish Times, is that the whole thing relies on a single Dutch manufacturer: ASML. It’s the only firm in the world that can build machines capable of making the microscopic transistors that go in the best chips. The iPhone Pro’s A16 processor, for example, contains 16 billion transistors, each one 15,000 times thinner than a human hair. The relatively little-known company is one of the 30 biggest in the world, with a market value north of £200bn.

Quirk of history

Warring siblings are a “timeless problem for monarchies”, says Ed West in Wrong Side of History. Back in the 11th century, the three sons of William the Conqueror were locked in a feud that began when the younger two “poured a bucket of urine over eldest brother Robert”. A century and a half later, Richard I had to fend off a rebellion led by his “deeply unlovable” sibling John. The two eventually reconciled, with Richard telling him: “Think no more of it, brother: you are but a child who has had evil counsellors.” (John was 27.) The present royal spat, however, has more in common with the fallings-out of the Tudors. Just as Henry VIII’s children “stood for opposing sides in the great conflict of the time” – Edward VI and Elizabeth as Protestants, Mary as a Catholic – the current royal tragedy is all about “new reformation ideas”: racial diversity, the empowerment of women and personal fulfilment.


The apartment

This open-plan warehouse flat is in the former Wells and Company Iron Works building on Shoreditch High Street, east London. It has two bedrooms, a mezzanine level and a large arched window looking out across a tree-lined churchyard. The Overground station is a seven-minute walk, with trains to Highbury & Islington and Dalston in one direction, and Clapham Junction in the other. £2m.

The country house

This Georgian family home, Tillyfour House, sits in six acres of grounds and gardens in rural Aberdeenshire. It has a wealth of period features, including ceiling cornices, timber floors and marble mantelpieces. Of particular note is the bright and spacious dual-aspect drawing room in the west wing, which was built ahead of Queen Victoria’s visit to Tillyfour in 1868. The small town of Alford is a 12-minute drive; Aberdeen is 45 minutes away. £875,000.




quoted 14.1.23 Chesterton

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

GK Chesterton