Skip to main content
The Knowledge logo

19-20 February


The wit and wisdom of PJ O’Rourke

Writing a tribute to the great American journalist PJ O’Rourke – who died this week aged 74 – “is a breeze”, says Michael Deacon in The Daily Telegraph. “All you need to do is quote him.” Here he is on military interventionism: “Wherever there’s injustice, oppression and suffering, America will show up six months late and bomb the country next to where it’s happening.” On Europe: “I’ve had it with these dopey little countries and all their poky borders. You can’t swing a cat without sending it through customs.” On chivalry: “A hat should be taken off when you greet a lady, and left off for the rest of your life. Nothing looks more stupid than a hat.”


quoted Heinlein 19.2.22

“Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.”

Robert Heinlein, American author

Inside politics

The advantages of a glamorous First Lady

In 2011, Vogue ran an unlikely profile, says David Smith in The Guardian: it was with Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. The fawning piece was titled “A Rose in the Desert” and the opening paragraph read: “Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young and very chic – the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies.” It went on to admire the “thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement”. Not once did the article mention her husband’s human rights abuses.

Long reads shortened

Eavesdropping on life underground

The ground beneath our feet is “home to more life, and more diverse life, than almost any other place on Earth”, says Ute Eberle in Knowable Magazine. In a single cup of dirt researchers have counted “100 million life forms”; underground denizens range from microscopic bacteria to earthworms several metres long. To better understand this “complex and cryptic world”, biologists have begun sticking microphones into the ground to eavesdrop. As it turns out, “every soil organism produces its own soundtrack”.


quoted hepburn 19.2.22

“You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.”

Audrey Hepburn

Get The Knowledge in your inbox

signup box

We scour the world’s media sources and bring you the best – all in one place. Sign up to our five minute daily newsletter here.

Eating in

Putting squirrels on the menu

The UK’s grey squirrel population is out of control, says Patrick Greenfield in Mother Jones. Currently, there are an estimated 2.7 million of the invasive rodents knocking about in Britain. But thankfully, chefs think they have the solution: “eat them”. I’ve had grey squirrel on my menu since 2008, says the Scottish cook Paul Wedgwood. First, because it’s great for the environment, and second, because it tastes good. “It’s mellow, nutty and a bit gamey. It’s just a really nice flavour.”


Turning yoga into a political weapon

Yoga is typically “associated with peace”, says Claudia Williams in Modi’s Warrior Pose. But for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi it’s a “weapon” to advance his aggressive form of Hindu nationalism. Modi’s rise to power in 2014 was in no small part thanks to Baba Ramdev, a billionaire “celebrity guru” and fellow Hindu nationalist, who used mass yoga festivals to drum up political support. Soon after his landslide victory, Modi appointed a minister for yoga and convinced the UN to launch an international yoga day. It was “a smart piece of soft power” that cemented India’s place at the heart of the multibillion-dollar global yoga industry.


What it takes to get to No 1

When I had lunch with Novak Djokovic at his organic restaurant in Monaco, just after he won the 2016 French Open, says Matthew Syed in The Times, “four bottles of liquid were placed in front of me: red, yellow, green and orange”. The tennis ace told me he liked the green juices best, because they were “very rich in minerals, vitamins and enzymes. They improve your energy and digestion and have a good impact on your organs. They are also rich in iron.” As well as an obsessive interest in what he eats, Djokovic is a master of self-discipline. After defeating Nadal in a gruelling six-hour battle to win the 2012 Australian Open, the Serb craved chocolate, “which he hadn’t tasted in two years”. After dispatching his coach to buy a bar, Djokovic “broke off a tiny corner and let it melt on his tongue”, then tossed the rest. “That is what it has taken to get to No 1,” he said.


The castle

Make an offer they can’t refuse on this magnificent Italian pile featured in The Godfather Part III. Built in the 19th century, the neo-Gothic castle sits in the coastal city of Acireale in the east of Sicily, at the foot of Mount Etna. The grandeur begins outside with a palm-studded drive and Gothic façade, and continues inside with marble staircases and ceiling murals. Set across more than 43,000 sq ft, it has 22 bedrooms, two terraces, two acres of parkland and separate staff accommodation. Catania airport is 12 miles away. €6m.

The cottage

This 400-year-old, Grade II listed thatched cottage is in the heart of the pretty village of Maulden in Bedfordshire. It has beams and Inglenook fireplaces, four bedrooms, four reception rooms and a separate one-bedroom annexe. Outside there’s a courtyard for al fresco dining, mature gardens, a summerhouse and a double garage. Trains to London from nearby Flitwick take 50 minutes. £1m.