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28-29 May


The nihilism that threatens America

The primary school shooting in Texas tells you one big thing about America, says Bari Weiss in her Substack newsletter, Common Sense. It has gone mad. The attack – which killed 19 children and two adults – is the country’s 212th mass shooting this year and the 27th in a school. It’s also America’s deadliest mass shooting in 2022 so far, “which says something because it happened just 10 days after 10 people were killed in a Buffalo, NY, supermarket”. I read the endless headlines and I realise how we “grow accustomed to horrific things”. Not so long ago people watched other people get drawn and quartered in the public square; they watched beheadings; they participated in honour killings. We looked at them from our “civilised perch” and cast judgement: “How did they witness such barbarism and still have the appetite for dinner?” My question is, how do we?


Kissinger vs Soros: two competing worldviews

There are two “duelling visions” of how the West should handle Russia, says Walter Russell Mead in The Wall Street Journal, and they’ve been neatly articulated by a pair of “notable nonagenarians” this week at Davos. Veteran investor George Soros, 91, sees global politics as a “struggle between democracy and totalitarianism”. Democracies are duty-bound to treat their citizens with respect and conduct themselves abroad “under the restraints of international law”. Foreign policy grandee Henry Kissinger, 99, takes the less ideological, more pragmatic view that there will always be “many types of government” in the world, and that America’s job is simply to “create and defend a balance of power”.


quoted 28.05.22

“Everyone thinks that having a talent is a matter of luck; no one thinks that luck could be a matter of talent.”

Spanish playwright Jacinto Benavente

Quirk of history

The invention that changed spying

“The urge to snoop is as old as time,” says Brian Hochman in Wired. Catherine de’ Medici, for example, installed specially designed ventilation ducts at the Louvre so she could listen in on anyone plotting against her. Archaeologists have unearthed “acoustical arrangements like these” dating back to 3000 BC. But it wasn’t until the 1940s that the invention of tiny electronic transistors made secret bugs good enough, and small enough, to become a serious tool for nosy spooks. These microphones, “smaller than sugar cubes and thinner than postage stamps”, could be secreted anywhere: from wall sockets and picture frames to packs of cigarettes, shirt buttons, lipstick tubes and lighters.


quoted 28.05.22

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”

US anthropologist Margaret Mead

Eating in

A Big Mac a day keeps the doctor away

McDonald’s every day of his life”, says Emily Heil in The Washington Post. He stuck to his word: Gorske, now 68, recently celebrated 50 years of eating at least one Big Mac nearly every day. Since 1972, the former prison guard has munched his way through 32,943 of the burgers. “Some days, he eats two.” He has twice been recognised by Guinness World Records for his feat, and his picture hangs on the wall at his local McDonald’s in Wisconsin.


The day they banned me from meeting the Queen

When the Queen came to visit my boarding school in the 1960s, I was banished to the sanatorium, says AN Wilson in The Sunday Telegraph. She was there to open some new gates, but before her arrival I had written an article for the school newspaper urging her “to open public schools to all” instead. The piece was picked up by several newspapers. One headline thundered: “Public School Red insults the Queen”. So, “frightened that Her Majesty would somehow be seen anywhere near the lefty teenage AN”, the teachers locked me up until she’d been driven back to London.


Officious students at Durham University have decreed that formal dinners, where attendees dress up in gowns, are “sinister”, says The Daily Telegraph. A two-year “culture commission” set up by the student union has criticised a range of old-fashioned trappings at the university, which apparently create a “co-opted version of an Oxbridge experience”. The college system, for example, is “overtly reminiscent of a boarding school” and “the subtle elitism of the British upper classes”.



This top-floor apartment in the centre of Florence has two bedrooms and views of the Duomo. It has antique terracotta tiles, wooden beams and an attic which leads to a roof terrace. The Galleria dell’Accademia is a four-minute walk away. £750,000.

The town house

This Grade II listed Georgian house in Greenwich dates back to the 1770s. It’s set over four storeys, has four bedrooms, and there’s an enormous reception room on the first floor which is more than 30 feet end to end. Greenwich station is an eight-minute walk away. £3m.