Last week’s news about The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan was a shock. Bracing for the departure of the elders of rock is one thing, but forty-six is unbearably young to go.
Happy new theme. I’ve been a bit slow getting a new one going, after initially toying with just doing more trees, then some abstract stuff, before finally going with cobblestones and whatever they lead to next. Maybe there won’t be a theme as such. Anyway, here we go.
The Exiting the EU Committee yesterday published 39 “Sectoral Reports” (not 57, or 58, or eleventy-three), selectively redacted for our reading pleasure.
Looking at my own sector of Higher Education, the key page of the relevant report is p. 12, “Sector views: This information was provided by the Government to the Committee, but the Committee has decided not to publish this section”. The rest compiles 2015/16 statistics on EU staff and students and HE funding. Page 9 notes that the “latest figures on education exports (2014), show that EU HE students contribute £2.6 billion per year to the UK economy”—a mere 7.43 Brexit-bus-weeks per year. In other words, they bring in about 25% of the actual net cost to the UK of our annual EU membership.
Rather than leading with the public release of these wholly inadequate sector “reports”, the main Brexit story on the Today programme this morning was blue passports. I hadn’t realised just how long the UK has had burgundy passports; they were introduced in 1988, almost thirty years ago. How emblematic of this whole farrago: UK society and the UK economy ripped apart for the sake of aging voters’ nostalgia for things from a generation ago. Let’s bring back flares and paisley while we’re at it. Or let’s just give them their pointless symbolism, and keep what really matters. Here’s the referendum we should have had:
All 218 U2 songs, ranked from worst to best, not including the new album (which is okay, but has nothing to match “California”, which should be a lot higher than number 121 on this list. Good list, though).
Radio Garden took me right back to listening to longwave radio in Nuku‘alofa in 1993.
An interview with Ursula K. Le Guin. After a childhood and young adulthood reading mostly science fiction, I ended up feeling that Le Guin and Philip K. Dick were the apotheosis of the genre, and that’s pretty much where I’ve been ever since.
If you tax the rich, they won’t leave. The author was featured recently on Ed Miliband’s and Geoff Lloyd’s new podcast, Reasons to be Cheerful (which is my podcast discovery of the month—surprisingly compelling and entertaining stuff from Labour’s ex-leader).
My son and I went along to an opening-day screening of The Last Jedi last week. Even though we were craning our necks in front-row seats to stare at a giant distorted parallelogram, we loved it: it had so many great moments, so many genuinely funny moments, and the scene in Snoke’s chamber was utterly breathtaking in a way that took me back to watching Luke and Vader at the end of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. The Force Awakens and Rogue One each, in their own ways, provided everything I wanted in a Star Wars movie, far more than the prequels ever did, but this gave us things I didn’t even know I wanted in a Star Wars movie. I loved the direction Rian Johnson took on key plot points, away from the prequel-like need to over-explain every detail, and towards, at every step, the heart of the new trilogy: the struggle between Ren and Rey for one another’s souls, and their conflicting instincts about what it means to bring balance to the Force. He’s set the bar very, very high for Episode IX; I hope J. J. Abrams can clear it.
A Twitter thread on the battles ahead for the Brexit deal-makers by Kirsty Hughes, Director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations.
Some Brexit-related links I haven’t already bundled into recent posts.