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A point is all that you can score
This week: women take over the Democrats, the funniest piece I've read this year, and the behavioural psychology of the Tokyo subway.
YES SHE CAN
Do you remember that super-cool political ad for a Democrat woman who flew planes for the Marines? You can watch it here. This week Amy McGrath won her party's primary in Kentucky and will take on a vulnerable Republican incumbent in November. In fact, the story of this week's slew of Democrat primaries has been women trouncing men, many of those women being first-time candidates riding the massive wave of energy generated by Trump's win (I don't know who will win the Democratic nomination for president but this should raise the odds on Biden or Sanders, and lower them on Gillibrand or Harris ). Trump has had some positive consequences. I sometimes think this might be true after all.
Ring the bells, a new podcast has arrived, courtesy of the RSA. POLARISED is presented by Matthew Taylor - RSA chief, former head of policy at No.10, Moral Maze combatant - and, well, me. It's about politics, specifically the conduct of political debate. While we'll be doing a bit of commentary of what's going on that week, the show is really about probing the way Britain does politics today. Are we more divided than ever, and if so why? Huge amount of important and interesting stuff to discuss, including a lot fascinating psychological research on political attitudes. Check out the first episode, about whether we've become a nation of liberals and authoritarians. If you enjoy it, leave us an iTunes rating. Thanks!
Without thinking about it, I had started to assent to the general view, post-Weinstein, that Woody Allen is beyond the pale, that people should not work with him or watch his films (actually I stopped watching his films for other reasons). Reading this quietly persuasive defence of him, by his son, Moses Farrow, has jolted me out of the assumption that if Dylan Farrow says he abused her, he probably did. I feel bad for Dylan, even more so after reading this, but not because she was abused by Allen. If she was abused, it was by her mother - not sexually, but psychologically. Moses' account of what it was like growing up in a household run by Mia Farrow is shocking and painful. I found everything about his account, and his argument, convincing. It chimed with some of the case studies I read, for Born Liars, of false confessions and false witness statements. Under pressure from people in authority, people will "confabulate" fictional stories in grotesque detail, and often believe in them. Their stories tend to be somewhat dream-like, a quality of fragments haphazardly pulled together. That toy train...
AMERICAN IN WINDSOR
Wow, everything about this piece is pure hilarious joy, from beginning to end, such brilliant writing. The paragraph that starts "Why do you care?" should be anthologised as a poem, or framed and hung at MOMA. But seriously, how does great comic writing get recognised? You don't get Pulitzers for it. But it's just as hard, if not harder to pull off than seriousness. Even if, as here, it seems effortless.
Fascinating paper on the impact of the spread of mechanical clocks in Europe on long-run economic growth. "One fifth of Western European cities saw a total eclipse during medieval times. Those triggered cities were more likely to build public mechanical clocks. And building a clock early boosted population by a quarter across centuries."
If you're standing towards the end of a platform on the Tokyo underground, and look up, there's a good chance you'll see a square LED panel, emitting a pleasant blue light. The Tokyo Metro installed them as a suicide prevention measure. Most jumps occur the ends of platforms, and exposure to blue light has been shown to have a calming effect on one's mood. It sounds implausible but there's evidence it works. They're now installed at Gatwick rail station. From this report on Tokyo underground's behavioural nudges. I particularly liked the adolescent dog whistle.
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