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This week: how to sell God, how to feel about Brexit, and who won Britpop.
I like thinking about religions as businesses or brands. What made some grow while others died out? They needed to find a gap in the market, to win followers, get popular, and to do so they all have their own distinctive branding and product features. The resurrection story of Christianity was a marketing masterstroke. There were other messianic Jewish sects, but nobody had come up with a story about a messiah coming back from the dead. Not only did it tell a better story than its competitors but it massively increased its distribution by reaching out to gentiles (a bit like Windows beating Apple in the 1980s by making itself compatible with all PCs). Early Islam grew, not just by conquest and killing, but by making itself compatible with existing market standards - regulatory alignment if you like. It said, we're People of the Book too. Jesus is a prophet. That allowed it a crucial incubation period before competition intensified. Anyway, excuse my drunk history: these thoughts prompted by this superb post looking at religions-as-firms, including sections on software updates and surge pricing.
Well, thank you Ireland, for getting us a soft Brexit for Christmas. As Fintan O'Toole says, the whole thing will now have to be reverse engineered from the question of the Irish border ("Britain can have any Brexit as long as it's green"). There are two ways to feel about this. The first is relief, the second is depression at the huge amount of political and bureaucratic energy Britain is going to expend to achieve a slightly inferior trade arrangement to the one it had, with less control and none of the benefits Leave voters expect. Will we have more control over immigration? Maybe, at some point, but not for years (how will voters react when there's still freedom of movement in 2018, 2019, 2022...?) Even from a purely tactical point of view, the Daily Mail's front page today seems ill judged - it is unwittingly setting up its own readers for disappointment, cynicism and anger. The political ramifications of this deal have barely become visible and the instant responses are not reliable indicators of where the debate will go. This applies especially to the Tories, as its Brexiteers get to grips with the small print, not something to which they are accustomed.
POD (i) MUELLERAMA
Slightly belatedly I caught up with Preet Bharara's take, via his excellent podcast, on last week's news that Michael Flynn is pleading guilty to lying. Bharara is a former prosecutor. He knows how these investigations work, and he thinks the conventional wisdom about this news is wrong. Take a listen. It's about ten minutes long. As with podcasts generally, the pleasure comes from listening to how something is said just as much as what is said. Bharara's rhythms, and his logic, are riveting.
POD (ii) SWISHERAMA
I confess I had only a vague idea of who Kara Swisher is until I listened to this Longform interview. Now I know, so here's the skinny (if you need it): she's the most influential journalist in Silicon Valley, and the co-founder of Recode, a tech news website. Billionaire masters of the universe quail in her presence. She is obnoxious, cutting, immodest and immune to self-doubt, and that's just her self-description. She's also bloody funny and utterly fearless, one of those people who just seems to have been endowed with an extra dose of alive-ness. Even if you don't care about Silicon Valley stuff, you should listen. The first half of this interview is huge fun; the second half is better.
While I wouldn't go quite as far as Dunstan Hadley does here, I agree that Damon Albarn is underrated as a figure in British popular music (possibly because he's so annoying in interviews; he has the arrogance of the Gallaghers but not the wit). As Duncan says, he hasn't just created one era-defining band, but two. Dunstan is obviously talking about Blur and Gorillaz (and has included a Spotify playlist if you want to be reminded of how good the latter are) but I think my favourite Albarn incarnation might be the Good, the Bad and the Queen. That album is a smoky, brooding beast of beauty.
DON'T COME AT JOAN DIDION
Part 1, and (most spectacularly) Part 2.
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