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We're here tonight and that's enough
In this week's special Christmas edition of the Ruffian which is pretty much like all the other editions: why no deal means May's deal; street philosophy; the meaning of life and why it might be butter.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS NO DEAL
This tweet and the discussion it links to (click into the tweet he quotes) make an interesting point: a true crashing-out no deal scenario is likely to be unendurable by the UK for more than a few days. Whoever is in government will very quickly be forced to go to the EU and get a deal pronto, just to get the lights back on. That deal would be May's deal. Tory Leavers who hate May's deal should back it now rather than after a national humiliation. My working assumption since the deal was published has been that Tory MPs will come around to it, even it takes them longer than May would have liked. They will come to see that the options are basically May's deal or no Brexit.
SEVEN RULES FOR REMAINERS
Along with Rob Blackie, I wrote a piece outlining some rules of communication that the Remain-inclined should observe if they want to win a referendum (which btw I still think is no more than 20% likely to take place). Of course it will be ignored in the heat of battle, but I was pleasantly surprised by the big and positive response to this piece. Oh and here's an interesting discussion of tribalism with Jonathan Haidt, for Polarised.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW
Anthony Magnabosco is a "street epistemologist". His mission: to help people better calibrate their beliefs with reality. In one video, he speaks to a guy who believes that if he really desires something, it's more likely to come true (a version of this belief is currently gripping at least one side in the Brexit debate). Rather than coming over like a didactic intellectual or a snooty antagonist, Magnabosco uses guile, charm and wit to disarm his interlocutors, getting them to think harder about their beliefs. He believes the world the would be a better place if everyone learnt street epistemology - maybe he's on to something.
"Of 515 people who survived the leap from San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge between 1937 and 1971, 94% were still alive in 1978 - which suggests that a suicide postponed is likely to be a suicide prevented." This reminded me of a quote from this 2003 New Yorker story on Golden Gate suicide attempts which has stuck with me ever since I read it: "Survivors often regret their decision in midair, if not before...Baldwin was 28 and severely depressed on the August day in 1985 when he told his wife not to expect him home till late. As he crossed the chord [the outermost reach of the bridge] in flight, Baldwin recalls, 'I instantly realized that everything in my life that I'd thought was totally unfixable, was fixable - except for having jumped.'" It makes you think about all the people who have fallen to their death thinking "Wait...wait no! I don't want THIS..."
FOOD TO LIVE FOR
Some of you will know that a couple of years ago I wrote a piece for the Guardian about nutrition science and the debates over saturated fat. I haven't been following the debate closely since but I did notice this: a major new study, published in the Lancet, finds that regular consumption of full-fat dairy products - milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt - is good for us. The study doesn't try and answer why that might be. This tweeter - a professor of English literature - has as good an explanation as any: "Maybe eating a lot of cheese and butter keeps you alive because it makes you want to die less." This is quite possibly true; happiness across nations correlates with butter supply per capita. Mmm butter.
BOOKS I READ IN 2018
Full list here (I think). Slightly amended from version I posted on Twitter because I realised I'd forgotten at least one.
The new "White Album" edition - Beatles pedants will know that the album is actually called The Beatles - is a revelation and is, perhaps predictably, my favourite listening experience of 2018. It's not just that the remixed music sounds impossibly vital and modern, it's that the demos and outtakes give an amazing glimpse inside their artistic process. For more on the album and its context, read this excellent Dorian Lynskey piece. So much to say, but I'll just note a couple of things here. First, the Rishikesh trip, in early 1968 (after which they started work on these sessions) was clearly a hothouse for the group's creativity. Lennon in particular sounds completely revitalised by it, after his excessive-LSD-induced dip in 1967. They wrote so many songs in India! Quite apart from the double album's worth, the outtakes include early versions of Let It Be, Hey Jude, Jealous Guy...in other words, they created a fund of great songs they'd return to up until and beyond they split up. Turns out that getting away from it all, dropping the drugs, and having very little to do except write, was really good for them - who'd have guessed? Secondly, the inherited wisdom has been that these sessions were carried out in an atmosphere of mutual loathing and that John and Paul focused on their own stuff, almost as solo artists. But the new recordings remind you that they were playing better as a band than at any time before - the arrangements, and the performances, are incredible. And the outtakes show John and Paul, and the others, in intimate collaboration, swapping advice and encouragement, making each other laugh. So yes, they had rows during these sessions - George and Ringo walked out at different points - but the focus on the rows has distorted the picture. The Beatles were never more of a group than when they recorded The Beatles.
KID CAN SING
A story from the U.S to remind us that social media does some nice things too. This kid recorded a version of the showstopper from current Broadway musical The Waitress and posted it on Facebook. It went viral because it's great and he got invited to sing it on stage with the cast, and he totally smashes it. Here it is on YouTube. There several things about this I love but basically, wow. (Rare case where the YouTube comments are interesting/valuable, I particularly liked AddyZ's observation).
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all Ruffians!
Thanks for the kind notes and comments about The Ruffian in 2018, which have made me keep it going even when I wonder whether it's worth the faff - it's always great to hear you're enjoying it. Now, you know what I'm going to say next - please source anything you post from here to the Ruffian and remember the link! https://tinyletter.com/IanLeslie