Quote of the day: Anticlimactic

Revolutions unleash euphoria because they create tangible images of change and inaugurate, at least in the fevered minds of their supporters, a new epoch. Brexit can’t do either of these things. The problem with a revolt against imaginary oppression is that you end up with imaginary freedom. How do you actually show that the yoke of Brussels has been lifted? You can’t bring prawn cocktail-flavoured crisps back into the shops, or release stout British fishermen from the humiliation of having to wear hair nets at work on the high seas, or unban donkey rides on beaches, or right any of the other great wrongs that fuelled anti-EU sentiment – because all of it was make-believe.

Fintan O’Toole

Five Things #21

KT Bryski provides a very different take on the story of Red Riding Hood in The Path of Pins, the Path of Needles.

In 2008 Rian Dundon spent 9 months on the road with Fan Bingbing, China’s biggest movie star, and gained a firsthand look at the country’s celebrity-industrial complex.

There are exactly two wolves in the wild in Flanders at present. Pups could be on the way.

Nick Tyrone discusses three things the left gets wrong. Repeatedly.

Ben Orlin presents The Game of Snakes. All you need is a pen and a bit of paper.

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results

In Belgium, rumour has it that the latest pair of royal informants to take on the role of forming a federal government is looking to make a coalition proposal which could consist of the Francophone socialists and the Flemish nationalists.

The elections were held in May of last year and there have been several (failed, obviously) attempts to assemble a government.

The problem here is that Belgium has no national parties — the Flemish parties campaign in Flanders and the Francophone parties campaign in Wallonia. Because of this, national elections look more like a pair of regional elections that happen to be held at the same time. This is compounded by the fact that Wallonia tends to vote left and Flanders tends to vote right, and exacerbated by the fact that none of the Francophone parties trust the separatists of the N-VA, who are the largest party in Flanders by some distance.

We’ve been here before. I’m far from convinced that things will be any different this time around.

The Harry and Meghan Show

Did you know that divorce rates typically shoot up after Christmas? It’s true.

More time is spent with in-laws, which for many spouses is not a pleasant experience, and soon the pressure on the relationship starts to build up. There is in many households a higher consumption of alcohol which can result in things that were held back being vocalised, or to inappropriate behaviour in the family setting or at a work party.

And so to the ongoing press meltdown (in the UK, at least) over the news that the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have decided to step back from their royal roles.

The royal watchers in the press seem to be at a loss as to while a couple at whom they have hurled abuse, every week, for the past three years might not want anything more to do with the press. So let me offer my first (and possibly only) opinion on the monarchy.

I have no idea how much time the Royal family spends together over the Christmas period, but I have no problem in imagining that, at some point, Prince Harry looked at his uncle Andrew and realised that, if he didn’t do something, that was what he had to look forward to.

It has been rare for anyone who marries into the monarchy to survive the unrelenting attention of the media and, in Meghan Markle’s case this is exacerbated by the unrelenting racism of many parts of the British press.

In choosing to put the needs of their own family ahead of those of those of an institution of which they will never be a significant part, Harry and Meghan have undoubtedly made the right decision.

Quote of the day: A Vainglorious Revolution

Having initially been bemused by the Referendum result, and then confused by the political crisis that followed, the election result has now cemented the new reality of Britain’s place in the eyes of the world – a “diminished” figure, being taught daily that it just isn’t important enough or powerful enough to exert much “control” over anything.

— Chris Grey on what “taking back control” really looks like.

Five Things #20

Water: A History by KJ Kabza is a remarkable and moving story of human colonists on the planet of Quányuán which is arid to the point of being uninhabitable. Wetness is a concept left back on Earth but this doesn’t stop one elderly woman from stepping outside the safety of the colony whenever she can for the brief opportunity to fully experience the outside world.

Christine McLaren meets the citizen scientists in Australia who are reforesting the ocean.

Denzil visits The See-Through Church of Borgloon.

Steve Royston reminds us that political movements are fine, as long as they’re regular.

Chris Grey looks ahead at what happens next with Brexit and the battle between remembering and forgetting.

Five Things #17

With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfsbane Seeds by Seanan McGuire is a wonderfully unnerving tale of Halloween, haunted houses, and the consequences of entering perfectly preserved buildings.

Batteries are not a panacea and in What Green Costs, Thea Riofrancos examines the social and environmental costs of lithium mining.

With the release date of No Time to Die confirmed for April 2020, JJ Bona looks back at five of James Bond’s best moments.

Most voters, planners and politicians in Brussels agree that the city should become less clogged by cars and more friendly to pedestrians. Gareth Harding suggests 10 Brussels squares that should be car-free.

Ian Sample reports on the Neolithic chewing gum that helped recreate image of an ancient Dane.