Steamships are the greatest thing ever invented — if you’re a deadly virus. Elsewhere, thomas Jessen Adams explores what Cameron Hayes’ work The Fight Between Moomba and Lent says about globalisation.
How to model civilizational collapse: some advocates of climate action talk in apocalyptic terms, but other experts insist it’s not too late. How do you rigorously assess their claims? Current commitments to reduce emissions aren’t enough — and electric cars are unlikely to save us, new modelling shows.
ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT AND MOBSTER VIOLENCE
Deleuze Indemnity: James Gunn, French philosophy and the crime novel. I found The Irishman a bit slow when Pacino wasn’t on screen, but this makes the case for it as a triumphant addition to the pantheon of “late films”.
Despite the rise of the gangster movie in the 1930s, Westerns were Hollywood’s staple fare right into the 1960s. Then The Godfather — it’s fifty years since the novel was published — arrived and changed cinema.
By the way people forget that no one had made a decent mafia film before Godfather, and Coppola only got the gig because more prominent directors passed on what looked like another The Brotherhood or Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight — also a 1969 Mafia novel made into a failed film (though it had a certain actor in common with the Coppola films).
TRUMP AND OTHER MALIGN ACTORS
Pertinent to the 2016 and 2020 elections: a history of how memes became weaponised. Sacha Baron Cohen is wrong — really wrong — about tech regulation. Here’s an important point that’s been lost in the debate about regulation of Big Tech: the current tech giants may actually welcome regulation because it will lock them into dominance as incumbents and make it harder for new entrants to challenge them (this explains why Australia’s tech incumbents were happy to sign up to the Howard government’s “critical infrastructure” security theatre).
And to another, much better-impeached president — this is really eerie: a deepfake of the speech Nixon would have given if the moon landing had gone wrong (the text of William Safire’s full speech is here).
POLITICAL DANCE CONTESTS
Darren O’Donovan is scathing about the government’s handling — and attempts to duck responsibility for — the robodebt scandal (“grading political dance contests” is about an accurate description of 50-60% of Press Gallery coverage as it gets). Capital and capital cities: Claire Collie offers an outsider’s perspective on how our cities are changing. And Erin Stewart on chronic illness, celebrity and medical ignorance.
AROUND THE WORLD
The Swedish Academy has gone into full genocide denialist mode in its defence of 2019 literature laureate Peter Handke. Japan faces a massive infrastructure maintenance bill in coming years — as it population declines and basic services close.
Loaded question alert: The Crown is conservative propaganda about white privilege — so why do feminists like it so much? The idea of the white working class in the US electorate is a myth, argues Adam Theron-Lee Rensch.
The US Air Force is running out of spare parts to keep its Super Hornets in the air, and is cannibalising old planes. And the F-35 is a cause — is there nothing it can’t mess up?
What should we actually measure for economic output? How has the finance sector damaged the global economy? And why is there growing evidence that public sectors perform better than private industry? A 2018 book describes a derailed western economy in vivid detail.
How financial fragility will be a key driver in the next generation of financial services. This is an issue to keep watching because it’s only going to get worse — it’s already playing out here with northern Australia becoming uninsurable and the government considering getting taxpayers to subsidise it: how climate change is driving up insurance premiums in key markets in the United States.
A new theory suggests dogs and homo sapiens shared a key evolutionary trait that saw them win out over rival species.
(OK here’s a quick one)