I am going to try out a new format. At the end of every week, on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday I will write out several things that interested me during the week. These things will range from books and articles I’ve been reading, to new artists I’ve discovered, to individuals that I think are worth paying attention to, to new ideas that have made me think. I’m going to try this for a month, to see if I like it. If you keep seeing them after that, you’ll know that I did.
Interesting debate I heard – Greece Vs Rome, debated by Boris Johnson and Mary Beard respectively. – Boris Johnson is of course the current British Prime Minister, but was the mayor of London at the time of this recording (2016). Mary Beard on her end is a very well respected historian specialized in antiquity. Whatever you think of Boris’ politics, his participation, and indeed his performance in this debate puts the nail in the coffin of the idea that he’s just another Trump. Though his first series of arguments starts slow, they end so thunderously that I though Mary Beard could never follow successfully, but she came out with just as much force as Boris ended. Boris primarily used his vast knowledge of literature in developing his arguments, but often found himself caught naked by Mary when he ventured into historical facts. Mary had the superior knowledge, but Boris was funny and entertaining. He argued ideologically, while Mary argued factually. Here is a battle between a historian and a politician, both fascinated by their subject, and both pretending to stand firmly on one side of the debate. In reality, both of the speakers would have been just as capable of defending the opposite point of view, and that makes this debate all the more interesting. They both use facts and they both use rhetoric in this ultimately benign debate, which has no serious purpose besides having fun with history. I highly recommend it.
Articles I’ve Read – The Changing World Order, by Ray Dalio. Dalio has published six articles since March of this year, that together attempt to predict the future, by looking at the past. I’m not sure I condone this process, since I’ve always believed that history does not repeat itself, but only sometimes rhymes, however one must take notice of the monumental effort that went into this endeavor which comes to us from one of our world’s greatest investors. Investors are much like prophets, in that investors spend a great deal of time trying to predict the future, and Dalio is no exception. Thanks to his correct predictions in the 2008 housing crisis, his investment firm Bridgewater became the world’s largest hedge fund. Dalio starts his paper by analyzing five world empires from the last 500 years, these being Germany, France, Russia, India, Japan, while also examining China over the last 1400 years. Why would an investor care about the history of these empires? In his own words: “My biggest mistakes in my career came from missing big market moves that hadn’t happened in my lifetime but had happened many times before.” The purpose of this examination is to develop an archetype for the lifespan of empires. What do they all have in common, and are these things predictable? Next, Dalio’s articles looks to the future, and try to situate the USA on this archetypal lifespan of empires. Is it on the up and up? Or is it all downhill from here? And what can we expect of America’s competitors while this occurs? What of smaller nations in the American orbit? The first articles are easy to read, but they become more technical the further you go. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/changing-world-order-ray-dalio-1f/ – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/chapter-1-big-picture-tiny-nutshell-ray-dalio/ – and more.
Picture That Caught My Attention – Self Portraits of Evgeny Stepanovich Kobytev
According to my google searches, these pictures are displayed in the Andrei Pozdeev museum, and they show two self portraits taken by a young Slavic man, barely older than a boy, named Evgeny Stephanovich Kobytev. The first picture was taken in 1941 the day he left for the front lines of the Eastern Front of the Second World War, and the second, on the right, was taken in 1945 after he returned home. The Eastern Front is a part of human history that is little known in the West, but taken in isolation, the combat between Germany and Russia in World War Two (the Eastern Front) would be the single largest human conflict in all our history, causing more death, destruction, and misery than any other event, including even the entire First World War. I always thought portraits could reveal a great deal about a person and their experiences, but none that I have come across impress this upon me more than these two side by side.
Novel That Captivated Me – The Gallows Thief, by Bernard Cornwell. Anyone who knows me well knows that Cornwell is my favorite author. I have read and given away many of his books, but he is so prolific that I never run out of new stories to read. The Gallows Thief, like all of Cornwell’s books, is historical fiction. Fiction of the sort that grips you till the end. It tells the story of a young man named Rider Sandman, a self assured veteran officer of the Napoleonic Wars. Though Sandman was raised rich, his father’s gambling left him destitute, and if that wasn’t enough, his poverty forced his bride’s lordly parents to cancel their marriage. His life is in shambles, but ever dutiful, Sandman seeks employment to pay off what little of his fathers debts he can. He finds work as a criminal investigator. His job? To rubber-stamp the death sentence of a murderer on death-row. The courts have found the man guilty, and Sandman is expected to get a confession out of the murderer. What seemed a simple job at first quickly spirals out of control, putting Sandman’s own life into peril. Throughout, Cornwell manages to transport us to another era, and makes us understand the urgency and importance of past events in a tangible way, as though we lived then. Waterloo takes on the importance that 9/11 does today, and strained social differences between the common and the lordly are unmistakable. For this action packed story, I listened to the audio book read by Jonathan Keeble, who did a fantastic job of immersing me into Cornwell’s novel.
Thanks for reading!