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‘Homegrown’

Alex Abramovich

Neil Young in 1975. Photograph © Henry Diltz

‘I fell in love with Neil’s pain,’ Carrie Snodgress said, recalling her life with Neil Young. Apparently, she meant physical pain: Young had back injuries from polio contracted at the age of six or seven, type 1 diabetes and epilepsy. But no matter how chronic, pain does not make for a solid foundation. The marriage ended. Young made an album about it, then shelved it. ‘It was a little too personal,’ he told Cameron Crowe in 1975. ‘It scared me.’

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7 July 2020

Romania’s Gender Trouble

Paula Erizanu

Last month, Romania’s parliament passed a bill banning schools and universities from teaching the idea that ‘biological sex is different from gender.’ The response was quick. A petition asking President Klaus Iohannis not to ratify the bill gathered more than 30,000 signatures in less than 24 hours. Forty universities and eighty civil society organisations across the country denounced the bill as an attempt to limit academic freedom. A students’ union asked the government not to ‘go back to the Middle Ages’. Dozens of people protested in front of the Presidential Palace in Bucharest, with signs saying ‘education prevents gender violence’ and ‘trans rights are human rights’. The bill still lies on Iohannis’s desk.

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6 July 2020

When plague came to Wittenberg

Lyndal Roper

Plague struck Wittenberg in August 1527, ten years after Luther posted – or didn’t post; historians disagree – the 95 Theses on the door of the castle church, and two years after the Peasants’ War of 1525, when thousands of peasants were slain after they revolted against their lords. Luther had backed the authorities in putting down the revolt with massive bloodshed. Earlier in 1527, Luther had undergone a major physical and emotional collapse, and found himself unable to write or read for some months. Then, just as he was starting to recover, plague broke out in the town.

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3 July 2020

The Paranoid Style in Bolivian Politics

Forrest Hylton

Although dozens of her own officials have been involved in corruption scandals, including a health minister caught price-gouging on respirators, Añez – like Bolsonaro and Trump – peddles conspiracy theories about enemies in the media, government and civil society. They allegedly follow Morales’s directives, and plot her overthrow through terrorism and drug trafficking in conjunction with Peruvians and Colombians (never mind that Colombian guerrillas are less than a shadow of their former selves).

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2 July 2020

Your libraries are open

Richard Ovenden

Contrary to some assumptions, libraries have not closed during the current pandemic. The entrenched view of libraries is that they are just physical places where communities come together to access knowledge. Covid-19 has upended these assumptions. The question, for all libraries, as the crisis was unfolding in March, was whether we would support our communities better by staying open and continuing to provide the services that need the physical spaces to operate, or by closing, as libraries are busy places where the disease could easily spread, affecting frontline library staff as well as users.

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1 July 2020

Parrot Lessons

Rosa Lyster

Here was this bird, that should be in the jungle learning to emulate the sound of gibbons and rushing water, but was instead imitating Skype ringtones, trapped in a dreadful situation made still more wretched by the fact that its owner was also trapped, with nothing to look forward to for the duration of the lockdown except more Skype calls and getting whistled at by her parrot.

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30 June 2020

Labour’s Short-Term Thinking

Jude Wanga

On Friday – when the Conservative government was attempting to shrug off another day of scandal focused on the housing minister, Robert Jenrick – the Labour Party leadership decided it was the perfect time to take a swing at the left. Rebecca Long-Bailey was sacked as shadow education secretary for retweeting a link to an interview in the Independent with the actor Maxine Peake, in which Peake claimed, incorrectly, that ‘the tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.’

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