DFR Daily French Roast
Anne is reading …
Amanda Foreman’s Newsweek piece on Margaret Thatcher spends two paragraphs on Meryl Streep’s latest role as Thatcher before diving into a biographical history of ‘The Iron Lady’ or her more fashionable name ‘The Handbag’.
Thatcher’s handbag, at first a symbol of weakness, had become a thing of unparalleled power. “The men I talked to about Thatcher,” says Streep, “claimed when she reached for the bag, you just never knew what was going to come out. Your heart went into your feet.” At one cabinet meeting the ministers arrived to find her absent but the iconic article sitting on the table. “Why don’t we start,” suggested the environment secretary. “The handbag is here.” The handbag became her leitmotif, marking her out as a prime minister who was part Lady Bracknell and part Winston Churchill. Politicians who fell foul of her were often described in the press as having been “handbagged”—a cross, in effect, between a mugging and an evisceration. In 1988 U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz presented her with the Grand Order of the Handbag—an Asprey bag stuffed with her one-liners.
Foreman’s piece is fast-moving with specific details about Thatcher’s youth and rise to power, her marriage and motherhood, and her equally formidale and almost heroic demise.
World in Revolt
The world has never been richer, healthier, or safer writes Bloomberg Businessweek in ‘Year of the Fist’.
The protests highlighted the gap between this era’s advances and the sense, at least in the developed world, that we’re out over the edge of the cliff, legs spinning frantically before a humiliating cartoon fall.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Over the last decades, it’s politically-incorrect not to have a smile on your face, unless you’re a Tea Party Republican. Medical research says that being positive improves our health and probably helps us live longer. We will make more money being optimistic and rise higher within the corporation.
Today’s smiley-face world has no room for moping around. “Go get a job,” is the mantra for strugglers — unless their carrying placards about America’s federal decicit.
Psychology Today reports that researchers are taking another look at blanket optimism, thinking that making optimism a cult could be a bad state of America’s national mind. Simply stated, those yellow grinning faces fail totally to capture the complexities of human motivation.
Very important in today’s world is the question of whether eternal optimism prevents people from accurately assessing risk.
Greatest Invention Is?
Writing for the Economist’s More Intelligent Life, Samantha Weinberg considers the third in a series of Big Questions: what is the best invention ever?
Tools? Language? Certainly for women who have access, it could be birth control. How about the electrical motor?
Weinberg makes her case for why the Internet trumps everything that has come before it.
Apple Valley News
The art world mourns the death of artist Helen Frankenthaler, described by WSJ as “bridge between Pollock and what was possible,” said fellow artist Morris Louis.
Frankenthaler’s metaphorical attachment to the power of nature — its forms, its moods and its unbridled power defined her aesthetic.
On a somber note, there hasn’t been a full-dress retrospective for Helen Frankenthaler in more than 20 years. Of greater concern, her gallery Knoedler & Co., closed abruptly last month. “Greatness abhors a vacuum,” writes WSJ.
Plant Species Naming Backlog
Thankfully, botanists can move forward with naming nearly 2,000 new species of plants, algae and fungi each year without knowing Latin. Indeed, the naming of new species has almost come to a grinding halt to do the dearth of Latin-writing botany specialists.
On New Years Day 2012, new rules passed at last summer’s International Botanical Congress in Melbourne, Australia, take effect: the botanists voted to leave the lengthy and time-consuming descriptions behind. Equally important, the group gave up their concerns about the impermanence of electronic publication, voting to allow official descriptions to be set in online-only journals. via Scientific American
Kate Scott Orchid