Stand In The Place Where You Are
Standpoint has already tested my vocabulary. I need a better description than "unremittingly dire". But it's at least that.
Standpoint’s core mission is to celebrate our civilization, its arts and its values – in particular democracy, debate and freedom of speech – at a time when they are under threat. Standpoint is an antidote to the parochialism of British political magazines. It will introduce British readers to brilliant writers and thinkers from across the Atlantic, across the Channel and around the world.
These great wags from overseas turn out to be Michael Young "opinion editor of the Daily Star in Beirut" and Jay Nordlinger "a senior editor of National Review magazine in New York". Yanks 2; Frogs Nil. Rest of the world - not even on the pitch.
The pre-publicity (such as it was) indicated a conservative bent. No mention of this on the About us page. A pity that; I actually want to know why a charity is publishing a pro-freemarket rag. Standpoint is certainly a platform for right-wing economics. Tim Congdon accuses the FT of having "positioned itself as a critic of the financial structures found in free-market societies." (But all Western democracies have mixed economies; the US has plenty of state interventions. Arguing for more of either side in a given state is not criticising the structure at all.)
Before I go on too long. The look: awful. Utterly uninspired choice of font and look for the title. Who would have thought that one of those old phrenology heads could be used ever again? It doesn't look like there's any separate arts coverage - and no book reviews. I hoped for a science column and got Michael Hanlon (who is the Daily Mail's science editor) who wants us all to know that science is a good thing. He's also wrong about just about everything: I'll concede that Darwin was pretty polymathic, but Einstein wasn't: physics, pacifism, playing the fiddle and patenting a fridge - that was his life.
It is probably a coincidence that some of the last great physics breakthroughs were made in the era of Richard Feynman, a wonderful polymath of the old school, a lover of the bongo drums and nude dancing bars as much as of quantum electrodynamics.
He could sing too; he patented the nuclear plant, the nuclear submarine, the nuclear rocket, and the nuclear plane (and sold the lot to the government for a dollar); his lectures are models of clarity; his books were funny and he was undoubtedly one of the greatest geniuses ever, but he still wasn't a polymath. The above sentence comes after a complaint about "ultra-specialisation" - strange, given that the breakthrough in question was probably the Manhattan project, which Feynman worked on.
Standpoint seems to be written by idiots, for idiots.
Oh, I tried to read the Nick Cohen thing, but I gave up half way. Just about everything he asserts (with some very selective history) is questionable. I'm sure Head Cases was rubbish. Did he need so many words to say that?
They're even wrong about Bond. Fleming was admired by Kingsley Amis and Roland Barthes - both proper intellectuals who knew about literature.
Flippancy, ubiquitous in the films, plays no part in the books ...
Bond receives a basket of fruit in Dr No:
Bond could see M's face as he read the signal. He saw him press down the lever on the intercom: 'Chief of Staff, 007's gone round the bend. Says someone's been trying to feed him a poisoned banana. Fellow's lost his nerve. Been in hospital too long. Better call him home.'
M briefs Bond in From Russia With Love:
'She said you particularly appealed to her because you reminded her of the hero of a book by some Russian fellow called Lermontov. Apparently it was her favourite book. This hero chap likes gambling and spent his whole time getting in and out of scraps. Anyway, you reminded her of him. ...'
 OK, Torygraph regulars Craig Brown and Charles Spencer contribute, so it is only "remittingly dire". Spencer is particularly good; Brown is pretty much sleepwalking, but I greatly prefer his 'serious' stuff.
6 = Martin Amis and Terry Eagleton. The extraordinary success of their touring show, An Audience with Amis and Eagleton, brought the thrill of ineffectual debate to a whole new generation. In the first half of the programme, each one in turn sets out his personal abuse in a calm and logical manner; the second half is devoted largely to mud-wrestling.