Love is wise, hatred is foolish

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"American on Purpose" by Craig Ferguson


It’s a bit of strange one. Look at Ferguson on that front cover. All the font in red, white and blue, the national British colours as adopted by the United States. On his bottom half, wearing a kilt, the Scottish national dress. But it isn’t made of the Ferguson tartan, oh no, it’s in the red, the white and the blue again. The significance of four stars is lost on me, surely it they can’t signify the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. If that were the case, Scotland would the biggest star at the top, the most important one. They are probably just meant to look nice, but they are a bit reminiscent of the flag of China. I’m not really sure that counts as a kilt at all. Maybe it’s just a skirt. On Ferguson’s top half, he is wearing a plain white t-shirt with a black leather jacket, the symbol of  rebellion in the 1950s, what Marlon Brando would wear. What is he rebelling against? Whaddaya got?

Ferguson is born in Glasgow, a city renowned for both its substance abuse problems and comedy; it’s probably no coincidence that these appear together. This book is “inspirational” because Ferguson has really problematic alcohol use, as well as taking lots of other drugs, and has a series of failed relationships before coming out the other side a success. Success being defined as living in America, a place he romanticized as a child, being the lead man in a successful television programme and having lots of money. 

But this form of success seems to waste the man’s natural talents. He is a stand up comedian who has acted and played in bands. His big break is performing in “The Drew Carey Show”, a sitcom which I had heard of because it had a ride at Disneyland. However, Ferguson has to play an Englishman, an identity he almost defines himself against. Certainly  in the book he never refers to himself as British in any capacity. Having never seen the show I don’t know how good his accent is, I have no particular wish to look on YouTube. On the back of this work, he surprisingly became the host of “The Late Late Show”, a highly prestigious role, with him on the telly five nights a week. This year he will be leaving this role, purportedly to be replaced by James Corden. There’s someone even fewer Americans will be familiar with. It’s a brave bet by the network, and I wish him success.

Who let down Craig Ferguson the most, Britain or America? In Britain he can’t take his career further in the way that he would like, in America he isn’t appreciated. He has to compromise, be censored, adapt. He makes a film and detests it and its failure by the end because it has changed out of all recognition. As with anyone who has a team of writers, it is not possible to be entirely sure how much of this book is actually written by the author. However, Ferguson certainly doesn’t hold back in bravely admitting to humiliating situations and drug use. The end of the book has more of its rough corners smoothed off than the beginning. It’s edited to culminate in a triumph, instead it emphasises the oddity of the trajectory of his career.

Filed under craigferguson craig ferguson book review book review bookreview drew carey drewcarey comedy

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Economic research shows that the medical advances sparked by the research done by medical academics added $3.2 trillion to the value in the economy, in terms of improved health, each year since 1970. Yet all academics in the United States—including all the researchers in other fields—were paid less than $100 billion. Financial workers earned five times that amount.

A system that delivers rewards in such poor proportion to the benefits society derives will stifle economic growth as well as sharpen inequality. Thus, the fundamental problem facing American capitalism is not the high rate of return on capital relative to economic growth that Piketty highlights, but the radical deviation from the just rewards of the marketplace that have crept into our society and increasingly drives talented students out of innovation and into finance.

The New Republic’s review of 2014’s blockbuster academic tome, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by French economist Thomas Piketty suggests solutions to socially harmful economic drives in terms of honour, rather than taxing capital. Another case is made for public investment in the basic sciences. The authors, Eric Posner and Glen Weyl, may have been reading Alain de Botton’s Utopia series in the Philosopher’s Mail.

Filed under economics thomas piketty alain de botton eric posner glen weyl capitalism

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… And Home of the Brave


As discussed in our last blog post, while the United States of America is conventionally known as the land of the free, it is also called the home of the brave. Unlike the word free, brave has taken a more circuitous lexical course. In Modern English, to label someone as brave is high praise, calling to mind heroic deeds and admirable courage. Brave can be traced back through Early Modern English and Middle French to the Old Italian bravo, meaning “wild.” Bravo is likely derived from the Vulgar Latin *brabus, which is in turn derived from the Latin barbarus. Barbarus is unsurprisingly also the root of our word barbarous, which today connotes savagery and cruelty—nearly opposite imagery to that of brave firefighters rushing into burning buildings to save babies and puppies.

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Well this was unexpected and interesting.

Filed under language linguistics etymology