Bill Buckley, Gore Vidal, and the flourishing of American partisanship

William Buckley debating Gore Vidal, 1968 in public domain

In a year that Donald Trump could well become president of the United States, it is arguable that the country’s cable news networks appear, by comparison, oddly sober.

As such it is intriguing to find the roots of America’s love affair with polarised punditry dissected in The Best of Enemies, a documentary on William Buckley and Gore Vidal.

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The Big Short, or why Margot Robbie explaining economics in a bathtub works

Margot Robbie in "The Big Short" via YouTube

Just how often does one leave the cinema these days having actually learnt something?

It’s a question The Big Short, a movie about the men who managed to profit off the 2008 financial crisis, seems badly poised to answer in the affirmative. Economics plus douchebags seldom, if ever, equals entertainment.

Yet somehow, The Big Short works. And why? Because you’ll leave the cinema both smarter and angrier.

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Master of None: Aziz Ansari’s kick-ass humour, but with more boring bits

Master of None, via Netflix

It perhaps says something about the differing ambitions of Britain and America that successful standup comedians are awarded quite different prizes either side of the Atlantic.

This side of the pond limeys can expect at best a regular seat on a panel show, the barbs now coming from their colleagues after years of heckling on the comic equivalent of the musicians’ toilet circuit.

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George Osborne’s biography shows the shallow success of the Tory modernisers

George Osborne, Trade Mission, January 2014 by Lee Davy

In the wake of Labour’s humiliating summer it is tempting to think that the Tories have returned as the natural party of government, and are set to dominate politics for at least the next decade.

Few have profited from this perception more than the chancellor George Osborne, credited as one of the chief architects of the surprise Conservative general election victory, as well as the party’s success against New Labour more generally.

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EH Shepard’s Great War and the years before Winnie the Pooh

House of Illustration, October 2015 by Jimmy Nicholls

If you thought children playing soldiers was sinister enough, it is impossible not to be struck by the darkness of a cartoon in which several kids mimic a gas attack, currently on show at the House of Illustration in London.

That this image comes from the pen of Ernest Howard (EH) Shepard, the illustrator behind the Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows drawings, makes it all the more surprising, especially given that his work throughout the First World War is described as “gentle” in the House’s exhibition.

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