5 minutes in London’s west end: who says we’re not religious?

On Thursday lunchtime, I was speaking at a little gathering near Tottenham Court Rd – and was struck by the in-your-faceness of billboards for Derren Brown’s show, heralding “the wonders of the occult”. So I just got my phone out and started snapping. In the few minutes it took to walk to the tube, I encountered several evidences of the city’s multi-hued spirituality. (more…)

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Friday Fun 6: Interpreting Civil Service Speak

One of the acute difficulties of British etiquette is the profound problem of meaning – there can be a huge disparity between the literal/surface meaning of words and the actual intended meaning as all visitors to these shores find to their confusion and even peril. For those wanting a general introduction to the phenomenon, you can do a lot worse than checking this excellent EU translation guide. (more…)

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Barack Obama 2: The Media’s Red Carpet

It is a truism to say that the media is influential in politics. But there is no doubting that its power to mesmerize and acclimatize contributed to Obama’s election. Having focused yesterday on the way in which Obama both innately and deliberately sought to build bridges across community divides and with historical landmarks (as described in David Remnick’s remarkable book The Bridge), I want to pick up on how he was able to surf the media’s wave all the way into Pennsylvania Avenue. (more…)

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Barack Obama 1: The Bridge from Selma to Pennsylvania Avenue

If there is a point to Barack Obama becoming US President – and let’s face it, how can we ever reduce anyone’s life to having ‘a point’ – it is not his politics but his race. Race is what made his election seem so unthinkable, and yet, conversely, once he was the Democrat candidate, such a difficult opponent to beat in the 2008 election. And it is what will give him his enduring legacy (politics and 2nd term aside). (more…)

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