Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Statecraft, Margaret Thatcher

It is not always appreciated that there are two Margaret Thatchers.  One of them is the human being who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from 1979 to 1990.  This Thatcher was a successful politician with a streak of pragmatism who was flexible and sure-footed enough to win a record three general election victories.  She was a right-winger, but she was a right-winger who signed the Single European Act, increased spending on the NHS, talked worriedly about global warming and maintained a top income tax rate of 60%.  The other Thatcher is Thatcher the legend - the airbrushed hard-right icon who continues to inspire vicious, pathological loathing on the left and vacuous, cloying devotion on the right.  Once freed from the practical constraints of office, Thatcher the person allowed herself to become increasingly indistinguishable from Thatcher the ultraconservative icon.  Thatcher the person was a British Conservative.  Thatcher the icon was an American Republican.  And it was the latter, mythological Thatcher who wrote this book.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Blogging the Odyssey - Book 6

First, the Sparknotes summary:

That night, Athena appears in a dream to the Phaeacian princess Nausicaa, disguised as her friend. She encourages the young princess to go to the river the next day to wash her clothes so that she will appear more fetching to the many men courting her. The next morning, Nausicaa goes to the river, and while she and her handmaidens are naked, playing ball as their clothes dry on the ground, Odysseus wakes in the forest and encounters them. Naked himself, he humbly yet winningly pleads for their assistance, never revealing his identity. Nausicaa leaves him alone to wash the dirt and brine from his body, and Athena makes him look especially handsome, so that when Nausicaa sees him again she begins to fall in love with him. Afraid of causing a scene if she walks into the city with a strange man at her side, Nausicaa gives Odysseus directions to the palace and advice on how to approach Arete, queen of the Phaeacians, when he meets her. With a prayer to Athena for hospitality from the Phaeacians, Odysseus sets out for the palace.