Six Ideas That Made Us Think

1. Churchill: Never A Dull Moment

Conrad Black, biographer of FDR, reviews a new book about Winston Churchill and reminds us how the achievements of the former British Prime Minister dwarf all other political lives:

Churchill exercised serious governmental responsibilities for twenty-seven years before becoming prime minister and minister of defense. He served a total of sixty-three years in Parliament, forty-two years in government or as the leader of the opposition; engaged personally in five wars, sustaining many injuries and a few wounds; wrote thirty-nine books, countless articles, and five thousand major speeches—totaling eleven million written words and perhaps fifteen million spoken words—and won the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

2. The Naughty List

This year’s fashionable assault on Baby, It’s Cold Outside is an easy target for satire. The Guardian’s Katy Guest can’t resist:

If we’re really going to scrutinise Christmas tunes for their inappropriateness in the modern world, where do we stop? Good King Wenceslas glorifies a patriarchal definition of charitable giving that belittles the value of a properly funded welfare state. The 12 Days of Christmas, with its celebration of the senseless carnage of literally dozens of innocent game birds, is offensive to vegans. We Wish You a Merry Christmas alienates people without kin. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (“he’s making a list, he’s checking it twice …”) directly contravenes GDPR rules. And don’t even get me started on the bullying scenes in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which are very triggering. 

3. Rescued

When twelve Thai boys and their soccer coach were saved in flooded caves by an international team of volunteer divers, it became the news story of the summer. Now, GQ offers a detailed, harrowing account of what happened. The writing is as powerful as the story itself:

They slipped beneath the water, the boy essentially a package, still and quiet. There was a handle on his jacket that the diver could hold on to while keeping him clear of sharp rocks, steering him through the tightest tunnels. In dry spots, or at least spots not completely flooded, the other rescuers passed him from one to the next, like a bucket brigade, and in one long, muddy, rocky stretch, they strapped the boy onto a stretcher, clipped it to a line anchored in place by volunteer rock climbers, and maneuvered him above the muck.

4. The Madness of King Musk

It is impossible to read about Elon Musk and not wonder whether he’s nuts. Wired’s new piece on the Tesla CEO and his factories won’t persuade you otherwise. Still, the tales of Musk’s perfectionism will leave you smiling:

In the mid-2000s, the company was designing the luxury Model S when Musk insisted the car needed handles that would lie flush against its body. They would glide out, as if by magic, just as the owner reached the vehicle, by responding to a signal from an electronic key. “It was unanimous among the executive staff that the complex door handle idea was crazy,” said a former executive. It required incredibly complicated engineering, and it solved a problem that no one else thought was actually a problem. But no matter how forcefully executives objected, Musk wouldn’t yield. Even once the car was released, the handles sometimes proved troublesome. When Consumer Reports wanted to review a Model S in 2015, it had to postpone the analysis because “the fancy retractable door handles refused to let us in.”

Of course, we know how it ends: "Those door handles quickly became a signature feature. A flush handle is now standard on every new Tesla."

5. The Next Era of Rap: Trolling

Pitchfork tries to offer a “thought piece” on how the most reliable formula for hip hop success has become deliberately garnering online attention. The piece doesn’t work, but it offers some passing observations worth reading:

Kanye West has spent the year glibly serving the most half-baked ideas of his career. Convinced that provocation is a hallmark of creativity, he’s settled into a pattern of vexing spitballing that he calls “free thinking.” His thoughts largely consist of nonsensical riffs on design, freedom, and dead billionaires. At best, he sounds like he’s freestyling a TED Talk; at worst, he sounds like he’s freestyling a worldview. 

6. What We’re Reading – and Recommending

At the end of the year, everyone at High Lantern Group recommends the best book they read this year (or any year!). Our tradition is to pull the whole list together and let each member of our team pick one of the books as a gift from the firm. We are happy to share this year’s list with you, gentle reader. Happy Holidays.

Websites Worth Reading

From the NY Times photo archives Mrs. Maisel's New York

CityLab Design Oslo's subway reboot

Dead Malls Holiday season favorite, reminding you how you used to shop

Feeds We Follow

@TelegraphObits The best send-offs of the year

@Lane_Kiffin Notorious FAU football coach, excellent on Twitter

@GrittyNHL The best mascot in the NHL