Monday, January 17th, 2022
A strong Harvard study of US Military blood samples suggests that the Epstein-Barr virus may be a leading cause of multiple sclerosis.
Like many rationalists, I’m a Pisces.
Good bonkers, I’m Adam S Khan, the S being for Samuel.
I live in Brighton, England with Irit and our kids and right now no dogs.
Thanks for dropping by — it’s my pleasure to have you.
Thursday, November 12th, 2015
With the villain’s quasi-sibling bond to the hero, 2015’s 007 movie deflates to an incestuous Möbius Strip.
Monday, December 17th, 2012
I’ve tried to enjoy schlepping water, thinking that it serves to keep us to some human roots.
Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
Annoyances and upsets with the iPhone 4S have been more than offset by its screen, the silkiness of its surfaces, the camera, and the third-party market for both software and hardware.
Thursday, March 25th, 2010
It’s amazing, given the adulation he enjoyed elsewhere, that the Israeli public knew from the start not to trust US President Obama.
Monday, March 8th, 2010
It’s 1983: Go for the Apple IIe with 64k that could be opened up as a hobbyist machine? Or the smaller, sleeker and newer IIc with double the memory but a closed case?
Thursday, July 30th, 2009
There’s nothing else around here except empty desolate pretty hills. The Israel Trail passes by a bit to the west. The shops are mostly franchises, almost all homegrown: Super-Pharm, Aroma, Tzomet Sfarim, Cup O’ Joe’s, LaMetayel, Mega, Fox, Castro, H&O.
Tuesday, January 20th, 2009
So, finally, we stopped yesterday; the Israeli assault on Gaza of late 2008/early 2009 is over. With it, Israel lost moral purity and made vital strategic gains.
Friday, January 9th, 2009
Even if it did nothing, was just a prop in a futuristic movie, the MacBook Pro would be impressive; it’s like a sculpture of my previous computer, the MacBook, except it’s actually an improved computer!
Thursday, August 7th, 2008
Irit, the Jam and I walk from Brighton to Gatwick Airport.
Friday, December 7th, 2007
Ariel Sharon’s disengagement policy reflected an understanding that ownership of the Palestinian issue is shared with Egypt and Jordan. If Tony Blair were to acquire this view, perhaps he really could help facilitate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Thursday, October 25th, 2007
There she was, sitting outside the apartment block! How did she do it? Dogs—or at least Jam—must have some sort of navigational sense we don’t understand.
Monday, February 26th, 2007
I have had something very flattering: a request. Juan Carlos has asked me for comments on Casino Royale.
Thursday, February 8th, 2007
The Mrs is skeptical of David Allen’s Getting Things Done self-management system because it eschews the rigors of time management in lieu of what feels right. But GTD is about informed feeling.
Saturday, July 10th, 2004
I want to get people in my pics, but it’s tougher when you’re no longer a wide-eyed teenager, because people generally don’t like to think they are a spectacle.
Thursday, January 27th, 2022
The coverage of Neil Young vs Joe Rogan seems to downplay some salient issues:
So it just could be that just as writ large Disney removed its content from Netflix, so Neil Young is prepared to take what he laments as a temporary 60% hit in revenues in order to gain direct access to his audience.
Shoutout to the magnificent Bubbles Wot Tickle My Tchaikofsky twitter feed on things James Bond (the title borrows from AVTAK’s jacuzzi scene). I read it and well nigh weep with Mads Mikkelsen.
Wednesday, January 26th, 2022
JINSA pleads with Biden to accept the gift of much Middle East peace bequeathed him:
Now is the time for Biden to up his game and remove all doubt that widening the circle of Arab-Israeli peace is one of his highest priorities. How? Name a special presidential envoy for normalization. Next, convene a summit meeting at Camp David with the leaders of Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan to establish an ongoing forum for building a new regional security architecture with Israel as an integral member.
Militarily, take advantage of the almost limitless opportunities now available to slowly but surely build Arab-Israeli defense ties as the result of Trump’s decision a year ago to move Israel into U.S. Central Command’s area of operations, alongside the armed forces of almost all of the United States’ Arab partners. Make last November’s naval exercises in the Red Sea the first in a regular series that draws in more Arab states over time and involves air, sea, land, and cybersecurity domains. Integrate Israeli forces and capabilities as much as possible into the multinational task forces that the U.S. Navy already leads to uphold freedom of navigation in the region, defend its vital maritime chokepoints, and combat the malign activities at sea of Iran and its network of terrorist proxies.
After doing a house-clearing myself, I can relate to Andy Farnell’s Is techno-clutter ruining your life?.
To render the modern productive class (caring and civic professions) harmless, their power under old-left nomenclature as “working-class” had to be destroyed. Their reinvention as “consumers” necessitated apparatus to warehouse and monitor them. Modern bread and circuses manifests as “techno bling” – cheap, attractive and addictive but ultimately detrimental technology like smartphones and social media. Though it pains me to utter words like “chav” (The UK version of “trailer-trash” or “bogans”), nothing says first-world poverty quite like two gold iPhones, one in each jeans pocket.
Sunday, January 23rd, 2022
Just a reminder of Walter Russell Mead’s wise words from 2012 regarding anti-Semitism:
The rise of anti-Semitism is a sign of widespread social and cultural failure. It is a leading indicator of a loss of faith in liberal values and of a diminished capacity to understand the modern world and to thrive in it. Societies that tolerate anti-Semitism take a fateful step toward the loss of both freedom and prosperity.
Saturday, January 22nd, 2022
As the universe expands and the older and most distant galaxies speed away from us, their light gets redshifted farther into the infrared, making them dimmer and harder to see, says Massimo Stiavelli, head of the Webb telescope mission office at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.
“We realized there was a whole universe of light, so to speak, becoming invisible to Hubble because of cosmological redshifting,” Stiavelli says. “We would need a new infrared telescope with a larger mirror to see it.”
The answer became Webb. Whereas the youngest galaxy Hubble has ever seen was 400 million years old, Webb will be able to see galaxies that are just 250 million years old.
Webb will travel 1.5 million kilometers (932,000 miles) away from Earth to a special spot in space called the second Lagrangian point, or L2, where the Sun and Earth’s gravity balance in a way that allows Webb to permanently keep the Sun, Earth and the Moon at its back while it looks outward at the cosmos.
If space is heating up, everything is.
Friday, January 21st, 2022
Inverse is a beautifully designed web magazine [should Web be capitalized?], a Joshua Topolsky joint alongside a stable of others that I’ve noticed are designwise a cut above what else is out there — Input, which is similar to Inverse and actually the two seem to unhelpfully overlap — and W, a women’s fashion mag also published by Bustle Digital Group that I normally wouldn’t have noticed but am enjoying the design.
Yet outstanding web artisanship notwithstanding, can a magazine survive if it feels ultimately corporate, which seems a danger when the job title changes from co-founder or Editor-in-Chief to Chief Content Officer, Culture & Innovation?
In Inverse the writing itself feels pretty generic, less tours-de-force by expert than relentless plodding coverage. Article after article appears on a single scroll; you never reach the end of the page, and although this is convenient, I’ve never liked this innovation, I feel overwhelmed and exhausted by it.
While the pages as a whole look great, the fact is I am not reading the articles; the san-serif body text looks like it’s less to be read than looked at. Also, it’s too far to the right on the screen. And there’s a little wobble.
From the case study by web shop Code and Theory, it appears Input and Inverse have been merged onto the same content management system, and Input was Topolsky’s technology mag baby but BDG also acquired science and entertainment site Inverse from elsewhere. No wonder the overlap.
They have a rationale for the infinite scroll:
In a world where scrolling through feeds feels second-nature, we designed Input and Inverse without traditional homepages. Upon landing on inputmag.com or inverse.com, readers see an infinite scroll of stories. Each story offers a snippet—the headline, maybe a quote, or a key stat, along with some information. The reader can then expand that story in the feed to read more, or continue scrolling.
When one story finishes, users scroll right back into the infinite stream of stories.
The stream can also be interrupted by rocks—curated content modules, e-commerce breakers and other fun interactive moments for the reader.
Maybe I’m unrepresentative of what most people like to do on the web, but I think this approch misguided. On an infinite scroll, readers become a skimmer. Now maybe skimming is what you actually want readers to be doing on your site, not really reading the articles, thereby perhaps seeing and acting more on ads? All well and good, but skimming is less valuable and satisfying than reading an article set in a serif where the page ends when the article ends. If I read a piece, I want to feel I’ve read a piece.
One more thing: none of the subtitles has been informative but neither are they witty, rather they demonstrate design rather than content leading.
Thursday, January 20th, 2022
The most important Abraham Accords peace dividend so far: the beautiful Dubai, Dubai, Dubai by Israeli comedienne Noam Shuster-Eliassi. Israel’s biting satire — mocking Arabs and Israelis alike, and in Arabic leavened with Hebrew (or is it vice versa) — has more of a chance of freeing the Middle Eastern masses than in retrospect the US Armed Forces and State Department ever had. As Frank Herbert kind of say: he who control the comedy control the universe.
Tuesday, January 18th, 2022
Computer, enhance! Jeff Dean, Senior Fellow and SVP, presents Google Research’s R&D accomplishments of the year — this company, wow.
Generative models for images … have made significant strides over the last few years. For example, recent models have demonstrated the ability to … “fill in” a low-resolution image to create a natural-looking high-resolution counterpart (“computer, enhance!”)…
Monday, January 17th, 2022
A large Harvard study of US Military blood samples suggests that the Epstein-Barr virus may be a leading cause of multiple sclerosis.
Friday, January 14th, 2022
There’s the story — a Salena Zito New York Post joint — of one Former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, losing weight because he wants to be around for his grandkids. And a Tara Palmeri Politico Playbook story that the Clintons see Democratic concern over the upcoming midterm election “as an opportunity to insert themselves back into political life”.
Where Is My Flying Car?
J. Storrs Hall
Where is My Flying Car, what author and nanotechnologist J. Storrs Hall refers to as his intellectual memoir, is the first book I can remember hoping that everyone would read. Graceful, witty, we cut through the blather to the chase of social good: technology, always and forever, and where and how we got off this crystal ship, and how we can get back on it. Consider this the truer, more resonant, more actionable big brother of Tyler Cowen’s Great Stagnation. A random excerpt from 40% in:
Gyros of perfectly usable specs are being built now. This is mostly in Europe, because the EU has an approved rotorcraft classification that is similar to the light-sport fixed-wings you can buy here, but the US does not. That means that in Europe, you can buy a gyro built in a factory, but if you want one here you have to build it yourself. A typical gyro goes for about a third the price of a helicopter and can use a 200-foot runway. The Dutch company PAL-V is in the process of launching a new design roadable autogyro. It has the same advantages as the Pitcairn designs of the 1930s, but updated with modern materials and technology. It also has to face a lot more regulatory hurdles, as a car as well as an aircraft, than there were in the 30s. As a result its roadable configuration is three-wheeled so that it comes under motorcycle regulations instead of car ones. The rotor, tail, and propeller retract and/or fold up and it becomes an enclosed trike-style motorcycle on the road. It’s listed at better than 100mph both on the road and in the air.
This is fascinating and exciting — especially today when one can simply search the the company name (PAL-V) and instantly see the company’s news and promotional materials. But the book is not just a catalog, it’s a manifesto. And it’s not just a manifesto, it’s a history. I’m not doing it justice. I’ll come back and write more and differently on it.
[Update 2022 Jan 27: The book has been out a couple of years, so it’s suprising that just a month ago we have The Wall Street Journal‘s review by Philip Dewlves Broughton.
Thursday, January 13th, 2022
The zero-sum society is a recipe for evil.
J. Storrs Hall, Where is My Flying Car?
There is much to say on the worry that is the British identity, and in this sheer and terrible piece after a 3-month trip around the country — from a Somerset Butlin’s to Nordic Shetland — London-based Atlantic staff writer Tom McTague says much of it.
The United Kingdom might crumble, and perhaps so too will Britain, but England will surely remain. Is this not a comfort? My sense of sadness at the loosening of the ties that bind the U.K. are really just emotional. Would life change all that much?
If these were my ramblings, they were also dripping out of The Leopard, in which the prince begins to have similar thoughts about Sicily.
Fissures and dangers abound in and permeate my three nations 🇺 🇬 🇮 — it’s troubling.
Having already had the worst thrown at him (not without some reason), Lord Black of Crossharbour need make no bones about it:
In an election of 156 million voters and more than 40 million harvested ballots (i.e. those of unverifiable validity and cast by people other than those to whom the votes ostensibly belonged), where a shift of 46,000 votes in Pennsylvania and any two of Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin would have flipped the election to Trump in the Electoral College, 2020 takes its place along with the highly contested contests of 1876 (Hayes-Tilden), 1960 (Kennedy-Nixon), and 2000 (George W. Bush-Gore).
In Firefox, when CSS’s scroll-snap is turned on, scrolling is broken. Yet the only mention of the problem that I can find is this open bug report at Bugzilla, “Trackpad scrolling gets stuck on containers with ‘scroll-snap-type: x mandatory‘” featuring an unambiguous video of the problem. Given that both the Web and laptops are rather popular these days, I’d have thought this problem would have garnered much more attention. For me it has been a showstopper, finally causing me to make Chrome my default browser.
Wednesday, January 12th, 2022
In light of the boundless inanity and affection demonstrated for James Bond at the relentless Twitter feed “The Bubbles Tickle My Tchaikovsky”, I think I know how Eon can, should, must and will deal with the curdling disaster Mr Craig presumably brought upon them with the end of To Die Please Today at What Time or whatever it was called.
And that is to studiously, sumptuously, flagrantly forget what we just saw, with no more acknowledgement of it than a throwaway line like “This weather happened to the other guy” say when some villain gets fried by lightning.
James Bond movies are novel, happily standing alone — unlike the other big movie franchises today they are not interwoven arcs. Any nod of fan service to a predecessor must be judicious and throwaway. The producers seem to have not understood this; perhaps they were seduced into thinking it okay when they brought back the Aston in the opening scene of Goldeneye and it was fine. But that was enough. And as we all know, they went thoroughly the other way, trying to shoehorn everything into Blofeld’s revenge arc, spoiling the dignity of each of the individual movies.
What dotty old aunts.
In the very-nicely-titled online review Crooked Marquee, Jason Bailey does justice to Wes Anderson’s fabulous new The French Dispatch:
Charmingly, this film that loves writers is also one of Anderson’s most lavishly directed – which is, I know, saying something … Anderson’s films have also become a welcome opportunity for serious actors to let their hair down – Tilda Swinton is clearly having a blast.
Yes indeed, The French Dispatch is a box of supercandy for grownups. Modern works seem to take it as part of their mission to be the supreme work; even if doomed to fail, there’s an understanding that a serious attempt elevates everything. (Or, as Frank Lloyd Wright said, “I don’t design a house without reimagining the social order.”) The French Dispatch is a contender for one thing it is an ode to other mediums: typography, cooking, France, the written word. All that and the title triggers “The French Mistake”...).
And looking around again at reviews, actually again it’s David Brody who treats it most appropriately, so bloody enthusiastic that he retells parts of it, which seems rather a faux pas for his critical stature. Brody reminds us at the end that yes, it is a screenplay that flows with noble emotion, exquisitely portrayed. And in the end he compares Anderson with Hemingway. See, what did I tell you…
Nice to see David Goldman finally with a simple plan to save the world. I mean, I’ve been thinking this for years, and Matt Yglasias got a book out of it, One Billion Americans. So here’s Goldman the Wise in one sentence on the USA in “Import Americans”:
Our capacity to integrate human capital is our only natural advantage and it may prove to be our decisive strength.
I’m not sure about only natural advantage — the USA has probably the most natural advantages among all the world’s nation-states, but still.
If religious faith is the most important determinant of fertility, public policy can have only a modest impact on birth rates.
David P. Goldman, “Import Americans”
Sunday, January 9th, 2022
We will never inherit the universe until we learn how to live with radiation—and that means studying it honestly.
J. Storrs Hall, Where is My Flying Car
Don’t Look Up — to the flaming comet or one’s sorry betters? Two of the worst things I read about this movie phenomenon were the risible Guardian collectivist sharing and the lazy Financial Times piece (why do they even bother, it just lowers the tone of an expensive subscription) and there’s plenty more drivel in this wide vein. Yet paradoxically it is two American outlets usually so generous in spreading the infection of orthodox moronicism who published two of the best: in The New York Times, no surprise that it’s Ross Douthat:
Art … has a way of escaping the intentions of its creators. McKay’s tweets notwithstanding, his comet scenario is a lousy allegory for the climate challenge, for reasons painstakingly elaborated by New York Magazine’s Eric Levitz in one of the best responses to the movie as a would-be policy intervention. But the pandemic that arrived before production started turned out to be a better fit for the allegory.
Who would have thought that an apparently intentionally pro-climate-alarmist movie would produce a sober backlash in such pro-climate-alarmist publications. That is why America win: it contains multitudes. And that’s what makes this movie worth talking about: it escapes the artist’s apparently feebly pious intentions. Why has Adam McKay, no stranger to exposing boondoggles given that he made such a great movie out of The Big Short, not read J. Storrs Hall?
Oh yes, and the other piece: film critic Richard Brody in The New Yorker:
The movie lives by its place in the discourse, such as that discourse is. It satirizes the trivializing flow of celebrity gossip and light-toned frivolity, of clickbait pushing aside investigative reporting and of tech moguls not only usurping government power but commandeering public discourse. Yet its own anti-aesthetic of neutral images and predigested narrative efficiency, its celebrity feast of star turns and flashy performances, and its simplistic anger-stoking and pathos-wringing mask the movie’s fundamental position of getting itself talked about while utterly eliding any real sense of politics or political confrontation.
All that said, I appreciated the movie quite a lot, and I think both these guys did as well.
Wednesday, January 5th, 2022
Writing in The Guardian, Martin Pengelly is a real oozing 007 fan, managing in this paean to Roger Moore to link to a smorgasbord of great Bond-related cultural relics of recent years, from Alan Partridge’s clang-a-lang-a-singsong to Christopher Hitchen’s “Bottoms Up” and back again to Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s “They looked old. Because they are old.”
Bond is about sex as well as violence and to a seven-year-old boy in 1985 that was almost enough, appropriately given the fate of Kananga in Live and Let Die, to make my head explode.
Monday, January 3rd, 2022
Nice, Tasshin writes on Risk:
As I play RISK, I watch myself flip back and forth between means-ends thinking and conditions-consequences thinking. If I lose, I can without fail look back and see that I got trapped in means-ends thinking. If I stay in a conditions-consequences mindset, though, I will almost inevitably win the game.
Sunday, January 2nd, 2022
Counting watts is a better way to measure a people’s standard of living than counting dollars.
J. Storrs Hall, Where is My Flying Car
Saturday, January 1st, 2022
It’s embarrassing but I’ve never really gotten the hang of the service, so I’m glad HN surfaced Tasshin & Brian Hall’s A Guide to Twitter.
Friday, December 24th, 2021
UNRWA is the real Palestinian Nakba, Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch writes in The Jerusalem Post:
UNRWA is not intended to help the refugees but to preserve them as refugees serving the PA’s goals. The world saw a tragic example of the PA’s ideology during the Syrian civil war. Palestinians in refugee camps were being killed and Israel offered to allow them into PA areas on the condition that they be taken off the UN refugee lists. Shockingly, Mahmoud Abbas refused. The PA preferred that they be killed as refugees than live as free people in the PA areas. Estimates are that as many as 4,000 camp residents were killed during the fighting.
Thursday, December 23rd, 2021
Pleased to see that Petach Tikva intends to effectively expand Hayarkon Park eastwards.
The plan includes 1,250 dunams (312.5 acres) for parklands, 1,066 dunam (266.5 acres) extension of the national park, 107 dunams (26.75 acres for sport, 642 dunams (135.5 acres) for agriculture, and 639 dunams (159.75 acres) for housing and employment. The plan will be sent for approval by the Central Israel Planning & Building Committee.
Israel Hayom reports that Israel has paused offshore gas exploration with Energy Minister Karine Elharrar intoning: “2022 will be the year of renewable energy.”
Israel should keep in mind that her modern Achilles’ Heel is not disunity but overconfidence; and, previous Trojan War reference notwithstanding, should not be looking the gift horse of natural gas in the mouth. Because a prudent energy policy demands a short-, mid- and long-term strategy.
Sunday, December 19th, 2021
Can the USA stay checked-in long enough to deliver Israel the required refueling tankers? Michael Makovsky of JINSA hopes so.
Saturday, December 18th, 2021
“Show some self-respect and reclaim your freedom.” The estimable Abigail Shrier speaks to Princeton grads (at an off-campus venue apparently as the event was forced to relocate).
In this excerpt from his new book The Elect: Neoracists Posing as Antiracists and their Threat to a Progressive America, the great John McWhorter lists 10 self-contradictory catechisms of woke/anti-racist ideology. Among them:
You must strive eternally to understand the experiences of black people. But you can never understand what it is to be black, and if you think you do you’re a racist.
Show interest in multiculturalism. But do not culturally appropriate. What is not your culture is not for you, and you may not try it or do it. But — if you aren’t nevertheless interested in it, you are a racist.
Most of us are fumbling around trying to articulate if only to ourselves just what is so Kafkaesque and bonkers about all this. McWhorter has, as the parlance goes, done the work.
[Update 2022 Jan 12: The Chronicle of Higher Education has published what appears to be a take-down of the book by Eduardo Peñalver, linked to from aldaily.com, which I believe the Chron now owns.
The California Teachers Association held an event in Palm Springs on October 29-31, 2021 entitled “2021 LGBTQ+ Issues Conference, Beyond the Binary: Identity & Imagining Possibilities”. There they held workshops to “have the courage to create a safe environment that fosters bravery to explore sexual orientation, gender identity and expression”, reports Abigail Shrier:
“Because we are not official — we have no club rosters, we keep no records,” Buena Vista Middle School teacher and LGBTQ-club leader, Lori Caldeira, states on an audio clip sent to me by a conference attendee. “In fact, sometimes we don’t really want to keep records because if parents get upset that their kids are coming? We’re like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe they came?’ You know, we would never want a kid to get in trouble for attending if their parents are upset.”
Just how did such entrenched swathes of America become so wackadoodle? I’d be curious as to whether Ms Caldeira has kids herself. Regardless, that’s likely part of the answer: America, now experiencing its lowest birth rates ever, has proportionately more childless — pardon me, child-free — adults, which naturally suggests increasingly non-child-prioritizing policy leanings.
Thursday, December 16th, 2021
Ouch, Jeff Garlin puts himself through a Vanity Fair struggle session with one Maureen Ryan who speaks in such chilling gems as “I see a lot of people complaining about what I would call consequence culture, and then not doing any work.” Garlin seems to be eagerly drilling his own grave.
Oh, by the way, I certainly want to make changes. I don’t know what they’ll be. But I know that I certainly can make adjustments. Because I’m pretty much, to be frank, a loose cannon on set—not a loose-cannon saying mean-spirited things. But anything that crosses my mind in my ADD way, I just say, if I think it’s funny. And I may have to figure out a new way to do that—[because I’m] not entitled to that. See, I’m open to it all. I’m humble. I’m not going to be Baron Von Defending Myself. Except with the physical altercation, which has never happened and never will. I also am a big believer that when there’s a comedian and you don’t like what they’re talking about, don’t watch them. Don’t appreciate them. You know, shut them out of your life. I understand that. Anyone who, in my comedic ways, doesn’t find me funny, whether it’s on The Goldbergs, Curb, stand-up, I’m all for it. Please just push me out of your life. I’m all good.
Can I be Suzie Green for a minute and yell Just shut the fuck up!
So apparently this New Yorker piece on Succession actor Jeremy Strong was considered a hit job, but it doesn’t seem so to me, just your typical profile braided with the bitterness of a fellow Yalie alum and thus former equal up against a subject now immortalized on the cultural pantheon:
Strong’s dedication strikes some collaborators as impressive, others as self-indulgent. “All I know is, he crosses the Rubicon,” Robert Downey, Jr., told me. In 2014, Strong played Downey’s mentally disabled brother in “The Judge.” (To prepare, he spent time with an autistic person, as Hoffman had for “Rain Man.”) When Downey shot a funeral scene, Strong paced around the set weeping loudly, even though he wasn’t called that day. “It was almost swatting him away like he was an annoying gnat—I had bigger things to deal with,” a member of the design team recalled.
Wednesday, December 15th, 2021
Shea Serrano at The Ringer dives in to the most magical scene in “All the Bells Say”, the season 3 finale of Succession:
Greg, a 10-foot-tall gingerbread man and also Tom’s accidental best friend, approaches. Before Tom can say anything, Greg begins telling Tom about how he and a woman a few steps removed from royalty have hit it off. Tom lets Greg talk, but he’s only half-listening because he’s still rolling around in his head the information that Shiv has just given him. When Greg is finished, Tom has a realization, and pivots away from the talk of Greg potentially becoming the king of Luxembourg via a countess. “Greg, listen,” he says, and then he pulls out two chairs from a nearby table while looking around to make sure nobody is within earshot.
Tuesday, December 14th, 2021
Abu Dhabi leader Mohamed bin Zayed will visit Israel, reports Israel’s Globes.
Monday, December 13th, 2021
You would be surprised how ‘almost as intelligent as we are’ most people are.
Frank Lloyd Wright, Wright Talks with Disney Artists
I do get assigned to projects I am not excited about, but my job is to figure out what it is about that project that is exciting.
Joe Rohde, Imagineer, The Imagineering Story, s01e06
Thursday, December 9th, 2021
An interview with Vivian Gornick, distinguished New York essayist.
I spend my life trying to produce sentences, as a pair of academics once put it, as “clear and simple as the truth.” The emotional truth, that is. For me, only the accumulation of lucid sentences will deliver on that. Now every writer—poet, novelist, essayist—is aiming for the same thing, putting emotional truth on the page, only each does it using language differently. In the end, I believe, all are aiming for what I am calling clarity.
New York is still the city of letters, and there are still letters.
Wednesday, December 8th, 2021
The Man with the Golden Gun
Surely I’ve read The Man with the Golden Gun before, given that this mangy old paperback has been on my bookshelves since 2006? Perhaps, but I remember nothing.
Some scenes that seem somewhat vivid for now:
Right now the best part seems to me M’s internal monologue after a brainwashed James Bond, back in London after imprisonment in Russia, fails to assassinate him at his desk (a glass screen plummeting down from the ceiling to block the poison Bond has fired, foreshadowing the spirit of gadgetry to come in the movies).
In wake of this domestic excitement, as M calls it, he decides to send Bond after Scaramanga, who has killed some British agents, figuring the Double-O will either succeed in killing the fellow and thereby redeem himself, or conveniently die trying.
Chief of Staff Bill Tanner thinks this cold-hearted, as Scaramanga is so dangerous. M takes a solitary lunch at his club Blades, troubled presumably over both the event and his subsequent decision, but we are only privy to his thoughts once on the ride back to the office, when he reassures himself that his decision really was wise — indeed he almost can’t believe that his instant instinctual choice stands up so well to scrutiny. This is our glimpse at leadership. The rest of the novel — and the entire series — is our exploration of manliness.
In the movie we lose this brief inner turmoil from M, but we gain a more impressive (though not sufficiently so) Scaramanga in Christopher Lee, who is as suave as Fleming’s assassin is lunky; and we get fabulous Thailand instead of, yet again, Fleming’s Jamaica. To make a long story very short, we’re rather missing Nick Nack.
Sunday, December 5th, 2021
Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End
The invaluable Atul Gawande crafts a sensible, anecdote-rich picture of the current state of elder care.
He begins by telling the somewhat idyllic-sounding tale of how his own grandfather lived into old age back in India, contrasting this with the increasingly institutionalized way that aging is handled in more modern society. Surprisingly, he points out that anyone who can abandon this multi-generational way of living does so — it’s no paradise.
Gawande is always a deft, humane companion, one of our great medical writers, and if nothing else, the various ways he recounts people’s health failing and ultimately dying brings to the fore what we should keep in mind.
He wants people to be more mindful, prepared and aware of the limits of medicine, which he believes will make them less likely to make the mistake of over-treating, noting a number of times that relatives remain depressed and traumatized by a loved-one’s death much longer when they have chosen to keep them alive using invasive treatments.
He also notes his new understanding of hospice treatment, not that is no treatment, but that the goal of life duration stops being the be-all-and-end-all.
I don’t particularly want to revisit this well-structured book, but it’s a necessary ordeal.
Because the Marvel intro music is replaying in my mind’s ear (composed I believe by the great Michael Giacchino), I went to YouTube and found Every Marvel Intro. Turns out the first time we heard this brief yet potent bit was Dr Strange.
Thursday, December 2nd, 2021
My Israel, Our Generation
Never have I come across a book quite like Einat Wilf’s 2007 My Israel, Our Generation in that I think it could only be produced by an Israeli.
She speaks to the fellow citizens of her generation presumptuously and familiarly like we are sitting around a living room; and she has her finger firmly on their — our, as I am one of the cohort — strengths and weaknesses, articulating the dynamic between the personal and the national at a particular moment in history. I hope writers in other nations might be inspired to produce something similar for their national generation.
No need for me to reiterate here Wilf’s intellectual pedigree — it’s always in her bio. I was led to this book after I watched her give a remote talk recently as she wrapped up a year at Georgetown and was just bowled over both by her positions and by her cogency, how she spoke answering questions in just the same manner as she gave her presentation, with the same steady unhesitating pace and fulsome complete sentences. Not to mention that I am in utter agreement with her every point on every matter. In fact I went and reread my recent Arab Insanity Eroding to see how she stated similar conclusions better.
But foreign policy is not the subject of this book, rather, it’s an exploration of the mindset of the 3rd generation of Israelis, where they feel lost and abandoned by their predecessors the 1st and 2nd generations, the builders and the fighters. I think by the end of the book she has subtly provided a role for we the 3rd: critique, with a view to ideational battle-tested consolidation (interestingly, I don’t think for a moment she looks to the Biblical patriarchs to see the respective roles of the first, second and third generations in founding a nation).
Since this outing she has not written much of book length, and I think my next read will be what appears to pick up where she left off: Mike Prashker’s A Place for Us All, written a decade later, which seems to explore the consolidating part.
Wednesday, December 1st, 2021
Well goodness me, what a delight: Blank on Blank is short audio clips from celebrity interviews with animations, from Frank Lloyd Wright to Neil Young.
Tuesday, November 30th, 2021
All the keyboard-powered culture wars bullhonky is merely a distraction from the world’s most important problem: the impoverishment of the American blue-collar worker. Because without a prosperous American nation, there is no Pax Americana. In Newsweek, Hazmat truck driver Cyrus Tharpe writes:
Our jobs are essential because they are rooted in manufacturing and delivering goods, the underpinning of every major economy on the planet. And unlike politicians, we materially improve the lives of the American people.
And yet, this “essential” job pays a garbage wage. The median annual income for a truck driver in this country is less than $40,000 a year. For many of us, 50 percent of our take-home pay immediately disappears to cover rent.
Monday, November 29th, 2021
Ehud Yaari reports for Israeli TV that Iran claims it can build offensive atomic weaponry after all. Yaari doesn’t understand why this u-turn is not a global headline.
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