Thursday, April 14th, 2022
Jonathan Haidt is wise enough to note that it is mainly America, not necessary the rest of the world, that has gone particularly mental the past decade. Haidt blames social media. But the word “marriage” does not occur even once in the article, despite the decade having seen same-sex marriage transformed from oxymoronic absurdity to self-evident cudgel. If a human institution so deep — deeper than the nationstate, than monotheism, even than history itself — can be so decidedly upended, then what chance has anything else of standing, the collective subconscious must wonder.
Sunday, February 20th, 2022
America today: the fractious school board meeting. I blame, well, so many things. Corn subsidies? No-fault divorce? The lack perhaps of a dietary component in Protestantism? But despite the madness this video shows that the will to civility still remains, which is a tendril for hope.
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:
- The middle: James Bond meets kind-hearted Tiffy, the manageress of a Jamaican cathouse, before finding Scaramanga, who promptly does something totally awful
- The end: As Scaramanga’s temporary assistant, James Bond machinates and maneuvers around the underfunded hotel that the assassin is building
- The beginning: M ruminates over his decision to send Bond after Scaramanga
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.
Friday, November 12th, 2021
In this fun review of the Succession episode “Lion in the Meadow” (though surely a better title would have been “King Kong Comes to Dance”), Andrew Gruttadaro quotes the episode’s closing line “a timely fucking Evian”. Having watched that scene a few times over last night, I thought, no, there is no adjective between “timely” and “Evian”. But rewatching the scene, I’m wrong — I didn’t even hear the fucking word, that’s how much we’ve debased it.
A timely Evian; like everything else in this episode, what a great line! And this review transcribes much of the juiciness. The author also has a short Twitter thread on one of its great set-pieces, Adrien Brody’s Josh Aaronson’s layers.
Sunday, October 31st, 2021
Finally, someone comes out and clearly states the most important truths about UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson — that he wins and will be in power a long time.
Eccentric, optimistic and fundamentally humane, he personifies the very best British ideals, and that’s why the public loves him.
Friday, October 8th, 2021
I had to read this snooty bit of exhibitionism at Gawker (must the devil have all the good web design?) slowly to keep track of what and whom the reader is supposed to consider virtuous versus vile. One through-line that helped was, like in a Hollywood movie, the bad guys have British accents.
Regarding the author’s complaint of British transphobia, one possible cause: due to cultural proximity and thirst, the Great Leap Forward emanating from the USA arrives first at Britain’s more grounded doorstep, with the resulting crockery-dropping rejection most clearly heard when ricocheting back across the pond.
Thursday, October 7th, 2021
Human egalitarianism was a social revolution within the primate order.
Sarah Chayes, Everybody Knows: Corruption in America
Monday, June 14th, 2021
Mary Catherine Bateson, conversations at Edge [via Hacker News, again].
Tuesday, May 18th, 2021
English has a specific order for adjectives: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, then purpose. Cool.
Thursday, May 6th, 2021
Top 20 racing cheats by Preston Lerner at Hagerty, a reminder that rules are made to be… stretched.
Monday, November 23rd, 2020
Thursday, October 29th, 2020
Live by the CoC, die by the CoC; pardon my schadenfreude over posts like this where people who eagerly support the marauding bull get tangled in it themselves and even then continue to grovel their ongoing support for it.
Tuesday, June 30th, 2020
Amalgamated from a dialog in the comments at a Marginal Revolution post “How to Live in a World Gone Mad?”:
The mob is saying silence is violence. Funnily enough, the mob also says speech is violence. They also say violence is not violence.
Fun, fun, fun!
Friday, April 3rd, 2020
Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life
Nusseibeh’s central thesis (well, secondary thesis, the primary implicit one being that the Palestinian people should all along have appointed both his Dad and then him their oh-so-reluctant leaders) I too have felt almost in my bones: that Israelis and Palestinians are natural allies. Or, more accurately, that there’s a natural affinity which will enable us to be powerful allies if and when we ever get over our admittedly fundamental conflict.
Sunday, March 1st, 2020
Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of an Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader
Brent Schlener and Rick Tetzell
Although the simple thesis gets repeated interminably, nonetheless it’s a nice one: that Steve Jobs’s greatness stems muchly from his constant becoming, constant learning, constant trying to overcome himself (hence the title, which can be read as descriptive).
It’s great to be in his company, which you feel you are, as one of the authors was himself repeatedly so for decades.
One thing new to me was Pixar’s role in maturing Jobs; we don’t often read about who and what shaped the shaper.
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
A Beginner's Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations
Written aphoristically, long-time Kyoto resident travel writer Pico Iyer provided me with a new view of a major people: that the Japanese exemplify Oscar Wilde’s catechism that style is substance, surface depth. One telling anecdote from his pal the Dalai Lama: when speaking to Western audiences, they perk up at the philosophy and tune out for the rituals; with the Japanese it’s the opposite. There are many more such reflections. One reviewer says the book is profound, and I guess that is the case, yes.
Monday, October 7th, 2019
Tuesday, October 1st, 2019
The sweaters of ??Succession??. By Vulture.
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
The end of formal dining on Amtrak. The change is “driven by a desire to save money,” Amtrak said to The Washington Post, “and lure a younger generation of new riders — chiefly, millennials known to be always on the run, glued to their phones and not particularly keen on breaking bread with strangers at a communal table.” Sad!
Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
“Please just leave me alone when I cross streets.” Richard Stallman’s terms of service for speaking engagements come to light [via The Register] surrounding his forced terminations. A couple of observations: for 66 his skin looks amazingly moist and smooth, like a healthy 25-year-old’s, which perhaps says something about his lifestyle and choices. And his exactingness regarding these terms is both ridiculous and admirable; few things are more important than knowing who we are and what we want and expressing these clearly.
Sunday, May 26th, 2019
Goodbye, Judith Kerr, goodbye!
Tuesday, January 1st, 2019
Chronicling from “below the API line”, as Venkatesh Rao calls it, are Austin Murphy with “I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon” in The Atlantic and Lauren Hough with “I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America” in The Huffington Post.
The depicted harshness of American work life for so many is terrible not just for those involved but for all. (Also these two share a prodigious unmet need to urinate on the job — is this the top new workplace tribulation?)
Tuesday, December 11th, 2018
A screed we need: “When Supplements Become Substitutes” by Joshua Mitchell in the redoubtable City Journal. This conceptual framework clarifies much of what Western societies are concerned about regarding themselves.
Monday, September 10th, 2018
When Judaism curls into something surely bonkers and even deleterious: Orthodox Jewish women shamed for long wigs. Ah, to cover one’s hair with… hair.
Tuesday, July 31st, 2018
“Shouting ‘Peace, peace’ may actually push peace away,” argues game theorist and Nobel Economics laureate Prof. Yisrael Aumann, New York-born head of the Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality at Hebrew University.
This is just about common sense — by that I mean it’s only a single twist of what Edward Luttwak calls the paradoxical logic of strategy. Yet perhaps there are further twists; I suggested one back in 2003 in “Allah Help the Jackals”:
Perhaps Israel is following a subconscious national strategy of the strong, in which it behaves too meekly for a decade or so, emboldens its vicious but feeble enemies until they go too far, then lashes out in a now-obviously-justifiable response and gains untold assets in the process.
Not to mention that the more time goes by, the more Israel strengthens and the Palestinians weaken.
This subconscious national strategy of delay by dint of wanting too hard, if it ever were effective, seems to have played itself out now, as demonstrated by Israel’s shift of focus towards undermining UNWRA, which plays such an underlying role in prolonging the conflict.
What with the Sunni warming to Israel and the supremely sympathetic Trump Administration, Israel it seems believes that allowing the conflict to fester for gradual gain has now become counterproductive, and so seeks a new path to end it.
All that notwithstanding, nothing ends until the Palestinians begin educating their children towards co-existence alongside Israel.
Wednesday, July 11th, 2018
Well, this an extravaganza of an article, practically a short book, on the American 9.9%.
Tuesday, July 10th, 2018
Thursday, May 31st, 2018
The Dawn of Day
This is a delicious book to pick up in spurts — BMW punchy as Emerson is Rolls-Royce bubbly — but I couldn’t say what it’s chiefly about, where it starts, where it ends, how it fits in with Nietzsche’s other books, nor whether I’ve even read it before (I do remember particular points but perhaps they’re also mentioned in the other books). As usual this 19th-century giant sounds as if he writes… this morning.
Friday, May 11th, 2018
“The Moment” is an occasional column/blog by novelist Amit Chaudhuri in The Paris Review.
Friday, April 27th, 2018
This review of The Jewish Joke: An essay with examples (less essay, more examples) has examples.
Sunday, March 25th, 2018
It’s Tim Ferriss’s most soulful interview yet: Jack Kornfield, a guru who talks the talk, walks the walk, sat the sit. With a great selection in the shownotes of links and people mentioned.
As these two leaders discuss morning practices, I’m struck by how many of the perspectives and attitudes they hope for are nicely handled by the Jewish morning prayers.
Friday, March 9th, 2018
Tyler Cowen has a modest proposal: polarized shopping. “You get better deals from the companies you patronize regularly, most of all from airlines and hotels. It requires only some stretch of the imagination to think that more of those programs could be organized around ideology.”
Tuesday, March 6th, 2018
A review of the new disenchantment with our overly-enchanting digital lives by one Arianna Huffington of all people.
Tuesday, January 16th, 2018
If you read one brief op-ed piece this year, surely it must be Of Crudeness and Truth by Andrew Klavan in City Journal. “For Nurse Ratched, read Hillary Clinton, CNN, The New York Times, Yale University, Twitter, and Google/YouTube —— all the tender ministers of polite silence and enforced dishonesty. If Donald Trump’s boorishness crashes like a bull through the crystal madhouse of their leftism — well, good. It’s about time.” Like other forms of tyranny, at first we found political correctness amusing. One consequence of it: this risky presidency.
Wednesday, January 10th, 2018
Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products
In what seems a common pattern, Jony Ive started early, eschewing the liberal education of say Oxbridge, instead selecting the most renowned college in the field in which he was already winning prizes: industrial design. And this great achiever of our times grew up under the happy and mighty influence of his father, an educator who rose to prominence due to character and a drive to bring design literacy to British education.
The bulk of this book about Ive constitutes one of the stronger, more detailed histories we have of Apple itself, told mainly from the perspective of the IDg, the internal design group he leads. We learn for instance that in order to meet Steve Jobs’ deadline for creating the iMac — the first product upon Jobs’ return and which revived the company — they needed to streamline the product process by making the files of the design software interoperable with those of the manufacturing software.
Someone says Ive is even less replaceable at Apple than Jobs. This isn’t quite fair because Jobs worked to make himself replaceable. Let’s hope Ive does as well.
Monday, September 4th, 2017
Great stuff: professional poker champion Phil Hellmuth on everything while Tim Ferriss tries to interview him for the podcast.
Sunday, April 23rd, 2017
Nice little piece about marriage: change is the constant.
Thursday, March 16th, 2017
Tuesday, January 31st, 2017
“Yesterday we had a fight about whether I’d been dismissive about him saying his feelings had been hurt by my dismissing his feelings during a previous fight…” From the amusing but very dark Narcissism: a reflection by Laura Kipnis in Spiked.
Monday, January 30th, 2017
Fast, clear, cogent, respectful, dominating — what a performance Hugh Hewitt recently gave on Charlie Rose. He even asked Charlie a couple of times what he thinks, and it quickly became two chummy top media guys sharing ideas, not a mainstream media star interviewing a right-wing kook.
Hewitt managed to work in his career in government — which was all very long ago — and the very many people he knows, but without the name-dropping being the point of his responses. He called Charlie Charlie often enough that Charlie finally called him Hugh. “Great to have you,” Charlie ended it. “Good [ie, maybe not so great] to be here,” the response.
I listen pretty regularly to The Hugh Hewitt Show and it would be nice if we could get this fast-talking, super-smart, reasonable and sophisticated guy instead of the dumbed-down base-cultivating borderline bully we sometimes get on his home turf.
Tuesday, January 10th, 2017
Ian Buruma on Brussels. I found it a pretty exciting city so when I saw this article I jumped on it (plus I vaguely remember being impressed by something else this fellow wrote) and it’s pretty sweeping and fun.
Tuesday, August 30th, 2016
Speed of Dark
I was brought to this most non-sci-fi of sci-fi novels by the Brighton Science Fiction Discussion Group. Narrated in character by its autistic protagonist, Speed of Light initially reminded me of Mr Robot. Yes, I did like it, but wasn’t sure if the thinness of the other characters is due to our narrator’s limitations or those of the author; I don’t know her other work so can’t say. A mostly unsentimental decency permeates — actually it’s an exploration of decency — which gives it an appreciable pre-cyberpunk, almost square feel.
Saturday, August 6th, 2016
Nicholas Dames’s Publications page. The man is Professor of Humanities at Columbia University and a mine of gems.
Sunday, April 10th, 2016
Guilty, very guilty as charged. This study says those who call out grammatical errors are in fact scientifically ‘jerks’.
Monday, March 7th, 2016
Eddie was more than a hero, Mrs Meechum. He was our friend.
Claire Underwood in House of Cards
Friday, February 5th, 2016
Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
So Bikram has lost the first of the many cases against him filed by women for various sexually-related offences. All I know is that his teachings are great and that he plays the guru, speaking in fanciful exaggerations, making mercurial observations. And it seems he was unable to switch off this character even in front of a jury.
Friday, May 22nd, 2015
On decoupling homosexuality from gayness, and more interestingly, vice versa.
Saturday, May 16th, 2015
Once they see it they say, Oh is that the thing? And I say, Yes it is the thing. And they ask, Has it changed your life? And I shrug. And they are so disappointed.
Sunday, April 19th, 2015