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Yad Vashem Sculpture Garden #3 Olympus Mu2/Stylus Jerusalem, Israel Sunday, June 14th, 1987.

Tower & Awning
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Tower & Awning iPhone SE 2020 Paris, France Thursday, February 15th, 2024.

Top
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Top iPhone 6S London, England Monday, November 27th, 2017.

Who am I?
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Who am I? iPhone 6S Denver, Colorado Thursday, October 12th, 2017.

Darwin Garden
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Darwin Garden iPhone 6S England Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017.

Darwin’s Farpoint
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Darwin’s Farpoint iPhone 6S England Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017.

Brothers in Hotels
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Brothers in Hotels iPhone 6S London, England Friday, April 21st, 2017.

Achieved
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Achieved iPhone 6S Ariel Sharon Park, Israel Saturday, April 15th, 2017.

Foot
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Foot iPhone 6S Brighton, East Sussex, England Saturday, October 22nd, 2016.

Brighton Station 2016
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Brighton Station 2016 iPhone 6S Brighton, East Sussex, England Monday, October 10th, 2016.

The Inspector
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The Inspector iPhone 6S Kiryat Ono, Israel Sunday, October 2nd, 2016.

Lobby by Armani
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Lobby by Armani iPhone 6S Tel Aviv, Israel Friday, September 30th, 2016.

Drunk on Media
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Drunk on Media iPhone 6S Brighton, East Sussex, England Monday, September 12th, 2016.

Science-fictiony
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Science-fictiony iPhone 6S England Monday, May 30th, 2016.

Nice Seaside Desktop
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Nice Seaside Desktop iPhone 6S Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Israel Monday, May 23rd, 2016.

Tower Bridge from Thames Clipper
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Tower Bridge from Thames Clipper iPhone 6S London, England Monday, May 2nd, 2016.

Straight In
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Straight In iPhone 6S Brighton, East Sussex, England Wednesday, March 30th, 2016.

Gonna Get Down in that Sunny Southern Weather
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Gonna Get Down in that Sunny Southern Weather iPhone 6S Brighton, East Sussex, England Monday, November 30th, 2015.

Troncrete
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Troncrete iPhone 4S Brighton, East Sussex, England Sunday, July 19th, 2015.

Triangle Sunset
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Triangle Sunset iPhone 4S Brighton, East Sussex, England Tuesday, June 30th, 2015.

Grid of St Pancras
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Grid of St Pancras iPhone 4S London, England Monday, February 16th, 2015.

The Future’s at Atidim
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The Future’s at Atidim iPhone 4S Tel Aviv, Israel Friday, April 11th, 2014.

World’s Gooeyist
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World’s Gooeyist iPhone 4S London, England Saturday, June 29th, 2013.

Goodbye on Israel
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Goodbye on Israel iPhone 4S Israel Tuesday, May 21st, 2013.

Down to a Frank Lloyd Wright public toilet
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Down to a Frank Lloyd Wright public toilet iPhone 4S Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Florida Sunday, April 21st, 2013.

Thomas Edison’s Back Garden Jetty
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Thomas Edison’s Back Garden Jetty iPhone 4S Fort Meyers, Florida Saturday, April 20th, 2013.

•••

About

When does the contemporaneous start? What is modern? Why a topic?

I suppose because something expresses or furthers modernity, which I value.

Briefs

Wednesday, March 27th, 2024

One of the principal functions of a modern university is to provide… masses of human material capable of exercising the responsibilities while accepting the limitations of a bureaucratic career.

Walter Russell Mead, Twilight of the Wonks

Monday, December 18th, 2023

In what may be Harvey Mansfield’s final book, Machiavelli’s Effectual Truth: Creating the Modern World is reviewed in City Journal.

Now it’s been a while since I mildly wrestled full-time with such issues, but through the mists and wisps of memory I recall that although the reviewer treats the title as hyperbolic and provocative, I thought it was pretty much conventional wisdom among any who care.

In reaction to and also growing out of the fevered dream palaces of the Christian Church, the cornerstone of modernity is epistemological humility. Alongside Descarte’s application of it in science with his Discourse on the Method is Machievelli’s application in politics. This pragmatism brought about the world-historic boon that is political tolerance; 150 years after Machiavelli’s The Prince came Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration.

Wednesday, November 1st, 2023

Frank Furedi and Brendan O’Neill discuss Gaza, anti-Semitism and the global culture war and it is a single topic. Ultimately, Furedi argues, Hamas is not even an entirely Middle Eastern phenomenon but at least partially a cultural creation of an influential strand of Western self-loathing that seems to be on track for a self-evisceration.

Do the woke not see that if they are successful in their takeover of the modern state they will immediately become actually oppressed, this time by their erstwhile favored activists who have already demonstrated their methods? All the glories and technologies that have come about as a result of the new liberties of modernity will fall into the hands of ruling barbarians. We need no longer fear the singularity; technology will have peaked and start regressing. I hope the American high school curriculum still assigns A Canticle for Liebowitz alongside Brave New World, Animal Farm?? and 1984.

Saturday, October 21st, 2023

Discomfiting and Olympian, this top story at UnHerd “Israel is no longer Britain’s war” by Aris Roussinos:

Discomfiting because he opens with:

…as the righteous bloodlust of the sensible centrists has been awoken once again…

Ouch. And Olympian because he steps way back to look at the issues, beginning with:

Though there is no obvious linkage between any of these matters, if I knew your opinions on wokeness or gender issues, or on Net Zero or Covid restrictions, then I could ascertain, with 99% accuracy, your opinions on a distant ethnic conflict in the Middle East.

I do disagree however with an important part of the initial premise, as I think there very much are linkages among these issues. To quote the rather indignant Likud MK Amir Weitmann:

If you hate Human beings, chances are you will hate the Jews.

Sunday, August 6th, 2023

Once again I link to Brendan O’Neill, Chief Political Writer at Spiked, a publication that increasingly seems to me just about the only sane and brave outpost out there. “The climate witch trials”, an excerpt from O’Neill’s new book A Heretic’s Manifesto, ingeniously frames climate orthodoxy within medieval witch hunts. Towards the end, O’Neill laments:

Since the 1960s, the intellectual classes have been pondering the ‘social construction’ of scientific truth. The Social Construction of Reality, by Peter L Berger and Thomas Luckmann, was published way back in 1966. French philosopher Bruno Latour was fawned over on campuses across the West for his theories on ‘the social construction of scientific facts’. Feminist philosopher Judith Butler thinks even biological sex is a social construct. Meanwhile, the cry goes up to ‘decolonise the science curriculum’, to weave ‘Indigenous Witch-Finding knowledge’ — an equally valid way of knowing, apparently — into scientific discussion.

Everywhere science is picked apart, dismantled, relativised, often in a way that undermines the entire project of scientific inquiry and its important search for knowledge. But climate-change science is never socially deconstructed. It is sacralised, made utterly unimpeachable, put beyond the grubby questioning of both the layman and the expert.

Friday, August 4th, 2023

Most of what is called “progressivism” today is really transgressivism.

Michael Lind, The Culture of Transgression

Thursday, August 3rd, 2023

Oh my, Michael Lind writes in Tablet exactly what I’ve been thinking, so forgive the extensive quoting:

The Western elite culture of transgression is an example of antinomianism … Derived from the Greek words meaning “against” and “law” or “norm,” the term antinomianism refers to the view that all laws and norms are oppressive always and everywhere, and that the act of transgression in itself is virtuous, if not holy.

The three saints of transgression are the illegal immigrant, the transsexual, and the woman who proudly celebrates abortion. All three are idealized by our revolutionary ruling class precisely because they violate traditional norms — the traditional norm of patriotism, based on the legitimacy of the city-state or nation-state or kingdom and its laws and borders; traditional gender norms; and traditional family norms, which celebrate the capacity of women to give birth and to nurture their infants and of men to provide for them. Most of what is called “progressivism” today is really transgressivism.

By now the antinomians in Western nations have won their war against tradition in every realm.
Having vandalized every premodern tradition, the elite antinomians of the modern West now don’t know what to do next. What should rebels against the bourgeoisie rebel against when the bourgeoisie has fallen?
The answer, it is increasingly apparent, is to rebel against the proletariat.

Whatever working-class “normies” believe and enjoy, the most influential tastemakers of the trans-Atlantic ruling class denounce and seek to ban, using one of their three or four specious all-purpose justifications. If non-college-educated Americans were to take up square dancing as a fad, the powers that be in the media and academia would solemnly inform us that square dancing is problematically racist or sexist or worsens climate change.

Saturday, March 25th, 2023

Woke:

  • its core demand: are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?
  • describes the ongoing cultural revolution which defines reality by its usefulness in achieving left-wing goals

Thursday, March 2nd, 2023

Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes! The Goodfellas address climate change. Niall Ferguson complains about, just as I see it, the opportunity costs — and also the mental health toll on the young. John Cochrane complains that no cost/benefit analysis is being applied to climate change policy. And Bjorn Lomborg specifies what those opportunity costs are, listing demonstrably better ways to invest in human betterment. How wonderful it would be if everyone seriously considered the contents herein.

A State at Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion

Tom Segev

♦♦♦♦

Just as author Tom Segev relates that Ben-Gurion increasingly harked back to the episodes that shaped him in his earlier life, so too are these episodes more vivid to us than later ones. This would be fine and even impressive as a literary gambit, having the reader feel about Ben-Gurion’s life the way Ben-Gurion himself did, but at least for this reader it was somewhat disappointing in that it’s the later events — founding and leading the State of Israel — that we are reading for. But again, this too may be a literary achievement, suggesting that for the subject of this biography, it was the younger man’s experiences that were important — and that by extension this is the case for all lives. But I’m not sure that’s accurate; surely the ambitious younger Ben-Gurion would have been overjoyed at the eventual achievements of his later self.

It’s a strange complaint to make, but I feel this book wasn’t long enough; each of the many episodes, particularly the later more historic ones, I felt could have withstood more detail.

I was pleased to learn of Ben-Gurion’s erratic behavior and attitude towards his family, and of his penchant for travel and mild but somewhat constant womanizing, and his growing intellectualism alongside faddishness. Segev concludes that Ben-Gurion’s philosophical disposition is basically that of Anglo-American liberal; all to the good. Almost. The implication is that this temperate poise made him the wise indispensable man, but also open him to more exciting dead-end intellectual enthusiasms.

Friendships, sex, religious relations, despair — the richness of the subject matter’s life encourages in the reader a life in politics as it’s a life in full.

Monday, January 16th, 2023

And now for something completely different, ie nice and civilized: John Mount’s article “Good Stationery as a Tool of Thought”.

Thursday, October 6th, 2022

Jonathan Haidt speaks with Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly on democracy in the next cycle of history and the fragility problem of Gen Z. What a line-up!

Tuesday, October 4th, 2022

Some Twitter accounts posting frequent videos of the courageous protests by young women in Iran:

This, it seems to me, is inspiring, world-historical stuff.

As Descarte completed his Discourse on the Method I wonder if he had an inkling it would come to this, from “What Trans Health Care for Minors Really Means” by Tyler Santora at mainstream medical reference website WebMD:

For adolescents who are assigned female at birth, top surgery can be performed to create a flat chest. The Endocrine Society states that there is not enough evidence to set a minimum age for this type of gender-affirming surgery, and the draft of the updated SOC recommends a minimum age of 15. “Usually, for a [person] assigned female at birth, the chest tissue continues to mature until around 14 or 15,” Inwards-Breland says. “What I’ve seen surgeons do is after 14, they feel more comfortable.” If, though, a person is started on puberty blockers followed by hormone therapy from a relatively early age – around 13 – they will never develop breast tissue and wouldn’t need surgery to remove it.

Steve Jobs said: “Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic; it is learned and is the great achievement of Western civilization.” Implicit in his statement is that it can be unlearned. As an intellectually inquisitive teenager in the 1980s I would have scoffed at the notion that religion serves to keep us rational. But the evidence suggests that it does, and without its drumbeat the fever dream of linguistic chimeras can drive us surprisingly mad surprisingly quickly.

Monday, October 3rd, 2022

For the first time, Iranian protests are nationwide, multi-ethnic, political and non-clerical, so much so that this could finally be the end for the mad mullahs.

Sunday, October 2nd, 2022

The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel, and the Fate of the Jewish People

Walter Russell Mead

♦♦♦♦

Mearsheimer and Walt — three words that do not appear once in this 1045-page book but are clearly its raison d’etre. John Mearsheimer is Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago; Stephen Walt is Professor of International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School; together they are the respectable face of American anti-Semitism, sufficiently reputable that Walter Russell Mead seems unwilling to criticize them by name, sufficiently retrograde however that their book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy infuriated our southern-born dean of foreign relations to work on this book for a dozen years or so.

The Wikipedia article on the Lobby book illustrates Mead’s Southern Gentleman approach; whereas Israeli historian Benny Morris says “their work is riddled with shoddiness and defiled by mendacity,” Mead applauds the authors for “admirably and courageously” initiating a conversation on a difficult subject, but more in sorrow than in anger laments that while their intentions are surely strictly honorable, they commit “easily avoidable lapses in judgment and expression.”

Making multiple approaches from multiple angles, Mead demolishes their central notion, giving it the withering moniker of Vulcanist thinking. (Actually I take issue a little with this label, because since the book is so long I forgot the elegant historical anecdote that originates it — a theory of astronomy that attempted to explain celestial workings by means of an undetected planet that doesn’t actually exist. Instead I mentally defaulted to popular culture, where Star Trek’s Vulcan is a stand-in for excessive logic — a characterization quite antithetical to his notion of Vulcanist thinking. This is a shame because the term therefore probably won’t catch on, which it could have perhaps as a shorthand for tendentious yet respectable and therefore ultimately even more ridiculous thinking.)

Especially enriching are his fleshing out of the geopolitical maneouverings among the US, Britain and Russia at the time of Israel’s founding. Important here for Mead’s thesis is that the legend of Truman’s Jewish friend from back in Missouri inveighing on the flummoxed President to recognize Israel be relegated to Queen Esther-echoing myth. For it is WRM’s contention in his chapter “Cyrus Agonistes” that American support for Israel is endemic to the United States, rather than due to the influence of the American Jewish lobby qua Walt and Mearsheimer. Moreover this support comes despite American Jews, whose leaders have for most of Israel’s history been actively working against a Jewish state, their energies only turning once America as a whole pursued full-throated support for Israel after it became the Middle East’s unambiguous Six Day War strong horse.

It’s also a helpful historical insight that WRM groups 19th century American support for Jewish return to Israel with support for the birth of the Italian and Greek nationstates:

In the ancient world, as Americans saw it, the Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews had been much like Americans of the nineteenth century. They were mostly agrarian people, nations of family-owned farms. They had free institutions and their societies were grounded in virtue. But corruption, urbanization, and monarchy had wreaked their ugly work; in time, all three of the ancient peoples fell from their virtue and freedom into slavery, superstition, and oppression.

As the nineteenth century progressed, and the Greek and Italian independence movements advanced, the possibility of a restored Jewish commonwealth also began to gleam on the horizon.

In fact the discussion of nationalism’s birth pangs from the empires of eastern Europe, the chapter entitled “Maelstrom”, is perhaps the richest part of the book.

As a columnist I have been irritated by what I perceive as WRM’s intellectual mealy-mouthedness. But as a full-throated podcast guest I realize this is merely his print persona, a tic I suppose similar to what he probably views as his Straussian icy politeness regarding Mearsheimer and Walt. That said, I took umbrage when in the book he referred to the Second Intifada, a wave of despicable terror attacks against Israel in the wake of the Oslo Agreements, using the BBC-like passive even-handed term: “violence flared”. I instantly recalled eyewitnessing the shellshock in the hours after the Dolphinarium suicide bombing that killed and maimed dozens of partying teenagers. I was only somewhat mollified later in the book when he mentioned this particular bombing by name, without mentioning that the victims were teenagers.

This is a book about America not Israel, and as well as constituting a scathing retort to Mearsheimer and Walt, is a continuation by other means of his 2001 book Special Providence that classifies the various streams of America’s foreign policy; in portraying America’s relationship with Israel, Arc explicates the fullest expression of the Jacksonian stream, a Meadian classification that, unlike Vulcanism, does seem to be sticking.

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

The American model appeared to demonstrate that capitalism plus democracy led to mass prosperity and deep social stability.

Walter Russell Mead, The Arc of a Covenant

Friday, August 5th, 2022

Yippee, Conrad Black is back, juicy and crunchy as ever. From “The Triumph of Davos Man”:

Our [hard Left] enemies leapt from the jaws of bitter and total defeat, hijacked the careening gadfly of esoteric conservationism, and transformed it surreptitiously into a well-camouflaged battering ram that has inflicted immense costs and opprobrium on the corporate world and great sadness and inconvenience on the laboring proletariat on whose behalf the Marxist Left has supposedly been crusading these past 150 years.

The second most important country in the Western Alliance is almost detached from it, all by the apparently innocuous and meliorist actions of Germany’s peppiest environmentalists.

Conrad Black, Triumph of Davos Man

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022

Telegraphy made relevance irrelevant.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

Ventriloquism, dancing and mime do not play well on radio, just as sustained, complex talk does not play well on television.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

Saturday, July 30th, 2022

Nice on Nietzsche. And nice that reviewer John Gray mentions La Gaya Scienza as one of his best books. Time for a reread.

Wednesday, July 20th, 2022

The virtues involved in being a good driver —the mix of independence and cooperation, knowledge and responsibility — really are virtues well suited to citizenship in a sprawling and diverse republic.

Ross Douthat, “What Driving Means for America” by Ross Douthat in The New York Times

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

“Punch a TERF, smash the Zionists!” Fathom magazine, the journal of BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Center, begins a series investigating the ramifications of the post-modern sociological revolution, ie, wokeness.

Sunday, July 3rd, 2022

While working on things that aren’t prestigious doesn’t guarantee you’re on the right track, it at least guarantees you’re not on the most common type of wrong one.

Paul Graham, What I Worked On

Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

In The Atlantic, a beautifully—if overly politely—written piece on family estrangement, the sting is in the head; no doubt to get it past the young censors editors, the author has expunged all mention of religion and therefore duty from his discussion, save in this first line, which encompasses all that follows: “Sometimes my work feels more like ministry than therapy.” Author Joshua Coleman is a practicing therapist and prolific author. Looking around, his fee per webinar on the topic is $25. And he’s also a tv composer!

Anyhoo, the plot thickens, and my suspicions are correct: while he squeezed them out of the text body, he shoehorned in his convictions at the very edges as frames; look at this 1-star Amazon review of his book by one Acer Girl:

He fails to recognise how the nuclear family itself is being redefined and gay/lesbian parents are becoming more accepted, so it is rather inevitable that people will start to place less emphasis and importance on blood ties alone – so I really don’t understand the alarmism he tries to create around this. Above all, what I found really demoralising is his attack on one of the founding principles of western civilisation – autonomy and individual liberty. People’s right to live their lives in whatever way they wish and to associate and disassociate with whomever they wish. He claims this right should be policed.

And the final piece in the puzzle: he himself has been cut off by his own daughter! Estrangement is an underly-noted fault-line in the post-religious West; whether to honor or cast off the 5th commandment to honor one’s father and one’s mother — that has become a question.

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

So Marc Andreessen’s interview with Tyler Cowen is making some waves because he seemed unable to justify Web3 (see tweets from Ian Bremmer, and, more predictably caustically, Nassim Nicholas Taleb). Personally I think Andreesse ha’s made the case better elsewhere, for instance, saying that if the internet had originally had a money layer then we’d never have had spam. But for me, as the developer of a new RSS reader, I was more interested in Tyler’s question about RSS:

Tyler Cowen: Do you still use an RSS reader?

Mark Andreessen: I do. This is actually an exciting moment on that topic for those of us who love these things. I use Feedly, which I like a great deal. It’s a guy. The guy who does it is a guy who used to work for us, a wonderful guy. I think it’s a great product and the inheritor of the now-lost Google Reader, the ruthlessly executed Google Reader.

This is talking about books, but Substack — one of our companies — has a new reader. It’s primarily for reading Substack. It basically is recreating, in my view, the best of what Google Reader had. That’s the other one that is getting a lot of use right now. I use both of those.

TC: Why does RSS at least seem to be so much less important than before?

MA: RSS is one of those things. I would say this gets into a broader, overarching, huge debate-fight happening in the tech industry right now. Internet got built on two models, which are diametrically opposed.

So Marc Andreessen uses Feedly and Substack! I wonder why both. I also want to know which reader TC uses — I seem to recall him saying that he does use one. The man seems to reply to hoi polloi — maybe I’ll ask him.

Incidentally I was surprised that this was not one of the better Conversations with Tyler. It didn’t really warm up into a good actual converation. For instance, I’d have thought MA would have asked TC, the world’s most renowned information omnivore, which RSS reader he uses. MA came across as a bit robotic, whereas I hadn’t gotten that impression from him before.

Wednesday, June 8th, 2022

Germany’s industry-leading Lilium demonstrates both vertical take-off and landing with its Phoenix 2 eVTOL technology demonstrator, reports eVTOL.com.

Saturday, May 14th, 2022

Venkatesh invites us to join him in exploring the hive mind (very meta). What a candy-maker, this one.

Thursday, May 12th, 2022

At 1:03, this transcendent moment of moviemaking, John William’s theme counterpointing Alec Guinness’s delivery of George Lucas’s creation. “It surrounds us, penetrates us, it binds the galaxy together.”

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.

Friday, February 11th, 2022

Goldman is moved by Reacher:

Radical Protestantism leads the pilgrim from the “howling wilderness” and the “enchanted ground” of the Old World and leads him to the Canaan of the spirit. The question is addressed to, and answered by, the individual pilgrim. The Jew is born into the people of Israel; the Christian seeks adoption into the Israel of the Spirit. American Christianity retains the radical individualism of its Protestant forebears, who chose as individuals to become Americans. We have become Americans by adoption, and we have adopted the history of Israel as our national common memory. A profound parallelism is involved. The biblical Election of Israel was not a prize that God awarded to an unlikely nation of shepherds, but rather the outcome of Israel’s free choice to accept the Torah and the responsibility of election. It is our free choice to become Americans that is the cornerstone of our culture.

Tuesday, February 8th, 2022

eVTOL Innovation YouTube channel extols the Lilium as the most promising of the upcoming ways we will fly.

Monday, January 31st, 2022

One main worry exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic is erosion in faith in science. While some of our denizens have pursued wantonly contrarian beliefs, others got busy blithely eroding core tenets. The Royal Society is warning that all this is dangerous. Its first prescription: “investing in lifelong information literacy programmes”.

The solutions are deep because the problems are; we live in an information glut yet there has been no parallel explosion in education — indeed rigor has likely lessened alongside national priorities skewered due to intemperate new orthodoxies which are due in turn to I know not what.

Yet some heartening news, as related in “Inside Operation Warp Speed: A New Model for Industrial Policy”, which happened under Trump. If we can optimistically harness the former President as a metaphor for Western civilization, perhaps the outlandish demeanor belies sound and enterprising deeds.

At any rate, this is the big shit.

Friday, January 14th, 2022

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.

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

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”

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

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 5th, 2021

Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End

Atul Gawande

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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.

Thursday, December 2nd, 2021

My Israel, Our Generation

Einat Wilf

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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.

Sunday, November 14th, 2021

In The Telegraph, columnist Janet Daly hopes for a wake for Woke in The Telegraph:

Maybe it is the secret that explains why British life is not torn asunder by culture wars in the way that the United States so often is. Instead of taking up arms against the advancing guard of combatants who threaten to dismantle your social values, and fighting to the death (often literally) in the streets as Americans are inclined to do, the British take a softly-softly, appeasing tone — giving a bit here, offering a bit there to the angry mob, without ever losing their sense of irony. Until — almost without warning — the onslaught grows so overblown and overconfident that it becomes patently, stupidly, undeniably crazy, self-contradictory and, most important, risible.

Friday, November 5th, 2021

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

The proper dosage of hierarchy is just barely enough to vitalize a very large collective.

Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable

Tuesday, October 26th, 2021

Hijinks for the practicing intellectualoid: Mansfield on Machiavelli, acknowledging the Florentin’s modernity paternity.

Saturday, October 16th, 2021

David P. Goldman blames the Web technocracy for the end of the American era, comparing it to how Britain lost dominance through the corruption of empire: by eschewing the true wealth creation of manufacturing.

Britain’s best and brightest left Eton and Harrow and went into colonial service, and made fortunes on the sale of British textiles to India, Indian opium to China, and Chinese tea and silks to the West. Britain’s country houses were built on the quick money to be earned from empire, and the British upper class eschewed the dirty work of manufacturing in favor of the faux-aristocracy of the nouveau riche masquerading as landed gentry.

The estimable Goldman is somewhat wrong here I think; web software is much more about conjuring up something from nothing, albeit an intangible digitized something, than it is just shunting stuff around at gunpoint, as he says late-Empire Britain did.

Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

I think that if we were told 40 years ago that Bill Shatner would actually go into space at age 90, we’d think things turned out pretty well.

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

From the bubbling, dexterous mind of Venkatesh Rao we have two rich essays posted within two days: “Storytelling — Cringe and the Banality of Shadows” and “Remystifying Supply Chains: Supply chains are TV for matter”.

The supply chain crisis is in some ways more unprecedented than Covid itself, given that containerized supply chains, and the world of distributed, networked, computationally coordinated production they enabled, are only a few decades old.

This is the first crisis of this magnitude to hit them.

To find a comparable crisis in history you have to go back to World War 2, with U boats sinking transatlantic shipping. And that was in an era when global trade was less than a third of today’s levels if I’m not mistaken (as a fraction of GDP) and still in the ancient mode of breakbulk shipping.

index topics modernity modernity

Israel–Iran Proxy War, Day #50

Midway through the hostage deal and ceasefire are two concerns: will the ceasefire become permanent, letting Hamas remain in place? And on what basis does US support for the war rest and will it continue?

Simchat Torah War, Day #17

The US sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, Israel postponed its ground incursion, and the Western media acknowledged its erroneous reporting.

Arab Insanity Pull-up

What shame, to have degraded with one’s own madness such benevolent standards as civil aviation, human rights — even non-combatant status in war.

Denver Met

My intent here is not only to participate in a conference but to suck up myriad Americana as a thirsty exile catapulted back in for a primer.

Yes

It’s a Somewhat Rauschenberg World

I don’t like this use of animals, like Damien Hirst’s. The artist could not have asked the goat for permission so should not have assumed it was granted.

Black Tracks the Presidents

The great virtue of Conrad Black’s Flight of the Eagle is its steady track across the entirety of the nation’s history, treating each president equally under its own law and order.

Homepage Design 2016

Even if a web site appears differently at different screen sizes, it should still feel like itself. On a larger canvas more expression abounds; distill this into the smaller screen and get more personality; do “mobile first” second.

Yes

From iPhone 4S to 6S: An Appreciation

The increased size, something I was so hesitant about, feels fine to me now. And because it’s thinner it feels less obtrusive in my pocket.

Spectreview

With the villain’s quasi-sibling bond to the hero, 2015’s 007 movie deflates to an incestuous Möbius Strip.

In Gaza, Israel Should Own its Terrible Tactic

Although such excoriating labels as “collective punishment” and “state terrorism” aren’t entirely wrong regarding Israel’s application of the Dahieh Doctrine in Gaza, history does suggest that the method is effective in fighting a fundamentally defensive war.

Go Deny Yourself

This four-letter little word undermines our modern values of tolerance and presumption of innocence.

Some Consumer Affairs

I’ve tried to enjoy schlepping water, thinking that it serves to keep us to some human roots.

Yes

From Nokia N95 to iPhone 4S

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.

2001: A Space Odyssey: Dry, Juicy, Linear, Luminous

The dancers in the ape-suits; how they move is an incredibly energetic output for us. Contrast their physical reaction when witnessing the monolith to that of the astronauts in the newly-minted 21st century.

The Mouse and the Cantilever

Steve Jobs we lost at the age of 56; when Frank Lloyd Wright reached that age it was 1923, the time of merely his second comeback with Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel.

Friendship is for Weenies

It’s amazing, given the adulation he enjoyed elsewhere, that the Israeli public knew from the start not to trust US President Obama.

Before the Setup

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?

At Modi’in Mall

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.

Yes

The Israel I Love, the Bad So Far

If the signage were a bit more effective, the staff’s diction and demeanor more professional, then we might have avoided this testy altercation.

Shanghai Europe

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.

Yes

Panning for MacBook Pro

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!

Stop Yesterday

Is the goal of Israel’s current assault on Gaza to discourage Hamas from firing rockets or to render them incapable of doing so? These are two quite different projects.

Short-circuiting Place-based Longing

If there’s one tangible benefit to having lived in a variety of places it’s that it furnishes evidence of the futility of longing to be elsewhere.

A Crawl Across Crawley, Part 1

Irit, the Jam and I walk from Brighton to Gatwick Airport.

Clash of the Midgets

I was annoyed to have my sauna moments despoiled and dominated, reverberating with this old geezer’s most naff yap.

Yes

Israel’s Greatest Victory Since Osirak?

If Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza was part of a masterplan to staunch the damage done by the victory of the Six Day War in 1967, then today we see another step in its unfolding.

The Small Adventures, Part 2

There in the empty restaurant by the water at Dieppe I had toast with foie gras, a carafe of red wine, a huge plate of mussels and chips, and finally a crème brûlée. Somehow, though I’ve eaten in restaurants hundreds of times, I felt grown up.

Yes

The Small Adventures

Late for the 11pm train to Milan, we enquired frantically among the taxis for one who’d accept the two dogs and take us to Termini Station so I could begin our journey to Britain.

Tony Blair and the Four-State Solution

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.

A Restoration and Return

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.

Curs to Fate

Yesterday I lost Jam in Villa Borghese, the central park here in Rome, some five miles from Talenti, the neighborhood where we’re staying. She has not turned up since.

Yes

Jam and Bread, Jam and Bread!

My dog Jam has spent over a third of her time here in Italy as her fixtures have fallen away—first Maddie, then me. But now I’m back!

Yes

This Trip’s Last Day

I went to Astor Place Haircutters. I crossed Manhattan Bridge on foot. I walked west along Canal St, seeking a bamboo steamer.

I, Thou and Pastor Bob

At the Calvary Church here in Fort Lauderdale the Biblical locations feel so far away that they can be abstracted and spiritualized. There is religious energy here.

Yes

The Big and Easy

The American stage is grand, as are the achievements and ambitions, but daily life seems lamed by a compulsive denaturing.

A Drop in Time

The camera hit the ground lens first, bashing it in so that it would no longer wind in and out, and couldn’t switch on. Without it, my perception of an important personal era was degraded.

A Ride to Gatwick Airport

Airports. They’re so charged, so symbolic, and so empty once you’re at one; I dream of them so often.

Only the Rustle in the Trees

Grief, loss — these are the great teachers surely. What one has will pass.

A Cabaret, Old Chum

It’s a last bastion of civility, being allowed to drink at Penn Station, Brian mused ruefully as we carried our beers to his train home to Great Neck.

Fatahland and Hamastan

Now Israel has a dog in a real Palestinian fight: the nationalists rather than the Islamists.

Yes

Stars, Stripes & Superlatives

Here in Los Angeles I am bombarded with superlatives. Daniel’s record collection. The Bikram Yoga College of India world headquarters. Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. All mixed in with the most ravaging mediocrity.

Shite on Brighton

“Like many provincial towns,” the Private Eye reviewer stabs, “Brighton, as depicted in this hacked-together tribute, defines itself more by what it isn’t than by what it is. It’s not London, for one thing.”

Daily Yin

For my first test of the day as day, I open the back door and step outside to the little patio to see the sky and feel the air. I realize not everybody does this, so if people tell me I’m a miserable bastard then perhaps this little habit will correct their impression.

Mind the Dream

Dreaming about our passed companions as if they are alive requires tricks to the dreaming mind to overcome what it believes and knows to be true.

The Dharma Tits

Buddhism is the philosophy and psychology closest to Cognitive Therapy and vice versa.

Yes

Still Got the Jam

Jam was one of Maddie’s nine puppies, the one who remained after the others were all taken. That was always my plan, to keep the runt.

Such a Tramp

Maddie, who died 18 months ago today, was a mangy mutt and stank, but she was also among the most beautiful dogs I’ve ever seen and for me the longest, richest, widest, deepest streak of feeling lucky.

So You Noticed

I have had something very flattering: a request. Juan Carlos has asked me for comments on Casino Royale.

Reminds Me of Tel Aviv

You get to a stage in life where you are already formed by the past. Thoughts and dilemmas about place are either central questions or a distraction from real issues.

Fly the Blag

Ryanair has brought wretchedness to the skies. Rather than existing on a privileged plane, you stew in a poisoned atmosphere.

Approaching Infinite Justice

Immediately after 9/11, the burgeoning war on terror was named “Operation Infinite Justice”. Within days it was renamed “Operation Enduring Freedom”, but is the new name a mere cloaking of the first?

On the Seventh Day

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.

Don’t Panic!

An academic romp through Jewish American comedy starts out as a veritable rollercoaster ride, but grinds to halt with its obsession with one Bob Dylan.

Photographing a Handsome Old Man

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.

The Beauty of Rain

Rain makes the rocks shine. It puts in motion things that are otherwise static. It illustrates gravity most prettily.

Ode to Salame

It’s supposed to be the arsehole of Tel Aviv, Salame Street, running east-west at its southern tip, but it always does me darn good.

I Love Laundry

How pleasing it is to have my own washing machine. If all isn’t right with the world, not even in my world, at least the laundry cycle is functioning.

Lovely Scenery, But Walks Getting Boring

Unless I drive somewhere new, it’s not much fun to just step out the door and wander. But driving to go for a walk seems a tad ridiculous.

For Love of Economy

It disturbs me to be driving a car that gets fewer kilometers to the shekel than did my previous.

Shinui and the Seven-Year Itch

How refreshing to see Asian faces out shopping in Tel Aviv, or Africans riding the bus to Ra’anana. With them Israel is given fresh wellsprings of culture.

Allah Help the Jackals

While it’s obvious that overplaying your power can result in a downfall, it’s less obvious that underplaying it also leads to trouble. America did this in the 1970s under Carter. Israel seems to have done it almost perennially.

Yes

For Tel Aviv, Better a Skylift Than a Subway

Rather than copycatting a transportation system from the 19th century, Israel could inject into its civic planning the same audacity and resourcefulness that it has historically brought to agriculture and defence.

Yes

Canada Obscura

There’s not a patch of water to be seen—the most liquid thing is the word “Coffee” on one of the low-slung strip-mall buildings. It’s a scene more artful than art itself.

Tour of Kitchen Duty

There was yelling and spray and I raced to keep up. One can enjoy, briefly, the company of men.

Shiny Bright Toadstool

In Israel’s case, burgernomics don’t add up because significant factors contribute to the 30%-odd surcharge on a Big Mac.

The Fresh Jewels of Spring Mound

Quality of life in Tel Aviv is fundamentally enhanced by two simple factors: trees are everywhere, and so are apartments.

Independence Park Up for Grabs?

To this day men of many ages walk these bushes, they delicately lurk these bushes, and stand in places odd to choose.

We Tri Harder

A land could be governed not only by the three separate arms of government, but by three sovereign states.

Yes

Tira Saunters

The one-lane road is empty; down below is the Sharon Plain, looking vast. Israel may be a small country but we’re still speaking here of land.

A Call to Thumbs

When you hitchhike it’s out of your hands, and that’s therapeutic. Paradoxically, you also see how much control you do have.

 

Briefs (cont’d)

Wednesday, April 17th, 2024

Cool, calm, collected, and with casually brilliant staging. IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi provides the official Israeli miltary speech in response to the massive Iranian missile attack.

Amidst all this it’s a happy thought that Germany sold Israel a doomsday device (Dolphin subs) and a couple of decades later Israel is selling Germany an anti-doomsday device. Ben-Gurion and Adenhauer.

Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

OK I need to stop reading the news, but one more, this diatribe in Arutz7:

To me, the word “State” has demeaning connotations in the English speaking world. What other country on this planet is referred to and refers to itself as the State of…….? To be referred to as a “State” implies a not quite equal status with other nations, implying some benevolent authority has graciously bestowed a degree of autonomy to Israel. It is time that Israelis and Diaspora Jews refer to Israel as Israel, period.

I see no need to take issue with the term “state”; we are in good company with the United States of America. Like them we explicitly acknowledge the legalistic framework within which the American and Israeli peoples live at liberty. There may even be some positive connotations; we live now in a state of Israel, as opposed to the previous state. At any rate, many nationstates have political prefixes that are ignored and shortened to their national names: République française is just France, for example, and the State of Israel is usually referred to as just Israel.

Giora Eiland’s commentary on Channel 12 last night warranted its own story this morning on Arutz7, with him arguing that the response to Iran’s attack should be to focus on Lebanon.

Israel does not need to attack in Iran. There is no reason for it, and it has the potential to become complicated militarily, as well as regionally and with all of our friends – and the achievement will not be significant, regardless. If you want to put Iranians in their place and maybe even test them – there are two other arenas: One is in Syria.

There is merit here, though I think his suggested mechanism, to announce Israel’s return to the North for the school year, is fatuous. Both the low- and the high-level attacks from Hamas and Iran respectively point to a response aginst the mid-level main threat from Lebanon. Even if it doesn’t happen visibly — Bibi’s response seems to be to keep things simple and retaliate against actual perpetrators — it does feel like the appropriate true focus.

Kudos to Britain’s Daily Mail for publishing the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ piece “Why Israel’s failure to strike back at Iran could lead to NUCLEAR WAR by FDD’s chief exec Mark Dubowitz and senior fellow Jacob Nagel.

Israel was acting well within the rules of its dangerous neighborhood by taking out [Mohammad Reza Zahedi, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force in Syria and Lebanon]. But the Ayatollah responded with a potentially catastrophic barrage on Israeli civilians, military bases and government facilities. If Iran walks away from this moment without paying a severe price, Tehran may be emboldened to deploy its weapons again. And the next time, these drones and missiles may be armed with nuclear or chemical payloads.

Their conclusion is indisputable and anything else is either appeasement or overthinking.

Monday, April 15th, 2024

Wonderful piece in Commentary by Seth Cropsey (I jumped to the family name and he is indeed the son of University of Chicago scion Joseph Cropsey) ““American Strategy on the Brink” that really gets to the heart of the matter”: The United States is shirking its responsibilities on the world stage:

All three instances of ongoing violence [Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan] stem fundamentally from a crisis in American power. These theaters are afire because Washington refuses to recognize what it is—the center of a loosely democratic system that spans Eurasia and the Americas. Culturally and strategically, the Rimland is being punished for the blindness at its core.

From “Israel’s Splendid Isolation” by John Podhoretz in Commentary:

Jews literally did not have the means or the ability to defend themselves for more than two millennia. Now we do. And when we do, we become unnerving. The very phrase “Jewish army” was, since 70 C.E.., the definition of an oxymoron. Now it conjures up something powerful, and the fact that it’s powerful at all means for many that it’s far too powerful. When Israel acts in its own defense, it alienates these people and these nations. And thereby “isolates” itself.

I can say it with confidence: I love you jpod.

Writing brief essays now on X, Victor Davis Hanson lists Ten Ways to Guarantee a Theater-wide War:

Vapid “Don’t!” … Abruptly pull out of Afghanistan … Chinese spy balloon … [okay a] “minor” invasion [of Ukraine] … Seem eager to resume the Iran Deal …

Etc.

Monday, April 8th, 2024

This Dearborn crowd musters up a “Death to America” chant (though the speaker to his credit doesn’t say it). Stupid fucks.

Rice cultures around the world do tend to exhibit similar cultural characteristics, including less focus on self, more relational or holistic thinking and greater in-group favoritism than wheat cultures.

The last time I came across this sort of diet-based sociology was in Nietzsche, where it struck me as both significant and true while feeling outlandish and ridiculous when repeated. So it’s nice to see it treated academically. Here’s one bit in Nietzsche, Aphorism #134 in La Gaya Scienza (he probably mentions it elsewhere too):

Pessimists as Victims. When a profound dislike of existence gets the upper hand, the after-effect of a great error in diet of which a people has been long guilty comes to light. The spread of Buddhism (not its origin) is thus to a considerable extent dependent on the excessive and almost exclusive rice-fare of the Indians, and on the universal enervation that results therefrom.

I enjoyed this very nice primer on editing by Eva Parish. Of her 9 recommendations, the one I fall down on most in my own occasional scribblings is “Be aware of your tone”, which is actually quite an expansive, non-technical problem. I guess I try to mix up the high and low due to insecurity that I’m a bore and aim to jolt and amuse the reader awake — but Eva argues that the mix is confusing and distracting.

I think however she is wrong to restore commas after prefixing subordinate clauses. Her examples:

Example: If you’re looking for me I’ll be in my office.
Revision: If you’re looking for me, I’ll be in my office.
Example: Due to the fog our flight was delayed.
Revision: Due to the fog, our flight was delayed.

My take instead: if the sentence is unambiguous without the comma then lean towards omitting it. Especially with the second example, with the clause being only four syllables long, the comma slows down the reader so much that the music of the sentence is broken. “Fog our flight” cannot be misinterpreted — nobody thinks of fogging a flight. Indeed the lack of a comma foretells to the reader they can confidently plow ahead through a well-tended sentence.

Her admonition to avoid the vague “this” — is new to me or else I’d forgotten it from The Little Red Schoolhouse, even though it fits very much into the Schoolhouse’s insistence of chaining sentences together nicely, and I will keep it in mind.

Via Hacker News, this Chrome for Developers post dives into browser colors beyond RGB.

Saturday, April 6th, 2024

He’s very good, is Brendan O’Neill, and I’m glad The Spectator is publishing him. “The Truth About Friendly Fire”:

Across social media, the cry goes up: Israel did this on purpose. It seems Israel is the only state not allowed to make mistakes. Where us decent Westerners kill friends in error, Israel does it intentionally, with malice at its heart.

Who would have thought this would be published in such a well-known British magazine. There is hope.

It seems that some in the West are seeking to launder their reputations through attacking Israel. From Cameron to Biden, powerful men who have been involved in wars far more horrific and far less justified than Israel’s war on Hamas, are now pontificating against the Jewish State.

But their finger-wagging attempt at rehabilitating their own reputations by slighting others’ — and hang the risk even unto civilization itself — does burnish at least one aspect of their respective reputations, ie being a sleazeball.

Thursday, April 4th, 2024

How gratifying, the plethora of common-sense comments reacting to this rather less-than-sensible Telegraph story “How international law could force Britain to stop arms sales to Israel” which furthers the tradition of latching on to that weird and mealy-mouthed “plausible” ruling by the ICJ.

Was this the Court’s intent, to say something with plausible deniability so that the very many people who want it to have said a thing can act as if it did? I in turn am latching on to that possibility to accuse it all of being quite transparent, truly despicable, and dangerously corrosive.

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024

In Mosaic Magazine, a sweeping history of Israel v. Lebanon by Raphael BenLevi.

Israel’s geography currently provides it with reasonably defensible borders on three sides: the Mediterranean to the west, the Sinai Desert to the south, and the Jordan Valley to the east. Israel’s northern border, however, is not defined by a sea, a vast desert, or even a major river. Rather it is a man-made line that cuts through mountains, valleys, farms, and forests. This has been the case since antiquity, making the northern border of ancient Israel the hardest to defend.

The article mirrors one that I linked to from exactly three months ago on Gaza by Jean-Pierre Filiu in Foreign Affairs.

We all know that if these tattooed trustafarians who think men can breastfeed went anywhere near Gaza their pronouns would be was / were quicker than you could say ‘Free Palestine!’.

Brendan O’Neill, “The unbearable sanctimony of the ‘pro-Palestine’ set”

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

In an interview with Israeli radio station 103fm, Yarden Pivko, daughter of Hamas hostage Itzik Gelertner, denounces the Kaplanistas hijacking the hostage crisis. Kudos to 103fm for airing this despite their and all media-luvvy institutional sympathy for Kaplanism.

Sunday, March 31st, 2024

Good ep of Mike Doran and Gadi Taub’s allcaps ISRAEL UPDATE podcast “Is the US Stabbing Israel in the Back?”

It’s in The Guardian so you know what’s coming in this restaurant review of Freddie’s, a New York-style non-kosher Jewish deli, plus they telegraph it in the title, so that in falling for the clickbait I skip the whole salt-beef bit to the predictable meat of the thing:

For all my lack of faith or observance these dishes, kept alive by a vestigial memory of the shtetl, root me. Then I hesitated. Could I really write about a Jewish restaurant given the current political turmoil? Would I get abuse for doing so? Surely better to keep shtum. At which point I knew I had no choice: I had to write about it. The horrendous campaign of the government and armed forces of Israel in Gaza cannot be allowed to make being Jewish a source of shame. When Hamas mounted their 7 October attack on Israel, they committed both an atrocity and a provocation. With so many hostages taken, there were no good options for the Israeli government. Nevertheless, they managed to choose the very worst one. They have killed thousands, starved many more, destroyed homes and turned their country into a pariah. As it happens, they have also made life for Jews who live outside Israel and have no responsibility for the decisions its government takes, so very much harder. I deplore what Israel is doing. But that doesn’t mean I can “refute” my Jewishness. That is a surrender to antisemitism. And so I sit here with my terrific salt beef sandwich and my chocolate mousse, indulging that bit of my Jewish identity which makes sense to me. It’s not much, but it’s all I have.

As a British Israeli my reaction to this sort of thing is always a multi-level “ugh”. But having returned recently to my native Glasgow for a Jewish funeral, I was reminded of what I would likely have been if my parents hadn’t made Aliyah to Israel when I was a child — and moreover since I have now lived in the UK again for a long time is arguably what I have reverted back to being. (Noooooo!)

Nonetheless it’s hard for me to feel anything but contempt for people who stroke the tiger in the hope it will eat them last.

And yet I must understand that as people who are primarily Britons their prism is the BBC, and as right-thinking people it’s likely The Guardian and its ilk, so this is what they may actually believe. But is the reviewer truly speaking in good faith? He says Israel chose the very worst course of action but does not articulate what other better ones might have been. Write a very stroppy letter?

Also, if a sandwich is the extent of his Jewish identity, he’d probably do better shucking it off altogether and embracing something else more all-encompassingly. I don’t mean that disparagingly, but men are meaning machines and if he’s not getting much out of Judaism then it is occupying a space in his soul that could perhaps otherwise be more fruitfully filled.

Levantine Israel is such a monumental and cosmic gift — especially for the rain-soaked British Jew who must otherwise seek any anthropological depth in Druidism and sun in other countries such as Spain (a pretty fabulous alternative it’s true). So I think it is folly for a British Jew to not embrace that mainline connection to Israel; Britons have a passion for the Middle East and now Jewish Britons have their own ancient piece of it again.

But that is all very well when it was done for you as a child or if you are wealthy enough to maintain an additional home and travel frequently. But for most of us, as I was reminded at the funeral, we grow up and get up and go to work, lifelong dalliances with distant exotic countries way beyond reach. And even for those who have the means to have additional homes, the center of gravity of their psyche and viewpoint is British. I need to understand that about British Jews who did not make Aliyah, which is most of them.

On one hand, I can see how the current war unites Jews in their fate, while on the other I can see how the cleavage in the West between appeasement and struggle runs right down the middle of Diaspora Jewry.

With this return to protests the Kaplanistas have chosen to learn nothing, to refuse to acknowledge their part in contributing to the machdal of Oct 7. They think they are melach ha-aretz, the salt of the earth, but in fact serve as perhaps-not-so-unwitting secular neturei karta [Update 2024 April 6: via Gadi Taub, they’ve been dubbed Neturei Kaplan!], prepared like their nihilistic sociological counterparts the BLM supporters to try to blow up their own societies just to see what happens next. As such they are the very opposite of the responsible and the educated that they fancy themselves to be, and undermine the mamlachtiut they ostensibly are out to promote. They give succor and encouragement to the enemy whom they presume, in their relapse back to provincial Orientalism, has no agency. And there is the minor issue of giving the gleeful foreign media an easy way to further bash Israel. As they air their internal grievances to Sky News I hope for the sake of their souls they each feel a sickly yet potentially redemptive wonder of: “What the hell am I doing”.

Saturday, March 30th, 2024

Eichler’s personal Eichler in Silicon Valley is on sale. It’s great, like mid-level Wright and perhaps a bit of Neutra combined.

Friday, March 29th, 2024

Good to see Amos Atza-El, Mr Middle Israel as he self-declares, still at it, this time on Russia and how Putin’s romance with the Jihadis echoes Stalin’s with the Nazis.

Thursday, March 28th, 2024

The most awesome new pic of Fallingwater I’ve perhaps ever seen beyond the standard 3/4 view. This is by Andrew Pielage, who was an official Artist-In-Residence at the time. The viewpoint and the lighting give us each step’s full floating horizontality and their cumulative effect. I can imagine Mr Wright commending the image.

Wednesday, March 27th, 2024

One of the principal functions of a modern university is to provide… masses of human material capable of exercising the responsibilities while accepting the limitations of a bureaucratic career.

Walter Russell Mead, Twilight of the Wonks

Friday, March 22nd, 2024

Culture is cultural appropriation is culture.

ASK

Tuesday, March 19th, 2024

Bibi to AIPAC and Bibi with John Spencer, urban warfare historian. What a high-octane human.

Sunday, March 17th, 2024

From what looks like his regular chair in his cluttered leafy office, Dan Schueftan — or should we call him Dr Dugri — provides a primer on Israel (dugri meaning something like English’s plainspokenness or brass tacks).

Reading up on Schueftan however, despite all the sagacity he seems the intellectual architect of much of the present misery, having advocating for unilateral withdrawals.

In retrospect one might be able to guess that this would be the general thrust of his advice, given his mercurial impatient demeanor; and that he gets the listener’s acquiescence — perhaps in Ariel Sharon’s case against their better judgment — with his many “ok?”s.

Saturday, March 16th, 2024

What a splendid piece by Charles Moore in The Telegraph on Israel.

Britain (with other powers) claims that Israel has been, in international law, the “occupying power” in Gaza even after it left the place in 2005. This is a strange idea, since the definition of occupation is “effective control”, which Israel even now does not have over the whole of Gaza.

If their subscription department was a bit less shady I’d totally resubscribe.

The official rejoinder to Chuck Schumer’s “Lost His Way” speech, given within days of Nathan Glazer’s statement at the Oscars:

We stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people.

comes not from the Israeli government but from the Likud Party, thereby demonstrating the very content of its statement: that Israel is indeed “an independent and proud democracy” complete with political parties proud of their heritage.

Benny Gantz made a commendable statement condemning the speech to which Arutz Sheva commendably dedicated a story. While the Likud’s statement is exquisitely-crafted English, Gantz’s is more Israeli — less catty, more direct: first unabashed fulsome praise, then: “but he made a mistake.” Blunt yet surgical. Lapid meanwhile chose to harness the speech to rail on Netanyahu.

We make such a fuss of all these bloviations even as the situation rages. I like the take by Danny Cohen, a producer on Glazer’s movie, who, as reported by The Hill, said on the Unholy podcast:

My support for Israel is unwavering. Listen, it’s his film. He can stand up there and choose his own words.”

Commentary reports for duty too.

Thursday, March 14th, 2024

The worst news I’ve seen in a while [Hebrew]: The head of a Gaza clan has been assassinated by Hamas for collaborating with Israel. We need to not be fuckups in this crucial endeavor: empowering, enabling and ensuring acceptable alternatives to Hamas is the capstone to victory; all the battlefield victories come to naught without it and we are back to square one alongside some demolished buildings and bereaved locals.

Wednesday, March 13th, 2024

Anti-Israel Jews are not a political but a clinical sub-category.

Edward Luttwak

Howard Jacobson, I didn’t know you had it in you. So there is such a thing as a well-known public intellectual British Jew with at least half a bollock.

Wednesday, March 6th, 2024

Campy? It’s bloody rocket fuel darling. Happy 50th, Queens White and Black.

Thank you, past and likely future Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in particular for this Twitter post in memoriam for Dennis Yekimov, killed in action in Gaza. That big wide intelligent friendly face, and in the biographical notes:

He would hike dozens of kilometers in streams and in the hills of Jerusalem and the whole country.

Younger, betters versions of myself, that is how I see these heroic guys, who have so much to lose and are willing to lose it, and are doing so in the hundreds.

Monday, February 26th, 2024

My impression is that R2-D2 and C-3PO were the Laurel and Hardy, the comedy relief, with one being the superior intellect and dominant personality, pushing around a more innocent friend.

Mark Hamill

Monday, February 19th, 2024

Forget a 2-state solution: emulate the Emirates! In English, Mordechai Kedar explains a political horizon to Arutz Sheva. Update: In the wake of Bibi’s outline for post-war Gaza announced just a few days later, Kedar seems prescient, so much so that either he has the Cabinet’s ear or was tasked to float the notion.

As Rumsfeld say, if you can’t fix problem, make it bigger. So what we’re going for is not a 2-state nor even a 3-state but an 8+ statelets solution! I wonder if the Biden Administration will grudgingly go along with this. You know what, I’m guessing they will. Viva la chamulot!

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

Gadi Taub at his best, in Tablet, saying “Sorry, but There Is No Two-State Solution”.

As a sidenote, it’s getting harder to differentiate among the various competent public intellectuals in terms of style these days; this could have been written by any number of people — Seth Mandel for one, who seems to be writing everything in Commentary these days.

Tuesday, February 13th, 2024

Jeremiah Rozman:

I want a homeland, not a 22,000 sq. km. Yad Vashem … Victory will ensure both Israel’s security and its image.

Monday, February 12th, 2024

Jason Fried again, with an insight into Apple’s new Vision Pro that one important value proposition is recording:

What I think is super interesting about the Apple Vision Pro is the potential to be able to literally see through someone else’s eyes. Not just see their field of vision — you can get at that with head or eyeglass mounted cameras — but to actually see where they’re looking. To know what they’re focused on. To lock in with them. To see how they see. To watch them look from their point of view. Standing in someone’s shoes is one thing, but even if you could do that, you’d still be looking through your own eyes. But to literally see as they’d see from someone else’s point-of-view perspective feels groundbreaking. If I was making an app for this, I’d call it “See With”.

For the past few months I’ve retreated from working on a software product to, well, for a month after October 7th I didn’t seem to get much work done, then I was working on software systems for clients. Now dipping my toe back into RSSDeck, the biggest edifice I’ve ever created, I’m inspired by this short piece by Jason Fried, “To Make”:

I’ve consulted. I’ve done client work. I’ve advised. I’ve served on boards. I’ve invested. I’ve written books. I’ve spoken on the circuit. I’ve blogged for years. I have to say, I’ve found no greater professional joy than working with a tight group of people to ship and support our own products.

Amazing that it took until 2024 for a Hacker News discussion on Deep Springs given the two bodies’ attitudinal overlap of intellectual arrogance.

The New York Post has published a post by Mordechai Nisan advocating that Gazans leave. After October 7th this position — “transfer” in Israeli parlance — went from the extremist fringe to being I think the unspoken mainstream preference among Israelis.

The world power with the strongest ideological opposition to transfer — apart from the Arabs still wanting to keep it as a bludgeon against Israel — is probably the USA, as it seems to go against the American grain of self-determination for peoples. But if the West Bankers manage to make a go of it — highly unlikely but still — then former Gazans could always migrate there again eventually if the call to return remains strong.

Saturday, February 10th, 2024

Michael Freund responds nicely to David Cameron’s announcement that the UK is looking into recognizing the Palestinians as a state by looking at Britain’s own various occupations.

Thursday, February 8th, 2024

It’s so weird reading The Telegraph’s news feed of the day’s events because it reads like Iranian Press TV, full of Israel’s dastardly deeds. I guess it’s like The Wall Street Journal where there’s a real schism between the leanings of the so-called news division vs the editorial section.

Wednesday, February 7th, 2024

I must admit I knew almost none of this history of Gaza as narrated by Jean-Pierre Filiu in Foreign Affairs. After long staying clear I think I’ll look more closely at this magazine.

Gaza’s sudden new prominence should hardly come as a surprise. Although little of it is remembered today, the territory’s 4,000-year history makes clear that the last 16 years were an anomaly; the Gaza Strip has almost always played a pivotal part in the region’s political dynamics, as well as its age-old struggles over religion and military power.

As the recounting reaches the present day, no mention is made of the fundamental wound kept open: that Palestinian refugee status is uniquely passed down the generations.

It’s most discomfiting, seeing prominent Israelis self-lacerate in foreign journals. Here Aluf Benn of Haaretz, whom I previously admired before he took up its editorship and thereby become responsible for its seditious bile, writes in Foreign Affairs a piece entitled “Israel’s Self-Destruction”.

He opens with Moshe Dayan’s now much-recalled eulogy for Roi Rotberg of Nachal Oz. Very quickly however two items give me pause. First, Benn refers to “Netanyahu’s effort to undermine [Israel’s] democratic institutions and turn it into a theocratic, nationalist autocracy” — this is obviously a very partisan view of the judicial reform bill. Second, Benn writes: “If they finally heed Dayan’s warning, the country could come together and chart a path to peace and dignified coexistence with the Palestinians.”

Tellingly, Benn does not link to the actual text of Dayan’s short speech, which is much more about advocating for a Jabotinsky-like iron wall than State Department-esque “risks for peace”. Dayan in fact refers to foreign mandarins quite colorfully as “the ambassadors of malevolent hypocrisy who call upon us to lay down our arms” and bleakly concludes that Roi himself was blinded by the notion that peaceful coexistence — of the sort Benn is implicitly pushing for — is possible.

 
 

•••

Newsroll

A quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by the Manhattan Institute, edited by Brian C. Anderson.

Where the design community meets.

experiments in refactored perception

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