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Briefs

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022

The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

The act of thinking … is as disconcerting and boring on television as it is on a Las Vegas stage.

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

Monday, April 11th, 2022

Screenwriting — and acting — genius: Billions, Cory Stoll as Mike Prinz, after a bluff that apparently puts Chuck Rhodes in prison, is watched by the replacement attorney general as he leaves to go to the elevator. Feeling faint and queasy from moments ago losing $3.5b in crypto while pretending to know nothing about it, he leans on the wall in a way a person just wouldn’t normally do. And she knows he was lying. On this subtle display of body language rests so much. Plus, the episode ends with Jerry Garcia singing “Don’t You Let That Deal Go Down”.

Friday, March 25th, 2022

Top-flight series of Hebrew animated shorts חדר וחצי about a bachelor clown and his home.

Monday, February 14th, 2022

Oh, the minor yet multitudinous wonders of our age! I just discovered Yarn, where you “search by word or phrase for TV, movie and music clips”. What a fun business to have created!

Thursday, January 20th, 2022

The most important Abraham Accords peace dividend so far: the beautiful Dubai, Dubai, Dubai by Israeli comedienne Noam Shuster-Eliassi. Israel’s biting satire — mocking Arabs and Israelis alike, and in Arabic leavened with Hebrew (or is it vice versa) — has more of a chance of freeing the Middle Eastern masses than in retrospect the US Armed Forces and State Department ever had. As Frank Herbert kind of say: he who control the comedy control the universe.

Thursday, December 16th, 2021

Ouch, Jeff Garlin puts himself through a Vanity Fair struggle session with one Maureen Ryan who speaks in such chilling gems as “I see a lot of people complaining about what I would call consequence culture, and then not doing any work.” Garlin seems to be eagerly drilling his own grave.

Oh, by the way, I certainly want to make changes. I don’t know what they’ll be. But I know that I certainly can make adjustments. Because I’m pretty much, to be frank, a loose cannon on set—not a loose-cannon saying mean-spirited things. But anything that crosses my mind in my ADD way, I just say, if I think it’s funny. And I may have to figure out a new way to do that—[because I’m] not entitled to that. See, I’m open to it all. I’m humble. I’m not going to be Baron Von Defending Myself. Except with the physical altercation, which has never happened and never will. I also am a big believer that when there’s a comedian and you don’t like what they’re talking about, don’t watch them. Don’t appreciate them. You know, shut them out of your life. I understand that. Anyone who, in my comedic ways, doesn’t find me funny, whether it’s on The Goldbergs, Curb, stand-up, I’m all for it. Please just push me out of your life. I’m all good.

Can I be Suzie Green for a minute and yell Just shut the fuck up!

So apparently this New Yorker piece on Succession actor Jeremy Strong was considered a hit job, but it doesn’t seem so to me, just your typical profile braided with the bitterness of a fellow Yalie alum and thus former equal up against a subject now immortalized on the cultural pantheon:

Strong’s dedication strikes some collaborators as impressive, others as self-indulgent. “All I know is, he crosses the Rubicon,” Robert Downey, Jr., told me. In 2014, Strong played Downey’s mentally disabled brother in “The Judge.” (To prepare, he spent time with an autistic person, as Hoffman had for “Rain Man.”) When Downey shot a funeral scene, Strong paced around the set weeping loudly, even though he wasn’t called that day. “It was almost swatting him away like he was an annoying gnat—I had bigger things to deal with,” a member of the design team recalled.

Wednesday, December 15th, 2021

Shea Serrano at The Ringer dives in to the most magical scene in “All the Bells Say”, the season 3 finale of Succession:

Greg, a 10-foot-tall gingerbread man and also Tom’s accidental best friend, approaches. Before Tom can say anything, Greg begins telling Tom about how he and a woman a few steps removed from royalty have hit it off. Tom lets Greg talk, but he’s only half-listening because he’s still rolling around in his head the information that Shiv has just given him. When Greg is finished, Tom has a realization, and pivots away from the talk of Greg potentially becoming the king of Luxembourg via a countess. “Greg, listen,” he says, and then he pulls out two chairs from a nearby table while looking around to make sure nobody is within earshot.

Sunday, November 21st, 2021

“I love Shivan, I love Tom, I love Greg.” The increasingly tolerable Russell Brand celebrates Succession, his favorite TV program for a while.

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.

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021

Saturday, November 6th, 2021

Nice appreciative review at Cult of Mac of the latest Foundation episode, “The Missing Piece”.

This week’s episode gave him the Lee Paciest showcase any of your finer Lee Paces could hope to deliver. Appearing to be on death’s door yet radiating immortality, staggering through the desert with red, peeling skin and dirty feet, a false messiah nearly killing himself to gain even more power. This is the kind of thing that simply has to be seen.

Lee Pace for James Bond. Or Scaramanga at least.

Saturday, October 30th, 2021

After googling Jordan Hoffman, I see his Every Episode of Every ‘Star Trek’ Series Ever, Ranked (all 695 of them) from 2014, for Playboy no less.

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.

Monday, July 19th, 2021

Via Hacker News, “The Eleven Laws of Showrunning” by Javier Grillo-Marxuach is so beautifully written and serves as a primer for management of anything

As special and wonderful as creativity and process may be, they are assets that can be channeled, managed, made to work on call, and sent to bed at a decent hour.

Since I’m currently watching Disney Gallery / Star Wars: The Mandalorian, showrunners Jon Favreau and David Filoni appear to exemplify the virtues.

Monday, July 12th, 2021

I link to this survey of recent British TV comedy in UnHerd if only because author Gareth Roberts calls out the depressingness of Louis Theroux.

In the same publication, “Why Miranda is more daring than Fleabag.

Friday, December 11th, 2020

Well all this looks like too much fun: trailers for upcoming Marvel TV shows. It is indeed the best of times, the worst of times.

Tuesday, September 29th, 2020

What a shame that this seemingly literate musing on Stormfront in The Boys dives off the deep-end into America-reviling revisionism:

The Nazis actually praised the American system and copied a lot of its most atrocious ideas. So when the U.S. government welcomed Nazi scientists into our space program, it was an unsurprising extension of that connection.

And regarding Homelander:

He is misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, racist, pro-military, pro-American imperialism, and naturally, anti-abortion. Oh and he’s also a stone-cold sociopath and mass murderer.

A psychopath to be sure, but whence the rest? Homelander seems only cynically a flag-waver/wearer. The author does makes her “progressive” position clear by referring to “pro-military” and “anti-abortion” as evils. I guess I’d been bamboozled earlier by her nice summation of Nietzsche; whoever could do that would not, I presume, be so deeply idiotic.

The author might wish to consider even just for a moment the two greatest wars the United States ever fought — the Civil War and World War Two. Me waxing portentous: if this is normative discourse for geek outlets such as Nerdist, then we must worry for liberal civilization. [You don’t say, me…]

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

Mike and Rich of Red Letter Media do a re:View of Star Trek: Picard. I hadn’t articulated to myself why I chose not to watch beyond the first episode — they explain it. One criticism though: they mock the term positronic, seeming not to know it comes from Asimov’s robots.

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

The Tube Ronnies complete with transcript, thanks to the invaluable IanVisits.

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Friday, August 30th, 2019

Music from Baskets compiled by Josh Moshier on SoundCloud. There is also the Baskets Soundtrack at tunefind.

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?)

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Friday, June 15th, 2018

What a lovely episode of Westworld is the latest, “Kiksuya”. I think the show has been great recently, such as crashing into the Shogun version of Sweetwater in “Akane no Mai”, and James Delos’s incarceration and repeated relaunches in “The Riddle of the Sphinx”.

There is so much death depicted in Westworld; I haven’t watched Game of Thrones nor The Walking Dead so perhaps that is par for the course nowadays on tv but it’s new for me. In reality this level of mayhem only exists in pockets (and of course among the non-human), so I suppose it is important that we be reminded of it.

I love the ongoing reversal within Westworld that the real world shot outdoors is fake while the indoor sets underground, reached through ??Lost??-like hatches, are real. And the music; beautiful! And the scenery, beautiful! Without these two elements, how great can a moving picture story ever be?

Sunday, April 29th, 2018

“Our statement is a non-statement.” In this 2007 interview, Robert Culp (“the talent”) speaks of I Spy and his partner Bill Cosby (“the genius”).

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

We have entered an uncanny valley of algorithmic culture. I believe it’s still easy to step out of, but even easier not to. And maybe it’s merely a speeding up of how things have always worked.

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

It’s nice to see Slant Magazine praise something fulsomely and in detail: Chuck Bowen on Billions, Season 3.

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Giancarlo Esposito talks with Slant Magazine about, among other things, how he created Gustavo Fring. “So part of what I began to do in Breaking Bad was to use my ease of expression—my breathing in and out, my yoga practice—to drop my natural personality. So that I would be calm and relaxed and allow myself to witness a little bit.”

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, November 8th, 2016

I’m thinking it’s the most awesome TV show ever, but I also thought the same about about the other back in the day until close to the end. This insightful piece by Lindsey Romain in Vulture points out the thematic similarities
between Westworld and Lost
. Let’s hope it all doesn’t degenerate into a flabby Manichaeism.

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Sports are the linchpin holding the entire post-war economic order together.

Ben Thompson, The Sports Linchpin

Saturday, July 16th, 2016

“The Kemalist era in Turkish history lasted for almost 100 years, but finally came to an end in the last 18 hours.” A great balance between up-to-the-minute reports and historical background, Walter Russell Mead live-blogs the failed Turkish Coup.

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

Friday, February 5th, 2016

We must never forget that PBS aired Are You Being Served as a public service.

ASK

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Antinomy

a contradiction between two beliefs or conclusions that are in themselves reasonable; a paradox

Given that television must revolve off *antinomies* about being and watching, about escape from daily life, the averagely intelligent viewer can't be all that happy about his daily life of high-dose watching.

David Foster Wallace,

“E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction”

Anaclitic

relating to or characterized by a strong emotional dependence on another or others

Solipsistic ads are another way television ends up pointing at itself, keeping the viewer's relation to his furniture at once alienated and *anaclitic*.

David Foster Wallace,

“E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction”

Otiose

serving no practical purpose or result.

What explains the pointlessness of most published TV criticism is that television has become immune to charges that it lacks any meaningful connection to the world outside it. It's not that charges of nonconnection have become untrue. It's that any such connection has become *otiose*.

David Foster Wallace,

“E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction”

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Season 4 of Homeland is I believe significantly more worthwhile than the previous ones. At the Daily Beast, two versed CIA agents opine that it “accurately present[s] the mission, intensity, pace, contradictions and complexity” of such a mission.

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Not only isn’t the Israel Broadcasting Association listing the names of the child fatalities from the Gaza bombings but refusing to let B’Tselem pay for an ad doing so. And the Attorney General has upheld the decision. This seems to me a mistake. We must fully own these deeds.

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Beyond bracin’, stormin’ Norman Podhoretz eviscerates the Palestinian position in the wake of the Kerry talks collapse.

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Why, by the William Shatner School of Toupological Studies.

Monday, August 20th, 2012

The Making of The Spy Who Loved Me by the BBC for the Open University, 1977. Episode #1: Cubby Brocolli, Producer. #2: Ken Adam, Production Designer (“not indispensible”, “preferable”, “unique”, “important”). #3, Barbara Bach, Bond Girl.

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

From the comments section: “I feel sad that a supposedly respectable publication would allow a disturbed person to humiliate themselves by publishing a rant as perverse as this.” ‘Breaking Bad Karma: How the cancer victim at the center of the AMC series justifies my skepticism of Holocaust survivors’ by Anna Breslaw. [via Commentary]

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Exhaustive and wonderful list of what Alli Magidsohn expects to miss upon leaving Israel after 7 years, published by the impressive David Horowitz’s new The Times of Israel. (Not so sure about “the ferocity of celebration here” though, at least among the non-religious.)

index topics television television

Arab Insanity Eroding

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

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, November 30th, 2022

Fool me once. This piece, a rather disparaging article on Avatar at DNYUZ, and redeemed by the fact that the author did actually visit the Avatar theme park at DisneyWorld, is nonetheless the second time (I forget the first article) I’ve enjoyed a pretty good longish read only to come across, about 2/3 of the way through, what in my defensive paranoia seems like the woke raison d’etre of the whole piece:

What were the odds that, galaxies away, a society not only had two genders, but those genders were “male” and “female” — and the females were stacked?

I sputter at attempting to explicate the wanton stupidity here, but will try: Of all the previous sci-fi shows with females and males, suddenly this is an issue in this movie? Of all the liberties taken with physics and reality with these sci-fi tentpole movies, this biologically-grounded fact of life is the complaint? What of the mammalian model for life all around us? Anonymous DNYUZ author, I see you and I CMD-W you.

Update: OK I didn’t quite immediately close my browser tab, I skimmed to the end, and there is indeed a byline:

Jamie Lauren Keiles is a contributing writer for the magazine. They are currently working on a book about the rise of gender-neutral pronouns and nonbinary identity in America.

Fair enough, they have an agenda, and in my skimming I see:

Here is probably a good place to disclose that when I first started working on this article, I had never seen “Avatar.”

Aha, my agenda sense was working. Yet some good parts are still to come: after watching it on their laptop, the author is disappointed, but then goes to see it in 3-D and is enraptured:

The action did not just come forward as one frame, but instead wove me into the movement onscreen, the tendrils of plants and falling drops of water each reaching out from a different point in space. The Na’vi bodies appeared to have mass. It was hard to discern what was real or C.G.I., which led me to wonder, “Why even distinguish?” This, in turn, produced a twisted surge of delight at the prospect of man’s becoming God.

The author’s deeper reveal, perhaps — and a surprising antepenultimate word choice.

You need a grinder to make life delicious.

James Hoffman on coffee

Saturday, November 26th, 2022

Stratechery on Microsoft: So Teams is the new Windows. Ah, as so many movie villains have said, Why won’t you just die?!

Sunday, November 20th, 2022

Episode #105 of the All-In Podcast is a bumper one, covering the Musk-led collapse of what David Sacks refers to as the excess elites jobs program, wherein high-status people who cannot be particularly economically productive after their training in sycophancy at a woke madrassa are nonetheless absorbed.

Good post and comment thread by Tyler Cowen on the future of London as a city:

… London, which indeed is currently the best city in the world but in a modestly populated country. However this central role for the city makes the UK as a broader nation richer to only a limited degree. So the extreme wonders of London lead to a partial (permanent) atrophy for the rest of the country, which is precisely what we observe.

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

On researching Prokofiev; Princeton musicologist Simon Morrison uncovers more works by my favorite composer.

The biggest change Prokofiev and his collaborator Sergei Radlov made to Shakespeare’s familiar story was to add a happy ending: Their Juliet wakes up from her potion-induced slumber just as Romeo is reaching the awful conclusion that she is dead. But when Prokofiev presented his score to the Soviet cultural authorities, who had been growing ever more conservative, they balked at the ending. The Shakespeare purists among them did not like the idea of changing the familiar ending. Prokofiev had a logical answer to their objections, saying, “Living people can dance, the dying cannot.” Grasping at ways to preserve the integrity of his vision, he even suggested hanging a red flag outside the theater on nights when the sad ending was to be performed, a green flag when the happy one was planned.

Wednesday, November 9th, 2022

An awed shoutout to Raycast, which I presume the cool kids have been using for years. I had given up finding a contemporary equivalent for SizzlingKeys, a way to control the Apple Music app simply from the keyboard regardless of which app I’m using. With Raycast it’s a breeze to set keyboard hotkeys for many Music app operations, including all the ones I’ve ever thought of using.

Tuesday, October 18th, 2022

A tweetstorm on tagging by Hillel, with issues I’ve been mulling over myself.

Sunday, October 16th, 2022

At the Washington Institute, Rahim Hamid and Ruth Riegler argue that the Iranian uprising must have a plan for the various ethnicities.

Friday, October 14th, 2022

Tony Badran explicates the terrible maritime deal that Israel signed with the Lebanese. It seems to me they just locked in Bibi’s reelection.

Monday, October 10th, 2022

To form an opinion on the wedge of maritime territory wedged between Israeli and Lebanon, some googling revealed:

Saturday, October 8th, 2022

Himars, highly mobile precision missile launchers, is a revolutionary military technology that has changed the balance of war in Ukraine’s favour against Russia.

Friday, October 7th, 2022

Oh my, Walter Russell Mead joins Tyler Cowen for a rich brief hour, and they barely mention WRM’s new book Arc. While in print WRM can seem a bit mealy-mouthed, often it seems throat-clearing to not alienate those with whom he basically disagrees, here he comes out strong and hearty. And TC’s idiosyncratic method of firing off questions works with WRM because each one prompts such a rich answer that there’s little need for normal back and forth.

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!

Reuel Marc Gerecht is back, now opining fruitfully on the Iranian protests in The Wall Street Journal [subscription required]:

What is most striking about the regime’s response so far is its relative lack of violence … Like all declining dictatorships, the clerical regime has had a failure of imagination—in this case, about how to handle protesting women.

You find some good shit when you search YouTube for reviews by other people who really detest No Time to Die. This is the redoubtable young Batcho.

Wednesday, October 5th, 2022

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.

Thrilling, emotional coverage by Israel’s Channel 12 on Iran’s street protests, including secret footage from a local stringer.

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, reputable enough that Walter Russell Mead seems unwilling to criticize them by name, despicable enough 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 exis. 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 it’s 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.

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022

He of the Cottage Cheese protests, now sitting in the Prime Minister’s chair, finally did it, as Israel applies EU standards for foodstuffs. Lapid’s statement: “The move will lower the cost of living and open the market to competition” — and what a great pic in his office with the Israeli flag and an array of foodstuffs.

Lilium’s electric aircraft demonstrator takes off and lands vertically, achieving mid-flight transition. The first and last moments of the video are I guess the most important. Lilium stock rises 6%, seemingly as a result.

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

Sunday, September 25th, 2022

If “the Jews” ran America, immigration would not have been restricted and Israel would likely not exist.

Walter Russell Mead, The Arc of a Covenant (p. 251)

Saturday, September 24th, 2022

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

A good ol’ rant by everyone against Microsoft in this Hacker News thread, this time about Teams. When o when will this monstrosity of a corporation die already. “Developer-friendly”; may the GitHub guys get what they deserve for selling out to the Borg.

Israel’s patience and humility is rewarded first by Trump and now by Truss: the UK may follow the US in relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv the seafront metropolis to Jerusalem the capital.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022

Very ambitious people probably need colleagues more than anyone else, because they’re so starved for them in everyday life.

Paul Graham, What I’ve Learned from Users

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

So ifixit are really excited by the repairability of the new iPhone 14, the internals of which have been totally redesigned. This was barely mentioned at the launch, and interestingly did not carry over to the 14 Pros.

Friday, September 16th, 2022

At Nat Con 3, Peter Thiel argues in a speech entitled “The Tech Curse” that while the Democrats have nothing to offer but the California model of gutting the middle classes except state employees, the Republicans nonetheless need something more than simply a negation of it.

One heuristic he offers in order to measure societal success in contrast to California is cheap real estate, but offers no path to get there.

My monomaniacal suggestion: flying cars/eVTOLs, which increase the human daily commute distance from about 50 to 250 miles, multiplying our practicable habitable area by likely an order of magnitude. As well as other unforeseeable boons, surely this would radically lower the cost of homes.

But it requires government support. “If the U.S. doesn’t take a leadership role, either someone else will do it or it won’t get done at all,” said Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-California), co-chair of the Congressional AAM Caucus, along with Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-California), at Honeywell’s Air Mobility Summit. “We are really at an inflection point in the industry. It’s such a critical time for Congress to get involved.”

Thursday, September 15th, 2022

Wednesday, September 7th, 2022

In Mosaic, Philologos discusses the Biblical use of “and”. The crux of the matter is this:

One reason that the prefixed vav is so ubiquitous in the Bible is that, as everyone familiar with biblical Hebrew knows, it can have a second function that is not a conjunction’s. This is the marking of tense—or more precisely, the reversing of tense, since it is a peculiarity of biblical Hebrew that a prefixed vav, when attached to a verb, can change its tense from past or perfect to future or imperfect, and vice versa.

And:

Biblical Hebrew has no punctuation (the cantillations it is chanted to in the synagogue are a later development) and is a language poor in conjunctions. Although it has its own ways of expressing logical and temporal relationships between parts of sentences, something that is largely done in English by means of commas and periods, dependent clauses, and conjunctions like “when,” “while,” “as,” “though,” “despite,” and so forth, biblical Hebrew rarely puts together sentences by such means. It prefers coordinate clauses joined by a vav—or, in more technical language, paratactic rather than hypotactic constructions in which the vav can do the work of various English conjunctions and mean other things beside “and.”

Tuesday, September 6th, 2022

The Mufti, Qadaffi, King Hussein — I’m vastly enjoying season 2 of the Israeli TV documentary series Enemies (streaming requires an Israeli IP). One thing I can’t help but notice is the impressive living rooms in which the interviewees — mostly military intelligence vets — sit. None of them are in apartments, all have leafy window views, there’s a lot of wood, and most of them aren’t furnished like typical Israeli dwellings. I guess these aren’t military men, they’re men and women of the world.

I can’t tell if I enjoy Israeli docs because they’re so good, or merely because I’m the target audience. If it’s the former, and I think it is, they really should be selling them subtitled to wider audiences, say to Netflix and Amazon Prime.

It’s great, this pounding away at Israeli history, each episode a different prism.

Monday, September 5th, 2022

The reward is that if you give, even at the times when you think you have very little, you’ll teach your brain that there is more than enough.

Tony Robbins, Money: Master the Game

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Neil Postman

♦♦♦

Entertainingly caustic albeit a tad ad nauseumly, Neil Postman’s famous book regales us with at least one important historical fact and one historical idea.

The fact: that before showbusiness, Americans were by far the world’s most literate, informed, engaged population, whereas today it must be said have a reputation abroad for ignorance.

The idea: that even while powerful technologies are mindless and agnostic, each nonetheless has its own nature that pushes society in particular directions. Postman argues mostly convincingly that print is healthy for society, television not.

Just like the self-help gurus pointing out that it’s better to totally goof off than do busywork because at least leisure doesn’t feel like work and thereby misguide the mind, so Postman prefers straight-up entertainment shows like Hart to Hart to those that pretend to inform like 60 Minutes.

Now, the book was written in 1985 and is about TV; the big question is what Postman would have thought of the Web and social media. He does write that the potential influence of computers is overrated, which reminds us that nobody’s infallible (which does undermine the book’s credibility, so kudos on the publishers of later editions in not cutting out these throwaway few words).

Tuesday, August 30th, 2022

For those not yet cognizant of the fact that eVTOLs are coming soon and coming fast, Jeff Scallop writes up the rationale at “Still No Flying Cars? eVTOLs Might be the Answer” in Market for Ideas.

The main attractiveness of eVTOLs is their ability to reduce transit times in metropolitan areas, especially those routes subject to heavy traffic jams. Given current battery autonomy, ideal distances for eVTOLs range from 15 to 150 miles.

eVTOLs also offer many advantages when compared to helicopters, such as a lower cost per seat per mile (currently at $3.00, which is comparable to ride-hailing apps even). They also have much lower noise levels, allowing them to fly at lower altitudes and significantly reducing the necessary infrastructure costs (vertiports vs helipads), which could help boost adoption.

Saturday, August 27th, 2022

Friday, August 26th, 2022

Great interview at Berkeley with alum and local Oakland boy Craig Federighi [Dec 2019].

Friday, August 12th, 2022

Tuesday, August 9th, 2022

I agree with the sentiment in this Haaretz op-ed piece “It’s Time for Israeli Media to Start Calling Gaza Victims by Their Names”, an issue I blogged about during a previous Gaza altercation back in 2014 and haven’t changed my mind. What regular folks here in Israel care about are the disruptions caused due to incoming rocket fire — and that’s totally legit. But for the record the media should be noting whom Israel kills in order to ameliorate the aggression — especially when they are non-combatants. Perhaps one argument against doing so is that we must rely for the facts on the Palestinians themselves, for whom facts seem to be malleable instruments. If credibility is truly Israel’s issue, then we should enlist the aid of credible third-parties organizations for corroboration.

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

News I can use: to be published in the academic journal Experimental Gerontology, “Frequent sauna bathing offsets the increased risk of death due to low socioeconomic status” — a prospective cohort study of middle-aged and older men.

Thursday, August 4th, 2022

At last, a British publication (The New Statesman, with muchos kudos for the great rebranding) addresses the bonkers British practice of placing washing machines in kitchens and consequently lacking space for dishwashers (or vice versa, the causality is mysterious):

Non-Brits find having a washing machine in the kitchen hilarious (as well as unhygienic, which it is). But the idea of bringing smelly socks near food preparation surfaces apparently pales in comparison to the shady plastic tub in the sink, its fleet of mugs bobbing in the oily foam.

The article even addresses that other bugbear: “UK residents commonly have separate hot and cold taps, whereas single mixer taps have long been the norm in Europe.”

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022

Britons should be honored by this Palestinian diatribe against them.

 
 

•••

Newsroll

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

experiments in refactored perception

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