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Briefs

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, September 15th, 2022

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022

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, June 20th, 2022

Writing one sentence per line. OK it could be my coffee kicking in, but dagnabit, maybe Sivers is a genius.

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2022

He really was the best: P. J. O’Rourke on Israel. I could excerpt any damn paragraph, but here’s just one:

There was no sign of war. Plenty of soldiers were to be seen, carrying their weapons, but this is no shock to the frequent traveler. For all that the world looks askance at America’s lack of gun control, foreigners love to wave guns around. Nothing about the Israeli Defense Forces is as odd as Italian carabinieri brandishing their machine pistols while grimly patrolling that flash-point Venice.

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!

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…

Thursday, December 9th, 2021

An interview with Vivian Gornick, distinguished New York essayist.

I spend my life trying to produce sentences, as a pair of academics once put it, as “clear and simple as the truth.” The emotional truth, that is. For me, only the accumulation of lucid sentences will deliver on that. Now every writer—poet, novelist, essayist—is aiming for the same thing, putting emotional truth on the page, only each does it using language differently. In the end, I believe, all are aiming for what I am calling clarity.

New York is still the city of letters, and there are still letters.

Tuesday, October 26th, 2021

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

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.

Sunday, July 18th, 2021

This top-draw (The New Republic) essay on James Bond and Ian Fleming is ostensibly disparaging about its subject, but author Scott Bradfield’s sheer depth of knowledge marks him a fan. Another clue: although it’s a book review of The World Is Not Enough: A Biography of Ian Fleming by Oliver Buckton, in the entire piece Buckton’s name is mentioned just once! This guy Bradfield’s clearly been chomping at the bit to write something Bondy.

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

What a sinking feeling, reading the announcement that Marginal Revolution is launching on Facebook’s Substack ripoff Bulletin”:https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2021/06/a-more-than-marginal-boost-for-marginal-revolution.html (I get a blank screen in Firefox, and naturally there’s no RSS feed). It’s interesting that trillion-dollar Facebook feels so threatened by Substack.

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

Monday, May 17th, 2021

What are we to do with how loathsome we find our public selves? Meghan O’Gieblyn writes:

Like many people who become writers, I believed the page offered a way out, a loophole in the world knot. It was only there, with work and deliberation, that the soul became flesh and I could speak in a voice I recognized as my own.

Monday, May 10th, 2021

Elle Griffin is serializing her novel on Substack and here lists others also publishing fiction on the platform.

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

James Lileks is still at it, marvellously, and my bad to have drifted away. Here he is mulling his thoughts at the supermarket and driving home. Plus a wonderful pic. And a great gif. And a second feature that is more epic than the post itself. What an artisan, what an artist.

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Larry McEnerney on 40 years of teaching expository writing at the University of Chicago’s Little Red Schoolhouse.

Sunday, July 12th, 2020

A work-in-progress web rendering of Moby Dick by Jason Pamental, with Rockwell Kent’s woodblock illustrations. Glorious!

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

technovelgy.com, where science meets fiction, and a glorious taste of the old web.

Friday, April 3rd, 2020

Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life

Sari Nusseibeh

♦♦♦♦

Nusseibeh’s central thesis (well, secondary thesis, the primary implicit one being that the Palestinian people should all along have appointed both his Dad and then him their oh-so-reluctant leaders) I too have felt almost in my bones: that Israelis and Palestinians are natural allies. Or, more accurately, that there’s a natural affinity which will enable us to be powerful allies if and when we ever get over our admittedly fundamental conflict.

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

The Smithsonian Magazine excerpts Paul Hendrickson’s Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright. Among the gems:

  • “…[Wright’s] 72-year career as an architect and egotist…”
  • “…[Wright buildings] come magically out of the American ground looking for the light…”
  • “…[Wright,] the old shaman…”
  • “…There are certain moments, standing in [Wright homes], if the light is falling right, when it will begin to seem as if Whitman is singing to Emerson, or vice versa…”

Will the author spoil it for me though? Among the crisps are tonal annoyances such as beginning sentences with “Heck,”…

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Some rise, some fall, some climb — Robert Hunter, 78. Mister, your inspiration moved me brightly.

“By far the most important factor in determining whether a boiled egg will peel cleanly or not is the temperature at which it starts cooking.” There’s just too many quotable quotes in this first entry in a new New York Times series on the science of cooking. I think the Grey Lady has finally found a useful niche.

Joseph Epstein has a book to review on the semi-colon; that is, an excuse to treat us to a treatise on punctuation. It is “the art of rhythm, for punctuation’s second function, after its first function of helping to establish clarity, is to set the rhythm of sentences. Rhythm in prose, it turns out, is highly individual, for nearly everyone not only marches but writes to the beat of a different drummer.”

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

The words that don’t quite translate tell you the most about another culture.

Colin Marshall, “Travel is Living: How Airbnb Ingeniously Markets to Korea”

Monday, August 5th, 2019

Monday, July 1st, 2019

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Hunger as Art is a 15-minute film by Israeli philosopher Daniel Milo, whose upcoming book Good Enough promises to be seminal. Via Venkatesh Rao’s ongoing exploration of mediocrity, Mediocratopia.

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

Sunday, March 17th, 2019

“Mathieu Triay on his Marvin Visions”:fhttps://www.readvisions.com/marvin, a reinterpretation of the 1969 font Marvin by Michael Chave.

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Jonathan Hoefler explores something that typeface designers have long known but that researchers have only now corroborated: horizontal lines appear thicker than vertical ones.

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?)

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Monday, November 19th, 2018

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

The more you keep your mouth shut, the more fertile you become.

Saul Bellow

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018

Concentration without effort is the heart of the thing.

Saul Bellow

America and I, both exceptional, would together elude prediction and defy determinism.

Saul Bellow

The degree to which you challenge your own beliefs and expose them to destruction is a test of your worth as a novelist.

Saul Bellow

Thursday, September 20th, 2018

Million Dollar Consulting

Alan Weiss

♦♦♦

This most renowned book by the engaging Alan Weiss has a tone of practical, optimistic advice. Its title however is unfortunate as the first part may come off as cheesy while the second part comes off as only applying to consultants. Its subtitle, “The Professional’s Guide to Growing a Practice”, is more accurate; I was talking with an old friend who now has his own one-man legal practice and realized that pretty much all the book’s advice applies to him.

Although famous for advocating value billing rather than hourly, perhaps the book’s dominant concept is that you should invest your marketing energy in becoming a thought leader — in speaking and writing.

Weiss is a bit of a minor national treasure (despite hovering sometimes on the edge of bad taste — and I believe he is way sophisticated enough to understand exactly what he’s doing) and despite becoming slightly cranky in his more recent musings (not that I disagree with where he’s coming from, but political musings may be off-putting to others). He is a gifted writer in that having read his book you feel he is your friend looking out for you.

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Michael Chabon on Finnegan’s Wake [2012].

As my year of diving languorously into the murky waters of the Wake wore on, I came to feel that it was this failure, this impossibility, this grand futility of the Wake, that constituted its secret theme, its true aboutness.

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

First she called herself a Joycean, then she realized she’s more of a Joyceaholic. A great fun rueful erudite walk around the city that is James Joyce.

This is not the first time I’ve broken up with Joyce. A couple of years ago I decided we were in a co-dependent relationship. Except how could that be true if I was the only dependent one?

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

The Closing of the Hi-Gloss Colonel of American Letters Tom Wolfe’s Eyes. The New York Times obituary by Deirdre Carmody and William Grimes.

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

Make it work, ‘cos you’ve got opposites.

Irit Levy

Friday, May 11th, 2018

“The Moment” is an occasional column/blog by novelist Amit Chaudhuri in The Paris Review.

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Joss Whedon on making The Avengers: “There’s very little that I didn’t look at. It’s like, This is a Dr. Strangelove moment. This is The Abyss. This is His Girl Friday. It’s constant. You have to have all that stuff sort of in a blender in your head.”

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

I can’t go for a few moments without sliding back my chair and gazing with massive self-love at my library.

Geoff Dyer, on books, in Unpacking My Library

Living abroad meant a move out of quotation marks.

Geoff Dyer, on books, in Unpacking My Library

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Another nice ongoing Grauniad series, this one where authors and writers describe their typical writing day.

The Paris Review compiles interviews from its archives on writing while under an influence.

index topics writing writing

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)

Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

What a tweetstorm by Hussein Aboubakr Mansour, self-styled “grand cultural architect of the post-Palestine Middle East”, on the main issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the Leftist notion that first-world colonization justifies any behavior. Israel’s contribution, he notes, is that we “accept the Palestinian self-dehumanization as the ontological truth of the Palestinians: final, exclusive, and irreversible, and not as humans who are trapped into a terrible story made up by generations of mad intellectuals and sadistic tyrants.” Perfetto.

Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

Great to see that this post about a mural in Nazareth memorializing the heroes of the Iranian uprising is met at the NewIran subreddit with only sympathetic and grateful comments.

Thursday, January 19th, 2023

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”.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

genders.wtf is an outstanding use of this thing we call the World Wide Web. It’s nice that it takes a hot divisive topic and makes it genuinely human and funny.

Tuesday, January 10th, 2023

Finally, Congress will pass a resolution expressing solidarity with and support for Iran’s protesters.

Senior Saudis tell an American delegation they are ready for normalization with Israel, but first they want normalization with the United States, writes JINSA’s John Hannah in The Jerusalem Post after the visit.

Saturday, January 7th, 2023

A story most emblematic of Israel’s governmental switchover: Finance Minister Smotrich’s cancellation of Liberman’s tax on plastic plates, as sympathetically reported by JTA.

Friday, January 6th, 2023

Thursday, January 5th, 2023

At Charlie Hebdo’s brave beautiful #MullahsGetOut competition “every contestant won a place in hell”.

After the Six Day War victory, Moshe Dayan decided the Waqf should retain control over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. The op-ed writer calls it “progressive hubris”; similarly, I take it as a lesson that, like premature optimization, excessive magnanimity can be a root of much evil.

I’m sad to discover that Carol Gould, my father’s American neighbor and friend during his decade in London, died in late 2021. She wrote a concise memoir of her life and times in London, “42 years in Britain – 37 years in broadcasting”:

One of the most nerve-wracking broadcasts in which I ever participated was a two-hour special produced by [Iran’s] Press TV about Israel’s illegitimacy as a state, anchored by Alan Hart, a former ITN presenter. Though never substantiated we heard through the industry that his blatant anti-Semitism eventually led to his departure from ITV. This special was devised to illustrate that Israel was not a sovereign state, but illegitimate — a bantustan created by unwelcome Zionist invaders who used the Shoah as an excuse to displace and massacre Arabs who had lived there for centuries. … I tried to keep my cool and defend the aspirations of the Jewish people to have a homeland, going back to the era of the Dreyfus trial, Emile Zola, ‘J’accuse,’ Theodor Herzl and Ahad Ha’am, but the head of the Muslim Brotherhood UK got so angry at me that he fell off his chair in the front row of the audience and hit his head; the recording had to be suspended whilst we waited for him to be taken away in an ambulance.

Carol notes that she experienced much more anti-Semitism from conservatives than liberals in London.

Wednesday, January 4th, 2023

In The Algemeiner, Adam Levick takes the time to comprehensively Fisk a Sky News broadcast for children aired May 13, 2022 entitled “FYI: Special Report From Both Sides of The Wall”. It’s pretty egregious. I noticed a year or so ago that Sky News’s political slant had become pretty indistinguishable from the BBC’s.

This tweetstorm by Heshmat Alavi points out how the MSM glorified IRGC Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani, no doubt at least partially because it was Bad Orange Man who ordered him killed. Most egregiously, MSNBC compares this methodical murderer to Princess Diana and Elvis Presley!

I recommend this tour de force on Israel’s recent election by the excellent Haviv Rettig Gur in The Times of Israel.

[The left and Balad] spoke of Netanyahu’s imminent return to power as a vast danger, but then did everything required to make that outcome more likely.

The Israeli left didn’t collapse in a sudden, recent rightist lurch of the electorate. It has been in a tailspin for three decades. And three decades of failure suggest a simple, unsparing conclusion that hovers over the anxiety about the election results and the patina of moral panic that accompanies it: The left that just collapsed, in terms of raw political strategy, doesn’t deserve to exist.

If the left does not fundamentally redraw the Israeli political map — that is, fundamentally reconceive itself — then Tuesday’s result will be more than a single painful failure. It will be a harbinger of the foreseeable future. It is this reality that drives the “end of the country as we’ve known it” panic.

From here, Rettig Gur starts to build a case for a revived Israeli Left. What a piece!

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023

What a fabulous talk by Chris Coyier on the state of web design and development, “Websites are Good Now” at GatsbyConf [starts at 6:00]. He reviews our new advanced state of affairs in typography, imagery, layout, componentry (a new term to me but yes, that’s how we do it now), animation and hosting.

In an escalation, the world-historical anti-regime movement in Iran has taken its first regime victim, an IRGC commander shot outside his home.

Thursday, December 29th, 2022

As Netanyahu retakes the reins of Israel, Caroline Glick, excitable as she may be, lays it out, as far as I can tell, pretty darn accurately: the main difference between this government and the previous is that Israel will now stand up to the erratic and mostly misguided Biden Administration.

Tuesday, December 20th, 2022

Binyamin Netanyahu is interviewed at wonderful length by, wonderfully, Al-Arabiya. One question he addresses is the maritime agreement that the previous Lapid government made with Lebanon:

Look, my concern is that the revenues that come out of the sea that I think heavily favored Lebanon, do not favor Lebanon. They favor Hezbollah. And Hezbollah has not been a force for peace. So you may just be funding Hezbollah’s military arsenal that could be used not only against Israel, but against many others in the Middle East. You have to think about that very carefully. But that is already done. As I said, I’ll see what I can do to moderate any damage or to secure Israel’s economic and security interests.

Netanyahu articulates what I believe the clear-eyed majority of Israelis saw (and as I posted on October 14th before the election): that having the Yesh Atid camp in power is a burgeoning danger to Israel’s national security due to their willingness to make visibly unfavorable diplomatic deals, which not only are harmful to Israel’s interests in themselves, but signal weakness that invites further depravations.

It’s also interesting to witness Bibi weave in constant complimentary references to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states and address their concerns without compromising the Israeli perspective. I know what they say about Netanyahu’s untrustworthiness, but all this reeks of integrity.

That said, it’s clear what he wants to get across: the key word is “reaffirm”, that he’s heading to Washington to argue on Saudi’s behalf.

Thursday, December 15th, 2022

Still got it, USA: Nuclear fusion ignition is achieved December 5th, 2022 at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near San Francisco, CA.

Monday, December 12th, 2022

Alex Epstein cites Frank Lloyd Wright’s attitude towards nature in this discussion with Jordan Peterson. It’s the first time I’ve heard Mr Wright cited as a source or inspiration in current discourse and I hope it won’t be the last.

Saturday, December 3rd, 2022

A History of the Israeli Army

Ze'ev Schiff

♦♦♦

Author Ze’ev Schiff provides a matter-of-fact overview, probably not too different from many other books of Israeli military history, though I did learn that it was probably Arafat who precipitated the Six Day War. The edition I read was published a decade after the first publication, in the midst of the Lebanon War, about which the author is caustic and upset yet manages to end the book on an optimistic note, wishing Lebanon serve at least as a lesson for future non-endeavors.

Friday, December 2nd, 2022

Kanye West is interviewed with his piece-of-shit sidekick-du-jour Nick Fuentes for almost 3 hours by Alex Jones. To me the worst swipe at human dignity here is the fishnet and chocolate milk as Netanyahu (“net” and “yahoo”). Even Alex Jones is squirming through this (“I’m not on the whole Jew thing”), at 51:30 telling the audience, “I’m your guest host here in insane asylum world” before hastily retreating as Kanye asks “Why are you pointing at me when you say that.” An opportunity lost to tell his deranged guest to just go home and get some rest and some help.

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

This rather disparaging article on Avatar at DNYUZ is the second time recently (I forget the first) I’ve enjoyed a pretty good longish read only to come across, about 2/3 of the way through, what seems so shoehorned in that it smells like the quiet 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?

Of all the liberties taken with physics and reality with this and other sci-fi tentpole movies, this biologically-grounded mammalian fact of life is the complaint?

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

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)

 
 

•••

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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