Monthly Archives: May 2007

Oppenheimer on Einstein

From my friend Jess Kaplan comes a link to the text of a 1966 speech by Robert Oppenheimer about Albert Einstein, whom Oppenheimer of course knew for decades. It is a fascinating glimpse into the personality of the great man, and readers are encouraged to take a look. (It is also far less controversial and […]

Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind

I’ve sparked more than a few arguments in these pages over the last couple of years by my support — primarily on moral grounds — for the ouster of Saddam, and by taking very seriously the threat to the West presented by Islamic extremism. While I’m not the right-wing moonbat that some folks seem to […]

Hitchens, Sharpton, and God

The New York Public Library recently hosted a debate between The Reverend Al Sharpton and the journalist, author and gadfly Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens, in case you hadn’t heard, has recently mounted the increasingly crowded atheist soapbox — joining, most prominently, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett — with his book God Is Not Great: […]

Opening Day

There’ll be nothing in this space today about dualism, Darwin, Iraq, religion, or any of the rest of the tedium that usually plumps up these pages. No, today was a day to set all that dull and dreary business aside, because the Incredible Casuals were kicking off their 27th season at the legendary Wellfleet Beachcomber. […]

Two New Links

We welcome two new additions to the waka waka waka sidebar tonight. The first, called Mixotrophy, is a brand new blog by reader and commenter Andrew Staroscik, a bacteriologist and oceanographer. The other, recommended by Andrew, is the blog Sandwalk, which is the website of one Larry Moran, a professor of biochemistry at the University […]


I’ve had a long drive, at the end of a long day, to wrap up a long week. So for tonight I’m just going to leave you with a wonderful short story by the great Isaac Asimov — an old favorite that I just found online. It’s called The Last Question, and it’s a gem. […]

House of Worship

Here’s an addendum to our previous post (which was in turn a comment upon a recent post, at Bill Vallicella’s Maverick Philosopher website, about atheism and morality). Related content from Sphere

The Second Book Of Samuel

Dr. William Vallicella, in a recent post, considers the following quote from the atheist author Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation, pp. 38-39): If you are right to believe that religious faith offers the only real basis for morality, then atheists should be less moral than believers. In fact, they should be utterly immoral. […]

A Pro-Democracy Democrat

A few days ago we directed waka waka waka readers to a Wall Street Journal piece by Bernard Lewis, in which he explained the psychological boost and doctrinal validation that a US abandonment of Iraq would give to our jihadist foes. Now that article is followed by a politically brave item by the Democrat Bob […]

Winged Victory

Say what you like about New York City, there’s always something going on. At lunchtime today I walked into Grand Central Station, which is only a hundred yards or so from my office, just as some of the world’s top “competitive eaters” were about to begin a buffalo-wing smackdown. My sense of journalistic duty awakened, […]

Points of Interest

Today was a long day down at the kung-fu school: junior testing all morning — which means that we instructors sit and watch some very nervous beginners wobble and fidget their way through the Gung Ji Fook Fu Kuen and Fu Hok Cern Ying forms — followed at one p.m. by a five-and-a-half hour Dim […]

Peking Drek

In the wake of the tainted-pet-food story, folks are starting to take a closer look at what sorts of filth, exactly, the Chinese have been dumping on our markets. The story isn’t pretty: in fact, it’s revolting. You can read it here. Related content from Sphere

Nice Guys Finish Last

Last Wednesday The Wall Street Journal featured an article by Bernard Lewis, perhaps America’s foremost scholar of Islamic history and society. The article is entitled Was Osama Right?, and carries the following subheading: Islamists always believed the U.S. was weak. Recent political trends won’t change their view. Related content from Sphere

Acid Test

There was a provocative item in yesterday’s Times. It concerned one Andrew Feldmar, a psychotherapist from Vancouver, and what happened when he tried to enter the US to pick up a friend at the Seattle airport. Related content from Sphere


There’s a quirky little item in the science news today: some researchers in Germany have been studying fruit flies, and have observed that their behavior seems surprisingly flexible.

We’ll Just Have to Carry On Somehow

We note that Jerry Falwell, the prominent religious extremist, sanctimonious prig, and bigot, has died. This is the man who, on September 13th, 2001, said: I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, […]

No Quarter

As long as I’m shirking serious duties here today, I offer another amusing item, courtesy of my son Nick.

Having a Ball

Here in Gotham, where we have the best of everything, we flatter ourselves that our great city is America’s premier culinary destination. Not so; we have been eclipsed, for the moment at least, by Elderon, Wisconsin (pop. 189), home of the Testicle Festival. Learn more here. Related content from Sphere

Time is Going Real, Real Slow

Making good once again on my offer of weightless froth, here, with a hat tip to Jon Mandell, is a preposterous little item, involving a police officer who confiscated some marijuana, baked it into brownies, and shared them with his wife. Hilarity ensues. Related content from Sphere

Q & A

Q: Should one attempt to write a post at the end of a long and active day, when one has just got home, at 11:15 p.m., from taking one’s elderly mother-in-law to a lavish and bibulous birthday dinner at a delightful Manhattan restaurant? A: No. Related content from Sphere

You’re Always On That Computer

One of the advantages of being a well-connected Internet sort is that people are constantly sending me interesting tidbits. From my friend Nick, who also provided yesterday’s Polka Floyd item, is one I hadn’t run across before (don’t know how I missed it, as it is right in amongst all the sorts of things I […]

Careful With That Kielbasa, Eugene

Well, I promised you all some froth, and here it is. Tonight we have, courtesy of my childhood friend Nick Nicholes, who now lives in a scenic vale in remotest Montana, a polka band that does Pink Floyd covers, and pretty well too. No quadrophonic mixes, though; you’ll just have to use your imagination. Related […]

Paying Attention To Attention

Here’s an interesting item. It seems that neuroscientists are getting around to a more detailed study of attention, a topic that, as I’ve previously mentioned, has been known to be central for inner work in meditative traditions for a long, long, time. (It is also a sort of universal human currency, as I argue here.) […]

Descartes Before The Horse

I’ve finally had a chance to get back to considering Titus Rivas’s paper, in which he and Hein van Dongen argue that the mind-brain model known as epiphenomenalism — which says that subjective mental phenomena are indeed ontologically real, that they are “irreducible” to physical processes, and that they exert no causal influence on the […]

Brain to the Grindstone

We are back home, and this week, with a slightly freer evening schedule, might offer some quiet time for serious study and comment, I hope. In addition to other pending items, I have just read, finally, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, and ought to say a thing or two about it here. I see […]

Beats Working

Today was, like yesterday, a day to set aside introspection, brooding and contemplation; a day to live life rather than examine it.

Playing Hooky

We are back in Wellfleet today (having driven up from Gotham late last night), and it would be hard to imagine more clement surroundings. It is still too early in the season for there to be many people here on the outer Cape, and for those who had the good sense to be here, today […]

Kiss of the Spider Woman

We’re traveling again tonight, so for now I’ll just offer readers an uplifting news item, in which we are told that South American doctors can immediately spot male patients who have been bitten by the Brazilian wandering spider. Apparently, their symptom precedes them. Learn more here. P.S. We wish to reassure you that this post’s […]

Keeping the Faith

With a tip of the waka waka waka tam o’shanter to our old friend Jess Kaplan, we have further evidence of the beneficial effect of religion upon the world. Today the spotlight is on one Sheik Ahmad Bahr, acting Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who in a sermon on Friday offered an inspiring example […]

Is That A Corskscrew In Your Pocket,
Or Are You Just Glad To See Me?

We will return to weightier matters as soon as time permits, but meanwhile: You may think you know plenty about duck phalluses, but you have nothing on one Dr. Patricia Brennan, who has made the study of the anatine willy her life’s work. Most male birds, in fact, are entirely ajohnsonal, but ducks buck this […]