Monthly Archives: January 2008

Friends Of Bill

I’ve been nettled for years by the near-worship with which Bill Clinton has traditionally been regarded in these parts; if you ask most of my neighbors in Park Slope or Wellfleet, the man can simply do no wrong. This has always puzzled me, because although he is obviously highly intelligent and possessed of a certain […]

Rudy Can Fail

By now you’ve probably heard that our ex-mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was recently anointed, amid much controversy, by the waka waka waka editorial board as our favorite, has dropped out of the presidential race. Related content from Sphere

The Evening Went Without a Hitch

Well, I’m a tad chopfallen tonight. My friend Duncan Werner had mentioned to me yesterday that there was going to be a debate this evening, at the 92nd Street Y, between Christopher Hitchens and one Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on the question Does God Really Exist? I thought this would be a good scrap, so I […]

Hell Hath No Fury

In a touching display of mutual link-love, I urge readers to drop everything and read Kevin Kim’s salty critique of the New York chapter of NOW, which recently issued a girly, self-pitying whinge about Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama. Why they should even mind being spurned by a pompous, Falstaffian cad who left an […]

Ups And Downs

In today’s mail our old friend Jess Kaplan has sent along a link to some breaking news about happiness. Apparently, according to a recent study by an international team of researchers, we are least happy in middle age: The British and U.S. researchers found that happiness for people ranging from Albania to Zimbabwe follows a […]

The Sporting News

Are you one of those people who listen to the news all the time? Think you have your finger on the pulse of the nation? If you answered “yes” to these questions, and are also a compulsive gambler, here’s your website. Related content from Sphere

Off Season

It’s ten p.m., and the memsahib and I have just got back to Brooklyn after spending a couple of days in the outer reaches of Cape Cod.

Dutch Treat

For you chess enthusiasts, here is a video analysis, by GM Nick de Firmian, of an outstanding game between World Champion Vishy Anand and the rising young Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, from the elite Wijk an Zee tournament. Related content from Sphere

Active Wares

From our old friend Peter Kranzler comes a link to a wildly creative Dutch merchandising website. Have a look here.

Speech Crime

Dennis Mangan calls our attention to another depressing instance of Draconian speech-policing, this time at Brandeis University.

Please, Make Them Go Away

Having wearied, apparently, of cat-burning the Bushies, Times columnist Maureen Dowd has lately found new sport in that “two-headed monster”, the Clintons. It’s a felicitous choice: I’ve had enough of these two to last a lifetime, Bill in particular. Today’s entry here. Related content from Sphere

Zero Sum

There are those who would have us believe that the root causes of Islamic terrorism are poverty and political oppression, and that if we Americans weren’t such swaggering imperialists, and could just get along a little more amicably with other cultures, we’d have less to worry about. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Our […]


That video clip I linked to yesterday has reminded me of a small triumph from my boyhood.

Twist And Shout

As sometimes happens, I’ve come to the end of a long day, and the well is dry. But a friend sent me a link that’s worth a few minutes of your time: some awfully dramatic footage taken by a group of tornado-chasers. (Best line: “Oh no… the structures…”) Have a look here. Related content from […]

No Easy Way Out

Today’s Times features a thoughtful article about the presidential campaign and the struggle in Iraq. It’s by Michael Gordon, who has spent a great deal of time there ever since the beginning of the war, and who undoubtedly has a better understanding of the “facts on the ground” than any of the candidates (not to […]

Bobby Fischer, 1943-2008

Here is Bobby Fischer’s obituary, from today’s New York Times. The renowned chess teacher Bruce Pandolfini† had this to say: “After 1972, we lost so many great pieces of art,” said Mr. Pandolfini, the chess teacher, “hundreds of masterpieces he would have created if he had stayed a sane being. We feel the great loss. […]


Having followed a link posted by Kevin Kim that led indirectly to a brief interview with Steven Pinker, I’ve just spent a chunk of this quiet Saturday afternoon watching some other interviews as well. The interlocutor is the irascible buffoon Stephen Colbert, who would be utterly unbearable if he weren’t also so clever. The list […]

News Of The War

Here’s something I ran across the other day: the wartime letters of one William Henry Bonser Lamin, an English soldier who fought in World War I. His letters, found by a descendant, are being published 90 years to the day from the time each was sent home. We don’t know yet how things will turn […]


This just in (thanks to my friend Jess K. for alerting me): Bobby Fischer is dead.

Bill Of Goods

In his recent New York Times Magazine article on the evolutionary and biological underpinnings of morality, Steven Pinker acknowledges the nihilistic shadows nearby, and, like other popularizers of Darwinian naturalism, reassures us that we needn’t worry. I think he’s right — we needn’t — but not for the reasons he suggests. Related content from Sphere


Here is a short and disturbing story: The Riddle of the Universe and its Solution, by Christopher Cherniak. I sometimes wish I hadn’t read it.

Mercury Voyager

NASA’s MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging) vehicle made a close pass by the innermost planet today, executing a gravitational “slingshot” maneuver in preparation for an orbital insertion on on March 18, 2011, after which it will settle in for some long-term observations. As it passed by, it photographed parts of the planet […]

Pinker, Pinker, Literary Star

It’s “all Pinker, all the time” in our little corner of the blogosphere at the moment. Kevin Kim, who has among his many interests the puzzle of consciousness, directs our attention to a sally by Pinker against the dualists. Here. Related content from Sphere


I was hoping to have some time for a meaty post tonight about that article by Steven Pinker, but I didn’t get home from work until eleven this evening, and I’m just too tired to spend a couple of hours writing. So, having mentioned “chi sao” in one of yesterday’s posts, I’ll just share with […]

Moral Truths

As promised, Steven Pinker has written what I think will be seen as a a fairly important article for the New York Times Magazine about human morality. Having banged on the topic of morality a great deal myself lately, I encourage all of you to read it. I found little to disagree with, though his […]

Sticky Situation

Having spent the morning judging brown- and black-belt tests out at the Clifton, New Jersey branch of Yee’s Hung Ga, I’ve got martial arts on my mind today, and thought I’d offer those of you who have an interest in this stuff an informative video clip. Related content from Sphere

To Live Better, Die Well

Perhaps some of our Korean correspondents might like to weigh on in this odd practice.

This Space Blank

I’ve had no time for writing, so no post today. But if you’d like a little more insight into yesterday’s Surprise Quiz Paradox and related matters, have a look here, here, and here. The great Martin Gardner (if you don’t know about him, you should) wrote a book long ago called The Unexpected Hanging and […]


Here’s an irritating little conundrum.

Peering Into The Abyss

Dr. William Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher upon whose posts we often comment in these pages, has put up a good one today on the topic of God and evil. He makes an important distinction, one that people often fail to keep in mind, between what is called the “argument from evil” and its close cousin, […]


I’ve just run across a website that might have interesting possibilities. It’s called BigThink, and its aim is to be a sort of online multimedia venue for the exchange of Ideas. I’ve only just started poking around in it, so I haven’t anything much to say about it so far — and being so new […]

Thinking Caps On

A co-worker just sent me this little brainteaser:

Killing ‘Em Softly

We read here that the Supreme Court is considering the legality of the most widely used method of lethal injection, on the grounds that it may cause undue suffering to the party being executed, thereby running afoul of the Constitutional proscription regarding “cruel and unusual” punishment. Related content from Sphere


There are two interesting editorial items in the Wall Street Journal this morning. Some of you won’t like them — particularly the first one, because it is by Fouad Ajami, whose viewpoint is far from neutral, and because it says some good things about George Bush, and about our recent adventures in the East. (There […]

Pass The Corn, Ruth

After twenty-five years or so of making my living in recording studios, I decided, a few years back, with two kids to put through college and the recording industry in ruins, to take up software engineering. I taught myself the programming language C++, and managed to get a new career off the ground (though I […]

Short Shrift

A little while ago I ran across an interesting, if rather sad, item in the daily newsletter, having to do with the small stature of pygmies. Previous notions had been that having such wee bodies better adapted them to food shortages, or to moving about in dense forests, but neither of these explanations has […]

Search Me

As each new year begins I enjoy looking back at all the search keyphrases that have brought readers by for a visit in the previous twelve months. According to my server’s statistics-gathering software, there were 1379 of them in 2007 (although, annoyingly, it only explicitly displays the first thousand). As usual, it’s an odd assortment, […]

Note To Commenters

Our reader and commenter Charles, proprietor of the excellent weblog Liminality, has pointed out that the little “Captcha” feature that I am forced to use in order to block comment spam is a time-wasting nuisance. So I’d like to remind all of you that you can register here for a login of your own, which […]

Life Just Keeps Getting Better

I apologize for my tendency to bang away on certain topics without respite sometimes; I’ve done this in the past with things like mind-body dualism, and seem to be on a bit of tear about religious faith lately. These issues really nag at me: they seem important, and religion in particular is far more than […]

I Vas Only Following Orders

We wrote recently on the “problem of evil”, and argued that it is hardly necessary that good and evil be absolute, objective features of the world for subjective beings like us to have difficulty reconciling the notion of an omnipotent, loving, and infinitely merciful God with the gruesome and arbitrary suffering we see all around […]

Q and A

One of the most interesting features of the website has been the Edge Annual Question, which each year presents a stimulating question to an assortment of the world’s brightest minds. Past posers have included What Do You Believe Is True Even Though You Cannot Prove It?, What Questions Have Disappeared?, What Is The Most […]

I’m Damned To Hell, And I Vote!

Our friend The Stiletto wonders, in a recent post, how an irreligious voter might go about selecting a candidate, given the way they’ve been elbowing each other aside to crow about their faith: † Romney Didn’t Win Any Converts: Rarely does someone get the chance truly to see things from another’s perspective. Having read as […]