Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Big Chill

I must say there has hardly been a time in the last ten years or more that I have disconnected myself more thoroughly from the welter and bustle of the world. I have hardly glanced at a newspaper for weeks now, and aside from switching the radio on every so often to check the weather, […]

So Happy Together

While everyone else is moping about the death of Ted Kennedy (well, maybe not everybody; Mary Jo Kopechne, for one, could not be reached for comment), here at waka waka waka we are enjoying some good news, courtesy of our friend and esteemed colleague The Stiletto. We all know, of course, that binge drinking is […]

Town Hall Blues

Required reading: an outstanding essay on the Obama presidency by Fouad Adjami in today’s WSJ. I’m working today, so can’t comment at length myself just now, but readers are invited to weigh in below. The gist: Mr. Obama, carried into power on a tide of anxiety and guilt, misjudges the fundamental nature of American politics […]

The Narrow Way

Regular visitors to these pages will know that, in sharp contrast to the shallowness and frivolity of most weblogs, we concern ourselves here only with serious matters of the utmost philosophical import and urgency. In particular, we know that many of you turn, sometimes in bleak existential despair, to waka waka waka as place where […]

Quicker Than The Eye

From my daughter Chloë comes a link to a dazzling video showing the state of the art in robotic manipulation of small objects. Here.

Nothing To See Here

Though I am languishing on vacation and producing next to nothing (aside from an efflorescence of unshaven whiskers that a friend referred to yesterday as “beach fuzz”), our friend H. Jeffery Hodges, the Gypsy Scholar, has been doing exactly the opposite, offering some excellent posts on a variety of consequential topics. Here, here, here, and […]

Back To School

In response to a recent post about the persistent backwardness of the Arab world, commenters and correspondents have suggested that the problem is not Islam itself, but the “culture of honor” that prevails amongst Arabs (and which has been shown also to be at work in the American South, with arguably similar retrograde effects). Non-Arab […]

Marion Barry Is Alive And Well

Here’s a heartwarming item: it appears that 95% of the dollar bills circulating in Washington, D.C. carry traces of cocaine.

Beyond QM?

Now and then a blip appears on the screen that just might be something awfully big headed our way; on reading about this just now, I’m wondering if the name “Tim Palmer” mightn’t be a lot more familiar ere long. Related content from Sphere

Duty Calls

We’ve relocated to the narrow land of the Outer Cape for the next three weeks or so, and unfortunately we have such a full schedule that these pages may be updated only sporadically. There is simply too much else that needs doing: oysters must be gathered, beaches lazed upon, drinks prepared, friends entertained, photons absorbed, […]

Know What I Mean?

A few weeks back there was an interesting article by Natalie Angier in the science section of the Times, about a familiar word whose meaning, as it turns out, is not at all clear. Related content from Sphere

Les Paul, 1915-2009

We mark with sadness the death of the venerated guitarist and technical innovator Les Paul, who has shuffled off the mortal coil (was that dual or single?) at the age of 94. I owe more to him than most, as he was the inventor of multitrack recording, an arcane craft by which I earned a […]

Let’s Be Frank

Our friend H. Jeffery Hodges, who writes thoughtfully about the problem that Islam poses to the rest of the world, has been doing so again lately. In posts here, here, and here, he discusses the book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West, by the Weekly Standard’s Christopher Caldwell. Related content […]

God Must Love The Poor

There’s a dark but timely discussion underway at Mangan’s, kindled by this Washington Post item. Here.

The Scale We’re All Drawn To

Back in 1994 or thereabouts, it was my pleasure to spend a few weeks recording and mixing the Bobby McFerrin album Bang! Zoom!. The album, a collaboration with the band the Yellowjackets, has remained one of my favorites — not only because of the high quality of the music, and the fun I had recording […]


Here’s a strange relic, from a century ago, that was mentioned in the Times recently: The Anglo-American Telegraphic Code. Back when communication-by-wire was new and edgy technology, its users devised, as a way to keep messages small, a mapping of thousands of words — some of them ordinary English words, others made-to-order — onto various […]

Amazing Grace

A very short distance from my house, just inside Prospect Park up at the end of the block, is the 9th Street Bandshell. Every summer it is home to the Celebrate Brooklyn concert series, and it seems that each year the lineup gets better and better. Tonight the lovely Nina and I strolled up there […]

Frontier Justice

According to reports, a U.S. airstrike may actually have killed the Pakistani Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud, the de facto ruler of South Waziristan. Confirmation is still pending, but if true this is news that will be received with grim satisfaction in many quarters. Baitullah was one of the most brutal and dangerous men in the […]

What Could It Be?

In today’s New York Times, Tom Friedman comments on the U.N. Development Program’s Arab Human Development Report, which first came out in 2002, and which has just been updated. Apparently the news is not good; it seems that, for some reason, the Arab world is rather a depressed and backward place. Related content from Sphere

Ladies’ Man

Bill Clinton, who has always had a gift for picking up women, has done it again, even if this time he had to travel a bit farther afield. I’m certainly glad that the two hostages, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, have been released, and I suppose it would be churlish of me not to give […]

…So Little Time

YouTube has just launched what looks like an wonderful resource for the insatiable autodidact: an educational site where users can find free online videos from colleges and universities. Read all about it. Meanwhile, for you videophiles whose preferences lean more toward matters military (or if you just like to watch stuff blow up), reader JK […]

Smack! Whinny!

Forgive me for beating a dead horse, but British physician and writer

No-Man Band

There’s an item at CNN today about a mechanical music-maker called Cybraphon. It’s the product of a few months of work by a Scottish artist’s collective, and I think it’s rather a nifty bit of work. Automated music-making is obviously nothing new — music boxes, band organs, and hurdy-gurdys have been around for ages, and […]

“A Miniature Orchestra In Itself”

With a hat tip to bassist Alex Wan, here’s something enjoyable and instructive: Queen’s Bohemian Rahpsody, arranged for the classical guitar by one Edgar Cruz. Most impressive. Related content from Sphere