Monthly Archives: November 2010

Christopher Hitchens On Scan-and-Grope

Writing in Slate, Christopher Hitchens rails at the foolish and humiliating measures we have imposed on ourselves in our bumbling, ill-guided quest for airline security. We read: When the best that the children of a revolution can do for the defense of their inalienable protection against unwarranted search and seizure is to issue the pathetic […]

Stumbling Block

Have you read Julian Jaynes’s provocative 1977 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind? In it the author, a Princeton psychologist, argued that human self-consciousness — the real McCoy, the “I am, and I am aware that I am” reflective consciousness that is, for us, the essence of being human, […]

The Gropes Of Wrath

In a recent editorial about the airport-security brouhaha, the Times reiterates the usual liberal cant as regards profiling. We read: Seeing conservative Republicans accuse the Obama administration of trying too hard to protect America from terrorists is a remarkable spectacle of contortion. But many of them are making a far more pernicious point. They want […]

Stux Redux

A little while back we posted an item about the purpose of the sophisticated “Stuxnet” computer virus, which appears to have been aimed at Iran’s nuclear program. Everybody agrees it was one hell of a piece of work. Now, here’s an update on how it did what it did. This is some serious programming, folks. […]

Happy Thanksgiving

To all. And my thanks to you, readers.

Nuts To You!

I’m working late again tonight, and haven’t had the time to write anything interesting, or to work on any of the longer posts I’ve been gestating. So here’s some truly shameless filler. Related content from Sphere

Flight Risk

Because of our reluctance to take a more commonsense approach to airport screening, fliers now have two choices: groping of their privates by the TSA, or exposure to full-body X-ray scanners that not only amount to a visual strip-search, but also subject passengers (especially those who fly often) to worrisome levels of radiation. We have […]

Brave New World

We’re back from our brief getaway, but after the long drive home I’m too pooped to post. So for tonight, here’s a heartening vision of humanity’s future: a legion of adoring fans lifted to ecstasy by a singing hologram in the form of a pubescent, pigtailed puttana. Related content from Sphere

The High Road

The lovely Nina and I are recuperating in the Outer Cape for the weekend, so there’ll be none of the usual long-winded bloviation here for now. Instead, here’s an enjoyable diversion, featuring an extraordinary young Scotsman and some lovely footage of my ancestral homeland. Related content from Sphere

Larry Evans, 1932-2010

Yesterday’s paper brought more sad news: the death of American chess grandmaster Larry Evans. Mr. Evans, though never quite in the uppermost echelon of world-championship candidates, was nevertheless among the strongest players in the world for decades, and was a frequent U.S. champion. He was also a prolific and beloved author, columnist, and analyst; I […]

Allan Sandage, 1926-2010

Astronomy lost one of its most luminous stars on Saturday with the death of Allan Sandage, protégé of Edwin Hubble, and one of the greatest observers of all time. From Dennis Overbye’s obituary in the Times: Over more than six decades, Dr. Sandage was like one of those giant galaxies that sit at the center […]

First As Farce

President Obama published a children’s book today, called Of Thee I Sing. In the book, which takes the form of a “tender, beautiful letter to his daughters”, he praises various figures from American history. We note in passing that among the “great Americans” profiled is Sitting Bull, who is best known for having led a […]


It appears that the linked video in our recent post Is This A Great Civilization, Or What? wasn’t working for some readers. I’ve since found it on YouTube, and updated the link. Related content from Sphere

Fine Motor Control

Readers may recall the “Stuxnet” computer virus that appeared in the news a few months ago. It was widely assumed that the malware was aimed, probably by Israel, at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant. The code has now been very thoroughly analyzed, and it seems it had a tightly focused purpose: to sabotage uranium-refinement centrifuges by […]

Is This a Great Civilization, Or What?

OK, readers, here it is, all in one: what we’re fighting for, and why we’ll win. Have a look. If this isn’t the zenith of human endeavor, I don’t know what is. (Yet another hat-tip to the indefatigable JK.) Related content from Sphere

There On The Sad Height

Writing in The Guardian, journalist Andrew Anthony has just published a recent interview with Christopher Hitchens — who though ravaged by cancer refuses to go gentle, and whose words still fork some lightning. An excerpt: “I learned that very often the most intolerant and narrow-minded people are the ones who congratulate themselves on their tolerance […]

Unhappy Wanderers

The importance of mindfulness — the mastery of one’s attention, and the practiced ability to maintain conscious awareness of our subjective experience in the present moment — is a major principle of Buddhism, Sufism, the Gurdjieff work, and, I suspect, just about every esoteric system of inner development. (I’ve mentioned it before, for example here […]

Follow-up Question

Here in New York City, we stand in a lot of lines. The customary procedure — at, say, one of our archetypal delis, during lunch hour — has always been for the person behind the counter to holler “NEXT!!!” when it’s time for the queue to shuffle forward. It’s blunt, simple, and gets right to […]


In today’s science news, a huge pair of melon-shaped objects has the boffins goggling in amazement. “They’re big,” said Doug Finkbeiner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who has been studying them intently. “Wow,” said Princeton’s David Spergel. Story here. Related content from Sphere

Inside Job

Among the myriad wavelets in last week’s conservative electoral tsunami was a measure passed in Oklahoma banning the application of sharia, or Islamic law, in that state. Sharia, you say? In Oklahoma?? Fair enough. But the referendum was inspired, no doubt, by a look around at other theoretically secular Western polities such as England, in […]

Lily, Painted

I’ve twice mentioned my mother-in-law, Lily Renée Phillips, in these pages — first here, a few years back, and then again just a few months ago, when an article about her appeared in Newsweek. Now, fittingly, she has herself appeared in a panel of a syndicated comic strip, which was found and sent our way […]

Looking Back

Here’s Leon Russell, in a clip from the old TV show Shindig! I was eight years old. Related content from Sphere

Don’t Get Cocky

Charles Krauthammer has written a good piece on the recent election. In particular he makes clear that this is very definitely not Republican Beatlemania: This is not, however, a rejection of Democrats as a party. The center-left party as represented by Bill Clinton remains competitive in every cycle. (Which is why he was the most […]

A Jolly Good Sport

You may not have visited the popular left-wing website The Daily Kos for while; perhaps you have formed the opinion that it was nothing more than a soapbox for unhinged, spittle-flecked, anti-establishment moonbats. If so, you will be pleasantly surprised to read this gracious post, published by ethnic bridge-builder Tim Wise on the occasion of […]

As Good As It Gets

“To err is human.” When it comes to what we do, there’s usually plenty of room for improvement. But when it comes to what we are, it turns out that isn’t always the case. Natalie Angier explains. Related content from Sphere

Not Just A Place

Ah, Election Night at last! The wigs are accumulating on the green even as I write. It will be some time before the casualty count is tallied, however — so for tonight, we need a little diversion, with an appropriately conservative theme. I’ve found just the thing, from the fertile pen of John Derbyshire, who, […]

A Class By Itself

We’ve been hearing an awful lot during this election cycle about our aloof “elites” (a demographic segment that generally overlaps what Scott Rasmussen defines as “the political class”). Members of the group in question understandably bristle at the characterization, preferring to imagine that they are the salt of the earth. (“Elite? Moi??”) In case you […]