Readers will be aware that I’m recovering, slowly, from having my left knee replaced. (It’ll be three weeks tomorrow since the surgery.) The operation was actually a redo of the original job, last March, which turned out to have been botched.

Total knee replacement is major surgery — it inflicts a grievous wound, and the recovery is slow and painful. For several weeks the patient must take strong medications for pain. That makes it hard to concentrate without fatigue, and, for me at least, it made reading and writing productively all but impossible.

To pass the time, then, I found myself listening to the radio a lot. And the best thing about that, both this time around and last, has been listening to John Batchelor in the evenings. If you’ve never heard his show, I recommend it to you all; it’s on the air for four hours, six days a week, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Eastern time.

Mr. Batchelor is something of a political conservative, but that’s not the attraction here: he is a cultured man of high intelligence, with a roving curiosity that seems to touch upon, if you listen long enough, just about every topic imaginable. (This isn’t to say he doesn’t have particular interests, though: he does, and they are history, global politics, strategic security, and space exploration.) He is joined every night by erudite guests, and the conversation is always entertaining and informative. It’s real, old-fashioned, grown-up stuff, and you should tune in sometime. You can hear him during broadcast hours by going to the WABC-AM website and catching the live stream, or download podcasts from his own site.

I’m grateful to John Batchelor for easing many weary and uncomfortable evenings. If there’s a bright side to knee arthroplasty, this is it.


  1. Whitewall says

    Malcolm, will this surgery put an end to your martial arts participation?

    Posted February 1, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink
  2. Perhaps Malcolm’s new bionic knee will make his martial arts more lethal?

    Posted February 1, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  3. Whitewall says

    Henry, I’m wondering because I have just begun a Seniors “self defense” class at the same place Senior’s yoga is offered. If Seniors/yoga offers a frightening mental image, imagine seniors and elementary self defense imagery….We are being taught by a 73 year old guy who has done many different martial arts his entire life. Basic stances, steps and the kicks and then punches-at the air-are proving to be painful for my knees and hips. I am going to stick with it as I have never done these things before.

    Posted February 1, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink
  4. Kudzu Bob says

    Your post made me think of Hemingway’s “The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio.” I’d link to the story, but I’m sure you have a copy of it somewhere. The protagonist’s situation is quite similar to your current one.

    As for John Calvin Batchelor (as he was then known), back in the 1980s he used to be a respected, albeit impoverished, Manhattan novelist, author of The Birth of the People’s Republic of Antarctica, the engrossing and dystopian tale of refugees from a vaguely described near-future social collapse who end up stranded in the Falkland Islands, as well as Peter Nevsky and the True Story of the Russian Moon Landing, the brilliant fictional account of a doomed secret attempt by three mad, courageous Soviet cosmonauts to beat Apollo 11 to the Moon.

    Despite excellent reviews, both titles had been out of print for ten years years before I stumbled across them…in the discard bin at a used bookstore. Like that of so many other talented writers, his career had fizzled out, seemingly through no fault of his own. Those two books stayed on my mind for a long time after I finished them, and so did the sadness of thinking that somebody that gifted probably ended up an embittered failure, maybe writing ad copy or teaching freshman comp at Directional State University.

    Imagine my surprise when I found out that Batchelor had shed his middle name to become a highly rated talk show host on WABC, of all things. Well, good for him, I thought, and gave his program a listen. His book reviews and interviews are indeed superb, just as you say, but he toes the Neocon party line so faithfully as he talks up American Exceptionalism, the wonders of immigration, and the necessity for the US to exhaust itself fighting an endless series of stupid wars in the Middle East that the only word to describe Batchelor when he deals with these subjects is “cartoonish.”

    Frankly, the man baffles me.

    Posted February 1, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says


    Yes, I part company with Batchelor when it comes to these topics. I was far more sympathetic to neoconservatism and “the wonders of immigration” ten years ago, but I’ve learned a great deal since then, and my views have changed.

    The key there is where one stands on human biodiversity. If you have a more or less universalist view regarding human neurological uniformity — as I used to — then both neoconservatism and indiscriminate immigration policies make a lot more sense. Open your eyes to the realities of human diversity, though, and suddenly the scene shifts dramatically — and history, and the world’s intractable problems, immediately make a lot more sense.

    Unfortunately, that road-to-Damascus experience is made a thousand times more difficult by the social opprobrium attached to any opinion other than blithe universalism.

    Thanks for the background on John Batchelor. I hadn’t known anything about his past.

    Posted February 1, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says


    No, this won’t affect my participation in martial arts; I’ll still train and teach. I’m unable to do some of the more gymnastic movements in our “forms” (for example, there are places where one must crouch all the way down, then leap into the air while spinning a spear or kwan-dao overhead), but I’ve had trouble with those since I originally tore up the knee back in ’96, and that’s stuff’s just razzle-dazzle, mostly, anyway. The heart of the Hung Gar system is solid stance, complex hand techniques, bone-crushing blocking, and internal power — and none of that is affected here (well, stance is, but only until I get back in shape).

    Posted February 1, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink
  7. Kudzu Bob says

    The key there is where one stands on human biodiversity.

    Indeed. I find it impossible to believe that the famously well-read Batchelor has never come across The Bell Curve. Moreover, on multiple occasions he has had as his guest science writer Nicholas Wade, who not only touches on race differences in his books (although the subject mysteriously never comes up during his appearances on Batchelor’s program) but is also said to have been a member of Steve Sailer’s Human Biodiversity Institute.

    My best guess is that Batchelor’s unwillingness to Go There has more than a little to do with his fear that he might once more be reduced to subsisting on peanut butter sandwiches. Comfort makes cowards of us all.

    Posted February 1, 2016 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  8. Malcolm says

    I forgive him. There’s much more to his show than these topics. Also, he’s not young, and it’s hard for me to blame him for not wanting to bring the temple crashing down on his head.

    Posted February 1, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  9. I don’t know anything about Batchelor, but I salute your willingness to give a senior citizen some slack in his “golden years”.

    Posted February 1, 2016 at 5:34 pm | Permalink
  10. I watched his latest video where he’d invited some renminbi (China currency) shorter – apparently the hedge funds are all doing it: “there’s no floor / no limit to how low it can go / crisis of confidence”. Sure, China is troubled and there’s uncertainty about the real underlying value, but this guest sounds self-serving + untrustworthy. Registers as a trader talking his book. So he gets people on to say interesting things – that’s nice. But people mislead all the time.

    Posted February 1, 2016 at 10:14 pm | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says

    There does seem to be a bit of what some are calling a “sinkhole” forming in the Asian currencies.

    Look, I’m not saying the man is some sort of oracle. I’m just saying he’s an intelligent and cultured guy, with a broad range of interests, who has a radio show that I like, and that helped me pass some difficult hours.

    Posted February 1, 2016 at 11:04 pm | Permalink
  12. Kudzu Bob says

    Everything you say about Batchelor is true, and I often listen to his show, especially his interviews with writers. No one’s bookchat is better. His recent segment with Tom McGuane was outstanding.

    When you feel up to it, do yourself a favor and get a copy of his superb Peter Nevsky novel, which was criminally neglected when it appeared.

    And above all, get well soon. Perhaps taking a hyaluronic acid supplement will help speed up your recovery.

    PS. I have admired your work here for a long time, although I seldom if ever comment.

    Posted February 2, 2016 at 12:01 am | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    Thanks, KB, I’m coming along very well.

    I think hyaluronic acid only helps biological joints, with intact joint capsules. Mine’s 100% metal-on-plastic now.

    Posted February 2, 2016 at 12:07 am | Permalink
  14. Whitewall says

    The John Batchelor I have been familiar with is a restaurant reviewer in NC and an occasional book writer. He also taught in the public school system in my area some years ago. There must be two JBs.

    Posted February 2, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *