Sunday, October 30, 2011

John Derbyshire:
I need to pause here to explain my utter failure as a consumer. I am totally the wrong person to be living in a consumer society. I buy things only when I need them and cannot get them otherwise. Then I use them until they disintegrate. My car is a 1993 Mercury. My TV is a 1992 Sony Trinitron, humongous old glass tube in wooden cabinet: it needs two healthy adult males to lift it. My bicycle was given to me by a neighbor who moved house seven years ago; it had been at the back of his garage so long he'd forgotten he owned it.

. . . I tell you, if my habits of consumption were the norm among Americans, our economy — not to mention China's — would have collapsed long since even without the attentions of Messrs. Obama, Geithner, and Bernanke.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

There's an old joke whose punch line is "So men will talk to them." Women used to find it offensive. Do they still? I ask because if this is any indication, the message has gone mainstream.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Daniel Pipes:
Those who want a genuine counterterrorism policy must work to remove the Left and the multiculturalists from government.
He's right. We on the Right make plenty of mistakes as to national security, but those mistakes tend to involve tactics or strategy, not overall purpose. Leftists are wrong at their core.

A relevant thought from military strategist Edward Luttwak:
The paradoxical logic of strategy contradicts the logic of everyday life, it goes against all normal definitions of intelligence we have. It only makes sense if you understand the dialectic. If you want peace, prepare for war. If you actively want war, disarm yourself, and then you’ll get war. Virile and martial elites understand that kind of thinking instinctively.
(Second link via John Derbyshire.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Somewhere, Sarah Connor is stockpiling ammunition:
An interdisciplinary team of scientists . . . [has demonstrated] that a computer can analyze raw experimental data from a biological system and derive the basic mathematical equations that describe the way the system operates. . . .

One of Eureqa's initial achievements was identifying the basic laws of motion by analyzing the motion of a double pendulum. What took Sir Isaac Newton years to discover, Eureqa did in a few hours when running on a personal computer.
Skynet nears.

(Edited since originally posted.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

From an excerpt of a book about British mathematical genius Simon Phillips Norton:
In mathematics [classes], of course, Simon understood everything he was taught, and divined the rest. In Greek and Latin (as so often with mathematicians) he was a vacuum cleaner. It's the subjects that Simon couldn't do that are interesting. It barely needs saying: sport was Simon's worst subject. "During a game of cricket, he spends his time counting blades of grass or calculating angles," said one report. But in history, a subject you'd think would appeal to his excellent memory and obsession with fact-gathering and numbers, Simon was at sea. "I could never understand what history was about," says Simon. "Why were they always fighting over a field?"
(Via Newmark's Door.)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A humbling question from talk-show host Cam Edwards:
Steve Jobs changed the world in less than 56 years. What are you going to do with the time you have left?
And this post from Kevin Williamson, reflecting on Jobs's accomplishments, is great:
I was down at the Occupy Wall Street protest today, and never has the divide between the iPhone world and the politics world been so clear: I saw a bunch of people very well-served by their computers and telephones (very often Apple products) but undeniably shortchanged by our government-run cartel education system. And the tragedy for them — and for us — is that they will spend their energy trying to expand the sphere of the ineffective, hidebound, rent-seeking, unproductive political world, giving the Barney Franks and Tom DeLays an even stronger whip hand over the Steve Jobses and Henry Fords. And they — and we — will be poorer for it.

And to the kids camped out down on Wall Street: Look at the phone in your hand. Look at the rat-infested subway. Visit the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, then visit a housing project in the South Bronx. Which world do you want to live in?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Terry Teachout on why people still write plays.

Also, two good quotes from playwright Alan Bennett.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

From an article about director Michael Bay:
[Producer Jennifer] Klein: There's this scene [in the movie Bad Boys] where Will Smith runs down a street, and at the first test screening in Lakewood, California, women were screaming because Smith's shirt is flying open. That was it. He was a star. [. . .]

Smith: That was the moment for me where I learned how important single images are. That single image took me from a comedic television actor to a potential movie star. The scripts that I started to get offered changed dramatically. It was the first time that I heard women react to me with an audible gasp. There was a transformation from the cute guy next door who could make you laugh to a guy who might be able to handle himself in a bar fight and a bedroom.
(Via Newmark's Door.)
Andrew Ferguson, in a review of Dick Cheney’s memoir:
[Cheney] learned how to “work the press,” as he puts it, from the masters of the art. He watched with amusement the duel that played out between Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Henry Kissinger in James Reston’s New York Times column. (The weapon of choice was blind quotes at twenty paces.) He noticed the haplessness of much of the national press—the short attention span imposed by the news cycle, the susceptibility to manipulation, the craving for superficiality, the professional solipsism—but accepted it as an occupational hazard, to be endured or, if possible, deployed to his own advantage.

In campaigns, he discovered, if your side is being hit by a damaging story, “the press will get off one negative story for another one,” so you provide reporters with a new, less damaging, though still negative, diversion. In domestic politics the journalistic appetite, as Cheney describes it, isn’t necessarily ideological: he gives examples of Republican manipulation of the campaign press, too. It’s simply a taste for troublemaking.

But as secretary of defense under the first President Bush, Cheney began to see that the press’s heedlessness was no longer a minor irritant when national security was involved. At several pivotal moments it became actively harmful to American military interests and imperiled the lives of American soldiers. During the 1989 invasion of Panama, to cite one often overlooked event, a group of American journalists who had entered the country on their own were trapped by Panamanian troops in the basement of a hotel. Journalists traveling with the U.S. military turned the plight of their fellow hacks into the invasion’s top story. “There were thirty-five thousand American civilians in Panama,” Cheney writes, “but the journalists at the Marriott became the center of attention.” The reporting made “it seem as if the military operation, which was generally going well, was somehow not succeeding.” Military units were diverted to rescue the trapped journalists—not because the reporters’ lives were in danger but to remove the distraction and put the press’s attention back on the invasion. Three soldiers were wounded in the rescue.

The experience in Panama and later during the Gulf War, Cheney writes, “deepened my conviction that the press ought not to be the final arbiter of whether we have won or lost a war”—or of how to fight it. Yet the final arbiter is precisely what today’s press yearns to be. It is a larger role than the press has traditionally filled, but the conceit is in keeping with a general process of self-aggrandizement. And it explains why Cheney, upon becoming vice president, resolved to speak with reporters as seldom as possible.