In Story of a Writer, the 1963 documentary on Ray Bradbury seen above, the author describes how downtime is crucial to his craft:
The time we have alone; the time we have in walking; the time we have in riding a bicycle; are the most important times for a writer. Escaping from a typewriter is part of the creative process. You have to give your subconscious time to think. Real thinking always occurs on the subconscious level.
I never consciously set out to write a certain story. The idea must originate somewhere deep within me and push itself out in its own time. Usually, it begins with associations. Electricity. The sea. Life started in the sea. Could the miracle occur again? Could life take hold in another environment? An electro-mechanical environment?
Paul Gallagher adds:
This was the kind of thinking that made Bradbury’s book so irresistible. Anything was possible with Bradbury. He had a joyous, child-like enthusiasm for life that infused his books, with a brilliance and pleasure, that makes them so very, very special.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories,” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451.
More quotes from Bradbury here. Previous Dish on the author here.
Lebanon is an interesting case and could be held up as a partial example for post-Assad Syria. It has never been unified. It never had a homegrown dictatorship. It never went through a socialist phase. Lebanon never wanted those things, never tried. It has a weak central state by design. That way, no one group can seize power and rule over the others. If anyone does seize power like Hezbollah recently did, it hardly makes any difference because the state’s teeth are so few and so small. Aside from Lebanon’s foreign policy shift, hardly anything changed after Hezbollah took over the government. Lebanon is still just as freewheeling and decadent as it was before. …
We shouldn’t forget that Syria’s borders were drawn not by Syrians, but by French imperialists.
Robert McCrum pens a tribute to W.G. Sebald, whose practice of mixing various genres of writing with images outlived him:
[H]ere’s the strange, and heartening, thing – and also the riposte to the cultural pessimists (vide supra). Sebald lives on. Uniquely, among so many recently deceased writers, he and his oeuvre have had a rich and productive afterlife. Now only did he, between 1992 (the German publication of Vertigo) and his untimely death (2001), move from total obscurity to international renown, he then posthumously proceeded to influence a whole generation of writers, in the best possible way, as a spirit and an example. Today, the influence of his work crops up all over the place, in the most surprising quarters. Most prominently, in the UK, he has inspired Will Self, Robert Macfarlane, and Iain Sinclair.
More than a decade after his death (he was just 57), hindsight suggests that his extraordinary, genre-bending “method”, that’s so bewitching and hypnotic, is fully in tune with the spirit of an age that likes to mash up words and music, video clips and archival documents.
Ángel Gurría-Quintana reviews a recently translated collection of works:
It is the piece on German-Swiss novelist Robert Walser (1878-1956) that most perfectly distils Sebald’s approach to his subjects. Remarking on the physical similarity between Walser and Sebald’s grandfather, and the fact that they died the same year, he wonders: “What is the significance of these similarities, overlaps and coincidences? Are they rebuses of the memory, delusions of the self and of the senses, or rather the schemes and symptoms of an order underlying the chaos of human relationships, and applying equally to the living and the dead, which lies beyond our comprehension?”
Fox is bringing back 24. Alyssa compares the show’s pro-torture scenes with torture story-lines in newer shows, which are unafraid to depict more sadistic horrors. On the treatment of one character in Game Of Thrones (spoilers below):
Mark Brown suggests that glorifying high-achievers with mental health difficulties may be more insensitive than inspiring:
Where the inspirational figure is selected for us, and the gap between their life and ours is too great, the effect is not one of encouragement but of disillusionment – especially if their story is told in terms of personal qualities like bravery or persistence.
The blogger Neuroskeptic takes Brown’s point – “‘He’s got it, and so do you, so you can be like him’ is perilously close to ‘He’s got it, and so do you, so you should be like him – what’s your excuse?’” – but maintains that celebrity sufferers contradict different stigmas in different ways:
In the case of depression, the core stigma is that depression is a weakness, a moral failing. That depressed people are soft, weak, pitiable. This attitude is specific to depression – not even bipolar disorder is seen in the same way, let alone the other diagnoses. They have their own stigmas. Depression’s is weakness.
Now this is why Churchill is a good counterexample. Not just because he’s famous or ‘great’, but because he was famously tough. He faced down Hitler. He was blood, sweat and tears. In the most famous photos of him (and they are famous, out of all his photos, because they correspond to the mental image) he is almost unsmiling – but never despairing. Just resolute.
That he experienced depression undermines the myths surrounding that condition, in a way that an entertainer or other generic celebrity wouldn’t.
(Photo: Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Charles De Gaulle, January 1944, via Wikimedia Commons)
[T]he biggest problem, of course, is that “race” is impossible to operationalize in a cross-national comparison. Whereas a homosexual, or an Evangelical Christian, or a heavy drinker, or a person with a criminal record, means more or less the same thing country to country, a person being of “another race” depends on constructs that vary widely, in both nature and level of perceived importance, country to country, and indeed, person to person. In other words, out of all of the many traits of difference for which the [World Values Survey] surveyed respondents’ tolerance, the Swedish economists – and Fisher, in their wake – managed to select for comparison the single most useless one.
Mitter thinks this is representative of broader problems in the blogosphere:
The specialty of foreign-affairs blogging is explaining to a supposedly uninformed public the complexities of the outside world. Because blogging isn’t reporting, nor is it subject to much editing (let alone peer review), posts like Fisher’s are particularly vulnerable to their author’s blind spots and risk endogenizing, instead of detecting and flushing out, the bullshit in their source material. What is presented as education is very likely to turn out, in reality, obfuscation.
This is an endemic problem across the massive middlebrow “Ideas” industry that has overwhelmed the Internet, taking over from more expensive activities like research and reporting. In that respect, Fisher’s work is a symptom, not a cause.
Honeybees are helping to uncover some of the 250,000 mines still buried across the former Yugoslavia:
Tracking down the mines can be extremely costly and dangerous. However, by training bees — which are able to detect odours from 4.5 kilometres away — to associate the smell of TNT with sugar can create an affective way of identifying the locations of mines.
[Professor Nikola] Kezic leads a multimillion-pound programme sponsored by the EU, called Tiramisu, to detect landmines across the continent. His team has been working in a net tent filled with the insects and several feeding posts containing a sugar solution — some of which contain traces of TNT. The bees — which have already been trained to associate food with the smell of TNT — gather mainly at those feeding posts containing TNT. The movements of the bees are tracked from afar using thermal cameras. Bees have the advantage of being extremely small and so don’t run the risk of setting off the explosives in the same way that trained mammals such as dogs or rats do.
Recent Dish on the decline of honeybees in the US here.
The Mauna Loa observatory reported last week that CO2 levels are now at four hundred parts per million, which means that we’ve ”got more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any point since the Pliocene, when there were jungles in northern Canada.” Elizabeth Kolbert uses the milestone to argue against the Keystone pipeline:
Alberta’s tar sands contain an estimated 1.7 trillion barrels of oil. Assuming that only a tenth of that is recoverable, it’s still enough to generate something like twenty-two billion metric tons of carbon. There are, it should be noted, plenty of other ways to produce twenty-two billion metric tons of carbon. Consuming about a seventh of the world’s remaining accessible reserves of conventional oil would do it, as would combusting even a small fraction of the world’s remaining coal deposits. Which is just the point.
Were we to burn through all known fossil-fuel reserves, the results would be unimaginably bleak: major cities would be flooded out, a large portion of the world’s arable land would be transformed into deserts, and the oceans would be turned into liquid dead zones. If we take the future at all seriously, which is to say as a time period that someone is going to have to live in, then we need to leave a big percentage of the planet’s coal and oil and natural gas in the ground. These basic facts have been established for decades, and every President since George Bush senior has vowed to do something to avert catastrophe. The numbers from Mauna Loa show that they have failed.
In 2010, while attempting to track another purported leak, this time relating to North Korea, the Justice Department claimed that Fox News reporter James Rosen could be designated “an aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator” for communicating with the government source:
They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails. … Court documents in the Kim case reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist — and raise the question of how often journalists have been investigated as closely as Rosen was in 2010.
Yes, but … the leak was real, comically obvious – and deeply compromising for US intelligence in a totalitarian state. Shafer notes how badly Rosen failed to protect his source, how amateurish his techniques were, and how he was all but begging for an investigation:
In the wake of the tragedy in Moore, OK, Brad Plumer considers tornado early warning systems:
Just 16 minutes before a gigantic twister formed near Oklahoma City on Tuesday, the National Weather Service put out a tornado warning. That doesn’t sound like very much time to get out of the way or hunker down. And for many, it wasn’t: At least  people died when the tornado tore a wide swath through the city of Moore, Okla. But those 16 minutes are actually an enormous advance for weather science. Back in the 1980s, the average tornado lead time was a scant five minutes. Today, it’s about 13 minutes. And meteorologists are now able to issue storm watches even earlier, thanks to powerful computers that allow them to run detailed simulations.
Kevin Simmons, a natural hazard economist, compares the two schools hit by the tornado:
Briarwood Elementary and Plaza Tower Elementary are about a mile apart and both were in the path of the storm. As of this writing there are no fatalities at Briarwood and many from Plaza Tower. Why? This is an important area of inquiry and the reasons are likely complex. It could be engineering. Was one school built differently from the other? It could be storm intensity. Along a tornadoes path, the intensity will vary. A small change in intensity can have different effects on buildings and it could be that the change in intensity was sufficient to create very different outcomes on buildings so close to each other. It could be location. The path of the storm is estimated to be a mile wide. But wind intensities vary within the path with the strongest winds toward the center. Or it could be tragic luck. Where in the building were the children when struck by the storm?
(Photo: Dana Ulepich searches inside a room left standing at the back of her house destroyed after a powerful tornado ripped through the area on May 20, 2013 in Moore, Oklahoma. By Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Increasingly looking like Iran's presidential election will be one man, one vote. That one man's name is Ayatollah Khamenei.— Karim Sadjadpour (@ksadjadpour) May 21, 2013
The Guardian Council has now barred the surprise candidacies of former president Rafsanjani and the Ahmadi-allied Mashaei. Rumors over the weekend said the rationale for disqualifying Rafsanjani would be his age (78), and security services had already been readying themselves for negative reaction to today’s announcement. Yesterday, Yasmin Alem noted the problems that Ayatollah Khamenei and his allies could face by shutting out Rafsanjani:
[Using his old age as] a pretext would expose the Guardian Council to potential ridicule, since its powerful secretary, Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, is eight years Rafsanjani’s senior. Another pretext could be to accuse the former president — as the minister of intelligence did a few days before his registration — of complacency in the 2009 revolt. But that would undermine the Supreme Leader’s own credibility since he reappointed Rafsanjani in 2012 as the chairman of the Expediency Council, a body that advises him directly.
Alem added that there may be consequences for ruling out Mashaei as well:
[There is] a risk that Ahmadinejad could go ballistic if his dauphin is barred from the race — a spectacle that would be problematic for at least two reasons. First, the president is technically in charge of conducting the election, meaning that the ruling clique’s hopes of an incident-free ballot could be dashed. Second, Ahmadinejad has threatened to blackmail regime insiders with a supposedly thick dossier of damning documents that implicate officials close to Khameneiin corruption scandals. But the Supreme Leader might well call Ahmadinejad’s bluff; experience has shown that the president typically caves when faced with Khamenei’s immense institutional power. Even if he doesn’t, Khamenei loyalists have laid the groundwork to soften the blow, announcing in advance that anyone who interferes with the electoral process or questions its results is doing the bidding of Iran’s enemies.
Both candidates can still appeal directly to Khamenei for inclusion in the race. Abbas Milani recently summarized why he thinks Rafsanjani would be trouble for the Supreme Leader:
Michelle Lhooq explores “what makes the global culture industry fall for some countries and not others,” charting the rise of Denmark and South Korea:
[B]oth of these cultures are especially seductive because they show us an alternative way of life that is somehow better than our own — but at the same time, familiar enough that we can envision a bridge between our world and this vision of utopia.
The forest-foraged mentality of Denmark’s culinary scene, the rugged pragmatism of their crime-solving TV shows (and their heroines’ home-spun sweaters), the large safety net of their politics: All of this looks extremely comforting from afar, a welcome respite from capitalism’s soulless gloss. In times of recession, the desire to return to our roots, to a simpler time when everything worked as it should, can be overwhelming.
On quite the opposite side of the spectrum, Korea’s air-brushed soap opera and pop music stars are ambassadors of the polished sophistication that its neighbors are striving to achieve. Confident, stylish and wired, these superstars reflect their home country’s successful modernization — but still retain their Confucian values. “You can wear Margiela and still be a good Korean daughter,” the dancing baby dolls of Girls Generation, Korea’s most successful pop group, seem to be saying. For countries like Vietnam and Thailand that are still trying to figure out how to reconcile the forces of westernization, modernity and tradition, this call is also impossible to resist.
(Video: Girls Generation’s “Gee”, which has over 100,000,000 views on YouTube)
“[Republicans] have no real health-care agenda. Voters don’t trust them to look out for middle-class economic interests. Republicans are confused and divided about how to solve the party’s problems. What they can do is unite in opposition to the Obama administration’s scandals and mistakes. So that’s what they’re doing. They’re trying to win news cycles when they need votes,” -Ramesh Ponnuru.
“[The GOP's 1998] strategy was to assume that the [Lewinsky] scandal would redound to their benefit, and that they merely had to sit back and let victory rain o’er them. It didn’t. The current lot should not make the same mistake. Democratic scandal does not take the place of a Republican agenda,” – National Review’s editors.
Let’s not forget the role of Fox News in all this. Once again, what riles up their white elderly base may actually turn off the broad American middle whose votes the GOP desperately needs. And if the Issa brigade appear to be trying to gin up scandals rather than investigate them, they will seem more than ever irrelevant to the country’s actual needs. Charlie Cook echoes these thoughts rather convincingly here.
With every word you wrote here, I questioned more and more whether this was the same person I read religiously day after day. Your defense of Jon Karl is complete and utter nonsense.
When he and I were at TNR together, I saw nothing in him but good sense, good humor, and ambition.
Well, then his journalistic integrity is beyond reproach!
And the alleged sins of Karl are extremely petty – and designed to pile on after his regurgitation of Republican summaries of emails that were, shall we say, slanted a little.
Far from petty. Karl represented that he had seen the actual emails and was quoting from them firsthand. Your dismissal of his actions as “regurgitation of Republican summaries of emails” ignores the fact that they weren’t represented to readers as “summaries”, nor was it revealed that the source was a Republican. And they weren’t “slanted”; they were fabrications. Fabrications presented as fact. And Karl printed these lies and presented them as true, throwing the entirety of his journalistic integrity behind their authenticity.
But Jon apologized for being a little suckered.
Umm, nope. He didn’t apologize. Have you actually read what you linked to as an apology? Even worse, he doubled down on the fact that his story “still entirely stands.”
Yes, he’s not a left-liberal which means he may choose stories or emphases that liberals wouldn’t. But isn’t that a good thing? And isn’t it even better that a single MSM news source can include reporters of varying opinions and hold them all to the same standard?
Sorry, I was unaware journalism involved ANY sort of bias. The word “reporters” and “opinions” should never be in the same sentence. Were Karl offering his opinion, he should have said so. But instead he presented as fact complete fabrications. I don’t care about “varying opinions”; I care about being told the truth. And Karl did not tell the truth. Simple as that.
My post was a response to the notion that Karl was a “right-wing mole”. I thought that way over the top. Jon’s report was clearly flawed, but it did include the following phrase: “summaries of White House and State Department e-mails”. I also notice in the televised report, that the images are not of actual emails but obviously summaries of emails. Jon should have made that much clearer, and not directly quoted from summaries as if they were direct quotes. My guess is that he was too excited about a scoop to make that clear and hyped the story excessively. He and his editors deserve some heat. But I don’t think he’s a right-wing mole. Josh Marsall fisks Karl’s statement. Another reader:
Satellite dishes and shadows say somewhere not far from the equator. Karst-ish mountains, slightly exotic architecture, a Pizzeria. I’m going to go with some moderately biggish upland city in Malaysia. Maybe Indonesia.
This reminded me of the view from an office I worked in many years ago. It was located just west of Main Street, north of Broadway in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. The mountains in the background look similar to a mountain range that is affectionately referred to as Sleeping Beauty on Vancouver’s North Shore. I imagine we can all see what we want to see for when my partner looked at the photo he sais, no it could not be Vancouver as the mountains appear too close. He is right of course, but it sure brought me a sense of deja vu. It was fun to think I might of solved my first “view”.
I hate you. Or to be more precise, my wife hates you for taking me away from her this Saturday for nearly 90 minutes while I was going crazy trying find out where in the Vancouver area this photo was taken. (Juneau was briefly considered, but no dice.) So where is it? Vancouver proper? North Vancouver? Burnaby? I’m burned out and discouraged! Please let me know if I wasn’t thorough enough with my googling OR if I was on the wrong track altogether. Whichever it is, my wife won’t forgive you, but I will.
You can see a DirectTV logo on the satellite on the roof, but other than that I’m stumped. Apparently DirectTV can only be found in the Western Hemisphere, so at least it’s narrowed down a bit. The motorcycles and the lush green hills suggest central or South America to me. Just now I’m noticing the Venezuelan flag on the opposite building, so assuming that’s not an embassy, I’m guessing this is Caracas, Venezuela. No doubt someone will find the exact window, but I don’t have much time left, so I’ll have to leave it at that.
This is my first attempt to send in my ideas about a VFMY contest, although I am a regular if often befuddled contestant. At first I got very first world northern vibes from the photo – the deciduous trees, the general buildup of strip malls, clean streets, good lighting, etc., but then decided the flag flying on the building in the left portion of the photo was the flag of Colombia, South America and was forced away from my preconceived notions. From there I poked around a few maps – veering north away from the equator, due to the lack of palm trees, etc., and looking at a topical map for hilly areas. I settled on the town of Valledupar, Colombia, a rather nice low rise city set against the foothills of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. From there I looked at many a Google picture, but never did get much farther. ( I have enclosed a small photo of downtown Valledupar for your perusal.) Of course, I am hopelessly wrong, but still, as always I enjoyed the ride. And I do think I may be close; close as in the right hemisphere, lol.
Cucuta, Colombia is a wild guess. I have no idea what city this is, but the Colombian flag in the photo makes the country pretty obvious. I did learn a few things while searching vainly for further clues to this week’s location:
1) Colombia has no Street View, which made this quite difficult. I’d hoped to be able to spot that radio/TV tower from street level.
2) Every city in Colombia is nestled at the foot of thickly forested mountainsides.
3) Colombia is an absolutely gorgeous country. It has now moved the top of my bucket list of travel destinations.
Judging by the tall buildings and the peninsula peak in the background, this is obviously Christchurch, New Zealand. The Colombian flag is the kicker, seeing as the two countries have a good relationship.
It’s definitely Colombia. Even I couldn’t miss the flag flying from the building in the foreground. If it turns out this is a Colombian embassy in another country, please let me kick the photographer in the shins. But I’m pretty sure it’s in Colombia because the the No Parking sign that’s visible matches what I found online. (Would you believe that Colombian road signs have their own Wikipedia page? Because of course they do.) I’m going to guess Cali, Colombia and hope that either that radio mast or those satellite dishes belong to Telepacifico.
The lady seated to my immediate right (very close quarters on bench seating) was fairly insistent about using her phone. I asked her to turn it off. She answered: “So don’t look.” I asked her whether I had missed something during the very pointed announcements to please turn off your phones, perhaps a special exemption granted for her. She suggested that I should mind my own business. So I minded my own business by utilizing my famously feline agility to deftly snatch the phone out of her hand and toss it across the room, where it would do no more damage.
He was subsequently ejected and could face criminal charges. I’m with Kevin 100 percent. He didn’t grab the phone before talking with the management. The management simply refused to stop the disruption. It was only then that he lost it. And I fully understand why.
I refuse to have dinner with someone constantly consulting their iPhone. I ask them to put it away or end the meal. I’m also an Acela Quiet Car Nazi. The plague of smartphone chatter is slowly destroying whatever space individuals once had to separate ourselves from the maddening crowd of gabbers. When some of us are allowed an oasis of calm – the quiet car – and others refuse to abide by its strictures, talking loudly with one another or yelling into their phones, I simply point to the quiet sign and remind them that this is supposed to be a library atmosphere. Others are too polite to address the rudeness. But they seem grateful for my being the necessary asshole. My gripe is that I am forced to be an asshole by the poor manners and contempt for others of gabbing phone-addicts. In my Acela experience, it’s often the executive white male types who simply ignore me and force me to find a conductor. Yes, in the end, my objections can make more noise and disruption than the asshole on the cellphone. But he started it.
I’ve stopped going to the movies entirely because of this. You cannot ignore a sudden light appearing three rows down. You cannot ignore the tippity-tap of the texter behind you. You can try – but there’s a reason the lights are kept low in theaters – so you can focus on the stage or the screen. These anti-social yahoos are destroying the performance for everyone – and then act all affronted when told how douchy they are. John Del Signore is among many calling Williamson a hero:
How many stern warnings do obnoxious assholes get before there are actual consequences? Unlimited, apparently. “I don’t think we’re going to start a new policy of ejecting customers,” [said Howard Kagan, one of the producers of the show Williamson was attending].
[But as Williamson notes,] “The Alamo Drafthouse has a very strict policy about this sort of thing. If you talk, if you use your phone, you’ll be thrown out. And it’s a very successful business model. People are willing to pay more for it! Theater managers have to do something about this… I wish twice a month some Broadway theater would jack somebody, do a high profile ejection. I think you would establish a new set of social norms.”
Me too. Or maybe one movie theater in a complex where cellphone use is explicitly barred. Alas, there remains some kind of deference to these morons, as if they had some kind of right to spoil Tyler Coates thinks Williamson acted just as selfishly as the person he was admonishing:
Taking the full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people — and particularly black youth — and another way of addressing everyone else. I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard that “there’s no longer room for any excuses” — as though they were in the business of making them. Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of “all America,” but he also is singularly the scold of “black America.”
TNC even goes on to call Obama’s defense of and call for personal responsibility and fatherhood “targeted scorn”. Good Lord. Why so defensive? The importance of personal discipline and responsible fatherhood are surely central to many of the issues facing black America. Without them, it is hard to see how African-Americans are going to thrive in an increasingly competitive global marketplace or leave behind some of the family breakdown that has so contributed to poverty and crime. Fallows is more forgiving:
We all take a different tone in setting expectations for “our own.”