Interesting stuff

  1. Listen to this fascinating discussion of how Ukraine’s postal service functions amidst war.
  2. Listen to this delightful conversation (Part One is also good) with Chris Anderson (TED) on charity, religion and public life.
  3. Reconsider: I’m not 100% onboard with Peter Thiel’s politics, but I really like his program to pay young people to skip college, which is “more popular than ever”
  4. Wanna be happy? Stop complaining. Read more.
  5. Economists’ perspectives on inequality are disconnected from reality.
  6. Read: Climate chaos is reducing lifespans now, via air pollution.
  7. Scary but not at all surprising: A number of Americans actually DO want chaos.
  8. Read this absolutely fascinating 1943 “Report on the Problem of the Mafia in Sicily” — excellent analysis!
  9. John Kenneth Galbraith’s 1973 insights on “The Economics of the American Housewife” [pdf] starts with “The convenient social virtue ascribes merit to any pattern of behavior, however uncomfortable or un­ natural for the individual involved, that serves the comfort or well-being of the more powerful members of the community…” and gets more interesting from there.
  10. I read Lucky Jim (Amis 1954) and enjoyed the roller-coaster plot of a hapless academic [Jim Dixon]. Here are some fun passages from various parts of the book:

    The title of the article he’d written. It was a perfect title, in that it crystallized the article’s niggling mindlessness, its funereal parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems. Dixon had read, or begun to read, dozens like it, but his own seemed worse than most in its air of being convinced of its own usefulness and significance. “In considering this strangely neglected topic,” it began. This what neglected topic? This strangely what topic? This strangely neglected what? His thinking all this without having defiled and set fire to the typescript only made him appear to himself as more of a hypocrite and fool.

    DIXON was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.

    The hydrogen bomb, the South African Government, Chiang Kaishek, Senator McCarthy himself, would then seem a light price to pay for no longer being in the Middle Ages. Had people ever been as nasty, as self-indulgent, as dull, as miserable, as cocksure, as bad at art, as dismally ludicrous, or as wrong as they’d been in the Middle Age?

    He remembered some Greek or Latin tag about not even God being able to abolish historical fact, and was glad to think that this must apply equally to the historical fact of his drinking out of Christine’s coffee-cup.

    While he dressed, he thought how nice it was to have nothing he must do. There were compensations for ceasing to be a lecturer, especially that of ceasing to lecture.

    Dixon thought he really would have to run downstairs and knife the drivers of both vehicles; what next? what next? What actually would be next: a masked holdup, a smash, floods, a burst tyre, an electric storm with falling trees and meteorites, a diversion, a low-level attack by Communist aircraft, sheep, the driver stung by a hornet? He’d choose the last of these, if consulted. Hawking its gears, the bus crept on, while every few yards troupes of old men waited to make their quivering way aboard.

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Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

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