Out of context this little passage from The Atlantic’s article about millenials traveling was funny:

These skills can translate into a competitive advantage in the workplace. Elizabeth Harper, 25, discovered her career interests while backpacking in Southeast Asia. Traveling gave her time to read for pleasure, and she ended up leafing through books passed around in hostels about atrocities that had occurred in the countries she was visiting. 


Bezos developed an ambition to travel into space and help mankind migrate from Earth. He was the valedictorian of his high school class and in his speech he quoted from Star Trek and described a plan to build permanent human colonies in orbit so that Earth could be turned into a nature preserve. Years later, his high school girlfriend told reporters that Bezos had always wanted to become rich so that he could “get to outer space.”

from Steve Coll’s profile of the man/review of The Everything Store in NYRB.

History As Emergency

Here then we arrive at the rub.  To sort the actions of the past, to begin to unthread them and lay them out on our examiners’ table, is accomplished only with time, patience, argument.

But Time, cruel as she is, doesn’t stop moving, not even for the historian.  In the thirty or forty years it may take historians to come to some preliminary judgment on the recent past, the game’s been going on.  The same mistakes have already been made.  It is no question of history repeating itself.  History repeats itself before it’s even history.  The scholar emerges from his library, steps out on the balcony, and announces: “ah!  look!  tyrants oppress!  fools stumble! vanity clouds judgment! fear leads us to folly!” The man in the street – if one can be bothered to look up – says “well done, sir, but while you were in your study, all that’s already happened again.”

… in this sense, the historian is running a race that can only be lost.  One could argue that the historian then should work quick as a doctor, his business as pressing as the surgeons’, rushing to prescriptions before the patient collapses.  I don’t contend as much, however, not merely because the historians’ business is done sedentarily.  No; I think we are best advised to work with a philosopher’s unsurprise.  Indeed, for a historian, unsurprise is the beginning of wisdom.

Francis Dunnam, “History As Emergency,” Twombley memorial lecture at Oxford (1938).

For your consideration

from this old Vulture interview with Tom McCarthy:

Did you write that [The Station Agent] with Peter in mind?
I did. I met Pete in New York and directed him in a play [called The Killing Agent] way downtown and way, way, way off Broadway, and I just thought he was terrific and saw what everyone knows now. I thought, This guy is a leading man! He has the looks, he’s cool, he just carries himself in that way of a leading man. I started the idea of the script without him in mind, and then I realized, Oh, he fits truly well. It’s funny because I remember when we were distributing that movie, Miramax had this moment where they were trying to put him out there upfront. I said, “We should just have a one-page ad in the New York Times with Peter Dinklage because he’s just that cool.” And they were like, “Nah, nah, it’s too hard. But we’ll figure it out.” And now the guy’s everywhere. He’s the coolest guy on the planet.

Good line from the movie “His Girl Friday”

Next time you hear from me I will be riding in a Rolls Royce giving interviews about success.

What the guy at the nursery said to me when I bought a book about cactus identification:


I knew someone would want to study the cacti.

Three messages from writers I admire

1) George Saunders, from a Chipotle bag.

photo2) Rev. F. Washington Jarvis, speaking at the International Boys’ School Conference in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand in 2009:



3) Cormac McCarthy, in The New York Times magazine, April 19, 1992.

“There’s no such thing as life without bloodshed,” McCarthy says philosophically. “I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous.”