Honest, and beautifully rendered testimony…

… about addiction and death, from Philip Seymour Hoffman’s widow.

[A]fter the fifth person suggested I should start running [to deal with my grief], I lost it. “I don’t want to fucking run,” I said. “I want to jump in the river and kill myself.”

When I finally did decide to run, it was always at night by the Hudson. The darker and rainier it was, the more violent the water, the better. I couldn’t get enough. Something about the extremity of it, the closeness to death, was weirdly comforting. If I wanted to jump, it was there.

What got me out of bed every morning and kept me alive, of course, were my kids. I had no choice: They needed me, and I loved them more than anything in the world. I would hit moments when I felt, I’m done. I’m so done, but then I’d see their faces, and right away it would become, OK. I can do this today. They were keenly aware that I was now their only parent, and Willa, my youngest, obsessed about it, asking, “If you die, how are people going to know how to find us?”

The Itchy and Scratchy Show

“The quality of human life is, contrary to what many people think, actually quite appalling,” [South African philosopher David Benatar] writes, in “The Human Predicament.” He provides an escalating list of woes, designed to prove that even the lives of happy people are worse than they think. We’re almost always hungry or thirsty, he writes; when we’re not, we must go to the bathroom. We often experience “thermal discomfort” — we are too hot or too cold — or are tired and unable to nap. We suffer from itches, allergies, and colds, menstrual pains or hot flashes. Life is a procession of “frustrations and irritations” — waiting in traffic, standing in line, filling out forms. Forced to work, we often find our jobs exhausting; even “those who enjoy their work may have professional aspirations that remain unfulfilled.” Many lonely people remain single, while those who marry fight and divorce. “People want to be, look, and feel younger, and yet they age relentlessly”:

They have high hopes for their children and these are often thwarted when, for example, the children prove to be a disappointment in some way or other. When those close to us suffer, we suffer at the sight of it. When they die, we are bereft.


The New Yorker interviewer offers Benatar a short list of reasons to live: “love, beauty, discovery, and so on.”

UD wonders about that and so on… The list’s brevity, and its termination in that vague lame und so weiter… Life is worth living, etc., etc. … The gesture is as amusingly languidly lazy as anything Algernon says in The Importance of Being Earnest. Unlike people who make an actual effort to think of one or two reasons to exist —

Music is the best means we have of digesting time. W. H. Auden


[Sophocles wrote:] “Not to be born prevails over all meaning uttered in words; by far the second-best for life, once it has appeared, is to go as swiftly as possible whence it came.” [H]e also let us know, through the mouth of Theseus, the legendary founder of Athens… what it was that enabled ordinary men, young and old, to bear life’s burden: it was the polis, the space of men’s free deeds and living words, which could endow life with splendor… Hannah Arendt, last lines of On Revolution

— the New Yorker reviewer seems to concede Benatar’s point (Benatar famously wrote the anti-natalist Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence) by hopelessly tossing a few easily batted-down balls at him…


UD has the following thought: Life is worth living because it’s hilarious to watch people struggle with how life’s not worth living.

Nice example of ambiguity.

Dr. Christina Puchalski, Director of The George Washington University Institute for Spirituality and Health has studied the effects of faith in doctors.

Pain, Patronage, and Plagiarism: Issues in Quality Control

Opioid, corruption, and plagiarism epidemics – on this blog, we do the university angle on these endemic elements of social life.


So there’s the provocative new paper offering evidence that the lower ranked your medical school, the more likely you are to prescribe lots of opioids. Although some observers have noted gaps in the evidence-gathering (the paper’s authors have responded to the criticism), the paper’s conclusion seems to ol’ UD pretty sound – not because less-burnished grads are less intelligent, but because their patient load is liable to be larger, tempting them to save time by tossing OxyContin about; and because UD suspects foreign-born/foreign-educated doctors are easier to intimidate/fool.


You can’t keep a well-connected malefactor down. Park Ky-young’s friends in South Korea’s government have just appointed her chief of the Science, Technology and Innovation Office at the Ministry of Science and ICT, despite her having co-authored the study at the heart of that country’s biggest scientific fraud of modern times. You may remember the stamp (scroll down) South Korea rushed into production, showing a man in a wheelchair elatedly getting up and walking because of a professor’s exciting new stem cell work that turned out to be entirely bogus. It was a huge national embarrassment. But all is forgiven.


Metaplage is UD‘s term for the act of plagiarizing from already plagiarized material. It’s the sort of viral load, call it, one expects to arise under global-pandemic copying conditions. A recent example is a local VIP (school superintendent, head of trustees at a community college, candidate for a seat on a local county commission) who plagiarized his commencement speech at the community college from a guy who plagiarized his college commencement speech from a poet who wrote this skin-crawling crawl down the alphabet.


Nothing, by the way, will beat the plagiarized 2011 commencement speech given by the dean of the University of Alberta medical school. As he spoke, some students began recognizing its source and followed along word for word on their cell phones.

Marc Kasowitz has UD Missing …

… Harvard’s Ben Edelman.

Now that was a man who knew how to handle email exchanges.

Shit My Lawyer Says

[Martin] Shkreli’s lawyer Ben Brafman told CNNMoney in an email on Friday that Shkreli “is really a special kid who could cure cancer if left alone.

‘What tho’ the spicy breezes / Blow soft o’er Ceylon’s isle; / Though every prospect pleases, / And only man is vile?’

UD‘s mother used to quote the end of these lines a lot – every prospect pleases, / And only man is vile – because she thought the sentiment was funny, and because it seemed to apply to a lot of the places she found herself (UD recalls her reciting it one summer on a crowded Ocean City Maryland beach). UD finally checked the source of the lines – the notorious From Greenland’s Icy Mountains – and now sees that for Reginald Heber “vile” simply meant heathen…

Beautiful Writing About St. Petersburg by Christopher Hitchens.

In midsummer, and especially at the June solstice, the sun over St. Petersburg refuses to set. At about midnight, an eerie luminosity deposes the reign of night or day: the resulting silvered penumbra features hauntingly in the painting and photography and literature of the place. Because of the prevalence of water and the multicolor of the buildings — typically painted in pastel green, pink, blue, and yellow — a sort of trance descends over the retina. Best of all is to absorb it from a riverboat, slipping along the river or through the backwaters. Alexander Pushkin’s famous poem “The Bronze Horseman,” which is ostensibly about the massive, rearing statue of Peter the Great, becomes entwined with the city’s “limpid twilight’s moonless shine” and the golden cloudland of the light, for soon one dawn succeeds another with barely half an hour of night.

On a day of trauma and grief for that city.

There’ll Always Be An Iowa.

Comment thread on an article about a sexual assault at Drake University.

A complicated case of he said – she said. Unfortunately, when a man reports sexual assault the claim is rarely taken seriously. (On a side note, the caption on the Drake photo says Magnolia trees. Magnolia trees do not grow this far north. Those are redbuds!)
Like · Reply · Feb 23, 2017 6:53am

Years ago I had two magnolia trees on a residential property in Beaverdale. At least I thought they were magnolia trees!
Like · Reply · 1 · Feb 23, 2017 9:24am

I found an article in the Iowa Gardener Magazine from 2014: “There are a wide variety of magnolias that can be grown in the Upper Midwest. Many of the deciduous magnolias perform well in our climate and range from smaller to larger trees.”
Like · Reply · 1 · Feb 23, 2017 11:06am

Jewels of Wikipedia

Sometimes it’s fun to read. This is about the current president of Argentina.

His first wife was Ivonne Bordeu, daughter of the racecar driver Juan Manuel Bordeu. They had three sons: Agustina, Jimena and Francisco. He got divorced, and married the model Isabel Menditeguy in 1994. They signed a prenuptial agreement, on Franco’s request. The marriage got in crisis when Macri became the chairman of Boca Juniors. They stayed together anyway, but finally divorced in 2005. He started a romance with María Laura Groba, but never got married with her. He left her in 2010, and started a new relation with businesswoman Juliana Awada. He got married with Awada that same year. He wore a fake moustache and impersonated singer Freddie Mercury during the party. He accidentally swallowed the moustache, and Minister of Health Jorge Lemus performed first aid to save his life.

Fun stuff.

Preparing to talk about John Cheever tomorrow, I take a look at his Paris Review interview.

This is no reflection on Hollywood, but it’s just that I seemed to have a suicide complex there. I don’t like the freeways, for one thing. Also, the pools are too hot . . . 85 degrees, and when I was last there, in late January, in the stores they were selling yarmulkes for dogs — my God! I went to a dinner and across the room a woman lost her balance and fell down. Her husband shouted over to her, “When I told you to bring your crutches, you wouldn’t listen to me.” That line couldn’t be better!

Circuitously, UD happens on a saying she likes.

She’s been following – vaguely, because she doesn’t like posting on sexual harassment stories – the increasingly icky case of Gabriel Piterberg, a UCLA history professor who seems to have sexually harassed two graduate students. (UD shies away from these stories because they are typically insanely complicated, with claims and counterclaims galore, and everything grows into intricate lawsuits which spawn further lawsuits… I mean, of course, UD does post on quite a few such stories – they’re obviously important. But you often feel the ground shifting uncomfortably under you as you try to make sense of them.) They sued, and the university settled. Piterberg got some financial and other punishments (required seminar in foundations of not sexually harassing women; keep the office door open), and is now, at the beginning of spring semester, back at work.

But lots of people aren’t happy about that (38 of his colleagues wrote this protest letter), and they’ve been protesting/disrupting his classes. He hasn’t really been able to teach.

The story has jumped to major media outlets, and, in the context of plenty of recent California-university-based sexual harassment incidents, looks bad for UCLA.

Making matters worse is the notorious anti-Zionism of Piterberg, who grew up in Israel and came to regard the Zionist project as rank colonialist folly. One of Piterberg’s colleagues, the father of Daniel Pearl, has not hesitated to condemn him:

“Piterberg belongs to a group of extreme left so-called historians who see their role as the reinterpretation of history to fit their political agenda,” Pearl said.

Pearl said that Piterberg has greatly damaged UCLA and its history department by trying to legitimatize anti-Israel movements on campus and “demoralizing Jewish students.”

Let’s face it: Not a popular guy on campus. Students figure he’d be happy to get the hell out if UCLA gave him a good severance.

What they’re forgetting is that he probably has nowhere else to go.


Anyway, in reading about Piterberg and his work, UD came upon this comment, from someone reviewing one of his books.

While he knew all about the contradiction in “religious Zionism”, [Chaim] Bermant was more indulgent towards his Labour friends, and overlooked that other contradiction – what George Steiner has perceptively called Zionism as a secular-political movement invoking a scriptural-mystical justification “to which it could not, in avowed honesty, subscribe.” Or as the Israeli writer Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, cited by Piterberg, puts it, “There is no God, but He promised us the Land”…

UD likes this very much – “There is no God, but He promised us the land.”

Wow. We sure make classy fascists here.

In 2001, [Richard B. Spencer] received a B.A. with High Distinction in English Literature and Music from the University of Virginia and, in 2003, an M.A. in the Humanities from the University of Chicago. He spent the summer of 2005 and 2006 at the Institute Vienna Circle. From 2005-07, he was a doctoral student at Duke University studying modern European intellectual history…

More on Spencer.

And more.

The writings of Friedrich Nietzsche made a lasting impression; Spencer found his critiques of equality and democracy darkly compelling. He identified with the German philosopher’s unapologetically elitist embrace of “great men” such as Napoleon Bonaparte and the composer Richard Wagner. Yet Spencer found little in Nietzsche about the organization of the state; it was only after entering the humanities master’s program at the University of Chicago that he discovered Jared Taylor, a self-proclaimed “race realist” who argues that blacks and Hispanics are a genetic drag on Western society. [Taylor has nothing to do with U of C; Spencer discovered him online.]

… He was attracted to the writings of the late University of Chicago professor Leo Strauss, a Jewish German-born philosopher who had been accused by some of supporting fascism. Spencer’s master’s thesis was an analysis of German philosopher Theodor Adorno, who he argued was afraid to admit how much he loved the music of Wagner because Wagner was an anti-Semite championed by the Nazis. “If you looked at what I was doing, there was a clear interest in radical traditionalist right-wing German philosophy, a semi-fascist type thing,” Spencer says. “But there was always plausible deniability to it all.”

By the time he entered Duke as a Ph.D. student in European intellectual history in 2005, his views were on his sleeve. Fellow students recall Spencer openly sharing his opinions on biological differences between races and endorsing books such as Harvard professor Samuel Huntington’s Who Are We?, which argues that Hispanic immigrants are less suited than Europeans for assimilation. One Caucasian woman who was a student at the time recalls Spencer saying that people with her level of education needed to bear more children. Yet Spencer was charming enough to maintain collegial relations with his peers; an official graduate student party that he hosted at his spacious apartment was well attended. “Not many of us had ever come across as an out-and-out fascist,” says a college professor who studied in the same history Ph.D. program as Spencer. “We didn’t know how serious he was.”

… “In this weird way that Trump is trying to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to America, [Spencer says,] he’s also, like, bringing America to an end in the sense that he is a first step to white identity politics, which will bring about fragmentation… This is where I am kind of a Hegelian. Whenever you see a phenomenon, you see its negative aspect. There is a dark side to something that is happening, and I think that is Trump’s dark side, that he is reviving America and accelerating [the end of America]… That’s why I love him…”

Sure, it’s more than a little too-too.

But Chris Kluwe explaining to Donald Trump what gets said in actual locker rooms is pretty funny.

I was in an NFL locker room for eight years, the very definition of the macho, alpha male environment you’re so feebly trying to evoke to protect yourself, and not once did anyone approach your breathtaking depths of arrogant imbecility. Oh, sure, we had some dumb guys, and some guys I wouldn’t want to hang out with on any sort of regular basis, but we never had anyone say anything as foul and demeaning as you did on that tape, and, hell, I played a couple years with a guy who later turned out to be a serial rapist. Even he never talked like that.

And I’m Waiting for Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

“They got Roger Stone and now they got Roger Ailes,” Hillary Clinton loyalist James Carville told The Daily Beast, not bothering to suppress a giggle over the rogue’s gallery of misfits that seems to be populating the Trump campaign. “I’m waiting for Dick Morris.”

DSK not only shares with several Trump operatives warm links with Ukraine; he will be able to reinforce Ailes’s advice on how to appeal to women.

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