Philip Roth on ‘Me Too.’

Men responsive to the insistent call of sexual pleasure, beset by shameful desires and the undauntedness of obsessive lusts, beguiled even by the lure of the taboo — over the decades, I have imagined a small coterie of unsettled men possessed by just such inflammatory forces they must negotiate and contend with. I’ve tried to be uncompromising in depicting these men each as he is, each as he behaves, aroused, stimulated, hungry in the grip of carnal fervor and facing the array of psychological and ethical quandaries the exigencies of desire present. I haven’t shunned the hard facts in these fictions of why and how and when tumescent men do what they do, even when these have not been in harmony with the portrayal that a masculine public-relations campaign — if there were such a thing — might prefer. I’ve stepped not just inside the male head but into the reality of those urges whose obstinate pressure by its persistence can menace one’s rationality, urges sometimes so intense they may even be experienced as a form of lunacy. Consequently, none of the more extreme conduct I have been reading about in the newspapers lately has astonished me.

Uday and Qusay

“His sons, Don Jr. and Eric — behind their backs known to Trump insiders as Uday and Qusay, after the sons of Saddam Hussein.”

‘Fifty years after the Summer of Love, we’ve entered the Winter of Ulcerative Colitis.’

The poetry of rock death.

Postmodern Gatsby

“Let’s say you’re a super-wealthy single dude who just sold your company,” [says the real estate agent for a $500 million Los Angeles house]. “You’ve just moved to L.A. and you don’t know anybody, so you hire someone to fill your house with partyers. You want everyone to know who you are, but you don’t want to talk to anybody. So you go sit in your V.I.P. room.”

… [One] buyer, from Malaysia, paid [the agent] $40 million for [another LA] home and then promptly gutted it. “That house looked like this,” he said, stretching his arms out wide for emphasis. “Furniture! Beautiful! Everything!” Eventually, he said, the Department of Justice took possession of the home after the owner ran into legal trouble. It’s been empty ever since.


[At school, Evelyn Waugh founded] the Corpse Club, “for those who were weary of life.”

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.

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