July 19th, 2022
Intro Rationality

Rationally, it would seem to make sense for people to spend half a billion dollars on their house and fifty million on the boat they’re on for two weeks a year, right? But it’s gone the other way. People don’t want to live in a hundred thousand square foot house. Optically, it’s weird. But a half billion dollar boat, actually, is quite nice.”

July 15th, 2022
Ooch. Ouch. Eech.

Above all, at no point during Carrie Cracknell’s directorial debut do you ever get the sense that anyone’s actually read Persuasion.

May 23rd, 2022
‘[It] difficult it is to fathom Depp’s motivations for instigating [the defamation lawsuit]. He and his supporters say he filed the suit to clear his name, but it has put more terrible behavior of his on the record than any scrubbed and ghostwritten op-ed could do.’

[Depp’s] trial affords many glances inside [his] extravagant yet bleak fortress: the insulating layers of handlers and yes-men; the huge, empty homes loaned out to hangers-on; the noxious mix of paranoia, dependence, and impunity bred by ultra-celebrity; the disorienting suspicion that everything is permitted and nothing necessarily has to be true…

The New Yorker thinks about the Depp/Heard trial.


Interesting parallels with Michael Jackson, especially the desperate self-drugging. Maybe TS Eliot had it wrong. Humankind cannot bear very much unreality.

May 15th, 2022
’48 percent of Lebanese citizens [are] seeking to emigrate. For those 18 to 29, the percentage [rises] to 63 percent …’

What if they gave a country and nobody came?

May 10th, 2022
I find these little nuggets so you don’t have to.

In May 2000, the entrepreneur Kurt Andersen said raising money for a media start-up called Inside was as easy “as getting laid in 1969.” That was a few weeks after the stock market peaked. Seventeen months and one merger later, Inside shut down. (Mr. Andersen clarified in an email that he did not actually have sex until the 1970s.)

March 29th, 2022

Ted Cruz retweeted a video comparing a U.S. Army recruiting video with footage of a Russian paratrooper with a shaved head and declared that a “woke, emasculated military” might not be a good idea.

It would be interesting to know what has happened to that paratrooper since Putin invaded Ukraine.

March 1st, 2022
Putilia: The Mad Scene.

[A bunker in the Urals]

Soldier: He is importunate, indeed distract:
His mood will needs be pitied.

Oligarch: What would he have?

Soldier: He speaks much of Holy Mother Russia; says he hears

There’s tricks ‘i the world: and hems, and beats his heart.

[Enter Putilia.]

Oligarch: How now, Putilia?

Putilia: Lord, we know what we want, but know not
what we may get…

[Sings] Then up I rose, and struck my pose
And broke the Ukraine’s door.
Let in the blood! Let in the death!

And then depart no more…

Ghost of Tsar Nicholas: Pretty Putilia!

Putilia: Indeed, la, without a ruble, I’ll make an end on’t.

I hope all will be well. We must be patient: but I
cannot choose but weep, to think they should place Aeroflot
in the cold cold ground. Good night, sweet ladies

Good night, good night.

February 28th, 2022
“The Mad Russian,” by Ivan Tkutchurkokoff

“Putin believes that in historical terms, as in Peter the Great and so on, blood will be forgotten and his legacy as the uniter of the ‘Russian lands,’ no matter the cost, will remain,” Nina Khrushcheva, an international-affairs professor at the New School in New York and the great-granddaughter of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, told me. She said the Russian leader appears to “have lost all grip on reality, more so than I was willing to admit only yesterday.” She added, “I didn’t think he was suicidal, but he clearly is, and is taking the world and us with him.”

November 21st, 2021
Pack of Tasteless Roses

UD‘s on Amazon’s German site, enjoying the not-quite-there English.

November 4th, 2021
Quote of the Day.

“The unbridled discretion exercised by the City; its use of the heckler’s veto as an explicit justification; its shifting, post hoc rationalizations; and the City’s invocation of political rhetoric by rally organizers and speakers, point to the conclusion that plaintiff is likely to succeed on the claim that the City engaged in viewpoint discrimination with respect to plaintiff’s political views.”

Hapless, hopeless, Baltimore, city of UD‘s birth, attempts to keep a group of vile people from assembling there. The people sued, and the judge… well…

October 27th, 2021
Wanna know how smart the highest paid person at a high profile American university is?

[Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich met with] Dr. Guy Palmer, a world-renowned WSU regents professor of pathology and infectious diseases… Over about an hour, Rolovich drove a conversation that focused on topics that were consistent with what Palmer said has been shared by the “anti-vax crowd on social media” over the past several years.

“Kind of typical ones: Is Bill Gates involved with the vaccines? Does [Gates] hold a patent on the vaccines?” Palmer recalled to ESPN. “He asked whether SV40 [the simian virus] is in the vaccines and whether that could be a dangerous thing. And the answer to that is no.”


The ignorance here is appalling. George Soros holds a patent on all the vaccines, not Bill Gates. Bill Gates isn’t even a Jew.

October 27th, 2021
Yes. The Trump comparison everyone’s making has been unpersuasive to me, too.

Zemmour has often been compared to Trump and he does want to Make France Great Again. “We want to protect our language,” he says, “the most beautiful in the world, the most clear, we want to protect it from American and North African influence and inclusive writing.’”

A better comparison, though, might be with Boris Johnson. Like the British Prime Minister, Zemmour has a first-rate mind and is often mistaken for a clown.

October 21st, 2021
‘But the fact that they’re not repelled by the incessant bloodletting and by many characters’ flamboyant cruelty to one another says something weird and disturbing about modern sensibilities.’

No kidding.

October 20th, 2021
Mein Trumpf: A Reckoning

“Now whether he blinks or not, I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist. I don’t know whether Bannon is trying to martyr himself; I don’t know if Steve Bannon thinks that twelve months in the pokey is time to get in good shape and begin the next chapter of his career and write a book, like others have done in the fascist movement…”

Steve Schmidt, on The Beat with Ari Melber

August 18th, 2021
Women Celebrate Taliban Diversity

“Let’s embrace diversity on every level!” tweets a British influencer who photographs herself in full burqa.

Excellent timing. History has really caught up with the burqa this week! UD, who has been writing about burqas forever, couldn’t be more thrilled. Soon the streets of Afghanistan (and London!) will ring out with beautiful blue diversity.


UD thanks John, a reader, for linking her to this au courant tweet.


Ten years ago UD wrote this essay in Inside Higher Education. Seems like a good time to reprint it.


Cesare Pavese, the Italian writer who killed himself in 1950, when he was 41, once wrote: “Every luxury must be paid for, and everything is a luxury, starting with being in the world.”

One of the strange blessings of the burqa – the black robe that entirely hides a woman, even her face – is the way its presence among us reminds us of this truth. Existence, we remember when we pass blank sheaths on our streets, is a luxury – a brief, beautiful luxury, a flash of light before darkness. We should not extinguish that light.

The darkness of the burqa, the blindness, constriction, anonymity, and silence within it, intend to annihilate a person’s existence, to make her invisible, expressionless, lifeless. Yet far from accomplishing this erasure, the burqa has done no less than rivet the eyes of Europe. It has become one of the most expressive artifacts of the modern urban setting. It has drawn from people and governments such strong responses that, by overwhelming majorities, one European nation after another is banning them.

Why is the burqa so riveting? Why is it generating such intense responses?

I think it has to do with the way it parades total darkness, total rejection of life – a woman’s life. It parades self-nullification for oneself — and also for one’s daughters, small children just beginning their lives. And there is no way around it — however complex personal motivation on the part of the mother might be — and of course there can be no volition on the part of a seven-year-old — this sight is, for most free people, and certainly for most free women, terrible. It is generally terrible in the totality of darkness it expresses, and it is particularly terrible in its suppression of the existence of women.


Western literature features a few symbolically burqa’ed characters, whose total rejection of life with other human beings, whose refusal to have an identity, profoundly disturbs the people around them. Non-beings like Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener and Kafka’s hunger artist draw fascinated crowds to the spectacle of their dissolved being; their absence from the human story is so complete as to be ostentatious.

Certainly there’s a morbid curiosity about the sort of people who exhibit the possibility open to any of us to say no to existence while still maintaining a shadowy silent aspect on the street. But like the lost-to-public-existence woman in the burqa, these fictional characters also tend to make the people around them more aware than they were before of the luxury of being in the world. By showing us what it looks like when you stop the world from happening to you, when you elaborately outfit yourself to arrest the slightest overture from the human realm, these people sharpen our awareness – an awareness we usually don’t have, because almost everyone we know is letting the world happen to them – of what it means, of how precious it is, to be an existent human being in the world.

The burqa, in fact, is at once the most inexpressive and most expressive object in the city. The appareled energy it brings to the policing of every digit of a woman, its elaborate abolition of a self, tells us precisely how much some people have to pay for the luxury of being in the world. It tells us that being is indeed a luxury, for which some of us must pay very dearly.

That is what it says to us. This is what the burqa says to the woman – or child – inside it:

Yes, you may exist. If you insist. But in order to be allowed to exist, you will have to pay the ultimate price – non-existence. No one may see who you are. You may never exchange a smile on a street corner. Your thoughts you may keep. To yourself. The burqa covers your mouth, conveying to you, and to the world, your muteness.

Our response to the burqa is a variant of horror vacui; appalled at the nullification it represents, we attempt to dress it up, give it features, somehow animate it into a person. Indeed one defense of the burqa you sometimes read among Europeans and Americans has it that the burqa really makes no difference: If you look closely, you can discern a woman’s smiling or frowning eyes behind the mesh; and if you talk to her, and she talks back, you’ll begin to realize she’s just like everyone else. If her seven-year-old daughter is also in a burqa, you should make the same effort to treat her as you would any other child.

The enormously strong opposition to the burqa in much of Europe suggests that efforts like these to regard it, and the women and children inside of it, as part of normal multicultural human life have failed. Again, why?


More often than not, when women who wear the burqa are interviewed, they say little or nothing about religion. Typically, they speak of their fear of male harassment. The burqa, they say, protects them from men.

Outside of countries like Afghanistan, it is abnormal to harbor so extreme a fear of public interaction with men that you feel you must wear a burqa. Women this traumatized, this imprisoningly beset by distorted perceptions of the world, should be helped to overcome their distortions and rejoin the human race. It’s bizarre, and inhumane, to respond to women who say these things by nodding your head understandingly and keeping them in their sacks.

Or do these women say these things because their husbands have made them afraid of men? Because their husbands have told them that if they go outside uncovered their husbands will kill them? That if they ever look at a man in public their husbands will kill them?

If my husband told me these things, I would certainly be afraid of men. I would also be living in a situation in which the courts of my country should take an interest. But since I’m afraid to say anything because of my husband’s threats, there is no way for the state to know that I’m living with a criminal. As are my daughters.

It is also possible that there are burqa wearers who truly believe that men will rape them or harass them mercilessly if they walk outside wearing a dress rather than a sheet and a mask. I mean, these women believe this on their own; they have derived a sort of Andrea Dworkin on steroids sex philosophy in which it is literally true that the act of being a visible woman in the world is simply impossible. Can’t be done. Woman equals red flag to a bull.

When interviewed, these burqa wearers typically berate women who go outside in jeans and blouses and make men rape them. They express a complacent moral superiority to loose women who instead of parading their nothingness parade their life, their equal share of the world. Women do not get to have a world. Only men do. Good women know this.

Self-nullified women, today’s Bartleby’s, tell modern democracies that they can extend equal rights to all, but there will always be some people who disdain the hard-fought right to exist, to be part of the social world. Not for them the luxury of being; it costs too much, this business of leaving your private retreat and venturing into the world of other human beings. These women will live in horror – they will teach their daughters to live in horror – of the free world. They will parade that horror every day.

This self-nullification, imposed or embraced, is why, one after another, the countries of Europe are saying no to the burqa. The burqa is one luxury no self-respecting democracy can afford.

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