Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for June 17th, 2022

The Golem – An Inanimate Matter.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2022 at 8:48 pm

Posted in Art, Video

A Black Army vet spent 16 months in solitary. Then a jury heard the evidence against him.

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“Land of the free.”

“Liberty and justice for all.”

Look around. Read Sydney Trent’s article (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post. It begins:

The cell was smaller than a parking space, bound by three dirty beige concrete walls and a steel door with a narrow slot to push in meals and shackle hands.

There was a narrow cot, a toilet, a sink. The filmy glass on the barred window allowed little sun; the always-on fluorescent ceiling light allowed no darkness. Each day brought the clanging of chains, the shuffling and shouting of guards and inmates, the threat of violence or the reality of it. Each day poured itself into the next.

For 16 months and all but a random hour every other day, Andrew Johnson languished in solitary confinement in a California jail. The first day — Nov. 12, 2014 — was hardly different from the 479th day.

“When they put you in solitary confinement, you’re no longer thinking clearly,” Johnson, 33, says now. “You’re thinking, ‘Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. I’m trapped.’ ”

Johnson, an Army veteran who had undergone Special Forces training, knew how to endure hardship. He’d carried 120 pounds in a rucksack for days; he’d overcome a lifelong fear of heights to parachute from planes; he’d fought his way back from a coma after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning. He had a military diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury to show for it.

But Johnson had never been isolated from the world like this before. He had grown up in a comfortable D.C. suburb, the adored only son in a deeply religious Black family. He had never been incarcerated before.

Then a nighttime encounter with two strangers in San Jose led to his arrest for attempted murder. Johnson insisted he was defending himself and had done nothing wrong. But at 26, he was sent to solitary immediately after he was booked into the jail to await trial.

No one ever explained to Johnson; his parents, William and Angela Johnson; or Johnson’s criminal defense attorney why he was put in isolation, they said. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the jail and was responsible for the decision, did not respond to several requests for comment. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2022 at 8:39 pm

How the Dairy Industry Designs Misleading Studies

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Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2022 at 6:48 pm

Three Blind Kings: Q&A with geostrategist and Pentagon guru Edward Luttwak

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A fascinating conversation about the three blind kings who rule China, Russia, and the USA. Written by David Samuels and appearing in Tablet, the conversation begins with an introduction:

Being an enfant terrible at the age of 79 is not a task that can be undertaken lightly. Most men are simple conformists from childhood on. For those with more adventuresome temperaments, a flurry of rebellion in their teens or 20s is usually the prelude to a failure of imagination or will that in turn precedes some kind of domestic establishment. There are children and careers to consider. Who has time to go running off to Ladakh to get shot at? A desk job, with perhaps some rock climbing or motor boating on weekends, isn’t a bad life, compared to many of the alternatives. Better to be led blindfolded to the edge of the pit than to take the entire weight of your existence on your shoulders, and collapse before you ever get there. On the way there will be songs and dances, and the voices of children at play. The fall will come, and then winter, followed by spring. Then it will be summer again.

The truly independent of mind and spirit never listen to these voices. They can’t. They will carve their own paths, which will end up in sorrow and tears most likely. Sometimes madness. Not because it is wrong to have adventures but because that is the human fate, against which they determined long ago to take up arms. They are monsters. Lovable monsters, sometimes, but always monsters. Rebel angels. Reprobates. Rock stars. You name it. We admire them, and hope that they fail, not because of who they are, primarily, but because of how their success or failure makes our own ambitions look petty. In its thirst for order and control, our society today has a special bone to pick with these people, who are mostly though not always male—meaning that they are racist, sexist, white supremacist, egocentric, narcissistic transphobes. To which I answer, is the world really better off without monsters? I don’t think so.

Edward Luttwak is an enfant terrible at 79 because he is gifted, and because he has played the role all his life. He skyrocketed to international attention at the age of 26 with the publication of his first book, Coup d’Etat: A Practical Handbook, a title that pretty well encapsulates the esprit of a long and distinguished career spent pingponging between various battlefields, the pages of the TLS, and the halls of the Pentagon. In a different country, in a different age, a self-made polyglot expert in military history and geostrategy who could speak half a dozen languages and had a thirst for adventure and occasional bloodshed would be running Indochina, and would then retire to the countryside to write a memoir of his campaigns and fuck the servants.

In America, which takes its uneasy and often forgetful relationship to its own empire as a mark of virtue, Luttwak’s fate was otherwise. Unlike, say, Henry Kissinger, whose chilly Germanic brain made him an influential courtier in six or eight administrations, not to mention incredibly rich—Luttwak would remain a gadfly in the corridors of power. Where Kissinger was cold, Luttwak was hot. Where Kissinger flattered, Luttwak was abrasive, and delighted in puncturing authority. Where Kissinger was cerebral, and talked about systems, Luttwak was hot-blooded, and wanted to touch and feel the stuff that the world is made of. He was too unruly and unflattering and independent-minded to be given any real responsibility for anything. No one wants a bona fide monster as secretary of defense.

On the other hand, Luttwak was too smart, with his big 16-cylinder brain, and too energetic, and too often right, to be banished to some provincial university to teach Byzantine military history to the children of accountants and dentists. Better to keep him in Chevy Chase, and give him contracts to chase after narco-terrorists or to study Chinese expansionism to his heart’s content until he suffered a heart attack.

Well, good luck with that. With the God of Israel firmly on his side, Edward Luttwak will live until he is 120 years old, and continue to delight in skewering his enemies, and baffling D.C. policymakers who prefer more orderly arrangements of dominoes on the table to the messy stuff that the world is actually made of. Long may he thrive.

What follows is a transcript of a recent three-hour-long conversation at Luttwak’s home in Maryland, accompanied by glasses of chilled vodka, from which Luttwak himself notably refrained. The conversation has been edited and condensed for ease of reading, with all the controversial parts left in.


David Samuels: Edward, you are a Washington fixture, surrounded by a flourishing mythology that suggests among other things that you are a Romanian vampire who was raised by the Mafia. So let’s get it straight.

Edward Luttwak: I was brought up by parents who, at no point, believed that they were Romanian. They were living in Romania, and quite happily. The part of the world that I came from is the only province in the whole of Europe where there was no Holocaust. In Banat, where we lived, nothing happened.

My parents were international people. In 1938, they went on honeymoon to Bali because KLM introduced service to Bali, so they went. My mother’s family’s house, in Timisoara, is a main tourist attraction. It’s called the Baruch Palace. So my mother’s family were people who had palaces. My father had rented the house where we lived. He didn’t own it. He owned warehouses and railway wagons. I actually saw one in Yugoslavia, in 1963.

My father lost everything, and he arrived in December 1947 to Naples. He then went to Palermo, Sicily, because he figured that Palermo is the only place in the world where he, as an international trader, would be able to become a millionaire in three years, which happened. The reason is that he was well-informed. He read that the British had created the National Health Service and the National Health Service distributed orange juice to pregnant women. They’d been to London. He knew there weren’t too many orange trees there.

So they went to Palermo and bought the green oranges on the tree. When they were ripe, they shipped them to London. He became very rich, very fast. Then, unfortunately, he developed an insane passion for a new technology called polyvinyl chloride, PVC. He went to Milan to set up a factory to electronically meld PVC.

He was not wrong.

I know. But he was very wrong for me because I loved Palermo. The Milanese children would make fun of me. I would break their noses.

Dalya Luttwak (Edward’s wife, an artist, who grew up on a kibbutz in Israel): Edward, Edward.

David Samuels: Tell me for three minutes about your upbringing in Palermo, who your classmates were.

Edward Luttwak: We lived in the best part of Palermo because my parents, being Central Europeans, had a total need for opera and classical music. There’s an opera house and a concert hall. They brought over the world famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin and other such people. We lived right there.

Many families around us were all aristocratic but they sent their children to boarding school in Tuscany, so they wouldn’t speak the Sicilian dialect. But my parents loved Palermo and they were not going to send me away. The only people who were both rich and nonaristocratic were the Mafia bosses. So I grew up with the Mafia bosses’ children.

Already, by the age of 6, we knew that we couldn’t fight each other because if one wins, then the older brother comes. If the older brother comes, then fathers, then eventually guns might come out. So we already knew all about deterrence and power politics.

Did you make the mistake of assaulting any of the Mafia bosses’ children? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2022 at 5:28 pm

Side-by-side comparison: Great actors v. Good actors, using a scene from “Heat”

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Bilge Ebiri has an interesting article in Vulture, in which he discusses the movie Heat, and in particular the work of Robert de Niro and Al Pacino. The entire article is worth reading, but the icing on the cake is the same scene (in all important aspects) being done by two journeymen actors and then done by de Niro and Pacino.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2022 at 11:59 am

Posted in Art, Movies & TV

Honeysuckle morning

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A bright sunny day — with a very high pollen count, so window shut and fan with HEPA filter running continuously on low — made me want a floral shave. Honeysuckle seems just the ticket for summer and here I have Micke’s Natural Wild Honeysuckle, which yielded a sweet-smelling lather with the aid of my Simpson Persian Jar 2 Super.

In a comment I made back on June 11, I recommended some razor options, including the Henson AL13-M, and I decided the next shave to use it — the 11th was a Saturday, i don’t shave Sunday, Monday is reserved for a slant, so the Henson was slated for Tuesday. 

Well, the best-laid plans of mice and men gang oft agley, as Robert Burns pointed out, and as you know things went a different direction on Sunday, with the result that I didn’t shave again until yesterday — which, in my world, had to be a slant shave. So today at last I get around finally to demoing the Henson AL13-M for Ferit.

And a very nice razor it is, too — and a surprising razor as well, given how extremely smooth my face is after using a razor that, from its feel on my face, didn’t seem to be doing much: three passes to total smoothness.

A splash of Phoenix Artisan’s Honeysuckle aftershave (with a couple of squirts of Hydrating Gel), and I’m set for a beautiful if pollen-heavy day. (Window is shut, Dyson fan with HEPA filter is running nonstop on low, and I’m fine.)

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Queen Victoria: “rich Darjeeling and Ceylon, smoky Lapsang Souchong, and sweet Jasmine.”

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2022 at 11:37 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

“The Need to Grow” — free to watch for one more day

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The documentary Free to Grow can be watched for free for one more day, so leap on it. From the link:

“No human being on the planet should miss this film.”
— Society of Voice Arts and Sciences

“Perhaps the best film on sustainability I have ever seen.”
— Teddy Grouya, Founding Director – American Documentary Film Festival

“I loved this movie…it was one of those environmental movies that gave me hope.”
— Todd James, Global News

Thanks to reader JvR for the tip.

NOTE: Once you sign up to watch (which you can do free for one more day), you have three days to actually watch the movie — so you get the weekend to see it if you sign up now.

Written by Leisureguy

17 June 2022 at 10:28 am

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