Back with more links!

December 20, 2020

Nothing too exciting.

Terrific story of how Frank Sinatra came to record “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” with Nelson Riddle. This seems right to me:

Frank’s restlessness—in his art, his personal relations, in everything—was his genius and his illness, and a permanent condition. There was always the dark undertow—the inner voices that told him that underneath it all he was nothing and nobody, a little street guinea from Hoboken. The furies that would frequently blind him when his vulnerabilities were touched. The terrible impatience—with the incompetence and stupidity that were so rife in the world, with things he needed to happen instantaneously, and so rarely did. The realization that he was like nobody else, and therefore destined to be alone. His terrors: of aloneness itself; of sleep, the cousin to death. And always, always, the vast and ravening appetites.



vivid essay on Baldwin’s church, the one he left, and the novel he wrote about that departure, “at once an indictment of the faith Baldwin left and an enduring testimony to its power.”


fascinating interview with John Lennon in 1980, about how stepping back from his life — dropping out, as it were — made it possible for him to reconnect with his life. 

Q: The fear in the music business is that you don’t exist if you’re not on the charts.

A: I just wanted to remember that I existed at all!

A lot of wisdom in this.


Interesting: a discussion of Obama’s early agenda to move towards abolishing nuclear weapons, looking at that agenda and its failure as a lens through which to think about (among other things) civilian control of the military.  What we do with nukes remains a vital question—it would be better, much better, if the US had many less of them.  They are unstoppable and we could still annihilate any opponent many times over with a tenth of what we have (we have over 5000 nuclear warheads).


Was art always destined to be something that came only after we had satisfied our basic subsistence needs? Human evolution suggests not.

Very penetrating study of cave art—no pun intended.  Really very good, to think about why we make art and what cave art tells us about ourselves.  And I never thought about the fact that these caves were probably one of the very few places in their world where the past was registered as materially palpable, in the artwork previous generations had left behind.


Good intro piece to Paul Celan, famously author of “Todesfuge”, a powerful poem of the Holocaust and so much moreDeath is a master from Germany.  But beyond that, perhaps, as he said, there are still songs to sing on the far side of mankind.


good review of Time of the Magicians, a pretty accessible book about Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Cassirer, and Benjamin. I believe that, these days, Cassirer’s stock in particular is severely under-priced; you should check him out, as he’s trying to find a way to redeem humanism in a deeply anti-humanist moment.  Does that sound familiar?  Hmm…


The book thieves.  In my view?  Hang 'em high.


Amazing.  Millennium old shops, and companies, exist in Japan.  In the same families.


Be well, everybody.  Tomorrow's the winter solstice; the darkest day of the year.  But the sun is on the way.  And the Son!