ANY FOLLOW-UP ON THE POSTCARDS SENT TO THE WHITE HOUSE?
Thursday, 23 March 2017
Friday, 17 February 2017
Fake news, fake media, and now: Fake experts.
A friend of mine was in the hospital recently, waiting for expert opinions on his condition when he caught an eye infection. I brought him an over-the-counter remedy but checked with the nurse on duty to make sure it didn’t interfere with the medication he was taking.
She turned to her computer and Googled the answer to my question. It’s fine, she said. You can go ahead. There’s nothing on Google about that..
Whew. I’m glad I consulted a medical professional – Dr. Google, I mean.
The other day I developed tendonitis in my wrist. I checked the array of available wrist supports and read the descriptions on the back of the packages. In case of doubt, they said, consult your pharmacist. I did.
I handed him two products and asked which one was better.
He turned over the packages and started reading the descriptions. I pointed out, in the mildest possible way, that I was literate and had already perused the description, thank you very much. But now I wanted his expert opinion.
He gave me a confused look. For a moment I thought he would turn to his computer and consult Dr. Google, but he decided to fake it and said with sudden confidence:
Take this one. This will do it for you.
So I bought the thing, and what do you know – it worked. Better a fake expert than no expert at all – or what do you think?
Friday, 20 January 2017
#AMREADING: Patrick Modiano, The Black Notebook
Paris, 1960s. Jean, a young writer, falls in love with an enigmatic woman. Is Dannie her real name? Who are the menacing men she associates with? What is her connection with Morocco? Jean jots down his thoughts about her in a black notebook, but the parts don’t add up to a whole.
Among those masses of notes, some have stronger resonance than others. Naturally, many signals are garbled, and no matter how hard you strain your ears they are lost forever.
Anyway, the truest encounters take place between two people who ultimately know nothing about each other, even at night in a hotel room. Jean never recorded the name or address of the hotel, the way we tend not to write down the most intimate details of our lives, for fear that, once fixed on paper, they’ll no longer be ours.
Driving through Paris he senses the streetlights signaling to him. It was the same feeling you get from staring at a lit window: a feeling of both presence and absence.
It was hard to remember the places where he and Dannie met because each time we had to leave fast, on tiptoe. I’m sure we left a light on, so that a trace of us would remain, a signal that we weren’t really gone and that someday we’d return.
Jean never made a date with Dannie, and he felt sorry for people who prearranged everything. They would never know how time throbs, dilates, then falls back again when you wait, how it gradually gives you that feeling of vacation and infinity that others seek in drugs, but that I found just in waiting for Dannie.
One time he waited for her in a park. Only a few passersby, owing to the cold. But it was still sunny, and the blue of the sky was my confirmation that time had stood still. I needed only to sit there until nightfall and study the sky to discover the few stars I could name, without really knowing if I was correct.
Thursday, 12 January 2017
#AMTHINKING: ON THE ROAD, ALL THE WAY TO THE WEST COAST.
|Louisville, KY, Water tower|
Louisville, KY Vote here if you think that the Louisville water tower is the world’s most glamorous pumping station. What do you call this type of architecture: Belle epoque? Roman empire revival? Epic kitsch?
Midland, TX The architecture of the Midland Super 8 is less spectacular, but if you want to see men with ripped muscles, this is the place. It’s a hotel for oil workers. In the lounge, men in hardhats are eating their dinner out of Styrofoam boxes. They leave their dirty boots out in the corridor – does the hotel have a shoeshine boy who comes around nightly? You know those angelic voices in the elevator announcing the floor. Well, in Midland, it’s something between a drill sergeant and a construction foreman’s snarl.
El Paso, TX I WALKED to Mexico from El Paso. You pay 50 cents at the border, no questions asked. Walking back into the US is another story: line-ups, short for American pedestrians with documents, very long for visitors with or without papers. No line-up in the bicycle lane. Yes, there is a bicycle lane, and we were considering turning back and buying a used bike so we could use that lane.
USA Today. I had a hard time getting that paper en route (I love their continental weather map). I thought tabloid news had a large market in the land of Trump, but I guess print is dead, and those news are now on Tweet.
American coffee culture: I am Casablanca shocked. Starbucks is everywhere now, and I mean everywhere, right next to MacDonald’s and Super 8 in the most godforsaken little places.
Monday, 19 December 2016
#AMREADING IAIN REID’S I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS.
This psychological thriller is all about relationships with others (or is it with the self?). The surprise ending will answer that question. Either way, Jake (the protagonist of the story, shall we say) is right:
Forfeiting solitude or independence is a much greater sacrifice than most of us realize… It’s not unlike religion and God. We believe in certain constructs that help us understand life…The idea that
we are better off with one person for the rest of our lives is not an innate truth of existence. It’s a belief we want to be true.
Without the Other, so much of life felt accidental, unnecessary, arbitrary. It’s been lacking a dimension. Then again, a real relationship -- when there is dependence, when something is at stake – may involve the loss of the self.
We get at the truest version of ourselves …when we are not diluted by the Other’s presence and judgments…Only when we are alone can we focus on ourselves, know ourselves.
What does Jake tell us about his Other? He called me a compressed Uma Thurman she says. He never called me sexy… He called me pretty and he said “beautiful” once or twice, the way guys do. Once he called me therapeutic.
The key to understanding Reid’s novel is the phrase: You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.
But you know what? I think all thoughts are fake. That’s what makes them thoughts rather than observations. They have no independent existence. They serve only as tools to interpret the world.
And even so, we can’t understand the world through rationality, not entirely. We depend on symbols for meaning…This integration reflects the way our minds work, the way we function and interact; our split between logic, reason, and something else, something close to feeling, or spirit. There’s a word that will probably make you bristle.