I get mail.
“He no longer showboats across the line but nor he is prepared to win sweating and straining. It has to be cool, has to be cruel.”
Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph, on Usain Bolt winning the 200 metres.
I never remembered I was running against the clock until it was 30 metres to go, then ‘world record’ popped into my head. I looked across at the clock but it was too late to do anything about it then. — Usain Bolt, after running the second-fastest hundred metres in history.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft offers an amiable but insightful check on the tendency for North Americans to be impressed by the learnedness of British writers like Amis, Hitchens, and Alexander Cockburn. As he points out — quite rightly, “Cockburn could deftly quote Marx and Wodehouse in the same sentence, but that didn’t make him a scholar, and while Hitchens was a marvelous literary critic, he was no historian.”
The key point that Wheatcroft makes is that the fantastic displays of erudition Brits use to intimidate the rest of us is largely an Oxbridge conceit, a more general instance of the debating-society tricks and Stephen Potter-esque gambits the Oxfbridge crowd uses to outflank one another over sherry. But often, there’s not much more to it than that:
If that sounds grudging, remember the saying that it takes one to spot one. All those Englishmen listed above had been to Oxford, where I went myself, come to think of it. What was true there was also true at Cambridge, where Simon Gray enjoyed brilliant academic success, in a way that that very funny playwright and diarist later explained: “I wrote all my papers with a fraudulent fluency that could only have taken in those who were bound by their own educations to honour a fluent fraud.” Anyone who has been through the same pedagogical process will have an inkling what he meant.
The NYT Review section is really good today. The piece by Oliver Burkeman against all forms of “positive thinking” is pretty sweet. He leads with an anecdote about the 21 people who were burned last month in a coal-walking exercise at a Tony Robbins event. Read the whole piece, but here’s the kicker:
Mr. Robbins reportedly encourages firewalkers to think of the hot coals as “cool moss.” Here’s a better idea: think of them as hot coals. And as a San Jose fire captain, himself a wise philosopher, told The Mercury News: “We discourage people from walking over hot coals.”
I just received a copy of the Czech edition of the Rebel Sell. Amazing.
This is why your kids are fat.
This has to be the worst positioning of a premium product I’ve seen recently. Marketing a high-end single malt as “organic” is not just redundant; it makes self-conscious what is already embedded in the entire concept of the single-malt: local, hand-crafted, artisanal. Adding “organic” to the pitch for single malt is like the Carlyle hotel calling itself “VIP”.
James Dean is no longer the epitome of cool,” Dar-Nimrod says. “The much darker version of what coolness is still there, but it is not the main focus. The main thing is: Do I like this person? Is this person nice to people, attractive, confident and successful? That’s cool today, at least among young mainstream individuals. — Mainstream cool sheds its bad-boy image. WTF.