Book Review: Sasha Abramsky’s ‘Jumping At Shadows’ is important but covers little new ground

Reggie Watts’ 2012 TED Talk had many unique observations, but one has always stuck with me as particularly insightful.

“As we face fear in these times—and fear is all around us—we also have anti-fear. The background radiation is simply too static to be able to be seen under the normal spectral analysis.”

That line of satirical pseudo-babble was part of an improvised comedy/musical performance but has achieved a surprising resonance in years since, and it’s as concise a summary of journalist Sasha Abramsky’s latest book Jumping At Shadows as the one it gives itself. Continue reading Book Review: Sasha Abramsky’s ‘Jumping At Shadows’ is important but covers little new ground

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Donald Trump isn’t president yet, but he’s already started bombing

The other day the candidates finished up the last of three presidential debates after a year and a half of serious campaigning, and the only thing left on the calendar is Election Day itself. Now the final hours of the election are unfolding like the extended director’s cut of Return of the King: we’re ready for it to be over any time now, but there’s still much more than you need or want ahead.

So the 2016 Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner just happened, and because there are pageviews to get and 24 hours of cable to fill and politics are consumed and pored over by laymen like Westerosi genealogies, it wasn’t just another private white-tie fundraiser for New York Catholics and other elite figures to mingle and lightly roast one another; it was a public occasion open to anyone with cable or YouTube and another subject to fill conversation for the chattering classes we can now all count ourselves among thanks to the steady march of progress and the Internet.

Donald Trump gave his speech; Hillary Clinton gave hers. They each apparently gave two versions of their talks because that’s how people reacted to it. Ideology is a prism for splitting the light from any event into your preferred spectrum, and we’re lucky enough to have plenty of sources available to better crystalize our thoughts, whatever the ideology.

Continue reading Donald Trump isn’t president yet, but he’s already started bombing

There are worse things than being the world’s biggest celebrity

During last autumn’s presidential campaign, John McCain ran ads calling Barack Obama the “biggest celebrity in the world” and meant it as an insult – which coming from a senator who’d hosted “Saturday Night Live” and from a ticket that eventually included Sarah Palin, was a bit hypocritical.

But largely accurate. Already Obama seems to have appeared on “Entertainment Tonight” more than Bush 43 ever did; we care about the present Obama’s wife bought and the outfits his daughters wore, even how his daughter reacted when she met other celebrities. We didn’t know FDR was crippled, but we know Obama drives to the left to get to the basket.

Secret Service agents with orders to shoot-to-kill are the only thing keeping paparazzi away.

Continue reading There are worse things than being the world’s biggest celebrity