What I’ve been reading

1. Ruby Warrington, Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Concentration Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol.  Both the title and content make it self-recommending.

2. Jonathan Bate, How the Classics Made Shakespeare.  “One key argument is that Shakespeare’s form of classical fabling was profoundly antiheroic because it was constantly attuned to the force of sexual desire.”  Bate is very smart and this book shows it.

3. Henry Farrell and Abraham L. Newman, Of Privacy and Power: The Transatlantic Struggle over Freedom and Security.  An important contribution to political science, expanding on their concept of “weaponized interdependence,” namely how the U.S. (and sometimes other political actors) uses access to international networks, such as SWIFT, to push other nations around.  See #weaponizedinterdependence on Twitter for an introduction.

4. Andrew Lambert, Seapower States: Maritime Culture, Continental Empires and the Conflict that Made the Modern World.  Covers the Phoenicians, Venice, the Dutch Golden Age, the rise of the British empire, and more.  Interesting throughout, but I most liked the final section on why there are no seapowers today, and why China and Russia never will be seapowers.  Overall a nice integration of geopolitics and culture.

5. Rucker C. Johnson and Alexander Nazaryan, Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works.  A good summary of what the subtitle promises, though I was hoping for more attention on the costs and losers from those arrangements.

6. Guzel Yakhina, Zukeikha.  Translated from the Russian by Lisa C. Hayden, a Tatar woman is sent into exile in the Soviet Union of the 1930s.  This is one of the novels I enjoyed this year, several others I know concur.


I just read Becoming by Michelle Obama. It is a remarkable book, I heard it is quite the hit with Americans.

She is not a kind woman, not a beautiful woman, due to the selfish look she always has on her face, and nobody really likes her.

And she is the best selling memoirist in this sad country, where people like her are unpleasant, rich and famous celebrities, because they have power.

Literally the most admired woman in the US according to Gallup. https://news.gallup.com/poll/1678/most-admired-man-woman.aspx

I don't know why so many people like her, despite the perpetual "SELFISH LOOK" on her face.

That's a preposterous question to begin with. Who is the most admired woman? Admired by what? How the fact that she is a woman makes her part of this special category? Is admired a proxy to popular or well known? This kind of nonsense always ticks me.

It is really excellent. The best parts are actually about her life before Obama is elected, which is the majority of the book.

I have not had a drink all year, yet this blissful sleep, greater focus, etc. is nowhere to be seen.

Yes, I am very skeptical too. I don't drink (used to many years ago) and I can see how not drinking is good for my health. But trying to oversell it as some sort of life altering state of mind is bs.

Whenever I'm tempted to regret all dumb things I've done in my life, I console myself with the thought that at least I did one smart thing: Stop drinking.

Pipsterate may not be able to gauge the full benefits, being only a year out. But I can tell you the title of Ms. Warrington's book does not oversell the effects.

When I wake in the morning, though the cares of the day assail me, I am comforted by the warm glow of well-being that comes from not having drunk the night before, and not looking forward to a drink in the day ahead.

I never even drank that much (two beers or two glasses of wine a day, every day) But by eliminating this one small habit, had an enormous effect on my well being.

Once you have absolutely determined that you will not have a drink under any circumstances, your psychological self adjusts to cope with awkward social situations, dinner at restaurants, holidays and parties with a clear head. The mind settles into a kind of homeostasis and you wonder why you ever thought you needed a drink to get through these things.

In short: I nominate giving up alcohol as the simplest thing you can do to improve your quality of life right now.

I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's the best they're going to feel all day.

'Both the title and content make it self-recommending'

And extremely flexible - just imagine 'Celibate Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Concentration Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Sex' riding the latest apparent trend of not having sex to a best seller spot.

Or 'Homeopathy Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Concentration Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of School Medicine.'

In all honesty, there is a difference between one or two glasses of beer or wine once or twice a week (possibly with an extended break, such as during Lent), drinking one or two glasses every day, and drinking a fifth of vodka every couple of days, something that nobody starts out doing but is obviously much worse than sobriety by any meaningful measure. But moderation has never been a particular trait of the U.S., one reason so many discussions sound so extreme - the people involved are seemingly desperate to not be considered complacent, and always seem to reach for extreme examples. Though who knows, maybe the author discovered that not drinking a couple of bottles of beer with friends while grilling on summer weekends led to his life being limitlessly improved.

'profoundly antiheroic because it was constantly attuned to the force of sexual desire'

Sure seems to cover the plots of what one assumes involves the classical fabling of The Tragedy of Macbeth, King Lear, and The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, the sort of thing clear only to the very smart. Not to mention how perfectly that encapsulates the 'lean and hungry look' in Tragedy of Julius Caesar, along with all the 'action' (wink, wink) in the plays concerning English monarchs. Though maybe classical fabling is not the same as history fabling - not that buying the book to find out whether the quote lost meaning without its context would interest anyone.

Who knows, maybe the next reading list will include a gorgeously printed version of Shakespeare's actual work. Something that appears self-recommending, and not easily interpreted as a sign of virtue signalling.

(Always nice to see 'antiheroic' popping up - it seems to be a trending concept at MR)

Bate's 'Soul of the Age' from a decade back is a very good book indeed.
Along with Tiffany Stern, he is one of the most interesting academics writing about Shakespeare.

Fair enough - it certainly would not be the first time that Prof. Cowen simply did not place a quote in proper context. Nonetheless, the idea that the Tragedy of Julius Caesar is an example to demonstrate how 'Shakespeare’s form of classical fabling was profoundly antiheroic because it was constantly attuned to the force of sexual desire' seems ludicrous, as with the other cited plays. And Caesar certainly seems to be from the classical age and not merely a few centuries in the past, though 'classical fabling' is certainly a term that could have multiple meanings (not that I personally believe Shakespeare's play are fables, classical or not).

And this may be another example of extremes being used in discussion - of course Shakespeare was aware of sexual desire, in much the same fashion that one could also says that Shakespeare’s form of classical fabling was profoundly antiheroic because it was constantly attuned to the force of the desire for power. Shakespeare's work encompasses more than any single extreme, even with something as dramatic as Othello or Romeo and Juliet, where sexual desire and its results clearly play a prominent role.

I haven't yet read the book, but I suspect "key argument" is not entirely accurate.

Though who knows, maybe the author discovered that not drinking a couple of bottles of beer with friends while grilling on summer weekends led to his life being limitlessly improved.

I lol'd.

I think access to the sea is essential, and thus most countries are sea powers ever since international law outlawed piracy more or less. Just compare Bolivia, Upper Volta (Burkina Faso) to say New Zealand, Barbados and Madagascar. The sea = more money. Or Ethiopia vs Eritrea (the former is negotiating with the latter for sea access). Or the Kaliningrad Oblast in Russia.

Good points. True even in China. Richer parts are coastal and inland parts are still poor and only now developing as money from the coastal regions gets reinvested inland.

Or Botswana vs Somalia. Or Switzerland vs Albania.

Alfred Thayer Mahan:
All year-round, warm water ports: Hard to be a sea power (with sea control) without them. Limited access means sea denial is the only realistic option. No ports means you're locked in, dependent on the good will of neighbors (who have the needed access). Good luck with that.

'Good luck with that.'

The Swiss seem to be fairly happy with their situation - maybe because they don't just trust to luck.

They may or may not be fairly happy but they don't have ports.
Happiness is subjective. You don't absolutely need wealth or power to feel happy, cross-cultural studies reveal (although it doesn't hurt). But if you aren't content with happiness, you need luck.

4: Sounds quite interesting. The importance of naval power has been recognized since at least Thucydides. And much later, Mahan.

But the publisher's blurb says that Lambert draws a distinction between "sea power" and "naval power". Moreover one of the reviewers notes that the book focuses on small states with mighty seapower (Venice, Britain) at the expense of superpowers that also have strong navies (USA, presumably conquistador Spain). So perhaps a quirky book. Maybe instead of buying it I'll try to borrow it from a library and focus on the final chapter that Tyler praises.

On the lady who felt the need to write a book on how she felt better giving up drinking, actually I agree with her that too many women are drinking too much. They feel that they should match the men drinking, and of course they are usually much lighter in weight, so pound for pound they are drinking far more than most men.

I've noticed a lot more bars offering half pints and small pour glasses of wine lately, which could hopefully address this. My wife tends to order these smaller sizes. The bars also charge more per unit on these portions.

5 how could eliminating race, class, etc wiith full integration create losers?

Unless racism, class segregation, etc, creates winners and losers...

But also, loss of both output and consumption, as zero sum actually means.

Failing to fully employ all factors of production requires loss of output and loss of consumption.

1. This is why so many attempts at recovery fail. Everybody promises alcoholics that life will get so much better once they stop drinking. And it does get some what better for obvious reasons. But not so much better, because usually drinking is a symptom rather than a disease. So people say it, "Screw it, I might as well start drinking again."

i interpret the book as being less about the (appropriately studied) question of alcoholism and more about the understudied question of "what does an average, responsible-ish level of drinking add or take away from your life?" i think there are many people for whom drinking is truly not a "symptom" as much as a specific, changeable habit contingent on culture and environment.

3. Worth reading if you have already watched Battlestar Galactica?

Tyler -- Re #1, I notice that this book was written by Ruby, and that Amazon recommends similar books by Catherine, Annie, Clare, Jackie, Rebecca, Amanda, Jennifer, and Lauren. Any thoughts?


Amazon also tells me that RUBY WARRINGTON created The Numinous, an online magazine that bridges the gap between the mystical and the mainstream, and that she is the cofounder of Moon Club, an online mentoring program for spiritual activists.

I rather have a glass of wine.

#5. Integration in US public schools WORKED?

This I must suppose does help explain just why over 20% of the adult US population remains illiterate or sub-literate.

Public education in the US has long been nothing other than pedagogical fraud of the first magnitude when not sufficing as aggrandized baby-sitting. (If in doubt, ask and answer this question: what percentage of our "Cognitive Elites" [including tech tyrants and media hegemons] serving today are products in whole or in part of the US "public education" "system"?)

Promote multi-culturalism: abolish public education.

Re #2: I wonder if he's related to V. Jackson Bate, who wrote a fantastic biography of Samuel Johnson...

Jonathan Bate is English and W. Jackson Bate is Harvard by way of Mankato, MN. Bate's biography of Keats is also very good.

Re: alcohol and substance abuse. Applicants for employment, employees, athletes are required to submit to random testing. Why do presidential candidates and all candidates for public office get a pass? What could be the objection to a voluntary program? Should a candidate balk for some reason, that would say something.

Re #5:

Bad Schools, Immigration, And The Great Middle-Class Massacre


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