A quick backgrounder on a man whose intense dedication to an arcane pursuit I truly admire, though I can by no means claim to understand it: A cryogenics and nerve cells specialist, Russian biophysicist Boris Nikolayevich Veprintsev (1928-1990) started recording Soviet birds on homemade equipment in 1957 while studying at Moscow University, undertaking annual birding […]
Entries from June 29th, 2012
June 27th, 2012 · Comments Off on Hubris, Thy Name is Vanna
There was a time when Vanna White aspired to be more than just another game-show letter turner. Like all television personalities, she longed to cross over into the world of film, so that someday her name would be mentioned in the same breath as Hollywood’s great. Unfortunately for White, her acting chops leave something to […]
June 25th, 2012 · Comments Off on Going to the Mattresses
By the time you read these words, I’m gonna be in on an island off the coast of Maine, hunkering down to revamp the book and spend some last moments with the royal trio before it becomes a quartet. Just a sporadic few things this week—back to solid land on July 2nd.
June 22nd, 2012 · 1 Comment
This weekend’s national election in Papua New Guinea is a real grudge match between bitter enemies: Sir Michael Somare, the dominant figure in the nation’s politics since independence, and Peter O’Neill, the man who replaced him as prime minister under dubious circumstances. The nastiness of this rivalry is reflected in the cost of electoral corruption, […]
June 21st, 2012 · 4 Comments
The great industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss is the man most responsible for preserving the art of hobo signs, which he chronicled in his 1972 masterwork Symbol Sourcebook. A good three decades after the end of the Great Depression, Dreyfuss tracked down the backstories for 60 of these signs, which hobos used to tip off their […]
June 20th, 2012 · 6 Comments
When Nigerian soccer star Christian Obodo was briefly kidnapped earlier this month, I was struck not only by the boldness of the crime, but also by the crooks’ obvious sensitivity to economic realities. For as this early account of the caper makes clear, the kidnappers and Obodo’s family started the negotiations on more-or-less the same […]
June 18th, 2012 · 1 Comment
I resisted the urge to write about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots during their anniversary earlier this spring, because I feared that anything I produced would smack of extreme navel-gazing. But I do feel compelled to mark the untimely passing of Rodney King, for there’s no doubt that his ordeal and the drama it produced […]
June 15th, 2012 · Comments Off on Respectful Enemies
Rampok macans were Javanese ceremonies which centered upon the slaying of tigers, perhaps as a symbolic way for humans to confirm their dominance over nature. The tigers were not sacrificed, per se, but rather forced into combat that virtually guaranteed their deaths—either against spear-wielding humans or, far more spectacularly, water buffalos. An eyewitness described the […]
June 14th, 2012 · 2 Comments
Taking a full day to get cracking on the book’s second draft. I can only hope the end product is as lyrical as the Eritrean revolutionary poetry above.
June 13th, 2012 · Comments Off on The Master of “What If?”
A year ago I wrote about the great Cuban boxer Teófilo Stevenson, who passed away on Monday. I, like so many others, have always been awestruck by Stevenson’s willingness to forego a pro career, one that would have doubtless earned him millions of dollars. He instead chose to live a simple life in Cuba, where […]
June 12th, 2012 · 6 Comments
The above comes from the military manual given to all new arrivals at Johnston Atoll, the Pacific island where we dumped a whole bunch of toxic material back in the day. I can’t help but love the accidental Zen of this motto. More on the Johnston Atoll lifestyle here.
June 11th, 2012 · Comments Off on Tighten Up Tighter
The Army knew better than to stick a talent like Will Eisner in a foxhole. The artist was allowed to serve his country from behind a drawing board, where he was the chief creative force behind a series of comic instructional manuals. The best-known of these was Preventive Maintenance Monthly, the highlight of which was […]
June 8th, 2012 · Comments Off on Non-Daily Operation
Tremendous apologies for failing to living up to this project’s motto this week. Much craziness with sifting through book edits and trying to rent out the former global headquarters. Was planning something special for today, but need to make an emergency trip to the heart of Nieuw Amsterdam to see a man about some papers. […]
June 5th, 2012 · 5 Comments
I am no great authority on Igbo music, but I think it’s safe to say that Area Scatter was one of the genre’s very few transvestite thumb pianists. The gender-bending was integral to his rock-star mythology, as detailed in Beats of the Heart: His home was filled with bones and skulls and paintings of the […]
June 4th, 2012 · 2 Comments
There is now a whole sub-genre of literature that deals exclusively with the lives of snipers. The public fascination with these lethal technicians is easy to understand: We see them almost as warrior monks, able to hush their thoughts so as to withstand the sheer boredom of their task. And there is something almost Zen […]
June 1st, 2012 · Comments Off on Trillion with a T?
It’s always a bit sad to see one of your childhood idols reduced to hucksterism. Yet such appears to be the case with the legendary Eric Dickerson, who once performed wondrous feats for my beloved Indianapolis Colts. Now years removed from the limelight, Dickerson today earns a living by peddling belts that purport to unclump […]