Iran & the Bomb

Christopher de Bellaigue, writing in The New York Review of Books: “It is not unthinkable that an imaginative solution will be found to the immediate diplomatic impasse. (The ICG, for instance, proposes that the Iranians be permitted to have a small and heavily monitored enrichment facility, but to commission it only after several years of building confidence with the IAEA and the EU countries, among others.) That would be good news, but the underlying issue would still need to be addressed. That issue is what Iran’s conservative leaders need to do to save themselves from being overwhelmed by George Bush’s administration, whose plan to transform the Middle East has no room for undemocratic ayatollahs.”

Christopher de Bellaigue is the author of In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs: A Memoir of Iran.

The Anti-Semitic Hoax That Refuses to Die

“For more than a century The Protocols of the Elders of Zion has made its way into many languages, selling untold numbers of copies, portraying Jews as demonic schemers.

Said to be the minutes of a secret council of Jews discussing their plot for world domination, this slim volume, first published in Russia in 1905, has become a nearly sacred text for political and religious movements ranging from American nativism and German Nazism to Arab Islamicism.” (New York Times )

The Best a Man Can Get

In search of the perfect shave: “As the ‘tech editor’ for NBC’s Today Show, Corey Greenberg spends most of his on-air time shilling for the latest technological gadgets. (Literally, shilling—last April the Wall Street Journal revealed that several technology companies had paid him handsomely for his promotional efforts.) He can tell you why you need a video iPod, what you’re missing without satellite radio, and where to put the fifty-inch flat screen tv. But on January 29, 2005, he was enthusiastically undermining half a century’s worth of high technology.

In the Today Show studio, Greenberg lathered up his face with English shaving cream and a badger brush, whipped out a vintage double-edge razor, and made a passionate case that the multi-billion-dollar shaving industry has been deceiving its customers ever since 1971, when Gillette (no small advertiser on network television) introduced the twin-blade razor. Everything you need for a fantastically close and comfortable shave, Greenberg said, was perfected by the early 20th century.

With his Today Show segment, Greenberg became the highest-profile convert to ‘wet shaving.’ He is still one of its most fervent evangelists, with—what else?—a blog, www.shaveblog.com. At 120,000 words and counting, Greenberg’s blog could best be described as gonzo shave journalism. He explores every nook and, for that matter, nick of the wet shaving experience, whose defining elements are a single sharp blade (whether ensconced in a safety razor or exposed in the fearsome straight-edge), a brush, soap, and lots of hot water.

But Greenberg’s blog is just the most visible salient of a movement that has all the ingredients to reach its tipping point.” (Christianity Today)

As someone who has shaved only three times in the last thirty years (on Jan. 1, 1981; Jan. 1, 1991; and Jan. 1, 2001), I am envious that I will likely not be partaking in the phenomenon of the Epicurean shave…

Beckett remembering himself

A review of Beckett Remembering / Remembering Beckett, Uncollected interviews with Samuel Beckett and memories of those who knew him, edited by James Knowlson and Elizabeth Knowlson:

“Towards the end of his life, Samuel Beckett, confronting the prospect of a major creative impasse, wrote to the theatre director George Tabori about the abiding illusion that had sustained him throughout his long career: “While still ‘young’ I began to seek consolation in the thought that then if ever, i.e. now, the true words at last, from the mind in ruins. To this illusion I continue to cling”. With typical economy, Beckett’s statement brings home some of the major themes of his post-war writing, his dream of stripping away the accoutrements of language, culture and personality – the “accidentals” of our existence – to see what remains. Yet beyond the strikingly Beckettian image of “the mind in ruins”, the statement is also sounding out the farrago of times and tenses that make up our minds on matters of remembrance – here, the way in which the future “then” of a young man anticipating how it will be shifts to the “now” of an old man remembering how it was. Finding the right form for expressing the tangled relations between memory, self and language was something that preoccupied Beckett throughout his writing life… It has become something of a critical commonplace to suggest that memory is another name for invention in Beckett’s work, a way of creating self-consoling stories to accompany us in the dark…” (Times of London)

Not that I liken myself to Beckett, but the personal resonances for me are powerful…