Category Archives: people

Julia Child Lives!

What is it about Julia? She still has a magical attraction long after she laid her ladle to rest. Fisher is not so well loved even though she wrote a blue streak about food.

I think that Julia’s peasant mentality keeps us coming back to hr, and I do not mean this in a demeaning way. Peasants have no choice to find happiness in simple things. They cook. They eat together. And they talk about the simple pleasures that these things bring. Julia was that way.

So if you are there in her Provence kitchen, she might talk to you too! About garlic, that is.

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Morning Coffee with H.G.Wells

Something to dig into as you get ready for the day

In addition to the numerous pioneering works of science fiction by which he made his name, H. G. Wells also published a steady stream of non-fiction meditations, mainly focused on themes salient to his stories: the effects of technology, human folly, and the idea of progress. As Peter J. Bowler explores, for Wells the notion of a better future was riddled with complexities.

what is the problem?

Wells realized that this state of uncertainty would continue indefinitely, making it virtually impossible even for the enthusiasts to predict what would emerge

BTW, you might begin to appreciate more why the novel Frankenstein became so iconic. Are we adding to the sum of good on earth or doing something else?

Chelsea Miller’s Knives are Magic!

If you have not heard of Chelsea Miller, her story starts this way

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is a long way from New York City, but knife maker Chelsea Miller, who grew up surrounded by untamed woods and farmland, has faithfully reproduced the spirit of the place in her Brooklyn backyard. Steps from her kitchen door, a workshop filled with heavy machinery and power tools sits behind a lush thicket of potted plants. Here, Miller carves and sands her knife handles out of spalted apple and maple wood from her family’s farm, and forges blades out of repurposed horseshoe rasps gathered from the surrounding area.

To say that Chelsea makes knives is like saying Picasso made praintings

The knives are used in the kitchens and dining rooms of some of New York’s finest restaurants, including Eleven Madison Park, where they are part of the tableside cheese service. The average price of a Chelsea Miller chef’s knife is $800, and there is a year-long wait list. While Miller makes all her kitchen and cheese knives by hand in the studio, she’s recently begun selling sets of either six or eight steak knives, designed by her but manufactured in Thiers, France, by a family with seven generations in knife making. All of Miller’s knives, along with hand-carved cutting boards and leather knive cases, are sold exclusively on her website, ChelseaMillerKnives.com.

Here is an interview with her.

Here she is

Image result for Chelsea Miller knives

And here are some examples of her work.

Chelsea Miller knives

Ye, I want one.

 

The Sad Fall of Joi Ito

Until the other day, Joi Ito was a revered figure in the visionary tech world. He headed the MIT Media Lab, one of the most prestigious tech workshops in the world.  In case you are not familiar with Media Lab

The Media Lab was founded in 1985 by Nicholas Negroponte and former MIT President Jerome Wiesner, and is housed in the Wiesner Building (designed by I. M. Pei), also known as Building E15. The Lab has been written about in the popular press since 1988, when Stewart Brand published The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at M.I.T., and its work was a regular feature of technology journals in the 1990s

I remember when Joi Ito took over Media Lab back in 2011. Ito was the real deal. Here is a snippet from his bio

Ito is a venture capitalist and angel investor and was an early stage investor in Kickstarter,[26] Twitter,[27] Six Apart, Technorati, Flickr, SocialText, Dopplr, Last.fm, Rupture, Kongregate, Fotopedia, Diffbot, Formlabs, 3Dsolve and other Internet companies.[28][29] A vocal advocate of emergent democracy and the sharing economy, Ito is a doctoral candidate in Business Administration focusing on the sharing economy at the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy, Hitotsubashi University. He is the author of Emergent Democracy.[30] Ito is Senior Visiting Researcher of Keio Research Institute at SFC.[31] In May 2011, it was announced that Ito’s company, Digital Garage, will provide PR, marketing, product marketing research and market research for Linkedin Japan.[32]

One of the more interesting things about Ito has been his focus on ethics in developing tech, especially AI. You could be forgiven for thinking that Ito would then insist on high ethical standards in managing Media Lab.

Here he is chatting with Reid Hoffman. He also is on the board of The New York Times, along with the MacArthur Foundation and the Knight Foundation,

And that is all over now. Ito has resigned from MIT Media Lab, and from all of the above boards.

What happened? In order to raise money for Media Lab, Ito got in bed with a dude by the name of Jeffrey Epstein .Epstein gave funds himself and channeled funding from other wealthy donors. There were several problems with this. First, Epstein was a fraudster, and was using Media Lab’s reputation to push a fraudulent product (while falsely claiming he had no control over what Media Lab did with his money). Ito went along with it. Second, Epstein, as we all know, was a monster – a sexual predator of underage teens and perhaps worse. Ito turned a blind eye to that,

Lesson learned?  It is the same lesson we supposedly learned from the Bernie Madoff scam. When someone makes a claim that is too good to be true, usually, if not always, it is false. Let’s put it another way. There are always “hunters in the forest”. These are dudes who talk a big game and seem to offer amazing results (like huge amounts of money or returns on money). BTW, I use the word “dude” but do not mean to say that only men have this predator mentality. If you are a person who needs cash or is greedy for higher returns on investment, you are their prey. Ito needed money for Media Lab. Epstein’s calling card was that he could access enormous amounts of cash and related services. And so, Epstein had Ito for lunch.

My guess is that more stench will emerge now that Epstein is dead and can no longer cover his tracks.

Ouch!

Need a Role Model? Consider Harry Chapin

Back in the day, I was not a huge Harry Chapin fan. His music was a bit too folksy for me. I was more into the Dead and such stuff. I did like the song “Taxi”.

But even then, I was vaguely aware that Harry Chapin was a different sort of guy. He was not just another “star”. Harry was committed to lots of causes. He gave away lots of money and time. He cared about people and he cared about how one should live.

It was a huge loss that Harry passed away in a tragic car accident in 1981. Still we have his legacy. We know who he was. And we can think about how we can be more like he was. This video tells a bit of that story. Enjoy!

Partying with Dave Koch in Valhalla

Dave Koch was born rich and with his brother got a lot richer. He was a serious man and he wanted to do more than just be very, very rich. He wanted to change the world. It just so happened that he had certain beliefs about the world that he thought were just the thing to push for —- libertarian thinking.

So Dave pushed libertarian causes relentlessly, up to his recent death at age 79. What to make of him? What will people say in 50 years time?

Of course, we cannot know. Too many things can happen to predict the future with great confidence. But we do know a few things

  • libertarian thinking derives from liberal thinking, which is a product of the enlightenment
  • the liberal vision is that individuals are best left to their own devices to solve their problems. They don’t need state controls or kings or religious dogma.
  • Liberal ideas have radically reshaped the world. They have made the idea of  absolute rulers like  kings , popes, dictators, etc. look silly when those folks used to  be taken seriously.
  • Liberal values have also promoted human rights — if individuals have inherent value, they should have fundamental protections. No more Nazi death camps, right?
  • Libertarians think that we have not gone far enough. They think we can find more value in individuals than we have. That individuals are still held back by “the state”.
  • And they are bewitched by the notion that individual will married with reason implies that markets will always self-correct. Just leave everything to markets Regulation is counter productive and just an avenue for corruption.

This all sounds good. But we have discovered something disturbing about human nature. That disturbing thing is that at the core, we are not rational. We are emotional beings. As such, we are not in a position to act “rationally” in given situations even if the fate of the world depends on it. To the contrary, we are loathe to give up our beliefs even when presented with evidence that they are stupid.

Call us the stupid species?

For that reason, we need politics — the craft of building context around ideas to create threads of policy. Without politics, we are manipulated by powerful interests who build context to their own advantage.

For this reason, the libertarian cause is, in my humble view, bullshit. It is an exaggeration of a useful idea (liberal thinking) to less than useful political argument.  And Dave Koch? Sadly, he will be remembered as one of the hypnotized true believers who didn’t get it.

What do you think?

Remembering Peter Fonda

It seems like a long time ago when Peter Fonda played a handsome young rebel in the film “Easy Rider”.  It was 1969 and Fonda had a certain look that sold well.

Image result for Easy Rider

That look gave the film a certain gravitas. It was a nice contrast to the more scalawag look that Dennis Hopper had as his sidekick.

Image result for Easy Rider

Fonda’s appearance sold the film and so it is worth reflecting on it for a moment. It was a serious look. A look that suggested depth of character. A sense of the importance of rejecting societal norms and embracing an alternative, more free way of being. And it was a look that made fun of mainstream values.  It was “in your face”.

The truth is, however, that there was not much else to the film. Just the look, the music, motorcycle riding,  drugs, a bit of odd sex in a cemetary, and a tragic nasty ending.

Image result for Easy Rider ending

That ending was, in fact, the real content served up by the film.  The shocking contrast to the aimless wandering. Beautiful, romantic youth was killed in a senseless fashion by red neck society.. An ending of the type that we associate with the great romantics — Shelley and Byron. Hmmm … the fact that this was not a particularly original ending did not occur to folks at the time.  To the contrary, the film seemed to be very different. And it was different than the mainstream Hollywood stuff that we were used to seeing.

It was different, for example, from “Funny Girl” and “Planet of the Apes” and “The Thomas Crown Affair”., three popular films from 1968. But in fact, “Easy Rider” shared characteristics with some popular films of 1969 — like “Midnight Cowboy”,, and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, Both of these 1969 films had  similar tragic,  romantic  endings. That was a popular thing that year. We might also recall that Clint Eastwood gave us a similar rebellious look. And even the motorcycle thing had its own pedigree.

Image result for Marlon Brando motorcycle

While this may not be  particularly original or deep stuff,, Fonda was able to make it look deep. Perhaps he got that from his father, Henry Fonda who was very good at portraying serious characters (like Tom Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath”). Peter Fonda was the next generation and he  captured the imaginations of lots of young folks because he seemed to reflect the questioning that was going on at that moment. He seemed genuinely determined to get to the truth about the meaning of life.  He was a hedonist, as hippies generally were,  but a hedonist on a mission or sorts.

Image result for Peter fonda family

Well, maybe Peter Fonda was serious about that. And maybe he was not that serious about it. Time went on,  he got older, but he did not appear to get any wiser. To the contrary, he seemed to get a bit cranky. And he has now passed on at age 79.

It is tempting to dismiss this as just more evidence of the shallowness of Hollywood culture where a certain look sells — but just for a moment.

Image result for Peter fonda

But it is a bit painful to be reminded that Fonda was not really a rebel. To the contrary, he was a rather typical creation of extravagant Hollywood culture. He came from a well known Hollywood family, and had a pampered existence. Naturally, he complained about it on the grounds that his famous father was emotionally distant.

Image result for Peter Fonda family

That was the reality. And sad to say, it is a bit boring. So perhaps we can all be forgiven for not paying very much attention to the reality. Instead, we remember the fantasy. We remember the look and the pretend epic journey that Fonda and Hopper embarked on in the film. After all, we were with them, at least in our imaginations.  Never mind that we were actually walking the dog, or cutting the grass, or  grilling burgers in the back yard ,or cramming for an exam. We were much more than those things in our dreams and we still are!