Even though there was no sight of an old vehicle, a human sacrifice, or a mythical goblin, walking out on the 63rd St pier did put me in mind of the small towns of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods:
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And yes, eventually I will blog about something other than food and literature. Like maybe law.


“Trying to write cricket bats”

As implied earlier, I’m experimenting with a new tag line for the blog. The source is the same (Stoppard’s The Real Thing), the allusion hopefully a little more explicit if also more obscure. For those of you who didn’t try to memorize the cricket bat speech during your arrogant sophomore year of college, here’s the context, as the main character criticizes a badly-written script:

Henry: Shut up and listen. This thing here, which looks like a wooden club, is actually several pieces of wood cunningly put together in a certain way so that the whole thing is sprung, like a dance floor. It’s for hitting cricket balls with. If you get it right, the cricket ball will travel two hundred yards in four seconds, and all you’ve done is give it a knock like knocking the top off a bottle of stout, and it makes a noise like a trout taking a fly…
What we’re trying to do is to write cricket bats, so that when we throw up an idea and give it a knock, it might … TRAVEL… (picks up script) Now what we’ve got here is a lump of wood roughly the same shape trying to be a cricket bat, and if you hit a ball with it, the ball will travel about ten feet and you will drop the bat and dance about shouting “Ouch!” with your hands stuck into your armpits. (indicating the cricket bat) This isn’t better because someone says it’s better, or because there’s a conspiracy by the MCC to keep cudgels off the field. It’s better because it’s better. You don’t believe me, so I suggest you go out to bat with this and see how you get on.

“Nudging the world a little”

A friend of Crescat 2.0 complains about the blog’s current tagline (“nudging the word a little”).  The reference is supposed to be to Tom Stoppard, The Real Thing:

I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you might nudge the world a little or make a poem that children will speak for you when you are dead.

For a long time, that was the closest statement I could find to what I wanted to achieve with my life.  To a large extent, it still might be.

But, alas, Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler ruined it.  So I may be forced to spend my weekend travels re-reading some Stoppard in search of a new one…

Why Might the Pope Resign?

Given that no pope has resigned in 600 years, and that even that precedent is distinguishable, today’s unusual events call for an explanation. Some possibilities:

1. Benedict has a desired successor in mind, and has reason to believe that person is more likely to become pope if Benedict resigns now.

2. Benedict is in ill health in some way that might affect his mental abilities, perhaps causing him to worry about taking a mistaken official action as his mental state declines.

3. Some form of blackmail, explicit or implicit, is afoot. Perhaps there are more potentially damaging revelations about Benedict’s involvement in the Church’s recent scandals, but reason to believe that resignation will keep them quiet.

4. A conscious desire for a change in Church policy with respect to papal resignations, possibly motivated by 1 or 2. In variation 1, Benedict might fear the future radicalization/liberalization of the Church and therefore believe that it should transition to a system of papal resignation and papal influence over one’s successor. In variation 2, the increasing extent to which physical health can be prolonged to outlast mental health necessitates a new way of dealing with papal infirmity.

5. Divine inspiration.


Shaken, not stirred

James Bond famously orders his martinis made with vodka, not gin, and “shaken, not stirred.” As many like to point out (most recently Sean Carroll, here), this is not proper. Gin is better than vodka, and cocktails made only with liquors and no fruit or cream should generally be stirred rather than shaken. But I have not generally seen an explanation of why, in light of all this, Bond orders his martini this way. Was Ian Fleming just ignorant? Surely not. And if not, what is he trying to convey about Bond?

Today, while reading Colin Peter Field’s The Ritz Paris (a superb present from my wife), I happened across an explanation I love:

Why does James Bond drink Vodkatinis shaken not stirred? Well, if we apply the rules about “who and why”, we see at once that James Bond doesn’t exist, but Ian Fleming did. So stop looking at Bond! Fleming, in my opinion, wanted to symbolize the uniqueness of his character by making him do things that “just are not done”! At this time, one didn’t drink Vodkatinis, one drank Dry Martinis. They were supposed to be stirred, not shaken. The character survives situations that would finish off most of us because he does things fundamentally differently.