Christmas is around the corner. Perhaps 2020 has been a grim year but we are going to make the best of it! Is there someone in your life gazing up at the stars and wondering what Santa will bring them? This year, why not give them the gift of THE ZONE? Your spouse? THE ZONE. Your kids? THE ZONE. Your cousin you last saw at your grandmother's funeral who you think could be an alcoholic but are not sure? Yes, THE ZONE!
Obligatory shilling. This week I wrote for the Spectator USA about how COVID-19 and shutdowns have amplified the problem of modern loneliness, and about the need to balance safety and quality of life.
I also wrote for my paying Substack subscribers about the golden age of Polish organised crime.
11th November. Last Wednesday was Independence Day in Poland. Here is a piece I wrote to mark the hundredth anniversary two years ago. I was quite new to serious writing and produced a comically unsuitable first draft which prompted the editor to observe that the magazine was titled American Affairs, not Polish History Quarterly.
Here is a piece I wrote on Substack about the triumph of the young Polish nation against the Bolshevik invaders. I should have submitted it to Polish History Quarterly.
The banquet and the sword. Adam Salisbury has a powerful and disquieting essay in Palladium about how Pinkerite good cheer obscures the magnification of existential risk.
“The problem with New Optimism,” Salisbury writes, “Is that it focuses only on the banquet before us; like Damocles, we should also be concerned about the sword that dangles over our neck.”
I wrote about existential risk for the Daily Caller this year. Incidentally, the jibe that precedes a reference to a Vox article by Kelsey Piper was aimed at the magazine and not, as I now see it looks, the author. Sorry, Ms Piper.
Oh God, no-stradamus. Graeme Wood talks to Peter Turchin about Turchin's theories of elite overproduction and forecasts of civil strife.
I find Turchin interesting, though some of his ideas about elite composition seem off the mark. He thinks Wood is “elite” and he is not because Wood is a journalist who writes for tens of thousands of people while he is an academic who speaks to hundreds. But surely who we talk to is as important as how many? Is Barstool Sports more “elite” than the New Yorker?
Turchin-skeptical political scientist Richard Hanania pushes back against the idea that the US could be headed for civil war.
In the sauna, with a crossbow. How is organised crime looking in Russia? The wealthy owner of a series of meat processing plants, dubbed the “Sausage Tsar”, has been found dead in his sauna after being murdered with a crossbow. When police searched an apartment linked to the suspects they found an old man handcuffed to a bed, who they were apparently “persuading” to sign over his Moscow apartment. Charming people.
Our addiction. John Lewis-Stempel writes about the vicious folly of factory farming.
Adulthood blues. In my Spectator USA article this week I called lockdown a reductio ad absurdum of modernity. In a way it is also a reductio ad absurdum of one's late twenties. As we acquire more professional and familial responsibilities it gets harder to see our friends. “Sorry bud,” they say, “I can't do Friday. My kid is sick.” “Sorry mate,” we say next time, “I can't do this evening. I've got work.” Now, we take a different call: “Sorry, dude, I can't do this weekend. I'm in quarantine.”
Like a spider. Another sad thing about shutdowns is seeing local restaurants struggle to survive. Sometimes, when I'm getting takeaways, I think, “Hey, I have 18,000 followers on Twitter! I should be able to drum up business for this place!” Then I remember that few if any of those 18,000 people live within 200km of me - or, indeed, within 2000.
Still, I hope you enjoy these photos, taken on an almost eerily beautiful Sunday.
Have a lovely week, and thanks for reading,