She’s 15.

The Magic of a Train

To the Editor:

Re “Our Trouble With Trains,” by Richard White (Op-Ed, May 19):

I love trains. I live in the suburbs of Chicago, and I ride the commuter train to and from my high school in the city every day. It’s been a year since I began taking the train; the charm hasn’t worn off yet.

There’s something magical about stepping onto the train — it transports you to a world where politeness is the norm. Talk in a lowered voice to avoid disturbing other passengers. Move your bags if someone needs to sit down next to you. Hold the door for the people walking behind you. The knowledge that choosing the train over a car helps the environment brings an extra rush of pleasure.

I adore this microcosm of etiquette and patience, and I feel that if more people experienced the satisfaction of a good train ride, they would be more willing to invest in passenger trains. Fixing our railroad system does not require us to suddenly leap to the level of the high-speed, luxurious trains in Europe and Japan; it could start with small improvements to the commuter trains that people take every day.

~ ALIA ABIAD, 15, St. Ignatius College Prep, 9th grade in Western Springs, Ill.


On May 15th, The New York Times announced An Invitation to High School Students, introducing a letter-writing competition where students were invited to submit a letter to the editor in response to a news article, editorial, column or Op-Ed essay in The Times.

Check out the other winners’ submissions here: The Voices of Students: The Winners Are…

Staring at the Flame

black and white,portrait

[…] his intuition was luminous from the instant you met him. So was his intelligence. A lot of actors act intelligent, but Philip was the real thing: a shining, artistic polymath with an intelligence that came at you like a pair of headlights and enveloped you from the moment he grabbed your hand, put a huge arm round your neck and shoved a cheek against yours; or if the mood took him, hugged you to him like a big, pudgy schoolboy, then stood and beamed at you while he took stock of the effect.

Philip took vivid stock of everything, all the time. It was painful and exhausting work, and probably in the end his undoing. The world was too bright for him to handle. He had to screw up his eyes or be dazzled to death. Like Chatterton, he went seven times round the moon to your one, and every time he set off, you were never sure he’d come back, which is what I believe somebody said about the German poet Hölderlin: Whenever he left the room, you were afraid you’d seen the last of him. And if that sounds like wisdom after the event, it isn’t. Philip was burning himself out before your eyes. Nobody could live at his pace and stay the course, and in bursts of startling intimacy he needed you to know it.

[…] He seemed to kiss his lines rather than speak them. Then gradually he did what only the greatest actors can do. He made his voice the only authentic one, the lonely one, the odd one out, the one you depended on amid all the others. And every time it left the stage, like the great man himself, you waited for its return with impatience and mounting unease.

We shall wait a long time for another Philip.

~ John le Carré on Philip Seymour Hoffman, Staring at the Flame


Notes:


What Drives Success?

success
Not sure I buy into #1. I’m a fervent believer in #2 and #3.
I’ve mastered #2. There’s considerable work required on #3.

“The strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that, together, propel success. The first is a superiority complex — a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite — insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control….

It’s odd to think of people feeling simultaneously superior and insecure. Yet it’s precisely this unstable combination that generates drive: a chip on the shoulder, a goading need to prove oneself. Add impulse control — the ability to resist temptation — and the result is people who systematically sacrifice present gratification in pursuit of future attainment.

But this success comes at a price. Each of the three traits has its own pathologies. Impulse control can undercut the ability to experience beauty, tranquillity and spontaneous joy. Insecure people feel like they’re never good enough…A superiority complex can be even more invidious. Group supremacy claims have been a source of oppression, war and genocide throughout history.”

~ Amy Chua & Jed Rubenfeld, What Drives Success?


Read entire article in NY Times: What Drives Success?  Worthy…


Imperative groin thunder. I felt like an idiot. But I went with it.

lamborghini-aventador-lp-700-4-roadster

Hands Down, 2nd place finishers not close. This was the best Car Review I have ever read. Full-stop.  A few selected choice excerpts:

Car and Driver called the roadster “the best Lamborghini ever.” The guys on BBC’s “Top Gear” didn’t just name the original Aventador the best supercar of 2011, they raced it down a runway against an F-16 fighter jet. (The car won.)

I’ve mostly owned rusted-out Jeeps and Volvos…But then (in an Aventador we) roared home along the roads of rural western New Jersey, where we live. At the tap of the gas pedal, the landscape turned into a smear. So this is what a 691-horsepower engine feels like.

I pulled the car into my daughter’s high school’s parking lot, and I half-accidentally revved the engine as I came into view. The resulting snort of sound made six dozen pairs of eyeballs swivel in our direction. The only way I can describe this blast is to borrow a phrase from the rock critic Lester Bangs: “imperative groin thunder.” I felt like an idiot. But I went with it.

The attention, sad to say, is mostly from men. High-performance sports cars are a bro thing. Men will scamper across six busy lanes of Interstate (as two did while I was pulled into an A & W burger stand) just to run over to pull at their crotches and ask you about the transmission. Women mostly wince as if they’ve caught a whiff of your Axe Body Spray.

And rappers have uttered some delicious lines about them. In his song “To the World,” Kanye West declares: “Pulled up in the A-V-entador / And the doors, raise up, like praise the Lord / Did the fashion show, and a tour, and a movie, and a score / This a ghetto opera, Francis Foreign Car Coppola.

On the way, how fast did we drive? (The car’s maximum speed is 217 m.p.h.) Faster than I am willing to admit. Fast enough, if only for short bursts and only when the highway was clear, that I could imagine either A) being Tasered by a state trooper or B) blasting off into low orbit over the Monongahela Valley.

Airliners take off at 140 to 180 m.p.h. It’s not a joke to suggest that this car, which does 200 m.p.h. without thinking hard about it, could get airborne. [Read more…]

What I regret most in my life are failures of…

George Saunders

READ THIS.  You will not be disappointed.  It started my day off on the right foot.


From George Saunders’ 2013 “Advice to Graduates” commencement speech @ Syracuse University:

“…Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?”  And they’ll tell you.  Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked.  Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret?  Being poor from time to time?  Not really.  Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?”  (And don’t even ASK what that entails.)  No.  I don’t regret that.  Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked?  And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months?  Not so much.  Do I regret the occasional humiliation?  Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl?  No.  I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret…What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly.  Reservedly.  Mildly.  Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope:  Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth? Those who were kindest to you, I bet… [Read more…]

Crave Ice cream? Like no other man. Addicted? Not!

Craving an ice cream fix - Food Addiction - New York Times Magazine

Join me in taking the NY Times Magazine Quiz: Are You Addicted to Food?

Part A: Answer 0 for never; 1 for once a month; 2 for two to four times a month; 3 for two to three times a week; and 4 for more than 4 times a week.

  1. I find myself consuming certain foods even though I am no longer hungry.  (DK Score: 4.  Actually 4×4=16, if we are asked to uphold a Monk-level integrity standard here.  I could eat ice cream 3 meals a day.)
  2. I feel sluggish or fatigued from overeating.  (DK Score: 2.  Shocking actually.  I think I have built up a gorging stamina.)
  3. I have had physical withdrawal symptoms like agitation and anxiety when I cut down on certain foods (not including caffeinated drinks). (DK Score: Hmmmm. What if your normal condition is being agitated and anxious?  Let’s split the baby here and give me a 2.)
  4. My behavior with respect to food and eating causes me significant distress. (DK Score: 1. I’m should get “negative” points here.  Eating actually brings me incredible joy and peace.  That is, until my pants begin to snug up.  Then we’re talking sirens.)

[Read more…]

Success, the drug we can never get enough of…

Akitaka ItoDrive. Push. Chase. Finish First. Win. Be number one.

Achieve. Acquire another shingle.  Another degree.  Be the best in your field.  In your industry.  Be world class.

Learn More.  Work harder.  Be more. Be exceptional. Be the most you can be.

Set a goal.  Pursue it.  Achieve it.  Exceed it.

Pick any one above and you’ll find my underpinnings.  My undercarriage.  My foundation.

Yet, this NY Times article Redefining Success and Celebrating the Unremarkable moved me…

…“In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another — which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement,” he told the students and parents. “We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole…”

[Read more…]

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