Thursday, December 31, 2009 12/31/09 - our fearless predictions for the future

Top 10 fearless predictions
for the future:

As 2009 winds ever-so-gently to its conclusion, we
have consulted the tarot card reader who works in the
alley behind our headquarters complex, and
assembled the following predictions. We know they
are completely reliable, because we have used this
particular tarot card reader frequently for sports betting

February 2, 2010 - Michael
Jackson rises
from the dead and immediately takes a part-time
position as a Starbucks barista.

October 9, 2010 - Actor, playing a scene over
the telephone, pauses long enough to create the
illusion of someone speaking on the other

December 12, 2010 through October 14, 2017
- The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, feeling somewhat
underutilized, if not perhaps a bit neglected, order
invasions of Pakistan, Kuwait, New Guinea, East
Timor, Juarez, Mexico and Schenectady, New

February 14, 2011 - Tiger Woods renounces
golf in favor of the newly resurgent ping pong craze,
briefly joins a monastery, and ultimately enters into a
polygamous marriage with Jessica Simpson, Roger
Federer, Rachel Uchitel and his 155 foot megayacht

July 4, 2011 - President Obama, with coaxing,
overcomes his publicity phobia and gives a

September 15, 2011 - The U.S. Congress
temporarily puts an end to all budget deficit
controversy by hiding the national checkbook

January 1, 2012 - China (finally!) renounces
self-interest and agrees to be guided solely by
America's preferences.

April 15, 2012 - Siegfried and Roy sell rights
their dormant Las Vegas animal training act to
Michael Vick, who promptly renames it Mike Vick's
Las Vegas Animal Lovefest before mysteriously
disappearing during a nightly cage cleaning.

May 1, 2012 - David Letterman relocates his
show to the Playboy Mansion and introduces a new
nightly feature called "Stupid Host Tricks."

November 3, 2017 - A man wears a toupee
that actually fools someone.

(With thanks and apologies to George S. Kaufman
and Marc Connelly)


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Constant Contact(R) | | Philadelphia | PA | 19102 12/31/09 - the reinvention of love

12/28/09 to 1/1/10: The
Week of

In today's encore excerpt - in the chivalrous
twelfth century, relationships and sex, viewed as
dutiful and dispassionate under the Church, begin to
emerge as rapturous and transcendent. The new age
of courtly love sweeps through the courts of Europe
and engenders a new genre of songs and poems.
Aiding in this transformation are Eleanor of Aquitaine
(1122-1204) and the troubadors:

"The [new] game of courtly love is an elaborate
blueprint for the building of desire, as opposed to the
quenching of it. The higher it builds without fulfillment,
the more perfect a lover the knight proves himself to
be. ...

"Consummated or not, courtly love is by definition
adulterous. The knight who jousts on horseback,
sword in hand, competes against other knights for a
highly desirable lady. But they're not fighting for her
hand in marriage, or even for the privilege of courting
her. She already has a husband. Initially, at least,
they're not even fighting for the privilege of sleeping
with her. They're fighting for the privilege of loving
her - synonymous with serving her. ...

"In 1154, Henry, Duke of Normandy, captures the
English throne as Henry I, making his wife Eleanor [of
Aquitaine] a queen for the second time - and [through
her] bestowing upon the English court a resident
expert on the rules of the game. From there the ideal
of love ... will be converted into the middle-class ideal
of marriage: the melding of two minds, bodies, and
hearts into one. ... Eleanor and her kin would find it
next to unimaginable that the heady quality of adultery
would one day converge with the dutiful,
dispassionate quality of marriage as they experience

"Maybe that's what finally enables the convergence:
Love enters marriage through the extramarital back
door. As [Christian author] C.S. Lewis noted in his
study of courtly doctrine, Allegory of Love, 'Any
idealization of sexual love, in a society where marriage
is purely utilitarian, must begin by an idealization of
adultery.' ...

"What troubadors bring about is the reinvention of
love. They make its pursuit desirable, even admirable.
Previously, epic tales of sexual desire ended in
mutually assured destruction for all concerned. ...
[Now], to gamble all you have, even your life, on
romantic rapture becomes the route to
transcendence. The most memorable romantic lovers
of courtly literature - Tristan and Isolde, Lancelot and
Guinevere, Troilus and Cressida - meet tragic ends,
but noble ones. They martyr themselves for the glory
of the faith. The new religion of love is a wedge to the

Susan Squire, I Don't, Bloomsbury, Copyright
2008 by Susan Squire, pp. 151-159.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 12/30/09 - three kinds of love

12/28/09 to 1/1/10: The
Week of

In today's encore excerpt - three kinds of love;
attachment love, caregiver's love, and sex:

"In the terrain of the human heart, scientists tell us, at
least three independent but interrelated brain systems
are at play, all moving us in their own way. To untangle
love's mysteries, neuroscience distinguishes
between neural networks for attachment, for
caregiving, and for sex. Each is fueled by a differing
set of brain chemicals and hormones, and each runs
through a disparate neuronal circuit. Each adds its
own chemical spice to the many varieties of

"Attachment determines who we turn to for succor;
these are the people we miss the most when they are
absent. Caregiving gives us the urge to nurture the
people for whom we feel most concern. When we are
attached, we cling; when we are caregiving we
provide. And sex is, well, sex. ...

"The forces of affection that bind us to each other
preceded the rise of the rational brain. Love's reasons
have always been subcortical, though love's execution
may require careful plotting. ... The three major
systems for loving - attachment, caregiving, and
sexuality - all follow their own complex rules. At a given
moment any one of these three can be
ascendant - say, as a couple feels a warm
togetherness, or when
they cuddle their own baby, or while they make love.
When all three of these love systems are operating,
they feed romance at its richest: a relaxed,
affectionate, and sensual connection where rapport
blossoms. ...

"Neuroscientist Jaak Pansepp ... finds a neural
corollary between the dynamics of opiate addiction
and the dependence on the people for whom we feel
our strongest attachments. All positive interactions
with people, he proposes, owe [at least] part of their
pleasure to the opioid system, the very circuitry that
links with heroin and other addictive substances. ...
Even animals, he finds, prefer to spend time with
those in whose presence they have secreted oxytocin
and natural opioids, which induce a relaxed
serenity - suggesting that these brain chemicals
cement our
family ties and friendships as well as our love

Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence, Bantam,
Copyright 2006 by Daniel Goleman, pp. 189-193.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009 12/29 - sinatra and women

12/28/09 to 1/1/10: The
Week of

Today's encore excerpt shows the style of
Frank Sinatra in expressing his love to the women in
his life:

"Another [Sinatra] trademark: He adored openly and
gave not a damn who saw. In the middle of parties,
amid any gathering, he blurted encomiums of love
and appreciation: 'Doesn't she look radiant?' he would
say of Bacall. ('I remember feeling so happy,' she said
of such eruptions.) Whatever his latest elations and
fancies, they were always made grandly audible: 'No
one prettier has ever been in my house!' 'You're
beautiful tonight!' 'You look mah-velous!' (That was, in
fact, exactly how he said it.) Public proclamation did
not faze him; after all, he sang the same sentiments
on records and stages - legendarily making every
woman feel that he sang only to her.

"Thus, in 1965, to his still-secret girlfriend Mia Farrow,
thirty years his junior: He popped his head out of the
Palm Springs swimming pool, adjacent to the golf
course. And there, dripping chlorine, with house
guests agape, he bellowed toward her, 'I love you!'
Recalled one witness, 'If anyone had been on the
Tamarisk seventeenth green that second, they would
have had the scoop of the year.' Before becoming, at
age twenty-one, the third Mrs. Frank Sinatra, Mia
Farrow had shorn her locks, cropped them all but off,
stirring a nationwide hubbub. (She was then an
ingénue on television's Peyton Place, whose
mailbags lumped with outrage de coiffure.) 'But,' she
later wrote, 'there was no drama, no fight with Frank,
he loved my hair the minute he saw it, so I kept it short
for years.' Indeed, he promptly gave her a pale yellow
Thunderbird - 'to match your hair.' 'I'm proud of her,' he
announced to everyone, crowing of her beauty and her
brains and her bangs. ...

"While he was wooing Barbara Marx, his broadcasts
took on epic sweep. He was loud and
unabashed - throughout courtship, then
marriage - before the eyes of Hollywood royalty, heads
of state, or clustered intimates. He toasted her
everywhere, lavishly so. She says, 'I've never known
anything like it. He lifts his glass and says, 'I drink to
you, my love, because I adore you!' He doesn't care
who hears it.' Angie Dickinson, who has beheld these
demonstrations, allows, 'He's great to her that way.
What other man could really get away with that? But, of
course, we know that the king can do things his
subjects cannot.' Citing other such attentions, Barbara
Sinatra continues: 'We can be in the middle of a huge
party and he'll come and whisper the most sexy things
in my ear. When we were dating, he would send a
wire almost every day from wherever he was, and
flowers every day. He would call and say, 'just called to
tell you that I love you,' then hang up. There'd be no
further conversation than that. It would knock me out.
He's just a wonderful romantic.' "

Bill Zehme, The Way You Wear Your Hat,
Harper Collins, 1997, pp. 149-152.

Monday, December 28, 2009 12/28 - 1/1/10 - the delanceyplace week of love!

12/28/09 to 1/1/10: The
Week of

In today's encore excerpt - the neural and
chemical basis of love. Why doesn't passionate love
last? -
because we develop a chemical tolerance:

"Anthropologist Helen Fisher ... has devoted much of
her career to studying the biochemical pathways of
love in all its manifestations: lust, romance,
attachment, the way they wax and wane ... [In her
studies] when each subject looked at his or her loved
one, the parts of the brain linked to reward and
pleasure - the ventral tegmental area and the caudate
nucleus - lit up. ... Love lights up the caudate nucleus
because it is home to a dense spread of receptors for
a neurotransmitter called dopamine ... which creates
intense energy, exhiliration, focused attention ... [thus]
love makes you bold, makes you bright, makes you
run real risks, which you sometimes survive, and
sometimes you don't. ...

"Researchers have long hypothesized that people with
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have a
serotonin 'imbalance.' Drugs like Prozac seem to
alleviate OCD by increasing the amount of this
neurotransmitter available at the juncture between
neurons. [Researchers] compared the lover's
serotonin levels with those from the OCD group and
another group who were free from both passion and
mental illness. Levels of serotonin in both the
obsessives' blood and the lovers' blood were 40
percent lower than those in normal subjects. ...
Translation: Love and mental illness may be difficult
to tell apart. ...

"Why doesn't passionate love last? ... Biologically
speaking, the reasons romantic love fades may be
found in the way our brains respond to the surge and
pulse of dopamine ... cocaine users describe the
phenomenon of tolerance: the brain adapts to the
excessive input of the drug ... From a physiological
point of view, [couples move] from the
dopamine-drenched state of romantic love to the
relative quiet of the oxytocin-induced attachment.
Oxytocin is a hormone that promotes a feeling of
connection, bonding."

Lauren Slater, "Love: The Chemical Reaction,"
National Geographic, February 2006, pp. 35-45

Thursday, December 24, 2009 12/24/09 - a christmas carol

In today's encore excerpt - at the end
of the 19th century, Charles Dickens' short
novel, A Christmas Carol, had
readership second only to the Bible's:

"If only Ebenezer Scrooge had not, in the
excitement of his transformation from miser
to humanitarian, diverged from the
traditional Christmas goose to surprise Bob
Cratchit with a turkey 'twice the size of
Tiny Tim.' But alas - he did, and as A
Christmas Carol approaches its 165th
birthday, a Google search answers the plaint
'leftover turkey' with more than 300,000
promises of recipes to dispatch it. As for
England's goose-raising industry, it tanked.

"The public's extraordinary and lasting
embrace of Dickens's short novel is but one
evidence of the 19th century's changing
attitude toward Christmas. In 1819,
Washington Irving's immensely popular 'Sketch
Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent' had
'glorified' the 'social rites' of the season.
Clement Moore's 1823 poem 'The Night Before
Christmas' introduced a fat and jolly St.
Nick whose obvious attractions eclipsed what
had been a 'foreboding figure of judgment' as
likely to distribute canings as gifts. Queen
Victoria and her Bavarian husband, Albert,
'great boosters of the season,' had installed
a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle each year
since 1840, encouraging a fad that spread
overseas to America by 1848. ...

"What is true is that Christmas, more than
any other holiday, offered a means for the
adult Dickens to redeem the despair and
terrors of his childhood. In 1824, after a
series of financial embarrassments drove his
family to exchange what he remembered as a
pleasant country existence for a 'mean, small
tenement' in London, the 12-year-old Dickens,
his schooling interrupted - ended, for all he
knew - was sent to work 10-hour days at a
shoe blacking factory in a quixotic attempt
to remedy his family's insolvency. Not even a
week later, his father was incarcerated in
the infamous Marshalsea prison for a failure
to pay a small debt to a baker. At this,
Dickens's 'grief and humiliation' overwhelmed
him so thoroughly that it retained the power
to overshadow his adult accomplishments,
calling him to 'wander desolately back' to
the scene of his mortification. And because
Dickens's tribulations were not particular to
him but emblematic of the Industrial
Revolution - armies of neglected, unschooled
children forced into labor - the concerns
that inform his fiction were shared by
millions of potential readers. ...

"Replacing the slippery Holy Ghost with
anthropomorphized spirits, the infant Christ
with a crippled child whose salvation waits
on man's - not God's - generosity, Dickens
laid claim to a religious festival, handing
it over to the gathering forces of secular
humanism. If a single night's crash course in
man's power to redress his mistakes and
redeem his future without appealing to an
invisible and silent deity could rehabilitate
even so apparently lost a cause as Ebenezer
Scrooge, imagine what it might do for the
rest of us!"

Kathryn Harrison, "Father Christmas," The
New York Times Review of Books, December
7, 2008, p. 14.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 12/23/09 - a charlie brown christmas - of course!

In today's encore excerpt - in
December 1965 came A Charlie Brown
Christmas, the most successful special in
television history. In a simple story from
Peanuts' creator Charles Schulz where Charlie
Brown looks for genuine meaning in Christmas
while Snoopy and Lucy revel in its glitter,
the show defied convention by using real
kids' voices, no laugh track, sophisticated
original music and uncluttered graphics:

"No one was more ready than Charles Schulz to
write a parable about commercialism when [his
agent] Lee Mendelson telephoned one Wednesday
in May 1965 to announce that he had just sold
a Christmas show to Coca-Cola. ... He brought
in Bill Melendez, the Disney animator who had
earned Schulz's respect by not Disneyfying
the Peanuts gang ... [by] changing their
essential qualities, either as 'flat'
characters or as his cartoon characters.

"[Schulz left] Lee and Bill to audition some
forty-five kids, ages six to nine, then train
the cast of seven principles, some of them
too young to read ... [to deliver] their
lines with startling clarity and feeling.

"Schulz loathed the hyena hilarity of canned
merriment and rightly judged that an audience
would not have to be told when and where to
laugh; Mendelson countered that all comedy
shows used such tracks. 'Well, this one
won't,' said [Schulz] firmly. 'Let the people
at home enjoy the show at their own speed, in
their own way.' Then he rose and walked out,
closing the door behind him. ...

"On the subject of scoring and music,
however, Schulz put aside his own tastes ...
[and his producer hired] Grammy Award-winning
composer Vince Guaraldi. The catchy rhythm of
'Linus and Lucy' ... became the centerpiece
of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and
eventually a pop music standard. But it was
the slower, mixed-mood, improvisational
pieces in Guaraldi's jazz suite, especially
'Christmas Time is Here,' that elicited the
unarticulated emotions lying below the
holiday's joyful surface. ...

"Lee and his wife had read Hans Christian
Andersen's 'The Fir Tree' to their children
the previous year, and when he suggested that
the show somehow involve a comparable motif,
[Schulz] seized upon the idea: 'We need a
Charlie-Brown-like tree.' ... [And Schulz]
insisted that the season's true meaning could
be found in the Gospel according to St. Luke,
and they agreed that the show would somehow
work in the Nativity story. ... When the
script was finished in June 1965, Lee
Mendelson made a stand against Linus's
recitation of the Nativity story, insisting
that religion and entertainment did not mix
on television. '[Schulz] just smiled,'
Mendelson later wrote, 'patted me on the
head, and left the room.' ...

"In a screening room at network headquarters
in New York, two CBS vice presidents watched
the show in silence. 'Neither of them laughed
once,' Mendelson recalled. When the lights
came on, the executives shook their heads and
shrugged. 'Well,' said one, 'you gave it a
good try.' 'It seems a little flat,' said the
other. 'Too slow,' said the first, 'and the
script is too innocent.' 'The Bible thing
scares us,' said the other. The animation was
crude - couldn't it be jazzed up a bit? The
voice talent was unprofessional - they should
have used adults. The music didn't fit - who
ever heard of a jazz score on an animated
special? And where were the laughs?"

David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts,
Harper Collins, Copyright 2007 by David
Michaelis, pp. 346- 358.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009 our 2009 list of notable books!

Notable Books We Read in 2009

Here a baker's dozen of notable books we read in
2009 - whether they were published in 2009 or not!
Presented below not in order of preference or

These first few books are not light, but they aren't
heavy either:

Wrestling with Moses by Anthony Flint. The feel
good, David versus Goliath story of writer Jane Jacobs
fending off the all-too-powerful Robert Moses and
saving New York's Soho and Washington Square
Park in the early 1960s. I the process, she redefined
our ideas of city planning with her landmark book The
Death and Life of Great American Cities. Gotta love it -
and for our money, Jacobs was one of the smartest
people of the last century.

1959: The Year Everything Changed by Fred
Kaplan. Who knew that 1959 was such an important
year? The microchip, the pill, Miles Davis, William
Burroughs, Frank Lloyd Wright, and much more ...
Kaplan makes it come alive with a fascinating and
eclectic assortment of the social, business, political,
and scientific developments that happened during the

Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill
Bryson. It's short, you'll learn a lot about Elizabethan
England, and it makes Shakespeare fun. And you'll be
able to one-up any Shakespeare snob that you have
the misfortune of encountering.

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story
of English by John McWhorter. If you're the type
that loves to know the arcana of etymology and syntax,
or simply someone who secretly worries about ending
a sentence with a preposition, this is another fun
addition to the literature. Very much in the spirit of
David Crystal's The Fight for English: How language
pundits ate, shot, and left. A very pleasant

These next few books are a little heavier but still very

Dreams from the Monster Factory by Sunny
Schwartz. Most of us would rather avoid the subject of
prisons - but with the U.S. prison population the
highest in the world, and prisons (a.k.a. "monster
factories") simply making those inside their walls
more virulent, it's a critically important subject.
Schwartz's book is a deeply personal account of her
work inside some of these prisons, and it is gripping
and heartbreaking. You'll be distressed as much as
you'll be encouraged, but you'll be better informed,
and our bet is you'll know much more about human
nature as a result.

Make'em Laugh: The Funny Business of America
by Michael Kantor and Laurence Maslon. A superb
and briskly written overview of comedians from
Chaplin to Saturday Night Live and George Carlin -
with many stops inbetween. Unlike the other books on
this list, it has lots of photos and is coffee table size -
so be prepared.

Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Why Public Efforts to
Boost Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Have
Failed - and What to Do About It by Josh Lerner.
You need to have a healthy interest in business to get
into this, but if you do, it is an eye-opening, critical and
original look at the world of venture capital and its
importance to society.

The Ascent of George Washington: The Hidden
Political Genius of an American Icon by John
Ferling. We've read dozens of books about the
American Revolution and good old George, but we
don't think we ever really understood either until we
read this book. It takes both George and the
Revolution out of the realm of the selfless and the
virtuous and into the realm of real people with real
motives and feelings. It rings true without muckraking.
We think we understand now.

Columbine by Dave Cullen. Ouch. A terrible
tragedy laid bare in front of you. You'll be amazed at
the number of unfounded myths that sprang out of the
Columbine media coverage - and you'll probably lose
whatever remaining trust you had in the media. You'll
learn a lot about psychopaths, teenagers, and tragedy.
One of the best recent books we've read.

These last few books are a touch more challenging -
but for those who are willing and genuinely interested
in the given subject matter, they are richly

The Evolution of God by Robert Wright. We've
read the Old Testament many times, and heard
hundreds of sermons, but it always seemed a little too
murky until we read this book. The book focuses on
Islam, Judaism and Christianity, and fundamentalists
in each of those religions aren't in agreement with
much in this book - but to us, it all now makes sense
in a way it never previously did. For an interesting
companion piece (forgive me, Bob), read first David
Plotz's Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious,
Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned
When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible. It's an
easy and ultimately respectful read that will get you in
the proper mood. Plotz is a journalist who reads and
reports on the Old Testament in this short work. Bet
you don't know a fraction of the stuff that's really in the
Old Testament - even if you are a faithful

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before
Columbus by Charles C. Mann. Forget everything
you knew about North and South America before the
arrival of Columbus. The two continents were likely
densely populated and filled with civilizations more
advanced than we've previously been led to believe.
The complexity and variety are astonishing.

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. Our view is
that there are few skills in life more important than
making decisions. However, the brain's reasoning
processes are easily fooled, and often make not very
rational judgments. This book captures the most
advanced science and research into the subject, and
as always seems to happen when studying the
human mind, you will be surprised.

A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the
World by Gregory Clark. In our opinion, if you want
to know how the world works, you have to make
economic history central to your investigation. The
unforgivable crime of most historical works is that they
give almost no financial their economic context. (For
example, you can read most books about the Hundred
Year's War between England and France, and you still
won't know the relative GDPs of those two countries or
their relative populations, much less some of the
economic prizes they were seeking - such as the
bountiful profits from the rich vineyards of Burgundy.
Unforgivable. This type of omission makes most
history exceedingly difficult to make sense of - and
thus most history books become more of a social
pageantry. How can you know the motivations of a
person if you don't know their economic wherewithal?
How can you gauge the outcome of a war unless you
know the relative wealth of the combatants?) Clark
provides a sweeping overview of economic history
here - and you'll be better for the experience - even if
you don't agree with some of what he says. His book
is a little weaker towards the end as he brings us into
the present - but then again, what history isn't?

Happy holidays!!! 12/22/09 - oil

In today's excerpt - in the late 1990s, even
as the major U.S. oil companies merged to get
larger, their influence waned in the face of
foreign national oil companies. Of the
world's twenty largest oil
companies, fifteen are state-owned:

"[The need for significantly larger
investments in oil exploration and
development] created the imperative for what
became known as restructuring. The majors
to become supermajors. BP merged with Amoco
to become BPAmoco, and then
merged with ARCO, and emerged as a much
bigger BP. Exxon and Mobil - once Standard
Oil of New Jersey and Standard Oil of New
York - became
ExxonMobil. Chevron and Texaco came together
as Chevron. Conoco combined with Phillips to
be ConocoPhillips. In Europe, what had once
been the two
separate French national champions, Total and
Elf Aquitaine, plus the Belgian
company Petrofina, combined to emerge as
Total. Only Royal Dutch Shell, already of
supermajor status on its own, remained as it
was. ... With all
these mergers, the landscape of the
international oil industry changed. ...

"It turned out that the restructuring of the
world oil industry that had started with the
emergence of the supermajors at the end of
the 1990s was only the beginning. One more
merger - of Norway's Statoil and Norsk Hydro
- created Statoilhydro, a new supermajor,
although partly state-owned. But the balance
between companies and governments has shifted
dramatically. Altogether, all the
oil that the supermajors produce for their
own account is less than 15 percent
of total world supplies. Over 80 percent of
world reserves are controlled by governments
and their national oil companies. Of the
world's twenty largest oil
companies, fifteen are state-owned. Thus,
much of what happens to oil is the result of
decisions of one kind or another made by
governments. And overall, the
government-owned national oil companies have
assumed a preeminent role in
the world oil industry. ...

"Saudi Aramco - the successor to Aramco, now
state-owned - remains
by far the largest upstream oil company in
the world, single-handedly producing
about 10 percent or more of the world's
entire oil with a massive deployment
of technology and coordination. The major
Persian Gulf producers control for
the most part their production, as do the
traditional state companies in
Venezuela, Mexico, Algeria, and many other
countries. The Chinese companies - partly
state-owned, partly owned by shareholders
around the world -
continue to produce the majority of oil in
China but have also become
increasingly active and visible in the
international arena. So have Indian
companies. The Russian industry is led by
state-controlled giants Gazprom and Rosneft
and by privately held companies, such as
Lukoil and TNK-BP, that are
majors in their own right.

"Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil
company, is 68 percent owned
by investors and 32 percent by the Brazilian
government, though the government retains the
majority of the voting shares. Petrobras had
already established itself at the forefront
in terms of capabilities in exploring for and
developing oil in the challenging deep waters
offshore. Beginning with the Tupi
find in 2006, potentially very large
discoveries are being made in what had
heretofore been inaccessible resources in
Brazil's deep waters, below salt deposits.
These discoveries could make Petrobras - and
Brazil - into a new powerhouse
of world oil. Malaysia's Petronas had turned
itself into a significant international
company, operating in 32 countries outside
Malaysia. State companies in other
countries in the former Soviet
Union - KazMunayGas in Kazakhstan and
SOCAR in Azerbaijan - have also emerged as
important players. While Qatar is
an oil exporter, its massive natural gas
reserves put it at the forefront of the
liquefied natural gas industry (LNG) and,
along with Algeria's Sonatrach and other
exporters, at the center of growing global
trade in natural gas."

Daniel Yergin, The Prize, new 2009
epilogue, Free Press, Copyright 1991, 1992,
2009 by Daniel Yergin, pp 765-770.

Monday, December 21, 2009 12/21/09 - take your time, son, take your time

In today's excerpt - for those who are
already expert at their craft, there are
perils to rushing or overrehearsing. Here
Paul Shaffer frantically tries to reach Sammy
Davis, Jr., to select a song and schedule
rehearsal before his appearance on the David
Letterman show:

"Every time I called [Sammy Davis, Jr., to
try and select a song or discuss rehearsal],
he was either
working or sleeping. He never did return my

The morning of the show I was feeling some
panic. Sammy
was flying in, and we still didn't know what
he wanted to sing.
At 10 a.m., the floor manager said I had a
backstage call. It was
Sammy calling from the plane.

' 'Once in My Life' will be fine, Paul,' he
said. 'Key of E
going into F.'

'Great!' I was relieved.

I was also eager to work out an arrangement.
We whipped
up a chart, nursed it, rehearsed it, and put
it on tape. That way
when Sammy arrived, he could hear it.

Then another backstage call. Sammy's plane
had landed
early, and he was on his way over. When I
greeted him at the
backstage door with a big 'We're thrilled you're
here,' I was a little taken aback. He looked
extremely tired and
frail. He walked with a cane.

'We have an arrangement, Sam. You can
rehearse it with the band.'

'No need, baby. Gotta conserve my energy. I'm
just gonna go
to my room and shower.'

'I wanna make it easy for you. So I'll just
play you
a tape of the arrangement on the boom box.
That way you'll
hear what we've done and tell me if it's

'Man, I know the song.'

'I know, Sam,' I said, 'but what if you don't
like the chart?'

'I'll like it, I'll like it.'

'But what if the key's not right?'

'Okay, if you insist.'

I slipped the cassette in the boom box and
hit 'play.' To my
ears, the chart sounded great. Sammy closed
his eyes and, in
Sammy style, nodded his head up and down to
the groove. He

'It's swinging, man,' he said, 'but think of
how much more
fun we could have had if I hadn't heard this

His words still resonate in my ears; the
notion still haunts
me. Sammy swung that night, but as he was
performing, I
couldn't help thinking that his carefree
feeling about time - as
opposed to my lifelong notion of the pressure
of the
time - was
coming from a higher spiritual plane. As a
musician, I've always
thought I rushed. I still think I rush. The
great players never

It reminds me of that moment when I watched
Ray Charles
turn to his guitarist, just as the young guy
was about to solo, and
say, 'Take your time, son. Take your time.'

Paul Shaffer, We'll Be Here for the Rest
of Our Lives, Flying Dolphin Press,
Copyright 2009 by Paul Shaffer Enterprises,
Inc., pp. 234-235.

Friday, December 18, 2009 12/18/09 - neville chamberlain

In today's excerpt - Neville Chamberlain, the man who
tried to appease Hitler and thus became an
everlasting symbol of weak naïveté in foreign policy. In
fact, Chamberlain has become so reviled a symbol of
weakness, that his name is immediately invoked any
time a politician even hints at a preference for
negotiations rather than military threats toward a
potentially hostile dictator. While most historians now
believe that Chamberlain's appeasement policy was
not as hopelessly misguided as his political rival
Winston Churchill portrayed it to be, he nevertheless
made a series of other, related diplomatic blunders
that compounded his failure - chief among them,
neglecting to fully include allies such as France in his
diplomatic efforts. He thought French lavatories

"Getting the French "in on the act" [of diplomatic
negotiations with Germany] as Édouard Daladier,
Chamberlain's French opposite number, had wished,
might have offered greater leverage and struck a
sweeter entente unity note. Cold-shouldering the
French and maintaining it was the Czechs and not
Hitler who constituted the problem, Neville
Chamberlain allowed his love of the limelight and
instinct for the unconventional to determine his policy.
Having invested heavily in summit diplomacy, and
being quite seduced by the popping flash-bulbs and
cheering crowds that went with his foreign trips, he
was incapable of tactical maneuver once Hitler started
misbehaving. Deliberately cutting himself off from
such advice as the Foreign Office had to offer, he
failed utterly to convey to the dictators ... that Britain
meant business. ...

"While ever-larger allocations of the defense budget
were devoted, or so he thought, to rendering England
immune from air attack, Neville Chamberlain strode
the world stage and made no effort to court, befriend
or even appease wouldbe continental allies. As far as
he was concerned they were militarily on their own.
Moreover his rearmament program left the army so
starved of resources that, as late as the spring of
1939, French observers were still referring to it as
a 'parade ground army'.

"The fatal consequence of neglecting the army lay in
the way it affected relations with Britain's only palpable
continental ally, France, and in the manner in which
that neglect impacted on French strategic thinking.
Unlike his Francophile half-brother Austen, Neville
Chamberlain did not like the French. He thought their
lavatories smelly and the people sexually degenerate.
But in allowing his prejudice to influence his
policy-making, he aroused French suspicions that if
war with Germany should come, the British would
leave them in the lurch. If the British proposed to effect
a blockade from a distance and keep their bombers in
reserve, it would be left to the French to pay the
butcher's bill of warfare on land. It was hardly
surprising that they quailed at the prospect. Yet Neville
Chamberlain cared not a jot for French sensibilities.
Thinking it wise to, as he put it, 'keep everyone
guessing', he made no undertakings about military
assistance to France and no suggestion until very late
on about staff-talks."

Nick Smart, "Neville Chamberlain and Appeasement,"
History Review, December 2009, pp. 24-25.


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Thursday, December 17, 2009 12/17/09 - the huddle

In today's encore excerpt - the
football huddle is invented at a college for
the deaf - Gallaudet University in
Washington, DC - as a means of hiding signals
from other deaf teams. It is
institutionalized at the University of
Chicago as a means of bringing control and
Christian fellowship to the game:

"When Gallaudet played nondeaf clubs or
schools, Hubbard merely used hand signals -
American Sign Language - to call a play at
the line of scrimmage, imitating what was
done in football from Harvard to Michigan.
Both teams approached the line of scrimmage.
The signal caller - whether it was the left
halfback or quarterback - barked out the
plays at the line of scrimmage. Nothing was
hidden from the defense. There was no

"Hand signals against nondeaf schools gave
Gallaudet an advantage. But other deaf
schools could read [quarterback Paul]
Hubbard's sign language. So, beginning in
1894, Hubbard came up with a plan. He decided
to conceal the signals by gathering his
offensive players in a huddle prior to the
snap of the ball. ... Hubbard's innovation in
1894 worked brilliantly. 'From that point on,
the huddle became a habit during regular
season games,' cites a school history of the
football program. ...

"In 1896, the huddle started showing up on
other college campuses, particularly the
University of Georgia and the University of
Chicago. At Chicago, it was Amos Alonzo
Stagg, the man credited with nurturing
American football into the modern age and
barnstorming across the country to sell the
game, who popularized the use of the huddle
and made the best case for it. ...

"At the time, coaches were not permitted to
send in plays from the sideline. So, while
Stagg clearly understood the benefit of
concealing the signals from the opposition,
he was more interested in the huddle as a way
of introducing far more reaching reforms to
the game. Before becoming a coach, Stagg
wanted to be a minister. At Yale, he was a
divinity student from 1885 to 1889.

"Thoughtful, pious, and righteous, Stagg
brought innovations football as an attempt to
bring a Christian fellowship to the game. He
wanted his players to play under control, to
control the pace, the course, and the conduct
of what had been a game of mass movement that
often broke out into fisticuffs. Stagg viewed
the huddle as a vital aspect of helping to
teach sportsmanship. He viewed the huddle as
a kind of religious congregation on the
field, a place where the players could, if
you will, minister to each other, make a
plan, and promise to keep faith in that plan
and one another."

Sal Palantonio, How Football Explains
America, Triumph, Copyright 2008 by Sal
Palantonio, pp. 38-41.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 12/16/09 - bees to blues brothers

In today's excerpt - because John Belushi of
Saturday Night Live hated the costume
he has
to wear to play one of his most popular
characters - a bee, the box-office phenomenon
The Blues Brothers are born. As
recounted by
Saturday Night Live musical director Paul

"Meanwhile, Belushi was complaining about his
bee costume.
Belushi hated putting on the bee costume. It
weighed a ton and
made him sweat like a hornet in heat.

"I hate these bee sketches," said Belushi.

"[Producer] Lorne [Michaels] loves them,"
said [Dan] Aykroyd.

"F**k Lorne," John exclaimed. "This is my
last one."

"Wait a minute," Danny interjected. "I've got
an idea. What
if we get the band to put on bee costumes,
and we all play Slim
Harpo's 'I'm a King Bee.' I'll play harp and
you'll sing the shit
out of it."

"How's it go?" asked John.

Danny started singing the lyrics.

"Let's do it," said John.

Next thing I know I'm running around the SNL
set in a bee
costume. I understand why Belushi rails
against this thing. It
stings. It disorients me to the point that
during rehearsal I wander into a Gilda
Radner/Garrett Morris sketch in my bee getup.

"What are you doing here?" asks Gilda.

"I don't know," I say.

Belushi is sensational as a buzzed-up blues
singer. In the middle
of the song, he does a full flip and lands
flat on his back. The
audience licks it up like honey.

Now Danny and John are warming up the SNL
audience as
two blues singers, not bees but two guys
dressed in dark hats,
dark ties, dark suits, and dark glasses.

"Why the dark suits and dark glasses?" I ask.

"I was hipped to the look by Fred Kaz," says
John, "the beatnik musical director at Second
City in Chicago. He's the cat who
told me that junkies always wore
straight-looking outfits so
they could pass. Check out William

Shortly thereafter, Lorne is featuring the
singing duo, not as
a warmup act, but as on-air performers. Not
only that, I get to
introduce them on camera in the guise of [my
character] Don Kirshner. I give it
the slowed-down, frozen-stiff, tanned,
gold-chained, full-nasal
Brooklyn brogue treatment of my show-biz
friend and say ...

"Today, thanks to the brilliant management of
Myron S.
Katz and the Katz Talent Agency, these two
talented performers
are no longer just a legitimate blues act.
But with careful shaping and the fabulous
production of Lee Solomon, who's a
gentleman, and his wonderful organization,
they have managed to
become a viable commercial product. So now,
let's hear it for
these two brothers from Joliet, Illinois.
Ladies and gentlemen, I
give you ..."

Paul Shaffer, We'll Be Here For The Rest
of Our Lives, Flying Dolphin Press,
Copyright 2009 by Paul Shaffer Enterprises,
Inc., pp. 176-177.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 12/15/09 - kidney transplants

In today's excerpt - an economist writes on
the demand for kidney transplants:

"The first successful
kidney transplant was performed in 1954. To
the layperson, it looked
rather like a miracle: someone who would
surely have died of kidney
failure could now live on by having a
replacement organ plunked inside
Where did this new kidney come from? The most
convenient source
was a fresh cadaver, the victim of an
automobile accident perhaps or
some other type of death that left behind
healthy organs. The fact that
one person's death saved the life of another
only heightened the sense
of the miraculous.

"But over time, transplantation became a
victim of its own success.
The normal supply of cadavers couldn't keep
up with the demand for
organs. In the United States, the rate of
traffic fatalities was declining,
which was great news for drivers but bad news
for patients awaiting a
lifesaving kidney. ... In Europe, some
countries passed laws of 'presumed consent';
rather than requesting
that a person donate his organs in the event
of an accident, the state
assumed the right to harvest his organs
unless he or his family specifically opted
out. But even so, there were never enough
kidneys to go

"Fortunately, cadavers aren't the only source
of organs. We are born
with two kidneys but need only one to live.
... Stories abounded of one spouse giving a
kidney to the other, a
brother coming through for his sister, a
grown woman for her aging
parent, even kidneys donated between long-ago
playground friends.
But what if you were dying and didn't have a
friend or relative willing
to give you a kidney?
One country, Iran, was so worried about the
kidney shortage that it
enacted a program many other nations would
consider barbaric. It
sounded like the kind of idea some economist
might have dreamed up: the Iranian government
would pay people to give up a kidney, roughly
$1,200, with an additional sum paid by the
kidney recipient.

"In the United States, meanwhile, during a
1983 congressional hearing, an enterprising
doctor named Barry Jacobs described his own
pay-for-organs plan. His company,
International Kidney Exchange, Ltd.,
would bring Third World citizens to the
United States, remove one of
their kidneys, give them some money, and send
them back home. Jacobs was savaged for even
raising the idea. His most vigorous critic was
a young Tennessee congressman named Al Gore,
who wondered if
these kidney harvestees 'might be willing to
give you a cut-rate price
just for the chance to see the Statue of
Liberty or the Capitol or something.'

"Congress promptly passed the National Organ
Transplant Act,
which made it illegal 'for any person to
knowingly acquire, receive, or
otherwise transfer any human organ for
valuable consideration for use
in human transplantation.' ...

"And what about U.S. organ-donation policy?
... There are currently 80,000 people in the
United States
on a waiting list for a new kidney, but only
some 16,000 transplants
will be performed this year. This gap grows
larger every year. More
than 50,000 people on the list have died over
the past twenty years,
with at least 13,000 more falling off the
list as they became too ill to
have the operation. ... This has led some
people to call for a well-regulated market in
human organs ... but this proposal has so far
been greeted with widespread repugnance.

"Recall, meanwhile, that Iran established a
similar market nearly
thirty years ago. Although this market has
its flaws, anyone in Iran
needing a kidney transplant does not have to
go on a waiting list. The
demand for transplantable kidneys is being
fully met."

Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner,
Superfreakonomics, William Morrow,
Copyright 2009 by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen
J. Dubner, pp. 124-125.

Monday, December 14, 2009 12/14/09 - yorktown

In today's excerpt - General George
Washington, though indispensable to the cause
of the American Revolution and a supremely
gifted leader, showed poor instincts for
military strategy throughout the
revolutionary war. When the time came for the
final decisive battle of in Yorktown,
Virginia - the battle that ended the war -
Washington's strong preference was to try and
retake Manhattan from the British instead.
However, the French general who had just been
sent to serve under him, the seasoned
military strategist Comte de Rochambeau -
whose government was strained financially and
highly eager to end the war - maneuvered
things to insure that Washington's army went
to Yorktown instead:

"When Washington and Rochambeau met in May
1781 in Weathersfield, Connecticut, to plan
that year's last-ditch campaign, they knew few
of [American General Nathaniel] Greene's
successful activities and nothing of [British
General] Cornwallis's decision to march his
army into Virginia. Once the pleasantries - a
military parade and formal
dinner - were out of the way, the two
generals and their staffs sat down
to talk. The discussions were frank and at
times heated. After revealing the financial
gift that his country was making to its
allies, Rochambeau asked
Washington what operations he envisioned for
the coming summer. To one's surprise [given
his war-long obsession with retaking
Manhattan], Washington urged a campaign to
take New York, claiming
that Clinton, [the British general in New
York] was weaker than ever, having sent
raiders to Virginia and reinforcements to the

"Losing his patience - a French observer later
said that Rochambeau treated Washington with
'all the ungraciousness and
all the unpleasantness possible'
- the French commander earnestly reiterated
his objections to focusing on New York. He
then proposed a campaign in Virginia. Though
unaware of Cornwallis's epic decision [to
march north to Virginia],
Rochambeau knew there was a British army of
roughly thirty-five hundred men in Virginia.
The allies would have numerical superiority.
If they
could trap the enemy force, the long-awaited
victory that could break
Great Britain's will to continue might be
achieved. But Washington was
intransigent. The allies must focus on New
York. Washington 'did not
conceive the affairs of the south to be such
urgency,' the French general
subsequently recalled. Given that Rochambeau
remained under orders from France to
defer to the wishes of the American
commander, he consented to march
his army from Rhode Island to the periphery
of Manhattan, where the allies would prepare
for a joint operation to retake New York.

"Washington was delighted. He had prevailed,
or so it seemed. The campaign for New York of
which he had dreamed for three long years was
imminent. After three days of talks,
Washington bade farewell and rode
back to the Hudson to await the arrival of
the French army. But there was
something that Rochambeau had not divulged.
He had neglected to inform Washington that
the French fleet in the Caribbean had been
to sail to North America that summer.
Immediately following Washington's departure
from Weathersfield, Rochambeau sat down at
his desk and
drafted a crucial letter to the Comte de
Grasse, commander of the French
fleet. He did not ask him to sail to New
York. Instead, Rochambeau urged
de Grasse to bring the fleet to the
Chesapeake. Unbeknownst to Washington, and in
defiance of his wishes, Rochambeau was
secretly planning
what he believed would be a campaign that was
more likely than an attack
on New York to produce a decisive outcome.
His object was to confront
General Washington with a fait accompli.

"As the lush days of spring faded into high
summer in 1781, three army
commanders ruminated over strategy. Only
Washington believed the allies could succeed
in a campaign to take New York. Rochambeau and
Clinton - both lifelong professional
officers, were convinced that the redcoats,
having had five long years to prepare for the
defense of Manhattan and Long Island, could
repulse anything the allies threw at them, even a
joint land-sea siege and assault. Indeed,
Clinton prayed that the allies would
attack New York. If their campaign failed, as
he was certain it would, the
will to continue hostilities would surely
evaporate in France and America.
Great Britain would do very well at the peace
conference that followed. In
his wildest dreams, Clinton even imagined
that Britain might win this war
in the event of a failed allied campaign to
take New York."

[Washington yielded to Rochambeau, and the
American army turned south and went to
Virginia where it overwhelmingly defeated
Cornwallis and ended the war.]

John Ferling, The Ascent of Washington,
Bloomsbury, Copyright 2009 by John Ferling,
pp. 209-211.

Friday, December 11, 2009 12/11/09 - mexico

In today's excerpt - by the estimate of journalist Philip
Caputo, the most violent city in the world is not located
in Afghanistan, Iraq or some Sub-Saharan African
country, but across a river from the United States in
Juarez, Mexico. And in the almost three years since
President Felipe Calderón launched a war on drug
cartels, some 14,000 people have been killed in the
country of Mexico, and part of the country is effectively
under martial law:

"The U.S. government estimates that the cultivation
and trafficking of illegal drugs directly employs
450,000 people in Mexico [out of 110 million people].
Unknown numbers of people, possibly in the millions,
are indirectly linked to the drug industry, which has
revenues estimated to be as high as $25 billion a
year, exceeded only by Mexico's annual income from
manufacturing and oil exports. Dr. Edgardo
Buscaglia ... concluded in a recent report that 17 of
Mexico's 31 states have become virtual
narco-republics, where organized crime has infiltrated
government, the courts, and the police so extensively
that there is almost no way they can be cleaned up.
The drug gangs have acquired a 'military capacity' that
enables them to confront the army on an almost equal
footing. ...

"Of the many things Mexico lacks these days, clarity is
near the top of the list. It is dangerous to know the
truth. Finding it is frustrating. Statements by U.S. and
Mexican government officials, repeated by a news
media that prefers simple story lines, have fostered
the impression in the United States that the conflict in
Mexico is between Calderón's white hats and the
crime syndicates' black hats. The reality is far more
complicated, as suggested by this statistic: out of
those 14,000 dead, fewer than 100 have been
soldiers. Presumably, army casualties would be far
higher if the war were as straightforward as it's often
made out to be. ...

"The toll includes more than 1,000 police officers,
some of whom, according to Mexican press reports,
were executed by soldiers for suspected links to drug
traffickers. Conversely, a number of the fallen soldiers
may have been killed by policemen moonlighting as
cartel hit men, though that cannot be proved.
Meanwhile, human-rights groups have accused the
military of unleashing a reign of terror - carrying out
forced disappearances, illegal detentions, acts of
torture, and assassinations - not only to fight
organized crime but also to suppress dissidents and
other political troublemakers. What began as a war on
drug trafficking has evolved into a low-intensity civil
war with more than two sides and no white hats, only
shades of black. The ordinary Mexican citizen - never
sure who is on what side, or who is fighting whom
and for what reason - retreats into a private world
where he becomes willfully blind, deaf, and above all,
dumb. ...

"[The City of] Juárez's main product now is the corpse.
Last year, drug-related violence there claimed more
than 1,600 lives, and the toll for the first nine months
of this year soared beyond 1,800, and mounts daily.
That makes Juárez, population 1.5 million, the most
violent city in the world."

Philip Caputo, "The Border of Madness," The
Atlantic, December 2009, pp. 63-69.

Thursday, December 10, 2009 12/10/09 - princess leia

In today's encore excerpt - Carrie Fisher, who
played the role of Princess Leia, George Lucas and
Star Wars:

"George made me take shooting lessons because in
the first film I would grimace horribly at the deafening
sound of the blanks from the blasters and the squibs
that the special effects team would place all over the
set and on the stormtroopers. So George wanted to
make me look like I'd been shooting them for my
entire Alderaan existence. So, he sent me to the same
man who'd taught Robert DeNiro to shoot weapons in
Taxi Driver and the shooting range was in this cellar in
midtown Manhattan, populated with policemen and all
manner of firearm aficionados.

"I used to have this fantasy that in some distant Star
Wars sequel, we'd finally stop all the shooting and
screaming at each other and would go to a
shopping-and-beauty planet, where the stormtroopers
would have to get facials, and Chewbacca would have
to get pedicures and bikini and eyebrow waxes. I felt at
some point that I should get - okay, fine, maybe not
equal time - but just a few scenes where we all did a
lot of girly things. Imagine the shopping we might have
done on Tatooine! Or a little Death Star souvenir shop
where you could get T-shirts that said 'My parents got
the force and jumped to light speed and all I got was
this lousy t-shirt!' or 'My boyfriend blew Jabba the Hutt
and all I got' .. etc., etc. You get the gist of my drift.

"But I have to admit, after a series of weapon
instruction from a very pleasant ex-cop, I became quite
proficient with an assortment of guns, including a
double-barreled shotgun. Obviously my family was so
proud. Because for Darth sake, I was always doing
their endless stupid boy things.

"But back to the first film. Shortly after I arrived, George
gave me this unbelievably idiotic hairstyle, and I'm
brought before him like some sacrificial asshole and
he says in his little voice, 'Well, what do you think of it?'
And I say - because I'm terrified I'm going to be fired
for being too fat - I say, 'I love it.' Yeah, and the check's
in the mail and one size fits all and I'll only put it in a
little bit!

"Because, see, there was this horrible fat thing going
on! When I got this great job to end all jobs, which truly
I never thought I would get because there were all
these other beautiful girls who were up for the
part - there was Amy Irving and Jodie Foster; this girl
Teri Nunn almost got the part ... Oh! and Christopher
Walken almost got cast as Han Solo. (Wouldn't that
have been fantastic) Anyway, when I got this job they
told me I had to lose ten pounds. Well, I weighed
about 105 at the time, but to be fair, I carried about fifty
of those pounds in my face! So you know what a good
idea would be? Give me a hairstyle that further widens
my already wide face!"

Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking, Simon &
Schuster, Copyright 2008 by Deliquesce, Inc., pp.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009 12/9/09 - prostitution

In today's excerpt - prostitutes in the
United States a century ago likely made in
excess of $70,000 per year in today's dollars
- far in excess of
today's prostitutes, and were a higher
percentage of the population. The reason?
Today's prostitutes face more competition
from women willing to have sex with a man for
free. This conclusion stems from the work of
economist Sudhir Venkatesh on the subject of
the Chicago prostitute industry:

"It turns out that the typical street prostitute
in Chicago works 13 hours a week, performing
10 sex acts during that
period, and earns an hourly wage of
approximately $27. So her weekly
take-home pay is roughly $350. This includes
an average of $20 that a
prostitute steals from her customers and
acknowledges that some
prostitutes accept drugs in lieu of cash -
usually crack cocaine or heroin, and usually
at a discount. Of all the women in
Venkatesh's study,
83 percent were drug addicts.

"Many of these women took on other,
work, which Venkatesh also tracked.
Prostitution paid about four times
more than those jobs. But as high as that
wage premium may be, it looks
pretty meager when you consider the job's
downsides. In a given year, a
typical prostitute in Venkatesh's study
experienced a dozen incidents of
violence. At least 3 of the 160 prostitutes
who participated died during
the course of [his] study. 'Most of the
violence by johns is when, for some
reason, they can't consummate or can't get
erect,' says Venkatesh. 'Then
he's shamed,- 'I'm too manly for you' or
'You're too ugly for me!' Then the
john wants his money back, and you definitely
don't want to negotiate
with a man who just lost his

"Moreover, the women's wage premium pales in
comparison to the
one enjoyed by even the low-rent prostitutes
from a hundred years ago.
Compared with them, [the typical street
prostitutes] are working for next to

"Why has the prostitute's wage fallen so

"Because demand has fallen dramatically. Not
the demand for sex.
That is still robust. But prostitution, like
any industry, is vulnerable to

"Who poses the greatest competition to a
prostitute? Simple: any
woman who is willing to have sex with a man
for free.

"It is no secret that sexual mores have
evolved substantially in recent decades. The
phrase 'casual sex' didn't exist a century
ago (to say
nothing of 'friends with benefits'). Sex
outside of marriage was much
harder to come by and carried significantly
higher penalties than it
does today."

Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner,
Superfreakonomics, William Morrow,
Copyright 2009 by Steven D. Levitt and
Stephen J. Dubner, pp. 29-30.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009 12/8/09 - james brown

In today's excerpt - Paul Shaffer, musical
showman par excellence whose career has
included long stints as musical director with
David Letterman and Saturday Night Live,
delivers an encomium to his favorite
musician, the King of them all, the Godfather
of Soul - James Brown:

"The one artist that woke me up and got me
going - and, I must add, has kept me going
throughout my life - was the Godfather of
Soul, Mr. James Brown. James electrified me,
as he
electrified the world, beginning in my
precollege years. I loved
listening to the time-honored introduction
rendered by Danny
Ray, James Brown's formidable master of

" 'Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is Star
Time. Are you ready
for Star Time? Thank you and thank you
kindly. It is indeed a
great pleasure to present to you at this
particular time the artist
nationally and internationally known as the
man in show business.

" 'Yes, he'll make your bladder splatter,
he'll make your knees
freeze and your liver quiver. The star of the
show, Mr. Please
Please himself, soul brother number one, Mr.
Dynamite, the
man with the crown ... James Brown and the
Famous Flames.'

"Musicologists hail the sublime musical
contributions of
Mozart, Monteverdi, Beethoven, and Bach. Here
in America we
celebrate Louis Armstrong, Aaron Copland,
Duke Ellington,
and Charles Ives. The relative merits of
musical geniuses are
impossible to calculate. I won't try. I will
only say that, for my
money, James Brown is 'King of them all,

"It's the singing, yes: the pitch-perfect
screams that penetrate
your heart and freeze your blood. It's the
dancing, of course: the
spins, the splits, the grace, and the grit.
It's the band: tighter
and righter than any orchestra in the proud
history of soul. It's
the songs: the social messages, the sexual
subtexts, the self-assertive anthems of a
free black man in a white world. It's
everything. James Brown is everything I love
in music. ...

"[He was] the most ferocious barbarian of
all, ... and [in a typical] performance made
time grind to a halt, and the world stop
turning on its
axis. Dogs stopped chasing cats. Cats stopped
chasing birds.
Lions lay down with lambs. Babies ceased
crying. Women
stopped weeping. ...

"At the end
of a song, a cape was placed on James's back.
I sat in wonder. Why the cape? What were they
doing? James had fallen to his
knees, and perhaps the purpose of the cape
was to prevent a
chill after his red-hot performance. But as
he started to leave
the stage, he threw off the cape and returned
to the mic,
singing another stirring chorus. The
routine continued. He fell to his knees; a
new cape was placed;
then he got up and threw it off only to
return to the mic. Again!
And again! He couldn't stop himself. He
couldn't stop returning
to plead to his woman, 'Don't Go.' He was
truly out of sight."

Paul Shaffer, We'll Be Here For The Rest
of Our Lives, Doubleday, Copyright 2009
by Paul Shaffer Enterprises, Inc., pp. 80-84.

Monday, December 07, 2009 12/7/09 - disarmament, demobilization and reintegration

In today's excerpt - in civil wars and other
widespread conflicts within a country, Dr.
Graciana del Castillo, in her landmark work
Rebuilding War-Torn States (which
includes case studies of El Salvador, Kosovo,
Afghanistan and Iraq), asserts that no peace
process has ever succeeded without the
reintegration of former combatants:

"One of the conditions for successful
reconstruction of a country is the
disarmament, demobilization, and
reintegration (DDR) of former combatants,
including all militia groups. ...

"No peace process has ever succeeded without
the reintegration of former
combatants, as well as other groups affected
by the conflict, taking place in an
effective manner. This is because effective
reintegration promotes security by
limiting the incentives to these groups to
act as spoilers. Reintegration (such as El
Salvador's land-for-arms program), however,
is the longest and one of the most expensive
reconstruction activities. [Yet],
reintegration is typically neglected, as
major donors shy
away from open-ended commitments to the
costly social and economic programs that are
often essential for sustainable peace. Donors
should consider
that, without effective reintegration, their
military and security expenditure to
keep the peace may be significantly

"This process is critical in supporting
national reconciliation and the promotion of
peace. In December 2006,
the UN launched new Integrated Disarmament,
Demobilization, and Reintegration Standards,
acknowledging the difficulty of transforming
scarred by conflict into productive members
of their societies. In order to facilitate
the transition, the Standards call for
measures to provide psychosocial
counseling, job training, educational
opportunities, and mechanisms to promote
reconciliation in the communities to which
those individuals return. ...

"Lessons from Mozambique, El Salvador,
Guatemala, and many other countries are
conclusive in this respect: short-term
reintegration programs served
an important purpose in providing
demobilizing soldiers with a means of
survival and an alternative to banditry that
indeed helped maintain the cease-fire.

"It is important that the strategy have
enough financial and technical support at
each stage, to make reintegration sustainable
over time, since it has proved a sine qua
non for peace consolidation. ... There
can be different avenues for reintegration.
Reintegration often takes
place through the agricultural sector,
micro-enterprises, fellowships for technical
and university training, and even through the
incorporation of former
combatants into new police forces, the
national army, or political parties."

Graciana del Castillo, Rebuilding War-Torn
States, Oxford, Copyright 2008 by
Graciana del Castillo, pp. 256-259.

Friday, December 04, 2009 12/4/09 - the great depression

In today's encore excerpt - the calamity of the
Great Depression dwarfs the calamity of 2008, in
large part because the Fed turned the crisis of 1929
into the Great Depression by acting to contract the
money supply, helping cause U.S. output to decline by
a third and unemployment to rise to 33%:

"In perhaps the most important work of American
economic history ever published, Milton Friedman and
Anna Schwartz argued that it was the Federal Reserve
System that bore the responsibility for turning the
crisis of 1929 into a Great Depression. They did not
blame the Fed for the bubble itself [and] ... the New
York Fed responded effectively to the October 1929
panic by conducting large-scale (and unauthorized)
market operations (buying bonds from the financial
sector) to inject liquidity into the market. However, after
Strong's death from tuberculosis in October 1928, the
Federal Reserve Board in Washington came to
dominate monetary policy, with disastrous results.

"First, too little was done to counteract the credit
contraction caused by banking failures. This problem
had already surfaced several months before the stock
market crash, when commercial banks with deposits
of more than $80 million suspended payments.
However, it reached critical mass in November and
December 1930, when 608 banks failed, with
deposits totaling $550 million, among them the Bank
of United States, which accounted for more than a
third of the total deposits lost. The failure of merger
talks that might have saved the Bank was a critical
moment in the history of the Depression.

"Secondly, ... the Fed made matters worse by reducing
the amount of credit outstanding (December
1930-April 1931). This forced more and more banks to
sell assets in a frantic dash for liquidity, driving down
bond prices and worsening the general position. The
next wave of bank failures, between February and
August 1931, saw commercial bank deposits fall by
$2.7 billion, 9 per cent of the total. Thirdly, ... the Fed
raised its discount rate in two steps to 3.5 per cent, ...
driving yet more US banks over the edge: the period
August 1931 to January 1932 saw 1,860 banks fail
with deposits of $1.45 billion. ...

"In the United States, output collapsed by a third.
Unemployment reached a quarter of the civilian labour
force, closer to a third if a modern definition is used.
World trade shrank by two-thirds as countries sought
vainly to hide behind tariff barriers and import
quotas. ...

"The Fed's inability to avert a total of around 10,000
bank failures was crucial not just because of the
shock to consumers whose deposits were lost or to
shareholders whose equity was lost, but because of
the broader effect on the money supply and the
volume of credit [which saw] a decline in bank
deposits of $5.6 billion and a decline in bank loans of
$19.6 billion, equivalent to 19 per cent of 1929

Niall Ferguson, The Ascent of Money, Penguin,
Copyright 2008 by Niall Ferguson, pp. 158, 161-163.

Thursday, December 03, 2009 12/3/09 - postal service

In today's excerpt - postal service as we know it has
its origins in 16th century England, with an extra
charge if the letter contained a second sheet of

"The postal service was not originally designed for
public use. It emerged haphazardly in the 16th century
to provide horses and messengers in times of war for
Henry VIII. A major aim was to establish a government
monopoly over the gathering and censoring of
information and mail. As well as controlling the flow of
intelligence, it would oversee the delivery of diplomatic
correspondence, support foreign and domestic policy
and help to raise revenue. The king's first Master of
the Posts, Sir Brian Tuke (d.1545), selected local
postmasters and divided the six major roads from
London into stages.

"Increased literacy, trade and an interest in news soon
led merchants and the public to demand access to
the post. But it wasn't until 1635 that a London
merchant Thomas Witherings (d.1651) offered a
proposal to organize the first postal system for public
use. A Royal Proclamation for the 'settling of the Letter-
Office of England and Scotland' gave Witherings the
authority to establish fixed, regular posts. Each post
town had its own mail bag to and from London,while
foot posts carried letters further on. The central
London office at Bishopsgate co-ordinated mail on six
main roads, charging 2d a letter for up to 80 miles. ...

"After the Restoration in 1660 Charles II intensified
intelligence activities on post roads that passed
through London. Secretaries of State were given the
right to open letters. It was rumored that state
employees could take impressions of seals, imitate
writing perfectly and copy a letter in a minute by
pressing damp tissue paper over the ink. At the same
time, the Six Clerks of the Road in London were
informally allowed to frank newspapers to local
postmasters, who provided drink, gossip and horses,
as well as news. This right to send newspapers
postage-free led to profits for the six clerks and
reduced prices of papers for readers. It would have a
profound effect on the spread of newspapers.
Paradoxically, the roles of the Post Office as both a
censor and newsagent coexisted throughout the
century. ...

"Country letters that passed through London were
sorted and directed to one of the six roads. Postage
due at delivery was written across the address for the
recipient to pay. If it was suspected that more than one
sheet of paper was enclosed, envelopes were held up
to a candle and extra was charged for each additional
sheet therein."

Susan Whyman , "The Royal Mail: A Passion for the
Post," History Today, Volume: 59, Issue: 12.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009 12/2/09 - the great beginning

In today's excerpt - for the ancient Chinese,
God did
not create the heaven and the earth, it just
happened. And man came from the worms of the
decaying Pan Gu's body:

"Though by no means a godless people, the
ancient Chinese were
reluctant to credit their gods - or God -
with anything so manifestly
implausible as the act of creation. In the
beginning, therefore, God did
not create heaven and earth; they happened.
Instead of creation myths,
China's history begins with inception myths
and in place of a creator it
has a 'happening situation.' Suggestive of a
scientific reaction, part black
hole, part Big Bang, this was known as the
Great Beginning.

"According to the third-century BC Huainanzi:
'Before Heaven and Earth had taken form all
was vague and amorphous. Therefore it was
called The Great Beginning. The Great
Beginning produced emptiness, and emptiness
produced the universe. The universe produced
qi [vital force or energy], which had limits.
That which was clear
and light drifted up to become Heaven while
that which was heavy
and turbid solidified to become earth ... The
combined essences of
Heaven and Earth became the yin and

"A more popular, though later, version of
this genesis myth describes the
primordial environment as not just amorphous
but 'opaque, like the inside
of an egg'; and it actually was an egg to the
extent that, when broken, white
and yolk separated. The clear white, or yang,
ascended to become Heaven
and the murky yolk, or yin, descended to
become Earth. Interposed between
the two was the egg's incubus, a spirit
called Pan Gu. Pan Gu kept his feet
firmly in the earth and his head in the
heavens as the two drew apart. 'Heaven
was exceedingly high, Earth exceedingly deep,
and Pan Gu exceedingly tall,'
says the Huainanzi. Though not the creator of
the universe, Pan Gu evidently
served as some kind of agent in the
arrangement of it. ...

"Less relevant still in Chinese tradition is
the origin of man. In another
version of the Pan Gu story, it is not Pan
Gu's lanky adolescence which
suggests a degree of personal agency in the
creative process but his posthumous
putrescence. In what might be called a
decomposition myth, as
Pan Gu lay dying, it is said that:

" '[his] breath became the wind and the
clouds; his voice became the
thunder; his left eye became the sun, and his
right the moon; his
four limbs and five torsos became the four
poles and the five mountains; his blood
became the rivers; his sinews became geographic
features; his muscles became the soils in the
field; his hair and beard
became stars and planets; his skin and its
hairs became grasses and
trees; his teeth and bones became bronzes and
jades; his essence
and marrow became pearls and gemstones; his
sweat became rain
and lakes; and the various worms in his body,
touched by the wind,
became the black-haired commoners."

John Keay, China, Basic Books, Copyright
2009 by John Keay, pp. 25-27.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009 12/1/09 - teddy roosevelt

In today's excerpt - 39-year-old Teddy Roosevelt
leads the charge up San Juan Hill. Roosevelt, who
was Assistant Secretary of the Navy when the Spanish
American War started in 1898, unexpectedly resigned
his position to enlist in the Army, and displayed
genuine heroism during a key battle of the four month
long war. Roosevelt was decidedly pro-war at a
moment when President McKinley and much of the
country were greatly concerned that the war was
unnecessary and would be the unfortunate
commencement of American imperialism - and in
fact, the war resulted in the acquisition of America's
first colony - the Philippines:

"[After the explosion of the USS Maine], President
William McKinley called for 125,000 volunteers to
augment the 28,000-man regular army. Young men
from every section of the country rallied to his call.
They were anxious to prove themselves equal to the
task and worthy of their place as Americans. Among
the first to volunteer was the man who had perhaps
been the leading advocate for war - Theodore
Roosevelt. Everyone was astonished by this act.

"President McKinley twice attempted to change
Roosevelt's mind, to no avail. 'One of the commonest
taunts directed at men like myself is that we are
armchair and parlor jingoes who wish to see others
do what we only advocate doing,' declared
Roosevelt. 'I care very little for such a taunt, except as
it affects my usefulness, but I cannot afford to
disregard the fact that my power for good, whatever it
may be, would be gone if I didn't try to live up to the
doctrines I have tried to preach.' ...

"The press dubbed the [first of the three regiments
engaged]'Roosevelt's Rough Riders' - a name T.R.
did not relish because of its obvious reference to
Buffalo Bill's Wild West show - and the men were
anxious to see their namesake lieutenant colonel.
Many were at first unimpressed with his somewhat
comical appearance, but that quickly changed.
Lieutenant Tom Hall sized him up immediately: 'He is
nervous, energetic, virile. He may wear out some day,
but he will never rust out.' ...

"Colonel [Leonard] Wood noted 'that this is the first
great expedition our country has ever sent overseas
and marks the commencement of a new era in our
relations with the world.' For the men, however, there
was little thought of world politics, just much card
playing and even an occasional chorus of the Rough
Rider's adopted theme song - 'There'll Be a Hot
Time in the Old Town Tonight.' ...

"[In Cuba, during the heat of the battle] an assortment
of officers, foreign observers, and journalists watched
[the charge up San Juan Hill] in amazement. The
foreigners were as one in condemning the folly of the
charge. 'It is gallant, but very foolish,' said one officer.
Melancholy New York World reporter Stephen Crane
was lost in the glory of it all. 'Yes, they were going up
the hill, up the hill,' Crane wrote. 'It was the best
moment of anybody's life.'

"It was certainly the best moment of Colonel Theodore
Roosevelt's life. He was the only man on horseback,
but his life seemed charmed. 'No one who saw
Roosevelt take that ride expected him to finish it alive,'
wrote correspondent Richard Harding Davis. 'He wore
on his sombrero a blue polka-dot handkerchief, la
Havelock, which, as he advanced, floated out straight
behind his head, like a guidon.' Like Crane, Davis
was overcome by the sheer emotion of the
charge. 'Roosevelt, mounted high on horseback, and
charging the rifle-pits at a gallop and quite alone,
made you feel that you would like to cheer,' he

Paul Andrew Hutton, "Theodore Roosevelt: Leading
the Rough Riders During the Spanish-American War,"
American History Magazine online.