Tuesday, January 10, 2012

GPS logic

(noun ) -- DEFINITION: Logic that only the most sophisticated GPS devices can track, and therefore not very logical in fact.

"I can't believe my ex-wife said that about me. Only the most sophisticated GPS devices can track that kind of logic. That's what I call GPS logic at work!"

overheard at a watercooler in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2012,
[and actually sort of coined by Eric Wemple in Jody Kantor story where he wrote:  ‎''Only the most
sophisticated GPS devices can track that logic.'']
 classic insult line, classic. love it!

Did New York Times Italian restaurant story by Jeff Gordinier copy a 1999 Italian restaurant article in Chicago too closely, headline and all? You be the judge...

First, the 1999 story from Chicago:

Low-key Italian Restaurant Draws High-profile Diners

February 12, 1999
By Elaine Glusac
Special to the Chicago Tribune

Four burly men take a table at La Scarola. They know the waiters. They
know the family at a neighboring table. And they know the menu.

"I'll have the shrimp appetizer, but without that sauce," says one.

To these and other patrons, La Scarola is family. The West Loop
storefront eatery, opened last winter, is a kitchen away from home for
a lot of regulars. Many are pals of partners Armando Vasquez, Roberto
Vasquez and Joey Mondelli, the former proprietor of Kelly Mondelli's
on Clark Street.

Despite its low-key setting, La Scarola draws its share of
high-profile Chicagoans. Michael Kornick, chef-owner of MK and partner
in Red Light and Marche, likes to dine here on his nights off. "It's
good," he says. "It's not Spiaggia. It's just dinner."

His review is on the money. La Scarola serves satisfying, fill-'em-up
Italian fare. There's nothing trendy on the menu, though one salad
does feature goat cheese.

The restaurant name is Italian slang for escarole, which is a
highlight among appetizers here. You can get it sauteed to wilting in
flavorful olive oil and garlic, or with tasty white beans in chicken
broth. Both are great accompaniments to the crusty Italian bread
served with meals.

So often soggy elsewhere, bruschetta is expertly assembled here on
toasted, garlic-rubbed bread piled with tomatoes tossed in garlic,
olive oil and basil, even if the tomatoes suffered from winter

La Scarola's version of pasta and fagioli is among the city's best.
Thickened by the natural starch from white beans and tiny pasta tubes,
the pancetta-flecked chowder makes an ideal cold weather lunch.

Eggplant parmigiana presents the flour-dusted and fried eggplant
slices topped with a thick, rich tomato sauce and a generous layer of
broiled Parmesan cheese; it's satisfying, but the vegetable is
slightly overwhelmed.

Pasta Vesuvio is exuberant. Linguine comes smothered in sauteed
chicken and mushrooms moistened by a buttery white wine sauce.
Linguine with sausage comes with the tangy house marinara and four
large pieces of charred, fennel-flavored Italian sausage.

Veal dishes, a house specialty, are impressive. Veal Monselli comes
pounded and tenderly sauteed under a mushroom and zucchini-rich sherry
sauce. More robust appetites will appreciate the veal chop alla Gabe,
an enormous breaded-and-fried, 10-ounce chop atop a heaping bed of
crispy, diced potatoes.

If you've got room, try the surprisingly light cannoli, fried and
filled with sweet custard and rolled in pistachio chips.

Note that food portions at La Scarola are shockingly huge. Appetizers
easily serve three. Pasta servings approximate a pound of noodles.
Meat dishes are massive. Everyone leaves not with a dainty doggy bag,
but a plastic grocery sack.

Just as there's nothing particularly modern on the menu, the decor
remains in a time warp. A wall full of photos of buxom blonds is
opposite another filled with portraits of ex-Cubs and celebs of the
Jerry Vale era. A second, recently added dining room has warmer
lighting and a cityscape mural, but the best tables are still in the
bustling main room.

Frank Sinatra on the soundtrack and the good humor of the servers add
to the bonhomie of the unassuming restaurant.

Now the 2011 NYT story by Mr Gordinier:

Low-key Italian Eatery Draws Rich and Famous


ONE afternoon back in February, Scott Conant was feeling grumpy and
hungry. Mr. Conant, the chef at Scarpetta, has a business office in
SoHo, and he was curious about a restaurant a short walk away that a
friend had recommended.

“I said to him, ‘What’s your favorite Italian restaurant?’ ” Mr.
Conant recalled. “He was like, ‘Don’t get mad at me, but it’s
Ballato’s.’ I had never heard of the place.”

From the sidewalk on East Houston Street near Mott Street, under a
grimy red awning that appears to belong to a fading pizza parlor,
Emilio’s Ballato didn’t look like much.

Inside, Mr. Conant was captivated.

On the walls were framed album covers and snapshots of pop stars, from
stalwarts like David Bowie and Billy Joel to freshly minted arrivals
like Rihanna and Justin Bieber. These were people with the resources
to eat anywhere in the world. Why would they hang out in a drowsy
red-sauce joint with a soundtrack and a menu that Don Draper might
have encountered on some sodden evening in 1962?

“Where the hell am I right now?” Mr. Conant thought before ordering a
bowl of spaghetti cacio e pepe.

“Which is really hard to get right,” he said. “And it was awesome. I
couldn’t believe it. Everything about it was really integrity driven.”
He followed up with a plate of veal Milanese. With mild shock, he
found it to be “spectacular.”


Like Rao’s, but You Can Get In, OR, Low-key Italian Eatery Draws Rich and Famous, or at least it did until the Times spoiled it all by blasting a rave review all across the city! Oi.

JEFF GORDINIER at the New York Times made the big fat mistake of writing this piece in the Times last year which immediately turned a low-key Italian eatery into the talk of the town and you now have to make reservations three months in advance just to get a table at Emilio
s Ballato. TO WIT (OR NOT TO WIT):

ONE afternoon back in February, chef Scott Conant was feeling grumpy and hungry. Conant, the chef at Scarpetta, has a business office in SoHo, and he was curious about a restaurant a short walk away that a friend had recommended.

“I said to him, ‘What’s your favorite Italian restaurant?’ ” Conant recalled. “He was like, ‘Don’t get mad at me, but it’s Ballato’s.’ I had never heard of the place.”

From the sidewalk on East Houston Street near Mott Street, under a grimy red awning that appears to belong to a fading pizza parlor, Emilio’s Ballato didn’t look like much.

Inside, Mr. Conant was captivated.

On the walls were framed album covers and snapshots of pop stars, from stalwarts like David Bowie and Billy Joel to freshly minted arrivals like Rihanna and Justin Bieber. These were people with the resources to eat anywhere in the world. Why would they hang out in a drowsy red-sauce joint with a soundtrack and a menu that Don Draper might have encountered on some sodden evening in 1962?

“Where the hell am I right now?” Mr. Conant thought before ordering a bowl of spaghetti cacio e pepe.

“Which is really hard to get right,” he said. “And it was awesome. I couldn’t believe it. Everything about it was really integrity driven.” He followed up with a plate of veal Milanese. With mild shock, he found it to be “spectacular.”

Although he did not realize it, Mr. Conant was being inducted into something of a secret society. New York has a bounty of celebrated chefs who specialize in elegant iterations of Italian food. And yet it is Emilio’s Ballato, a small, narrow, sleepily old-school NoLIta restaurant, that has become a de facto dining room for some of the most famous people in the city, especially musicians.

Plenty of places like to show off autographed snapshots of rock stars who twirled a fork there once, years ago. At Emilio’s Ballato, the rock stars keep coming back. They do so without any fanfare. On any given night, Lenny Kravitz, Mr. Bowie, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Meryl Streep, John Goodman, John Belushi, Sid Vicious, Piers Morgan, Larry King, Ken Auletta, Ben Bradlee, Sally Quinn, Maureen Dowd, Red Ryder, Mitch Jones, Ellen Bernstein, Sumar Kunesh, Rina Padamorphee  or Jon Bon Jovi might wander in, asking whether it is possible to get a quiet table in the back room.

As might Snoop Dogg, Prince, Michael Jackson (really), Sheryl Crow, Madonna, Her Honor, the Pope, Rihanna or Daniel Day-Lewis. Or L. A. Reid, the record-company executive and judge on “The X Factor.” Or Jim Jarmusch, the film director.

“They just come,” said Emilio Vitolo, 52, the restaurant’s chef and owner. “I swear to God. Lenny might come in with Denzel. It’s word of mouth.”

Ask them, and some of those stars like to insist that the most intriguing person in the room is Mr. Vitolo himself.

Now and then stray tourists with fanny packs can be seen floating through the restaurant’s front door and floating right back out, perhaps intimidated by this hulking minotaur of a man who tends to sit like a wary sentry at the first table, armed with a cup of espresso that looks like a thimble in the paws of a giant.

“I always say: ‘Emilio, smile. You’re going to scare people away,’” said Alexa Ray Joel, a singer and songwriter who dines at Ballato two or three times a week, and whose father is a Ballato fan named Billy Joel.

Indeed, the restaurant seems to repel as many customers as it attracts. Sites like Yelp are studded with complaints from diners who have found the service curiously disengaged if you do not belong to the club.

But Mr. Vitolo can be an effusive conversationalist. Any trembling strays he takes a liking to might find themselves caught up in a long, detail-rich disquisition on the subject of San Marzano tomatoes, which are cultivated in the Sarno River area of southern Italy, where he was born.

“Look at that,” Mr. Vitolo said after pouring a can of Cento tomatoes into a bowl for close study. “No seeds, you notice that? This is what makes the difference.” Seeds can give the sauce a trace of bitterness, he said.

And he seems to have a sixth sense for what his customers, both prominent and obscure, inexpressibly crave.

“He’s all love,” Mr. Kravitz, a Ballato regular for around 13 years, said on the phone from Paris. “I used to live on Crosby Street, right around the corner, and there were nights when I was sick, and it was raining, and I was hungry, and the dude cooked me food and walked it over himself.”

One evening, Mr. Vitolo mentioned that the red awning out front needed to be replaced. Upon paying his bill, Mr. Kravitz promised to take care of that.

“On the tip, I put, ‘a new awning,’ ” he said. “And I got him a new awning. That’s how much I care about that place.”

If Mr. Vitolo is indeed a watchful guard about anything, it is those customers who he believes have the right to be left alone. That philosophy puts him in sharp opposition to the scores of Manhattan restaurateurs who feed in-house celebrity sightings to gossip columnists.

“I’ve been in there with some people, you know, relationships, personal stuff,” Mr. Kravitz said. “Anybody else would have dropped a dime on me, the big scoop, you know? And Emilio has never betrayed our friendship.”

It is not clear that Mr. Vitolo has any interest in music beyond Neapolitan love songs. “I don’t think he knows much about the musicians that come there,” said Warren Haynes, a virtuoso guitarist who has performed with the Allman Brothers Band and members of the Grateful Dead. “He’s a food guy and a family guy, and we just have nice chats about life. He doesn’t clamor, you know?”

The restaurant’s menu is full of many of the same veal-parm-and-fresh-mozzarella fixtures that the achingly hip Torrisi Italian Specialties, a few steps away on Mulberry Street, has been lauded for rediscovering.

“When you go to a place like this, normally what you get is just heavy-handed food, and that has led me to being really disappointed in a lot of Italian-American food,” Mr. Conant said. “I rarely go to the same restaurant twice, but I’ve been in Ballato’s six or seven times.”


Joey B.

New York, NY

 i have been a "regular" and ballato's for over two years now and can say that this is hands down the best italian food restaurant in the area.
favorites: stuffed clams, sauteed mushrooms, ziti with meatballs, sausage and pork!
the ambiance is old school, comfortable, and inviting; the staff is friendly and attentive.
the only downside is that ever since they got a write up in the nyt, you need to get there early or expect to wait on a LONG line.

2. I am devastated that this place got written up in the Times. It's a block away from where my best friend works and it's been our little secret for the best meatball in the city for years.

The review in the Times was probably too glowing. I've had sauces that were over-reduced and too salty and overcooked chicken here at times. So the food isn't thoughtful and perfect, like say Dell'anima. But those meatballs keep me coming back. I was so sad to see that they took them off the regular menu and made them a special. I always call before going now.

If you want old school ambience, this place has it in spades. And they are really lovely to regulars. Hopefully you can make it to that level. Otherwise, maybe try another place. This one is best left to the regulars.

3. BEFORE THE TIMES REIVEW CAME OUT THIS BLOGGER WROTE, Sept. 9 2011, one month before the fateful NYT review, which was probably a paid plant, if you get the drift, hehe:

Two friends and I went to this place on a whim - we were hungry it was there. We entered about 8:40pm on a Thursday night. The place was about 3/4 full.

We sat and we given menus, water and all was fine. A waiter told us the specials and then came back and took our orders - we each ordered one of the "specials" for the evening, 2 pasta dishes and one chicken dish. And then the waiting began.

We had ordered the baked clams to share. They took about 25-30 minutes to arrive, but were tasty enough once they did. And then we waited. And waited. Finally at about 10:05 our entrees came out.

The food was good enough but nothing special or amazing and for a small restaurant that wasn't too busy and that seemed well staffed, the wait was truly unreasonable. My friends and I enjoyed our conversation, so its not like our night was ruined, but we had actually planned on going out for a bit more after our meal, but by the time we left at 10:40, it was just too late considering it was a work night.

Considering the high prices for ok but not spectacular food and the long wait and inadequate service, I cannot recommend this restaurant. This is NYC - there are plenty of places that have just as good if not better food that don't take several hours to serve it.

4. Vinni writes after the NYT review:
Note: this review is written by an Italian for a would-be Italian restaurant. And the result is: mostly fail. Went here after reading an NYT review. Obviously those guys at the NYT and Jeff Gordinier in particular are clue-less, unless this was a paid PR plant kind of "review" hehe, because the NYT Jeff guy hyped this place up so much I thought I was going to get a pass to food heaven by eating here. Not. I ordered basic Italian family-cooked food and they messed up almost everything, including basic stuff like the saltiness of the pasta. wine was average and over-priced. Price to quality ratio is bad. Do yourselves a favor and go to other, better Italian restaurants. and never trust the NYT food critics.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Matchmaker Ang Lee Introduces Rhythm & Hues to Taiwan‎

Matchmaker Ang Lee Introduces Rhythm & Hues to Taiwan‎

Get ready for a variety of disasters, but be optimistic for 2012 and 2013? No way. We are headed for major climate chaos disasters in next 50 years, Dr Lin!

Reviewing here a new book by Dr Lin Chong-pin of Taiwan, who went to Bowling Green State University a long time ago, and which appears in Chinese Mandarin only so far:

The much talked about year of 2012 has arrived. Inspired by the Mayan prophecy that some fake Armageddon was supposed to arrive on Dec. 21, 2011, a rush of movies, books, and theories has triggered widespread concern among people around the world.

Nevertheless, former ROC Taiwan vice defense minister Dr Lin Chong-Pin offers new perspectives in his new book titled ''Global Shift: Exploring the Roots of Rising Disasters''. Lin says that rather than taking the view that the end of the world is here or ignoring that such a day will ever come, it is more practical to focus on disaster preparedness and be optimistic for the future.

Weather Risk Explore Inc chief executive Dr Peng Chi-ming said at a press conference that the global economic cost of natural disasters last year was approximately US$300 billion, making the year the costliest ever. Lin said the end-of-days prophecies are nonsense, but admitted that natural and man-made disasters would become more and more intense in the years prior to 2020.

“Bundle up, it’s global warming” oped writer Judah Cohen wrote in the New York Times on Dec. 26, 2010.

That is also the first sentence in Lin’s new book. CUTE!~

Dr Lin thinks that last year, the USA National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that 2010 was the warmest year since 1880, while the US National Oceanic; Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced in 2010 that the past decade was the warmest in 131 years.

Strangely, the warmest year also presented the coldest winter in Poland, the UK, Germany, the US and China. In other words, the term “global warming” is a simplification that is part of the increasingly extreme climate. It can only explain some of earth’s surface disasters, but it cannot sufficiently explain underground disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis, disasters in space, such as solar storms, or mass bird and fish deaths and other incidents of unknown cause.

Lin mentioned that after studying climate changes over the past 100,000 years, scientists have found that fluctuations in atmospheric carbon concentration lagged behind fluctuations in atmospheric temperatures by 200 to 1,000 years.

Lin said this phenomenon, known as “CO2 lag,” meant that carbon dioxide levels could not have caused the fluctuations in temperatures. He said the fluctuation in atmospheric temperatures is primarily a result of solar activity and the number of sunspots.

Lin said the earth’s magnetic field is changing faster and faster, which could cause geomagnetic secular variations, geomagnetic excursions, or a geomagnetic reversal.

Although there is no consensus among scientists about the relationship between sharp increases in earthquakes and volcanic activity and changes in earth’s magnetic field, a connection cannot be ruled out. Changes in the earth’s magnetic field can cause disruptions on a global magnitude and have an impact on living creatures, but scientists believe that since the earth is still protected by the atmosphere, living creatures will not be exterminated.

Nevertheless, changes in earth’s magnetic field are undeniably a new challenge that humanity will have to deal with. Lin stressed that as global disasters are becoming more diverse, intense, frequent, and complex, we should lessen the impact of disaster by improving our own immune systems, finding green energy sources, and stopping the wrangling over whether global warming is man-made or natural.
facing the fact that polar cities might very well be the answer to survival of climate chaos survivors in the future. Yes, Dr Lin, POLAR CITIES: Deng Cheng-hong designed them here:



Full Enclosure

I am not really an angry Luddite. And I am not from Ludlow. And yes, sometimes I am ludicrous, I admit. But I am not really a Luddite, nor am I angry. But I want to make a point now and then. May I?

Apple sues Tandy Cheung and his Communist Chinese action figure firm for Steve Jobs rip-off

Okay, so Apple is suing a communist Chinese company in Beijing and its owner Tandy Cheung for making and selling action doll figures of Sir Steve Jobs who ascended to Buddhist last year, after a long life as an action-figure visionary entrepreneur. The photo below show the apple without a bite in it; a second apple for sale in the package actually DOES have a bite taken out of  it (by whom we don't know)!

The Commie Chinese company In Icons has created what some are calling an "eerily realistic" 12-inch action
figure of Sir Jobs. The 1:6 scale model comes with the clothes and
accessories such as the black faux turtleneck, blue jeans and

So we're making a list and checking it twice:

-One realistic head sculpture; 2 pairs of glasses

-One highly articulated body ; 3 pairs of hands

-One black turtleneck ; 1 pair of blue jeans

-One black leather belt ; 1 chair (wood + metal)

-One pair of black socks ; sneaker

-Two apples (1 with a bite in it.)

-One piece of "ONE MORE THING” hard backdrop

-Retail Price : US$100 (Without shipping, which will cost another arm and a leg)
For wholesale inquiries, please contact the team at

The doll is being sold in a ''box'' that looks very much like American writer Walter Isaacson's "Steve
Jobs" biography cover, and comes with a chair, a "One More Thing..."
backdrop, as well as two red apples, including one with a bite in it.

Don't blink: The doll doesn't blink either.

Apple sees this as copyright infringement, even after death and a
huge lawsuit is expected. Put your white Hong Kong judicial wigs on, folks! This one's going to be a rollercoast ride of epic proportons!

Apple already told Communist-funded ''In Icons'' that using Apple's logo or products, or Jobs'
name or appearance, is a "criminal offense."

Tandy Cheung, the entrepreneur behind In Icons told TechEye that he was an
Apple fanboy and there are a lot of people like him who want to have
Jobs' action figure. Cheung already spoke with several white-wigged lawyers from Hong Kong who told him that he
wasn't in violation of any laws in Commie China unless he decided to brand any of his designs with Apple products or logos.

He told David Smith of IB Times that Steve Jobs was not an actor, he's just a
celebrity, and that therefore there is no copyright protection for a normal person.

As Apple fanboys and fangirls know, Apple has killed off several other attempts to create a Steve Jobs
doll. Apple once wrote strong letters about copyright and trademark
protection to M.I.C, which then re-released the action figurine in January 2011,
redressing Sir Jobs as a Japanesey ninja, complete with a black belt,
mask and ninja stars. The company called the doll "Pineapple CEO."

Case still open. Case not closed.

According to Dave Smith, ''while Apple's copyright infringement claims are questionable, attorneys believe a Steve Jobs action figure released after his death violates the "right of publicity," which is a state law that protects one's image, voice, photograph, identity or signature from being used commercially without consent. Furthermore, California's Celebrity Rights Act in 1985 protects a celebrity's personality rights up to 70 years after their death.''

"[Jobs's estate] has every right to enforce this," Lawrence Townsend told Smith in an email interview. Townsend is an attorney with IP firm Owen, Wickersham and Erickson, based in San Francisco. "I expect there will be a lawsuit to follow."

This In Icons action doll is in bad taste, some say, and use of a Steve Jobs lookalike is a violation of Apple’s policy on third-party promotions.

Accordign to Nicole Martinelli, Apple recently started enforcing its guidelines for third-party giveaways — namely forbidding all iPad freebies. The guidelines (.PDF here and here) were set out in April 2010, but Apple is only going after companies who have not adopted them correctly now, according to Martinelli.

BUT: Remember re this Steve Jobs action figure that Apple is trying to force legally off the market, insinuating it owns Steve Jobs’s likeness?

Turns out that it looks like in most states, Apple can’t really do nada to prevent the sale of In Icon's Steve Jobs doll. As it turns out, even if Apple did own Steve Jobs’s likeness, that would only be valid in most USA states while Jobs was alive. Now that he’s dead as a doornail, though, almost anyone can profit off of his likeness.

Paid Content explains:

Apple’s legal claim is largely bogus. While people can indeed own rights to their likeness, those rights usually apply only to living people. Unlike other forms of intellectual property like patents or copyrights, image rights do not survive beyond the grave in most places.

Under American law, so-called “personality rights” exist only at the state level—there is no federal law. And only about a dozen states recognize image rights after death. Oddly, it is Indiana that has the strongest protection, restricting commercial use of a person’s image for 100 years after their passing.

But in New York and most other places, there is no protection at all. This was confirmed five years when a court in the state found that no one had the exclusive right to market Marilyn Monroe. Efforts to change the law have so far failed.

What this means is that Apple’s warning about the doll is an empty threat in most places. It may not even be able to stop others from using the name Steve Jobs as, surprisingly, the term does not appear on the company’s long list of registered trademarks. A company spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

So no reason to pay gigantic mark-ups for one of these figures on eBay. Apple’s unlikely to be able to stop commie Cheung, and you’ll be able to get one come February for just $100, unless you live in one of these states: Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, California, Ohio, Virginia, Washington, New Jersey, Nevada, Nebraska, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Pico Iyer and his Japanese wife Hiroko Takeuchi


Pico Iyer who is an amazing, soft-spoken travel writer who has written a number of travel books on subjects as diverse as the Dalai Lama and airports - he has been described as a transcendental travel writer - and he reminds some observes of Alain de Botton in Britain with his reflective take on the trivia of travel. Pico is married to the former Hiroko Takeuchi, who was formerly marrried to a Japaense salariman but in an unhappy way. The couple had two children, but they later divorced after Hiroko met Pico and fell in love with him. Now the Iyers live in Japan with Hiroko's two children.  She is a lovely woman who can wear with silk clothing with panache - she once wore a traditional Tibetan dress with wonderful intricate weaving and fabulous wraps that had people in the room admiring her. Pico and Hiroko have decided not to have children together, and there new blended family is perfect for both of them. 

How did they meet? Hiroko was at the time the wife of a
Japanese "sararyman" with young kids. ["Sararymen" are known for being
wedded to their job, working long hours at the office and then
spending additional time entertaining their customers in bars.]
Somehow Pico befriends her and they spend a large number of hours
together, in what seems to be a platonic relationship. [The information
is from Pico's book called "The Lady and the Monk".] Pico has written
that one never loses ones "gaijin" (foreigner) status in Japan and it's true. [n 20, years,
the inveteraete global man has not even bothered to learn Japanese, for crying out loud, by
his own candid admission! What's he doing there then? Is she his beard?]
Hiroko is economically better off - her husband is a good
provider (as most sararymen are). She is also older and is not looking
to escape her country. It is an emotional vacuum that she is trying to
fill. And she finds it with Pico.
They are walking along one day and Hiroko asks Pico
"You tell parent about 'girlfriend'?"
Pico is cagey and mutters that he doesn't have 'a girlfriend.' Is he saying he is gay? No way!
Hiroko won't have any of it.
"I am a man?" she asks, meaning "Am I not a woman and am I not your girlfriend?"
One Indian pundit says: "I have always been very surprised that the very erudite Pico finds Hiroko
attractive, with her pidgin English speech.''

[Bishop Tutu appears in Iyer's book on the the Dalai Lama; and Vaclav Havel makes an appearance; but both are overshadowed by the luminous presence of the author's wife and constant companion, Hiroko Tageuchi, the "uncrowned princess" of Dharamsala.]



In a recent interview, the writer George Steiner spoke about "the constant din" that surrounds us 24/7 now in this postmodern
high-tech world we have created. He was speaking of the need to find silence from time to time, to get away from the constant din
of life. And then Time magazine essayist Pico Iyer wrote a splendid oped commentary in the New York Times the other day
titled "The Joy of Quiet."

Things come together. After reading the Steiner interview last week, I took the way he spoke of "the constant din" to have an extra
meaning, and I put some quotation marks around the phrase and shortened it to "the CD." And by CD I mean "constant din" and by "the CD" I mean
"the constant din."

I sent the new coinage over to the folks at Urban Dictionary, and 23 hours later, in the midst of the constant din, the editors there accepted it and
"the CD" is now part of the online dictionary. In addition, I sent the link over to Facebook, I blogged it and then I made a YouTube piece about
it as well. And then I sent the entire linkage event by email to both Mr Steiner and Mr Iyer.

A new meme is born.

Steiner was asked in a recent interview conducted by a young woman: "You have argued that new technologies are a threat to the “silence” and “intimacy” necessary for an encounter with great works."

Steiner, now 82, replied: ''People are living in a constant din. There is no more night in cities. Young people are afraid of silence. What will become of serious and difficult reading? Is it possible to read Plato while wearing a Walkman? I find this very worrying."

Iyer, for his part, spoke about how how had read an interview with cutting-edge designer Philippe Starck. What allowed him to remain so consistently ahead of the curve? Iyer asked himself, and then he asked Starck the same question:

"I never read any magazines or watch TV,” Starck told Iyer. “Nor do I go to cocktail parties, dinners or anything like that.” He lived outside conventional ideas, he implied to Iyer, because “I live alone mostly, in the middle of nowhere.”

Iyer also thinks that silence is golden.

"In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them -- often in order to make more time," he opedded in the Times. "The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight."

Pico Iyer knows what the CD is all about and why it is bad for us. George Steiner has known this all his life.

The average American spends at least eight and a half hours a day in front of a screen, Nicholas Carr wrote in “The Shallows.”

Mr. Carr also knows what the CD is all about and how damaging it can be. So do important thinkers and writers such as William Powers, Edward Tenner
and Emily Bazelon.

"The average American teenager sends or receives 75 text messages a day, although one girl in Sacramento managed to handle an average of 10,000 every 24 hours for a month,"
Pico Iyer tells us in the Times piece. "The urgency of slowing down -- to find the time and space to think -- is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context."

"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.”

Pascal also once said that "all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone." Ouch! Oi. He knew about the CD, too.

Iyer notes: "We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. Partly because we’re so busy communicating. And — as he might also have said — we’re rushing to meet so many deadlines that we hardly register that what we need most are lifelines."

The CD, the CD, the CD threatens to do us in! That damn constant din.

So what to do?

Iyer observes that two of his journalist pals observe an “Internet sabbath” every weekend, turning off their online connections from Friday night to Monday morning, "so as to try to revive those ancient customs known as family meals and conversation."

Iyer also says he friends who try to go on long walks on Sundays, or conveniently “forget” their cellphones at home.

For Iyer, who lives in Japan now with his Japanese wife and her two children, he has never once in his life used a cellphone and he's never Tweeted or entered Facebook.
He does use email, however, although for some reason he does not reply to my polite questions by email.

I try not to go online till my day’s writing is finished, and I moved from Manhattan to rural Japan in part so I could more easily survive for long stretches entirely on foot, and every trip to the movies would be an event.

Iyer says he's looking for a kind of postmodern joy that goes beyond the CD, which a monk named David Steindl-Rast describes as “that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.”

Me, I'm looking for a way to put the CD its place and keep it on a tight leash. We do not need "a constant din." We need a constant peace. Iyer says it well, and Professor
Steiner knows it all too well. We are doomed, doomed, if we don't keep the CD at bay.

It will only get worse, no?