It's Hippy Bullshit But It's True
Football, Ukraine, saving the world, that sort of stuff
The trouble with regular general interest columns is that you need something interesting to say every time your deadline rolls around. About 20 years ago, Stephen Fry pointed out how difficult that was to do and, in his own column, enumerated and eviscerated the different tricks columnists had to get around that problem. (If anyone can find it, I’d love to re-read it, I can’t find it online!)
That’s why this newsletter is (highly) irregular.
Mum used to say if you haven’t got something nice to say, don’t say anything and generally, though with “insightful” rather than “nice” as the relevant adjective, that is how I run this newsletter. If I don’t have anything to say I’m not gonna bother you just for the sake of it. Several New York Times columnists have been doing exactly that for 20 years, and everybody’s pretty much sick of it.
Russia invading Ukraine is everything at the moment and all I will mention is that while Ukrainian refugees are highly sympathetic they exemplify the plight of *all* refugees, not just white Europeans. And one important finding of this conflict will be whether we have a robust enough democratic world order to repel mad militarists running their armies on petro-dollars.
But since my last newsletter I did write one of the pieces that I’m most proud of and I wanted to send it out to people because it’s dear to my heart.
Over the past 50 years maybe nothing that has given me as much consistent pleasure-without-aggravation as playing football. Yes there are many people — even readers of this newsletter — who are very dear to me, but very few of you have I consistently both loved AND liked without an iota of annoyance over all those decades!
So when the editor of the LA Review of Books asked me if I would review a book called “Football” by a poet called Mark Yakich, I jumped on it. It’s a small and fascinating book discussing a subject about which I know a lot and care even more. Plus it gave me a chance to talk about what the book gets right and wrong (mostly he gets it right) while also throwing in some personal thoughts about football in general. It’s a game I refer to as the preeminent social media of our time — not these tech platforms that are just money machines for a bro elite.
I’d love it if you checked it out.
ALSO OF INTEREST…
SAVE THE EARTH — Earth Day is coming up just after Easter, Passover and (most of) Ramadan. During the week of April 18, there are scores of Dayenu Climate actions urging financial institutions to withdraw their investments from fossil fuel — as they have promised. We need banks and asset managers to take out the tens of trillions they have poured into oil and gas since the Paris Accords were signed, otherwise we will indeed be “sleepwalking to climate catastrophe” and will not see the change we need, on the scale that justice and science demands it. If you’re in North America, join one near you.
Related to that, here’s fair warning that I’ll be running the New York City triathlon in July and asking for sponsorship for Dayenu. As training I’ll be running the Brooklyn half marathon in May and the Sleepy Hollow Mini Triathlon in June. Dani Weigert will be keeping me company for all those, making sure I’m not the fastest NY-based Jewish English Dan in my age group.
I RELEASED AN AUDIO BOOK! Tears for Fears released a new album (which is OK, but not great) and are going on tour. So I recorded an audio book with me reading (and singing!) about how their formation story and name AND first album are totally tied up with the same wacky psychiatrist who inspired the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. You can get it here.
MY FAVOURITE AUTHOR NAME — I think the author of the book I read for my January Book and Film Globe science fiction review had one of my favourite author names of a book I’ve reviewed. The book was good, but sad, too.
1 IN 10 UKRAINIANS IS A REFUGEE, IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU — I’ve been working for HIAS over the past year which has included the ongoing Latin American crises tied up with illegal U.S. positions at the southern border, the Afghan rescue and the invasion of Ukraine. I recommend skimming through the HIAS blog to see what one authentic and significant refugee, advocacy and humanitarian aid agency can do across the world. Plus, in the next few days, my piece should land profiling an incredible Afghan dude who’s settled in Pittsburgh.
FINALLY, I took the headline of today’s newsletter from Yard Act’s song “100% Endurance” — I highly recommend them.