This long essay by Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine, detailing how his obsessive Internet use wrecked his health and life, is a searing commentary on the dehumanizing effects of pervasive technology. It’s also a wake-up call even to moderate tech hounds and social-media users: Have you realized just how comprehensively technology molds your life? How different your life would be without it? How miserably addicted you are? Do you even have a life?
In my first piece for The American Interest, I write about the amazing career of the late Arnaud de Borchgrave, whom I had the privilege of meeting about a year before his death. Arnaud was one of the last practitioners of a dead age of journalism we desperately need back:
When he talked, he peered at you, his head cocked down slightly so that his eyes, set behind wire-rimmed spectacles, seemed fixed behind rather than on you. It was not a creepy or uncomfortable stare; it was simply the confident gaze of a man born and cultivated in a very different era. I suspect Arnaud was always aware, and always proud, that he was becoming more of an anachronism as the years wore on.
Read the whole thing here.
Rest in peace, Arnaud. Thanks for returning my e-mail.
I have a piece in the December 25 issue of The Catholic Herald about Christmas in New York — specifically how movies have shaped our perceptions of the city as a romantic backdrop for the holiday. Alas, the article is not available online (at least not yet), but here is a snippet from the print edition:
Whenever I speak to foreign friends, acquaintances and even strangers near Christmastime, they often openly fantasise about spending the holiday in New York City. They also tend to cite the film Home Alone 2 as the source of this fantasy.
Films have that effect: they alter our perceptions of a time and place into impossible standards by which we judge our real lives. I won’t pretend I didn’t develop my own fantasy of spending Christmas in London when I first saw Love Actually.
Everyone wants to fall in love, actually, and wants it to happen in certain places: on the Pont Alexandre III bridge in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower rising in the background, just as Jack Nicholson did in one of the 57 movies he made with Diane Keaton (or was it Helen Hunt?) — or, if Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron have any say in it, in Yuletide Manhattan.
In my last post, on the Ashley Madison hack, I wrote:
It’s amazing to me that anyone could have paid to use Ashley Madison for more than a few weeks. If I had to guess, I’d say that at least 90% of the male users of the site never consummated any kind of relationship with anyone else. How could they? The ratio of male to (real) female users was probably something like 100 to 1.
I thought I might have been exaggerating when I wrote that, but as John McAfee has observed:
Annalee Newitz, in a recent Gizmodo article, did an outstanding analysis of the Ashley Madison membership profiles and concluded that fewer than 12,000 women were actually using the site. My own analysis concluded that the number was fewer than 1,400 women. Even using Annalee’s more conservative estimate, that means that there was one femail [sic] member for each 3,000 male members — a 3,000:1 ratio. Using my numbers, the ratio of men to women would be 20,000:1. It would be nearly impossible for the average male member to hook up with a woman using either ratio.