“Naipaul was not a bridge burner, he wrote, but a “mushy soul afflicted with a cruel streak, and like many severe men, something of a sentimentalist. He cried easily.” He was, said Theroux, also a mean freeloader who rarely paid his share of bills.”
—VS Naipaul And Paul Theroux
Why do so many famous men gamble their reputations, their careers, and their marriages on reckless sexual encounters? It’s hard to believe the “James Bond” theory, that men crave the esteem that society bestows on the dashing stud. Men try to conceal their liaisons, not advertise them, and when they fail, their reward is ridicule from Leno and Letterman, not the respect of a nation. Perhaps the political process selects rapscallions who thrill at defying the conventions that govern the rest of us. Or perhaps, as Henry Kissinger said, power is an aphrodisiac. But the simplest explanation may be that our leaders and celebrities show ordinary male appetites in extraordinary circumstances.
“It’s the age-old debate: Do people wear clothes for functionality (such as staying warm or protecting feet), or do they wear clothes for style? A lot of people think the answer is “both,” but those people are no fun. I like to make it sound like I really believe it is nothing but style, except if you challenge me with obvious counterarguments then I’ll say, “Well duh, obviously I wasn’t denying that.” Anyway, if the critics are right and we really wear clothes because they serve an actual pragmatic function, then why is it common for people to dream about being naked and horribly embarrassed in front of a crowd? Nobody ever has a nightmare about being naked in the tundra, all alone, and then freezing to death. This post inspired by Bryan Caplan.”
“Similarly, just as on National Days you take the time to appreciate your nation’s virtues and accomplishments, the point of Foreigner Day is to appreciate other nations’ virtues and accomplishments. What can we learn from foreigners? In what ways should we emulate foreigners? It is possible that we take foreigners for granted – or even mistreat them? Foreigner Day is not about self-hatred, but the quest for self-improvement. Suppose your country is the best on Earth. It would still be miraculous if your country were the best in every respect. So why not examine the planet in all its variety and see how yours can improve? And needless to say, half the world’s countries are, by definition, worse than most countries on Earth. Foreigner Day, for them, is a time to humbly look beyond their borders for solutions their own culture has failed to originate. Foreigner Day is a simultaneously a celebration of both multiculturalism and Western civilization. Like multiculturalism, it takes seriously the fact that almost every culture has something of value to share with the world. But it also embraces Western civilization at its best: Universalism, or, as I call it, openness to awesomeness.”
“Every year I seem to have the same resolution: say “no” more often. Despite my black belt in economics-fu, it’s an endless challenge. But economics does tell us a little about why “no” is such a difficult word, why it’s so important — and how to become better at saying it. Let’s start with why it’s hard to say “no”. One reason is something we economists, with our love of simple, intuitive language, call “hyperbolic discounting”. What this means is that the present moment is exaggerated in our thoughts. When somebody asks, “Will you volunteer to be school governor?” it is momentarily uncomfortable to refuse, even if it will save much more trouble later. To say “yes” is to warm ourselves in a brief glow of immediate gratitude, heedless of the later cost. A psychological tactic to get around this problem is to try to feel the pain of “yes” immediately, rather than at some point to be specified later. If only we could feel instantly and viscerally our eventual annoyance at having to keep our promises, we might make fewer foolish promises in the first place.”