The Real Sweden, the Man with 32 Half Siblings, and a Woke Holiday Guide
Reminder: I’ll be traveling next week. See you on July 8th.
Sorry to start your Friday on a low note, but this story in The New York Times Magazine about a young man who finds out he has 32 half siblings is pretty depressing, though I’m not sure if it is intentionally or unintentionally so: “I grew up in Oakland, but I spent a semester in high school at a program in New York for kids interested in experiential learning, and one friend I made there, I knew, had two mothers who used a sperm donor to conceive him. His name was Gus Lamb. Right away, I texted him to ask if he had registered on the California Cryobank. He said he had. We exchanged donor numbers, and then we knew: We were half siblings. It was a moment of glee but also of horror. I knew that as a story it was mind-blowing, but it was also disturbing — to have the script switched, to go from friends to brothers.” He goes on to find he has another 31 half siblings. “I felt both curious and anxious about these people and what they exactly meant to me. The sheer quantity of them gave me a feeling of having been mass-produced.” The future of the American family is bleak.
In other news: NASA to send a robot to Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, in 2026: “The mission, named Dragonfly, would deliver a drone-like spacecraft to the surface. The space copter, which indeed resembles its eponymous insect, would hop from one spot to another, making measurements of the ground and the atmosphere as it goes.”
Rocketman: “In Escape from Earth, Fraser MacDonald, who teaches historical geography at Edinburgh University, has raised a crucially influential American pioneer rocketeer from obscurity to the recognition he deserves. Frank J. Malina, born in Brenham, Texas in 1912, of Czechoslovakian immigrant parents, developed a rocket that was propelled at five times the speed of sound up to 224 miles in altitude, on which even more powerful, longer-range rockets were founded.”
Andy Shaw’s woke holiday guide: “It’s not long until the summer holidays! We can forget about work, spend time with family and friends, have fun and enjoy some sun. But with the looming climate crisis and Brexit catastrophe, we must make this year’s holidays a truly life-enhancing experience. There are a fantastic range of holidays now available for the ethical holiday-maker. Let’s make the most of our remaining time on earth. Here is our pick of the best.”
Anthony Madrid on ancient Greek epitaphs: “Most people who think they know the epitaphs in the Greek Anthology have read only selections, and the selections are misleading. They make you think Book 7 must be a compilation of austere and moving and above all authentic epitaphs—poems copied straight off roadside stones in Thessaly. That’s not what you find if you actually read the whole thing, floor to ceiling. The vast majority of epitaphs in the Greek Anthology are literary exercises. There was no stone, there was no corpse. It was like things now: there was a poet and there was a piece of paper. Unlike now, people understood meter.”
Essay of the Day:
Sweden is not everything it is said to be. In Commentary, Daniel Schatz sets the record straight:
“One can understand the American left’s admiration for Nordic-style democratic socialism. At first glance, Nordic countries appear to combine relatively high living standards with low poverty, with narrow income distributions, fully government-funded education, generous parental-leave policies, and long lifespans—everything the left would like America to embrace. Their argument takes its starting point in the perception that the Scandinavian ‘third way’ economic model—combining the wealth creation of capitalism with the safety net of socialism—works well, and that the U.S. could reach the same socioeconomic outcomes and prosperity by expanding the role of government.
“However, a closer look at the politics, economy, and history of the Nordic nations makes evident that, as with most urban legends, the reality of Ocasio-Cortez’s Nordic utopia is quite different from the dream. As the political philosopher Richard Weaver once quipped, the problem with the next generation is that it has not read the minutes of the last meeting. Before Americans try to become more like Scandinavia—whose combined population is roughly comparable to that of the greater New York City metropolitan area, although less diverse—it would be wise to explore how Scandinavia became Scandinavia.”
Marly Youmans, The Book of the Red King (Phoenicia, July 20): “‘For those who love well-formed poems and for those who love fantasy, this is a must-read and a distinctive, evocative voice. There is no one like Marly Youmans.’ –Kim Bridgford.”
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