Sickbed reading list

The Price is Right! Click for theme song

So I had some unplanned outpatient surgery last Sunday in a sensitive spot, and have been mostly flat on my back in bed or soaking in a tub since then. When I was a kid and stayed home sick from school, I would lie on the couch and watch game shows on WDCA Channel 20 until The Price Is Right ended at noon. Then it was a vast wasteland of soap operas for the rest of the afternoon and I was on my own in those pre-Internet, pre-cable, pre-Betamax days of yore. (So after a healthy lunch I would switch over to reading my parents’ leather-bound editions of Voltaire, Spenser, Milton, and other classix. That’s why I’m the blogger you know and love today.)

What have I been up to this week? For starters, a ton of work. It is pretty amazing what you can accomplish, even while clenched in agony or sprawled in a Percoset stupor, as long as the wifi is working and you don’t have to make a bunch of new friends with your pearly whites and manly handshake. I had a telecon with some colleagues who were basically talking over each other and not communicating terribly well for 75 minutes about budget stuff, relieved wonderfully by having loving Miss A. kiss my cheek, smooth my back and ask “why are they talking like that? And what is a receivable?”

I also have been spending some time with John Keegan’s one-volume “First World War,” thanks to my military historian advisor JWH. This is probably the first time since World Civ in 9th grade that I really studied the war and it was a shock to realize how quickly things escalated from ol’ Franz Ferdinand getting it in Sarajevo to the start of hostilities. Keegan’s insight is that the evolution of warfare planning, especially in the sort of general staff colleges that made a science out of “start dates” keyed to the transportation of men and supplies across a given stretch of railroad, coupled with the primitive old-boy state of diplomacy at the time, made it much more likely for any given spark to move events towards war than had been the case in previous eras. The scale of human loss in the war was unimaginable and makes me extremely grateful to be undergoing my own very mild procedure and recovery under the most accommodating circumstances.

What do these Economist readers know that you don't? Read the damn magazine and you'd find out

I also got to read almost an entire issue of The Economist. This magazine generates a powerful sense in me of participating in the world’s most urbane and witty seminar on what I scarcely realized was fascinating about, say, Malaysian ethnic politics, and at the same time illustrates the impossibility of ever really knowing shit about shit, to quote the Bard. The magazine just started having a special section each week with reporting on China, focusing on the leadership transition that’s happening over the coming year, the politics of the environment and the environmentals of politics, tea cultivation, all that good stuff. Having started to work over the past year in Shanghai, and still hardly knowing anything about China except from my few observations and collegial contacts, it is interesting to see how much mainstream Western media have made a priority of reporting on China in the past few years. I bet that if I had turned over from watching The Price is Right to read the Washington Post in 1979 that weeks would have gone by without a China story in the paper.

Then, just in the past couple of days, I caught the wave of #Linsanity that is sweeping the nation and much of East Asia. If you are my parents or aunt I probably need to mention that Jeremy Lin, Harvard ’10, is the first Chinese/Taiwanese-American kid to make it in the NBA. He bounced from one team to another and ended up playing for the hard-up Knicks this week, and in five games has led them to five wins and basically stood the city on its head. I turned on the Knicks – Lakers game last night for the first time since I lived in New Jersey 12 years ago and was thrilled to see Lin and the team beat Kobe and the Lakers. Just now, in what seems to have been a much worse performance, Lin nonetheless scored the game-winning free throw to help the Knicks beat the T-Wolves in Minneapolis. Let the Lintasy continue.

What’s next for the big guy? Long walks in the woods, carefree eating, and meetings conducted while sitting upright. Looking forward.

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