Try to answer these questions honestly. Of all your friends, family members, neighbors, and acquaintances of various types and degrees, how many can you count on to:

  1. Help you find a job?
  2. Lend you money?
  3. Care for you if you’re sick or injured?
  4. Talk to you if have a problem, feel sad, or are depressed?

Have your answers? Okay.

This is one method researchers use to quantify social isolation, the college-educated cousin of loneliness. Loneliness is subjective: if you’re surrounded by others but feel lonely, you are, and if you’re by yourself but don’t feel lonely, you’re not. The four…


For The Fabulous Wife and me the COVID-19 pandemic is over, at least until a variant can pierce our vaccine shield. What a joy! We’ve been hanging out with friends at every opportunity. Invariably an early topic of our conversations is the unvaccinated. A month or two ago we’d express bewilderment at them. Now I’m starting to hear less charitable sentiments, along the lines of “they’ve been given every chance to get the vaccine, so if they get sick and die, screw ‘em.”

I don’t condone — but do understand — the anger. The unvaccinated not only endanger themselves, they…


One of many thoughts while reading Reza Aslan’s breezy but solidly-researched God: A Human History (2017):

I so feel for the editors of the Five Books of Moses, also known as the Torah or the Pentateuch. What an impossible task they faced! They worked either during the Babylonian Captivity (586–537 BC), when Nebuchadnezzar conquered greater Israel, destroyed the first temple, and exiled the editors to his capital, or after Cyrus, king of Persia, crushed the Babylonians and let the editors return to their devastated homeland. Perhaps they worked during both periods. …


I’m neither proud nor ashamed to be American. It seems odd that anyone would invest much self-esteem (or self-loathing) in an accident of birth. Besides, haven’t we been warned that pride goeth before destruction?

That said, there are many things about America I cherish, and on this Independence Day I’d like to mention four of them, because we seem so caught up in the country’s faults that we’ve forgotten these revolutionary gifts.

The first is the most memorable political sentence in history: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by…


I’ve been enthralled by the work of the contemporary visual artist Kaya since I first encountered it three years ago. The radicality of her subject matter and her bold use of media historically excluded from the traditional art canon drive an empathetic, largely — but not exclusively — feminist perspective that expresses the need for social justice and fresh aesthetic strategies without requiring knowledge of critical theory to be legible.

This couldn’t be more propitious. In an era when art museums around the world, but particularly in the west, are precipitately revising their didactics to prove their bona fides about…


I haven’t read Brookings Institution fellow Jonathan Rauch’s new book, The Constitution of Knowledge, but I did read the article it’s based on, which is one of the best long-form essays I’ve come across in the past year. I’m fascinated by epistemology, the study of how we know what we know. Rauch goes beyond individual learning to ruminate on social epistemology, which he defines as “how societies come to some kind of public understanding about truth.”

I’ll assume that even if you’re as interested as I am in the subject, you’re also as lazy as I am and probably won’t…


In my day NYU was one of three destination schools for theater majors. The others were UCLA and USC, so if you wanted to be on the east coast, NYU was the destination. No surprise, then, that I attended college with dozens of aspiring actors. Most would have been better off investing their tuition in therapy; their motives for becoming actors had more to do with their need for attention than their need to make art.

That came to mind while The Fabulous Wife and I watched the third and final season of Netflix’s The Kominsky Method. Michael Douglas, in…


One of the French teachers in my public high school had a Ph.D. I was never assigned to her classes but she supervised one of my study halls, where she let us smug teens chatter away. We got to talking about how screwed up capitalism was. She didn’t usually join our conversations, but this time she did. “Capitalism is all but impossible to overthrow,” she cautioned. “What?” we cried, half in disbelief, half in challenge. “It can absorb anything,” she explained, “even anti-capitalist art like the music you love. …


No, that’s not what Elon Musk named his kid. It might have been a candidate, though, because it’s Drake’s Equation, known to outer space enthusiasts as the best attempt to estimate the number of civilizations in the Milky Way capable of interstellar communication.

I learned of Drake’s Equation more than forty years ago, when I fulfilled my college science requirement by taking a course called Intelligent Life in the Universe. (And yes, we all asked what you are now: is there even intelligent life on earth?) It was an easy course, a gentle way of introducing humanities majors swept up…


Could the dividing line between America’s two tribes be how deeply they read?

Deep reading is the subject of a recent article in National Affairs by foreign policy scholar Adam Garfinkle. His thesis: more people than ever can read, but due largely to the dominance of attention-span-eroding television and the internet, fewer can deep read, defined (my paraphrase) as taking the time necessary to understand a complicated text, then weighing the writer’s arguments and either changing one’s ideas, refuting the writer’s ideas, or arriving at a synthesis through sound, non-defensive reasoning.

According to Garfinkle, “Deep literacy has wondrous effects, nurturing…

Andy Goldblatt

Former Risk Manager at UC Berkeley, author of four books, ectomorphic introvert.

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