Friday, April 28, 2023

28: India

28: ChatGPT

Watch an A.I. Learn to Write by Reading Nothing but Shakespeare They are trained by going through mountains of internet text, repeatedly guessing the next few letters and then grading themselves against the real thing. ........ The largest language models are trained on over a terabyte of internet text, containing hundreds of billions of words. Their training costs millions of dollars and involves calculations that take weeks or even months on hundreds of specialized computers. ........ They learn statistical patterns that piece words together into sentences and paragraphs. ........ our model has learned which letters are most frequently used in the text. You’ll see a lot of the letter “e” because that is the most common letter in English. .......... It usually doesn’t copy and paste sentences verbatim; instead, BabyGPT stitches them together, letter by letter, based on statistical patterns that it has learned from the data. ......... They can learn the form of a sonnet or a limerick, or how to code in various programming languages.

Generative because it generates words.

Pre-trained because it’s trained on a bunch of text. This step is called pre-training because many language models (like the one behind ChatGPT) go through important additional stages of training known as fine-tuning to make them less toxic and easier to interact with.

Transformers are a relatively recent breakthrough in how neural networks are wired. They were introduced in a 2017 paper by Google researchers, and are used in many of the latest A.I. advancements, from text generation to image creation.

Transformers improved upon the previous generation of neural networks — known as recurrent neural networks — by including steps that process the words of a sentence in parallel, rather than one at a time. This made them much faster.

GPT-3 was trained on up to a million times as many words as the models in this article. Scaling up to that size is a huge technical undertaking, but the underlying principles remain the same.......... As language models grow in size, they are known to develop surprising new abilities, such as the ability to answer questions, summarize text, explain jokes, continue a pattern and correct bugs in computer code. ........... Some researchers have termed these “emergent abilities” because they arise unexpectedly at a certain size and are not programmed in by hand. The A.I. researcher Sam Bowman has likened training a large language model to “buying a mystery box,” because it is difficult to predict what skills it will gain during its training, and when these skills will emerge. ............... They are also prone to inventing facts and reasoning incorrectly. Researchers do not yet understand how these models generate language, and they struggle to steer their behavior.

Peering Into the Future of Novels, With Trained Machines Ready Who wrote it, the novelist or the technology? How about both? Stephen Marche experiments with teaching artificial intelligence to write with him, not for him. ........ The journalist and author Stephen Marche wrote “Death of an Author” using three artificial intelligence programs. Or three artificial intelligence programs wrote it with extensive plotting and prompting from Stephen Marche. It depends on how you look at it. .......... “I am the creator of this work, 100 percent,” Marche said, “but, on the other hand, I didn’t create the words.” .......... He asked if Marche was interested in using the technology to produce a murder mystery. The result of that collaboration is “Death of Author,” in which an author who uses A.I. extensively winds up dead. ......... To coax the story from his laptop, Marche used three programs, starting with ChatGPT. He ran an outline of the plot through the software, along with numerous prompts and notes. While A.I. was good at many things, especially dialogue, he said, its plots were terrible. .......... Next, he used Sudowrite, asking the program to make a sentence longer or shorter, to adopt a more conversational tone or to make the writing sound like Ernest Hemingway’s. Then he used Cohere to create what he called the best lines in the book. If he wanted to describe the smell of coffee, he trained the program with examples and then asked it to generate similes until he found one he liked. ......... “To me, the process was a bit akin to hip-hop,” he said. “If you’re making hip-hop, you don’t necessarily know how to drum, but you definitely need to know how beats work, how hooks work, and you need to be able to put them together in a meaningful way.” .

Thursday, April 27, 2023

27: ChatGPT

You’re Using ChatGPT Wrong! Here’s How to Be Ahead of 99% of ChatGPT Users Master ChatGPT by learning prompt engineering. ........... We don’t include examples in our prompts. ..... We ignore that we can control ChatGPT’s behavior with roles....... We let ChatGPT guess stuff instead of providing it with some information. ........... This happens because we mostly use standard prompts that might help us get the job done once, but not all the time. ......... Few-shot standard prompts consist of a task description, examples, and the prompt. In this case, the prompt is the beginning of a new example that the model should complete by generating the missing text. ......... Say you want to practice for a job interview. By telling ChatGPT to “act as hiring manager” and adding more details to the prompt, you’ll be able to simulate a job interview for any position. ............ You only need to start your prompt with the words “Act as a … ” and then add as many details as possible. ............. Write [topic] in the style of an expert in [field] with 10+ years of experience. .......... "Write a witty 500-blog post on why AI will not replace humans. Write in the style of an expert in artificial intelligence with 10+ years of experience. Explain using funny examples." ............... In our example, the style of an expert in AI and adjectives such as witty and funny are adding a different touch to the text generated by ChatGPT. A side effect of this is that our text will be hard to detect by AI detectors ......... "Generate 5 facts about “AI will not replace humans” .

4 Ways to Access The New GPT-4 (2 Free Options!) OpenAI just released GPT-4. Here are some ways to access GPT-4 today! ......... it has new features like being able to understand images and generate more than 25000 words. .

4 Free Prompt Engineering Courses to Join The Top 1% of ChatGPT Users Learn prompt engineering with these free resources. .

100 Years Of Solitude

One Hundred Years Of Solitude Quotes 21 of the best book quotes from One Hundred Years of Solitude .

How One Hundred Years of Solitude redefined Latin America When Gabriel García Márquez wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude, he reimagined the genesis of his continent. ......... “The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point”. .......... From his little studio in Mexico City, patiently composing on his typewriter, he reimagined the genesis of the continent and by doing so changed its future forever. .......... When García Márquez was in the first stages of his immense saga, he became fascinated with the turn of events in Cuba. What struck him the most was the real possibility of a new order for countries in this hemisphere, far from the pressure and demands of the United States. ......... it’s undeniable that the revolution had a major impact on the tone of One Hundred Years of Solitude: it gave García Marquez hope for the fate of Latin America. ...... He was living abroad – before settling in Mexico City he spent time in Caracas, Paris and Barcelona – all while nurturing his ambition to become a world-renowned novelist. ......... the family struggled to survive on his low wage as an international correspondent for a number of Spanish-language magazines and newspapers. His previous books had been highly praised yet a commercial failure. García Márquez knew he had a great story, but he just couldn’t find the right path for the epic novel he had in mind. ........ García Márquez had been thinking about the family in 100 Years for two decades before he sat down to write the book – and finished it in eight months ......... There are many legends – which, throughout the course of his life, he never bothered to confirm or deny – about how he found inspiration and overcame the writer’s block that plagued him. I choose to believe the version I read in Gerald Martin’s wonderful biography: “He set out with his family for a beach vacation in Acapulco, a day’s drive south. Partway there, he stopped the car – a white 1962 Opel with a red interior – and turned back. His next work of fiction had come to him all at once. For two decades he had been pulling and prodding at the tale of a large family in a small village. Now he could envision it with the clarity of a man who, standing before a firing squad, saw his whole life in a single moment.” .............. He ignored reality and wrote – possessed by the characters that had been whispering their stories into his ears ever since he was a small child .......... They drove back to their house, and she told him to start writing. She would take care of the household expenses as long as he stayed focused on the new novel. ......... he ignored reality and wrote – possessed by the characters that had been whispering their stories into his ears ever since he was a small child – for a solid eight months. .......... The saga of Macondo and the Buendía family immediately became a modern classic, often compared to the works of Cervantes and Shakespeare. “It’s the book that redefined not just Latin American literature but literature, period” ........ García Márquez was neither a historian nor a sociologist. He was a natural storyteller. ......... He was able to converge an extraordinary amount of information and transform it into a new mythology. That is the craft of One Hundred Years of Solitude: he pulled from different sources to create an alternate, hyperbolic birth of Latin American culture. And by doing so, he reinterpreted its nature......... He took a large part from the legends he heard during his childhood in Aracataca, the small Colombian town where he was born. These are the basis of the Caribbean oral traditions that lie beneath the novel’s skin. Then, he read William Faulkner as well as Greek and pre-Hispanic myths. And, finally, he took inspiration from Colombia’s violent history from the 18th to 20th Centuries. All these stories came together and ripened in his extraordinary mind, only to emerge as a different body, built using a symbolism of its own. ......... He borrowed the pace and rhythm from Vallenato, a traditional folk music from the city of Valledupar, which he combined with the tools of narrative journalism. García Márquez was also a fantastic reporter, and such skills are showcased in his prose. ........ As a young journalist in Colombia, I witnessed his supernatural ability to transform the trivialities of everyday life into magical tales. ......... caudillismo (the leadership of a ‘strongman’), machismo, rebellion, power, plagues, and political violence .......... “In spite of this, to oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century, have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life over death.” .............

magical realism is built on exaggeration


The Secret History of One Hundred Years of Solitude A half-century ago, Gabriel García Márquez, after yet another visit to the pawnshop, sent his now signature novel to his publisher. As Solitude turns 50, Paul Elie interviews Gabo’s longtime agent—just weeks before her death, at 85—and discovers the events that led to a literary revelation. .......... Stuck up on the wall were charts of the history of a Caribbean town he called Macondo and the genealogy of the family he named the Buendías. Outside, it was the 1960s; inside, it was the deep time of the pre-modern Americas, and the author at his typewriter was all-powerful. ............ and the “solitude of fame,” as he would later put it, would inflict on him. ........... The novel came off the press in Buenos Aires on May 30, 1967, two days before Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, and the response among Spanish-language readers was akin to Beatlemania: crowds, cameras, exclamation points, a sense of a new era beginning. ............. By the time García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize, in 1982, the novel was considered the Don Quixote of the Global South, proof of Latin-American literary prowess, and the author was “Gabo,” known all over the continent by a single name, like his Cuban friend Fidel. ..........

Unofficially, it’s everybody’s favorite work of world literature

and the novel that, more than any other since World War II, has inspired novelists of our time—from Toni Morrison to Salman Rushdie to Junot Díaz. ........... When García Márquez died, in April 2014, Barack Obama joined Clinton in mourning him, calling him “one of my favorites from the time I was young” and mentioning his cherished, inscribed copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude. “It’s the book that redefined not just Latin-American literature but literature, period,” insists Ilan Stavans, the pre-eminent scholar of Latino culture in the U.S., who says he has read the book 30 times. ........... The creator of contemporary fiction’s most famous village was a city man. ........... As the noose of dictatorship tightened, he went on assignment to Europe—and out of harm’s way. He had hard times there. In Paris, he turned in deposit bottles for cash; in Rome, he took classes in experimental filmmaking; he shivered in London and sent back dispatches from East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union. Returning south—to Venezuela—he was nearly arrested during a random sweep by military police. When Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, García Márquez signed on with Prensa Latina, a press agency funded by the new Communist government, and after a stint in Havana he moved to New York in 1961 with his wife, Mercedes, and their young son, Rodrigo............ The city, he later said, “was putrefying, but also was in the process of rebirth, like the jungle. It fascinated me.” The family stayed in the Webster Hotel, at 45th and Fifth, and then with friends in Queens, but Gabo spent most of his time at the press office near Rockefeller Center, in a room with a lone window above a vacant lot overrun with rats. The phone rang and rang with calls from inflamed Cuban exiles who saw the agency as an outpost of the Castro regime they detested, and he kept an iron rod at the ready in case of attack. .......... When hard-line Communists took over the press service and ousted its editor, García Márquez quit in solidarity. He would move to Mexico City; he would focus on fiction. But first he would see the South of William Faulkner, whose books he had read in translation since his early 20s.

Traveling by Greyhound, the family was treated as “dirty Mexicans,” he recounted—refused rooms and restaurant service.

“The immaculate parthenons amidst the cotton fields, the farmers taking their siesta beneath the eaves of roadside inns, the black people’s huts surviving in wretchedness…. The terrible world of Yoknapatawpha County had passed in front of our eyes from the window of a bus,” he would remember, “and it was as true and as human as in the novels of the old master.” ....... García Márquez struggled. He turned to screenwriting. He edited a glossy women’s magazine, La Familia, and another specializing in scandal and crime. He wrote copy for J. Walter Thompson. In the Zona Rosa—Mexico City’s Left Bank—he was known as surly and morose......... And then his life changed. A literary agent in Barcelona had taken an interest in his work, and after a week of meetings in New York in 1965 she headed south to meet him. ................ Our interview, she told me wearily, would be followed by a meeting with her lawyers—“a dirty business,” she said. ............. She and her husband, Luis, liked to read in bed. “I was reading García Márquez—one of the early books—and I said to Luis, ‘This is so fantastic, Luis, that we have to read it at the same time.’ So I made a copy of it. We both had enthusiasm for it: it was so fresh, so original, so exciting. Every reader says in his mind, of certain books, ‘This is one of the best books I have ever read.’ When that happens to a book again and again, all over the world, you have a masterpiece. That is what happened with Gabriel García Márquez.”............ And then García Márquez, having fully warmed to his guests, took out a sheet of paper, and with Luis as a witness he and Balcells drew up a contract declaring her his representative in all the world for the next 150 years. .......... She’d made a deal for the English-language rights to his four books. The payment? A thousand dollars. She had brought the contract, which she presented for him to sign. ........... The terms seemed onerous, even rapacious. And the contract also gave Harper & Row the first option to bid on his next work of fiction, whatever it was. “This contract is a piece of shit,” he told her. He signed anyway. .......... Balcells left to return to Barcelona; García Márquez set out with his family for a beach vacation in Acapulco, a day’s drive south. Partway there, he stopped the car—a white 1962 Opel with a red interior—and turned back. His next work of fiction had come to him all at once. For two decades he had been pulling and prodding at the tale of a large family in a small village. Now he could envision it with the clarity of a man who, standing before a firing squad, saw his whole life in a single moment. “It was so ripe in me,” he would later recount, “that I could have dictated the first chapter, word by word, to a typist.” ................ In the study, he settled himself at the typewriter. “I did not get up for eighteen months,” he would recall. Like the book’s protagonist, Colonel Aureliano Buendía—who hides out in his workshop in Macondo, fashioning tiny gold fish with jeweled eyes—the author worked obsessively. He marked the typed pages, then sent them to a typist who made a fresh copy. He called friends to read pages aloud. .............. She kept bill collectors at bay. She hocked household items for cash: “telephone, fridge, radio, jewelry” ..........

they didn’t have the 82 pesos for the postage. They sent the first half, and then the rest after a visit to the pawnshop.

............. He had smoked 30,000 cigarettes and run through 120,000 pesos (about $10,000). Mercedes asked, “And what if, after all this, it’s a bad novel?” ............ The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” Faulkner observed, and with One Hundred Years of Solitude, García Márquez made the presence of the past a condition of life in Macondo—like poverty, or injustice. Over seven generations José Arcadio Buendía and his descendants are relentlessly present to one another: in their inherited names, their fits of anger and jealousy, their feuds and wars, their nightmares, and in the current of incest that runs through them—a force that makes family resemblance a curse and sexual attraction a force to be resisted, lest you and your lover (who is also your cousin) produce a child with a pig’s tail. ........... “Magic realism” became the term for García Márquez’s violation of natural laws through art. ........ Reading it, you feel: They are alive; this happened. ........... Eight thousand copies sold in the first week in Argentina alone, unprecedented for a literary novel in South America. Laborers read it. So did housekeepers and professors—and prostitutes: the novelist Francisco Goldman recalls seeing the novel on the bedside table in a coastal bordello. García Márquez traveled to Argentina, to Peru, to Venezuela, on its behalf. In Caracas, he had his hosts stick up a handwritten sign: TALK OF ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE FORBIDDEN. Women offered themselves to him—in person and in photographs.......... It was seen as the first book to unify the Spanish-language literary culture, long divided between Spain and Latin America, city and village, colonizers and colonized. ............. its unforgettable triple-time first sentence: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” ............. The Book Review praised it as “a South American Genesis, an earthy piece of enchantment. ............. Signed up for $5,000 on the basis of a “piece of shit” contract, the book would sell 50 million copies worldwide, becoming a year-in-year-out fixture on the backlist. Gregory Rabassa watched with mingled pride and unease as his work—paid for in a lump sum “of about a thousand dollars,” like the work of a gardener “spreading manure on a suburban lawn”—became at once the most acclaimed novel in translation and the most popular. García Márquez himself read One Hundred Years of Solitude in the Harper & Row edition and pronounced it better than his Spanish original. He called Rabassa “the best Latin American writer in the English language.”.............. Gabo told Harvey Weinstein that he would grant him and Giuseppe Tornatore the rights, provided the movie was made his way. As Weinstein would recall: “We must film the entire book, but only release one chapter—two minutes long—each year, for one hundred years.” ........... “I was sitting in my office at Random House,” says Toni Morrison, then an editor with two of her own novels published, “just turning the pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude. There was something so familiar about the novel, so recognizable to me. It was a certain kind of freedom, a structural freedom, a [different] notion of a beginning, middle, and end. Culturally, I felt intimate with him because he was happy to mix the living and the dead. His characters were on intimate terms with the supernatural world, and that’s the way stories were told in my house.” ............. I got permission from García Márquez”—permission to write Song of Solomon, the first of a run of big, bold novels. (Many years later, Morrison and García Márquez taught a master class together at Princeton. It was 1998—“the year Viagra came out,” Morrison recalls. “I would pick him up in the morning at the hotel where he and Mercedes were staying, and he said, ‘The peell: the peell is not for us men. It is for you, for you women. We do not need it, but we want to please you!’ ”) ........... Díaz read the novel in his first months at Rutgers, in 1988. “The world went from black-and-white to Technicolor,” he says. “I was a young Latino-American-Caribbean writer desperately looking for models. This novel went through me like a lightning bolt: it entered through the crown of my head and went right down to my toes, redounding through me for the next several decades—up to right now.” .............. he came to see magic realism as a political tool—one “that enables Caribbean people to see things clearly in their world, a surreal world where there are more dead than living, more erasure and silence than things spoken.” He explains: “There are seven generations of the Buendía family. We are the eighth generation. We are the children of Macondo.” ............. The admiration for the author was universal. He was the laureate everyone could love. ......... In 1976, in Mexico City, García Márquez attended a screening of the film La Odisea de los Andes, for which Vargas Llosa had written the script. Spotting his friend, García Márquez went to embrace him. Vargas Llosa punched him in the face, knocking him down and giving him a black eye. .......... “And García Márquez said, ‘Now that you’ve punched me to the ground, why don’t you tell me why,’ ” Balcells told me, recalling the episode. Ever since, literary people in Latin America have wondered why. One story is that García Márquez had told a mutual friend that he found Patricia less than beautiful. A second is that Patricia, suspecting that Mario was having an affair, had asked Gabo what she should do about it, and Gabo had told her to leave him. Vargas Llosa has said only that it was “about a personal problem.” .................... For four decades, Vargas Llosa has categorically refused to discuss the episode, and he has said that he and Gabo made a “pact” to take the story to their graves. .......... “This was the book that enlarged the Spanish-language reading public to include intellectuals and also ordinary readers because of its clear and transparent style. At the same time, it was a very representative book: Latin America’s civil wars, Latin America’s inequalities, Latin America’s imagination, Latin America’s love of music, its color—all this was in a novel in which realism and fantasy were mixed in a perfect way.” ..........

Longest Sentence in One Hundred Years of Solitude

“Nor had they asked her, even out of courtesy, why she was so pale or why she awoke with purple rings under her eyes in spite of the fact that she expected it, of course, from a family that had always considered her a nuisance, an old rag, a booby painted on the wall, and who were always going around saying thing against her behind her back, calling her churchmouse, calling her Pharisee, calling her crafty, and even Amaranta, may she rest in peace, had said aloud that she was one of those people who could not tell their rectums from their ashes, God have mercy, such words, and she had tolerated everything with resignation because of the Holy Father, but she had not been able to tolerate it anymore when that evil Jose Arcadio Segundo said that the damnation of the family had come when it opened its doors to a stuck up highlander, just imagine, a bossy highlander, Lord save us, a highland daughter of evil spit of the same stripe as the highlanders the government sent to kill workers, you tell me, and he was referring to no one but her, the godchild of the Duke of Alba, a lady of such lineage that she made the liver of president’s wives quiver, a noble dame of fine blood like her, who had the right to sign eleven peninsular names and who was the only mortal creature in that town full of bastards who did not feel all confused at the site of sixteen pieces of silverware, so that her adulterous husband could die of laughter afterword and say that so many knives and forks and spoons were not meant for a human being but for a centipede, and the only one who could tell with her eyes closed when the white wine was served and on what side and in which glass and when the red wine and on what side and in which glass, and not the like the peasant of Amaranta, may she rest in peace, who thought that white wine was served in the day time and red wine at night and the only one on the whole coast who could take pride in the fact that she took care of her bodily needs only in golden chamberpots, so that colonel Aureliano Buendia, may he rest in peace, could have the effrontery to ask her with his Masonic ill humor where she had received that privilege and whether she did not shit shit but shat sweet basil, just imagine, with those very words, and so that Renata, her own daughter, who through an oversight had seen her stool in the bedroom, had answered that even if the pot was all gold and with the coat of arms, what was inside was pure shit, physical shit, and worse even than any other kind because it was stuck-up highland shit, just imagine, her own daughter, so that she never had any illusions about the rest of the family, but in case she had the right to expect a little more consideration from her husband because, for better or for worse, he was her consecrated spouse, her helpmate, her legal despoiler, who took upon himself of his own free and sovereign will the grave responsibility of taking her away from her paternal home, where she never wanted for or suffered from anything, where she wove funeral wreaths as a pastime, since her godfather had sent a letter with his signature and the stamp of his ring on the sealing wax simply to say that the hands of his goddaughter were not meant for tasks of this world except to play the clavichord, and, nevertheless, her insane husband had taken her from her home with all manner of admonitions and warnings and had brought her to that frying pan of hell where a person could not breathe because of the heat, and before she had completed her Pentecostal fast he had gone off with his wandering trunks and his wastrel’s accordion to loaf in adultery with the wretch of whom it was only enough to see her behind, well, that’s been said, to see her wiggle her mare’s behind in order to guess that she was a, that she was a, just the opposite of her, who was a lady in a palace or a pigsty, at the table or in bed, a lady of breeding, God-fearing, obeying His laws and submissive to His wishes, and with whom he could not perform, naturally, the acrobatics and trampish antics that he did with the other one, who, of course, was ready for anything, like the French matrons, and even worse, if one considers well, because they at least had the honesty to put a red light at their door, swinishness like that, just imagine, and that was all that was needed by the only and beloved daughter of Dona Renata Argot and Don Fernando del Carpio, and especially the letter, an upright man, a fine Christian, a Knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher, those who received direct from God, the privilege of remaining intact in their graves with their skin smooth like the cheeks of the bride and their eyes alive and clear like emeralds.”

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

26: Ukraine

China's Xi calls Ukraine's Zelenskyy, after weeks of intensifying pressure to do so "China will send the Special Representative of the Chinese Government on Eurasian Affairs to Ukraine and other countries to have in-depth communication with all parties on political settlement of the Ukraine crisis." ...... Xi's call comes as the Chinese leader has sought to play the role of peacemaker, having brokered a deal to mend fences between Middle Eastern rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, chances of a breakthrough in the Ukraine conflict are slim, given how far apart Moscow and Kyiv's positions remain. ........ Even a cease-fire, Ukraine says, will only allow Moscow time to regroup in its faltering military campaign. Ukraine rejected a 36-hour Russian cease-fire over Orthodox Christmas.

US-China relations have entered a frightening new era Economic co-operation with Beijing will be harder than recent speeches by Janet Yellen and Ursula von der Leyen suggest ........ Yellen sets out a plan for what she calls “constructive engagement”. This has three elements: first, “secure our national security interests and those of our allies and partners, and . . . protect human rights”; second, “seek a healthy economic relationship” based on “fair” competition; and, third, “seek co-operation on the urgent global challenges of our day”. In her discussion of the first element, she makes the point that US “national security actions are not designed for us to gain a competitive economic advantage, or stifle China’s economic and technological modernisation”. Yet the difficulty is that this is not at all how it looks in China, as I learnt during a brief recent stay in Beijing......

the US trades more with China than with any other country, except Canada and Mexico

......... US controls on chip exports may be designed to strengthen US security. But they are also a curb on China’s economy. The two cannot be separated. ......... China is still a poor country: at PPP, China’s GDP per head in 2022 was still less than 30 per cent that of the US. ........ Somehow, we have to co-operate and compete, while also avoiding military conflict. Our starting point must be to achieve the greatest possible transparency over our aims and plans. We learnt the necessity of that after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. But we will need far more than that and probably for longer. Few leaders in history have borne a heavier moral burden than those of today.

Ukraine’s Spring Offensive Comes With Immense Stakes for Future of the War Without a decisive victory, Western support for Ukraine could weaken, and Kyiv could come under increasing pressure to enter serious peace talks to end or freeze the conflict....... 12 Ukrainian combat brigades of about 4,000 soldiers each are expected to be ready at the end of April ....... While Ukrainian officials have said their goal is to break through dug-in Russian defenses and create a widespread collapse in Russia’s army, American officials have assessed that it is unlikely the offensive will result in a dramatic shift in momentum in Ukraine’s favor. ........ There is not going to be a single magic-wand moment when Russia collapses.” ........... Ukraine’s army will use deception and feints to throw the Russians off balance. ......... big gains are not guaranteed, or even necessarily likely. The battlefield is heavily mined by the Russians ........ One soldier in Ukraine who participated in a recent failed attack in southern Ukraine said that coordinating anything above the platoon level — a unit of about 30 soldiers — remains extremely difficult. .......... After the offensive is over, there is little chance that the West can recreate the buildup that it did for Ukraine’s coming assault for the foreseeable future, because Western allies do not have enough supplies in existing inventories to draw from and domestic production will not be able to fill the gap until next year ......... The Ukrainian military has been firing thousands of artillery shells a day as it tries to hold Bakhmut, a pace that American and European officials say is unsustainable and could jeopardize the coming offensive. ....... Given Russia’s bigger reserves of equipment and manpower, the officials say Mr. Putin believes he will ultimately emerge victorious as the West’s appetite to support Ukraine subsides. ........ Wagner, Russia’s biggest military contractor, had restarted recruiting troops from Russia’s prisons. ........ some analysts have raised doubts that Moscow has enough soldiers to fill the trenches they have built across their front lines. ......... Egyptian officials might also supply weaponry to Russia. ..... Some European countries, including France, are pushing for negotiations. For now, Mr. Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, are dug in, and peace talks appear to be nowhere in sight. ............ For the Ukrainians to force a real negotiation, they must make sure “Vladimir Putin’s hubris, his arrogance, is punctured ....... “There is very little evidence and little reason to believe that Putin will give up on his strategic goal of subjugating Ukraine politically, if not fully militarily,” she said in an interview. “It’s been his goal, not just for a year, but it’s been going on for nearly a decade. So there’s no sign he’s giving up on that.” .

A California journalist documents the far-right takeover of her town: ‘We’re a test case’ “These big heavy-hitting wealthy people are using Shasta county, I believe, as this little Petri dish … And so far, it’s working. I’m watching it unveil before my very eyes. And it’s terrifying.”

America Fails the Civilization Test The average American my age is roughly six times more likely to die in the coming year than his counterpart in Switzerland......... The true test of a civilization may be the answer to a basic question: Can it keep its children alive? For most of recorded history, the answer everywhere was plainly no. Roughly half of all people—tens of billions of us—died before finishing puberty until about the 1700s, when breakthroughs in medicine and hygiene led to tremendous advances in longevity. In Central Europe, for example, the mortality rate for children fell from roughly 50 percent in 1750 to 0.3 percent in 2020. You will not find more unambiguous evidence of human progress. ......... How’s the U.S. doing on the civilization test? When graded on a curve against its peer nations, it is failing. The U.S. mortality rate is much higher, at almost every age, than that of most of Europe, Japan, and Australia. That is, compared with the citizens of these nations, American infants are less likely to turn 5, American teenagers are less likely to turn 30, and American 30-somethings are less likely to survive to retirement.

Are Text Messages the New Social Media? One Start-Up Thinks So. Community, which was first marketed as a way for celebrities to text their fans, now has big brands on board. ....... Ashton Kutcher, the actor turned venture capitalist, and Guy Oseary, Bono’s and Madonna’s manager turned investor, made when they co-founded a text message company called Community in 2019. In the beginning, it was marketed to celebrities to communicate with their fans about tour dates and new projects. ........ sign up large corporate customers over the past year, bringing the total clients to over 8,000. ......... “I started out with Twitter and built a fairly large following on Twitter,” said Mr. Kutcher, who has 16.8 million followers. “But Twitter today is very different than what Twitter was when I originally started playing around it,” he added. “The click-through rates are massively degraded — the number of people that actually see the post is massively degraded.” ........ At Community, in contrast, “we have like 45 percent click-through rates and 98 percent open rates,” Mr. Kutcher said. “You don’t get that in social environments because most people don’t even see the things you’re posting.”

Late Night Responds to Fox News’s Ouster of Tucker Carlson Seth Meyers joked it would be funny if Fox News “replaced him at 8 p.m. with the new green M&M.” ........ “Now, apparently, Tucker was forced out by Rupert Murdoch, which is pretty ironic. Tucker spent so many years saying that Mexican people were coming to take our jobs away. Turns out, he should have been worrying about Australians.” — DESI LYDIC, guest host of “The Daily Show” ......... “And we still don’t know exactly what led Rupert Murdoch to fire his network’s biggest star, but, reportedly, he was concerned over Carlson’s conspiracy theories about Jan. 6. So let this be a lesson to everybody: If you try to topple America’s democracy, you can stay on TV for two more years and that’s it!” — DESI LYDIC .......... “By the way, Tucker Carlson isn’t the only cable news anchor to get the ax. CNN just fired Don Lemon after 17 New Year’s Eve blackouts — sorry, years of service.” — DESI LYDIC ......... “Don Lemon and Tucker Carlson — for those of you who don’t follow cable news, this is like if Ronald McDonald and the Burger King got fired on the same day.” — JIMMY KIMMEL .............. “Yep, Tucker Carlson is out. When he heard, Vladimir Putin was like, ‘Damn, we need a new P.R. guy.’” — JIMMY FALLON .......... “Tucker Carlson has now worked at and left MSNBC, CNN and Fox News. He’s running out of options now. Like soon he’s just going to be on the Weather Channel, saying that hurricanes are caused by drag queens.” — JAMES CORDEN

Russians Seem Very Interested in My Book About How Dictatorships End Three years in the making, the book came out at the end of January and quickly became a best seller across Russia. The first print run disappeared almost immediately, and since then, there have been three more. ......... there has been a huge amount of attention on social media and an extensive series of reviews in Russian-language publications abroad. Objectively — though it’s awkward to say — the book has become a bit of a phenomenon. ......... But the book, “The End of the Regime: How Three European Dictatorships Ended,” is not about Russia or Vladimir Putin. ......... How do prolonged right-wing dictatorships end? And can Russia become a democracy? ........ surprisingly, it is also being read by the Russian nomenklatura — those at the apex of the Russian state. It seems that the book has become a pretext for discussion of taboo topics, such as political transition, the health and death of the leader, defeat in a colonial war, the end of isolation and, indeed, the end of the regime. ......... The bulk of its scholars have left the country and are now creating another think tank in Berlin. .......... the extraordinarily high level of interest in the book is evidence that, despite the fiction of consensus that state propaganda has tried to reinforce, Russians have not stopped asking questions about what comes next. ......

For many, the simple act of buying the book is a political statement

.......... This is not a book about Russia disguised as a book about Spain, Portugal and Greece. ......... analogies with the collapse of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union are misleading. It is difficult to imagine a defeat along the lines of that suffered by Germany being experienced by a nuclear power such as Russia. Similarly, the collapse of the Soviet regime came about first and foremost because of its sclerotic economic system, which left the population behind the Iron Curtain without food and consumer goods. ........... Even while waging war, Mr. Putin’s Russia remains a market economy and a consumerist society that has yet to close its borders. That makes it more akin to the dictatorships described in the book. They, too, kept their borders open and retained private ownership while dividing citizens into patriots and enemies, repressing the opposition, branding the West as corrupt and promoting special paths for their countries. ...... How the Greek dictatorship, for example, collapsed after an attempt to annex Cyprus, which it regarded as a historical part of the country. ......... Salazar, plagued by health problems, was removed from power but continued to think that he was ruling the country. (To maintain the illusion, a special newspaper was published just for him.) ........ in Spain, the idea of a transition to democracy slowly took hold and was brought about by the ruling elite itself. ........ there is no legal way for the authorities to ban it ...... In one chapter, I write that political energy, like any other kind of energy, doesn’t simply disappear — it merely takes on different forms. Russians’ interest in “The End of the Regime,” it seems, is a good example of that energy finding an outlet.

Tucker Carlson’s Great Replacement On Monday, news broke that Tucker Carlson, Fox News’s highest-rated and most demagogic prime time host, was out, and wouldn’t even get a final show to say goodbye. ......... Sometimes the terrible elements of our political culture seem so immutable that it’s tempting to give in to despair as a prophylactic against perpetual disappointment. But it turns out that it is in fact sometimes possible to shame the shameless. Once in a while, justice is delivered. .......... Grossberg describes an environment in which women of all political persuasions were constantly discussed in terms of sexual desirability. One of Carlson’s bookers, she alleges, was told that she should sleep with Elon Musk to secure an interview. .......... Contempt for women was part of Carlson’s brand at Fox News; his infamous “The End of Men” special urged men to tan their testicles to ostensibly increase testosterone and thereby rescue society from collapse. It would be fitting if contempt for women is what finally derailed him. ......... Like Trump, he and his producers mined the white nationalist internet for narratives, promiscuously spread wild conspiracy theories, and hinted at the need for violence to take back America. After Trump was indicted last month, Carlson said, “Probably not the best time to give up your AR-15.” ......... “what may be the most racist show in the history of cable news — and also, by some measures, the most successful.” ........ The similarity of Carlson’s and Trump’s sensibilities might derive from the similarity of their resentments. Both were children of privilege — Carlson was kicked out of a Swiss boarding school — who sought the respect of the establishment but never got it. It’s worth noting, given his loathing of the putative deep state, that Carlson tried to join the C.I.A. but was rejected. He shifted his ambitions to cable news, but before landing at Fox News, he struggled to fit in. ...... Carlson has achieved the rare cable news trifecta of flaming out at CNN, MSNBC and Fox. ....... He has an intensely loyal following, and could easily start his own venture or join a would-be Fox competitor like Newsmax or OAN. ....... Bill O’Reilly, once the face of Fox, has a podcast and a string of best-selling books, but he’s no longer a particularly important cultural figure.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Jesus Is Back And Is In Orange County