Little Stalins

This is absolutely true, and there’s a mountain of evidence that Stalin considered himself to have lost World War II. Gigantic new gains in Europe, yet Stalin thought it was a defeat because no gains are enough unless you conquer everything. His was an ideology that needs to dominate totally. Knowing that there’s one person somewhere in Timbuktu or Patagonia who deep inside disagrees with the ideology is perceived as a terrible, unbearable injury.

Stalin is long dead but there are so many little stalins who feel mortally wounded because somebody somewhere disagrees.

German in the Air

Rafael Chirbes only became popular in Spain after the Great Recession hit and his 2007 novel Crematorium turned out to be extremely prescient. (Not that you needed to be a genius to figure out that Spain’s corrupt construction industry was bad news and was on the verge of popping like a rotten papaya).

Before that, Chirbes was popular among two groups: literary critics and Germans. His books sold like hotcakes in Germany. I could never figure out why until I started reading Chirbes’s diaries. It turned out he was very much into German literature. Read every German writer in existence. And apparently somehow this Germanized his own writing in a way that German readers perceived and liked.

I’ve read a fair number of Germans but Chirbes’s diaries give a crash course in German literature of which I never even heard.

It’s fascinating how these things work. People feel these affinities without needing them to be named.


If I could ban one word from early childhood education, it’s “gifted.” A child gains nothing from being labeled gifted. The label exists to please a certain category of parents and create employment for a bunch of education scammers.

“Yes, but my kid is so gifted she gets bored in a classroom with less gifted children.”

First of all, how smart is the kid if she can’t entertain herself? Second, what’s so bad about boredom? Welcome to human existence where you aren’t supposed to be entertained 24/7. Boredom is a road to invention and creativity, as even ancient Greeks knew.

The main task for elementary school kids is to learn to self-regulate, self-manage, and exist alongside others. Nobody can be too advanced to interact with peers.

Also, special-cookiness is cute at 5, annoying at 15, disturbing at 25, and repugnant at 35.