The trendy word of the year so far seems to be "selfie," which I understand to mean simply a photographic self-portrait. Why this idea should suddenly be so much in vogue is hard to explain. Cameras were equipped with time-delay shutters for taking self-portraits as early as the 1850s, and I was certainly using one in the 1950s. However a fashion is a fashion, and we must do our best to understand it.
Dieting is the curse of the modern age. Having freed ourselves from religious puritanism, we've fallen prey to the far worse medical kind. No sooner have the first crocuses emerged from the frozen earth than the media announce that dieting season has arrived.
Fifty years ago, almost to the day, I had the good fortune to become a bookseller. Like most of the interesting things in my life this happened by accident. A small bookstore in North London, previously operated by the Communist Party, had become vacant and, with no more than the briefest previous experience I was brave or foolhardy enough to take it over and transform it into something more reader friendly.
The business of America is business said Calvin Coolidge, and of course it’s true. But not having gone to business school myself I have never been able to figure out how entrepreneurs like Donald Trump and Bill Gates make so much money out of enterprises that are, in every sense, very tricky. If I understand the rules of the game correctly, the object is to buy or manufacture something – say a skyscraper or a piece of software – and then sell it for much more than it cost. The margin is called profit or, if you are one of the last half dozen followers of Karl Marx, surplus value.