The new First Casualty

So as you may have noticed, we’ve finally just made the (long-planned) switch from a WordPress-hosted site to one hosted independently — meaning the new blog’s going to be more customizable and will allow for a lot of cool new looks and features going forward. (Case in point: you can now comment via your Facebook or Twitter logins at Feel free to let me know what you think of the new look in the comments section over at!

What does this mean for you? Well, for one, this old version of the blog — which is no longer accessible at, only here at — is now obsolete. Going forward, I’ll be posting at, so if you haven’t bookmarked the site already, please do. Secondly, if you’d subscribed to this blog at any time previously, please re-subscribe now at, via the text box on the top-right of the home page there, in order to keep getting email notifications when new posts go up on the blog. Please go ahead and do it so you can keep up to date and stay part of The First Casualty community!

And, as always, thanks for reading!

– Jay

I’m still here.

But given how busy I’ve been lately, sometimes it really does feel like I’ve “disappeared completely.”

OK, OK, I can’t resist:


Just say no to drugs

Jerry Saltz was taken aback by the new Henri Matisse exhibit at the Met:

Midway through the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Matisse: In Search of True Painting,” I ran into the painter Alex Katz. He looked at me, agog, and said, “I thought I was going to faint when I saw these paintings.” He gestured at two Matisse still lifes from 1946. Already in a stunned state of my own, I followed his lead and gulped at the revolutionary pictorial power and radical color radiating off these two powerhouses, one dominated by a celestial red and an arrangement on a table. In the foreground were either a dog and cat chasing each other or a pair of animal-skin rugs.

Then I looked at the painting next to it. I saw the same still life depicted on the same table with the same vase, goblet, and fruit. But this version was totally different. Where the dog and cat were, there’s an ultraflat still life within the still life. It’s so categorically compressed that it looks less than two-­dimensional — maybe one-half-­dimensional. I thought I, like Katz, might pass out.

The curious case of Ivan Vaclavik

Ivan Vaclavik arrived in the United States on a temporary visa from Czechoslovakia in 1974 and never left. In the meantime, he has been charged with over 100 crimes in the state of Massachusetts but has yet to be deported:

US immigration officials reject Vaclavik’s claim that he can’t be deported, but the Czech Republic that replaced Czechoslovakia in 1993 certainly has not appeared eager to have him back. Czech officials say they’re still verifying whether he is really a citizen, though Immigration and Customs Enforcement has contacted them repeatedly about deporting him over the past 12 years.

But rather than clash openly with the Czechs over Vaclavik, US immigration officials did what they have done with more than 8,500 other convicted criminals here illegally since 2008 — they let him go. Each time Vaclavik sued to get out of detention, immigration officials let him go before a judge could even rule on his claim that he cannot be deported because his homeland no longer exists.

In which I (utterly fail to) conquer my flying anxiety

My latest post for Full Stop is now online. An excerpt here:

It is probably most accurate to characterize my flying preparations as a mutual fund of sorts, constituted of various types of investments all designed to hedge against utter desolation (a fiery nosedive into a mountainside) and achieve modest returns (a safe landing). Recently, for example, I put off watching The Wire mid-flight in favor of lighter fare to calm my frayed nerves, and I swear Sebastian Edwards’ book on Latin American populists spawned vicious air pockets every time I opened its pages.

Small decisions, too, attain cosmic significance when followed seconds later by a slight shudder of the cabin. Was the weather better when I’d paused Bridesmaids, or is the only way to ensure smooth sailing to watch the entire film at 4x speed? These are not questions to be taken lightly, for upon their successful resolution rests the fate of hundreds of passengers, as well as the ability to understand a damn thing Kristen Wiig is saying at that rate. And no matter which airline I fly, I continue to cringe at the deliberately ominous abstraction of the announcement, “We’ll be on the ground shortly.”

Back from Internet hell

For an Internet addict like myself, the last couple weeks have been difficult. Access to foreign sites in mainland China is frustrating at best and infuriating at worst. Specifically, aside from the usual litany of blocked social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, for example), even the New York Times is blocked, and virtually every other foreign site (including Google) takes five times as long to load as it does in the States. Baidu, meanwhile, appears instantly. Ergh.

I just got back to New York yesterday. But during my winter vacation, I’ve been doing some thinking about how to make The First Casualty a better and funner (yes, I have decided that is a word) blog and Internet destination in 2013. Within the next few weeks and months I’m planning to roll out some new — and, hopefully, interesting — ideas for the blog: new contributors, additional features, and so on. Of course, I’ll be continuing the current features and contributors (depending on their availability) as well.

Additionally, I hope to introduce more original content this year. Much of what I posted last year were links to, and excerpts of, other pieces I found illuminating or provocative. I’ll continue to do so this year, but with an added emphasis on producing more original writing — including longform essays and posts — to provide what is hopefully a useful and unique variant to the cacophony of voices on the Web.

Anyway, I’m open to suggestions. Please comment and question liberally. And thank you for continuing to read.