Ken Kalfus

  • Rocket Men

    February’s test launch of Elon Musk’s new Falcon Heavy rocket was probably the most expensive and most glorious publicity stunt in the history of advertising: flame and smoke, and then videos of the space-suited mannequin in the cherry-red Tesla Roadster, David Bowie on the stereo, Hitchhiker’s “DON’T PANIC!” on the dashboard screen. Behind this promotion was the promise that Musk’s company SpaceX will soon be sending colonists to the planet Mars. But although the car is on a trajectory that will pass the orbit of Mars later this year, it won’t get anywhere close to the Red Planet, and the

  • culture May 09, 2013

    Egypt Notebook

    The Yacoubian Building, a 2002 novel by Alaa Al Aswany, weighs heavily on my time in Cairo, informs everything I see here, an unsentimental picture of an exigent, corrupted people. I pass the actual apartment house downtown, less grand than I imagined, occupied in the novel by several strata of Cairo life: a wealthy wheeler-dealer, a rising politician, a closeted gay newspaper editor, the poor who occupy a shantytown of windowless “iron rooms” on the roof, each of the rooms two by two meters square. The tragic beat of events turns monotonous, but the book is politically provocative, a devastating