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Saying NO is cathartic. It also saves you from making ultra-bad investments. I enjoy a morning at the dermatologist. NDAKASI sadly dies. I’m heartbroken.

Still reading. Slowly, savoring and learning.

It’s liberating. Stay with what you know. Say NO to what you don’t know. And study, study and study. The best investors read aggressively. Hours each day. Annual reports are a passion.

The Kindle version is only $14.99 and worth many thousand times the price. I’m 68% through. To buy the book, click here.

Hating Chinese stocks

Meantime, you all know I hate Chinese stocks. To confirm my bias, Yi-Ling Lui writes on Sunday:

Living in China this year has felt like standing on shifting ground. Since the tech mogul Jack Ma fell from the Chinese Communist Party’s good graces last year — his company’s I.P.O. suspended and his influence curtailed — the country has been transformed. In the following months, the party unleashed a set of regulations so broad in scope that it has been called a “crackdown on everything”: no after-school tutoring, no cryptocurrency, no real estate speculation, no superfandom, no effeminate men, no online video games for minors on weekdays. To anyone who still believed that the arc of China’s future bent toward liberalization, that economic reform would yield political opening, the past several months have made clear that the country has swerved off those teleological tracks.

Deng Xiaoping’s “exuberant reforms did start to bend China’s Leninist metal,” Orville Schell wrote in Foreign Affairs, but now, under President Xi Jinping, “China has begun to snap back into its old Maoist shape.” The old laissez-faire “to get rich is glorious” ethos of the Dengist era is out; highly controlled, top-down “equitable development” is back in. Faced with an onslaught of crises — deepening inequality, an aging population, ecological degradation and the coronavirus pandemic — Mr. Xi has decided to tighten the reins. No one is certain where the road will lead, other than that the party will be deciding China’s future.

I don’t like Boeing, either

I’m actually afraid of flying on a Boeing plane.

Peter Robison is out with a book called

The 737 Max Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing.

In it, he reflected on how Boeing’s Culture has changed from building great ultra-safe aircraft to cutting costs and maximizing profits and returns for senior management.

Robison finds little reason for optimism for this great American company, so beloved of by many including Jim Cramer.

Read a review of the devastating Boeing book here.

Worried about America?

It all starts with masks and then progressively gets more crazy. This piece will blow you away:

First They Fought About Masks. Then Over the Soul of the City.
In Enid, Okla., pandemic politics prompted a fundamental question: What does it mean to be an American? Whose version of the country will prevail?

Click here.

At the dermatologist, this morning

My philosophy is: When in no doubt, freeze it off.

When in some doubt, biopsy it. That’s what we did this morning with one spot, which appeared a couple of weeks ago.

I won’t share a photo of it. It’s gruesome. I’ll know more in a week or so when the pathologist sticks it under a microscope.

Visiting the dermatologist gives boring a whole new meaning. But, it may also save your life.

You are responsible for your skin. Hawkishly watch your own body for changes in moles and other ski thingees.

Useful Tips

+ Don’t buy plastic glasses. They break. If you must, buy ones with metal hinges. Buy your reading glasses from Amazon. They work. They’re cheap.

+ Clothing sold by Amazon as Amazon Basics is excellent and cheap.

+ Your iPhone’s memory will fill up. Delete the bad videos you made. Videos eat memory.

+ If you’re in charge of creating email marketing programs, check out what Trump is doing. Send him a dollar. Your avalanche of begging emails will start immediately if not sooner. My favorite email headline “President Trump Delivered for all Americans.” He has really creative headlines. I get about four emails a day from Trump.  I must be his special friend.

+ Stay away from young kids — especially if they have a runny nose and a cold. I now have a runny nose and a cold from Zoe, 4. I feel awful.

The Lives They Lived

The New York Times ran its 13th annual The Lives They Lived Magazine section. The Times explains: “This issue doesn’t try to be a definitive document of the lives and deaths of the most important or influential. Instead, it’s largely an idiosyncratic selection, chosen by our editors and writers, who are often following their own passions and curiosities.

Then story that moved me was NDAKASI, B.2007.

Here’s the full story:

The image goes viral, or as viral as possible in the summer of 2007. We see the body of a gigantic silverback mountain gorilla hoisted high on crisscrossed branches carried aloft by at least 14 men through the bush. The dead gorilla is lashed with vines to secure his arms and legs. His prodigious belly is belted with vines, too, and his mouth is stuffed with leaves. The photograph seems like the end of a movie we don’t yet know the beginning to. He’s 500 pounds — a black-and-silver planet amid the green. Though we can’t see this part, some of the men are weeping.

The gorilla’s name is Senkwekwe, and he’s well known to the pallbearers, many of them park rangers who call him “brother.” He’s the alpha male of a family named the Kabirizis. (The American primatologist Dian Fossey was instrumental in studying the complex dynamics of these family units.) They’re a troop habituated to humans: gentle, curious, playful and often pleased to greet visitors, tourists and the rangers who protect them. Now, here on their home range, on the slope of the Mikeno volcano in Virunga National Park in eastern Congo, many of them have been murdered by armed militia members trying to scare away the rangers and gain control of the old-growth forest for charcoal manufacture. In a solemn procession, the dead gorillas are being taken to the rangers’ field station.

The photograph, shot by Brent Stirton for Newsweek, appears in newspapers and magazines around the world, awakening others to the issues the park rangers know so well: the need to protect the gorillas’ habitat, the bloody battle for resources (gold, oil, charcoal, tin and poached animals), the destabilizing presence of armed rebel groups as well as the Congolese Army inside the park’s borders. Though the park is designated a World Heritage site, more than 175 park rangers have been killed here in the last 25 years. What’s also not visible in this photograph is that only one gorilla survives the massacre, a baby found next to her slain mother, one of Senkwekwe’s mates, trying to suckle her breast.

The baby — a 2-month-old female, five pounds and adorable — is dehydrated and near death herself, so a young park ranger named Andre Bauma instinctively places her against his bare chest for warmth and comfort and dabs her gums and tongue with milk. He brings her back to life and sleeps and feeds and plays with her around the clock — for days, then months, then years — until the young gorilla seems convinced that he, Andre Bauma, is her mother.

The baby gorilla, begot of murdered parents, is named Ndakasi (en-DA-ka-see). Because no orphaned mountain gorilla has ever been successfully returned to the wild before, she spends her days at a sanctuary in the park with a cadre of other orphaned gorillas and their minders, swinging from the high branches, munching wild celery, even learning to finger paint, mostly oblivious to the fact that she lives in one of the most contested places on earth. She’s exuberant and a ham and demands to be carried by her mother, Andre Bauma, even as she grows to 140 pounds and he nearly buckles under her weight.

One April day in 2019, another ranger snaps a selfie with Ndakasi and her bestie, Ndeze, both standing upright in the background, one with a protruding belly and both with whassup expressions. The cheeky goof on humans is almost too perfect, and the image is posted on Facebook with the caption “Another day at the office. … ”

The photo immediately blows up, because we love this stuff — us and them together in one image. The idea of mountain gorillas mimicking us for the camera jumps borders and species. We are more alike than different, and this appeals to our imagination: ourselves existing with some fascinating, perhaps more innocent, version of ourselves.

Mountain gorillas exhibit dozens of vocalizations, and Bauma is always vocalizing with Ndakasi in singsong and grunts and the rumbling belches that signal contentment and safety. Whenever there’s gunfire near the sanctuary, Bauma makes sounds to calm Ndakasi. He himself lost his father to the war in Congo. Now he’s telling her it’s just another day inside their simple Eden.

“You must justify why you are on this earth,” Bauma says in a documentary. “Gorillas justify why I am here.”

Ndakasi turns 14 in 2021 and spends her days grooming Ndeze, clinging to Bauma, vocalizing back and forth with him. Mountain gorillas can live up to 40 years, but one day in spring, she falls ill. She loses weight, and then some of her hair. It’s a mysterious illness that waxes and wanes, for six months. Veterinarians from an organization called the Gorilla Doctors arrive and, over the course of repeated visits, administer a series of medical interventions that seem to bring about small improvements. Just when it appears she’ll recover, though, Ndakasi takes a bad turn.

Now her gaze reaches only just in front of her. The wonder and playfulness seem gone, her concentration having turned inward. Brent Stirton, who has returned to Virunga roughly every 18 months since photographing the massacre of Ndakasi’s family, is visiting, and he shoots photographs judiciously. The doctors help Ndakasi to the table where they attend to her. She throws up in a bucket, is anesthetized. Bauma stays with her the entire time; eventually, she’s taken to her enclosure and lies down on a green sheet. Bauma lies on the bare floor next to her.

At some point, Bauma props himself against the wall, and she then crawls into his lap, with what energy she has left, rests her head on his chest and sinks into him, placing her foot on his foot. “I think that’s when I could almost see the light leave her eyes,” Stirton says. “It was a private moment no different from a person with their dying child. I made five frames respectfully and walked out.”

One of those last photographs goes viral, beaming to the world the sad news of Ndakasi’s passing. What do we see when we look? Pain. Trial. Death. And we see great love too. Our capacity to receive and give it. It’s a fleeting moment of transcendence, a gorilla in the arms of his mother, two creatures together as one. It’s profoundly humbling, what the natural world confers, if we let it.

Bauma’s colleagues draw a tight circle around him in order to protect him from having to talk about Ndakasi’s passing, though he releases a statement extolling her “sweet nature and intelligence,” adding, “I loved her like a child.” Then he goes back to work. In Virunga, death is ever-present, and there are more orphaned gorillas to care for. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.

Harry writing now: I’ve been to Africa twice. My next trip will be to see the mountain gorillas. You can re-read the NYTimes piece, which has me in tears, here.

Favorite cartoons

The future

I can’t predict 2022, though everyone and their uncle is trying. It’s that time of year.

No one predicted Covid, Delta, or Omicron. There will be another variant. It will be just as awful.

I like the stocks I own. There’s a list in the right hand column.

I think most of our stocks will handle the future ok. However, I’d like to pare them down. We have too many. I’m mulling.

See you soon. — Harry Newton