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"He alone was real."

Philby's boss was Sir Stewart Menzies, who, we are told, "rode to hounds, mixed with royalty, never missed a day at Ascot, drank a great deal, and kept his secrets buttoned up behind a small, fierce mustache. He preferred women to men and horses to both." Menzies was an amateur at a time when his adversaries were professionals. Philby's fellow Soviet spy Donald Maclean was a mess. But since he was a mess with the right accent and background he easily found a home in the British spy service. At one point, Macintyre says, Maclean "got drunk, smashed up the Cairo flat of two secretaries at the U.S. embassy, ripped up their underwear, and hurled a large mirror off the wall, breaking a large bath in two. He was sent home, placed under the care of a Harley Street psychiatrist, and then, amazingly, after a short period of treatment, promoted to head the American desk at the Foreign Office."
Kim Philby, the Soviet spy who infiltrated MI6, is the subject of a Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker. Gladwell argues that Philby's story is not about spying but "the hazards of mistrust." He is interviewed on a New Yorker podcast about his article. Gladwell's article is also a review of Ben Macintyre's book on Philby, A Spy Among Friends. Gladwell reviewed Macintyre's previous book, Operation Mincemeat and argued that spy agencies might be more trouble than they're worth.
posted by Kattullus on Jul 28, 2014 - 25 comments

Is he the David or the Goliath?

Does Gladwell matter? Is he relevant to our daily lives? If you don't think so, are you merely not his intended audience? Perhaps it's just a matter of taking it with "the proper portion of salt"?
posted by Obscure Reference on Oct 5, 2013 - 74 comments

Being a fair sport

In athletic competitions, what qualifies as a sporting chance?
posted by Gyan on Sep 4, 2013 - 41 comments

A propensity to self-subversion.

Malcolm Gladwell on the biography of economist Albert O. Hirschman.
posted by holmesian on Jun 28, 2013 - 8 comments

The First 10,000 Hours...

Long before he became a staff writer for The New Yorker and the bestselling author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell began his career writing for a politically conservative monthly magazine. Some of his early work for The American Spectator is now available online.
posted by pjdoland on Apr 30, 2012 - 25 comments

There is no perfect pasta sauce: there are only perfect pasta sauces!

"The mind knows not what the tongue wants." We all take variability and niche markets for granted these days, but back in the 70's and 80's, the American food industry was obsessed with the so-called platonic dish - a perfect and universal way to serve a food. Howard Moskowitz, of prego fame, helped explode the idea in the food industry and beyond. In this TED talk, Malcom Gladwell, tells you all about it and why variability matters a lot. [more inside]
posted by fantodstic on Jun 24, 2011 - 48 comments

"A networked, weak-tie world is good at things like helping Wall Streeters get phones back from teen-age girls."

Small Change: Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted. Earlier this summer, Golnaz Esfandiari examined the "Twitter Devolution" in Iran*. Anne Applebaum commented on the Twitter revolution that wasn't in Moldova last spring. [more inside]
posted by availablelight on Sep 27, 2010 - 46 comments

Two men with big hair and the nature of IQ

Behind the growing Steven Pinker vs. Malcolm Gladwell feud (Pinker criticizes Gladwell, Gladwell snarkily replies) is a debate over the value of IQ, specifically, and intelligence, broadly, in success. Recent research has generally shown little link between intelligence and success within fields, and that there are multiple kinds of intelligences that drive achievement. On the other hand, scholars of psychometrics claim the opposite, showing that IQ at an early age can predict achievement, and no amount of study will help. Maybe everyone is right, with enough caveats.
posted by blahblahblah on Nov 16, 2009 - 147 comments

Gladwell for Dummies

Such are the contradictions that seem to riddle not just Gladwell's thinking but the thinking on Gladwell's thinking, and perhaps even the thinking on thinking on that, and it is precisely these slippery but substantive contradictions that have allowed Gladwell to tout his revolutionary "big ideas" without couching them in anything so mundane as a logical, well-supported or otherwise sound argument. Gladwell for Dummies.
posted by defenestration on Nov 5, 2009 - 102 comments

Folsomism vs. Activism

Atticus Finch and the limits of Southern liberalism. An essay in the latest The New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell. "Atticus Finch is faced with jurors who have one set of standards for white people like the Ewells and another set for black folk like Tom Robinson. His response is to adopt one set of standards for respectable whites like Boo Radley and another for white trash like Bob Ewell. A book that we thought instructed us about the world tells us, instead, about the limitations of Jim Crow liberalism in Maycomb, Alabama."
posted by billysumday on Aug 10, 2009 - 188 comments

Adam Gopnik and Malcolm Gladwell Debate Canada as Nation or Notion

Canadian-born New Yorkers Adam Gopnik and Malcolm Gladwell have an eloquent conversation (MP3) about the nature of our eternally under-confident country. Gladwell quips early on that "those of you who are familiar with my writing will know that this practice of talking about X by discussing Y is my only rhetorical move." Text (though not an exact transcript) is also available, as is a report.
posted by dbarefoot on Apr 17, 2008 - 27 comments

Tipping point-counterpoint

Yet another buzzword for the dustbin. Tipping Point. Exploitable phenomenon or total load of crap. [more inside]
posted by Toekneesan on Jan 29, 2008 - 87 comments

You are probably in your mid-20s, early 30s.

Malcolm Gladwell takes a look at the effectiveness of criminal profiling.
posted by graventy on Nov 8, 2007 - 13 comments

You're so smart you probably think this post is about you

"You're really smart!" Psychologist Carol Dweck says that praising a child for being smart only teaches the kid to avoid any effort that might fail. "When we praise children for their intelligence, we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don't risk making mistakes." Malcolm Gladwell chimes in with his thoughts on the importance of being a smart kid, "What a gifted child is, in many ways, is a gifted learner. And what a gifted adult is, is a gifted doer. And those are quite separate domains of achievement."
posted by revgeorge on Feb 13, 2007 - 218 comments

There are plenty of times when knowledge gets in the way of judgement...

There's an excellent two part dialog between Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell on ESPN's Page 2 this week. The two cover a wide variety of topics such as writing, how a kid with no TV from the middle of nowhere in Canada can be a sports fan, the NFL, the economics of sports, and everyone's favorite NBA GM Isiah Thomas.
posted by togdon on Mar 3, 2006 - 13 comments

Gladwell gets a blog

Will Malcolm Gladwell's blog be as good as his New Yorker articles and books? Will it be better? I'm always fascinated when "big name" people start blogging. Will he be interesting and personal, dry and professional, or will the blog crash and burn?
posted by cmaxmagee on Feb 23, 2006 - 34 comments

How to think about prescription drugs.

How to think about prescription drugs. Malcolm Gladwell's latest piece in The New Yorker
The emphasis of the prescription-drug debate is all wrong. We've been focussed on the drug manufacturers. But decisions about prevalence, therapeutic mix, and intensity aren't made by the producers of drugs. They’re made by the consumers of drugs.

posted by trharlan on Oct 31, 2004 - 20 comments

Approved by the Council

An unusually long article about ketchup. Fascinating, I swear.
posted by Hildago on Oct 16, 2004 - 21 comments

Malcom Gladwell's got a new one in the New Yorker about a guy whose investment strategy positions him to profit from unlikely and scary random catastrophes like 9/11. Its' not on newyorker.com, but the story's subject was kind enough to scan it and post it.
posted by luser on Apr 16, 2002 - 8 comments

Malcolm Gladwell on JFK Jr's Crash

Malcolm Gladwell on JFK Jr's Crash New from the New Yorker. Actually the article talks mostly about the difference between choking and panicking, mostly in Sports. Still, the discussion about the plane crash is the most fascinating. Perhaps thats because of my morbid fascination with plane crashes:

Chapter 1 of "Inmates Are Running the Asylum" by Alan Cooper (American Crash in Cali, Colombia).... Bruce Tognazzini on Interfaces that Kill (John Denver).... The Lessons of ValuJet 592 by the masterful William Langweische.... The same Mr. Langweische has a book called "Inside the Sky: Meditations on Flight" which looks interesting.
posted by lockecito on Sep 26, 2000 - 2 comments


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