An angry crow mocked me this morning. I couldn’t finish my croissant, and fled the café in despair.— and other excerpts from Le Blog de Jean-Paul Sartre
"The Wenzhou crash killed forty people and injured a hundred and ninety-two. For reasons both practical and symbolic, the [Chinese] government was desperate to get trains running again, and within twenty-four hours it declared the line back in business. The Department of Propaganda ordered editors to give the crash as little attention as possible. “Do not question, do not elaborate,” it warned, on an internal notice. When newspapers came out the next morning, China’s first high-speed train wreck was not on the front page." [How a high-speed rail disaster exposed China's corruption]
You can accurately judge a person just by looking at their shoes, psychologists say. "Researchers at the University of Kansas found that people were able to correctly judge a stranger's age, gender, income, political affiliation, emotional and other important personality traits just by looking at the person's shoes." Virginia Postrel responded: "The study made a solid contribution to research on first impressions, but it was hardly earthshaking. By getting so much attention, however, it demonstrated a sociological truth: People love to talk about shoes. Even those who dismissed the research as silly often felt compelled to call radio stations or comment on websites, providing details about their own choices. Why this fascination with footwear? " [more inside]
A Short History Of Book Reviewing's Long Decline: 'By the time of the first quote “book-review,” criticism had been in circulation for centuries—long enough for writers to know how it can sting. Understandably, then, the critic’s skepticism of an artist's genius has invariably existed alongside the artist's doubt over the critic's judgment.' [more inside]
A Conservative History of the United States - Jack Hitt for New Yorker's Shouts & Murmurs, pieces together America's storied history from quotes by Rick Perry, Dick Armey, Mike Huckabee, Dan Quayle and more.
Andy agreed. “ ‘Cloud Atlas’ is our getting back to the spectacle of the sixties and seventies, the touchstone movies,” he said, rubbing his bald dome like a magic lantern. The model for their vision, they explained, was Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which the Wachowskis had first seen when Lana, then Larry, was ten and Andy seven. (Previously and Previously)
Marathon Man: A Michigan dentist’s improbable transformation.
Time, CNN Suspend Zakaria After He Admits "Terrible Mistake" [slate.com] "The columnist was caught passing off large chunks of a New Yorker essay as his own."
Last week, the New Yorker published a (previously rejected) F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, "Thank You for the Light", written in 1936. The magazine has also made available "A Short Autobiography," in which Fitzgerald gave a chronology of his life in terms of alcoholic beverages imbibed. [more inside]
Jonah Lehrer resigns from New Yorker after making up Dylan quotes for his book. Tablet report is cached. (Previously.)
'You actually have to really build a collaborative relationship with the people on the ground if you want to have any hope of understanding what’s going on.'
"Let’s Map Who Owes The Local Warlord Money": Meet An Urban Planner For Cities That Don't Yet Exist (via Small Wars Journal). [more inside]
I born in factory. They put me in wrapper. They seal me in box. Three of us in box. In early days, they move us around. From factory to warehouse. From warehouse to truck. From truck to store. One day in store, boy human sees us on shelf. He grabs us, hides us under shirt. He rushes outside. [more inside]
Jennifer Egan's short story Safari can be read at NewYorker.com (~6600 words), or can be read to you in a wonderful performance by Hope Davis (59:00). Jennifer Egan previously.
With the election of Pena Nieto to the presidency, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ends a twelve-year absence from the seat. [more inside]
Why Smart People Are Stupid (The New Yorker.) A new study suggests that the smarter people are, the more susceptible they are to cognitive bias.
Malcolm Gladwell says that he got into journalism by accident, that his real dream was to work for an ad agency. “I decided I wanted to be in advertising. I applied to eighteen advertising agencies in the city of Toronto and received eighteen rejection letters, which I taped in a row on my wall,” he wrote in his What the Dog Saw. If true, then Gladwell didn’t fail at all. Rather, he has achieved his dream of becoming an ad man beyond all expectation.The hidden histories of Malcolm Gladwell. [Previously.]
"Not since Saturday Night Live’s Emily Litella thundered against conserving natural racehorses and protecting endangered feces has a polemicist been so incensed by her own misunderstandings." - Harvard Psychology Professor Steven Pinker responds to Joan Acocella's New Yorker piece, The English Wars [more inside]
"This is the final victory of the censor: When people, even people who know they are routinely lied to, cease to be able to imagine what is really the case." Salman Rushdie, On Censorship.
Blown Covers is a blog by New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly and her daughter Nadja Spiegelman, who is an editor and comics creator herself. The blog focuses on The New Yorker but today has been Maurice Sendak themed with a short comic by Art Spiegelman and Sendak about a conversation they had, a Sendak New Yorker cover, a short Sendak comic called Cereal Baby Keller and an even shorter Sendak comic.
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.
Evening the Odds: Is there a politics of inequality? (Nicholas Lemann in New Yorker)
Hand On The Shoulder, a short story by Ian McEwan. My name is Serena Frome (rhymes with "plume"), and forty years ago, in my final year at Cambridge, I was recruited by the British security service.
How Childbirth Became Industrial by Atul Gawande
The files of the God of Gamblers case can be read as a string of accidents, good and bad: Siu’s run at the baccarat table; Wong’s luck to be assigned an assassin with a conscience; Adelson’s misfortune that reporters noticed an obscure murder plot involving his casino. But the tale, viewed another way, depends as little on luck as a casino does. It is, rather, about the fierce collision of self-interests. If Las Vegas is a burlesque of America—the “ethos of our time run amok,” as Hal Rothman, the historian, put it—then Macau is a caricature of China’s boom, its opportunities and rackets, its erratic sorting of winners and losers.Evan Osnos on a real-life "God of Gamblers" and the rise of Macau, The New Yorker
Does Football have a Future?: Football players are anywhere from five to nineteen times more likely than a member of the general population to suffer from a dementia-like illness. This is likely a result of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (picture), neurodegeneration caused by receiving multiple concussions or even subconcussions that are not detectable around time of impact. CTE has been linked to other mood and behavior changes, including suicidal depression (a great review of the medical literature generally), and has been found in football players as young as 21. And, of course, there is the sometimes debilitating physical disability (either acutely or later in life) from playing a hard-contact sport. The NFL has a long history of adjusting safety standards in bits and pieces (e.g., legalization of the forward pass) to meet public concern over potential injury and disability from playing the sport, though still to some degree publicly denies a connection between football and brain damage. New Yorker writer Ben McGrath talks to football players (past and present), their families (often left behind by untimely death or dementia-twilight), franchise heads, and doctors to explore this history, the crushing legacy of sports injuries, and the question of whether it is possible to reform the rules to minimize the risk of concussion and thus the risk of CTE (if any such risk is acceptable). Would it still be football if such changes were to tone down the violence? (Yes, No [from iconoclast Buzz Bissinger]) And, uncomfortably: is the sport of football unethical for its players, even if entered into on their own volition? (previously in the New Yorker; previously on MetaFilter 1, 2, 3) [more inside]
Barack Obama, Post-Partisan, Meets Washington Gridlock. The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza reviews major domestic policy decisions from the first two years of the Obama administration, based on internal White House memos. Some key decisions: [more inside]
We went into the Doubleday bookshop at Fifth Avenue and Fifty Second Street the other day, intending, in our innocence, to buy a book, and found all the clerks busy selling Silly Putty, a gooey, pinkish, repellent-looking commodity that comes in plastic containers the size and shape of eggs.How an item in the August 26th, 1950 New Yorker's Talk of the Town column turned a marketing consultant into a millionare by Christmas. [more inside]
All told, Updike has published more than a million words on books. ... In Picked-up Pieces (1975), Updike’s second collection of essays, he lists his rules for reviewing... Without coyness, Updike renders a stern judgment based on telling quotation. He builds toward his findings in plain sight, earning him an authority that is based on his presentation of a plausible case. [more inside]
[A.J.] Liebling didn’t invent The New Yorker’s fascination with work, with letting its interview subjects explain what they did for a living. But he did it very well, and his pudgy hand sits comfortably on the shoulders of the next generation, writers like Roger Angell or John McPhee. They are all of them purveyors of non-essential information, and the enormous pleasure we take in them is in inverse proportion to any actual need we have to know.
“Today we have a new group of satirists who, at the same time that they bite the bourgeoisie, use only their lips, but not their teeth”
While he was contributing to the New Yorker as Syd Hoff, he was also contributing to the Daily Worker and New Masses as A. Redfield — the pseudonym he adopted for his radical work, The Ruling Clawss (Daily Worker, 1935) a collection of surprisingly relevant cartoons.
The French romantic thriller “Diva” dashes along with a pellmell gracefulness, and it doesn’t take long to see that the images and visual gags and homages all fit together and reverberate back and forth. It’s a glittering toy of a movie... This one is by a new director, Jean-Jacques Beineix... who understands the pleasures to be had from a picture that doesn’t take itself very seriously. Every shot seems designed to delight the audience. - Pauline Kael, 1982 [more inside]
"The Justices all sit in high-backed leather swivel chairs, and Thomas has set his so that he can recline so far that he appears almost to be lying down. He stares at the ceiling. He rubs his face. He does not appear to be listening. He closes his eyes and sometimes appears to be asleep. The over-all effect is rude, if not contemptuous." The New Yorker profiles Justice Clarence Thomas, his wife Ginni's Tea Party connections and what they might mean for the inevitable SCOTUS ruling on Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and looks back on his confirmation hearings. Previously, Justice Thomas and Ginni; Obama and healthcare; SCOTUS.
"Taylor always said that scientific management would usher in a "mental revolution," and it has. Modern life is Taylorized life, the Taylor biographer Robert Kanigel observed, a dozen years back. Above your desk, the clock is ticking; on the shop floor, the camera is rolling. Manage your time, waste no motion, multitask: your iPhone comes with a calendar, your car with a memo pad. "Who is Schmidt?" journalists wanted to know, a century ago. Vell, ve are." [The history of management consulting]
In Focus: Dogs featuring canine photography from Isabella Rozendaal - On Loving Animals :: Irina Werning - Chini Project :: Dietmar Busse - Dogs of New York :: Bernd Opitz - Dogviews :: John Divola - Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert :: Robin Schwartz - Pets and Strays :: Sean Ellis - Kubrick the Dog :: Nadin Maria Rüfenacht - Nature Morte
In the New Yorker: Getting Bin Laden, What happened that night in Abbottabad. The writer, Nicholas Schmidle, spoke with NPR about the article and gives a short audio account of the raid.
Evan Osnos joins a tour group from China as they traverse Europe. In the front row of the bus, Li stood facing the group with a microphone in hand, a posture he would retain for most of our waking hours in the days ahead. In the life of a Chinese tourist, guides play an especially prominent role—translator, raconteur, and field marshal—and Li projected a calm, seasoned air. He often referred to himself in the third person—Guide Li—and he prided himself on efficiency. “Everyone, our watches should be synchronized,” he said. “It is now 7:16 P.M.” He implored us to be five minutes early for every departure. “We flew all the way here,” he said. “Let’s make the most of it.” [more inside]
Only 13% of articles in the New Republic, 22% of articles in The Atlantic and 30% of articles in the New Yorker are by women. ThinkProgress' Alyssa Rosenberg wonders why men's magazines underserve women and women's magazines underserve journalism. Anne Hays is boycotting the New Yorker for publishing too few women. Ta-Nehisi Coates thinks it's about old-fashioned class norms. Are the "female stars of long-form journalism" the solution to the problem or a red herring?
Thank God Silvio Exists! A beautiful blond woman, standing in a grocery store beside a pile of bananas, sings, “There’s a big dream that lives in all of us.” A throng of women belt out the chorus together under a cloudless sky: “Menomale che Silvio c’è”— “Thank God there’s Silvio.” Other women in various settings pick up the tune: a young mother in a pediatrician’s office, surrounded by nurses; a brunette in a beauty parlor, dressed for work in a camisole that barely covers her breasts. To American eyes, the ad looks like a parody, or perhaps some new kind of musical pornography that’s just about to erupt into carnality. (from a New Yorker blog post) [more inside]
"The Duke in His Domain" - a profile of Marlon Brando by Truman Capote, published in The New Yorker, November 9, 1957
The public’s experience is that we have amazing clinicians and technologies but little consistent sense that they come together to provide an actual system of care, from start to finish, for people. We train, hire, and pay doctors to be cowboys. But it’s pit crews people need. - Atul Gawande’s commencement address at Harvard Medical School.