If you are in the Boston/Somerville/Cambridge area tonight, come down to the finest sports bar in town for our annual LIVE SHOW! There will be all manner of BS (bullshit I mean, Bill Simmons is not scheduled to be there).
This one was pretty ok, Bruce McCall comes through with a joke that is at least worth a “I just ready something kind of funny in a literary magazine” sub-chuckle. Always nice to get a reminder that even when something seems to have independent branding it is probably still owned by a large corporation.
Talk of the Town
We lead off this week with news out of Hong Kong, a place that I know almost nothing about outside of what I gleaned from this book and photos like this. Apparently since the return of the place to the Chinese government by the British things have not been super good. The current President, Xi Jingping, sounds like a real jagweed and people do not like it, also there are umbrellas involved somehow. It was weird to not have the top spot in TotT be about ISIS/Ferguson/Football so I kind of didn’t pay attention. Good luck Chinese protestors, last time I heard anything about your country it was messed up. Next a thing about a dude who is running for Congress who used to be a Secret Service agent and how all the troubles with the Secret Service currently are maybe screwing up his candidacy. Sorry dude, you were probably going to rely on your former employment as a facade to get you through the election while you strategically said nothing of substance, WHOOPS! Then a thing about how there are lots of Chinese students studying in the US and what they do on their radio show. They seem to care less about the umbrella thing than I do. Finally, a thing about William H. Macy directing his first movie. I really like William H. Macy or at least I did until I read this thing and heard him talk about how much he loves ukuleles. Ukuleles are the fedoras of musical instruments and he gets real gross when he talks about riding his Harley (which is also gross) with a uke (god forgive me for typing that) strapped into the “sissy” seat and how he thought “I’d fuck me”. This may have been the most disgusting thing I’ve ever read in the New Yorker.
The Financial Page
James Surowiecki writes about a scheme where Norway is paying Liberia not to cut down trees and it sounds great. The idea that the western world should be paying off the developing world not to make the mistakes with global warming that they have is very appealing to me, that it actually seems to work is even better. We had an idea here in this country that was very similar, cap and trade carbon emissions which is spoken of briefly in the articlet, but of course the insane portion of our government that doesn’t believe that global warming is real shot it down under the idea that it would be “bad for business”. REAL COOL YA JERKS. Anyway, the plan seems to be a good one but there is no way the US could ever send money to a different country to help with climate change, we only send money to places where we want to blow things up or have other people blow things up for us.
The Political Scene
Lawrence Lessig is a name that I’ve heard for years, usually as a source in an article or a writer of an article or as a TED talker posted on facebook by someone who I would not want to have a conversation in real life with. I’ve always associated him more with copyright law than anything else but this new SuperPac that is meant to get money out of politics sounds like a great idea on its face. I’m all for campaign finance reform, the Citizen’s United case is a black mark on the history of the Supreme Court and unless there is something done about it we’ll all look back and know that was the moment when our democracy was lost. It seems very possible that Lessig might fail in his attempt to spend lots of money on candidates that will become legislators who will get rid of the system that got them elected but at least he’s trying something. What’s disturbing to me is that so many people are being real jerks about it, why would anybody who isn’t a super rich person want things to continue the way they are?
Shouts & Mumurs
Did not read.
Annals of Immigration
Lauren Hilgers’ fascinating look into the kitchens of our nation’s myriad Chinese restaurants was a great read. This is the kind of food writing that we rarely get, usually it’s all high minded chefs making food that we readers are probably never going to eat, but this look through the eyes of an immigrant kitchen worker takes to the places that most of us probably eat at all the time. Boy does it sound like a crappy way to live though! Learning that the Chinatown bus system was created and exists to serve kitchen workers kind of blew my mind, I’m not very perceptive so other people might have known this already. Anyway, it was a super good article!
A Reporter at Large
Oooooohhhhh, more good stuff, this issue might be the best in months! Here we have an investigation into the investigation of Steven A. Cohen of S.A.C Capital Advisors and his/their use of insider knowledge to make a boatload of money off of inside information about a drug called bapineuzumab (luckily for author Patrick Radden Keefe, most people just call it bapi). The story focuses on the relationship between an old lonely doctor working on the trials for bapi, Sid Gillman, and a young trader at S.A.C., Matthew Martoma, who snookers him into giving inside information about the results of said trials. Spoiler alert (i’m sorry that I did that), they all get caught and everybody has their life pretty much ruined except for Steven A. Cohen who has to close S.A.C. but moves on to open another hedge fund. The only one who I really feel bad for in this story is the old doc, who seems to have just wanted a friend and while he probably knew he was doing something wrong he went ahead anyway just because someone was interested in his old boring life. The trader seems like a total dick, intense pressures from parents or no, and Steven Cohen is a total jerkwad. How does that guy live his day to day life? Like, what is his brain like at this point? He has more money than he can spend in his whole life, even with all of the stupid things they make for rich people now, so what does he want? And why would a human being, even a dick like Matt Martoma, cheat and scheme to become a dude like that? And then when caught, protect a dude like that? Even at the cost of his own ruination? Why do the Steven Cohens of the world continue to do what they do? I’m sure if you asked they’d tell you it was to provide for their families, which would be as believable as when this dude said it. Ugh, RICH PEOPLE, right?
Letter From Cairo
Peter Hessler on the strange trash collection system of Cairo, this was fine an fun except for the parts where the garbage dude who collects Hessler’s garbage was probably not so nice to his wife and maybe was not really taken to task for it. I mean, the garbage dude is kind of given the business about it, but his wife being pissed at him and wanting a divorce is treated as a wacky problem a little bit. Other than that it was cool to hear about the weird history of trash collection in Egypt, IT IS AN INTERESTING STORY. I missed the history of trash class at my liberal arts college so I know very little about this stuff. Hearing about how trash collection grew from a simple transaction that got everybody what they needed into the strange morass that it is today was pretty fascinating. Good job Peter, except for the part where you kind of overlooked the problems of women in modern Cairo!
I actually read this because it is by Haruki Murakami and I used to be really into Haruki Murakami. This short story has all the hallmarks of Murakami’s style, sparse scene setting, very little about the characters or their motivations, sex that is not very sexy, and storytelling in the story. These things are often exciting when stretched over an entire novel, they seem like mysteries to be solved. Here they are just like most short fiction, things you read until the writing stops. WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF? At least it confirms that I’m not missing anything by skipping this section every week.
The Critics: On Television
Emily Nussbaum, why must you write about a TV show that I was like all uhhhhhh, no thanks about and make it sound good? This week the Baum-squad writes about The Good Wife and since it isn’t some British show set in the time where there was just like dirt roads or whatever I might actually watch it. Here’s the thing, I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR ALL OF THIS. I already have the five shows that I watch because I like them and then the one that I’m casually hate watching on Netflix because I cannot exist in a world where I only see things that I like and then there is sports. I HAVE TO HAVE TIME TO READ THIS DUMB MAGAZINE AND WORK AND GO OUTSIDE OCCASIONALLY. Anyway, The Good Wife is apparently good, so if you are a shut-in who has no friends go ahead and add it to the things you can watch to make you forget that death is coming for us all.
Nelson Rockefeller is one of those dudes who’s name get thrown around a lot but who I actually know very little about. He seems like a pretty interesting guy and his departure from the ranks of the Republican party seems like a moment when all those guys turned into extra special tasty crispy dickheads. He did a lot of stuff (and though I would not refer to women like this usually, you could also read that as to mean he made it with a lot of ladies, he may have died during on last making it) and that is kind of what you want out of rich people who go into politics. Thanks Nelson for helping out with two of my favorite places in NYC (MoMA and Rockefeller Center) sorry you fucked up so bad with that Diego Rivera mural, we need more crazy rich people like you.
A Critic at Large
Woof, I read almost this entire issue and I must admit by this point my brain was not really grasping the words in front of me. Apparently in the ’70s Chile wanted to use computers to help the country’s transition into socialism, which seems like a movie that somebody should really make or at least make the sets for. An english dude named Stafford Beer, which is a name that is both awesome and thirst inducing, designed the whole thing. This article is worth reading just for the descriptions of the computers that they used for the awesomely named Project Cybersyn. It, of course failed, nice try Mr. Beer and ’70s Chilean goverment.
The Art World
When Peter Schjeldahl likes art it’s hard not to want to go see it immediately and his review of the Robert Gober show at MoMA makes me want to go there right now even though I just went for the Matisse show (which is awesome by the way).
The Current Cinema
David Denby reviews two movies that I probably won’t see unless they show up on Netflix at just the right time.
THERE IT IS! WHAT AN ISSUE! I ALMOST READ THE WHOLE THING! I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND DOING THAT! SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!
For the spooooooky October issue of the Tardy Eagle, I turned my celeb seeing eyes towards all the famous ghost that populate NYC.
This is the boringest cover I’ve seen in months, what is this? An iphone background? You’ve got to bring it a little harder Christoph Niemann.
Talk of the Town
We lead off the issue with a story about an federal judge in Alabama who beat his wife and what to do with this jerkwad. It’s also a brief history of the change in attitude towards domestic violence in regular society. Here’s a surprise, people were cool with it for a while (though I suspect that the people who were having the violence delivered to them domestically were less cool with it). Generally things seem to be getting better but it appears that the aforementioned jerkwad will keep his job so that is a bummer. Next up a thing about dude who once made this video, which should disqualify him for any further interest by the world at large, and how he now is all about making music that is a “satirical meditation on the encroachment of high-tech into modern life.” UGH. This dude also “stays rooted in hip-hop while incorporating elements of alternative rock and experimental folk.” UGHGUHGUHGUHGUHGUHBGH. The rest of the articlet makes his project sound a little bit better but it’s like Ben Greenman wanted to see how far across a room/subway car/bus I could throw the magazine with those first couple of paragraphs. Then we hear about the keyboardist from the Rolling Stones and how he is into reforestation, which is also a thing that I’m into. He seems cool and goes to the U.N. to talk about this stuff so this isn’t a BS topic to him. GOOD JOB CHUCK LEAVELL. After that we get to meet an artist who maybe wants my eyes to remain in the back of my head for eternity from all of the rolling I did to this jagweed’s BS. His name is Eric Fischl and holy moly, I know it’s tough to not sound like a turd when you’re being interviewed and how context matters and writers can sort of bend a story any way they want but this guy sounds like a capital D Dillhole. Apparently he goes to Art Fairs, the one that Emma Allen trails him at is a small one behind an Elk’s Lodge but he also goes to the big ones, and take pictures of the attendees. He then makes collages of the photos that he turns into paintings. This practice would only be mildly annoying if it was done by some smash-the-art-world art school kid that you really didn’t want to get stuck talking to at a party, but in the hands of someone who sells his art for hundreds of thousands of dollars and talks like he thinks everyone is way dumber then he is IT DRIVES ME BONKERS. Someone hits his car in this articlet, I kind of wish they’d run over his hands. Finally we hear about people who do Shakespeare in bars which seems like a kind of cool thing but then I think about going to it and it kind of turns my stomach. What can I say? I’m kind of a shut in.
Our Local Correspondents
Jennifer Gonnerman tells the intensely sad story of Kalief Browder, a 17 year old from the Bronx who’s life was pretty much ruined by the sclerotic court system. This story sucked, not in the quality of the story way, but in the way that it made me feel like the world is just a never ending set of unsolvable problems. These problems seem like they could just pluck a person out of their reality and alter them for the rest of their lives. Kalief Browder was just a regular teenager when he was picked up for a crime he didn’t commit and then the courts and prison system conspired to take away 3 years of his life. Actually, the sad part is that I doubt that there was some sort of nefarious agenda by anyone in this story, maybe with the exception of the prison guards at Rikers Island who sound like monsters, just a series of human beings who are trying to make due in overtaxed gridlocked organizations that there is no motivation to fix. Articles, and unfortunately the stories that they tell, happen all the time but when did you last hear an elected official talk about making the courts more efficient? Or prisons safer spaces? See, this story sucks.
Life and Letters
Did not read.
The Political Scene
A profile of Rand Paul is much like Rand Paul himself, at first you are skeptical, then you’re all like maybe he’s not so bad, but then by the end you’re all like nope nope nope. Ryan Lizza’s profile of the Kentucky Senator and possible presidential candidate does not disappoint in this regard. Paul comes off as not a crazy libertarian for much of the article, he’s quoted talking about poverty programs and prison reforms in a way that people don’t often (see above), but then he gets to talking about laws against discrimination and it all turns to poop. There is no way that you are going to get right thinking human beings behind you when you say that private business owners have the right to discriminate against people in any way they see fit. He also seems to be smoothing himself out for the Republican establishment in advance of said presidential run. I know that this is a thing that politicians are supposed to do but it comes off extra slimy when it is for a party that seems like they will say anything in an effort to win and then spend their time in office trying to get their rich backers more money. I’m not going to vote for Rand Paul under any circumstances (that ship sailed when he said he was deeply into Ayn Rand) but he seems likes less of a dick than say, Ted Cruz (that dude is a pile of human garbage with a $400 haircut).
When I started reading this article I did not know who Chris Ofili was. As I reading I was like, oh yeah this is the cow dung dude. For those who don’t know, read this, I mean that’s his wikipedia so you could read the whole thing and get a much better idea of who this dude is than I had when I started reading this article. This article was fine, it’s tough to read about an artist who’s work you aren’t familiar with and this was no exception. I know this isn’t Artforum but would it kill the New Yorker to have more than one photo an artists work that they’re profiling? Because the moment I saw the one photo that was taken of Ofili’s current work I was totally down with whatever they were talking about in the article (the standard profile stuff that is kind of boilerplate to me a little) and very excited about his upcoming show at the New Museum. Maybe I’ll read this article again after going to the show but most likely it will end up in the pile of New Yorkers that everyone who has a subscription has and then has to throw out when they move. This may be the only benefit of moving ever.
Did not read.
The Critics: The Current Cinema
Anthony Lane reviews three films in order of which I would like to see most. Despite his somewhat lukewarm feelings about Gone Girl any David Fincher movie is worth seeing (did you know he directed one of my all time favorite videos? And that is cost what would be $9 million today?). The other two movies sound okay, Lane doesn’t heap any of them with too much praise. One of them, The Two Faces of January, has people I’ve heard of in it but it also has a title like a a movie they might see on an episode of Seinfeld. The third, The Blue Room, is like French or something? I barely have enough time for all the mediocre stuff that we make here in these United States, there’s no way I’m going to see some French thing that isn’t good.
There is a new Marilynne Robinson book and that is exciting. I read Housekeeping, probably her most famous book, for a book club and it was great. Not in a fun way, no, not fun at all, but it is a thing that gives you FEELINGS. I will not run out and buy this book because I probably should read her other books before I get to this new one. Also because buying a hardcover book is dumb. The book is called Lila and it is well liked by reviewer Joan Acocella.
Did not read.
I read this because I felt guilty that I did not read enough of this issue. I do not care about Aphex Twin and Sasha Frere-Jones has done nothing to change that with his writing. I guess everybody is excited that this dude is releasing a new record? Cool for people who care, sucky for people who don’t but are friends with people that do on facebook.
BOOM! Sorry this was a day late, I had to go to a party during my normal writing time. SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!
Barry Blitt’s cover this week is like a funny haha joke about football players getting arrested. Though it is timely, there has been a lot of news recently about players and the law, it isn’t entirely accurate (yes, I do realize that post is from 2013). I would argue that the greater criminals in the NFL are the owners and their chosen commissioner, who often commit greater crimes. Crimes against their own players, crimes against their fans, or just general crimes. Of course we only really talk about the players, some of whom’s acts are truly reprehensible, while the old rich white dudes sit back and count their money. Maybe Barry knows this? Maybe that’s why the guy on the cover is white? This cover made me chuckle but then bummed me out!
Talk of the Town
Ben McGrath leads off with more about the NFL and makes some of the points that I made above. He goes in pretty hard on the NFL league office and their handling of recent scandals and IT IS DELIGHTFUL. After a cover that seemed to be pretty tone deaf on this issue this, albeit brief, examination of the real villains of this story and the possible repercussions of their ineptitude was welcome and reassuring. After that a thing about an actress named Lisa Dwan doing a very difficult Samuel Beckett piece and I couldn’t really read it because I kept being distracted by the fact that her last name is Dwan and not Dawn. A brief internet search does confirm that yes, this actresses name is Dwan and that this Beckett thing is CA-RAZY. Then there is a thing about whale watching and a dude who takes photos of whales which sounds cool but I think it also probably involves a lot of cold mornings on boats carrying gear and that sounds not so cool. I could not do that because I don’t really have what they call “sea legs”, I have what could be described best as “couch legs”. Next we get something about fancy airline food and I hope somebody in the New Yorker offices read this piece while doing Jerry Seinfeld impersonation. There is a thing in there about how people’s sense of taste can change in while on an airplane and that is kind of fascinating. Apparently everything tastes blander on airplanes and apparently I really want some cassoulet right now because they talk about it in the thing and I haven’t had it in a long time and fall is coming and, though I actually have no idea, I feel like cassoulet in fall should be good. Finally a thing about a musician I’ve never heard of going to a record store and buying records, it is just as boring as it sounds. She does buy a Randy Newman record but it is not this Randy Newman record so it is a dumb thing for this musician to buy.
Annals of Law
Jeffrey Toobin writes about the people trying to get damaging things about themselves off of the internet which is pretty haha. The idea of removing not positive things about oneself off of the internet is tricky, we’ve entered into this weird bargain with online life and I feel like the bad things we do being around forever is a consequence of it. Toobin, of course, starts of the article with a unique case that sounds super horrifying, the family of a woman who died in a very intense car crash trying to get the crime scene photos removed from the internet. A no doy Jeff, in this case there should be some sort of recourse, but the case in the European courts that has lead to legislation is a little more flimsy. Forgetting the irony of Europeans, who’s identities are often wrapped up in their shared national histories, wanting to control how their stories are presented, it seems dangerous to put that power in people’s hands. The real solution would be for us as humans to become waaaaaaay less judgmental and understand that our fellow people are not perfect. Besides, if stuff like this was allowed in the US richie riches would just use it to erase that time they were racist in prep school.
Shouts & Murmurs
Did not read
Oh boy, this article gave me FEELINGS. The easy snark for this article is that is should be called “Comfortable White People Cannot Agree on Whether or Not to Have Kids, Are Sad.” It also seems like this could have been the plot of every American novel of the mid 2000s, but Meghan Daum managed to get past my outer candy shell of irony and made me feel actual emotion while reading, it was horrible (j/k! IT WAS GREAT). It also got me thinking about children and why we have them and whether or not we should. WARNING, THESE THOUGHTS ARE WEIRD AND A LITTLE DARK. Sometimes I think that people who have children are assholes. This world has lots and lots of people, like lots and lots and lots and it becomes less habitable by the day, so who the fuck do people think they are that there should be more of them in the world? Also people are all fucked up, we all have problems, some are worse than others, these problems are often not not being worked on by the people who have them. I think it’s kind of terrible to bring another person onto this planet and willfully put them under your care if you can’t even get your own shit straightened out. Also, sometimes I see people having kids as a retirement of their own ambitions and desires and an acknowledgment of their own failures in that department. A sort of “those that can’t do, teach” except with life instead of whatever other thing that’s about. SEE, WEIRD AND DARK, and mean, I should have said that these thoughts were kind of mean also. I know, from movies and stuff, that there is no perfect time to have kids and that movie Idiocracy did freak me out about dumb people having kids but jeez, the whole thing needs a little deeper thought. Sorry I made this all about me Meghan Daum, your story was good and sad but I have my own FEELINGS. Also, sorry friends who have kids, this is not about you, yes your baby/toddler/child is cute.
A Reporter at Large
Dexter Filkins, who has one of if my favorite names on the writing staff of the magazine, writes about the Kurds, who seem pretty rad (this would probably be the Vice headline of their version of the this article “The Kurds, They Seem Pretty Rad” and then the sub-head would probably have something to do with drugs or heavy metal). The Kurds have been kicked around for a while by their neighbors in the region, it really seems like nobody liked them, not the Iraqis, not the Iranians, not the Turks, but they currently seem to be the only “winners” to come out of the Iraq War (not counting ISIS, who gets their weekly mention in the magazine in this article). In yet another f’up by our government, it seems like we don’t want them to be independent? This is stupid, the article presents a strong proud people who want nothing more than to control their own future. That are interested in created a secular democratic state in a region that has not so much of that. Isn’t what all of these unfortunate military endeavors are supposed to foster? For some reason we’re still interested in the face saving idea of a United Iraq but that ship has sailed dogz, let’s let the Kurds do them for a little while. The worst that can happen is that we gain a strong democratic ally in the region with a tough military which would be nice since the other one of those that we have is Isreal and they are, um, problematic right now.
Alice Gregory writes about her alma mater, Bard College, and its longtime president, Leon Botstein. I’m generally not a fan of these things where a person writes an article about where they went to college, it seems really clubby and inside baseball to me. Also, this profile has the stink of the New Yorker profile formula all over it. Start in the modern moment setting a scene, second break get more personal, third break pull back further, fourth break go into the personal history of subject, spend rest of profile detailing central conflict of subject, be sure to include some minor detail early in the profile about the subject that you can use a metaphor for the the subject themselves to wrap up the article. In this case the personal detail from the first act that goes off in the third is Leon Botstien’s pocket watch collection, which seems like it might be the ur-personal detail for these profiles. Mr. Botstein, who’s last name makes him sound like a slur that future anti semites will throw at robots that do accounting (I can make that joke because I’m jewish, a belated Shana Tova to everybody out there!), seems like a very interesting person, terrible personal habits of liking pocket watches and wearing a bow tie aside. This is to say this article was still interesting despite the intense seam showing. Bard college sounds like a fascinating place to go to school, but I’m glad I didn’t go there because I think it would have made me even more insufferable than I already am.
Did not read.
The Critics: Books
I tried to read this but then I realized it was about a book that takes place in a “traditional Irish setting” and I was like, nope nope nope.
I was into Martin Amis for a minute there in the early 2000s, mostly because I had a crush on a girl who said Time’s Arrow was here favorite book. I think I read two or three more before I realized that making yourself like something that someone you have a crush on likes is a dumb way to get someone to like you, unless that person is equally dumb (the girl I had a crush on was not dumb at all). I remember kind of liking the books enough that I thought about buying a used copy of London Fields for two dollars. I didn’t, but that’s because I’m a real ditherer when it comes to buying books not because of Martin Amis. It appears that Mr. Amis, who I would introduce at a book reading like he was Martin Lawrence (in this fantasy I would also have the jacket from this video), is going back to writing about Nazis apparently and Joyce Carol Oates thinks that his new book is okay but not amazing, thanks for sharing Joyce! Yes, I’m as surprised as you are that I read an entire article that started with an Adorno quote.
More TV Nuss-Bombs from everyone (or at least just my) favorite TV critic. This time our old pal Emily writes about a show that I tried watching but was to painful for me to continue, Happy Valley, and a show I’m not going to watch, Transparent, because it is on Amazon and they are indeed the worst. I’m glad that it is said that Happy Valley is a torturous watch, I could feel the pit in my stomach forming before the end of the first episode and I really like being right. I’m sad that I’m too much of a softie to watch the rest of it because Em-dog makes it sound really good, while simultaneously taking shots at that Fargo show that people seemed to like and that Gracepoint show that will certainly be bad. I’m also sad that Transparent is on Amazon because it also sounds really good but I’m trying very hard not to give those people my money, I know that I sound like that one person who says that they’re not on facebook (the new “I don’t even own a tv”) but Amazon sucks and no one should give them their money. I would love to see more Jeffrey Tambor at all times and maybe find out if I like Gaby Hoffman or am just entranced by her eyebrows but a dude has to take a stand someplace.
The Current Cinema
Another thing that I tried to read but then was stymied when it became clear that the first movie being reviewed was about grey-ass 1984 England and I had read enough of the magazine anyway.
THERE IT IS GUYS, THAT WAS A FUN ONE DESPITE ALL OF MY BITCHING. SEE YOU NEXT WEEK!