Week of June 6, 2011

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2011 at 5:25 am

Table of Contents

Talk of the Town:

Comment: Obama vs. Netenyahoo. Hendrick Hertzberg finds Bibi annoying, Obama uncommitted, situation ripe with black despair. I might be editorializing a little bit on that last part.

Lost and Found: A Brooklyn restaurateur’s long-lost father turns out to be Ted Nugent. Amusement ensues.

Going Forth Dept.: Backstage with the honorary degree honorees of this year’s New School class. Yawn. Also, Frank Rich is heterosexual? Who knew? His wife, do you think?

The Pictures: Lunch with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. If those names mean anything to you, possibly amusing, though not as amusing as you’d hope. If not, skip.

Old Spot: They tore down a mansion on Long Island which may have been an inspiration for The Great Gatsby; Ian Frazier attempts to riff on same in the manner of F. Scott. He doesn’t do it well.

No Financial Page this week.

Annals of National Security: Seymour Hersh on Iran and the bomb. I’m sorry, it makes a bad person, but I haven’t read it yet.

Shouts and Murmurs:  Ian Frazier again. Mildly amusing on the subject of colleges and the degree to which they blow their donors.

The Political Scene: Ryan Lizza on Mitt Romney. I kind of hate Ryan Lizza and Mitt Romney was my actual governor for several years, and so I rather dread reading this précis of how he now has to run from his own health care bill. Thinking about Romney makes me think of his ridiculous game show hair, which makes me think of how Molly Ivins used to call the governor of Texas Gov. Good Hair, which makes me think of this video, which I offer up instead.

Letter from Italy: On Silvio and his scandals. The piece starts out fierce with a description of one of his campaign videos, and I was all set for a classic corrupt pol side-splitter, but for me it just got kind of despairful and skin-crawly half-way through, when it talks about how thoroughly Berlusconi’s TV channels have taken over the airwaves and how completely they embody the spirit of the man. (“In fact there are usually two women on ‘Striscia la Notizia,’ a popular program whose name translates as ‘The News Slithers.’ The women — called veline, which means ‘slips of paper’ — spend the program posed on top of a counter, while male anchors sit behind it discussing current events. Sometimes the veline crawl around on the floor wearing G-strings.”)  Uck, Jesus. 50 years gone by, and if this article’s anything to go by it’s worse.

A Reporter at Large: The Invisible Army. On the conditions faced by contract workers at American Army bases in war zones. Haven’t read yet; pictures and tag line suffused me with sense of dread and futility.

Fiction: Clever Girl, haven’t read it yet.


Critic at Large: Louie Menard discusses two books which critique the American university system. Crisp and precise as usual when discussing the flaws of the books themselves; to my mind a little tentative and gun shy when discussing the larger implications of the books’ arguments and attempting to counter them. But then, I think the American university system is irretrievably fucked. Menard’s always worth reading though, because he’s a good boiler-downer.

Music: Alex Ross on a Carnegie Hall classics series. Skipped, ain’t going back, ‘fraid don’t care.

Music: Sasha Frere-Jones on Kate Bush. Personally, am terribly afraid I am beginning to like Kate Bush. I can still recognize that she is the inexhaustible fount of that same twee, ethereal bullshit of which Tori Amos is a lesser practitioner, and which I mostly loathe; still find I get Running Up That Hill stuck in my head after listening to it once a couple weeks ago during an idle perusal of an A.V. Club gateway. Review half-convinced me to give her new album a try; fear result.

Movies: David Denby on the Hangover Part II, Submarine. Read an interview with the director that actually made me want to watch Submarine; this review did not.

Cliff notes:

Christ, this was a bummer of an issue. Hard to recommend something when I didn’t read half the stuff for fear it’d depress me, and of the stuff I did read half succeeded in that mission.

Worth Anyone’s Time: Menard, I guess. The Nuge piece in Talk of the Town. Berlusconi.

If You Like That Sort of Thing: Everything else?

Housekeeping Note

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2011 at 4:18 am

So, my intention was to update this weekly within a day or two of reading the mag, and lo, the second week, the mag came late because of the holiday and a work emergency kept me from reading it until now. This weeks’ arrived today and so I am already behind. The gods of the New Yorker, as one would expect, have a wry sense of humor. My policy, in the face of my demonstrated fallibility, will be to post once I’ve given the thing a once-over and update as/when I read the stuff I skipped the first time around.

Week of May 30, 2011

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2011 at 2:39 am

Table of Contents

Talk of the Town:

Comment: On the Syrian Spring. Ends up talking about Israel-Palestine; not very interesting.

Paris Postcard: DSK situation. The French think he’s fucked. Mildly interesting.

Dept. of Loopholes: Osama Bin Laden’s porn collection placed in the context of ancient Arab porn. Boring.

Also there was something or other about the interior decoration of bomb shelters, mildy interesting.

The Financial Page: I like James Surowecki. But I this week’s piece on the uses of an internet-based alternative to the consumer price index was kind of a bloop single.

Onward and Upward with the Arts: Futurism

Somewhat interesting piece on Cory Arcangel, who’s apparently the youngest artist to have a solo show at the Whitney. I was kind of curious about him — as I read it, I realized I’d actually heard of some of his stuff: He’s the guy that made a video piece where he stripped everything out of the old SuperMario Bros but the clouds, so that the game becomes this infinite blue horizon. He’s done a lot of other stuff with modding video games and playing around with obsolete technology in general. As an article though, a bit weird: A lot of what Arcangel’s doing seems kind of interesting, but the writer, Andrea Scott, did not seem particularly insightful either as an art critic or a character sketch artist. You don’t really get a good sense of what he’s like as a person, and I found her explications of his works — there was some attempt to shoehorn him into Beckett’s absurdist legacy — just didn’t ring true to me, but can’t quite put my finger on why. But I don’t think I have enough understanding and appreciation of the genres of video and contextual art to really comprehend his influences in that respect.

Shouts and Murmurs: Extended riff on Relationships as Baseball. As per usual, an idea that was funny as a one-liner steamrolled remorselessly into a 500-word essay.

Dept. of Food: Strange Fruit. On the rise and fall of the acai berry as a wonder-fruit, and the Black brothers, two bro-dude entrepreneurs who brought it to the US.  I fell asleep reading this about ¾ of the way through the “rise” portion of the tale; YMMV. I’ll probably eventually get around to finishing the “fall” bit, though. Has a bit of a flavor of that emblematic New Yorker “elevator” piece — you can see how good the pitch would have been, how ripely New-Yorkerish,  yet another fascinating story to be uncovered on this omnipresent yet-unexamined facet of modern life, dotted with petty intrigues and obscure facts. And then when the writer actually got there and actually started talking to people it turned out there weren’t nothin’ to it. There is, in fact, nothing all that exciting about elevators, even when you do dig into them deeply. Similarly, the story of the acai berry seems to be: Two dudes tasted a weird fruit in Brazil, found out it had lots of fashionable nutrients, and did fairly well selling it to juice bars and suchlike for a while, until the fad passed.

Our Local Correspondents: Madoff’s Curveball. How the owner of the Mets, Fred Wilpon, got sucked into Madoff’s Ponzi scam and the chances of his involvement forcing him to sell the Mets. Wilpon’s an interesting guy — there are bjillionaire sports franchise owners, and there are former elite athlete sports franchise owners (mostly managers), but he’s the only one I’ve ever heard of who was a former elite athlete who never played pro (got a scholarship to Michigan for baseball and blew out his shoulder while there)  and nevertheless became an owner by making it big in real estate.  A tiptoe over the edge of the magic circle indeed. Get the feeling while reading this that Toobin developed a soft spot for him while reporting the piece; makes me trust his conclusions about Wilpon’s involvement with Madoff a little less.

Annals of Health: God Knows Where I Am. This was a fascinating article about the collision between preserving mental patient’s rights and successfully treating them, as exemplified by the case of a particular New Hampshire woman. I’d talk more about it but it’s hard to do so without going too much into the particular patient’s circumstances, and the slow revelation of her story is part of what gives the piece its power. But she raises a really interesting point about the reliance of modern psychiatry on the notion of “insight” — the patient’s own comprehension of the fact that they’re nuts — as a necessary precursor to pronouncing them cured, the reasons why patients resist this and the difficult paradoxes that results in when the mental health system slams up against the legal one.

Fiction: M&M World, haven’t read it yet.


Essay: Anthony Lane on Terrence Malick. I like Lane and this essay has flashes of his wit; movie sounds a bit ponderous though. On the other hand, I don’t know that you can ask “So, Tony, this deeply earnest filmic attempt to wrestle with the most profound questions of existence, is it worth seeing?” and expect a useful answer, given his temperament and proclivities.

Adam Kirsch on Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore’s a Bangladeshi writer who enjoyed a tremendous vogue in the west in the early part of the 1900s, winning the Nobel Prize in 1913. I knew that and pretty much only that going in, and so was extremely curious to read more about him. A preponderance of my curiosity was satisfied.

There was also a review of a book on vaccination and the resistance to same, throughout history; author’s sympathy is with the resistors. This seems dumb.

Oh, and there was a review of a play called Stage Kiss which sounded amusing but which is playing in Chicago.

Cliff notes:

Worth Anyone’s Time: “God Knows Where I Am,” “Paris Postcard”

If You Like That Sort of Thing: “Futurism” “Madoff’s Curveball,” Malick.