Posts Tagged ‘john seabrook’

In this week’s New Yorker

July 20, 2013

new yorker 7-22 cover
Three major reporting stories dominate: Rachel Louise Snyder’s very detailed, very upsetting, very informative article, “A Raised Hand,” about domestic violence and a tool that social service agencies have developed to successfully gauge the level of risk for lethal attacks by deranged partners (mostly husbands); “The Beach Builders,” John Seabrook’s fascinating story about how the Jersey Shore has been repeatedly repaired after storm damage, most recently after Hurricane Sandy; and Peter Hessler’s Letter from Cairo, which really helped me figure out how to understand the ouster of President Morsi and the current state of affairs in Egypt and educated me about Tamarrod, the inspiring ad hoc grass-roots political movement that managed to oust Morsi with phenomenal speed. Hessler’s lengthy report capitalizes on little glimpses I’ve absorbed — reading in an email recently about how the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to shut down Egypt’s opera houses and ballet companies — and accompanies George Packer’s lead editorial, which succinctly encapsulates the existential crisis that Egyptian politics faces. “The core political problem in Egypt,” writes Packer, “is one that almost always arises from years of dictatorship: a culture of suspicion and confrontation, a mentality of winner-take-all. Islamists and secular-minded Egyptians regard one another as obstacles to power, not as legitimate players in a complex game that requires inclusion and consensus…Nothing good will come of the overthrow of Morsi’s bad government if Egypt’s next transition doesn’t find a place for all of the country’s legitimate factions.”

 

In this week’s New Yorker

May 19, 2013

new yorker innovators
At first glance, I didn’t think I had the time or interest to absorb the key features in the annual Innovators issue — but I did. They’re all worth it:

* Susan Orlean’s American Chronicles piece on treadmill desks, which made me want to buy one;

* Ian Frazier’s “Form and Fungus,” about a couple of dudes disturbed by all the crappy non-biodegradable Styrofoam in the world who figured out how to grow an all-natural substitute for plastic out of mushroom tissue;

* John Seabrook’s “Network Insecurity,” basically on the hopeless dream of cybersecurity;

* Michael Specter’s “Inherit the Wind,” about another pair of young guys who’ve figured out how to generate electricity from wind energy using kites, as opposed to the wind turbines that even green energy supporters like cartoonist Lynda Barry have catalyzed huge populist activism to oppose;

* Nathan Heller’s “Laptop U,” about the budding field of MOOCs (massive open online courses), which all the big schools are getting into — despite my instinctive revulsion against it, this phenomenon apparently does have some pedagogical advantages; and

* Rebecca Mead’s Reporter-at-Large story, “The Sense of an Ending,” which moved me to tears several times with its reporting on specialists at the Beatitudes Campus, a retirement community in Phoenix, who have found compassionate, humane ways to treat elderly patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The iPad…excuse me, Tablet edition also features a hilarious interactive version of the Christoph Niemann cover illustration (above). And I’m going to let Ben Marcus read his story “The Dark Arts” aloud to me.

et tu killbot

In this week’s New Yorker

September 9, 2012

Before the moment passes, I’d like to put in a good word about several absorbing articles in the Style Issue, cover-dated September 10:

* John Seabrook on Federico Marchetti, the business nerd who dragged fashion kicking and screaming into e-commerce with Yoox.com;

* John Colapinto on Will Guidara and Daniel Humm, who bought out and took over Danny Meyer’s  Eleven Madison Park and elevated it to a ridiculously world-renowned restaurant;

* Aleksandar Hemon’s profile of Lana and Andy Wachowski, the filmmaking siblings who made The Matrix and its spin-offs and whose most recent work is the forthcoming adaptation of David Mitchell’s mind-bending novel Cloud Atlas (I enjoyed Tom Hanks’ quote — “I work for free. I get paid for waiting.” — and was touched by this remark by Steve Skroce, who has storyboarded for the filmmakers since The Matrix: “After the success of the first Matrix, they were able to get point son the box-office, video games, etc. They had a dinner at this great Italian restaurant in Santa Monica and all their key collaborators were invited. At each place setting was a golden envelope with a check inside. I’m not sure who got what, but I know what I received was far beyond what I could ever have guessed or hoped for.”); and

* Ian Parker on Bjarke Ingels, the Danish architect who has made himself a brand name at 37.

Then there’s Thomas McGuane’s short, pungent story “The Casserole” and Ariel Levy’s supercilious review of Naomi Wolf’s book Vagina: A New Biography, which made me laugh out loud. Key passage: “Wolf claims that vaginal slander — referring to the vagina by its ‘awful’ feline moniker, for instance — ‘apparently affects the very tissue of the vagina.’ She bases this conclusion on a study of female rats whose vaginal tissue showed signs of change after periods of stress. The experiment did not, however, entail researching yelling ‘Rat pussy!’ at the animals; stress was manufactured physically. Wolf’s interpretation of the science is, as usual, rather free.”

And who doesn’t love a cover by Ian Falconer?

 

In this week’s New Yorker

March 23, 2012

The Style Issue features several articles that reveal in great, sometimes disheartening detail how things are made these days:

* John Seabrook’s closely observed story about Ester Dean and the phenomenon of “top-liners,” the people who create the semi-coherent, fragmented, not-quite-lyrics that accompany hit singles these days…and make beaucoup bucks at it;

* Jonah Lehrer’s entertaining profile of Roger Thomas, in-house designer for Steve Wynn’s over-the-top Vegas hotels, whose obscenely luxurious decor apparently boost casino income exponentially;

* Ian Parker’s preview (“Expletive Not Deleted”) of the forthcoming HBO comedy series “Veep,” whose British show-runner Armando Iannucci apparently keeps a stable of writers onhand who specialize in supplying high-volume zesty swearing for his hit shows (such as the BBC’s “The Thick of It”). The series stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the vice president who refers to her bumbling staff as “the Keystone Cunts” and in one scene is heard to say, “Well, God bless the President. he is really a great man. but he is busting my fucking lady balls here.”

Another highlight is the latest of Paul Rudnick’s laugh-out-loud Shouts and Murmurs pieces, this one a take-off on recent books touting the superiority of French women in all things. “To maintain my figure, I eat only half portions of any food, always arranging it on my plate in the shape of a semicolon. For exercise, at least once a day I approach a total stranger and slap him. And late each afternoon I read a paragraph of any work of acclaimed American literary fiction, which makes me vomit.”

Speaking of fiction, there’s also a story by Antonya Nelson, “Chapter Two,” that trafficks in the misrepresentation of what AA meetings are like, with what has become a fiction cliche, the supposedly sober character who drinks on her way to and from meetings. Yawn. It’s been done.

In this week’s New Yorker

November 27, 2011


An especially good issue of the magazine, starting with the cover (“Promised Land” by Christoph Niemann), a reminder that the first European settlers on this continent arrived uninvited, and not too many of them bothered to learn the language(s) the Natives spoke.

By design or happenstance, this issue is anchored by three strong reporting pieces about renegades and innovators having a big impact.

Mattathias Schwartz’s piece on Occupy Wall Street goes beyond anything I’ve read in pinpointing the key individuals responsible for launching and maintaining a nascent grass-roots movement that profoundly eschews the notion of leaders. Not only does it shed light on Kalle Lasn and Micah White, the unlikely duo at the heart of the Canadian-based anti-consumerism publication Adbusters, but the article name-checks a couple of people crucial to putting OWS in gear: 26-year-old Justine Tunney (one of several transgender anarchist activists who collectively responded to Lasn’s now legendary call for the occupation) and Marisa Holmes, a 25-year-old anarchist and filmmaker to whom people listen when she speaks.

George Packer contributes a fascinating profile of Peter Thiel, the super-smart, disturbingly cute (to ginger fans) entrepreneur who created PayPal in 2002 with his friend Elon Musk and two years later loaned Mark Zuckerberg half a million dollars to crank up Facebook. Thiel turns out to be, among other things, a devout gay Christian, a serious Ayn Radian libertarian, and an unapologetic Republican who voted for John McCain in 2008. The mind boggles. It is clear that Packer, one of the New Yorker’s hotshot reporters these days, is both intrigued and appalled by Thiel and his friends. He’s invited to a dinner party where “the two subjects of conversation were the superiority of entrepreneurship and the worthless of higher education.”

[Biotech specialist Luke] Nosek argued that the best entrepreneurs devoted their lives to a single idea. Founders Fund [an investment group co-founded by Thiel with Napster's Sean Parker] backed these visionaries and kept them in charge of their own companies, protecting them from the meddling of other venture capitalists, who were prone to replacing them with plodding executives.
Thiel picked up the theme. There were four places in America where ambitious young people traditionally went, he said: New York, Washington, Los Angeles, and Silicon Valley. The first three were used up; Wall Street lost its allure after the financial crisis. Only Silicon Valley still attracted young people with big dreams — though their ideas had sometimes already been snuffed out by higher education. The Thiel Fellowships
[which award 20 $100,000 two-year grants to brilliant people under the age of 20 to enable them to quit college and start up business] would help ambitious young talents change the world before they could be numbed by the establishment.
I suggested
that there was something to be gained from staying in school, reading great works of literature and philosophy, and arguing about ideas with people who have different views. After all, this had been the education of Peter Thiel. In The Diversity Myth,” he and Sacks wrote, “The antidote to the multiculture is civilization.” I didn’t disagree. Wasn’t the world of liberatarian entrepreneurs one more self-enclosed cell of identity politics?
Around the table, the response was swift and negative. [Artificial-intelligence researcher Eliezer] Yudowsky reported that he was having a “visceral reaction” to what I’d said about great books. Nosek was visibly upset: in high school, in Illinois, he had failed an English class because the teacher had said that he couldn’t write. If something like the Thiel Fellowships had existed, he and others like him could have been spared a lot of pain.
Thiel was smiling at the turn the conversation had taken. Then he pushed back his chair. “Most dinners go on too long or not long enough,” he said.

The third innovator featured is the 28-year-old French artist who goes by the initial JR, who has orchestrated large-scale guerrilla photo installations in the slums of Southern Sudan, Kenya, Cambodia, India, and Brazil. Raffi Khatchadourian’s article follows him as he creates an art project empowering regular people in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx.

Then there’s Ariel Levy’s piece on Rita Jenrette, former Congressman’s wife now turned Italian principessa — nutty piece but worth reading just because Levy is such a fine, entertaining writer.

While I’m at it, I want to mention a couple of pieces from last week’s Food Issue worth going back and reading. First and foremost is Eric Idle’s hilarious Shouts & Murmurs piece, “Who Wrote Shakespeare?” There’s also a fascinating piece by John Seabrook about apples, specifically the breeding of a new hybrid apple called the SweeTango. And Judith Thurman contributes a delicious and inspiring little meditation on pine nuts.

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