Posts Tagged ‘malcolm gladwell’

In this week’s New Yorker

March 26, 2011

For a fashion issue, this week’s New Yorker is remarkably substantial. Of course, the disaster in Japan looms over the issue and our minds. Evan Osnos writes a terrific “Letter from Japan” with on-the-ground reporting of the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, noting among other things the notable and very Japanese calm in the face of catastrophe (no looting) as well as the fantastic stories that have rushed into the vacuum of the government’s stingy information about the nuclear crisis. Osnos compares the current tragedy to past earthquake-related disasters in Japan and includes this bit of information new to me: “After the 1923 quake in Kanto, rumors swept Tokyo and Yokohama that Koreans were committing arson and poisoning wells. And so, amid the still smoking ruins of those cities, angry mobs, some including members of the police force and other officials, murdered thousands of Koreans—a massacre that remains a source of shame today.”

A bridge in Nishinomiya, Japan, fourteen miles from Kobe, after an earthquake struck on January 17, 1995

I’m not a huge fan of Karuki Murakami, so I didn’t read his short story “U.F.O. in Kushiro,” but it’s illustrated with amazing pictures taken of the aftermath of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe (above).

Peter Schjeldahl’s review of the inadvertently timely art show at the Japan Society called “Bye Bye Kitty!!!” makes me definitely want to see the show.

Among the fashion stories, I was surprised to find myself riveted by Alexandra Jacobs’s story about Sara Blakely and the invention of Spanx (and its related industry of shape-slimming underwear) and also by Lauren Collins’s extremely well-written and intimate profile of shoe designer Christian Louboutin, he of the red soles. One thing I love about the exceptionally sophisticated coverage of fashion in both the New Yorker and the New York Times these days is the almost inevitable and matter-of-fact way that high-end designers’ homosexuality is acknowledged — something that was just not done even a generation ago.

Malcolm Gladwell contributes an astonishing encapsulation of what sounds like an unusually good book, Ruth Brandon’s “Ugly Beauty,” which is a double biography of two cosmetics magnates, Helena Rubenstein and Eugene Schueller (creator of L’Oreal). Gladwell’s piece, which includes a side visit to the history of Ikea, muses on the interplay of politics and business — it’s a dense good read.

In this week’s New Yorker…

October 4, 2010

…actually, before the moment passes and the new issue arrives in my mailbox, I want to mention a couple of noteworthy pieces in LAST week’s issue.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a thoughtful essay about the difference between social activism and social networking, contrasting the world of Facebook/Twitter with civil rights actions in the 1960s, like the day when four college students in Greensboro, NC, sat down at a segregated Woolworth’s counter and asked to be served. To me, the piece was a good reminder that online networking is useful for disseminating information and staying in contact with friends and acquaintances, but when it comes to Getting Things Done, there’s no substitute for community action that you do with other people in the same room.

Music critic Alex Ross did an excellent piece about one of my all-time culture heroes, John Cage (above), on the occasion of the publication of Kenneth Silverman’s biography, Begin Again. Here’s a story I’d never heard before: after years of living on the edge of poverty, “by the end of the fifties, Cage’s financial situation had imiproved, though not because of his music. After moving to Stony Point [NY], he began collecting mushrooms during walks in the woods. Within a few years, he had mastered the mushroom literature and co-founded the new York Mycological Society. He supplied mushrooms to various elite restaurants, including the Four Seasons. In 1959, while working at the R.A. I. Studio of Music Phonology, a pioneering electronic-music studio, in Milan, he was invited on a game show called ‘Lascia o Raddopppia?’ — a ‘Twenty-One’-style program in which contestants were asked questions on a subject of their choice. Each week, Cage answered, with deadly accuracy, increasingly obscure questions about mushrooms. On his final appearance, he was asked to list ‘the twenty-four kinds of white-spore mushrooms listed in Atkinson.’ (Silverman supplies a transcript of this historic moment.) Cage named them all, in alphabetical order, and won eight thousand dollars. He used part of the money to purchase a VW bus for the [Merce] Cunningham company.”


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