Posts Tagged ‘ariel levy’

In this week’s New Yorker

January 22, 2012

Another stellar batch of cartoons!


Along with fine reporting by Ariel Levy on Callista Gingrich, Steve Coll on “Looking for Mullah Omar,” and William Finnegan, who traveled to Madagascar with club and restaurant superstar Eric Goode to observe his passion for saving rare breeds of tortoise. The latter piece is a real vocabulary expander; I picked up “chelonian,” “gular scute,” and “opuntia cactus.” Lots of astonishing tortoise lore: “Chelonians actually predate many dinosaurs. They have been lumbering around for more than two hundred million years, and have changed very little in all that time. Nobody knows how long individual plowshares live. Captain James Cook took away a radiated tortoise, the plowshare’s closest relative, and gave it to the King of Tonga, in 1777. It died in 1966.” And the next time there’s a lull in conversation over dinner, try telling your guests “Endoscopic turtle sexing will not become common practice in Madagascar any time soon.”

Poet Donald Hall contributes a poignant Personal History essay on aging, “Out the Window,” and Anthony Lane applies his characteristically droll erudition to reviewing Ralph Fiennes’ film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus: “The movie unfolds in a modern setting, and in modern dress. This will obviously be disappointing to any Gerard Butler fans who hoped to see their man reprise his majestic outfit from 300, which consisted of helmet, cloak, and pull-up Spartan diaper.” And whichever poetry editor has been slipping lyrics by pop songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon into the magazine has now added to the list Leonard Cohen. As usual, the lyric doesn’t fly so well on the page, but on the website you can scroll down and hear the track “Going Home” from Cohen’s forthcoming album, Old Ideas, hotly anticipated by me.

In this week’s New Yorker

December 31, 2011


The New Year’s issue includes three very different long reporting pieces that I read avidly. I never thought I had any interest in the IFC series Portlandia, but in “Stumptown Girl” Margaret Talbot, excellent writer that she is, succeeded in making it sound … well, more interesting than the small sampling I later tried turned out to be. Mostly, I was interested and entertained by the personality of Carrie Brownstein, whose music with Sleater-Kinney always interested me more in theory than in reality. Rachel Aviv contributes a long, sad, bewildering story about a 14-year-old in prison for life without parole for murdering his beloved grandfather. And then there’s Ariel Levy’s “Letter from Bangalore” about Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, the pharmaceutical executive and health-care activist who is the richest woman in India, another peek into a world I would otherwise know nothing about. Mostly, I would love to hear Levy say aloud the name of a physician she interviewed: Dr. Prakash Sankalagere Chikkaputtaswamy.

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.

In this week’s New Yorker

June 23, 2010

Three items of special interest:

1) Nicole Kraus’s haunting short story “The Young Painters,” continuing the New Yorker’s series spotlighting young writers, “20 Under 40.”

2) Ariel Levy’s profile of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, delivered with Levy’s usual light touch, detailed reporting, compassion, and unerring bigotry-sensor. To wit:

One afternoon in Jerusalem, while Huckabee was eating a chocolate croissant in the lounge of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, I asked him to explain his rationale for opposing gay rights. “I do believe that God created male and female and intended for marriage to be the relationship of the two opposite sexes,” he said. “Male and female are biologically compatible to have a relationship. We can get into the ick factor, but the fact is two men in a relationship, two women in a relationship, biologically, that doesn’t work the same.”

3) Anthony Lane’s laugh-out-loud hilarious account of the Eurovision Song Contest, which you have to be a subscriber to read online. But it’s worth chasing down and reading in full, perhaps aloud, to catch the gems that Lane tosses out on the run.

Whether you’re presenting, performing, attending, or watching at home, alcohol is essential for getting through the Eurovision Song Contest, and the Norwegian pils served at the concession stands, as weak as fizzy rain, was simply not up to the job. How else could one face an opening band, from Moldova, who rhymed “We have no progressive future!” with “I know your lying nature!”, and who had taken pains to insure that their violinist’s illuminated bow matched the bright-blue straps of the lead singer’s garter belt? A deranged Estonian pianist smacked his keyboard with one raised fist, like a butcher flattening an escalope of veal. A pair of ice-white blondes, one with a squeezebox, decided to revive the moribund tradition of oompah-pah — or presumably, since they were Finnish, oom-päa-päa. A Belgian boy came on to croon “Me and My Guitar,” otherwise known as “Him and His Crippling Delusion.”



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