Posts Tagged ‘jeffrey toobin’

In this week’s New Yorker

September 20, 2012


A weird thing about the New Yorker’s annual Cartoon Issue is that it pretty much always creates high expectations and doesn’t live up to them. This week, as in the past, the cartoons don’t seem as good as many regular issues, even though there are twice as many.


The best thing about this issue is “The Lie Factory,” Jill Lepore’s American Chronicles piece about the two individuals who created the whole industry of political lobbying . Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter, a couple of right-wing conservative,  created Campaigns Inc. in 1933. They started out in newspapers and then figured out how to run political campaigns in favor of businesses by smudging the line between advertising, advocacy, and journalism. They were the ones who first undertook to persuade the American public that universal health care was “socialized medicine” and therefore unspeakably evil. It’s a fascinating and disheartening chapter of American political history.

Key quote from William Gavin, an advisor to Richard Nixon who wrote in a memo: “Voters are basically lazy, basically uninterested in making an effort to understand what we’re talking about…Reason requires a higher degree of discipline, of concentration; impression is easier. Reason pushes the viewer back, it assaults him, it demands that he agree or disagree; impression can envelop him, invite him in, without making an intellectual demand. . . . When we argue with him we demand that he make the effort of replying. We seek to engage his intellect, and for most people this is the most difficult work of all. The emotions are more easily roused, closer to the surface, more malleable.”

I did also love this amazing photo by Martin Roemers that accompanied Mohsin Hamid’s short story “The Third-Born”:


Last week’s issue, by the way, had a terrific profile of Elizabeth Warren by Jeffrey Toobin, an excerpt from Salman Rushdie’s new book about his life under the fatwa that made him a target for assassination by Muslim fanatics, and a good piece by Hilton Als on Robert Wilson and the evolution of Einstein on the Beach.

In this week’s New Yorker

May 18, 2012


Aside from the cover by Bob Staake and Margaret Talbot’s right-on editorial about Obama’s endorsing gay marriage, the most remarkable thing about this issue for me is the indication that Robert Falls has upped the profile of Chicago’s Goodman Theater so much now that many of its productions command coverage by New York critics. Hilton Als reviews Falls’ production of The Iceman Cometh, starring Nathan Lane but featuring a couple of young actors who Hilton thinks are stars of tomorrow (Patrick Andrews and Kate Arrington). And the always plugged-in culture reporter Alec Wilkinson’s “Stage Secret” follows the acclaimed black Shakespearean actor John Douglas Thompson to clown school. I have yet to see Thompson onstage but I plan to repair that lacuna the next chance I get.

Otherwise, not a lot of essential reading. Jeffrey Toobin’s long piece on the Citizens United court case — the one that has unleashed a bottomless flood of unaccountable corporate donations to this year’s elections — reveals the couple of small errors on the part of the Solicitor General’s office that allowed this egregious legislation to get by the Supreme Court. But Toobin basically establishes that the Supreme Court has a very, very long history of being very conservative in the direction of considering corporations to be “people” whose First Amendment right to self-expression is sacrosanct. Which is of course of a lot of horseshit that denies what should be perfectly obvious to any impartial law court, which is that the money corporations have to sling around allows them to drown out the voices of actual people.

I also read with interest Xan Rice’s story, “Finish Line,” about Kenyan runners in general and Olympic champion Samuel Wanjiru in particular.

In this week’s New Yorker

April 3, 2012

A bunch of stories I skipped: Steve Coll on ExxonMobil, Rivka Galchen on the German public’s fixation on American Indians, Ben McGrath on the Miami Marlins. I did, however, devour Evan Osnos’s “Letter from China” about the gambling industry in Macau, which takes in five times as much dough per year as Las Vegas does. That story introduces a man who has become mythical in China as “the God of Gamblers,” just as the narrator of Jonathan Lethem’s short story “The Porn Critic” identifies himself as a “Conceptual Lesbian.”


Jeffrey Toobin’s good editorial joins the chorus of pundits shaming the Supreme Court for straying into politics.

You probably almost never notice the “spots,” tiny drawings that appear throughout the magazine to help even out the columns and break up large chunks of text. This week’s, by R. Kikuo Johnson, all depict people in hoodies. Way to go, New Yorker.

In this week’s New Yorker

August 23, 2011

clever cover by Istvan Banyai

I read Wendell Steavenson’s absorbing report of street protests in Syria, admirably persistent in the face of a regime that seems to think dissent can be permanently stifled. “The demonstrations are so fleeting that they are nicknamed ‘flying protests.’ Activists have tried to confound the authorities by singing the national anthem or throwing roses into the fountain in Marjeh Square. They have tied messages of defiance to balloons, and tucked them inside packages of dates given out at mosques, and taped them to Ping-Pong balls thrown into the street from high buildings. In one ingenious scheme, they wrote ‘freedom’ on banknotes, but then banks refused to take notes with any markings on them. One day during my visit, dozens of people simply wore white and walked around a block in an upscale neighborhood. Several were arrested.”

I love Susan Orlean, but I skipped her piece on Rin Tin Tin — not interesting subject to me. I read every word of Jeffrey Toobin’s piece on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni, who is one of the Tea Party’s most prominent champions and funders. The most astonishing passage:

By the fall of last year, Ginni Thomas’s activities had become so public that she began to draw journalistic scrutiny. On Saturday, October 9th, the Times ran a front-page story headlined “ACTIVISM OF THOMAS’S WIFE COULD RAISE JUDICIAL ISSUES,” which was a straightforward account of Ginni’s political activities. Still, the story may have unnerved its subject, because at seven-thirty-one that morning Ginni Thomas left a voice mail for Anita Hill, at her office at Brandeis University, where she teaches. “Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband.” She went on to urge Hill to “pray about this,” and then signed off, “O.K., have a good day!”

Sasha Frere-Jones’ piece on Ishmael Butler told me everything I wanted and needed to know about Shabazz Palaces and mainly inspired me to go back and listen to the complete Digable Planets on Rhapsody. Daniel Mendelsohn’s piece on Rimbaud interested me, especially this quote from one of the young poet’s letters: “The first study of the man who wishes to be a poet is complete knowledge of himself. He searches his mind, inspects it, tries out and learns to use it.”

In this week’s New Yorker, and the week before, and…

February 6, 2011

OK, so I got a little behind digesting my favorite magazine and passing along links. I had a busy January. I’ve been a little cranky about all the snarky commentary about Spiderman — Turn Off the Dark, but I have to say I did find the cover of the January 17 issue pretty funny, and everything Joan Rivers said to Julie Taymor, as reported by Patrick Healy in today’s Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times. A lot of people, including rumblings from the esteemed Times, have been acting like it’s some heinous crime against humanity for STOTD to be playing weeks, even months of previews without getting reviewed. But I don’t get what the BFD is. Theatergoers who bought tickets thinking the show would be finished and have been reviewed already can always ask for their money back. Meanwhile, because of all the publicity, anybody who sees the show nowadays has tremendous bragging rights, especially if the show has to stop to fix some technical glitch or if somebody gets hurt. (Dancers get hurt every day of the week, but nobody ever gets self-righteous about how dangerous New York City Ballet is for its performers.) Maybe the show is crappy. But I’d rather wait til the artists making it say it’s done before judging it. Then the gloves are off.

Going back a few weeks: the New Yorker has been providing great fodder for all kinds of geeks and obsessives lately. Daniel Mendelsohn’s story on the Vatican Library gives bibliophiles and scholars a satisfying peek at that inner sanctum. I’ve never heard of the designer Tomas Maier but enjoyed reading John Colapinto’s profile of this hunky guy. I just noticed that the striking photo that ran with the story is by famed painter/artist Robert Longo. (I’m also struck by how thorough matter-of-fact both the New Yorker and the Times are these days in writing about subjects who are gay and their domestic partnerships.) In the same issue, Jeffrey Toobin wrote a thorough and sad story about a young prosecutor whose participation in the case against Alaska congressman Ted Stevens ended tragically. And David Denby wrote a lively piece about Joan Crawford.

The following week, another juicy issue with Mike Peed’s fascinating reported article on bananas, how they’re bred, and the disease that is threatening the world supply of this beloved fruit (well, beloved by me and everyone else except Roz Chast), Ian Buruma on how Belgium threatens to implode, Evan Osnos on psychoanalysis in China, and Joan Acocella — hilarious as ever — on the strange saga of best-selling mediocre author Stieg Larsson, who died before even his first novel came out.

Last week forced me again to spend several hours reading absorbing articles on subjects I didn’t know interested me: the evolution of theories about preventing food allergies in children (by Jerome Groopman), the science of crowd control (John Seabrook, who details the weird and distressing story of how a 6’5″, 485-pound stockroom employee was trampled to death at a Wal-Mart on Long Island on Black Friday, 2008), and the monster-making imagination of Guillermo del Toro, director of Pan’s Labyrinth and other arty horror films (profiled by Daniel Zalewski, whose article provides the only glimpse we will ever see of what would have been del Toro’s take on Tolkein’s The Hobbit). And then there’s Joan Acocella again, writing another hilarious and trenchant essay about another excellent, underappreciated writer and one of my faves, J. R. Ackerley — note again the astonishing bounty of details about his (rather pitiful) homo sex life.

Plus, the cartoons.

and

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