Archive for the ‘NY Times Mag’ tag
Dexter Filkens, who covered Iraq from 2003 to 2006, has a rather good piece about its impact on him in this week’s New York Times Magazine.
For me, the war sort of flattened things out, flattened things out here and flattened them out there too. Toward the end, when I was still there, so many bombs had gone off so many times that they no longer shocked or even roused; the people screamed in silence and in slow motion. And then I got back to the world, and the weddings and the picnics were the same as everything had been in Iraq, silent and slow and heavy and dead.
In an ultra-brief profile of the Red Bucket Films collective, I found these sentences:
Red Bucket’s films are both clever and sweet. “I think I’m obsessed with little sadnesses,” Lisenco says. “I think that’s why I get along with Josh so well… . He’s obsessed with minute happinesses.”
Little sadnesses is a great line. And minute happinesses is a good one. This sampling of their films is good too.
I just read two profiles. Neither was interesting enough to merit it’s own post, but the combination seemed to just pass the bar. The two:
- Dr. Doom. Depending on who you ask Nouriel Roubini is either a lucky pessimist or prescient thinker. There is, however, no doubt that he predicted America’s current economic turmoil in 2006.
- Hit Man. Jerry Corsi, author of the bestselling “Obama’s a Muslim drug addict” book, gets a brief but interesting profile in the New Yorker.
Making time to do things that I usually “don’t have time for” was a good idea. For example, Paul Tough’s (rather long) story for the New York Times Magazine about the challenge and hope for New Orleans schools is good. The most striking paragraph in a primarily optimistic article:
Pastorek’s optimism and determination can be inspiring, but he admits that for now, at least, there’s no proof that a portfolio model will do a significantly better job educating poor children than a command-and-control model. When I spoke last month to Diane Ravitch, a historian of education who has spent decades studying and writing about the often dispiriting process of school reform, she said that she was skeptical that a change in the governance model would solve the problems plaguing New Orleans’s schools. “The fundamental issue in American education — I say this after 40 years of having read and studied and written about the problems — is one that is demographic,” she told me. Poor children, Ravitch said, simply face too many problems outside the classroom. “If you don’t buttress whatever happens in school with social and economic changes that give kids a better chance in life and put their families on a more stable footing, then schools alone are not going to solve the problems of poor student performance. There has to be a range of social and economic strategies to support and enhance whatever happens in school.”
I enjoyed Hilary De Vries brief story of her visit to her childhood home.
Annie Murphy Paul’s story on the discipline of ministering to morbidly obese pregnant women drives home how overweight this country is.
The challenges of caring for these patients begin early. “We perform an anatomical survey of the fetus, but in an extremely obese woman, the ultrasound signal often can’t penetrate through all the tissue,” Chames says. He must use a vaginal probe instead. A thorough examination is especially important in obese women, Chames said, because they are at greater risk of having babies with neural-tube defects and other malformations.
Birth brings more difficulties. The fetuses of obese women are often too large to fit through the birth canal; their mothers are about twice as likely as normal-weight women to need a Caesarean section. Longer surgical instruments are required, as are extra-wide operating-room tables, reinforced to support hundreds of additional pounds.
In this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, Rob Walker highlights this interesting business:
Sometimes, it takes a minute for visitors to the Destee Nation Shirt Company in Seattle to understand the common theme linking the wide array of T-shirts on sale. Many have a vintage look and seem to advertise businesses from a bygone era, or to offer made-up riffs on such advertisements — a faux faded logo for Blue Moon Burgers, the dubious-sounding Tractor Tavern and so on. But each has a tag attached, giving the story of each business, as well as its address. “Then it hits them,” says Matt Morgan, the founder of Destee Nation. “These places are all real.”
One problem with building new cities where nothing was: architects have no idea how to design buildings.
In Dubai, for instance, what might once have been the product of 100 years of urban growth has been compressed into a decade or so. Given such seismic shifts, even the most talented architects can seem to flounder for new models. No one wants to return to the deadly homogeneity associated with Modernism’s tabula rasa planning strategies.
Kenji Yoshino offers an interesting idea — straights getting only as close to “marriage” as gays are allowed — though I wonder what good it would actually do. (Anyone who would think to do this probably already favors gay marriage.)
The Temporary Domestic Partnership Strategy asks straights to cross over, in a limited way, from sympathy (pity for the plight of others) to empathy (direct experience of that plight). It seems plausible that if a straight couple experienced a temporary domestic partnership even briefly, they would have a more visceral sense of why gays need the right to marry. For instance, straight couples will find that no contractual arrangement can give them rights against the federal government (which would refuse to issue either partner a green card). Moreover, these couples would experience the importance of the word “marriage” when confronted with the question of their marital status in the myriad places that question is posed.
Perhaps it’s coincidence, but one wouldn’t have to squint very hard to think that the New York Times is waging a publicity campaign against Oprah in favor of Ms. Banks. Earlier this week they reported Oprah’s decline, and now they’ve made Trya Banks the Magazine’s cover girl.
Daniel Bergner’s profile of Shurvon Phillip, a man struggling against his body since he sustained a brain injury in Iraq, is a sometimes difficult read. The conclusion:
And sometimes impossible to overcome, too, was the idea that Shurvon’s life might not be worth living; that I, in his place, would rather stop breathing, cease thinking, that I would prefer to die.
Whenever this idea took hold, I recalled a medical ethicist at R.I.C. telling me about studies showing that doctors and nurses tend to rate the quality of life of severely impaired patients to be far lower than the patients do themselves. The ethicist had spoken, then, about the ways that a life acquires meaning. And I thought about Malik scrambling onto Shurvon’s bed to show him pictures, and about Malik and Kyla curled and comforted on the floor below him. I thought, too, about a kind of exercise that Shurvon’s family discovered recently by chance and that Gail described: with Shurvon sitting in a wheelchair in the driveway, his nieces and nephews tossed inflatable beach balls, one pink and another blue, softly toward him, and he tried to move his arms to bat them back. “They were cheering like at a baseball game,” Gail said, remembering the first time the children did this. “ ‘Yeah! Go on Ya-Ya!’ ” Beach balls and high voices of excitement floated in the air around him.
Last weekend’s New York Times Magazine had rather interesting story about the reemergence of one man bands. What makes them different from other solo artists?
“The era of solo performers — singer-songwriters and all that — is pretty much done. There aren’t any new solo performers out there that are interesting; now it’s all this assisted-performance type of thing.” When I asked him to clarify the difference between a solo performer and the music he made, Pallett was quick to oblige. “With a solo performer, what matters is the material — in the sense of the written song, the lyrics and so on — and the songwriter’s charisma; it’s about the personality that comes through in the music. There’s no technical aspect involved: nothing too difficult is attempted.” He gave a mock sigh of despair. “For better or for worse, there’s difficulty in a lot of what I do.”
Also, if you’re interested in challenging your opinion of that magazine, consider reading this diary of a girl you’ve never heard about (unless you’re big into the Gawker scene).
There’s a lot of interesting stuff in Michael Sokolove’s few-week-old piece, but this statistic is certainly the most jarring:
If girls and young women ruptured their A.C.L.’s at just twice the rate of boys and young men, it would be notable. Three times the rate would be astounding. But some researchers believe that in sports that both sexes play, and with similar rules — soccer, basketball, volleyball — female athletes rupture their A.C.L.’s at rates as high as five times that of males.
Rob Walker has an interesting, if sometimes shallow-feeling, exploration of the increasingly common practice of reviving old brand names that people remember faintly. It an interesting look at psychology and the logic of branding.
Too many such deals, or the wrong kinds, can boomerang: this happens with some regularity in the fashion world, when a famous designer name gets spread over so many products, with so little regard to quality, that the entire image of the brand sinks. Still, if you see a ladder made by Stanley, you may well think, Well, there’s a name I can trust. What you’re trusting, though, isn’t Stanley workers in Stanley factories upholding Stanley traditions and values under the watchful eye of Stanley managers. What you’re trusting is Stanley’s recognition that a badly made ladder with the Stanley name on it could be highly damaging to the Stanley brand. You are trusting Stanley’s recognition of the value of its brand and its competence in defending that value.
Matt Bai has an artful examination of John McCain’s evolving view of American foreign policy in the forthcoming New York Times Magazine. His basic conclusion:
Undaunted, McCain soldiers on toward November and what could be his final campaign. When he ran in 2000, his philosophy of national greatness — the importance, as he always puts it, of “serving a cause greater than one’s self” — found its expression in ideas like national service and campaign reform, proposals that independents and even many liberals could embrace. For a time then, McCain, adrift within his own party, was almost certainly the most popular politician in America. This time, his theme of selflessness is bound up, irrevocably, with Bush’s unpopular war. Democrats, alarmed over their own disunity, can hardly wait to start pummeling McCain with Iraq. While I was working on this article, the Center for American Progress, the left’s leading policy center in Washington, took the liberty of sending over a 10-page litany of McCain’s selected comments on Iraq since 2002, delineated by helpful subheadings like “The War Begins — Rosy Outlook” and “The Critical Time Is Always Right Around the Corner.”
Also of note (and from the Times Magazine, tangentially related to Vietnam): an interesting/troubling examination of the charges of conspiracy the US is bringing against Hmong leader — and former US ally — Vang Pao.
Alex Kotlowitz has a fascinating article in today’s New York Times Magazine about CeaseFire, a group that hires “violence interrupers” to stop one spat of violence leading to others. A converted doubter:
“My eyes rolled immediately when I heard what the model was,” says Webster of Johns Hopkins, who is studying the Baltimore project. Webster knew the forces the interrupters were up against and considered it wishful thinking that they could effectively mediate disputes. “But when I looked closer at the data,” Webster continues, “and got to know more about who these people were and what they were doing, I became far less skeptical and more hopeful. We’re going to learn from it. And it will evolve.” George Kelling, a Rutgers professor of criminal justice who is helping to establish an effort in Newark to reduce homicide, helped develop the “broken window” theory of fighting crime: addressing small issues quickly. He says a public-health model will be fully effective only if coupled with other efforts, including more creative policing and efforts to get gang members back to school or to work. But he sees promise in the CeaseFire model. “I had to overcome resistance,” Kelling told me, referring to the introduction of a similar program in Newark. “But I think Slutkin’s on to something.”
About Our Parents
Two bits caught my eye recently, both expressing the complicated and often conflicted relationship we have with our parents.
- For McSweeney’s, Jen Statsky made a mostly-playful list of “Conversations My Parents Must Have Had While Planning to Raise a Child.”
- For the New York Times Magazine, Bob Morris explained his complete failure to try to convert his 82-year-old father to city living.
Benoit Denizet-Lewis’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine isn’t earth-shattering and it isn’t a sociological examination of gay marriage, but it’s certainly interesting enough recommend. A sample:
“The expectation for many years was that if you did any dating in your 20s, they were essentially ‘practice relationships’ where you did what heterosexual kids get to do in junior high, high school and college,” says Jeffrey Chernin, a Los Angeles psychotherapist and the author of “Get Closer: A Gay Men’s Guide to Intimacy and Relationships.” “But for many gay men, your 20s were about meeting a lot of different people, going out to bars with your friends and having a lot of sex. That has long been considered a rite of passage in the gay community.”
But young gay men today are coming of age in a different time from the baby-boom generation of gays and lesbians who fashioned modern gay culture in this country — or even from me, a gay man in his early 30s. While being a gay teenager today can still be difficult and potentially dangerous (particularly for those who live in noncosmopolitan areas or are considered effeminate), gay teenagers are coming out earlier and are increasingly able to experience their gay adolescence. That, in turn, has made them more likely to feel normal. Many young gay men don’t see themselves as all that different from their heterosexual peers, and many profess to want what they’ve long seen espoused by mainstream American culture: a long-term relationship and the chance to start a family.