Ffortsa tries to catch up

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Ffortsa tries to catch up

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Muokkaaja: elokuu 28, 2011, 4:05 pm

I spent some time this week catching up on my New Yorker collection. Some finds:

September 11, 2006

First, an amazing double cover, showing first, a tightrope walker walking on an otherwise blank page, and on the next page, the same image suspended over the footprints of the towers and the landscape of NY. The 10th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center is coming up –I wonder what the New Yorker will do for that week.

Most of the articles were related to Al Qaeda, but I only read the first one, about Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl, an early defector from Al Qaeda who supplied much of our understanding of the group. The article was more about the personalities involved, and the necessary witness protection and babysitting for al-Fadl and his family. He was (and perhaps still is) a pain in the neck to those who are protecting him, but witness protection is a difficult life adjustment, and his wife had an even harder time than he had.

The FBI and CIA people involved with his debriefing are firm in their stand against the kinds of torture described later in our search for information. They never had to do any of those things with al-Fadl – but that may also have been because al-Fadl is a showboat, and loves to talk, and his interrogators had tremendous patience.
Caleb Crain provides an essay on the Mass Observation Movement, started in England in 1937 by Charles Madge (a poet), Humphrey Jennings (a surrealist painter and documentary filmmaker), and Tom Harrisson, described as a ‘renegade anthropologist more at home with cannibals than with academics’. They succeeded in enlisting hundreds of people to file daily reports, in tremendous detail, about what they observed in daily life, so that the researchers could formulate what they called an ‘anthropology of ourselves’, which meant not the upper classes but the working class.

Their admittedly unscientific reporting led to government contracts to evaluate whether the war posters were as encouraging as intended (they were not, for interesting grammatical reasons). Some of their work factored into Keynes’s view of practical economics and tax withholding to pay for World War II. Eventually, of course, the movement became a market research firm. But the personalities involved in the progress of this effort, which seems to me so classically British, are very interesting.

And although I rarely read the fiction, I did read ‘Black Ice’ by Cate Kennedy, an Australian writer. Among other things it focuses on the disconnect between supposedly sophisticated city people and the local populate, and how each sees the landscape and nature around them. It was timely, in that it reminded me of the environment, social and otherwise, in The Tenderness of Wolves, which I’ve just finished.

September 18, 2006

I found two interesting essays in this issue, one by John Cassidy on the science of neuroeconomics, and how the activity we can now see in brain scans can explain loss aversion, for instance. It has relevance to things like 401K participation, but of more interest to me, it focuses on the different decision systems we seem to have, one impulsive and emotional, the other logical and forward-looking. Economics is full of this stuff these days, of course, in books like Freakonomics and The Underground Economist, where human behavior is fed back into the economic model. What a thought.

The other, by Ian Buruma, deliberates over Gunter Grass’s memoir in which he admits to being in the Waffen SS in World War II. It is a thoughtful look at a man whose own participation in the war can be seen as undercutting the devastating writing he has done against it.

But the prize this issue was a story by Miranda July, the new darling of the independent film landscape. Normally I wouldn’t have read the story, but the timing was fortuitous again, as I’d just read a New York Times Magazine article on her. The story is ‘Something That Needs Nothing’, with a young lesbian protagonist who is enamored of a girl who turns out to be something of a prize manipulator. They are determined to be independent, but with no money that turns out to be a more grown-up problem than they had thought it would be. I liked having some evidence of July’s creative view. Maybe I’ll even see her new movie.

Septmember 25, 2006

The Style issue, and hence not really of interest to me. But there was an article on the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, its new building and the efforts and effects of its new director, Glenn Lowry. Interesting for people who were familiar with the museum before and after the reconstruction, I’m sure.

I may hold on to this issue for a little while, as there’s a short story by the late Henry Roth in it.

October 2, 2006

There’s nothing like a New Yorker at 2:30AM when your excessive wine at dinner kicks in and wakes you up. This issue did admirably, with a review of two critiques of string theory that explained why it might all be hooey. There were also several pans (‘All the King’s Men’, Thirteen Moons), and several raves (Michael Cumpsty in Richard II), which I missed that year, and ‘The Last King of Scotland’, which I saw.

So I’m on to October 9th, very satisfied that I’m less than 5 years behind at last.

elokuu 31, 2011, 1:58 pm

There’s nothing like a New Yorker at 2:30AM when your excessive wine at dinner kicks in and wakes you up.

Heh. I have a similar reaction to wine, and a similar method of coping with the insomnia. I'm hesitant to read books that I care about in this state. (Not sure I could deal with string theory either.)

This will be interesting, going back 5 years. I've subscribed to the NYer for longer, but reading has always been sporadic.

elokuu 31, 2011, 2:06 pm

I'm hopeless about it, and all my friends laugh and roll their eyes when I talk about the gem I found from an ancient issue. That's ok. I'm having fun.

Speaking of which, I'm about a quarter through Wuthering Heights, which we are discussing in one of my f2f groups on Tuesday. I had groaned when the group selected this, but after 40 years or more, I must say it's a rollicking read, the epitome and model of all those dark-and-stormy-night-on-the-moors romances. As I recall, it tails off in the second half, but so far, yummy.

syyskuu 1, 2011, 8:45 am

I remember the loss aversion article -- and the stuff about Grass -- that is I remember the info but not where I read it!

There is a September thread up and running if you'd like to post there: here .

lokakuu 27, 2011, 1:44 pm

I just read through the October thread - that's October 2011, where August 2011 is discussed at length. Ha. When I get there, I'll have good guidance!

Where I am is December 2006, or really, no longer in December 2006, as I'm done (I think). Some interesting stuff of course

December 4 - an article on Bob Fass, who I'd never heard of. Evidently he's a pioneer of counterculteral radio, with a show on WBAI called 'Radio Unnameable' which he composed without scripts or playlists, with lots of call-ins who sometimes talked to each other, and guests that people recommended to him - a young Bob Dylan doing comic monologues, for instance! BAI was always a strange radio station, and may still be (haven't listened in a long time), but this article took me to the time when everything was being reinvented and there was room for anarchy and discovery.

Also in this issue - nice counterpoint - an article on the career of Lou Dobbs. One great line "Dobbs, who lives on a three hundred acre farm in a prosperous part of New Jersey, admires his own capacity for compassion and self-effacement'. The article goes on to chronicle his tempestuous relationship with , CNN and his move from business reporting to roaring populism. Just skimming it makes me want to read it again.

There's also an article on the rise of Bratz dolls. Not really my interest, but the corporate fighting was good reporting.

December 11 - an article on Jasper Johns by Calvin Tompkins lets me in a little to the secre
t of the painter. I'm not sure I can connect with his work, but he definitely can, and the portrait is engrossing.

December 18 - an odd autobiographical essay by Tad Friend on growing up with a mother who didn't like children, but loved houses and decor and society. As I said, an odd essay of reconciliation.

December 25/January 1 - I've read the Julian Barnes memoir about his grandparents and parents. Not that interesting. I may go back and read the Orhan Pamuk essay, which is, I think, marked as his Nobel Prize speech. I generally don't read the fiction in the fiction issue. So often it's just sections of larger works, and I prefer my fiction whole.

That's the year - finally. On to 2007 - and I am looking at the current issues from time to time, before they go on the inevitable pile!

lokakuu 27, 2011, 1:48 pm

Congrats on finishing 2006!

marraskuu 1, 2011, 8:24 pm

Congrats from me too!