May 2012 New Yorker Reading
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- 'Gusher' - about the PAC power/corporate environment of ExxonMobil. Well? The basic point was the little dance of an election year I guess. The little dance of appearing to care. Of appearing to be responsive. A good deal about how Obama too has danced around the issues by supporting both drilling and alternatives, although i can't quite grasp the harm in that. It's hardly an 'either/or' situation. I can envision, though, a future where the developed countries retain their huge advantage by not being as dependent on petrochemicals.
-Germans, Karl May, and the Wild West. I enjoyed this piece, felt I learned something about Germans - I'm aware of May but not on the hold he has on the German imagination.
-skipped Macau and gambling.
-Also skipped Marlins
-The story was all right. Lethem is a solid and safe writer - the character in his story, on the fringes of a dirtier grittier world - made me think of Lethem himself and his choices as a writer.....
-Gopnick on Camus was very very good.
-The Dobyns poem was good too.
I've been ambivalent about NYer lately. Occupying time that could be dedicated to the overflowing piles of books. But, I pick up the magazines at odd moments when I don't have the energy for sustained reading or retention.
And they do work so well in certain situations - plane rides, those in-between moments. I think I didn't have many of those this last month.....
I suppose I should post April in April and so on.... I couldn't make up my mind!
I'm sometimes ambivalent when I realize I want to read every article...... and this was such an issue. A good one.
-Couch-surfing. I tried to imagine myself doing this. Hmmm. I could have LTers and people who play Irish Music but I don't think I could go beyond that.
-Russian cuisine. I read this quickly. Too much cabbage.
-More on the Titanic. Jack Thayer is a medium distant cousin. The last paragraph, I had no idea that someone wrote a chillingly prescient book 14 years earlier. That was the fact that wowed me!
-Mecca. Utterly fascinating. Also depressing (wrecking the old city) Also inevitable (so many people have to be accommodated somehow)
-Porec and the Brits. I read this quickly, more or less horrified.
-"Transatlantic" Colum McCann. Lovely.
-glanced at the rest, but stopped to read Nathan Heller on How to be alone - I've been married/living with for over 30 years, so I suspect sometimes I'm like the cow I saw the other day desperately nibbling at the beautiful looking grass on the other side of the fence. I'm happy with my gang, but sometimes......... It is interesting, though, this trend. It made me think about what LT does for me -- I have a community here of people who actually are interested in what I am interested in. In RL I spend an incredible amount of time being politely bored to death. There, I said it!
I had hopes of finishing up with April today (Sunday) but that looks quite unlikely now, especially as the next issue also looks loaded.
-Groopman on the latest Cancer research - 'The T-cell Army' - fascinating and hopeful avenue of research.
-eyes slid through the Lahr...
-Gun legislation. An examination of how 'American' identity has become very wound up by the 2nd amendment - which has by a convoluted journey morphed from the right to bear arms in defense/against an unfair government to the right to bear a firearm in defense/protection of yourself as an individual. (The writer correctly leaves the issue of guns and hunting aside - because that isn't really the issue.)
-Alison Bechdel - the author of "Dykes to Watch Out For' a comic strip I loved. I had no idea but she lives up the road from one of my best friends, essentially lives in my neighborhood. Wonders never cease.
-Miss Lora, Junot Diaz, story - I never got into it.
-books - politics of inequality. I wanted to be interested in this, but I couldn't absorb it....
And that's all she wrote.
Puff puff, almost at the top of the April Hill, one more to go.
-Egyptian radicals.... skimmed
-skipped S&M after a glance. Why is this never funny anymore??
-Raw food. I had a friend who was seriously into this. My grandparents used to have people 'steal' milk from their back kitchen, so I guess they were raw milk faddists? I loved that milk, I have to admit - it had a lot of flavor 'regular' milk doesn't. And the butter made out of that milk that went into the pies or potatoes or whatever was out of this world. Pasteurization can no doubt be wildly improved upon. You could have designer milk, cows fed on this or that, and their milk would truly have different flavors. Get to work gastronomic scientists!!!!
-Stanford - a very unfocussed article that wandered from describing Stanford's close relationships with Silicon Valley, to the President of Stanford and HIS wealth, to the flirtation with being the ones to set up a University that was mostly in cyper-space on Roosevelt Island (near Manhattan for those of you from elsewhere) a Silicon East, and then wandered off into speculation about how cyberworld is going to change how people are educated - just as it is transforming publishing, etc. Main point being -- is personal contact a crucial piece of inventing new stuff......
-Hindu temple with 20 billions of treasure hidden in vault A, vault B still locked tight...... Sort of made me feel sad.
-Story 'Hand on the Shoulder' by Ian McEwan - well, it was an interesting story, the main question being, did the professor put the shirt in the laundry in order to create the situation, or did he truly forget?? I say the former.
-skimmed the remainder....... DONE!
Onward to May -- of which only 2 issues have piled up so far.
I've read May 7. Maybe someday I'll write something. Seriously immersed in yard reconfiguration and gardening...
* David Kushner re George Hotz and hacking: A blend of appealing technical talent and disquieting amorality.
* Peter Schjeldahl re art fairs: Skipped.
* Ariel Levy re boxing: Began but dropped out early.
* Laura Secor re Tehran: Read with interest but promptly forgot details.
* James Wood re Hilary Mantel: Read because Wolf Hall has gotten such rave reviews on LT.
* Briefly Noted: The Impossible State by Victor Cha is of interest.
Skipped fiction, TV, theater, cinema... and so I was unaware of the dog story. I feel the same about some people stories too.
Not much of a report, but I want to get back into the habit.
I'm with you abt. children being harmed - adults I'm less concerned about overall. It depends. I can also sometimes read things that start w/ the accident (or it is just past) and goes from there (with no backtracking). I just won't do 'up to' the accident or rehashing.
I'm back - it was a fairly quick read although I did stop at the end and read some of the reviews.
-Annals of Technology - on hackers - read this with especial interest having just finished the Larsson trilogy. Anonymous, the elite hacker group sounds a lot like the group Lizbeth is part of. Fascinating how every new technology brings in tow new ethical questions and dilemmas.
then I merrily skipped to
-review of Game of Thrones, Nussbaum gets it right.
-quick look at the review of John Irving's new book.
-quick look at the review of 'The Five Year Engagement' - I seem to have missed that in the theatres, but I will await its arrival on N-flix.
Ellen Voigt's poem was moving.
-best cartoon was the one of two women running along together one of them saying to the other: "I'm thinking of letting myself get old."
-Drones - I recommend reading Ian MacDonald's Dervish House if you want to see how one person imagines drones being used commercially - this article's main point is to speculate how drones will be utilized non-militarily. I loved the comment that presently robots are as intelligent as insects, 'and that according to Moore's Law (wazzat???), in seven years they'd have the intelligence of rats.' - Definitely MacDonald's drones are that and even a bit more.
-Sarah Sze. I would certainly go out of my way to see an exhibit. I do sometimes experience a kind of..... bleh feeling reading about the artist darling of the moment.... I find it gross how critics fawn over people, but Sze herself is fine, you understand, I just feel nauseated by the worshipful tone of articles like this one.
-S&M Why is this never funny anymore???
-The Artificial Leaf. I expect Q will explicate this wonderfully, but in order to help myself I'm going to see how I can do describing: I have read it twice and think I more or less' get' it. Step one of photosynthesis, separate hydrogen and oxygen into gases. How? This fellow, Nocera, stumbled (w/help) on a compound of phosphate-cobalt that becomes a catalyst which does the job. - Nocera's goal is not to help out the energy-greedy developed nations so much as the poor of the world - if everyone had a refrigerator sized 'leaf' on their roof they could have enough power to run the lights, a small icebox and other devices. My biggest 'hunh?' with his goals is not that they aren't commendable, they are exactly what they should be, but a weird mindset that this technologoy is 'for' the poor and undeveloped world. Florida is, for example, ripe for this kind of technology and if every household ran some of their stuff off a 'leaf' it would be huge. We are off the grid and use batteries and are HIGHLY aware of what a terribly inefficient system we have. I was also somewhat offended by the use of 'legacy' as a term for ..... what?..... rich people? Leaving aside the fact that there is a class of conscientious people who 'have enough' even if they aren't wildly wealthy who are excited and hopeful and hoping to contribute somehow to helping pave the way to better use of energy are willing to invest money and time and effort in the newfangled technologies - to be guinea pigs, that is. Calling this group 'legacy' people is nasty and particularly ironic as there is a piece toward the end of this issue about usage - you know, garbageman vs. waste technician, that sort of crap.
It was the one creepy note in an otherwise wonderful and exciting piece on some brilliant research.
-Matchmaking in China. I loved this piece, gobbled it up.
-Clayton Christensen - having read a little about decision theory here and there - and books like the one on procrastination I am quite aware of 'disruption' - I love that he uses the steel industry as his example. I know a lot about that industry because my mother's side of the family were in the steel business, in a big way, in fact and the whole enterprise went belly-up. The family fought bitterly in the 50's over whether to splinter into smaller mini-factories or build a huge BOF - and they did the glamor thing and went under in a fairly spectacular way. Dopes. My side of the family voted totally for the minis and were voted down. I think the next big disruption will be schools and education (huge shift will come for on-line studies, esp after the high school level) , commuting vs. working at home, etc. Smart towns should be preparing for their high schools to alter considerably - the whole things will be unrecognizable in twenty-five years. I guarantee it. No more yellow schoolbusses.
-geo-engineering. Geez. SF writers are so wayyyy ahead. I've read all about all these scenarios in many a thrilling page-turner. Esp one set that has the whole methane release nightmare. Time to recall 'The Magician's Nephew.'
-Story - ho hum
-Review of "Language Wars" You know what? People will just go ahead and talk and write howsoever they want to, and that's a fact. The best we can do is keep up as best we can. I find the whole discussion very boring, ultimately. I tried for years to separate 'a' from 'lot' and you know what? Waste of time. 'alot' is simply common usage whether I like it or not.
I knew not a thing about the steel industry. Cool that you have a background.
Language description / prescription would seem, as so many things, not an either / or. Informality (e.g. alot) OK, word confusion or conceptual error less so.
Re geo-engineering, kind of a gap between imagining and getting it to work (or destroying the planet, or whatever).
I think you've liked one S&M in the past year. I skip without a glance.
I mean, here was this boy whose mother's idea of jewelery would be a locket with her childrens' hair in it.... expected to mix socially with a bedazzling and sophisticated crowd of people.
I have a book (not yet read) about a Pennsylvania Quaker in Afghanistan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josiah_Harlan, so I guess those Quakers got around.
* Nick Paumgarten re drones: AeroVironment was founded to solve environmental problems and has become primarily a military contractor. Priorities. The nano hummingbird is both cool and creepy.
* Andrea Scott re sculptor Sarah Sze: This article cries for images. Confess that I perked up with the information that she is married to Siddhartha Mukherjee, art and science together.
* David Owen re artificial leaf: Photosynthesis: water + carbon dioxide => oxygen + carbohydrates. In plants, leaf chemicals plus photons strip electrons from water, breaking it into oxygen and hydrogen nuclei, then discard the oxygen, and combine hydrogen with carbon dioxide to make cellulose and starch. The process is inefficient, converting as little as 1% of the sunlight that hits. What we want is hydrogen. We can get hydrogen from water by electrolysis using a battery, but this merely transfers the energy of the battery, and hydrogen becomes a carrier of existing energy rather than a source of energy. Artificial photosynthesis is more precisely solar powered electrolysis. Water doesn't want to split up, which in general is a good thing, but means that electrolysis requires a catalyst, which for photosynthesis is the leaf. Daniel Nocera experimented successfully with iridium and rhodium as catalysts, but these are rare and expensive. Matthew Kanan tried cobalt, which is in the same column on the periodic table and has similar properties, and is commonly available. It worked, a chemical breakthrough that was also philosophical: iridium and rhodium don't break down when exposed to water and sun and electricity and other chemicals in the process; cobalt does, but then it combines with the phosphate buffer to form a catalyst. The cobalt-phosphate catalyst forms a thin layer that is transparent to sunlight, so it's no longer necessary to connect silicon solar panels with wires. The artificial leaf is silicon coated on one side with the cobalt-phosphate catalyst for oxygen, and on the other side with a nickel catalyst for hydrogen. Light passes through the cobalt-phosphate to the silicon, which produces an electric current, and the two faces become electrodes. The reaction happens even in water that is far from pure. The goal now is low maintenance off-the-grid energy for people who have none, an artificial leaf on the roof that splits water by day and powers the equivalent of 100 watt light bulb through the night. The demo version of the artificial leaf is the size of a playing card, but to provide this minimal level of energy it would have to be the size of a door. (Re "legacy", I was unoffended, but then I live in a standard on-the-grid house in an on-the-grid city. Maybe there's an ideological dismissal of people who could support the cause, but there's also a practical aspect of not trying to be all things to all people. I don't doubt that as soon as an artificial leaf is commercial viable, it will be available to the green conscious and gadget geeks, and develop in other directions.)
* Evan Osnos re online matchmaking in China: In a nation of 1.3 billion people, filtering out is more important than filtering in. A biographical verification system helps. So does running the company. "Gong volunteered to polish his announcement. 'After polishing, I could think of exactly four girls in the world who met those criteria, including me.'"
* Larissa MacFarquhar re Clayton Christensen: Originator of "disruptive technology" theory, now turning to education and health care. Entwined with Mormonism and marriage.
* Michael Specter re geoengineering: Experiments not ready for prime time. And yet prime time is approaching rapidly.
* Joan Acocella re The Language Wars by Henry Hitchings: The prescriptivists vs the descriptivists. The trouble with wars is that people choose sides.
* Briefly Noted: Nothing of interest.
Skipped fiction, music, cinema.
I think I'm just feeling hypersensitive about our off-the-grid system which is really very cumbersome and probably more expensive than it is worth - I'm too aware of the 'guinea pig' factor because we're living it.
I'm here to report that I am finding the article on the current Supreme Court unbelievably depressing and am having a terrible time wading through it, but I feel I must. In the past, it seems as though the Supreme Court has eventually brought out something new and good and even unexpected in people, but I don't expect this to be the case with Roberts.
Re off the grid, was this a practical necessity or a noble effort in energy consciousness or some of both?
I'm halfway through the piece now..... I had to wait for something today, so I had some time to kill, it's painful reading. I get that the pendulum swings back and forth, but I do think these guys are heedlessly opening the door to a lot of corruption and even worse dangers. We're way too smug about our checks and balances. It wouldn't take much to throw the whole thing out of whack. Anyway, I am hating this issue for some reason. Can't wait to be done with it.
Of course those fellows think the same thing I do, only that the danger comes from the opposite direction I think......
-Hessler on being in a line-up
-S&M not funny enough
-Clowning.... I tried to be interested
-Toobin on the Supreme Court. Well, it just makes me feel very nervous and unhappy. I simply am unable to imagine how anyone could equate the desires of corporation to bloviate about itself and pursue its self interests with free speech. It's so disrespectful.
-Maurice Sendak. Sublime.
-Story -- unexpectedly sweet. Not yr. usual NYer fare.
-Diversity. I watch TV years late, so.....
-on Richard Ford. He is just about my top male living US writer so I read anything about him with great interest. I'll be reading the new novel, but I'll probably hoard and gloat over it like Smaug in his cave first.
-on HHhH a novel by Laurent Binet on 'nazi atrocities in Czechoslovakia'. The drift of the review is that the reality is unreal enough.
-both poems were good.
I won't finish May in May, but I've made a strong effort.
I'm decreeing May as done as it's going to get. I'd skipped Richard Ford, name meant nothing to me. What makes him top?
* Peter Hessler re UK police lineup: Pretty much everything I learned about the British legal system came from parades at the St. Aldgates station. An anecdotal portrait. I've liked his writing in other articles, this one too.
* Alec Wilkinson re actor John Douglas Thompson: Read only a page or so.
* Jeffrey Toobin re Citizens United: John Paul Stevens:Five Justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law. Bleak.
* Xan Rice re Kenyan marathoner Samuel Wanjiru: A sad self destruction.
* Mariana Cook re Maurice Sendak: Sweet.
* Briefly Noted: Nothing of interest.
Skipped fiction, TV, theater, cinema.
* Kelefa Sanneh re Arizona immigration politics: More or less following already so nothing struck me as notable.
* Charlayne Hunter-Gault re rape in South Africa: And more specifically, "corrective rape". Appalling.
* David Grann re William Alexander Morgan in Cuba: 25 pages. I should care, and maybe another time I would, but not now.
* Peter Schjeldahl re Barnes Foundation: Read because to move or not to move went round and round when I was living in Philadelphia. So now they've done it.
* Arthur Krystal re guilty pleasure reading: Yes.
* Briefly Noted: Nothing of interest.
Skipped fiction, theater, cinema.
I knew the Barnes project would turn out brilliantly. I'm glad Scheldahl admits he was wrong. Non-Philadelphians really could not appreciate the issues -- the difficulties involved for people of limited means and non-whiteness of hue of going to Overbrook and making their way to the Barnes without wasting huge amounts of time or being hassled etc. It was just too hard.
For me the bottom line was inaccessibility to exactly the people Barnes wanted to reach. Having it the collection where it was also meant to annoy the neighbors - but that was a crass objective of Barnes' and best abandoned.
I found this issue tough going, it took a long time to pound through.
-Border woes. Piece about a Democrat with a fresh viewpoint on the border mess running for the Arizona Senate. I wish him the best.
-woody, sigh, not funny
-'Corrective' rape. Good for Charlayne bringing out this piece. Very hard to read.
-'Maverick' article - this time a very very very (too long????) piece on William Alexander Morgan, an American who was involved in the Cuban overthrow of Batista, then an ally of Castro and then..... Castro, who couldn't share power, had him killed as a spy, which he was not. Some people really do get out there and live amazing lives.
-Lorrie Moore's story. Sad, short, not bad.
-Poetry liked 'The Overhaul' - Kathleen Jamie. Nice.
May is done YAY!
32: It's only a little bit June. Congrats.
I've been absolutely rubbish at reading New Yorkers so far this year. I hope to do better, starting this month.