The New Yorker: June 24, 2013

26 Jun

I don’t have any pithy intro comments this week. Right into it.

I’m starting to sound like a broken record. Fine illustration, but does it have to be so current-eventsy? I dislike covers like this that are essentially political cartoons. There are way too many of them.

The highlight of Goings On was the reproduction of an Ian Teh photograph being exhibited in New York somewhere. Quarry and Temple, Bayin, Gansu, China. I’ll be on the lookout for more from Mr. Teh. Probably not up to this standard, but it reminds me a little bit of Charles Sheeler’s famous series of photos of the River Rouge Ford plant. I saw an exhibition of those in Chicago some years ago. Incredible.

Ian Teh

Ian Teh

Charles Sheeler

Charles Sheeler

The other noteworthy item was the ad for Mad Men. Cool colored pencil drawing of multiple Don Drapers. I liked that.

Kind of a boring Talk. Saved by the last piece about a new font on street signs. I love fonts. I wish I knew more about them. There’s a fun online kerning test everyone should take.* I took it once and got like a 91/100. Sometimes I wish I were a graphic designer.

*I realize many people will not find it fun.

Jill Lepore’s piece about privacy/secrecy was interesting. It felt kind of incomplete–almost like the start of a larger essay that was rushed into the magazine because of current events. A little too academic for me to have any informed critiques.

Jerome Groopman, good as usual, on Alzheimer’s disease. TNY’s medical journalism is consistently the best out there. A drug named solanezumab is discussed. This is kind of a disorienting name. It would sound just as much like a pharmaceutical if spelled backwards: bamuzenalos.

I have some notes on copy editing. Everyone likes talking about copy editing, right? A couple brief excerpts:


So, epsilon gets written out in Greek but beta is spelled out in English. I wonder how those decisions get made. From my recollection, Greek letters are more likely to be used throughout in medical literature than they are in general-interest publications. Is there general standard? Does TNY have their own standard? Is it a case-by-case basis?



Notice the wide disparity in acronyms. This is something I’ve noticed for some time. The small type is reserved for those acronyms that are pronounced as a word, like PET and AIDS. That makes sense. What I don’t get is the differing treatment of periods. MRI has no periods. H.I.V. does. Most other acronyms also have periods. Knowing TNY, there’s a well-thought-out reasoning, but I’ve tried and failed to think what it might be.

Ryan Lizza’s political reporting is good. I hate reading about politics. It makes me angry and I try to avoid it as much as I can. Mr. Lizza does a good job of telling stories about the processes and people involved without delving too much into the stupid petty arguing that defines so much of political discourse. Plus you come out of it with an actual understanding of the thing he’s talking about, in this case, the drafting of the immigration reform bill.

I normally like Larissa MacFarquhar, despite the fact that I don’t quite know how to pronounce her last name. Her profile this week fell flat for me. It’s about a Japanese Buddhist priest working in suicide prevention. She tried to go for a kind of overview of Japanese suicide culture and talk about this guy, but there just wasn’t enough space for that. She didn’t get a really full picture of the guy, and barely touched on the larger issues involved. She also reproduced several emails about suicide from people reaching out to the priest in question. Maybe this is callous, but they just sounded kind of banal to me. None of them had anything unexpected or out-of-the-ordinary to say; only the typical things you’d expect from the depressed and families of the depressed. I don’t think they added anything to the piece. I think this needed to be either doubled in length and overhauled or scrapped entirely.

Pretty standard TNY short story from Thomas McGuane. I enjoyed it, but nothing memorable, really.

I just found out this week that Sasha Frere-Jones is a man. Sasha is one of those terrible names that went from being a male name to a unisex name to a female name. A really regrettable situation. It’s like Americans don’t even know or care about proper use of Russian diminutives. Anyway, he had a review of the new Kanye West album. I listened to it. Mr. West is an increasingly tiresome celebrity. I don’t know how I feel about the album yet, other than that I think he’s grown as a producer much more than as a lyricist in the last ten years. He has a lot of big ideas but he usually can’t quite express them in a compelling way and sometimes he sounds like a moron. (as in the already-infamous “eating Asian pussy, all I need is sweet-and-sour sauce” line. Christ, is he twelve years old?)

Malcolm Gladwell’s book review was a bit of a departure from his normal style. (Someone somewhere called his schtick the “faux-naïf”. Ha. I wish I could remember who it was.) This guy Hirschman sounds interesting, but I think the whole review could have gotten all the important points across in a Briefly Noted blurb. Most of Mr. Gladwell’s writing would work better as a blurb, when you think about it. That is his curse.

I wish the Superman piece had been longer. That’s a very interesting topic. I got the impression that there’s a lot there to unpack. This barely scratched the surface.

I liked the popcorn one on page 42 and the despotism one on page 60.

Caption contest entry
“I told you radar guns were complicated.”

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