The New Yorker: July 29, 2013

31 Jul

Cover
My favorite kind of cover. An interesting drawing. If there’s a current-events meaning, it went totally over my head. I liked the way the trees are framed (in a window?). Good play between foreground and background.

The address label was in a distracting place. My understanding is that the magazine used to be shipped in a paper bag so that the cover stayed pristine. That’s probably cost prohibitive now. And bad for trees I guess. What they do now is put the label on not with glue but with that like rubbery adhesive strip stuff. That’s a bad description. It’s everywhere now. The idea is that you can peel it off and have your pretty cover. Except the adhesive leaves two like grease strips on the paper when you pull it off that are usually quite visible. Not much better. They could at least put the label on the back. Why doesn’t every magazine do this? Is the back cover ad space so valuable that they can’t carve out a 1”x3” box for the label?

Front
There was a good and out-of-place illustration of Blue Jasmine in Goings On. The movie’s reviewed in the back, not blurbed in the front. The picture isn’t even on the movies page. I assume the editors commission an illustration for every movie they review and then pick the one they like the best for the back? Its probably more likely that the illustration selection is based on the review that gets the most words. That was Fruitvale Station this week. Kind of a boring picture for that one.

Interesting Comment by Jelani Cobb about the NRA and black people. Mr. Cobb makes note of an NRA ad featuring a black guy pointing out how black people should love gun rights. That was kind of funny to me. Here’s my idea of the best possible anti-gun ad targeting NRA members: We see a young black man with a gun wearing baggy clothes. He looks at the camera and says something like “I own a gun. If I feel threatened by you I won’t hesitate to shoot you.” I wonder how many white gun nuts would be terrified of that ad.

Good piece by James Surowiecki on Barnes & Noble. B&N loses a lot of money selling e-readers and makes a lot of money selling actual books. Mr. Surowiecki has some thoughts about that. Here–quickly–are mine. I don’t think books will become obsolete like CDs. E-books have real limitations that technology enthusiasts like to pretend don’t exist. You can’t annotate an e-book. You can’t page through an e-book. You can’t “own” an e-book in any meaningful way. You can’t loan an e-book to a friend. You can’t give an individual e-book as a gift. (I guess you can. Giving a digital file seems so impersonal and lame. If you’re going to give a digital file, why not just give a giftcard?) You can’t inscribe an e-book. You can’t have an author sign an e-book. I could go on. I like reading books and I read a lot of them. I have no desire to buy an e-reader.

Middle
Patricia Marx on brain exercise was interesting. It mostly made me worry about my own brain deteriorating. According to Ms. Marx, it’s already happening. Realizing you’re on way down instead of the way up is no fun.

John Hodgman! Shouts & Murmurs! I like Mr. Hodgman. His This American Life stories are some of my favorites. Here’s his best one. He has another about the Mall of America that I like. Oh, and of course Cuervo Man. Check out the full archive.

I’ve repeatedly heaped praise on TNY’s medical reporting. An OK piece by Atul Gawande this week. A little Gladwelly for my taste. A lot of good information. It would have worked better as a straight report instead of using that stupid artificial “Look at these two things. Isn’t it odd that they are so similar/different?” framing device that has become the scourge of magazine writing.

I loved Bill Buford’s thing about cooking with Daniel Boulud. I don’t know how to categorize it. Kind of in between TNY genres. The pictures really added to it. The big duck press with the huge wheel on the top? Great. Some crazy stuff in fancy restaurants. Using roasted bird heads as a garnish, for example.

Fiction
I don’t know if this one was especially noteworthy.

Back
Emily Nussbaum is TNY’s TV critic. I read her less than I should. I frequently avoid reading her stuff to avoid spoilers. Even if she’s not trying to put them in. I’m the same way with movies, but I see the movies I want to see pretty promptly. I don’t watch TV shows like that. So I don’t want to read anyone’s thoughts on the new season of Mad Men, for example. I guess that’s the price I pay for not having cable.

That was a good preface. Main point: this week Ms. Nussbaum had an essay not about current TV that I really enjoyed. It was about how Sex and the City hasn’t been able to sustain its once-stellar reputation as an excellent TV show. I’ve hardly seen any of the show, so I don’t have any real comment on the merit, but it’s an interesting thing to think about. The Sopranos is the great measuring stick for every TV writer now. I don’t get that. I think The Sopranos is wildly overrated. For most of its run it HBO’s third-best show. Six Feet Under and The Wire are better. I don’t really think The Sopranos is close. Sorry. This got off-topic.

David Denby wrote a serviceable review of Fruitvale Station. He managed not to say much beyond summary. Probably for the best. I haven’t seen Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine yet so I only skimmed through that review. I did catch a reference to the movie being set in the milieu of “low-rent San Francisco”. I wonder if it’s Mr. Denby or Mr. Allen who hasn’t figured out that there aren’t any “low-rent” parts of San Francisco anymore. I guess I’ll find out when the movie opens here.

Cartoons
I liked the Edward Steed camouflage one on page 45. I like his drawing style.

Caption contest entry
“It’s all in your head. It’s all in your head. Dead fish can’t talk”

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