Archive for 2013

Long Read:
Letter from Istanbul
7 June 2013

Friday, June 7th, 2013

¶ The Web log Fikir Mahsulleri Ofisi generally posts entries in Turkish, but every now and then something really insightful appears in English. Such a one is Alper Yagci’s entry, posted today: “Understanding the Protests in Turkey.” Last week, at our sister site, we had occasion to reflect on the importance of a loyal opposition in any democratic scheme; Yagci’s analysis adds a further dimension to the discussion. The regime of Tayyip Recip Erdoğan has come to be called “majoritarian” — a positive-sounding way of saying that minority views are ignored at best. We see that it is the role of the loyal opposition to counter majoritarian urges in an effective manner. But the regime’s opponents are too fractured to mount an opposition.

The very diversity of the people attending the ongoing protests, although a welcome sign that Turkish people have got better at coexisting in diversity, is also the reason that they are not likely to come together behind a single electoral vehicle. The main opposition party—the secularly-oriented Republican People’s Party (CHP after its Turkish initials) cannot expect to form an alliance with the Kurdish party (Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP after its Turkish initials) without alienating the Turkish nationalists in its own electoral base, and it is also far from doing enough to invite to its ranks the groups currently standing outside somewhere to its left. The creative, youthful, non-violent yet irreverent tactics of the current protests may inspire the party leadership to energize their followers in similar ways and expand their appeal, but this is yet to be seen. The ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on the other hand, stands closer to JDP itself than to any other political organization. And the military, until not long ago a cornerstone of every analysis of Turkish politics, is now non-existent as a political actor, having been decisively sent back to the barracks through a series of political and legal moves by the JDP government over the last decade. This political landscape would mean that the protests are probably not heralding an end to the JDP era in the predictable future, but aspiring to mark the upper limit of the JDP’s power. Erdogan and his party had ridden a wave of almost uninterrupted political triumphs, collecting accolades domestically and internationally for eleven years. Their power seemed to be destined to increase. A cross-class, non-partisan collective of common people have now raised their voice to put a halt to this trend for now.

We have to say that the Taksim Gezi Park crisis has considerably dampened our enthusiasm for President Erdoğan.

Gotham Diary:
No!
5 June 2013

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

¶ They wouldn’t let John Galliano read Keith Richards’s autobiography in rehab; John Crace lists a few titles that might have done the impulse-challenged designer some good. (Our Daily Read)

Charles Simic offers an elegant proof that youth is wasted on youth. (NYRBlog)

Where are the long, lazy summers of my youth when I sat moping from morning till night unable to think of anything interesting to do? I recollect walking up to a mirror and repeating with greater and greater conviction, “Life is boring.” On such days, the old clock barely budged, just to spite me. You fool, I’m thinking today, that was pure bliss.

Who was Rogers and who was Peet? Explained. (Ivy Style)

¶ Why the Museum needs to be bigger: Mondoblogo’s Not on View #2: the Met.

Ted Scheinman explains the “why now?” of James Agee’s Cotton Tenants, a book that we’ll all have read or claim to. (The Awl)

Lydia Kiesling’s hostile reaction to Tao Lin’s Taipei is not your father’s hatchet job. (The Millions)

 

Loose Links:
Desultry
4 June 2013

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

JFK’s favorite fish chowder (we think there’s too much celery) @ A Continuous Lean.

¶ They made them so that Choire Sicha could have a fit: single-pleated chinos. (The Awl)

Roman Empire ruins discovered in Inwood! (Scouting New York)

#occupygezi, a Tumblr from Istanbul. (via kottke.org)

Ta-Nehisi Coates @ Days of Yore.

There was a great degree of failure in my life and I never really… You know, the way I came up, it quickly became clear to me that no person has the right to success. There’s no guarantee to success at all; you may get it or you may not. You can like something and you can be bad at it and you can keep doing it or you can be not great at it and you can keep going or you can be mediocre at it and you can keep doing it. You keep doing it because you like it, just because you like it, for you, it’s yours, it’s private, you own it. Not to please other people, not to impress nobody.

I wasn’t really good at school, I wasn’t an athlete, I wasn’t particularly good with girls, I didn’t have any of that. I wasn’t a social outcast; I had pretty good social skills and was well-liked among my crowd, so I didn’t have the sort of nerd-geek experience. But I did have the experience of not being particularly good at anything measurable as a young child.

And I went through a long period, once I got to writing, of not being very successful but I kept doing it because I liked it.

Keep reading! There’s a lot of juicy stuff about the Village Voice.

Weekend Hard Copy:
Imperial
3 June 2013

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

¶ It’s not easy to take Dmitry Itskov’s 2045 Initiative seriously — not least because we’ll be too old to care by then. (If!) We could not tell from David Segal’s story whether Itskov is thinking about uploading consciousness (shifting the sense of self from a mortal body to something else, without a blink) or simple copying/cloning (in which case “you still die”). But we agree with George Church.

“I have a rule against saying something is impossible unless it violates laws of physics,” Professor Church says, adding about Mr. Itskov: “I just think that there’s a lot of dots that aren’t connected in his plans. It’s not a real road map.”

¶ We used to call it the Middle Kingdom, but the characters that denote China signify something much more like “Central Country.” Which certainly seems apt and likely to be apter. Heriberto Araújo and Juan Pablo Cardenal have written a book about China’s pursuit of supremacy, and the Times published a sample in the Sunday Review. If what they have to say about Greenland is true, then the madness of granting tax breaks &c to bring in business development has reached a new depth.

Greenland, a massive resource-rich territory largely controlled by Denmark, is a case in point. Last year, it passed legislation to allow foreign workers into the country who earned salaries below the local legal minimum wage (the minimum wage there is one of the highest in the world). Chinese representatives had made it clear that Chinese state-owned banks and companies would invest in the high-risk, costly exploitation of Greenland’s vast mining resources only if the modification of local regulations would allow the arrival of thousands of low-wage Chinese workers.

The Arctic territory didn’t have too many alternatives. No other country is in a position to become Greenland’s strategic partner for its future development, given the business risks involved in the Arctic region and the scale of the investment needed in a territory bigger than Mexico but without a single highway. An American oil company couldn’t have handled the task alone. The Chinese state capitalist system, by contrast, allows multiple state-owned companies to work together, making it possible for the China National Petroleum Corporation, for instance, to extract oil while China Railway builds basic infrastructure.

Greenland’s leaders accepted China’s terms because they likely believed these costly projects might never go ahead if the Chinese didn’t get involved; only China has the money, the demand, the experience and the political will to proceed. Moreover, there are not enough skilled workers in Greenland for such projects, so the Greenlandic government made an exception to the law, allowing Chinese laborers to earn less than minimum wage figuring that local residents would benefit from new infrastructure and royalties.

Loose Links:
Mixed Grill
31 May 2013

Friday, May 31st, 2013

¶ “Keep Your Eye on Oman,” warns geographer Robert Kaplan. With the development of its Indian Ocean ports, Oman will increase its strategic importance in global trade; it is also ruled by a benevolent despot. Why not take a moment to find it on the map? (RealClearWorld)

Seven things that Bill Morris would ban if he were elected mayor of New York City. (He’s not running.) We’ve thought about forbidding tourists, too — why not recreate Times Square in New Jersey somewhere? (With a subway to the parking lot.) But we wouldn’t dream of taking on dogs. (The Millions)

¶ Also at The Millions, a list of cookbooks to read. We wonder where Hannah Gersen got her copy of Venus in the Kitchen.

¶ At Eton College, an essay question about what a prime minister ought to do to quell anarchy in 2040 is not so hypothetical. More than a third of Britain’s prime ministers have been Old Etonians. (LRB blog)

Scout finds a time machine, in the Bronx no less. (Scouting New York)

 

Hear, hear:
“Knowledge is to information as art is to kitsch”
30 May 2013

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Leon Wieseltier at Brandeis:

Do not believe the rumors of the obsolescence of your path. If Proust was a neuroscientist, then you have no urgent need of neuroscience, because you have Proust. If Jane Austen was a game theorist, then you have no reason to defect to game theory, because you have Austen. There is no greater bulwark against the twittering acceleration of American consciousness than the encounter with a work of art, and the experience of a text or an image. You are the representatives, the saving remnants, of that encounter and that experience, and of the serious study of that encounter and that experience – which is to say, you are the counterculture. Perhaps culture is now the counterculture.

(via The Millions)

In The New Yorker:
Must Reads
23 May 2013

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

(But you’ll have to buy a copy or subscribe to the online edition.)

¶ The first must-read is really a can’t-help-reading: Tad Friend’s “Crowded House.” Words fail, because Friend has used all the good ones, and embedded them in such rich contexts that any attempt to excerpt the funny bits would be perverse. That crack about the extradition treaty, though — my hoots must have been heard down the hall. People will be talking about the piece for years, I expect: if you would hand over a substantial sum of money (four figures) to someone like Michael Tammaro, then the Big Apple is probably an unhealthy environment for you.

¶ Much less fun, but just as well written, George Packer’s look at the political awakening of Silicon Valley, “Change the World” is pregnant with significance. To my ancient eyes, one passage stood out with such synecdochal clarity that I will let it stand for the whole. Again, however, the context is rich, so I have to copy out the preceding paragraph as well.

A favorite word in tech circles is “frictionless.” It captures the pleasures of an app so beautifully designed that using it is intuitive, and it evokes a fantasy in which all inefficiencies, annoyances, and grievances have been smoothed out of existence — that is, an apolitical world. Dave Morin, who worked at Apple and Facebook, is the founder of a company called Path — a social network limited to one’s fifty closest friends. In his office, which has a panoramic view of south San Francisco, he said that one of his company’s goals is to make technology increasingly seamless with real life. He described San Francisco as a place where people already live in the future. They can hang out with their friends even when they’re alone. They inhabit a “sharing economy”: they can book a weeklong stay in a cool apartment through Airbnb, which has disrupted the hotel industry, or hire a luxury car anywhere in the city through the mobile app Uber, which has disrupted the taxi industry. “San Francisco is a place where we can go downstairs and get in an Uber and go to dinner at a place that I god a restaurant reservation for halfway there,” Morin said. “And, if not, we could go to my place, and on the way there I could order takeout food from my favorite restaurant on Postmates, and a bike messenger will go and pick it up for me. We’ll watch it happen on the phone. These things are crazy ideas.”

It suddenly occurred to me that the hottest tech start-ups are solving all the problems of being twenty years old, with cash on hand, because that’s who thinks them up. [Emphasis supplied.]

The dreamers of Silicon Valley appear to long for a world in which thought is reserved for important, meaningful matters, and not for worrying about running out of batteries or paying taxes. This is the world that wealthy Victorian vicars enjoyed. They had servants and solicitors to see to all the mundane worries. The vicar might have looked like an archetypal householder, but in practice he was nothing of the kind. Rather, he was a household divinity enshrined in a well-run domestic establishment. The vicar also lived a supra-political life, one without viable alternatives to the Party of God.

Engineers design systems. That’s why it’s crucial that they be educated in the humanities, and taught (until they accept the fact) that people will neither willingly nor effectively participate in systems — and that that’s a very good thing.

Loose Links:
Power Outages
22 May 2013

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

¶ “America is bad for your health,” @ kottke.org. “The pattern goes against any notion that moving to America improves every aspect of life.”

Geroge Friedman spells out the biggest and best argument against “austerity”: “Spain’s Angry and Unemployed Young Men.” (RealClearWorld)

Driving in Spain, things look quiet, neat and empty. But in that emptiness there is something ominous, perhaps not so much post-apocalyptic as pre-apocalyptic. Spain is still under control, and the European elite still believe an answer will be found. But I don’t see the path that leads to the redemption of a generation’s hopes. There is time, but in my mind there isn’t enough. And given the attitude of the Eurocrats I have met, there is no sense among the elite that time is running out.

(See also: the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.)

¶ So: you’re a newly-minted PhD. How do you present yourself as such? Colin Eatock suggests that you’d better not — in the way he signs his ruefully amusing consideration of the problem. (3 Quarks Daily)

¶ At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova considers a handsome new book about maximizing creativityManage Your Day-to-Day. The ideas that she highlights are all very good ones, but they assume something that appears to have been omitted from the discussion: the vital importance of personal autonomy. It is impossible to attempt a routine — and a routine of “small steps” is definitely what Popova’s gurus are advocating — a routine for creative work without the freedom to follow hunches for as long as they seem to be promising. This is not something that most employers can second-guess without spoiling the project.

Maggie Koerth-Baker’s musings on conspiracy theories suggest a method of rebuttal that just might fail for being too sophisticated. You reply to the theorist that such ideas tend to be held by people who feel powerless and taken advantage of — and that such people would be the last to know about any actual conspiracies. (NYT, via 3 Quarks Daily)

Elites Meet:
Business Bushwah
20 May 2013

Monday, May 20th, 2013

¶ We’re hoping that you haven’t bought a copy of Lean In, which, as Anne Applebaum notes, is remarkable only for being the first big business self-help exhortation to have been written by a woman. In her review at the NYRB, Applebaum not only identifies some of the more interesting contradictions in Sheryl Sandberg’s text but raises the key day-to-day questions that confront any would-be success.

In practice, a successful woman—like a successful man—must learn, early on, how much emotion to show and how much to conceal, depending on the circumstances. She must learn how much to speak and how much to keep silent, for that depends on the circumstances too. Above all, she must understand herself well enough to know which challenges are worth accepting and which—given her personal situation, her husband, her finances, her interests, her age—must be sensibly refused.

Sometimes it makes sense, in the lives of both men and women, to leap at opportunities. Sometimes it’s foolish. Some risks are worth taking and others are not.

That sort of calculation, unfortunately, takes up a lot of time and energy in the world of “work,” and a truly useful book about business would set out to suggest reasonable reforms. But there’s something else in Applebaum’s piece that’s even more disheartening.

Other factors, even harder to imitate, must also explain Sandberg’s rise. For example, she surely has an astonishing and unusual capacity to cope with difficult, socially awkward, borderline-Asperger’s men: Sergey Brin, Larry Summers, Mark Zuckerberg. This is not a talent that many women, or indeed many men, are lucky enough to possess. But then she has been very lucky in other ways as well. At Harvard, for example, Sandberg happened to take a class with Summers, who happened to hire her as a research assistant before he happened to become treasury secretary. Upon arriving in the government, he made her his chief of staff.

How can we keep men like these — and they are always men, and Steve Jobs was one of the worst — from becoming the hubs of networks which they manifestly lack the skills to direct in keeping with humane principles?

Socioeconomic Note:
Usury, Sodomy, and Austerity
10 May 2013

Friday, May 10th, 2013

¶ At The American Prospect, Jeet Heer examines the hoary provenance of Niall Ferguson’s bigotry-betraying association of Keynesian economics with sodomy. (It goes back to Aristotle and beyond.)

If Keynes’s economic vision is intertwined with his larger views on sex and love, meanwhile, the same is surely true of the many strands of pro-austerity thinking that oppose Keynesianism. Schumpeter was fundamentally a nostalgist who longed for a return to the heroic days of bourgeois family capitalism, a world he knew was irrevocably lost. No wonder Schumpeter was so unsettled by Keynes, a man at home with both modern economics and modern sexuality.

As Mark Blyth has shown in his new book Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, the power of arguments for austerity come from the fact that they invoke the traditional moral system of the West, a way of thinking that is rarely questioned because it seems like common sense. Implicit in austerity are all sorts of moral adages: no pain, no gain; suffering builds character; thrift is virtue.

The problem with those adages is that manly types preach them as exhaustive. Thrift is a virtue, yes, but not so great a virtue as generosity. Endurance builds character, but I doubt that real suffering does anything but deform it. “No pain, no gain” is an arrogant insult, considering the sheer painlessness of gains enjoyed by the already-affluent.

 

Elites Meet:
Rot at the Top
6 May 2013

Monday, May 6th, 2013

¶ Felix Salmon has been following the Cooper Union catastrophe for some time now; on Monday, he laid out the derelictions of the school’s board of trustees with such clarity that the bunch of them ought to have left town in shame by now. But of course there is no shame for the modern trustee, a generic sort of person who tends to mix only with other trustees. It’s too bad that Governor Cuomo hasn’t interfered in Cooper Union’s affairs as effectively as he has done in Con Edison’s.

¶ Christian Parenti reviews a new, and very gloomy, book about Pakistan — about Pakistan-US relations, specifically, and. boy, what a mess. Did anybody out there wince at the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty while watching the exciting climax of Zero Dark Thirty? No, I didn’t think so: that’s how big a mess. Of course, as Parenti insists, Pakistan is a first-class mess all on its own.

Gotham Diary:
Whither the Book Review?
30 April 2013

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

¶ Michael Wolff, writing in The Guardian, foresees a merger of the New York Times Book Review with the newspaper’s recently-revamped Sunday Review. The occasion for this gloomy prediction is the appointment of Pamela Paul as editor. (via Arts  Journal)

The new editor is Pamela Paul, and quite unlike any before her. (I believe I can reel off all of them from the mid-seventies on without any effort … the columnist and reviewer John Leonard; the poet and editor Harvey Shapiro; one of the big newsroom bosses, Mike Levitas; followed by Times heavy, Rebecca Sinkler; then former New Yorker editor, Charles (Chip) McGrath; then Vanity Fair writer and Whitaker Chambers biographer Sam Tanenhaus.)

Paul has, pretty much, no writerly or literary credentials. She’s written some straightforward, but non-literary nonfiction – a book about marriage, a book about parenting, and a book condemning pornography – and she’s been the children’s book editor at the Book Review for a short time. Her resume includes two years as a blogger at the Huffington Post, which, it doesn’t seem entirely churlish to point out, is not a job, and a stint writing a column for the Times’ Style section.

But the vitality of the Book Review has been draining for many years now. Most reviews are blandly predictable, and enthusiasm is rare. Even long pieces have become oddly weightless. So long as the Book Review continues to be published, I’ll want to give it a glance, but I won’t miss it when it disappears, the victim of complete mission failure.

The one and only purpose of a book review is to promote the sale of books in a creditable manner. This means pitching reviews toward readers who may be expected to like the books when they read them, and away from those who won’t, and at a brief length that will not enable those who don’t read books to appear as if they do.

Loose Links:
Boys’ Clubs
25 March 2013

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Boys’ Clubs — Women not welcome (via The Morning News)

¶ If you’ve walked through Amsterdam, you know that traffic signals are not essential. In Poynton, UK, getting rid of signals altogether slowed traffic down, but to a steady flow, and pedestrians are a lot happier. (via kottke.org)

Hard Copy:
In the Times
18 March 2013

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

¶ Let us all follow Gabrielle Giffords’s call to shame the Senators who voted against the progressive gun legislation that everyone in this country, except for a few nuts and dolts, wants, and yesterday.

They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony.

¶ No less important, in the long run, is Mark Bittman’s demand for a gender-neutral home ec program in our schools.

Loose Links:
Back to the “Future”
17 April 2013

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

¶ Thirteen years doesn’t seem so very long a time (certainly not to anyone my age), but it’s apparently enough for everything to change. Or at least to be invented. Dave Bauer runs you through the tech look and feel of a balmy day in 2000, foreseen as utterly futuristic when it was still to come, only to highlight all the things that were missing. The exercise will do you good. (via The  Browser)

¶ “King of the Vatican” — who knew? The inimitable CGP Grey explains the Holy See.

Gotham Diary:
Adorable
15 April 2013

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Frank Bruni’s piece in the Sunday Review (New York Times) yesterday, “Love, Love Them, Do,” burrows into a rather horribly interesting side-effect of political power: love gluttony. How many of the people who seek our votes pursue office simply to gratify the need for adoration? A need that, as the careers of several recently fallen idols establishes, reduces complex personality to an addicted, pleasure-seeking nub? Bruni writes about Anthony Weiner and James McGreevey, mostly, but he mentions Mark Sanford and John Edwards as well — and, of course, Bill Clinton. “What led them to run and what led them to stray were to some extent the same hunger. The same hormone.” Not cockiness or arrogance, not the belief that anything can be gotten away with. No: a mounting, insatiable need for affirmation, 24/7.

Lots of people besides politicians enjoy applause on a regular basis. Stage actors and other performing artists certainly thrive on ovation. For the most part, however, audiences applaud them because of what they do. Politicians only rarely receive this kind of applause. Most of politics is compromise, and nobody likes that, much less applauds it. The thunder of many hands clapping breaks upon politicians’ heads because of who they are, or seem to be. And there’s no denying that Americans are enthusiastic adorers, as long as it doesn’t cost anything.

Finally, there is the profound and, I’m afraid, universal conviction that anyone who looks good on television must be special. This prejudice is the result of decades of technical honing, as television producers have gotten better and better at keeping people who don’t look good on television off the screen. We are as addicted to television’s glamour as candidates are to praise from whatever source derived. Considered as an ecology, the elected and the electorate live in perfect symbiosis.

Gotham Diary:
Knowledge Inequality
10 April 2013

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

¶ In The Atlantic, Robert Pondiscio reports that only two-thirds of Americans can pass the (very basic) examination faced by applicants for US citizenship.

When the alarm is sounded over the poor performance of our schools, we usually hear about children’s baleful performance in reading, math, and science. On the most recent round of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, for example, only one in three U.S. 8th graders scored “proficient” or higher in those three essential subjects. But if that’s a crisis, our performance in history and civics is near collapse: a mere 22 percent of 8th graders score proficient or higher in civics; in history, only 18 percent.

Many progressive people argue that this information inequality stems from income inequality, but it is just as arguably the cause. High achievers necessarily look past the junky popular culture in order to fasten on some body of solid knowledge. Low achievers are literally stupefied by what’s on TV.

Lowest-common-denominator culture will inevitably kill off democratic culture, by destroying its defenses against the culture of selfishness espoused by Ayn Rand, Margaret Thatcher, and others guilty of the mortal sin of smug self-satisfaction.

 

Gotham Diary:
On the Elevator
3 April 2013

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

¶ In my building, as I’m sure in others, when somebody boards with a handful of packages or groceries or whatnot, somebody else will ask “What floor?” offering to relieve the incommoded passenger of pressing a button. I make this offer all the time. But I rarely accept it. That’s because I find it distressing to watch people try to find the correct button. You’d think there wouldn’t be anything to it, but it stumps everyone. Everyone has to aim a hovering, uncertain finger, and almost everyone takes three or four seconds to find the button. An unnecessary challenge! And obviously one that no one expects. I thought that it was just the poor design of our building’s elevator panels, so imagine my surprise when I came across this the other day.

The Floor Effect: Impoverished Spatial Memory for Elevator Buttons

People typically remember objects to which they have frequently been exposed, suggesting thatmemory is a byproduct of perception. However, prior research has shown that people have exceptionally poor memory for the features of some objects (e.g., coins) to which they have been exposed over the course of many years. Here we examined how people remember the spatial layout of the buttons on a frequently-used elevator panel, to determine if physical interaction (rather than simple exposure) would ensure the incidental encoding of spatial information. Participants who worked in an eight-story office building displayed very poor recall for the elevator panel, but above-chance performance on a recognition test. Performance was related to how often and how recently the person had used the elevator. In contrast to their poor memory for the spatial layout of the elevator buttons, most people readily recalled small distinctivegraffiti on the elevator wall. In a more implicit test, the majority were able to locate their office floor and eighth floor buttons when asked to point toward these buttons when in the actual elevator, with the button labels covered. However, identification was very poor for other floors (including the first floor), suggesting that even frequent interaction with information does not always lead to accurate spatial memory. The findings have implications for understanding the complex relationships among attention, expertise and memory.

Loose Links:
Stepping on Earworms
26 March 2013

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

How publishing slush piles “work”: two New Yorker stories, retitled and reattributed for experimental purposes — and universally rejected. (The Review Review; via ArtsJournal)

Anagrams > Earworms. (Slashdot; via ArtsJournal)

Weekend Hard Copy:
An Education
26 March 2013

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

James Atlas writes about a Harvard classmate, Richard Hyland, who managed, in his own view, not to get an undergraduate education, even though he went on to become a professor of law at Rutgeers (that’s the scary part). His college years were preoccupied by the American War in Vietnam. So, now, he’s taking a poetry class at Rutgers. All better!

Atlas thinks that this a great story of self-renewal. I think it’s proof that even the greatest universities in the land — perhaps the greatest more egregiously — have been failing to teach for about forty years.

Michael Winerip writes about not having it all.

Ms. Slaughter of Princeton offers several suggestions to make companies more parent-friendly besides working at home: lots of teleconferencing; no Saturday meetings; less travel; leaving the office by 6:30; a school day that matches the work day.

But these same benefits that lift you also hold you back. Foreign correspondents can’t cover a war and travel less. A reporter’s interview is going to be better if it’s done in person instead of teleconferencing. News is as likely to break out on Saturday morning as Wednesday at noon when the kids are in school.

The workplace, I believe, can be made more parent-friendly, but it’s not going to be all that friendly, which is why they call it work.

The core problem isn’t the workplace, it’s work.

Those jobs that refuse to be friendly are often the hardest, most time-consuming, most unpredictable, require the most personal sacrifice and, to me, deserve the best compensation and most corporate status.

Which does not mean that these are the people whom I admire most or want to spend my time with. When I see a man who has reached the top of a company only by making work his entire life, I think, what about the kids, what about the wife? And it’s no different when it’s a woman.

If you ask me, Anne-Marie Slaughter still has it right about work.