How Michael Clayton Presaged 2017
One of the year's very best essays, whatever your size
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So I do think Trump and Bannon are vulnerable: Not because American institutions are so strong and resilient, but because Trump and Bannon don’t seem to understand how weak and pliable those institutions actually are, if you know how to delicately use and manipulate them. And if you only hear in my analysis a hope for the future, you’re missing the cloud in the silver living.
Cut to the current election. We had heard allegations that Trump kept Hitler’s speeches by his bedside, but somehow we normalized that. We didn’t take him seriously because of all the outrageous, clownish acts and gaffes we thought would cause him to drop out of the race. Except these gaffes were designed to distract. This was his secret strategy, the essence of his success — you can’t take a stand against Trump because you don’t know where Trump is standing. You can’t find him guilty of evil, you can’t find him at all. And the tactics worked. Trump was not taken seriously, which allowed him to slip by the normal standards for an American candidate. The mountebank won. Again.
But in all of her monoculture moments, a good portion of the audience missed the intended context of her message and processed it through the same mindset that asks why there’s no White History Month or sees the BET Awards as racist. No one pop star can hope to change so blinkered a reading of the country’s past and present. As Beyoncé put it to Elle, “If celebrating my roots and culture during Black History Month made anyone uncomfortable, those feelings were there long before a video and long before me.”
Only the willfully blind can ignore that the history of human existence is simultaneously the history of pain: of brutality, murder, mass extinction, every form of venality and cyclical horror. No land is free of it; no people are without their bloodstain; no tribe entirely innocent. But there is still this redeeming matter of incremental progress. It might look small to those with apocalyptic perspectives, but to she who not so long ago could not vote, or drink from the same water fountain as her fellow citizens, or marry the person she chose, or live in a certain neighborhood, such incremental change feels enormous.
Amazing look at how a tyrant of a boss can ruin a newsroom.
We live on a nightmare planet
When her best friend died, she rebuilt him using artificial intelligence. So pleased to share this one with you:
It has been less than a year since Mazurenko died, and he continues to loom large in the lives of the people who knew him. When they miss him, they send messages to his avatar, and they feel closer to him when they do. “There was a lot I didn’t know about my child,” Roman’s mother told me. “But now that I can read about what he thought about different subjects, I’m getting to know him more. This gives the illusion that he’s here now.”
Her eyes welled with tears, but as our interview ended her voice was strong. “I want to repeat that I’m very grateful that I have this,” she said.
You could say this exact thing about Facebook today.
In this world, Microsoft stood out. They worked fast, they were aggressive, and they were very cagey. Their strength was never in innovation per se, but in appropriation, improvement, and integration. One slogan that you would hear at the company was that Microsoft made “best-in-class” products. A less charitable way to put this would be to say that upon entering a market, Microsoft would make a product that was better enough than the best out there, and then take over the market. So the quality of Microsoft’s offerings closely tracked the quality of existing offerings.
This is great
Yet I’ve come to conclude that the restaurants New York needs are doomed, financially, to fail. That’s because amateur capital backed by magical thinking and a desire for fun distorts the economics for everyone. New restaurants, with too-easy access to financing from people like me, invest too much in design, tableware, food, and service, driving up every customer’s expectations of every restaurant in a cyclone of unprofitability. Landlords, with enough dreamers to fill their spaces, can command nightmare rents. If restaurants had to be good business ideas, and attract sophisticated investors who mercilessly demanded a profit, there would be fewer restaurants. They would be less cool. The food would be less good.
Gorgeous profile of the NYT food critic
Great piece that closely matches my own experience
Essential reading about our current political moment.
No one seems to understand why conventional blunders do nothing to Trump. But in a lot of ways, what elites see as blunders people back home see as someone who–finally–conducts themselves in a relatable way. He shoots from the hip; he’s not constantly afraid of offending someone; he’ll get angry about politics; he’ll call someone a liar or a fraud. This is how a lot of people in the white working class actually talk about politics, and even many elites recognize how refreshing and entertaining it can be! So it’s not really a blunder as much as it is a rich, privileged Wharton grad connecting to people back home through style and tone. Viewed like this, all the talk about “political correctness” isn’t about any specific substantive point, as much as it is a way of expanding the scope of acceptable behavior. People don’t want to believe they have to speak like Obama or Clinton to participate meaningfully in politics, because most of us don’t speak like Obama or Clinton.
At one point, the reactionary pundit Ann Coulter stopped by their table. Wilmore was courteous, but Jones leaned across the table and stage-whispered, “What the fuck is this frightening bitch doing here?” Coulter’s face froze in a rictus, and she soon backed away from the table.
This is phenomenal.
We had all these little rituals. Just before we would do a run-through, Ron Leibman would say, “Everything that happens in life happens in this show.” And then I’d laugh, and then we’d start.
The stakes for the Post’s success are high. It’s a newspaper that has all the elements in place: a tech-billionaire investor-owner, a brilliant editor, a rich history, and the resources and culture to encourage innovation. In other words, if the Post can’t invent a business model for newspapers, who can?
Hard to see the LA Times getting through this bullshit. A shame -- the paper made me want to be a journalist.
Impressive survey of campus activism.
Carey, like Bautista, went to élite schools on scholarships; she says that, for her, the past few years have been about “unlearning” most of what she had been taught. She put together the symposium without support from the college, in part because she thinks that higher education, being a tool of capitalism, can’t be redeemed. Instead, her goal these days is to help people like her survive college and get on with their lives. “There’s been a shift from explicit racism to implicit racism,” she says. “It’s still racism. But now you’re criticized for complaining about it, because you’re allowed to go to college: ‘What are you complaining about? There’s a black President!’ ”
So the biggest artists sign contracts that guarantee them money every time they step on the stage, and that guaranteed amount is usually more than 100 percent of the revenue if every ticket is sold at face value. Which means that if every ticket in the venue “sells out” at the face value printed on the ticket, that wouldn’t be enough to pay the artist what they are contractually guaranteed by the promoter for the performance.