Sunday, August 23, 2009

Selected Thoughts on The New Yorker August 24

Selected thoughts on the 24 August 2009 edition of The New Yorker:

The States We're In (Hendrik Hertzberg)
In this Talk of the Town piece, Hertzberg describes the sorry state of affairs in California. It focuses on the proposal of a group called Repair California, to call a constitutional convention and have randomly chosen Californians write a new state constitution. Interesting idea.

The Wrong Guys (Jeffrey Toobin)
In the second Talk of the Town piece, Toobin talks about a group of four men (apparently) wrongly convicted of murder after a false confession. Stories such as this further shake one's faith in the system.

Laugh, Kookaburra (David Sedaris)
This entertaining essay focuses on a trip Sedaris took to Australia. This, as usual, is jsut a pretext for reflection on his childhood and current lot in life. Two ideas stick with me about this essay. First, the philosophy described by Pat (an Australian women who Sedaris knows):

Pat was driving, and as we passed the turnoff for a shopping center she invited us to picture a four-burner stove.

“Gas or electric?” Hugh asked, and she said that it didn’t matter.

This was not a real stove but a symbolic one, used to prove a point at a management seminar she’d once attended. “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.

This is a depressing outlook that I often hear. I wonder how true it is.

The second thing I'll note is Sedaris's depiction of the pose his father strikes:
We’d been at it for half an hour, when the door flung open. “What the hell is going on?” It was our father, one hand resting, teapot style, on his hip, and the other—what would be the spout—formed into a fist.
Plugged In (by Tad Friend)
Friend's article profiles Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and discusses the future of the electric car. I know that there are several in development, including from the major car companies. I hope I'm unduly pessimistic, but I'll believe it when I see it.

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