Monday, July 18

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How Ray Dalio built the world’s richest and strangest hedge fund.

Sunday, July 17

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A youth set to the shifting sounds of CCM, Christian Contemporary Music:

This, by the way, is considered the ultimate sign of quality CCM, even amongst Christians: the ability to pass as secular. Every band’s goal was to have teenagers stop their grooving mid-song and exclaim, like a soda commercial actress who’s just realized she’s been drinking Diet, “Wait, this is Christian?”

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How a Massachusetts psychotherapist fell for a Nigerian e-mail scam.

Saturday, July 16

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An essay on poetry and madness.

People still think of poets as an odd bunch, as you’ll know if you’ve been introduced as one at a wedding. Some poets spotlight this conception by saying otherworldly things, playing up afflictions and dramas, and otherwise hinting that they might be visionaries. In the past few centuries, of course, the standard picture of psychopathology has changed a great deal. But as it’s often invoked, the idea of the mad poet preserves, in fossil form, a stubbornly outdated and incomplete image of madness. Modern psychiatry and neuroscience have supplanted this image almost everywhere else.

Friday, July 15

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On Rwanda’s cycling team.

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Part one of a planned nine-part serialized biography of Harrison Gray Otis, the “inventor of modern Los Angeles.”

Future installments will include Otis’s interlude as “emperor of the Pribilofs,” his military atrocities in the Philippines, his bitter legal battles with the Theosophists, the Otis-Chandler empire in the Mexicali Valley, the Times bombing in 1910, the notorious discovery of fellatio in Long Beach, and Otis’s quixotic plan for world government.
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Inside a transport service for “problem” children:

In his first year of business, [Rick Strawn] escorted eight teens to behavior modification schools. Since then, his company has transported more than 700 kids between the ages of 8 and 17.

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In Afghanistan and other zones of international crisis with John Kerry:

Why, then, does Kerry bother? Why is he racing back and forth to put out the fires being set by a serial arsonist? I asked him about this on the short flight from Kabul to Islamabad. Kerry tried to put the best possible face on what he had learned. Despite the warlords in Kabul, he said, Karzai had appointed some talented officials at the provincial and district levels. “It’s a mixed bag,” he concluded gamely. Kerry knew Karzai’s failings as well as anyone, but he was not prepared to abandon Afghanistan’s president, because he was not prepared to abandon Afghanistan. But why not?

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Is the streaming Swedish music service, now making its U.S. debut, the best shot the industry has at staying profitable and relevant?

Thursday, July 14

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To this day, no one (outside of the movie's own crew) knows how the Muppets rode bicycles in The Great Muppet Caper, the classic Henson movie from 1981. In that scene, Kermit stands up on one frog-leg on the seat of his bicycle to impress Miss Piggy, and then the whole gang joins them on their bikes, doing circles and figure eights, singing “Couldn’t We Ride?” It's a wonderful piece of filmmaking, and still a complete delight to watch because the effect relied on the ingenuity and bravado of the puppeteers and crew, not CGI wizardry. Contrast the joy and ebullience of this scene to the elegant chiaroscuro slickness of the post-Henson Muppet Christmas Carol in which we see old fogies Statler and Waldorf, as the Marley brothers, floating in mid air. No viewer is impressed; no one really thinks about it at all. And that's because when a then 29-year-old Brian Henson directed that film, he threw the rules out the window. Statler and Waldorf “float” because Goelz and Nelson, the men working the old guys, were standing behind them during filming and then were removed in post production. It’s an elegant fix—a cutting of the Gordian knot—but it is a complete break with an aesthetic 35 years in the making.
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At work with Jean-Claude Carrière, screenwriter of choice for an entire generation of top-flight directors.