What the Chinese education system can teach America about relying on test scores as the main metric of success.
New York Review of Books
A judge on the history and injustice of the plea bargain in America.
On a book of photographs shot by Leni Riefenstahl in the 1950s and 1960s depicting an African tribe.
A 15-year-old Russian has a shorter life expectancy than a peer in Bangladesh, Cambodia, or Yemen.
Do jellyfish have minds?
“Since we live in an age in which silence is not only criminal but suicidal, I have been making as much noise as I can…”
Dick Cheney and the political history of warrantless surveillance.
Notes from a month-long voyage on a massive container ship.
W.H. Auden’s quiet, personal pursuit of kindness and honor.
On the dueling propagandists of Kiev and Moscow.
“And yet we live still in Cheney’s world. All around us are the consequences of those decisions.”
A physician reports on his own catastrophic injury.
On Benjamin Murmelstein, the head of the council of elders at the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
Rethinking Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.
A political history of Donald Rumsfeld.
The economics of climate change and the end of humanity.
How Norman Mailer and other writers wanted to go out.
“Professional boxing is the only major American sport whose primary, and often murderous, energies are not coyly deflected by such artifacts as balls and pucks.”
Rampant rape and murder in the Brazilian slums.
“Violence, being instrumental by nature, is rational to the extent that it is effective in reaching the end which must justify it.”
What the writer’s newly revealed letters mean for her long-debated legacy.
“A curious thing about the United States is that anticommunism has always been far louder and more potent than communism.”
Three boys falsely accused of murder, and what the twenty-year saga says about all of us.
A history of how Tuareg separatists, jihadists seeking a “desert caliphate,” cigarette smugglers, and narcotraffickers have turned Northern Mali into “the globe’s most significant terrorist threat.”
On commercial diving, the third most deadly profession.
Behind the tabloid story of the “murder orphan” in Queens.
Debates surrounding physician-assisted dying in the U.S.
How Wall Street thoroughly dominated Obama’s economic policy.
A Supreme Court Justice revisits a rape trial from the 1950s.
The story of a young man on the run in the slum he dreams of escaping.
A lyrical meditation on morning in the city, from the newly published Berlin Stories collection.
"A giantess like this doesn’t dress so quickly; but each of her beautiful, huge motions is fragrant and steams and pounds and peals. "
Reviewing Newt Gingrich as historian and intellectual.
On Patti Smith.
It was easy for lazy journalists to caricature her as a stringbean who looked like Keith Richards, emitted Dylanish word salads, and dropped names—a high-concept tribute act of some sort, very wet behind the ears. But then her first album, Horses, came out in November 1975, and silenced most of the scoffers.
Joan Didion versus the boys on the bus:
American reporters “like” covering a presidential campaign (it gets them out on the road, it has balloons, it has music, it is viewed as a big story, one that leads to the respect of one’s peers, to the Sunday shows, to lecture fees and often to Washington), which is one reason why there has developed among those who do it so arresting an enthusiasm for overlooking the contradictions inherent in reporting that which occurs only in order to be reported.
An essay drawn from the introduction of Davidson’s iconic book Subway, first published in 1986:
To prepare myself for the subway, I started a crash diet, a military fitness exercise program, and early every morning I jogged in the park. I knew I would need to train like an athlete to be physically able to carry my heavy camera equipment around in the subway for hours every day. Also, I thought that if anything was going to happen to me down there I wanted to be in good shape, or at least to believe that I was. Each morning I carefully packed my cameras, lenses, strobe light, filters, and accessories in a small, canvas camera bag. In my green safari jacket with its large pockets, I placed my police and subway passes, a few rolls of film, a subway map, a notebook, and a small, white, gold-trimmed wedding album containing pictures of people I’d already photographed in the subway. In my pants pocket I carried quarters for the people in the subway asking for money, change for the phone, and several tokens. I also carried a key case with additional identification and a few dollars tucked inside, a whistle, and a small Swiss Army knife that gave me a little added confidence. I had a clean handkerchief and a few Band-Aids in case I found myself bleeding.
An investigation into the events surrounding Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s May 2011 arrest for sexual assault.
On Michael Lewis and the global financial crisis.Previously: The Michael Lewis World Tour of Economic Collapse
How the contradiction-rich “country the size of Connecticut” that birthed Al-Jazeera has played an integral and surprising role in the revolutions of the Arab Spring.
How LA-style gang life migrated to the slums of San Salvador.
On Terri Schiavo, “persistent vegetative state,” and life or death decisions:
Imagine it. You are in your early twenties. You are watching a movie, say on Lifetime, in which someone has a feeding tube. You pick up the empty chip bowl. “No tubes for me,” you say as you get up to fill it. What are the chances you have given this even a passing thought?
On Friday Night Lights as book, film, and TV show.
On how search and advertising became indistinguishable, the finer points of not being evil, and why privacy is by nature immeasurable. How Google made us the product:
“Google conquered the advertising world with nothing more than applied mathematics,” wrote Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired. “It didn’t pretend to know anything about the culture and conventions of advertising—it just assumed that better data, with better analytical tools, would win the day. And Google was right.”
A new translation of this one-paragraph short, designed to be read aloud in English.
"The messenger set out at once; a strong, an indefatigable man; thrusting forward now this arm, now the other, he cleared a path though the crowd; every time he meets resistance he points to his breast, which bears the sign of the sun; and he moves forward easily, like no other. "
On Colombia’s “macabre alliance”:
In February 2003, the mayor of a small town on Colombia’s Caribbean coast stood up at a nationally televised meeting with then President Álvaro Uribe and announced his own murder.
A profile of silent film comedian Buster Keaton:
The story of his life seems in its twists and dives borrowed from his movies, survival demanding a pure lack of sentiment.
On the strange ethics of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy:
What matters instead is the division of the world into good and evil, a division that begins with splitting sex into positive and negative experiences, then ripples out from that in fascinating ways.
An annotated transcript:
MR. SEALE: [The marshals are carrying him through the door to the lockup.] I still want an immediate trial. You can’t call it a mistrial. I’m put in jail for four years for nothing? I want my coat.
On the ground to witness Cuba’s last days:
“Either we rectify our course or the time for teetering along on the brink runs out and we go down. And we will go down…[with] the effort of entire generations.”—Raul Castro
On tragedy, mythology, and the spectacular crash of the Spider-Man musical and its creator, Julie Taymor.
On Sebastian Junger’s War and the documentary Restrepo by Tim Hetherington, who was killed in Libya yesterday.
On Christian Marclay’s film The Clock.
On the structural underpinnings of the revolts currently shaking the Arab world.
On photographing the former Norma Jeane Mortenson. ”I think she was the best light comedienne we have in films today, and anyone will tell you that the toughest of acting styles is light comedy.”—Billy Wilder
“If genius is hard to define, madness is even more so.” One chess champion’s take on the tortured life of another.
On Mark Twain’s recently released memoir.
February 1st, 2011. Tahrir Square, Cairo.
On the young and ascendant Frank Sinatra, “who ruled crowds by seductive magnetism and surrounded himself with courtiers, but had once been an adolescent alone in his room listening to Bing Crosby on his Atwater-Kent.”
On the illusion of the inevitable and the revolutions that ended the Eastern Bloc.
How the relationship between favela-based drug gangs and elite police units tasked with fighting them came to define Rio de Janeiro.
“It is simply not possible to envision any conceivable modern, urban-based economy shorn of its subways, its tramways, its light rail and suburban networks, its rail connections, and its intercity links.”
“The world before the railways appeared so very different from what came afterward and from what we know today because the railways did more than just facilitate travel and thereby change the way the world was seen and depicted. They transformed the very landscape itself.”
Putin, Medvedev, and how the Russian security agency FSB became the “new nobility.”
“Most cities spread like inkblots; a few, such as Manhattan, grew in linear increments. Paris expanded in concentric rings, approximately shown by the spiral numeration of its arrondissements.”
A grandmaster on the computers that have bested him and how we have misunderstood the implications of artificial intelligence.
Where the actual online money is centralized, and where Google will have to go to continue chasing it.
In 1976, newly appointed Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens voted to reinstate capital punishment in the United States. Thirty years later, he argued that it’s unconstitutional. Here, he explains why he changed his mind.
An oral history of a family in Mexico City, in transition from poverty to the lower-middle class, as they scramble to organize the burial of a slum-dwelling aunt.
On the BBC radio addresses of E.M. Forster: ”For one thing, he won’t call what he is doing literary criticism, or even reviewing. His are 'recommendations' only. Each episode ends with Forster diligently reading out the titles of the books he has dealt with, along with their exact price in pounds and shillings.”
The difference between a social network and a movie about a social network, and what it says about the Facebook generation.
A critique of Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for 'Superman'.
On public radio and the emerging genre of shows inspired by This American Life.
The narcocorrido-immortalized Pacific coast traditionalists, the kidnap-crazed Gulf coast Zetas, and massacres that no longer seem tied to a discernible purpose; inside the ruins of the Mexican-American border.
Tony Judt on sex, the academy, and dating a graduate student while chairing NYU’s History Department.
Tony Judt on his own amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and the experience of being “left free to contemplate at leisure and in minimal discomfort the catastrophic progress of one’s own deterioration.”
Frank Rich on The Promise, Jonathan Alter’s book about the first year of the Obama administration.