This week we’re sharing stories by Evan Osnos, Ashley C. Ford, Michael Grabell, Chris Heath, and Becca Andrews.
The “Goldwater Rule” is a gentleman’s agreement between members of the American Psychiatric Association which “prohibits psychiatrists from offering opinions on someone they have not personally evaluated.” It was put in place during the 1964 candidacy of Barry Goldwater after Fact magazine surveyed more than twelve thousand mental-health professionals and found that nearly half of those who responded said the candidate was mentally unfit of office. Read more…
We asked writers and editors to choose some of their favorite stories of the year in various categories. Here is the best in arts and culture writing.
Writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Curbed, Racked, and many others.
Julian Eastman’s Guerrilla Minimalism (Alex Ross, The New Yorker)
How does one write about culture when culture seems to be ending? The question plagued 2017, when each day brought its own small apocalypse. What I appreciated most this year was cultural criticism that turned into acts of construction rather than deconstruction, helping us to better understand our collective predicament. A line from John Kelsey’s “Halftime Vibes” in Texte zur Kunst stuck in my head: “Strange new forms are being tested every minute as news and advertising metabolize the very image of global precarity.” (Evan Osnos’s New Yorker feature “Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich” uncovered some of the aesthetics of this forever-incipient apocalypse.)
But my favorite feature was an act of rediscovery. Alex Ross’s New Yorker essay on the almost-lost Minimalist composer Julius Eastman was revelatory. Eastman was a gay, African-American musician in the all-white halls of the iconic Minimalists. His life and art were messy and unresolved; his work was clashing and autobiographical. What better figure for our time of reclamation? Eastman’s “Stay On It” is a repeated slamming on a disco-like hook, poppy and addictive until it becomes sinister: a portrait of America’s violent ambivalence as potent now as 1973.
Dwayne Johnson smashed through the great wall of news this week, rushing over and lifting us up in a powerful but tender overhead press, carrying us toward the dreamland he lives in where everyone is hardworking, great-looking, and nice as hell.
Bless GQ for sending Caity Weaver on the enviable mission to profile Dwayne Johnson, and for their art department for thinking what we’re all thinking: If a celebrity had to be president, wooing the electorate with charm and charisma, why not elect Johnson, who appears to excel in every area our current president lacks?
Evan Osnos recently reported that “other than golf, [Trump] considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy.” A finite amount of energy? Dwayne Johnson is a solar-powered, clean running beast of infinite energy and charisma.
If you are a child, good luck getting past Dwayne Johnson without a high five or some simulated roughhousing; if you’re in a wheelchair, prepare for a Beowulf-style epic poem about your deeds and bravery, composed extemporaneously, delivered to Johnson’s Instagram audience of 85 million people; if you’re dead, having shuffled off your mortal coil before you even got the chance to meet Dwayne Johnson, that sucks—rest in peace knowing that Dwayne Johnson genuinely misses you. For Johnson, there are no strangers; there are simply best friends, and best friends he hasn’t met yet.
Apparently, New Zealand is the new go-to destination for the end of the world. The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos talks with tech titans who are snapping up property in the far-flung nation “just in case.” Those staying in the US are stocking up on suitable transportation — you’re going to want more than 30 to the gallon in the after times — weapons, and crypto-currency.
Oh, pro tip? Stop putting off that Lasik surgery you’ve been thinking about; you’re not going to be able to get new glasses when the apocalypse hits.
Tim Chang, a forty-four-year-old managing director at Mayfield Fund, a venture-capital firm, told me, “There’s a bunch of us in the Valley. We meet up and have these financial-hacking dinners and talk about backup plans people are doing. It runs the gamut from a lot of people stocking up on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, to figuring out how to get second passports if they need it, to having vacation homes in other countries that could be escape havens.” He said, “I’ll be candid: I’m stockpiling now on real estate to generate passive income but also to have havens to go to.” He and his wife, who is in technology, keep a set of bags packed for themselves and their four-year-old daughter.
What’s in YOUR go bag?
Chinese authorities have recently detained or questioned more than 150 human rights lawyers and activists in an unprecedented nationwide crackdown. Some detainees are missing, and a petition is calling on the U.S. to cancel the Chinese president’s upcoming state visit. In his April New Yorker story “Born Red,” Evan Osnos profiled Big Uncle Xi (the state news agency’s nickname for the president), “China’s most authoritarian leader since Mao”:
Before Xi took power, he was described, in China and abroad, as an unremarkable provincial administrator, a fan of American pop culture (“The Godfather,” “Saving Private Ryan”) who cared more about business than about politics, and was selected mainly because he had alienated fewer peers than his competitors. It was an incomplete portrait. He had spent more than three decades in public life, but Chinese politics had exposed him to limited scrutiny. At a press conference, a local reporter once asked Xi to rate his performance: “Would you give yourself a score of a hundred—or a score of ninety?” (Neither, Xi said; a high number would look “boastful,” and a low number would reflect “low self-esteem.”)
But, a quarter of the way through his ten-year term, he has emerged as the most authoritarian leader since Chairman Mao. In the name of protection and purity, he has investigated tens of thousands of his countrymen, on charges ranging from corruption to leaking state secrets and inciting the overthrow of the state. He has acquired or created ten titles for himself, including not only head of state and head of the military but also leader of the Party’s most powerful committees—on foreign policy, Taiwan, and the economy. He has installed himself as the head of new bodies overseeing the Internet, government restructuring, national security, and military reform, and he has effectively taken over the courts, the police, and the secret police. “He’s at the center of everything,” Gary Locke, the former American Ambassador to Beijing, told me.
In Xi’s early months, supporters in the West speculated that he wanted to silence hard-line critics, and would open up later, perhaps in his second term, which begins in 2017. That view has largely disappeared. Henry Paulson, the former Treasury Secretary, whose upcoming book, “Dealing with China,” describes a decade of contact with Xi, told me, “He has been very forthright and candid—privately and publicly—about the fact that the Chinese are rejecting Western values and multiparty democracy.” He added, “To Westerners, it seems very incongruous to be, on the one hand, so committed to fostering more competition and market-driven flexibility in the economy and, on the other hand, to be seeking more control in the political sphere, the media, and the Internet. But that’s the key: he sees a strong Party as essential to stability, and the only institution that’s strong enough to help him accomplish his other goals.”
Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.
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