A growing earnings gap between those with a college education and those without is creating economic and cultural rifts throughout the country.
Seinfeld’s Jewish references posed a unique challenge: as Sebastian explained, “The Germans have a certain you-know-what with the Jewish.” Her editor was worried about some of Seinfeld’s Jewish jokes. “We better not say it like that,” she remembered her editor saying, “because the Germans may be offended.” She added later, recalling the incident to me, “They should be offended, in my understanding. They did it!”
Sebastian appreciated Seinfeld’s direct approach to Jewish history. She wanted to use jokes in direct translation, but the editor wouldn’t let her. She lost several battles. It was a fine line: Der Suppen-Nazi? Sure. Subtle reference to an uncle who survived a concentration camp? Not so fast. An entire episode based on George being mistaken for a neo-Nazi was problematic. So were references to the TV miniseries Holocaust and the film Schindler’s List. Take Elaine’s voiceover narration in “The Subway” episode when her train gets stuck: “We are in a cage. … Oh, I can’t breathe, I feel faint. Take it easy, it’ll start moving soon. Think about the people in the concentration camps, what they went through.”
— At The Verge, Jennifer Armstrong, the author of the upcoming book Seinfeldia: The Secret World of the Show About Nothing That Changed Everything, describes Sabine Sebastian’s translation and production of all 180 Seinfeld episodes for German television.
Rahawa Haile | Longreads | February 2018 | 12 minutes (3,078 words)
(Spoiler alert! This essay contains numerous spoilers about the film Black Panther.)
By the time I sat down to watch Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, a film about a thriving, fictional African country that has never been colonized, 12 hours had passed since the prime minister of Ethiopia resigned following years of protest and civil unrest. It would be another 12 hours before the country declared a state of emergency and enforced martial law, as the battle for succession began. Ethiopia has appeared in many conversations about Black Panther since the film’s release, despite an obvious emphasis on Wakanda, the Black Panther’s kingdom, being free of outside influences — and finances.
While interviews with Coogler reveal he based Wakanda on Lesotho, a small country surrounded on all sides by South Africa, it has become clear that most discussions about the film share a similar geography; its borders are dimensional rather than physical, existing in two universes at once. How does one simultaneously argue the joys of recognizing the Pan-African signifiers within Wakanda, as experienced by Africans watching the film, and the limits of Pan-Africanism in practice, as experienced by a diaspora longing for Africa? The beauty and tragedy of Wakanda, as well as our discourse, is that it exists in an intertidal zone: not always submerged in the fictional, as it owes much of its aesthetic to the Africa we know, but not entirely real either, as no such country exists on the African continent. The porosity and width of that border complicates an already complicated task, shedding light on the infinite points of reference possible for this film that go beyond subjective readings.
Sara Eckel | Longreads | January 2018 | 19 minutes (4,774 words)
In the fall of 2016, I stood on the concrete steps of a mustard-colored ranch house off the New York State Thruway in Ulster County, a broken red umbrella hooked below my shoulder. The mustached man at the door — 50ish, in a t-shirt and khakis — had the stern, dry look of a high-school science teacher.
“Hi, Thomas, my name is Sara, and I’m a neighborhood volunteer for Zephyr Teachout for Congress.”
Thomas didn’t tell me to go away, didn’t slam the door or scold me for interrupting his day. He stoically endured my spiel about why I was spending my Sunday afternoon doing this — because Zephyr has been fighting corruption for her entire career, and I believe she’ll go to Washington and represent the people of New York’s 19th District, rather than corporations and billionaires.
“Okay, thank you,” he said, closing the door.
“Would you like some literature?” I asked, proffering some rain-dotted pamphlets.
“No, you people have sent us plenty.”
We asked writers and editors to choose some of their favorite stories of the year in various categories. Here is the best in science, tech, and business writing.
Director of the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT and author of The Poisoner’s Handbook
The Touch of Madness (David Dobbs, Pacific Standard)
A beautifully rendered exploration of the slow, relentless creep of schizophrenia into the life of a brilliant graduate student, her slow recognition of the fact, and the failure of her academic community to recognize the issue or to support her. Dobbs’ piece functions both as an inquiry into our faltering understanding of mental illness and our cultural failure to respond to it with integrity. It’s the kind of compassionate and morally-centered journalism we should all aspire to.
Australian writer and journalist living in Mexico, runner-up for the 2017 Bragg Prize for Science Writing
How Eclipse Chasers Are Putting a Small Kentucky Town on the Map (Lucas Reilly, Mental Floss)
Anyone willing to write about syzygy in the shadow of Annie Dillard’s classic 1982 essay “Total Eclipse” has balls for miles. Reilly’s decision to focus on the logistics faced by tiny towns preparing to be inundated by thousands of eclipse watchers was inspired. It brilliantly conveyed the shared enthusiasms that celestial events animate in us. Between these two essays, I’m convinced a total eclipse would be a psychic event so overwhelming I might not survive it. I’ve got 2037 in Antarctica on my bucket list — if it’s still there in twenty years. 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 political writing.
Special correspondent for Vanity Fair and author of the New York Times best-selling biography of Roger Ailes.
The French Origins of ‘You Will Not Replace Us’ (Thomas Chatterton Williams, The New Yorker)
Anyone wanting to understand the forces that propelled Donald Trump to power needs to read Thomas Chatterton Williams’s fascinating profile of the French racial theorist Renaud Camus. Camus — no relation to Albert — popularized the alt-right theory that Muslim immigrants are reverse colonizing “white” Western Europe through mass migration. He is an unlikely progenitor of a political movement built around closing borders and preserving traditional culture. Camus works out of a 14th-century chateau and once wrote a travel book that describes itself as “a sexual odyssey — man-to-man.” Allan Ginsberg once said, “Camus’s world is completely that of a new urban homosexual; at ease in half a dozen countries.” While Williams doesn’t shy away from shining a light on the ugly racism that underpins Camus’s writings, he challenges liberals to reckon with the social and cultural effects of immigration in an increasingly globalized world. Read more…
It was a year in which investigations loomed over us as we woke up each day and absorbed the news. Former FBI director Robert Mueller began investigating whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had any links to the Russian government and its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The opioid crisis was covered by a few outlets wondering who, exactly, is profiting while countless people are dying. But it is the investigations into sexual misconduct perpetrated by powerful men across several industries that has had the most significant impact in 2017. And much of the reporting has been led by The New York Times. Read more…
After 31 years on this earth, I was compelled this week to learn who nominates the Golden Globes. (It’s the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, in case you also did not know, and no, I do not know who is in that association.)
I was compelled to learn because their nominations this year were so wildly flawed. They are probably flawed every year, which is unfortunate because they are apparently a good predictor of who will be nominated for the Oscars.
But the flaws were particularly striking this year, as Hollywood is undergoing a reckoning, a purge even, of the bad men who have for so long controlled who gets ahead and who, despite their magnificent, obvious talent, appears to stagnate.
So it struck many people as odd that all five nominees for Best Director are men, in a year when Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird shattered box-office records and was deemed by critics as “perfect,” when Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman changed the game for superhero movies, and when Dee Rees’ Mudbound took a genre historically controlled by white men and told a story in a way that had never been done before.
Snubbing those directors seems not just unfair but illogical, as The Verge noted. The same post also reminded us that only three women have been nominated for Best Director in the last 20 years and none has won a Golden Globe. (Kathryn Bigelow did win an Oscar for her directing of The Hurt Locker in 2009 — making history as the first woman to win for directing, and one of only three women to ever be nominated at that time.)
Yes, Gerwig got a best screenplay nomination. Yes, Mudbound has two nominations as well. But Wonder Woman is nowhere to be seen. Some are chalking it up to it being a superhero movie, but let’s be honest: it did for superhero movies, and for women and young girls, something that few movies had previously achieved.
Jordan Peele also was passed over for Best Director — another truly nonsensical snub, given people are still talking about Get Out many months after it left theaters. So was Kumail Nanjiani’s much-loved The Big Sick, which Nanjiani humorously tweeted about. All the director nominees are drawn from the safe, predictable ranks of the Nolans, Spielbergs, and Scotts of the world.
In an industry notorious for access journalism — in which publicists have undue control and power over coverage — it’s notable that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association seems to be currying favor with a cohort of already-powerful men, rather than attempting to recognize the great work of more recent newcomers to the field.
The good news for Peele, Nanjiani, Jenkins, Gerwig, and Rees is that while moviegoers don’t get to give them golden statues, they’ve shown their appreciation for their groundbreaking work in other meaningful ways all year. All the HFPA showed on Monday was how deeply out of touch they are with the people who really matter: people voting with their money at box offices.
Does anyone still remember Unhappy Hipsters, a Tumblr blog born in 2010, just months after the Great Recession officially ended? The concept was simple and irresistible. Each post contained a photo of a domestic interior from a Dwell-like magazine (or, just as often, from Dwell itself), and the photo had to include a person: a teenager lounging with a book on a nordic-looking wooden bed, a couple having a silent breakfast in a vast, concrete-floor kitchen. A caption accompanied each image, projecting a mix of smugness and existential angst onto the people occupying these impossibly streamlined spaces (“So focused on erecting a structure that would be impervious to atmospheric whims, he’d forgotten the obvious: an exit,” read a caption below an image of a man standing on a balcony of a glass-and-steel stilt house).
There’s nothing new about wanting to catch a glimpse of other people’s (nicer-than-yours) houses; what Unhappy Hipsters deftly added was an extra layer of vindictiveness to an otherwise common, aspirational voyeurism. Revisiting some of these old posts today, they feel at once naive and prophetic. In the intervening years, owning a house and designing one’s own space haven’t lost their allure as class markers and so-called #lifegoals. But they’ve also acquired a tinge of bitterness: you either can’t afford it (millennials, meet avocado toast!), can’t do it right (unlike everyone on Pinterest, Instagram, et al.), or risk trying too hard (at which point: surprise! You’re the Unhappy Hipster — in 2017, when both “unhappiness” and “hipsterism” have lost just about all meaning).
The way we organize and reshape our living quarters has always reflected, in some way, desires, hopes, and anxieties that transcended individuals. It was true when married couples started sharing the same bedroom and outhouses began to disappear in favor of indoor plumbing; it’s true today when we buy a vintage lamp or encounter a luxury bathroom almost the size of the bedroom it adjoins. Where does the current unease around the spaces we inhabit come from? What is unique about our attitude toward a supposedly universal concept like “home”? Here are four recent reads that try to address these questions.