Early Morning with The New Yorker

As a morning person, the night time for me is not the right time, at least as far as creative writing is concerned. I subscribe to two national magazines, The New Yorker and National Geographic. Both are incredibly interesting, and well worth the time. However valuable The New Yorker is, I really would prefer that it be a monthly as the constant stream of weekly brilliance is just too much to handle along with the daily dose of the Austin newspaper and The Wall Street Journal. Previously I subscribed as well to The New York Times, but simply was overwhelmed with good things to read along with the one fiction and one non-fiction selection monthly from my men’s book club. Wow, a surfeit of riches! I am not a video watcher so reading’s my thing. But too much of a good thing still is too much.

With that caveat, I must comment on the current issue of The New Yorker, December 14. The cover art is even more special than usual: “The Tree of Life,” with an amazing potpourri of imaginary creatures illustrating some of the manners in which, at least this artist’s concept, life has evolved. “The Talk of the Town,” a group of weekly essays and op-eds opens with a commentary on the difference between the way the US has handled COVID compared with Germany. It is hard to imagine that the greatest pandemic in a century continues to devastate an advanced country such as ours. National leadership has been uneven, to say the least. In the end, many people are going to contract this thing and become sick, and some will die, until a vaccine is available and is taken by most of the population. For reasons I simply do not understand, this country somehow has cleaved in a manner illustrating distrust of science and in deference to fear something called a “Deep State.” To my honest amazement, these factors among others have convinced many that the vaccine is dangerous and that taking strong measures to isolate and limit the spread of COVID is a threat to their version of personal liberty. I know this is a digression, and some probably will unsubscribe and send me hate mail, but yesterday, as I drove my wife to a medical appointment, two men were standing at the most congested intersection near here with large American flags and vivid homemade signs screaming in large letters: “Trump Won.” To think that persons would stand out there on a dangerous traffic island for hours and be that committed to a belief that, over and over, has been reviewed and rejected as fact by the courts and numerous recounts and reviews! It’s like people are zombies infused with some sort of drug. I don’t get it.

But on with comments about The New Yorker. One of the main stories is called “Rereading Lolita.” Now this fifty-year old novel was, and is, controversial and indeed is pedophilia porn at times. The author, an independent professional writer, is extremely erudite and seems to have read Nabakov’s other works as well as other Russian authors. I’m not going to go back and re-read Lolita, yet the article just reinforced to me how amazing these “New Yorker” articles are. In fact, Ian Frazier, who penned this specific piece, grew up in Ohio. He included a wonderful (and not entirely inaccurate) description of Ohio as “the centrifugal state” where people seem to be flung thousands of miles out, to the East and West on Interstate 80, or to the south or north on other major roads. As it happens, I just finished reading “The Wright Brothers,” by David McCullough, a wonderful book centered on Dayton.

Speaking of Dayton, ironically my dad was transferred to Dayton from Huntington, WV, to do production control for a GM plant there, an automotive plant that was converted from some sort of car production to make fifty-caliber machine guns when WW-II started. Dad was a finance guy for cars before the war started. He was older, in his early thirties, and was not drafted since he worked for GM. My sister was born in that three-year stint. I remember it only from a handful of old B&W photos in a family scrapbook. I must have been two, three or four years old. But I digress.

If reading about a young nymphet being taken advantage of is not your thing, the next article surely must be, that is if you’re interested in how mankind has moved around, fought and killed, and enslaved and procreated. Very old human bones have been discovered in an extremely isolated and remote lake in northern India, at an elevation of sixteen thousand feet. Covered by landslides and ice, as well as in very cold water, these skeletal remains are being studied and theories proposed as to how and why they were there. Personally, I am fascinated with early human history, and found the story and various theories most interesting. As the article states at one point, “(it) shows how DNA evidence can upset established archeological theories and bring rejected ones back into contention.” This is not “Adam and Eve,” this is the real deal of “the way it was” nearly a thousand years ago.

I never made it fully through the next article, a nine pager about Patrick Byrne, the founder of Overstock, who spoke at a Libertarian conference in Las Vegas in 2015. His involvement with a woman who may, or may not, be a Russian agent is explored. Bryne is an intellectual entrepreneur. He is concerned that society as we know it might break down and he personally has prepared for this by stocking up on foodstuffs and weapons at his large ranch in a remote portion of the Rocky Mountains, at least five hours by car from the nearest airport. He has a “conspiratorial mind” as he describes it. Of course, if life as we know it does collapse, one wonders if a Libertarian philosophy of “each person for himself” with guns and isolated on remove enclaves with six months of dried foodstuffs will be the sort of life for which we want to prepare. All in all, I did a bit of skimming, and ran out of interest and bandwidth.

"Onward into the fog," as one of Austin’s weird businesses states.

Comments are welcome and will be published, pro and con. Make your observations below, or send them to me via email at n3bb@mindspring.com. Email commenters will not be identified.

Enjoy life; it's the only one we will get.

J.K. (Jim) George


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11 Responses

  1. GM Jim, Your posts are always thought-provoking, whether I agree with them or not. You remind me of a friend I met while working as a broadcast engineer (mostly IT) in Albuquerque. I lost that part-time job due to downsizing and in the form of "Cut the payroll, regardless of the market's success." philosophy. It was a morning job that was both interesting and enjoyable, especially so for the conversations Mike and I had. Like you, he leans liberal. I am a social and fiscal conservative. We are good friends still today. Neither of us understands those guys holding signs at the congested intersection in Austin and the many like them. Perhaps that attitude is a symptom of the general distrust many have for big media, government, and most large institutions? That distrust is enflamed with each new revelation that one or more members/leaders of one of those institutions did something wrong. Welcome to the real world! I believe in the goodness of mankind despite evidence to the contrary by some of its members. I have experienced that goodness throughout my 75 years while also seeing the wrongs people commit. What baffles me is how so many ignore wrongs of those they follow, seeming to believe the "other side" is much worse. Politics has always been infested with those who seek to divide us for their personal gain. Where is Mr. Smith in Washington today? Francis Ford Coppola knew well how to portray both sides of this eternal struggle between good and evil. Today's politicians know well how to take a grain of truth, add it to a pile of lies, and repeat it endlessly so those who want to believe in the initial truth ignore the lies. Worse, those believers seem unwilling to investigate the false assertions and, instead, help grow the conspiracies until they take over the movement. As I write this, "movement" seems an appropriate term. According to the app on my phone, we have, what seems like an eternity, 26 days, and two hours until the presidential eviction. I am not a fan of his replacement for many reasons. I, however, am a fan of his eviction. The Republican Party has, IMHO, a lot of soul-searching to accomplish. They failed in their previous attempt and look what we got. I know folks who are preparing for the apocalypse like Patrick Byrne. Looking at the federal debt, anarchy can't be a long way away. I don't expect to see it at my age. But I mourn for my kids, grandkids, and great grandkids who will likely experience a devolution of society thanks to leaders who are unable to lead, but only get re-elected. Thankfully, that's not true for all the self-centered megalomaniacs who run for office to feed their egos. Your musings remind me I need to read more clicking on FT8 spots. That mode allows me to read, work CW, and do other things it works its magic in the background. Merry Christmas and 73, Bill
  2. Jim, I agree with your view of the New Yorker although I wish their style was not to render all numbers as words rather than numerals. My other weekly reading is The Economist and between the two I seem always to be behind. MX/HNY and see you around .025.
  3. I've been an off and on reader of the New Yorker magazine and love it for many of the reasons you so wonderfully express in your post. Thank you. I'm feeling re-inspired to consider a subscription. I guess for me it's become more of a time thing given I'm still working full time. My wife overheard me talking about the various articles in the Economist that I attempt to read before the website paywall kicks in. Seems I'm always curious what's going on from around the world. So, I hope I'll find the time to enjoy the New Yorker soon especially now that Biden will be leading the charge for the nation and there will be so much amazing change occurring with this decade. It's an exciting time to be around. Also, I have seen at least one instance of an older man gripping with both hands a waving a friggin' HUGE American flag on south Lamar. Looked as they the smallest wind would topple him over like a pepper shaker. He also had on display a conspiquously large hand painted sign saying Trump Won or something like that. He located himself at an odd street corner but there was lot of traffic given how busy South Lamar is these days. This was a few weeks ago now (but still well after the election process had been confirmed). Weirdly, I felt sad for the man. I only saw him one time ... I rather liked the comment above by Bill Mader "Today's politicians know well how to take a grain of truth, add it to a pile of lies, and repeat it endlessly so those who want to believe in the initial truth ignore the lies." So much to say about that. My grandmother used to say opinions are like noses, everyone has one. But with the Internet becoming a high-bean charged high volumemegavoice for anyone with dissent, I notice how disheartening I feel. For those of us who literally ushered in the Internet from the MIT days, Motorola and beyond over the last 40 years - I was hoping we'd see people rally around such gifts for the better good. I can undoubtably be too naive at times. It's a free country. It's free because in the end, so far, the majority choose to lead with compassion over self indulgence. And it's a lesson we'll continue to learn as life test us with the evolution of ourselves. Thanks for speaking out as you do Jim and making a difference. Onward, 73, Tom
  4. JK James George
    From Anon-1: Very interesting and entertaining ! I’ve always loved the “New Yorker.” I still remember the first one I ever read. I was flying up to New York City for my very first visit. I’d forgotten to bring anything to read and found it in the book store. I had never read it before but some how I thought it might tell me something about the city. It didn’t but it did have great articles and cute cartoons! In fact I was so impressed that for years I buy one every time I fly anywhere! I know everything is more expensive at the airports, so if I had just bought a subscription years ago I would have saved so much money;) Plus I would have been so much smarter and perhaps as least better informed! Thanks for sharing. I was wrong when I said your blogs and book reviews were a distraction from writing your book. We would miss them! Keep up the good work.
  5. JK James George
    From Anon-2: Hi Jim. I really enjoyed your latest piece. I actually felt I was listening to you speak with your talent for intelligent, insightful digression. We are back in XXXX and subject to more lockdown controls are hoping to go back to Dubai for a few weeks to enjoy some winter sunshine and spend time with friends. Our three-year-old daughter XXXX is a sheer joy and inspiration to me not least in developing my levels of patience. She is at that age when her ability to express herself is fascinating and brings warmth to my heart. I do think she has my curiosity and certainly has a great sense of humour apart from sharing my love of singing. The joys of being an old Geezer Dad. I wish you a happy healthy and peaceful Christmastime and New Year. Hoping we can meet up one fine day. In the meantime, keep on rocking and fighting the good fight against these awful forces which have abused power and brought corruption and shame to your country, although we are barely better under the self-serving XXXX regime in this country. Like you, I am bewildered by the manipulation of small and scarily minded people in such huge numbers. Still, it is not a recent phenomenon as fascism was the archetypal model for Trump and his malevolent collection of gangsters. The common thread is the malignant power of corporate interests and oligarchs who are the greatest threat to democracy and our freedoms. The great John le Carre remains my hero for his later works railing against the power mongers and their abuse of power. I took some comfort in Trump being booted out, even though Biden inherits a scary legacy, but at least he is assembling a team of experienced talent and as we know that is a mighty fine way to start. At least we can breathe again and feel a sense of the restoration of truth. With fondest wishes.
  6. JK James George
    From Anon-3: I haven't been feeling well for the first 6 hours of every day since early Nov. and am catching up on New Yorker articles for the last year. I have a huge stack of them. I'm a big fan of Ian Frazier and enjoyed his book "Great Plains," highly recommended. As for Nabokov, if you haven't read Pale Fire, it's rather amazing.
  7. JK James George
    From Anon-4: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I'm sure that Joe Biden deserves the same professional honest treatment our President TRUMP and First Lady received for 4 SOLID YEARS!
  8. JK James George
    From Anon-5: Yes, the WSJ does seem to do a good job of separating news from editorial, even when the two contradict each other in the same issue. A prime example of the separation was the reporting on Theranos that turned into the book "Bad Blood."
  9. JK James George
    From Anon-6: I don't subscribe to the New Yorker, but prior to the pandemic often purchased it in a bookstore. Although I didn't read every article, or buy every issue, there were always interesting, well-written articles on a variety of subjects. Some may find it's political position not to their liking, but much of its content is apolitical. I found it interesting that you also subscribe to the WSJ - a newspaper with high quality reporting, but with the opposite editorial/political position of the New Yorker. I recommend David Brooks column that appeared in yesterday's (?) New York Times - available on the NYT web site. It contains his annual awards for great essays published in a variety of media during 2020 that can be used as a reading list. Happy Holidays!
  10. JK James George
    From Anon-7: I'm a history buff. I've toured Kitty Hawk and was so impressed with what the Wright Brothers accomplished. At the 100th anniversary, a friend of mine flew a T-38 in the Memorial Fly Over. Amazingly, the aircraft is owned by Ross Perot, Jr, an aviator himself who was trained by USAF and served in the Texas ANG. That's where my friend met him along with George W. Another memorable experience was having dinner with Jimmy Doolittle and Chuck Yeager. Totally by circumstance, the USAF Test Pilot School Commandant ask my wife and me to attend a weekday dinner at the Edwards AFB Officers Club (We had no children at the time.) I encourage young graduates to join the AF because one never knows what extraordinary experiences might happen.
  11. JK James George
    From Anon-8: Jim, I agree with your comments. The New Yorker is always excellent reading ... just too many issues to keep up with. Happy New Year to you and yours ...

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