The President’s campus tour.
With summer almost here, and the green shoots on the ground (if not on the Dow) grown to leafy fullness, the White House has completed an annual springtime chore: choosing among the many invitations from colleges and universities for the boss to address the graduating class. This year, three were accepted. On May 13th, President Obama speaks at Arizona State University, in Tempe; four days later, at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana; and, five days after that, at the United States Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland.
The Talk of the Town
A vigilante’s quest against idling vehicles.
Talk story about George Pakenham who alerts drivers to the city’s prohibition against letting engines idle for longer than three minutes.
Rock stars immortalize Manny’s Music.
Manny’s Music, one of the largest of the West Forty-eighth Street musical-instrument stores, is closing soon, and among the matters yet to be resolved between Manny’s owner, Sam Ash Music, and Manny’s founding family, the descendants of Manny Goldrich, is the fate of the hundreds of publicity photographs of musicians that line the store’s walls. Many of them are inscribed with personal notes to Manny, who died in 1968, and to his son Henry, who is seventy-six and retired.
An environmental eye-opening for aspiring welders.
Aspiring ironworkers in New York City must complete a three-year apprenticeship. They take classes two evenings a week and on occasional Saturdays, and they spend most of the third year practicing things like arc-welding single-V butt joints and slicing through inch-thick steel plates with oxyacetylene torches. One recent Wednesday evening, approximately two hundred of them arrived at the training center of Locals 40 and 361, on Thirty-sixth Street in Astoria, and encountered a scene of a type that has gladdened students’ hearts since the time of Thomas Edison: a classroom furnished with a screen and a movie projector. It was Earth Day, and in its observance the apprentices were going to be shown “The Greening of Southie,” a documentary about the construction of an environmentally friendly luxury apartment building in an old working-class neighborhood in Boston. Some of the third-year students were feeling nervous—the city’s licensing exam for welders was a week away, leaving them little time for last-minute practice in the center’s welding booths, which resemble oversized shower stalls—but few could have been as nervous as Ian Cheney, who had directed the film and agreed to introduce it. Making a movie about green construction is one thing; screening it for actual construction workers is another. Cheney wasn’t wearing steel-toed boots, a do-rag, or a split cowhide welding jacket, and his arms and neck were neither bulging with muscles nor heavily tattooed, and he had to warn the ironworkers that they might see people in the film wearing Boston Red Sox insignia. “If that’s shocking to you,” he said, “just close your eyes.”
Graduate studies in the apocalypse.
It was a sunny spring day when Michael Taussig, a professor of anthropology at Columbia, wrapped up his graduate seminar on the apocalypse (official title: “Preëmptive Apocalyptic Thought: The Angel of History Reconsidered in Light of Climate Change, the War on Terror, and Financial Meltdown”). Meanwhile, the World Health Organization was warning of an imminent swine-flu pandemic, the gross domestic product shrivelled for the third quarter in a row, and Senator Arlen Specter became a Democrat.
Annals of Science
Why children who are patient prosper.
In the late nineteen-sixties, Carolyn Weisz, a four-year-old with long brown hair, was invited into a “game room” at the Bing Nursery School, on the campus of Stanford University. The room was little more than a large closet, containing a desk and a chair. Carolyn was asked to sit down in the chair and pick a treat from a tray of marshmallows, cookies, and pretzel sticks. Carolyn chose the marshmallow. Although she’s now forty-four, Carolyn still has a weakness for those air-puffed balls of corn syrup and gelatine. “I know I shouldn’t like them,” she says. “But they’re just so delicious!” A researcher then made Carolyn an offer: she could either eat one marshmallow right away or, if she was willing to wait while he stepped out for a few minutes, she could have two marshmallows when he returned. He said that if she rang a bell on the desk while he was away he would come running back, and she could eat one marshmallow but would forfeit the second. Then he left the room.
Letter from Malaysia
The best hope for reforming a corrupt state.
about opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and the ethnic and religious problems facing the country. Anwar Ibrahim has come back from six years in prison on corruption and sodomy charges to become the best hope for a more democratic, less corrupt Malaysia. This is the same Anwar Ibrahim who had once been at the heart of the Malaysian establishment. He was poised to succeed Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad until he launched an attack on “nepotism” and “cronyism” in his own party, the United Malays National Organization. The “cronies” included members of Mahathir’s family and in 1998, Anwar was removed from the cabinet and from UMNO. He was charged with corruption and sodomy and was beaten while awaiting trial. Mentions accusations that Anwar is a Jewish agent. Released from prison in 2004, Anwar eventually returned to Parliament in a landslide. In the next general election, possibly as soon as 2010, Anwar Ibrahim may well become Prime Minister.
Annals of Finance
The Death of Kings
Stories from the end of a financial era.
about the financial meltdown as seen from the offices of bankers, hedge-fund managers, analysts, and others in the financial sector. Most people may now recall a moment of clarity, an inkling of doom. A private-equity executive the writer talked to said that he sensed the jig was up when his cleaning woman took out a subprime loan to buy a house in Virginia. A big-wheel hedge-fund manager had his epiphany at a Goldman Sachs hedge-fund conference during which he found himself questioning the rapid accumulation of dynastic wealth by the people in the room. The final sign, the big wheel felt, was the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, which cost an estimated three hundred million dollars. A month later, Lehman Brothers collapsed. Some who foresaw the implosion underestimated its power and duration.
The World of Business
The man behind Two Buck Chuck.
about vintner Fred Franzia and Two Buck Chuck. Fred Franzia owns forty thousand acres of vineyards, more than anyone in the country; crushes three hundred and fifty thousand tons of grapes a year; and his company, Bronco, has annual revenue of more than five hundred million dollars. Recently, Franzia celebrated the sale of the four-hundred-millionth bottle of Charles Shaw, known as Two Buck Chuck, which is sold for $1.99 at Trader Joe’s. Franzia’s objective is to sell as much wine as possible—he sells twenty million cases a year now, making Bronco the fourth-largest winery in the U.S., and would like to reach a hundred million. He believes that no bottle of wine should cost more than ten dollars.
“In The South”
by Salman Rushdie
The case for William Hazlitt.
Review of Duncan Wu’s “William Hazlitt: The First Modern Man.”
Briefly Noted: “The Song Is You”; “Apologize, Apologize!”; “The Complete Game”; “The Last Witch of Langenburg.”
The Current Cinema
by Anthony Lane
“Waiting for Godot.”
by John Lahr
“Delphiniums in a Window Box”
by Dean Young
“Lines on the Poet’s Turning Forty”
by Ian Frazier
by Philip Schultz
St. Vincent, at Webster Hall.
by Sasha Frere-Jones
“Compass in Hand,” at MOMA.
by Andrea K. Scott
Mark Morris’s “Romeo and Juliet,” at the Rose Theatre.
by Joan Acocella
Tables for Two
by Leo Carey
The New York Dolls’ “’Cause I Sez So.”
by Ben Greenman