New Yorker

Courage and criticism

Courage is not a virtue frequently associated with the criticism beat, but it lies near the heart of [Pauline] Kael’s achievement—not because she was unsqueamish about praising and slamming movies (though she was) but because, from the time she wrote her first review until the moment she retired, in 1991, her authority as a critic relied solely on her own, occasionally whimsical taste.

Pauline Kael, Film Critic, Contrarian : The New Yorker

What was Barack Obama reading during the campaign? “Be Quiet, Be Heard”

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According to New Yorker photographer Platon, President Obama had the book Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion by Susan and Peter Glaser on his desk during the campaign last year when Platon shot Obama for the magazine.


Platon delivered this nugget during his talk at the New Yorker Festival this afternoon. Of course, there were several others, as well. When he shot Bill Clinton for Esquire towards the end of Clinton’s Presidency, Platon told Clinton, “Show me the love!” Clinton’s advisers frantically attempted to tell him to not show Platon anything. The President responded, “Shut up. Shut up. I know what he’s talking about,” before delivering the pose that landed on the cover of Esquire. When P.Diddy arrived at Platon’s studio, he told him to cut the Miles Davis record that Platon had on the stereo and put in one of Diddy’s own records. Vladimir Putin is a huge Beatles fan. The three things that Michael Bloomberg said he could not do without on a desert island are “Salma Hayek. Salma Hayek. And Salma Hayek.” One of Platon’s photos helped compel Colin Powell to endorse Obama for President.

MP3 of Platon on snooping through Obama’s desk

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Can you still watch football?

Much has been made recently about the link between NFL careers and brain damage. The New York Times has run an excellent series on the subject and Malcolm Gladwell just penned an essay equating football with dog fighting in the New Yorker. I expect that he’ll rehash much of its content for his New Yorker Festival talk today. The main point is that now that we know something about the risks to the brain of playing football, watching the game should not be a morally neutral act, just as watching dog fighting should not be one either.

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