Seals of New York

Pack rat self. She clipped an article from The New Yorker of 21 March 2011 and kept it tucked away in a drawer. Until today, when self found it again. She kept only one page, so she doesn’t know who the author of the piece is.

In 1993, Kevin Walsh, of the New York Aquarium, said there was a harbor seal living under the Williamsburg Bridge. In ’97, Sieswerda reported that occasional seals could be spotted on out-of-the-way beaches in Brooklyn and Queens. In 2001, kayakers said that they saw about a dozen harbor seals living on Swinburne Island, in the Lower Harbor, two and a half miles from the Verrazano Bridge.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Looking Back: The New Yorker, Feb. 12, 2018

STATE OF THE RESISTANCE, January 2018

In a new book, How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Zibatt argue that democracy does not typically succumb during a catastrophic event, such as a seizure of power by a military junta. It fails more commonly through the gradual weakening of crucial institutions, such as the judiciary and the press. In short, the Union is precisely as strong as its institutions, and those instiutions are being assailed in ways that we’ve seldom seen.

— Jelani Cobb, Talk of the Town, p. 27

The Opioid Issue, Prairie Schooner (Vol. 92, No. 4), Guest-Edited by Glenna Luschei

from the introductory essay, Pandora’s Box, by Glenna Luschei:

  • I talked to our contributors Michael Harris and Ray Murphy about physical and mental pain as a genesis of addiction. Where was so much pain coming from? That is a question I am still asking. Some of our poets address it. In a letter Ray Murphy wrote, “Virtually all of my writing about opiates stems about writing from injury. I never address opiates as a recreational drug. Be interesting to see how many other submissions you get that come out of injury and pain, and then progress into dependency and possibly full-blown addiction. Opiates are at once remarkably versatile and one-dimensional. There is no end to the topic.” Yes, I feel that opiate addicts are like canaries in the coal mine, as the addicts are the indicators in our society of the pain we are suffering. In a previous century, addiction to drugs like laudanum may have been connected to mystical vision, as R. T. Smith conjures in his narrative, Sergeant-Major Perry on Sullivan’s Island.

— San Luis Obispo, July 2018

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Looking Back: The New Yorker, 28 May 2018

Self has been subscribing to The New Yorker for over 30 years.

She saves back issues. Obv.

Here’s an excerpt from a Talk of the Town piece published 28 May 2018:

“The Long Fight,” by Amy Davidson Sorkin

  • Among the many matters on which congressional Republicans have failed to press Donald Trump, a joke told by a communications aide may not rank particularly high, but it should have been among the easiest to address. This joke came during a White House meeting, after Sen. John McCain announced that he could not vote for Gina Haspel, Trump’s nominee for C.I.A. director because, at her hearing, she would not concede that the agency’s past practice of torture was immoral. “It doesn’t matter,” the aide said. “He’s dying anyway.” Instead of apologizing, the White House launched a hunt for the person who had leaked the remark. Some Republicans expressed outrage, but when G.O.P. senators attended a private lunch with Trump, on Tuesday, the incident wasn’t even mentioned.

After reading the piece, self adds McCain’s The Restless Wave, the book the Senator co-authored with Mark Salter, to her 2019 reading list. In that book, McCain writes

  • that he knows that torture can break people, and make them say anything — even tell lies, producing bad intelligence — and that it can rob a person of everything except “the belief that if the positions were reversed, you wouldn’t treat them as they have treated you.”

Stay tuned.

The Economist on Bourdain

GettyImages_97303115.0

  • Food made him happiest if he experienced it in a purely emotional way. It might be the company, the moment, or some memory it evoked: of his mother’s grilled-cheese sandwiches, or his mother-in-law’s meatloaf. A plate of piss-poor peasant food could become something sublime, like feijoada in Brazil.

The Economist Obituary, 16 June 2018

George Orwell, Visionary?

If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it . . .  If public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.

— George Orwell, “Freedom of the Park” (published Dec. 7, 1945)

Jenny Allen, Essay # 15: WOULD EVERYBODY PLEASE STOP?

Self’s favorite essay so far. She loves the motherly distress over the thought that her 13-year-old daughter receives dick pics from an acquaintance. The mother, a true Mama Bear, calls the boy (whose number she finds from an email on her daughter’s computer — Bad Mama for snooping! Bad!)

“Hello?” says the boy, “warily.”

“Hi! Who’s this?”

“M—-” he says, giving his name. Good Lord, this boy would probably follow a guy who said he had a hurt puppy in his car.

Anyhoo, the conversation never touches on the dick pic, and yet there is eventually a

Long pause. “Oh.”

And I think, he’s putting it together. He knows.

The mother does talk to her daughter about it, and succeeds in being very light. Trusting, you know. She lets it go. But inwardly, she can’t stop worrying. So, some time later, when she and her daughter are “on vacation in the country,” she brings it up again:

“Were you shocked when you saw the picture?”

“Yes.” She’s smiling, but she says ‘Yes’ in the same tone that she might say “Of course” or “Duh.”

“Well, what he did was send an assault, and that’s wrong, and — “

“Bye-bye.” She walks outside. She has always been a private person. She hates Talks.

And the mother is rebuffed. Again. And yet again.

The last image is of the daughter sitting on a swing: she “swings slowly, the wood making little creaking sounds like a sailboat’s mast in the sea.”

How lovely the image!

And a few sentences later, the piece ends.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.

 

Jenny Allen: Essay # 5

Isn’t it strange? You start out life counting the people you didn’t want at your birthday party, and you end it counting the ones you don’t want at your funeral. Maybe we don’t learn anything in between. Maybe we just go through life gathering grudges, and then we die. Oh, God, isn’t that so sad?

Thursday self brings her car to the mechanic because, as she was driving one day, smoke came out of the steering column. Since she was in motion when this miracle occurred, she stared at the smoke and wondered: What is smoke doing here? Go away, smoke!

In five minutes the smoke had gone but she couldn’t see her dashboard; the instrument panels — the odometer, the fuel gauge, the digital clock — were black as pitch.

She brought her car to the mechanic. He tested the dashboard lights and saw they were non-functional. He asked self if there was anything else that seemed “off” to her.

She replied that she’d seen smoke coming out of her car’s steering column.

The mechanic remained expressionless and intoned: That’s not good.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Essay # 3: Would Everybody Please Stop?

Dear Answer Lady: Before he slammed the door and moved out last month, my husband spent a year looking at me darkly and saying things like, “What have you done with the spoons?” Do you think he has a girlfriend?

I do.

2018 is SO 1461

  • In Renaissance Florence, a number of designated boxes placed throughout the city allowed citizens to make anonymous denunciations of various moral crimes — in 1461, for example, the artist-monk Filippo Lipi was accused of fathering a child with a nun.

— Claudia Roth Pierpoint, “Angels and Men” in The New Yorker (16 October 2017)

The article is a review of the Walter Isaacson biography of Leonardo da Vinci, called Leonardo da Vinci. One of the biggest surprises in the piece is the discovery that “one of the last remaining complete notebooks, the Codex Leicester,” is in the possession of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Also: “Leonardo was illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted . . . ”

Dear blog readers, last year self saw the Mona Lisa. It was May or June. A Spanish woman asked self whether she knew where the famous painting was located. Then she asked a museum guard, and the two of us went looking together. And we found it. And she asked self to take pictures of her standing in front of it. And insisted on taking a few of self.

And here’s a wide-angle shot of the gallery housing the Mona Lisa and then self making a horrible face because, honestly, she dislikes having her picture taken (not when the humidity has done things to her hair) and the crowded gallery full of people aiming their cell phones in one direction was so disorienting.

 

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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