The audience for Samantha Power last Friday appeared to be the usual crowd for talks at Princeton: half students interested in the subject matter at hand, and half older townies getting a taste of culture. “War Crimes and Genocide Today: What Can One Person Do?” was hosted by the Woodrow Wilson School, and it showed in the composition of the crowd. The students had a confused, sympathetic mixture of careerism and noblesse oblige; one, after asking what she should do to prepare for her trip to Bosnia this summer (that’s right, she’s going to Bosnia, folks! Sniper fire!), was happily offered a card from the wife of a UN official. The older ones, on the other hand, had the weary, insecure but comfortable look of those inhabiting the many, multiplying rings of power just outside the one that matters. “What can one person do,” of course, is heard by all of these people as “What can I do?”—a question that, in its necessity and its limitations, cuts to the heart of what is both brilliant and unfortunate about Samantha Power.
A week and a day after I saw Dan Deacon play his new DVD, Ultimate Reality, at Bard College, I saw him buying a camera at B&H in Manhattan. B&H is probably what the Nazis feared the planet would look like by now: an electronics store run and mostly staffed by Orthodox Jews, every item carried from the shelf to the salesman to the register by conveyor belts, each one tricked out with neon blue trim.
As _Avatar_ gradually accrued its second billion dollars in the last few weeks, coverage of the film itself (rather than its receipts) sank from complacent praise to idle speculation. Was the film racist? Well, accidentally. Is there going to be … Read More
I had never heard a Jonas Brothers song before the first week of this school year. I was throwing a pre-game for Lawnparties, offering Tequila Sunrises and mojitos in the a.m.—the youngest oldest thing Princeton students do. The eclectic and up-to-the-minute iTunes playlist I had made for the occasion had run out, and some roommate of a friend had taken over the computer to keep the mood going. “‘Burnin’ Up’!” someone requested. Probably the new Usher single, I thought, and then a nineteen- or twenty-year-old played me my first Jonas Brothers song. “Don’t they wear chastity rings?” I asked no one.
People change. People estrange. The wear and tear on the asbestos flange took my grandfather at seventy-five. My grandmother is alive, and turning eighty. The moon landing is forty. I am twenty. Ten, five. The moon is a Kennedy penny … Read More
WICKEDEST CENSORS—CNN “Hey, can I call you Joe?” she asked. “[Off-mike],” he responded. BEST MIXED METAPHOR—SARAH PALIN “The barometer there, I think, is going to be resounding that our economy is hurting.” MOST GERUNDS—SARAH PALIN Gerunds are for the weak, … Read More
Editor’s Note: What follows is composed from features published in The New Yorker between September and December 2010. No alterations beyond rearrangement were made to the texts, excepting those that ensured gender, tense and number agreement.
HE MAKE IT RAIN HE MAKE IT RAIN HE MAKE IT RAIN HE MAKE IT RAIN—GEORGE BUSH “[T]his is a final verdict on the failed economic policies of the last eight years… that essentially said that we should strip away … Read More