weekend | 7 april 2013

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

ADVICE FOR THE WOMEN OF PRINCETON: THE DAUGHTERS I NEVER HAD

Susan Patton | The Daily Princetonian

For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.

I am the mother of two sons who are both Princetonians. My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless. Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

THE SECRETS OF PRINCETON

Ross Douthat | The New York Times

SUSAN PATTON, the Princeton alumna who became famous for her letter urging Ivy League women to use their college years to find a mate, has been denounced as a traitor to feminism, to coeducation, to the university ideal. But really she’s something much more interesting: a traitor to her class.

Her betrayal consists of being gauche enough to acknowledge publicly a truth that everyone who’s come up through Ivy League culture knows intuitively — that elite universities are about connecting more than learning, that the social world matters far more than the classroom to undergraduates, and that rather than an escalator elevating the best and brightest from every walk of life, the meritocracy as we know it mostly works to perpetuate the existing upper class.

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DEVELOPMENT

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WHEN YOUTUBE MEETS THE FARM

David Bornstein | The New York Times

Gandhi, who had aspired to be an astronaut and studied aeronautical engineering at M.I.T., spent six months in villages in Karnataka experimenting with communication formats — posters, TV shows, locally made videos, public screenings, home screenings. He discovered that if he produced short (8- to 10-minute) videos that featured local farmers (both men and women, as most agricultural work in India is done by women) talking about their experiences and screened them with a facilitator who engaged a group in a discussion — an idea based on a teaching model pioneered by the Stanford researcher Jack Gibbons (pdf) — farmers were highly engaged. Not only did they sit through the videos and ask questions, many took up the practices. Kentaro Toyama, Gandhi’s boss at Microsoft, recalled: “He came back and said, ‘I think I have something that is much more effective than traditional agricultural extension.’ So we wanted to evaluate it.”

They set up a controlled trial, comparing Gandhi’s approach with a standard “Training and Visit-based” extension approach. Among 1,470 households in 16 villages, they found that it increased adoption of some agricultural practices sevenfold over control villages. The research indicated that the cost to get one farmer to adopt one practice dropped tenfold, from $38 with the traditional approach to $3.70 with the video-based model.

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PHYSIOLOGY | ATHLETICS

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A PHYSIOLOGICAL VIEW OF WHAT THE HUMAN BODY GOES THROUGH IN AN IRONMAN

Matt Fitzgerald | Inside Triathalon

From the outside, swimming, cycling and running appear as movement. But from inside the triathlete’s body, swimming, cycling and running appear as an acceleration of time.

Blood gushes through veins and arteries like traffic through night highways in a time-lapse video. Within muscle cells, glucose and triglyceride molecules are tossed into the fiery furnace of mitochondria at a breakneck pace, as though someone has put a DVD of the process at rest on 4x fast forward. Armies of oxygen radicals punch holes in muscle cell membranes, causing a general deterioration that calls to mind those computer animations that show a person aging 20 years in 10 seconds.

Indeed, from an internal perspective, completing an Ironman is a bit like sitting on a sofa for 12 hours and aging two decades. In other words, the changes the body undergoes in 12 hours of extreme exertion are similar to some of those that occur in the body over the course of two decades of non-exertion, as a result of normal aging. Fortunately, though, those years are restored to you within a few weeks. Then it’s time to start thinking about tickling the reaper again.

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HISTORY

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HOW TO BE A STUFFED ANIMAL

Frances Stonor Saunders | Lapham’s Quarterly

The fire that destroyed P. T. Barnum’s American Museum was the spectacle to end all spectacles. It started in a basement shortly after noon on July 13, 1865, and spread with an energy befitting the museum’s restive owner. By midafternoon it had attracted an audience of thirty thousand to the corner of Broadway and Ann Street in Lower Manhattan. As the Prince of Humbugs’ palace of wonders hissed and cracked and roared under the pressure of its own combustion, so the crowd responded to the conflagration with cheers and shrieks and “uncontrollable laughter,” reported the New York Times.

Gone were the flea circus, the loom run by a dog, the trunk of a tree under which the disciples of Jesus had sat, the hat worn by Ulysses S. Grant, the waxworks, the Feejee mermaid, the taxidermy displays of “monkeys in all imaginable attitudes, stuffed and waxed and furnished with curiously wrought glass eyes, sacred white cows filled with hay, monstrous turtles varnished and stuffed, camels with humps, zebras with the traditional 365 stripes, lions with shaggy manes, and tigers with beautiful skins.” These, and tens of thousands of other curiosities and collectibles, the entire contents of Barnum’s Wunderkammer, were all incinerated.

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TELEVISION

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MATTHEW WEINER EXPLAINS BETTY DRAPER, MAD MEN’S ‘MELANCHOLY DAME’

Ali Trachta | LA Weekly

Weiner points back to the season-one episode “Babylon,” in which Betty proclaims she’d rather die than get old. It shows “this vanity of a woman whose entire identity is based on her looks,” he says. “She was a model, she talks about her school days, she’s obviously educated and she reads, she’s intelligent, but [beauty] is really how she’s defined.”

It would seem, then, that Betty can’t win. Never a likable character, she has always elicited audience disapproval, even as the victim of Don’s philandering. In the earlier seasons, Weiner observed a hostility toward Betty for being so beautiful and being cheated on. Audiences perceived her as an idiot, he thought, or felt she deserved it somehow. Perhaps had she been “a little dumpier,” he says, “there would be a different attitude toward her.”

Yet the fat suit into which the show strapped her seems to have won her little sympathy. In fact, the loss of her only prize – her beauty – has played a major part in isolating Betty from the rest of the female characters, all of whom, at least professionally, are enjoying the dawn of a society that values them outside the home. “She’s lost her job,” as Weiner describes it, “which is being beautiful.” So what is left for her?

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ANIMATED SHORT

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BEI EBBE // WHEN THE TIDE IS OUT

Xaver Xylophon | Vimeo

FOR HIRE! BANGALORE RICKSHAW

Xaver Xylophon | Vimeo

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PROFILE

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GENTLEMEN, GENTLEMEN, BE OF GOOD CHEER, FOR THEY ARE OUT THERE AND WE ARE IN HERE

The Perfect Life of Hugh Hefner
Chris Jones | Esquire

At last, here’s Hef. His three-dimensional human self is, in fact, also wearing black silk pajamas — these are his public pajamas; his sleeping pajamas, at least in winter, are flannel — and his slightly thinning hair is combed neatly into place. He moves slowly, on account of his bad hip, but a buzz still radiates off him, like a kid up to no good. He takes his seat at the head of the table, a folder and notepad in his hands. He opens them up, nodding his greetings, and now Manly Night becomes a more serious business. Every week, the men nominate the movies they want to see. They are often vestiges of precode Hollywood but not always. Nominations carry over week to week, and new nominations must be seconded, Keith Hef-ner relaying the various titles into his brother’s good ear and Hefner keeping careful records of it all in pencil, with big, angular script. Then the men vote.

Hefner reads out this week’s nominees: Me and My Gal (1932); Stardust Memories (1980); Road House (1948) — “I love Richard Widmark!” Fred Dryer lights up — Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950); Phantom Lady (1944); Private Number (1936). After a tense round of voting and a tiebreaker, Where the Sidewalk Ends, a film noir starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney, wins by the narrowest margin. Hef-ner scoots off back upstairs to pass the results to John the projectionist (sixty-one years old, he has worked for Hefner since he was a teenager, another trapped meteor), and the rest of the men continue with their dinner, their laughter echoing off the oak-paneled walls.

Some nights are more eventful than others. One-time guest Mike Tyson made a particularly lasting impression. As the regulars remember it, he caused a stir within minutes of his arrival by smoking inside. (The Mansion is now strictly smoke-free.) Later, when the movie started, Tyson dropped into one of the big leather couches and fell asleep shortly after the opening credits. It wasn’t long before a cell phone rang out in the darkness. A ringing cell phone during a movie at the Mansion is a first-order violation; that’s the sort of offense that can lead to permanent exile. The men looked wide-eyed at each other — who would dare? — before they realized it was Tyson’s phone that was ringing. He slept through it. Then it rang again. He stayed asleep. Tyson’s phone rang and rang throughout the movie, and he didn’t move once to answer it. Nobody else moved, either. They were all too scared to wake him.

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NEWS FROM THE SHIRE

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THE HOBBIT RING THAT MAY HAVE INSPIRED TOLKIEN TO PUT ON A SHOW

Maev Kennedy | The Guardian

In what was once the housekeeper’s office of a Tudor mansion in Hampshire, a very odd golden ring glitters on a revolving stand in a tall perspex column. In chapter five of The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins finds a ring in the gloom of Gollum’s cave. Not just any ring. “One very beautiful thing, very beautiful, very wonderful. He had a ring, a golden ring, a precious ring.”

A new exhibition opening today at The Vyne, now owned by the National Trust, raises the intriguing possibility that the Roman ring in the case, and the ring of power in JRR Tolkien’s book The Hobbit, and in his Lord of the Rings trilogy, are one and the same. As Dave Green, the property manager, explains, there’s more to the story than the ring – an iron-age site with ancient mine workings known as “the Dwarf’s Hill”, a curse on the thief who stole the ring, and a strong link to Tolkien himself.

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DOCUMENTARY

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WHAT’S BEHIND ROOM 237?

Chuck Klosterman | Grantland

I just saw a documentary that obliterated my cranium. It’s the best nonfiction film I’ve seen all year: Room 237, screened at the New York Film Festival (unfortunately, I don’t think it will be released widely until March 2013, and — even then — “widely” will not include any city that doesn’t have a robust film culture and a very big airport). Directed by Rodney Ascher, Room 237 is an examination of five “secret meanings” within Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 psychological horror-thriller The Shining. There are no talking heads or reenactments; it’s assembled as a collage of scenes from The Shining, other notable films by Kubrick, and a bunch of other not-so-random movies that reflect the cinematic investigation.

. . . Still, the movie itself is fantastic. It approaches The Shining from the perspectives of five obsessive theorists (none of whom are ever shown onscreen — you only hear their voices). Two of the theories are really just deep critical readings of the film: One insists The Shining is about the Native American genocide and the other suggests The Shining is a metaphor for the Holocaust. The other three hypotheses are less reasonable, but more creative and inimitable: One person sees the entire film as Kubrick’s unspoken confession that he faked the moon landing. Another focuses on secret images in the movie that involve the Greek myth of the Minotaur; the third is built around the premise of subtextual synchronicities that hinge on watching the film backward and forward simultaneously.


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MUSIC

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SUUNS: IMAGES DU FUTUR

Marcus Moore | Drowned in Sound

suunsAs pervasive as it is, music will not save you.

At least that’s what Suuns want you to think. Their new album, Images Du Futur, is a petulant procession of sullen rock grit that writhes your senses before it soothes the agitation. From the onset, there’s a clear sense of crabbiness here, but that irritation — coupled with the band’s bottom-heavy compositions — works well toward the Montreal quartet’s dark ethos. From it, you get the sense that these dudes wanted to be punk rockers. Or maybe they’re garage rockers. There’s some funk in there, too. However, this is something much heavier and more electronic than before. It’s dance music with rugged edges: in an instant, you feel the need to start a fight; just as suddenly, there’s a desire to blast it out the window on some hip-hop shit.

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One thought on “weekend | 7 april 2013

  1. Pingback: this week’s music | 12 april 2013 | The Marcus Reader

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