The Movie Review: ‘A Serious Man’
October 09, 2009
The wittiest scene in Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2001 film The Man Who Wasn’t There is one in which a fast-talking defense attorney, Freddy Riedenschneider (marvelously played by Tony Shalhoub), invokes Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle as grounds for a not-guilty verdict in a murder case: We can’t know what really happened.… Because the more you look, the less you know. But the beauty of it is, we don't gotta know! We just gotta show that, goddamnit, they don't know. Reasonable doubt. Science. The atom. You explain it to me.
Examining Immigration's Pause
September 30, 2009
For the past decade or so, every time the US Census Bureau released new data, headlines would blare “Immigration Up in the US.” More recent headlines have been hopeful: “Immigration offers Cleveland a chance to import the future.” Others wistful: “Current waves of immigrants offer hope for St. Louis' future.” But mostly, they just repeatedly announced that immigrants were still coming to the United States in large numbers.
August 13, 2008
Thirty years ago, the mayor of Chicago was unseated by a snowstorm. A blizzard in January of 1979 dumped some 20 inches on the ground, causing, among other problems, a curtailment of transit service. The few available trains coming downtown from the northwest side filled up with middle-class white riders near the far end of the line, leaving no room for poorer people trying to board on inner-city platforms. African Americans and Hispanics blamed this on Mayor Michael Bilandic, and he lost the Democratic primary to Jane Byrne a few weeks later. Today, this could never happen.
The Vital Centrist
February 13, 2008
Journals: 1952-2000 By Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Edited by Andrew Schlesinger and Stephen Schlesinger (Penguin Press, 894 pp., $40) I. FEW HISTORIANS write personal journals that deserve publication, which is not surprising. How much interest can there be in the academic controversies and petty jealousies that dominate the lives of working historians, much less in the archives, the private libraries, and the lecture halls where they spend so much of their time?
August 27, 2007
Within fourteen days of each other, two rush-hour calamities: a bridge collapse and a steam-pipe explosion. In Minneapolis, a forty-year-old bridge along highway I-35W suddenly dropped sixty feet into the Mississippi River, killing at least five people and injuring approximately one hundred more. The federal government had deemed the bridge structurally deficient in 1990, which the Minnesota Department of Transportation acknowledged in separate reports issued in 2005, 2006, and 2007, after inspecting the bridge.
Inherit the Wind
March 19, 2007
To a New Orleans boy in the early '70s, the only acts of God that offered anything like the pleasure of a hurricane were the big rains that filled up the city like a bathtub and made it possible to paddle down the streets in a cone, waving at grown-ups trapped inside their floating cars and buses. Compared with the hurricanes, however, these rains were second-rate thrills—the Ferris wheel next to the giant roller coaster. They didn't close schools, knock down trees, rip roofs off houses, or even cut the lights.
November 27, 2006
JUNGLE BUNGLE As a great-grandson of Hiram Bingham, my natural inclination is to defend his record and the right of Yale University to hold onto their legally obtained excavations. Christopher Heaney, however, does a nearly perfect job of causing me to see both sides of the repatriation issue ("Bonesmen," October 23). Heaney paints a fair portrait of a man with both considerable accomplishments (pioneering university recognition of Latin American studies and rediscovering Machu Picchu) and conflicted ambitions (respecting Peruvian sovereignty early in his career then submitting to Teddy Roosev
August 14, 2006
I DEAD IN ATTIC By Chris Rose (Chris Rose Books, 158 pp., $13) BREACH OF FAITH: HURRICANE KATRINA AND THE NEAR DEATH OF A GREAT AMERICAN CITY By Jed Horne (Random House, 412 pp., $25.95) THE STORM By Ivor van Heerden and Mike Bryan (Viking, 308 pp., 25.95) THE GREAT DELUGE: HURRICANE KATRINA, NEW ORLEANS, AND THE MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST By Douglas Brinkley (William Morrow, 716 pp., $29.95) PATH OF DESTRUCTION: THE DEVASTATION OF NEW ORLEANS AND THE COMING AGE OF SUPERSTORMS By John McQuaid and Mark Schleifstein (Little, Brown, 386 pp., $26) DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: A MEMOIR OF WAR, DISASTERS,
Sarah Williams Goldhagen on Architecture: Extra-Large
July 31, 2006
A FRIEND RECENTLY TOLD me that his most important pedagogical tool as an architect is this maxim: the architect's primary ethical responsibility is to be the guardian of the public realm, in contrast to the myriad others who currently configure our built landscape— clients, politicians, contractors, developers, and NIMBY-driven "community action" committees.
October 03, 2005
Americans do not capitulate easily to adversity, which is why President Bush's elegy last week--and his stirring promise to rebuild--comforted us. "Americans want the Gulf Coast not just to survive, but to thrive; not just to cope, but to overcome," he said, standing in front of the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, my hometown. "We want evacuees to come home for the best of reasons--because they have a real chance at a better life in a place they love." It sounds uplifting. But, sadly, it is wrong. New Orleans should not be remade.