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1981 / December | View All Issues |

December 1981

Photography

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Untitled·

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Letters

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The easy chair

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Envoi·

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Answering the mail

Letter from abroad

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Letter from abroad·

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Letter from abroad

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The four horsemen·

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Heading for the apocalypse

Washington

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Washington·

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Washington

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Return to sender·

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Reclaiming the post office from big business

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The Americans·

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Why we baffle the Europeans

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Invisible wars·

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The Pentagon plays with poison

Books

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Breaking the line·

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The bard of Newark’s department stores

Books

58-61 PDF

More facts! One sort of scholarship·

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Geography 105

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Geography 105·

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Geography 105

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Trade power·

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In print

64-66 PDF

In print·

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In print

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Buried honor·

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A world without dragons

The mind’s eye

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The mind’s eye

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The microscopists·

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Two views on abortion

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French amnesia·

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The holy left

Ars politica

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Ars politica

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Caspar W. Weinberger’s window of vulnerability·

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Revisions

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Revisions

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Music without calculus·

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Donald Tovey’s sound advice

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Castle rock·

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American miscellany

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Puzzle

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“In Season 5 of Louie (FX), Louie is a new kind of superhero. Like Wonder Woman, the canonical superhero he most resembles, Louie’s distinctive superpower is love.”
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On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.

In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.

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“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
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“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
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“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.

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