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“Readers of The Journal May Be Wary of Murdoch, but Advertising Executives Are Not,” The New York Times, August 1, 2007:
“It’s just been a dark day,” said Ryan Chittum, a real estate reporter at The [Wall Street] Journal. “There is a tremendous amount of anxiety about being subsumed into News Corp. We are all extremely worried about the future of The Journal and its credibility. Its credibility is The Journal’s calling card and if that’s in question, then it hurts the paper.”
Shouting sans-serif headlines, of crude cut and emotive wording, dominate what the trade calls a “circus layout.” The jigsaw pattern seeks to convey the impression that everything happened at once, which is appropriately miraculous but sometimes disconcerting. Is the man in the photograph the crated mental patient? No, he is the future archbishop of New York. But for a single, glorious moment the reader might wonder if a priest had run amok with a knife instead of a box of socks. The intention is to jostle, distract, and entertain, to say to the reader, Move on, read this, look at that. The line “Mental Patient Stalked Reagan” isn’t bad. “Mental patient” perhaps isn’t as good as “psychopath” or “madman,” but “stalked” certainly is better than “traipsed after.” Best would have been “Ape-Mother Steals Kennedy Child.” But in the Murdoch press, thieving ape-mothers appear only once or twice a year, usually in the Star, and, for reasons not yet adequately understood, usually prefer to steal children in California or Texas.
I have lived for 613,000 hours. 201,000 of them were in childhood, youth, and thoroughly sort of inadequate education. That leaves 412,000. You take a third of that for sleep and rest. So I’m down to 275,000 hours. I take out a month for holidays, at least half a weekend, family time, evenings, etc., and you’re down to at the very maximum a couple hundred thousand hours I’ve been at work. And then I go, What have I done? How much time have I wasted in endless meetings with no decisions? Industry conferences? Company conferences? Studying overlong reports? Yeah, I guess I’ve wasted at least half my life. So that gets me down to perhaps 100,000 useful hours. Pretty bad figures. So if I’m pretty healthy and have a normal life expectancy–I’m a bit optimistic–I’ve got about another 175,000 hours to go, of which maybe I can spend 75,000 productively at work. All right? Or 70,000, say. So I’ve just got to see that each one of those hours is well spent.
Miss C.H. Spence of Adelaide, “An Australian’s Impressions of America,” July 1894:
As I come from a land where all the railroads and telegraphs are constructed and worked by government for the benefit of the community, the enormous power of the corporations that hold these monopolies in this country strikes me as a constant peril to liberty. The influence of millionaires and multimillionaires is doubled, if not quadrupled, by their hold on these indispensable branches of the public service. It may be said that no American state, and not even the Federal government itself, can be trusted with the administration of these things, on account of the corrupt political conditions which prevail. This is not going to last forever. All around we hear the voice of the discontented and the uncontented demanding reform. From various quarters it comes… Eternal vigilance on the part of the political machine only is eternal slavery for the citizen.
More from Harper’s Magazine:
Official Business — March 17, 2015, 4:01 am
Listen to the broadcast version of “American Hustle,” Alexandra Starr’s story, for the April 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine, about how elite youth basketball exploits African athletes.
Official Business — January 8, 2015, 3:57 pm
We defend Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish its cartoons—and our right to critique them.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”