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The most obvious example of the trouble caused [by the 1872-73 horse flu outbreak] was in Boston. A major fire broke out on November 9th at the height of that city’s crisis. Eventually several city blocks burned down and twenty people were killed, and all the while the Boston Fire Department was reduced to firemen and volunteers pulling the fire engines. Though likely not the main cause for the fire’s spread (Boston’s fire regulations for buildings were archaic even by 1872 standards), it was the one image that stuck in the mind of people describing the blaze for years to come. Meanwhile, in Arizona, the end of the war between the United States and the Apaches was delayed for a little while as US cavalry and Apache fighters were reduced to walking into battle. There is some argument that in this one circumstance only the horse flu jumped into humans, adding one more line to the New World’s depressing litany of plagues post-1492. Whatever actually happened, the US Army recovered faster than its adversary, and by April of 1873 the Apaches’ resistance started to collapse. Small bands of them began surrendering at an ever-increasing pace, and by the end of the year the bulk of them sued for peace and were hemmed into a reservation. — “The Great Epizootic,” Paul Drye, Passing Strangeness
[U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu:] When a structural engineer starts to lay out an HVAC [heating, ventilation and air control] system this computer design tool can actually instruct this person actually how to do it much more efficiently. How to design a much more efficient building. [It] should be open source software, so companies can add to that and put whatever they want on it but then you get this body of programmes, computer aided design programmes, as a way of helping design much more efficient buildings. Now if we develop this with China together so that this intellectual property is co-owned, co-developed, free to be used by each country… what’s in it for the United States? First, I’m not so sure we have an edge on this technology, secondly… the buildings in China will be enormous; the infrastructure of cities equivalent to at least one U.S. population the next couple of decades… So that becomes a laboratory for actually testing a lot of these design concepts. So I think Europe also should be doing this. In fact in my opinion it should really be a deep connection; a connection where you’re there at the construction site, you’re there in the design, you’re actually sharing at that level and then you’re sharing in the experience that, once the building is built, how efficient is it? — “Steven Chu: Open source software can reduce need for coal plants,” Kate Mackenzie, Financial Times
Oprah Winfrey’s platform for celebrity pseudoscience; British science writer Simon Singh’s battle against the chiropractors (more); Pennsylvania state legislative staffer/furry wanted to wear panda costume and perform sex acts with boy
Quadrophenia was immediately alluring as a narrative, before I had heard a minute’s music. The title was strange and edgy, somehow combining “schizophrenia” with “quadraphonic”– the latter all the rage, then– as if music could be a kind of vivid sickness. Then my brother dropped the clumsy needle on to the vinyl, and the huge, customised Goodman loudspeaker he had wired up to the old Leak valve amp exploded– exploded with music. And nothing has changed in 30 years. The sound comes thinned and compressed through its digital codes, the amplifier is cleansed of its noisy, tardy valves, but the music still has tremendous power. The Who playing at full throttle is, for me, one of the indices of life. Or perhaps I should say that hearing the Who is both a way of registering life and a way of shaking a fist at it. Townshend’s angry, metallic guitar chords seem to slice into the softness and hypocrisy we wad ourselves with; John Entwistle’s extraordinarily mobile, perpetually restless bass-playing seems like the steps of a man who is running away from something (even though he was famous for staying perfectly still when playing live, while the band erupted into gymnastics around him); Keith Moon’s wildly exciting drumming, both precise and slightly drunken, seems like a form of dedicated vandalism, a desire to play the drums and smash them up at the same time; and Roger Daltrey’s singing is often barely indistinguishable from shouting. That, to me, is what rock should sound like: a concentrated, furious laboratory of focused energy. — “The kids are alright,” James Wood, The Guardian
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.”