SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
From “Too Much of Water Hast Thou” in Readings, May 2007.
The case of Jennifer Strange is now on its way to trial.
From the January 12 airing of Morning Rave on KDND 107.9 FM, a radio station in Sacramento, California, that bills itself as The End. The program held a contest, “Hold Your Wee for a Wii,” in which eighteen contestants were asked to drink large quantities of water without urinating or vomiting in order to win a Nintendo Wii video-game console, which retails for $250. Jennifer Strange, a twenty-eight-year-old mother of three, agreed to accept second prize, a pair of tickets to a Justin Timberlake concert, after all but one other contestant had been eliminated. After taking the day off work, she was found dead at her home, reportedly of water intoxication. KDND canceled Morning Rave and fired ten employees, including the on-air personalities Lukas, Maney, Fester, Carter, and Trish. Portions of the broadcast were released by the Sacramento Bee.
lukas: How much water you think you can drink before you have to wee? We’re gonna be drinking ’til like—
fester: I did like two gallons, I think.
all: Two gallons!
lukas: Aw, dude—
trish: Can’t you get water poisoning and, like, die?
lukas: [Laughing] Your body is 98 percent water, why can’t you take in as much water as you want?
trish: I don’t know—
fester: How much did he drink, that poor kid in college?
lukas: Yeah, well, he was doing other things.
trish: Maybe we should have researched this beforehand.
fester: Next thing you know, I break out in hives, and I’m in an ambulance.
lukas: If it gets dangerous for somebody, their body will automatically throw it up. And if you throw up the water, you’re out of the contest.
eva, a caller: Those people that are drinking all that water can get sick and possibly die from water intoxication.
lukas: Yeah, we’re aware of that.
maney: They signed releases, so we’re not responsible. It’s okay.
lukas: And if they get to the point where they have to throw up, they’re going to throw up, and they’re out of the contest before they die. So that’s good, right?
eva: Aw, that’s mean! I suppose so.
lukas: How come you guys didn’t do it?
eva: Because we don’t want to die.
lukas: Oh, okay. Let me ask Carter if anybody’s dying. Hey Carter, is anybody dying in there?
carter: Uh, we got a guy who’s just about to die.
The American way of eating has become the elephant in the room in the debate over health care. The president has made a few notable allusions to it, and, by planting her vegetable garden on the South Lawn, Michelle Obama has tried to focus our attention on it. Just last month, Mr. Obama talked about putting a farmers’ market in front of the White House, and building new distribution networks to connect local farmers to public schools so that student lunches might offer more fresh produce and fewer Tater Tots. He’s even floated the idea of taxing soda. But so far, food system reform has not figured in the national conversation about health care reform. And so the government is poised to go on encouraging America’s fast-food diet with its farm policies even as it takes on added responsibilities for covering the medical costs of that diet. To put it more bluntly, the government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup. –“Big Food vs. Big Insurance,” Michael Pollan, the New York Times
Wystan Hugh Auden took the martini seriously. Richard Wilbur, in a 1993 interview conducted by Lorraine Pearsall, recounts one of his few conversations with the elder poet. “Auden had ordered a martini and I had ordered a martini, and we talked about martinis, and we discussed the fact that if you are devoted to martinis, it’s very hard to get a good one away from home,” Wilbur recalled. “I think that was the essence of our deep conversation, but it was heartfelt.” But what sort of martini did Auden prepare at home? If Tarquin Winot, the epicurean protagonist of John Lanchester’s novel The Debt to Pleasure, is to be believed, he made them like so: “I borrowed W.H. Auden’s technique of mixing the vermouth and gin at lunchtime (though the great poet himself used vodka) and leaving the mixture in the freezer to attain that wonderful jellified texture of alcohol chilled to below the point at which water freezes. The absence of ice means that the Auden martini is not diluted in any way, and thus truly earns the drink its sobriquet ‘the silver bullet.’” –“In Search of the Auden Martini: How to make a cocktail beautiful, humanizing, and good,” Rosie Schaap, Poetry Foundation
My proposal: That the closest thing we presently have to a “School” of younger, rigorously innovative poets in the U.S. (one that stands closest chance of being retrospectively seen as akin in significance to the NY School in its first-generation, proto-formation years–and when I say “School” I mean in that sense of fortuitous constellation, something very different from a self-identified tendency or “movement”) is what I’ll call the New Chicago School. It’s a list of accomplished, experimental writers, more poetically focused as a collective, perhaps, than the contents list of the City Visible anthology of a couple years back, and more geographically focused, too, inasmuch as all the poets have roots in the city, even though a few of them have recently moved elsewhere (though in most cases still nearby), and one now lives abroad… –“The New Chicago School,” Kent Johnson, Digital Emunction
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.
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 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.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“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.”