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The January 2012 issue is with subscribers, for whom it is also available online, and will be on newsstands for another few weeks yet. Herewith, our monthly roundup of blog posts and web links related to the stories in the issue:
Thomas Frank‘s Easy Chair column, “Semper Infidelis” (p. 6) takes up the co-opting of the term “infidel” by people who consider themselves to be anti-jihadists. Among the various markers of infidel culture that Frank mentions is the comic book The Infidel, which was satirized by Aasif Mandvi of The Daily Show:
The comic book’s creator wrote a behind-the-scenes post about the segment here. As for Frank, he, too, is a writer of books. He appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show on January 5 to discuss his latest, Pity The Billionaire.
One of this month’s Readings, “Cloak and Swagger” (p. 20), is taken from several months’ worth of emails from web-security firm HBGary, which were posted online by the hacker collective Anonymous. Ars Technica has done some strong detective work on the story behind the HBGary hack, and the hack’s effects.
Christopher Ketcham’s “Stop Payment!” (p. 28) discusses efforts to rally for lawsuits some homeowners whose mortgages were packaged for sale as financial products. Leading the efforts, and Ketcham’s story, are the people behind the National Homeowners Cooperative and the website Protect America’s Dream. Ketcham also discusses the landmark Landmark National Bank v. Boyd A. Kesler decision, in Kansas, which was one of the first rulings to note that packaged mortgages had failed to maintain properties’ title chain.
For “The Long Draw” (p. 50), written by Jeremy Miller and featuring photography by Lena Herzog, Geoff McGhee of Stanford University’s Bill Lane Center for the American West created an interactive map showing the routes taken by two early expeditions in the American West. The map allows readers to compare images drawn by Friedrich von Egloffstein, the first cartographer and illustrator of the Grand Canyon, with modern photographs taken by Herzog. Miller’s accompanying text asks whether some of the images commonly taken to be of the Grand Canyon might in fact be of a different canyon.
In his New Books column this month (p. 71), Larry McMurtry reviews a biography of Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, noting the changes the web has wrought for booksellers the past few years. McMurtry knows whereof he writes, as the proprietor of Booked Up, in Archer City, Texas. McMurtry also reviews John Updike’s collected criticism and a book on whales—which, it must be said, are not to be trusted:
Jenny Diski’s “Unfaithful: The false nostalgia of Mad Men” (p. 74) criticizes the popular television show, ultimately arguing that the Doris Day and Rock Hudson film Lover Come Back “does a better job of critiquing the advertising business than Mad Men ever sustains.” Brilliantly slick though the film may be, its own marketing trailer was ironically ham—Hamm?—fisted:
And last, the issue’s concluding Findings section (p. 80), where you will learn, among other facts, that sex with animals doubles a man’s risk of penile cancer.
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.
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.
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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.”