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2011 / February | View All Issues |

February 2011

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Letters

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Easy Chair

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Easy chair·

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Easy Chair

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Servile disobedience·

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Harper’s Index

11 PDF

Harper’s index·

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Readings

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The art of suffering·

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[Poetry]

I did this to my vocabulary·

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Before punk came funk·

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The forever ward·

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Waste management·

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Efficiency study (after Gilbreth)·

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Made in Taiwan·

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Image is nothing·

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Like a ten-minute egg·

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The elder modernist·

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Homer Watson Blvd (red house)·

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The special child·

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[Poetry]

Eternal sunshine·

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Readings·

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Hot dogs and hamburgers (9CFR.94) (prohibited)·

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Beanie Baby (counterfeit)·

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Dog bones (unidentified source)·

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Seal pills (prohibited)·

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Electronic cigarette flavors·

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Red Bull, coffee, Marlboro, cappuccino (prohibited)

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South African cycad with soil (7CFR319.37/7CFR 330.400 & CITES/ESA) (prohibited)·

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[Collection]

Contraband·

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Strawberries, fragaria spp. (7CFR.319.56) (prohibited)·

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Nesting dolls with Disney characters, Snow White (counterfeit)·

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Cow urine, medicinal, India (ruminant viral fomite) (9CFR.94) (prohibited)·

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Article

Front page, 31-39 PDF

Can Madison Avenue make us love our government?·

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Collection

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A Super Bowl spot for Uncle Sam·

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Article

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Ice cream·

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Article

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Fantasy·

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Article

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America·

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Article

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Approve this·

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Like butterflies in the jungle·

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The quest for the new El Dorado

Fiction

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Always raining somewhere, said Jim Johnson·

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New books

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Reviews

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Undelivered·

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Egyptian novelists at home and abroad

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Timothy Snyder looks east

Puzzle

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Gremlins·

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Alex and Wendy love culture. It’s how they spend their free time. It’s what they talk about at dinner parties. When they go jogging or to the gym, they listen to podcasts on their phones. On Sunday nights they watch their favorite new shows. They go to the movies sometimes, but they were bummed out when ­MoviePass went south, so now they mostly stream things. They belong to book clubs that meet every couple of weeks. Alex and Wendy work hard at their jobs, but they always have a bit of time to check their feeds at work. What’s in their feeds? Their feeds tell them about culture. Their feeds are a form of comfort. Their feeds explain things to them that they already understand. Their feeds tell them that everyone else is watching, reading, listening to the same things. Their feeds tell them about the people who make their culture, people who aren’t so different from them, just maybe a bit more glistening. Alex and Wendy’s feeds assure them that they aren’t lonely. Their feeds give them permission to like what they already like. Their feeds let them know that their culture is winning.

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Five years ago, Jean-Sebastien Hertsens Zune went looking for his parents. He already had one set, a Belgian church organist and his wife, who adopted him as a baby from Guatemala and later moved the family to France. But he wanted to find his birth mother and father. When Zune was a teenager, his Belgian parents gave him his adoption file, holding back only receipts showing how much the process had cost. Most people pay little attention to their birth certificates, but for adoptees, these documents, along with notes about their relinquishment, tell an often patchy origin story.

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Once, in an exuberant state, feeling filled with the muse, I told another writer: When I write, I know everything. Everything about the characters? she asked. No, I said, everything about the world, the universe. Every. Fucking. Thing. I was being preposterous, of course, but I was also trying to explain the feeling I got, deep inside writing a first draft, that I was listening and receiving, listening some more and receiving, from a place that was far enough away from my daily life, from all of my reading, from everything.

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All his life he lived on hatred.

He was a solitary man who hoarded gloom. At night a thick smell filled his bachelor’s room on the edge of the kibbutz. His sunken, severe eyes saw shapes in the dark. The hater and his hatred fed on each other. So it has ever been. A solitary, huddled man, if he does not shed tears or play the violin, if he does not fasten his claws in other people, experiences over the years a constantly mounting pressure, until he faces a choice between lunacy and suicide. And those who live around him breathe a sigh of relief.

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Thirty-two years ago my newborn daughter was discharged from Boston Children’s Hospital after an operation to repair a congenital birth defect and a lengthy period of recovery. Her mother and I had prepared for this—we knew the diagnosis from the ultrasound, had done the research you could do in 1986, asked the questions we could learn to ask—and got a good outcome. We went home to the western end of the state to raise twin daughters, one with a major disability (“our third child,” her mother says), and found ourselves in a system whose existence we hadn’t known of: Early Childhood Intervention. Physical therapists, psychologists, licensed practical nurses, and the state and public–private agencies that supplied and paid them. They cared for our child, but more than that, they taught us how to, and the teaching was as much mental and emotional—call it spiritual—as it was practical. They taught us to watch, to observe, to learn this particular child; to have patience, not to see too much and fall into useless anxiety, not to see too little and miss the signs of trouble. Close watching actually changed our experience of time. I learned what mindfulness meant, even if my practice of it fell short.

Cost of renting a giant panda from the Chinese government, per day:

$1,500

A recent earthquake in Chile was found to have shifted the city of Concepción ten feet to the west, shortened Earth’s days by 1.26 microseconds, and shifted the planet’s axis by nearly three inches.

In California, a 78-year-old patient and his family were informed that he would die within days from a doctor who was communicating via video call on a screen mounted to a robot on wheels.

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