Weekly Review — April 19, 2011, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A Small Family, May 1874]

A Small Family.

While being questioned about his abuses of power, ousted 82-year-old Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak reportedly suffered a heart attack and was rushed to a hospital in the beach resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. GuardianMubarak’s sons, Gamal and Alaa, were taken for questioning from the hospital, in a police van that was pelted with stones, bottles, and flip-flops; they joined former Egyptian ministers in Tora Farm prison. “Bear in mind they are very broken,” said a prison officer of the influx of inmates, who added that Tora Farm was known as a “five-star prison” only because “those who come to it are from the elite of society.”NYTimesGBP News24 World NewsNYTimesItalian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi denied accusations that he paid a teenage runaway for sex, explaining that he gave $65,000 to a bellydancer who goes by the name of Ruby the Heartbreaker to help her escape a life of prostitution by launching a beauty parlor, and that he thought she was Hosni Mubarak’s granddaughter.GuardianHundreds of thousands of protesters in Yemen denounced President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and tens of thousands of Syrians marched in Damascus, calling for an end to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “If theyâ??re going to stay in power,” historian Amr al-Azm said of the Syrian government, “theyâ??ll have to either really massacre people or theyâ??ll have to get very serious about reform.”GuardianNYTimesAntigovernment forces trying to oust Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi fled Ajdabiya after a rocket attack by government forces, confessing they had insufficient weapons and were frustrated with the lack of airstrikes. “Maybe NATO took off Saturday and Sunday,” said rebel spokesman Mustafa Gheriani.NYTimesDonald Trump, who is giving “serious, serious thought” to running for president in 2012, outlined his Libya policy: “Either Iâ??d go in and take the oil,” he said, “or I donâ??t go in at all.”Financial Times

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which plans to bring the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to the stable state of “cold shutdown” within nine months and will pay $12,000 to each household forced to evacuate because of leaking radiation, sent robots and remote-controlled helicopters into Units 1 and 3 of the plant, which brought back images revealing that the buildings were still too radioactive for workers to enter.WSJNewserNYTimesMusashi Waki of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party shouted at Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan about the slow progress. “You should be bowing your head in apology,” he said. “You clearly have no leadership at all.”AOPreviously unseen emails revealed that BP tried to control independent research into the consequences of the Gulf oil spill.GuardianBolivia prepared to pass the Law of Mother Earth, which will grant nature rights equal to those of humans, although it is not yet clear how the legislation will be implemented. WiredA “family” of tornadoes travelled from Oklahoma to North Carolina, killing at least 43 people.NYTimesHydraulic fracturing companies, an investigation revealed, injected hundreds of millions of gallons of hazardous or carcinogenic chemicals into wells in at least 13 states between 2005 and 2009, as well as salt, instant coffee, and walnut hulls, to stimulate the release of natural gas from underground reserves.NYTimesAn outbreak of Legionnaires disease at the Los Angeles Playboy mansion that left more than 70 people ill was traced to a hot tub.Telegraph

President Obama, who apparently forgot to turn off his microphone after a fundraising event, was overheard discussing his recent budget negotiations with Republicans and complaining about the White House technology to donors. “Whereâ??s the fancy buttons and stuff and the big screen comes up?” he asked.NYTimesScientists identified the part of the brain integral to embarrassment by asking subjects to listen to their own karaoke renditions of the Temptations’ 1964 hit “My Girl” played back without the musical accompaniment, and homeless men in St. Petersburg, Florida, claimed that they were paid $25 to $50 to be beaten by scantily-clad women for a website. “I’m still in a little bit of pain from a couple of weeks ago,” said a man who had taken part in one of the “beatdowns.” “I’m just trying to deal with it mentally right now.”Science DailyTampabay.com“Big Joey” Massino became the first official boss of a New York crime family to testify as a government witness, having offered his cooperation to avoid facing the death penalty after seven murder convictions and charges on an eighth. “Some people, they kill. Some people, they earn,” Massino explained. “It takes all kinds of meat to make a good sauce.”New York PostABCA retired greengrocer from Southampton, England, spent 400 hours knitting a three-tier wedding cake to celebrate the upcoming marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. “It’s not based on a pattern,” said 74-year-old Sheila Carter. “I just made it up.”Daily Mail

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I.

That year, the year of the Ghost Ship fire, I lived in a shack. I’d found the place just as September’s Indian summer was giving way to a wet October. There was no plumbing or running water to wash my hands or brush my teeth before sleep. Electricity came from an extension cord that snaked through a yard of coyote mint and monkey flower and up into a hole I’d drilled in my floorboards. The structure was smaller than a cell at San Quentin—a tiny house or a huge coffin, depending on how you looked at it—four by eight and ten feet tall, so cramped it fit little but a mattress, my suit jackets and ties, a space heater, some novels, and the mason jar I peed in.

The exterior of my hermitage was washed the color of runny egg yolk. Two redwood French doors with plexiglass windows hung cockeyed from creaky hinges at the entrance, and a combination lock provided meager security against intruders. White beadboard capped the roof, its brim shading a front porch set on cinder blocks.

After living on the East Coast for eight years, I’d recently left New York City to take a job at an investigative reporting magazine in San Francisco. If it seems odd that I was a fully employed editor who lived in a thirty-two-square-foot shack, that’s precisely the point: my situation was evidence of how distorted the Bay Area housing market had become, the brutality inflicted upon the poor now trickling up to everyone but the super-rich. The problem was nationwide, although, as Californians tend to do, they’d taken this trend to an extreme. Across the state, a quarter of all apartment dwellers spent half of their incomes on rent. Nearly half of the country’s unsheltered homeless population lived in California, even while the state had the highest concentration of billionaires in the nation. In the Bay Area, including West Oakland, where my shack was located, the crisis was most acute. Tent cities had sprung up along the sidewalks, swarming with capitalism’s refugees. Telegraph, Mission, Market, Grant: every bridge and overpass had become someone’s roof.

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I am eight years old, sitting in my childhood kitchen, ready to watch one of the home videos my father has made. The videotape still exists somewhere, so somewhere she still is, that girl on the screen: hair that tangles, freckles across her nose that in time will spread across one side of her forehead. A body that can throw a baseball the way her father has shown her. A body in which bones and hormones lie in wait, ready to bloom into the wide hips her mother has given her. A body that has scars: the scars over her lungs and heart from the scalpel that saved her when she was a baby, the invisible scars left by a man who touched her when she was young. A body is a record or a body is freedom or a body is a battleground. Already, at eight, she knows it to be all three.

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No, she thinks. They have allowed her to be a boy.

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The writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes lives in a nondescript modern building in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. I know it well: it has a Bricorama—like a French Home Depot—on the ground floor, where we sometimes had cause to shop back when we lived in the neighborhood. The people who work there seemed to hate their jobs more than most; they were often absent from the sales floor. In the elevator to Despentes’s apartment, I marvel that while I was trying to get someone to help me find bathroom grout she was right upstairs, with her partner, Tania, a Spanish tattoo artist who goes by the name La Rata, like someone out of one of Despentes’s novels.

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Discussed in this essay:

Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright, by Paul Hendrickson. Knopf. 624 pages. $35.

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That night at the window, looking out at the street full of snow, big flakes falling through the streetlight, I listened to what Anna was saying. She was speaking of a man named Karl. We both knew him as a casual acquaintance—thin and lanky like Ichabod Crane, with long hair—operating a restaurant down in the village whimsically called the Gist Mill, with wood paneling, a large painting of an old gristmill on a river on one wall, tin ceilings, and a row of teller cages from its previous life as a bank. Karl used to run along the river, starting at his apartment in town and turning back about two miles down the path. He had been going through the divorce—this was a couple of years ago, of course, Anna said—and was trying to run through his pain.

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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