On Tom Lehrer, one of the most influential people in comedy who abruptly stepped away from the spotlight:
He began performing internationally in 1959, when the Palace Theatre in London asked him to perform the first two Sundays in May. “In England in 1959, you couldn’t put on a play, [on Sunday] so the theaters were closed,” Robinson recalled. “But you could put on a concert.”
Lehrer filled the 1,400-seat theater both weekends and was a big enough hit that they kept him on through the end of May, after which he booked several more performances throughout England in June and early July.
Yet despite his enormous success, global popularity, and the release of his second album, More Songs by Tom Lehrer that year, it was exactly at this time that Lehrer first told Robinson he wanted to stop performing. Lehrer has told friends and various interviewers that he didn’t enjoy “anonymous affection.” And while his work was widely enjoyed at the time, it was also something of a scandal — the clever songs about math and language were for everyone, but Lehrer’s clear-eyed contemplation of nuclear apocalypse was straightforwardly disturbing.
PUBLISHED: April 9, 2014
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5533 words)
This week's picks from Emily includes stories from The Georgia Review, Buzzfeed, and Sady Doyle.
On the oddly spiritual experience of transitioning:
I have made my transition into a ritual. It’s like church to me, every other Sunday. It takes me about half an hour in the little bathroom. I lay everything out like a makeshift altar: bag of syringes, alcohol wipes, pickle Band-Aids, vial of testosterone. I don’t like to be bothered, but sometimes I think about certain people being there. It seems strange to invite anybody. Sometimes my mouth gets dry in the middle and I go for a glass of water. Or I feel lightheaded so I break and chew some multivitamins. Down in Iowa for Christmas, my mother asks me if my shots are “self-administered”; she means am I doing them on my own, but all I can hear is the word “minister” and I remember when, as a toddler on the brink of baptism, I asked my parents if I was going to be “pasteurized.” Like milk, boiled clean. When we say we are moved, it is always some liquid, as Anne Enright writes in “My Milk.”
PUBLISHED: Jan. 20, 2014
LENGTH: 5 minutes (1407 words)
This week's picks from Emily include stories from Thought Catalog, The Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed, and The Billfold.
Written in the frenzied, emotional days after 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President Bush the ability to retaliate against whoever orchestrated the attacks. But more than 12 years later, this sentence remains the primary legal justification for nearly every covert operation around the world.
Unbound by time and unlimited by geography, the sentence has been stretched and expanded over the past decade, sprouting new meanings and interpretations as two successive administrations have each attempted to keep pace with an evolving threat while simultaneously maintaining the security of the homeland. In the process, what was initially thought to authorize force against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan has now been used to justify operations in several countries across multiple continents and, at least theoretically, could allow the president — any president — to strike anywhere at anytime. What was written in a few days of fear has now come to govern years of action.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 17, 2014
LENGTH: 43 minutes (10806 words)
The author, on buying an abandoned house in Detroit and fixing it up, in a city that has seen more busts than booms:
I wanted something nobody wanted, something that was impossible. The city is filled with these structures, houses whose yellowy eyes seem to follow you. It would be only one house out of thousands, but I wanted to prove it could be done, prove that this American vision of torment could be built back into a home. I also decided I would do it the old-fashioned way, without grants or loans or the foundation money pouring into the city. I would work for everything that went into the house, because not everyone has access to those resources. I also wanted to prove to myself and my family I was a man. While they were building things, I had been writing poems.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 9, 2014
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6333 words)
This week's picks from Emily include stories from The New Yorker, Rookie, Buzzfeed, and Salon.
This week's picks from Emily include stories from Buzzfeed, Tampa Bay Times, The New Republic, and Salon.
This week's list from Emily includes stories from BuzzFeed, The New Yorker, The Rumpus, and Left Field Project.