How Cesar Chavez disserved his dream:
The history of California is a history of will grafted onto the landscape. First came missionaries, building churches out of clay and meting out God’s kingdom to the native peoples. Then came gold and silver, the pursuit of which levelled hills, remade cliffs, and built cities along the Pacific Coast. Water was diverted. Sprawling fields soon followed. By the time Cesar Chavez organized a grape workers’ strike, in 1965, the agriculture business was the largest in the state. People say Chavez fought for justice, which is broadly true. And yet that strike, like many of his efforts, rose more from scrappy pragmatism than from any abstract ideal. “No one in any battle has ever won anything by being on the defensive,” he liked to tell his picketers. High intent was a fine thing, but change would come the way it always came in California: by force of will.
PUBLISHED: April 10, 2014
LENGTH: 18 minutes (4531 words)
How Norman Lear changed television with All in the Family, and sparked a debate about the impact of Archie Bunker’s bigotry:
To critics, the show wasn’t the real problem: its audience was. In 1974, the social psychologists Neil Vidmar and Milton Rokeach offered some evidence for this argument in a study published in the Journal of Communication, using two samples, one of teen-agers, the other of adults. Subjects, whether bigoted or not, found the show funny, but most bigoted viewers didn’t perceive the program as satirical. They identified with Archie’s perspective, saw him as winning arguments, and, “perhaps most disturbing, saw nothing wrong with Archie’s use of racial and ethnic slurs.” Lear’s series seemed to be even more appealing to those who shared Archie’s frustrations with the culture around him, a “silent majority” who got off on hearing taboo thoughts said aloud.
PUBLISHED: April 2, 2014
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3779 words)
The father of the Sandy Hook killer searches for answers:
In Peter Lanza’s new house, on a secluded private road in Fairfield County, Connecticut, is an attic room overflowing with shipping crates of what he calls “the stuff.” Since the day in December, 2012, when his son Adam killed his own mother, himself, and twenty-six people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, strangers from across the world have sent thousands upon thousands of letters and other keepsakes: prayer shawls, Bibles, Teddy bears, homemade toys; stories with titles such as “My First Christmas in Heaven”; crosses, including one made by prison inmates. People sent candy, too, and when I visited Peter, last fall, he showed me a bag of year-old caramels.
PUBLISHED: March 17, 2014
LENGTH: 30 minutes (7650 words)
Our favorite stories this week, featuring the New York Times Magazine, New Yorker, Tin House, The Awl and The Walrus.
PUBLISHED: March 14, 2014
Nicholas Lemann looks at the implications of the media’s coverage of the Kitty Genovese story:
An excellent example is the murder of Kitty Genovese, a twenty-eight-year-old bar manager, by Winston Moseley, a twenty-nine-year-old computer punch-card operator, just after three in the morning on Friday, March 13, 1964, in Kew Gardens, Queens. The fact that this crime, one of six hundred and thirty-six murders in New York City that year, became an American obsession—condemned by mayors and Presidents, puzzled over by academics and theologians, studied in freshman psychology courses, re-created in dozens of research experiments, even used four decades later to justify the Iraq war—can be attributed to the influence of one man, A. M. Rosenthal, of the New York Times.
PUBLISHED: March 10, 2014
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3347 words)
Our favorite stories of the week, featuring the Boston Magazine, ESPN Magazine, Washingtonian, Mother Jones, and The New Yorker.
Cartoonist Roz Chast’s illustrated memoir on the final years of her parents’ lives.
It's no accident that most consumer ads are pitched to people in their 20s and 30s. For one thing, they are less likely to have gone through the transformative process of cleaning out their deceased parents' stuff. Once you go through that, you can never look at YOUR stuff in the same way.
A deeper look at the legendary jazz musician’s work and thoughts on race in America:
Armstrong chose his battles carefully. In September, 1957, seven months after the bombing attempt in Knoxville, he grew strident when President Eisenhower did not compel Arkansas to allow nine students to attend Little Rock Central High School. As Teachout recounts in “Pops,” here Armstrong had leverage, and spoke out. Armstrong was then an unofficial goodwill ambassador for the State Department. Armstrong stated publicly that Eisenhower was “two-faced” and had “no guts.” He told one reporter, “It’s getting almost so bad a colored man hasn’t got any country.” His comments made network newscasts and front pages, and the A.P. reported that State Department officials had conceded that “Soviet propagandists would undoubtedly seize on Mr. Armstrong’s words.”
Doing things Armstrong’s way, no one had to accept responsibility for his actions but Louis Armstrong. When Eisenhower did force the schools to integrate, Armstrong’s tone was friendlier. “Daddy,” he telegrammed the President, “You have a good heart.”
PUBLISHED: March 7, 2014
LENGTH: 10 minutes (2547 words)
Our favorite stories of the week, featuring The New Yorker, The New Republic, Outside, The Dissolve and Playboy.