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kottke.org posts about The New Yorker

Bittersweet Poetry

posted by Aaron Cohen   Aug 03, 2010

Kanye and New Yorker Cartoons

You may have heard recently that Kanye West’s Twitter account is really something special. If you heard that, it’s true. If not, you’re hearing it now. Paul and Storm and Josh A. Cagan have made Kanye’s Tweets even better, though, by matching them with New Yorker Cartoons. Scroll through their Twitter feeds and you’ll find gold.

(Via The New Yorker)

Interview with a New Yorker copy editor

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2009

Mary Norris works as a page O.K.’er for the New Yorker.

It’s always good, before changing something, to stop and wonder if this is a mistake or if the writer did this for a reason. When you’ve read a piece five or more times, it is tempting to believe that it must be perfect, but you have to stay alert for anything you might have missed. Eternal vigilance!

(thx, jen)

New Yorker iPhone site

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 29, 2009

The New Yorker has an iPhone-specific site up. (thx, @level39)

Two takes on gun violence in the New Yorker

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2009

A pair of related articles from the New Yorker last week. The first is a Talk of the Town piece on a water-pistol ambush game played by the students at a New York City private school.

Willis Cohen was finally killed through no fault of his own. He woke up one day and, as usual, hopped a neighbor’s fence and exited through another house. He caught a livery cab on Amity Street and headed north to the Heights. He knew he was in trouble when his driver refused to raise the windows. A member of the Gaisford team shot him in the chest through the cab’s passenger-side window as he pulled up to the school.

The second is a piece by John Seabrook is about David Kennedy and his approach to reducing gang-related murder through a combination of community support and “one strike and everyone’s out” policy.

At the initial call-in, Victor Garcia was the first to speak. He told the young men that he loved them, that they had value to their community, and that he knew they were better than their violent actions implied. Afterward, Chief Steicher addressed them, thanking them for coming, and making it clear that “this is nothing personal.” He then delivered the message: “We know who you are, we know who your friends are, and we know what you’re doing. If your boys don’t stop shooting people right now, we’re coming after everyone in your group.”

Without too much trouble, you could imagine either of these excerpts appearing in either article. A curious editorial decision to run them in the same issue.

Dan Baum’s tour of journalism’s sausage factory

posted by Jason Kottke   May 11, 2009

Dan Baum was a staff writer for The New Yorker for a time. In 2007, the magazine didn’t renew his contract and he’s currently explaining why (from his perspective) on Twitter (archived here). It’s maddening to read the whole story 140 characters at a time but it’s pretty interesting inside-baseball stuff, where baseball = professional writing. Here are some of the highlights so far (he’s not quite done yet).

First, a little about the job of New Yorker staff writer. “Staff writer” is a bit of a misnomer, as you’re not an employee, but rather a contractor. So there’s no health insurance, no 401K, and most of all, no guarantee of a job beyond one year. My gig was a straight dollars-for-words arrangement: 30,000 words a year for $90,000. And the contract was year-to-year. Every September, I was up for review. Turns out, all New Yorker writers work this way, even the bigfeet. It’s Just the way the New Yorker chooses to behave. It shows no loyalty to its writers, yet expects full fealty in return. It gets away with it, because writing for the New Yorker is the ne plus ultra of journalism gigs. Like everybody, I loved it.

Some early advice from his editor on how to structure a story:

“Think about trying a process story,” he said, using a term I’d never heard. “It’s a New Yorker standard,” he went on. “You simply deconstruct a process for the reader. John McPhee was the master. It makes for a simple structure.”

More editorial advice:

Great piece of New Yorker advice: “This is the New Yorker, so you can use any narrative structure you like,” he said. “Just know that when I get it, I’m going to take it apart and make it all chronological.” Telling a story in strict chronological order turned out to be a fabulous discipline. It made the story easy to write, and may be why New Yorker stories are so easy to read. Of course, the magazine does run everything through the deflavorizer, following Samuel Johnson’s immortal advice: “Read what you have written, and when you come across a passage you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”

On the magazine’s legendary fact-checkers:

The editing is as superb as you’d imagine. And it’s lovely to have all the time and resources you need. I particularly liked the fact-checkers, who go way beyond getting names spelled right and actually do a lot of reporting. More than once, the fact-checkers uncovered information I hadn’t had, found crucial sources I hadn’t interviewed. It’s like having a team of back-up reporters.

Baum has an unconventional working relationship with his wife:

All the work that goes out under my byline is at least half the work of my wife, Margaret Knox.

More details on that arrangement are available on his/their web site. Margaret edits while Dan writes.

Non-fiction frequently calls for a strong individual voice, and occasionally the use of the first person, so double bylines often aren’t practical. Dan most often does the legwork of reporting the story — the travel and the phone calls — with Margaret acting as bureau chief: “Ask this.” “Don’t forget that.” “Go back to him tomorrow.” Dan then writes the first draft.

On second thought, perhaps it’s not that unconventional at all. Since Meg and I started going out nine years ago, we’ve collaborated on several projects without shared credit; I provided much advice related to Blogger, Kinja, and Megnut and she’s always operating behind the scenes here at kottke.org.

But back to the Baum/Knoxes. On their site, they’ve posted a bunch of proposals they wrote to magazines that resulted in good assignments. Among them is a proposal that New Yorker editor John Bennet called “the best proposal he’d ever read”. The Baum/Knoxes have also shared a series of their failed proposals. These proposals and the ongoing Twitter story are a gold mine for young writers…fascinating stuff. (via the awl)

Update: Baum has published the whole story in a more readable format. (thx, richard)

The New Yorker Summit

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2009

I’ll be at The New Yorker Summit today attempting some sort of live-ish coverage.

With a new President in office, our country is in a period of immense challenges, from unprecedented economic tumult to a worldwide environmental crisis. With more at stake than at any time in recent memory, we are compelled to put forward new solutions and new thinking. In this spirit, The New Yorker Summit: The Next 100 Days will gather economic heavyweights and national-policy voices to look at the formative days of the new Administration, and to explore what lies ahead in the next hundred days.

Vengeance, part two

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2009

The New Yorker is being sued for $10 million over a story written by Jared Diamond. The fascinating story, Vengeance Is Ours, tells of blood feuds in New Guinea and now two of the men described in the article as participating in those feuds say they have been falsely accused of “serious criminal activity” and “murder”.

When foreigners come to our culture, we tell stories as entertainment. Daniel’s stories were not serious narrative, and Daniel had no idea he was being interviewed for publication. He has never killed anyone or raped a woman. He certainly has never stolen a pig.

I get the impression that Diamond has spent a lot of time in Papua New Guinea and, as a result, might not be taken in so easily by locals telling tall tales. Indeed, a fact-checking research team was told by one of the men in question that “the stories he told Diamond were in fact true”.

The Complete New Yorker DVDs on sale

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 06, 2009

The Complete New Yorker DVD set is on sale at the NYer’s site for $20 or for as low as $15 (used) or $21 (new) on Amazon. Of course, the whole thing is available for free online, but if you need the discs, now’s the time. (via the millions)

Updike’s urban bushwhack

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2009

In Rockefeller Center Ho!, published in the Talk of the Town section of the Feb 11, 1956 issue of the New Yorker, John Updike described the discovery of a path from the Empire State Building to Rockefeller Center that didn’t make use of 5th or 6th Avenues. Instead he cut through building lobbies, parking lots, and underground passages on his way through the thicket of Midtown’s tall buildings.

Recently a pair of New Yorker staffers set out to discover if Updike’s journey could still be made and brought back photographic evidence.

A stingy parking attendant refused to let us pass through his gate to Fortieth Street. Faced with no other option, we offered to pay the half-hour fee to park a car; his bemused manager finally let us through without charge.

Many who work in Midtown use shortcuts like these on especially cold days (like today) to minimize the time spent outside while walking from the train or bus. I only worked up there for a couple of years, but I still learned a cut-through trick or two.

Eustace Tilley contest results

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 03, 2009

The New Yorker has announced the winners of the 2009 Eustace Tilley contest, which encouraged people to reïmagine the magazine’s monocled mascot. These are all pretty good…the cab driver is an understated favorite.

2009 Eustace Tilley Contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 24, 2008

The New Yorker is holding their second annual Eustace Tilley Contest in which they invite readers to make their own variations on the magazine’s “iconic dandy”. Here are last year’s submissions.

The New Yorker’s online Digital Reader, an evaluation

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 11, 2008

The Mind-Blowingly Wonderful: It’s every single page of every single issue of the New Yorker, from 1925 to the present, available online whenever you need it. No 9 DVDs needed. No plug-ins either, just a plain old web browser. And it’s free with your subscription. Sweet fancy licorice!

The Good: Individual issues are bookmarkable. Forward and back arrows work to flip pages. If you’re not a subscriber, you can sign up for four-issue trial or subscribe to just the digital version (~$40/year). At full zoom, the text is clear and easy to read. When an article doesn’t appear for free on the New Yorker site, you’re directed to the article in the Digital Reader. The DR is in beta and they’re soliciting feedback.

The Bad and Not-So-Bad: The Digital Reader works on the iPhone…more or less. It’s definitely not optimized for the phone and crashes often but works in a pinch. Some of the issues are missing…1962 and 1963 are largely AWOL. Issue archive always defaults to 2008, even while you’re browsing an issue from 1937. Keyword search doesn’t seem to work on older issues, i.e. most of the archive. There are a bunch of cool features that they could build on top of this thing: archive-wide search, compile/share lists of articles with other subscribers (i.e. make your own NYer mag from articles from back issues), keyword cross-referencing, etc.

The Ugly: Sadly, the actual reading interface is the worst part of the DR. The reader’s interaction with the app relies too much on the mouse…more shortcut keys are needed (zoom, shortcut to TOC, move to top of next column, next/prev issue, etc.). Flipping through the digital magazine is easy enough but reading cannot comfortably be done at the page-flipping size. But when you zoom in, you need to zoom back out before you can flip to the next page. Guess how long it takes until that gets completely annoying? (A: After precisely one page turn.) I’d also like the magazine to fill as much of my screen as it can but instead the size of the viewing window is constrained. Bascially, make the thing as big as the screen will allow and give the reader one button to push to keep reading.

Even more maddening: after a short time, you have to re-login. I don’t know if this is triggered by a period of inactivity or what, but it gets on all my nerves. (A “remember me” option that works across browser sessions would be welcome too.)

All-in-all, not enough attention was paid to the overall experience…it feels a bit like drinking fine wine from a sippy cup. That the Digital Reader exists is a great start but its shortcomings put too many roadblocks between the reader and her enjoyment of these great magazines, making the experience less wonderful than it could be. People *love* this magazine and the New Yorker should do everything it can to make people love reading it online.

How to make a New Yorker cover

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2008

Illustrator Bob Staake explains the process behind his cover on this week’s politically themed New Yorker, including rejected alternatives and a video progression of the finished design. Staake still uses a copy of Photoshop 3.0 on MacOS 7 to do his illustrations. That was a great version of Photoshop…I remember not wanting to switch myself. (via df)

Update: Staake uses OS X with MacOS 9 running in the background:

Let me clear up today’s rumor: I do NOT work in OS 7. I use OSX and run classic (9.0) in the background. Photoshop 3.0? Yes, STILL use that.

Entire New Yorker online this week

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 01, 2008

I think this is a first (or a mistake): the entire issue of the latest New Yorker is available online for free. Usually they leave 5-7 articles offline so’s to get your cheap ass to the newsstand.

New Yorker cartoon idea

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 22, 2008

My Olympics-themed New Yorker cartoon idea: Two men walk down the hallway of an office. One of the men, just laid off, carries a box with his things in it and says to the other man, “Don’t worry, I’ll work my way back through the repechage.”

New Yorker on Twitter

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2008

The stodgy old New Yorker has a Twitter account and its friends are NPR, Harper’s, Gothamist, Huffington Post, the NY Times, and the WSJ, among others. Magazines should have friends, no? (Sniff, the WSJ has no friends.)

New Yorker Conference

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2008

I’ll be at the New Yorker conference today and some attempt to provide an alive weblogging of the goings-on will be made. On the slate are kottke.org tagholders David Remnick, Rebecca Mead, David Chang, Malcolm Gladwell, and James Surowiecki.

Our collective recent history, online

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2008

In past few years, several prominent US magazines and newspapers have begun to offer their extensive archives online and on DVD. In some cases, this includes material dating back to the 1850s. Collectively it is an incredible record of recent human history, the ideas, people, and events that have shaped our country and world as recorded by writers, photographers, editors, illustrators, advertisers, and designers who lived through those times. Here are some of most notable of those archives:

Harper’s Magazine offers their entire archive online, from 1850 to 2008. Most of it is only available to the magazine’s subscribers. Associate editor Paul Ford talks about how Harper’s archive came to be.

The NY Times provides their entire archive online, most of it for free. Most of the stories from 1923 to 1986 are available for a small fee. The Times briefly launched an interface for browsing their archive called TimesMachine but withdrew it soon after launch.

Time Magazine has their entire archive online for free, from 1923 to the present.

Sports Illustrated has all their issues online for free, dating back to 1954.

The Atlantic Monthly offers all their articles since Nov 1995 and a growing number from their archive dating back to 1857 for free. For a small fee, most of the rest of their articles are available as well, although those from Jan 1964 - Sept 1992 are not.

The Washington Post has archives going back to 1877. Looks like most of it is for pay.

The New Yorker has free archives on their site going back to 2001, although only some of the articles are included. All of their articles, dating back to 1925, are available on The Complete New Yorker DVD set for $40.

Rolling Stone offers some of their archive online but the entire archive (from 1967 to 2007) is available as a 4-DVD set for $79.

Mad Magazine released a 2-DVD set of every issue of the magazine from 1952-2006.

And more to come…old media is slowly figuring out that more content equals more traffic, sometimes much more traffic.

Update: Nature has their entire archive online, dating back to 1869. (thx, gavin)

A look at the New Yorker magazine

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 29, 2008

A look at the New Yorker magazine from the 1930s and 40s: the covers, the writers, the advertising, etc.

Speaking of podcasts, The New Yorker has

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 08, 2008

Speaking of podcasts, The New Yorker has a couple of interesting ones on iTunes: readings from the Fiction section and from the weekly Comment essay in Talk of the Town.

Big Think has a series of interview

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 31, 2008

Big Think has a series of interview videos with New Yorker editor David Remnick.

Did you enter the New Yorker’s Eustace

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 29, 2008

Did you enter the New Yorker’s Eustace Tilley contest? If so, check your Flickr Mail to see if you’ve won!

The New Yorker’s Eustace Tilley Contest just

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2008

The New Yorker’s Eustace Tilley Contest just ended. Contestants were asked to design their own version of the New Yorker’s monocled mascot; here are all the entries. The winner will be announced on Feb 4. (via waxy)

Parkour in New York

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 08, 2007

As part of this weekend’s New Yorker Festival, a parkour demonstration was held at Javits Plaza. Before the demonstration, Alex Wilkinson talked with David Belle, the inventor of parkour and the subject of Wilkinson’s NYer article about parkour from April. In the interview and the Q&A that followed the demonstration, Belle explained that parkour is not about competition or showing off or being reckless. It’s a test of self, of control, of deliberate practice. The journey is the point, not the sometimes spectacular results.

The demonstration consisted of a group of about 20-30 parkour practitioners, beginners and experts alike from all over the country. It seemed as though they included anyone with parkour experience who showed up and wanted to participate, and instead of a highly polished display of high skill (which is what I think the audience might have been expecting), we were treated to a more authenic look at the sport. The first five minutes were taken up with calisthenics and stretching in preparation of the jumps and vaults to come. After warming up properly, they began running through the course, each participant picking his way through the course according to desire and ability.

Experimentation was the rule of the day, not performance. With each pass, you could see the group learning the particulars of the course, where the good holds were, finding smoother combinations, and, much of the time, trying and failing. And then trying again until they got it. There was a single woman participant, one of several beginners in the group. When she had some trouble with an obstacle, Belle and his “lieutenant” stopped to show her some moves, a moment that revealed more about parkour than Belle’s jump across a ten-foot gap twenty feet off the ground. Belle himself didn’t do too much during the performance — a couple of high jumps — and had to be coaxed during the Q&A to perform one last big move for the audience. He shrugged off the applause and attention as he back-flipped down to the concrete, knowing that the true parkour had taken place earlier.

Steve Reich like flypaper for aspies

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 20, 2007

From the letters to the editor in the Sept 24 issue of the New Yorker, a letter from John Yohalem, New York City:

I enjoyed reading Tim Page’s essay on living with Asperger’s syndrome: the insomnia, the social puzzlement, the obsession with various subjects to the exclusion of more common ones — all are very familiar to me. (“Parallel Play,” August 20th). Then came this description: “In the late nineteen-seventies, I saw a ragged, haunted man who spent urgent hours dodging the New York transit police to trace the dates and lineage of the Hapsburg nobility on the walls of the subway stations.” I was the gentleman in question; although I didn’t care about clothes, I don’t think I was that ragged. I want to assure Mr. Page that I was never homeless or institutionalized (as he guessed), and I got only one ticket. Mr. Page and I had other things in common; like him, I was at the première of Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians” at Town Hall. Unlike Mr. Page, I did not find this particular music’s structure all-engrossing; I preferred to dance to it. At one performance of Reich’s music at the U.S. Custom House, I danced alone around and around the central musicians. For someone as acutely self-conscious as I had been, this seemed a moment of glorious emergence, of living my own life in everyone else’s world.

Here’s Tim Page’s piece on what it was like growing up with Asperger’s syndrome.

So preoccupied are we with our inner imperatives that the outer world may overwhelm and confuse. What anguished pity I used to feel for pinatas at birthday parties, those papier-mache donkeys with their amiable smiles about to be shattered by little brutes with bats. On at least one occasion, I begged for a stay of execution and eventually had to be taken home, weeping, convinced that I had just witnessed the braining of a new and sympathetic acquaintance.

Of course Yohalem has a blog — the 21st century equivalent to scribbling Hapsburg lineages on subway walls — which has a more complete version of the above posted there.

Artist Lou Romano is on fire. He

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 21, 2007

Artist Lou Romano is on fire. He did the cover for the June 25th New Yorker and he’s the voice for Linguini, the main human character in Ratatouille. Visit Romano’s blog.

If you’re unfamiliar with the alternate side

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2007

If you’re unfamiliar with the alternate side parking shuffle that happens once or twice a week in most areas of NYC, Jen Bekman has a good description of it. I’m convinced the New Yorker would go out of business if it weren’t for the shuffle…a lot of 6,000 word articles get read waiting for the meter maid to come around.

Analysis of a recent New Yorker cover,

posted by Jason Kottke   May 10, 2007

Analysis of a recent New Yorker cover, the one with the guy and girl standing in front of an abstract expressionist painting. “Rather than a couple in love with each other, with art, and with technological possibility, I see a boy with a toy, and a girl with patience. He is much more engaged with the devise; she curves demurely away.” The phrase “boy with a toy, and a girl with patience” describes many American relationships, I think. (thx, david)

Update: The NYer cover is a reference to this Jan 1962 Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell. (thx, maciej)

Great interview with Hendrik Hertzberg, who writes

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 23, 2007

Great interview with Hendrik Hertzberg, who writes about politics for the New Yorker. “The quality of our members of Congress is lower than similar bodies in Europe. I don’t think the moral qualities are lower, but in terms of experience and expertise and knowledge of the world, they’re much lower. And it’s lower because the geographic basis for advancement is qualitatively different than any other field. Imagine if our music industry were geographically based, if hits were proportioned by district. Or literature or business…”

Tomorrow’s New Yorker today

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2007

I might be shooting myself in the foot by posting this, but the table of contents for the newest issue of the New Yorker is usually available on Sunday on newyorker.com, the day before the issue hits the newsstands and arrives in subscriber mailboxes. All you need to do is hack the URL of the TOC from the previous Monday. Here’s the URL for the April 23 TOC:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/toc/2007/04/23/toc_20070416

“2007/04/23” is the date of the issue and “toc_20070416” refers to the date of the posting. This then is the URL for the April 30 issue:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/toc/2007/04/30/toc_20070423

New YorkerAt right is the cover for tomorrow’s issue, which includes Adam Gopnik’s piece on the Virginia Tech shooting, a new piece by Atul Gawande, and Anthony Lane’s review of Hot Fuzz. Monday’s New Yorker on Sunday is usually only available to the select few of the Manhattan media elite who are sped their new issues hot off the presses. Now everyone can have a similar experience on the web.

Enjoy.