« Let's Put On A Show! | Main | Marie Antoinette »

In The New Yorker

There's a lot of good stuff in this week's New Yorker. The two pieces that stood out for me were John Seabrook's Profile of Will Wright, the designer of Raid on Bungling Bay, Sim City, The Sims, and Spore. Although Mr Wright never earned a college degree, he has filled a large corner of the computer world with food for thought disguised as fun. Mr Seabrook's portrait is complex and intriguing, but Mr Wright's world will never been my world. I jumped with sympathy at a remark of Joell Jones, a painter and Mr Wright's wife (from whom he has separated, it seems).

I think it frustrates Will that I don't play his games. Clearly, his games matter, on a deep level, to many people - take these online diaries people keep about their Sims. Wow. I don't know if they're avoiding their lives or learning about them. Me, I don't want to play a game to learn about myself.

The other piece was Steven Shapin's review of Steven Johnson's "vivid history," The Ghost Map: The story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic, and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World. At the heart of this book is a map drawn up John Snow, a Victorian physician, who was sure that the cause of cholera - which even he thought must be some sort of "miasma" - was waterborne. He was right, but people were slow to listen. The real engine of London's great sanitation schemes was, as Mr Shapin reports, the flush toilet, which vastly increased the amount of effluent produced by Londoners and eventually brought the Thames to a high reek. Mr Shapin's conclusion is trenchant.

Victorian London illustrates how much could be done with bad science; the continuing existence of cholera in the Third World shows that even good science is impotent without the resources, the institutions, and the will to act.

The most astonishing news emerges from a parenthesis in Hendrik Hertzberg's opening Comment in "The Talk of the Town" "(... the reported two-million-dollar salary conferred upon a Republican congressman who became the pharmaceutical industry's top lobbyist immediately after shepherding into law a bill forbidding the government to negotiate prices for prescription drugs.)" I'd like to know more about that; it's another item for the album that I've started to keep about the privatisation of public wealth. Although perfectly legal, it seems, the two-step strikes me as falling somewhere between letters of attainder and treason. It certainly keeps the government out of the free market! But then, Republicans aren't as ideological as they seem; bottom line, they're kleptocrats.


TrackBack URL for this entry:


Kelptocrats! Run! Run!

What I liked about this week's New Yorker, RJ, is the cover, which looks a lot like my apartment (minus the clouds), Melana Songe's letter to The Mail: she wishes the Food Network would just show us how to make real meals, to which I add that to make real meals you need real food, having spent the better part of the afternoon searching for parsley that smelled like parsley and dill that smelled like dill with no success. Best of all is Jill Lepore's account of Noah Webster and his dictionary, a topic which has delighted me since I first read that Samuel Johnson, in his, defined the word 'lexicographer' as 'a maker of dictionaries, a harmless drudge.'


I am a kottke.org micropatron

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2