December 20, 2009 by

“Testing, Testing”, written by Atul Gawande is an extremely intriguing look at, and defense of, the lack of specificity in the Senate Health Care Bill. His defense is based in the effects of a semi-similar program introduced in the early 1900s that (he claims) allowed industrial expansion in the United States to be a possibility through improving agriculture. The piece seems credible, given that the point is so obscure, to have found it indicates that research was done. He also indicates a degree of familiarity with the subject by referencing an interview with a government employee in the agriculture program and citing his family and personal experience in working in the medical field. Read this paper to get a unique perspective on the debate over health care. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/12/14/091214fa_fact_gawande?currentPage=all#ixzz0Z3vDXMGM


The French are trying to Figure out Food

December 8, 2009 by

In A French Food Revolution? Pascale Brevet describes the controversial rise of Le Fooding, a cooking movement meant to shake “French gastronomy from its serious traditionalism.”  After building up a snobbish, culturally-ignorant, image of French cuisine and its adherents, he introduces the “handful of food lovers trying to inject a bit of youth and openness into the veins of French food culture.”  Le Fooding, as it’s been dubbed, comes from the words food and feeling.  The group promotes a more casual, “playful,” approach towards food on its web-site, through its annual magazine, and in public events.  Brevet admits Le Fooding “is no panacea” and that it can be “a bit absurd” and lacking “substance” but appreciates what it is trying to do and is planning to go to some of their events.

The personal stories and specific examples develop a believable ethos for the rest of the article.  Rather than just saying that the French are racist bigots, he tells of the time he was eating with Frenchmen who mocked other countries’ cuisine, and of how when the French want to get Chinese, Thai, or Indian food—which has been stereotyped and watered down in French kitchens—they simply say, “Let’s go to the Asian.”  It’s the tangible images that make the essay effective for people who wouldn’t otherwise relate to such a topic.

The Great Guinea Hen Massacre

December 7, 2009 by

Gail and Mark Bowden bought 25 guinea hens to take care of the deer ticks on their Pennsylvania farm property.  They raised them from chicks and became very attached to the erratic little birds.  Though first time they let them out of their coup they ran off for a few days and returned with depleted numbers, the Bowdens were confident it would not happen again.  They were sadly surprised when their neighbor’s normally mild-tempered Labrador tore into more than half of them.

Bowden is a gifted story teller.  Using wit, irony, and sarcasm he manages to address a tragic story with grace and humor (with his translation of the guinean language particularly comical). Early on he develops the dilemma or whether birds are brave or stupid, with “the latter distinction being highly competitive.”  He continues the dichotomy of images and ideas with the “puppy-like cuteness” of the “serial killer” dog, the “four modes” of the guineas, “eating, sleeping, chattering, and screaming in terror,” and his wife and his differing responses to the incident—while she is “afraid to let them out of the coop” he swears he “can hear deer ticks out there, laughing at us.”

The Tijuana of the Caspian

December 7, 2009 by

In The Tijuana of the Caspian, Peter Savodnik artfully describes the Azerbaijani border town of Astara as a place for Iranians to escape their legalistic theocracy and indulge in “pork products, alcohol, and easy sex.”  He provides some of the historical, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds of the two neighboring countries, all the while developing the Iranian Mullah’s growing concern over the region.  Not only is it a corrupting influence religiously, it is a potential hotbed for political unrest with a high proportion of college students and Azeris who haven’t been very happy with the government of late.

The strength of the essay is its story telling—it’s far more show than tell.  Rather than simply saying that there is western influence in the region, he describes the Iranian men “decked out in tight jeans and T-shirts with Italian print.”  He describes the throng of obliging taxi drivers waiting at the border to escort the Iranians to their respective sights of indulgence and the sound of Mullah’s prayers drifting across the water from the other side.  His personal story of a guard trying to sell him a room “with a TV and a girl,” and encouraging him with, “Come on…don’t be a Muslim,” leaves the reader with a telling image.

Tim Keller for nymag.com

November 30, 2009 by

New York Magazine has done a great job of writing an article on Tim Keller, the New York based preacher and who was here today at The Kings College to talk about his ministry. Joseph Hooper, the writer, explores why so many New Yorkers are going to him, making his church one of the most successful in the area. He explains that Keller appeals to so many people, including every age group, because of his accessibility and honesty. He doesn’t get worked up and always keeps his cool. He is personal with his followers and keeps them interested from week to week. Hooper also discusses Keller’s book and ministry throughout the city.

Hooper does a great job of writing this article. He uses plenty of description, which is very important when trying to paint a picture of Tim Keller and what he does here in New York. He does a great job of telling a story through reporting. He gives facts and details but keeps the reader interested with his descriptions and anecdotes. After hearing Tim Keller speak today, I had a greater appreciation for this article and how well Hooper really understands Tim Keller’s character.

The Frugal Republic

November 30, 2009 by

“The Frugal Republic” is an article written by James Surowieki for the New Yorker Magazine. In it, Surowiecki addresses the subject of consumption in China. The article is well written, ripe with facts which are nicely laid out for the average reader. Surowiecki addresses the statistics of Chinese consumption, the underlying causes of those rates, and the possible results if they follow on their present path. Often, he contrasts China with the United States of America, calling them “mirror images of each other,” particularly in regards to annual savings in both countries. Surowiecki is a skilled writer who effortlessly strings together lists of facts in a way that creates a fleshed out pictures of the situation in China.


The Strange Appeal of Virtual Farming

November 30, 2009 by

In The Atlantic’s article, “The Strange Appeal of Virtual Farming,” Dave Thier examines the similarities and differences between reality and a virtual farming game on Facebook, Farmville.  Thier begins by using his own introduction to the game to explain how it works.  He then draws attention to Farmville’s similarities with a previous faming simulation game, Harvest Moon.  Both of these games “consist mostly of simple, repetitive tasks and a lot of waiting,” and “for some reason, gamers really want to do this.”  In Farmville, “like most sim games, the principle product is satisfaction: Farmville gives you the chance to accumulate things–fields, buildings, animals, decorations, coins—then look at them and feel pleased with yourself.”

Thier starts out saying that Farmville is unrealistic.  “The game is a farmer’s dream: click on a field and it’s plowed, never worry about weather, grow full heads of cabbage in two days.”  He contradicts himself later though, saying that while it seems idealized it also has some surprisingly realistic aspects.  “Farmville does in fact, provide a good farm simulation in some ways—materials are expensive, profits are often razor thin, and the only surefire way to get ahead is by pulling out your wallet (…the easiest way for a player to get virtual currency is forking over real currency).”  In the end, he does not seem to take a stance on whether this is a healthy balance between reality and fantasy, but he does a good job of showing both sides of the game.

The Science of Success

November 29, 2009 by

In the article, “The Science of Success”, David Dobbs writes about how having specific genes that give us trouble as a species, can actually become beneficial genes when the child is raised in the right environment.  He explains the different experiments conducted with children and monkeys and discusses what the researchers found as his foundation for the article.  His writing style is informative.

He also shares the history behind this orchid-gene hypothesis, which stems from experiments conducting with rhesus monkeys.  He uses creative nicknames such as “bully” or “neurotic”, which gives the reader a visual for the type of behavior shown by the monkey instead of scientific terminology.  This also creates a humanistic view of the monkeys.  Dobbs gets a little personal in the article and allows readers to know that he has been tested and does have the S/S genotype, which means his risk of depression increases if life takes a wrong turn.  Overall, the article was very interesting to read and Dobbs kept it entertaining.




Two Gunmen

November 24, 2009 by

Amy Davidson wrote a piece titled “Two Gunmen” that gives a short overview of a murder that occurred in the Bronx.  A named Vada Vazquez was walking down the block when a stray bullet hit her in the back of the head, above her left ear.  She is now in a coma  and friends and family are hoping that she will soon wake up.  Such an intense story as this one should include description and grammar that attracts a reader.  Davidson also adds in random facts about the story that seem to be misplaced.  For example she attempts to explain the moments before the shooting- “So the twenty-three-year-old passed his gun to the eighteen-year-old, who passed his own gun to the sixteen-year-old.”  I was quite confused as to how the shooting occurred when reading her article.  Most of her article is simply copied out of the New York Times and does little to add her input.  The end of it seems to make a point as to the lack of sympathy the men involved had.  It somehow wraps up into Ms. Davidson trying to leave the reader with a moral lesson.  This article only made me find a different account of the story, simply to make sense of everything I had read.

What Are You Watching This Weekend, and Should You Be Watching Anything?

November 23, 2009 by

In his blog for the New Yorker, Richard Brody briefly addresses the controversy of whether or not children should watch T.V. in a post titled “What are you watching this weekend, and should you be watching anything?” He specifically addresses the views of a psychiatrist, Serge Tisseron, who is the author of The Dangers of T.V. for Babies. Brody then uses his own experiences as a father to close the essay, and to present a contrast for Tisseron’s assertions. The blog is quick to the point and straightforward, using descriptive details only where it supports his point of view the strongest. He does this when talking about his children, who were exposed to many classic films as young children. These details included directors’ names, film titles, and celebrity crushes; all used in order to further his point that not all film will rot the brain of a child. He makes several excellent points while embracing brevity over verbosity.