The New Yorker: Chan, the Man, by Jill Lepore
Honolulu: ukulele music, ginger blossoms, coconut palms, grass mats, a luau. Miss Minerva Winterslip, a Boston spinster far from home, discovers, on a cot on her veranda, a dead body in white pajamas. A lizard skitters over the corpse, leaving a trail of tiny crimson footprints. The spinster, shaken and trembling, telephones the dead man’s brother, Amos, who promptly summons the authorities. A police captain and a coroner arrive, followed by a third man, of appearance most curious: “He was very fat indeed, yet he walked with the light dainty steps of a woman. His cheeks were as chubby as a baby’s, his skin ivory tinted, his black hair close-cropped, his amber eyes slanting.”“Amos!” cried Miss Minerva. “That man—why he—”
“Charlie Chan,” Amos explained. “I’m glad they brought him. He’s the best detective on the force.”
Miss Minerva, overcome, collapses. Chan, despite being as chubby as a baby and as dainty as a woman and being, really, anything but a man, walks away with the chapter, the novel, and Biggers’s career.
The New York Review of Books: Words, by Tony Judt
In “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell castigated contemporaries for using language to mystify rather than inform. His critique was directed at bad faith: people wrote poorly because they were trying to say something unclear or else deliberately prevaricating. Our problem, it seems to me, is different. Shoddy prose today bespeaks intellectual insecurity: we speak and write badly because we don’t feel confident in what we think and are reluctant to assert it unambiguously (“It’s only my opinion…”). Rather than suffering from the onset of “newspeak,” we risk the rise of “nospeak.”
First Things: A Perfect Game, by David B. Hart
I know there are those who will accuse me of exaggeration when I say this, but, until baseball appeared, humans were a sad and benighted lot, lost in the labyrinth of matter, dimly and achingly aware of something incandescently beautiful and unattainable, something infinitely desirable shining up above in the empyrean of the ideas; but, throughout most of the history of the race, no culture was able to produce more than a shadowy sketch of whatever glorious mystery prompted those nameless longings.
The New York Times: But Will It Make You Happy? by Stephanie Rosenbloom
Amid weak job and housing markets, consumers are saving more and spending less than they have in decades, and industry professionals expect that trend to continue. Consumers saved 6.4 percent of their after-tax income in June, according to a new government report. Before the recession, the rate was 1 to 2 percent for many years. In June, consumer spending and personal incomes were essentially flat compared with May, suggesting that the American economy, as dependent as it is on shoppers opening their wallets and purses, isn’t likely to rebound anytime soon.
On the bright side, the practices that consumers have adopted in response to the economic crisis ultimately could — as a raft of new research suggests — make them happier. New studies of consumption and happiness show, for instance, that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material objects, when they relish what they plan to buy long before they buy it, and when they stop trying to outdo the Joneses.
If consumers end up sticking with their newfound spending habits, some tactics that retailers and marketers began deploying during the recession could become lasting business strategies. Among those strategies are proffering merchandise that makes being at home more entertaining and trying to make consumers feel special by giving them access to exclusive events and more personal customer service.
Even though Hires himself didn’t drink, the WCTU theorized that since his root beer was a sweet fermented beverage it must have some booze in it. (Chemistry apparently wasn’t the WCTU’s strong suit.) Thus, having a frosty root beer was no better than pounding back a godforsaken actual beer.
Instead of testing to see if there was actually any alcohol in Hires’ root beer, the WCTU simply called for a nationwide ban on his product, which had become wildly popular in drugstores around the country.
Amazingly, the WCTU’s vicious crusade against a non-alcoholic beverage sold by a teetotaler lasted for three years. Despite its tendency to base its policies on junk science, the WCTU was a pretty powerful national force at the time, and Hires’ sales went into the tank.