Monday, May 11th, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Gopnik

Shadowey EditorsesIn which last week's New Yorker, with its double-dose of Adam Gopnik and Malcolm Gladwell, arrives at last in Maryland. Warning! Contains sports!

· Who Is Michael Wolff Smarter Than Today?
· The Los Angeles Time

38 Comments / Post A Comment

mathnet (#27)

YOU PLURAL ARE RIGHT. I'm going to read this again by candlelight.

I love this.

BeRightBack (#59)

It is my favorite recurring feature anywhere on the internet at the moment. It validates all the ill-informed doubts I have, yet can't quite formulate, while reading speciously breezy magazine prose in the bathroom.

rex (#557)

Can I proffer some micropayments for this golden material?

BlinkyMcChuck (#202)

Yeah. You guys should bring back the "Donate Now!" paypal button.

spanish bombs (#562)

Re: the semi-colon kerfluffle.

He is not doing anything totally incorrect or against the rules, but that sentence is awfully over-punctuated. The change I would recommend, actually, is to change the first semi-colon into a comma.

By the way, you should join FreeDarko.

Abe Sauer (#148)

I kind of hope Scocca on Gladwell turns into a Tiabbi on Friedman kind of obsessed thing…

Dan Kois (#646)

Oh my, yes.

Ted Maul (#205)

I read both essays on the bus this morning and I fully agree that they were both ridiculous (well, the Gopnik one was just kind of whacked out.)

I know that Gladwell is probably a bit of a much-needed cash cow for the New Yorker (Ashton Kutcher proably doesn't twitter about how much he enjoys the work of Alex Ross) but that article was just taking the piss.

Sarcastro (#328)

Hmm. I, too, read both essays on the bus this morning. Are you me? I, you? Is we us?

Ted Maul (#205)

Woah. Now I don't know what to think.

Hobbesian (#255)

Gladwell exists solely to make average people feel smarter.

Yet, while his conclusions are usually meaningless, I do enjoy the factoid salad – as long as they are FACTS.

metoometoo (#230)

There is only one outlet in my bedroom, and it's far away from the bed, so we can't have any lamps on our bedside tables. We have resorted to using candles instead, and they are terrible for reading. Just thinking about it makes my eyes hurt.

Are there not extension cords in your land?

Tuna Surprise (#573)

I got a 45 minute lecture from my dad yesterday about how you need to make sure your extention cord has the proper capacity for all the things you want to plug in to it…yadda, yadda…amps, volts, ohms…blah, blah, blah…overheating, fires, etc.

After that I was ready to go off the grid. Or buy renter's insurance and take my chances.

metoometoo (#230)

It doesn't seem worth it to have extension cords running across the doorway and halfway around the room.

Every year in NYC there's at least one apartment fire in which people die due to faulty extension cords; usually, the issue is that it has become frayed. I use the hardcore kind for everything. and I enjoy running it over doorframes and nailing in cable tacks and etc.

Emily (#20)

"In the boom years, it seemed, everyone collected something."

brent_cox (#40)

There's a reason that I don't light candles on my book and magazine covered bedstand, between to my cotton-sheeted bed and the window with the billowing curtains. I forget what that reason is.

Neopythia (#353)

I couldn't help but notice the other chat tab is "Balk". Are you able to speak aloud in the Awl offices, or does the cat insist upon total silence?

Patrick M (#404)

If anyone would like to read a book called "Means, Votive, Opportunity: An Adam Gopnik Mystery", please visit my Kickstarter page.

Flashman (#418)

The Gopnik essay is pretty pointless too, and poorly reasoned. Although I do appreciate his advocacy of the humble candle – to hell with all these lame little gadgets.

edisdead (#580)

Damn, back-to-back Gladwell and Gopnik DID seem especially cruel. Why does anyone listen to Gladwell? Is it the hair? This piece was particularly egregious, and laced with logical fallacies besides. But it was almost worth it for the article about the nutty neuroscientist.

meave (#164)

I want to read The Shadow Editors' discussions all the time, yes please. A critique of two essays plus editing plus copy-editing? So satisfying.

The last time I had to read by candle light (power outage) I had to use 5 of them in a candelabra.

Can't he just get up and read in another room and go back to bed when he is done?

IBentMyWookie (#133)

This is clearly doctored. No where do I see "a/s/l?"

dmoynihan (#598)

Thanks for 'splaining the B-ball to me. Seemed like Gladwell was trying to channel Michael Lewis, covering a Rodney Dangerfield movie, but I only care about real sports, so had no idea.

BoHan (#29)

You guys saved my sensitive complexion. Man have I ever gotten ragged on for having a Mach 3, forever. And yes, I even love my fracking 5-blade, because it's better than a 3, and I can't wait for 7 or 8 blades. Bite me Gopnik – there are no styptic pencils in your corner of hell.

BlinkyMcChuck (#202)

I have to confess I did nearly pass out during the basketball part.

joeclark (#651)

V.S. Ramachandran is not “nutty.” Umbrage is taken. Listen to his great shit on that overrated podcast, Radio Lab.

Hez (#147)

Choire, I love you more than ever now that I know you use Adium as your chat client.

99seats (#655)

I can't speak to the use of razors (I like a good beard myself.), or Adam Gopnik's piece, but I think you guys have made some critical mistakes in your analysis of the Gladwell piece. I'm not going to wade in on the sling vs. slingshot issue, but on Rick Pitino, he doesn't call Pitino's UK an underdog at any point; in fact, he lays out their record of success pretty well. His point isn't so much that "underdogs win a lot," but that they win by using unorthodox methods, often by thinking of the game or situation in a new way and using their particular set of assets better. The point is the Rick Pitino's full-court press is a successful strategy and it's not used very often. Which it's not. He also notes that it's physically strenuous and not 100% effective. As for the NCAA championship Wildcats, yep, they had 9 players go to the NBA, but Gladwell singles out Walker as the only "bona-fide all-star." Which, looking at that list, you kind of have to agree with, unless you're going to make the argument that Tony Delk = Antoine Walker. Which I doubt you will. One last snarky bit: so what if the girls' team had a pro-quarterback give them tips (also noted in the article)? Go ask Michael Jordan how well success in one sport transfers to another sport. Go ask. I can wait.

Sorry to come into someone else's house and talk trash, but I think your dislike of Gladwell (earned or not) led you to miss his actual points.

ugarte (#484)

If you have 9 NBA players on your roster, even if they aren't "bona fide NBA All-Stars," that is going to be the best roster in the NBA.

That Gladwell draws an unsupportable conclusion from interesting anecdotes isn't new, though. All of the interesting examples in Blink of good snap judgments were made by people who had spent their lives becoming experts in the thing they were hastily judging.

ugarte (#484)

Excuse me, "… best roster in the NCAA."

ryantate (#169)

It sounds like you actually read the piece! Scocca sounds like he skimmed it, looking for bitchy things to say, and thus ended up slamming Gladwell for not attaching an important caveat that he did, in fact, attach, quite prominently. Also ended up calling him a racist, which is quite a bit more than bitchy, but it's all in a big long IM stream and thus casual and thus we're not supposed to overanalyze it, or analyze it all, I guess.

Christian (#659)

Gladwell suffered the same sling/slingshot confusion a few years ago, in 10/16/06's "The Formula": "The memoir reads like a David-and-Goliath story. It isn't. David changed the rules on Goliath. He brought a slingshot to a sword fight."

(Again, in the context of David and Goliath.)

99seats (#655)

Gladwell wasn't saying that the UK Wildcats weren't a good team, or were the underdogs in that championship. I will grant that he's saying that particular team wasn't marked by having a lot of stars on it (like the Michigan teams of yore) and you can argue that, with 9 players going onto the NBA. But it's 9 players who didn't especially distinguish themselves in the NBA, either. And it doesn't help those players chances of making the NBA to be on an NCAA championship team. I don't think it undermines his point which is that a constant full-court press is an unusual coaching strategy and something that most coaches shy away from but it can be used to great effect for teams that may lack other advantages. The point is about choice of strategy, not a "how to" manual for underdogs.

99seats (#655)

Duh. "help" = "hurt" Being on an NCAA championship team helped their chances of making the NBA.

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