And We're Back

Happy New Year and welcome back! On the off chance that you missed our series about milestones—and, hopefully, you were able to stay away from the Internet for the whole week—here's what you should print out and read once you're caught up with "work": "Trinity," by Maria Bustillos; "20 Years After Achtung Baby," by Elmo Keep; "Each Generation Has Found They’ve Got Their Own Kind of Sound," by Daniel D'Addario; "Playgirl's First Hardon," by Jessanne Collins; "Some New Directions," by Thomas Beller; "Poses," by Rakesh Satyal; "The Day the Gold Disappeared," by Carl Hegelman; "You've Been Shot," by Erik Martz; [...]


The Day the Gold Disappeared

In the long summer vacation of 1971, I "worked" on a construction site in the English countryside where they were proposing to build a new hangar for the U.S. Air Force, and used the proceeds to take a holiday in Greece with my friend Charles. Originally, the idea had been to hitchhike, having crossed the channel on the boat and made our way from Calais to Paris by bus. We soon found out what I had been warned of, that the French can't abide hitchhikers. After sleeping in the Bois de Boulogne we fluked a short ride to a small town by the name of Auxerre, and there our luck [...]


Playgirl's First Hardon

January 1980. A nation nurses a sepia-hued hangover. It’s the dawn of a new decade, and while the polyester may not be packed away just yet, change is in the air. For the first time in history, there’s an erection in the pages of a glossy magazine.

Playgirl is eight years old and boasts a circulation of 10 million. It’s clearly hit some kind of cultural nail on the head, borrowing Playboy’s patented aspirational hedonism and appropriating it for the fun ‘n’ flirty feminist set. This month, the centerfold is a sun-kissed California blonde named Geoff Minger. He reclines, shinily, on a set of clean white sheets. In one shot—in [...]




On July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb test took place in the Tularosa Basin of the Jornada del Muerto desert near Socorro, New Mexico. Just three weeks later, Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be bombed: the only time nuclear weapons have ever been used in war. The test was code-named Trinity, and it forced a radical shift in the way that human beings came to regard their place on earth; from that day onward, for almost seventy years, we've lived in the uneasy knowledge that a very few people might gain the power to destroy all civilization—all life, even. The events of this day produced the chief wellspring of [...]


Brooklyn's Return

Shut up about Brooklyn already. We all know about Brooklyn, that shining city on the hill, where everything is made only of awesome. Yes, there are beards and clunky eyeglass frames and lawyers who skateboard and grandpas with noise bands. The hipsters run-off freely now, the cheesecake is largely appareled American and vice now has a market cap. There's even a successful sitcom that purports to be set there, which is as large a cultural signifier as anything—Brooklyn may be located on the western-most tip of Long Island, but where it actually lives is dead solid in the middle of the zeitgeist. It's now, it's hip, it's hot, it's happening. [...]



Wherever you went in 2011, you could hear Adele’s 21 catapulted at you from every open car window, open apartment window, and open mouth. That album has its charms, but I see a much more long-lasting and powerful influence in Rufus Wainwright’s Poses, and its tenth anniversary has passed without appropriate fanfare.

It was the oddity of the singer’s name and his striking picture that enticed me to buy his first CD with not even a minute between first look and printed receipt. What I heard when I popped the CD into my stereo was astounding and peculiar, a heady mixture of Jon Brion-produced clangs and strums and insistent [...]


Each Generation Has Found They Have Got Their Own Kind of Sound

Rumors have circulated that Madonna, recording artist, will sing with M.I.A. at the Super Bowl. Nicki Minaj is also implicated. Both artists have had success, but can either bring back the monoculture? Leaving the fleeting sensation of a Lynn Hirschberg truffle-fry ambush aside, if M.I.A. were interviewed by Barbara Walters, who would care? Neither M.I.A., a self-consciously “edgy” singer of extraordinary gifts of curation, nor Nicki Minaj, a self-consciously outré rapper of extraordinary gifts full-stop, have cultivated personae beyond “hardworking,” “talented,” and (in M.I.A.’s case) “prone to ignorable political pronouncements.” It’ll be a good show, but no one should expect an iconic moment on par with Madonna heaving in a [...]


A Short End-of-Year Series

Starting today, to keep you entertained in this dark week, a short series of essays on the topic, fairly loosely, and some short, some long, of "Milestones"—very recent little bits of history that reverberate today. Enjoy, with our thanks for a long and overall wonderful year.

Photo by JNT Visual, via Shutterstock


You've Been Shot

In October of 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was about to give a speech in Milwaukee in support of his reelection campaign under the newly created Progressive “Bull Moose” Party when a bartender named John Flammang Schrank walked up and shot him in the chest. Roosevelt of course was not killed, but neither his survival nor Schrank’s claim that he was instructed by the ghost of William McKinley to prevent a third term for the two-term former president were the most extraordinary parts of the whole affair. It was the fact that Roosevelt decided to deliver his speech in the Milwaukee Auditorium anyway, for an hour and a half, with blood seeping [...]


Some New Directions

Lou Reed wore black. He moved slowly and a bit stiffly through the darkness that had descended on the Great Hall, a sheaf of paper in his hand. For the last thirty years he has looked like an ageless lizard but now I felt concern for him at the sight of his stiff gait. He entered the circle of light and put on reading glasses, gold rimmed.

Just a few minutes earlier the audience had been treated to several facts. One of them, shared by the Dean of Cooper Union, was that Abraham Lincoln had spoken in this very hall. I have been to a number of events at the [...]


20 Years After 'Achtung Baby '

I recently attended a wedding, and it was, as weddings are wont to be, an almost transcendentally beautiful occasion. It was held on the grounds of a giant sandstone Federation house (who can honestly call something with guest quarters off-site a house?) sitting on miles of pristine green acreage. Fairy lights in the shape of love-hearts hung from the trees. The air smelled of freshly cut grass. Butlers stood with umbrellas armed for the possibility of rain to escort you the few feet to the bathrooms. The food was unlike any food I’d ever tasted. The country estate on which is was held, several hours outside of Sydney, was [...]