A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Names in Eric Foner’s The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, Ranked

by evanmcmurry

13. August Belmont
12. T. Lyle Dickey
11. Erastus Corning
10. Hiland Hall
9. Lyman Trumbull
8. Orestes Brownson
7. Anson Burlingame
6. Manton Marble
5. Ebon Ingersoll
4. Scuyler Colfax
3. Thurlow Weed
2. Orlando B. Ficklin
1. Ichabod Codding


Did Khrushchev Start the Cuban Missile Crisis Over a Disneyland Snub?

by evanmcmurry

“What is it? Is there an epidemic of cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken over the place that can destroy me? Then what must I do? Commit suicide? This is the situation I am in — your guest. For me the situation is inconceivable. I cannot find words to explain this to my people.”

—Nikita Khrushchev, upon learning Secret Service would not let him visit Disneyland, 1959

Three years later Khrushchev would send missiles to Cuba. Who knew if this slight was weighing in the back of his mind?

Spies Who Sound Like Spies

by evanmcmurry

Names in Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, ranked:

12. Enrique Prado
11. Tony Poe
10. Pote Sarasin
9. Tennant Bagley
8. Cofer Black
7. Tucker Gouglmann
6. Rip Robertson
5. Bill Coffin
4. Big Minh
3. Rocky Stone
2. Zultan Thury
1. Dick Drain

Most succinct description of the CIA: “cloaked yet flamboyant.”

Perhaps You Should See a Movie Before Forming Opinions on It

by evanmcmurry

Reviewers have differing takes over the merits of a film, and the New York Times is ON IT. However the “sharp disagreement” over Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is less about the quality of the movie, or even the movie itself, than about the refraction of the film through its award buzz, itself a compendium of marketing and star power and such that more surrounds a movie than comprises it. This leads to ridiculous passages like the following:

Mr. Poland, a Nolan fan, called the film’s first act “insufferable” …And Mr. Poland’s Gurus O’ Gold survey had only shortly before ranked “Interstellar,” sight unseen, as No. 5 in the best picture race.

In other words “the movie was good until I watched it.” Would anybody care to judge the film rather than the dream of one?

“I think we still need to wait,” added Mr. Tapley, an editor at large, who has watched the film twice and has yet to decide whether it is a miss or a masterpiece. “Remember, the major critics still need to review it.”

Do they? We seem to be getting along just fine without seeing the movie at all.

Publishing Is a Meritocracy: A Play in One Act

by evanmcmurry

The kicker of this graph:

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 1.39.18 PM

What are the odds the other one was about “a young, adrift waitress working at an upscale New York restaurant,” too?

Oh, and it turns out later that the author already had an agent. What a great story!

What Happens When You Treat Novels Like Restaurants, Part Two

by evanmcmurry

In this 5,000-word piece about a novelist who was trolled by a book blogger on Goodreads, books are used as props, as weapons, as gifts, as status symbols, but never once is a book ever actually read.

Your occasional reminder that just as Yelp has nothing really to do with restaurants or food, Goodreads has almost nothing to do with the act of reading.

Coffee Awful, Says Research Maybe?

by evanmcmurry

A headline on Slate blares that coffee is murdering your productivity. (If this were true I’d never accomplish anything.) But dig down and the article isn’t from Slate but from some content partner called Inc. Where’d Inc. get its facts? Welp:

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 11.20.31 AM

So some research done at some point between the beginning of time and now “suggests” some stuff about coffee (something tells me “suggests” is doing a lot of work in that sentence), research that was then summarized (who knows with what accuracy and to what intent) by Joe Q. Corporate on LinkedIn, a platform on which anyone can publish almost literally anything, and that post was then summarized in an Inc. article, which was then boosted onto Slate and tweeted out to the world.

Most internet readers passing by this article will just take the alarm of the headline and move on. But they’re seeing at least the fourth refraction of actual information. This is how untruths are born.