Gladwell Gladly Blurbs Good Books

(p. D10) When Malcolm Gladwell was asked to write a blurb for the 2005 book “Freakonomics, ” he did not explain that it explored the dynamics of the Ku Klux Klan or the impact of naming a child “Loser.” Instead, the New Yorker writer and best-selling author of “The Tipping Point” and “Blink” simply wrote, “Prepare to be dazzled.”
“Freakonomics” became a best seller.
. . .
According to Mr. Gladwell, his sausage is simple: He writes blurbs because people ask him to, and he does not overthink what to say. “People will show you a book and you think, ‘It’s cool,'” he said. “You want people to read it. I feel like we have to promote ourselves.”
For the paperback version of “Stumbling on Happiness,” a book about imagination and happiness written by his professional acquaintance, the Harvard University psychologist Daniel Gilbert, Mr. Gladwell raved, imploring readers: “Trust me.” He also wrote a guest review on Amazon.
And he tweets recommendations freely to his 336,000 followers, as he did for the release of Fareed Zakaria’s new book, “In Defense of a Liberal Education” in April. “Fareed Zakaria’s new book is brilliant!” he wrote, adding a handy link to Amazon.
. . .
He is nothing if not loyal. Last July [2015], the authors of “Freakonomics” released the paperback edition of their latest book, “Think Like A Freak.” Malcolm Gladwell was on the cover again, this time saying, “Utterly captivating.”

For the full story, see:
LAURA M. HOLSON. “Master of the Compelling, Captivating, Dazzling Blurb.” The New York Times (Thurs., DEC. 17, 2015): D10.
(Note: elipses, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 16, 2015, and has the title “Malcolm Gladwell Hands Out Book Blurbs Like Santa Does Presents.”)

Chinese Communists Spend Taxpayer Money on Luxury Public Toilets

(p. 9) BEIJING — Li Wen had heard about the turbo-strength flush power and the lily-scented soap. He knew about the stalls equipped with personal television screens and wireless Internet access, the soothing cello soundtrack and the windows lined with aloe vera plants.
But Mr. Li, 39, a salesman, was skeptical when he set foot in the new public toilet at the corner of Fuqian Square in Fangshan, a district in southwest Beijing.
“What was wrong with the old one?” he said. “The government has too much money and doesn’t know how to spend it.”
. . .
“It’s just a toilet,” said Lei Junying, 74, a retired farmer who lives in Fangshan. “Why do they have to make it such a nice one?”
She added: “The government puts out its hands and asks people to pay taxes. Why don’t they donate that money to poor neighborhoods instead?”
. . .
Some residents worry that the popularity of the new toilet and the presence of television screens and Wi-Fi will encourage guests to linger too long.
On a recent day, Li Peiling, 39, a dental assistant, grew restless after waiting five minutes for a stall. She began to shout at the row of closed doors.
“Time’s up!” she said. “Some of us need to get to work!”

For the full story, see:
JAVIER C. HERNÁNDEZ. “High-Tech Toilet Facilities Earn Praise and Questions in China.” The New York Times, First Section (Sun., DEC. 27, 2015): 9.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 16, 2015, and has the title “Wi-Fi, A.T.M.s and Turbo-Flush Toilets Highlight China’s New Public Restrooms.”)

Mast Brothers Started Their Chocolate Business in Their Apartment

The Masts provide another example showing the possibility of entry into the candy business. The issue is relevant to the claim of those who support sugar quotas, that a decline in sugar prices would not be passed on to consumers in the form of lower candy prices. If there is easy entry into the candy business, then the business is traditionally competitive, and lower costs of production will be passed on to consumers.

(p. A20) In an interview on Sunday [Dec. 20, 2015], Rick Mast, who with his brother began making chocolate in a Brooklyn apartment in 2006, said the allegations were untrue — for the most part. But on the claim that the Masts were “remelters” at the start, Mr. Mast confirmed the brothers did use industrial chocolate, what is known as couverture, in some of their early creations, before settling on the bean-to-bar process for which they are now known.

“It was such a fun experimental year,” Mr. Mast said, adding that the brothers were transparent “to anyone that asked.”

For the full story, see:
SARAH MASLIN NIR. “Unwrapping a Chocolatier’s Mythos.” The New York Times (Mon., DEC. 21, 2015): A20 & A22.
(Note: bracketed date added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 20, 2015, and has the title “Unwrapping the Mythos of Mast Brothers Chocolate in Brooklyn.”)

Federal Government “Deputized” the Ku Klux Klan to Enforce Prohibition Against “Immigrants, Catholics and African-Americans”

(p. C4) . . . in her new book, “The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State” (W. W. Norton), the historian Lisa McGirr tells anything but a nostalgic story. The 18th Amendment, she argues, didn’t just give rise to vibrant night life and colorful, Hollywood-ready characters, like Isidor Einstein, New York’s celebrated “Prohibition Agent No. 1.” More enduringly, and tragically, it also radically expanded the federal government’s role in law enforcement, with consequences that can be seen in the crowded prisons of today.
In The New York Times Book Review, James A. Morone writes that the book “could have a major impact on how we read American political history.” In a recent email interview, Ms. McGirr, a professor at Harvard, discussed Prohibition’s political legacy, the surprising enforcement role of the Ku Klux Klan and the character from her story she’d most like to have a drink with. Below are excerpts from the conversation.
. . .
Q. You argue that Prohibition gave rise to today’s “penal state.” How did that happen?
A. By birthing a new national obsession with crime, Prohibition — and the violence that came with it — pushed the federal government in the direction of policing and surveillance. This was the moment that saw the first national crime commission, the birth of the Uniform Crime Reports, an expanded prison system and the establishment of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The F.B.I. also won expanded authority.
. . .
Q. You describe how the Ku Klux Klan helped enforce Prohibition in places like Williamson County, Ill., where federal authorities deputized its members to conduct sometimes deadly raids on distilleries, bars and private homes — taking particular aim at Italian immigrants. What made the Klan such an ally in the war on alcohol?
A. The Klan sold itself to white Protestant evangelicals as a law enforcement organization, winning droves of recruits with its promise to clamp down on bootlegging. There were plenty of Klansmen who imbibed, but that did not stop them from leveraging the law to target the drinking of the presumed enemies of white Protestant nationalism: immigrants, Catholics and African-Americans.

For the full interview, see:
JENNIFER SCHUESSLER, interviewer. “A Word with Lisa McGirr; Throwing a Cold Splash on Prohibition Nostalgia.” The New York Times (Thurs., DEC. 31, 2015): C4.
(Note: ellipses added; bold in original.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date DEC. 30, 2015, and has the title “Lisa McGirr Discusses ‘The War on Alcohol’ and the Legacy of Prohibition.”)

The book under discussion, is:
McGirr, Lisa. The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 2015.

“The Circus Is Gone, But the Clowns Stayed”

(p. A1) SHCHYOLKINO, Crimea — When residents in this typical Soviet factory town voted enthusiastically to secede from Ukraine and to become Russians, they thought the chaos and corruption that made daily life a struggle were a thing of the past.
Now that many of them are being forced to cook and boil drinking water on open fires, however, they are beginning to reconsider.
There has been no steady electricity supply in this hard-hit town since Nov. 22, when protesters in Ukraine blew up the lines still feeding Crimea with most of its electric power. The bigger towns and cities are only marginally better off.
Yet, people here are not sure whom to blame more for their predicament: the Crimean Tatar activists and Ukrainian nationalists who cut off Crimea’s link to the Ukrainian power grid or the local government officials who claimed to have enough power generators stored away to handle such an emergency.
“The circus is gone, but the clowns stayed,” said Leonid Zakharov, 45, leaning on a wooden cane. Moscow may have purged Ukrainian authority, he said, but many of the same corrupt and incompetent officials remained in office and life was only slightly less chaotic than before.
. . .
As often happens in Russia, some blame Washington rather than Moscow or Kiev.
“If it wasn’t for the Americans none of it could have happened. The Tatars, who are supported by the United States, would not do a thing,” said Tatyana Bragina, 57, an energetic woman who also once worked construction at a nearby, unfinished nuclear plant.
“Please write that we are not desperate. On the contrary, we are full of joy,” Ms. Bragina said, standing near a black iron kettle boiling away in the courtyard of her apartment block.

For the full story, see:
IVAN NECHEPURENKO. “Months After Russian Annexation, Hopes Start to Dim in Crimea.” The New York Times (Weds., DEC. 2, 2015): A4 & A12.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 1, 2015, and has the title “Months After Russian Annexation, Hopes Start to Dim in Crimea.”)

Irony that Kafka Statue Faces Prague City Government Building

(p. 10) Prague is sprinkled with provocative pieces by Mr. Cerny — a sculpture of a urinating man (directly in front of the Franz Kafka Museum), a statue of the Czech patron saint King Wenceslas sitting on an upside down dead horse.
His most recent installation in Prague is a sculpture of Kafka’s head, set behind the Tesco department store in the center of town. The 36-foot-high head is made up of 42 moving chrome-plated layers, which move both in synchronicity and in opposing directions.
Mr. Cerny’s original idea was a fountain featuring three figures: a robot, referencing the Czech-language writer Karel Capek, who coined the term; a Golem, representing the Yiddish language; and Kafka’s beetle, referring to the German language. “I wanted to remind people that Prague was once a city of three languages,” Mr. Cerny said.
Unfortunately, city water regulations prevented him from placing a fountain there, so instead he came up with the huge reflecting Kafka head, which is based on similar work of his on display in Charlotte, N.C., called “Metalmorphosis.”
“I loved the irony that this sculpture faces a city government building in Prague,” he said. “Imagine you’re angry because the clerks are doing nothing, only saying for you to go to another office and then another office and another until finally you hear, ‘This office is closed.’ And then you walk out of the building, and there’s the huge head of Kafka looking at you, reminding you of the irony.”

For the full story, see:
DAVID FARLEY. “Footsteps; Prague; On the Trail of Kafka’s Legacy.” The New York Times, Travel Section (Sun., DEC. 27, 2015): 10.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed dates, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 22, 2015, and has the title “Footsteps; On the Trail of Kafka in Prague.”)

Trophy Hunting Preserves Endangered Species

(p. A1) Despite intensifying calls to ban or restrict trophy hunting in Africa after the killing of a lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe, most conservation groups, wildlife (p. A8) management experts and African governments support the practice as a way to maintain wildlife. Hunting, they contend, is part of a complex economy that has so far proven to be the most effective method of conservation, not only in Africa but around the world as well.
While hunting is banned in government parks here in South Africa, animals inside their boundaries are routinely sold to game ranches when their populations are considered excessive, generating money to maintain habitats and fight poachers.
And because trophy hunting is legal in private game reserves, the animals end up fetching higher prices than they would in being killed for food or other reasons, conservationists contend. Lion hunts, one of the most lucrative forms of trophy hunting, bring in between $24,000 and $71,000 per outing on average across Africa, according to a 2012 study. In southern Africa, the emergence of a regulated trophy hunting industry on private game ranches in the 1960s helped restore vast stretches of degraded habitats and revive certain species, like the southern white rhinoceros, which had been hunted almost to extinction, conservationists say.
A similar shift occurred in the United States decades earlier when the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 allocated the proceeds from hunting to bring back lands and animals, they argue.
“There’s only two places on the earth where wildlife at a large scale has actually increased in the 20th century, and those are North America and southern Africa,” said Rosie Cooney, a zoologist who is the chairwoman of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group. “Both of those models of conservation were built around hunting.”

For the full story, see:
NORIMITSU ONISHI. “Outcry for Cecil the Lion Could Undercut Conservation Efforts.” The New York Times (Tues., AUG. 11, 2015): A1 & A8.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 10, 2015.)