Six Ideas That Made Us Think

1. A Century of Decline

Nearly a half-million people have already downloaded “Our Miserable 21st Century,” the latest essay by Nick Eberstadt in Commentary, and one suspects it will become the most talked-about essay of the year. In it, Eberstadt argues that we are witnessing “a growing divergence between three trends that should ordinarily move in tandem: wealth, output, and employment.” He demonstrates that while there has been great wealth created since 2000, the number of Americans engaged in any paid work is startlingly low. The implications are ominous:

Stanford economist Raj Chetty calculated that the odds of a 30-year-old’s earning more than his parents at the same age [is] now just 51 percent: down from 86 percent 40 years ago.

2. Hockey Night in Punjabi

Last spring, one of the great sports calls of all time was delivered when Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Bonino scored the series-winning, overtime goal during the second round of the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs. Aside from the unforgettable, repetitive cry of “Bonino, Bonino, Bonino,” what made the call notable was that it was delivered in Punjabi, as part of CBC’s broadcast designed specifically for the 500,000 people in Canada who hail from India’s northern province.  

Now the voice behind that call, Harnarayan Singh, describes in The Players Tribune how hockey broadcasts in Punjabi have transformed his own life and become a part of Canadian culture. Touching story throughout:

I got an email from a guy who had emigrated from India and was living in Winnipeg. He was having a difficult time fitting in at work initially and was quite unhappy with life in his new country. He was considering returning to India, but eventually he noticed that everyone at work would talk about the previous night’s hockey game. That’s when he found our show. In no time, he was able to participate in those conversations at work, and, pretty quickly, the camaraderie he felt at his workplace increased tenfold. His message to me said that he had decided to stay in Canada because of our show.

For those curious, a sample of a Punjabi broadcast is here.

3. Boredom Detector: Remembering Alexander Chancellor

“He was blessed with an in-built boredom detector.” No one should miss the many glowing tributes to Alexander Chancellor, a fixture of British magazine editing, who died at the end of January. Celebrated for reviving The Spectator in the 1970s, his old magazine knew him as someone “wreathed in cigarette smoke, often with a glass of red wine in hand.” The Guardian added this assessment:

What made him a good editor? Partly a knack for finding good writers and recognising interesting ideas; partly his textual skill – contrary to the dilettante image, fostered by three-bottle lunches and 60 Rothmans a day, he could often be found late at night changing captions and rewriting headlines, but mainly he was good because he won loyalty from his staff and contributors. 

4. Not More than a Pretty Face

If anyone needed reminding that actors best stick to acting, The Guardian looks at some of the worst novels by actors, such as Pamela Anderson’s Star and Sylvester Stallone’s Paradise Alley, a novelization of his own failed movie. Then there’s Actors Anonymous by James Franco, described as thus:

Self-conscious to the point of inanity, Actors Anonymous is built on a towering stack on unwarranted pretension that sporadically attempts to undercut itself with a scene where a professor tells Franco that his book isn’t very good.

5. Music City Makes Memories

Some people associate Nashville with country music, big hair, and Hot Chicken. But insiders know that Music City’s real image has been inked by Hatch Show Print, the legendary wood-block press shop that has been creating iconic hand-made posters for nearly a century and a half. AdWeek takes a tour and considers Hatch’s impact on advertising:

Hatch’s signature style has been so widely imitated that it’s probably familiar to millions who’ve never even heard the place’s name. But as manager Celene Aubry explains, the shop – whose 140th anniversary is just two years off – never set out to change the world of typography and graphic design. Its mission, yesterday and today, has simply been to get people’s attention.

Here is a link to dozens of Hatch’s famous images.   

6. A Neural Bypass

Every year, the MIT Review lists ten technologies the editors believe will define the future. Among the innovations showcased this month, one is a “brain-reading technology” that can reverse paralysis. It’s already being tested at Case Western Reserve University:

The Case results, pending publication in a medical journal, are a part of a broader effort to use implanted electronics to restore various senses and abilities. Besides treating paralysis, scientists hope to use so-called neural prosthetics to reverse blindness with chips placed in the eye, and maybe restore memories lost to Alzheimer’s disease.


Websites Worth Reading


Feeds We Follow