What's new in The New Yorker, the Weekly Standard, and the New Republic.

Summaries of what's in Time, Newsweek, etc.
May 19 2009 6:59 PM

Generation Skill

New York on the benefits of overstimulation.

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New York, May 25 The cover story looks for "the benefits of distraction and overstimulation" resulting from a generation's technology-induced "attention crisis." An expert on multitasking sees "a cognitive plague that has the potential to wipe out an entire generation of focused and productive thought." Still, research also shows that we're "picking up new skills: better peripheral vision, the ability to sift information rapidly." We may flit back and forth among the eight different windows on our computer screen three times a minute, but "[t]his sort of free-associative wandering is essential to the creative process; one moment of judicious unmindfulness can inspire thousands of hours of mindfulness." As a Francis Bacon retrospective opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a feature wonders whether the painter was merely "an illustrator of exaggerated, ultimately empty angst." Bacon is known as an inventive, provocative artist. But by the end of his career, the author argues, Bacon's work had become predictable.

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The New Yorker, May 25 A profile of Chief Justice John Roberts highlights the contrast between "his pugnacious style in oral argument" and his "even-tempered disposition, obvious but unshowy intelligence, and fierce ambition leavened by considerable charm." Today's Supreme Court "is moving right as the rest of the country—or, at least, the rest of the federal government—is moving left." While the conservative justice hasn't claimed a particular issue as his own, he has focused on racial discrimination in schools, voting, and hiring, often questioning mandates to increase racial diversity. This week's "Comment" deems the Obama administration's approach toward Pakistan a vast improvement after decades of blunders. The administration "has announced a formal strategy: an adaptive counterinsurgency doctrine that seeks to emphasize the security and the prosperity of the Afghan and Pakistani people above all; economic and development aid; vigorous diplomacy; and carefully targeted warfare, particularly aimed at Al Qaeda." 

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Weekly Standard, May 25 A skeptic heads to Disney World for the National Multicultural Business Conference, which recalled days "when we were fatter and richer and could afford the luxury of worrying about whether the guys in accounting were at least 0.8 percent Indigenous Peoples of the Americas." Workplace diversity has remained a top priority for businesses even during the recession, since consumers and clients still value it. An article argues in favor of maintaining the United States' role in naming Internet domains. Currently supervising the system is a section of the Department of Commerce called the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which wrestles with such political questions as, "Which side in a civil war should control Pakistan's Internet domain?" Critics want to strip the United States of its power over the Web, "[b]ut if we believe in free speech, we ought to keep control of the Internet away from foreign governments that value it far less than we do."

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Newsweek, May 25 In the newly redesigned magazine, columnist Fareed Zakaria argues that despite pervasive apocalyptic attitudes, we're "living in a world in which deep, structural forces create stability." Urgent and early responses to the recession and swine flu, he says, prevented full-blown catastrophes. A short piece on Nico Muhly praises the 27-year-old classical composer's "consistently tasty work," which ranges from the film score for The Reader to an opera he's working on for the Met. Young Muhly "combines the rhythmic exuberance of early American minimalism (thus his appeal to the hipsters) with the harmonies of early choral music to create a sound of unique clarity." A feature explores George W. Bush's post-presidential life in Texas, where he has surrounded himself "with old friends, stalwart supporters—and the occasional teenage fanboy." He is currently working on building his presidential library at Southern Methodist University.

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New Republic, June 3 In the cover story, Michael Lewis reviews a new biography of Warren Buffett. The book, written by a former Morgan Stanley analyst, examines how the investor became a confident businessman despite lifelong social awkwardness. From Buffett's childhood, "the plain facts of his young character assemble themselves into something like a portrait of a universal loser—and yet right from the start Buffett himself seems to have been able to believe that the universe was wrong and he was right." A profile of another successful outsider, economist Nouriel Roubini, takes a similar tone. The author wonders whether the "relentless pessimist," nicknamed "Dr. Doom," is a "great economic seer" or simply persisted long enough in predicting the burst of the housing bubble to finally get it right. Ultimately, the article attributes the success of "Roubini-ism—sprawling, non-linear, and hypercaffeinated" reasoning—to Roubini's "willingness to intuit broad patterns and connect the dots."