I can still see Dr. Calhoun’s two index fingers intertwining and then untangling. In that moment, a new idea presented itself to me: Perhaps the point of life was not to achieve some kind of perfection. Perhaps illness was an integral part of life’s dance. Perhaps fragility was built into our very design. Perhaps fragility was also strength. Through the neutral lens of science, my kid’s genetic deletion was a product of diversity, and who could be upset about that?
That night I danced to a live funk band with my daughter’s peers, sweating fiercely on a dance floor, holding the hands of a grown woman several inches shorter than me, a woman who didn’t speak words but had an excellent sense of rhythm.
Let me tell you about my girl. Today, at five years old, Fiona too loves dancing. She loves reggae and Elmo and ham sandwiches. She is a hat aficionado, and she owns a denim baseball cap, a penguin ski cap, a white chef’s hat, a camouflage pageboy, a sequined raspberry beret, and a straw bolero. She has been hovering at the twenty-pound mark for a year and can eat a half-block of cheese in one sitting. She loves to color, and she will bully you into joining her by thrusting colored pencils toward your nostril.
But the mythos of Lucky Peach is great — greater, at times, than the magazine itself — and nothing casts a legacy into the stratosphere quite like an unexpected, yet agonizing death. Since the publication’s demise was first reported a month ago, with editor Peter Meehan confirming Eater’s break via parental divorce announcement, the accounting of its legacy has largely taken the form of reading lists of its most memorable pieces of writing.
Honoring the words that appeared in Lucky Peach is a fine and proper thing; the writers and stories the magazine showcased were always fresh, and frequently thrilling. The troika of editor-in-chief Chris Ying and editors/polestars Peter Meehan and David Chang created an expansive, well-lit space for writerly experimentation and muscle-stretching. You always knew a Lucky Peach story when you read it, with its long sentences and cockeyed-conoisseur perspective and inevitably macho denouement. But in the end, stories are stories are stories. Good writing will find its reader, no matter what masthead it runs under. It wasn’t the words in Lucky Peach that blew up the stagnant world of food media. It was the design. Lucky Peach looked like nothing else out there — that is, until everything else out there started to look like Lucky Peach.
Independent cinema is moving out of the art house and into every house. The collapse of this viewing window and the bidding-war armistice has been by mitigated by prefab dealmaking. Technocratic distribution companies like Netflix and Amazon have upended the state of independently produced movies. Film festivals that screen these movies were once the bastion for work created beyond the perception of Hollywood’s studio structures — films that were either unable or unwilling to penetrate the cast iron gates that lead to the moviemaking seats of power. The festivals were a home for insurgents, temples that hoisted Tarantino, Michael Moore, Sofia Coppola, Kevin Smith, Allison Anders, Robert Rodriguez, Todd Solondz, Todd Haynes, Ava DuVernay, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, and dozens more into the frame. Today, a movie that has been bought, paid for, and strategized against a global calendar by a massive public company is dissonant with the spirit of independent movies.
What is happening is not an erosion of indie cinema, per se, nor a dissolution of risk-taking work — Saulnier’s and Blair’s films are unforgiving and uncompromising genre movies, as likely to bleed and wail as anything from 1992. But their parentage raises some fascinating questions about origins, funding, and accessibility in an evolving movie culture. Netflix and Amazon are eating yet another part of the entertainment community. But what happens when everything has been swallowed up?
“I’m not actually writing this book to discuss my work, my opinions or my life,” Baldwin declares right off the bat and soon adds, “I’m writing it because I was paid to write it.”
After that start, you feel the needle on your Baldwin-appreciation meter trending downward. But to his surprise (and ours) he pulls himself together and delivers a thorough and sophisticated effort to answer an interesting question: How did an indifferently raised, self-flagellating kid from a just-making-ends-meet, desultorily functioning Long Island family, in Massapequa, turn into Alec Baldwin, gifted actor, familiar public figure, impressively thoughtful person, notorious pugilist?
Water availability is a primary environmental concern of our age. It was a determining factor in development of the American West, from the forced displacement of Native American nations to the establishment of the Colorado River Compact across seven states and Mexico. That "Law of the River" has shaped the policy and practicalities of the West, and Where the Water Goes traces all 1,400 miles of it, trying to understand how fragile a web we've woven.
It's a staggering glimpse of just how complex the situation is — and how long the river has been a concern. In 1893, long before "conservation" had anything but economic implications, geologist John Wesley Powell warned the National Irrigation Congress, "When all the rivers are used ... when all the wells are sunk or dug that can be dug, there is still not sufficient water to irrigate this arid region." (Owen notes dryly: "He was booed.") And while we laugh at 19th-century blowhard Horace Greeley's assertion that "rain follows the plow," the current administration is rolling back environmental protections with similarly inaccurate bluster. The reality is something else entirely, and Where the Water Goes is, if nothing else, a crucial admission of the mess we're in.
That said, the most fun of having an affair is sneaking around. And getting away with it. Those are both pretty fun. Sneaking around makes you a spy in your very own Charles McCarry novel. Maybe you get a burner phone. You are constantly lying to someone and maybe getting good at it. It may only be a matter of time before you’re caught. But it’s the chase, the adrenaline rush. The sugary feeling. Chemicals. That’s what gets us off. Kafka knew this when he wrote ”You are incapable of loving. Only fear excites you.”