Saturday, July 9, 2016
Not long ago, I found myself in a beer-tasting room in upstate New York, looking out on a field of hops and sampling the craft brews of a company called Indian Ladder Farmstead. Among the list of beers chalked on a blackboard was one particularly hoppy creation named “Dr. Paul Matthews I.P.A.” Naturally I felt obliged to inquire about the eponymous doctor. The owner, Dietrich Gehring, told me that the name was an homage. He said his passion for wild hops had led him to Matthews, to whom he referred as the Lord of the Hops…
My latest post on NewYorker.com.
Sunday, April 17, 2016
The disconnect between Sanders’ rhetoric and the reality in the European countries he admires is the topic of the first of my posts on newyorker.com: here.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
A propos of Ted Cruz and his slur on “New York values,” I did a stint with Brian Lehrer of WNYC today on the Dutch origins of same: “The Brian Lehrer Show”
Friday, November 20, 2015
An art historian at the University of Amsterdam has identified, with as close to certainty as one is likely to get, the location of one of the iconic paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, Vermeer’s “Little Street.” It was always known to be in Delft, the only city Vermeer painted, but, though others tried, no one could pinpoint the spot. Using maps, water tax records and mathematics, Frans Grijzenhout reasoned that Vermeer must have been standing on Vlamingstraat opposite what are today house numbers 40 and 42. One large clue was the double gate in the painting: a rarity in the 17th century city. The houses of today are different but the size of the lots is precisely the same.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
I guess Brooklyn Magazine is now officially my favorite mag. The 100 Books Every New Yorker Should Read.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
My book “The Island at the Center of the World” is being developed as a dramatic series for PBS. As if that isn’t big enough news, the great Ridley Scott has signed up to executive produce, along with David Zucker, whose credits include “The Good Wife” and, currently, “Killing Jesus.” The writer of the series — Ed Redlich, renowned for “The Practice,” “Shark,” and the current show “Unforgettable” — is working on the pilot script right now. Arvind Ethan David is the producer who optioned the book and brought all the parties together. His company, Ideate Media, will produce the series together with Scott Free, Ridley Scott’s company, Things are moving quickly — stay tuned!
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
We got a rare hint of actual political wisdom from a politician when Hillary Clinton responded to a Black Lives Matter activist: “I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws.” Is that not how it went with the end of slavery, with women’s suffrage, with every political advance in the civil rights movement, with every step in the struggle for women’s equality, with Obamacare? Each time around, it’s not a battle to win hearts and minds of those on the wrong side of history. It is a battle to marshal political forces, to enact laws, and then to enforce them. You don’t hope for or expect the opponents to come around in their hearts. You expect that, through continued enforcement, you will win over their children and grandchildren. It’s a long haul.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
I’m hosting an irregular series of podcasts on the topic of the former Dutch colony of New Netherland, which gave rise to New York (and much else). The first–an interview with renowned historical painter Len Tantillo–is online now. Len’s meticulous attention to historical detail makes his paintings veritable windows into what was. Here, for example, is his rendering of Hanover Square, in Lower Manhattan, in the mid 1600s:
Friday, June 5, 2015
Michael Pye’s new book is bristling, wide-ranging and big-themed. It’s the sort of historical work whose thesis is virtually impossible to prove, but it’s also a reminder that history isn’t an exact science. At its most meaningful, history involves a good deal of art and storytelling. Pye’s book is full of both.
In “The Edge of the World,” Pye concentrates on a murky era — the Middle Ages — and on a region of Europe that seems always to have been blanketed in mist, the North Sea. “This cold, gray sea in an obscure time made the modern world possible,” he declares in his introduction. In the pages that follow, he doesn’t prove that grand statement so much as toss handfuls of paint at it, in many places coloring it in while obscuring it in others.
Continue to my review in the New York Times Book Review.
Friday, May 15, 2015
Sandro Magister is the most astute Italian journalist covering the Vatican. He has a better read on its inner workings than anyone else. He has just written a remarkable piece in which he peels away the media hype surrounding Pope Francis and shows what is actually happening in Francis’ pontificate. Magister says that while in the media Francis is a revolutionary who is sweeping out the old guard and old ways and instilling a new focus on the poor and, much to the consternation of conservatives, calling for change in the way the Vatican looks at homosexuality, divorce and climate change, the reality is quite different. The central power in the Vatican is the Curia, and, Magister notes, there has been no change in it: The Curia “is still there and completely intact. Nothing has been dismantled or replaced.” The Vatican’s career diplomats, he goes on to say, “are more firmly in power than ever.”
As for the big issues of homosexuality and divorce, the Pope talked publicly about them, and made a huge stir with his “Who am I to judge?” comment. But Magister notes that since Francis encountered hostility to change from the inner circle he has largely returned to boilerplate language on these topics, “without swerving a millimeter from the strict teaching of his predecessors Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.” Magister says the Pope has since last October spoken out against these issues 40 times, and has refused to give a “placet” to France’s proposed Ambassador to the Vatican, who is gay.
Magister concludes: “the media continue to sell the story of the ‘revolutionary’ pope, but the true Francis is farther and farther away from this.”
Meanwhile, the conservatives in the Vatican have by now realized that they have an unexpected gift in Francis. He has turned around the Vatican’s largely negative image. He is providing cover. And, for them, business can continue as usual.
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