domingo, febrero 01, 2009

Lo mejor de 2008

Tal como en 2006 y 2007, este blog entra en un receso de un mes con una selección de The Best American Magazine Writing 2008. A pesar de la crisis que afecta a la industria editorial en EE.UU. y que probablemente marque su futuro en 2009, ese país sigue produciendo crónicas y cronistas de lujo. La siguiente es una selección (sobre notas publicadas en 2207) que incluye a William Langewiesche (el mismo que hizo internacionalmente conocida la ridícula y chovinista pelea del gobierno de Frei con Tompkins), el destacado periodista de la National Geographic, Peter Hessler, quien revela los pro y contra de la nueva China; Vanessa Grigoriadis, quien escribe para el NYmagazine sobre la historia y ADN de Gawker, el blog más popular en EE.UU., pero que simplemente se dedica a destripar a la farándula y a los medios y, por supuesto, Christopher Hitchens, polémico columnista británico, que aparece año a año en las antologías a través de sus columnas. Este año seguro que estará marcado por el golpe que la crisis está dando a los medios, sobre la consolidación de un modelo económico para internet y el desempeño de las campañas online de los candidatos locales. De eso habrá mucho que decir, pero sin duda que son las historias, la buenas historias el centro de nuestra profesión.

Obama's Moment

All love stories are beautiful at the beginning, and what we're witnessing now is the beginning of a new one: America and Barack Obama. The story begins with the world spinning off its axis, the country mired in dark times and the way of the fresh-faced savior seemingly blocked by a juggernaut agent of the Status Quo. Only in the end, in the moment that sportswriters die for and that comes once a generation in politics if we're lucky, the phenom rises to the occasion, gets the big hit in the big game and becomes a man before our very eyes. The old power recedes, and the new era is born.

Dentro del dragón

MIS ALUMNOS ESCRIBÍAN ENSAYOS en papel tan barato y delgado que se sentía como piel de cebolla. Las quebradizas páginas se deshacían con facilidad; sostenidas contra la luz, se volvían translúcidas. La redacción en inglés era imperfecta pero, en ocasiones, eso dotaba de más fuerza a las palabras: “Mis padres nacieron en familia pobre de agricultores –escribió un joven que había elegido el nombre inglés Hunt–. Nos dijeron que habían comido cortezas, pasto, etc.
En ese entonces el abuelo y la abuela no tenían mentes abiertas y no permitieron a mi madre ir a la escuela porque es niña”. Un compañero de clase describió a su madre de la siguiente manera: “Su cabello se vuelve blanco plateado, y algunos de sus dientes se hacen móviles, pero trabaja tan duro como siempre”. Esos eran temas comunes: mis estudiantes estimaban la paciencia y el esmero, además, les gustaba escribir sobre la familia. Los acontecimientos nacionales a menudo los dejaban perplejos.

"You have thousands of angels around you."

Part 1
She got off the plane from Paris with nothing more than a couple of small bags. The bags had been packed for days as she waited for Eddie, a stranger who had approached her out of nowhere to say he knew all about her problems and could help. For $155 Eddie had given her a passport in the name of Marie-Therese Ekwa, age twenty-four, from Verviers, Belgium. This young woman, however, was seventeen, and her journey had not started in Paris, and she had never been to Belgium.
It was just before five in the afternoon. Detroit. September 4, 2001.
The airport agent looked at the passport and asked her to state her business. She spoke very little English and did not understand.
She wore her long hair in braids and had on a T-shirt and pants. She stood five-foot-ten and carried her slender height gracefully, almost gliding. Despite the long flight, she had not slept but rather spent the transatlantic journey in conversation with herself: Where am I going? What am I doing? Have I done the right thing?

City of Fear

For seven days last May the city of São Paulo, Brazil, teetered on the edge of a feral zone where governments barely reach and countries lose their meaning. That zone is a wilderness inhabited already by large populations worldwide, but officially denied and rarely described. It is not a throwback to the Dark Ages, but an evolution toward something new—a companion to globalization, and an element in a fundamental reordering that may gradually render national boundaries obsolete. It is most obvious in the narco-lands of Colombia and Mexico, in the fractured swaths of Africa, in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, in much of Iraq. But it also exists beneath the surface in places where governments are believed to govern and countries still seem to be strong.

Pat Dollard’s War on Hollywood

The day before Thanksgiving 2004, Pat Dollard, a Hollywood agent who represented Steven Soderbergh, sent an e-mail to just about everyone he knew containing one word: “Later.” Friends worried it was a suicide note. Dollard, 42, had spent nearly 20 years in the film business. On a good day he seemed little different than any other successful operator, a sort of hipper version of Entourage’s Ari Gold. But often in his turbulent career, bad days outnumbered the good. Once a rising star at William Morris, he was fired in the mid-90s for chronic absenteeism brought on by drinking and drug abuse. He attended 12-step meetings and bounced back, playing a critical role in getting Soderbergh’s Traffic made. Propaganda Films tapped him to head its management division, and in 2002 he produced Auto Focus, the Paul Schrader–directed biopic about the murder of Hogan’s Heroes star Bob Crane—a film in which Dollard has a cameo in drag. Dollard co-founded Relativity, a firm which would assist the Marvel Entertainment Group in its half-billion-dollar production deal and went on to produce, after Dollard’s exit, Talladega Nights. But by 2004, Dollard was bingeing again. His fourth wife left him, and his third wife was suing for sole custody of their daughter. News that his daughter would be spending Thanksgiving at the home of Robert Evans—for whom his ex-wife worked as a development executive—sent Dollard into a morbid depression. Late one night he phoned a friend and suggested that everyone might be better off if he were dead. Then he sent his good-bye e-mail.

Everybody Sucks

At the risk of sounding like a wounded old-media journalist, let me share a story about my experience with the media-gossip blog, which I, like most journalists who cover stylish topics in New York, have read almost every day for five years. In addition to recently finding attacks on some of my female journalist friends—one of whom was described as slutty and “increasingly sundamaged”; another variously called a “tardblogger,” “specialblogger,” and “developmentallydisabledblogger”—as well as a friend’s peppy little sister, who was put down for wanting to write a “self-actualizing screenplay or book proposal or whatever,” I woke up the day after my wedding to find that Gawker had written about me. “The prize,” said the Website, “for the most annoying romance in this week’s [New York Times] ‘Vows’ [column] goes to the following couple,” and I’ll bet you can guess which newly merged partnership that was. It seems that our last names, composed of too many syllables, as well as my alma mater, Wesleyan; the place we fell in love, Burning Man; our mothers’ occupations as artists; and my husband’s employer, David LaChapelle—in short, the quirky graphed points of my life—added up to an unredeemably idiotic persona (the lesson here, at the least, is that talking to the Times’ “Vows” column is a dangerous act of amour propre). Gawker’s commenters, the unpaid vigilantes who are taking an increasingly prominent role in the site, heaved insults my way:

So Many Men's Rooms, So Little Time

I knew it was all over for Sen. Larry Craig when he appeared with his long-suffering wife to say that he wasn't gay. Such moments are now steppingstones on the way to apology, counseling, and rehab, and a case could be made for cutting out the spousal stage of the ritual altogether. Along with a string of votes to establish "don't ask, don't tell" and to prohibit homosexual marriage, Craig leaves as his political legacy the telling phrase "wide stance," which may or may not join "big tent" and "broad church" as an attempt to make the Republican Party seem more "inclusive" than it really is.