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The New York Times Magazine July 30 2017

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July 30, 2017
TWO YEARS AGO, HUNDREDS OF CHINESE HUMAN
R I G H T S L AW Y E R S W E R E TA RG E T E D I N A N U N P R EC E D E N T E D
C R A C K D O W N . T O D AY, T H E I R C O L L E A G U E S W H O
REMAIN FREE MUST DECIDE WHETHER TO GIVE IN — OR RISK
EVERYTHING TO KEEP FIGHTING FOR THE RULE OF LAW.
THE DISAPPEARED / BY ALEX W. PALMER
BLACK YELLOW MAGENTA CYAN
NYTM_17_0730_SWD2.pgs 07.18.2017 16:57
July 30, 2017
11
First Words
Guilt Free For some Americans, ‘‘unapologetic’’ is the new
patriotic. For others, it’s a form of resistance.
By Wesley Morris
14
On Sports
Old Traditions Would major professional sports be better if
the star athletes made more money and ran the leagues?
By Jay Caspian Kang
18
The Ethicist
Discreet Resistance Is it O.K. to protest Trump by withholding
taxes?
By Kwame Anthony Appiah
22
14
11
20
Letter of
Recommendation
Duolingo A single app for language skills, self-improvement
and digital escape.
By Anna Fitzpatrick
22
Eat
Wrap It Up Discovering the wonders of a Parsi-style fish in
banana leaves, cooked on the grill.
By Samin Nosrat
54
Talk
Rashida Jones The actor and producer changed her mind
about porn.
Interview by Ana Marie Cox
Behind the Cover Jake Silverstein, editor in chief: ‘‘We were drawn to this photo of Liang Xiaojun, a
Chinese human rights lawyer, standing in front of a detention center where many of his colleagues have
been imprisoned. The wall behind him seemed a perfect symbol of the impervious faceless state that he
and others are trying to resist.’’ Photograph by Giulia Marchi for The New York Times.
4
8
9
13
17
18
Contributors
The Thread
New Sentences
Poem
Judge John Hodgman
21 Tip
50 Puzzles
52 Puzzles
(Puzzle answers on Page 51)
Continued on Page 6
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Jane Flower, Outreach Manager (pictured with Anja, Working Guide)
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MEMBER FDIC AND EQUAL HOUSING LENDER
July 30, 2017
The Last Line of
Defense
As China’s influence has surged, and as the global spotlight
on its political repression has dimmed, its human rights lawyers
often face a terrible choice: acquiescence or imprisonment.
By Alex W. Palmer
30
Not-So-Intellectual
Property
From ‘‘The Lego Movie’’ to ‘‘The Emoji Movie,’’ Hollywood is
trying to ‘‘adapt’’ material that doesn’t have a narrative or even
any characters. Can you really make a movie out of anything?
By Alex French
34
White Gold
The Italian marble trade is booming, fueled by demand
in Saudi Arabia and the other gulf states. A look inside the
quarries that furnish a classic demonstration of opulence.
Photographs by Luca Locatelli
Text by Sam Anderson
Li Wenzu, whose husband was swept up in the Chinese government’s crackdown on
lawyers, with her son in Beijing. Photograph by Giulia Marchi for The New York Times.
24
‘I cannot turn my back and ignore this.’
PAGE 24
6
Copyright © 2017 The New York Times
Contributors
Samin Nosrat
Eat,
Page 22
Editor in Chief
Deputy Editors
JAKE SILVERSTEIN
JESSICA LUSTIG,
BILL WASIK
Photographed by Kathy Ryan for The New York Times on
July 12, 2017, at 10:16 a.m.
‘‘White Gold,’’
Page 34
Sam Anderson
Samin Nosrat is a new Eat columnist for the
magazine and a chef, a teacher and the
author of The New York Times best seller
‘‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.’’ She is working on
a documentary Netflix series based on the
book, to be released in 2018. She lives,
cooks and gardens in Berkeley, Calif., but will
travel anywhere to learn a traditional
cooking method or follow a thread of culinary
curiosity. ‘‘The most interesting thing to
me about any food is the story behind or
ahead of it,’’ Nosrat said. ‘‘There’s always
something new to discover about the
history of a dish, the tradition that inspires
it or the people who are cooking, eating
and changing it.’’
Managing Editor
Design Director
Director of Photography
Art Director
Features Editor
Politics Editor
ERIKA SOMMER
GAIL BICHLER
KATHY RYAN
MATT WILLEY
ILENA SILVERMAN
CHARLES HOMANS
Special Projects Editor
CAITLIN ROPER
Story Editors
NITSUH ABEBE,
MICHAEL BENOIST,
SHEILA GLASER,
CLAIRE GUTIERREZ,
LUKE MITCHELL,
DEAN ROBINSON,
WILLY STALEY,
SASHA WEISS
Associate Editors
JEANNIE CHOI,
JAZMINE HUGHES
Chief National Correspondent
MARK LEIBOVICH
Staff Writers
SAM ANDERSON,
Sam Anderson is a staff writer for the magazine.
He writes the magazine’s New Sentences column.
EMILY BAZELON,
SUSAN DOMINUS,
MAUREEN DOWD,
Anna Fitzpatrick
Letter of Recommendation,
Page 20
NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES,
Anna Fitzpatrick is a writer based in Toronto.
This is her first article for the magazine.
JONATHAN MAHLER,
WESLEY MORRIS,
‘‘Not-So-Intellectual
Property,’’
Page 30
Alex French
Alex French is a contributing editor at Esquire.
He last wrote for The Times Magazine
about the plot to take down the Fox News
analyst Wayne Simmons.
JENNA WORTHAM
Writers at Large
PAMELA COLLOFF,
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE,
JIM RUTENBERG
David Carr Fellow
First Words,
Page 11
Wesley Morris
Wesley Morris is a critic at large for The Times
and a staff writer for the magazine. He last
wrote about Adele’s song ‘‘Send My Love (To
Your New Lover).’’
Deputy Art Director
Designer
Digital Art Director
Deputy Photo Editor
Associate Photo Editors
Alex W. Palmer
‘‘The Last Line of Defense,’’
Page 24
Alex W. Palmer is a writer based in Beijing.
He last wrote about the rise and fall of a Chinese
hedge-fund titan.
Dear Reader: Would You Sign
the U.S. Constitution?
Every week the magazine publishes the results
of a study conducted online in June 2017 by
The New York Times’s research-and-analytics
department, reflecting the opinions of 2,903
subscribers who chose to participate. This
week’s question: If you could somehow attend the
United States constitutional convention, would
you sign the final document?
C. J. CHIVERS,
JOHN HERRMAN
BEN GRANDGENETT
CHLOE SCHEFFE
RODRIGO DE BENITO SANZ
JESSICA DIMSON
STACEY BAKER,
AMY KELLNER,
CHRISTINE WALSH
Virtual Reality Editor
JENNA PIROG
Copy Chief
ROB HOERBURGER
Copy Editors
HARVEY DICKSON,
DANIEL FROMSON,
MARGARET PREBULA,
ANDREW WILLETT
Head of Research
Research Editors
NANDI RODRIGO
ROBERT LIGUORI,
RENÉE MICHAEL,
LIA MILLER,
STEVEN STERN,
MARK VAN DE WALLE
Production Chief
Production Editors
ANICK PLEVEN
PATTY RUSH,
HILARY SHANAHAN
68% Yes
7% No
25% I don’t know
Editorial Assistant
LIZ GERECITANO BRINN
Publisher: ANDY WRIGHT Advertising Directors: MARIA ELIASON (Luxury and Retail) ⬤ MICHAEL GILBRIDE (Fashion, Luxury, Beauty and Home) ⬤ SHARI KAPLAN (Live Entertainment and Books) ⬤ NANCY
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(Boston/Northeast/Washington) ⬤ KAREN FARINA (Magazine Director) ⬤ MARILYN M C CAULEY (Managing Director, Specialty Printing) ⬤ THOMAS GILLESPIE (Manager, Magazine Layout).
To advertise, email karen.farina@nytimes.com.
8
7.30.17
The Thread
Readers respond to the 7.16.2017 issue.
Comey, director of the F.B.I. These rules
— embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike — would be unrecognizable
and shocking to the Founding Fathers.
Bruce Fein, former associate deputy attorney
general, Washington
RE: TRUMPLANDIA
Mark Leibovich wrote about how Washington has — and hasn’t — changed in the time
of Donald Trump.
I don’t sense any empathy in this article
from the privileged and corrupt denizens
of Washington for the ordinary Americans they have betrayed and abandoned
— Americans struggling with stagnant
wages, soaring debt, a truly dysfunctional health care system, opioid epidemics,
paramilitary policing, employer abuse,
crumbling infrastructure and the burden
of monumentally foolish wars waged and
their trillion-dollar tabs. Just ambition,
greed, confusion, self-pity and nostalgia for
when they could cozy up to lobbyists and
shaft the public while gazes were averted.
Philip Moseley, Tampa, Fla.
THE STORY,
ON TWITTER
I grew up in Washington, and I have
always held the (childlike) view that the
people in the city work with a simple
motivation — to make the world better.
People lead with different mission statements. They certainly come with their
own theories of change, more conservative or more progressive. But the place
where I grew up was optimistic, because
why would all those people work so hard
for no money without believing change
was important and possible? Thank you
for reminding me of the humanity carried
deep in the folks I see on my screens every
day. I am grounded again in my optimism,
which is no small thing these days.
Melissa Buckley, San Francisco
Ppl like to say
‘‘Blah blah
blah is everything!’’
They’re wrong.
This NYTMag cover,
THIS is everything!
Look at it! Everything,
right there!
@MNSkinny
Bazelon suggests that when Trump as a
candidate or Trump as president defies
norms, he can get away with it because,
unlike violation of law, violation of norms
is merely ‘‘bad behavior.’’ But if you distinguish folkways from mores, that is not
the case. If President Trump violates folkways, that is arguably just bad behavior.
Nobody is hurt if, for example, he chooses
to communicate with his constituents
through 140-character tweets rather than
by speaking directly to them or answering questions at an open meeting with
the press. But if he violates mores, that
RE: FIRST WORDS
Illustration by Andrew Rae
Emily Bazelon wrote about how we contend
with a leader who violates the customs that
guide everyone else.
No one knows or writes about Washington better than Mark Leibovich,
but are we supposed to feel sorry for
silent-yet-disaffected Republicans cowed
by Trump’s tweets? I’m not buying it.
My guess is that what they are really
afraid of is the Koch brothers’ ultimatum
to destroy Obamacare and eliminate
taxes — or no more campaign money
and no lucrative after-office think-tank
or lobbying jobs. There is a simple remedy for Republicans: Rescind the Citizens United decision by the Supreme
Court and render the Kochs’ coercion
impotent. But no, Republican elected
officials are in it for the money and are
willing to sell the country down the
drain to get it. That they feel bad about
it is of no interest to me.
Margot Ammidown, Asheville, N.C.
Emily Bazelon misses the elephant in
the living room: namely, the changed
ground rules regarding the Constitution, which have abandoned a separation of powers. The president or his
agents now initiate wars unilaterally in
violation of the War Powers Clause; they
conduct warrantless surveillance of citizens and members of Congress to gather foreign intelligence under Executive
Order 12333, in violation of the Fourth
Amendment and the Speech or Debate
Clause; and they decline without any
legal justification to answer congressional inquiries — for instance, the refusals
of the director of national intelligence,
the director of the National Security
Agency and the attorney general to disclose communications with President
Trump relevant to his firing of James
‘Are we
supposed to
feel sorry
for silent-yetdisaffected
Republicans
cowed by
Trump’s tweets?
I’m not
buying it.’
Illustrations by Giacomo Gambineri
is different. For example, collusion by
itself may not be a violation of law, but
when people claiming to represent you
as a candidate or as president knowingly meet with acknowledged agents of a
foreign government, particularly one
that has been an adversary of the United States for many decades, and those
agents claim to have information that
can be used to your personal benefit
and to the detriment of our democracy,
that can be called morally repugnant.
The violation of mores may not require
a formal response, but it is a violation
of our moral code as a nation and as a
people. You would think there would
be moral outrage when our mores are
violated and our values are threatened.
Henry Brownstein, Richmond, Va.
Send your thoughts to magazine@nytimes.com.
9
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First Words
For some Americans, ‘unapologetic’ is the new patriotic. For others, it’s a form of resistance.
By Wesley Morris
Guilt Free
We’re living in sorry times, people. And by ‘‘sorry,’’ I mean ‘‘not
sorry.’’ Right now, the far-right website Breitbart News is selling
T-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘‘Unapologetically American.’’
The shirt’s label is printed with the Breitbart logo, ‘‘Made in USA’’ and
‘‘#WAR.’’ This is a shirt that wants to be starting something. Jamming
‘‘unapologetically’’ in front of ‘‘American’’ like that, with all those
aggro fixin’s, implies that anybody wearing a different shirt doesn’t
love America. ¶ The shirt’s sentiment is so pervasive throughout
government at the moment that it’s tempting to ask some elected
officials what their size is. Jeff Sieting, the village president of Kalkaska,
Mich., might be one such official. In the last year, he posted rants on
Facebook calling for the United States to kill ‘‘every last Muslim’’ and
declaring Islam ‘‘a flesh-eating bacteria.’’ Asked at a village meeting in
June whether he would apologize for the posts, Sieting told the room,
‘‘I owe nobody an apology for exercising my First Amendment rights.’’
His stance could cost him his job, but he doesn’t appear to be sorry
7.30.17
11
First Words
In Obama’s view, apologies were sometimes warranted and should be offered
without shame. But among nationalists
and certain conservatives, his humility
secured him a reputation as weak. Trump
succeeded where Romney failed, in part
because he could run against a caricature
of Obama instead of the man himself.
The concoction of a chronically contrite
Obama made the anti-apologetic Trump
seem more masculine, more American.
During Obama’s overseas trip to Saudi
Arabia, Egypt, Germany and France in
early June 2009, he cheered America’s
diversity, but earlier that year, in Turkey,
he spoke about our country’s ‘‘darker
periods.’’ He was referring to the torture
of Iraqis but also to America’s enslavement of Africans and its decimation of
American Indians. Maybe this is what
really stuck in certain people’s craw: He
was airing our dirty laundry in front of
foreign hosts, talking about ugly flash
points in the creation of the United States
that we haven’t settled. The offspring of
12
Illustration by Derek Brahney
7.30.17
The current
allergy to
apology
meets up with
exasperation
over so-called
political
correctness.
that violence still await a substantial apology. At this point, they know not to hold
their breath.
The current practitioners of the pugilistic nonapology have licensed themselves
not to care about the present, let alone
the past, and instead to boastfully deny
responsibility for everything. But there’s
a different, equally powerful concept of
unapology that cares deeply. That unapology holds dear all that ‘‘unapologetically
American’’ mocks and ignores. We’re
talking about heritage but also about butts
and skin and hair. We’re talking, among
other things, about Beyoncé.
She closes her most recent album, ‘‘Lemonade,’’ with ‘‘Formation,’’ in which she
extols her Southern roots, then proclaims
a preference for how her family looks:
My daddy Alabama, momma
Louisiana
You mix that Negro with that
Creole, make a Texas bama
Photographs from Shutterstock
about that either. According to the Traverse City Record-Eagle, Sieting suspects that the antipathy toward him is
coming from nonresidents’ disdain for
the president.
The current allergy to apology meets
up with exasperation over so-called political correctness, exasperation that became
a selling point of Donald Trump’s candidacy. He won. So, then, did the offenses,
insults and assaults he and his campaign
not only refused to apologize for but
also, in the case of, say, the former campaign staffer and journalist-mauler Corey
Lewandowski, swore never happened.
Witnesses and contradictory video footage be damned.
‘‘Unapologetic’’ is how The Los Angeles Times characterized Donald Trump
Jr.’s defense of his having met with a
Russian lawyer who claimed to have dirt
on Hillary Clinton last summer, during
the presidential campaign. You could
see just how un-sorry he was when he
tweeted out his damning pre-meeting
emails moments before The New York
Times published them. In the Trump
era, ‘‘unapologetic’’ constitutes a state
of mind: There is no shame in flouting
norms, exiting accords, jeopardizing
international relationships, lying.
If you see things that way, you’re also
likely to be of the mind that all Barack
Obama did as president was apologize for
America. Mitt Romney’s book, from 2010,
was called ‘‘No Apology: The Case for
American Greatness’’ and sprang from
the premise that, in 2009, Obama toured
the world asking other governments for
forgiveness. According to Romney, ‘‘He
has apologized for what he deems to be
American arrogance, dismissiveness and
derision; for dictating solutions, for acting unilaterally and for acting without
regard for others.’’
That’s not untrue. In reality, though,
Obama spent some of his overseas visits
ruminating on the United States’ strengths
and weaknesses. ‘‘America, like every
other nation, has made mistakes and has
its flaws,’’ he said to students in Istanbul.
‘‘But for more than two centuries, we
have strived at great cost and sacrifice
to form a more perfect union.’’ Obama
spoke directly to Muslim leaders and their
people about the importance of the bond
between the Islamic world and the West,
rebuking, at least in spirit, the George W.
Bush administration’s bellicosity.
Illlustration by Kyle Hilton
I like my baby heir with baby hair
and Afros
I like my Negro nose with Jackson
Five nostrils
She’s not merely proud of natural hair
and wide nostrils. She’s expanding the
beauty parameters. She’s being what
has come to be known as unapologetically black. ‘‘Unapologetically black’’
is a cousin of ‘‘black power,’’ ‘‘I’m black
and I’m proud’’ and ‘‘It’s a black thing.’’
Unapologetic blackness doesn’t indulge
fantasies. It deals in facts, and Jackson
Five nostrils are facts. If you can’t handle that: Sorry, but not sorry. Typically, the world gets a song that worships
black bodaciousness — ‘‘Brick House’’
or ‘‘Da Butt’’ or ‘‘Baby Got Back,’’ songs
that express black men’s preference for
a black woman built a certain way. On
‘‘Formation,’’ Beyoncé states her preference for a big schnoz in a world in which
a smaller, button nose remains the standard for all races. Loving big black noses
isn’t a thing. Beyoncé’s saying it should
be ranks as peak unapologetic blackness.
‘‘Unapologetically black’’ is a Twitter
hashtag whose users make inspirational
and self-celebratory posts. It names Facebook accounts and Tumblr pages that feature people with natural, unstraightened
hair, brazenly eating food — like watermelon — negatively associated with black
people that, like most human beings,
black people also enjoy.
Unapologetic blackness may have
crested during the Obama era. The
wishful hope for a postracial America
couldn’t withstand recurring eruptions
of institutional racism, provoking a revival in black-protest culture. The country
couldn’t escape the conservative white
paranoia that the future occupants of
the White House would turn out to be
black-radical terrorists, fist-bumping us
into oblivion. Some black people were
nervous, too, that the president and the
first lady would feel forced to sidestep
or suppress their blackness. That worry
was assuaged in spontaneous moments:
Obama’s breaking into Al Green’s ‘‘Let’s
Stay Together’’ at a campaign stop or
‘‘Amazing Grace’’ at a funeral for victims of the A.M.E. Church massacre in
South Carolina in 2015. He addressed the
controversial deaths of black men at the
hands of the police with pragmatism and
empathy, despite his awareness that certain white people would — and did — jeer.
He kept going, praising rappers, ribbing
basketball players, hosting a ‘‘women of
soul’’ evening at the White House. In quiet
but significant ways, Obama learned how
to be unapologetically black, too.
The Obamas’ engagement with their
blackness mirrored the culture’s engagement with the variety of blackness teeming
within it. In the course of three years, the
sitcoms ‘‘Black-ish,’’ ‘‘Insecure’’ and ‘‘Atlanta’’; the Marvel Comics drama ‘‘Luke Cage’’
and the Southern soap opera ‘‘Queen
Sugar’’ all turned up on television. And
albums arrived by Solange (‘‘A Seat at the
Table’’), Kendrick Lamar (‘‘To Pimp a Butterfly,’’ ‘‘Damn.’’) and even Childish Gambino (‘‘Awaken, My Love!’’) that wrestled
with the state of being refulgently black.
At some point, along with ‘‘Lemonade,’’
they’ve all been deemed unapologetic in
In quiet but
significant
ways, Obama
learned
how to be
unapologetically
black, too.
their blackness. There’s something celebratory in the phrase, but it’s also defensive and defiant. Nearly all of this work
has white patronage. So a great deal of the
astonishment over the proud detail of its
blackness comes with an awareness of a
white gaze. Blackness was never forced to
owe black people an apology for anything.
Practitioners of unapologetic blackness know their culture is being watched
and shared, and the pride isn’t so much in
the blackness itself but in its encryption,
in what the 1990s fashion company (and
Solange) called Fubu — For us, by us. They
were originally just talking about jeans
and sweats. But the Fubu spirit continues
to insist that, in a country that for so long
has refused to see our full selves, we can
see one another. Why should anybody
have to apologize for that?
New Sentences By Sam Anderson
‘Since his youth, Mr.
Gregory was bothered by
a fly that used to enter
his mouth when he spoke,
and when somebody
spoke to him, the fly would
fly out of his ear.’
From ‘‘Mr. Gregory’s
Fly,’’ in ‘‘The
Complete Stories of
Leonora Carrington’’
(Dorothy, a
publishing project,
2017, Page 189).
Carrington, who died
in 2011 at age 94,
was born in England
but lived much of her
life in Mexico.
Leonora Carrington kept a pet eagle,
planted a tree in the center of her
house and was once reportedly
rescued from a mental asylum by a
nanny in a submarine. She cooked her
houseguests omelets that included
their own hair, which she had secretly
snipped off their heads while they
slept the previous night. She was, in
other words, a card-carrying Surrealist:
spelunker of the oozy chasm between
the rational and the absurd.
Some of Carrington’s ooziest
explorations were wild little fables —
microstories in which wolf-men talk
to plants and naughty children sculpt
living camels out of sand.
This sentence, from a longunpublished story, presents us with
the perfect Surrealist fly: a sentient
speck of deranged logic. Imagine
being tormented by something as
inexplicable as a personal lifelong bug,
and not one that simply buzzes around
you in a constant cloud of chaos but
one that follows a rigorous pattern: It
goes in when you speak and exits when
you are spoken to. It’s like a computer
program gone wrong, a stray bit of
binary code — one, zero, one, zero,
one, zero — simultaneously irrational
and rulebound. The language of the
sentence is equally precise and silly,
culminating with the wonderful phrase
‘‘fly would fly’’ — as if it would do
anything else.
Mr. Gregory, who has a large black
mustache also named Mr. Gregory,
seeks medical attention for his
problem, but as you might imagine,
it goes poorly, and he ends up worse
off than he started: ‘‘The fly had
totally disappeared, but Mr. Gregory
had become navy blue with red zip
fasteners over his orifices.’’ Sometimes
it is best to accept the absurdities we
already know.
The New York Times Magazine
13
On Sports By Jay Caspian Kang
Would major professional sports
be better if the star athletes made
more money and ran the leagues?
As the sports world fell into the early
days of its annual summer coma, a series
of portentous moments were taking place.
At a glance, and taken individually, they
looked a lot like the peripheral or backoffice goings-on that typically fill the quieter months until football season starts.
But by the time Lonzo Ball, the Lakers
rookie point guard, whose passing ability
is exceeded by only his father’s self-promotional thirst, lit up the N.B.A.’s summer
league in Las Vegas in early July, a pattern
was emerging. Beyond all the insiderish
commentary about N.B.A. free agency and
where Gordon Hayward, a borderline All
Star, might end up, there was a steady
stream of news that seemed to call into
question the structure of labor and compensation in American professional sports.
It started on the first day of July, when
Stephen Curry signed a five-year contract
with the Golden State Warriors for just
over $200 million. Over the course of
Curry’s previous contract, his play and
his anodyne charm helped increase the
value of the Warriors to $2.6 billion, from
a sales price of $450 million in 2010. When
news of Curry’s deal came out, LeBron
James, who has been the subject of studies on the economic impact a basketball
player can have on a city’s economy,
tweeted: ‘‘So tell me again why there’s a
cap on how much a player should get??
Don’t answer that. Steph should be getting 400M this summer 5 yrs.’’
A few days later, Ball walked onto the
court of a summer-league game wearing
his family-designed, family-marketed Big
Baller Brand sneakers. A couple nights
after that, former N.B.A. players gathered
in Charlotte to play in the BIG3, a threeon-three league, one of whose founders is
Ice Cube, that will be crossing the country this summer.
Then, in mid-July, Leslie Alexander, the owner of the Houston Rockets,
announced his team was for sale. The
write-ups speculating on what the Rockets might fetch (more than a billion, easily) highlighted the fact that Houston had
recently traded for Chris Paul, one of the
league’s best players. The implication was
clear: Paul and his new teammate James
Harden, who signed a $169 million contract extension this summer, would be
baked into the Rockets’ sales price.
While Ball was testing whether his
sneakers could hold up to the rigors of an
N.B.A. game, Floyd Mayweather, one of
14
Next Week: On Technology, by Jenna Wortham
7.30.17
Illustration by Cristiana Couceiro
Brilliant minds.
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On Sports
the canniest boxers ever, got together with
the profane mixed-martial artist Conor
McGregor to put on a high-energy, fourcity car wreck of a promotion that skidded past pretty much every established
standard of taste and competition. In late
August, the two men will box each other in
Las Vegas, a prize fight so devoid of competitive intrigue that even the most imaginative fight pundits have all but given up
trying to figure out how McGregor is even
going to lay a glove on Mayweather.
Boxing has had more near deaths
than Fred Sanford, and after McGregor’s laughable training videos began to
leak online — from a skills perspective,
he looks like a Wall Streeter sorting out
some rage issues — it seemed possible
for a moment that this bout might finally
be the indignity that causes the sport to
keel over into its grave. But fights have
their own economy, one that relies heavily on personality and self-promotion, and
after Mayweather and McGregor finished
their tour, it seemed likely that millions
would chip in for the $89-to-$99 pay-perview price to watch the bout, generating
what many predict will be a nine-figure
payday for Mayweather. Boxing is still
the best con going, especially for the
top fighters, who get a healthy portion
of the gate and broadcast revenue. In
what other big-time sport can an athlete
reap so much of the money he generates?
As recently as 2015, even after boxing
has endured all manner of ailments —
rampant corruption, fading superstars,
utter indifference from the media — the
16
Illustration by Cristiana Couceiro
7.30.17
We assume that
the major sports
leagues have to
stay in power
because we can’t
imagine a world
without them.
Jay Caspian Kang
is a writer at large for
the magazine.
two highest-paid athletes in the world
were Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao,
according to Forbes magazine.
Mayweather-size paydays might seem
impossible in the N.B.A., given that more
than a dozen players on each team all
need their own paychecks. But back in
the 2011 N.B.A. lockout, one prominent
player, Amar’e Stoudemire, revealed that
some players had discussed starting their
own league. A handful of stars went on
a barnstorming tour of local gyms and
semipro tournaments, which in turn led
many to ask why there was any need at
all for the N.B.A. But labor eventually
made big concessions, and when the
games resumed, the players’ share of
the money generated by basketball had
been cut significantly. The N.B.A. was
Poem Selected by Terrance Hayes
thriving; franchise valuations were skyrocketing and the league had a stable of
young, marketable stars. And yet, thanks
to some creative accounting that showed
a few teams operating at a loss, the players had to limit what they could earn to
ensure the financial health of their billionaire owners. No reasonable answer
ever explained this away. But then a new
television-rights deal (worth a reported
$24 billion) raised the cap, player salaries
went up and the talk of alternative basketball leagues fizzled out.
Now the expected rises in salary cap
have leveled off — and small but significant grumblings like James’s tweet
can be heard. The summer’s basketball
developments are, to varying degrees,
expressions of athletes’ power. BIG3
and Big Baller Brand might fail, but their
very existence shows the possibilities
for enterprising pros. We’ve now seen
washed-up basketball players in the BIG3
sell 15,000 tickets in the Barclays Center
in Brooklyn without a dollar going to the
N.B.A. We’ve seen one of the most hyped
and well-publicized rookies to enter the
N.B.A. play in a shoe that will not contribute a single penny to the profits of Nike
or Adidas. Developments like these allow
athletes to start thinking more seriously
about how they can leverage their influence to change the economics of professional sports.
In the past, when players pushed for
significant changes in the name of safety,
fair compensation or anything else, ‘‘tradition’’ got in the way. The N.F.L. season
has to last at least 16 games, because that’s
the way it has been for decades. N.B.A.
teams have to play on back-to-back nights
because that’s the only way to fit in all 82
games, a number set decades ago. Baseball’s drastic restrictions on what a player can make at the start of his career is
just part of the sport’s accepted business
model; so are unguaranteed contracts
in the N.F.L. We accept that players in
the N.B.A. and N.F.L. will be drafted and
have little say about where they’ll go.
We accept that leagues need to protect
their owners from their worst spending
impulses when it comes to answering the
question why some 20-year-old superstarin-the-making shouldn’t be paid whatever
someone will pay him. The N.B.A.’s apparent philosophy is that if salaries were
uncapped and the draft replaced by an
auction system, average players would
suffer because all the money would go to
superstars and to exciting, yet ultimately
unproven, prospects.
Why exactly should fans — or stars,
who draw the majority of the attention —
care what role players make? The Cavaliers and the Warriors have played in the
last three N.B.A. finals. The source of the
interest they generated wasn’t the history of those franchises. (How about that
Brad Daugherty-Chris Mullin rivalry?) It
was James and his All Stars versus Curry
and his superteammates. Put them on any
court and broadcast their games on any
platform, and basketball fans will pay to
watch. Sponsors and endorsements will
quickly follow.
We assume that the major sports
leagues have to stay in power because
we can’t imagine a world without them.
And when viewed entirely from a dollars
standpoint, it’s hard to get too worked
up over whether a team pays James $25
million or $100 million per season. But
a new, truly player-driven league could
also address other problems dogging the
N.B.A.: the interminable regular season
that causes players to take entire games
off, the dilution of talent over 30 franchises, the ever-changing relationship with its
supplier, the N.C.A.A., and the competitive imbalance in which only a handful of
teams can contend for a championship.
In the six years since the N.B.A. lockout, fans have come to scrutinize players’ tweets, Instagram posts and vacation plans. Every above-average free
agent becomes his own three-day news
cycle. The league promotes this rabid
attention as proof of its strength, but the
players’ strength is mighty, too. Almost
any reasonable iteration of a new league
could work, as long as it has a handful
of superstars.
Imagine a six-team league with franchises in New York, Las Vegas, Silicon Valley, Seattle, Austin, Tex., and Mexico City.
Suppose Mark Zuckerberg gets onboard,
streams the games on Facebook Live and
persuades the best players in next year’s
draft class to play for triple what they
would make on their rookie deals, many
of them playing in cities they hate. Whatever investment an owner would have to
make in building out a roster would pale
in comparison to the $2 billion Steve Ballmer spent to buy the Los Angeles Clippers. You know what’s cooler than owning
a team? Owning a league.
The speaker of this poem might be someone as loony and lonely
as Emily Dickinson. The fly in the second line has a Dickinsonian
buzz. The speaker is enchanted, but I can’t quite grasp the ‘‘her’’
here. Who is she? Who could be spoken of this way? Don’t send
mail to me explaining why it may or may not be a mother. In
my not grasping it, I get to pretend ‘‘her’’ is a divinity or a devil
or the earth or the speaker speaking of herself.
After 30 Hospitals in 2 Hours
By Michelle Whittaker
I don’t love her
but like a fly
I could not pass her by.
I wanted to kiss her hands
and ribbon the feet
with more than fog
rub time and olive oil
into wrinkles
overstretching into nest.
I wanted to toss her a white church
near to stream, and build a boat
timbered small to frame
and send her name off
as if she rolled from
a river who never grew so tired
to wake her
but don’t wake her –
no need wake her –
She is a dead world.
Terrance Hayes is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently ‘‘How
to Be Drawn,’’ which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2015. His
fourth collection, ‘‘Lighthead,’’ won the 2010 National Book award. Michelle
Whittaker is a poet whose debut collection, ‘‘Surge,’’ was published this month by
Great Weather for Media.
Illustration by R. O. Blechman
17
The Ethicist By Kwame Anthony Appiah
I am increasingly distressed by many of the
things that the Trump administration is,
and is not, doing. The president himself has
declared that not paying taxes ‘‘makes him
smart,’’ and I do not trust that my federal
tax dollars will be put to good use. I want
to resist the president, his cronies and their
destructive agenda(s) any way I can.
Assuming I am willing to bear the legal
and financial risks of being audited and
caught, would it be ethical for me to redirect
some or all of my federal taxes to my state
taxes (I trust my governor and state
government much more than I trust the
president and the federal government)
and/or to charitable and political causes that
I believe would benefit my fellow citizens?
Ben, New York, N.Y.
To submit a query:
Send an email to
ethicist@nytimes
.com; or send mail
to The Ethicist, The
New York Times
Magazine, 620
Eighth Avenue, New
York, N.Y. 10018.
(Include a daytime
phone number.)
18
7.30.17
A democratic republic like ours is a
shared enterprise, in which we agree to
govern ourselves under a system of rules
we are all willing to respect. People who
have lived under military juntas — as I
did when I was young — or through a
period of revolutionary anarchy will tell
you that the benefits of accepting the
results of democratic decision-making
are almost always worth the burdens.
During every administration, many people are distressed by what the president
does. We owe our fellow citizens who
accept election results they don’t like the
respect of doing the same. That means
Illustration by Tomi Um
you a refund. There are legal ways of
reducing your federal tax burden — by
giving more to charity, say — but only
within set limits. What you are proposing, though, is not legal tax avoidance
but illegal tax evasion, which you are
hoping to get away with. That means
your aim is not the public, expressive
one of civil disobedience.
If you aren’t sending a message, what
are you trying to achieve? Nothing practical, surely: When it comes to the federal
budget, your individual tax payment isn’t
even a rounding error. Perhaps, then, you
want to reduce your complicity in what is
going on. I am on record as thinking that
these clean-hands arguments are usually
exercises in moral narcissism. In any case,
your taxes go to large numbers of things
that you probably favor. Today nearly
two-thirds of the federal budget covers
so-called mandatory spending: Medicare
and other health expenditures, Social
Security payments, unemployment benefits, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If secretly reducing your
tax payments prevented you from being
complicit with expenditures you dislike,
it would also make you complicit in trying
to reduce expenditures you do like.
When the president’s chief strategist,
Stephen K. Bannon, called for ‘‘deconstruction of the administrative state,’’
the idea was a government that collects
less, spends less and does less. Against
that background, withholding your taxes
to protest Trump is like burning down
your house to protest arson. Perhaps you
Bonus Advice From Judge John Hodgman
Violet writes: One of my closest friends moved to Los Angeles,
and I asked him if I could remember him by having some
of his hair. Other friends have gladly done so, and I have hung
their specimens on my wall. My friend has refused, stating
that it is gross. But back in Victorian times, it was a common
mourning practice.
————
The court regrets that it cannot force a person to donate to
your adorable collection of human body parts (let’s not
mince words). I am not surprised that your argument regarding
Victorian traditions did not sway your friend, as it is basically
announcing that he is dead to you. I will, however, send you a
lock of my own hair, plus some beard trimmings (not a joke),
for the court is your friend. In return please send a photo of
them displayed in a place of honor, so I know you did not eat
them to try to absorb my power.
Illustration by Kyle Hilton
Is It O.K.
To Protest
Trump by
Withholding
Taxes?
obeying the laws, even under administrations led by people we may deplore.
Exceptions arise when the law that
we are considering breaking is not just
unwise but seriously immoral. Jim Crow
laws (in flagrant violation of the post-Civil
War constitutional guarantees) denied
African-Americans the 14th Amendment’s promise of ‘‘equal protection of
the laws.’’ Any citizen who cared to violate
them was, I believe, morally free to do
so. Indeed, decent citizens would have
felt morally obliged to break them, where
obeying them involved harm to others.
And they would have been free as well
to try to avoid the penalties for doing so.
There are also cases in which you may
violate laws that are reasonable in order
to draw attention to political wrongs, as
when civil protesters trespass or ignore
regulations on peaceable assembly. When
the point of doing so is to express your
moral ideas, you have to do so in plain
sight, which means you must face the legal
consequences. (And you should take care
not to undermine the public good, especially by causing harm to others, including
the police, when you do so.) This is the
classic kind of civil disobedience. The two
kinds of exceptions came together during
the civil rights era, when Jim Crow laws
were defied in public ways. Rosa Parks
didn’t merely accept the risk of being
caught in the white section of the Montgomery bus; being caught was the point.
Your talk of redirecting your taxes is
something of a red herring. When you
overpay your state taxes, the state sends
disapprove of the way the E.P.A. has been
hobbled by its Trump-appointed chief.
Then take note: The E.P.A.’s budget this
year is around $8 billion; the head of the
agency gets a salary of around $170,000.
Administration is costly; deconstruction
is cheap. When you consider curtailing
your federal payment, consider all the
forms of federal spending that the White
House would like to curtail.
One great virtue of a decent society is
that you don’t have to think about politics
all the time. But surely the right thing to
do when you believe the government is
behaving badly is to become politically
engaged. If you want to spend money on
something, spend it on supporting the
causes you believe in. Argue for them
with your fellow citizens; get involved in
political campaigns. That’s something you
can do because we’re a democratic republic. You say you’re willing to resist in any
way you can. Why not pursue these public,
constitutionally protected forms of resistance and make the most of this precious
political inheritance? If, as you believe, we
are headed in the wrong direction, it will
take the active work of well-intentioned
citizens to help us find the right one.
My dad married briefly in the late 1980s,
for the third time, to a woman who gave
birth to a baby. It was a little boy — I held
him once, when I was 16, just before the
marriage broke up. After the woman left
him, my dad insisted that she had been
unfaithful and that the child was not his.
He even terminated his parental rights
so he would not have to pay child support.
I put it out of my mind, until I became
a parent myself. Then I began to Google
the child’s name to see if I could find out
anything about him. I learned that he had
gone to prison for killing a friend in
a drunken rage.
Just by looking at his mug shot, it seems
obvious that he is my brother. I would
like to initiate contact with him in prison
to see if we can take a DNA test, but I’m
worried about where it could all lead. Will
I have an ethical obligation to support
him in prison if it turns out that we are
indeed siblings? Do I tell my aging father
that he was wrong all these years about the
child he abandoned? What if that child
feels rejected all over again because my
father still wants nothing to do with him?
Although I strongly feel that I have a right
to know whether this person is my brother,
I can’t find out for certain without upending
other people’s lives. What are my ethical
obligations here?
Amy, Chicago
You feel you have a right to know whether someone is your brother. You don’t;
you have a right to inquire. To establish
the truth by way of a DNA test should
require his consent. If you determine
that he is, in fact, your brother, you
will naturally generate expectations in
him — and those natural expectations
on his part will engender some obligations on your part. It’s an undertaking
with consequences. So you should enter
into this only if you are willing to deal
with those consequences: the expectations you raise, the recriminations you
may have to deal with and the needs of
a long-term prisoner for whom contact
with people outside may turn out to be
very precious. Having given him that
The right thing
to do when
you believe the
government is
behaving badly
is to become
politically
engaged.
contact, it might well be cruel to withdraw it later. Of course, you should also
be ready to deal with the possibility that
this young man has no interest at all in
satisfying your curiosity.
Whether you should tell your father
about any of this is another issue. I
understand that you want to make your
moral views known. But unless you think
there’s some good that can come from
it, I’d be inclined to leave him alone.
Courts do not easily approve the voluntary termination of parental rights,
especially without the consent of both
parents. You know little about this brief
marriage. What the woman herself wanted and what your father had reason to
believe at the time (regardless of what
has emerged since) are both pertinent
to how his actions should be assessed.
Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy
at N.Y.U. He is the author of ‘‘Cosmopolitanism’’ and
‘The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen.’’
Letter of Recommendation
Duolingo
By Anna Fitzpatrick
I didn’t buy a smartphone until I was
forced to in 2013, when my ancient flip
was put out of its misery by a spilled
can of Vanilla Coke. As a new convert, I
quickly came to believe my phone would
soon improve my life. I began downloading apps that promised to make me better: more organized, better read, more
cultured. I was convinced I could swipe
my way to self-improvement.
Eventually, I learned about Duolingo,
which turns the complex task of learning a new language into something
like a video game. Users start by picking the language they want to study
(there are currently 23 options available for English speakers, from Swahili
to Welsh), after which they’re greeted
with about 100 vocabulary and grammar
‘‘skills,’’ structured like a tree. Finish a
skill, and you’re rewarded with a dopamine burst in the form of points. Then
you do another one.
I did a couple of French lessons, which
took all of five minutes. It was easy, and
I was smitten by the possibilities. Maybe
20
Illustration by Michiel Schuurman
7.30.17
A single app for
language skills,
self-improvement
and digital escape.
I’ll even take up German, I thought
as I started the second lesson. I would
become cosmopolitan and sophisticated,
skipping across Europe and impressing
local shopkeepers with my breezy fluency
wherever I went. Maybe I would learn to
differentiate among various wursts. Anything felt possible.
Of course, I soon lost interest and
stopped using Duolingo, or for that matter, any apps that weren’t Instagram or
Tinder. (Turns out, self-improvement
apps are way more engaging when
you’re just using them to distract yourself from other problems.) Then, one
night, I couldn’t sleep. I tried reading
a book, then I tried scrolling through
the Facebook profiles of people I hadn’t
talked to since high school, but neither
worked. Soon it was 3 a.m., and I was
still awake, but now I was also full of
self-loathing. If I was going to stay up
and waste time online, I might as well
do something that wasn’t going to make
me feel awful. For the first time in two
years, I opened my Duolingo app, and I
decided I wanted to learn Dutch.
By the time I finally fell asleep that
night, I had completed the initial branches
in the Dutch course tree. I could read useful phrases like ‘‘Goedemorgen, hoe gaat
het?’’ (‘‘Good morning, how are you?’’) and
useless ones like ‘‘De neushoorn heeft een
hoorn en een staart’’ (‘‘The rhinoceros has
a horn and a tail’’). The next day, I caught
myself wading through the spiteful comments on a gossip blog and stopped to
practice Dutch plurals instead.
The app eventually became a type
of productive therapy, replacing other
time-wasters in my life. Can’t sleep?
Let’s learn more Dutch. In the mood
to text an ex? Maybe I should start the
Danish course instead. Fighting the urge
to tweet that ill-thought-out opinion on
current events? You’ll feel so much better
reviewing Dutch prepositions.
I liked how structured it was, that I
could measure my progress in terms of
winning points and completing levels and
outdoing my friends. I am a frustratingly
left-brained person: I take comfort in
things that can be quantified. But more
than that, though the points gave me
a sort of rush similar to getting a stack
of Instagram likes, it never felt like an
empty thrill. I had finally committed to a
self-improvement project, and every time
I leveled up in a language, I felt I was one
step closer to fluency. I became obsessed.
Six months later, I was at a street festival in Toronto. I walked by a booth where
a woman was selling stroopwafels, and I
overheard what I hadn’t yet heard outside Duolingo: Dutch. I was only a few
lessons away from finishing my course.
I approached the booth, eager to try out
what I’d learned. ‘‘Hoe gaat het?’’ I said,
suddenly aware of my heavy Canadian
accent warping the words. She just stared
straight back at me and said: ‘‘Excuse
me?’’ I quickly shuffled away.
Every time I
leveled up in
a language, I felt
I was one step
closer to fluency.
I became
obsessed.
Learning a language to fluency requires
discipline, frequent practice, ideally
immersion — much more than a simple
language-learning game can offer. That’s
fine, though. Fluency stopped being my
goal a while ago, when I realized that
trying to master several different foreign
languages in the span of a few months
would only be another stress-inducing,
insurmountable project, exactly the sort
of thing that led me to seek distractions
in the first place. More than anything,
though, Duolingo made me confident in
my decision-making — I had good taste
in bad ways to spend my time.
Any online time-waster offers an escape
from the world, often by preying on your
worst instincts: envy, pettiness, poor
impulse control. But Duolingo offered an
escape that made me feel connected to the
better parts of the world, and of myself.
I may not have become a globe-trotting
polyglot, but language learning did trigger
a curiosity into other lives lived. My phone
hadn’t made me a better person, exactly,
but at least it didn’t make me worse.
It took me about two weeks to make it
through the Swedish course earlier this
year — helped, of course, by never having
to speak it out loud. To celebrate, I found
a stream of ‘‘The Devil’s Eye,’’ the film by
Ingmar Bergman. Five minutes in, I realized I couldn’t understand a word they
were saying. I turned on English subtitles
and watched the rest of the movie, phone
comfortably in hand.
Tip By Malia Wollan
‘‘We are wary of people who are trying to
get on a jury,’’ says Philip Anthony, chief
executive of DecisionQuest, a trial consulting firm whose work includes assisting in jury selection. Many people try to
shirk jury duty; signs of eagerness will
arouse suspicion. Having surveyed more
than 100,000 jurors after trials, Anthony’s
company estimates that some 17 percent
are ‘‘stealth jurors,’’ people seeking a seat
to further a hidden personal agenda. Lawyers strive to ferret them out. Present
yourself as willing but not enthusiastic.
To be summoned for jury duty, you
must be 18 and a United States citizen.
Increase your odds by registering to
vote and getting a driver’s license. After
a pool of potential jurors has been called
to a courthouse, prosecution and defense
attorneys winnow the group down in
an examination process called voir dire
— but how the lawyers decide whom to
exclude is often mysterious, and historically those decisions were marred by
prejudice. It wasn’t until 1986 that the
Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional
to exclude a potential juror based solely
on race, and not until 1994 did the court
do the same for gender.
‘‘You can’t show any bias toward the
parties involved,’’ says Anthony, whose
company does pretrial surveys to find
what he calls ‘‘fact patterns’’ that might
reveal people’s predispositions on specific issues in ways they may not even
be aware of. For example, his research
might suggest a 92 percent likelihood
that someone who works in retail, makes
less than $30,000 a year and frequently
changes employers will harbor bias
against financial institutions; if you fit
that description and the case involves a
bank, you’ll very likely be excused. Strive
to be what Anthony calls ‘‘stable and balanced’’: Don’t be sarcastic, argumentative, despondent or, worst of all, an oddball. ‘‘You need to fit the norm of society,’’
he says. Jurors discuss cases and work
together to reach a verdict. Behave like
a person who can get along with others.
Know that you’re being watched. Lawyers are taking note of anyone acting
strange, agitated or particularly fidgety.
Be calm, confident and truthful. ‘‘For the
majority of jurors we’ve surveyed, serving
on a jury ends up being one of the more
important things they did in their life,’’
Anthony says. ‘‘Years later, they’re still
talking about it.’’
Illustration by Radio
21
How to Be Selected
For a Jury
Anna Fitzpatrick
is a writer living
in Toronto.
Eat By Samin Nosrat
Wrap It Up
Discovering the wonders of a Parsi-style fish
in banana leaves, cooked on the grill.
Walking down the wide rows of the
Mercado de Medellín in Mexico City
last summer, I was mesmerized by a vendor selling six-foot-long banana leaves.
He trimmed the stalks, then lifted and
waved out the thick, waxy sheets like a
salesman shaking dust from his Persian
rugs, before stacking them neatly.
I’d never cooked with banana leaves
before, so I vowed to come home and
familiarize myself with them. Cooks
throughout the Indian subcontinent, Latin
America, Southeast Asia and Central Africa make use of banana leaves in the kitchen. The leaves release water, trap steam
and ultimately protect their precious contents from drying out as they cook. And
when you unwrap a banana-leaf parcel,
it releases a sublime tropical aroma that
will make you mad with hunger.
Over the last year, I’ve wrapped banana
leaves around dainty business-card-size
22
Photograph by Gentl and Hyers
7.30.17
Patra Ni Machhi —
fish with green
coconut chutney grilled
in banana leaves.
tamales, rice with coconut milk and lamb
rubbed with chile paste and cooked in
a huge, deep pit. But the best bananaleaf-wrapped dish I’ve tried is a Parsi
one: Patra Ni Machhi, or flaky white fish
coated with a spicy coconut chutney. I
learned about it from Niloufer Ichaporia King, a 73-year-old anthropologist,
culinary scholar and extraordinary cook.
She herself is Parsi, descended from the
followers of the prophet Zoroaster, who
Food stylist: Hadas Smirnoff. Prop stylist: Rebecca Bartoshesky.
settled in India after fleeing persecution
in Iran more than a thousand years ago.
We first met several years ago at one of
her vibrant Parsi New Year dinners in
Berkeley. As we toasted papadums side
by side, she described Parsi cooking as a
‘‘magpie cuisine,’’ layering Indian, British,
European and New World influences and
flavors atop our shared Persian roots.
Patra Ni Machhi is one of Ichaporia
King’s favorite dishes too. ‘‘It does represent some effort to find the banana
leaves,’’ she said, ‘‘but it’s worth it.’’ She
recommends steaming the fish parcels on
the stove, but I find the soft lap of wood
smoke to be a natural complement to
the sweet, floral flavor the banana leaf
imparts. And happily, grilling means
there’s one fewer pan to wash.
Grilling used to make me nervous,
but then I learned to view the fire as
just another source of heat, no different
from a stove or an oven. Did I spend my
day hunched over at the waist eyeballing the gas flame when I cooked on the
stove? No. So I didn’t need to spend my
time worrying about what the fire was
doing either. In each case, the clues I
need happen farther up, on the surface
of and within the food that is cooking.
So first, prepare your grill. Light the
coals — I prefer lump charcoal to briquettes for better flavor — and let them
burn. Once they’re gray with ash, allow
the grill to preheat and the flames to die
down. Then, obey the most important rule
of grilling: Never cook directly over flame.
Flames will leave behind a terrible sooty
taste and burned spots on the surface of
any food they’ve touched. To make cooking
as simple as possible, think of your coal bed
as a series of stove burners set to different temperatures. Rake the coals to create
two or three distinct temperature zones
ranging from blazing hot (more coals) to
moderately hot (fewer coals) to ambient (no
coals). Then you can move the parcels from
burner to burner as needed. Use the same
sensory cues you use when cooking food
in a pan — the smell and look of food as it
browns, how an ingredient shrinks or tightens, the way it feels to the touch and how
loudly the sizzles at it hits the grill or begins
to render fat or drip juice — to guide you.
For the timid or uninitiated, leafwrapped foods offer an ideal and gentle
introduction to fire cooking. Liberated
from the need to worry about whether the
fish is sticking to the grill or burning, pay
Comment: nytimes.com/magazine
The soft lap
of wood smoke
complements
the sweet, floral
flavor of the
banana leaf.
attention instead to the rate of browning
on the surface of the leaf, which you’ll get
to discard whether it chars or remains
pale. When juices begin to drip from the
packets, you’ll know the temperatures
within are climbing. Wait a minute or
so, then unwrap a parcel. Check the fish.
Is it firm and flaking apart at the touch,
no longer translucent but opaque? If so,
you’re done. If not, rewrap the fish and
return it to the grill for another minute.
Serve hot with basmati rice and grilled
scallions. Let each diner delight in breathing in that gust of grassy, aromatic steam as
she unwraps her own parcel. Nothing else
will deliver the heady flavor of a banana leaf.
At least, that’s what I thought until
Ichaporia King casually revealed that it
was challenging to source fresh banana
leaves when she moved to the Bay Area
in 1971. One day, she said, she spotted a
Strelitzia alba plant (a variety of bird of
paradise) among the landscaping at her
neighborhood hospital. Its familiar leaves
appeared to make it a viable substitute.
Somewhat alarmed, I asked her how
she knew the leaves would work. How
could you substitute such a vital part of
the dish? As confident as I am about substituting one heat source for another, the
thought of swapping out the banana leaf
for something else caused me utter panic.
‘‘The perfume was fine,’’ she calmly
responded. ‘‘The leaves were perfectly usable.’’ She added, with a chuckle: ‘‘I
often brought someone very dignified with
me to divert attention. Then I’d cut leaves
from the back of the plant so nobody
would notice.’’
Patra Ni Machhi
2
pounds flaky white fish, like rock cod,
lingcod, snapper or sea bass
1. If using a charcoal grill, fill a chimney starter
with charcoal, and light.
2. Place coconut, peppers, cilantro, mint,
cumin, sugar, ¾ teaspoon of salt and
about half the lime juice in the bowl of a
food processor, and process until very
finely chopped, stopping occasionally to
scrape down the sides of the bowl with
a rubber spatula. Add more lime juice as
needed to create a smooth paste. Taste,
and adjust salt as needed; set aside.
3. Unfold banana leaves, and carefully
remove the center rib, if necessary. If using
fresh banana leaves, pass them over a
flame for a moment until they soften. Cut
the leaves into 6 12-to-14-inch rectangles,
and set aside.
4. Portion the fish into 6 servings. (If using
a thicker fillet like sea bass, slice the fish ½to-¾-inch thick, and portion out multiple
pieces as a serving.) Season the fish lightly
with salt on both sides.
5. Place a piece of banana leaf on a cutting
board with the dull side facing up and
positioned with a short overhang at the top.
Gently place a portion of fish about 4
inches down from the top of the leaf. Coat
both sides of the fish with the chutney
(2-3 tablespoons per serving). Fold the
top edge of the banana leaf down over
the fish, then fold in the sides. Continue folding
the fish down to the bottom edge of the
banana leaf to form a packet. Repeat with
remaining fish and banana leaves.
6. When the coals are white-hot, pour them
out of the chimney starter into the grill to
form a hot bed of coals. Use tongs to move
any flaming coals off to one side of the
grill. Set the grill grates over the coals, and
allow them to get hot. If using a gas grill,
preheat to medium-high.
Time: 40 minutes
2
cups (185 grams) finely grated
coconut (fresh or frozen and
thawed)
2-4
serrano peppers, stemmed and cut
into ½-inch pieces
1½
packed cups roughly chopped
cilantro leaves and tender stems
(from about 1 large bunch)
20
½
2
mint leaves
teaspoon ground cumin
tablespoons sugar
Kosher salt
⅓-½
½
7. When the grill grates are very hot, arrange
the packets on the grill in a single layer.
Avoid cooking directly over a flame. Grill the
packets 5 minutes, rotating 180 degrees
halfway through. Flip the packets, and cook
the fish 4 to 6 minutes more, again rotating
to ensure even browning. When simmering
juices drip from the parcels and the fish begins
to feel firm to the touch, it’s done. To be
sure, unwrap one piece of fish, and poke it
with a knife or your finger. If it begins to
flake, it’s done. If it’s still translucent or doesn’t
flake, rewrap, and return it to the grill for
another minute.
cup freshly squeezed lime juice
(from 3–4 limes)
8. Serve hot, allowing each diner to experience
the gush of aromatic steam upon unwrapping
her own piece of fish at the table.
pound banana leaves (fresh or
frozen and thawed)
Serves 6. Adapted from Niloufer Ichaporia King.
23
24
As China’s
influence
has surged,
and as
the global
spotlight
on its political
repression
has dimmed,
the country’s
embattled
human rights
lawyers
increasingly
face
a terrible
choice:
acquiescence
or
imprisonment.
The Last Line of Defense
BY A LEX W. PA LMER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY GIULIA MARCHI
iang Xiaojun had just finished breakfast when he received the first
instant message: His friends were disappearing from their homes
and offices. By itself, this news was unremarkable. As a human rights
lawyer in China, Liang had come to accept that periodic spasms of repression
were an unavoidable risk of his profession. He also had grown intimately
familiar with the rituals of pressure and coercion by which China kept its
dissidents in line — the meetings over tea with government minders, the
frequent check-ins from the judicial bureau, the police harassment. But on the
morning of July 10, 2015, Liang knew that something far graver was underway.
A disturbing event from the previous day, he now realized, had been
merely a prelude. That morning, he awoke to startling news from a prominent rights lawyer named Wang Yu. After dropping her husband and son
off at the airport for a red-eye flight, Wang returned to her apartment to
find that the power and internet had been cut. In the early-morning hours,
she sent out a frantic group message, describing how several men were
trying to break in. Wang then dropped out of contact. That day, Liang and
his colleagues in the human rights community circulated a petition, calling
on the government to release her swiftly and without harm. But, he told
me, ‘‘we didn’t think a lot about it. These things happen. We worried about
her, but not about ourselves.’’
The petition was published online the next morning, just as Liang’s
phone was flooded with a new wave of panicked messages. The arrests
began around 7:30 a.m., when three men snatched a prominent lawyer from
a hotel on the edge of Beijing, rushing him through the lobby with a thick
black hood over his head. Simultaneously, police officers raided Fengrui
Law Firm, a legal nerve center of China’s human rights community. Staff
members scrambled to spread the news on messaging apps, then dropped
abruptly out of contact as officers stormed through the building.
Liang went to work, trying to pretend that it was a normal day even as
desperate messages continued to spread across China — ‘‘Flee at once,’’ one
of them read. By late afternoon, nearly 60 lawyers were either detained or
unreachable. Accounts of ransacked law offices, of friends and colleagues in
L
political mobilizations rendered law an afterthought at best and a tool of
the bourgeois antirevolutionaries at worst.
The economic reforms of the late 1970s brought legal reform along with
them. The legal profession and the criminal-justice system were built from
scratch — Mao had purged and destroyed the nascent community of lawyers
in one of his ideological campaigns — but there was trouble from the start.
These new courts were envisioned not as independent arbiters but as the
‘‘knife handle of the proletarian dictatorship,’’ according to Sida Liu, a professor at the University of Toronto who studies law and society in China. Defense
lawyers were often treated like criminals themselves, harassed and imprisoned for fulfilling the basic duties of their profession. Between 1997 and
2001, at least 143 lawyers were arrested, detained
Right: Yuan Shanshan,
or beaten in China for working on criminal cases,
wife of the human
according to the Chinese bar association. The threat
rights lawyer Xie Yanyi,
with their 1-year-old
of punishment — or the allure of a comfortable job
daughter, born while
at a government-friendly firm — persuaded many
Xie was in prison.
lawyers to avoid criminal cases altogether, or to Previous page: Xie Yanyi.
simply accommodate the whims of the authorities.
By the early 2000s, the Chinese leadership under Jiang Zemin was taking a relatively soft approach to ideological conformity — in part because
the country was petitioning for membership in the World Trade Organization, which required American approval at a time when United States
officials were pressing China on its domestic policies. A new generation
of Chinese lawyers was also entering the profession, students who ‘‘would
read about constitutionalism, would read about liberal values,’’ says Eva
Pils, a reader in transnational law at King’s College, London. ‘‘Students
in those days were really studying the American Constitution as much
as the Chinese one, and trying to think about ways of giving effect to
the Constitution — to revitalize and breathe life into it.’’ A debate within
the profession bubbled to the surface: Should lawyers operating in an
illegal society follow the law? Faced with the slow strangulation of their
rights and protections, some lawyers concluded that in an unjust sys-
The last five years have brought severe setbacks for China’s lawyers — especially those who work on the rule of law. ‘‘They use one system for ordinary legal cases and use another, much harsher system for
handcuffs and hoods, circulated online. Alone in his small office in western
Beijing, Liang watched his cellphone rumble to life with each bleak new
update. One by one, his colleagues were vanishing.
The sense of siege was compounded by a near-total communications
blackout. Just as the raids began that morning, Telegram, a messaging
app popular with rights activists in China, went offline. Service remained
down throughout the day, a result of a sustained cyberattack targeting the
company’s servers. The culprits were unknown, the company said, but the
attack had been ‘‘coordinated from East Asia.’’
Not wanting to alarm his wife, Liang waited until he returned home
that evening to tell her what was happening. Then he began to prepare.
He took a shower, tidied up his room and hugged his wife and young son.
Around 10 p.m., his cellphone rang. It was the police, instructing him to
come immediately to a nearby cafe. ‘‘I told my wife and son that I would
be back soon, it’s just a talk,’’ he told me. But privately, he knew the truth:
They had finally come for him.
Life has never been easy for China’s criminal defense lawyers. Until
1979, the People’s Republic operated with virtually no criminal-justice
system whatsoever: The Communist Party organized Soviet-style police
and people’s courts to address petty crimes and local disputes, but their
primary responsibility was to enforce absolute loyalty to the party. Even
the Constitution, the ostensible basis of the law, was rudimentary at best,
and served mainly to outline the means of ‘‘socialist industrialization and
socialist transformation’’ in order to abolish ‘‘systems of exploitation.’’ The
near-constant churn of intraparty purges, revolutionary campaigns and
26
7.30.17
tem, extralegal methods — open letters, microblogs, protests and public
advocacy — were the only way to uphold the true principles of the law.
Liang was making his name just as this newer, more radical movement
of ‘‘rights protection lawyers,’’ weiquan lushi, was finding its voice. At first,
the network was informal and uncoordinated; it grew through referrals,
word of mouth and personal connections. From a core group of fewer
than 20 people in the early 2000s, the movement expanded swiftly: By
2015, there were hundreds of lawyers practicing human rights law or
engaged in online social groups. They were a fraction of a fraction — as
of January 2017, China had 300,000 lawyers — but the rights lawyers were
zealous, outspoken and willing to challenge the government in ways their
predecessors would not have dared.
The movement scored notable victories. Rights lawyers helped draw
national media attention to scandals involving tainted milk and vaccines,
illegal land seizures and police brutality. But pragmatism was never their
primary aim. To the new generation of lawyers, rights-defending was ‘‘a
strict moral obligation toward the victims of abuses, as well as toward
human society and toward oneself, ’’ Pils wrote in a legal journal in 2006.
Compromise was neither tenable nor desirable. In a country where many
political and social issues are taboo, and even certain kinds of thought
are forbidden, the rise of rights lawyers was a precarious but hopeful
development. ‘‘People developed a sense of purpose,’’ Pils says. ‘‘It’s a
terribly hackneyed term, but there’s a sense of being empowered, of
agency.’’ It was the allure, Pils says, of ‘‘living in truth.’’
But success eventually invited repression. The activities of rights lawyers
inside and outside the courtroom ‘‘made them doubly obnoxious to the
se
or
sensitive cases,’’ Liu told me. ‘‘They draw a line between the acceptable and the unacceptable.’’ When that line is crossed, ‘‘they can do anything to you.’’
regime,’’ says Jerome Cohen, director of New York University’s U.S.-Asia
Law Institute. In August 2013, an internal party memo was leaked online. It
listed ‘‘seven unmentionables’’ that the party sought to stamp out. Among
them was ‘‘Western constitutional democracy,’’ which included ‘‘independent judiciaries’’ and ‘‘universal values’’ like ‘‘human rights.’’
At the same time, the Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping began to place
a new emphasis on ‘‘rule of law.’’ During the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th
Congress, in October 2014, the leadership devoted an entire plenary session
to discussing and passing an ambitious slate of legal reforms. The participants
declared that ‘‘the country should be ruled in line with the Constitution,’’ a
constantly revised and modified document, which in its newest iteration
guarantees such rights as freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly and of
religious belief and, since 2004, ‘‘human rights.’’ The session followed similarly
spirited exhortations by Chinese judges, diplomats and bureaucrats. Across
every sphere of government activity, ‘‘rule of law’’ has become the phrase
du jour. But in practice, ‘‘rule of law’’ has simply meant ‘‘rule of the party.’’
The government’s rhetorical shift came as the world was recalibrating
its relationship with China and its conception of human rights. During his
time in office, President Barack Obama de-emphasized human rights in the
United States-China bilateral relationship; instead, he sought to cultivate
China as a partner on issues like trade, climate change and North Korea.
In meetings with President Xi, Obama claimed ‘‘frank’’ discussions of the
countries’ divergent views on human rights, but he refrained from pressuring Beijing over its detention of political dissidents and human rights
activists. The fate of Liu Xiaobo, a fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was
imprisoned by the Chinese government on charges of ‘‘inciting subversion
Photograph by Giulia Marchi for The New York Times
of state power’’ for his role in writing a pro-democracy manifesto, went
largely unmentioned in Obama’s public comments. (Liu died earlier this
month, from complications of liver cancer, while in government custody.)
On the campaign trail and in office, President Trump has made explicit
his predecessor’s shift: Today, China is too important and too rich to risk
antagonizing over human rights issues. ‘‘I believe he is trying very hard,’’
Trump said of Xi, after the leaders met in April. ‘‘He certainly doesn’t want
to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He
is a very good man.’’
The last five years have brought severe setbacks for China’s lawyers —
especially those who work on the rule of law. Sida Liu, the Toronto professor,
has called this divergence the ‘‘dual-state model.’’ ‘‘They use one system for
ordinary legal cases and use another, much harsher system for sensitive
cases,’’ Liu told me. ‘‘They draw a line between the acceptable and the
unacceptable.’’ When that line is crossed, ‘‘they can do anything to you.’’
iang was initially drawn into the profession more by circumstance
than by conviction. The son of a People’s Liberation Army officer and a manager at a library, Liang grew up in a comfortable
middle-class household where the party’s dictates were treated as gospel.
He drifted into commercial law but struggled with the work. ‘‘It was not
what I wanted,’’ he says. ‘‘I felt to be a lawyer sometimes you have to speak
against your will.’’ His turning point came in 2008, when he defended a
man from Xinjiang, the restive Muslim-majority autonomous region in
China’s far west. His client was accused of ‘‘splittism’’ and, eventually, of
providing state secrets to foreigners. In reality, Liang believed, the man was
L
The New York Times Magazine
27
imprisoned for converting to Christianity. A friend of Liang’s took the case
initially, but the police refused to allow him to meet his client; frustrated,
the friend asked Liang if he could help. ‘‘I said, ‘Yes, I can,’ ’’ Liang told me.
When I met Liang for the first time, on a late-February day last year, I
pressed him to explain this decision. The case proved to be his first step
onto a potentially dangerous path of confrontation with the Chinese state.
Why had he done it? We were sitting in Liang’s modest, unadorned office,
drinking tea, and as I spoke he cocked his head in apparent puzzlement.
‘‘I feel I must,’’ he told me. ‘‘People’s rights have been destroyed. Many
times they have been tortured. Their families are broken. I cannot turn
my back and ignore this.’’
He opened his own law firm in 2009 and started taking more human
rights cases soon thereafter. He didn’t realize the work was dangerous —
‘‘the ignorant fear nothing,’’ he told me — until three months later, when
the Ministry of Justice sent representatives to his office. By that point, he
had accepted the risks. In the years that followed, Liang expanded his work
to represent dissidents, human rights activists, petitioners and other persecuted groups across China. He took almost every case that came to him
and quickly developed a reputation as a quiet but steadfast member of the
burgeoning movement, working cases that had once seemed impossible
or untouchable to him.
Then came July 9, 2015 — ‘‘709,’’ as it came to be known, the largest
crackdown on Chinese lawyers in decades. All together, Chinese human
rights observers estimated that fall, more than 300 rights lawyers and
activists from across the country were targeted, with 27 forbidden to leave
the country, 255 temporarily detained or forcibly questioned and 28 held in
government custody. It was an attack not just on rights lawyers but also on
the wider networks of civil and social activism. ‘‘The human rights lawyers
play the most important role in civil society,’’ says Teng Biao, a rights lawyer
who left China in 2014 and is now a visiting fellow at the U.S.-Asia Law
Institute. ‘‘Whenever there is a blogger or a church leader or a journalist
arrested, some courageous lawyers represent them.’’ Human rights lawyers
uncompromising, Xie took cases no one else would, sued powerful government departments and spoke out openly in the press. The police came
for him soon after the crackdown began, and he had been held ever since.
The lawyer whom Xie’s wife, Yuan Shanshan, had hired to defend him was
under too much government pressure to continue working on the case.
‘‘Can you suggest another lawyer?’’ Yuan asked in her message. ‘‘Or
maybe, if possible, you could take the case.’’
Over the next two weeks, Liang went back and forth about Yuan’s plea.
‘‘I knew how much pressure there was — this is a serious case,’’ Liang told
me later. ‘‘I tried to think which lawyers were fit to defend Xie. But I have so
many friends who are suspects themselves. There were not enough people
left to defend all of them. Xie needed help and support.’’
On March 4, Liang wrote back to Yuan. He would take the case.
n a brisk, cloudless day in late March, I joined Liang as he visited
Yuan at her family’s apartment on the outskirts of Beijing. As we
drove past glittering shopping malls and rows of tall, identical
housing blocks, Liang told me about the first time he met Xie, in 2009. At
the time, Liang had only recently begun to self-identify as a human rights
lawyer; Xie, by contrast, was already something of a legend among his
peers, having challenged the president in spectacular fashion years earlier.
The men became fast friends and allies.
After nearly two hours we reached Miyun, a district in northeast Beijing
abutting the dimpled mountains that ring the city. We wandered through
a sprawling residential complex and arrived outside the Xie family apartment, where a rack overflowing with children’s shoes crowded the landing.
Liang knocked quietly, and Yuan, in black sweatpants, a gray sweater and
flip-flops, answered the door and invited us inside.
Before discussing business, Liang asked to see the Xies’ new daughter.
The child was born just a week earlier, almost nine months to the day after
Xie’s arrest. In a cramped, makeshift nursery, the baby was asleep, with
Yuan’s younger sister keeping a dutiful watch. ‘‘What’s her name?’’ Liang
O
‘‘We know we can’t win. We can’t do anything to make our clients not guilty. For human rights lawyers, our job is to meet with them, to encourage them,
are not just advocates for China’s dissidents but often the connective tissue
among them. The 709 crackdown was intended to silence many voices in
one stroke. ‘‘Kill one, intimidate 100,’’ Sida Liu told me.
Many of the lawyers and activists swept up in 709 faced possible sentences
of life imprisonment. For six months, they effectively disappeared, under a
provision of the Chinese criminal code that allows the police to hold suspects
incommunicado for ‘‘residential surveillance in a designated location,’’ a
practice that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has asked
the government to end ‘‘as a matter of urgency.’’ In the aftermath of the
crackdown, Liang — who avoided arrest himself — did his best to remain
inconspicuous. It was a decision born of disposition as much as self-preservation: 45 years old, with boyish cheeks, kind eyes and short, graying hair,
Liang is quiet and self-effacing, neither a natural advocate nor a zealous crusader. ‘‘He’s not someone you would find on a soapbox,’’ one friend told me.
Yet now, it was the lawyers themselves who needed defending. After
709, many of the remaining members of the legal community went underground or retreated from the work. Liang himself dared to write about the
cases only under a pseudonym. His wife asked him to stop doing human
rights cases when their first son was born, and again when Liang was
nearly arrested in 2011.
Seven months after the crackdown began, as we spoke in his office, I
watched Liang’s phone ping to life with a surprising message, delivered
via a secure messaging app. ‘‘Hello, Liang,’’ it began. ‘‘I’m Xie Yanyi’s wife.
You came to my house a few days ago. Now I need your help.’’
No further explanation was necessary. Xie Yanyi was his close friend
and a venerated figure among his fellow lawyers: Bold, confident and
28
7.30.17
whispered. ‘‘She doesn’t have a name yet,’’ Yuan replied quietly, eyes fixed
on her newborn. ‘‘I’m waiting until her father returns home to give her one.’’
Yuan ushered us into the living room, and Liang took a seat on a low
brown couch. Drawings of ghosts and fall landscapes by the couple’s two
sons hung on string across the window. Liang pulled a stack of papers from
his backpack and began sorting through them as Yuan, in the kitchen, stood
over a copier, scanning the identification documents that Liang would
need in order to defend her husband. Though they had been colleagues
for years, Liang had never inquired about his friend’s background, and as
Yuan brought out the documents — lawyer’s license, marriage certificate,
ID card and more — she began to tell her husband’s life story.
Xie Yanyi was born in 1975, the son of a military officer turned factory
boss and lawyer. He was stubborn from an early age, Yuan told me. Despite
their age difference, Xie loved to challenge his older brother to wrestle
and fight. He never won, she said, but the defeats did nothing to dampen
his enthusiasm.
In 1997, Xie’s mother, a lawyer herself, sent Xie to Singapore to study
law. In addition to his classes, Xie interned at a local law firm, where he was
exposed to human rights law and theory for the first time. When Xie returned
to his hometown, he rented a small apartment, locked the door and asked
a friend to bring him food twice a week. Six months later, he passed the
bar. He practiced for several years before making his name in spectacular
fashion in 2003, with a case that became a sensation in the Chinese media.
That year, Jiang Zemin ended his second term as president of the
People’s Republic of China. Despite officially retiring from public life,
Jiang retained his role as chairman of the powerful Central Military
to
Commission. ‘‘Yanyi said that violated the Constitution, so he sued,’’ Yuan
told me with a rueful smile. Xie called his challenge to the ex-president
‘‘the first constitutional lawsuit’’ in Chinese history.
It was a courageous gesture, but also a foolhardy one. ‘‘I was young — I was
very naïve,’’ Xie told an interviewer years later. ‘‘I thought, The law provides
this channel, and I’m going to use it. I believed in the protection of the law.’’
A Beijing court summarily dismissed Xie’s challenge, but the complaint
brought notoriety to the 28-year-old lawyer — as well as intense scrutiny from
the state security apparatus. He moved
to Miyun in hopes of escaping some of
the pressure, but wherever he went, the
young lawyer remained under constant
surveillance.
From the start, Yuan said, she was conflicted about her husband’s work. She found
it difficult to fully supXie Yanyi,
port him. Why risk
Yuan
everything for a cause
Shanshan
and their
that had never returned
family
anything to him? The
at a Beijing
couple married in sumrestaurant.
mer 2006 and came to
a compromise: She would take care of the
home, and he would keep his work as a
human rights lawyer away from the family.
That compromise crumbled on July 11,
2015, two days into the wave of arrests. At 8
p.m., Xie received a phone call instructing
him to come to an interrogation session.
Xie knew that many of his friends and colleagues had been taken already. Yuan urged
m,
Xie to attend his mother’s funeral. She stayed on a chair in a waiting room
for three days, pleading her case. The police refused her request.
Xie was also unaware of his wife’s pregnancy. At the time of her husband’s arrest, Yuan didn’t know about the baby, either. Two days before
her due date, she returned to the Tianjin police bureau, trying to get Xie’s
signature for a hospital form. Again, the police refused. ‘‘They wouldn’t
even tell him about the baby,’’ Yuan said.
to deliver their message to the outside.’’
him to leave immediately, to go hide at his brother’s factory until the situation
cooled down. But Xie refused to flee. At the interrogation, five police officers
asked Xie about a letter he had written in support of Wang Yu, the lawyer
whose detention signaled the start of the crackdown. Xie replied that he was
friends with Wang, as well as with many of the other captured human rights
lawyers. The police asked Xie’s opinion of the Chinese Communist Party. Xie
replied that he was not a Communist and didn’t need to be loyal to the party.
The police instructed Xie to write a guarantee promising that he would not
speak out about the captured human rights lawyers. He refused.
Xie returned to his apartment at 1 a.m. on July 12. Six hours later, the
police knocked at his door and told him that he was to come immediately
for a meeting with their superior officer. He never returned. At 2 p.m., 20
policemen, some in uniform and some in plainclothes, swarmed into the
apartment, confiscating Xie’s registration papers, books, bank cards, case
files and cellphone. Yuan managed to hide her husband’s laptop before the
police arrived. In their search for it, the officers tried to enlist the couple’s
two sons, ages 11 and 8. ‘‘Where’s your father’s laptop?’’ the officer asked,
squatting down to eye level. ‘‘Where does he like to keep it?’’ After three
hours, the police left.
It was only days later, in a news broadcast, that Yuan learned that her
husband was being investigated for the crime of ‘‘inciting subversion of state
power,’’ which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. No one had seen
or heard from Xie since July 12. The communications blackout meant that Xie
was unaware of anything that had happened since his arrest, including his
mother’s death from a heart attack on Aug. 22. Yuan traveled to the Tianjin
police bureau, where Xie was reportedly being held, to ask permission for
Photograph by Giulia Marchi for The New York Times
Liang finished preparing the papers for Yuan to sign. She dropped gracefully to one knee in front of a low green-glass table and signed the forms,
sliding them back toward Liang, who added his signature beside hers.
Outside, Liang was in a quiet mood. As we approached his car, he began
talking, as if to no one in particular, about what actually happened during
his own meeting with the police during 709. ‘‘They asked me the same
questions they asked Xie,’’ he confessed. ‘‘They told me not to get involved
with the captured lawyers, not to talk to journalists or write articles. I said
O.K. They forced me to write a guarantee. I wrote it.’’ He paused and smiled
weakly. ‘‘I guess I am not as firm as Xie.’’ We drove back to Beijing in silence.
ne week after the visit to Yuan’s apartment, Liang traveled to Tianjin, a bland industrial port city just southeast of Beijing, to try to
meet his new client. Like many of the lawyers detained during
709, Xie was being held at Tianjin Detention Center No. 2. Liang’s plan was
to visit the detention center and confirm his status as Xie’s lawyer. That
sounded simple enough, but as we prepared to leave on the train from
Beijing, Liang was not optimistic. ‘‘All the lawyers who went to Tianjin said
a special policeman came out and told them they couldn’t see their client
because he or she had refused a lawyer.’’
He was determined to press the issue. ‘‘It isn’t legal for the police to tell
us our client’s will,’’ he said. The visit in itself was valuable, he added. ‘‘It’s
pressure from lawyers and the suspect’s relatives on police that changes
things. We must keep up the pressure. If we don’t, the policemen will think
we don’t care about the case.’’
An Army soldier in camouflage and flak jacket
(Continued on Page 47)
O
The New York Times Magazine
29
FROM ‘THE LEGO MOVIE’ TO ‘THE EMOJI MOVIE,’ HOLLYWOOD
IS AGGRESSIVELY TRYING TO ‘ADAPT’ MATERIAL THAT DOESN’T HAVE
A NARRATIVE OR EVEN ANY CHARACTERS. CAN YOU REALLY MAKE
A MOVIE OUT OF ANYTHING?
BY ALEX FRENCH
ILLUSTRATIONS BY BROSMIND
NOT-SOINTELLECTUAL
PROPERTY
IN 2013, A MOVIE PRODUCER named Tripp Vinson was thumbing through
Variety when he stumbled upon a confounding item: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, a pair of writers and directors, were working on something
called ‘‘The Lego Movie.’’ Vinson was baffled. ‘‘I had no idea where they
were going to go with Legos,’’ he says. ‘‘There’s no character; no narrative;
no theme. Nothing.’’
A sharply handsome man in his mid-40s, Vinson has worked in Hollywood
for 14 years, racking up 19 producing
ng credits. He
He’ss a journeyman producer
30
who specializes in popcorn flicks; over all, his films have an average Rotten
Tomatoes score of 30 (out of 100). Vinson may not win Oscars, but he knows
how to get his projects into theaters. He has survived and advanced in Hollywood by quickly adapting to trends — what’s selling and what’s falling out
of fashion. His filmography reads like a map of Hollywood’s shifting sands.
Vinson has produced a movie starring Pierce Brosnan as an aging master thief (‘‘After the Sunset,’’ 2004); a movie about Coast Guard swimmers
with Kevin Costner (‘‘The Guardian,’’ 2006); and a psychological thriller
with Jim Carrey (‘‘The Number 23,’’ 2007). He has made two movies about Auto sold tens of millions of units per installment, but after those top
exorcisms, one with Laura Linney (‘‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose,’’ 2005), titles, sales dropped to levels that would make an adaptation risky.
the other with Anthony Hopkins (‘‘The Rite,’’ 2011); a thriller about a psychic
So Vinson started looking at mobile games. A cursory investigation
who helps the F.B.I. hunt down a serial killer, also with Hopkins (‘‘Solace,’’ revealed that the very best selling mobile games didn’t move tens of mil2015); and a romantic comedy with Anna Farris and Chris Evans, the guy lions or even a hundred million units — they could reach into the
who plays Captain America (‘‘What’s Your Number,’’ 2011). He has even billions. He happened upon Fruit Ninja, a wildly popular series
made a dance-competition movie (‘‘Battle of the Year,’’ 2013).
of games that, since its debut in 2010, has been downloaded well
Since Vinson got into the business, something has changed in Holly- over a billion times. A million people play Fruit Ninja per day.
wood. More and more movies are developed from intellectual property: He contacted Halfbrick, the company that developed the game.
already existing stories or universes or characters that have a built-in fan
alf‘‘The call came completely out of left field,’’ says Sam White, Halfbase. Vinson thinks it started in 2007, when the Writers Guild went on brick’s vice president for entertainment and licensing. The company had
strike. ‘‘Before the strike, the studios were each making 20-something already been working on a TV series based on the game, but, White says,
movies a year,’’ he says. ‘‘Back then, you could get a thriller made. After ‘‘a Hollywood film was like the holy grail.’’ Vinson found the mobile-game
the strike, they cut back dramatically on the number of films they made. developers at Halfbrick to be more approachable than their console counIt became all about I.P.’’ — intellectual property. With fewer bets to place, terparts. They’re usually smaller, younger companies. They see Hollywood
the studios became more cautious. ‘‘The way to cut through the noise as a good opportunity to sell more games. And, most important, they aren’t
is hitching yourself onto something customers have some exposure to protective of already existing characters and plotlines — generally because
already,’’ he says. ‘‘Something familiar. You’re not starting from scratch. they don’t have any to speak of.
If you’re going to work in the studio system, you better have a really big
Vinson worked out a ‘‘shopping agreement’’ with Halfbrick, a contract
that gave him exclusive film rights to Fruit Ninja for a limited period so
I.P. behind you.’’
So over time, Vinson has moved toward making movies backed by that he could recruit writers and then take a proposal to the studios. If the
intellectual property. He was the executive producer of the so-bad-it-was- project sold, Halfbrick would then negotiate a deal to sell the film rights
good ‘‘Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters’’ (2013), which barely broke even to the studio, a deal that, based on the ubiquity of the game, could run
domestically but went on to record a worldwide gross of $226 million. up into the high six figures. Vinson then realized that he was faced with a
He also produced the ‘‘Journey To’’ franchise (‘‘Journey to the Center formidable predicament. There are no protagonists or antagonists in Fruit
of the Earth,’’ 2008; ‘‘Journey 2 the Mysterious Island,’’ 2012) based on Ninja. There’s no mythology. No moral. The game play involves staring at
Jules Verne’s stories, which has been solidly profitable, with a worldwide a wall as pineapples, watermelons, kiwis, apples and oranges fly up into
gross of over $500 million. (A third installment is in development.) He view. The only thing you do is swipe at the fruit with your finger, cutting
is now working with Disney on a film about Snow White’s sister, Rose them in half. Sometimes there are bombs, and you’re not supposed to
Red. And following the trend of taking successful movie concepts
swipe at those. ‘‘There’s a fun game to play, but that’s it,’’ Vinson
says. ‘‘The challenge was: What the [expletive] am I going to do
to TV, Vinson has started on a serialized version of the Martin
with Fruit Ninja?’’
Scorsese film ‘‘The Departed.’’
But at least those were stories. Vinson didn’t see how
THERE ARE NO
THIS TREND TOWARD I.P.-based movies has been profound.
Legos could be the basis of a feature-length film. He
PROTAGONISTS OR
watched in disbelief as the movie raked in $69 million its
In 1996, of the top 20 grossing films, nine were live-action
ANTAGONISTS
opening weekend, grossed almost $470 million worldwide
movies based on wholly original screenplays. In 2016, just
IN FRUIT NINJA.
and was almost universally lauded by critics. ‘‘It was magone
of the top 20 grossing movies, ‘‘La La Land,’’ fit that bill.
THERE’S NO
Just about everything else was part of the Marvel universe
ical and fresh and really profitable,’’ he recalls. The movie
MYTHOLOGY.
NO MORAL.
or the DC Comics universe or the ‘‘Harry Potter’’ universe
was clever, telling the story of a Lego construction worker
caught in a battle between good and evil, which is eventually
or the ‘‘Star Wars’’ universe or the ‘‘Star Trek’’ universe or the
revealed to be all in the imagination of a boy playing with his
fifth Jason Bourne film or the third ‘‘Kung Fu Panda’’ or a superhigh-tech remake of ‘‘Jungle Book.’’ Just outside the top 20, there was
controlling father’s Lego set.
Vinson started looking for undervalued I.P. to guide his next
ext
a rremake of ‘‘Ghostbusters’’ and yet another version of ‘‘Tarzan.’’
movie. He wanted something an audience would already bee
This year there is more of the same — the third installfamiliar with, something that was culturally ubiquitous but
ment of ‘‘XXX,’’ the Smurfs, ‘‘Pirates of the Caribbean’’ (a
could be made new again. He started his search in the public
franchise based on a theme-park ride), a King Kong movie,
Thor, the sequel to ‘‘Blade Runner,’’ a remake of ‘‘Beauty
domain. He had succeeded with his Jules Verne and Brothers
Grimm adaptations, and besides, old material like that had the
and the Beast,’’ ‘‘CHIPS,’’ ‘‘Power Rangers,’’ another ‘‘Star
advantage of being free. Nothing caught his eye.
Wars’’ movie, a ‘‘Guardians of the Galaxy’’ sequel, two Stephen
W
King adaptations (‘‘The Dark Tower’’ and ‘‘It’’), ‘‘Wonder Woman,’’
Next he started looking around for a big-name console video
game to acquire. Perhaps something in the mold of ‘‘Lara Croft: Tomb ‘‘The Mummy,’’ ‘‘The War for the Planet of the Apes,’’ a retelling of Agatha
Raider’’ or the ‘‘Resident Evil’’ series, which has made well over a bil- Christie’s ‘‘Murder on the Orient Express.’’ Every stripe of intellectual
lion dollars at the box office. ‘‘The video-game companies can be really property is represented: from comic books to best sellers; from the public
hard,’’ Vinson says. ‘‘Ubisoft and Activision have their own in-house film- domain to unnervingly recent source material like ‘‘Baywatch.’’
development arms. A lot of the others are hard to get rights from. They
This environment has fostered, in some producers, a sense of desperafeel like Hollywood can’t figure out how to make a good video-game title. tion. When I asked Vinson if the changes his business has undergone over
Why give it to them to have them screw it up? That can hurt game sales.’’ the past decade have inspired him to panic, he told me: ‘‘Absolutely. It’s
Not only were the companies d
difficult
cu t to bargain
ba ga with,
t ,o
only
y a few
e ttitles
t es forced me to look at everything as though it could be I.P.’’ Increasingly,
even made sense for an adaptation.
tation.
that means nonnarrative I.P.: stuff with big followings but no stories, or
Vinson’s analysis revealed thatt
even characters, already cooked in.
megaproperties like Call
‘‘The Angry Birds Movie,’’ which was based on a mobile game, was
of Duty and Grand Theft
released in 2016 and took in over $349 million worldwide.
worl
The game itself
32
7.30.17
consisted of flinging birds at pigs, but it at least provided its writer, Jon
Vitti, with protagonists (the birds) and antagonists (the pigs). There was
also Adam Sandler’s 2015 movie ‘‘Pixels,’’ a disaster story that united characters from classic 1980s arcade games. Allspark, a subsidiary of Hasbro,
has scored two big successes with a pair of movies based on the Ouija
board. The first installment, ‘‘Ouija,’’ cost an estimated $5 million to make
but managed to earn more than $103 million in the worldwide box office;
the sequel, ‘‘Ouija: Origin of Evil,’’ made $81 million on a reported $9
million budget.
Since 2008, Hasbro has been run by Brian Goldner. He
founded Hasbro Studios in 2009, creating Allspark
soon after. Hasbro has released five Transformers movies, with two more in the works; it
has made two G.I. Joe films and has a third in
development. Those toys were already made
into cartoons in the 1980s, so refashioning
them into live-action movies for adults
wasn’t much of a stretch. The same can’t
be said for the I.P. that underlies other
movies Hasbro has in development —
Monopoly and Magic: The Gathering
— or for those it is reported to have
tried to develop: Candy Land, Hungry
Hungry Hippos, Furby, Play-Doh.
Goldner says the key to making
movies from board games and toys
is to ‘‘focus on understanding the
universal truth about the brand.’’
For example, the Ouija board comes
with rules relating to its paranormal
mythology: Always say ‘‘goodbye’’
at the end of a session; never take it
into a graveyard. ‘‘If you remember
the movies,’’ he says, ‘‘all those rules
are broken — and what results is a very
scary situation.’’
If the Ouija films were successful,
‘‘Battleship’’ (2012) offers a cautionary tale
about I.P. leading to narrative absurdities.
Set off the coast of Hawaii, the film tells of an
American Navy crew’s fight against extraterrestrial invaders. The aliens render the Navy’s
radar systems useless through some sort of
electromagnetic interference, forcing it to
employ a grid-based targeting method —
just as in the board game.
‘‘Battleship’’ cost over $200 million to make.
Domestic box office returns were weak, and the movie
rwas saved only by the nearly $250 million it made internationally. It was a major critical flop too. It wasn’t apparent
until well into the third act how the film was actually related to the game.
Goldner dismissed all that when we spoke. ‘‘I have people all the time on
airplanes tell me that ‘Battleship’ is one of their more favorite action movies,’’
he said. ‘‘Our goal wasn’t to do ‘Battleship’ the way you would do ‘Jumanji,’
with two people playing a board game.’’ (‘‘Jumanji,’’ it’s worth noting, was
based on a children’s book about a nonexistent board game; there will be
a ‘‘Jumanji’’ sequel released this fall.) He continued: ‘‘It’s not one person
yelling out ‘F-7!’ and the other one saying, ‘You hit my battleship.’ It was
intended to be about the strategy behind Battleship, about the not knowing what your opponent is doing, about the cat-and-mouse game.’’
This summer’s most prominent example of nonnarrative I.P.
is ‘‘The Emoji Movie,’’ a film that dramatizes the imaginary
Illustrations by Brosmind
lives of emojis. The film’s director and co-writer, Tony Leondis, told me that
‘‘The Emoji Movie’’ actually began with a quest for some other form of I.P.
About two years ago, he was thinking about what his next project should
be, and he asked himself: ‘‘What are the newest and hottest toys out there
in the marketplace?’’ He looked down at his phone and realized they were
right there in front of him: emojis. Everyone uses them.
Unlike board games, emojis don’t have rules to play with. Or mythology. They don’t even exist in the real world. So Leondis created a universe
for them: The emojis live inside your phone and are on call
24/7, waiting to be sent to your screen when needed. Each
has to make the same expression every time they’re
summoned. He created a character, Gene, a ‘‘Meh’’
emoji who is born multiexpressional, violating the
rules of the emoji universe. ‘‘The idea that each
emoji has one expression only was the key to
figuring out the whole story,’’ Leondis told me.
‘‘Then we asked ourselves about the world:
What do the apps look like to emojis? What
happens when you delete an app? And what
would happen if emojis were wreaking
havoc inside other apps than their own?’’
Leondis told me that production moved
along at a breakneck pace — it was two
years from pitch to release. A lot of studios, he told me, think ‘‘The Emoji Movie’’
has the potential to be the beginning of a
multifilm franchise.
IN HIS SEARCH to find a writer for his Fruit
Ninja project, Tripp Vinson reached out to
every major talent agency in Hollywood. In
March 2016, he was introduced by an agent to
the writing duo of J. P. Lavin and Chad Damiani.
They have been in Hollywood for 15 years and
have worked as partners for that entire span. They
have never once had a script make it to the big screen.
Lavin and Damiani, both in their mid-40s,
took very different paths to Hollywood. Lavin
started as a playwright and earned an M.F.A.
from Carnegie Mellon; Damiani was as an
announcer for World Championship Wrestling
in the 1990s. When W.C.W. was faltering, Damiani
moved to Hollywood. Lavin was already there, trying to get his
writing career off the ground. The two started thinking about realityshow ideas. ‘‘ ‘Joe Millionaire’ had just come out. Only the worst ideas
were selling,’’ Lavin says. ‘‘All I did was think about terrible realityshow ideas.’’ The pair came up with a reality competition show called
‘‘Green Card.’’ The concept was simple: An ultra-nerdy American guy
is set up with beautiful contestants flown in from all over the globe,
who compete for his affection. The winner receives a green card. (The
State Department wouldn’t allow it.) There were other near misses for
the duo in the reality field — a competition called ‘‘Jocks vs. Nerds’’ that
a producer told them MTV liked so much it had considered putting the
d.) They developed a
show on TV five days a week. (The show never aired.)
n’’ (tag
hybrid scripted-reality series called ‘‘Anchorwoman’’
line: ‘‘Would you trust a bikini model to deliver thee
news?’’) that Fox canceled after its first night.
They also started writing spec scripts together. The
first was titled ‘‘WASPloitation,’’ a comedy inspired by
y
Martha Stewart’s prison sentence. Then they
Marth
wrote ‘‘Terminally Phil,’’ in which a fraternity fools a
w
pledge into thinking he is dying (Continued on Page 46)
The New York Times Magazine
33
34
WHITE
THE
GOLD
I TA L I A N
MARBLE
TRADE
IS
BOOMING,
FUELED
BY
I N S AT I A B L E
DEMAND IN SAUDI ARABIA
AND
THE
OTHER
GULF
STATES. A LOOK INSIDE THE
QUARRIES THAT FURNISH
ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST
CLASSIC DEMONSTRATIONS
OF OPULENCE.
PHOTOGRAPHS
BY
LUCA
L O C AT E L L I
TEXT
BY
SAM
ANDERSON
The story of Italian marble is the
story of difficult motion: violent,
geological, haunted by failure and
ruin and lost fortunes, marred by
severed fingers, crushed dreams,
crushed men. Rarely has a material so inclined to stay put been
wrenched so insistently out of place
and carried so far from its source;
every centimeter of its movement
has had to be earned. ‘‘There is no
avoiding the tyranny of weight,’’
the art historian William E. Wallace
once put it. He was discussing the
challenge, in Renaissance Italy, of
installing Michelangelo’s roughly
17,000-pound statue of the biblical
The Calacata Borghini quarry,
one of the oldest in Carrara, in
the heart of the Apuan Alps.
Previous photograph:
The serpentine road of
Torano’s ‘‘marble valley.’’
David. This was the final stage of an epic saga that, from mountain to
piazza, actually began before Michelangelo’s birth and involved primitive
and custom-engineered machinery and, above all, great sweating armies
of groaning, straining men. But the tyranny of weight was in effect long
before that, and long after, and it remains in effect today.
What we admire as pristine white stone was born hundreds of millions
of years ago in overwhelming darkness. Countless generations of tiny creatures lived, died and drifted slowly to the bottom of a primordial sea, where
their bodies were slowly compressed by gravity, layer upon layer upon layer,
tighter and tighter, until eventually they all congealed and petrified into the
interlocking white crystals we know as marble. ‘‘Marmo,’’ the Italians call
it — an oddly soft, round word for such a hard and heavy material. Some
eons later, tectonic jostling raised a great spine of mountains in southern
Europe. Up went the ancient sea floor, and the crystallized creatures went
with it. In some places they rise more than 6,000 feet.
In Italy’s most marble-rich area, known as the Apuan Alps, the abundance
is surreal. Sit on a beach in one of the nearby towns (Forte dei Marmi,
Viareggio), and you appear to be looking up at snow-covered peaks. But
36
7.30.17
it is snow that does not melt, that is not seasonal. Michelangelo sculpted
most of his statues from this stone, and he was so obsessed with the region
that he used to fantasize about carving an entire white mountain right
where it stood. He later dismissed this, however, as temporary madness.
‘‘If I could have been sure of living four times longer than I have lived,’’ he
wrote, ‘‘I would have taken it on.’’ Humans face limits that marble does not.
Besides, carving Italian marble at its place of origin is precisely not the
point. Its major value has always derived from its removal. Hundreds of
quarries have operated in the Apuan Alps since the days of ancient Rome.
(The Romans harvested the stone with such manic intensity that it became
the architectural signature of the empire’s power; Augustus liked to boast
that he inherited a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.) These quarries
are far off of Italy’s most-traveled tourist routes, so few visitors see them;
most of us know Italian marble mainly as an endpoint in the chain of
consumption — not only Renaissance statues in major museums but also
tombstones, bookends and kitchen countertops in American McMansions.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding reportedly featured, as an extra
touch of conspicuous luxury, furniture made of Italian marble.
Inside the Borghini quarry.
Some of the quarry’s cuts
date to Roman times.
The quarries themselves, as these photos by Luca Locatelli attest, are
their own isolated world: beautiful, bizarre and severe. It is a self-contained
universe of white, simultaneously industrial and natural, where men with
finger-nubs stand on scenic cliffs conducting tractors like symphony orchestras. Over the centuries, the strange geology of the marble mountains has
produced an equally strange human community — strange even by the
standards of Italy’s fractious regional subcultures. The people there live
in white towns, breathing white dust, speaking their own dialects, nursing their own politics. There is a proud history, in and around Carrara, of
anarchism and revolt.
Although the tools of extraction have changed over the centuries —
oxen and chisels have given way to tractors and diamond-toothed saws
— the fact remains: Large pieces of white stone, cut and hauled to distant
places, function as a sign of wealth and power. Like gold, marble is a special form of embedded wealth, visually striking and deeply impractical.
Follow Italy’s marble, and you follow the major movements of global
wealth in human history, from ancient Rome to Victorian London to
20th-century New York.
Photographs by Luca Locatelli/Institute, for The New York Times
Today Italy’s marble tends to move farther than it did before — not just
200 miles to Rome or 700 miles to London but 3,000 miles to Abu Dhabi and
4,000 miles to Mumbai and 5,000 miles to Beijing. The centers of wealth have
shifted, as they always will, and the marble follows, as it always has. The last
decade has coincided with feverish marble-based construction, in particular,
around Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In 2014, the Saudi Binladin Group, one of the
region’s major construction firms, bought a large stake in one of Carrara’s
largest quarries. The famous white stone is now used not in small batches
for art but in bulk for huge building projects: mosques, palaces, malls, hotels.
How long can it hold out? Like North American timber or Antarctic ice,
Italy’s marble is not an infinite resource. We will, eventually, reach the end
of our ancient fund of calcified creatures, and the process that transformed
them into stone is not likely to recur on any time scale we can imagine.
These are cycles that outlast species. And although the white stone itself
will almost certainly outlive its current quarriers, as it outlived the ancient
Romans and Michelangelo, most of it will no longer be in the Apuan Alps:
It will be scattered in this worldwide diaspora — in sinks, tiles, altars,
skyscraper lobbies, busts.
The New York Times Magazine
37
Two workers who specialize in
cleaning scale the cliffs of the
Bettogli quarry, knocking away
outcroppings and clutter that
could fall and hit the quarrymen.
The New York Times Magazine
39
Operations at the Canalgrande
quarries. Some 65,000
tons of marble, on average,
are extracted per year.
40
7.30.17
A truck loaded with a
20-ton block of marble
winding its way down
a steep quarry.
A workshop at the
Campolonghi marble
company, which
makes floors.
42
7.30.17
A cargo ship in the
Carrara port carrying
106 marble blocks
— in aggregate
weighing something
like 2,000 tons.
The Studi d’Arte
Cave Michelangelo,
a training facility for
young sculptors.
Photographs by Luca Locatelli/Institute, for The New York Times
The New York Times Magazine
43
Once excavated by Cosimo I
de’ Medici, the Cervaiole quarries
more recently have supplied
marble for mosques in Mecca,
Medina and Abu Dhabi.
44
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Fruit Ninja
(Continued from Page 33)
so they don’t get kicked off campus. A zombiecoal-mining movie called ‘‘Dead Canary’’ was followed shortly afterward by ‘‘Kamikaze Love,’’ an
action comedy about a down-on-his-luck bartender who falls madly in love with a Japanese woman
who has been trafficked into the United States
to marry a Yakuza boss. Every year, a Hollywood
executive named Franklin Leonard conducts a
survey of popular but unproduced screenplays
called the Black List. In 2007, ‘‘Kamikaze Love’’
made the cut, receiving more mentions by studio executives than many movies that went on to
be produced, including ‘‘Slumdog Millionaire,’’
‘‘The Wrestler’’ and ‘‘The Wolf of Wall Street.’’
Sony Screen Gems bought ‘‘Kamikaze Love,’’ and
in the years since, it has been passed from one
Sony subsidiary to the next. Lavin and Damiani
aren’t totally sure who has it now.
On the strength of that script, Lavin and Damiani started getting commissions to develop other
people’s projects, a lot of them involving I.P. Brett
Ratner enlisted the pair to write the adaptation to
the comic-book series ‘‘Youngblood.’’ The deal fell
apart. They wrote ‘‘Max Steel,’’ based on the Mattel
toy property for Paramount. The movie ended up
being made, but not based on their script. Warner
Brothers enlisted them to write a screenplay for
another comic-book movie called ‘‘Capeshooters.’’
They were attached to a script based on the video
game Duke Nukem and another based on the 1964
kids’ book ‘‘Flat Stanley,’’ about a boy who survives
being smushed pancake flat and uses his new condition for all manner of mischief.
When they were approached by Vinson, the
first thing they did was download Fruit Ninja.
Lavin called Damiani after playing for a while.
They agreed: There was nothing there. Just
fruit. Their work on projects like ‘‘Flat Stanley,’’
though, had shown them that having less to work
with provided a greater degree of creative freedom. Lavin and Damiani spent hours discussing the essence of Fruit Ninja. ‘‘For me, it is the
messiness, the immediate release of destroying
fruit,’’ Damiani told me. For Lavin, the soul of
the game is the feeling of ‘‘frenzy.’’ ‘‘There’s like
a 60-second version of it where you can see how
fast you can kill fruit,’’ he says, which ‘‘puts your
brain in this weird, bizarre focused place.’’ As
he sees it: ‘‘This would be the movie to go see
stoned. I can imagine going in and seeing it in
3-D — just imagine a 20-foot-high pineapple
monster. That shot of yellow and orange. I’d go
see this movie a dozen times.’’
While they were developing the movie, Damiani and Lavin were also attending career days at
elementary schools in the San Fernando Valley
and Hollywood. Sometimes they went to four
classes a day. These gave them the opportunity
to do some informal market research. Every time
they brought up the script they were working on,
46
7.30.17
they found the same reaction. The kids would
‘‘put their hand in the air, raise a finger and start
swiping like crazy.’’ Lavin told me, ‘‘Whatever
movie we wrote, it had to be an extension of that
energy, that desire to tear up everything in your
path and take charge.’’
Early on, Lavin and Damiani struggled to find
a narrative entry point. They started with the
premise that there was a magic book and an evil
fruit overlord. Vinson rejected that idea. Their
next concept involved scientific experiments on
fruit gone wrong. Vinson didn’t like that either.
Eventually, a working narrative emerged: Every
couple of hundred years, a comet flies by Earth,
leaving in its wake a parasite that descends on a
farm and infects the fruit. The infected fruit then
search for a human host. The only thing keeping
humanity from certain doom is a secret society
of ninjas who kill the fruit and rescue the hosts
by administering the ‘‘anti-fruit.’’ The produceslaying saviors are recruited from the population
based on their skill with the Fruit Ninja game.
With civilization in imminent danger, a cadre
of unlikely heroes materializes — a little boy, a
college-age girl, two average guys. The action
starts after each of the story’s heroes returns
home after a horrible day and plays Fruit Ninja to
relieve some stress. Damiani told me this aligns
with the Fruit Ninja brand: ‘‘Anybody can play.
Anybody can be a master.’’
With the story intact, Vinson, Lavin and Damiani started ironing out a pitch. They’re known
around town for being good in the room. Lavin
has a background in theater; Damaini does
improv comedy and teaches clowning. Their
presentation was 35 minutes — fast moving, full
of laughs. ‘‘It felt a lot like how you develop clown
work,’’ Damiani told me. ‘‘You play and improvise to keep the energy up — and register what
works. I’m always looking for the hot spot — the
person giving us the best energy. That might not
be the big boss. It might be a junior. Keep them
laughing, and it spreads.’’ They estimate that they
gave 25 to 30 presentations, five of which were
at different film divisions within Sony. They met
with four different Chinese companies. To keep
their act feeling fresh, they added seemingly
improvised asides and digressions. ‘‘If it’s too
polished, the execs feel like they’re at a TED Talk,
and then you see the eyes go to the window,’’
Damiani says.
Everyone they pitched was enthusiastic, but
no one pulled the trigger. ‘‘I love this. Can you
come back and pitch it to my boss?’’ was a popular refrain. They presented in a room where an
executive laughed so hard that she cried. Still, no
one was biting. Three months into the process,
they presented at New Line Cinema, a subsidiary
of Warner Brothers. New Line always has a strong
slate of comedies and horror movies, but family
fare hasn’t traditionally been a priority. Vinson
didn’t think anything would come of the meeting.
This time, however, the decision makers were in
the room. And they bought ‘‘Fruit Ninja.’’
This doesn’t mean the movie will definitely
be made. There are a million considerations that
could affect its production — scheduling, budget,
the studio head’s reading the script while in a
foul mood. In fact, Lavin said that his project’s
future will depend, to a certain extent, on the
performance of ‘‘The Emoji Movie.’’ ‘‘We really
want to see ‘The Emoji Movie’ succeed, because
it’s like proof of concept with these I.P.s,’’ he says.
‘‘But the success of that movie can result in two
very different things. Both are a form of enthusiasm. One is: ‘OMG this is happening! We like
this script. Let’s get moving.’ Or it can result in:
‘Wow, they did a really great job. Let’s slow down
and take a real good look at what we’re doing
with ‘‘Fruit Ninja.’’ ’ ’’
The paths that ‘‘Fruit Ninja’’ could take from
here are practically infinite, anything from being
spiked to having the Lego franchise’s wild success, which is perhaps best embodied by Bricksburg, the 15,000-square-foot facility in Hollywood
where the producer Dan Lin was part of a team
that created the entire Lego universe. It is a shrine
to everything Lego — there’s a cactus made of
Legos, a Lego bat signal — and to the possibilities of nonnarrative I.P. This year has brought the
release of ‘‘The Lego Batman Movie,’’ which will
be followed by ‘‘The Lego Ninjago Movie’’ and,
in 2019, by a sequel to the first film.
I visited Bricksburg earlier this year, and Lin,
who is 40-something but looks 20-something,
joined me at the end of the tour. He invited me
into a secret room, tucked down a small passageway hidden by a trap door next to a water cooler,
where he and his colleagues go for device-free
brainstorming. He told me about how he came
up with the idea for ‘‘The Lego Movie’’ in 2009,
after watching his 5-year-old son playing with
the bricks — the sound effects and dialogue,
the way he made those pieces zoom around the
room. The company was interested, he discovered, in expanding their reach with children
as they enter their teenage years, which they
called, Lin said, ‘‘the dark ages.’’ Lin wanted
to make something his son could watch. What
resulted felt lightly subversive — the villain is
named President Business — but also managed
to uphold the basic tenets of the Lego brand:
imagination, free play, creativity.
Lin didn’t know when he was making ‘‘The
Lego Movie’’ that it would inspire so many other
movies based on toys, games and apps. When I
last spoke with him, over the phone, I got the
sense that birthing an entire generation of cynically made movies weighed on him. Companies
call him all the time, he told me, asking if he can
do for their company what he did for Lego. ‘‘You
know, 95 percent of brands are not Legoizable,’’
he said. When I told him about the Fruit Ninja
script, he let out a little gasp. ‘‘Oh, my gosh,’’ he
said. ‘‘Who’s making that?’’
Chinese Lawyers
(Continued from Page 29)
remained motionless as we entered the detention center, following our movement only with
his eyes. The local police, in varying degrees of
armament, augmented the security. Behind the
guards was a window onto the detention center’s
interior courtyard, neatly trimmed and ringed by
stone arches, like a college quad.
Liang presented his papers and asked to see
his client. We watched as guards gathered at a
desk behind a glass partition, peering at us and
mumbling among themselves. Liang was calm but
wary. I asked if he was nervous. ‘‘No,’’ he said, and
paused. ‘‘I’m just not sure what they’re going to do
with you.’’ I thought back to my visits to Liang’s
office in Beijing: When it came time for me to
leave, he would peek his head out the door, ensure
that no one was keeping watch and only then let
me go. It was only after several such goodbyes
that I noticed the pattern and realized that he was
protecting me.
The wait was brief. A few minutes after we
arrived, a thick metal door beside the glass partition swung open. Two men emerged. The first was
young and crisply dressed, with short black hair
and an enigmatic smile. The second man was older
and less imposing. He had stooped shoulders, a
thinning comb-over and a tired, distracted mien.
The younger man turned to Liang and called him
inside. Liang handed me his cellphone and disappeared with the men behind the heavy metal door.
The meeting lasted less than four minutes.
Liang emerged alone and headed directly for
the exit. As we walked back along the rutted
dirt track toward the subway, he narrated the
encounter for me.
The younger man, he explained, was an officer
named Li Bin, who had been tasked with meeting
the relatives and lawyers of all the 709 detainees.
Liang had heard of Li, but Li clearly knew Liang
intimately: He began the meeting by ticking off
a list of Liang’s previous cases and his encounters with the police and judicial bureau. Then
he turned to Xie’s case. ‘‘We can’t accept your
power-of-attorney form,’’ he said. ‘‘Xie already has
two defense attorneys.’’ Liang asked who these
lawyers were. Li replied that he was not required
to answer. Liang asked if the other lawyers had
visited Xie to prepare his defense. Li said again
that he was not required to answer.
Liang continued to press. How could he confirm that Xie had hired these lawyers? How could
Xie have hired his own lawyers while incommunicado in detention? Li replied each time that he
was not obliged to say; Liang was not Xie’s lawyer
and had no official connection to the suspect. The
second officer said nothing.
As Liang got up to leave, Li offered a comment.
‘‘I’m surprised you’re not defending Wang Quanzhang,’’ he said. Wang was one of Liang’s closest
friends and, like Xie, he was being held somewhere
inside Tianjin Detention Center No. 2. No one had
heard from him in eight months. ‘‘I know he’s a
good friend of yours.’’ Then Li smiled, handed back
Liang’s papers, and showed him out.
In the years since the movement’s founding,
rights defense lawyers have taken up causes
including freedom of expression, labor rights,
religious freedoms and advocacy for lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender people. Yet in every
case, the lawyers face a common and elemental
adversary: fear. Beyond beliefs or values, this is
what unites the movement’s members. ‘‘I think
you can probably go inside lots of law schools’’ in
China ‘‘and speak to lots of students and find they
have pretty liberal ideas,’’ Pils told me. ‘‘It makes
sense to most people that law is better served by,
for instance, an autonomous judiciary.’’ But that
does not make them human rights lawyers, she
says. ‘‘It’s really a question of, Can you withstand
the pressure?’’
Under President Xi, that pressure has ratcheted up across Chinese civil society. As part of
a far-reaching campaign to stamp out ‘‘foreign
hostile forces,’’ the government has detained and
deported foreign activists, denied medical care
to detainees and revived the practice of forced
televised confessions, a throwback to the days
of internal party purges. The campaign has been
justified by a host of new legislation granting the
government a free hand over almost any matter
deemed relevant to national security.
For lawyers who veer into sensitive areas of
the law, the pressure is applied slowly; it begins
with a simple invitation to tea from the police.
What kinds of cases are you working on? an officer asks. Do you know what your colleague has
been up to lately? How are your children finding
their new teacher?
Often, the first meeting is enough to change
a lawyer’s course. For those who continue, the
pressure slowly escalates: frequent visits from the
judicial bureau, being constantly followed and
messages from government minders — ‘‘Be careful what you say at your meeting this morning’’
— that serve both to intimidate and to remind
that someone is watching.
The pressure can be startlingly personal. In
the on-and-off cycle of repression and relaxation,
some minders treat their target to dinner one
week, then interrogate him the next. Softening
euphemisms abound: to have been ‘‘spoken to,’’
instead of threatened; ‘‘educated,’’ instead of
disciplined. Somehow the fear and the constant
threat of violence become normalized. ‘‘At first
you’re scared just to talk to someone,’’ Pils says.
‘‘And then one day you’re used to the idea that
you could be taken anytime.’’
For Liang, it was soon after accepting his first
human rights case in 2008 that he came to the
attention of the authorities. In 2010, he was prevented from attending a meeting for the first
time. A European embassy in Beijing was holding
a conference on rule of law, and the organizers
invited Liang to speak. The morning of the event,
two policemen knocked on his door. They stayed
with him throughout the day, gave him lunch and
then sent him home after the conference concluded. Since then, the harassment has been nearly
constant, including intimidation from government
thugs and raids targeting Liang’s office.
The most jarring incident came in August 2015,
a month after the 709 arrests. Liang was with his
wife and son at the Beijing airport, preparing
to fly to New York for an exchange program at
Columbia University. When the family was at
customs, Liang was stopped and told that he was
not allowed to travel. ‘‘They said I might endanger
national security,’’ Liang says. He has been unable
to leave the country since.
Before his travel ban, Liang opted to stay silent
about the 709 crackdown. Having been granted a
visa to the United States, he hoped to keep a low
profile and so maintain his freedom to travel with
his family. When that hope proved illusory, his
calculus changed. ‘‘I decided, Well, I might as well
go public,’’ he told me. He began to write articles
under his own name and openly denounced the
detentions as illegal. And yet Liang has also made
his accommodations to the system. Faced with
the same decision as his friend Xie Yanyi, Liang
chose to sign the forms, make the promise, nod
when told. Liang has rarely been detained for
longer than 12 hours, a rare distinction among
human rights lawyers.
As he sees it, minimizing confrontation is a
matter of tactics. ‘‘I don’t deal with the police too
hard,’’ he told me, as we rode the subway from
the detention center back to central Tianjin. ‘‘The
police press me to take a pledge to do something,
I say O.K. Because for them, there’s no law. If they
don’t act in accordance with the law, I don’t need
to keep my pledge to them. I just need to do the
things I think are right.’’
I asked Liang if he considered himself a brave
man. He paused. ‘‘I think I’m not braver than the
lawyers in the detention centers,’’ he said. ‘‘Sometimes I’m scared, and I still try to do the right
thing, to defend sensitive cases and challenge
the party in accordance with the law. But I have
a family and parents, a wife and son. I need to
protect myself sometimes.’’
We reached our station and shuffled up the
stairs. Before reaching the top, Liang stopped
and turned to me. ‘‘Do you know ‘The Catcher
in the Rye’?’’ he asked. He began to paraphrase
a passage: ‘‘An immature man wants to die nobly
for a cause. A mature man wants to live humbly
for one.’’ He gave a small smile and fidgeted with
his jacket pocket. ‘‘I use these words to comfort
myself sometimes.’’
In the aftermath of the 709 arrests, the police
turned their attention to some of the wives and
family members of the detained lawyers. The
pressure became especially intense after two of
The New York Times Magazine
47
the wives, Wang Qiaoling and Li Wenzu, began
holding public demonstrations and pressing the
government for answers. Together the women
rallied the wives of the detained lawyers into an
impromptu community, half support group and
half protest movement.
While lawyers like Liang navigated the byzantine legal system, the wives became the public
face of 709, leading small rallies and protests in
Beijing, Tianjin and other cities. The wives traveled to the detention center in Tianjin with a
nearly religious devotion. Each week, they took
family and friends and posted photos online of
their children frolicking on the beige linoleum
floor of the prosecutor’s office, like snapshots
from a dystopian family vacation.
I met Wang and Li in a wood-paneled coffee
shop on a blistering summer afternoon, a little
more than a week before the first anniversary of
the crackdown. The worst part of their husbands’
sudden disappearance, they agreed, was trying
to explain the situation to their young children.
Li, whose husband was Liang’s friend Wang
Quanzhang and whose son was 2½ when his
father disappeared, tried at first to maintain a
veneer of normalcy, telling her son that his father
was on a business trip. But over the course of
the year, as the family visited detention centers,
police stations and lawyers, the boy came to realize that his father had been taken to prison. He
asked his mother why.
‘‘I explained that he is a lawyer,’’ Li told me.
‘‘He has to help others. Because he helps others,
he has been taken away by monsters.’’ Wang put
her hand on Li’s back as she continued. ‘‘ ‘Why
doesn’t he come back?’ my son asked. ‘Are there
too many monsters?’ I said to him, ‘If you be good
and grow strong, you can help your father fight
the monsters.’ ’’ She paused and took a sip of tea.
Li’s husband often came to Liang’s office to work,
and the books he had left behind still cluttered
Liang’s shelves — and as she spoke, Liang kept
his eyes down, fiddling with a pen. ‘‘He asked if
others are also helping fight the monsters,’’ Li
said. ‘‘I told him, ‘Yes, many people.’ ’’
Yet despite their troubles, it was Xie’s wife, the
women agreed, who was in the toughest position.
She lived far outside the city, isolated from the
other wives and sources of support. And only
Yuan had a new baby to care for, a distinction
that the authorities had employed as a powerful
bargaining chip.
The police had offered Yuan a deal: If she would
write a letter persuading her husband to confess,
they would recommend a lighter sentence, and
he would be allowed to see a photo of the baby. It
was the only way, the police said, to reform Xie’s
‘‘poor attitude.’’ Liang warned her to resist. ‘‘They
are trying to put psychological pressure on Mr.
and Mrs. Xie,’’ he told me. ‘‘I think it would cause
Mr. Xie to break down. As a man, seeing video of
your baby when you’re not there — it would be
too hard.’’ Yuan hesitated at first, desperate for
48
7.30.17
any form of contact with her husband, but eventually she agreed. She became an active member
of the wives’ group, traveling repeatedly to the
detention center to demonstrate.
In the coffee shop, Wang and Li began planning for the coming anniversary of the crackdown. They had yet to decide what form their
protest would take; they discussed the possibility of all the wives’ wearing red. ‘‘The red makes
us feel better,’’ Wang said. ‘‘We want to show
our optimism, so every time we go to Tianjin,
we wear red.’’
As we got up to leave, Wang and Li pulled two
short stacks of white printer paper from their
purses and handed them to Liang. ‘‘Just in case,’’
Li said. Scrawled across the pages were handwritten power-of-attorney forms, naming Liang as the
lawyer for both of them in the event that they were
detained. Liang tucked the papers into his backpack without a word. The wives waved goodbye,
then stepped out into the blazing sun arm in arm.
In mid-November, the Tianjin deputy police chief
called Xie’s older brother, Wei, with a proposal.
The police had told Xie about his new daughter,
but he still did not know about his mother, and
the police worried that he would react violently
when he learned the news. If Wei would agree
to tell Xie about their mother’s death, the police
would arrange a meeting between the brothers.
Wei agreed. It would be the first time anyone
had seen Xie since his capture 16 months earlier.
The meeting lasted more than four hours,
with Xie carrying the bulk of the conversation.
He spoke about human nature, about philosophy
and democracy and about what he had learned
in the detention center. His imprisonment was
also valuable for the guards and officials, he said.
‘‘It’s an exchange of minds,’’ he told his brother. ‘‘The officials also need to be changed and
enlightened by this experience. This is necessary to see the light.’’
Around noon, lunch arrived. During the meal,
Xie turned to the deputy police chief, who was
sitting off to the side. In his first six months of
detention, Xie said, he had been given three
steamed buns each day, but he never ate more
than half his portion. ‘‘Do you know why I didn’t
eat them all?’’ he asked the deputy. ‘‘I was preparing myself to endure hunger. I wanted to be ready
for the long term.’’ The deputy laughed uneasily.
Xie did not seem interested in the outside
world. He did not ask about the status of his
imprisoned friends and colleagues, or about his
wife and still-unnamed newborn daughter. He
had spoken at great length, but Wei could not
recall a single question his brother had asked.
Only the shock of his mother’s death seemed
to pull Xie briefly back to Earth. Wei hesitated
to broach the subject, and he hoped somehow
to avoid it. But the police officers interjected,
reminding him of their deal. Wei reluctantly
delivered the news. At first, Xie did not believe
it. Wei moved to a chair beside his brother and
held both his arms. ‘‘I explained it was a heart
attack,’’ Wei says. ‘‘He thought it was cruel to tell
him about this.’’ Xie began to cry, and no one
spoke for several minutes. When Xie regained his
composure, he said that the first thing he would
do upon his release was visit his mother’s grave.
Once the news had been delivered, the meeting quickly ended. As Xie was taken away, Wei
asked the police officers if it would be possible to
meet again. Before they could reply, Xie responded that there was no need. ‘‘You have your own
work, and it’s very tiring to come to Tianjin,’’ he
said. Wei asked again, and the police officers said
that they would request approval. ‘‘There’s no
need,’’ Xie repeated. ‘‘I can handle this by myself.’’
He was led away by several guards and disappeared behind an iron gate.
Later, when Yuan heard Wei describe the
meeting, she remained mostly silent. But at the
end, she leaned forward and spoke with pride
about her husband’s determination. ‘‘He’s ready
to spend his life in prison,’’ she said. ‘‘He will take
his case as a sacrifice to democracy and rule of
law in China.’’ Before his capture, Yuan said, her
husband had wrestled with finding his purpose.
‘‘Now it seems he’s found his way.’’
Liang, too, seemed bolstered by the news. ‘‘I’m
very happy after what I just heard,’’ he told Yuan
and Wei. ‘‘But it’s not a surprise to me. I know
he’s a man with a powerful heart.’’
Privately, though, Liang was more skeptical.
‘‘Xie is talking philosophy; we are dealing with his
case,’’ Liang told me after Yuan and Wei had left.
The idea that Xie had given up the struggle, even
while so many others continued to fight and long
for his freedom, was difficult to accept.
Liang needed to get back to work. Yuan had
asked him to prepare for the possibility of a trial,
and he had begun drafting a statement of defense.
But now he was unsure what to say, or how to
proceed. It seemed that perhaps his client — his
friend — was more lost than Liang had realized.
One afternoon, I found Liang hunched over his
office desk, flipping through a yellowed, dog-eared
copy of the Chinese criminal-procedure law, hoping to find a new way forward on Xie’s case. As I
entered, Liang put down the law book and rubbed
his temples. Over the last several months, his spirals of gray hair, once limited to beside his ears,
had spread upward toward the crown of his head.
‘‘We know we can’t win,’’ he said, slowly and quietly. ‘‘We can’t do anything to make our clients not
guilty. For human rights lawyers, our job is to meet
with them, to encourage them, to deliver their
message to the outside. Only lawyers can do this.
And so I continue to defend them.’’ Liang paused
and touched a cup of tea cooling on the desk.
‘‘Maybe in the future, after many years, when we
look back at the sacrifice of Xie and other lawyers,
we will see it was worth it. That they used their
sacrifice to push forward
(Continued on Page 51)
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Puzzles
SPELLING BEE
DOUBLE OR NOTHING
BAR CODE
By Frank Longo
By Patrick Berry
By Thinh Van Duc Lai
How many common words of 5 or more letters can you
spell using the letters in the hive? Every answer must use
the center letter at least once. Letters may be reused
in a word. At least one word will use all 7 letters. Proper
names and hyphenated words are not allowed. Score
1 point for each answer, and 3 points for a word that uses
all 7 letters.
Each space in this crossword will contain either
two letters or no letters. Words read across or down
as usual, but may skip one or more spaces.
Rating: 7 = good; 12 = excellent; 17 = genius
DOWN
ACROSS
1. Disconnect 5. The “A” in A-Rod 6. Tiki bar cocktail
(2 wds.) 7. Dr. J’s last name 8. Low in fat 9. Droops
Add horizontal and vertical bars to the grid — each
one unit in length — in such a way that no two bars
touch. The numbers at the sides reveal how many bars
appear consecutively in their respective rows and
columns. Where two or more numbers are given, at
least one row or column must separate the two groups.
EX.
>
1. Casino employee 2. Cornhusk-wrapped dish 3.
Document for leaving a country (2 wds.) 4. Interlinked
groups? (2 wds.)
A
T
1
C
2
3
4
5
U
6
E
P
7
N
8
9
Our list of words, worth 21 points, appears with last week’s answers.
SPLIT DECISIONS
By Fred Piscop
The only clues in this
crossword are the letter
pairs provided in the
grid. Each answer across
and down consists of
two words, which share
the letters to be entered
in the empty squares.
In the example below, the
letters S, E and W are
added to complete the
words SINEW and SCREW.
Some of the combinations
in the grid may have
more than one possible
answer, but only one
will fit with all the crossings.
T I
U S
U L
S V
50
A R
D E
M O
G I
V E
A R
TM
Z P
F F
D L
C U
H E
F L
V I
A T
U R
U M
I B
EXAMPLE:
becomes
O R
I E
E A
A R
P K
O E
M A
O R
I A
N C
A C
D H
T P
A O
E R
L E
R O
L T
A O
WD
I R
P Y
W I
L A
N C
N T
I O
N R
I O
S Y
SW
P I
R V
B B
G U
F R
I E
A U
E R
U L
M O
U G
A Z
I T
D F
I U
C E
R I
O K
A V
E R
R O
N S
C T
R G
N T
R E
I P
Answers to puzzles of 7.23.17
Chinese Lawyers
(Continued from Page 48)
BACK ON THE CHARTS
A
M
F
M
C
O
L
E
N
O
H
O
W
U
S
O
N
E
M
A
D
E
O
F
P
A
W
M
O
U
N
T
K
E
N
Y
A
E
N
S
U
R
E
H
S
E
H
A
O P T
E E S
N E
P A
L U L
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KENKEN
ACROSTIC
(MICHELE) RAFFIN, (THE) BIRDS OF PANDEMONIUM
— These birds can boogie. . . . Our dancers are
naturals, grooving smack on the beat. Some macaws
pop and lock on their perches like hip-hop MCs. If
they’re dancing outside their cages, the African gray
parrots form a conga line . . . .
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.
F.
G.
H.
I. “Rocket Man”
J. Discharge
K. Songster
L. Obduracy
M. Fishpond
N. Pilates
O. Arches
P. Necklace
Rhino
Avatar
Flamingo
French
Isoprene
Noah Beery
Breath
Intaglio
SWITCHBACKS
BAR CODE
N
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S
F
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L
S
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S
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Q. “Disco Duck”
R. Escrow
S. Megastar
T. Omophagia
U. Nestor
V. Ice-T
W. Upstage
X. Morphine
T
R
E
A R
R
Answers to puzzle on Page 50
SPELLING BEE
Punctuate (3 points). Also: Accentuate, actuate, acute,
attenuate, attune, nuance, peanut, pupae, puppet,
taunt, taupe, tauten, teacup, tuneup, tutee, uncap, uncut,
uneaten. If you found other legitimate dictionary words
in the beehive, feel free to include them in your score.
Chinese human rights, to expose the government’s
rule of law as fake.’’ He stood up from his desk and
turned back toward me. We were the only ones left
in the office. ‘‘But who will remember his name?’’
Since the trials of the 709 detainees began
last summer, the news for Liang and his fellow
rights defense lawyers has largely been bleak.
At trial, lawyers were forced to recant in humiliating ways. ‘‘I want to remind everybody to
wipe their eyes and clearly see the ugly faces of
hostile forces overseas,’’ one said, according to
Xinhua, the state-run news agency. ‘‘Never be
fooled by their ideas of ‘democracy,’ ‘human
rights’ and ‘benefiting the public.’ ’’ When Wang
Yu, the first lawyer detained, was freed on bail,
her release was accompanied by a video in which
Wang conspicuously refused several prizes she
was awarded while in prison, including one from
the American Bar Association. ‘‘I am Chinese,’’
she said, ‘‘and I only accept the Chinese government’s leadership.’’
In September, the Ministry of Justice
announced new measures expressly targeting
the types of extrajudicial activism that had
made the rights defense movement so potent
and powerful. Under the revised regulations,
activities like ‘‘conducting sit-ins, holding banners or placards, shouting slogans’’ and ‘‘expressing solidarity’’ were all forbidden. So, too, was
‘‘generating pressure through public opinion’’
by ‘‘forming groups, organizing joint signature
campaigns, issuing open letters’’ or ‘‘gathering
online in chat groups.’’ Firms were expected to
dismiss lawyers who disobeyed or risk having
their licenses revoked. Later that fall, three more
rights activists disappeared into state custody.
Then, in January, the first detailed account of a
709 lawyer’s arrest and detention became public.
In transcripts released by his lawyers, Xie Yang —
a human rights lawyer unrelated to Xie Yanyi with
a history of working politically sensitive cases —
described months of torture and mental abuse
at the hands of a rotating cast of police officers,
prosecutors and detention-center officials. During
marathon interrogation sessions, Xie Yang said,
his captors threatened his family — ‘‘Your wife
and children need to pay attention to traffic safety when they’re out in the car; there are a lot of
traffic accidents these days’’ — and told him that
his detention had been authorized at the highest
levels of the central government. If he wanted the
interrogations to end, there was only one answer:
‘‘Let me tell you, filing a complaint will do you no
good,’’ he was told. ‘‘This case comes from Beijing.
We’re handling your case on behalf of Party Central.’’ When he refused, the torture began. ‘‘I’m
going to torture you until you go insane,’’ one
interrogator said. ‘‘You’re going to be a cripple.’’
Amid the tide of dark news, there was one bit of
hope for Liang. In early January, almost a year after
Yuan first reached out to him to ask for his help,
he received another surprising message from her.
Xie Yanyi had been released on bail and moved
from the detention center to a nearby hotel under
house arrest. The Tianjin prosecutor had declined
to pursue the case.
Two weeks later, Xie returned home. The family released a statement, thanking their supporters
and stating that ‘‘due to his health and current
situation,’’ Xie would not be accepting visitors or
interviews or participating in any public affairs.
Instead he would focus on spending time with
his family; his first priority was picking a name
for his 11-month-old daughter.
It was not until early May that Xie began to
emerge from his home and Liang finally had a
chance to see him. The pair met at a KFC near a
busy subway station in downtown Beijing. They
chatted about their families and about Xie’s gradual readjustment to life outside the detention
center. His freedom was imperfect and tightly
controlled — a government minder, unobtrusive
but obvious, trailed Xie wherever he went. But
Liang noticed subtler changes in his friend, signs
that his time in custody had chipped away at his
spirit. Xie remained optimistic and pugnacious,
but he was also calmer, more aloof. Still, Xie
pressed on. He and his wife had finally chosen
a name for his daughter: Xie Xin’ai, ‘‘thanks to
love.’’ He had also taken his first case, representing members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual
movement. Despite his wife’s protestations and
the dire state of human rights law, Xie was eager
to get back to work. ‘‘He has no fear,’’ Liang says.
Yet Xie’s hard-won freedom belied a wider
retreat of human rights. In July, when Liu Xiaobo died in government custody, foreign governments and heads of state issued perfunctory
messages praising and mourning him, but the
global reaction was muted. The world had turned
its attention elsewhere — to economic growth,
terrorism, North Korea and other issues on which
China’s cooperation was essential. Human rights
was an unwelcome intrusion. The United States
would no longer ‘‘tell other people how to live,
what to do, who to be or how to worship,’’ President Trump said, in a speech in Saudi Arabia. Liu
died isolated and imprisoned ‘‘while the whole
world watched,’’ says Berit Reiss-Andersen, the
chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
In the days just before and after Liu Xiaobo’s
death, Liang retweeted a string of messages from
friends and colleagues, eulogizing Liu and grieving his loss. But Liang was circumspect about the
potential for Liu’s death to spark change inside
China. ‘‘I think there will be a big reaction in the
democracy movement,’’ he said. ‘‘But the government will probably shut down news about this,
or dilute it, so it won’t have too much impact
domestically.’’ Nine years as a Chinese human
rights lawyer had taught Liang that losses like
Liu’s death were the norm. They could not be
prevented, only endured.
The New York Times Magazine
51
Puzzles Edited by Will Shortz
1
By Isaac Mizrahi and David J. Kahn
To mark the 75th anniversary of the New York Times crossword, which
debuted in 1942, we are publishing a series of puzzles co-created by famous
people who solve the Times crossword, working together with regular Times
puzzle contributors. This collaboration is by the designer and TV host Isaac
Mizrahi, together with David J. Kahn, a retired consulting actuary in New York
City. This is David’s 172nd crossword for The Times. More information
about the making of today’s puzzle appears in the Times’s daily crossword
column (nytimes.com/column/wordplay).
ACROSS
1 Little bit
4 Chickenhearted
9 Spur-of-the-
43 Grub
44 Flapper wrapper
45 Ideal
49 Chipper greeting
51 Cellphone chip
82 Argentine article
83 Northern Indiana
2
3
4
19
20
23
24
27
5
9
KenKen® is a registered trademark of Nextoy, LLC. © 2017 www.KENKEN.com. All rights reserved.
52
11
12
13
38
39
42
43
17
18
46
47
48
93
94
31
35
36
40
41
37
45
51
57
16
22
44
50
15
26
34
56
14
30
52
53
58
county or its seat
61
62
84 Kind of pressure
moment
85 Souls
65
66
13 “Word just got
88 French possessive
holder
out …”
71
72
73
89 Bundle
53 See 38-Across
19 Funny Gasteyer
92 Shiner
54 Personal guide
76
77
78
79
20 Offer a thought
95 Boating aid
56 What some wrap
21 Shakers’
96
Civil
War
inits.
dresses are?
82
83
movement?
97 Ding maker
60 D.C. summer
22 Loren of “Marriage
85
86
87
88
98 Kind of street
setting
Italian-Style”
99 Takes fashion
61 ____ pants
95
96
23 Top limit, for short
photos using an
62 Plot at home,
24 Flaunt a loose
unorthodox
maybe
99
100 101
102
dress at a soiree?
camera angle?
63 Fantasy writer
27 Text changes
104 More limited
105
106
Michael
29 Mideast royal name
105 “Keep it ____”
64 “____ who?”
109
110 111
112
30 Fair-hiring letters
106 Bylaw, briefly
65 Exercise with keys
31 Vogue rival
107 Plane-related
66 Way off base?
116
117
32 Overstuff
108 N.B.A. notables
67 Unwanted
Korver and Lowry 120
33 Title of a fashion121
pressure
109 Shorten some
industry
69 Bit of a grind
couture dresses?
seamstress’s
71 Get the gold
tell-all?
121 Uneasy
3 Preferred means
115 Bach’s Partita
72 Author Michael
of arriving at
No. 6 ____ Minor
38 With 53-Across,
122 Ground breaker
____
Dyson
a fashion show?
goethite, e.g.
116 Resistant (to)
123 Chicago rumblers
4 Some rescues
39 N.F.C. North rivals 74 “Frozen” snow
117 Swift ending for
queen
of the Bears
5 Subj. for CNBC
a bad stage
DOWN
75 Mars vehicle
performance
6 Putin’s peace
40 Support under
1 Last Scottish king
76 Scatter
a tank?
118 Chill-inducing, say
7 Stain that’s hard
to die in battle
77 Like a model’s
to remove
41 “Enrol,” for
119 Writer/critic
hairstyle?
“enroll”: Abbr.
Hentoff
2 How you might do
8 Keeps from
proceeding
something dumb
42 Ones who fix toys? 81 Calendario opener 120 Got the impression
9 Loses
10 Order member
11 Klingons, e.g.
12 Tower with many
eaves
Fill the grid with digits so as not to repeat a digit in any row or column, and so that the digits within each
13 Suffix with 105heavily outlined box will produce the target number shown, by using addition, subtraction, multiplication
Across
or division, as indicated in the box. A 5x5 grid will use the digits 1–5. A 7x7 grid will use 1–7.
14 Christmas
threesome
15 Banned
supplement
16 Not worth ____
of beans
17 Go through
18 Historical trivia
25 Vandals
26 ____ party
28 Decagonal
33 A butter
alternative
34 Actress Vardalos
35 Little Boy,
e.g., informally
36 Got out of
37 Stud site
KENKEN
10
29
33
55
8
25
28
49
7
21
32
54
6
59
60
63
67
64
68
69
74
70
75
80
81
84
89
90
91
92
97
98
103
104
107
108
113
114
115
118
119
122
123
44 Dust jacket part,
usually
45 Revenue source
for a magazine
46 Inspects a
fashion designer’s
offerings?
47 One who says, “I’d
like to have …”
48 AOL alternative
50 Food-prep
class at school
51 Very short climb
52 Chilling, so
to speak
54 Ruins as a dog
might
55 Food in the field
56 Cantina treats
57 Top of the world
58 Quattro minus uno
59 Edict
67 “Take it!”
68 Nutmeg State
collegian
70 Cry of
exasperation
73 Warlords, e.g.
78 Medium-to-poor
79 Ideal
80 Drunk’s problem
84 Cop’s target
86 Cans
87 One may be tipped
89 Goes through
90 Creator of an
ancient pyramid
scheme?
91 Ring around
the collar
93 Place for cannons
94 Winter apples
96 Holiday scene
97 You, once
99 Some Latinas:
Abbr.
100 Pitch
101 Like some floors
102 Order member
103 Long-winded
108 Leg bender
110 Advantage
111 ____ Xing
112 Put in, as hours
113 Glass on
public radio
114 Suffix with fact
Puzzles Online: Today’s puzzle and more
than 9,000 past puzzles, nytimes.com/crosswords
($39.95 a year). For the daily puzzle commentary:
nytimes.com/wordplay.
7/30/17
BY DESIGN
The Living
Room Sale
Starts August 1.
Save on sofas, sectionals and sleepers,
as well as lounge chairs, occasional
tables, storage, rugs and accessories.
EXCLUSIONS APPLY.
THE BEST IN MODERN DESIGN
W W W.DWR.COM | 1.800.944.2233 | DWR STUDIOS
Find all locations at dwr.com/studios.
© 2017 Design Within Reach, Inc.
Rashida Jones
Changed Her
Mind About Porn
Interview by Ana Marie Cox
In 2015, you produced a documentary
about young pornography performers,
‘‘Hot Girls Wanted,’’ that was eventually
turned into a new Netflix documentary
series. But in 2013, you wrote a pretty
strident essay in Glamour against the
‘‘pornification’’ of everything, where
you recount using the hashtag #stopactinglikewhores, in regard to the mainstreaming of, say, V-strings and stripper
poles. What changed? I was impulsive.
Being old isn’t a good excuse for it, but
using the word ‘‘whore’’ was absolutely
not appropriate. I didn’t even know what
‘‘slut shaming’’ meant at the time, and I
have educated myself. But that was sort of
the beginning of my relationship with all
this work — I wanted to see if my feelings
had any validity in the real world, or if I
was just being close-minded.
Do you remember the first time you
saw porn? It wasn’t appointment television. ‘‘Emmanuelle’’ was something I
stumbled upon at a young age, on cable,
and was titillated by.
Do you personally consume porn now?
I do. When I was single, it was a great
way to stay at home. It’s nice that you
can separate the idea of personal pleasure from the pressure of a relationship.
But I had a hard time finding the kind
of porn I wanted, because I had to sift
through so much stuff that isn’t for me
— like abuses of power, dark porn — and
I know we aren’t supposed to criticize
people’s fantasies, because everybody
has their own thing, but unfortunately,
the first thing you see when you go to
a tube site is often pretty violent stuff.
54
7.30.17
Age: 41
Occupation:
Actor and producer
Hometown:
Los Angeles
Jones is a creator
and producer of the
Netflix documentary
series ‘‘Hot Girls
Wanted: Turned On’’
and the star of ‘‘Angie
Tribeca’’ on TBS.
Photograph by Pej Behdarvand
Her Top 5 Female
Porn Makers:
1. Erika Lust
2. Holly Randall
3. Angie Rowntree
4. Candida Royalle
5. Shine Louise
Houston
Do you think there’s a tension between
being a feminist and enjoying porn?
Maybe it’s a generational thing, but
because my identity as a feminist didn’t
come about through my sexuality, I
don’t have that reference point where
the freedom I have with my body and
my sexuality is part of my expression
of feminism. I’ve had a steep learning curve to understanding that those
things are interrelated, but it does create an interesting conversation about
what it means to feel like a sexual being
and how that’s different from sexualizing yourself — and then, is objectifying
yourself ultimately a feminist thing, or
is it an internalization of the patriarchy?
Is there a difference between the politics of sexual practice versus what
someone might produce for money?
Yes, because the feminine power that is
sometimes called feminism comes from
capitalism. If you are making money, you
are powerful; therefore, anything you do
to make that money makes you powerful;
therefore, anything you do to be powerful is feminist. That has been the narrative that was presented to me, and that’s
what I’m trying to ask questions about.
There’s a recognized genre of women
creating content for other women in
porn, which is something we haven’t
seen much of in Hollywood. There are
women who have gone into the sex
industry, they’re just like, ‘‘I’m going to
make my own stuff.’’ Whereas in Hollywood, there’s so much development
and bloat and numbers and budgets
that stand in the way of things. There’s
a more direct relationship between the
filmmaker and the consumer in porn.
One of the saddest episodes of the series,
for me, was the episode about dating apps.
The fact that you shop for toilet paper and,
in a way, for people on the same device —
everything becomes a performance, and
you’re constantly being graded. Which
reminds me of porn! I believe in individuality and the freedom to express yourself
however you want, but don’t all the ways
we perform our sexuality all look the same?
It seems harder to express your individual
sexual or emotional needs when you feel
like you have to perform for other people.
Look, this could be my age talking, but it’s
something I want to keep talking about,
as opposed to just accepting that the only
way to feel sexy about myself is to post a
duck-lips selfie to Instagram.
Interview has been condensed and edited.
Talk
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BLACK YELLOW MAGENTA CYAN
NYTM_17_0730_SWE1.pgs 07.19.2017 15:02
Since our inception, the Mount Sinai Health System has
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groundbreaking work and giving our patients the best possible
care, particularly when they are at their worst. For you. For life.
1 - 8 0 0 - M D-SI N A I
mountsinai.org
EVIDENTLY,
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WHEN YOU
ARE AT YOUR WORST.
BLACK YELLOW MAGENTA CYAN
NYTM_17_0730_SWE2.pgs 07.18.2017 16:57
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