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2018-06-18 The New York Times International Edition

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Is it the end
of America’s
world order?
Fear itself
puts strain
on globe’s
Kori Schake
Decades from now, we may look back
at the first weeks of June 2018 as a
turning point in world history: the end
of the liberal order.
At a summit in Canada, the president of the United States rejected
associating the country with “the
rules-based international order” that
America had built after World War II,
and threatened the country’s closest
allies with a trade war. He insulted the
Canadian prime minister, and then,
just a few days later, lavished praise on
Kim Jong-un, the world’s most repressive dictator. Without consulting America’s allies in the region, he even reiterated his desire to withdraw American
troops from South Korea.
Such reckless disregard for the
security concerns of America’s allies,
hostility to mutually
beneficial trade and
The planet is
willful isolation of
a safer place
the United States is
because of
unprecedented. Yet
the U.S.-led
this is the foreign
liberal order.
policy of the Trump
administration. Quite
explicitly, the leader
Trump wants
of the free world
to destroy it.
wants to destroy the
alliances, trading
relationships and
international institutions that have
characterized the American-led order
for 70 years.
The administration’s alternative
vision for the international order is a
bare-knuckled assertion of unilateral
power that some call America First;
more colorfully, a White House official
characterized it to The Atlantic as the
“We’re America, Bitch” doctrine. This
aggressive disregard for the interests
of like-minded countries, indifference
to democracy and human rights and
cultivation of dictators is the new
world Mr. Trump is creating. He and
his closest advisers would pull down
the liberal order, with America at its
helm, that remains the best guarantor
of world peace humanity has ever
known. We are entering a new, terrifying era.
According to the president, the
liberal world order is a con job — he
insists America is paying too much and
being swindled by its friends. He
wants the United States to pull back
from its alliances and let its partners
fend for themselves, and devote its
money to its domestic needs.
Those criticisms resonate in a time
when Americans are fearful of how the
world is changing, and when the country’s leaders have done a poor job of
The New York Times publishes opinion
from a wide range of perspectives in
hopes of promoting constructive debate
about consequential questions.
As Trump intensifies
hostilities, businesses
everywhere are disrupted
Iqbal Khyber leading members of the peace march outside Ghazni, Afghanistan. Among them were laborers, farmers, retired army officers, even a bodybuilding champion.
An Afghan march for peace
Fed up with killing, group
braves blisters and bombs
over hundreds of miles
As they march for peace through Afghan villages laced with roadside
bombs and bottomless heartache, their
numbers keep growing.
They come from all walks of life, ages
17 to 65. Among them is a high school
student who went home to complete his
final exams before rejoining the others;
a poet who still carries in his chest one of
the four bullets he was shot with; a
bodybuilding champion who abandoned
his gym and has lost 20 pounds of muscle on the journey. They are day laborers, farmers, retired army officers, a
man with polio on crutches, a mechanic
who was robbed of his sight by war.
Afghanistan’s most striking grassroots movement for peace in recent
years started with just eight people. I
started watching their movement then,
when it was a hunger strike born out of
pain and outrage at a suicide bombing
that killed and wounded dozens in Helmand Province. A group of young men
pitched a protest tent next to the car-
nage. Their blood had become cheap —
too cheap, they said. For too long, they
had been dying in silence.
Then they began marching north toward the capital through some of the
most devastated parts of southern Afghanistan. We joined them on June 10,
30 days and 300 miles into their journey,
as they rested their blistered feet in the
cool of a small mosque near the city of
By that point, their numbers had
grown to 65, and they kept walking
through the Ramadan fast, taking no
food or water through the 100-plus-degree daytime heat.
They are marching to say this: that
the war has turned into a monster with a
life of its own, feeding on the poor at the
rate of more than 50 a day. The longer it
drags on, the more difficult it becomes to
reach a settlement. Killings turn into
blood feuds that lead to more killings.
They want it to end, to give them a
chance to live. At every stop, hundreds
gather to hear their stories of loss and
share their own.
One of their latest members is a shopkeeper from the western province of Herat named Mohamed Anwar. He arrived
on a bus with three changes of clothing
tucked under his arm and three pairs of
prayer beads in his pocket.
“I told my wife I am going to join my
friends,” Mr. Anwar said.
Despite the simplicity of their protest,
The marchers listening to one of the member’s stories during a stop at a mosque in
Ghazni. The peace march started with just eight people and has grown to more than 60.
they know that bringing an end to four
decades of war is no easy thing. There
are so many competing interests: the
Taliban insurgents emboldened by recent success, the harried and corruption-riddled Afghan government, the
The sounds of Lisbon
gain a wider audience
Producer joins beats
of Portuguese-speaking
Africa with dance music
Nídia Borges, an electronic music producer, likens her style to “an explosion in your
face.” She said, “When something comes out of the ghetto, it can’t come softly.”
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Americans and Europeans struggling
for any positive outcome, the host of international players — Pakistan, Russia,
Iran — for whom the war is a chessboard.
Only a few months ago, the global economy appeared to be humming, with all
major nations growing in unison. Now,
the world’s fortunes are imperiled by an
unfolding trade war.
As the Trump administration imposes
tariffs on allies and rivals alike, provoking broad retaliation, global commerce
is suffering disruption, flashing signs of
strains that could hamper economic
growth. The latest escalation came on
Friday, when President Trump announced tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese
goods, prompting swift retribution from
As the conflict broadens, shipments
are slowing at ports and airfreight terminals around the world. Prices for crucial raw materials are rising. At factories from Germany to Mexico, orders
are being cut and investments delayed.
American farmers are losing sales as
trading partners hit back with duties of
their own.
Workers in a Canadian steel mill
scrambled to recall rail cars headed to
the United States border after Mr.
Trump this month slapped tariffs on imported metals. A Seattle customer soon
canceled an order.
“The impact was felt immediately,”
said Jon Hobbs, president of AltaSteel in
Edmonton. “The penny is really dropping now as to what this means to people’s businesses.”
The Trump administration portrays
its confrontational stance as a means of
forcing multinational companies to
bring factory production back to American shores. Mr. Trump has described
trade wars as “easy to win” while vowing to rebalance the United States’ trade
deficits with major economies like China
and Germany.
Mr. Trump’s offensive may yet prove
to be a negotiating tactic that threatens
economic pain to force deals, rather
than a move to a full-blown trade war.
Americans appear to be better insulated
than most from the consequences of
trade hostilities. As a large economy in
relatively strong shape, the United
States can find domestic buyers for its
goods and services when export opportunities shrink.
Even so, history has proved that trade
wars are costly while escalating risks of
broader hostilities. Fears are deepening
that the current outbreak of antagonism
could drag down the rest of the world.
Before most trade measures fully take
effect, businesses are already grappling
with the consequences — threats to
Across the River Tagus from central Lisbon, at a venue surrounded by fruit
warehouses and storage units, one of
Portugal’s most exciting dance music
producers was deep in concentration behind the decks. She was not banging out
electronic beats at a sold-out club, however. A crowd jostled around a buffet table. In the corner stood a tiered cake.
And the producer’s mother was busy
pouring glasses of sparkling melon wine
and showing guests family photographs
on her phone.
It was unusual to see the music
producer, Nídia Borges, 21, in this setting, playing wedding D.J. for a cousin,
but this afternoon was the only time she
had to meet before setting off on tour
across the United States. Ms. Borges is
known onstage as “Nídia,” though she
used to call herself “Nídia Minaj” in tribute to her favorite rapper, Nicki Minaj.
She dropped the last name because, she
said later in an interview, “Today I have
my own identity. I’m not going to imitate
something that someone has done already.”
Indeed, Ms. Borges’s uniquely hectic
music has caught the ear of the global
dance floor. Her debut album, “Nídia é
Má, Nídia é Fudida” (“Nídia Is Bad,
Nídia Is Dope”), was named in Rolling
Stone’s 20 best electronic albums of
2017, and she was called on by Fever Ray
to contribute some off-kilter drums to
the Swedish artist’s latest record,
“Plunge.” Nowadays, it’s easier to catch
Ms. Borges at a European music festival
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MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018 | 3
“We believe technology will lead us
to a 100% accessible world.”
Manel Alcaide, Co-Founder of Visualfy, Spain
Understanding that deafness creates isolation, Manel wanted to break down
barriers between the deaf and the hearing world through the use of technology.
He created Visualfy, which translates sounds into visual and sensory alerts on
a smartphone and other devices. Enabled by Android’s open-source operating
system, users can completely customise alerts in the app to their needs.
Through Visualfy, Manel brings dignity to disability and aspires to
create a world that is inclusive and accessible to all.
Watch the mini-documentary about the app that visualises
what can’t be heard:
MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018 | 5
Left, on the way to Kabul, the Afghan capital, the marchers have been stopping at mosques, where locals gather to hear the marchers’ stories of loss and share their own. Right, Mohammed Tahir, 17, the youngest of the marchers, reading before going to sleep.
Peaceful strides to protest 40 years of war
The beating heart of their march is
each village mosque along the way,
where they meet residents and rest for
the night. They rely on the generosity of
villagers who feed them, take their
clothes home to wash and exchange
In the Shajoy district of Zabul Province, the marchers met an older man
whose daughter-in-law was abducted
by a local police commander and married to one of his men. The woman’s husband and his brother joined the Taliban.
The brother’s dead body came home
within a week.
At a public bathhouse in the Moqor
district of Ghazni Province, they met the
commander of a small pro-government
militia. A longtime rival of the man’s
family, now operating under the Taliban
banner, had killed one of his uncles, then
another, then another, then another. The
man took up arms for the government
because he feared he could be next.
In the countryside, both the Taliban
and the government can take the role of
oppressor. Sometimes it is not even
clear who pulled the trigger.
As their numbers grow, the marchers’
routine remains the same: walking for
about 15 miles along the edge of a highway, in a single file, and then camping
out at the next mosque. The walk is often
lonely, through sparsely populated areas. During the daytime heat, they drag
their feet. When the evening comes, the
confidence returns in their steps.
As they approached the Afghan capital, Kabul, the final destination for their
message, they were nervous — about
political opportunists who could hijack
their message, and about the elites of a
capital long separated from the pain of
the countryside.
Iqbal Khyber, 27, a soft-spoken medical student, has become one of the
marchers’ leaders. In addressing
crowds, he draws on the group’s personal stories of loss, and recounts other testimonies they have heard during their
“The tall buildings, the fancy cars,
that is not our life,” Mr. Khyber told a
crowd of about 300 in a mosque near the
city of Ghazni.
Pointing to the three men who were
standing with him, and whose stories he
went on to tell, he said: “This is our
One of them was Zaheer Ahmad, 21.
He was 7 when American planes
bombed their neighborhood in the
Greshk district of Helmand Province,
leaving a crater so large that no trace of
his father and uncle could be found.
As the war intensified in Helmand,
their extended family moved to other
provinces. Young Zaheer became a mechanic’s apprentice in Kandahar. He was
so good that by the time he was 16, he
had opened his own shop.
One day, about four years ago, Zaheer
booked two bus tickets and set off to the
city of Herat, where he would drop off
his 15-year-old sister with another displaced relative. They were seated in the
fourth row of the bus when a Taliban
They are marching to say that
the war has turned into a
monster, feeding on the poor at
the rate of more than 50 a day.
bomb detonated on the roadside.
Zaheer remembers feeling blood on
his face, fire around him, and the
screams of his sister. She did not survive. Zaheer’s world, from that moment,
went dark.
“I want to let out my pain,” Zaheer
said. “There is a lot of pain tight inside
At night, some of the march leaders
continued to meet locals and worked
past midnight to plan for the next day.
For the rest, there was little talk of war
and peace. They were travelers, sharing
stories, cigarettes and tea in the cool
breeze on the mosque porch.
Between drags on a cigarette,
Ataullah Khan, a 65-year-old retired
army colonel, talked about his moment
of fame in 1980. While he was serving in
western Afghanistan, a Russian photographer snapped a photo of him in uniform, his impressive mustache curled
up, as he raised a child up for the camera. The photo made it to the cover of a
magazine, and from there to frames on
the walls of ice cream parlors in his
hometown, Jalalabad, the capital of
Nangarhar Province.
The bodybuilder, Zmaray Zaland,
showed videos on his phone of an international competition he won. They giggled as they watched him perform in a
skimpy Speedo, glistening with oil. He
flexed his muscles, and shimmied in a
little dance.
“I had never heard of that music, or
done that dance in my life before that
day,” he told them.
Most of the marchers get barely four
hours of sleep. Around 2:30 a.m., villagers bring a quick meal before the
day’s fast: a cup of sweetened milk,
some cookies and bread. They pray the
dawn prayer, grab their bags and set off
single file into the soft dawn light.
Their 64th member, a sharp-eyed mason named Mohammed, arrived recently with just a change of clothes knotted into the shawl on his back. He had
tracked the march’s progress on his
phone during rest stops as he rode the
bus toward them.
When asked how old he was, Mr. Mohammed did a calculation.
“I was 15, in eighth grade, when the
war started,” he said. “It’s been 40 years
since then.”
Vatican gets back stolen letter
1493 missive by Columbus
returned by U.S., but who
took it remains a mystery
When the American authorities contacted officials at the Vatican Apostolic
Library in 2012 to tell them that a prized
copy of a letter by Christopher Columbus in its collection could be a fake, the
Vatican’s librarians almost didn’t believe it.
“I must admit it took us rather by surprise,” the Vatican’s archivist and librarian, Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès,
said last week, during a ceremony to celebrate the return, six years later, of the
original document. It had been stolen,
replaced with a skillfully crafted forgery
and sold in 2004 to an actuary from Atlanta.
But the return of the document, which
describes Columbus’s first impression
of Caribbean islands, points to a tantalizing mystery with no solution in sight.
This is the third time in two years that
American officials have returned to European libraries stolen copies of the Columbus letter that had been replaced
with a forgery. Investigators are still trying to determine who committed the
thefts and if there are links between the
three cases.
And while dramatically increased security at the Vatican may go a long way
toward preventing a recurrence here,
the case is a window into the shadowy
world of antiquarian forgeries.
When the theft and switcheroo actually took place remains a mystery, and
the object of investigations, said Jamie
McCall, an assistant United States attor-
ney in the district of Delaware.
The document, now valued at $1.2 million, is one of 80 or so known copies of
the missive that Columbus wrote in
1493, on a return voyage, to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. It described his first impressions of the New
World, a place of “many fine, large, flowing rivers” (many bearing gold), “full of
trees of endless varieties, so high that
they seem to touch the sky,” and populated by a “hopelessly timid people” who
“firmly believed that I, with my ships
and men, came from heaven.”
The explorer’s account became so
popular that it was translated from the
original Spanish into Latin, and widely
distributed. Three editions of the translation were printed in Italy. The Vatican
copy was printed in Rome by Stephan
Plannck in 1493 and is commonly known
as a “Plannck II — Columbus Letter.”
The Vatican received the letter in 1921
as part of a bequest of rare books and
The letter had been stolen,
replaced with a skillfully crafted
forgery and sold in 2004 to an
actuary from Atlanta.
manuscripts that had belonged to Giovanni Francesco De Rossi, a 19th-century bibliophile. The letter — four leaves
of paper, eight pages in all — was bound
with a sheaf of blank pages to make it
look thicker and was numbered “Volume 674” of the De Rossi collection.
Archbishop Bruguès said that it was
unclear when the theft and substitution
occurred. The letter was purchased by
Robert David Parsons of Atlanta for
$875,000 from a New York dealer.
But theories abound.
Archbishop Bruguès said that the
forger had used a technique known as
stereotyping, which reproduces the tac-
A 15th-century copy of a letter written by Christopher Columbus and displayed in the
Vatican. The letter, now valued at $1.2 million, was to the king and queen of Spain.
tile effects of early printed books. The
technique was popular during the 19th
and 20th centuries, “so we will probably
never know for sure who the forger
was,” he said.
Timothy Janz, director of the printed
books department at the Vatican Library, said the substitution could have
occurred before the collection was bequeathed to the library or it could have
been the act of an “unscrupulous staff
member.” It could also have occurred if
the book had been sent out to be newly
bound, he mused. “We really have no
idea,” Mr. Janz said.
He said security had been relatively
lax before the library was restructured
in 2007.
Cameras and security systems have
since been installed and many books
have microchips. Only library staff
members have access to the book
stacks, which are behind locked doors.
The substitution — which would have involved dismantling and reassembling
the book — could not have taken place in
the reading room, under the eyes of
other scholars, or along a corridor,
where staff members could walk by.
Thefts had occurred, of course, he
said. In particular, Mr. Janz said, “we’ve
had leaves cut out of books.”
American officials said that Mr. Parsons's Columbus letter had been sold to
a New York book dealer by Marino Massimo De Caro, whom they described as
“a notorious Italian book thief.” Mr. De
Caro is currently serving a seven-year
sentence in Italy for the theft of hundreds of rare books.
The Columbus letter is particularly attractive to forgers “because it is valuable and it’s short,” said Christina Geiger, a senior specialist with Christie’s
Books & Manuscripts department in
New York.
In 2016, American officials returned a
copy that belonged to the Riccardiana
Library in Florence, Italy. Earlier this
month, they returned a copy that had
been stolen from the National Library of
Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. Both letters had been substituted with skillful
The Vatican was advised of the theft
in 2012, a year after United States
Homeland Security Investigations got a
tip from a rare book and manuscript expert who had seen the Vatican copy and
raised doubts about its authenticity.
In December 2013, Mr. Parsons sent
his “Plannck II — Columbus Letter” to
the same expert for authentication, according to American officials. The expert, who declined to be identified for
this article, found that while the letter
had been bound in modern times, an
earlier binding was the same as the Vatican’s copy, officials said.
In 2017, the two editions of the letter —
the Vatican and the Parsons copy —
were compared and an expert determined that Mr. Parsons's copy had indeed been stolen from Volume 674.
© Didier Gourdon
6 | MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018
Dark visions of killer robots
Quarrel on dangers of A.I.
splits tech field, including
Facebook and Tesla chiefs
Mark Zuckerberg thought his fellow Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk was behaving like an alarmist.
Mr. Musk, the entrepreneur behind
SpaceX and the electric-car maker
Tesla, had taken it upon himself to warn
the world that artificial intelligence was
“potentially more dangerous than
nukes” in television interviews and on
social media.
So, on Nov. 19, 2014, Mr. Zuckerberg,
Facebook’s chief executive, invited Mr.
Musk to dinner at his home in Palo Alto,
Calif. Two top researchers from Facebook’s artificial intelligence lab and two
other Facebook executives joined them.
As they ate, the Facebook contingent
tried to convince Mr. Musk that he was
wrong. But he wasn’t budging. “I genuinely believe this is dangerous,” Mr.
Musk told the table, according to one of
the dinner’s attendees, Yann LeCun, the
researcher who led Facebook’s A.I. lab.
Mr. Musk’s fears of A.I., distilled to
their essence, were simple: If we create
machines that are smarter than humans, they could turn against us. (See:
“The Terminator,” “The Matrix,” and
“2001: A Space Odyssey.”) Let’s for
once, he was saying to the rest of the
tech industry, consider the unintended
consequences of what we are creating
before we unleash it on the world.
Neither Mr. Musk nor Mr. Zuckerberg
would talk in detail about the dinner,
which has not been reported before, or
their long-running A.I. debate.
The creation of “superintelligence” —
the name for the supersmart technological breakthrough that takes A.I. to the
next level and creates machines that not
only perform narrow tasks that typically require human intelligence (like
self-driving cars) but can actually outthink humans — still feels like science
fiction. But the fight over the future of
A.I. has spread across the tech industry.
More than 4,000 Google employees
recently signed a petition protesting a
$9 million A.I. contract the company had
signed with the Pentagon — a deal
worth chicken feed to the internet giant,
but deeply troubling to many artificial
intelligence researchers at the company. Earlier this month, Google executives, trying to head off a worker rebellion, said they wouldn’t renew the contract when it expired next year.
Artificial intelligence research has
enormous potential and enormous implications, both as an economic engine
and a source of military superiority. The
Chinese government has said it is willing to spend billions in the coming years
to make the country the world’s leader
in A.I., while the Pentagon is aggressively courting the tech industry for
All sorts of deep thinkers have joined
the debate, from a gathering of philosophers and scientists held along the central California coast to an annual conference hosted in Palm Springs, Calif., by
Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos.
“You can now talk about the risks of
A.I. without seeming like you are lost in
science fiction,” said Allan Dafoe, a director of the governance of A.I. program
at the Future of Humanity Institute, a
research center at the University of Oxford.
And the public roasting of Facebook
and other tech companies over the past
few months has done plenty to raise the
issue of the unintended consequences of
the technology created by Silicon Valley.
In April, Mr. Zuckerberg spent two
days answering questions from members of the United States Congress
about data privacy and Facebook’s role
in the spread of misinformation before
the American election in 2016.
Facebook’s recognition that it was
slow to understand what was going on
has led to a rare moment of self-reflec-
tion in an industry that has long believed it is making the world a better
place, whether the world likes it or not.
Even such influential figures as the
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the
late Stephen Hawking have expressed
concern about creating machines that
are more intelligent than we are. Even
though superintelligence seems decades away, they and others have said,
shouldn’t we consider the consequences
before it’s too late?
“The kind of systems we are creating
are very powerful,” said Bart Selman, a
Cornell University computer science
professor and former Bell Labs researcher. “And we cannot understand
their impact.”
Pacific Grove is a tiny town on the central coast of California. A group of genet-
icists gathered there, in the winter of
1975 to discuss whether their work —
gene editing — would end up harming
the world. In January 2017, the A.I. community held a similar discussion in the
beachside grove.
The private gathering at the Asilomar
Hotel was organized by the Future of
Life Institute, a think tank built to discuss the existential risks of A.I. and
other technologies.
The heavy hitters of A.I. were in the
room — among them Mr. LeCun, the
Facebook A.I. lab boss who was at the
dinner in Palo Alto, and who had helped
develop a neural network, one of the
most important tools in artificial intelligence today. Also in attendance was
Nick Bostrom, whose 2014 book, “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies” had an outsized — some would argue fear-mongering — effect on the A.I.
discussion; Oren Etzioni, a former computer science professor at the University of Washington who had taken over
the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle; and Demis Hassabis,
who heads DeepMind, an influential
Google-owned A.I. research lab in London.
And so was Mr. Musk, who in 2015 had
donated $10 million to the Future of Life
Institute, which is based in Cambridge,
Mass. That same year, he also helped
create an independent artificial intelligence lab, OpenAI, with an explicit goal:
create superintelligence with safeguards meant to ensure it won’t get out
of control. It was a message that clearly
aligned him with Mr. Bostrom.
On the second day of the retreat, Mr.
Musk took part in a nine-person panel
dedicated to the superintelligence question. Each panelist was asked if superintelligence was possible. As they passed
the microphone down the line, each said
“Yes,” until the microphone reached Mr.
Musk. “No,” he said. The small auditorium rippled with knowing laughter. Everyone understood that Mr. Musk
thought superintelligence was not only
possible, but very dangerous.
Mr. Musk later added: “We are
headed toward either superintelligence
or civilization ending.”
At the end of the panel, Mr. Musk was
asked how society can best live alongside superintelligence. What we needed,
he said, was a direct connection between our brains and our machines. A
few months later, he unveiled a start-up,
called Neuralink, backed by $100 million
that aimed to create that kind of socalled neural interface by merging computers with human brains.
Warnings about the risks of artificial
intelligence have been around for years,
of course. But few of those Cassandras
have the tech credibility of Mr. Musk.
Few, if any, have spent as much time and
money on it. And perhaps none has had
as complicated a history with the technology.
Just a few weeks after Mr. Musk
talked about his A.I. concerns at the dinner in Mr. Zuckerberg’s house, Mr. Musk
phoned Mr. LeCun, asking for the names
of top A.I. researchers who could work
on his self-driving car project at Tesla.
(That autonomous technology was in
use at the time of two fatal Tesla car
crashes, one in Florida in May 2016 and
the other in March of this year.)
During a recent Tesla earnings call,
Mr. Musk, who has struggled with questions about his company’s financial
losses and concerns about the quality of
its vehicles, chastised the news media
for not focusing on the deaths that autonomous technology could prevent — a
remarkable stance from someone who
has repeatedly warned the world that
A.I. is a danger to humanity.
There is a saying in Silicon Valley: We
overestimate what can be done in three
years and underestimate what can be
done in 10. On Jan. 27, 2016, Google’s
DeepMind lab unveiled a machine that
could beat a professional player at the
ancient board game Go. In a match
played a few months earlier, the machine, called AlphaGo, had defeated the
European champion Fan Hui — five
games to none.
Even top A.I. researchers had assumed it would be another decade before a machine could solve the game. Go
is complex — there are more possible
board positions than atoms in the universe — and the best players win not
with sheer calculation, but through intuition.
Two weeks before AlphaGo was revealed, Mr. LeCun said the existence of
such a machine was unlikely.
A few months later, AlphaGo beat Lee
Sedol, the best Go player of the last decade. The machine made moves that baffled human experts but ultimately led to
Many researchers, including the leaders of DeepMind and OpenAI, believe
the kind of self-learning technology that
underpins AlphaGo provided a path to
“superintelligence.” And they believe
progress in this area will significantly
accelerate in the coming years.
OpenAI recently “trained” a system
to play a boat racing video game, encouraging it to win as many game points
as it could. It proceeded to win those
points but did so while spinning in circles, colliding with stone walls and ramming other boats.
It’s the kind of unpredictability that
raise grave concerns about the rise of
A.I., including superintelligence.
“You can now talk about
the risks of A.I. without
seeming like you are lost
in science fiction.”
The deep opposition to these concerns was on display in March at the exclusive conference organized by Amazon and Mr. Bezos in Palm Springs.
One evening, Rodney Brooks, a
roboticist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, debated the potential dangers of A.I. with the neuroscientist, philosopher and podcaster Sam
Harris, a prominent voice of caution on
the issue. The debate got personal, according to a recording obtained by The
Mr. Harris warned that because the
world was in an arms race toward A.I.,
researchers may not have the time
needed to ensure superintelligence is
built in a safe way.
“This is something you have made
up,” Mr. Brooks responded. He implied
that Mr. Harris’s argument was based
on unscientific reasoning. It couldn’t be
proven right or wrong — a real insult
among scientists.
“I would take this personally, if it actually made sense.” Mr. Harris said.
A moderator finally ended the tussle
and asked for questions from the audience. Mr. Etzioni, the head of the Allen
Institute, took the microphone. “I am
not going to grandstand,” he said. But
urged on by Mr. Brooks, he walked onto
the stage and laid into Mr. Harris for
three minutes, saying that today’s A.I.
systems are so limited, spending so
much time worrying about superintelligence just doesn’t make sense.
The people who take Mr. Musk’s side
are philosophers, social scientists, writers — not the researchers who are working on A.I., he said. Among A.I. scientists, the notion that we should start
Addiction that is only now being recognized for what it is
Video games work hard to hook players.
Designers use predictive algorithms
and principles of behavioral economics
to keep fans engaged. When new games
are reviewed, the most flattering accolade might be “I can’t put it down.”
Now, the World Health Organization
is saying that players can actually become addicted.
On Monday, “gaming disorder” will
appear in a new draft of the organization’s International Classification of Diseases, the highly regarded compendium
of medical conditions.
Concerns about the influence of video
games are dovetailing with increasing
scrutiny over the harmful aspects of
technology, as consumers look for ways
to scale back consumption of social media and online entertainment.
The W.H.O. designation may help legitimize worries about video game fans
who neglect other parts of their lives. It
could also make gamers more willing to
seek treatment, encourage more therapists to provide it and increase the
chances that insurance companies
would cover it.
“It’s going to untie our hands in terms
of treatment, in that we’ll be able to treat
patients and get reimbursed,” said Dr.
Petros Levounis, the chairman of the
psychiatry department at Rutgers New
Jersey Medical School. “We won’t have
to go dancing around the issue, calling it
depression or anxiety or some other
consequence of the issue but not the issue itself.”
Around the world, 2.6 billion people
play video games, including two-thirds
of American households, according to
the Entertainment Software Association. Annual revenue for the industry is
expected to grow 31 percent to $180.1 billion globally within three years. Fortnite
— the latest blockbuster, in which play-
ers battle to be the last one standing in
an apocalyptic storm — recently earned
a reported $300 million in a month.
The industry has pushed back against
the W.H.O. classification, which is expected to be formally adopted next year,
calling it “deeply flawed” while pointing
to the “educational, therapeutic and recreational value of games.”
But games have long had an addictive
quality. The game EverQuest, introduced nearly 20 years ago, was nicknamed EverCrack for the long binges it
Now, mental health professionals say
they increasingly see players who have
lost control.
“I have patients who come in suffering from an addiction to Candy Crush
Saga, and they’re substantially similar
The video game industry
is expanding so quickly
that medical research
has struggled to keep up.
to people who come in with a cocaine
disorder,” Dr. Levounis said.
“Their lives are ruined, their interpersonal relationships suffer, their physical
condition suffers.”
Although gaming addiction treatment
is starting to draw more attention, there
is little insurance coverage or accreditation for specialists to treat it.
Wilderness camps and rehabilitation
centers have sprung up, but can cost
tens of thousands of dollars, with scarce
proof of success. Mental health generalists are trying to apply familiar therapies for anxiety or alcoholism to patients with an uncontrollable craving for,
say, World of Warcraft.
Players seeking help often can’t find
it. Kim DeVries, a gift shop owner in Tucson, said she started looking for a game
addiction specialist two years ago, after
her son failed out of college and was
struggling to hold a job.
Ms. DeVries wanted someone who
understood her son’s seeming compulsion to gaze into a glowing screen for 16
hours on some days, subsisting on
crackers and pita chips and listening on
a headset to strangers discussing strategy for League of Legends.
She struck out. “They didn’t exist —
there was just no such thing,” she said.
Ms. DeVries now resorts to forbidding
her son, 24, to play games after 11 p.m.
“At times, I’ll walk by and hear the
tap-tapping on his keyboard, and it’ll
make me shudder,” she said. Her son declined to be interviewed.
The video game industry is expanding so quickly that medical research has
struggled to keep up.
An early study — published in 2009 —
found that nearly 9 percent of young
players were addicted to their games.
Many experts believe that the number
has increased as games have become
more advanced, more social and more
mobile, putting them as close as the
smartphone in your purse or pocket.
“There’s a massive tsunami coming
that we’re not prepared for,” said Cam
Adair, the founder of Game Quitters, an
online support community.
But some mental health professionals
insist that gaming disorder is not a
stand-alone medical condition. Rather,
they see it as a symptom or a side effect
of more familiar conditions, such as depression or anxiety.
“We don’t know how to treat gaming
disorder,” said Nancy Petry, a psychology professor and addiction expert with
the University of Connecticut. “It’s such
a new condition and phenomenon.”
In Asia, a center of video game activity and addiction, rehabilitation centers
designed to stamp out uncontrollable
playing have existed for years. South
A ReStart internet and video game addiction center in Monroe, Wash. A W.H.O. designation of “gaming disorder” as a medical condition could help make treatment easier.
Korea bars young players from online
gaming portals between midnight and 6
a.m. and subsidizes some gaming addiction treatment clinics.
But in the United States, getting care
is often an exercise in frustration.
Many parents and patients rely on
Google and word of mouth. In forums
like StopGaming, struggling players
complain about being laughed at by psychiatrists. No formal organization exists
to set treatment standards and answer
questions, experts said.
“It’s very wild, wild West,” Mr. Adair
said. “There’s no consistent quality control.”
As a teenager, depressed and anxious
after being bullied, Mr. Adair dropped
out of school and began fixating on
games like StarCraft in his parents’
basement in Calgary, Alberta, he said.
He told his parents that he had a job,
but would sneak back home to play. At
19, he said, he considered taking his life,
eventually writing a suicide note.
When Mr. Adair tried to find help, he
found few resources.
He wrote about his struggles online
and later delivered a popular TEDx talk.
Game Quitters, the online forum he
started, now draws 50,000 participants
a month from 91 countries. It suggests
programming, yoga and other activities
to replace gaming.
Another resource, the On-Line
Gamers Anonymous forum, was
founded by Liz Woolley in 2002 after her
son, an avid gamer, committed suicide.
She maintains a list of medical professionals on the site.
“Any type of treatment is better than
nothing,” Ms. Woolley said. “At least we
have somewhere to send people other
than to their basement.”
Another kind of obsessive disorder
may provide a template, and a warning,
for activists seeking more support and
research into gaming addiction: Compulsive gambling was first recognized
by the World Health Organization and
the American Psychiatric Association
more than three decades ago.
Formal recognition from medical organizations helps “bring everybody to
the table,” said Keith S. Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on
Problem Gambling.
But inclusion is “not a magic bullet,”
Mr. Whyte said. A “complex patchwork”
of national and state certifications in the
United States for gambling addiction
made it easier for some insurers to deny
reimbursement, he said.
“You still have to do a tremendous
amount of advocacy,” he said.
Although reliable treatment for gaming addiction can be hard to find, demand is high.
A residential recovery program near
Seattle, ReStart, charges adult patients
nearly $30,000 for the first seven weeks
of care. It has a monthslong waiting list.
Six patients, usually men, are initially
placed at a rural retreat and weaned off
electronics while being taught how to
socialize and exercise. ReStart, which is
nearly a decade old, started a program
for adolescents last year.
Hilarie Cash, a co-founder, said she
was working to develop a certification
program for addiction disorders including internet and gaming dependency.
When she speaks at mental health conferences, she said, she often sees counselors “taking notes like mad.”
Addiction therapists are “getting
called more often” about gaming disorder, Dr. Cash said, and many are “kind
of tacking it onto what they already offer.”
“They’re trying to learn as best they
can,” she said.
8 | MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018
An awful lot of what turns up on runways lately looks less designed than
crowdsourced. The street has been calling the shots in fashion for some time
now and by street, to be clear, what is
meant here is also the old information
superhighway. Easier to stop the tide
than to resist the influence of Instagram,
the effects of which now wash over most
every aspect of visual culture.
It’s old news that designers stage
their shows specifically to pop on the
screen of a smartphone and strain to
come up with looks that are destined to
garner the most likes.
What feels different is a growing
sense that — much as has happened in
journalism and other forms of media —
designers’ messages are not delivered
to, but created in collaboration with
their consumers.
Donatella Versace’s show on Saturday was a stellar example. Staged on an
elevated glass runway in the open-air
courtyard of her company’s 18th century palazzo in central Milan, it featured
a trellis draped with 3,000 lilac-blue wisteria imported from South America and
a cast of both male and female models
(Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid among
them) that come with their own sizable
social media followings.
It was presented for the press and
buyers, of course, but also an audience
of clients so passionate about the label
that they had turned themselves into
Versace cartoons.
Mash-up may be an overused term for
the seemingly random combinations
that by now have become all but formalized in men’s wear.
Yet there again were the familiar
anomalous blends: denims with suit
jackets — in this case oversized ones
with wide lapels and in familiar pinstripes; tabloid print T-shirts in Pop colors played off work wear; squeaky vinyl
short sets and trousers that had you
reaching the imaginary tin of talcum;
giddy microfloral prints followed by
fluorescent suits that, in context,
seemed to have come out of nowhere
(although, in terms of antecedents, see
please: Italo Zucchelli’s spring 2009
men’s collection for Calvin Klein.)
A thoroughly fun show for viewers, it
was silly and sexy, and had a playfulness
not often associated with Ms. Versace,
who gave the appearance of having
tuned into what the kids are doing on social media, and the custom young people
are developing of collaging any random
element of dress with any other, never
mind their historical contexts.
And while Ms. Versace appeared for
her customary bow wearing an hourglass dress that looked punishingly con-
stricting, the show itself suggested a designer who has loosened her corset.
Childlike and sometimes goofball effects have long been a trademark at
Marni — a label that, in retrospect, now
seems to have anticipated quite a few of
the irreverent features that have contributed so mightily to Alessandro Michele’s runaway success at Gucci: his
fur shoes and anomalous pairings, his
explosions in the costume trunk.
And so it was as if in thrall to a tyrannical tyke that the fashion flock obediently followed the Marni designer Francesco Risso down a ramp leading to the
bowels of a landmark 1950s Brutalist
structure, the Torre Velasca, to see his
spring 2019 collection.
Though the theme was sport, it
seemed somehow less than sporting on
a sweltering summer day to sit everyone in un-air-conditioned parking bays
on inflatable Bosu balls and then subject
them to a soundtrack of what sounded
like the squeaker squeals of a recorded
squash game.
As Mr. Risso later explained to the
Italian journalist Tiziana Cardini, he had
been thinking a lot lately about body image and the narrow restrictions of the
physical stereotypes that fashion
prefers and all but enforces. Here again
it was possible to see the positively democratizing effects on design of social
media, where it is a lot tougher to enforce stigmatizing in-crowd rules than it
is in the real world.
To uniform the “imperfect and flawed
and vulnerable” anti-athletes who Mr.
Risso felt have been shut out by fashion,
he devised nerdy high-waist skater
shorts in felted mohair; nylon Windbreakers rolled and knotted at the
waist; floaty bathrobes printed with
patterns drawn from the work of the
American painter Betsy Podlach and
checked cabana suits, whose wide legs
were lopped off at pedal pusher height.
There were also summer puffers
patched together from violently clashing camouflage prints; droopy blazers
right off the sad dad rack at the thrift
shop; oversized newsboy caps that
looked like post-hangover ice bags;
squishy sneakers more reminiscent of
wrestler shoes than of the Balenciaga
Triple S pontoon boats that are the current rage in sneaker footwear; the occasional crown of laurels; and actual
shower shoes because . . . why not?
As memorable as the designs themselves was Mr. Risso’s decision to show
the collection on models in a real array
of shapes and sizes, including one thickset young guy whose fixed look of distaste was either the result of indigestion
or a rebuke to those of us who unthinkingly capitulate, one season after the
next, to a single fashionable body ideal:
that of the pretty male starveling.
MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018 | 9
The riddle of Mr. López Obrador
If victory is
his, he will
show the
world that he
is either a
president for
change or the
that many
Guillermo Osorno
MEXICO CITY With Mexico’s presiden-
tial election less than a month away,
Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s victory seems inevitable. People are not
arguing about whether he will win, but
about the size of his victory.
One reliable poll says he will get 54
percent of the vote in a contest with
two other major candidates, and another suggests that his coalition, Juntos Haremos Historia, will sweep the
Congress. Such a complete victory
would transform Mexico’s political
map, not unlike the way Margaret
Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Carlos
Salinas de Gortari of Mexico realigned
political alliances and national priorities.
After 18 years of trying, and trying
again, Mr. López Obrador, widely
known as AMLO, may have a historic
opportunity. He has said that his presidency will signal the start of Mexico’s
fourth revolution, following independence from Spain in the early 19th
century, the liberal reforms later that
century, and the Mexican Revolution in
the early 20th century.
He promises an austere, nationalist
government that will fight corruption
and inequality. He has said he will
push constitutional amendments to
change Mexico’s energy policy, eliminate immunity for government employees and allow for mechanisms of
direct democracy, such as presidential
referendums. He has repeatedly compared himself to Mexican leaders like
Benito Juárez, Francisco Madero and
Lázaro Cárdenas, which is like an
American candidate comparing himself to George Washington, Abraham
Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Many Mexicans sincerely want to
see change, believing that the country
cannot endure more inequality, corruption and violence. But they also have
serious reservations about his posturing and his dubious alliances, and
wonder if he has what it takes to grasp
the complexity of Mexico’s biggest
The fears that Mr. López Obrador, in
lacking a political counterweight, may
become too powerful are well founded.
But his diagnosis of what Mexcio
needs — a stronger domestic economy
and an end to corruption — and his
strategy to deal with violence, including a vast program to support the
young people who have been caught
up in the in the war against drugs, are
on target.
AMLO started out as a delegate of
the National Indigenous Institute in
the state of Tabasco. He took a leadership role in the party’s local office, but
when he tried to democratize the
organization he was pushed out. In
1988, he joined the political movement
against the candidacy of Mr. Salinas de
Gortari, which led to the founding of
the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or P.R.D. As president of P.R.D. in
Tabasco, he gained national notoriety
when he led marches to protest electoral fraud in his state.
Mr. López Obrador eventually rose
to the head of the P.R.D., and under his
leadership the party secured several
governorships and seats in the Senate
and Chamber of Deputies.
In the 2000 elections, which ended
70 years of P.R.I. dominance, Mr.
López Obrador was elected mayor of
Mexico City. This was a crucial period
and role, allowing him to push financial discipline and austerity policies,
while starting a wide variety of social
programs, the most famous of which
extended monetary aid to senior citizens.
By 2003 he had become one of Mexico’s most popular politicians, with
approval ratings close to 80 percent. In
2006, his presidential bid was as obvious as it was unstoppable.
In terms of style, Mr. López Obrador
stands out against the more technocratic candidates, like José Antonio
Meade, of the center-left P.R.I., and
Ricardo Anaya Cortés, of the conservative P.A.N. His message resonates with
all kind of voters: the working class,
and also young, highly-educated Mexicans.
Mr. López Obrador champions certain traditional leftist values: a concern for inequality and poverty and the
belief that government should be a key
player in the economy. He is a Christian who is not particularly concerned
about gender politics, reproductive
rights or sexual minorities, and a
nationalist who is skeptical of political
and economic formulas imposed from
abroad. He has firmly stated his belief
that the answers to Mexico’s problems
lie in Mexico’s history, rhetoric that
makes him something of a mythweaver. Like most populists, he frequently invokes his connection to the
Mexican people.
This is his third run for the presidency. In 2006, he also led the polls, but in
addition to making
his own mistakes,
his opponents
framed him as a
want to see
dangerous candichange; the
date, comparing him
to Hugo Chávez, the
late Venezuelan
president. The trick
endure more
worked and when
Mr. López Obrador
and violence.
lost by a tiny margin, he refused to
accept the result and
accused the political and economic
elite of rigging the election.
For several weeks, he led protests
that paralyzed Mexico City as he proclaimed himself to be Mexico’s rightful
president. This gamble cost him a
significant amount of political capital,
with many Mexicans regarding him as
self-serving and disrespectful of the
democratic process.
In 2012, following his defeat by
Enrique Peña Nieto, the photogenic
P.R.I candidate, he left the P.R.D. to
form the National Regeneration Movement, known as Morena. In less than
three years, Morena has emerged as a
viable alternative to the entrenched
P.R.I. and P.A.N. parties.
With a fierice persistence, he has
forged yet another path to the presidency.
To broaden his political reach, this
time around Mr. López Obrador has
allied himself with a range of political
players: corrupt union leaders and
representatives of the far right.
Mr. López Obrador’s campaign has
also been helped along by the current
government’s dismal approval ratings.
Fed up with corruption, the slumping
economy and the surge in violent
crime during Mr. Peña Nieto’s six-year
term, many Mexicans tend to view Mr.
López Obrador as the only alternative
for real change.
In the quest to win over Mexico’s
business sector, AMLO has positioned
himself as a political moderate. In an
effort to assure they will not fall into
the kind of deep debt that plagues so
many leftist governments in Latin
America, his advisers promise sound
fiscal policy, to control foreign debt
(which ballooned in 2017), and to slash
a third of the country’s highest-paid
government jobs.
Hovering over this election are the
candidates’ strategies for confronting
the bully in the White House, defending the rights of Mexicans living in the
United States, while maintaining the
economic relationship with our northern neighbor that is vital to the Mexican economy. Mr. López Obrador and
his team have issued a categorical
defense of Nafta.
During the second presidential
debate on May 20, which focused on
foreign affairs and United StatesMexico relations, Mr. López Obrador
reiterated that the best foreign policy
is domestic policy: deal with solving
the many problems inside Mexico
before attempting to solve regional
problems. He also suggested that
Mexico’s relationship with the White
House would naturally improve under
his stewardship because of the renewed moral authority he would bring
to the presidency following Mr. Peña
Nieto’s corrupt government.
Not long ago some prominent business leaders confronted him on his
decision to halt the construction of
Art Buchwald, my father and me
A Pakistani
writer recalls
how, as a
child, her
father and
his bookshelf
her to
humor and
foretold her
choice of
Bina Shah
KARACHI, PAKISTAN When I was a child,
my father earned a Ph.D in international relations at the University of
Virginia, and I grew up surrounded by
his books and papers everywhere in
our small apartment overlooking the
mountains surrounding Charlottesville. After he completed his studies,
writing his thesis on international
arms transfers to Iran, we moved back
to Pakistan in 1977. My dad had already shipped his books home, so he
could display them proudly on his
bookshelves like hallowed objects.
By the time I turned 8, I was reading
at an eighth-grade level, and I had
made my way through all the ageappropriate books in my elementary
school library. So I spent many hours
amusing myself by trying to read my
father’s hardback copies of “The Iliad”
and “The Odyssey” and pretending I
knew exactly what Homer was trying
to say.
My father had hoped to use his
doctorate in some way in Pakistan,
either teaching at a university or in an
advisory position at a government
council or think tank. But the family
business was agriculture, so between
weekly trips to our family-owned farm
in rural Sindh, he did his best to keep
up with what was happening in the
world in those pre-internet, pre-satellite television days.
Pakistan was under the dictatorship
of Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, and
while we weren’t completely isolated
from the world, good sources of international news were hard to find. English news ran twice a day on the stateowned television — 15 minutes in the
afternoon, a half-hour at night. Once a
week, my dad drove downtown to the
Holiday Inn — the only hotel in town
with a bookstore — to buy The International Herald Tribune, Time, Newsweek and academic journals like Foreign Affairs. If I was with him, he’d
buy me a Mad magazine, which I
found unbelievably racy and exciting.
Soon the gaptoothed Alfred E. Neuman
felt like a long-lost cousin we’d left
behind in America.
Among my father’s serious-looking
(and seriously boring) books on
Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson and Middle
East politics, there was a slim paperback. Its cover provoked my 8-yearold’s curiosity: a man wearing a gray
suit and heavy 1960s-style glasses
stood waist deep in the waters of the
Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln
Memorial. In his hands he clutched a
file on which the words TOP SECRET
were handwritten in big black letters.
The book was “Washington Is Leaking,” by the satirical columnist Art
I had no idea who Art Buchwald
was, nor what satire was. But I’d been
to the Lincoln Memorial. I’d also
grown up hearing people talk about
“Washington” in the same hushed
tones as they said “Watergate.” Maybe
this pool the man was standing in was
the “Watergate” that everyone was
talking about? I was born a month
after the 1972 Watergate break-in, and
The writer, age 14, and her father in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1986.
we were still in the United States when
President Richard M. Nixon finally
resigned in 1974. The repercussions of
that political earthquake continued for
years, and it was a frequent topic of
discussion among my father’s graduate student friends and professors.
Even at 8, I knew that Washington and
Watergate were hot stuff.
The book’s cover promised me “A
New Tidal Wave of Merriment” and,
quoting Publishers Weekly, that it was
“Loaded With Laughs.” But when I
gingerly tried to read some of the
columns in the book, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t laughing. Henry
Kissinger was telling his wife, Nancy,
that he was tired of playing Superman
and only wanted to stay home and play
dominoes. Huh? My father talked
about Mr. Kissinger all the time; he
was someone important, I knew, but
who? What were the Pentagon Papers? What was the difference between Peking duck and San Clemente
Crow? A domino theory of geopolitics
was beyond imagination. It still is.
Yet even as I knew I wasn’t getting
it, I knew there was something there to
get. A kind of humor that adults appreciated, but children couldn’t. I’d seen
my father reading from the book to my
mother, both of them guffawing at the
sentences. I was intrigued by the idea
of “hunting lodges and other places of
ill repute.” The book was telling me
about a bigger world with all sorts of
secrets and stories that had something
glamorous, something seedy, something compelling and shameful all at
the same time. And the way it was
being said, in a sly, backward way,
hinted at a code you’d use to decipher
the words and suddenly you’d be in on
the secret, too.
In the mid-1980s, Pakistan’s biggest
English-language newspaper, Dawn,
started to run Art Buchwald’s syndicated columns once a week. My father
would snatch them up first thing in the
morning; I got the newspaper, rumpled and creased, when I came home
from school in the afternoon. By the
time I finished high school in 1989, I
knew that Mr. Buchwald was one in a
long tradition of American humorists,
like Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken and
others who used their wit to poke holes
in the egos of the rich and powerful.
Pakistani satirists had to tread more
carefully. Arrests of writers and journalists were frequent. Satire was best
known in a television program called
“Fifty Fifty,” with a talented group of
comedic actors who made smart commentary on social and political issues
while daringly dodging the state censors. Political cartoonists like Feica
used their pens and paper instead of
words, but even they had to be wary of
censure. How they would have loved
the security of the First Amendment,
with its assurance that the governSHAH, PAGE 11
Andrés Manuel
López Obrador, a
Mexican presidential candidate,
greeted supporters
in Guerrero State
in May.
10 | MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018
What kept me from killing myself
Kevin Powers
A.G. SULZBERGER, Publisher
DEAN BAQUET, Executive Editor
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No, Hillary
emails will
never go away.
That doesn’t
mean James
Comey worked
to get her
elected in 2016.
As political bombshells go, this one proved to be something of a dud.
For months, the White House and Congress had
been anxiously awaiting the report from Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice’s inspector general,
on a host of politically ticklish moves made by the
F.B.I. and the Department of Justice during the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email
President Trump in particular had been itching to
brandish the findings as proof of a sprawling “deep
state” plot to bring him down — a plot that, as best
anyone can tell, exists wholly within the fever swamp
of the president’s imagination.
The report, released Thursday afternoon, ran a
whopping 500 pages, but its conclusion can be
summed up pretty tidily: Plenty of people did plenty
of breathtakingly stupid things, but there is no evidence that political bias affected the outcome of the
F.B.I.’s investigation.
As such, if any of the bureau’s errors had any impact on the outcome in 2016, it seems clear that the
most consequential was the decision by the former
F.B.I. director, James Comey, less than two weeks
before the election, to announce that the investigation
into Mrs. Clinton’s email was being reopened, a move
that almost certainly aided Mr. Trump.
Mr. Horowitz was supremely unimpressed with the
conduct of the players involved. The report questioned
whether Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director
of the F.B.I., should have further distanced himself
from certain matters because his wife had once received political contributions from a former Virginia
governor, Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton pal.
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch is criticized
for, among other ditherings, not cutting short her impromptu tarmac visit from Bill Clinton in June 2016. At
the very least, having declined to recuse herself, Ms.
Lynch would have been wise to keep a closer eye —
and shorter leash — on Mr. Comey, her F.B.I. chief.
Mr. Comey receives a thrashing in the report. Mr.
Horowitz found that the former F.B.I. director repeatedly crossed the line from arrogance to insubordination: Mr. Comey was wrong to unilaterally announce
in July 2016 that charges would not be brought against
Mrs. Clinton; he was wrong to announce so close to
Election Day that the Clinton email investigation was
being reopened, and, in one of the richer fresh tidbits
to emerge, he was wrong to conduct official business
via his own private email account.
The most inflammatory takeaway involves the antiTrump texts exchanged by Peter Strzok and Lisa
Page, two bureau officials who worked on both the
Clinton investigation and the inquiry into interaction
between the Trump campaign and Russia. As previously revealed, in an August 2016 exchange, Ms. Page
texted Mr. Strzok, who was at that time a lead agent in
the Russia investigation: Mr. Trump is “not ever going
to become president, right? Right?!” Mr. Strzok’s
reply, newly revealed in Thursday’s report: “No. No
he won’t. We’ll stop it.” (Mr. Strzok was removed from
the Russia investigation when these texts came to his
boss’s attention last summer.) Such Trump bashing,
concluded Mr. Horowitz, “is not only indicative of a
biased state of mind but, even more seriously, implies
a willingness to take official action to impact the presidential candidate’s electoral prospects.”
All told, Horowitz found five bureau officials involved with the Clinton investigation who’d sent messages indicating an anti-Trump bias. The report calls
out these individuals as having “cast a cloud” over the
investigation and damaged the bureau’s reputation.
But! Horowitz’s report also confirms that mouthing
off by a handful of officials did not add up to a secret
plot against Mr. Trump. The inspector general’s office
said it “did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that improper considerations, including political
bias, directly affected the specific investigative actions
we reviewed.” Similarly, for all of Mr. Comey’s bad
choices, investigators “did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey’s part.”
Republicans seized on the report as proof that the
deep state really is out to get Mr. Trump. The StrzokPage texts understandably drew the most fire.
Shortly before the findings were released, Attorney
General Jeff Sessions told a reporter that he expected
“a careful report” from the inspector general that
would “help us better fix any problems that we have
and reassure the American people that some of the
concerns that have been raised are not true.”
Mr. Sessions got his careful report. Sadly, the president and his minions are committed to making sure
that it in no way reassures the American people.
Books saved my life. Those four words
seem absurd. And yet I believe them to
be true as much as or more than I believe anything else that I can’t prove.
In the early summer of 2005, removed
from my participation in the fiasco that
was the war in Iraq, I took my unspent
pay and plunked it down for a year’s
rent on a small apartment across from
the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in
Richmond. I was living without intention then, and though that may sound
like some self-help mantra, what I mean
is that I was utterly adrift and more or
less uninterested in either sailing or
getting back to shore. My needs were
few and simple. The door locked. The
shades came down. And a 7-Eleven two
blocks away sold cold beer from morning to midnight.
Certainly the war was one of the
things I wanted to shut the door against,
but the fact that the whole world got
shut out along with it felt like a fortu-
itous turn of events. Whether my distress was the result of brain chemistry
or some malformed gene or what I saw
in Iraq or entirely brought on by my own
actions, it was real enough that I was
willing to do almost anything to make it
I was fairly successful in that effort
for a while. The side effects of prescribing yourself a case of Milwaukee’s Best
every day are unpleasant, but if the goal
is not to feel at all, the efficacy of the
dose is unparalleled. I had been drinking to excess with some regularity since
I was 14. I would spend nearly six
months of 2005 drunk. The only human
contact I had were the brief words I
exchanged with the cashier as she rang
up two 12 packs, two big bite hot dogs
and two packs of smokes. That was my
life, and I began to wonder if it deserved
the name.
The ultimate problem I encountered
was that my mind and heart resisted my
attempts to drown them. A temporary
solution, especially one that only superficially addressed how impossible I
found being to be, was no longer sufficient. I began to feel that what seemed
to be a permanent problem called for a
permanent solution.
Throughout that summer and into the
fall, floating in a pool of cheap beer, just
below the surface of my semiconsciousness, was the constant thought: Maybe
I won’t wake up this time. I doubt much
needs to be said about the kind of despair that would make such an idea a
source of comfort, despair that came not
from accepting that
things were as bad as
I was willing
they were going to
to do almost
get but, worse, that
anything to
they might go on like
make my
that forever. The next
suffering stop. step felt both logical
and inevitable.
And yet I’m here
writing this almost 13 years later, despite the fact that in the perpetual semidarkness of that Richmond apartment, I
wanted to not be, wanted to not be with
an intensity that very few desires in my
subsequent life have equaled.
I wrote that books saved my life, and
while I believe this to be true, I’m not
exactly sure how they did that. If I knew
what variable was at work that with-
drew suicide from my list of options, I
would dedicate my life to spreading that
knowledge. But I don’t have that information. What I have instead is correlation and speculation.
As I drifted further and further into
my quarantined stupor, my attempts to
read anything became ridiculous, often
resulting in a book held diagonally in a
trembling hand, examined with one eye
squinted and the other shut, until I
eventually added the reading of books
to the many other higher order activities that had once separated me from
the rest of the nonhuman animal kingdom and that I could no longer reliably
perform. But one day, for some reason, I
picked up “The Collected Poems of
Dylan Thomas” and found that the
following oft-quoted lines of Thomas’s
provided me with a moment of, for lack
of a better word, grace: “These poems,
with all their crudities, doubts, and
confusions, are written for the love of
Man and in praise of God, and I’d be a
damn’ fool if they weren’t.”
You may think that by using the word
“grace” and including a quotation about
praising God, I’m claiming that something miraculous happened or trying to
smuggle in a religious answer to the
universal difficulty of being a person.
No. What spoke to me were the references to “crudities, doubts, and confusions,” for nothing came as close to
characterizing what my life had become
as those three words. I was, I thought,
crudity, doubt and confusion personified.
For the first time in a long while I
recognized myself in another, and somehow that simple tether allowed me to
slowly pull myself away from one of the
most terrifying beliefs common to the
kind of ailment I’m describing: that one
is utterly alone, uniquely so, and that
this condition is permanent. I wish I
could say that at that moment I took up
my bed and walked, but I didn’t. I
needed the help of real-life human
beings over a significant period before I
got better, and staying better requires
diligence and attention even now.
But over the following months, the
tether to the world outside my mind was
made stronger by other books, until I
came to the belief that the whole range
of human experience, including suffering and pain, when witnessed or shared,
could be transformed into a kind of
transcendent awe. In a strange way, the
same impulse that led me toward selfdestruction — the desire to erase the
self — was still at work in my life. What
changed was that I started to see immersion in a book as a reliable alternative to drink or death.
I have sometimes heard art described
as anything created without discernible
utility, but my experience tells me otherwise. I have found books to be profoundly and incomparably useful in my
life, for they helped me hold on to it.
a veteran of the war in
Iraq, is the author of the novels “A
Shout in the Ruins” and “The Yellow
Krauthammer’s democratic vocation
Bret Stephens
Charles Krauthammer, the Washington
Post columnist, announced on June 8
that he is stricken with terminal cancer
and has only weeks to live. Since then,
the tributes have poured forth, and
rightly so. Charles taught generations of
readers and fellow writers how to reason, persuade, live — and now how to
These things are all connected because wisdom and goodness are entwined and, deep down, perhaps identical. Of Charles’s goodness — his qualities as a father, friend and colleague; his
courage and resilience as a man — the
tributes from people who know him
much better than I do richly testify.
Of his wisdom, we have 38 years’
worth of columns, essays, speeches and
spoken commentaries. If you lean conservative, as I do, the experience of a
Krauthammer column was almost
invariably the same: You’d read the
piece and think, “that’s exactly it.” Not
just “interesting” or “well written” or
“mostly right.” Week after week, his was
the clearest and smartest expression of
the central truth of nearly every subject: a bad Supreme Court nomination,
the joys and humiliations of chess, the
future of geopolitics.
And if you don’t lean conservative?
Then Charles’s writing served an even
more useful purpose. Since I’m not
aware of any precise antonym to the
term “straw man,” I hereby nominate
the noun “krauthammer” to serve the
function, defined in two ways: (1) as the
strongest possible counterargument to
your opinion; (2) a person of deep substance and complete integrity.
There might be a verb in this, too. As
in: “Frank Bruni’s column last week
totally krauthammered Robert DeNiro,
Samantha Bee and the rest of the rageagainst-Trump machine.”
Still, this falls short of explaining
Charles’s achievement. Whether you
agreed with him or not, Charles’s column taught. There is a style of Beltway
columnizing that specializes in reporting, sometimes usefully but rarely
profoundly. That’s not teaching. There’s
also the data-heavy column, also occasionally useful, but those too generally
mistake information for insight.
But nobody turned to Charles’s column for actuarial data on Social Security or the latest dubious leak from Devin
Nunes. Smaller subjects he left to
smaller writers. Charles could write
political columns with the best of them,
but the game for him was philosophical,
not partisan. His conservatism was
never about getting Republicans
elected in the fall. It was about conserv-
ing the institutions, values and temper
of a free and humane world.
How? By getting his readers to raise
their sights above the parapets of momentary passion and parochial interest.
This didn’t mean that all of his calls were
right — columnizing isn’t clairvoyance,
especially under deadline pressure —
but he did get readers
to think carefully
He argued
about the great
with rigor,
things so frequently
not rancor;
at stake in seemingly
small questions. To
not certitude.
read Charles was to
be invited into a
running conversation
about the meaning, foundations and
aims of politics in the grand sense.
Also important were the decencies
Charles was prepared to defend, and the
risks he was prepared to run — not least
to his own popularity with his own side.
That brings to mind one of his last columns, about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting
with a Russian lawyer: “Bungled collusion is still collusion.”
Charles Krauthammer in his office in Washington in 2005.
“It turned out to be incompetent
collusion, amateur collusion, comically
failed collusion,” he wrote. “That does
not erase the fact that three top Trump
campaign officials were ready to play.”
This may seem self-evident to many
readers, but given Charles’s place in the
conservative world it was some muchneeded and even gutsy truth telling. Too
bad the same can’t be said of most rightwing pundits whose former convictions
have gone the way of Groucho Marx:
“Those are my principles, and if you
don’t like them, well, I have others.”
Finally there’s the question of tone.
The dominant mode of social-media
political opinion is snark. Of cable TV:
sneering. Of talk radio: shouting. A good
deal of opinion writing today seems to
involve no effort at persuasion, but
merely the dull repetition of a political
catechism comforting to the already
converted. Trump voters are all racists!
Conservatives are all dishonest! Liberals hate America!
Charles never wrote that way. Beliefs
firmly held in his mind seemed to mingle with bemusement tickling his gut. If
the great theme of his work is the defense of what we proudly used to call
Western civilization, the great theme of
his life is the cultivation of a civilized
mind. With every commentary, he
taught us how such a mind worked.
Charles’s parting letter is, appropriately, about gratitude. “I am grateful,”
he writes, “to have played a small role in
the conversations that have helped
guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny.”
Not so small, Charles. To those who
read, watched, knew, or felt they knew
you — we’re talking about millions of
Americans here — you showed what it
means to be a man of independent mind
and sound judgment, up for the defense
of the things we hold dearest, the things
that matter. It’s what you might call the
democratic vocation.
Lowercase “d,” of course, Charles,
and thank you.
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MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018 | 11
The astrology cure
Krista Burton
Is it the end of America’s world order?
explaining those changes and easing
their impact on workers and their
Widening disparity of outcomes and
fewer avenues of opportunity call the
fundamental fairness of the current
system into question. Terrible, costly
mistakes like the Iraq war and the
2008 financial crisis destroyed the
credibility of experts who are culpable
for the failures but insulated from the
consequences. And America’s allies
celebrate the generosity of their social
welfare systems and disparage ours,
while spending less than America does
to defend their countries.
These are all fair points, and they
help explain the rise of Mr. Trump and
the declining appreciation for a liberal
order. But none of these things invalidates the importance of sustaining a
system in which America benefits
more than other geometries of order
will permit.
Let’s review what, exactly, that order
is. Beginning in the wreckage of World
War II, America established a set of
global norms that solidified its position
atop a rules-based international system. These included promoting democracy, making enduring commitments
to countries that share its values,
protecting allies, advancing free trade
and building institutions and patterns
of behavior that legitimize American
power by giving less powerful countries a say.
That last point is critical, and it is the
genius of the system. America benefits
from supporting others. The American
security umbrella enables friendly
governments to attract investment and
grow peacefully. It encourages cooperation. The system allows America and
other countries to share the costs of
preserving common defense and the
free movement of goods and people
(although sometimes others put in less
than Americans would like).
The world has never seen anything
like this — a superpower constraining
itself to such a degree — or the peace
and stability it brings. America doesn’t
always get it right; often it’s clumsy,
fails to live up to its ideology, and
breaks its own rules.
But the results speak for themselves.
It has been over 70 years since the last
great-power conflict. Democracies
fight lots of wars, but they do not fight
other democracies. The wars they fight
are about enlarging the perimeter of
security and prosperity, expanding and
consolidating the liberal order.
The global economy has grown
about sevenfold since 1960, adjusted
for inflation. Free people and free
markets have produced most of the
strongest and most prosperous states
in the international order, and those
states have linked themselves through
alliances, institutions and trade regimes that are mutually beneficial.
Contrary to the president’s core
complaint, the American-led order isn’t
that expensive, especially as compared
with the alternatives. About 40 percent
of America’s gross domestic product
was allocated to the military during
World War II. It now stands at less
than 4 percent — not an unreasonable
price for a tried-and-true insurance
The president and his fellow critics
argue that if America does less, others
will do more — that its largess facilitates free riders. That hasn’t proved
true with its closest friends: Since the
end of the Cold War in 1991, the United
States has reduced its military forces
in Europe by about 85 percent. But
Europeans have even more significantly cut their
defense spending,
and become more
tentative about the
has brought
use of military force.
peace and
Far from emboldprosperity for ening allies, the
American drawdown
70 years.
has made them less
likely to act.
And if others do
more, they may not be the right others,
and what they do may not serve America’s interests. Russia has been doing
more in Europe since the United States
drew down, and more in Syria as a
result of America’s doing so little.
China is doing more in the South and
East China Seas, and its activities will
greatly complicate American military
operations in defense of allies, in preserving the free flow of commerce and
even in protecting its own territory.
The Islamic State in part grew out of
the United States doing too little to
consolidate the gains of the surge in
Iraq and caring too little about the
Syrian government’s depredations
against its people. None of these are
outcomes that advance American
Now imagine the longer term. China
is already demonstrating that not only
will it not play by the rules of the
American-led order, but it also intends
to write and enforce new rules. Absent
American opposition, it will continue to
force smaller, weaker states in East
Asia into submission and expand its
control over sea traffic. It will use
technology to monitor, restrain and
penalize critics worldwide. A Chineseled world order would be one of privileges rather than rights, power rather
than law, tribute rather than alliance.
That’s a very costly peace — if it
even succeeds at sustaining peace.
More likely, if the United States does
not sustain the order, a rising power
will eventually force it to defend its
interests or succumb. That is what
happened in every power transition
except the one between Britain and the
United States — an exception born of
their democratic similarities, and one
unlikely to be repeated with the United
States and China.
Mr. Trump’s attack on the liberal
world order is not just about the price
America pays for it. He seems bent on
destroying the friendships and respect
that bind America and its allies. If he
succeeds, America will be seen as —
and may even become — no different
from Russia and China, and countries
will have no reason to assist America’s
efforts rather than theirs.
America has been dominant for so
long that it takes for granted outcomes
that support its policies and interests,
and undervalues the systemic advantages of institutions and norms. Yet Mr.
Trump may end up proving an illiberal
preserver of the liberal international
order. By calling into question so many
fundamental elements of the system
that the United States built in the
devastated aftermath of World War II,
he is forcing Americans to imagine a
world in which the United States does
not tend the garden of international
order, as George Shultz describes
foreign policy.
Americans want an international
order that makes them safe and prosperous. And no doubt this fall, when
Mr. Trump gets his military parade in
Washington, we will hear no end of
boasts about American power. And
during the midterm elections, we will
hear all sorts of talk about how the
president has made America great
But those boasts will ring hollow if,
at the same time, America lets go of
the world order that is its greatest
achievement. Tending the garden that
the hard men who fought World War II
labored to create is a much less expensive undertaking than allowing it to fall
into disrepair and having to recreate it.
is the deputy directorgeneral of the International Institute
for Strategic Studies.
In April I visited a crystal store in
Minneapolis. Soft synthesized chimes
played, the kind of sounds you get
when you search for “spa music” on
Pandora. I flipped through “The Crystal Bible” looking for a stone with
healing properties for my sacral
chakra — a center of spiritual power in
the body. Next to me, a woman in a
purple velvet newsboy hat examined
fragrant bundles of palo santo wood,
Spanish for “holy wood,” a serious look
on her face.
It had come to this.
“Is this the gayest moment of my
life?” I wondered.
(No, it was not: I once slept with a
woman who rubbed her hands with a
squirt of organic lavender hand sanitizer from an enormous pump bottle
before touching my shoulder while
Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” played in
the background.)
But the crystal store moment made
it to my Top 5.
I was in a crystal store because I
had injured my tailbone in February,
and it wasn’t healing. It turns out you
need your butt to do everything, and
after seeing a doctor and two chiropractors, I was referred to a massage
therapist/energy worker who worked
out of a chiropractor’s office.
The masseuse grazed her hands
over my body and informed me that
my root chakra, at the base of my
spine, was holding a lot of grief about
my mother and could not heal until I
addressed it and cleared the chakra.
Five years ago, I would have
laughed and dismissed the energy
worker’s diagnosis as nonsense. Expensive woo-woo garbage for suckers.
My root chakra? O.K. And this session
of hand-fluttering was how much —
$90? Ohhhkay.
But I stiffened on her massage table,
and my eyes, squished into the puffy
face cushion, widened — I hadn’t told
her my mom had recently died.
And soon after that, I found myself
in line to buy a polished sphere of
root-healing red carnelian. Two middleaged women with matching haircuts
held hands in front of me as they
bought an oversize amethyst cluster.
They nodded at me as they left, recognizing me for what I am now: one of
It took me 15 years as a lesbian to
finally become a person who pays
attention to whether Mercury is in
retrograde, someone who is excited
about the summer solstice on June 21,
a person who reads her Chani Nicholas
horoscope each week with bated
This is the part of queer culture I
used to mock the hardest. It has
rubbed off on me, at last. And it seems
I’m not alone. There has been a 40
percent increase in Google searches
for “crystal healing”
over the past four
I know that a
crystal is not
Major beauty
going to heal
brands like Glossier,
me. But
Aveda and Dr.
what’s wrong
Brandt have crystalwith hope?
and gemstone-enhanced products.
You can buy clear
quartz yoni eggs off Instagram to tap
the inherent chakral sexual energy
radiating from your genitals. And
people who say things like “Oh! You’re
a Gemini? That makes so much sense”
in public are met with solemn nods, not
But wait — queers don’t have a
monopoly on crystals, tarot or astrology, you say. Of course we don’t; pagan
rituals and practices have been around
for thousands of years.
Yet show me a larger group of people who’ve been more discarded by
their childhood religions, or who’ve
turned their backs on cultures, tradi-
tions and gods that don’t serve, love or
want them as they are. Oh, look — it’s
the queers waving back at you, plumes
of smoke from smudge sticks wafting
behind us like spiritual chemtrails as
we sage away those negative vibes.
In short: Lots of us are really into
this stuff, and always have been. And
where queers go, Urban Outfitters
follows, years behind but ready to sell
cheap crystal-, “witchcraft”- and astrology-themed jewelry to teenagers.
Why is all of this so trendy now,
though? Is astrology a religion for
those of us with no religion? Are we,
the hated millennials, obsessed with
the idea of glimpsing our future because it feels terrifying and President
Trump is going to get us all nuked
anyway? Is it easier to just buy a
heart-shaped rose quartz than deal
with feelings or existential questions
or to work on ourselves?
The meteoric rise of New Age practices may be trendy, but it’s one way
millennials are acknowledging that the
current system isn’t working. We’re
trying out new things that are actually
old things; we’re seeing what else
could make life a little more meaningful, a little more bearable.
And if something helps you during a
time of stress in your life, it’s worth it
— even if you suspect it might be
turning you into a caricature of the
kind of lesbian you swore you’d never
When my turn came at the register, I
handed over my red carnelian and the
clerk gently wrapped it in tissue. “You
have a good day,” he said, giving it
back. I cradled it, trying to decide
which windowsill I would put it in at
my house. The one with the morning
light, I thought. Right next to my
mom’s thin gold necklace, the one I
always put in my mouth as I sat on her
lap in church.
Now, I’m not stupid. I may be a
woo-woo, crystal-worshiping homosexual, but I know that a polished red rock
is not going to heal my tailbone. It’s not
going to bring my mom back either. It
may not do a thing. But none of us
know anything about anything, really.
So why not be open to the possibility of
is a writer for the online
magazine Rookie.
Whatever happens
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Mr. López Obrador: a riddle Satire, my
dad and me
Mexico City’s new airport, a $13 billion
venture, if he is elected. Mr. López
Obrador insisted that it was an exorbitant project plagued with corruption,
and claimed to have a less expensive
solution up his sleeve.
Though later on he backpedaled,
saying that the suspension of the
project was not yet final, his position
ignited a fiery round of accusations
from many business organizations. In
his characteristic tone of moral superiority, Mr. López Obrador announced
that a certain clique of businessmen
are part of a “mafia of power” who feel
that they own Mexico. In retaliation,
these business groups have published
newspaper inserts protesting his treatment, and a few moguls have started
open campaigns to dissuade Mexicans
from voting for him.
Recently, Mr. López Obrador has
made his way back to the path of moderation. One of Mexico’s main television
stations visited him at home and presented him as a no-frills Christian man
with an intelligent and charming wife.
Judging by his track record as the
mayor of Mexico City, it seems likely
that as president he would maintain a
shrewd, responsible fiscal policy, to
fight corruption and expand social
policies. But it also seems likely that if
he secures absolute power he would
mobilize his ground troops to fight his
enemies, divide the world into good
guys and bad guys, and use strategies
such as popular referendums to avert
legal obstacles.
Mr. López Obrador must understand
that he will rule for all.
He is right to stress that Mexico
suffers from crony capitalism, and that
many public institutions have been
kidnapped by private interests. But he
clouds the atmosphere when, during
his rallies, he calls businesspeople
predatory and Supreme Court judges
gangsters, or when
he belittles the efThe
forts of the civil
society as a mask to
advance personal
interests. And if he
will fight corruption,
that he will
he should also aim
rule for all.
toward some of his
own clique.
If he wins the
presidency, and takes a majority in the
Congress, his proposed constitutional
amendments will be fast-tracked. And
his success will revive the nagging
question in the mind of many Mexicans
these days: Will he be an agent for
change, or the strongman of yet another Mexican revolution?
is Mexican journalist
and writer. He is the publisher of, an online magazine.
ment couldn’t punish them for their
pointed humor.
There was one joke I still remember
from “Washington Is Leaking,” in a
column titled, “You’ve Flown a Long
Way, Baby.” It goes like this: “Everyone has his own favorite airline story
from years gone by. My favorite took
place in the late forties when I was
flying from Belgrade to Zagreb in
Yugoslavia. We were sitting on a DC-3
when one pilot got on board. There was
no stewardess. The plane took off, and
in a half-hour the one pilot of the plane
came back to the cabin and started
serving coffee and candy sourballs. We
all gasped when we saw him walk out
of the cockpit. The pilot grinned and
said: ‘What’s the matter? You people
have never heard of automatic pilot’?”
Relieved to finally find something
clearly funny, I howled with laughter.
Then I told my father how much I
loved Art Buchwald. My father looked
at me as if this was a perfectly normal
thing for an 8-year-old to say and
responded, “You’re going to be a writer
yourself one day.”
is the author of several books
of fiction, including the forthcoming
“Before She Sleeps.”
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12 | MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018
What’s in a name? For announcers, a lot
On Baseball
Dan Baker, the Philadelphia Phillies’
longtime public-address announcer,
read out the starting lineups for a
recent game. Certain names he was
particularly proud of, but not for anything they had done on the field.
“Leading off for the Philadelphia
Phillies, No. 16, second baseman César
Hernández,” Baker boomed.
That was, César (SAY-sar), as it is
said in Spanish, or pretty close for
someone whose only formal instruction in the language was three years in
high school. Many people, after all, just
say it the Anglicized way, like the salad
“Even if I don’t get it 100 percent
correct, the players appreciate the
effort,” Baker, 71, said.
Major League Baseball this season
has players from a record 21 countries
and territories outside the continental
United States. The majority of them
are Spanish-speaking, with names that
can be tricky for English-speaking
broadcasters and public-address announcers to pronounce accurately.
The league publishes a pronunciation guide every year, compiled with
input from each of the 30 teams, but it
sometimes confuses as much as it
The suggested pronunciation for the
Kansas City Royals outfielder Abraham Almonte is al-MONN-tay, more
faithful to Spanish (al-MOHN-tay),
while for the Colorado Rockies
prospect Yency Almonte it is alMAHN-tay, which leans more to English.
The league has been making greater
efforts to recognize the presence,
impact and history of Latino players,
producing television commercials on
them and printing accent marks on
jerseys. But in this case, announcers
are not always certain what to do,
some striving to be sensitive but others not wanting to sound like they are
“If a player felt it important enough
to come to me and say, ‘Hey, I prefer if
you pronounced it such and such a
way,’ then absolutely,” said Howie
Rose, 64, the longtime radio voice of
the New York Mets. “It’s your name.
But I don’t feel comfortable trying to
use those affectations that are totally
foreign to me and totally foreign to the
majority of our listening audience.”
Rose does not speak any Spanish, so
he cannot roll his r’s and would not
always know the proper syllables to
stress. He said he would alter his pronunciation if a player asked, which
notably happened with the Hall of
Fame first baseman Tony Pérez, who is
from Cuba.
Near the end of Pérez’s career in the
1980s, he requested that his name be
pronounced PAY-rez, closer to the
Spanish way, instead of peh-REZ,
which English speakers tend to say.
When César Hernández of the Phillies comes to bat, the team’s public-address announcer pronounces his first name SAY-sar, as it is said in Spanish, not SEE-zar, like the salad.
Although Rose was not broadcasting
Mets games yet, he heard about
Pérez’s change, and it forever changed
his pronunciations of other Perezes.
If players have not voiced a preference, Rose said he uses what is easiest
for him on the air. To him, it might
sound forced to enunciate like a native
Spanish speaker. “I’d botch it 10,000
ways to Sunday and it wouldn’t sound
genuine,” he said. “It wouldn’t sound
I explained to Rose that I, too, often
wrestled with the question of how to
pronounce Spanish names in an English context. Growing up, I spoke English to my father, an American, and
Spanish to my mother, who is
Nicaraguan. I learned how to say the
names of players like Alex Rodriguez
and Carlos Beltrán both the Spanish
and English way.
My mother often corrected me when
I said Rodriguez’s name the Anglicized
way when speaking English. She argued that I spoke Spanish, and the
name should be said the correct way.
But to me, what really is the proper
pronunciation? Isn’t it all relative?
When I noticed the variations in the
M.L.B. guide, I thought of my mother’s
Late in his career Tony Pérez asked that
his surname be pronounced PAY-rez.
Adrián González has his last name rendered correctly in Spanish on his uniform, with
an accent mark, but his first name is pronounced differently in English and in Spanish.
Yet many players cut announcers
and broadcasters a lot of slack, even if
they prefer a correct pronunciation
and — with accent marks on their
jerseys — have a clear preference for
correct spelling, too.
“Everyone pronounces it differently,”
said Christian Villanueva (vee-yahnoo-WAY-vah in Spanish), the Mexican-born third baseman for the San
Diego Padres. “For some it’s Vil-LANueva or others Vil-la-NYU-eva. It’d be
Phil Mickelson’s ‘moment of madness’
On Golf
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. At the United
States Open, the golf world watched
Phil Mickelson melt down: He jogged
after yet another errant putt and
shockingly swatted the moving ball
back toward the hole with his putter.
The missed putt on Saturday was
one of dozens during the tournament
by Mickelson, and his response to yet
another disappointment was familiar
to any golfer.
He snapped. It was an act of frustration.
For such a serious breach of golf’s
rules, Mickelson could have been
disqualified from the championship. In
a technicality, or a generous rules
interpretation by the United States
Golf Association, Mickelson was assessed only a two-stroke penalty and
allowed to play on.
But the bigger damage came after
Mickelson’s third round at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club ended with a
discomforting score of 81, which left
him a humiliating 17 over par for the
tournament. It was at this moment
that Mickelson beseeched his peers,
the greater golf community and his
legion of fans to believe that his slap at
a moving ball had actually been a
calculated, astute use of the rules —
just another way for a PGA Tour veteran to save a few strokes.
Mickelson insisted that he had not
acted in haste or irritation. Instead, he
said, he knew that the penalty for
striking a moving ball was two strokes,
and he had quickly determined that
was a better result than letting his
wayward putt roll off the green into
worse shape. (There is a separate rule
for stopping or deflecting a moving ball
that could have led to a disqualifica-
Phil Mickelson reacting to a shot from the fescue on Saturday on the fifth hole at the
United States Open. He ended the round with a discomforting score of 81.
tion, but officials determined that
Mickelson had violated the rule for
striking a moving ball, not the one for
stopping or deflecting one.)
“I’ve thought about doing the same
thing many times in my career,” Mickelson said about striking rather than
stopping his moving ball. “I just did it
this time. It was something I did to
take advantage of the rules as best I
It is an explanation that stretches
credulity, to put it nicely.
For perspective, let’s flip the script.
Would you believe that answer if it
came from Tiger Woods?
Mickelson is one of the most popular
golfers of the last quarter-century, and
he deserves the adoration and esteem
he has received. There is no joy in
pointing out that common sense says
that Mickelson, vexed by another
disheartening result at the U.S. Open,
finally let the game get to him.
Mickelson is a five-time major champion who has finished second at the
U.S. Open six heart-rending times. The
championship began poorly for him
with another punch to the gut, in the
form of a first-round 77. He rallied on
Friday to make the cut when 14 other
major champions could not.
On Saturday, Mickelson arrived at
the first tee with fans singing “Happy
Birthday” in tribute to his 48th. He
smiled and gave his hallmark thumbsup gesture over and over to thunderous ovations.
Things started out reasonably well,
but beginning with the eighth hole, he
made four consecutive bogeys. The
handwriting was on the wall — yet
another round, yet another U.S. Open,
was going to end badly. Mickelson took
that mood to the par-4 13th hole.
His tee shot was in the fairway, but
his second and third shots did not find
the green. Soon he had a treacherous,
25-foot downhill putt for bogey. The
ball missed the hole and kept going.
Mickelson paused, then gave chase
like a vexed 30-handicapper. When he
caught up to the ball, he whacked it
back up the hill and past the hole
again. His next putt was from seven
feet, and it lipped out. He tapped into
an eight that became a 10 with the
two-stroke penalty.
His playing partner, the English
golfer Andrew Johnston, who goes by
the nickname Beef, started laughing.
He saw the scene for what it was.
“A moment of madness,” Johnston
said after the round. “It was funny. Phil
said, ‘I don’t know what that is or what
that score is.’”
After his round, Mickelson went into
the cottage that serves as the scoring
headquarters and remained inside the
building for nearly 20 minutes, or
about 18 minutes longer than is usual.
When he emerged, he was smiling.
He had not acted without thought
and logic, he said innocently, and he
did not think he had in any way disrespected the game of golf by taking
advantage of the rules.
“I didn’t mean it disrespectfully, but
if you’re going to take it that way, that’s
not on me,” Mickelson said. “I’m sorry
you’re taking it that way.”
He added: “I was just going back
and forth. In that situation I would
gladly take two strokes. I don’t see how
knowing the rules and using the rules
is a manipulation in any way.”
Asked if he worried that the incident
might be a smudge on his heretofore
sterling reputation, Mickelson, in what
might have been a telling insight to his
frame of mind on Saturday, was apologetic and defiant at the same time.
“If somebody is offended, I apologize
to them,” he said. With a thin smile, he
continued, “But toughen up because
this is not meant that way.”
Mickelson appeared relaxed, composed and reasoned. It had been about
75 minutes since yet another errant
putt had breezed past its intended
destination and heartlessly trundled
away. It was long past the moment
when Mickelson snapped.
But it was not forgotten.
better if they pronounced it properly.
But I don’t know. I don’t really care.”
In Spanish, the first name of Adrián
González, a first baseman who has
played for several teams, is said vastly
differently than in English, where the
emphasis is on the first “a.” “Adrian in
the U.S. can be a girl’s name,” said
González, who was born in San Diego
but raised in Mexico and is a native
speaker of both languages.
“We are in America, so they are
going to say it like that,” he added. “If
we were in Mexico, nobody would call
me A-dri-an, they’d call me Ah-driAN.”
When he moved back to the United
States as a child, González initially
struggled with the pronunciations of
American names before perfecting
them, so he is sympathetic to people
trying hard in either language.
“However it comes out natural is
probably the best way to do it,” he said.
Miguel Rojas, the shortstop for the
Miami Marlins who is from Venezuela,
has noticed that announcers and
broadcasters get his name mostly right
but usually do not strongly roll the “r,’’
as it would be done in Spanish.
“They just don’t know how to do
those sounds with their tongue,” said
Rojas, who speaks English well. “But
the same goes for me: I can learn
English but the ‘th’ is hard for me to
pronounce. There are some names that
are hard for me to say and I make
mistakes, too.”
Because of the difficulties in saying
the “y” sound in the ñ, Manny Piña
(PEEN-ya), the Milwaukee Brewers
catcher, and Ronald Acuña (ah-COONya), the Atlanta Braves outfielder, said
they often hear different versions of
their last names.
“That’s normal,” Acuña said. Piña
added: “Some say PEEN-a and some
say Peen-YA. It doesn’t bother me, but
I’d like it if they said it properly.”
Of course, Spanish names are not
the only ones difficult for Englishspeaking broadcasters and publicaddress announcers. How well could
you say the names of these players:
Marc Rzepczynski, Matt Szczur, Aaron
Altherr, Jeff Samardzija, Sam Tuivailala or Jameson Taillon. Or how
about Robert Gsellman, the Mets relief
“It bothered me when I was little but
you get used to it,” guh-SELL-man
said. “They’ll get it right one day.”
Even before Major League Baseball
made Spanish-language interpreters
mandatory in clubhouses starting with
the 2016 season, Baker asked players
for their proper pronunciations and
took notes. “It would take me a couple
of times just listening to get it down,”
he said.
Now, Baker receives constant feedback from the Phillies interpreter,
Diego Ettedgui (eh-TED-gui), who is
from Venezuela.
“I don’t think it’s anything out of the
ordinary,” Baker said. “It’s the way it’s
supposed to be. And for our guys, and
especially now that we have a significant number of Hispanic players, it’s
even more important.”
Marysol Castro, one of the Mets’ two
new public-address announcers at Citi
Field, is of Puerto Rican descent and
also uses the Spanish pronunciations
of Asdrúbal Cabrera, the Mets second
baseman who is from Venezuela;
Amed Rosario, the shortstop from the
Dominican Republic, and others. She is
also the Mets’ first female publicaddress announcer.
As for me, my last name is pretty
simple: WAG-ner, not VOG-ner, as in
German. But WOG-ner, as my
Nicaraguan grandfather used to say in
his very limited English, will also
San Antonio star forward
said to be seeking a trade
An N.B.A. off-season frenzy expected to
revolve around LeBron James has taken
its first wild twist with the revelation
that the San Antonio Spurs’ star forward, Kawhi Leonard, wants to be
Amid a growing belief around the
league that the longtime Spurs Coach
Gregg Popovich would soon meet face to
face with Leonard to try to repair the
team’s deteriorating relationship with
its best player, multiple reports indicated Friday that Leonard no longer
wished to stay with the franchise that
acquired him on draft night in 2011.
The San Antonio Express-News first
reported Leonard’s stance.
Publicly making a trade request is
against N.B.A. rules, but the depths of
Leonard’s dissatisfaction with the Spurs
have not been voiced directly by the
player or his representatives.
Leonard appeared in only nine games
in the recently concluded season because of the lingering effects of a quadriceps injury he suffered during the 2017
Western Conference finals. The list of
potential trade suitors is expected to be
long, despite inevitable questions about
Leonard’s long-term health, and feature
numerous high-profile teams, including
the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles
Clippers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia
76ers and New York Knicks.
With Leonard under contract next
season at $20.1 million, San Antonio
does not have to rush into any deals and
can still try to mend fences with him.
But the Lakers and the 76ers, in particular, have a strong incentive to try to
persuade the Spurs to engage in trade
talks this month. Both are at the front of
the pack that plans to chase James in
free agency. Acquiring Leonard before
the market opens on July 1, when James
is expected to opt out of the final year of
his contract with Cleveland, would help
recruiting when James starts fielding
pitches from other teams.
The Spurs are the only team that can
offer Leonard a five-year “supermax”
contract extension — worth an estimated $219 million — but Leonard’s leverage is his ability to forgo the final year on
his current contract and become a free
agent in July 2019.
If the Spurs can’t repair the relationship and don’t trade Leonard before the
next trade deadline, in February 2019,
they risk losing their most prized asset
without getting anything in return.
Kawhi Leonard played in only nine games
in the recently concluded N.B.A. season.
The frosty state of the partnership
was clear during San Antonio’s firstround playoff loss to Golden State, as
Leonard, 26, continued his injury rehabilitation away from the team and attended none of the Spurs’ five postseason games. ESPN reported that Leonard felt “the franchise turned on him”
during the season, once he started receiving outside treatment for his quadriceps tendinopathy in New York.
Leonard was named most valuable
player of the 2014 N.B.A. finals in his
third season and finished third in regular-season M.V.P. balloting in 2016-17. He
has also twice been named the league’s
defensive player of the year.
MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018 | 13
A draw that was celebrated like a victory
field, a trio worth many hundreds of
millions of dollars, if any price at all
can be put on the last of the three.
As well, Jorge Sampaoli, the Argentine coach, had the option in the 84th
minute to bring on Gonzalo Higuaín, a
striker Juventus paid more than $100
million to sign from Napoli in 2016. In
fact, Sampaoli, if he chose, could cycle
through three different tactical approaches, or even four. He had a player
for every purpose on the bench.
But in the end, nothing he tried
made the difference, in part because of
Iceland’s obduracy, its refusal to wilt.
But only in part. For Argentina’s shortcomings were there to see, too.
The easy analysis would have it that
Messi is somehow reduced when he is
removed from the context of Barcelona
and put in his country’s uniform. But it
is worth pausing to ask why it is, pre-
On Soccer
MOSCOW Heimir Hallgrimsson wanted
to save time. Before Iceland’s coach
faced the questions of the gathered
news media on the eve of his country’s
first game at a World Cup, he tried to
help out. “Before anyone asks,” he said,
“I’m still a dentist, and I will never
stop being a dentist.”
Hallgrimsson and his players know
how they are perceived; they are well
aware of the role to which they have
been assigned: The ultimate underdogs, the smallest nation ever to play
in a World Cup — just as, two years
ago, they were the smallest nation ever
to play at a European Championship —
the team that knows a substantial
proportion of its fans by name, the
team that is managed by a dentist.
They understand it, too. They appreciate just how compelling their story is,
how remarkable it is that a country so
small should now have assumed a
place if not in the first rank of soccer
nations, then surprisingly close to it.
The romance of their rise is so seductive that the players cannot help but
acknowledge it and, occasionally, even
revel in it.
There comes a point, though, where
that romance begins to obscure the
achievements of these players, rather
than celebrate them, where the appeal
of presenting them as nothing but a
plucky band of adventurers does not
highlight the scale of what they have
achieved, but begins to diminish it.
For on Saturday, in its World Cup
debut, Iceland held its own in a 1-1
draw with powerful Argentina — Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero and all the
rest of them — not because of its relationship with its fans, or because of the
thunderclap, or because of its coach’s
day job.
No, Iceland emerged with a welldeserved point — and an enhanced
chance of reaching the knockout
rounds of this competition, just as it
did at the Euros in 2016 — because of
something much more mundane, and
much less quirky and compelling: the
fact that it is a well-organized, welldrilled team, made up of hard-working,
disciplined professionals and sprinkled
with just a little invention and stardust.
Argentina continues to be less
than the sum of its parts.
Argentine defenders Nicolás Otamendi, left, and Eduardo Salvio battled for the ball with Alfred Finnbogason of Iceland, who scored the tying goal for Iceland in World Cup play.
Iceland keeps achieving these things,
keeps surprising the world and surpassing its assumed limitations, because it is a good team.
And the romance with Iceland is the
consequence of all this, not the cause.
That Iceland, population 330,000,
could hold off Argentina, population
43.85 million humans, plus Messi, is
not a shock to compare with Cameroon’s beating Argentina in the 1990
World Cup, or Senegal’s overcoming
France in 2002. It is not even an equivalent to New Zealand’s tie with Italy in
Iceland’s soccer pedigree is too
great, its quality too high, for it to be
included with those startling results.
This is a team, after all, that boasts
players in the Premier League, the
German Bundesliga and Serie A in
Italy; of the 23 players at Hallgrimsson’s disposal in Russia, only one
— defender Birkir Saevarsson — still
plays in Iceland. Judging by his performance on Saturday, shutting down
no less a threat than Ángel Di María,
he will not be there for long.
It is a team that reached the quarterfinals of the European Championship
just two years ago, beating England to
get that far. At that point, emotionally
and physically exhausted, Iceland lost
to France, the host, but still managed
to score twice in defeat.
And Iceland possesses a group of
players as professionally prepared as
any other. “There was nothing in Argentina’s game that surprised us,”
Hallgrimsson said after the game.
Iceland knew it would have to absorb
pressure, knew it would have to resist
being dazzled by Argentina’s possession, knew it would have to take its
chances on the counterattack, which is
just what it did when Alfred Finnbogason tapped home a first-half goal to
cancel out Agüero’s opening salvo.
Iceland, it remains clear, is a team that
knows who it is and what it can do.
In that sense, on Saturday, it contrasted markedly with its opponent.
Argentina’s players are, as Hallgrimsson put it, “superior individuals, in
better teams and playing in better
leagues,” but they continue to contrive
to be less than the sum of their parts
when joined together.
Argentina started this game with
Agüero, Di María and Messi on the
No. 1806
Created by Peter Ritmeester/Presented by Will Shortz
(c) Distributed by The New York Times syndicate
cisely, that an Argentine team blessed
with so much attacking talent is so
reliant on just one player, even if he
may be the best there has ever been.
Too many of his illustrious Argentine
teammates seem content to exist entirely in his shadow, waiting for him to
deliver a miracle. When he fails — as
he did here, with his second-half penalty shot saved by Hannes Halldorsson, Iceland’s film-producing goalkeeper, another little dash of romance
— there is no obvious candidate to
ease his burden.
None of that should detract, of
course, from Iceland’s joy. This was a
marquee result on a red-letter day.
Iceland deserved its celebrations after
the game, spending several minutes on
the field, communing with its fans. All
of that only adds to the romance, of
course. There will be more people who
fell in love with Iceland on Saturday,
with its determined defending, its
courage, its cleareyed focus in the face
of dazzling talent.
But to reduce this team to nothing
more than a novelty act does Hallgrimsson, and his players, a disservice.
They are not here to win hearts, or
fans. They are here to win games.
They know it is a wonderful story, one
that deserves to be told. Their concern,
though, is not how they came to be
here, but what they can do now that
they are.
Fill the grid so
that every row,
column 3x3 box
and shaded 3x3
box contains
each of the
1 to 9 exactly
For solving tips
and more puzzles:
No. 1606
CROSSWORD | Edited by Will Shortz
Fill the grids with digits so as not
to repeat a digit in any row or
column, and so that the digits
within each heavily outlined box
will produce the target number
shown, by using addition,
subtraction, multiplication or
division, as indicated in the box.
A 4x4 grid will use the digits
1-4. A 6x6 grid will use 1-6.
For solving tips and more KenKen
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30 Spanish rice dish
1 Letters meaning
31 One-percenters and
“Make it snappy!”
5 Mouth-puckering
34 Reddish
9 Sidewalk’s edge
35 Start, as a meeting
15 Actress Raymonde of
40 The “A” and “S” of
16 Wall fixture for a
48 Candy suckers in the
19 Abounds (with)
51 Historical period
1 Excites
21 Stage prompt
52 “I Like ___” (1950s
2 African desert
campaign button)
solving, e.g.
53 Science fiction writer
4 Twinge of guilt
3 Squirrel’s stash
7 Like not-quite-mashed
8 George of the original
6 Amo, amas, ___ …
57 Make an offer for at
5 ___ Mahal
55 Yearns (for)
Solution to June 16 Puzzle
the pot
form of jewelry
25 Quilting or crossword
65 Chip or coin thrown in
18 Beetle Bailey’s
so-called “round-theclock” protection
63 Location
44 Doing sentry duty
23 Bathroom bar offering
17 Gives off, as light
64 Temporary rain cover
41 Biblical land
lingo … or a hint to
the starts of 16-, 23-,
35- and 48-Across
62 Postal letters,
38 Q-tip, for one
59 Trendy, much-used
61 Barely making, with
13 Nut from Australia
22 Cremation vessel
Answers to Previous Puzzles
“Star Trek”
9 Filming device,
10 Monochromatic
11 Sacred ceremonies
12 Salary before bonuses
14 Actor Billy ___
15 Model 3 electric car
20 An “X” might “mark the
spot” on one
24 Venus’s tennis
doubles partner
26 Earl Grey pouch on a
27 Needing medicine,
28 Thousand thou
29 “At Last” singer ___
35 Stopped all that
36 Presidential son
37 ___ Jones industrial
46 College degree unit
47 Big inconvenience
49 Blue Ribbon brewery
50 Place to sweat it out
54 Ruler until 1917
38 Old-fashioned writers
55 Hole-making tool
39 Hawaiian surfing
56 Result of a serious
42 Mimicking
58 ___ Direction (boy
32 Goddess of the dawn
43 Rejections
33 Meh
45 Capital of Iran
head injury
60 Nada
14 | MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018
Carey Mulligan has one less regret
The actress opens up
about herself and the
solo play ‘Girls & Boys’
Carey Mulligan doesn’t like to take the
easy route. When, against her parents’
wishes, she auditioned for drama
schools, she chose a monologue from
Sarah Kane’s “4.48 Psychosis,” a play
about depression and suicide. The
schools turned her down, but she
persevered, securing a role in the 2005
“Pride and Prejudice” film, then earning plaudits as Nina in Ian Rickson’s
stage production of “The Seagull.” In
2009, she won an Oscar nomination for
her nuanced portrayal of a teenager
who becomes involved with an older
man in “An Education.”
Ever since, film has taken precedence over theater. But Ms. Mulligan,
33, is back onstage for a New York run
in Dennis Kelly’s “Girls & Boys,” which
opens Wednesday at the Minetta Lane
The play, which originated at the
Royal Court Theater in London and is
directed by Lyndsey Turner, is a 90minute monologue in which Ms. Mulligan’s character offers an account of
her relationship with the man who
becomes her husband, and which ends
with a bone-chilling revelation. (Audible Inc., the audiobook subsidiary of
Amazon, is bringing the performance
to New York and recording it for an
audio play.)
British critics were mixed on Mr.
Kelly’s writing, but Ms. Mulligan’s
performance provoked no ambivalence. She succeeds “in taking us to
the darkest recesses of human behavior without a jot of sensationalism,”
Dominic Cavendish wrote in The Daily
During an interview over coffee in
late May, Ms. Mulligan seemed relaxed
even though she was about to pack up
her family for her New York stint. (She
has a 3-year-old daughter and a yearold son with her pop singer husband,
Marcus Mumford.) “I love New York,”
she said, before going on to talk about
why she does relatively little theater
work, how she struggled through the
“Girls & Boys” rehearsals and whether
it’s hard to switch off after a show.
Here are edited excerpts from the
Left, Carey Mulligan, who says Dennis Kelly’s play “Girls & Boys” was “daring me to do
it.” Top, the actress with Peter Sarsgaard in the 2009 film “An Education,” which earned
her an Academy Award nomination, and above, in Mr. Kelly’s play.
I imagined what songs she might listen
to, what outfit she might have worn
when she met her husband. I made up
lots of stories about the children, trying to flesh them out for myself. As the
run went on, they became more and
more real in my mind. When I’m really
in the show, I can hear them onstage,
really loud.
The first question for us was, where
is this character, who is she talking to?
And we decided that she was in this
theater, in Chelsea or in New York,
aware of her audience. The best shows
feel like I am two glasses of wine in,
regaling my friends. The bad ones are
when you feel you are with a group of
people who aren’t interested.
You grew up wanting to act in theater. But you’ve been in relatively few
plays — “Girls & Boys” is only the
sixth since you made your debut at
the Royal Court in 2004. Why is that?
I think I was spoiled really early on by
getting to play Nina in “The Seagull.” I
had done two plays before that, and
the people were brilliant, but I didn’t
love the experience. Then “The Seagull” — I just loved it so much. It was
such a romantic time in my life. Playing that part felt like an expression of
all the angst I had as a teenager:
wanting to be an actress, my parents
not wanting me to be an actress. Afterward it was a matter of finding something with such a high standard of
writing. I did David Hare’s “Skylight,”
with Bill Nighy, which was wonderful.
Then “Girls & Boys” came along, and
it seemed completely impossible. It
was daring me to do it.
to forget I am being watched. I look at
the other person onstage in the eyes
and try to tell the truth. But with a
one-woman show, the other person is
the audience. They are my Bill Nighy.
And I didn’t know how to do that.
Was it the subject matter that
seemed impossible?
The material is nonetheless difficult,
to say the least.
No, the subject matter didn’t frighten
me as much as doing a one-woman
show. I spend my whole career trying
I got the script last July and I was
really pregnant, about 10 days away
from having my second child. I was so
How did you approach being on your
own onstage?
excited at the thought of being back at
the Royal Court that I read it on my
phone, in the car, while we were driving back from the country. When I got
to the reveal, I dropped the phone on
the floor. [Although the reveal] concerns children and I have a boy and a
girl, I didn’t connect them personally
to the play. My reaction was more
about how to put an audience through
this experience. It has to be about
something other than the pain.
I umm-ed and ah-ed for a couple of
weeks, only because it meant going
back to work sooner than I would have
liked. But in the end, I felt if I didn’t do
it, I might spend the rest of my life
regretting it.
Your character, who remains nameless, is funny and sharp, but dealing
with an enormous emotional burden.
How did you develop a sense of who
she is?
I worked through the script with everyone, and it all felt very normal.
Then one day, I stood up on my own to
perform it, and it was really, really
difficult. I had never had so much
trouble in rehearsal. I would get two
pages in, my throat would get tight,
and I’d say, “I can’t do it.” Even two
weeks before the opening, we were
doing a run, and I did one page and my
throat seized up. I actually fell to my
knees and had to leave the room. I was
freaking out. All those lovely people,
coming to rehearsals, I had bailed on
them and it was humiliating.
But I felt either I will get onstage
and have a panic attack, or it will work.
And, unbelievably, they trusted me,
and it worked. I think I couldn’t be
alone; I needed the audience.
How do you prepare for a performance?
I have an insane two-and-a-half hour
routine. I get to the theater at 5, eat
something, go to sleep at 6 for half an
hour, shower and do makeup and then
go down onstage to warm up. In London, two previews in, I said to Lyndsey,
“I’m so lonely, can someone come and
warm up with me?” So the whole crew
would come and play [the board game]
Articulate!, which was so great. I’m
hoping that in New York there will be
some willing participants!
Is it difficult to switch the emotions
When it’s gone well, there is an adrenaline rush that helps. When I’ve had a
bad show — and it’s always when
someone you want to see it is there —
it’s harder.
You’ve just finished the film “Wildlife.” What is coming next?
Nothing. Just “Girls & Boys,” and
waiting for the next great thing, whatever it is.
Rejected, then Banksy put his name on it
The Royal Academy show
this summer has a case
of repulsion and attraction
The Royal Academy’s annual summer
exhibition has been one of Britain’s most
popular art shows since 1769 for a simple
reason: Anyone can submit a work to be
displayed alongside those of names like
David Hockney and Anish Kapoor, and
many of the works are available for sale
to the public. They just have to get past a
committee of artists first.
This year, over 20,000 works were
submitted to that committee, which was
led by the artist Grayson Perry and featured other leading British artists like
Cornelia Parker and Phyllida Barlow.
Just 827 made the final cut.
But all the thousands of rejected artists should not feel too bad, because a
global superstar was rejected, too: the
graffiti artist Banksy.
Last week, Bansky said on Instagram
that he had submitted a work under the
name “Bryan S. Gaakman” — an anagram of “Banksy anagram” — only to
have it turned down.
A month later, Mr. Perry contacted
Banksy and asked if he would submit a
piece. Banksy sent a revised version of
the rejected work, which is now on display.
In a statement, the Royal Academy
confirmed Banksy’s account but added,
“The work currently in the summer exhibition is different from the original
version submitted.” Mr. Perry did not respond to a request for comment.
The Banksy work on display, “Vote to
Love,” is a commentary on Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. It
In the catalog, the work is priced
at 350 million pounds —
somewhat above the global
superstar’s auction record.
features a “Vote to Leave” placard used
during campaigning around the 2016
Brexit referendum. Banksy has altered
the placard to say “Vote to Love.”
In the exhibition catalog, the work is
priced at 350 million pounds, or around
$468 million — somewhat above
Banksy’s auction record of $1.87 million.
The price is a tongue-in-cheek reference
to a much-mocked claim by the Vote
Leave campaign that Britain could
spend an extra £350 million a week on
health care if it left the European Union.
The exhibition catalog asks potential
buyers to “refer to sales desk” to learn
the actual cost. (The Royal Academy
would not provide it when approached.)
Banksy is not the first person to submit works anonymously to the annual
exhibition. In 1947, Winston Churchill
successfully submitted two works under
the name “David Winter.” One of the
Churchill works, “Winter Sunshine,” is
on display at the Royal Academy in a
separate show about the history of the
Banksy has succeeded in getting
works into major British and American
museums and galleries by unorthodox
means before. In 2005, he hung a piece
of fake prehistoric cave art featuring a
man pushing a shopping cart in the
British Museum in London. It went unnoticed for several days.
Most commentators on Banksy’s Instagram post were supportive, but some
said the committee had made the correct decision in rejecting the work first
time round. “Let’s be honest, Banksy,”
reads one comment: “This is a weak
piece devoid of the trademarks for
which you’ve become known. Submitting under a fake name allowed the
judge to evaluate without the weight of
your reputation and he made the right
The commenter added the hashtag
Banksy’s “Vote to Love” in the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition.
MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018 | 15
A fairy tale with enduring power
‘Swan Lake’ enthralls us
because of its depths of
psychology and emotion
How seriously should we take “Swan
Lake”? It features a virtuous but
wronged heroine, Odette, and her
sophisticated nemesis, Odile, two roles
generally played by one ballerina.
White Swan versus Black Swan!
Why does its hero, Prince Siegfried,
choose doom twice over in picking
these two? Like the far more melodramatic 2010 film “Black Swan,” the
ballet is a cousin of those midcentury
women’s pictures where Bette Davis or
Greer Garson play two women with
identical looks but opposed manners.
Though Siegfried meets a number of
perfectly eligible, straightforward
women, they’re not for him.
Like many fairy tales, “Swan Lake”
can be profound. (It returns to repertory at American Ballet Theater in
New York this week, in Kevin McKenzie’s production loosely based on the
1895 St. Petersburg staging, just as the
Royal Ballet in London is concluding
the inaugural run of its new production.) It can show that what lures
Siegfried to these two heroines isn’t
just their beautiful unavailability or
their physical similarity. He’s also
drawn to their grand complexity:
especially that of the Swan Queen,
Odette. Nowhere else do the classic
Beautiful, anguished, remote,
the heroine is one of the great
Romantic symbols of the longing
for redemption.
ballets of the 19th century achieve the
psychological depth to be found here;
nowhere else do they achieve such
tragic heights.
Please note: Siegfried doesn’t fall for
a swan, though this is where the story
grows mysterious. He sees the swan
first, then takes aim and prepares to
shoot. Swans, to him, are for hunting.
The hunt, however, leads to love. The
being that was a swan now takes the
stage, transformed: a woman, a ballerina. Seeing her (and miming “She’s
beautiful”), he hides.
Thinking she is alone, she starts to
show her poignant loveliness. Then
Siegfried appears. Terrified, she runs
from this hunter, wheeling in huge
arcs, like a swan taking to the air.
Finally, after pursuing her around
the stage, he shows he means no harm.
She then explains — in traditional
mime gestures (Ballet Theater’s production preserves most of these) —
that she is the queen of the swan maidens. A sorcerer (Baron von Rothbart)
transmogrified her into swan form. At
night, she regains her human form.
Only true love can save her from the
sorcerer’s spell. But the story specifies
only that it be a man’s love for her.
What Odette craves is freedom.
Siegfried’s prompt reaction is to declare his love: He has found a beauty
he can rescue.
Beautiful, anguished, remote, Odette
becomes one of the great Romantic
symbols of the longing for redemption.
Though she’s human, she’s haunted by
swan form. Her arms often move with
the powerful shapes of swan wings;
her feet flutter like wingtips; now and
then, her head and neck preen, swannishly. She opens out into big swan
contours, trying to take wing.
Swan imagery in “Swan Lake”
works several ways. Odette’s swan
condition is what she hopes to leave
behind forever — but can she ever
Above, Olga Smirnova of the Bolshoi
Ballet in “Swan Lake” in 2014. Left, David
Hallberg and Polina Semionova in American Ballet Theater’s production.
however, she decides to turn and rejoin
Siegfried. In what follows, the solo
voices of violin and cello intertwine; it
has been called the most beautiful
moment in ballet.
Certainly, it’s the most intimate
moment in “Swan Lake.” As Odette
arrives in front of Siegfried, he folds
those winglike arms of hers protectively around her waist as she stands
in front of him on one point; tenderly
now, he rocks her from side to side.
The proximity of their bodies, and the
way her neck cranes back toward him,
show that she has found her haven.
Yet this dance isn’t just about these
two people. The corps de ballet of swan
maidens forms a passionate accompaniment. It’s implied that their fates are
bound up with Odette, even that they
are supplicants. Hope and fear are
wonderfully shared by both heroine
and group.
In the next act, Siegfried meets
Odette’s look-alike, Odile. Please note:
She’s not a swan and, until the 1940s,
was never dressed in black. She isn’t a
demon, either — she’s a fiction. She’s
the daughter of von Rothbart, whose
magic has made her into a perfect
simulacrum of Odette.
Although her resemblance to Odette
is what compels Siegfried, we can’t
help feeling that he falls for her partly
because she seems available, inviting,
as Odette did not. Nonetheless, her
scintillating body language — extroverted where Odette was introverted
— soon shows that she too is elusive.
Odile tantalizes (she can even quote
Odette’s swan imagery) — until he
vows love and marriage. Then she
laughs, before vanishing out of his life
forever. Poor Siegfried is tragic: The
two women in the universe he loves —
and thinks are the same — are the two
he cannot have.
Now, by betraying Odette, he has
condemned her to endless swan captivity. How the ballet ends varies from
one production to another, but in the
1895 one (made vividly melodramatic
at Ballet Theater), Odette and
Siegfried choose death: The only realm
in which they will now find love.
popular understandings of gender.” As
it happens, what she also ended up
exploring — and what gives this book
its real heat — is more personal; it’s
the challenge posed to her own cherished beliefs.
Stein came of age in lesbian feminist
spaces in 1980s San Francisco, a cozy
gynocentric universe where the San
Francisco Bay Area Women’s Pages
could helpfully direct you to a female
lawyer, carpenter or dog groomer.
“There were moments of goofiness, to
be sure, but there was also a dreamy
sense of possibility,” she recalls. “It
was a world comprising women of all
races, classes and sexual preferences,
who were dedicated to the radical
proposition that women were better
than men: kinder, less violent, more
That someone would want to be a
man was inconceivable to her.
In researching “Unbound,” she had
to confront additional preconceptions.
“I had to admit that I, too, found myself unnerved at times by the sight of
handsome women transforming themselves into dudes with stubby beards,
thick necks and deep voices, people
who were passing out of the zone of my
own attractions,” she writes. “Of
course, I realize that it’s not about me
— it’s about them. Still, at times it’s
hard not to feel a sense of loss.”
This is a chilling claim, but Stein
repeatedly allows herself to be impolitic and wincingly frank, almost using
herself as a foil for the limitations of
second-wave feminism. “My generation believed that gender is imposed on
us by advertising, scientific experts,
parents, teachers and other influences,” she writes. “We thought we
could undo gender’s hold on our lives.”
Today, New York City recognizes 31
genders. Facebook includes 56 gender
options. Stein notes ruefully that she is
playing catch-up. A scholar of gender
and sexuality for 30 years, she attends
conferences on gender identity these
days, she says, and feels like a dinosaur.
Throughout the book, however, Stein
is full of admiration for the transgender men she meets — especially as
they challenge her. And toward the end
of her investigation, a new note creeps
in, one of wonder. If she were part of
this generation, she asks, “what gender would I choose, and once I’d chosen one, would I feel that I had got it
right?” This stirring — of curiosity, of
the possibility of self-definition —
reminds me of the poet Patricia Lockwood’s conception of a third identity.
It’s not male, it’s not female, it’s protagonist.
shake it off? And does she really want
to? For swan form is also the known
zone to which she continually retreats
for comfort. She’s the most profoundly
diffident of heroines.
Yet she’s also a monarch; she rises
to heroism. When Siegfried’s fellow
huntsmen take aim at her swan-maiden companions, she runs in, bravely
interposing her body to shield her
flock. (If you’re too logical, you wonder
why the man can’t see that these are
women, not swans. But “Swan Lake”
allows for both possibilities.) The men
refrain. Odette thanks them.
Every ambiguity in this scene multiplies when Odette rejoins Siegfried. At
once, she gives off conflicting signals.
She arrives as if at his call — but then
she folds herself at his feet, hiding her
face from him: a swan withdrawn as if
in the nest.
Throughout the adagio that follows,
Siegfried opens her up and out; she
keeps withdrawing, fending him off,
falling away from him. At times, she
seems protean, changing shape again
and again in his arms as if to elude
him. His devotion grows more and
more impressive.
The crucial moment comes when
Siegfried chooses, for once, not to
follow her. Odette has retreated to a
corner that we associate with the
sorcerer, whose mysterious power over
her continues in his absence. Now,
Ripping up old scripts
Unbound: Transgender Men
and the Remaking of Identity
By Arlene Stein. 339 pp. Pantheon.
As a teenager growing up in the 1970s,
the sociologist Arlene Stein learned
about homosexuality in a medical
textbook she found at the public library. It delayed her process of coming
out by at least a decade, she writes in
her new book, “Unbound: Transgender
Men and the Remaking of Identity.”
She was horrified by those “scary
pictures of naked people looking plaintively at the camera, arrayed like mug
This story hovers over her book,
which delves into the lives of transgender men and other “gender dissidents.”
It feels as if Stein has written this book
imagining it might fall into the hands
of those who need such a primer —
much as she once did — and she wants
to give them the fortification she
yearned for. She depicts her subjects
with warmth and respect, and strains
to include as much as she can about
the social, emotional, medical and
psychological dimensions of transitioning. The result is frantically overstuffed but earnest, diligent and defiantly optimistic.
For a year, Stein followed her four
subjects — Parker, Lucas, Nadia and
Ben — all patients at a Florida clinic
world-famous for gender affirmation
surgery, specifically chest masculinization. They are all young, and affluent
enough to afford the expensive surgery
(the clinic doesn’t accept insurance),
but a varied group in other ways.
Parker is unabashed in his craving for
male privilege. (“Yeah, I want to be a
white American male property owner.
Really, it’s a dream.”) Lucas has “huge
problems with the idea of passing” as a
man. Nadia wants top surgery but still
identifies as a woman. Ben wants to be
out as transgender and for people to
know he was assigned female at birth.
All report a sense of calm and joy after
surgery, but some are uncomfortable
with their sudden elevation in status
when they present as men. People
suddenly “remember my name,” Lucas
“A younger generation of transgender men are prying open many of our
assumptions about what it means to be
men and women,” Stein writes. Old
scripts are being discarded, including
those about transitioning itself. Some
of her subjects explain their desire to
transition as a result of having been
born in the “wrong body,” either because it feels accurate or out of necessity — “in order for patients to gain
access to surgery and hormones,”
Stein writes, “they must still use the
language of suffering, pathology and
cure.” Others express more expansive
notions of gender, a desire to bend and
break the binary.
Nor is there one script for life after
testosterone and top surgery. Stein
cites one study of the workplace experiences of transgender men in which
two-thirds reported that they were
perceived as more competent and were
given more recognition, including
higher salaries. These benefits are
largely limited to white transgender
men, she points out. “Choosing to
become a black male isn’t exactly a
wise career move right now,” one black
transgender man, a minister, tells her,
describing a post-transition surge in
harassment. “If it wasn’t absolutely
imperative, who the hell would make
this choice?”
To be sure, any individual gains
occur in the context of the great precariousness of transgender lives. More
than 40 percent of transgender Americans have attempted suicide, compared with 5 percent of the general
Arlene Stein.
population. After the election of Donald
Trump, Obama-era protections for
transgender students were rescinded,
and several states have attempted to
pass religious exemption laws “effectively allowing discrimination against
L.G.B.T. people in relation to adoption,
as well as to accessing health care and
social services,” Stein writes.
Stein’s project was motivated by a
desire to learn “how, collectively, transmasculine people are challenging
16 | MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018
In search of a fictional character’s Burgundy
Autun is just as elusive
as it is in James Salter’s
‘A Sport and a Pastime’
Set in provincial Burgundy in the early
1960s, “A Sport and a Pastime,” the 1967
novel by the American writer James
Salter, depicts a love affair between an
aimless Yale dropout named Dean and
an 18-year-old local shop girl, Anne-Marie, through the lushly fragmented, elegiac recollections of an unnamed narrator who knew them.
Now widely considered a masterpiece
of erotic fiction, the novel did much to cement Salter’s literary reputation, if not
his mass appeal, in the years leading up
to his death in 2015. The book’s visceral,
unvarnished, sometimes disturbing depictions of sex helped set artistic terms
for the then-unfurling sexual revolution.
And yet after reading “A Sport and a
Pastime,” which was based in part on
Salter’s experiences while deployed to
southeastern France by the New Jersey
Air National Guard in the early 1960s,
what stayed with me most were the descriptions of France, “the real France,”
as Dean calls it in the novel — Burgundian villages like Châlons-sur-Seine,
Beaune, Sens and Auxerre, through
which Dean and Anne-Marie drive in his
hulking 1952 Delage convertible, living
“in Levi’s and sunlight.” But most of all, I
was gripped by the descriptions of Autun, a sleepy hilltop commune about 185
miles southeast of Paris, where the 34year-old narrator goes at the book’s outset to stay in the vacant family home of
“This blue, indolent town,” Salter
writes. “Its cats. Its pale sky. The empty
sky of morning, drained and pure. Its
deep, cloven streets. Its narrow courts,
the faint, rotten odor within, orange
peels lying in the corners.”
This isn’t the Burgundy of sunlit vineyards and joie de vivre, but of haunted
blue mornings, the smell of soil, of
weathered stone walls behind which life
goes on in muffled tones. Autun exists in
the book like an evocation, a dream
place, eternal and yet always slipping
away. But it also feels as real, as alive, as
any travel writing I’ve encountered. I
had to go there.
So I began, as the narrator does, on a
luminous September day at the Gare de
Lyon in Paris, still the main departure
point for train travel to the southeast.
The coaches described in the book —
“dark green, the paint blistering with
age” — long since have been replaced
with sterile, streamlined high-speed
TGV trains. But as I boarded, I could recognize the same “comfortable feeling of
delivering myself into the care of those
who run these great, somnolent trains,
through the clear glass of which people
are staring, as drained, as quiet as invalids.”
Inside the carpeted, industrially
lighted interior of the TGV, it was hard to
connect the people slouched over smartphones and laptops with Salter’s sensuous, plaintive description of the scene in
the train. Yet as we exited Paris and
headed deeper and deeper into “green,
bourgeoise France,” the rush of scenery
out the window was much as he described. There were century-old stone
farmhouses, walled pastures, “canals,
rich as jade,” “the blue outline of Sens,”
then after we boarded a new train in Dijon that cuts straight through the Burgundy wine regions of Côte de Nuits and
Côte de Beaune, miles and miles of golden vineyards.
If the Autun that Salter depicted in the
1960s was sleepy and forgotten, many
lifetimes past its prime as an important
seat of power in the Roman world, the
town today is doubly so. At least in part
because of questionable budgetary decisions by the local government, Autun
was excluded from both the A6 highway
system and the TGV train line, the two
major land routes between Paris and
Lyon, and in 2017, the last regional train
pulled out of the station.
I arrived the only way a carless person can these days: by bus. But I first
The hills of Morvan around the Burgundian town of Autun, which exists in the novel “A Sport and a Pastime” like an evocation, a dream place, eternal and yet always slipping away. Right, James Salter in 2005.
saw the town just as Salter’s narrator
did: “ . . . in the distance, against the
streaked sky, a town appears. A single,
great spire, stark as a monument: Autun.”
Autun sits amid the rolling blue-green
Morvan highlands, and you have to walk
uphill through the town to reach the oldest section, where Salter’s narrator
stays in a large stone house “built right
on the Roman wall,” on a small street behind the magnificent 12th-century St.Lazare Cathedral. I had looked online
for the nearest approximation and
found the Hôtel Les Ursulines, a 43room budget hotel set in a lovely, albeit
atrociously renovated 17th-century
stone convent overhanging the old Ro-
If the Autun that Salter depicted
in the 1960s was sleepy and
forgotten, the town today is
doubly so.
man ramparts at seemingly the exact location of the house in “A Sport and a Pastime.”
Like Salter’s narrator, I awoke early
to find the town covered in a dense, cool
mist that concealed nearly everything.
And like him, I spent my mornings walking Autun’s winding streets as the mist
gradually lifted and then burned away.
“Slowly now, the shape of things is revealed,” Salter writes. “Roofs emerge.
The tops of trees. Finally the sun.”
Salter’s nameless narrator spends the
autumn photographing the town for
some vague future project that grows increasingly obsessive and immense. It’s
from his notes to these photographs that
he says he is assembling the novel.
I started out, as he did, “beneath the
long, sulking flank of the cathedral” and
then descended, cataloging streets and
buildings, the smallest details — rue
Dufraigne; rue du Faubourg St.-Blaise;
place d’Hallencourt, where the “trees
stand like brewers”; huge crumbling
stone walls; the cemetery “that glitters
like jewelry in the last, slanting light”;
the central square, Champ de Mars,
where the narrator watches cars full of
American soldiers circle, afraid one of
them is Anne-Marie’s former lover,
come to enact revenge on Dean.
At the Place du Carrouge, where
Anne-Marie lives in an alleyway, I saw a
heavyset woman with white hair smoking out an open window, from which a
shard of light fell over the darkened
Eventually I arrived at what was once
the Grand Hotel Saint-Louis, a frequent
haunt of the narrator, now boarded up. I
pressed my face against the window and
saw its opulent interiors frozen in time,
darkened and coated in a thick layer of
dust. I asked around, but no one seemed
to know why or when it closed.
It was all still here, much as Salter described. And yet, insists the narrator:
“None of this is true. I’ve said Autun, but
it could easily have been Auxerre. I’m
sure you’ll come to realize that. I am
only putting down details which entered
me, fragments that were able to part my
There are many passages like this in
the book that cast doubt on the narrator’s account, and I had wondered before coming whether the real Autun
would even resemble the one in the
book. That it’s so very similar points to
Salter’s deeper project — to question the
nature of experience and memory. Our
lives, he suggests, consist of fragments
of stories, of shifting and illusory perspectives.
I can’t tell if it’s the town or the book
that does it, but walking the streets of
Autun, I found myself gripped by a powerful melancholy, a sense of passing
time, of my own mortality. There are
tacky sports bars now along the Rue de
la Grille, where locals sit under the blue
glow of televisions, but it was not
enough to break my reverie. In the evenings I ate rich Burgundian meals of
snails and beef and coq au vin at the
restaurants flanking the cathedral. I
spoke to no one, and no one spoke to me.
It’s something any frequent solo traveler knows: Spend enough time wandering alone through a foreign town,
and it will begin to enfold you. You acclimate to incomprehensibility, to a detachment that causes past and present
to blur. Reality appears in fragments,
and so you give yourself over to moods,
to emotion. It’s hard to imagine a place
that captures this feeling more than Autun “in the blue of autumn,” and it occurs
to me that what Salter is actually writing about is the way we walk through
our memories like a stranger in a forgotten town.
“The myriad past, it enters us and dis-
appears,” he writes. “Except that within
it, somewhere, like diamonds, exist the
fragments that refuse to be consumed.
Sifting through . . . one discovers the
true design.”
On my last day in Autun, I visited a
few local booksellers, curious whether
any of them had heard of James Salter
or “A Sport and a Pastime.” No one had. I
looked for a recent history of Autun,
hoping for information on the Grand Hotel Saint-Louis. In the end, all I could
find was a faded and used black-andwhite postcard depicting one of its
rooms — the “Chambre Historique de
Napoleon” with a message scrawled in
red pen on the back and addressed to a
“Madame Ballot.” I tried to make sense
of it, but the script was faded and
smudged, impossible to discern.
September 16–18, 2018
Democracy in Danger:
Solutions for a Changing World
With emerging democracies backsliding
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Topics to be addressed include:
• The Allure of the Illiberal: Are there flaws
in the classic models of democracy?
• When Technology Collides with Citizenship:
How are rapid technological advances
changing the nature of politics?
• Identity, Diversity and Inclusion: How can
democracies preserve human rights
amidst pervasive populist backlashes?
• The Business of Business: Do companies
today have a greater responsibility to society,
and when is engagement good for business?
Register to attend
In Cooperation
The 12th-century St.-Lazare Cathedral. Salter’s narrator stays in a large stone house on a small street behind the church.
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