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2016 Archive (11 found)

Travels with Henry James

November 30, 2016  | 

What is the difference between the Great Lakes and the ocean? A scientist will tell you that the ocean contains saltwater, of course, and a vast ecosystem; the moon’s gravity also exerts a greater pull on it, establishing the tides. Asked the same question, a gifted novelist — indeed, a master — will tell you less, …

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The Musings of the Maestro

November 19, 2016  | 

An orchestra’s conductor is a remote and mysterious figure. Known to the listening public for intensity of gesture during a concert and expansive waving after it, he seems rarely to speak. Leonard Bernstein was an exception at the New York Philharmonic, forever interrupting rehearsals to tell a story about what happened at so-and-so’s place and giving introductory remarks …

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Cold War Cadenza

October 8, 2016  | 

A year after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik and two years after it crushed a democratic uprising in Hungary, the Russian people surprisingly adopted a young American pianist named Van Cliburn. Twenty-three years old, he was as tall and thin as a stalk of corn, with all the guile of a newborn baby. His electrifying …

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The Pigeon Tunnel

September 6, 2016  | 

One of John le Carré’s boyhood memories is clutching his mother’s hand while waving to his father, who stood high up behind a prison wall. Ronnie Cornwell was a charming rogue, a confidence man who ran frauds and visited jails all over the world. He once sent the teenage le Carré to St. Moritz to …

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Is the Supreme Court’s Role Overstated?

June 3, 2016  | 

In the world of American law, the Supreme Court is the Valhalla of the professional imagination. Majestic, forbidding, grander and higher than all other forums, it’s a sacred terminus for lawyers everywhere. None but the worthy can enter the prestigious (and clubby) world of the Supreme Court bar, whose members press their claims in hopes …

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The Ordeal of the Presidency

May 23, 2016  | 

During the early 2000s, a friend and I liked to discuss George W. Bush’s motives. Neither of us were fans of his presidency, but my friend would occasionally defend President Bush — or perhaps try to understand him — by contending that he did not seem like an evil man out to destroy the country. …

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Irish Independent

April 29, 2016  | 

Eamon de Valera, the father of modern Ireland, was that rarest of political animals: the ascetic diva. He dressed in black and ate sparingly, his face lined and gaunt behind wire-rimmed glasses. One American diplomat observed that, with his “rather stern countenance,” de Valera appeared “to be in perpetual mourning for a nation in bondage.” …

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Exonerating Hitler’s Composer

April 21, 2016  | 

Ghosts have always haunted Bayreuth. Years ago, while conducting at the Festival Theater in the central German village, Christian Thielemann occasionally seemed to hear from one. A phone in the orchestra pit would signal an incoming call with a blinking light, catching Mr. Thielemann’s eye. He would pick it up with one hand and continue …

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Shoot the Hippies

March 15, 2016  | 

When does harsh political rhetoric lead to violence? We live in an age of dangerously hot-blooded talking points, especially on the far right. The Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz described President Obama as the world’s leading sponsor of Islamic terrorism. Donald Trump recently said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot …

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A Blast that Shook the Nation

March 11, 2016  | 

It is one of the iconic images of the 20th century: the dark gray mushroom cloud billowing upward from the top of Mount St. Helens, a great and terrifying stain on the sky. Hikers 50 miles away on Mount Rainier watched the blast cloud climb up one side of ridges and down the other, like …

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What’s the Point of a Supreme Court Dissent?

January 21, 2016  | 

What is the purpose of dissent in the Supreme Court? To cry foul, to persuade, to sensationalize, to fight? A dissenting opinion is not law and serves no official function; at times, it can seem like petty ankle-biting. What, then, is the point? The Court’s recent decision striking down state laws that banned gay marriage …

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