Author: Bobbie Johnson

This is preposterous

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Media

A review of Zeke Emanuel’s new book comparing health systems across the world has as good a description of the American maze as I’ve seen. Britain is so lucky to have the NHS; I find it literally impossible to explain to people here how the system doesn’t have to be this way. By contrast, the US health care system—if one can call it that—excludes more people, provides thinner coverage, and is far less affordable. It […]

Rate my room, Swiss hoarding edition

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Workbook

We’re all spending a lot more time on Zoom these days. Hangouts with friends are a lot like work meetings are a lot like coffee chats are a lot like calls to family. And we’re all spending a lot more time thinking about—and commenting on—our Zoom backgrounds. Room rating is a thing. I wonder how the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget would have gotten along with it all. I mean, I don’t think he’d have cared […]

Weeks 38-40

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weeknotes

Silence, as usual, means a heavy workload. Closing an upcoming issue of the magazine, pushing along another large project with lots of moving parts, and helping corral our election coverage has been intense—that’s on top of the day to day business. Next up the election, which I suppose is my third or fourth time around, depending on how you count it. We moved to America shortly before the 2008 Obama victory, which I think skewed […]

The biggest smallest story in the world

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Media

Jiayang Fan’s story about her mother’s ALS, covid, and Chinese propaganda was very affecting. Somehow she found herself in the middle of this whirlwind that illustrated—graphically, confrontingly—two huge global stories: the coronavirus pandemic and Chinese politics. But I was utterly riveted by her interview on the Longform podcast, which seemed to add a whole set of extra layers.

The reverse Chotiner

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Media

Britain’s left is riddled with anti-trans views in a way that continues to disappoint me. This interview with Judith Butler in the New Statesman is a great example of that, and of how to think about representation and poisonous discourse. We see a journalist trying to prod a certain kind of answer out of a thinker, and the thinker responding by rejecting the premises of questioning in an artful and coherent way. I confess to […]

Zombie news

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Media

For nearly as long as there has been newspapers and magazines, there have been people who use publications to launder their own reputations or advance their own agendas. Press barons were a real thing before fake news, and media ownership is still a great way for the powerful to access even more power. PR folks, meanwhile, take great pains to try and place op-eds by, or positive stories about, their clients in the pages of […]

Week 36, 2020

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weeknotes

SIX MONTHS OF LOCKDOWN. We passed the milestone without even realizing, it just kind of came and went. (It was the same when we hit 100 days back in week 26.) Of course, “lockdown” is not exactly lockdown. Sometimes when the word crosses my lips, I feel like a character from this McSweeney’s jab: “Another dull quarantine weekend at home, Target, Chipotle, Home Depot, and our niece’s graduation party.” Your lockdown might not look the […]

A prayer for life

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According to a Tina Brown essay I read recently, Vanity Fair‘s breakthrough editorial moment came when she published Dominick Dunne’s 1984 heartbreaker about the murder of his daughter and the trial of her killer. Since Conde Nast relaunched the magazine in 1983, it had been destroyed in the market, hadn’t found its footing, and had been lined up to get shut down. When Brown took the job at the start of 1984 it was almost […]

ASAP

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Been thinking a lot about the long view recently, both in work and in life. Everything’s awful and urgent and yet the past six months have felt so momentously slow that it’s creating a huge amount of internal dissonance: make-it-happen-now has to sleep in the same bed as when-this-is-all-over. And that’s presuming it will ever be over, of course. I’m placing high value on every little moment that breaks out of the immediate, every long […]