CURRENT ISSUE: Commencement 2017


A Death in the Neighborhood

When it started, Ms. Baker 
was talking about the aorta or the distance between stars and I was clicking my pen and looking at the empty seats. By this time the school day had settled into midmorning, but there were still four people missing. I was in sixth grade.


A third of the way through Science, Ms. Baker got a call on the class phone, and as she listened she turned her back towards us as if to shield us from the news.The class murmured versions of What’s Going On in a low rumble and in response she slammed the phone down and simply said “The train was late,” deftly executing a classic parental slight of hand.

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Wild ordinary things are happening


A man with a deep sea watch reads periodicals

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The Shape of an Idea

In 2013, Tom Berninger released the seminal documentary Mistaken For Strangers: a chronicle of his brother’s rock band, The National. It was a film about a band, or, about a band of brothers, or two brothers, fighting. The film is a personal narrative about two brothers, not a band, but a banding together. 

 Tom Berninger is jealous of his brother and band-member Matt Berninger because Matt is  a rockstar, famous and successful, while Tom lives at home with his mom. They embody the tension between the similar. Why is Tom not a copy of Matt?

Much of post-Y2K America can be gleaned from this work: the latest rise and fall of rock, the struggle of man in a harsh land, the tension between brothers, across states, as the one secret subject of a banking crisis that would be realized a mere nine years after the band’s formation. 

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Six Reissued Plates, by Bing & Grøndahl

  Outside the Lighted Window ∙ (1919, 2013)

They sipped cereal milk from their breakfast bowls while discussing the men his wife might consider dating when he would be dead, and the overall feeling was that younger would be best. More energy would be nice, their daughter added. Their son pointed out that the difficulty with young was that the young too frequently found themselves poorly capitalized. He looked at his son as though he were looking through a wine bottle. The boy had always been a shit person, even as a young child, and he found himself authentically surprised that a person could change so little over so many years. Perhaps a dancer, he suddenly offered the conversation. His wife made a face that seemed to suggest she liked the thought of dating a dancer, as he’d felt she might. Then he saw her look off to a distant place, as she sometimes would in those years. Perhaps, she reflected aloud, we place too much emphasis on the present moment. 


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The Merchant of Chinatown: a Review of ‘Abacus: Small Enough to Jail'

The end of the 2008 financial crisis marked the beginning of an agitated love-hate affair between Hollywood and Wall Street. Movies that satirized, maligned, or celebrated the exploits of the veiled “masters of the universe” became incredibly popular. Hollywood had found its new villain, and the following years saw the release of a string of movies like Margin Call (2011), Too Big to Fail (2011), and The Big Short (2015). Steve James’s new documentary, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, might be described as the anti-Big Short. It refuses to play into the tropes and excesses of its precursors. For one, it makes no attempt to glamorize the work of bankers or bamboozle the viewer into dumb awe with a barrage of inscrutable technical terms—CDS’s, MBS’s, tranches, and the like. Instead, the only source of the fantastic comes from the film’s very premise: Abacus is a profile of the only bank to have been criminally charged with mortgage fraud in the wake of 2008, and the family behind its operations.

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A Conversation with Michelle Kuo

It was only fitting that Michelle Kuo gave her Cambridge reading at the Cambridge Public Library. College ’03 and Law School ’09, and now a professor at the American University of Paris, Kuo spent two years after college in Helena, Arkansas with Teach for America. Her memoir, Reading With Patrick, documents and reflects on her time working with Patrick Browning, a quiet and introspective student in her classroom whom she returned to Arkansas to see upon learning he had been placed in jail for killing another man. While awaiting Patrick’s trial, in which the unintentional death was ultimately charged as manslaughter, Patrick and Kuo read and wrote together every day. I sat down with Michelle to talk about the complex process of writing and discussing the memoir, the questions we ask ourselves as progressives and young people, and, of course, books.

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