New Yorker: From the iPad edition of March 19 is Louis Menand’s Critic At Large review of “The Real Romney” by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman. I generally avoid campaign year profiles and manifestos about and by the candidates, but Menand focuses on two important trends behind Romney. First, he’s cut from the liberal Republican cloth of the party, the wing that gave us NelsonRockefeller, John Lindsay, Prescott Bush, Elliott Richardson, William Weld and other private sector types who left business to manage government at some point in their career. That wing, seemingly extinct as the GOP candidates try to appeal to the religious right, is, Menand arges, where Romney’s roots are. His second point, and what makes the piece really worth reading, is the influence that Romney’s former employer, Bain Consulting and Bain Capital had on his thinking and methods. I have some insight into the world of high stakes management strategy consulting from my brief stint at Bain’s competitor McKinsey, and think I know a little about the over-achiever, data-drive technocratic strategists that such firms prize and foster.
Economist: And the last shall be first, the obituary on the last page of the March 3-9th edition profiles M.R.D. Foot, chronicler and historian of World War II secrets: “He knew more about the doings of the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.), the ultra-secret wartime outfit devoted to bolstering resistance in Europe, than any man alive, for her had written its history.” Foot wrote several volumes chronicling the SOE, the first “The SOE in France” was published in 1966. I went to order the same from Amazon and in the process ran into the most expensive Kindle edition I’ve ever come across: a stunning $31.16 to buy it and a mere $14.66 (nice round numbers) to “rent” — which until now I was unaware a reader could rent books on the Kindle. I’m tempted to read it, but ….if I do I shall report back.
Good article on “How To Steal An Election” — same edition, page 71
And I learned a new term, “de-shopping” in which shoppers buy, say, a dress, wear it, and then return it. This cost American retailers $14.4 billion last year and online merchants are particularly vulnerable. Good sidebar to a story on gameification in ecommerce — a buzz word that I am hearing too often lately to ignore, and am beginning to be annoyed by. page 79
Atlantic Monthly: In the online edition, a creepy story about drug tourism, focused on a seemingly idyllic village in Laos where new age Millenials go to ride inner tubes down the lazy river while tripping their butts off. And sometimes die. The Highlands: Exploring Drug Tourism Across Southeast Asia is worth a read. It ends sadly with the observation that baked tourists are missing the point of travel, landing themselves in strange lands only to obliterate themselves: “Those seeking an alternate culture, whether it be through rave scenes or backpacker havens, are losing contact with the land they have traveled to. Soon enough, a rave in Goa or a rave in Ibiza will be viewed as the same trip, the country itself becoming irrelevant to the tourist experience.”
On the nightstand (actually in the Kindle): Still reading Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Roumeli on my Android — basically my waiting-in-line book. A shame to waste such a beautiful piece of prose on a little screen, but there it is. The chapter on the nature of the Hellinistic modern mind is very interesting in light of Greece’s unfortunate domination of the economic news this winter. An amazing culture and country on the brink of something as it has been so many times before. Fermor’s insights into the Greek mind are amazingly relevant to the debt crisis and what is happening to the Greek people. On the iPad version of the Kindle app I am re-reading my favorite funny novel of all time, hands down, no argument, Geronimo Rex by the late Barry Hannah.
New York Times: Sunday 3/11 had some gems. Mark Bittman’s piece in the Review, A Chicken Without the Guilt, was a creepy preview of a Soylent Green world where fake meat climbs onto our plates: “…we might even