Though it remains technically possible to keep planetary warming to a tolerable level, only an intensive push over the next 15 years to bring those emissions under control can achieve the goal.
Letter to New York
My favorite magazine shop in New York City closed last week. The now-empty cave, its grey-black cement walls still adorned with stubborn glue, sits on 23rd Street. A hard-to-read “For Lease” sign is now taped to the windowed front. The magazine shop wasn’t much, but it did stock an incredible selection of printed pages. Perhaps the rent was too high, or customer traffic too low, or maybe, just maybe, the printed word was in full retreat from the busy streets of New York. I took it as a sign. I was leaving, too.
"I can’t believe we decided to move during a heatwave," I said to my father as we pulled onto West 112th Street in Harlem. It was July 18, 2011, two weeks before I was due to start at Columbia Journalism School. He had kindly offered to drive me (and my things) from Toronto to New York in a rented truck. That morning, with fire hydrants spitting water into sound-and-sun-soaked streets, I tried to breathe in my new home.
The three bedroom apartment was a steal, I guess. While traveling months earlier, I had “signed-up” without ever seeing the place. My roommate had described the surroundings by phone. Honestly, I was more excited about Columbia. The apartment was merely an afterthought. Shared with two roommates—who were also destined for the late nights and endless deadlines of the nearby j-school—112th Street was never more than a temporary home. For good measure, I left two fully-packed boxes in the corner of my room. This was my admission of transience and a visual reminder of the mission statement I would ingrain in my mind during the coming months: New York is a tough beat. You have to be here. But be ready to leave.
Over the next 10 months, I trudged three avenues across, and four blocks north, through the Broadway street entrance, up two short sets of shallow, cement stairs, past Joseph Pulitzer’s statue and through the front doors of the journalism school. There, in the hallowed halls of literary greats, I submitted my words and ideas to constant skewering. Articles were too long, too disjointed, too ambitious, or not ambitious enough. My prose was too lazy and loose, too laggard or lame. Through blood and salty-sweet sweat, I wrote drafts that never ended (because I didn’t know where they were going) and struggled with final copy that never came (and were often adorned with missing commas, improperly used semi-colons, and too many em-dashes—a fault I still can’t break). But by May 2012, I carried out a coarse-grained parchment emblazoned with a Columbia seal. I was a journalist. Right?
Since then, I’ve filmed police dogs for The New Yorker, written about photographers for TIME Magazine, profiled the world of politics for Al Jazeera’s Empire, pitched and poached for The Atlantic, profiled model boat racers for The Wall Street Journal, and wrote (endlessly) online about “news” for sites and start-ups courting a half-hidden public. In the last six months alone, I’ve proposed narratives on pirates, poachers and palm oil to publications like Harper’s, New York Magazine and Mother Jones. It is, as it sounds, endlessly stressful and existentially challenging; perhaps the perfect amalgam of the themes that make New York a fitting setting for such a stress-inducing career.
"I do not choose to be a common man…it is my right to be uncommon—if I can…I seek opportunity—not security." — Peter O’Toole, actor, in Gay Talese’s classic profile
For the freelancer, the need to be uncommon is particularly strong. There is, after all, nothing safe about writing for a living. But what we trade in security, we gain in memorability. The hack’s badge allows questions to be volleyed, and answers returned. And it still amazes: There is no actual requirement that anyone (private, public or otherwise) should submit to the prying clauses of a stranger. This is the strangeness of journalism, that awkward combination of life lived in the service of story and in the ignorance of one’s own (financial) survival. To risk it all, we want to believe, is to gain everything. Perhaps, even in ultimate loss, we are left knowing more, and fully valuing the parts that together make a life.
Despite the challenges of this daunting world, I drew (and continue to draw) strength from incredible professionals in my midst. From the captivating and complicated Ashley Gilbertson, I learned about the personal costs of journalism’s public service. From editors (too many to name), I learned patience and perspective—sometimes “your way” is just not the “best way.”
From readers, I am reminded of the gravity of words, the importance of a single sentence and. at times, the embarrassment of failing to appreciate these factors quickly enough. From fellow writers (my peers and heroes), I learned perseverance. I came to know that “what matters” is a product of the craftsman, and that the failure to elicit a response (or to compel an editor) can only be righted by further work. And, from a good friend and colleague, who has battled the same industry demons to cover the plight of a forgotten group of sportsman, I learned my most important lesson: better late than never.
Nearly two years ago, on one of New York City’s muggy summer afternoons, I was setup on an obvious double date. Horrifically late, I arrived to meet a beautiful woman who, for some reason, had graciously decided to give me the benefit of the doubt. That woman, who has since become my fiancée, showed me a side of New York—without the deadlines and doubts, in lights that shone with the beauty of art—that I had never seen before. With her I realized that our time is both infinitely grand and worryingly short, but that it must be explored to its fullest.
That sense of adventure, the acceptance of change, and the willingness to risk everything, makes the closure of my favorite magazine shop understandable. Timeliness, in life, love and the work one does to commit to both, made our decision to leave New York reasonable. Today, sending my final New York missive from a coffee shop in Hong Kong, I am buoyed by stories that confirm a simple fact: Writers, like the words they employ, should have both history and personal record, and these elements should be brought to bear on the tales they tell. While uprooting our lives has been stressful, change generates the anxiety long shown to motivate the mind, stir the soul, and enrich the stories of tomorrow. After all, there are no “goodbyes.” Only next chapters.
We took my combat pay and did a lot of shopping. Which is how America fights back against the terrorists.
I reached the conclusion that this creature is possessed of a deeply seated suicidal instinct, some uncontrollable need for self-destruction. Witnessing the demise of the predecessors does not discourage them, instead they hurl themselves one after the other, clearly excited and desperately determined, toward an inevitable and quick death.
Stories only reporters will like…
I’m thinking about writing a short story about a journalist who, while waiting for a break with a number of skittish sources, spends days sitting in a largely empty Subway (the “restaurant”) in small-town Oklahoma, looking forlorn —his eyes peering unfocused through the front window.
The complicated story of Ali Mohamed Ali, the Somali pirate-negotiator turned American asylum-seeker, stirs debate over the unintended consequences of prosecuting “pirates” in the United States.
Don’t miss the backstory here.
VII Photographer Marcus Bleasdale on the situation in Central African Republic: “it’s the most violent and hateful environment I’ve ever documented in 16 years. And I’ve covered every conflict in Africa over that time, but I’ve never documented anything this bad.”
Read the full interview via National Geographic.
Source: National Geographic
A former schoolteacher killed his friend after a drunken argument over which is superior, poetry or prose, investigators in the Sverdlovsk region of Russia say.
"The literary dispute soon grew into a banal conflict, on the basis of which the 53-year-old admirer of poetry killed his opponent with the help of a knife," the regional branch of the federal investigative committee said in a statement.
I particularly like the phrasing: “with the help of a knife.”