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Comments: Week of November 21, 2011


1. Jesse Green’s cover story on the remarkably long lives of a group of Ashkenazi Jews—and one remarkable family in particular—delighted readers, especially Jewish ones (What Do a Bunch of Old Jews Know About Living Forever?,” November 14). “The mystery of SuperAging Jews, plus a lot of swell jokes about them,” recommended Marc Tracy at Tablet. “Fingers crossed I’m Ashkenazim!” tweeted @Iwanttogotother. At Yo, Yenta, “Head Yenta” Jessica Leigh Lebos called it a “fascinating, heart-tugging read.” The story also warmed the heart of Nathan Burstein at Jewish Daily Forward blog the Shmooze. “One of the more charming, thought-provoking articles you’re likely to read this week,” he wrote. “The Shmooze’s favorite [quip] came, unwittingly, from the SuperAgers themselves. After a nurse visited many of the elderly Jews at home to collect information, ­[longevity researcher] Barzilai would receive calls from his subjects. ‘The young man was very nice,’ they would tell him, ‘but why didn’t he touch the cake?’ ” Commenters at ­ took the opportunity to brag about longevity in their own families, Ashkenazi or not. “My great-­grandmother just had her 103rd birthday this year. Can’t wait to show her this article!” wrote one. “Our Gram from Trocki will be 106 in three days. (We know you’re tired, but happy birthday, Grammy!)” cheered another. “My grandfather and several of his sisters all lived well into their nineties, with the ‘youngest’ living to 102,” wrote a third. “Oddly, the next ­generation did not fare so well. Does it skip a generation? Or is it just damn luck?”

2. Media mavens chewed over Gabriel Sherman’s profile of Elisabeth Murdoch and her play for the future of father Rupert’s News Corp. empire (Elisabeth of the Murdochs,” November 14). “Absolutely fascinating,” Diane Ravitch wrote on Twitter, and at the Guardian, Matt Wells called it “worth the effort, particularly for avid Murdoch-watchers. For a start, you can play a fun game of guess-the-source,” he wrote. “Given that it is so sympathetic towards Elisabeth, we must assume from this that it was compiled with co-operation from ‘sources close to her.’ (Clue: her husband is a big-shot PR man in London, Matthew Freud.)” “Elisabeth is credited with having ‘sophisticated’ views about the future of the News Corporation—which mostly boil down to despising Fox News,” wrote the blogger at the Cable Game, who also focused on Freud and his semi-clandestine PR campaign on Elisabeth’s behalf. “The danger for Elisabeth, however, is that Freud is now so obvious and heavy-handed in his machinations … that his and her ­attempted coup might fail, crashing against the rocky reality that nobody likes, to say nothing of trusts, a traitor. And that Freud has no qualifications to run anything more than a gold-dug nepotistic boutique.” Commenters at ­ wondered why they should sympathize with Elisabeth or even read about her. “She has a rich daddy who bought her company. Why do we care about her ‘trying to get her due?’ ” asked one. “She sets up a media company that wins most of its commissionsfrom a channel Daddy controls,” wrote ­another. “And then she sells it at an outrageously inflated price to a company that he runs. One more act of nepotism ­masquerading as merit.” Added a third: “I found the constant referral to Ms. Murdoch’s ‘striking out on her own’ to be an interesting choice of words, considering her ventures were bankrolled by her father’s money. That doesn’t sound very independent. The whole thing is ­extremely distasteful.

3. Readers dove into Jerry Saltz’s ambling, enthusiastic review of Maurizio Cattelan’s Guggenheim retrospective, in which the artist suspended in the museum’s famous atrium nearly every work he’s ever made (The Redemption of Maurizio Cattelan,” November 14). “Cattelan’s no Matisse, but he sure does bring out the best in Jerry,” wrote one commenter on “What I like is Jerry’s sweet, innocent spontaneity—the way he scrambles from word to word.” ­Another was even more emphatic: “this is my favorite art review ever.” The response wasn’t all cheers, though: “the review smacked of vintage Artforum. You know, the ‘this is the biggest piece of shit I’ve ever seen, but I think it’s going to change the art world’ cop-out,” complained one skeptical reader, while another argued that the show was nothing to write home about. “It’s not some Zabriskie Point of artistic self-­destruction, self-abnegation, or self-­mockery,” he wrote. “Nor is it really the audacious spectacle of deconstruction that the Guggenheim would love us to admire as institutional bravery. Rather, it is a metaphor for the typical career-cleansing ­action of a retrospective exhibition in an art behemoth too big to fail.

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