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Comments: Week of December 17, 2012


1. Dan P. Lee’s reconstruction of the Christmas fire in Stamford, Connecticut, that claimed the lives of three young children and their grandparents, leaving the kids’ surviving parents shattered (4:52 on Christmas Morning,” December 10), prompted an outpouring of empathy online. “This piece deserves the print + read treatment, mainly so you don’t cry at your desk,” tweeted NY1’s Jamie Shupak. “Tragic and expertly written,” added Colin Jones of the Daily News. The community was equally overcome. “This whole article just broke my heart,” said one commenter. “There were simply parts I had to skip over as I couldn’t read it. I can’t imagine losing three children and my parents at the same time,” wrote another commenter. “The article really didn’t come to any conclusions. Maybe better that way.” One cynical voice asked, “Aside from rubbernecking at the terrible grief of the father, what exactly was the point of this article?” Prompting a quick rebuttal: “When a tragedy like this happens it is only natural for people to wonder ‘what would I do?’ ” answered a commenter. “I don’t consider this article to be rubbernecking. I considered it to be a sympathetic story that I, for one, have not forgotten.”

2. Many in the media world chose to get a warm, glowy feeling from Carl Swanson’s profile of Chris Hughes, the youthful owner of near-centenarian The New Republic (Chris Hughes Is About to Turn 100,” December 10). It beats reading about layoffs at Newsweek and buyouts at the New York Times. “Alas, the long-feared media winter is here. But soft! What light from yonder manger breaks … Saved!” proclaimed Dylan Byers at Politico. “While his mission for the magazine isn’t totally clear yet, [Hughes] does intend to be more hands-on,” wrote a blogger at Bookforum in a more measured and perhaps more earnest endorsement. “This young man has the chutzpah of a well-capitalized comp-lit major,” added Kelly Faircloth at the Observer’s Betabeat blog, who took particular notice of Hughes’s intial desire to grab The New York Review of Books: “If the choice for newly minted millionaires is shopping for super yachts or venerable literary outlets, we’d choose the latter too.” A commenter at also took heart at Hughes’s interest in old media, noting, “I appreciated the look into what is (I’m hopeful) an effective recovery of The New Republic, and it’s certainly a good way for a multimillionaire to practice the old saw ‘do good by doing well.’ ” Other commenters were not quite as charitable. “So this guy had the good fortune to be [Mark] Zuckerberg’s roommate, and now we are supposed to treat him as some kind of ­literary-political oracle?”

3. The whole point of a year-in-culture package (The Year in Culture 2012,” ­December 10) is not to produce warm, glowy feelings. It’s to start brawls. And who better to spar over than … Lena Dunham? The graph charting the Girls creator’s fierce 2012 praise-backlash cycle found extended life in the comments section. “And now, the backlash to this ­article,” as one commenter put it. “How much is HBO and Lena Dunham’s publicist paying you to write about her?” snarked one commenter. Volleyed another, paraphrasing (we think) Rihanna: “Lena Dunham make it do what it does. Shine bright like a diamond.” But the critics’ top-ten lists were where the real fights began. “Even though it overlaps very little with my own, I have to say: It’s smart and considered and a great read,” wrote Tom Breihan at Stereogum about pop critic Nitsuh Abebe’s album list. “His writing is sharp, and his reasoning makes sense … it doesn’t make much sense to argue over what did or didn’t make the list.” Unless you’re the commenters: “Where is Tame Impala?” … “Japandroids??” … “Frank Ocean created an instant classic this summer” … “Any list that excludes even a mention of Fiona Apple is immediately discredited.” Movie critic David Edelstein’s list also came under scrutiny by the masses. “Invalidated by the inclusion of Pitch Perfect,” griped one commenter. “It was totally charming and fun. I think it makes a nice, lighter addition to this list,” riposted another. “Lincoln?! That was one of the most boring movies of 2012,” argued a commenter. “White men in wigs yelling at one another. A good but not great film,” agreed another. “Hands down best movie of the year,” opined a third. Elsewhere in the issue, Edelstein noted that he’s always bummed out by how little traction his favorite documentaries get. As if on cue, one reader was quite happy to see his inclusion of a film that interviews former members of Israel’s Shin Bet security agency. “I’m really glad to see The Gatekeepers on this list—man, was it fascinating. It seems pretty incredible that [Dror] Moreh got these guys together on camera at all, and then the kind of candor and insight offered ... Also I loved Pitch Perfect, so there.”

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