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Comments: Week of April 29, 2013

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1. “If you’re a fan of Robert Caro’s series of weighty tomes on Lyndon Johnson’s life, then you will likely enjoy Chris Smith’s profile and analysis of Andrew Cuomo’s political mind,” wrote Nick Reisman at Capital Tonight about our April 22 cover story on “The Albany Machiavelli,” whom we called “the shrewdest American politician since LBJ.” “The profile, which Cuomo cooperated for, is an argument in favor of transactional politics, the give-and-take series of deal-making the public imagines is dirty and abhorrent ... Cuomo and Johnson seized moments. They know how to talk to legislators. They know when to bully, when to charm. As Smith rightly points out, these traits don’t necessarily make you the most beloved public official. The flip side of being known as ‘effective’ is ‘scheming’ or ‘Machiavellian.’ ” Most readers at nymag.com seemed to think Cuomo the strong-armer was living now entirely on the downside. “He’ll never be president. His look, his sound, everything about him will never fly outside New York,” wrote one. “Like Christie, he’s tough, but he doesn’t have the humor of Christie.” But at least one commenter was rooting for that showdown. “A Christie-Cuomo race would be one for the ages. Cuomo vs. Christie would be [like] ‘Are you talking to me?’ vs. ‘Yeah, so what are you going to do about it?’ Those debates would make Game of Thrones look like an episode of the Rachael Ray show.

2. “Masturbation has become the latest frontier in the school of self-improvement,” wrote Emily Witt in a story about men who’ve sworn off it “to return to a more charged, natural self” (Hands Off,” April 22). At Gawker, Adam Weinstein replied with a long post “in defense of masturbation.” “If the aim of this extreme form of Jedi abstention training is to be sexist about teh ladiez and solipsistic about everything, well, then why not just save time and fuck your fist? Obsessing over one’s masculinity is the most unmanly, masturbatory waste of energy I can imagine.” In an actually poignant post about the first time he masturbated, Andrew Sullivan agreed: “Wank on, my brothers and sisters. Wank on.” At ­AskMen, Ian Lang was a little more sympathetic to the NoFappers. “I can’t speak for anyone but myself in terms of what makes a man feel like a man, but I can say that today’s ­environment is not always conducive to it. We work in sterile office settings. Opportunities for organic expressions of physicality are rare and, at best, contrived. Regardless of what you consider ‘manly’ behavior, life provides few acceptable, politically correct outlets for it … On the other hand, the motivation behind these men’s decision to begin the process of self-improvement makes me think the whole concept is kind of bunk. I wasn’t aware that success and happiness were a by-product of masculinity … We are literally born men, and it takes all kinds of men to make the world go round. Not all of us can, or should, be Don Draper or James Bond or whatever other romanticized masculine role models we look up to. Cultivating a ‘masculine energy’ isn’t going to make you any happier or more successful. Self-improvement is exactly what it sounds like. Working on yourself won’t put hair on your chest or make you less emotional or whatever else it is that makes you feel ‘manly.’ What it will do, though, is make you a better version of yourself, and people notice that.” Of course, it wasn’t only men who wrote in response. “We all know that a guy’s low libido can lead to relationship weirdness,” wrote Anna Breslaw at Cosmopolitan.com. But “if the tables were turned, do you think you’d be able to give up masturbation? I dare you to try it. Being single, I probably wouldn’t last longer than three days.

3. Mark Danner’s long interview with New York Review of Books founder and editor Robert Silvers received quite a warm response when it was published a couple of weeks ago (In Conversation: Robert Silvers,” April 15). But this week we received an e-mail from former New York Magazine art director Walter Bernard: “It is dismaying and appalling that Robert Silvers could speak at length about the NYR 50th anniversary and not even mention the contribution of the great caricaturist David Levine. And that Mark Danner, a Review contributor, was not knowledgeable or smart enough to ask him about Levine’s enormous contribution to the Review’s success.”

Send correspondence to: nymletters@nymag.com


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