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Comments: Week of March 10, 2014

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1. “I’m aware that it’s ironic that I’m making this case in the media—but this is the last time I’m going to talk about my personal life in an American publication ever again,” vowed Alec Baldwin in his 5,000-word farewell to public life in the first biweekly issue of this magazine, in which he explained his frustration with the media, apologized for his perceived homophobia, and lamented the passing of an older New York in which privacy was respected (Good-bye, Public Life,” ­February 24–March 9). “This is so far from sensible that it’s beautiful,” wrote Amos Barshad at Grantland’s Hollywood ­Prospectus blog. “An angry first-person magazine piece, taking shots at targets old and new? And so I say well done, my dude. Because, whatever else, this is a great read, lacerating and weird and almost pathological. Consciously or not, he seems to know the No. 1 rule here: If you’re gonna get a little nuts, ­entertain us while you’re doing it.” “As to working in news media, got it exactly right. Perfectly. Today, you shill for your news organization or you get out,” approvingly tweeted Keith Olbermann, another former MSNBC personality who had a similarly complicated exit from the network. Predictably, others found his apologia less convincing. “After a few months of stoic reflection on the upheaval in his life, Baldwin has something to say, and he’s done it through what can only be described as the Finnegans Wake of flouncing,” wrote Rebecca Rose at Jezebel. “He makes the same observations about the media that your mom did at Thanksgiving in 2007.” “Like the liberals who always claim they are on the verge of leaving the country if Republican Candidate X is elected, I remain skeptical of Baldwin’s stated desire,” opined Isaac Chotiner at The New Republic’s website. And several critics noted that, in at least one respect, he had dug himself a deeper hole by referring to a man at an LGBT organization he’d had a discussion with as “an F-to-M tranny.” Baldwin’s article, wrote Alex Panisch at Out’s Popnography blog, “is a glittering monolith of cognitive dissonance, narcissism, and privilege.”


2. In the pages of “The Cut” section, Fiona Duncan introduced the world to “normcore,” the fashion fad of wearing decidedly unfashionable, mom-approved comfort clothes (Normcore,” February 24–March 9). The internet, ­naturally, erupted. “ ‘Anti-fashion’ is the new high fashion. And Jerry Seinfeld is its poster boy,” wrote Ellis Hamburger at the Verge. “NORMCORE IS REALLY JUST MIDNINETIESCORE DON'T GET IT TWISTED,” tweeted Molly Lambert of Grantland. “The only way to sell a $200 performance-fleece zip-up by Alexander Wang,” sniped Ann Friedman in a pie chart for the Hairpin. Not everyone finds the normcore style ridiculous, though. “As someone who has fully embraced it, I would argue that it is actually more difficult to pull off than dressing like [Vogue Japan editor] Anna Dello Russo,” wrote Lauren Sherman at Elle.com. “I love these clothes—they’re comfortable, a bit odd, and make sense for a fashion writer who doesn’t particularly want to show off.”

3. In another feature in the issue, ­Benjamin ­Wallace-­Wells contemplated the premise of solitary confinement, taking as a case four gang members in a California prison who inspired a widespread hunger strike despite being isolated from the general population (The Plot From Solitary,” February 24–March 9). “The sad reality is that some inmates deserve to be isolated,” wrote a commenter on nymag.com. “Those that can’t co-exist with others without violence should be separated. It’s not that easy, but it is necessary.” Others had more sympathy for the inmates. “If only our prison system wished to truly rehabilitate those incarcerated,” wrote one. “The gang culture seen in this article being momentarily forgotten in favor of a greater purpose only stands to show that it is purpose that is lacking in the lives of these men. Perhaps if we found a way to provide it, there would no longer be a need for SHU-type housing.” And the lawyers who represent the prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU also wrote in to make their case. “The bottom line is this: the ­incidence of suicides, attempted suicides, and the development of mental illness are much higher amongst prisoners in ­solitary confinement than those held in the general population. The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, meaning that, no matter what, a prisoner may not be deprived of basic human needs—a concept that is measured against evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”

4. “I’ll be carrying this at all times from now on,” tweeted @ sarahcrosland about Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld’s rundown of 50 cheeses of all provenances and types (Fifty Cheeses,” February 24–March 9). “So much glorious cheese porn,” raved @ themerryness. Others were on a higher moral plane. Tweeted @gastropoda, “Cheese is better off not given the Hustler treatment. Leave a bit to the ol’ imagination.”

Send correspondence to: nymletters@nymag.com


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