June 25, 2007

Starting this week, the “Letters” page is replaced by the “Comments” page, primarily because, well, so many of the comments about the magazine no longer come in the form of letters. Instead, they come in e-mails, in blog posts, in Web links, and, in one glorious recent instance, through an on-air shout-out on The Colbert Report. We continue to encourage your sending letters, of course, but we’ll also keep an eye on your blogs, your e-mail-forwarding tendencies, and, if you happen to be Stephen Colbert, your TV show.

1. “My son graduated from West Point in 2000, and I have a bone to pick with you,” wrote Becky Gibson of Shreveport, Louisiana. She wasn’t the only reader who took exception not to our recent article (“Intro to Warfare,” by Chris Smith, May 28) but to an accompanying photo of cadet Marya Rosenberg, shown in a skirt, reclining in leaves. “Whose idea was behind that ‘lying-down-in-the-leaves-leggy-skirt-to-the-thigh’ pose?” wrote Nicholas Santarsiero of Manhattan, and Gerri Hutchings Bock of Los Altos, California, added, “It was hard not to notice that the male cadets featured were not posed lying on their backs with bare legs.” Other readers had different bones to pick; for example, with the attitude of the Hunter High School teacher who yelled, “No blood for oil” at Rosenberg when she visited the school. “There’s nothing more pathetic than some egghead academic taking cheap shots at a cadet who has no influence on policy decisions,” wrote David Kim via e-mail. “I’m as outraged at our administration’s disastrous management of this war as the next person, but to make snide comments at a cadet is beyond a low blow—it’s cowardly.”

2. In our profile of Edward Tufte, writer Christopher Bonanos described him as “most likely the world’s only graphic designer with roadies” (“Culture: The Minister of Information,” June 18). Groupies, too, it turns out. The article spent much of the week as the most e-mailed story on our Website, beating out such supposedly more buzz-friendly stories as a piece on Tina Brown and her book on Princess Di. All this thanks to blogs like So Dig This Big Crux, which prefaced a link to the Tufte story with, “As big a deal as people make about him, his ideas are worth the attention.” Not that there weren’t some dissenters. “I am frustrated by the blind hagiography that has sprung up around Tufte’s books,” wrote Andrew Reyniak, a Manhattan architect. “The chart you reprinted is a maddening case in point. Anybody who actually looks at the chart will see that Tufte has transposed elements incorrectly; the goldfish, mole, and hummingbird are all mixed up, among other significant dislocations. I, for one, would rather engage charts whose substantive data remain correct, even if it requires (gasp!) complex understanding and thought, at the expense of a pointless centaur and Babar.” Who else might Tufte have slighted? “The graph … does not look like good science,” writes statistical consultant Gerald Shea. “He appears to rank the ancestor of man’s best friend, the wolf, as closer to modern man (and woman) than our very old friend, saurornithoid.”

3. A different kind of feedback comes in two Mirror Awards, honoring media coverage of media and sponsored by the Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University. Philip Weiss won Best Profile for “A Guy Named Craig,” about Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, and Clive Thompson won Best Single Article for “Blogs to Riches,” a look at the economics and star system of the blogosphere.

Who Drew That Jacket?
In our much-scrutinized “Look Book,” Bob Stein’s stenciled jacket (June 18) inspired readers to ask us who did the artwork. We didn’t know. Then we got this letter from Faith Wiens: “Stein was wearing my good friend and bandmate’s jacket. Brian Boerner (www.boernerinks.com) is the creator of these amazing screen-printed T-shirts and jackets, and, contrary to what Mr. Stein stated, Brian will put his artwork on any piece of clothing that someone picks out.”

Calculating a Surge
Last week, online traffic to “The Profit Calculator” (by Arianne Cohen, June 11) grew steadily, registering peaks about 11 a.m. on Tuesday and then spiking about midnight on Thursday. The surge was owed to posts (and links) on two influential blogs—boingboing and, the coup de grâce, Digg (on which, after the initial link, the article made it to the “Top 10 in All Topics” column). “The Profit Calculator” is one of our top-two most-blogged-about features to date, neck and neck with Po Bronson’s “How Not to Talk to Your Kids” (February 19).

Correction: In “Intelligencer” (June 11), the item “New ‘Vacation’ Sunk” should have been credited to Justin Ravitz.

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June 25, 2007