Comments: Week of May 2, 2011

1. As you might expect from any journalistic project that attempts to give a local’s perspective on other cities, some commenters writing about last week’s issue (Around the World in 156 Pages,” April 25) thought they knew better. A defender of the economic complexity of Los Angeles wrote in to disabuse the magazine of the “lazy” or possibly “deliberately misleading” idea that it was a “one-industry town.” After all, “did Los Angeles all of a sudden lose its ports that are the busiest in the country? Its unparalleled concentration of universities and research institutions? Its status as a financial center of the Pacific Rim? Its tourism industry? Its aerospace industry? Its garment industry?” A commenter about Cairo tried to be more helpful—though, truth be told, he didn’t make the place seem entirely hospitable. “It’s great that you guys featured Cairo, that amazing city of cars, animals, history, music, and pressing humanity. But you missed some really great things! Don’t miss the Tanoura show … Tanoura is Egyptian dervish dance, mostly secular. Go to the Khan el-Khalili! It’s allegedly one of the world’s oldest markets. Many shops were looted during the recent unrest. The vendors there could use a boost. And one more piece of advice: When riding in a cab, do not look in the direction of the vehicle/building/crowd of men, women, and children you are swerving toward. Trust your cabdriver; chances are he is the best driver you have ever seen. And have fun crossing the street on foot. It can be done.”

2. Many readers were touched by the Fates Crew’s graphical retelling of writer Joe McCunney’s return to Japan after the disasters there (Tokyo, a Homecoming,” April 25). “This has to be a regular feature! When I opened the magazine today to see this amazing, beautiful artwork, I did a double take. I welled up with tears at the end,” wrote one commenter; “That’s a really beautiful thing. Sad, simple, beautiful. Thank you for your perspective,” added another; a third called it “just awesomely beautiful and bittersweet.” Inevitably there was some nitpicking. One would have preferred a slightly more urgent artistic style: “Manga would be appropriate to tell the story of life in Japan right now. There are emotions that are rightly illustrated in manga that words cannot portray.” And another noted that it “would have been more accurate if the characters actually did as we did in Tokyo and went out and had cherry-blossom-viewing parties as usual. But nice job.”

3. Several commenters on Justin Davidson’s “Intelligencer” post about President Obama’s high-speed-rail scheme’s getting off track (Expect Delays,” April 25) shared his frustration. “Very sad,” wrote one. “This country must focus on better public transit … The private automobile has done far more harm to our country’s landscape, environment, health, and communities than any positive benefit it has brought. The private automobile should be considered a luxury. After all the government subsidies of the automobile, it’s time to compensate.” But not all of them shared his reasoning that ideology played a big part in the derailment. “I am a huge supporter of high-speed rail, but I think it is quite unfair to say the Republican governors who turned down funds did so because they sensed a socialist plot to pry people out of their cars,” wrote one. “In fact, almost every governor who scuttled a rail project did so because they saw it as a waste of money, period. In fact, their logic was basically the same as the author of this article’s logic. If we want high-speed rail to eventually become a reality in the U.S., we have to start by focusing on initiatives that are not a waste of money (Northeast Corridor instead of Tampa, Florida).” As another put it, more grumpily, “It is not ‘efficient door to door.’ It is ‘public’ in the sense that the public will pay subsidies for it forever. It is dreadfully expensive and suited to almost no one’s needs.” Still, another reader suggested taking the longer view, pointing out the extended gestation of ambitious rail projects like the Chunnel or the Gotthard Base Tunnel beneath the Alps. Never mind the Second Avenue subway, first proposed in the twenties, which could be “labeled a century project … Whatever we design today might be ready for our great-grandchildren.”

4. Alice Gregory’s “Intelligencer” post about how the increase in the price of cotton could mean an extended life for fashions, like the skinny jean, that are cheaper to produce (Trouser Math,” April 25) was looked on with skepticism. “Being somewhat of a fashionista, I feel there’s actually been a greater focus, at least from blogs and magazines, on wider-leg jeans,” noted a commenter. “I do think that this trend may have just as much bearing on the cuts you’ll actually see as the economics of cotton prices.” After all, as the blog Minyanville points out, “the association of skinny jeans for men with hipsters, the group itself indicative of a ‘weak male’ cultural expression (not used here as a value judgment but merely as an observation of the cultural expression of hipsterism), has seen a backlash against the type.”

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Comments: Week of May 2, 2011