Malcolm Gladwell has an excellent piece about the history of Ivy League admissions in this week's New Yorker (I got a year-long free subscription through Salon, and I think I might just renew my subscription when it's done. Though I think I might prefer The Atlantic. We'll see). The final paragraph is thunderous, an unusual display of righteous snark/anger (and a bit of resentment, or cockiness?) from the usually quite safe Gladwell:
In the nineteen-eighties, when Harvard was accused of enforcing a secret quota on Asian admissions, its defense was that once you adjusted for the preferences given to the children of alumni and for the preferences given to athletes, Asians really weren’t being discriminated against. But you could sense Harvard’s exasperation that the issue was being raised at all. If Harvard had too many Asians, it wouldn’t be Harvard, just as Harvard wouldn’t be Harvard with too many Jews or pansies or parlor pinks or shy types or short people with big ears.
He's talking about the past, right? Surely such inequities have long since been done away with...
(MIT's admissions department struggles admirably with the question of Who Belongs at MIT, and they seem by and large to do a good job coming up each year with the answer; the change in the school's atmosphere over the last eight years is likely demographic and wider-cultural in origin. So I hope, in any case.)
Sasha Frere-Jones also has a glowing review of Fiona Apple's new album, the rerecorded Extraordinary Machine 2.0. I really enjoyed the Jon Brion version, and Frere-Jones's description of the sole new track sounds thrilling:
"Parting Gift," which Apple recorded in a single take at the piano, encapsulates her new strength. When she belts out the bitter chorus — "O you silly stupid pastime of mine / you were always good for a rhyme" — she hits the piano so hard that you don’t miss the lack of a backing band. The song is emotionally complex. Apple acknowledges that the relationship started off well—"I opened my eyes once while you were kissing me once, more than once" — and, uncharacteristically, takes some responsibility for its unhappy end: "It is my fault, you see, you never learned that much from me."
I'll probably check out the new thing, but I'm in no rush; I liked the vindictive calliope sound of Brion's production, and will probably just throw that into the CD player on occasion.
In fact, I think I'll do that now.