Returning from Indy on Sunday I picked up the March edition of The Atlantic. In large block letters it features an ominous looking story THE RECESSION'S LONG SHADOW. The subhead, in yellow capital letters against a somber highway, empty and grey, reads, "HOW A NEW JOBLESS ERA WILL TRANSFORM AMERICA." The picture tells the story, but it's a good thought provoking read as well.
Other stories in this issue include, "Cyberwar: Pentagon vs. Chinese Superhackers", "Food Fight: Whole Foods Vs. Wal-Mart", and "Inside The Pac-Man Archives." But the cover blurb that led me to part with my money was "Management Secrets Of The Grateful Dead" by Joshua Green. Ironically, this last was not as gratifying a read as I had hoped because the management secrets were essentially a re-hash of the things I already knew from previous articles about the Dead. Green did present an interesting review of current events in their history, mainly ruminating on the archives that have been assembled and stashed in an undisclosed Northern California location which will be made available to scholars and historians in the very near future. The article exists no doubt to serve notice regarding the unveiling soon of this treasure trove.
On the plane I began at the front of the mag, reading the letters to the editor and getting a hankering to obtain the past issues which stirred these comments. Preceding that, though, is a table of contents page which features Jerry Garcia, contemplatively fingering the strings of his guitar. This image alone is worth the price of the mag for any Dead fan. And even for a semi-Dead fan like me. So, no regrets on that article. The rest of this issue would then be gravy.
After the Letters pages, a section called Dispatches follows. A small collection of interesting shorter pieces, the first focusing on a reality TV show in Kabul called Afghan Model. The next is called Sex-Offender City which deals with the problem of finding homes for sex offenders when everyone and their brother is shouting, "Not in my back yard." This was followed by a little story on the rodeo scene and a number of Brazilian cowboys who have become part of that scene. Exile in Greenville follow this, an article about NASCAR and environmentalists, told with a unique angle from a unique moment in time. I read each of these with relish.
The travel piece, Chet of Arabia, about a mom and three year old son who travelled in the Middle East, didn't engage me, but would likely have brought fond memories from my brother and his wife who were in some of these places last year (Petra, Israel, Jordan).
I skipped the Pac-Man article, and found an interesting piece called Myth-Diagnosis by Megan McArdle, which made the case that people without insurance are not more likely to die. It is one of those contrarian pieces that makes you think.
This was followed by an article about the reality TV show Lockup and it's sequel spin-offs. What will they think of next? It reminds me of Tom Wolfe's comment in the 1970's that fiction was dead and would be replaced by stories like In Cold Blood, truth told using fictional story-telling techniques. He may have been wrong about the demise of the novel, but television producers have learned that we live in a highly voyeuristic culture that invests great quantities of time peeking into other peoples' windows.
The 14-page feature on joblessness in America begins on page 42, with a photo of a kid in prep school attire carrying a hobo's pack. This is followed by the James Fallows piece called Cyber Warriors with the Dead piece fast on its heels.
The Grateful Dead article held its own, but was followed by the most significant article for me in this issue: Death Becomes Him, by Bruce Falconer, an in depth profile of Switzerland's assisted suicide industry in general and Ludwig Minelli's Dignitas in particular. I'm curious at the juxtaposition of a piece about the Grateful Dead and an article in which an assisted suicide community boasts of their "grateful dead."