Good morning fellow travelers, and speaking of, I’m heading back to La Paz this week. Last time I whipped up some guacamole for you, maybe I’ll make some again (this time not forgetting the tomatillos…)
Speaking of traveling, I was at an airport in January 2009. In the preceding five weeks, I’d had five of my editors at various publications, including Bon Appetit, the LA Weekly and the Los Angeles Times, lose their jobs. A writer (or this writer) writes for her editors, meaning, I expected that my assignments were about to take an enormous hit. (They didn’t; more on that below.) While waiting for the plane, I stood at the news rack and tried to take in what people wanted to read. Aggregated, it was “pretty happy women cooking,” bonus if there were sports on in the background. On the flight, I sat next to a guy, mid-30s, single, middle manager who flew a lot for work. He told me he wasn’t home that much, but when he was, he liked to turn on Rachael Ray, because, he said, staring into the middle distance, “She always looks so happy.”
I tweeted earlier this week that I was considering quitting my job to become a full-time Alison Roman stan. Is it because her recipes work? Yes. Is it because she looks happy? Sure, but it’s not the happiness that gets me all pang-y, it’s the willingness to look like an utter goof and show you exactly what it’s like when you cook, the “where the heck is the cinnamon?” and dropping the egg beaters on the floor.
Look, I want all of you in the kitchen with me, I do, and if there’s a reader here thinking, “I’d sure like to help this little lady out so she doesn’t have to smear cake batter all over the camera lens,” I extend you the invitation!
We’re upping the game otherwise, here at Paloma Media. Matt Welch and I got our proper spleen on this past Wednesday about what’s up with the “intent doesn’t matter” and, cool cool, let’s lie to cover for a star employee sitch over at the New York Times.
Full video here. And, for the masses (okay, six people) who’ve been asking, audio streaming now up on Stitcher! More platforms coming!
So about not taking that work-hit back in 2009: As it turned out, there were so many journalists out of work, the editors who did keep their jobs were besieged with story pitches, one editor told me she was literally getting thousands of cold pitches a month, from people she’d never worked with or sometimes never heard of; way, way too much uncertainly there, and so editors started calling in their ringers, of which I was lucky to be one. There was trust there and I was and am grateful for it.
The New York Times has taken an enormous hit these past few weeks, in terms of whether people trust what’s coming out of the building. The McNeil firing was a bridge too far, it was too fast, the messaging opaque and confused and contradictory. The people who stumped for his (and other) firings and the management that, depending on how you look at it, has either been supportive of or caved to, were confident they could keep steamrolling through, believed they would go unchallenged, and woe to any who tried.
Many smart people questioned the steamrolling this week, none smarter than John McWhorter, who wrote about the McNeil issue and the use of the n-word on his Substack and tangentially, in an essay called, “The Neoracists: A new religion is preached across America. It's nonsense posing as wisdom.” A clip:
Third Wave Antiracism is losing innocent people jobs. It is coloring, detouring and sometimes strangling academic inquiry. It forces us to render a great deal of our public discussion of urgent issues in doubletalk any 10-year-old can see through. It forces us to start teaching our actual 10-year-olds, in order to hold them off from spoiling the show in that way, to believe in sophistry in the name of enlightenment. On that, Third Wave Antiracism guru Ibram X. Kendi has written a book on how to raise antiracist children called Antiracist Baby. You couldn’t imagine it better: Are we in a Christopher Guest movie? This and so much else is a sign that Third Wave Antiracism forces us to pretend that performance art is politics. It forces us to spend endless amounts of time listening to nonsense presented as wisdom, and pretend to like it.
The essay is an excerpt from McWhorter’s new book, “The Elect,” which he is serializing on his Substack, which you can subscribe to here.
Speaking of books and racism, I have a review in this week’s Wall Street Journal, of The Rope: A True Story of Murder, Heroism, and the Dawn of the NAACP. There is a detective here, Ray Schindler, whose methodologies blew my mind. (Review may be behind a paywall.)
Speaking of detectives, I’ve recently been on two, count ‘em, two podcasts hosted by NYPD detectives, talking about my book, To the Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder, my interviewing serial killer John Wayne Gacy weeks before he was executed, and when the hell we’re going to be able to meet in a New York City bar. Not sure why you’d want stare at my mug for two+ hours but if you do…
I dipped into Clubhouse this week, and found it both like being at a dinner party (interesting) and a total time-suck (not interesting). I think Reason staff editor Liz Wolfe and I will be hosting a journalism AMA, this Monday at 5pmEST.
I watched 1917 this week, and my god, I urge you to, I cannot remember being as moved by a film’s sheer beauty.
On this Valentine’s Day, I leave you with this, because it’s all true. With love and hot pie xx
Excellent piece. And that Paul McCartney song is sublime! I'm a Beatles maniac and I've never heard it before.
Nancy, just discovering and enjoying your writing. A question: why did you title this piece: How Do We Know What We Know? I'm writing a book about the history of science and story (i.e. what we know and how we know it).