Morgan Freeman Takes Off


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An old article published in 1988.

Walking along 42nd Street, Morgan Freeman talks about the performances he most admires—not the Orson Welles of Citizen Kane but the Orson Welles of Touch of Evil; not the Laurence Olivier of Hamlet but the Laurence Olivier of Khartoum. He stops on the sidewalk, raises his right hand to his forehead in a snappy salute. “Now, that’s the level of performance you strive for.”

Like Freeman’s performance in Street Smart. Vicious yet charming, scary yet seductive, menacing yet amiable, the kind of guy who can hold a gun to your throat, then slowly smile, pat you on the cheek, and say, “Come on. I’ll buy you a cuppa coffee.” Freeman’s Fast Black has all the oxymorons you’d expect in a routinely first-rate portrayal of a pimp. But he takes them to a level deeper, playing a man so tautly in control he could snap into psychosis at any second, a man, most of all, who knows that a large part of being a successful pimp is being a gifted actor.

The complete article

Ross Wetzsteon — Bronx Banter

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Kobe Bryant: Sheen of self-perfectionism


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If you want to watch something moving, if you want to see him play basketball but don’t know where to start, try the last three minutes of his last ever game – you can find them on YouTube. Bryant, ageing, tiring, balding, sweating, sucking air, is determined to score as many points as he can, and somehow, against the odds, starts winning – total focus, total exhaustion on his face, while the crowds chant KOBE KOBE KOBE, with his wife and two of his daughters in the front row. It’s a happy scene, almost implausibly celebratory, people are laughing in the stands as each ridiculous shot goes in, though you also get the sense that for them it’s only a game, and that nobody else is taking it quite as seriously.

The complete article

Benjamin Markovits — TLS

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Asimov’s Empire, Asimov’s Wall


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After the war, his reputation as a groper became a running joke among science fiction fans. The writer and editor Judith Merril recalled that Asimov was known in the 1940s as “the man with a hundred hands,” and that he “apparently felt obliged to leer, ogle, pat, and proposition as an act of sociability.” Asimov, in turn, described Merril as “the kind of girl who, when her rear end was patted by a man, patted the rear end of the patter,” although she remembered the episode rather differently: “The third or fourth time his hand patted my rear end, I reached out to clutch his crotch.”

The complete article

Alec Nevala-Lee — JSTOR Daily

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Iran’s Deadly Puppet Master


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An old profile of Suleimani.

The prominence the soft-spoken Suleimani has achieved is especially striking given his origins. Born into poverty in the mountains of eastern Iran, he displayed remarkable tenacity at an early age. When his father was unable to pay a debt, the 13-year-old Suleimani worked to pay it off himself. He spent his free time lifting weights and attending sermons given by a protégé of Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He was enamored with the Iranian revolution as a young man. In 1979, at only 22, Suleimani began his ascent through the Iranian military, reportedly receiving just six weeks of tactical training before seeing combat for the first time in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. But he is truly a child of the Iran-Iraq War, which began the next year.  He emerged from the bloody conflict a hero for the missions he led across Iraq’s border—but more important, he emerged as a confident, proven leader.

The complete article

Stanley McChrystal — Foreign Policy

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The Fake Indian Princess Who Conned Marlon Brando into Marriage


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THE YEAR WAS 1957. He was the king of Hollywood, having won an Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954). She was a rising star with blue blood, an Indian princess, having played the survivor of a plane crash in The Mountain, starring Spencer Tracy. Together, they made a beautiful couple, with the world seemingly at their feet. That was until Marlon Brando realised that Anna Kashfi, the woman he had married, was actually Joan O’Callaghan, a Welsh butcher’s assistant who owed her exotic looks to her Anglo-Indian ancestry rather than a royal lineage. By 1959, they were divorced.

The complete article

Kaveree Bamzai — Open

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CAN BLOOMBERG KICK-START THE POLITICAL MACHINE HIS BILLIONS HAVE CREATED?


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Michael Bloomberg. Presidential candidate.

Bloomberg’s belated decision to run was motivated in large part by his growing alarm at Elizabeth Warren’s rise from the left. And Warren, trying to regain momentum, has been fast and loud in criticizing Bloomberg’s plans to spend tens of millions of dollars trying to make himself a legitimate candidate for the nomination. But Bloomberg—who is skipping the four February early-primary states to concentrate on Super Tuesday, on March 3, when 14 states vote—now needs to root for Warren or Bernie Sanders to emerge from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada as the leader for the Democratic nomination. “That way, he can draw a cleaner contrast as the centrist, experienced job-creator,” says Matt Paul, a Democratic strategist who Bloomberg consulted last winter, when he was first weighing a bid. “That has to be Mike’s play. If it’s Biden or Pete [Buttigieg] in front coming into Super Tuesday, it gets much harder.”

The complete article

Chris Smith — Vanity Fair

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Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo: The Nobel couple fighting poverty


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Nutrition is a conundrum in developing countries. The couple argue that things that make life less boring are a priority for the poor – a TV set, something special to eat, for example. In one location in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, where almost no one had a TV, they found the extremely poor spent 14% of their budget on festivals. By contrast, in Nicaragua, where 56% of the poor households in villages had a radio and 21% owned a TV, very few households reported spending anything on festivals.

Their work also suggested governments and international institutions need to completely rethink food policy. Providing more food grains- which most food security programmes do – would often not work and help little for the poor to eat better because the main problem was not calories, but other nutrients.

The complete article

Soutik Biswas — BBC

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