Here’s what it looks like when a sprawling, diverse nation tries to cover everybody.
Read more. [Image: Olga Khazan]
How digital technology is transforming our relationship with sound.
In late January, a group of musicians, led by the trombone player Glen David Andrews, paraded through the narrow hallways of New Orleans’ City Hall and into the chamber of the City Council. They played trumpets and horns, cymbals and saxophones, snare drums and tubas. They danced. They sang a song called “Music Ain’t a Crime.” They held signs reading “we will be heard.”
Andrews and his fellow musicians were protesting a proposed new noise-control ordinance that would re-imagine the sound regulations of the city’s storied Bourbon Street. Noise in the area has been a matter of law since 1831, when the young city adopted an ordinance—one “concerning Inns, Boarding-houses, Coffee-houses, Billiards-houses, Taverns, Grog-shops, and other houses with the city of New-Orleans”—that forbade “cries, songs, noise or … disturbing … the peace and tranquility of the neighborhood.”
Since approximately 1831, such noise regulation has been a matter of controversy. There are, when it comes to controlling the sounds of the city, competing constituencies: tourists, residents, bar owners, professional musicians, less-professional musicians. There are First Amendment considerations at play (noise-making and personal expression being intimately acquainted). There’s money at stake. There are cultural sensitivities to be respected and navigated.
“You have to do it very carefully,” says David Woolworth, a principal at the firm Oxford Acoustics, “because people take it really personally when you go after their music.”
"Here’s your ‘buzzword bingo’ card for the meeting,” Wally says to Dilbert, handing him a piece of paper. “If the boss uses a buzzword on your card, you check it off. The objective is to fill a row.”
They go to the meeting, where their pointy-haired boss presides. “You’re all very attentive today,” he observes. “My proactive leadership must be working!”
“Bingo, sir,” says Wally.
This 1994 comic strip by Scott Adams is a perfect caricature of office speak: An oblivious, slightly evil-seeming manager spews conceptual, meaningless words while employees roll their eyes. Yet, even the most cynical cubicle farmers are fluent in buzzwords. An email might be full of calisthenics, with offers to “reach out,” “run it up the flagpole,” and “circle back.” There are nature metaphors like “boil the ocean” and “streamline,” and food-inspired phrases like “soup to nuts” and “low-hanging fruit.” For the fiercest of office workers, there’s always the violent imagery of “pain points,” “drilling down,” and “bleeding edge.”
Over time, different industries have developed their own tribal vocabularies. Some of today’s most popular buzzwords were created by academics who believed that work should satisfy one’s soul; others were coined by consultants who sold the idea that happy workers are effective workers. The Wall Street lingo of the 1980s all comes back to “the bottom line,” while the techie terms of today suggest that humans are creative computers, whose work is measured in “capacity” and “bandwidth.” Corporate jargon may seem meaningless to the extent that it can only be called “bullshit,” but it actually reveals a lot about how workers think about their lives.
Read more. [Image: Jackie Lay]
As “Carlo” walks around New York City, his gentle manner, warm smile, and crisp button-down shirts do nothing to betray that he has some $10,000 in illegal drugs stashed in his pockets.
In his 30s and from the Upper West Side, Carlo is a high-end dealer in some of New York’s purest narcotics. His current best seller is the chemical compound MDMA, popularly known as Molly. Each of the capsules he sells at $20 a pop gives a customer a four-hour euphoric high. On any given weekend, Carlo’s product is consumed by hundreds of New Yorkers. He clearly takes pride in his role sparking dance-floor romances across the city. One of his frequent clients calls him a “chemical cupid” and says Carlos’s MDMA is the most potent she’s ever experienced. With good-quality MDMA fast becoming one of the most sought-after drugs, Carlo has a prime spot in a very popular distribution pyramid.
During the evenings I spent accompanying Carlo on his rounds, I learned that his customer base included people of all walks of life. Within one four-hour period, I saw Carlo cater to NYU students, lawyers, artists, bankers, and a college professor—all ordering drugs to their apartments as casually as if it were Chinese food.
Read more. [Image: DEA/Reuters]
Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. Here’s why, and what to do about it.
In 1975, Rüdiger Heim landed in Egypt with one question on his mind: Was his father a Nazi? Over the next two decades, he found out.
Read more. [Image: Heim Family]
In cities across the country, stop-and-frisk strategies have gained great currency. They aim to get guns off the street, to glean information and solve crime sprees, and, perhaps above all, to act as a deterrent, by letting criminals and would-be lawbreakers know that they might find themselves getting a pat-down at any given moment. Arguably, the policies have succeeded, helping to cut crime dramatically from New York to Los Angeles. But they have also stirred the loudest and most painful present debate in American criminology: Are young men of color being unfairly—and unconstitutionally—singled out?
Read more. [Image: Philip Montgomery]
A preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer. A new kind of playground points to a better solution.
Read more. [Image: Hanna Rosin]