1. "Sandy's forgotten"
Alex Koppelman, The New Yorker
Hurricane Sandy (later downgraded to superstorm Sandy) made landfall on Monday, and immediately had a massive impact on America's East Coast — particularly in New Jersey and New York. Though cleanup has already begun in earnest, there are thousands of Americans still desperately in need of aid before they can begin the recovery process. Here, a look at Sandy's impact on Manhattan's housing projects:
The people who live at the Baruch Houses were supposed to have evacuated before Sandy hit. Some did. Many did not, though, often because they had no good place to go. They are still there, without power, water, or any visible help from any government agency — city, state, or federal — other than some people from the city Housing Authority who'd come by to pump water out of flooded basements. Everywhere you walk in the neighborhood, fire hydrants have been turned into makeshift wells, with lines of people waiting, bottles and jugs in hand. "It's a twenty-four-hour operation," Carmen Perez joked, pointing to the people standing at one of the hydrants.
Throughout the week, New York Times political polling guru Nate Silver has drawn criticism from conservatives for boldly predicting an Obama victory. Is Silver biased, and are his polls flawed? A defense of Silver's statistical methodology, which he originally used to make sports predictions nearly a decade ago:
Just like their colleagues in the sports section, the political pundits see the wrong kind of uncertainty in Nate Silver. They associate statistics with mathematical proof, as if a confidence interval were the same thing as the Pythagorean Theorem. Silver isn’t more sure of himself than his detractors, but he’s more rigorous about demonstrating his uncertainty. He’s bad news for the worst members of the punditry, who obscure the truth so their own ignorance looks better by comparison and who make their money on the margin of uncertainty, too.
3. "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
Washington Irving, republished at Bartleby
On Wednesday, Americans across the country celebrated Halloween by embracing all things spooky. One of the nation's most beloved scary stories, of course, is Washington Irving's 1820 classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which is also one of the oldest pieces of American fiction still widely read today. Extend both your Halloween and your grounding in classic American literature by reading the spooky short story:
All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in the afternoon, now came crowding upon his recollection. The night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds occasionally hid them from his sight. He had never felt so lonely and dismal. He was, moreover, approaching the very place where many of the scenes of the ghost stories had been laid. In the centre of the road stood an enormous tulip-tree, which towered like a giant above all the other trees of the neighborhood, and formed a kind of landmark. Its limbs were gnarled, and fantastic, large enough to form trunks for ordinary trees, twisting down almost to the earth, and rising again into the air.
4. "The man who made Star Wars"
Lynda Miles and Michael Pye, The Atlantic
On Tuesday, Star Wars fans were shocked by the news that Disney had acquired George Lucas' movie production company, Lucasfilm, and was already planning to extend the seemingly finished Star Wars saga with Star Wars: Episode VII in 2015. As George Lucas passes the torch of his legendary sci-fi franchise to a new generation of filmmakers, have a look at this 1979 profile of the director and Star Wars creator, written just two years after the release of the first Star Wars movie:
The idea of Star Wars was simply to make a "real gee-whiz movie." It would be a high adventure film for children, a pleasure film which would be a logical end to the road down which Coppola had directed his apparently cold, remote associate. As American Graffiti went out around the country, Lucas refined his ideas. He toyed with remaking the great Flash Gordon serials, with Dale Arden in peril and the evil Emperor Ming; but the owners of the rights wanted a high price and overstringent controls on how their characters were used. Instead, Lucas began to research. "I researched kids' movies," he says, "and how they work and how myths work; and I looked very carefully at the elements of films within that fairy-tale genre which made them successful." Some of his conclusions were almost fanciful. "I found that myth always took place over the hill, in some exotic, far-off land. For the Greeks, it was Ulysses going off into the unknown. For Victorian England it was India or North Africa or treasure islands. For America it was Out West. There had to be strange savages and bizarre things in an exotic land. Now the last of that mythology died out in the mid-1950s, with the last of the men who knew the Old West. The last 'over the hill' is space.
5. "The undecided voter revealed"
John Dickerson, Slate
After a seemingly interminable campaign season, which will finally end next Tuesday, most analysts agree that the election will largely be decided by a sliver of undecided voters in swing states like Ohio and Florida. In our hyper-politicized climate, who are these undecided voters, and what are they waiting for? One writer goes to the source, polling more than 200 undecided voters in an attempt to discover how, after months of fervent campaigning from both candidates and nonstop media political coverage, anyone could have possibly failed to pick a horse:
This exercise was refreshing and faith restoring. That isn't a knock against partisans. They care about the country enough to donate their time and energy to the cause. That makes them a necessary treasure to democracy. I spend a lot of time with partisans at rallies listening to their worries and hopes. But in the digital world, partisans are often full of certainties, snap judgments, and insults. The passion overwhelms illumination. These correspondents are undecided — or "still deciding," as one put it in an effort to lessen the stigma — because they weigh the duty so heavily. More important, they all have a quality that has all but disappeared in this election: They pause long enough to hear the other side's arguments. Not once in these emails did a voter write about one of the candidates' supposed gaffes. They are the perfect combination: skeptical and thoughtful. They don't trust politicians, the press, or pundits, but they treat the ideas of all of those players seriously enough to formulate an opinion of their own. If only the politicians trying to get their vote behaved the same way.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
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- The week's best photojournalism
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