Why I Love the Internet

Because it allows me to read stuff like the following, an anonymous comment on a post by Washington Post reporter Andrew Freedman. Freedman complained that 2009 saw “erosion of clarity about climate”:

Mr. Freedman, the expression you’re struggling to avoid with regard to your propaganda in support of “mainstream climate scientists” is one devised by Nobel laureate Richard Feynman in 1974.

The words are “Cargo Cult Science,” the advancement of scientific seeming without scientific integrity. Not just error but flagrant dishonesty. Fraud. Criminal conspiracy, too.

That’s your “mainstream climate scientists” in a neat little bundle of filth.

The Climategate revelations – the obvious work of an insider, a whistle-blower, not an outside hacker – show how the CRU correspondents cooked their data, manipulated their crooked computer models, and generally schemed to defy the UK and US laws covering Freedom of Information, including indications that Prof. Jones of the University of East Anglia suborned not only the compliance officers of his University but also one or more officers of Her Majesty’s government in the ICO.

Thirty wonderful years of duplicity, mendacity, “cork-screwing, back-stabbing, and dirty dealing.”

And you, Mr. Freedman, are defending this. Tsk. But what the hell have we any right to expect – other than this act of accessory after the fact in a multiple-count felony investigation – from anyone associated with The Washington Post?

Courtesy of Climategate, we now have stunning “clarity on climate.”

This isn’t exactly brilliant but it is better (better-written, better-argued, more heartfelt) than 99% of mainstream journalism, such as the Washington Post or New York Times. One big function of journalism is “to afflict the comfortable.” That includes science journalism. When a journalist, such as Elizabeth Kolbert, cannot form her own opinion but must accept what powerful people tell her, she cannot “afflict” them.

I think there is a psychological principle at work. It has different names. One is belief in a just world. The rich and powerful think they deserve their good fortune. Another is cognitive dissonance. If I did this crummy job for low pay, I must enjoy it. Yet another is Stockholm Syndrome. The science journalist thinks: If I trust this scientist, he must be trustworthy. But he isn’t. Outsiders, such as the anonymous commenter, are not subject to this effect and see things more clearly.

The New Yorker Reading List

For the first time, the New Yorker website contains comments by all of their contributors about the best books they read last year. It’s a great idea. I’ll be studying it for a long time. I was most immediately persuaded to read The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (recommended by Margaret Talbot) and The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser (recommended by Jeffrey Toobin). I’m interested in anything Lauren Collins has to say because she is a very talented writer. Her list was unusually long. Tad Friend misspelled the title of his own book.

Some of the writers didn’t write very well. Paul Muldoon, the poetry editor, used the royal we:

We’re very pleased to report that the title-poem first appeared here in The New Yorker.

It should be called “the pompous we“. He also wrote:

Among the poetry books that particularly recommended themselves this past year

Richard Brody wrote this:

The laser-like clarity and probity with which Lanzmann brings

I think he means “the laser-pointer-like clarity . . . “.

Three Things Elizabeth Kolbert Doesn’t Know

A staff position at The New Yorker is the best journalistic job in the world. Elizabeth Kolbert, a very good writer and reporter, has one of them. In the current issue, criticizing Superfreakonomics, she writes:

To be skeptical of climate models and credulous about things like carbon-eating trees and cloudmaking machinery and hoses that shoot sulfur into the sky is to replace a faith in science with a belief in science fiction.

I cannot discuss engineering (“carbon-eating trees”, etc.) but I can discuss science (“climate models”). Here Kolbert shows the same limitation that practically every science journalist shows (the big exceptions are Gary Taubes and John Crewdson): They take the consensus view too seriously. In case after case — so many that it’s hard not to draw sweeping conclusions — the consensus view about difficult topics is more fragile than an outsider would ever guess. It’s not necessarily wrong, just less certain.

Kolbert places too much faith in those climate models. Here are three things Kolbert doesn’t know:

1. For years, as I’ve blogged, Leonard Syme, an epidemiology prof at Berkeley, taught his students to distrust one mainstream public-health conclusion after another. Maybe 12 examples in all. He showed them facts they didn’t know. All of a sudden the picture wasn’t so clear any more. That he could do this in so many cases, one case per week, is what’s telling.

2. If you believe mainstream ideas about weight control, the Shangri-La Diet is absurd. It can’t possibly work. Since it has actually worked in countless cases — more than half the time, as far as I can judge — the experts, it appears, got it utterly wrong. Long before me, Michel Cabanac, a professor of physiology at Laval University, was saying the same thing — that the consensus view about how to lose weight was wrong. No matter how many millions of times journalists repeated it. The Shangri-La Diet merely makes it vividly clear he was right.

3. Hal Pashler and I wrote a paper about how mental models based on fitting data were delusional. The data that supposedly supported them did not. To take seriously a model because it could fit data was a mistake, we pointed out; what matters is correct predictions. It isn’t easy to figure out the predictions of a model with many adjustable parameters; and the modelers in these cases never did. These models were accepted professionally for half a century; perhaps they still are.

It is possible that climate modelers have a different psychology than scientists in other areas — that the evidence for the consensus presented to outsiders is as strong as the scientists involved say it is — but it seems highly unlikely. For example, I doubt the climate models Kolbert places such faith in have been tested (their predictions, not just their fits, compared with reality).

There’s no doubt that carbon dioxide concentration and global temperature are correlated, but you may not know that carbon dioxide concentration lagged temperature for a long time. Because of this, I’m sure the temperature change caused the carbon-dioxide change. It isn’t mysterious; as water changes temperature, the amount of carbon dioxide it can dissolve changes. As water heats, carbon dioxide is released into the air.

This means that something powerful — not carbon dioxide — has been producing changes in global temperature so large they cause carbon dioxide to rise and fall in amounts as large as those we are now worried about. Until we know what this is there is no way to allow for it. To subtract it from observed carbon dioxide and temperature changes, see what remains, and try to draw conclusions from the residuals. And we don’t know what it is, no matter how closely this or that climate model fits data. (How closely they fit data depends on how many parameters they have, not merely how truthful they are. More adjustable parameters –> closer fit.) Until we know what it is, it is entirely possible that this force, not man-made emissions, is behind recent increases in global temperature and carbon dioxide. If man-made emissions are not causing the change in temperature, reducing them is unlikely to do much. (Sure, there are a hundred blog posts dismissing the inconvenient backward lag. I’ve been unable to find even one that addresses the point I’m making here.)

This is like what Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray failed to understand in The Bell Curve. They had a whole chapter on the Flynn Effect (the large increase in IQ over years) but they failed to grasp that until the Flynn Effect was correctly explained — until we knew what caused it — there was a big environmental contribution to IQ that they didn’t understand. Perhaps it was this powerful environmental factor that caused the between-race differences in IQ that they attributed to genes. They were unable to equate different races for this factor — to take its effect into account.

Herrnstein and Murray might have been smart enough to see the problem — but, in any case, they ignored it. Kolbert is smart enough to understand that the climate scientists she talks to have a vested interest in overstating their case — but, at least in her writing, she ignores this. If she stopped ignoring the vested-interest problem and tried to think for herself — to sort out for herself conflicting claims, to stop believing everything a mainstream thinker tells her — her job would be much harder. (It took Gary Taubes seven long years to write Good Calories Bad Calories.) Given Kolbert’s lack of scientific background (at The New Yorker she originally covered politics), perhaps her job would be impossible. Kolbert’s faith is not in science, as she pompously says, but in scientists.

New Yorker Slackers

I once read a Briefly Noted review in The New Yorker that revealed that the reviewer had only read a quarter of the book. A friend told me that reviewers got about $100 for those reviews so there was a certain inevitability to this deception. This abstract, of Calvin Trillin’s best-ever article, about an American student who goes to China, blossoms, gets sick, and dies, is another example of the same thing. The abstracter clearly didn’t read the article — but you should.

Lucky Journalist of the Year

John Seabrook of The New Yorker. In an article about the economics of rock concert tickets, with an emphasis on scalping, he appears to follow a New Jersey Bruce Springsteen fan who can’t get tickets to a show. All gone in 10 minutes, mostly to resellers. Later, due to government intervention, she is able to buy two, and on the day of the show wins a lottery for seats next to the stage — her dream. A surprise happy ending to the story. Like all of Seabrook’s work it was a pleasure to read but I wonder how Seabrook feels about it. Near the end it briefly mentions a new technology (paperless tickets) that makes scalping impossible. As if the problem was solved while Seabrook was writing about it.

Ray Bradbury is Unclear on the Concept

I completely agree with Ray Bradbury about libraries:

“Libraries raised me,” Mr. Bradbury said. “I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

Here’s what he says about a similar source of free knowledge:

“The Internet is a big distraction,” Mr. Bradbury barked . . . “Yahoo called me eight weeks ago,” he said, voice rising. “They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? ‘To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the Internet.’

“It’s distracting,” he continued. “It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.”

When I was in college (at Caltech), I didn’t find classes or books very helpful. I liked reading old New Yorker articles. Which then I got from the library but now I’d get online.

Great Moments in Magazine Journalism

In his Entertainment Weekly TV Watch synopsis of Tuesday’s American Idol, Michael Slezak wrote:

Can we all raise our lighters in unison for the most convincing rocker chick to ever grace the Idol stage? Yes, it’s Allison Iraheta, who took ”Give in to Me,” a completely obscure album track from Jackson’s Dangerous album and delivered it with such passion and confidence, I felt like I should call Ticketmaster and let them retroactively charge my credit card a couple hundred bucks just for the privilege of hearing her.

That’s a critique. Which I agree with. I can’t imagine reading something like this in print — it’s too heartfelt about something too small — but online, it is possible.

Yay, The New Yorker

I felt a burst of joy when I logged in and saw for the first time the new digital edition of The New Yorker. It looks good and it works. The ads are still there — good, the magazine needs the revenue. The simulation of page-turning has a calming effect. You can easily print stuff to read later — while waiting for BART, say. You can easily go from the table of contents to the articles. You can easily look in back issues.

In Beijing I read The New Yorker online (the free stuff). Mail from America to China is so slow and error-prone it was pointless to have stuff forwarded. It felt fine. Sure, I couldn’t read some of the articles but there was plenty of other stuff to read. My subscription felt worthless. Now it doesn’t.

Maybe magazines aren’t dead.

More When I tried to read an article, big problems arose. 1. It wouldn’t work with Firefox, no matter how many times I reopened it. 2. After reading several pages with internet Explorer, it got into a state with two pages superimposed, making the whole screen unreadable. I couldn’t fix it. I gave up and went to the paper version.

Not the Same Study Section: How the Truth Comes Out

In the latest Vanity Fair is a brilliant piece of journalism, Goodbye to All That: An Oral History of the Bush White House by Cullen Murphy and Todd Purdum. In a fun, easy-to-read format, it tells some basic truths I had never read before. Here are two examples:

Matthew Dowd, Bush’s pollster and chief strategist for the 2004 presidential campaign: When Abu Ghraib happened, I was like, We’ve got to fire Rumsfeld. Like if we’re the “accountability president,” we haven’t really done this. We don’t veto any bills. We don’t fire anybody. I was like, Well, this is a disaster, and we’re going to hold some National Guard colonel responsible? This guy’s got to get fired.

For an M.B.A. president, he got the M.B.A. 101 stuff down, which is, you know, you don’t have to do everything. Let other people do it. But M.B.A. 201 is: Hold people accountable.

David Kuo, deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives: There’s this idea that the Bush White House was dominated by religious conservatives and catered to the needs of religious conservatives. But what people miss is that religious conservatives and the Republican Party have always had a very uneasy relationship. The reality in the White House is if you look at the most senior staff you’re seeing people who aren’t personally religious and have no particular affection for people who are religious-right leaders. Now, at the end of the day, that’s easy to understand, because most of the people who are religious-right leaders are not easy to like. It’s that old Gandhi thing, right? I might actually be a Christian myself, except for the action of Christians.

And so in the political-affairs shop in particular, you saw a lot of people who just rolled their eyes at everyone from Rich Cizik, who is one of the heads of the National Association of Evangelicals, to James Dobson, to basically every religious-right leader that was out there, because they just found them annoying and insufferable. These guys were pains in the butt who had to be accommodated.

This is related to the Shangri-La Diet. In these two excerpts, the speakers were (a) close to the events they describe but (b) not so close they are in any danger from the people they tell the truth about.

In science the same thing happens. Saul Sternberg and I could tell the truth about Ranjit Chandra’s research not only because (a) we were fairly close to that research (which involved psychology, even though Chandra was a nutritionist) but also because (b) not being nutrition professors, Chandra couldn’t harm us. Those closer to Chandra, professional nutritionists, had plenty of doubts as far as I could tell but were afraid to say them. Hal Pashler and I could criticize a widely-accepted practice among cognitive modelers because (a) we were in the same general field, cognitive psychology, but (b) far enough away so that the people we criticized would never review our grants or our papers. (Except the critique itself, which they hated. After the first round of reviews, Hal and I requested new reviewers, saying it was inevitable that the people we criticized wouldn’t like what we said.) Likewise, in the case of voodoo correlations, Hal is (a) close enough to social neuroscience to understand the details of the research but (b) far enough away to criticize it without fear.

In the case of the Shangri-La Diet, I was (a) close enough to the field of nutrition that I could understand the research but (b) far enough away so that I could say what I thought without fear of reprisal. Nassim Taleb is in the same relation to the field he criticizes. Just as Saul Sternberg and I knew a lot about the outcome measure (psychological tests) but were not nutritionists, Weston Price, a dentist, knew a lot about his outcome measure (dental health) but was not a nutritionist.

It’s curious how rarely this need for insider/outsiders (inside in terms of knowledge, outside in terms of career) is pointed out. It’s a big part of how science progresses, in small ways and large. Mendel and Darwin were well-educated amateurs, for example. Thorstein Veblen wrote about it but I haven’t read it anywhere else.

The Best Food Writing I’ve Read

I subscribed to Saveur for several years but never finished any of the long articles — which weren’t that long. This should have puzzled me, but it didn’t. A month ago, however, I got the audiobook of Secret Ingredients, the New Yorker anthology about food. I was surprised how many of the articles I didn’t want to listen to. 90%? Usually I like New Yorker anthologies and read most of the articles. I’m a more tolerant listener than reader which made the comparision even worse.

Here’s my explanation. Food writing is like downtown Edinburgh. Its main street has shops on one side, on the other side a park. What should have been the economically most lively street in the city is rendered half as effective as it might be by the fact that half of it isn’t businesses. As something to write about, food is similar. Just as a park is economically inert, food is psychologically inert. Like a park, food can be pleasant (to read about) but it doesn’t act. It isn’t alive. This is why those Saveur feature articles were hard to read, I realized. They resembled flat lists: We cooked and ate X, Y, and Z. It’s incredibly hard to make that sort of thing fun to read. The best article in Secret Ingredients was John McPhee’s profile of Euell Gibbons. It’s a mini-adventure story, with an interesting guy at the center. The food is . . . a condiment.

This is why I’m so impressed by the chapter “Waizhou, USA” in The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee. Waizhou means “out of state” — in this case, away from New York City. It’s the story of a family who left New York to run a Chinese restaurant in a small Georgia town. It took a shocking turn that Lee didn’t expect. Police took the children away. The father was arrested. “The offices pointed to the burn scars from cooking oil on the parents’ arms and said that was evidence that the couple had a history of fighting.” This had horrible and ramifying effects. “Oh, I can’t eat there anymore,” said a lawyer, “that’s the DV [domestic violence] case.” The teenage daughter starts using the court system to punish her mother. The parents are arrested again. “They had violated court rules by driving near their children’s foster home. Because they had sold their restaurant they were considered a flight risk.” Eventually they get their children back, and go back to New York. It’s a whole slice of life I’d never read about before. Enormously emotional and unpredictable. The father enjoyed jail. “When I was in jail for two days, it was really relaxing,” he told Lee.

Who I’d Like to Meet

At dinner I asked my friend who he’d like to meet. “Good question,” he said. Let me try to answer it:

1. John Horton Conway. A Princeton math professor who’s combined math and human interest better than anyone since John Von Neumann. I especially like his work on numbers and games and The Book of Numbers, which he wrote with Richard Guy.

2. Lauren Collins. She and Mark Singer are the best writers at The New Yorker. As I recently blogged, I loved her profile of Pascal Dangin.

3. Chimamanda Adichie. I blogged about a recent short story of hers. Reading her reminds me how I used to read lots of fiction and how much I liked it.

The person I don’t know who I most wish would write another book is Renata Adler. If a book can be stillborn, Private Capacity, supposed to be published in 2002, was that. From Wikipedia: “Renata Adler’s investigation of the Bilderberg group reveals the true history of the organization, its membership and its nebulous function. With an astonishing cache of Bilderberg archives and secret files, Adler charts the history of the organization and the extent of its power.” Sounds like it exists, doesn’t it? It ranks 5 million on Amazon, maybe because I ordered a copy. Second most: Ben Cheever. I loved Selling Ben Cheever.

Short Story of the Year

The Headstrong Historian” by Chimamanda Adiche is the best short story I have read in The New Yorker in years, and in the book I am writing now — on self-experimentation — I will quote from it:

How she had puzzled over words like “wallpaper” and “dandelions” in her textbooks, unable to picture them.

No wonder the author won the Orange Prize last year for her novel Half of a Yellow Sun.

An essay by Adichie about being called “sister” contains the following:

The word “racist” should be banned. It is like a sweater wrung completely out of shape; it has lost its usefulness. It makes honest debate impossible, whether about small realities such as little boys who won’t say hello to black babysitters or large realities such as who is more likely to get the death penalty.

In college I wrote an essay saying essentially the same thing about the word scientific — that it was too vague and pompous to be helpful.

A Chimamanda Adiche website.

Trailer >> Movie

The trailer for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves contained a shot in which the camera was mounted on an arrow. The shot, done especially for the trailer, was far more memorable than anything else in the movie. I’m afraid this line from an abstract of a New Yorker article by Andrea Lee about growing up in Pennsylvania–

Writer briefly describes a lunch with an Italian movie director who tells her about an affair he once had with a woman from Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

–is going to be more memorable than anything in the article.

You can see the arrow shot here.

Why Entertainment Weekly Rules the World

Recently Tyler Cowen and I wrote the following dialogue about Entertainment Weekly, of which we are both big fans. We failed to get it published — perhaps because we broke an important freelancing rule: Never submit a finished piece, as Jack Hitt told Berkeley journalism students. Our loss is your gain. 

SETH When my friends look puzzled that I subscribe to EW I say “entertainment” means art.  It’s about art. They could have called it Art Weekly but they didn’t want to scare people.

TYLER The age of the review has been replaced by the age of the cue.  There’s too much wonderful stuff out there to read pages of reviews.  I want a letter grade and a few sentences on what it is and whether I might like it.  If I love the product I can go read lengthier reviews on the web afterwards, when I understand the context and don’t have to worry about spoilers.  Most critics don’t realize just how much they are dead in the water, and replaced by trusted intermediaries — like EW or favorite bloggers — who offer just a few guiding sentences. I often disagree with EW but I always know where they are coming from.  I can usually gauge my own best guess, relative to the evaluation in their review.

SETH After a reading I overheard a famous author and his friend discuss the B that EW had given his book. “It helped settle debates around the house about who’s the better writer,” he said — his wife’s book had gotten a B+. They agreed that assigning grades to books was shallow. Listening to them, Tyler, I thought what you say: Hey, the rest of us need the time. Sure, there’s something superficial about treating complex artistic productions, such as books and movies and albums, like homework assignments — but why exactly is that bad? I call it the Chez Panisse model. The distinctive style and concerns of Chez Panisse came from mixing haute cuisine with French bistro food — bistro food treated as seriously as haute cuisine. Your blog, Marginal Revolution, is another example. Blogging is just a variation of diary entries, the lowest form of literature — but people such as you are lavishing great care on it and creating new effects. Likewise, EW lavishes great care on the assignment of lowly, shallow grades – the accompanying review, for example. The rest of the magazine also treats “low” culture with great respect. All that praise of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All that space devoted to American Idol. What I want from magazines is to take me where I wouldn’t have gone. To expand my world. Long ago, The New Yorker managed to often do that. Now, not so often. Now it is EW more than any other magazine that manages to get me to read or watch or listen to stuff I otherwise wouldn’t have encountered. It’s not just reviews; it’s reviews of beach books (“which no poet would deign to touch” as one of Nabokov’s characters put it).

TYLER I find the grades for books are the least reliable section of EW.  Which for me means they are the most reliable section.  If they like a book, I know to stay away.  How could a critic be better or more trustworthy than that? Too many readers are too concerned about affiliating themselves with prestigious magazines, rather than learning something. EW takes us to new places because the magazine covers only what is new, or newly reissued.  Other cultural contributions (dare I call them “products”?) simply don’t exist for the magazine.  That’s what is truly startling about the pages, not what is there but what’s not there. We need to take that seriously, as our culture already operates on that basis.

SETH I once wrote EW to say they should cover radio. I want to know what’s as good as This American Life. What do you think they should cover but don’t?

TYLER I’d like to see more coverage of satellite radio in particular, plus Internet radio, both of which are national. Most of all, I’d like their take on new technologies for consuming culture.  What’s the best way to connect a computer and a television?  Is there anyone you would trust to give a better answer about a simple and cheap method?

SETH I can rent a DVD for $1/day at a local store. At my public library, they’re free for a week. With so much “entertainment” so available, the value of filters goes up. Whether the founders of EW foresaw this or were lucky, I don’t know. I do know that the grades ( e.g., B-) attached to every review are filters of filters. Smart. At EW they are clear on the concept. Entertainment in the EW sense might be America’s biggest export in terms of dollars. It could easily be America’s most influential export, since it enters the brain. So economists should pay more attention to EW, the only magazine that gives a sense of what all this stuff is about and might answer the question of why American entertainment has achieved such world dominance. Does sheer wealth mean a country can make more easily exportable movies and TV shows? Or is it the universality of English that is the secret? I don’t think there is a magazine like EW in any other country. Nor earlier in history. While TV Guide seems to be fading away even as TV is booming, EW, with its much greater emphasis on reviews and broader coverage, is thriving. I think stories teach values — we imitate the hero, don’t do what the bad guy does — and EW is the first magazine to devote itself to this market: What stories are we telling? The values of EW staffers, therefore, get huge leverage. Maybe the magazine is written by about 50 people. Each of them may have more power over what stories people are exposed to– keeping exports in mind — than the President of the U.S. Than anyone else in the entire world! Than the editor of The New Yorker. All 50 of them. Where is EW, with its vast power over our values, taking us — meaning the world? They are probably more pro-gay than the average person. They certainly like The L Word, for example, and think that Ugly Betty is a great show. They have never published a “courageous” (muck-raking) article, such as Silent Spring, but neither do they publish fawning profiles. I think the Must List demonstrates tolerance and acceptance of differences; relatively small and quirky projects make the list. They have embraced reality shows and cable TV, both of which thrive on quirkiness.

TYLER This is getting complicated. Let me try some familiar territory. Here’s what I think of Entertainment Weekly:

TV coverage: A

Movie and DVD coverage: A-

Music coverage: B-

Radio coverage: D

Book coverage: A+

Advertisements: B

The Must List: A

Columnists: A-

How Things Begin (The Approval Matrix, part 8)

ROBERTS Were there really some people that didn’t think that opera is highbrow and comics are lowbrow? Was that a hard thing?

NUSSBAUM The complicated thing is: why is opera considered highbrow and why is comics considered lowbrow?

ROBERTS That’s a different question.

NUSSBAUM We were trying to articulate this. Part of it is a mass versus elite thing. Part of it is a notion of the complexity of ambition of the thing. But that doesn’t really work.

ROBERTS That’s not quite fair.

NUSSBAUM You can have an opera that’s incredibly dumb and not very well thought through. And you can have a comic book that is the most ambitious thing ever in terms of its narrative or in terms of its artistry. The tricky thing is: what pulls something up or down? Also, I just couldn’t over the fact that people didn’t understand that lowbrow is not a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing for something to be mass and enjoyable. That’s why there are two different things. The visual is meant to literally suggest that highbrow and lowbrow are not same thing as brilliant and despicable.

ROBERTS I liked The Approval Matrix for that. I took it for granted.

NUSSBAUM I’m kinda chatterboxy today for lack of sleep.

ROBERTS That’s fine. You’ve helped a lot. The wonderful thing about The Approval Matrix is that in a small space it makes me aware of many new things I would like to find out about. It improves my world. It opens me up to lots of stuff. It opens me up to lots of art. It helps me find lots of great art.

NUSSBAUM That’s great!

ROBERTS Other magazines don’t do that as well. I think every magazine does that a little bit.

NUSSBAUM Not only is that very exciting to hear, it was one of the things when I was redesigning the section that was really difficult. When you read a section on culture it is generally divided into genres. So if you’re interested in visual arts, that’s what you end up reading about. If you’re interested in visual arts, you flip to the visual arts section. You’re likely to perhaps never read the book section or the TV section or something you’re not interested in. The thing about The Matrix is, because it’s a destination that sort of forces everyone to go to this place where it’s like a big bus station where everyone interested in everything is forced to hang out, I hope it has that service quality you’re talking about. Which is it opens your eyes to things you’d normally not have heard of, you’re forced to mingle with all art forms, to be very high-faluting about it.

ROBERTS That’s a good way to put it.

NUSSBAUM Are there other questions?

ROBERTS There’s aren’t any other pressing questions, no. You’ve done a wonderful job answering my questions. Thanks a lot, Emily.

Interview directory. Behind The Approval Matrix.