News 15.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 15.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 15.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 15.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 2019, more than a hundred thousand people walked into the Pierre, the five-star hotel on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Some checked in at the front desk; others, in ball gowns and tuxedos, headed up the stairs to the Grand Ballroom. About five hundred events were held at the Pierre that year: weddings, galas, corporate parties, bar mitzvahs. In December, there were holiday parties every night. Such events could run to four hundred and fifty dollars a guest for food, drinks, and staff—and then there were the ice sculptures and custom-made dance floors that clients ordered from outside venders. At the Pierre, events were a forty-million-dollar-a-year business, accounting for half the hotel’s revenue.

About eighty weddings took place at the Pierre in 2019. A certain subset of wealthy New Yorkers have attended numerous events at the hotel, and couples who’ve been married there have tried to transform the Grand Ballroom in ways that guaranteed that their wedding would not be forgotten. Sometimes, floral decorators have used netting to suspend thousands of flowers from the ceiling, so that guests felt as though they were standing beneath a garden. One decorator adorned the room with ten thousand peonies. There have been quite a few weddings with a winter-wonderland theme—at one, decorators used drapery to create the illusion of icicles hanging from above, rolled out a white carpet, and set up a snow machine. Jay Laut, a banquet captain at the Pierre, told me, “Sometimes we would just talk among ourselves and say, ‘Oh, my God, what a party they had!’ ”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 15.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 15.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 1883, a Jerusalem antiquities dealer named Moses Wilhelm Shapira announced the discovery of a remarkable artifact: 15 manuscript fragments, supposedly discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea. Blackened with a pitchlike substance, their paleo-Hebrew script nearly illegible, they contained what Shapira claimed was the “original” Book of Deuteronomy, perhaps even Moses’ own copy.

The discovery drew newspaper headlines around the world, and Shapira offered the treasure to the British Museum for a million pounds. While the museum’s expert evaluated it, two fragments were put on display, attracting throngs of visitors, including Prime Minister William Gladstone.

Then disaster struck.

Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau, a swashbuckling French archaeologist and longtime nemesis of Shapira’s, had been granted a few minutes with several of the fragments, after promising to hold his judgment until the museum issued its report. But the next morning, he went to the press and denounced them as forgeries.

The museum’s expert agreed, and a distraught Shapira fled London. Six months later, he committed suicide in a hotel room in the Netherlands. The manuscript was auctioned for a pittance in 1885, and soon disappeared altogether.

Since then, the Shapira affair has haunted the edges of respectable biblical scholarship, as a rollicking caper wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a cautionary tale. But now, a young scholar is staking his own credibility by asking, what if this notorious fake was real?

In a just-published scholarly article and companion book, Idan Dershowitz, a 38-year-old Israeli-American scholar at the University of Potsdam in Germany, marshals a range of archival, linguistic and literary evidence to argue that the manuscript was an authentic ancient artifact.

But Dershowitz makes an even more dramatic claim. The text, which he has reconstructed from 19th-century transcriptions and drawings, is not a reworking of Deuteronomy, he argues, but a precursor to it, dating to the period of the First Temple, before the Babylonian Exile. That would make it the oldest known biblical manuscript by far, and an unprecedented window into the origins and evolution of the Bible and biblical religion.

Dershowitz’s research, closely guarded until now, has yet to get broad scrutiny. Scholars who previewed his findings at a closed-door seminar at Harvard in 2019 are divided, a taste of fierce debates likely to come.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

The Balmoral in Chestnut

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Although COVID has brought an avalanche of new stressors into our lives, it has also eradicated a number of minor ones. For example: the anguish of wondering whether you are dressed appropriately for a social occasion. Social occasions — ha! When this is all over (a clause that, by the way, I first typed one year ago for a completely different article), will anyone remember how to iron a shirt, much less affix a cummerbund?

Well, at least one person will. Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History is a new book by Richard Thompson Ford, a Stanford Law School professor who has terrific personal style. This is an irrelevant biographical detail for most academics but a qualification here. Ford is not only a decorated scholar and fashionisto but a Best Dressed Real Man, as we learn in the book’s introduction. In 2009, Ford writes, he entered Esquire’s Best Dressed Real Man contest on a lark. His second child was 10 months old at the time. Family life was a whirlwind of plastic baby toys and diaper changes. It struck him as potentially entertaining to submit himself as “a harried 43-year-old dad versus a bevy of lantern-jawed aspiring actors, sinewy fashion models, and athletic-looking frat boys.” The contest winner would receive an all-expenses-paid weekend in the Big Apple. One of the submission photos, reproduced in the book, depicts Ford in a blue pinstripe suit with a squirming infant in his lap. To his own astonishment, he made it to the semifinals before being eliminated in favor of the ultimate winner.

Read the rest of this article at: The Cut

News 15.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 15.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

It’s probably foolish to put this in writing, but, over the past few weeks, a post-covid future has started to seem visible in the distance. New case numbers are dropping. There are grownups in charge of vaccine distribution. The time will come, as we sift through the wreckage, to determine which pandemic-era conventions to throw in the trash and which ones to keep. Some calls are easier to make than others: Zoom meetings are clearly here to stay, as are sidewalk dining and mutual-aid groups. Masks will hopefully make the “out” column. But what about pandemic learning pods—the newly ubiquitous institution in which small groups of children gather for school in someone’s living room?

Learning pods have played a fraught role in the covid era. When the concept surfaced, a few weeks into the pandemic, it seemed to epitomize the worst elements of this crisis: the way it has cleaved the haves from the have-nots, and has set the have-lots adrift on luxury lifeboats of obscene privilege. There were reports of parents shelling out a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars a year to hire a tutor for their kids. But, as time and the virus have worn on, the concept of pod learning has expanded to include everything from home schools to babysitter shares and informal group Zoom sessions—the wide range of things that working parents are doing to occupy their children.

“This past year has been a huge jolt to the American education system,” Erin O’Connor, the director of N.Y.U.’s early-childhood-education program, said recently. “I think we’ll look back on it as a really influential time, for better and worse.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

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News 15.03.21 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Armie Hammer already needed crisis therapy.

The world was under lockdown last summer, and Hammer had been quarantining at a luxury villa in the Cayman Islands with his father, Michael, his stepmother, Misty, his two young children, and his wife of a decade, Elizabeth.

“It was a very complicated, intense situation, with big personalities all locked in a little tiny place,” Hammer told British GQ last September. “I don’t think I handled it very well. I think, to be quite frank, I came very close to completely losing my mind.”

He compared himself to a trapped wolf who wants to “chew his own foot off.”

Hammer had been so desperate to escape the Caymans that he booked a flight back to the U.S. A source close to Elizabeth claims that his decision to flee his family during a pandemic was the final straw in a marriage that had already been tested by infidelity; she filed for divorce in July. By January 1, Hammer seemed to have rebounded romantically with a series of short-term girlfriends and was ready to face the world anew: “2021 is going to kneel down before me and kiss my feet because this year I’m the boss,” Hammer tweeted. “2020 was a cheap shot no one was expecting. Now I know what we are up against and it’s time to go to war.”

Several weeks later, however, Hammer found himself in a darker crisis. Amid the turmoil of divorce proceedings, several women took to social media to accuse the actor of emotional abuse, manipulation, and violence. The scandal ballooned as screengrabs circulated that seemed to show the actor describing sexual fantasies involving rape and cannibalism. Hammer stepped away from two high-profile projects, a rom-com with Jennifer Lopez and a Paramount series about the making of The Godfather. Shortly after, his agency, WME, dropped him.

For the people who know Hammer’s family—peppered with Russian communists and American oil tycoons—the allegations are an unsurprising development to a long and sordid history with drugs, sex, dysfunction, and betrayal. Many men in the Hammer family have a dark side, sources close to the family say, one that looms across five consecutive generations.

Read the rest of this article at: Vanity Fair

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.