What The Times Magazine Got Wrong About Climate Change

Robin’s Book Report #42
A reading list by Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein

-New Writing
-Book Report

Can brand-new condos increase racial segregation? I wrote about a recently dismissed lawsuit that wanted the city to analyze how racial minorities are affected by new housing developments. Most articles, about this case, got many of the details wrong, so read my article for a better take.

I also wrote a very short article about a self-taught metal-worker and web-designer who sells grills out of junkyard in Brooklyn. I hope I can do a longer profile of him one day.

Please drop me a line to let me know what you are reading, and what you like in the newsletter!

Book report

Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not “Human Nature”” By Naomi Klein (The Intercept)

Consider this a timely follow up of my newsletter about ultra-responsibility. Naomi Klein responds to the conclusion of the New York Times Magazine story about how climate change was almost dealt with in the late 1980s. The Times Magazine article concludes by suggesting it is a fundamental, unchangeable flaw in human nature that fails to deal with big, abstract problems like global warming. Klein finds this to be an inadequate summation. She thinks the failure to halt carbon emissions is not a problem of human nature, but of our screwed up social contract that is now presupposes self-interest and the primacy of corporate profits.

I agree with her. The conclusion of the Times Magazine story represents a failure of imagination. We are captives of the dark, Hobbesian fatalism that is inherent in neo-liberal thought (that each individual is responsible to no one, and thus there’s nothing to be done about Big Problems). But when we change our minds, we change the world. As Nina Simone said in her addendum to “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”:

“One day I thought I could fly

I woke up and thought I could fly

I’d look down at the sea

and I wouldn’t know myself

I’d have new hands

I’d have new feet

I’d have new vision

My eyes would be open a little better

Bible says

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind”

I consider this a tract on the possibility of change and how unknowable the future is. The future is defined less by events and peoples than it is by the ideas that influence them. Surely humans failed to deal with carbon emissions, but was it an inevitable moral flaw? Are we doomed to burn for our sins? What does the future hold? Maybe something else.

How Tech Billionaires Hack Their Taxes With a Philanthropic Loophole (NYT) and Why did Elon Musk stash a quarter-billion dollars of Tesla stock in a non-profit back in 2016? (The Outline)

The founder of GoPro stashed half of his IPO windfall in a charity called “Silicon Valley Community Foundation.” It’s an opaque organization, and it’s not apparent whether the money was ever distributed to charity. In the second article, the author looked into whether Elon Musk had used the charity loophole to stash cash from his Tesla IPO and–surprise!–he did.

How music has responded to a decade of economic inequality” By Scott Timberg (Vox)

Musicians of today (the last ten years) fail to deliver the social critique that other generations of musicians did.

The Price of Shares” by Rob Horning (Even Magazine)

A museum in Indianapolis turned itself into what is essentially a quirky a food hall. They now, as vague and trendy business-types would have it, offer “experiences.” You can taste craft coffee, glug micro-brews, go mini-golfing, and–most importantly–touch the art. The author of this essay, Rob Horning, thinks that this has something to do with social media. But there’s nothing persuasive in this article suggesting that it does, beyond the very tired idea that phone’s get between us and art, mediating our experience. But all kinds of things mediate our experiences, far beyond phones. Untamed thoughts can easily come between you and an art experience. Hormones can also get in the way of “pure” experience. I remember asking my friend Andy in high school, who had just taken a date to see the movie Van Helsing, how the movie was. He was like “I have no idea.”

The real problem is that museums cannot survive as a repository of historical objects if people cannot decipher their meaning. If regular museum-goers are not well-versed in art history, a non-experiential approach (with art plunked on the walls and plopped on the floor) leaves them cold, like a book written in a language you don’t know. Sure, it would be great to read The Odyssey in the original Greek, but maybe English or YouTube will have to do.

Museums are bringing in other activities and it has little to do with Instagram. The Walker Art Center had artist designed mini-golf when I was in high school. I don’t know of another period in history when art was consumed “better” than any other time. Were museums better in the 1950s, the heyday of Abstract Expressionism? Did artist have more consequence in the culture? Or even simply make more money? Art vitality has to do with audiences fluency with it’s lexicon, and the creators of art desire to engage and connect with the audience.

Financial world doomed to repeat bad behaviour (FT)

Since the reign of Napoleon, fraud in finance remains the same:

“In 1814, Charles de Berenger colluded with Sir Thomas Cochrane and six others to accumulate a large position in UK gilts before he appeared in Dover disguised as a Bourbon officer and reported that Napoleon had been killed, sending a letter to the Admiralty in London to that effect and staging a parade across London Bridge to proclaim an allied victory. UK government bonds rose on the news and they then sold their holdings for a profit.

Some 199 years later, the US Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that a fabricated Twitter account was used to spread false and negative news about Audience, a technology company, and Sarepta Therapeutics, a biotech company.”

How the bottom half bolsters U.S. economy (Reuters)

The bottom half of the economy’s debt fuels the economy at large. It’s their mortgage, medical and car debt. Debt is useful, but it’s also spackling tool to smooth over the transition from a nation with savings, to a nation that is completely impoverished.

From the article:

“In the past, rising incomes of the upper 40 percent of earners have driven most of the consumption growth, but since 2016 consumer spending has been primarily fueled by a run-down in savings, mainly by the bottom 60 percent of earners, according to Oxford Economics.”a

Jonathan Gold gone too soon

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Robin’s Book Report #39
A culture and economics reading list by Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein

-Jonathan Gold
-Working less to increases productivity
-Frankenstein’s monster at the art show


What I am reading

Jonathan Gold, Food Critic Who Celebrated L.A.’s Cornucopia, Dies at 57 by Pete Wells (New York Times)
I found Jonathan Gold’s writing in 2011, while I was trying to get a better handle on Korean food. He has a long list of dishes to try in L.A.’s Koreatown. He was a wonderful writer and I was shocked to see that he had died last Saturday. Too soon.

The Four Day Work Week is Good For Business by Adele Peters (Fast Company) +
5-Hour Work Day Increases Productivity (Business Insider)

Having every worker in every industry work an eight-hour day, five days a week doesn’t make sense. How could every single industry require the same amount of labor. Here’s a solution: 15-hour work week should be mandatory (pay remains equivalent to 40 hour workweek), with some sectors working less of course!

A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Reboot Starring an African-American Buffy Is on Its Way (Vulture)

If you ever watched Buffy, you’ll know that this reboot makes a lot of sense. A new slayer is activated every time the last one dies, so the show is ripe for rebooting (not that ripeness has ever stopped the reboot i.e. Spiderman).

An Artist Remakes a Film Classic — With Frankenstein’s Monster By MH Miller (T Magazine)

The video discussed in this article, “The Perfect Monster”, is currently on view at David Zwirner on 19th street. It is a shot-for-shot remake of a Jørgen Leth video, “The Perfect Human,” from 1967. But instead of focusing on young man, Da Corte’s video’s character is Boris Karloff and Frankenstein. The artist stars as both characters, in goofy and terrible prosthesis. Da Corte delivers wonderful and inventive set-design. The colors and textures are fun and joyous. There are dollar store brooms and lunch meat placed on the back of Frankenstein’s neck. I fell in love the first moment I saw it. If you get a chance to check it out, please let me know what you think. If you don’t live in NYC you can check out bits of the video here, though I would discourage watching it if you can because Alex Da Corte is not well spoken in the interview.

-“The Talent Myth” by Malcolm Gladwell (The New Yorker)

Was Enron wrong to nurture their best and brightest? I’m not a Gladwell fan, but this article strikes the closest to the heart of why Enron was such a fascinating disaster to me. Maybe it isn’t individuals who make big group projects work, but instead how the group works together.

Continue reading “Jonathan Gold gone too soon”

Five Things to Read: The Worst Mistake in Human History

Great article weaving Michelangelo, Florence, and Dostoevsky.


The author travels to the Midwest with his family in winter to see the bizarre monument to four American presidents. He wonders about why we have such a large monument in the middle of nowhere. Is it representative of something uniquely American?


Obviously on a Sam Anderson kick! This is a short piece of writing with excerpts of Dillard’s writing.


As a man chronically drawn to revisionist history, I was properly seduced by the mention of this article in another article recently published in the New Yorker. I am drawn to the idea that progress is not always a given, and that assuming so can be dangerous. From my anecdotal observation, things change but not always for the


For people my age, it would be useful to read this article as a way to understand the difference between how we look at the job market and how our parents do. While some of the jobs are the same, the possibilities that may have been imbued with those jobs, the implied future of those careers have been circumcised.


Let me know what you have been reading in the comments below!

Five Things to Read/Watch Right Now

There is law in Watts; it’s just not the law that is written down by the government. “Fundamentally, gangs are a consequence of lawlessness, not a cause,” the author says.

Frank Bruni, through an interrogation of Cynthia Nixon’s bid for governor of New York, analyses why people like Nixon or Donald Trump, are encouraged to apply for jobs that they aren’t qualified for. I appreciate his analysis of the situation. There is something going on here that goes deeper than a general mistrust of elites or the processes of government.

We live in a time when all knowledge feels like it is up for question, where superstition mingles freely with facts. So who do we turn to in order to parse out the two? Experts, of course.

I re-read this classic piece out loud the other night to Marguerite, just for fun. It is wonderful writing that has a sneaky way of invoking the chaos of home life with young children. Sample: “Sit just as I have told you, and do not lean to one side or the other, nor slide down until you have nearly slid away. Heed me; for if you sit like that, your hair will go into the syrup. And now behold, even as I have said, it has come to pass.”
Japanese armor, glassware, and spoons (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
This documentary is about the whistle-blower who alerted the world to the Russian doping program. It was good, but not as good as the next documentary.

Most people reading this newsletter will have heard of this six-part documentary by now. It is concerned with the social and legal battles of a religious group that moved to the Oregonian wilderness in the 1980’s. Many of the factual revelations (e.g., the construction projects undertaken by the group) are almost too grand to believe. So are the more sinister acts.


This is one of the best-made movies I have seen in a long time, especially because it goes to great lengths to report multiple sides of the issue without prioritizing one over the other. The followers of the religion are portrayed sympathetically, and when one of the followers (in a present-day interview) gets choked up talking about his former leader, I believe him. It reminds me of the Tony Robbins documentary. I watched it, and while I knew that it was essentially a feature-length commercial for the motivational speaker, I felt that he did have some worthwhile insights into life and that he did truly help people. While the Rajneeshees of Wild Wild Country went off the rails, I am wondering if, had they not, would the Raineeshees just be considered a religion instead of a cult? We all know that “cult” is just a pejorative term for a “religion.” The movie leaves open a good question: what is the proper response to bigotry? Is it relying on the tenants of free-market capitalism? Jurisprudence? Chemical warfare? Murder?
What have you been reading or watching this week? Let me know!