Lesson 7: How Do You Write An Excellent Obituary? The Economist On Osama bin Laden
If you love The Economist, you likely know and love its back page, its obituary page. Economist obituaries are models of the magazine's style and, more broadly, models of a traditional English style of reporting, marrying history and literary instincts with factual, objective analysis. The magazine is fun to read but their back page is the most fun; the match of their style with the requirements of the form produces an art all its own.
How do you make anything surrounding Osama bin Laden witty now? Or, more broadly, where is the place of wit in the consideration of loss?
The Economist simply hews to form: spare and consistently subtle, the voice of the magazine often mocks a subject while examining it, its writers possessing the unique freedom that comes when bylines are foregone. These last words on bin Laden are worth reading because they say something about how to reflect on a life, but also something about how to write.
As a rule he observed from afar as “his boys” blew up the American base at Khobar in Saudi Arabia, or the USS Cole in Yemen (he wrote a poem about that, the little dinghy bobbing on the waves) or the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, where in 1998 more than 200 died. Terrorism could be commendable or reprehensible, he smoothly agreed, but this was “blessed terror”, in defence of Islam. At first he denied any part in the 9/11 attacks, but at last pride got the better of him: yes, it was he who had guided his 19 brothers towards their “easy” targets.
Somewhere, according to one of his five wives, was a man who loved sunflowers, and eating yogurt with honey; who took his children to the beach, and let them sleep under the stars; who enjoyed the BBC World Service and would go hunting with friends each Friday, sometimes mounted, like the Prophet, on a white horse. He liked the comparison. Yet the best thing in his life, he said, was that his jihads had destroyed the myth of all-conquering superpowers.
The first paragraph is remarkable for the parenthetical statement on poetry, for its typical almost-too-English burying a lead (he was an artist! Like Hitler!), and for, in the same moment, touching on something serious, something most other reports elided: he was a man. There were things that made him human. He wrote bad poetry.
The second paragraph goes deeper into this same idea. We know why we hate him and we know he was “evil,” and capable of crime, but what don’t we know? This part is played neither for pathos or laughs, but it will remain in our minds because it is original. “Took his children to the beach, and let them sleep under the stars.”
What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Beyond Beef sizzles and marbleizes just like real beef, Beyond Meat says.
- Shares of Beyond Meat opened at around $200 on Tuesday morning, falling to nearly $170 by the afternoon.
- Wall Street analysts remain wary of the stock, which has been on a massive hot streak since its IPO in May.
- Beyond Meat faces competition from Impossible Foods and, as of this week, Tyson.
Average waiting time for hitchhikers in Ireland: Less than 30 minutes. In southern Spain: More than 90 minutes.
- A popular means of transportation from the 1920s to the 1980s, hitchhiking has since fallen in disrepute.
- However, as this map shows, thumbing a ride still occupies a thriving niche – if at great geographic variance.
- In some countries and areas, you'll be off the street in no time. In other places, it's much harder to thumb your way from A to B.
A recent study used data from the Big Five personality to estimate psychopathy prevalence in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C.
- The study estimated psychopathy prevalence by looking at the prevalence of certain traits in the Big Five model of personality.
- The District of Columbia had the highest prevalence of psychopathy, compared to other areas.
- The authors cautioned that their measurements were indirect, and that psychopathy in general is difficult to define precisely.
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