This Stella Artois ad is officially the best advertisement of all time. Whether it ever causes a single person to purchase Stella Artois is beside the point.
To my friends who used to complain when I dug the middle out of a soft, rinded cheese instead of eating the rind, little suspecting that I would one day change my ways, then find myself at a gathering where someone else had excavated the middle of a wedge of Brie, leaving me with nothing but rind when I sliced off a piece for myself: You were right, I was wrong. Sorry about that.
Um, Caltrain, is there something you’d like to tell us?
All the cool kids probably know about this already, but if you like the sort of music they review over at Pitchfork, you should check out woxy.com. It’s a fantastic Internet-only radio station with unusually high-quality streaming audio. At the moment, they’re airing an excellent live set with Architecture in Helsinki; before that, they played Sleater-Kinney, Bloc Party, Sondre Lerche, and Magnolia Electric Co. It’s what radio would be if it didn’t suck.
When I lived in Santa Cruz, I sometimes visited Seabright Beach and wondered why all those concrete jacks were piled up on the shore next to the yacht harbor. Thanks to “The Atlantic Generating Station,” from John McPhee’s book Giving Good Weight, I now know the answer:
East London’s breakwater had been weakened by rough seas some years earlier, and now the storm of 1963 tore off sixty per cent of the armor. Eric M. Merrifield, East London’s harbor engineer, wondered whether that would have happened if the armor had not been solid—had not been designed to accept on one plane in one moment the great force of the ocean. He decided to reconstruct the breakwater with porous armor, and in doing so he invented a momentous novelty in harbor engineering.
The idea was to cover the breakwater with objects of branching shape—like children’s jacks—that would engage with one another, clinging together while absorbing and dissipating the power of waves. There had been similar attempts. The French had tried a four-legged concrete form, a tetrapod, and it had worked well enough but had required an expensive preciseness in construction, because each one had to be carefully set in place in relation to others. Merrifield wanted something that could almost literally be sprinkled on the breakwater core. Eventually, he thought of dolosse.
Dolosse—the singular is dolos—were crude toys that had been used by South African white children since the eighteen-thirties, when they acquired them from tribal children in the course of the eponymous trek, the overland march of the voortrekkers from the Cape Colony to the Transvaal. A dolos was the knucklebone of a goat or a sheep, and might be described as a corruption of the letter “H” with one leg turned ninety degrees. The game that had been played with dolosse by voortrekker children, and by South African children ever since, was called knucklebone. As crude toys, dolosse were also thought of as imaginary oxen. Witch doctors had used them as instruments of magic power. Merrifield replicated them on a grand scale in concrete, making dolosse that weighed twenty tons apiece, and with these he armored his breakwater. When high seas hit them, the water all but disappeared—no slaps like thunder, no geysers in the air. The revised breakwater seemed to blot up the waves after breaking them into thousands of pieces.
The New Yorker is about to publish all of its back issues in digital form. Every issue from 1925 through last February, all on eight DVDs—and for just $63 on Amazon. Oh, sweet glorious day! Now I can read those legendarily interminable articles from the William Shawn era in the comfort of my own home. I haven’t preordered this yet, but it’s really just a matter of time.
Writing this made me realize that I don’t really know any other New Yorker geeks—plenty of people who enjoy the magazine, but few, if any, who are obsessed with it to the point of knowing its history. It’s probably just as well. I’d hate to find myself spending all my time in some New Yorker chat room, arguing about Peter Arno cartoons from 1932 and writing Harold Ross/Robert Gottlieb slash fiction.