I was struck by how banal and bureaucratic the whole system is. At one point Tepper, the doctor in Marsilla’s case, emailed her son. “Hii,” the doctor wrote, casually. “I am confirming the following timing: Please arrive at 8:30 a.m. I will ask for the nurse at 8:45 a.m. and I will start the procedure at around 9:00 a.m. Procedure will be completed a few minutes after it starts.” The young man asked if he could bring his dog. As long as there is someone there who will be responsible for it afterward, the doctor replied.
Late last year, the director Peter Jackson released an eight-hour series called “Get Back,” based on footage of the hours the Beatles spent in the studio making the album “Let It Be.” In January, Ian Leslie wrote a powerful appreciation of that series in an essay called “The Banality of Genius,” which helps us see the series, and the creative process, with greater depth and insight.
For long stretches of the series, nothing extraordinary is happening — the action is so pedestrian it should be boring, but Leslie finds it strangely entrancing: “As we get into the rhythm of the Beatles’ daily lives, we start to inhabit their world. Since we live through their aimless wandering, we share in the moments of laughter, tenderness and joy that emerge from it with a special intensity.”
The series captures the moment in the Beatles’ career, Leslie notes, when the magic was beginning to wear off. The Beatles were beginning to wonder if they were still any good. He writes: “What makes ‘Get Back’ so dramatic, in its undramatic way, is seeing the Beatles struggle to adjust to waking life. The struggle unfolds in the music they’re making and in how they negotiate their changing relationships to each other. This was a group comprised of talented, willful individuals who shared a powerful resistance to being told what to do. The question should not be why they split up so much as how they stayed together. The answer is that they loved each other, they shared an appetite for work, and they knew they were special as a group. But it was nonetheless hard and getting harder. In ‘Get Back,’ the mythical, world-conquering, four-headed beast is revealed to be four young men, beset by uncertainty, wondering if they really want to be tied together like this forever.”
Ryan Grim’s essay “Elephant in the Zoom,” for The Intercept, was one of the more discussed essays of 2022 (well, at least among the sort of people who dominate my Twitter feed). In it, he describes the vicious infighting that is afflicting many progressive advocacy organizations. He captures a now familiar generational divide: Angry young employees demand that their organization practice internally the values it espouses externally. Dismayed older leaders want the staff to focus on the mission, not perceived slights to themselves. These executive directors see a lot of virtue signaling and normal workplace grievances dressed in the cloak of social justice language.