Long Links

I finally got around to reading a couple longer pieces that I've been putting off.  I recommend these without reservation:
  • Can You Say ... "Hero"? by Tom Junod.  A masterful creative non-fiction piece that centers on Mr. (Fred) Rogers, but covers a lot of really rich subject matter along the way.  Here's the excerpt that got my attention in the first place:
Yes, at seventy years old and 143 pounds, Mister Rogers still fights, and indeed, early this year, when television handed him its highest honor, he responded by telling television--gently, of course--to just shut up for once, and television listened. He had already won his third Daytime Emmy, and now he went onstage to accept Emmy's Lifetime Achievement Award, and there, in front of all the soap-opera stars and talk-show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, "All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are ... Ten seconds of silence." And then he lifted his wrist, and looked at the audience, and looked at his watch, and said softly, "I'll watch the time," and there was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn't kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked … and so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds … and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier, and Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said, "May God be with you" to all his vanquished children.
  • Mike Tyson Moves to the Suburbs by Daphne Merkin.  AK and I were discussing this phenomenon awhile ago - that somehow Mike Tyson gets to be a normal person now.  Forget the rape convictions and serial abuse, forget the bat-shit crazy stunts he pulled in and out of the boxing ring.  Now, he's just a 180-lb. teddy bear who suffers the occasional bout of temporary but crippling insanity.  Oh, and he's extremely well-read.  And, when he needs to unwind, he cares for homing pigeons.  Literally.
I promise this is worth one of your 20 free NYTimes articles for the month.  It dissolved a bit of my cynicism about Iron Mike's new direction in life.
  • Finally, speaking of AK, there's this essay that she sent my way a couple months ago:  The Falls by George Saunders.  Riveting.