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The reviewer reviewed

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2016

Ian Parker wrote about the NY Times’ restaurant critic Pete Wells for the New Yorker this week.

Wells is generally a well-mannered critic, if not an overly respectful one. In his first years on the job, he was sometimes faulted in the food press for being too generous in his appraisals; he had made a point of publishing fewer one-star reviews than his immediate predecessors. “No one likes one-star reviews,” Wells told me, in a conversation at his apartment, which is in a Clinton Hill brownstone. “The restaurants don’t like them, and the readers don’t like them. It’s very tricky to explain why this place is good enough to deserve a review but not quite good enough to get up to the next level.” He added, “I’m looking for places that I can be enthusiastic about. Like a golden retriever, I would like to drop a ball at the feet of the reader every week and say, ‘Here!’”

Parker covers Wells’ most notable reviews — Per Se, Fieri, Senor Frog’s, Momofuku Nishi — as well as the reactions of the restaurants to the reviews.

“I can’t ever read that review again — I’ll get so fucking angry I’ll die,” Chang said. “I made a lot of that food! I tasted it! It was delicious. And… fuck! I believe in the fucking food we make in that restaurant, I believe it to be really delicious, I believe it to be innovative, in a non-masturbatory way.”

I love David Chang. Never change. But back to Wells, I had a conversation last night with a friend who worked in a restaurant that Wells reviewed and he said that Wells is perhaps not physically suited for undercover restaurant dining — “he’s an odd looking dude” was the quote. And I have another friend in the restaurant industry who, after living in Clinton Hill for a few months, told me, “I think Pete Wells is my backyard neighbor.” Several months later: “Yeah, Pete Wells definitely lives behind me.” We joked about Wells talking over the fence in the style of Wilson, the neighbor in Home Improvement whose face is always partially hidden.

We Work Remotely

The search for a blockbuster insomnia drug

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 03, 2013

Merck is working on a new insomnia drug that they claim has few of the sometimes nasty side effects of other drugs like Ambien. Ian Parker reports for the New Yorker.

If the Merck scientists succeeded at the F.D.A., they would be the first to bring an orexin-related drug to market. “It’s an amazing achievement,” Richard Hargreaves, the fourth colleague at the Hilton, said. “Everyone should be really proud.” But, he added, “my worry is that a new mechanism is being evaluated on the science of an old mechanism.”

“With Ambien, you’ve got a drug that’s got basically only onset,” Renger said, dismissively. That is, it sends you to sleep but might not keep you asleep. “Suvorexant has the onset, but it has the great maintenance, especially in the last third of the night, where other drugs fail.” And even though suvorexant keeps working longer than Ambien, suvorexant patients don’t feel groggier afterward, as you might expect. Impassioned, Renger imagined himself addressing the F.D.A.: “Why aren’t you giving this a chance?”

“Drugs usually have some side effects,” Schoepp said. “It’s all benefit-risk.” He added, “There is some dose where suvorexant will be ultimately safe-because nothing will happen. If you go low enough, it becomes homeopathic.”

They stood to go to their rooms. Schoepp murmured, “I’d love to take it right now.”

Long profile of J.K. Rowling in the New Yorker

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 25, 2012

On the eve of the release of her first novel specifically written for adult readers, Ian Parker profiles J.K. Rowling for the New Yorker. In many ways, this passage about Harry Potter sums up Parker’s take on Rowling herself:

For all the satisfying closure provided by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” gloomier readers may still detect a note of melancholy; there is a narrowness of life for former Hogwarts students, whose career opportunities barely extend beyond the wizard civil service, wizard schoolteaching, and professional Quidditch. This magical society has no use for science; there’s little commerce; and thousands of years of wizarding seems to have generated no culture beyond a short volume of fables and a tabloid newspaper. (Wizard technology is often a cutely flawed approximation of non-wizard technology — owls for e-mail — and one wonders how quickly Harry and his schoolfriends could have won their battles against the evil Lord Voldemort, given two or three cell phones and a gun.) In a time of wizard peace, at least, Harry’s separation from the real world — even as he lives in it — can seem tragic.

In a time of personal prosperity, Rowling’s separation from the real world — even as she lives in it — can seem tragic.