No, dear reader, this isn’t Auckland Today
You can’t have too many stories about New Zealand, I always say. At least I’ve said it a lot since I realized that three stories in this issue have ties to the island nation. Take "Going to Extremes", which documents the extraordinary efforts of scientists trying to save the kakapo, an extremely endangered flightless parrot in New Zealand. Then we have two stories about native sons of New Zealand’s North Island (pop. 2.8 million). They are "Clutch Shot Clinches Fall Classic", about George Silk’s exuberant photograph of the 1960 World Series, and "Politically Correct", about artist Peter Waddell’s carefully researched—and charming—paintings of the U.S. Capitol.
How did we manage such a feat? Beats me, mate. In planning an issue, we try to achieve a perfect (and thus unattainable) balance of history, natural history, biography, science, the arts and travel, with a surprise or two thrown in. We also seek the right mixture of old and new, young and old, male and female, light and serious, and so on. But usually it’s not until we pin all of the proofs of scheduled stories to a wall that we discover, say, an overabundance of Mississippi catfish, a surfeit of New England seafarers or ...a Down Under trifecta. Not long ago, Michael Prager, of the Boston Globe, noted in a column that we’d used the word "physiognomy" in two stories in the same issue. (Doesn’t every magazine?) Sometimes, if the coincidence is distracting, we’ll substitute a different article at the last minute, but most of the time we just slap ourselves on the forehead and attribute it to the vagaries (and marvels) of chance in everyday life.
On a more serious note, I call your attention to "Learning from the Missile Crisis", about the dangerous standoff, 40 years ago this month, between the United States and the Soviet Union over Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. The article was written by Max Frankel, who covered the crisis for the New York Times and was unusually well qualified to do so, having previously been stationed in the newspaper’s Moscow and Havana bureaus. Frankel went on to become the Times’ executive editor, the paper’s highest editorial position. He was a direct observer of the events of October 1962—indeed, he participated in history as it unfolded, as he recounts here. His look back at that parlous moment is deeply instructive, for both the similarities and differences between then and our own fraught time.