Some people mean more together than they do apart, whatever the stage. Churchill and Hitler. Bogart and Bacall. Ali and Frazier. And for all the deserved accolades for Muhammad Ali, I've always believed that each at his best, Joe Frazier, who died Monday night at age 67, was the better fighter. And the better man.
I don't know if I agree with any of this (the opening line strikes me as a banal truism) but the part that really rankles is the notion that Frazier was "the better man." For those who don't know, Muhammad Ali, in the lead up to his first fight with Frazier and I believe even the follow-ups, engaged in some of the worst intra-black racist rhetoric probably ever witnessed in modern sports.
The old clips--where Ali berates Frazier as a "gorilla"--recalls the sort of thing which all of us (black people) experienced on bus-stops and playgrounds, but was magnified by the stage, the camera, and the fact that it was grown men. None of Ali's taunts are particularly original, but they're laced with a "blacker than thou" nationalism that's really disturbing.
And yet Ali went down in memory as symbol of courage--in and out of the ring--as well to riches and fame. Frazier--the son of sharecroppers--ended up living above his gym in Philadelphia. To make matter worse, it was Frazier who defended Ali and gave him money after he was stripped of his title for resisting the draft. In recent years there's been a blowback of revisionism highlighting Ali's behavior toward Frazier. It's tended to ignore Frazier's own behavior in regard to Ali's Parkinson's Disease, or to justify it by highlighting Ali as the original villain.
I think complicating the portrait of Ali has been good essential work. But I think that Dave Anderson's sense that Frazier was actually "the better fighter" and "the better man" shows what happens when correctives to our morality plays, themselves, become morality plays themselves.
You can start a fairly nasty debate over who was the better fighter. The acolytes of Ali have the record--two out of three. The acolytes of Frazier have "If"--"If" Eddie Futch hadn't stopped the fight. Still, I concede that an argument is there to be made. But when you start talking about who was the "better man" I think you're into a business beyond athletics. Frazier and Ali have always been battle-ground for the boomers. It's a little sad to see this play out after a man has died.
I also think there's this sense that Ali was rather magical, for his critics, in the worst sense. He wasn't supposed to beat Liston--and his critics will note that he wouldn't have, if Angelo Dundee hadn't forced him to. There's still some sense that he defeated Liston, in the second fight, by shadowy means. And he certainly wasn't supposed to beat Foreman. He did so in the most shocking way--not by beating him to a pulp, or superior hand-speed--but by some voodoo called the "Rope-A-Dope." In When We Were Kings, George Plimpton actually jokingly attributes Ali's victory to a succubus. (Video below. There's a moment at about 4:30 where you see Plimpton and Mailer, mouths agape as Foreman goes down, that symbolizes what I mean.)
I don't enough about boxing to explain the begrudging admiration for Ali among some boxing writers. But I know that when I see people explaining away a series of events with "Ifs" that they're generally on shaking ground.
For some, meditation has become more curse than cure. Willoughby Britton wants to know why.
Set back on quiet College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, sits a dignified, four story, 19th-century house that belongs to Dr. Willoughby Britton. Inside, it is warm, spacious, and organized. The shelves are stocked with organic foods. A solid wood dining room table seats up to 12. Plants are ubiquitous. Comfortable pillows are never far from reach. The basement—with its own bed, living space, and private bathroom—often hosts a rotating cast of yogis and meditation teachers. Britton’s own living space and office are on the second floor. The real sanctuary, however, is on the third floor, where people come from all over to rent rooms, work with Britton, and rest. But they're not there to restore themselves with meditation—they're recovering from it.
How a strange face in a random 19th-century newspaper ad became a portal to a forgotten moment in ASCII art history
One of the joys of modern technology is how easy it is to immerse yourself in the past. Every day, more libraries and archives are pushing pieces of their collections online in easily browsable interfaces.
Narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity—a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency.
In 2006, Donald Trump made plans to purchase the Menie Estate, near Aberdeen, Scotland, aiming to convert the dunes and grassland into a luxury golf resort. He and the estate’s owner, Tom Griffin, sat down to discuss the transaction at the Cock & Bull restaurant. Griffin recalls that Trump was a hard-nosed negotiator, reluctant to give in on even the tiniest details. But, as Michael D’Antonio writes in his recent biography of Trump, Never Enough, Griffin’s most vivid recollection of the evening pertains to the theatrics. It was as if the golden-haired guest sitting across the table were an actor playing a part on the London stage.
“It was Donald Trump playing Donald Trump,” Griffin observed. There was something unreal about it.
Three Atlantic staffers discuss “The Door,” the fifth episode of the sixth season.
Every week for the sixth season of Game of Thrones, Christopher Orr, Spencer Kornhaber, and Lenika Cruz will be discussing new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners are being made available to critics in advance this year, we'll be posting our thoughts in installments.
For centuries, philosophers and theologians have almost unanimously held that civilization as we know it depends on a widespread belief in free will—and that losing this belief could be calamitous. Our codes of ethics, for example, assume that we can freely choose between right and wrong. In the Christian tradition, this is known as “moral liberty”—the capacity to discern and pursue the good, instead of merely being compelled by appetites and desires. The great Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant reaffirmed this link between freedom and goodness. If we are not free to choose, he argued, then it would make no sense to say we ought to choose the path of righteousness.
Today, the assumption of free will runs through every aspect of American politics, from welfare provision to criminal law. It permeates the popular culture and underpins the American dream—the belief that anyone can make something of themselves no matter what their start in life. As Barack Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope, American “values are rooted in a basic optimism about life and a faith in free will.”
Why aren’t the critics comparing Donald Trump to a fascist acknowledging that the office he seeks is too powerful?
Wake up, establishment centrists: Donald Trump is coming!
After the Vietnam War and Watergate and the spying scandals uncovered by the Church Committee and the Nixon Administration cronies who nearly firebombed the Brookings Institution, Americans were briefly inclined to rein in executive power—a rebuke to Richard Nixon’s claim that “if the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” Powerful committees were created to oversee misconduct-prone spy agencies. The War Powers Resolution revived a legislative check on warmaking. “In 34 years,” Vice President Dick Cheney would lament to ABC News in a January 2002 interview, “I have repeatedly seen an erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job. I feel an obligation... to pass on our offices in better shape than we found them to our successors."
Many animated series in the U.S. are hand-drawn in South Korea, but the country’s recent transition to digital tools could spur a transformation in American television.
Animated sitcoms have long offered sharp insight into American culture. The Simpsons is so astute that, 16 years ago, the show predicted Donald Trump’s run for president. A running joke on Bob’s Burgers revolves around the “Burger of the Day,” with past entries including the “Sweet Home Avocado Burger” and “Mission A-Corn-Plished Burger.” The Boondocks follows a black family as they adjust to life in a mostly white suburb. Family Guy—a subversive spin on a family with 2.5 children and a dog living in Rhode Island—has lampooned everything from the legalization of marijuana to summer camp.
Although these primetime series appear as American as apple pie, and are conceptualized and written in the U.S., the bulk of their animation is done in South Korea. Animation requires 12 frames for every second of airtime. Korean studios take the voice recordings and the storyboards, and their artists draw out each frame—on paper. They start with characters’ key poses, then do the “in-betweening,” or the painstaking process of crafting incremental micro-movements so the motion looks smooth. Korean animators can draw 240 pages for a single 20-second scene, and around 7,000 drawings per half-hour episode.
Her patchy Billboard Awards performance is drawing the inevitable flak, but fortunately other artists will get their chances to pay homage.
What’s a tribute, anyway? Sunday night’s Billboard Music Awards, the most soul-crushingly cynical of the soul-crushingly cynical music-awards shows, encouraged viewers to take an expansive definition of the word. Britney Spears’s opening set, where she determinedly walked through a medley of her hits and deep cuts, felt like nothing so much as a tribute to her past relevance. Kesha’s powerful version of “It Ain’t Me Babe” was less an homage to Bob Dylan than to her times as a more carefree pop star. Celine Dion doing Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” was an act of personal, public mourning.
But the most divisive performance of the night was the only memorial that was really billed as such—Madonna’s pitchy but pious rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Purple Rain” with Stevie Wonder. The performance was, at its most basic level, a tribute to Prince, but like so much of the evening it felt like a statement of futility: Something’s gone forever, and the only, imperfect thing to do is sing about it.
The refugee crisis in the Dominican Republic and Haiti shows the human consequences of extreme anti-immigration policies—and how voters get used to them.
An unprecedented refugee crisis, economic inequality, and fears of terrorism are helping stoke the rise of extreme anti-immigrant politicians across Europe and the United States. Hungary’s Viktor Orban, France’s Marine Le Pen, Austria’s Norbert Hofer, and yes, Donald Trump, are riding a much-remarkedsurge in popular support, with Hofer just losing his presidential bid by a razor-thin margin. All have embraced extreme nativist rhetoric, but meanwhile a different nationalist experiment is already running its course, and uprooting thousands on the basis of their ancestry, under a leader who is by most accounts a moderate technocrat. And the Dominican Republic’s President Danilo Medina just claimed a landslide reelection victory.