“one reason there are so many dead in Haiti is that agriculture in the countryside was no longer providing a livelihood for Haitian peasants; they moved in the thousands to the capital, they built shanties on the sides of canyons; all gone now. I won’t go over the arguments against globalization for countries like Haiti here. Suffice it to say that Haiti, once the Pearl of the Antilles, once France’s most valuable and productive colony, and still into the 19th century at least an important provider of the world’s sugar, rum, and coffee, is now a net importer.”

— Amy Wilentz

The picks of the week from around the web.

All right, back to this, which will be the first picks of the year, not to mention the first for a long time.

  • Haiti. While we hope for all good things for Haiti’s future, Amy Wilentz and Tracy Kidder explain how it is an even greater tragedy than it could have been.
  • Comics criticism. There last few weeks have been great for people who like reading about comics. In addition to the selection of the year’s “best” that I participated in, there has been Tom Spurgeon’s overall excellent interviews with a number of critics about the books of the decade, and on TCJ R. Fiore has resurrected his half-a-decade old, still fine essay on the Simpsons and Mad. Oh, and the great David Levine gets his due with the re-up of Gary Groth’s great decade-and-a-half old interview with him.
  • David Foster Wallace on “how to think”. Read this inspiring commencement address of 2005 by the sadly departed author for an a slight injection of optimism at this otherwise bleak moment. (Suggested by Emma.)